Monday, June 17, 2013

I Am. Not Myself. But Maybe Somedeity...

Continuing with Davie's thesis that Christianity represents a synthesis of Judaism and Vedanta, he writes that under Christianity (C), the two different views of God -- continuous (V) and discontinuous (J), immanent (V) and transcendent (J), "are placed together in the perception of identity-in-difference."

This particular orthoparadox "informs the entire theology of C: thus, Christ is God and man; the bread is the body; One God is three persons, etc. In short, the boundary relations of absolute identity, on the one hand, and infinite difference, on the other, combine to yield identity-in-difference..."

And as mentioned a couple of posts ago, it is as if C embodies a balance between predominantly left (J) and right (V) cerebral hemispheric approaches to the divine.

Again, one doesn't want to oversimplify or push the analysis too far, but I think it is fair to say that a law-based approach is more exterior/objective, whereas the experiential approach of Vedanta (or Zen, or Mahayana Buddhism) is more subjective/interior.

Just as there is no monastic tradition in Judaism -- radical withdrawal from the world being considered mishuggah (except on the Sabbath, and even then the slaccent is on being with the world more intimately) -- Vedanta is in many ways a lawless religion, so to speak.

Or in other words, remove all of the laws from the cosmos -- which are ultimately spun from maya's web -- and what you are left with is God.

Along these lines, Davie goes on to suggest that Judaism's "main concern" lies with "finding an answer to the question, Who? (who is this God revealed to Abraham, Moses, and the prophets?...)," whereas the central concern of Vedanta "is identity-with" the ultimate principle. In Judaism there can be no identity with God, just as in Vedanta our apparent separation is only a stubborn illusion.

As it so happens, if we dig a little deeper, we see that the same dialectic obtains within Hinduism, between the rival ganges of Shankara and Ramanuja, or nondualism vs. qualified nondualism.

And Davie points out that in the Old Testament there are numerous references to the godmensch. Still, there is a certain line one cannot cross in Judaism, for which reason (among others) Jesus-as-God is a non-starter, and more generally, "what H takes to be saving truth, J regards as blasphemous."

Another interesting contrast between Judaism and Vedanta has to do with creation. J is famous for taking a lot of pointless speculation out of the grubby hands of the tenured, and insisting that creation has a beginning, so deal with it.

Conversely, Vedanta maintains that creation has no beginning, and that this particular cosmos is just one in an endless series of emanations.

Likewise, with J, creation involves divine choice, whereas with V it is somewhat "automatic," in the sense that Brahman cannot not create, because this would violate its own nature.

Because of this, it seems that Judaism cannot help but be eschatological, or future-oriented, most particularly, with regard to the messiah or savior. But in Vedanta there can be no end, because any end will just be a new beginning. To be perfectly accurate, beginning and end are always now.

Davie reminds us that Jesus is called Alpha and Omega, first and last, beginning and end, which permits of two perspectives which are unified in the one person.

The whole thing becomes a little confusing because of our immersion in time. Because God is in eternity, beginning and end must by definition be the same in him; or, what we call beginning and end are the serial instantiation -- the "moving image" -- of eternity in time.

As we have said on a number of occasions, herebelow eternity takes time, whereas thereabove it takes all day to get nothing done. But nobody minds, because you've got forever to do it.

Now, a religion provides the cure for the particular spiritual disease it diagnoses. The cure is what we call redemption in Christianity, or holiness in Judaism, or moksha in Vedanta. But is there a way we can see these three as different symptoms of the same underlying disease?

At least superficially, it appears not. For what is the disease? In Judaism, identity with God would be a fatal spiritual sickness, whereas in Vedanta the very same thing is the cure!

But we need to make some more subtle linguistic distinctions, or at least find a way to bullshit our way out of this metaphysical nul-de-slack.

For example, in Vedanta the point is not to elevate the local ego to godhood. Rather, there is a lower self (jivatman, [•]) and a higher self (atman, [¶]), and we dis-identify with the former in order to identify with the latter. And for Davie, the lower self "approximates to the Hebrew nephesh," while ruah does duty for the higher, more subtle being. (And as always, we are happy to be corrected by brother Gandalin for our hamhanded analysis.)

There is also the distinction between local image and nonlocal likeness that is emphasized by both Judaism and (Eastern) Orthodox Christianity. Thus, our "fallenness" is essentially a measure of the distance between image and likeness, lower self and higher self, jivatman and atman, nephesh and ruah, slack and conspiracy, etc.

In each case, redemption, or sanctity, or liberation, or slack, is an eschatological movement from the one toward the other. There is an "immaculate manhood" (Davie), so to speak, at the end of our seeking, which "draws us on by offering glimpses of ourselves in our ideal nature."

