Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Inside Story of Religion

Although Schuon and Kierkegaard have little in common in style or approach, they would agree on this: "it can happen that a man is intelligent and competent, or that a minority is; but it cannot happen that the majority is intelligent and competent, or 'more intelligent' or 'more competent'" (Schuon).

Kierkegaard is on the same page: "As soon as truth is defined in terms of what the majority can understand it is ipso facto betrayed." But although "the truth is always in the minority, it does not follow that the minority always has the truth."

Nevertheless, "what most men are ready at once to understand, without further preparation, is unequivocally nonsense." Which is why people and institutions default leftward when deprived of any deeper understanding of the principles that govern human beings and their collective efforts.

These Principles have been known since Before the Beginning, from myths as diverse as Icarus or the Tower of Babel, up to more recent works of fantasy such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein or Paul Krugman's latest editorial.

"In every profession, and in relation to every subject, it is the minority that knows; the multitude is ignorant." This is how we end up hoodwinked by statists and their mouthpieces in the MSM, since they presume to have the knowledge and expertise we lack. Which is what "makes the press the most profoundly demoralizing of all the forms of sophistry."

People think Trump is hard on the media. Listen to Kierkegaard: "The lowest depth to which people can sink before God is defined by the word 'journalist.'" And "If Christ now came to earth, as sure as I live, He would not attack the high priests and the like; He would focus his attention on the journalists."

Indeed, if we place all forms of literature on a vertical scale, revelation and journalism must be at antipodes. Where Schuon and Kierkegaard would differ is in the former's belief that revelation is an instantiation of metaphysical truths accessible to the intellect.

If I am not mistaken, Kierkegaard would reject that notion on the grounds that it represents an excessively abstract intellectualism. Schuon would respond that the point isn't merely to know these truths on the plane of abstract intellect, but to assimilate them via a legitimate religious practice.

On this they would agree. Sort of. For Kierkegaard, the whole point of religion is to realize its truths, not merely to "know" them with the mind.

This was the basis of his radical critique of Christianity as practiced and understood by his contemporaries: he essentially believed that the original revolutionary message had been domesticated and trivialized by respectable institutions and harmless church functionaries.

Isn't this always the way? I mean the way down, vertically speaking? I remember reading somewhere that virtually every schism, sub-schism, and sub-sub-schism is prompted by some religious minority longing for a more intense spiritual experience, or encounter with God.

Ironically, this is precisely why Catholics leave the church for Protestantism, and why Protestants return to the Church. Both are looking for the same thing, and perhaps it is more easily discovered in an unfamiliar setting -- similar to how life can be more vivid when vacationing, away from the familiar.

One of the appeals of Orthodox Christianity is no doubt its relative strangeness, especially for westerners (the same can obviously be said of Eastern religions such as Buddhism).

What we want is a Strange encounter with the radically Other. Such encounters must be the mother's milk -- or daily bread -- of religiosity, no?

This is what Kierkegaard is referring to with his insistence upon the subjectivity of Truth: not that Truth is subjective, God forbid, which would render it indistinguishable from lunacy. Rather, that it must be experienced subjectively, or inwardly; it is like the difference between seeing the notes printed on a page vs. hearing the musical performance.

So, don't misunderstand Kierkegaard when he claims, for example, that "I must find the truth which is a truth for me," or "Only the Truth which edifies, is Truth for you."

For he is not promulgating the subjectivity of Truth, but rather, the inevitable subjectivity of our response to it. In the face of Truth, "The problem is to potentialize one's own subjectivity to the highest maximum."

Really, he is advocating for a vertical plunge into the depths of Truth, which is never ending. There is no system we can master, which "presupposes a closed finality." Rather, "real life is always something we are in the midst of."

Which once again has political implications, because in the absence of this inward turn, man is just lost in the cosmos. In other words, no political program can accomplish what only individuals can do, one assoul at a time.

Kierkegaard even offered "a reward to any person who can find in the whole array of my books, one single proposal looking toward any outward change, or even the slightest hint of such a proposal" claiming "that the trouble lies in something external..."

No, the trouble is always inside. But it's easier to project the inside out and pretend to cure it with some political program.

11 comments:

ted said...

I remember reading somewhere that virtually every schism, sub-schism, and sub-sub-schism is prompted by some religious minority longing for a more intense spiritual experience, or encounter with God. Ironically, this is precisely why Catholics leave the church for Protestantism, and why Protestants return to the Church. Both are looking for the same thing, and perhaps it is more easily discovered in an unfamiliar setting -- similar to how life can be more vivid when vacationing, away from the familiar.

