Friday, February 10, 2017

Organic Religiosity, with No Added Ingredients

Awhile back an anonymous reader left the following comment and question:

I agree with your assertion that deification is the purpose of man.... I would also be interested in your take on the situation, as you perceive it directly, without input from other minds.

For instance, Jesus is first encountered by reading about him or hearing him discussed. Imagine you had never touched a book or discussed spirituality with anyone. You are clean of human influence. What were/are your self-discovered intuitions on the matter of God?

I've been sitting on this question, waiting for an opportunity to weave it into a post. This may be that post, since the next chapter in Gnosis is conveniently called Is There a Natural Mysticism?

The short answer is that there is and must be, given the nature of cosmos and man, which contain and reflect one another in both preverbal and transverbal ways, mysticism being an "extra-linguistic" phenomenon.

In other words, mysticism is a direct apprehension of, or encounter with, the divine presence that bypasses language. So, it seems there is a common nonsense available to all. Let's see if Schuon agrees with that characterization.

"The concept of a 'natural mysticism'" goes to "forms of spirituality that do not enter into the framework of a given religion..." That being the case, it can ascend only so high, being that it "remains enclosed within the created... which it can in no way transcend" in the absence of a direct intervention from God. If you recall the symbols I used in the book, it may be thought of as the apotheosis of what man may attain via (↑) alone.

Nevertheless, as I believe we shall see, there really can be no (↑) without (↓), being that they actually constitute a continuous spiral and not broken or independent lines. Our ascent is already God's descent, just as our knowledge must be a "drawing out" of something that is already implicit in the phenomena we know. Obviously the intelligibility of things must be prior to our intelligence; it was there long before man arrived on the scene.

Recall Ibn Arabi's gag describing mystical union as being "alone with the alone." Well, in reality it is being "together with the together." And as the Fathers often remarked, all truth comes from the Holy Spirit. Put them together and you understand that all knowing is a two-gatheredness with the divine mind. Either it has roots that go all the way up, or it is nothing at all.

Time out for a cryptic word from our Aphorist: Any shared experience ends in a simulacrum of religion.

Likewise, God's informal grace falls on the world long before it formally rains dogmas and catechisms. However, such general graces will "have an 'irregular' and quasi-accidental character," because... how to put it... It reminds me of something Chesterton says... Which I can't locate at the moment, but I did find this: in his early writings, Chesterton "was intuiting Gospel truths from within life itself, 'without much help from religion'" (Chesterton as Mystic).

Later, "His faith in Christ raised these truths to higher dimensions," but "the root truths of the Gospel about the nature of reality were already present in his experience" (ibid., emphasis mine because That's What I'm Talkin' About).

"Chesterton was already living in two worlds, but it was Christ who revealed to him the true nature of both. Many truths in the Gospel were not so much discovered as confirmed for him" (ibid.). That too is What I'm Talkin' About.

I can't find the quote I'm looking for, but it has something to do with digging channels for flash floods (of grace). But the following is also helpful, for it goes to the absolute need for humility -- of humbly receiving and not eagerly grasping:

"There is a relevant story from one of the desert fathers who had a vision of an angel, who said to him: 'The Lord has sent me to you.' The humble little father answered: 'I don't know any reason why the Lord would visit me.' And the devil left him."

What was said above about Chesterton "living in two worlds" is very helpful. For there are always and inevitably these two worlds, no matter how you cut it. Try as you might, you can never confine things to one and eliminate the other. I would say that Gödel's theorems are a "merely" logical reflection of this deeper ontological reality: that your world can be consistent or complete, but not both.

I also believe we have our "two brains" for just this reason. Just as our two eyes permit us to perceive depth, and our two ears allow us to have a bitchin' stereo, our two brains disclose a world far richer than just one or the other alone would permit.

And in the final analysis these worlds are "rational" and "mystical." They are also "fundamentalist" and "ironic," but that's the subject of a slightly different post. But if you are a Raccoon, everyone you disagree with is being a fundamentalist where they should be ironic, and being literal where they should be mystical. And they are often being mystical in a totally untutored way, with no channels at all, just a downpour on a featureless plain.

However, it has gotten to the point that the people with whom we disagree are becoming frankly satanic in their confusion of the worlds. Here again, this is the subject of a slightly different post, but it comes to mind because I'm reading another book by Wild called Jousting with the Devil: Chesterton's Battle with the Father of Lies.

Maybe we'll vary the scheme and discuss this on Monday. Suffice it to say that one would have to be spiritually deaf and blind -- not to mention tasteless -- to not see that the country is in the midst of a hysterical demonic attack. To put it another way, the left is making it very hard to not believe in satan.

