Misbegotten Duties and Vital Irresponsibilities
Speaking of which, it turns out that the following touches on the idea of "vital irresponsibilities," or at least doing things for no reason other than doing them. Pointlessness has a point, you know.
"The idea of original sin," writes Schuon, "situates the cause of the human fall in an action" -- which suggests by implication the erroneous idea that if we simply refrain from the forbidden action, then we are sinless.
But the story is supposed to embody and convey a metaphysical idea, not enjoin any particular action per se.
So, what's the big idea? For Schuon, it is "the presence in our soul of a tendency to 'outwardness' and 'horizontality,' which constitutes, if not original sin properly so called, at least the hereditary vice that it is derived therefrom."
I would say that it's not just outwardness and horizontality, but rather, these two divorced from the inwardness and verticality that are their complements.
And although they are complementary, one side of a complementarity is always primary, in this case verticality and inwardness, the reason being that verticality could never derive from horizontality, nor inwardness from outwardness.
Which for practical purposes means that the "pole of attraction which is the 'kingdom of God within you' must in the final analysis prevail over the seductive magic of the world" (ibid.). We must be master of our own domain before we are safe running loose in the world, what with its virtually infinite supply of temptations and seductions.
It reminds me of an article linked on Instapundit yesterday, What if All I Want is a Mediocre Life? It's not particularly deep or well written, but it does make a valid and even vital point about detaching oneself from what amount to worldly idols. It's really a plea for being -- or for a life of inwardness and verticality over the converse.
Now, properly speaking, being is not necessarily located in "doing nothing," so to speak. As Schuon explains, "it expresses above all an attitude of the heart; hence a 'being' and not a simple 'doing' or 'not doing.'" One can always do as an extension of being, which is the basis of karma yoga (and one can certainly practice a Christian karma yoga).
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna reminds Arjuna that "in this world, aspirants may find enlightenment by two different paths. For the contemplative is the path of knowledge: for the active is the path of selfless action."
Furthermore, as alluded to above, "freedom from activity is never achieved by abstaining from action. Nobody can become perfect by merely ceasing to act." Therefore, one should "perform every action sacramentally, and be free from all attachments to results."
Or, as we've said in so many ways, the True, Good, and Beautiful are not "for" anything other than themselves: one wants to know truth because it is true, and for no other reason. Likewise, action should converge upon the Good for its own sake, not for some extrinsic reward, whether in this life or the next.
So (godsplains Krishna), "Do your duty, always; but without attachment. That is how a man reaches the ultimate Truth; by working without anxiety about results." Therefore, wise up: "Shake off this fever of ignorance. Stop hoping for worldly rewards. Fix your mind on Atman. Be free from the sense of ego. Dedicate all your actions to me. Then march forth and fight."
How exactly is this different from Christian yoga or yogic Christianity? Parallels are too numerous to mention, for example, in the distinction between Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. Bear in mind the One Thing Needful, and let the dead bury the tenured.
"If the requirement of the supreme Commandment is to 'love God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind,'" then "the contrary attitude is the supreme sin," with various degrees in between. Again, one doesn't have to take it literally to get the message, which is probably impossible to carry out in any event, for even Jesus asks "Why call me good? None is good, except one, that is, God."
The expression may sound polemical, but it conveys a practical reality that there is no mere action one can accomplish in order to earn salvation. Jesus is essentially putting forth an impossible standard, so we don't fall into the trap of elevating ourselves to our own savior by some meritorious action.
"To be 'horizontal' is to love only terrestrial life, to the detriment of the ascending and celestial path." And "to be 'exteriorized,' is to love only outer things, to the detriment of moral and spiritual values" (Schuon).
One-sided horizontality is "to sin against transcendence, thus to forget God and consequently the meaning of life," while exclusive exteriority and outwardness "is to sin against immanence, thus to forget our immortal soul and consequently its vocation."
Truth and presence. God manifests as one or the other, the former being transcendent, the latter immanent. Actually, God manifests as one and the other, as the presence of truth and the truth of presence.
Just as Hell is simply the last word in God's respect for man's freedom, one might say that sin is the first word in his commitment to the same. "Eve and Adam succumbed to the temptation to wish to be more than they could be" -- or, to be precise, more than they could be in the absence of being grounded in God. Their usurpation equates to a claim "to be equal to the Creator," which "is the very essence of sin."
For "indeed, the sinner decides what is good, counter to the objective nature of things." What happens next is simply "the reaction of reality," which always gets the last word.