So true. Also that's why Christianity is the fastest growing religion in the East, and the Eastern spiritual traditions are growing faster in the West.

julie said...

It's the parable of the Prodigal, played out in every generation.

julie said...

No, the trouble is always inside. But it's easier to project the inside out and pretend to cure it with some political program.

Indeed. This, too, is why so many Christians fall into the trap of believing that charity and even communal living (as the earliest Christians had it) can and should be coerced by the state.

ted said...

Which reminds me Julie, have you checked out Dreher's Benedict Option?

julie said...

I haven't. To be honest, I got kind of tired of Dreher over the past year. He does often have some good observations, and I do sympathize with the underlying idea of the Benedict option. Many of the people I know here live that way, more or less. I tend more toward the hermit option...

ted said...

I think we can all sympathize with the 'idea' of it, and kudos to folks like you that have cultivated some version of it. I am not sure I could go that path. Intentional Community to me never looks as good on the ground as it does in the head. But thank God there are those who take it on!

julie said...

To the extent that we cultivate any version of it, we do so only in our own home - and that not particularly well, I must admit.

Anonymous said...

I know that anecdotes are not data, but I am seeing equal numbers of Protestants and Catholics returning to Orthodoxy.

Gagdad Bob said...

Concur.

Abdulmonem Othman said...

As Aleksandr Solzhenlysn said , nothing awakes the omniscience (god consciousness) within us than the insistent thoughts about one own transgressions, errors and mistakes that awakens us to move toward perfection, a process that cannot be achieved without the a fore-mentioned emptying. Talking about issues is not the same as using the wise issues as a step stone toward our own self realization. Changing oneself is the first step in wanting to be of use in changing the world. Once I saw Ken Wilber putting a naked photograph of himself on his blog and thought that was not the wise human one can learn from. Mental chattering is not the road to Him despite its apparent deceptive assistance in the way to him. It is not a human will, unsupported by the divine will the main ingredient in the process of human spiritual maturity. All prophets proved that the knowledge they are delivering from the source, to remind us to aspire to that knowledge and not to be arrogant as to depend on our sole will. They also remind us not to forget that the human knowledge is prone to stagnate over time that is why there were so many prophets across the ages, charged with the responsibility of renewing the loss effectiveness of the language that has lost its luster. Of course there are no more prophets because humans have matured enough to be their own prophets as it is clearly seen from what is going on in our present human situation where we are hearing the claims of so many humans boasting of their abilities to run the show and it seems God has responded silently in the way of accommodating their wish, only to prove to the humans their stupidity. No wonder we are hearing, all these voices calling for the renewal of consciousness because the prevailed consciousness has strayed so far as no one can be sure as of the two paths our misled humanity is going to take, the safe path of which the Russian visionary identified or crush into the abyss. From what is going on in our world, all signs are not encouraging. It is the influencing names of the domineering divine force that reacts to the human situations negatively or positively in light of the human conditions that the humans have created. We are receivers of divine thoughts and re-creators of these thoughts anew, in light of our receptivity and preparedness that our awareness of Him demands. We are not mechanical machine to reproduce the thoughts of other humans’ machines. This fight of all those we are reading about, to remind us of activating our internal resources in coordination with the only divine energy, the sources of all energies we are using or talking about. Of course Scott knows my Whiteheadian temperament in reading but I surely never stop pondering in his presence. I am not of those who read a lot but work on themselves not. It is only my compassionate urge to see others see what I see and leave the realm of identifying the ills, but to move to rectify it at least in oneself.
I like to add that it seems that humans are in need of constant psychological adjustment due to his paradoxical construction that contains both the forces of good and ill, in line with the paradoxical nature of our God and our cosmos. Religion is our personal psychological school which we need to be in a continual study of the divine curriculum prescribed for the school.
The problem does not reside in the deniers of such divine curriculum and went to make their so-called curriculum which is stolen from the divine curriculum but in those who do not honestly abide by the curriculum despite their attendance to the so-called schools of God irrespective of the labels. I feel we are in a hermeneutics time when God will manifests his power through some of his prepared creatures to show that there is nothing, in His cosmos that run haphazardly and to expose the liars, who used his knowledge and turned against His creativity through falsification and mental perversion.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't we leave religion to the professionals, i.e., the priesthood and other holy personages? They'll ensure a good relationship with God for all of us, while we are freed up to chase after worldly delights.

A quick conversion or confession near death and we slip into Heaven right past Saint Peter; and we will have gamed the system for an epic win.

Or am I missing something? I don't know, maybe its not such a great idea.