Tuesday, November 01, 2011

My Absolute Can Beat Up Your Absolute!

I woke up late and just commenced to typin'. This post is probably all over the place. I'll try to tie it together tomorrow, when I have more time. For now, I present it to you fully half-baked, just as it came out of -- or into? -- the fog.

"Nine out of ten authentic mystics agree that the unKnown God is 'superior' to the known God. How could it not be so? It is foolish to imagine that we could ever contain the uncontainable within our borrowed being" (from yesterday's post).

I was about to say that this ought to be an uncontroversial statement, but the comments from yesterday suggest that it isn't. And I can see why not, because it challenges the absoluteness of one's religion. But it shouldn't, because religion is about the Absolute, not the Absolute itself.

As Schuon writes, "the sense of the absolute is situated in each [religion] on a different plane, so that points of comparison often prove illusory."

For example, in Christianity, the Absolute is located in a person; in Judaism, a book; in Buddhism, an experience. Each of these conveys a sense of the Absolute, which, for most people, is "sufficient."

Problems arise when people begin fighting over their version of the Absolute, when we should be much more concerned with the values that flow from recognition of the Absolute.

As Dennis Prager says, it is irrelevant to me whether a person shares my religion. After all, Obama claims to be a Christian. What is much more important is that he share my values, which are the very opposite of his. He too has a sense of the Absolute, but he perversely locates it in the state -- which is only the latest iteration of the progressive "instinct" for tyranny and absolutism.

Speaking of which, I'm currently reading this book about Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism, and one thing that immediately jumps out is that the truth of modern liberalism is even worse than how contemporary conservatives characterize it. Back then, Wilson could innocently present pure liberalism, without spin or deception, equivocation or dissembling.

For Wilson, it was absurd to suggest that the Founders were dealing with universal truths and natural rights. Rather, they were just creatures of their times. We -- meaning state officials armed with Ivy League degrees and good intentions -- needed to toss aside the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, if we really wanted to get things done.

For Wilson, the separation of powers prevented the state from doing what it needed to do for your benefit, you ungrateful peasant. As he said, "if you want to understand the real Declaration of Independence, do not repeat the preface" -- you know, all that abstract stuff about life, liberty, and natural rights conferred by the Creator instead of the almighty state.

Back to where we were ("Nine out of ten authentic mystics agree that the unKnown God is 'superior' to the known God.") Ironically, I think exoteric Christianity conveys this idea on an intuitive level via the Trinity. God the Father "sends" his Son for our benefit. No one has seen the Father, but we can see the Son.

And yet, "I and the Father are one." Wha... Shouldn't the Father "superior" to the Son? It is impossible to answer that question without getting into theological trouble, but from our perspective it would appear so. Which is why the doctrine that they are actually one is non-obvious, and could only be given to us through revelation and faith.

Incidentally, I think the same basic complementarity applies to the exoteric/esoteric dimension, and Unknown Friend even says so later in the book.

Reader Gabe says that "the phrasing [about the superiority of the unknown God] leads me to think this is mostly just fun, but please, what does this mean?"

The question -- and I don't mean this in any pejorative sense -- reminds me of what the fun-loving Meister Eckhart went through in his day. He was considered an eminent and completely orthodox teacher until the very end of his life, when he ran afoul of Church authorities, but for completely political reasons.

I found a copy of the complete vernacular sermons that costs under a hundred dollars, and the introduction points out that Eckhart was basically caught in the crossfire between rival gangs of Franciscans and Dominicans (sounds like a Monty Python skit).

Blame the church? Yes and no. You must remember that back then, there was yet to be a distinction anywhere on earth between the sacred and profane, between power and faith, between politics and God (that had to wait until 1787).

Today we worry about religion encroaching on politics, but back then it was the other way around. Think about the extent to which politics seeps into everything these days (especially for the left), even though we have a specific category for it. Now imagine what it must have been like before we had a separate category to contain it! All of those corrosive impulses got into everything.

