Appearance and Reality, Dark and Light, Man and God
To summarize our cosmic situation: there is truth and way; or doctrine and method; or divine word and human response; or ultimately, God's outspiraling descent (↓) and our inspiraling ascent (↑). Looked at this way, truth as such is already a descent, just as knowing it is already an ascent.
If this weren't the case, then there would be no such thing as, I don't know, academic grades. That is to say, truth descends, as it were, from the professor, and the grade we receive reflects our assimilation of it. In this scheme, the rogue who gets an A has ascended higher than the one like me who receives the gentleman's C.
At least back in pre-postmodern times. Now the professor dispenses opinions while students offer up their own. Any answer is fine, except it had better not be the wrong one.
Which again shows how one can pretend to deny the Absolute up front, but it always returns through the back door. For no thinking of any kind is possible in its absence. Therefore, you might as well accept this at the outset and define your Absolute and the principles that follow.
As we know, "the world" consists of appearances + reality. To know a truth means to see beyond or beneath the former to the latter. For example, the sun appears to circle the earth. But in reality, it's the other way around.
Not so fast! Einstein proved that it's both, depending upon one's frame of reference. Or, more precisely, both are orbiting a center of mass that is close to the sun, but not absolutely identical to it.
And this isn't even taking into account larger movements such as the spiraling Milky Way and the spinning supercluster of galaxies of which it is a part. So, where is the actual cosmic center around which everything is turning?
That's easy: it is in us. Supposing we could locate the physical center around which everything spins, this would only be on the horizontal plane. I know we've touched on this before, but once you acknowledge the vertical axis, then man becomes the center of creation -- or better, a projection of the Absolute Center into relativity.
So yes, the cosmos is no doubt a big place. But so what: no matter what anyone tries to tell you, man is bigger. Because the cosmos is intelligible, we may know it, which is to transcend it.
Frankly, the cosmos has to be this large in order to host Man. Its size is merely a function of how long it's been here, and it takes a cosmos 14 billion years or so to produce a man. For God that's no more than a day. Or six days, at any rate.
Now, for Schuon, one purpose of creation is "for God to be known 'from without' and starting from an 'other than He." "Purpose" goes to teleology, and Schuon suggests that right here "lies the whole meaning of the creation of man and even of creation as such."
Really? That is a Bold Statement: the whole meaning? How does he know? Isn't that a bit presumptuous?
No, it is just taking what man does -- and cannot help doing -- to its logical conclusion. Man seeks to know. Now, either truth exists, or it doesn't. If it doesn't, then our will to know -- AKA the love of Truth -- is just an absurd and meaningless feature of our pathetic existence. The mind is reduced to an accident that can know only accidents, AKA appearances. One might say that it is "appearances all the way down," on both ends, i.e., mind and world.
The final common pathway of this spiritual pathology is unremitting tenure, or a certified mediocracy from which there is no escape.
But the truth of the matter is that it is reality all the way up. At the top is the Really Real, or that without which there are only appearances with no reality, or shadows with no light.
Being that we are in the image of the Creator, it's the same with us. We can become quite "distant" from ourselves, to the point that we lose conscious contact with the Self-center. This is the case for most anyone who comes in for psychotherapy: what they essentially want to know is, what happened to me? Where did I go? And how do I get it back?
Schuon speaks of the distinction "between the man-center, who is determined by the intellect and is therefore rooted in the Immutable, and the man-periphery, who is more or less accident." Thus, we are back to appearances and reality, only on the human/interior/vertical dimension.
Shifting gears for the moment, think of Jesus, who is "true man and true God." Wha? Returning to our astronomical analogy, it is analogous to saying that something is "true planet and true sun."
But what applies to Jesus by nature applies to each of us by adoption, such that we planets can not only orbit the true sun, but (via theosis) take on characteristics of the sun. For Jesus is divine light, and you are sons of that light; and "let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
Conversely, "if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness." Now darkness is a, if not the, quintessential appearance, because it is totally without reality of its own, but parasitic on the light. Strictly speaking, darkness does not exist, for it is pure privation. For the same reason, man without God is nothing.