Monday, October 26, 2015

Grace is a Finger Pointing to its Source

We've been discussing the Orthodox approach to atonement and salvation, which got me to reminiscing about my first exposure to these ideas, which was in the book A Different Christianity: Early Christian Esotericism and Modern Thought, by Robin Amis.

My amazon account indicates that I purchased it on December 20, 2002, which is about two years prior to finishing the book. I tried rereading it over the weekend, and found it to be somewhat sprawling, unfocussed, and repetitive. Nevertheless, it did open up a number of vital cosmic arteries for me, including in particular Meditations on the Tarot, which I purchased a month later, on January 18, 2003.

However, my first attempt at MotT was a fail, and I didn't return to it for a year or so, when Petey ordered me to give it another try. It was then a smashing success, except it now meant that my book was bobsolete, stillborn, dead on arrival.

Up to that point it was pretty much all yoga and no Christianity. Being that I wanted it to be about Everything, this put me in a cosmic pickle, such that I had to revise the whole upperating system to make it compatible with Christianity, and to this day it bears the traces or scars of I-Amphibiously spanning two spiritual worlds. The whole story has been laboriously blogged before, so I won't belabor it again.

Since I am pressed for time, today will be our weekly descent into the knowa's arkive. I searched for "Robin Amis," and this is what I pulled out, edited and updated from about 5.5 years ago:

While we're discussing Boris Mouravieff, I should point out for those unfamiliar with the name that he was an Orthodox Christian with a Gurdjieff-Ouspenskian (Fourth Way) slant, somewhat similar to how our Unknown Friend is a Catholic with a hermetic slant.

As it so happens, I first bumped into both gentlemen in the same book, Inner Christianity, the latter of which led to Robin Amis' A Different Christianity: Early Christian Esotericism and Modern Thought. It is fair to say that all of these books were central in helping me to get over my Jesus willies once and for all, being that they present Christianity in terms a soph-surfing Raccoon can sink his mischievous claws into.

Not to say that I agree with everything Mouravieff has to say. To the contrary, much of what he says strikes me as overly occult, gnostic (in the pejorative sense), and frankly unOrthodox. He maintains that he was not copying Ouspensky or Gurdjieff, but that he was supposedly dealing with the original sources found in esoteric Christianity. Not bloody likely.

Either way, when people start talking about "secret knowledge," it's time to hold onto your wallet. Yes, there is secret knowledge, but there is no real need to hide it from others (rudimentary discretion notwithstanding), since the secret is quite bashful about disclosing itself to the the unworthy. The Secret protects itself, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it.

Ultimately it is no more secret than, say, quantum physics, which is available to any intellectually qualified and sincerely motivated individual. You don't have to hide quantum physics to keep it secret. Indeed, promiscuously deepakinating it just debases the theory.

Similarly, when I write an over-the-top political hit piece, I get three or four times the traffic. But newcomers almost never return more than once, because the very next post will likely be full of openly secret knowledge which is of no use to them. It is either inaccessible, an affront to their existing faith (or lack thereof), or just too kooky to be of any practical use. In reality, it's just another routine instance of the kosher pearls protecting themselves from the porciners.

Regarding Mouravieff's unorthodoxy, Schuon once made a very important point about people's spiritual experiences. He of course had had many such experiences, but he did not wish for them to be the source of any doctrine. Rather, he wanted Truth to stand on its own merits, and to be understandable and independently verifiable within the awakened intellect (hence, to be universal). He would never dream of saying, for example, "I had a vision of the Virgin Mary [which he did], therefore she is real."

Rather, he maintained that "if one wants to impart mystical certitude to another, the import or message should be capable of being coherently expressed" (Fitzgerald). Along these lines, Fitzgerald quotes a didactic poem by Schuon (translated from the original German):

You may often keep silent about a certitude, / But if you wish to impart it, you must support it / With clear logic; for those who hear you / Want to see a meaning in what you are saying. / You must not say: I am certain of this -- / And then withdraw in proud obscurity. / Finally: what is of no use to anyone, / You are not obliged to preach in the streets.

Not only that, but all of the traditions agree that it is a breach of spiritual protocol to blab on about one's experiences to any- and everyone. Such experiences (?!) always have an aura of sanctity that makes one circumspect about sharing them with the unwashed bipedal primates.

