Thursday, August 05, 2010

Silence About God Goes Without Saying

In order to understand the nature of the divine and human will -- and the distinction between the two -- it is absolutely necessary to get one's metaphysics right.

Indeed, if one does that, then in many ways the matter (and mind) clarifies itself, as certain consequences inevitably flow from one's first principles. Conversely, as Thomas wrote, "An error concerning the Creation ends as false thinking about God." Garbage in, tenure out.

These first principles are, of course, embodied in those tidings from the father shore known as revelation. In fact, this is one of the two central purposes of revelation, i.e., doctrine and method for the purpose of upward salvolution. In other words, revelation provides 1) an adequate representation of the cosmos in its vertical aspect, and 2) a means for ascending it back to the sOurce.

There was a time when it was unnecessary to spell it out in such a cutandry and wideawake manner, because man lived in an almost inconceivably different soul-environment (e.g., ancient or medieval times). Unlike Schuon, however, I do not necessarily believe that this premodern environment was "normative," partly because no terrestrial environment is going to be completely normative for man, who always bears within him traces -- or recollections, or memoirs of the future -- of paradise, i.e., Raccoon Central, or Toots' Tavern in the Sky.

This is why one can say without fear of cliché that it is always the best and worst of times. For example, while I deplore the backdoor judicial redefinition of marriage, I wouldn't even be here to see this fellatious judge's blow to the foundation of western civilization in the absence of modern medicine. It is always Even Steven.

My point is that there was a time -- just yesterday in world-historical terms -- that man was a qualitative being living in a qualitative world. Quantity doesn't really come into the picture in any appreciable way until the conclusion of the Middle Ages and the rediscovery of Aristotle. Again, Thomas's project in many ways involved trying to keep these two worlds -- empirical and spiritual -- from flying apart, but fly apart they did. As a result, man found himself living in an increasingly quantified -- which is to say, abstract -- world.

Thomas "emphatically accepted" the reality of this new, external world, and bent all of his intellect toward the articulation of a synthetic vision in which it could be harmoniously integrated with the vertical world, or the Great Indoor.

For it is not healthy for man to live in an analogical world of only symbols; but nor is it healthy for him to live in a barren world of pure quantity, stripped of its symbolic character. Rather, it is healthy for man to live in reality, which always includes both. After all, there is a reason why we have two very different cerebral hemispheres that resolve themselves into a Higher Third (or third I).

It cannot be overemphasized that this quantitative world is not the real world, nor is it man's proper world. Remember what we said above about doctrine and method vis-a-vis revelation. The quantification that ends in the misosophy of scientism or metaphysical Darwinism begins in method, but then reifies the results of that method.

These human abstractions are then seen to be concrete, when they are anything but. Just because this or that scientific theory can explain the phenomena under its aspect is no proof of its truth. There are countless false theories that adequately explain some aspect of the phenomenal world. In fact, the progress of science involves the successive discarding of false theories. No real scientist would ever conflate this method with "truth." To paraphrase Thomas, the clarity of one's terms should not blind one to the inexhaustible mystery of stuff.

This grave subject is covered in my book, so I don't want to undertake a re-hearse of that corpse here, dig? The point is that man's true home is the imagination. But this imagination must be furnished with the proper materials in order to function as it should, just as our innate reason cannot function in the absence of material provided from the extra-rational world. In other words, the choice of what to reason about cannot be reduced to reason.

Now, it should go without saying that revelation speaks to man's divine imagination. Which is why, if the Real Estate of one's mythopoetic imagination is enfeebled or foreclosed, one will be barred from the nonlocal world disclosed by revelation.

Remember, revelation is a means, not an end. Religion is always about something that is not religion. What we call a "religionist" is just the flip side of scientism. One might call it "religiolatry," since it turns one's religion into God, when religion is the means to God. See "Islam."

As Pieper writes, "we simply cannot succeed in living" in a world "wholly divorced from all supramundane calls. It is likewise impossible for us to live, without uneasiness, in terms of a 'religionistic' religiousness wholly divorced from all obligations to the world." Man lives under the auspices of two great principles -- or a Principle and its existential prolongation -- i.e., God and world.

But again, because man -- at least postmodern western man -- finds himself in this alien quantitative world, he needs to have things spelled out for him.

