Monday, August 03, 2009

The Grand Synthesis of Christ

As always, I don't yet know what this post is going to be about. But I do like the title, because above all else, Christ represents the unification of all reality. In fact, technically speaking, you don't even have to be explicitly Christian to believe this. Rather, you must only have faith in the principle of unity. Thus, looked at in this way, even atheists are closet Christians (it is no coincidence that most of them live in Christendom). They can call this principle of unity whatever they want, but they couldn't call anything anything if reality weren't already infused with it. Conceiving itself would be inconceivable, thinking unthinkable, knowing unknowable.

Again, it is a little shocking to realize that it took some 600 years for human beings to fully "get it" -- to arrive at a theology that was equal to the trans-linguistic event of the Incarnation.

Obviously, Jesus left a lot of loose ends. He didn't reduce anything to a written formula. Truly, he was an event first and foremost. And it is critical that we describe that event as accurately as possible, even while not confusing the event with the words.

I'm not enough of a scholar to know, but if Balthasar is correct, then Maximus was the first to survey all of the previous partial descriptions, all of the various doctrinal disputes "that had torn the Church apart for centuries," and resolve them into "a final, conclusive synthesis." For truly, if Christ is the "principle of unity," then it is simply a scandal that man cannot reflect this unity in his theology and within his own being.

And if this christological formulation is correct, then it should apply to all reality, not just "church politics," so to speak. Indeed, Balthasar asks why this formulation cannot, "seen in its deepest implications, also serve as the right model for the world?" It's just that it took a number of centuries to work out all of the implications, to dot every ʘ and criss every Cross.

Remember, the early Christians were not confused by our contemporary division between a secular world and a "supernatural" world. Rather, for them, there was just the one world. Which is why they had no problem taking the best of Greek thought and blending it with Christianity -- not in order to reduce Christianity to worldly thought, but to elevate Greek thought to a truly meta-cosmic status.

Thus, for Maximus, a synthetic understanding of Christ applied to the diverse "structures of being," or what Wilber calls the "spectrum of consciousness": "All things for him had become organic parts of ever-more-comprehensive syntheses, had become themselves syntheses pointing to the final synthesis of Christ, which explained them all." Seen in this light, a Hegel -- who came over 1000 years later -- is simply "a secularized derivative of biblical theology."

Which, if you're following me, is precisely how we end up with the upside-down theology of leftism, which is first and foremost a political religion. As we know, Marx "turned Hegel on his head." But as you may not know, he also turned Hegel inside-out, resulting in a "materialization" of Christian metaphysics.

In this diabolical formulation, the Kingdom of Heaven is immamentaized, and we will all live on Sugar Candy Mountain when the Obamessianic state forces us to be equal -- not equal in the eyes of God, but equal in the eyes of Marxist bean counters. "Administered equality" is just another name for tyranny. Just ask the lion who was forced to eat grass to make him equal to the sheep. Choking smokers don't you know the Joker taxes you? (Ho ho ho, he he he, ha ha ha, see how they smile like pigs in a sty, see how they snide. I'm crying.)

Now, it is critical to bear in mind the distinction between Jesus -- the Word made flesh -- and the "pre-incarnate Word," i.e., Logos, which always was and is. Clearly, the Logos was accessible to a Plato or Socrates or Lao Tsu. It's just that it was an abstract principle instead of a concrete one. It never occurred to anyone that this principle could take on human form.

Indeed, this would have been considered a kind of insult to the Principle. Rather, for neo-Platonists such as Plotinus, the task of this life was to leave our humanness behind and ascend to the Principle. It necessarily involved an element not just of world denial, but of world detestation.

Remember Porphyry's famous description of Plotinus, that he "had an inherent distrust of materiality (an attitude common to Platonism), holding to the view that phenomena were a poor image or mimicry of something 'higher and intelligible' which was the 'truer part of genuine Being.' This distrust extended to the body, including his own; it is reported by Porphyry that at one point he refused to have his portrait painted, presumably for much the same reasons of dislike."

Maximus did not fall for this gnostic (in the gnaughty sense of the word) duality of spirit and flesh. Rather, for him, "the natural law, the written law, and the law of Christ are one and the same." For in the final analysis -- or synthesis -- we are talking about the unification of horizontal and vertical, however you conceptualize them (and you cannot be human without conceptualizing them in some manner, for man is precisely the being who equally inhabits, or manifests, the vertical and horizontal worlds).

Thus, "for Maximus, the reality of this synthesis is best conceived by the image of a right angle, in which two lines meet" (emphasis mine). This is a synthesis of "sensible reality and mind, of earth and heaven... of nature and idea" (Maximus). It is also the synthesis of "theoretical and practical reason, of wisdom and prudence, of contemplation and action, of knowledge and virtue, of immediate vision and faith."