This is precisely what the Founders were so concerned about -- not just separating the realms of politics and religion, but then trying to see to it that the realm of politics didn't tear itself apart, as it usually does, redounding back to anarchy or tyranny. Time and again they spoke of the danger of what they called faction, which they treat as analogous to some kind of political "original sin."

For example, Federalist 10 says that "the latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man." For the Founders, "human nature does not improve, and there is no progress to a point where we can stop worrying about the factious nature of men and the pernicious ends toward which it might direct the power of the state" (Pestritto).

Beware most of all the administrative state, the pragmatist, the independent, the moderate, the neutral "problem solver," since these are all just the latest covers for the worst kind of faction. In 2008, America thought it had elected such a person -- you know, just a non-ideological smart guy who would solve our problems.

But today, no less than in Eckhart's time, there is no thinkable thought that is radically separable from religion, and this is especially true of the left, since they have no sophisticated, separate cognitive category with which to articulate their innate religiosity (except for that which they fancifully project into the religious).

As usual, the Bible has more wisdom about the nature of faction than one will encounter in four years of college with three years of graduate school thrown in. What is the first faction? One can look at it in different ways. First there is the rebellion against God, creating the "faction of man" against the Divine. This always leads to disaster, from Babel to Communism to National Socialism to the European Union.

Then there is the faction of man against woman, instead of the cosmic complementarity (and union) of man and woman, i.e., male-and-female he created them. Denial of this complementarity leads to any number of abominations, from compelling women to live in black bags to forcing the "impossible possibility" of homosexual marriage upon the citizenry.

Remember, America was uniquely created in order to preserve and protect our natural rights, one of which is marriage (which is obviously prior to the state, and even a necessary condition for the state). In no metaphysic -- whether religious or biological/scientistic -- could homosexual marriage be considered "natural."

The next faction in Genesis is between the brothers Cain and Abel, and it is characterized by envy. The envy is, of course, located in Cain, but envy victimizes both the host and its target. The envier can kill the envied but will be none the happier for it.

The OWS protesters live in a kind blissful ignorance of this psychic fact, giving free play to their destructive envy, when one of the purposes of life is to transcend envy. It is indeed a key to any kind of personal happiness.

You might call it Chinese politics: you can eat the rich, but you'll be hungry again an hour later.


julie said...

Once again, this post is full of yes.

Also, thanks for the Eckhart link. I'm wondering what some of those sellers are thinking, though - a used copy for $300? Holy crow, was it signed by Eckhart?

Van said...

"Problems arise when people begin fighting over their version of the Absolute, when we should be much more concerned with the values that flow from recognition of the absolute."

Interesting that I was just dealing with this same issue, arguing with someone that may be reading this now, that for it to be possible to become known by you, the absolute has to be unknown. If it was just there laying around for you to pick up, or to find as an innate trinket within, it would be of no true value, and would in fact prevent you from ever knowing it or anything else.

I may be wrong, but I find that to be the meaning of this:
Matthew 16:13-20

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

Jesus didn't TELL him, he asked him, and he didn't care much for what Peter'd heard others had said was so - that was worthless - he asked him to look into his own heart and from what he himself had experienced, to find what he himself understood to be true - not because it was a fact to be found laying around - whether as a bauble or even guarded in a safe - but an unknown which could only become known to you, within you, through you because you choose to realize it from the One source it could become known from - and only because that absolute IS, and is unknown.

JP said...

The problem currently isn't that the rich are rich, it's that the credit is essentially fake money at this point.

We hit peak credit a few years ago. There isn't going to be much more expansion this go-round. Basically because of math.

Wall Street is in secular decline, of which OWS is a symptom. You didn't see OWS on the way up, did you?

Nope, because Building the Tower is Fun, Fun, Fun.

Now comes the Destruction part and we get to see where the ground really is located.

mushroom said...

