Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Meta-Theology, Esoterism, and Sola Relatio

I don't even like the word "esoterism" because it sounds elitist and therefore Gnostic, the latter involving salvation via some special knowledge reserved for the Few.

Nevertheless, if the truth sets one free, then liberation and salvation obviously have some relation to knowledge. Lies set one free, but free from a proper relation to reality. At least for awhile. Reality can be an abusive partner if one persists in being unfaithful to her.

All religions speak of liberation and salvation, but usually emphasize one or the other. Where eastern religions generally speak of liberation, western ones preach salvation.

But one cannot be saved without truth, and to be liberated is to be rescued from the various lies and illusions that ensnare us.

In addition to truth and liberation, there is presence: God is truth, God is freedom, and God is here. Frankly, any one will do, and each entails the others.

Theology is always situated within this or that religion, but esoterism is meta-theological. This is essentially no different from how metaphysics is situated beyond every academic discipline. Now, metaphysics is not popular these days, and meta-theology has never been popular.

However, we know it isn't possible to make any meaningful statement about reality outside a metaphysical frame of reference (even the word "reality" is metaphysically loaded with assumptions). People who deny metaphysics -- or who pretend to do without it -- just end up being the worst and most naive of metaphysicians.

For example, science wedded to a bad metaphysic redounds to scientism. Psychology rooted in a naive or unreflective metapsychology devolves to an absurcular psychologism. Similarly, history can become a myopic historicism, logic a grandiose tautology, economics a presumption to knowledge that is impossible in principle.

There is one truth but an infinite number of deviations therefrom. Some people confuse the infinitude of the latter with "freedom." But relativism is just the world's biggest prison.

So: I wonder if there is a meta-theology that is to theology as metaphysics is to the world?

By the way, in using the word "metaphysics," I am partial to Whitehead's definition of the term -- which I don't precisely remember at the moment but has something to do with an overarching theory that encompasses Everything That is the Case. Anything that exists or happens is explained by it, and nothing can exist or happen outside its laws or principles or habits.

Everything written above was provoked by one little passage from Schuon, to the effect that it would be absurd to demand from theology what is perfectly acceptable to esoterism (or what we prefer to call meta-theology).

A central purpose of theology is to transmit the Absolute. However, it is generally conflated with the Absolute, which reduces to idolatry. This is precisely the plane where religious quarrels occur, especially the deadly ones. Being that there cannot be two Absolutes, one must go, absolutely. The jihad is on.

I wonder: is there a meta-theology that is built into Christianity, thus freeing it from the errors of "theologism" (the latter neologism being to theology what scientism is to metaphysics)? Does Christianity convey an intrinsic ironization of itself?

I believe so. In this respect -- and no disrespect is intended -- it is quite different from, say, Islam or Judaism, which are "religions of the book." Christianity is most definitely not a religion of the book. Rather, it is a religion of the person and of the relationship. This latter statement is, of course, filled with meta-theological implications.

A book is an object. A person is a subject, and indeed, the meta-cosmic person is the very source of subjectivity. And a relation is not a possession. Just what it "is" is quite mysterious, because it is not only the space between Things That Are, but makes them What They Are. Here we find ourselves outside the world of sola scriptura and inside the space of sola relatio.

In other words, there is This and there is That. But there is no ultimate This or That. Rather, what is ultimate is the relation between This and That, which, if I am not mistaken, goes to the centrality of Trinity: there is no Father save for in-relation-to the Son, and vice versa.

The relation is the thing, and this relation is Love, apparently. Everything herebelow is substance-in-relation. Which should be no surprise if everything above is also substance-in-relation.

A thought just popped into my head: remember Esperanto? It is a manmade meta-language that is supposed to transcend and harmonize the world's diverse tongues. Is that what we're doing here? I don't think so, because Esperanto is obviously not the Logos from which language flows (and languages flow). To imagine the Logos can be reduced to a human language is literally pre-posterous.

Now, the ultimate substance must be beyond-being. It is the Father of all. Ah ha! But there is no ultimate substance, or at least one that isn't in-relation. Therefore, beyond-being must be in relation to being, as Father is to Son. And again, this relation is love. So, there is indeed something beyond beyond-being, and it is the relation of love. It is the mysterious Third that haunts all things.

This pneumatic third spills over into everything. In my opinion it explains the intelligibility of the world, which is just the light of truth pouring forth and giving itself over to intelligence. Likewise beauty, which is just the divine glory in its metaphysical transparency. And what is virtue but man's participation in the sovereign good?

I guess that's about it for today. I would summarize by saying that meta-theology entails three human imperatives: know truth, love beauty, and do good. But knowing, loving, and doing are all relations.

4 comments:

julie said...

A central purpose of theology is to transmit the Absolute. However, it is generally conflated with the Absolute, which reduces to idolatry.

In other words, confusing the messenger with the message. Or sniffing at the finger instead of looking to which it points. In the Christian context, this happens, too, when people elevate the Bible to something more than it is; reducing it, too, to a mere religion of the book.

Esperanto - ha! Does anybody still try to use it, I wonder?

Anonymous said...

People are at different stages of development as well. Jesus LOVES me this I KNOW, because the bible tells me so....is a perfect fit for many. They will have many lives in which to acquire spiritual acumen.

Everyone is pretty much where they need to be. Therefore be tolerant, not as a virtue, but from common sense.

Sages like the blog author are hoary with soul age, have stomped the Earth since before the Santa Monica mountains reared up from the sea. Many are younger...love the children is all you can do.

Van Harvey said...

"However, we know it isn't possible to make any meaningful statement about reality outside a metaphysical frame of reference (even the word "reality" is metaphysically loaded with assumptions). People who deny metaphysics -- or who pretend to do without it -- just end up being the worst and most naive of metaphysicians."

My pet peeve is the outspoken 'realist', who groans at every reference to metaphysics "Oh, geez, can't we just focus on what matters?!", and then proceeds to state plans which reality will not support.

Van Harvey said...

"This pneumatic third spills over into everything. In my opinion it explains the intelligibility of the world, which is just the light of truth pouring forth and giving itself over to intelligence. Likewise beauty, which is just the divine glory in its metaphysical transparency. And what is virtue but man's participation in the sovereign good?

I guess that's about it for today. I would summarize by saying that meta-theology entails three human imperatives: know truth, love beauty, and do good. But knowing, loving, and doing are all relations."

Relations are the means by which The Many become One.

... without ceasing to be Many.