One Out of Two Universes Ends in Divorce
So, the senses are not merely sensory but always... sensible as well: although we can distinguish sense from intellect, we cannot radically isolate the two from each other. You might say that there is always a bit of intellect in the senses, and a bit of sensation in the intellect, as in the image of the Tao. Or a kind of marriage, if you like.
Now, why is this important? Well, when we think about ultimate reality, it seems to me that "sensation" is precisely what separates outside from inside. However, it is also what unites inside and outside. Therefore, sense is like the semipermeable membrane that faces both ways, between the interior and exterior of the cosmos. You know, Janus-faced.
This is what I was attempting to convey way back in the portentously titled Book Two, via the strange phenomenon of biogenesis. For example, if it were possible to insert an observer into our cosmos prior to the emergence of life -- a logical impossibility, but go ahead anyway -- there would have been no outside nor any inside.
You might be tempted to think that it was all outside -- i.e., exterior and objective -- but outside co-arises with inside. Analogously, not only is there is no husband without a wife, but husband-and-wife instantaneously co-arise with the incantation of I Do. It's the same way with objects. There can be no objects without a subject, no one to draw any boundaries between them.
So anyway, go back to any time prior to the emergence of life, and "no amount of knowledge of physics or chemistry could have discerned the fantastic potential that only time could reveal; or have foretold the luminous fissure that was about to break open in this heretofore dark, impenetrable circle" (me).
But THE most dramatic thing about the emergence of life is that we now have a division, a boundary, a membrane, and therefore an inside and an outside. There is even the trace of a subject, as in a ME and a NOT ME. The simplest cell has some means of distinguishing ME from NOT ME, if only a physical boundary. And all senses are ultimately touch, only of more subtle things such as air vibrations or photons.
A modest thing, no doubt, but all subsequent development is rooted in this distinction. For example, where would we be without our immune system? It is our most primitive means of profiling any NOT MEs with dubious intentions, but we'd be dead without it.
Back to the emergence of this most primitive membrane that brings about a new, two-faced world: "Here, the dawning of an internal horizon in a universe now divided against itself, the unimaginable opening of a window on the world, a wondrous strange mutation as unique, mysterious, and altogether strange as our first bang into material space-time..." (me again).
So yes, Life is an explosion, as was matter before and mind after. And a few posts back we shared that line about how "[I]nfinite love has exploded into our universe; theology is an effort to diagram the explosion. The diagram is indispensable, but it is not the reality and it must not obsess us. What matters is the love, and that cannot be diagrammed" (Sheed).
But nothing can happen until we have the membrane: without it we remerge with matter, ashes to ashes and dust to dust. With it there is the ingression of freedom, truth, love, and beauty into this world. You might say that Life is the first step of transcendence, since any living organism transcends the material of which it is composed. The organism is a kind of space-time pattern through which constituent elements flow in and out.
Transcendence, as Schuon correctly observes, is "separative." You might even say that it is the source of our alienation, our awareness that this cannot be our home. Because we always transcend the world, we can never fully be in it or give ourselves to it. There is always a remainder (and a reminder). Hence Schuon's orthoparadoxical crack about how man is "condemned to transcendence."
Now, like inside and outside, there can be no transcendence without immanence: they are complementary, not opposites. But if we focus on transcendence to the exclusion of immanence, we end up -- ironically -- either an atheist or a primitive believer, i.e., like the Muslim who invests all power in the transcendent Allah and none outside him, or the atheist who lives in his scientistic abstractions.
Immanence, in contrast to transcendence, is "unitive." Without it, we have a radical duality, with all reality above and nothing below. If transcendence "fixes, immobilizes, and crystalizes us" in reverence and awe, then immanence "attracts, vivifies, and, in the final analysis, reintegrates us in keeping with 'love'" (Schuon). Thus, it is almost like Father-Transcendence and Mother-Immanence, or law and mercy, standards and compassion, toil and slack.
Again, there must be a harmonious marriage between the two. It may sound abstract, but we see the fruit of bad marriages every day. It is why liberals have abandoned fatherly standards for maternal compassion, and why they so desperately want a female president just to have one, i.e., not for any logical or defensible reason.
In another essay, Schuon observes that To have doubts about what is ontologically certain is not to want to be. In other words, it is suicide. Now, what is the left but an aggressive project in denying ontological certainties, truths that cannot not be? Which is why, when the mullahs chant "Death to America," Obama just rolls his eyes and says amateurs.