Completely OT, and I could care less what the story is about.

This is the best headline I've seen in awhile:

English jury brings end to careers of Butt, Asif


julie said...

wv says they shouldn't have got their mantis in a twist...

Van said...

Heh, "ISLAMABAD (AP) — Corruption convictions against Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir in court on Tuesday were expected to terminate playing careers that were already in doubt from international suspensions."

As if. No butt's about it, he said "I Am", not "Am ear".


Some people.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Beware most of all the administrative state, the pragmatist, the "problem solver," since these are all just the latest covers for faction."

Aye! Reminds me of the self-proclaimed "Independents" and moderates who hate to see republicans and democrats (or Congress and the President) not working together to "get things done," or "solve our problems."


It's a good thing when they don't get things done. I would be very happy to see Congress and the President never solving problems again (except to cut spending, reduce our debt, shrink govt., lower taxes, etc. IOW's reverting back to what has been proven to work).

After UNdoing the problems that were caused by Congress and the last three Presidents (including Johnson and FDR) I would be overjoyed if nothing else is ever done, other than appointing judges that still cherish and understand our Constitution, and a wise foreign policy...maintaining a strong defense.

But no new stuff. I'll take nothing, please. Thank you very much. :^)

Whenever I run across one of thee Independents saying Congress and the Prez needs to get things done I say "really? You really want the people who have caused all these economic problems and taken our liberties away to solve more problems? Really? You think they just might actually do it this time even though they never have?"

Hardly what I would call independent. Why don't they simply drop the in and call themselves dependents?
Or simply call themselves democrats or RINO's because that's exactly what they want.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hey Mushroom: I noticed you used a colon before telling us that funny headline. :^)

mushroom said...

You must remember that back then, there was yet to be a distinction anywhere on earth between the sacred and profane, between power and faith, between politics and God...

I can see where that would be appealing to the leftists, except, as you say, with the state being god. It would be nice to replace all these religiously-influenced voters with an elite cadre of scientifically trained minds -- people who could understand difficult subjects like climate science and the social sciences and really look out for the best interests of the masses. It would be so much simpler to push the ignorant in the right direction if they would learn to listen to their betters.

After all, it worked out so well in the French, Bolshevik, and Cultural Revolutions.

mushroom said...

That's correct, Ben. Good grammar, not to mention regularity, always calls for a colon to precede a Butt.

Open Trench said...

Rich people are charged with the responsibility of moving money around and buying things.

Most people want the job as it generates a lot of pleasure.

But, to be honest, the simpler life of the pauper is probably at least as satisfying in other ways.

So all the fuss over the money is not of the essence.

Religion is not of the essence.

Aromas, textures, tastes, emotions, and sex are of the essence.

So what does that have to do with anything?

Don't mind what happens, and see what happens to your mind.

Cond0010 said...

"Blame the church? Yes and no. "

The Cathloic Church is not perfect as it is a construct of man. It can also be corrupted and its offices misused.

Yet, because its original foundational ideas are not of the profane (Money, Power, Influence, etc...) it can always be renewed by those who seek the vertical. That is why it has lasted through the ages, eternally renewed and refreshed, and not died of "old age" like various countries, corporations, and cults.

Gabe Ruth said...

(Re-reading this, which I wrote yesterday, I think I should say something first. I am likely a less seasoned seeker than anyone here, so please do not think I regard myself as one who knows something. This ongoing debate is running inside my mind just as much as it is between our minds. I feel something here, and I want to just follow it, but I don't feel like I can trust my own judgment because of the alignment of a path with what I wish were so.)

Excellent post, and I promise I won't extrapolate things into modern wars of religion anymore after today. Your light hearted title is a perfect response to my annoying dogmatic skepticism. The map is not the territory, etc. It is always good to bear this in mind.