"Devil" is cognate with division and discord. Conversely, intelligence "brings back to unity." There is one view of the world "that is intellectual and unitive, and another that is existential and separative: the first envisions everything in relation to unity, even Existence," while "the second sees everything in relation to separativity, even Intelligence" (Schuon).

But guess what? The separativity dwells within the unity, or we couldn't even know it as separate. Thus "it is a matter of combining these two modes of vision, for each is valid in its own way" (ibid). Doing so reveals the depth of the cosmos, in that we see the mystical in the every day, the supernatural in the natural, the whole in the part.

So that's about it. I can think of no reason why the Lord would visit me today.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Have You Been Truthed Today?

To affirm that "truth is one" is not identical to saying that "there is one truth." Rather, the one truth can -- I would say must -- manifest in a diversity of ways. Indeed, it is precisely because truth is one that reality -- which is so diverse and mayaplicitous -- is true.

To back up a bit, I'm perusing an essay by Schuon called Diversity of Revelation. To back up a bit further, I've decided to reread all of Schuon's books from the beginning. Well, almost the beginning, and almost all. For various reasons I'm starting with Gnosis: Divine Wisdom.

The reasons I'm doing this are twofold. First, I've had a long run of mediocre books that makes me feel as if I'm not getting anywhere. We don't want to be like the man of whom Churchill said "he occasionally stumbled over the truth but always picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened." With Schuon, I always feel as if I'm drilling down to the core. Plus, he always stimulates my own thoughts.

Come to think of it, this would constitute an experiential example of diversity flowing from the one truth. Again, just because something is true, that doesn't mean it is static. Rather, I would say the closer we get to it, the more dynamic, fruitful, and explosive. In my opinion, this is one of the characteristics of the trinitarian God, who is not static but inexhaustibly creative, even the very source of creativity.

Which makes me think of uberCoon Meister Eckhart. Probably a lot of his orthoparadoxical utterances make perfect nonsense in light of the approach we are discussing:

Earth cannot escape heaven; flee it by going up, or flee it by going down, heaven still invades the earth, energizes it, makes it sacred.

God is a great underground river that no one can dam up and no one can stop.

God forever creates and forever begins to create. And creatures are always being created and in the process of beginning to be created.

So, I guess you could say truth is a verb. Therefore, we wouldn't ask someone if they "know the truth," but rather, something like "have you been truthed lately?" or "how's the truthing going today?"

Along these lines, McGinn writes that "Trying to force a mystic as creative as Eckhart into a rigid system of thought is a self-defeating project that can only blunt the depth and challenge of his message."

For Eckhart, God is a kind of perpetual "boiling over" or outflow of creative exuberance. He cites a scriptural basis for this in Psalms: God has spoken once and for all and I have heard two things.

The following, from a sermon by Eckhart, goes directly to our point: "Distinction comes from Absolute Unity, that is, the distinction in the Trinity" Thus, "Absolute Unity is the distinction and the distinction is the unity."

McGinn elaborates: "the more distinct, or different, the Trinity of Persons is, the more indistinct, or absolutely one, the three Persons are in their pure potentiality, namely, in the divine ground." On the one hand "God is distinguished by his indistinction from all other things"; on the other hand "The One itself points to distinction."

There's more, but you get the point. Back to Gnosis. Schuon writes that "Truth and Revelation are not absolutely equivalent terms since Truth is situated beyond forms, whereas Revelation... belongs to the formal order."

If Truth is the verb alluded to above, might we say that revelation is a kind of "nounification" of the verb? Certainly it is an attempt to tame and domesticate what must always remain the Wild Godhead. No matter how much we know, it's only a fraction of the great unknown.

One area where I differ from Schuon is on the question of diversity. I believe I would be correct in saying that for him, diversity is already maya and therefore "outside" divinity, whereas the Christian tradition situates the diversity firmly within it.

In fact, Eckhart posits a kind of meta-trinitarian God, in the sense that the Trinity is begotten of the Godhead. It's just that neither is prior; rather, like the distinction between Father and Son, the distinction between God and Godhead is also a unity.

"In the Godhead God 'unbecomes,' so that this ground must be described as pure possibility, the unmoving precondition of all activity..." (Eckhart). This is where "God Is" shades off into "God Becomes" -- or where the pure I can add the AM. Thus, whereas Godhead can say "I," the three Persons of the Trinity can each say that "I AM." But this whole procession of distinctions is complementary to the ground of indistinction.

