Tuesday, February 24, 2015

If Atheists are Correct, Only God Knows

Seems like most people who encounter Schuon either accept his program entirely or else reject it out of hand. There's very little middle ground.

For example, a commenter named John recently criticized the B'ob for "taking what he likes from [Schuon] and rejecting the rest," arguing that "with some authors, Schuon being chief among them, the smorgasbord method is a priori disqualified."

He didn't explain why this is so, but in my experience, it is indeed tempting to place him above criticism, because he writes with such intrinsic authority. By which I mean that he doesn't have to appeal to anyone or anything to make his case. Rather, he writes in such a way that he bangs my interior gong in a direct and unmediated way. It is very much as if the proof is in the writing, more on which as we proceed.

Religion is a field in which it is notoriously easy to pose as a false authority, or to write with a certitude that isn't difficult to see through and pick apart. This kind of childish authority is not at all similar to Schuon. Such rhetoric doesn't convince like a perfectly forged key fitting into a lock, but rather, is more like a blunt instrument, or wet blanket, or cloud of verbal smoke. At the same time, it is fragile, like those religious solicitors who are trained to ignore all objections and stay rigorously on script. Belief for them is indeed a matter of will, not intellect.

Which is fine for some people. There's even a word for it: voluntarism. Which is perfectly respectable, within limits. After all, not everyone is cut out for intellection -- i.e., vertical cogitation and recollection -- and God has no desire to exclude them from the festivus.

We have much more in common with a simple fideist who believes (and loves) the truth with all his heart, than with some self-styled intellectual who believes falsehood with all his mind. Note that this is what the journalistic inquisitors are after vis-a-vis Scott Walker: do you believe in the god of matter with all your heart, mind, and strength?

"The content of religions and their reason for being is the relationship between God and man; between Necessary Being and contingent existence" (Schuon). Is that not refreshingly straightforward? Not blunt, mind you, but sharp. Truly truly I say to you, he slices like an effing hammer.

See, you can't joke around with Schuon, either. That last little comment makes me a vulgarian of the first rank.

Nevertheless. Let's continue.

For Schuon there is an orthoparadox at the very heart of religion, being that only religion-as-such can be absolute. It is only conformity to this "that gives [to particular] religions all their power and all their legitimacy," and yet, "it is their confessional claim to absoluteness that constitutes their relativity." In other words, for Schuon, such-and-such a religion can only be an outward mode of the inward principle.

Here again this is an appealing idea, because it can easily be deployed against atheists and other idiots who are more literal than the most literal believer, not in the service of faith, but rather, in order to justify rejecting the whole thing out of hand. Over the years we've had many trolls -- old William Femboy Catsnuggler comes to mind -- who know how to use the google machine to find this or that scriptural passage that makes no sense if taken literally and out of context.

Of note, one could do the same with science, for example, How can you say there was a big BANG, when sound waves would have been impossible? Or, how can RNA read DNA when it's so dark in there?

For Schuon, metaphysics is prior even to revelation, so, to the extent that revelation harbors and conveys truth, it is because it is in conformity to Truth as such.

I would rate this as mostly true, allowing for some things we could not possibly know with certainty outside a positive revelation from God -- for example, God as personhood, Trinity, love, and relation. Indeed, I think it is fair to say that Schuon would regard God as ultimately one and impersonal. He certainly allows for the personal God, but places him below the impersonal.

In contrast, I place them side-by-side, in that they are complementary, not hierarchical.

But in any event, irrespective of whether the absolute is personal or impersonal, metaphysics can easily knock down any secular argument, and indeed, the idea of an impersonal absolute will probably be more persuasive to the average flatlander. This is why westerners flock to Buddhism and yoga, because they reject the idea of God as an "old guy with a white beard." Note again how their childish literalism interferes with vertical perception.

So, "different types of religious imagery inevitably provoke doubts and protests in the absence of a sapiential esoterism" which can "bridge the gaps and bring the accidental dissonances back to the harmony of the substance" (ibid.).

