Variations on a Theme of Reality
♪♫ Man's spiritual alchemy comprises two dimensions, or two phases, which can be designated by the terms "doctrine" and "method," or "truth" and "way." The first element appears as the divine Word, and the second as the human response; in this sense the truth is a descent, and the way an ascent. ♪♫
This is pretty much what I was driving at with our old friends (↓) and (↑). Schuon is already pretty abstract, and I'm just abstracting from the abstraction and distilling the essence from the essential.
Right away this reminds me -- remember, we're just improvising here -- of something Nasr says in The Essential Schuon: that his writings "are characterized by essentiality, universality and comprehensiveness."
As to the first, "they always go to the heart and are concerned with the essence of whatever they deal with."
Or in other words -- and this is something we are always striving for as well, otherwise why bother writing? -- he tries to reach "to the very core of the subject he is treating" and go "beyond forms to to the essential formless Center of forms," in what amounts to "a journey that is at once intellectual and spiritual from the circumference to the Center."
Circumnavalgazing the whole existentialada, we call it, or sayling 'round the unsayable sea of being. Verticalesthenics. Same difference.
Essence. Exactly what does it mean? "The intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, especially something abstract, that determines its character; a property or group of properties of something without which it would not exist or be what it is; the basic, real, and invariable nature of a thing or its significant individual feature or features."
Something is essential if, when we remove it, the thing to which it attaches is no longer itself. This has many important applications, for example, what is the essence of the United States?
In order to address that question, we need to go meta, or become even more abstract and essential, for philosophy itself split in two some 700 years ago with the development of nominalism. The, er, essence of nominalism is the denial of essences, precisely, such that anyone who talks about them is talking about nothing, or certainly nothing real.
In truth, one cannot not be an essentialist, for reasons implicit in the above paragraph -- i.e., that without a notion of essence, one can't even speak of its denial. It's ultimately a variant of the postmodern "there's no such thing as truth" gag. Nominalism, like relativism, Darwinism, and scientism, is soph-beclowning.
Of course, Richard Weaver's Coon Classic Ideas Have Consequences is on just this subject.
Nominalism expands the world in a certain sense, in that everything becomes an individual instance of itself. But this is only a horizontal expansion, with no way to organize it from above.
Some people have described a bad acid trip this way: it is as if every moment becomes a catastrophic novelty, with no way to make sense of it. Psychosis has been characterized this way as well: nonstop nameless dread -- and dreadful because nameless.
In reality, it's a complementarity. Much of the history of philosophy involves some guy grabbing at one end of a complementarity and running with it. Looked at this way, a strong realist is as wrong as a strong anti-realist. For reality is a tapestry of form and substance, or music and geometry, or spirit and matter, or boxers and briefs, whatever.
But denying universals denies everything transcending experience, thus denying one's own denial. Which is an affirmation of universals.
Much of what we call "fake news" (as well as liberal fakademia) is a result of messing with concrete facts, abstract universals, and the space in between. When a Republican is caught redhanded, it's a Culture of Corruption. When a Democrat is so caught, it's just an aberration, and besides, being a Democrat has nothing to do with it. Obama? Vigorous executive. Trump? Fascist usurper.
The other evening Tucker Carlson was trying to get a Planned Parenthood executive to say whether or not a fetus is a human being. Fascinating, in a creepy way. We all know what the answer is, but she simply could not or would not say it. She was the very essence of anti-humanism.