Rather, Fitzgerald quotes another student who recalled Schuon saying words to the effect that "When a man experiences a spiritual state or favor, or when he has a vision or audition, he must never desire this to happen again; and above all he must not base his spiritual life on such a phenomenon, nor imagine that the happening has conferred on him any kind of eminence. The only important thing is to practice what takes us nearer to God..."

In short, (?!) is, yes, a gift, but even more fundamentally, it is a sacred obligation, for ultimately you are obliged to follow it back up to its source and conform your life to the conditions that make the grace flow more readily (e.g., Virtue, Truth, and Beauty).

For this reason, Schuon insisted that his "message" was contained in his books only, not in his peripheral function as a spiritual master for a particular group. The latter function was not unimportant, but it was nevertheless a prolongation of the former, not his central concern or legacy to the world.

But as it so happens -- at least for me -- Schuon's books are jam-packed with his barakah, or spiritual perfume, or transformative grace, or sanctified mojo, or just plain (↓), for which they are the occasion, not the cause. No one should forget that (↓) courses through his words, not from them.

Of this I am quite certain, but my certainty is of no use to another, except perhaps as a suggestion to try it out see for yourself.

19 Comments:

Blogger Christina M said...

My German Catholic grandfather had a vision/dream of the Virgin Mary at some point before he died, just before WWII began. He had a nun paint a picture of what he had seen, as best she could. My mother said the painting was quite ugly. My grandfather had tried twice, desperately, to get his large family out of Germany because he stood publically against the Nazis. He failed both times. The Virgin Mary consoled him and told him that his family would be safe as long as they prayed the Rosary. He died and his whole family of nine children were scattered all over Germany. My mother survived the Battle of the Bulge in the basement of a building with a group of other people and that ugly painting. The whole family survived.

My mother was quite silent about her own religious belief. She did not share her Catholicism with me or my brothers. I had to come to it at age 38.

The one thing that kept me going through a very long dark slog of hiding from and fearing God, was the story of that vision my grandfather had, and the promise the Virgin Mary had made to my grandfather. I so needed to hear that, because it gave me hope that there was a reason that the whole family had been saved.

The problem, the way I see it, is not that people shouldn't share their visions, it's that the people who have had real and significant visions are often too reticent, and leave the rest of us slogging in the dark. I want my sons, and those close to me, to know the vision I had, and why I can't not believe in God.

10/26/2015 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

The Secret protects itself, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it.

You could shout it in the streets (as many do, come to think of it), and the spiritually deaf will simply hear gobbledegook. Sadly, this also means the spiritually deaf who nevertheless grasp for something all too often mistake gobbledegook for the secret, like so many would-be prospectors shouting eureka over a mountain of pyrite...

10/26/2015 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Christina, thanks for sharing that. Some visions, some experiences, are meant to be shared because they bring hope to those who hear. Others... I just don't know. They defy expression, and may carry a danger - maybe even be very destructive - if shared. Discernment is key.

10/26/2015 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

"The problem, the way I see it, is not that people shouldn't share their visions, it's that the people who have had real and significant visions are often too reticent, and leave the rest of us slogging in the dark. I want my sons, and those close to me, to know the vision I had, and why I can't not believe in God."

Well, there's also the problem of being able to differentiate between real visions and simulacra.

Which is a different issue than Julie raised.

10/26/2015 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

That, too.

Ultimately, all I know to do is give it all up to God, and if something (?!) happens, keep on praying. If something good comes of it, give thanks and keep on praying. If it seems questionable, ask Him about it (as much as necessary), and keep on praying.

10/26/2015 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

"Christina, thanks for sharing that. Some visions, some experiences, are meant to be shared because they bring hope to those who hear. Others... I just don't know. They defy expression, and may carry a danger - maybe even be very destructive - if shared. Discernment is key"."

Some I call "cold visions" for lack of a better phrase.

There's a class of visions that don't speak. Generally, I don't trust silent visions because they are being silent for a reason.

In any event, we can ask "did it vision?"

In the case, of Christina M, it visioned, so we can put it on the "useful" pile.