Thus, we begin our metaphysical adventure before the beginning, with the necessary distinction between Being and Beyond-Being, or "between the ontological and existentiating Principle and the supra-ontological essence" (Schuon). And the reason we begin here is because the Absolute is beyond name and form, untied by any tongue and untainted by anytroll.

You may think that this deustinction is unnecessary, but Thomas himself drew a bright cloud between the God we may know vs. God as he is in himsoph, and he was entirely correct to do so: "This is what is ultimate in the human knowledge of God: to know that we do not know God." God is mirrored in the herebelow, most especially in man, but an image is not the thing itself. We are only dusty mirrorcles of the Absolute.


To be continued....


julie said...

In fact, the progress of science involves the successive discarding of false theories. No real scientist would ever conflate this method with "truth." To paraphrase Thomas, the clarity of one's terms should not blind one to the inexhaustible mystery of stuff.

Reminds me of a good rant I read recently, I wish I could remember where or how I got there (probably Vanderleun), wherein the author decried the use of the phrase "Science tells us..."

Science is a tool; for it to tell us anything is as patently absurd as claiming that hammers can write. More importantly, the phrase is almost always used as a means of thwarting curiosity and discouraging discovery. The science is settled, nothing more to see, no new mysteries await on this particular topic. Science has told us!

Rick said...

"This is why one can say without fear of cliché that it is always the best and worst of times. For example..."

Somewhat related to that and our recent chin-wags on chance, luck, etc., how safe is it to say that the period of history in which a person lives is not chance but was in fact "up to God"? In other words, you were intended to be here, right now.
If so, it seems it may be a sin to wish you lived in some other time. Or pretend you to. "Pick up your mat", and all that..
I don't know, been on my mind lately..

Gagdad Bob said...

Many of the Wise believe that our time is providential.

Rick said...

Related... have you heard of these Cosplay dudes? I just learned the term the other day. Call me old fashions.
Anyway, they give me the _________-willies more than many give me the Jesus-willies.
'course, all in good fun, I guess. Or till somebody loses an I.

(all x-willies proceeds go to JWM)

julie said...

Rick, re. you were intended to be here, right now.

Speaking for myself, I would have been literally impossible anywhere or when else, for a number of reasons.

Re. cosplay, that's a massive category but I think most of the people involved are pretty harmless. It all depends on the what, why and how much.

Rick said...

No doubt.
It was more a comment on how each of theses "practitioners" is received or accepted these days.

julie said...

It is a good point, though - I think most of the people who really get into it do so because they know that no terrestrial environment is going to be completely normative for man, but instead of looking someplace higher they turn to their own fantasy utopian world, whether it's Steampunk, the Star Trek universe, the Civil War, or Victorian innocence as interpreted through Japanese seekers of a frilly feminine ideal. And of course there's no small number of just plain perverts.

Some people - probably most cosplayers, really - just dress up for occasional grins, which strikes me as pretty harmless and maybe in some cases even healthy. The ones who really live the lifestyle, though... as you said, I think they're in danger of losing an I.

mushroom said...

"Losing an I" -- that's good.

I know a guy who makes his own chainmail for reenacting. He and his wife go to whatever deals those are -- medieval? I was mocking him slightly to my daughter who knows the family better than I do. She responded, "And really, he's the normal one."

robinstarfish said...

Prop 8 overturned. Kagan confirmed. This week requires a double flush.

wv: hazinat - there's not enough Purell to go around anymore.

Nova said...

Deepak gets deep-sixed by a professional "skeptic". The comments section is mildly interesting.

wv: subaru
No, I said Cadillac, dammit!

Tigtog said...

Can any of the strong Bible students here tell me if the concept of resurrection is mentioned in the Old Testament before Ezekiel?

I am lazy, so I am looking for a shortcut.

ge said...

lady humpty dumpty

i'll drink to that

Tigtog said...

I found this interesting, in a pathetic, desperate way.

"On his MSNBC show this evening, Ed Schultz stated: "Now I'm putting my cards on the table tonight as I do every night. The Republican party is on a mission to politically assassinate the president's agenda across the board. They want to shoot down everything.""

My only guess is the race card is over its limit and now they want to intimate "assassination". Methinks it well only serve assinate themselves. Good luck Ed.

Gagdad Bob said...

Schultz gives buffoons a bad name.

Anonymous said...


For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Psalm 16:10

Also read Isaiah 53.

