Wednesday, February 25, 2015

God is Proof that Man is Intelligent

I don't like to read more than one chapter a day with Schuon. Not that he's difficult per se, just that it's too rich. Dense. Pregnant. Full of implications. You have to allow the time and space, or silence (---) and openness (o), for the spontaneous occurrence of vertical resonance, AKA (≈).

Meanwhile, I started reading Poetic Knowledge, so I can't help drawing it into today's game. In fact, the title of the first chapter of The Face of the Absolute, The Decisive Intuition, goes exactly to what Taylor means by poetic knowledge (and to what I generally mean by [n] as opposed to [k]).

The decisive intuition must ultimately be intuition of God, and this intuition is always of a poetic nature (although it is possible to later work out the logical proof, just as, say, Einstein first had the vision of relativity before working out the math).

Poetic knowledge does not refer to poetry as such. Rather, it is a mode of cognition, "a spontaneous act of the external and internal senses with the intellect, integrated and whole, rather than an act associated with the powers of analytic reasoning" (Taylor). It is pre-analytical, but I would emphasize that it is equally post-analytical, in precisely the way we've been discussing in recent posts.

That is, even if we only regard the neurology as a metaphor, it is very much a kind of inspiraling journey from right brain to left and then back to right, the latter of which being able to integrate the fruit of left brain analysis into a higher and deeper synthesis. This doesn't make the truth of the Decisive Intuition any more true, but it does make it more robust and more intellectually satisfying -- if you have an intellect in need of deep satisfaction, which most people don't, whether religious or secular.

Briefly violating our one chapter at a time rule, in chapter two Schuon mentions how conventional religiosity (or exoterism) "has to take into account the weaknesses of men, and thus also, be it said without euphemism, their stupidity."

But as we alluded to in yesterday's post, the same principle applies no less to the secular world. A conventional university education has to take into account the stupidity of men, especially now that all men are absurdly thought to be fit for college.

As a consequence of this very real limitation, the teaching "must itself take on something" of the intellectual shortcomings alluded to above, "or at least it must allow them some room, on pain of not being able to survive in human surroundings."

So interestingly, truth must be mixed with falsehood -- in a manner of speaking -- in order to reach the average man, again, whether we are talking about religious or secular thought. This is not necessarily a bad thing, unless you want millions of people who are incapable of thought thinking for themselves. That's how we end up with an Obama.

Poetic knowledge is perhaps better thought of as a verb than noun. As a matter of fact, it is the very activity required in order to be a Glass Bead gamer, as it encompasses "religion, art, literature, music, architecture, manners, economics, leisure, and politics" (and more). These things don't just integrate themselves! Hence the sufficient reason of the Mystic Circle of Cosmic Raccoons, who do not shirk the liborious play of total integration.

Schuon writes of how certain religious imagery, "contradictory though it may be at first sight, nonetheless conveys information that in the final analysis is coherent and even dazzlingly evident for those who are capable of having a presentiment of them or of grasping them" (emphasis mine).

For example, "the story of Adam and Eve may clash with a certain need for logic, but we bear it deeply within ourselves..." It inheres in the very nature of intelligence; or better, it is a symbolic expression of a prior truth that "is to be found in the deepest layer of our consciousness or of our being."

If you need "proof" of this statement, the proof is in the fact that we are still talking about it 3,000 (or however many) years later! Furthermore, man -- so long as he remains one -- will always be talking about it, or else about the same truths in another form. Such truths are simply part of our standard equipment.

But the truth can become obscured. Here we can't just blame stupidity, but rather, a kind of willful stupidity that is wrapped up in pride. As Schuon says, this is not a fault of the intelligence per se -- for how could it be? -- but "from a fault of character, of pride above all." It is hard to imagine a proselytizing atheist whose mind hasn't been poisoned by pride, or who embodies the virtue of humility before the Mystery.

Why? Because the Mystery communicates itself, otherwise we wouldn't even have the name.

From humility follows other virtues, and these virtues, you might say, are both cause and consequence of poetic knowledge and decisive intuitions. "In this sense, virtue is a proof of God, as is intelligence" (ibid.).

Or in other words, if you're trying to prove the existence of God with your intelligence, you're going about it backwards; rather, much easier to prove that intelligence is only intelligent because God exists.

After all, it is "intelligence which is capable of conceiving the Absolute," and "virtue which permits man to surpass himself." An "unvirtuous intelligence" is an abomination, as Obama proves every day, and as the Clintons would like to verify for another eight years. Be it said without euphemism.

[W]ithout this poetic sensibility toward things, life deteriorates into brutality and chaos; what is also revealed is the upward movement of the senses and emotions with the intellect that sees the invisible meaning of things. --Taylor

22 Comments:

Blogger mushroom said...

So interestingly, truth must be mixed with falsehood -- in a manner of speaking -- in order to reach the average man, again, whether we are talking about religious or secular thought.

The "falsehood" is rather like a bridge between the peaks. Obviously, we're jumping over a lot of prosaic territory or information, but we're seeing how it all fits together.

Driving in a car on the highway gives you a view that, in its own way, is more poetic than prosaically walking across the field. Flying over in a balloon or seeing a satellite image is more poetic than the car ride.