In other words, we can integrate the dissonances with our intellect (AKA nous). We don't have to force the issue with the will, which just alienates the typical secularist who is so proud of his intelligence (even while holding to a Darwinism that utterly devalues it).

Ironically, "the reactions of the unbeliever and the esoterist may coincide," except that for the latter, this is the beginning of the journey, not the end. Thus, "the man who rejects religion because, when taken literally, it sometimes seems absurd," essentially blinds himself to the deeper truths that would speak to him directly -- i.e., bang the interior gong referenced in paragraph #3 above.

Out of time. To be continued....

22 Comments:

Blogger ted said...

He certainly allows for the personal God, but places him below the impersonal. In contrast, I place them side-by-side, in that they are complementary, not hierarchical.

Seeing the emptiness of God in my past exposure to Eastern religion, it is only lately I have been experiencing him in more fullness. And yes, I agree that it is two sides of the same coin. One does not take precedence over the other.

2/24/2015 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Resolves a lot of problems.

2/24/2015 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

This is why westerners flock to Buddhism and yoga, because they reject the idea of God as an "old guy with a white beard." Note again how their childish literalism interferes with vertical perception.

Along those lines, it occurs to me that it might even be possible for someone to come closer to the Truth by following the "flying spaghetti monster" than the "bearded sky man" - not because either one of them is even remotely accurate, but rather because the spaghetti monster, for all its absurdity, obviously cannot possibly describe who or what the Absolute is, and thus could function as a sort of back-door apophasis for anyone who spends enough time thinking about it. Though to the extent it works, it's probably a sort of metaphysical breech birth...

2/24/2015 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

In other words, we can integrate the dissonances with our intellect (AKA nous).

Yes, just so.

2/24/2015 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

I may be from the flatland and admittedly am no intellectual heavyweight, but it still seems the most obviouls path to know God as much as humanly possible is to know Jesus as much as humanly possible. At least the relational God which seems to be the only side of God we can ever "know".

2/24/2015 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I agree; but I can say from some experience that for a lot of people, the "Jesus" they have come to know has been distorted in their minds such that they can only turn away.

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

"Of note, one could do the same with science, for example, How can you say there was a big BANG, when sound waves would have been impossible? Or, how can RNA read DNA when it's so dark in there?"

Heh, quite literally True.

2/24/2015 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

Yes. I find it more difficult to understand the source of evil than the source of love. But I don't doubt both are at work.

2/24/2015 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Julie said, "...and thus could function as a sort of back-door apophasis..."

I don't know if this counts, but I swear my demise was in no small way brought about by the stupid things I'd said out loud RE religion that would eventually do me in. Thinking things over is one thing. But I can remember one embarrassingly ignorant and boastful thing I said in the company of others (who were more or less strangers). As if it were yesterday. Probably because it was the last time I'd do it; which is my point. Saying it out loud seemed to be some kind of key. Like I signed and then swore on the warrant. I definitely felt not good about it afterwards. I was in the ripe frame of mind after that. Stumbled on this place not long after, and so forth...

2/24/2015 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Griffin said...

...they reject the idea of God as an "old guy with a white beard."

When we live in a fatherless society, how can we expect people to have anything but a deep visceral revulsion to images of paternal authority, let alone THE paternal authority?

2/24/2015 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Schuon hits you with his hammer and you will like it.

Note again how their childish literalism interferes with vertical perception.


That's what is frustrating sometimes whether trying to converse with some of my fundamentalist brethren or fundamentalist materialists. You can get a lot out of "Red Riding Hood" but it shouldn't be that wolves are cross-dresser.

2/24/2015 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Rick said: Saying it out loud seemed to be some kind of key. Like I signed and then swore on the warrant. I definitely felt not good about it afterwards.

The Hound of Heaven caught the scent. I know what you mean. It's something like showing God the joints in your armor.

2/24/2015 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger John said...