Tigtog said...

To son of a preacher man re: resurrection

Thanks. Another question. Is that it for pre-Ezekiel resurrection references?

Dianne said...

Son of a preacher man, maybe you should have listened more in Church.

Here is the whole passage:

Psalm, Chapter 16
1 Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.

2 O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee;

3 But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.

4 Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips.

5 The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.

6 The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.

7 I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.

8 I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.

10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

It was a song/prayer. This is where discernment comes in. Are you trying to be obstuse, or do you really not understand the context in which this was mean't.

If you're just trying to be obtuse, I'd say you have a HUGE problem.

Gagdad Bob said...

Our health insurance just increased $3,360 a year today. Thanks, Obama!

Gagdad Bob said...


You don't belong here. Please go away.

Dianne said...

Why do I not believe you? :)

Dianne said...

And then my next thought is - are you serious? Because if so, I will go away and not come back.

Gagdad Bob said...

Just for starters, you have an anger management problem. Why was your comment above so rude? ("If you're just trying to be obtuse, I'd say you have a HUGE problem.')

Dianne said...

I apologise, I misunderstood the situation. I thought it was one of the trolls taking a Biblical verse out of context on purpose again.

I always fall for that, until I go back later and look up the verse they quoted and realize it was completely out of context, and they got away with it because I was too lazy to look it up.


Rick said...

Great Father Stephen post today:
Knowing God:
(Sorry for the bad linking skills)

julie said...

Rick, I hadn't seen that one yet. Thanks.

Rick said...

You're welcome.
He's gone and made another one today too. Haven't read that one yet though..

debass said...

Why can't we at least have some attractive women justices, like Megan Kelly, Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham?
The problem with liberals is that beauty is only skin deep but ugly is clear to the bone.
Oh well, got to go make some chain email for my virtual cosplay.

Gagdad Bob said...


Okay -- just try to modulate the anger. Especially toward trolls. If you can't ridicule them, it's best to say nothing.

Oh, and Gandhi was obviously not a traitor. An asshat yes, but not a traitor.

Nova said...

Physics explains everything.

Of course it does. Remind me again of the formula which explains why a hard-core Darwinist is repeatedly drawn to posting on a web site which offers zero improvement of the chances he will propagate his precious genes?

Van Harvey said...

"And the reason we begin here is because the Absolute is beyond name and form, untied by any tongue and untainted by anytroll. "

Ah... beginnings are such a nice place to start from.

Sal said...

Nice one, Bob.

So, is Cosplay anything like the folks who were crushed b/c 'Avatar' was a movie, and not real life?

And yes, wishing you could have hung out with St. Aquinas, b/c you hate the modern world so much is considered ingratitude to God. Because you don't have to exist at all, you know. Or so wise priests used to tell people on my old E(xtraordinary) R(ite) board, when they complained.

Re: Kagan. Youngest d. called early morning on way to summer school, needing some examples of why we no longer trust Congress.
"Gosh, sweetheart- how long do you have?"

wv: shrines

Van Harvey said...

Ricky said "have you heard of these Cosplay dudes?"

I suppose I could click over to google and find out, but it took me long enough to be able to get to this post that I'm not leaving to find out... who or what is 'Cosplay'?

"'course, all in good fun, I guess. Or till somebody loses an I."


a little tall lie?

Rick said...

Cosplay, I think (I just learnt the word the other day), is people dressing up like Star Wars characters, super heroes, that sort of thing. I think it stands for costume-role-play. It's a wide category, as Julie says. I was mostly referring to the ones who clearly get carried away to the point of it becoming a "thing" in their lives. But more than that -- an important form of their identity -- to them. I'm thinking of a recent photo I saw on some tumbler of a couple and their wedding party where everyone was dressed as super heroes.
And when Julie says it's a wide category she supports my point about how "accepted" it is at this point in our culture. Without judging them or their judgment, it remains interesting to me, when I compare...say... something as unprovocative a thing as having a Jesus Fish on your car to how it must be reacted to (and how to some it certainly must be reacted to) by the general public. (Thinking of the Darwin fish emblems are not attached to represent a human good but as an attack on one).

Tigtog said...

To son of a preacher and Dianne re:

"For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption."