This is why God cannot be captured or contained in the distinctions of conventional speech. Rather, "The uncreated Word shatters created speech while directing it toward the Truth; in this way it manifests its transcendence in relation to the limitations of human logic.... To wish to reduce divine Truth to the conditionings of earthly truth is to forget that there is no common measure between the finite and the Infinite" (Schuon).

I can't help thinking this is why Jesus went out of his way to leave us no book, rather, just himself (from which the book flows). Of all people, he would know that booking himself -- enclosing himself between covers -- cannot be done. What he left was a relationship, a gift, a ceaseless truthing that cannot be reduced to mere truth.

Monday, February 06, 2017

E Relativismi Absolutus

We've all heard the cliché that "we are a nation of immigrants." First of all, we're a nation of settlers. The immigrants came later. But the relationship of nation to immigrants is that of whole to part. You cannot add up a bunch of diverse immigrants and hope that a nation will emerge. That is the way of Balkanization, strife, and violence.

Rather, vice versa: one begins with the nation to which the immigrants must adapt. In short, we assimilate immigrants. It is not up to us to be assimilated into their strange gods, beliefs, practices, and sports.

That thoughtlet was inspired by a passage in an essay by Schuon, A Sense of the Absolute in Religions. You could say the emergence of what is called "modernity" is characterized by the discovery of the Other(s). Especially the really weird and/or annoying ones. We're not just talking about an Englishman meeting a Frenchman or what have you.

Most people prior to modernity -- and well into it -- passed their entire lives without ever encountering a genuine Other. But in the so-called Age of Discovery we met all sorts of strange beings, for example, when Columbus bumped into Native Americans.

Anyway, Schuon highlights the problems that occur "when the diversity of traditional perspectives gives a pretext to those who wish to destroy the very idea of the absolute and the values connected to it."

Now, there is a valid, healthy, and necessary form of relativism; and a sick, twisted, and even demonic one. Leftism, of course, champions the latter, because it is an ideal pretext to attack and undermine the Absolute, AKA God.

The valid form of relativism is encapsulated in the motto of the United States, e pluribus unum. But look at how the meaning has been changed by the left:

"The traditionally understood meaning of the phrase was that out of many states (or colonies) emerges a single nation. However, in recent years its meaning has come to suggest that out of many peoples, races, religions, languages, and ancestries has emerged a single people and nation -- illustrating the concept of the melting pot."

What a nefarious sleight of hand! Because of this verbal legerdemain -- word of the day, legerdemain -- the leftist can say with a straight face that this or that recently arrived immigrant is JUST AS AMERICAN AS GEORGE WASHINGTON or whomever.

Well, it depends, doesn't it? If they just want to recreate the third world socialist craphole from which they escaped, then they're not really American at all. I used to live in the San Fernando Valley, parts of which have been slowly transformed into Mexico.

But if Mexico is such a great place, why did they leave? Likewise, if Islam is such a wonderful religion, why not live in an Islamic country infused with Islamic values? Why come to a Judeo-Christian nation, of all places?

Because of what the left has done with diversity: which is to say, deployed it as a Trojan Hearse to sneak in their death culture and normalize their absolute relativism, a relativism that has severed itself from its very reason for being, i.e., the Absolute.

Absolute relativism does not, as the left suggests, elevate every culture to equal value. Rather, it just undermines the sane, decent, and functional ones, i.e., ours.

What is the solution? "Confronted with a relativism that is growing ever more intrusive, it is necessary to restore to the intelligence a sense of the absolute, even to the point of having to underline for this purpose the relativity in which immutable things are clothed" (ibid.).

Go back to what was said above about e pluribus unum. The first English-to-Latin translator I googled suggests per diversitas immutabile, or "through diversity, the immutable." We could equally say e relativismi absolutus or something.

But the purpose of religion is to disclose the absolute beyond religion. If it doesn't do that for you, then you're doing it wrong. But in any event, don't be like a dog or a liberal and stare at the finger to which religion is pointing! (Or the Absolute to which their relativism properly points.)

For "with God, truth lies above all in the symbol's effective power of enlightenment and not its literalness.... The uncreated Word shatters created speech while at the same time directing it toward concrete and saving truth" (ibid.).

In other words, the One, by its very nature, cannot be contained by speech, certainly not on any one-to-one basis. Rather, it pours itself out in diverse manifestations.

But don't confuse the appearance -- the diversity -- with the reality of which it is an inevitable expression! That's just stupid, for the expression is not as real as the reality it expresses.