Friday, April 13, 2012

What to Pack for Your Terrestrial Sojourn

When we say "one cosmos," the emphasis is always on both words: One. Cosmos.

"Cosmos" implies -- actually, it literally means -- order, not just of a superficial kind, but the deepest and most unitive structure of existence. And when we say "One," we obviously don't mean it in any numerical sense, but rather, in a qualitative way signifying the ultimate synthesis or integration of all particulars, both subjective and objective, spatial and temporal.

The two words are closely related, however, in that when we awaken to the Ground we discover the One, and this One is not a chaotic agglomeration but an integral whole. When we are in the Ground we are close to the One, and when we are at One we are floating in the Ground.

You might say that the adversary has a "divide and conquer" strategy, only with regard to individual souls. Which is why the prime directive of our liberal media is to always foment a state of impassioned division within ourselves -- usually via things that are none of our business -- never peace, contentment, tranquility, gratitude, etc.

The Ground is also indistinguishable from the Center, the Center which is always present in the heart of every human being. Our task and our vocation is to live from this Center, which grounds, organizes, and unifies (which are all aspects of the same thing).

Although we live in the finite, our home is in the Infinite. All men understand this, even when they deny it to themselves. A man who fails to transcend himself has failed to become one, precisely.

To say "transcendence" is to say openness to the Infinite. One could say that man reaches out to the Infinite, or that he cultivates a space within so as to allow its ingression.

Either way, this transitional space is where we live and where we are meant to live, not in some desiccated scientistic flatland.

Now, unity is always in the direction of inwardness; this is not to imply a pathological withdrawal from the world, but rather, the plain fact that oneness implies interiority.

Again, an "exterior one" is just a pile of stuff, so to speak, with no interior relations; its oneness is just our own projection, not anything intrinsic. But any complex whole -- say, the human body -- is characterized by an irreducibly complex system of internal relations, in which everything is "within" everything else.

Love unifies. Hate divides. Or, perhaps we could say that the deep unity we discover everywhere in the cosmos is what Dante was referring to when he spoke of "the love that moves the sun and other stars."

For Schuon, man "is capable of a love exceeding phenomena and opening out to the Infinite, and of an activity having its motive or its object beyond terrestrial interests."

Elsewhere Schuon has written to the effect that life is quite simple: we are to know truth, will the good, and love beauty. Each of these three -- love, truth, beauty -- is a transcendental, meaning again that man's innate "cosmic direction" is beyond himself -- into, or toward, what surpasses him.

One might say that "horizontal life" is subjective and self-interested, while vertical life is disinterested and therefore objective (objectivity and disinterestedness amounting to the same thing). Now, there is no truth -- or knowledge of truth -- in the absence of these two.

Which is why the Way of Truth is a kind of sacrificial offering in which we transcend the passions and petty interests of the ego. To acknowledge a primordial truth is to die a little. But in a good way, since we die to fragmentation and are "resurrected" into unity. "A saint is a void open for the passage of God," and "To give oneself to God is to give God to the world" (Schuon).

Of course, you are free to try to be fulfilled within your own little absurcular orbit, but "It is a fact that man cannot find happiness within his own limits; his very nature condemns him to surpass himself, and in surpassing himself, to free himself" (ibid.)

I might add that we are condemned to surpass ourselves both horizontally and vertically. That is to say, our deiform nature means that we are trinitarian right down to the bones, so that even the most horizontal among us wants to escape from himself in the form of, say, a passionate love.

But love of man divorced from love of the Creator always ends badly, since no fellow human being can possibly embody the transcendence we seek. Bitterness, disillusionment, and recriminations follow, all for the inevitable discovery that every human is all too.

Only the prior loss of God could transform an inevitability into a surprise: the surprise in discovering one's own idolatrous nature. Remembering God is our task, but forgetting God our hobby.

In Purcell, I came across a comment about St. John of the Cross, to the effect that his writing is "like a winding staircase always revolving around the same center, always recurring to the same topics, but at a higher level."

Again, this is the inspiraling "shape of man" that we've been discussing lately.

Schuon says something similar, that "Fundamentally there are only three miracles: existence, life, intelligence." And with intelligence, "the curve springing from God closes on itself like a ring that in reality has never been parted from the Infinite."

Thus, intelligence is already a kind of "union with God" (i.e., Truth), as are virtue and beauty. Each shines through this otherwise sophicating blandscape, and brings us back to our ground and center, our origin and destiny. If truth is the "food" of the journey, love is the living water, and beauty the otherworldy perfume.

(All of the Schuon references are from his Echoes of Perennial Wisdom, which I guess must be echoing through me. It'll do that.)


julie said...

That was like a cool drink from a very deep well.

Cond0010 said...

Whew. That was good.

You really out did yourself this time - not that you need me to say that. :)

Gagdad Bob said...

I just woke up earlier than usual, so I finally had some timelessness to spend in the ground.

julie said...

Father Stephen has some apropos wisdom today, in honor of the Orthodox Pascha. Quoting Kallistos Ware:

" …Do we allow properly for the fact that our Savior came to redeem, not only the human race, but the fullness of creation? Do we keep constantly in mind that we are not saved from but with the world?"

Van said...

" Remembering God is our task, but forgetting God our hobby."

We do all have our little hobbies....

Magister said...

Wonderful post.

