Predestined to Freedom
Now, first of all, what do we mean by involution? For me, it is almost synonymous with "creation," or at least with the manner in which the creator creates. In other words, because the universe is created, it has certain features that mark it as being so. Indeed, the existence of these features cannot be explained in any other way.
Our creator is intelligent, which is the sufficient reason for the intelligibility that pervades the cosmos wherever we look. Likewise our own intelligence, which both mirrors and explores the intelligibility: intelligence and intelligibility are complementary sides of the same single reality, i.e., the createdness of things.
Our creator is also -- obviously -- alive, thus we inhabit a living cosmos. As I suggested in the book, biological life is a kind of focused concentration of a more general principle, like light through a magnifying glass. This is one reason why I was so drawn to the works of biologist Robert Rosen, because he says the same thing, even though he was not a believer. Rather, he just saw that biology was more universal than physics.
This is also why I was so pleased when a reader alerted me to the works of "metaphysical architect" (my term) Christopher Alexander. Alexander says that life is everywhere implicit in the cosmos, and that it is his job as an architect to render it explicit via certain patterns and relationships. Interestingly, you would think that this is a rather abstract theory, but it is really quite the opposite.
That is, it is empirical and experiential, at least if your soul remains open to it. You have one experience in, say, the Chartres cathedral, another inside a McDonald's. The former not only is more "alive," but it also radiates or transmits a spiritual presence. Conversely, the McDonald's transmits no life and no spirit. It is barren and dry -- even more barren and dry than the empty land on which it sits.
Which goes to another point: it is not as if the living spiritual reality is only made present by man's manipulation of patterns and relationships. Rather, it is spontaneously present everywhere in nature, in mountains, rivers, oceans, clouds, the animal kingdom, the starry sky, etc. Why should this be so? And why shouldn't we trust our intuition when it conveys the reality of a spirit-saturated nature?
That is one way I think of involution: that the Creator is everywhere involved in his creation. This is not the same as directing it from above or pulling all the strings in a deterministic manner. What I am saying doesn't so much go to cause as to presence; it is more a vertical reality than a horizontal one.
When we are in the presence of the sacred, it is not something brought about causally from past to present, but vertically from the top down. Sanctity is the downward prolongation of God into our world. We don't create it, but we must be open to it. Also, we can bring about circumstances that render it more visible -- or palpable -- but again, that doesn't mean we are its source.
To say that man is created is to say that we too are a kind of prolongation of God, such that God is intimately involved in and with us. In man there are both horizontal and vertical causes, not to mention different degrees in each. In other words, there is both horizontal and vertical hierarchy.
In one sense, we are a "creation" of the past. We can each trace past causes that led to our present circumstances. However, this can never be an exhaustive explanation, because the horizontal causes are always interacting with vertical ones. We are woven by a mysterious pattern of freedom and necessity, and it is easy to overemphasize one or the other, i.e., to fall into predestination at one end (no freedom) and existentialism at the other (all freedom, AKA nothingness).
This is something I tried to convey in an orthoparadoxical comment yesterday to a post by Bruce Charlton. I'm not sure I made my point clear when I suggested that "we are only truly free to the extent that we choose what we are and what is. Only a free being can comprehend predestination, and man is uniquely predestined to be free to realize the destiny that precedes him."
That soiled gem of bobscurity was inspired by an essay by Schuon called The Question of Evangelicalism. The theme of the piece is on whether protestantism is legitimate or not (short answer: yes), but it is a wide-ranging article that touches on many primordial issues, one of which being the paradoxical relationship between freedom and predestination -- or our freedom and God's omnipotence. How can these two coexist? I know, I know, but the standard answers don't satisfy my demand for logic, or at least compelling illogic.
I'm not sure I even understood what Schuon is saying, which is why I'm returning to it. Hopefully this isn't a distraction, but will somehow relate to the topic at hand, involution and universals.