Hopefully you two have made up. Does this passage really mean resurrection or does it imply admittance to Heaven? With Ezekiel it is pretty plan that we are talking about raising the dead. Here it is a little less clear. My take, and I could be wrong, is here the message is your soul will be admitted while your body rots. Is this a correct understanding of the passage?

My interest is when the concept of resurrection was incorporated into the Jewish faith. How did they change from an understanding of Sheol to Heaven and when?

Tigtog said...

To Rick re:

"Thinking of the Darwin fish emblems are not attached to represent a human good but as an attack on one."

I have noticed a lot less walking fish on bumpers the last few years. Maybe they've gone extinct?

Rick said...

Good one :-)
I used to see them a lot. Our office used to be on the science campus of a university. We moved about a year ago. So I too, see them less..

Gagdad Bob said...


My concordance cross-references Psalm 16:10 with Acts 2:31-32.

Tigtog said...

To Gagdad re: Acts 2:31

This is the New Testament. I am trying to figure out when the idea of resurrection, Heaven and Hell was incorporated into Judaism? They started out pretty much a tribe with their own God. The original understanding of where the dead went was Sheol, very much like the Greek Hades. From what I know everyone in the tribe went to Sheol regardless of behavior on earth. So at some point they changed their minds. I am looking for that period where they left the idea of Sheol and embraced Heaven.

Anonymous said...

How did they change from an understanding of Sheol to Heaven and when?

Good question. This is how it was explained to me: Basically before the resurrection of the Christ no one could get into heaven until Jesus ascended to heaven and applied his blood to the mercy seat after that point the souls in Sheol were led out to heaven. The verse I pasted from Psalms I believe eludes to that concept. There could be other verses that reference the resurrection before this one but I am just recalling this from memory.

Gagdad Bob said...

Oh my, just noticed the time. Post is still pouring down. Give me 15 minutes or so.

Tigtog said...

To son of a P Man re: Resurrection

I understand your explanation, but jumping to the resurrection of Christ from Sheol is a big jump. When you read Ezekiel regarding "dem bones" I think you may be reading the first view of true resurrection within the Bible. Psalms I believe predates Ezekiel, I am not sure though. It seems when we get to the Prophets (Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Daniel, etc.) is when the concept of resurrection, Heaven and Hell start to show up in the Bible. You are a much better Bible student then I, so you could set me straight if I am all washed up on my question. Please feel free to correct me.

Anonymous said...

I misunderstood your original question. I thought you were wanting to know where/when in the bible it 1st introduced the concept of the resurrection of the messiah. Are you asking where in the old testament the concept of the righteous go Heaven and the evil go to hell, is introduced?

Tigtog said...

To SOPM re:

"Are you asking where in the old testament the concept of the righteous go Heaven and the evil go to hell, is introduced?"

Yes, this is a big change in understanding ones life and responsibility and rewards from where they started.

Anonymous said...

ok before I give my educated guess, would you please help in clarifying of some terms.
going to Heaven = Living and being in the presence of the Holy Creator God and going to Hell = complete removal
from said presence to the severe determent to your own being. As opposed to believing, for
what ever reason, God sends all souls to this place called Sheol some type of holding cell that
which itself is also not in the direct presence of God. Sorry if that all sounds a bit pedantic.

Tigtog said...

To SOPM re: Pedantic Choice

Yes. When did the Jews stop thinking all dead went to Sheol and started thinking they could go to either Heaven or Hell based on their behavior on earth?

Anonymous said...

From the view of the bible as historical record I would say that the concept came in right there in Ezekiel around the time just before David becomes King. Well obviously the Jews prior to that period believed that God rewarded good and punished evil but the beginning of the understanding, spiritually speaking that “hey there is this place called Heaven where the righteous get to go and there is this place called Hell for the evil to be punished” as permanent/eternal destinations was born out of their belief that God was going to send along this messiah fellow and the evolving understanding of what that actually meant (Isaiah 53). That is to say the more "human" God became to the Jews Heaven and hell became more real as categories of existences.

Also to argue that the concept can be found earlier in the scriptures I would have to go into theological mode (i.e. Truth about the concept of Heaven vs. hell) by pointing to things said in the New Testament.

I hope I did not just make things more confusing. Also as a disclaimer I am surmising off of knowledge I have not thought about in years.

Tigtog said...


Thanks. Your insight has be very helpful.

Bob's Blog said...

I really like what you said here. And thanks to you, Bob, for the inspiration!