I could see someone reading this and saying, "this inspiralled life sounds great and all, but it's too contemplative, not for me." In my experience, metaphysics does tend to value the contemplative over the active. In contemplating the One, there's a tendency to see it as this big static tableau, "tota simul," etc.

This is why Aquinas is so bracing to me: for him, the essential thing to grasp is that reality is one massive creative Act, one huge, impossibly huge explosion of living creativity, and it's still radiating, pulsing, expanding, bursting with life and motion.

We are part of that action, and I believe that when we see ourselves in that action, participating, we can see how our cognitive and intuitive vitality are related directly and structurally to the intellectual and loving motion that makes it possible. We feel and know that we're in the zone of the infinite to which we're so closely related. We see an increasing likeness between ourselves and that divine image.

So I'd just like to stress that seeing this analogy happens also when we're in motion, and that it can be a happy awareness, and one productive of more. It's less like a "task" and more like ... running past the timeboard and seeing that you're on your pace or getting faster.

And what to pack for the sojourn? How about an e-reader?

ted said...

Bob, With all you caustic jabs at the left, I sometimes forget what an endearing poet you can be. Today's post reminded me of that. :-)

mushroom said...

Reading this reminds me that Jesus requires us to love our enemies. Perhaps my enemies benefit from that, but mostly I do.

If I can't start by loving what is instead of just what should be, I will have no room for God. I see that in my state of rejection, God's love is too expansive and all-encompassing for me, and I cannot know God apart from His love because that's who He is. I am blocked from the start, and I'll never get to what should be anyway.

And I was really enjoying my self-righteousness and indignation today, too. Thanks a lot, Bob.

Cond0010 said...

Wonderful post.

Couldn't eat another bite.


John Lien said...

This bit was particularly illuminating.

"Which is why the Way of Truth is a kind of sacrificial offering in which we transcend the passions and petty interests of the ego. To acknowledge a primordial truth is to die a little. But in a good way, since we die to fragmentation and are "resurrected" into unity."

Thanks Bob.

Magnus Itland said...

As it happens, "Echoes of Perennial Wisdom" is the only physical book I've bought the last half year or so. I remembered when I first tried reading Schuon, it was somewhat like running into a wall. That I can enjoy his writing now is surely for the most part thanks to years of being fed small tasty bits of Schuonity from the freshly tipped Celestial Bin. Thank you!

Unknown said...

"Remembering God is our task, but forgetting God our hobby."

Speak for yourself. God doesn't exist.

Gagdad Bob said...

In that case, he's got a lot of explaining to do.

julie said...

Oh, I'm pretty sure it's the same old, same old Black Hole/ Open Trench, whatever other sock puppets he's been using over the years. And sadly, it really has been years, with no obvious signs of personal growth. Anybody else would either start gaining something of value from all the time spent here, or just moved on already.

Cond0010 said...

Thanks for the heads up, Julie. I remember 'Open Trench', but have not 'met' Black-hole.

I felt an urge to smoke this Troll out of his hidey-hole of vacuous anonymity and spoil his fun. If there is any content to his arguments, we will get it soon.

Otherwise, he's just what I thought he was (see above). There's nothing like the smell of toasted troll - especially if its done in a very tasteful and entertaining fashion.

Van said...

"You might say that the adversary has a "divide and conquer" strategy, only with regard to individual souls. Which is why the prime directive of our liberal media is to always foment a state of impassioned division within ourselves -- usually via things that are none of our business -- never peace, contentment, tranquility, gratitude, etc. "

“Defining deviancy down” was Sen. Moynihan's phrase, but I think 'driving decency down' is more to the point, and "divide and conquer" is implemented through dis-integrating and mis-integrating.

Disintegrating concepts from their hierarchy, and mis-integrating them with perceptual particulars, and every successful assault draws you further down and away from your center, and away from your ability to locate or even remember that you might have once had one.

I watched a movie last night, that was mostly... not bad... but presented in it was what has become such a commonplace, an almost throw away exchange by the Seth Rogen character about the lead's lack of sex over a few weeks - standard, oral or otherwise - being provided by his girlfriend. Friendly advice was offered and received, casually and off the cuff and with a smile on the most intimate details of his relationship with his girlfriend (sorta live-in… whatever).

Later, once that girlfriend was out of the picture, Rogen lines him up with a 'lay' (Rogen, of course, is out on the couch with her friend, and as the lead walks out in the morning, Rogen happilly points to her form under a blanket and lets him know he F'd her). Midway through their genital handshake, girl #2 notices the ailing lead character wincing underneath her, and in deference to his physical comfort, the girl, never named, climbs off & lays down... with all the emphasis and significance that might in previous times have been given to taking a breather from the dance floor, as the just met, never introduced dancing partner#2, smiles sympathetically, and disappears.

Eh. No biggee. Just showing how his disease makes some daily, thoroughly decent activities like polite courting, can become difficult. Cut. On with the story.

Divided from standards of Truth and Goodness, decency brought low, the high ground not only lost but vanished, further conquering is unnecessary - it's been done.

Those fragments of scenes weren't done for shock value, they weren't included in order to generate publicity and buzz, just to provide a mild comic chuckle, they weren't considered by anyone in the movie, or by those making it, or by those watching it, as remarkable in anyway.

The dividing - the dis-integrating and mis-integrating - is the conquering.