Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Reach of Speech -- God's and Ours

Once one understands that the Absolute necessarily exists, then one realizes the limitations of reason. For to say something of the Absolute with any profane speech is to exclude too much of it to say anything deeply meaningful.

The only way out of this dilemma is up, where speech mirrors the Absolute in a more direct sort of way. This, of course, is the purpose of scripture -- what in Vedanta is called śruti, in contrast to smṛti, the latter of which is human commentary on the divine revelation.

I say this not to mix revelations or to flaunt Bob's multicultural sensitivity, but to highlight an important distinction that is not always kept clear in Christian circles: that there is God's speech, and there is our speech about God's speech.

Our speech is always a limitation on God; it necessarily makes of him less than he is -- just as the cosmos itself is a limitation on God, unless you are a pantheist who conflates God and his creation. In truth, God is the world, but the world is not God. And God is his written word, but his written word is not God; to think otherwise descends into bibliolatry.

And importantly, although the Bible is inspired word about God, it is not the Word of God, which is, of course, Christ.

Thus, the most -- the only -- fully adequate speech about God is his own complete self-revelation -- his kenotic self-emptying -- in the form of Christ.

In turn, this is why it took some 600 years or more to nail down an adequate theology to account for this explosive self-revelation of God (and then hundreds more years to deal with the secondary and tertiary implications).

In other words -- many words, in fact -- it essentially required a 600 year human conversation at the highest levels (i.e., all those ecumenical councils) to decode and standardize what God was telling humans with his one simple Word. One Logos generates all that endless logorrhea.

Does that make adequate nonsense? It does to me. God's speech (happily) shatters all human containers for the same reason that a three dimensional sphere shatters a piece of paper.

Imagine the sphere dropping down from an infinite height, crashing through the paper. It is then up to humans to reverse imagineeer the whole event and come to terms with the meaning of that massive object, whatever it was. So we pour speech over it, but still, much of the speech will necessarily be contradictory, fragmentary, paradoxical, and incomplete.

Only a man of great metacosmic vision -- say, John -- can truly speak of it in an adequate way. And even he must be supplemented by Matthew, Luke and Mark, and hundreds of years of commentary.

Truly, the conversation never ends, for it is the great circle of O-->(n). You can climb all the way to the source of this sacred river, but then you'll only be confronted with the mystery of water itself, the "universal substance" that pours itself out of the depths of the ground without ever running dry.

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. And just beyond that, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.

Paradox, baby! The only speech that is adequate to this realm of eternity must make statements that seemingly contradict or cancel each other out from the human standpoint.

But this is simply because we require the two extremes of human language to describe this object: transcendent and immanent, beyond being and being itself, timeless and all time, nothing-everything, a beam of intense darkness. A drop embraced by the sea held within the drop in the bucket with a hole in it we eventually kick into the goal of all striving!

And still we are no closer, for the closer one gets to this divine object, the further away it appears to be! This constitutes the highest and most exalted ignorance. Only the fool and the atheist imagine that God is so close to man that he can casually reject him, which constitutes the lowest intellectual attainment -- and which soon vanishes into the darkest night of cosmic nescience and tenure: publish and perish.

Or, as Schuon writes, "Not to affirm the Divinity would have meaning only if we did not exist..."

Alternatively, you could say that if God doesn't exist, only He knows it, because a mere primate could never know of such ultimate realities.

For just as the sun "goes down" at night, truth disappears in the long night of materialism.

But as we know, the sun doesn't actually go anywhere. Rather, it is only the earth that turns away from it. "Thus it could be said that man in search of God must 'descend' into his own heart to rediscover the Lost Paradise and to realize the 'Unicity of Existence" (Schuon). For the Greater Light must reconcile and combine both the light and darkness, emptiness and fullness, the naught and deity of the human station.


Jack said...

I have been reading Sowell's "A Conflict of Visions" and find it illuminating to say the least. The question of how the "constrained" vision that questions our ability to know fits with the sense that we can know the Absolute has come up for me.

I realize that this question is *exactly* in the OC wheelhouse. I have been reading OC for 3 years or so (and read the book) so you'd think that I would have "gotten it" somewhat by now. Maybe I am just trying to go deeper into the question...or that I have heretofore been content to remain in the shallows.

Just putting it out there.

Gagdad Bob said...

Very simple. That Raccoon is constrained in the horizontal but unconstrained in the vertical. The leftist is constrained (or non-existent) in the vertical, but unconstrained in the horizontal. The unconstrained horizontality of the leftist becomes his faux religion.

mushroom said...

"Our speech is a limitation on God" -- I think even if we were to speak directly to God and He in turn to us we would have the potential for misunderstanding. I think of the passage in the Gospels where Jesus is transfigured and tells Peter, James, and John not to tell anyone what they've seen until He has "risen from the dead". Mark then describes the three disciples as discussing among themselves what this "rising from the dead" might mean.

I have this picture of them walking along the road, the disciples a few steps behind with their heads together, and Jesus ahead with a big grin on His face, looking up and muttering, "Humans."

Jack said...


That makes a lot of sense. And confirms where I was vaguely heading. Part of my confusion is working out what that means concretely in my own life--I think I've been skating on the thin ice of that issue for a while now. Not really able to commit to diving in, so to speak. In other words I feel the calling to be less "theoretical" about it and really dig into the reality of this.

ge said...

name that author!
All truly or fully human communication is art. All human art or true communication is a paradoxical presentation of primal psycho-physical knowledge, or total experience. It is always a partial or summary description of the present state of realization of the condition of the whole body, the psycho-physical condition of all human awareness, or the totality of everything as it is felt-conceived by human agency. The more conceptual or discursive aspect of any such presentation is its exoteric part, while that aspect which belongs to the more feeling or non-discursive dimension of total experience is its esoteric part. The combination of the two dimensions makes all art a communication of paradox.

Paradox is the essential or ultimate content of all human experience, all art. The realization and communication of paradox, or total experience, is the principal motive of the human adventure in every moment. Art, or truly human communication, is the argument of paradox. The action wherein such communication is expressed is love. The realized manifestation of the human being is love, or the sacrifice of energy-attention, on the basis of the tacit, prior, and most summary configuration of the being, which is Paradox.

i recalled this passage on Paradox

Gagdad Bob said...

The late Frank Jones?

Gagdad Bob said...

I still have the book. I blame Ken Wilber.

Anonymous said...

All of the distinctions made by the Blog author, such as vertical or horizontal, leftist and raccoon, have to be taken with a grain of salt.

Go to any party of mixed company and see how fast you can clear a space around yourself spouting off these maxims. They are patently offensive and create divisions where none need be.

Other than that GB is a great guy.

shoe said...

GB is a grain of salt.

shoe said...

"but the greatest of these is love."

gesta,non verba.

Petey said...

Stultus est sicut stultus facit.

Anonymous said...

Are you refering to me as the genius?

ge said...

re old DA--In chunks he can be impressive still...guess he gets credit at least for gambling, riving a regendary rife

maineman said...

"Go to any party of mixed company and see how fast you can clear a space around yourself spouting off these maxims."

Been there, done that.

But I'm not clear on your point. Are you saying that Jesus, just to pick a random example, might have fared better had he been more conciliatory toward the stupidity of the people around him?

Gagdad Bob said...

This is how political correctness takes root: fear of upsetting the morons masquerading as good manners.