In each case, the "whole" is not a product of the synthesis; rather, it is the prior reality, which bears within itself "the unmixed difference of the parts that make it up." Yes, unconfused but inseparable. This mystery "of the presence of a whole in its parts, from whose synthesis it comes to be, is not, for Maximus, simply the object of disinterested contemplation." Rather, for him "it is the direct way to God." For if the Logos became man, we must then ask ourselves, "by virtue of what principle?"

Probably a good place to stop for today. But the whole thing reminds me of another synthesis, Aurobindo's Synthesis of Yoga, in which he writes that

"In the right view both of life and of Yoga all life is either consciously or subconsciously a Yoga. For we mean by this term a methodized effort towards self-perfection by the expression of the potentialities latent in the being and a union of the human individual with the universal and transcendent Existence we see partially expressed in man and in the Cosmos."

Sounds difficult, but don't worry, for my yoga is easy, my burden light.


Anonymous said...

Great Post Bob.

I've read Aurobindo's comment boiled down to "All life is Yoga" on the inside leaf of "The Life Divine."

Another comment I read was there are basically two choices of aim in life. #1 is to achieve a balanced "normal" life in which the enlightened intellect, in control of the wayward impulses and appetites, develops the full potential in the emotions and actions, leading to a state of harmony and balance. This results in a stable family life, productive work in accordance with the preferences and aptitudes of the person, and a useful spiritual practice. It leads to a life well-lived and most strive for this ideal.

#2 is the spiritual life, in which one strives to embody the highest truth which one can concieve. The persons surrenders the life and its outcomes to the Divine. Emotions and actions are all held up to the Divine ideal for purification and all that do not meet the criterion are abandoned. This life pattern leads to unpredictable and sometimes unsavory outcomes (at least by the standards of path #1).
The person may or may not have a family, success at some kind of career,etc. However, it has the potential to achieve a closer Yoga our union with God, which is master principle for both life plans.

So the question on the table, Raccoons, is which are you, #1 or #2? Keep in mind that if you're not sure, then you are on life plan #1. Those on plan #2 do not have any questions about it. Christ was a #2, as was Aurobindo.

I am a #1 but thinking of converting to #2. It is a big jump...

Abdul said...

Why do think that Obama is a Socialist? Since it could increase those do the small ones, control them and are to regulate more, the economy that terrible east in left? Since it would really want to apply a plant of doctor-fourth of bath of the service, does this seem advisable? Does obtain make the beginning for all the reason? I hope that he lives, the end to say those secrecies, that I tried them within him is burned until now. A safe stay is, like you to think, the end to say: one fills on the expensive outpost. They would have that will be considered like happy that you are all in God, because a man of the processing relation would be the task, that is much for the eternity, Abdul

QP said...

A haiku response to Anon's question.

How the hell did Abdul get past wv?

Cousin Dupree said...

You mean weird verification? Easy.

Van said...

"In fact, technically speaking, you don't even have to be explicitly Christian to believe this."

Van said...

(Just in case that wasn't self-evident in the previous comment)


moe said...

you have to read abdul's comments backward to understand it. Just like the Middle East.

Van said...

Abdul, about the translator page your using (google? Babblefish?)... uhm... it ain't working for you. Invest in some free market solution, pay for something that works, then you can try to spout on about socialism in words we can recognize should be laughed at.

curly said...

Technically speaking, you are required to observe the saving rites of a salvific path in order to be "saved". To be a Christian implies the holy rites of baptism and confirmation, etc.

Anonymous said...

"Thus, looked at in this way, even atheists are closet Christians. "

Heh. Yeah, okay Bob.

Van said...

"In each case, the "whole" is not a product of the synthesis; rather, it is the prior reality, which bears within itself "the unmixed difference of the parts that make it up." Yes, unconfused but inseparable."

That's the key that people, like aninny above, just completely miss with their optons #1 & #2. They take a quick look, assume that what they noticed was all there is to be found or considered, and therefore assUme that what they noticed is the whole which they glanced at.

Simply amazing.

hoarhey said...

Anon 9:16

Would your converting from a 1 to a 2 be somewhat similar to a hetero with a family converting to homo and the resultant family chaos which would ensue?
My thoughts are that once you begin the 1 path, that's it, unless you are a narcissistic jackass in which case #2 isn't going to work anyway.

S said...

Why is everyone being so hostile to Mr. Anonymous? It was just an honest question, imo.

