Where God Begins and Ends
In recent days, we have been discussing the principial distinction between Being and Beyond-Being, as a prelude to mapping the vertical reality in which man has his being.
Why does any of this matter, you might ask? First of all, we've only just begun lifting and deveiloping our pneumagraphy of the vertical.
But the short answer is that it is the only metaphysic that not only makes sense, but makes total sense. Not only is it true, but all truth -- both religious and scientific -- is grounded in it. If you have a better one, I'd be happy to hear about it. But most alternatives are ridiculously shallow, inconsistent, or incomplete, at least when they aren't refuting themselves (e.g., scientism, Darwinian fundamentalism, or any other purely horizontal metaphysic).
As nine out of ten whollymen agree, only the Good is ontologically real, while evil is a deprivation; the same can be said of truth and falsehood, beauty and ugliness, freedom and slavery, liberty and leftism, capitalism and socialism. In each case, the latter term is only a cosmic possibility because it is parasitic on the former.
Schuon reminds us of Aristotle's dictum that it is in the nature of the Good to communicate or radiate itself. Here we touch on an aspect of the Trinitarian Godhead, for what is the Trinity but eternal communion?
But at this point we would like to discuss this in more general and universal terms. Plus, we are talking about the "descent" of the Good, so to speak, as opposed to the Good that abides within the Absolute. In other words, it is one thing to say that "God is good." But how does so much good end up down here, of all places?
For unlike some of our competitors, we don't spend a lot of time wondering how all the evil got here. Rather, we wonder about how all the love, truth, beauty, creativity, and freedom got here.
In speaking of "God's will," Schuon suggests that it matters whether we are talking about Being or Beyond-Being. One might say that Beyond-Being "wills" Being, and that Being wills creation. In short -- and this may unsettle Christians, but we'll find a way to make it work -- it is as if there are two levels in God, even though God of course remains one (similar to how he can be three and one).
A key point, in the words of Schuon, is that this creation or "manifestation by definition implies remoteness from its Source, so that in 'willing' manifestation, the Essence wills implicitly and indirectly that ransom which we call evil, on pain of not wishing to radiate or 'diffuse' Itself, precisely."
Again, if creation is to be -- a creation that is truly semi-autonomous and not just an extension of God -- then evil must be, even while being "impermissible." Thus, there is a reason why even in paradise there is a serpent -- who symbolizes the whole possibility of "falling vertically" further and further from the Source, even into the blind nothingness of pure evil and falsehood, i.e., hell. Here again: one might say that because God is, hell must be (since he is Justice, among other attributes).
Schuon raises a subtle but nevertheless critical point; not everyone will be comfortable with it, but I see no way around it: "[T]he Divine Will which wills moral good and for this reason forbids sin, is not the same as that which wills the world: the Will of Beyond-Being... wills the world itself, whereas the Will of Being... presupposes the world and exerts itself only within the world."
For me, this elegantly resolves the whole problem of theodicy. Sophists throughout the ages have tried to disprove the existence of God by saying that he is either omnipotent or good, but that he cannot be both, for if he can eliminate evil but doesn't, then he isn't good, and if he cannot eliminate evil, then he isn't omnipotent.
But if Schuon is correct, then this is an illusory problem rooted in a false metaphysic, in which there is only God and World, which is then covertly reduced to just God. In short, it presupposes a kind of single-level pantheism, so that God is personally responsible for everything that happens.
But that is not how the cosmos works. And it is especially not how man works, since he has free will and is able to make the conscious choice between good and evil. Our free will is a legitimate gift, not some illusory side effect of God's iron will. Rather, we may obviously go against God's will, which is the only reason why we may align ourselves with it.
The cosmos is shot through with degrees of freedom which are the residue of the Divine freedom, so to speak. Thus, we can follow its traces to the very periphery of creation, for example, in the quantum indeterminacy, or in the upward thrust of the genome.
But the higher up the vertical scale, the more freedom. This, of course, presupposes that there is a virtually infinite range of freedom within the human being as well. Being that the human being is the microcosm -- a cosmos within the Cosmos -- he may be as enslaved to an extrinsic program as an ant, or as free as the saint or sage who has conquered illusion and aligned himself with the Real.
Schuon expresses the same point in another way: "Beyond-Being desires good as radiation, manifestation or world, whereas Being desires good as the participation of things in the Divine Good."
Yes, God is good, but in different ways, depending on one's perspective. Note that after the creation, God blesses it as good. This refers to Being itself, which is essentially good, in spite of all the mischief that will ensue as the result of a quasi-autonomous creation that is relatively separate from God. It is surely a core truth that the mischief is ineveateapple.
Elsewhere I read of a good analogy. That is, I willed my son into existence. But I do not will the badness he does, even while knowing full well that he will inevitably do naughty things. To extend the analogy, willing him to exist is Beyond-Being, whereas willing him to be good is in the realm of Being.
This also speaks to the distinction between guilt and innocence. Civilization cannot exist in the absence of a system of justice, even though it can never be absolutely just (rather, only God can). There are always going to be "extenuating circumstances" if we look hard enough, especially with the development of modern pseudo-psychology, which can provide an alibi for anything.
Which is why the Christian is enjoined to love the sinner but not the sin. In other words, he is to judge acts and not souls.
You will note the cultural mayhem that ensues (and that did ensue) when this principle is ignored, and we engage in the impossible task of trying to judge souls, as the left has been doing for the past fifty years or more. We must understand criminals (except white collar or skinned criminals), empathize with them, get to the "root causes" of their sociopathy and criminality.
Or, we must understand why the Palestinians and Islamists behave like such monsters. No, actually we mustn't. Rather, we must kill them, insofar as they insist on behaving like monsters -- just it was necessary to kill Nazi and Japanese supremacists.
The left would like us to displace God and judge souls, which is strictly impossible for man. It is well above our praygrade, which is why it is preferable to stick with acts that we know to be wrong.
So, there are different levels "within" God. Or are there? That is the question. Or, the question is whether there is any support for this view in the Bible or in tradition.
There would appear to be, in the distinction between God and Godhead, the former corresponding to Being, the latter to Beyond-Being. Or, perhaps one could say that God is cataphatic, whereas Godhead is apophatic.
And Meister Eckhart often makes this distinction, without which his theology doesn't make sense. For example,
When I dwelt in the ground, in the bottom, in the stream, and in the source of the Godhead, no one asked me where I was going or what I was doing. Back in the womb from which I came, I had no God and was merely myself. And no one misses me in the place where God ceases to become.
God acts but the Godhead does not act. The mystery of the darkness of the eternal Godhead is unknown and never was known and never will be known.
So, this would also resolve the question of how God can change and yet not change....