10/26/2015 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Apparently, this is the post t'which I was referring back on Oct 15.
So --- thanks, Bob. Was wonderin where I'd gotten the notion.

10/26/2015 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger Cond0011 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10/26/2015 05:57:00 PM  
Blogger Cond0011 said...

.
"When a man experiences a spiritual state or favor, or when he has a vision or audition, he must never desire this to happen again;..."

As it is non-repeatable transient experience (rationally un-explainable with madness just over the horizon); a quiet 'tap on the shoulder' that says "I am here"

"Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper." ~1Kings19:11-13

I would think it an unraveling experience for any who have made it their life trying to make the world 'rational' - only to have that mental framework upended by the lightest touch of something that transcends this reality. Repeated visions are unnecessary as awareness has been attained.

A personal - and nontransferable - gift.
.

10/26/2015 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

People tend to use visions or spiritual experiences to make themselves out as special or advanced. Some cases I know of were probably more like giving milk to a baby or coaxing a not-too-bright toddler.

10/26/2015 08:04:00 PM  
Blogger Cond0011 said...

Yep.

As common as the grass, Shroom.

That's why (as B0b intimated via Schuon) the importance of sticking to things comprehensible.

10/26/2015 10:05:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

"People tend to use visions or spiritual experiences to make themselves out as special or advanced. Some cases I know of were probably more like giving milk to a baby or coaxing a not-too-bright toddler."

There are various types of experiences that kind of get all globbed into one giant ball of mush.

I really need to develop a periodic table of visions.

Not that visions are periodic like the periodic table.

Well, I don't *know* that they aren't periodic, like the elements.

They might be.

Some visions are helium. Some visions are oxygen. Some are nitrogen.

Some are arsenic.

And some are plutonium.

Thanks Mushroom! You just gave me a framework for classification!

Woot!

10/27/2015 05:34:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

"There are various types of experiences that kind of get all globbed into one giant ball of mush."

I was thinking along similar lines. Perhaps some distinctions should/could be made.

I've never had a vision or audition, but I have had experiences (just a few) for which I am very grateful. What Schuon says that Bob has excerpted here (maybe Schuon's had plenty more to say on the subject) comes across that they are practically a net negative. If we are talking about grace (or that aspect of a vision which would be grace), then that can't be right. Grace must have infinite value. In this sense, each personal experience is special, but no more special than anyone else :-) If one swims into a life ring, that doesn't make them a hero, but should make them grateful.

10/27/2015 06:35:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Yes, well said. I've heard a couple completely different stories within the past year, of people being graced/ granted signs by roses. The first was one that happened several times within a particular family, and the second was in response to a prayer from a boy who had suffered a death in the family, and as a result was losing his faith. He asked for a red rose in the morning; when he came into the kitchen, there was one in a vase on the table. He was told that it was found laying on the counter that morning, but that nobody knew where it had come from.

That type of grace, it seems to me, is meant to be shared - just like a life ring. As you said, it doesn't make one person any more special than any other, but instead may be a hand up to far more people than the first one so blessed.

10/27/2015 06:59:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I personally wouldn't put it as strongly as does Schuon. Maybe he's just being polemical to get the point across....

10/27/2015 07:04:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

You could even turn it around, a la Don Colacho: "Of anything important there are no proofs, only testimonies."

10/27/2015 07:05:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

As always, by its fruits you shall know it. But also like always, the correct response isn't grandiosity but humility; if on receiving a sign or a vision one responds by self-puffery, a blessing may become a curse. Conversely, taken with humility, what seems outwardly a curse may become a great blessing.

10/27/2015 07:35:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Or as others have said, "The man with an experience is not at the mercy of a man with an argument."

10/27/2015 07:37:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"Either way, when people start talking about "secret knowledge," it's time to hold onto your wallet. Yes, there is secret knowledge, but there is no real need to hide it from others (rudimentary discretion notwithstanding), since the secret is quite bashful about disclosing itself to the the unworthy. The Secret protects itself, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it.

Ultimately it is no more secret than, say, quantum physics, which is available to any intellectually qualified and sincerely motivated individual. You don't have to hide quantum physics to keep it secret. Indeed, promiscuously deepakinating it just debases the theory."

Amen.

10/28/2015 09:17:00 AM  

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