If you need to plow the field, the satellite's poetic knowledge may or may not be useful, but it's still nice to know.

2/25/2015 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

"The decisive intuition must ultimately be intuition of God, and this intuition is always of a poetic nature (although it is possible to later work out the logical proof, just as, say, Einstein first had the vision of relativity before working out the math.."

Déjà view?

2/25/2015 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

If "only God is good," this would imply that only God is true, therefore, all not-God has a necessary element of falsehood.

This would also situate the postmodern excess of "no such thing as truth." The latter is (ironically) a true statement mixed with falsehood, or a false statement concealing an important theological truth.

2/25/2015 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

As a consequence of this very real limitation, the teaching "must itself take on something" of the intellectual shortcomings alluded to above, "or at least it must allow them some room, on pain of not being able to survive in human surroundings."

I'm reminded of how education, especially of children, must simplify concepts and mix them with a heavy dose of euphemism and metaphor in order to reveal concepts that they might not otherwise be able to grasp. For instance, how do you teach kids what air is and why we need to breathe? You don't load them down with dry details and heavy math and physics principles, you tell them a story they can understand, and make a model which, on the one hand, isn't like the thing at all, but on the other makes it possible to grasp.

2/25/2015 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Origen said the other night, something to the effect that the Law was against Grace.

Maybe that's in some way similar to what you are saying about truth mixed with falsehood.

This led to thinking that the OT must ask us first to be reasonable so that later the NT can ask us to be unreasonable (...and if anyone would sue you and take your tunic,h let him have your cloak as well.)

2/25/2015 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Schuon would say that the law is in the world of maya-relativity, or that its purpose is to furnish local "points of reference" for the nonlocal truth that is prefigured in our nature. So, I wouldn't say against grace.... more of a complementarity, although grace must be ontologically prior.

2/25/2015 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17)?

2/25/2015 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Rick, I'm still studying the OT and we're working our way through Numbers right now. So relevant; it's striking how often I am reminded of parenting through various stages, and how when our children are young we set hard boundaries and limitations (and sometimes punishments), but as they get older and gain understanding the same mistakes are met with a much softer response. For instance, if a baby goes to play with a power cord, you make it a hard limit for his own protection. The same child three or four years later doesn't need the same response.

2/25/2015 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

I think it was Balthasar summing-up Origen: "The law is contrary to grace....It is thus dismantled, gently at first, but violently in the end."

2/25/2015 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Julie, that's been my experience. The boy is practically on autopilot now.

2/25/2015 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"Poetic knowledge is perhaps better thought of as a verb than noun. As a matter of fact, it is the very activity required in order to be a Glass Bead gamer, as it encompasses "religion, art, literature, music, architecture, manners, economics, leisure, and politics" (and more). These things don't just integrate themselves! Hence the sufficient reason of the Mystic Circle of Cosmic Raccoons, who do not shirk the liborious play of total integration."

Yep. I'm about half way through, and except for a couple minor quibbles, am enjoying the heck out of it.

2/25/2015 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Hence the sufficient reason of the Mystic Circle of Cosmic Raccoons, who do not shirk the liborious play of total integration."

Which sounds much better than "spiritual synesthetes" but some days I feel that way. I reckon that the coonskin caps are a kind of "safe place" sign for other weary Cosmic travelers.

2/25/2015 04:33:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"So interestingly, truth must be mixed with falsehood -- in a manner of speaking -- in order to reach the average man, again, whether we are talking about religious or secular thought. This is not necessarily a bad thing, unless you want millions of people who are incapable of thought thinking for themselves. That's how we end up with an Obama."

Aye, people hafta learn how to be that stupid. They ain't born with it.

2/25/2015 10:24:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

An impression I've noticed about the poetic: it seems as if it gives form to the Question. Not a question, not any particular question, but an unlimited possibility of Question.

Think of Adam & Eve in the garden. There isn't a single image there that doesn't lead you to wonder. The poetic gives form to Question, and provides a place to tuck the answers into... each one of which will lead to more questions.

Poetic Knowledge.

2/26/2015 05:45:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I like that - Poetic knowledge is the answer that doesn't kill curiosity, but instead helps it to bloom.

2/26/2015 06:06:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

... it is the blooming....

2/26/2015 06:24:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

ness

2/26/2015 06:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

The Art of the Smackdown. Kevin Williamson has mastered it. Fine insultainment!

2/26/2015 06:33:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

"a turducken of lifestyle liberalism"

:D

Would that be a form of trifecta?

2/26/2015 06:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Technically it's a quadfecta: Chris Hayes in a yoga studio inside a Whole Foods with his head up his ass.

2/26/2015 06:57:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

That is some great insultainment, Bob.

Here's some more from Mark Steyn:
http://www.steynonline.com/6827/nobel-pants-prize

One of his very best. :)

2/26/2015 07:30:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

One other thing about Poetic Knowledge, about giving form to the Question, to the Why, is that it brings life to what you know.

What happens when that is removed?

The scent of death is palpable around those who ensure that what they know is without it.

Can't even say it leaves bones behind, as that would imply that some depth had once been there. More like an exoskeleton. Or maybe a shed snakeskin.

2/26/2015 07:19:00 PM  

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