Mr. Anonymous, it's not an either/or situation. You can master yourself AND surrender to Truth. You need to do what you can to elevate yourself AND surrender to God's Grace. (Bob has some handy arrow symbols for these complementary dynamics)

And #1 by no means guarantees you a "stable family life and productive work." You will jnow them by their fruits and all that, but sometimes the fruits take a long-time to ripen. (i.e., 2,000 years and still ripening)

French Abdul said...

Pourquoi pensez qu'Obama est un socialiste ? Puisqu'il pourrait augmenter est-ce que ceux font les petits, les commandent et sont de régler plus, l'économie cet est terrible dans la gauche ? Puisqu'il voudrait vraiment appliquer une usine de docteur-quatrième du bain du service, est-ce que ceci semble recommandé ? Obtient font le commencement pour toute la raison ? J'espère qu'il vit, l'extrémité pour dire ces secrecies, que j'ai essayé que… par eux chez lui est brûlé jusqu'ici. Un séjour sûr est, comme vous à penser, l'extrémité à dire : on remplit sur l'avant-poste cher. Ils auraient qui seront considérés comme heureux que vous êtes tous dans Dieu, parce qu'un homme de la relation de traitement serait la tâche, qui est beaucoup pour l'éternité, Abdul

Russian Abdul said...

Почему думайте что Obama социалист? В виду того что оно смогл увеличить те делают малые одни, контролируют их и отрегулировать больше, экономию тот ужасный восток в левой стороне? В виду того что оно действительно хотел бы приложить завод доктор-четвертой из ванны обслуживания, это кажется целесообразным? Получает сделать начало для полностью причины? Я надеюсь что он живет, конец для того чтобы сказать те secrecies, что я попробовал что… ими внутри он не сгорится до теперь. Безопасное пребывание, как вы, котор нужно думать, конец, котор нужно сказать: одно заполняет на дорогем аванпосте. Они имели бы которые будут рассмотрены как счастливое что вы все в Бог, потому что человек обрабатывая отношения был бы задачей, которая много для вечности, Abdul

Korean Abdul said...

Obama가 사회주의자다고 왜 생각하는가? 그것이 증가하기 수 있었기 때문에 그들은 작은 그들을 하고, 통제하고 좌측에 있는 그 참담한 동쪽 더 많은 것을 의 경제 통제하기 위한 것인가? 그것이 진짜로 서비스의 목욕의 닥터 제 4의 식물을 적용하고기 싶을 것이 때문에, 이것은 적당합니까 보이는가? 모든 이유를 위한 처음을 만들기 위하여 얻는가? 나는… 그 내의 그(것)들에 의해 지금까지는 점화된다 나가 시도했다, 그가 산ㄴ다는 것을 그 secrecies를 말하기 위하여, 끝 희망한다. 안전한 체재는 생각할 것이다 당신 같이, 말할 것이다 끝 이다: 1개는 비싼 전초에 채운다. 행복할 같이 가공 관계의 남자가 만고를 위해 다량인 업무일 것이기 때문에 당신은 신에서 모두, Abdul 있다 고려될 그들은 가지고 있을 것입니다

Van said...

mr "the question on the table, Raccoons" is not an asker of honest questions, she/he/it has been trolling its agenda through here for years, tyring to get someone to bite.

If it's not the same aninnymouse, serves 'em right for using anonymous - if you want to use a name whose association is Legion... shouldn't be surprised by getting guilt by association.

Paula Abdul said...

If you think you has the time to decide again you shouldn't even attempts. I'm weary in has heard to possess your line please to tell me that you know I again. Me is just like she is me. I'll lets you mess up me, but baby can you look to only one either other? It be she or it. Are I? You can only then one or other if it goes.

You establishes me to let me tell you freely it so to harm badly, when you must know last the friend of mine so to tell me my heart always for you, but you are also the present. Want her to see her place on trial her? You again always in fire, but boy I've obtained your news. You is adopted the condition, but is small. You can't has your cake and is also eats it (one or other); you can't obtained it (to be correct you to say I' m your lover), but others wait for one or other. I does not fights this one. Forever it lasts, therefore stops you hesitating (one or other), you can't obtains it, correct? You carries on always to think in secret again (one or other). You want my tonight? Does not go boy, I'm not one or other, correct?

Fore-mentioned, ya can't has your cake and also eats it.

Careening Abdul Gibberish said...

Why do th'o't dat Obama iz uh Socialist? Since it
could increase those do da small ones, control
dem an' iz ta regulate mo', da economy dat
terrible east in left? Since it would really wants ta
apply uh plant o' doctor-fourth o' bath o' da
service, do dis here seem advisable? Does obtain
make da beginning fo' all da reason? I hope dat
he lives, da end ta say those secrecies, dat I tried dem within him iz burned until now. A
safe stay iz, like ya ta th'o't, da end ta say: one
fills on da expensive outpost. They would gots
dat will be considered like happy dat ya iz all in
God, cuz uh nig o' da processing relation
would be da task, dat iz much fo' da eternity,
Abdul an dat boil on mah ass.