Interesting posts Bob.
I would disagree that Schuon considers Metaphysic prior to Revelation. They are, in his view, different modes of the same Reality, at least as I understand him.
From Harry Oldmeadow
"The relationship between metaphysics and theology is more subtle, complex and problematic. Under the traditionalist view, a Divine Revelation is always the fountainhead of any orthodox religion while
metaphysical insight derives from intellection. The dichotomy here is more apparent than real, Revelation taking the place of intellection for the human collectivity in question. This is a principle not easily grasped but without it the apparent antagonisms of theology and metaphysics cannot be resolved. Schuon defines the
relationship between Revelation and intellection in this way:
...in normal times we learn a priori of divine things through Revelation, which provides for us the
symbols and the indispensable data, and we have access a posteriori to the truth of these things through
Intellection, which reveals to us their essence beyond received formulations, but not opposing them...
Revelation is an Intellection in the Macrocosm, while Intellection is a Revelation in the microcosm; the
Avatara is the outward Intellect, and the Intellect is the inward Avatara."

2/24/2015 01:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Real relationships can be give and take. Flesh, Soul, Spirit, whatever order. Probably helps to have some sense of humor. Or Plato stuff. Or some impersonal recollection. Or whatever. Beats the other choices.

Information pretty much sneaks into whatever can be handled. Sometimes some parts are weaker than others, no order. That is how not staying dead is not the same thing as progress. Maybe Stigmata. Of course, if Mythical stuff gets to be more in charge, that would just be some stories old people tell, to no one in particular.

2/24/2015 01:12:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Mushroom said "You can get a lot out of "Red Riding Hood" but it shouldn't be that wolves are cross-dresser"s

GuffAhHa!

Rick "...Like I signed and then swore on the warrant. I definitely felt not good about it afterwards."

Oh do I ever recognize that feeling.

2/24/2015 01:12:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Yep, me four.

2/24/2015 01:37:00 PM  
Blogger John said...

On the question of Schuon's making use of Vedanta, rather than Christian metaphysics, I would say that it wasn't that Schuon based his vision on Vedanta (indeed, one can find many of his views in sharp antagonism with Vedanta. I would actually say that his views are more akin to the writings of the Kashmiri sage and scholar, Abinavagupta--in fact, in one of his poems he describes himself as a combination of Shankara and Abhinavagupta), it's that he found the Vedanta to be the clearest exposition of HIS OWN inward revelation, or intellection. I think, had he believed his mission to be directed primarily at Christians, he would have made more use of it.
His 'impersonal' God, beyond-being, is certainly to be found at least in Meister Eckhart.
That's not to say that several Christian metaphysicians have not found problems with Schuon's views as to how they relate to Christianity. If one fully accepts the Christian dogmas, I have to agree that it's pretty tough to accept Schuon's vision of the Transcendent Unity.

2/24/2015 01:38:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

This whole post is a delight! From Paul Anka to cross-dressing wolves.

Nice end to a long day.

(I love declaring that I'm not a robot, too!)

2/24/2015 07:11:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Only at One Cosmos can we Go From Schuon to Paul Anka to cross-dressing wolves.


2/24/2015 10:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Skully said...

Why do you think I keep coming here? 'Tis much more esotiscally entertaining than yer common sea stories.

2/24/2015 10:28:00 PM  
Blogger William Wildblood said...

I think a mistake made in Vedanta and a lot of Eastern metaphysics in general, and carried through by Schuon, is precisely what you say, Bob, namely that the Impersonal is hierarchically higher than the Personal. But how could the latter ever arise in any true sense unless it were somehow present in the Impersonal in the first place? And that means that the Impersonal isn’t really impersonal at all. Which I think has implications both for proper spiritual practice and for the idea that the truth is attainable through knowledge as claimed by advaita Vedanta.

John mentions Abhinavagupta and I would agree that Kashmir Saivism has a much more nuanced and inclusive understanding of the nature of reality, manifest and unmanifest, than Sankara’s notion of Vedanta which may seem metaphysically and logically coherent but actually misses the crucial fact that reality is not being alone but being and becoming together. Also, Kashmir Saivism stresses the critical importance of grace, another concept missing in advaita which sees Brahman as totally inactive.

2/25/2015 06:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Paul A. said...

What did the young mother say to King Solomon?

You're not halving my baby!

2/25/2015 10:23:00 AM  

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