The Keys to the Damn World Enigma
It reminds me how Ray Charles could size up a woman merely by holding her wrist in his hand. Someone asked him, "Ray, how can holding a woman's wrist tell you everything about a woman?," to which he responded, "I didn't say it tells me everything about her. It tells me everything I need to know about her."
So, perhaps these fundamental keys tell us everything we need to know about the cosmos.
He begins with the three modes of the spiritual life: meditation, concentration, and prayer. You might say that these are the means through which we gently place our fingers around the delicate wrist of the cosmos.
For Schuon, meditation is "an activity of the intelligence in view of understanding universal truths," whereas concentration "is an activity of the will in view of assimilating these truths or realities existentially, as it were."
So the first relates to intelligence and understanding, while the second relates to will and assimilation; to the extent that we know truth, then we want to be in conformity with it. Truth without will is powerless, while will without truth is blind (and therefore not free).
The third mode (prayer) "is an activity of the soul with respect to God." Looked at a certain way, one could even say that the soul itself is a prayer, in that it is always grounded in and oriented to its source. Conscious prayer only makes the relation explicit.
Back to the first mode, which revolves around intelligence. What is intelligence, really? Its "first function" must be "to distinguish between the Absolute and the Relative."
Which only means that if you attend the typical university steeped in postmodern relativism, it is overwhelmingly likely that the end result will be a systematic undermining of the first function of intelligence! In short, you won't just be unintelligent, but cosmically stupid. Is it any wonder that this -- the illiberal, totolerantarian multiversity -- is the great source of Bernie Sanders' support?
In addition (and related) to the distinction between absolute and relative, intelligence ought to be able to distinguish between reality and appearance, the necessary and contingent, the eternal and temporal, essence and existence, or more generally, the vertical and horizontal. Someone trying to unpack this post in a horizontal mode will get øwhere.
For Schuon this principle applies even -- or perhaps especially -- to God. In other words, there is in God -- or better, our perception of God -- the absolute and relative, the universal and particular, the eternal and temporal.
All religions recognize this distinction in some manner, but don't generally include it in the public program, since most people either won't understand it or will misunderstand it. Look at the trouble Eckhart got into for talking about it!
This distinction ultimately comes down to apophatic and cataphatic modes of knowing (or approaching) God; the first goes to the Beyond-Being of God, while the second goes to his Being. Note in this context that the unKnowing of apophaticism is considered a higher and more blessed form of knowledge than any mere cataphatic knowing. Orthoparadox alert!
In Vedanta there is Nirguna Brahman (God without characteristics) and Saguna Brahman (with characteristics). In Christianity there is the ontological Trinity (what goes on "inside" God) and the economic Trinity (which includes its activity in the world).
I think of it as analogous to God having a "dark side" (like the dark side of the moon). Whatever of God is "visible" to us must only be the appearance of an infinitely greater reality that is unknown to us.
And that is all we have time for this morning. We'll forge another key tomorrow, or at least try to pick the lock on heaven's door.