Anonymous said...

Van is quite right, I am a anonymous persistent troll who has been here for years.

Yes, I fish for responses. I do have an agenda. And so?

All that being said, S's response to the "question on the table" is intelligent, and I can reply to it in the positive. There is a seeming confounding of paths 1 and 2 possible. Path 1 can be increasingly luminous until it resembles path 2 very closely, however there are still certain points where they will differ.

A study of path 2 persons (Christ, Aurobindo, The Mother, Mother Teresa, and others) indicates that certain life practices apparently don't meet Divine criteria. There is a tendency to drop concerns regarding family life and reproduction. Opposite sex mates are not generally held or kept. There is an apparent lack of focus on financial or industrial concerns. These are interesting phenomenon that deserve some contemplation. However, based on the words of these persons, these are just side effects of the main event, a general surrender of "ordinary life." What are the potential gains here? Are they worth the loss of ordinary life functions?

Undoubtedly path 2 persons are less plentiful than path 1 persons, however I suspect there are many millions of path 2 persons quietly following their course and influencing humanity in certain ways.

Or, if S has it right, there is a smooth continous spectrum of possible spiritual fruits, and no demarcation betwen the main event, which is thought to be a full and complete surrender, and all that transpires before.

Abduw Fudd said...

Why do think that Obama is a Sociawist? Since it couwd incwease those do the smaww ones, contwow them and awe to weguwate mowe, the economy that tewwibwe east in weft? Since it wouwd weawwy want to appwy a pwant of doctow-fouwf of baf of the sewvice, does this seem advisabwe? Does obtain make the beginning fow aww the weason? I hope that he wives, the end to say those secwecies, that I twied them within him is buwned untiw now. A safe stay is, wike you to think, the end to say: one fiwws on the expensive outpost. Dey wouwd have that wiww be considewed wike happy that you awe aww in God, because a man of the pwocessing wewation wouwd be the task, that is much fow the etewnity, Abduw

Magnus Itland said...

I can actually understand Anonymous #1, based on my own life. At first, I took for granted that I would follow the path of common good folks, but this has become ever less meaningful. The hinge, to me, is the approval of humans. This is essential to most people, but to me being praised by a human is no more valuable than the purring of a cat or the tail-wagging of a dog. If they say "Well done!", well, I did what I did. God has already passed judgment on it. If they say: "A failure!", well, I did what I did. Their words cannot somehow magically change the past, though they blatantly try.

Striving for a great career in the normal sense would be ridiculous, although one wants to pay one's bills and have a little to share. A marriage would also be hard to achieve, as women want to be desperately wanted, which I could not possibly do. "Of course I can live without you, dear! I have done so for decades after all, and mostly in great happiness." That's not gonna fly.

Magnus Itland said...

On the other hand, I'm still not a saint, surprisingly. I am not sure that goes along the same axis at all, really. There is an earnestness - not a sadface heaviness but a transparent sincerity - that I am lacking but some otherwise seemingly normal people have. You could simply call it depth, I guess.

I have less constrains, but what I make of that opportunity is another matter. Holiness is one of those things that never come cheap.

NoMo said...

Speaking of the "grand synthesis", here's a bold claim for you:

"...yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him." (I Cor 8:6)

from whom
for whom
by whom
through whom


Anonymous said...


Have you read Dietrich von Hildebrand? You would like him.

Anonymous said...

So, Magnus, I get what you are saying in your last comment. You are in some kind of transitonal space between normal life and what you term sainthood. That word has too much freight so we should call it "full surrender."

The "transparent sincerity" which you mention I've had for periods and then lost. I look forward to getting it back and I am sure you will too.

Patience and perserverance will be the watchwords for now.

Anonymous said...

Van is quite right, I am a narcissistic jackass who has been here for years.

There, fixed it for ya.

Magnus Itland said...

I don't think anyone raises their baby to become a beggar monk. So your type #2 would always arise by transition. But transition to freedom from the shared illusions of society is not sufficient, nor necessary, for spiritual achievement.

To establish a new instance of the perennial religion - whether by creating a new form of religion or reforming an old - you need that radical freedom as well as radical depth. At other times you can just follow the depth and circumstances will gradually loosen over time.

I guess my point is, don't hope that you will become a prophet by emulating their lifestyle. It is the other way around. You get thrown out into horizontal freedom because of your vertical freedom, and only when and as much as your life quest requires.

To live outside consensus reality you have to be extremely sane, far more so than the average human.

QP said...

"Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no
one dared ask him any more questions.

~Mark 12:32-34