However, the Trinity is always bound to be a mystery to the finite mind. So I think my concern is not completely off the wall. When you say superior there, you seem to be simplifying your map and calling it better at the same time. That is, presuming to have knowledge of the Father from a source besides the Son.

Let me say that no one would be happier than I to believe this was possible. Not because I would be glad to "get around" the Son or anything like that, but because I would feel less concerned that I personally have not done more to spread the Good News. I have always felt in my heart that there must be other ways of knowing. In the last few weeks you have written words that convey my thoughts on this matter better than I could myself. But I cannot help but think that when you try to integrate different ways of knowing, after you have found one you trust, you run a risk of picking and choosing what you like. I think this is what those modern day pagans (first link) seeking "True North" are doing. I confess that there is something extremely attractive to me, here and even there. And this gives me pause.

You get at the heart of the means to stay safe when you talk about values being the important thing. Indeed, I do not doubt that there are many Buddhists, Muslims, etc. who are following God's will more closely than many Christians, and I trust they will be rewarded accordingly. But when you admit other sources besides the one that brung ya where you're at, it messes with your frame of reference. As promised, I will drop this line of concern trolling after today, unless anyone else feels inclined to see where it goes.

Gagdad Bob said...

You are not trolling! These are honest and fundamental questions and concerns.

Open Trench said...

Professor Mardue stood up in the pew and addressed the congregation:

"Forget the trinity; its a red herring. That being said, herring in tomatoe sauce is darn tasty."

Some of the ladies in front applauded but the Vesper was not amused.

julie said...

Gabe - yes, what Bob said! Anything that gets me thinking this much in response is a good thing, and I hope I don't come across as cross or impatient, because this helps me, as well.

In fact, I think your concerns are perfectly legitimate. Several years ago - I want to say three or four, after I had been a reader here for a while - I was reading a couple of Bob-recommended books on Aurobindo and the Mother. I found there a very rich and very real source of spiritual guidance, and it certainly shook up my perspective on things in a deep way - yet even so, there was no question that I am called to Christianity. Christ is, something I know in such a way that I don't think I could ever forget.

For the vast majority of people (raccoons included), I think it is very important to find a valid tradition and follow it as best they can, whatever that tradition is. And yes, to do otherwise can be spiritually dangerous, for just the reasons you've mentioned.

However, it is also true that truth, beauty and goodness are found wherever men have sought them. So long as you humbly pray for Christ's guidance in your explorations (and listen to his answer), I don't see how learning from those who have gotten closer to the Source is a bad thing, whatever their tradition. As always, by their fruits shall you know them.

One other thing that I keep in mind is that none shall come to the Father except through the Son. I'm pretty sure that there are no exceptions to this; even so, there are as many ways to the Son as there are people.

julie said...

Gabe - couple more thoughts. When people go astray because they are picking and choosing what flatters them, buffet style, it is usually easy to tell. Flattery is key, and platitudes that allow one to avoid thinking things through; also, promises of power or gain, "freedom" from responsibility, excuses, excuses, excuses, and a decided lack of humility. I don't recall ever finding any of that here - not from Bob (though of course hordes of people would disagree), and more importantly not from any of the books he's recommended.

What I have gotten - what I get - out of being here has always been the opposite of that. There is no excuse for me ;)

Cond0010 said...


"I have always felt in my heart that there must be other ways of knowing."

The Jesus 'Archtype' (or 'symbol') is in various religions, Gabe. Joseph Campbell wrote a book on this called 'Hero with a Thousand Faces'. Do enjoy his 'Mountaintop overview':


Joseph Campbell took various religions and talked about their similiarities (instead of the usual differences) and how each emphasized different priorities of the same themes. He is the 'Java' script of the different religions. Very entertaining.

As you know, Jesus is my touchstone. My North Star.

Though the other religions emphsize different orgainzation of said Truths (and a few rather unique perspectives) I couldn't imagine a more perfect way to view reality. imho.

Still... the bottom line is living those truths and not just talking about them - as you _know_.