First of all, Schuon points out that there are spiritual archetypes. By definition these archetypes are ontologically prior to us; we don't invent them, but rather, discover them. Or, more likely, we simply unconsciously identify with one.
God is obviously the archetype of archetypes. You could say that the archetypes are analogous to his primordial thoughts, at least as they pertain to our world. There is a human archetype, which is to say, our nature. Indeed, you could say that Jesus is God's archetype of man, just as he is our archetype of God. Both vectors meet in Jesus, which is pretty much the whole point of his being here with (and in) us.
For Schuon, an archetype is a "legitimate spiritual possibility." There are of course illegitimate spiritual possibilities, as found in everything from Nazism to new-ageism to leftism. These all involve counterfeit archetypes.
In the case of the funny pneumatic money, it is as if they invent and bow down to their own manmade archetypes. But this only encloses them in their own absurcular microcosmos, closed and cut off from the whole, the real source of life and spirit (not to mention intelligence; or, to be precise, intelligence renders itself stupid when it cuts itself off from its own vertical source -- just as life renders itself dead when it closes itself to the environment via starvation or asphyxiation).
"Each denomination manifests the Gospel in a certain manner," writes Schuon. A Catholic would say that his denomination does so in the fullest manner, but the Protestant would reply that too much of Catholicism is at the human margin, away from the core transmission. The purpose of this post is not to arbitrate that question, but rather, to point out that religion is somewhat analogous to Alexander's conception of architecture, in that it is a kind of vertical and nonlocal "structure" for rendering spirit present -- a cathedral of the mind (and spirit).
Schuon notes that Protestantism "retains from the Gospel the spirit of simplicity and inwardness while accentuating the mystery of faith..." Interestingly, he suggests that part of this has to do with the nature and needs of the Germanic soul -- needs that are not in and of themselves illegitimate. In fact, we all deserve a God who speaks to us, i.e., in our "language of being."
I wonder if the language of being changed with the emergence of widespread literacy? It must have. The iconography of Catholicism and Orthodoxy speaks even to the illiterate. You might say it is a direct transmission to the right brain, but what happened when people became literate and therefore more left-brained? It must have awakened a new need for clarity and individuality.
At the same time, "Lutheran doctrine is founded essentially upon the anthropological pessimism and the predestinationism of Saint Augustine: man is fundamentally a sinner, and he is totally determined by the Will of God."
Is this a "legitimate" archetype? Yes and no. For Luther, "the first condition of salvation... is the awareness of abysmal and invincible sin, and hence the impossibility of vanquishing sin by our own strength." There is a tension between grace and freedom, but Luther emphasizes the former. And it is true that grace is a necessary condition -- i.e., a condition without which -- but that doesn't mean there are no sufficient conditions that can cooperate (or not) with it.
Schuon suggests that "Without works, faith would not quite be faith, and without faith, works would be eschatologically inoperative," i.e., just horizontal arrangements cut off from God, with no intrinsic meaning or value.
But Luther sacrifices "freedom to the Prescience and Omnipotence of God," and therefore "intelligence to faith." For Schuon, "this is solely a question of spiritual temperament," not of the literal reality of things. I know people who are reassured by the idea that "God is in control" and that everything will somehow work out for the best. I am just not built that way, and if I said that, I would be lying to myself.
Back to the question at hand. Schuon points out that "Absolute Being comprises both Necessity and Freedom." And because this is the case, our world is comprised of the same things -- again, think of God's involution, his involvement in creation. Therefore, "it is false to deny the possibility of freedom in the world, just as it is false to deny predestination."
It would appear that freedom and necessity (predestination) are truly complementary. But in all complementaries, one must be prior. Which is what I was trying to convey in the comment above, in that it is necessary to be free in order to know our destiny. Necessity must be a mode of freedom, because the converse could never be true. We are predestined to freedom, and there is not a thing we can do about it. Except to use freedom to choose our (pre)destiny.