Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Seeing the Light in our Prismhouse

We are in the process of cross-referencing some insights from a celebrated 13th century Sufi Cosmonaught with everything else we know to be true of reality. Why? Because it is always intriguing when people separated by centuries, cultures, languages, and religions nevertheless perceive the same invisible things. For me, anyway.

Perhaps it's fundamentally no different than two explorers -- say, Vikings and Spaniards -- discovering the same land mass. Of course there will be differences, since Newfoundland is not central America. Nevertheless, it's a Place, and in any event, the Place wasn't Europe. Same with nonlocal/vertical reality: it is quite diverse, despite the underlying unity (same house, many mansions).

Indeed, al-'Arabi is Allahbout describing that place: it is "the realm where invisible realities become visible and corporeal things are spiritualized. Though more real and 'subtle' than the physical world, the World of Imagination is less real and 'denser' than the spiritual world, which remains forever invisible as such."

You might say that, just as the material world is transmuted through our senses into a ponderable reality, so too is the spiritual world transmuted through the imaginal into the world of religion. As they say, water takes on the color of its container. Compare pure spirit to invisible water, and religious imagery its container: different colors, same water.

I was thinking about this yesterday; or rather, vice versa, since the thought just popped unbidden into my noggin. But we use the word "reality" rather loosely. Reality is one thing, our ideas about it another. Is any human idea actually adequate to reality? Clearly not. Rather, reality is something we can only imagine -- even when we use scientific concepts to do so.

A critical point, however, is that this is not to be confused with a Kantian dualism that denies us access to reality. For Kant, we are essentially trapped in the phenomenal representations of our nervous system, with no access to the noumenal-Real. Our esteemed Shaykh would insist that we do indeed have access to the noumenal via imaginal representations of it.

Go back to what was said above about the place where invisible realities become visible and corporeal things are spiritualized. In particular, think of how we inevitably "spiritualize" reality.

For example, most people, in the presence of virgin nature -- the ocean, rivers, forests, mountains, etc. -- don't just see H20, or trees, or a pile of dirt. Somehow it is transmuted into a spiritual perception -- or perception of spirit -- such that a kind of metaphysical light shines through. This is another thing no artificial intelligence would be able to accomplish, whereas for humans it is hard not to accomplish it.

Note that there must be a difference between "spirit" and the thing it is clothed in, e.g., the river or mountain. This again goes to the idea of spirit taking on the color of its container. We don't reduce water to its container; nevertheless, we couldn't see it without the container. (Perhaps a better analogy is invisible light through a prism.)

Now, shift gears and apply the same principle to the upper vertical. It is pervaded by the same invisible spirit, but how do we capture it? The customary way is through religious containers, e.g., myths, symbols, icons, archetypes, commandments, etc. These are how we "clothe God" (or the sacred), so to speak.

This is an idea that is present in all religions. What distinguishes Christianity is that God literally clothes himself in man, a man who then becomes the "way" to think about God.

In what we might call Primordial Religion, there are three great Revelations. There is existence as such, which is transparent to the Light alluded to above. There is also revelation proper, the book or prophet who speak for God.

For Schuon, there is also the human intellect, which can have no sufficient reason outside God. In other words, nothing short of God can account for a Reason that so transcends everything under its purview. Just as the Light shines through matter and through written revelation, so too does the same Light shine on and through the intellect-nous.

This happens in sometimes surprising and unexpected ways. For example, in the Churchill bio there are many extracts of his prose, and there is something magically luminous about it. I don't know how he does it, but it just rolls out of him. Well, go back to the Light and the Container. I can't help thinking that the key lies in his contact with the Light, which then becomes clothed in his words.

It is very, very different from mere intellectualism. Indeed, Churchill was not an intellectual, in the sense of being interested in abstract ideas. Likewise, he preferred short and common words, and plain meaning. But there is no doubt that these words stirred a civilization to defend itself from a barbarous darkness that nearly succeeded in extinguishing it. Some how he "spoke" on behalf of the very Light for which Western Civilization is the container.

If this sounds like hero-worship, well, yes.

Conversely, think of how his anti-type, Hitler, did the same thing. He too clothed an invisible reality in powerful language. But what a difference! Hitler is truly "darkness visible," the lower vertical incarnate. And wouldn't it be nice if he were the only person capable of clothing "luminous darkness" in speech. Fat chance.

In any event, "imaginal existence allows abstract meanings to take on concrete form," whether that form is in matter or in the intellect.

Now, the radiation of spirit is closely tied to the presence of "openings." Or, spirit is always there; it is up to us to create the opening. It is "a near synonym for several other terms, such as unveiling, tasting, witnessing, divine effusion, divine self-disclosure, and insight." Each "designates a mode of gaining direct knowledge of God" which "comes to the aspirant suddenly [?!] after he has been waiting patiently at the door.'

To paraphrase Woody Allen, 90% of life is just showing up. In this case, you have to be there for the Light to break through. You don't necessarily have to do anything in particular, and indeed, there is nothing you could do on your end to force it to happen. However, there are a lot of things you can not do which will allow it to happen. Which is precisely what we mean by the "bewilderness adventure of higher non doodling."

Having said that, one must always coonsider the Source. I just left a comment on yesterday's post about Schuon's critique of what he calls "realizationism," which essentially involves a lack of discernment of the spirits to which one has opened. Spirit is neither here nor there; or rather, both here and there, i.e., up and down.

How to tell the difference? We're almost out of time, but al-'Arabi suggests that one test involves -- and I'm paraphrasing here -- the unity, or integrity, or harmony, or interconnectedness of it all. It should all Make Sense in a higher and deeper context.

Think of, say, St. Thomas vs. secular scientism. Both "explain everything," but the latter only does so by first explaining away everything that matters.

3 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

In this case, you have to be there for the Light to break through. You don't necessarily have to do anything in particular, and indeed, there is nothing you could do on your end to force it to happen.

I'm minded again of how space, for all that it appears dark, is literally filled with light. It's just that we can't see it until it bounces off of something.

9/20/2016 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Or rather, we can't see it, period - just that which it reveals.

9/20/2016 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"It is very, very different from mere intellectualism. Indeed, Churchill was not an intellectual, in the sense of being interested in abstract ideas. Likewise, he preferred short and common words, and plain meaning. But there is no doubt that these words stirred a civilization to defend itself from a barbarous darkness that nearly succeeded in extinguishing it. Some how he "spoke" on behalf of the very Light for which Western Civilization is the container."

An odd association I've always had, and I can't put my finger on the structural similarities, but only on what each evokes when reading them, and even though in quantity of output there's no comparison, yet in quality, Churchill and Lincoln strike me as very similar. Somewhere the same bell thrums.

"If this sounds like hero-worship, well, yes."

Yep.

9/20/2016 08:12:00 PM  

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