And in the case of C, "the likeness which was lost through Adam is fully restored in Jesus," who is uniquely image and likeness; whereas for the subgenius, we would measure the same distance on a logarithmic scale of 1 to Bob.

In fact, I believe it was Schuon who said something to the effect that Jesus is both man's icon of God and God's icon of man (man-as-such).

And what -- or who -- is man-as-such?

Ah, that leads us into a deuscussion of this purusha character, more on whom tomorrow.


mushroom said...

A Muslim once asked me if I seriously thought the "Great God", as he put it, could be a man. I think he was correct as to God the Unknowable Essence, but Christ is the revelation, the Word spoken by God. Wouldn't His hair necessarily be perfect?

Is the end of the world coming? The elements will melt, Peter said, with a fervent heat, but that's just a make-over to creating "a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness".

Christian eschatology -- when it doesn't get popularly perverted -- tends more toward the eternal recreation/restoration side. Isaiah, though, also talks the restoration of the kingdom under Messiah -- see Isaiah 11 and 65. The rules get drastically changed -- no more bloodshed. The law of the jungle and of tooth and claw is repealed. Life regains the sweet innocence of Eden.

Chris said...

This is a really interesting and helpful post. I put this book on my reading list.

I apologize for pestering you, but..... If non-duality is not pantheism, I'm not clear on the difference (if at all) between nondualism and panentheism. To my lights, both of theses views posit a graded and hierarchical "chain of being" with God "containing" creation, yet more than it.

Gagdad Bob said...

The charge of pantheism is just an orientalist misunderstanding and simplification, as explained in most any book by or about Schuon, although I can't think of a particular one at the moment.

Pantheism is radical immanence; panentheism is immanence + transcendence, or, to be precise, immanence because transcendence. Transcendence might be thought of as Absolute, just as immanence is an implication of the Absolute infinitude. Also Father-Sky and Mother-Earth/Mamamaya.

Chris said...


Clearly, non-duality is not pantheism.

But is panentheism, being neither monist nor dualist, to be understood as a form nondualism?

Gagdad Bob said...

Only one way to find out, and I don't want to spoil it for you.

Chris said...

I can hear your thoughts from afar,
"Jeez, what's with this guy. Do your own reading!"

Fair enough.

julie said...

Hm. All this either/or/both/and brings to mind an interesting dream I had this weekend. Or rather, an interesting conundrum within a dream.

So there's a counterfeiter, and he comes to you with a kit for making molds of quarters. Then he wants you to fill the molds with pure silver, as opposed to the copper/nickel of the original quarter. He then wants you to put the silver quarters into circulation, with a goal of having one marked by an official as invalid currency and then returned to him - in the process, becoming many, many times more valuable than the ordinary quarter it replaced.

So there's a conundrum. On the one hand, you have an ordinary quarter, which has value not because of its actual makeup, but because it has the official backing of the state.

Then, on the other hand, you have the chance to make a false version whose true worth is actually far greater - and which becomes even more valuable as a result of being invalidated by an agent of the state.

You don't know the motives of the counterfeiter. What do you do? Or in this context, which is more valuable, or more "true"?

I've been mulling over that one all weekend.

julie said...

Oh - one more detail: Part of the goal of the counterfeiting was to enrich the counterfeiter. However, there was also a goal of enriching those who came across the silver quarters and recognized that what they had was something more valuable than just a regular quarter. Eyes to see, and all that...

Gagdad Bob said...

I don't know, but Schuon just said that Tibetans believe that "a dog's tooth that is mistaken for a relic and becomes an object of sincere and ardent faith actually begins to shine."

mushroom said...

Julie, I'm not sure if you should write that up as a screenplay or delete it from the internet immediately.

In any case, it's pretty cool. My dreams are like I can't find my pants.

Gagdad Bob said...

Probably Mrs. Shroom wearing them.

ge said...

~A Tibetan story you may not recall: Marpa's son Dode was killed in a riding mishap. His dad performed a transference of consciousness ritual and the son who had mastered the technique before his death-- his mind just before his body croaked, took life in a pigeon who performed ritual moves and answered simple questions with signs; and the bird flew toward India to take rebirth in an auspicious family---well Dode got lost and came back as the pigeon, and Marpa clairvoyantly saw his error in flight-path so told him what to look for...well Dode again flew to India and animated the corpse of a recently-deceased Indian kid, whose parents were delighted with the miracle of their son's rising off the pyre at the last minute as alive and a lot smarter than ever! [they did know that some amazing thing had happened because the kid became a sage in his own right...]

mushroom said...

Indeed, you've heard the old joke about the two lines of men waiting to get into heaven. One line is HENPECKED, the other is NOT HENPECKED.

The Henpecked line wraps all the way around the New Jerusalem. There's one guy standing in the Not-Henpecked line. Finally some of the men can't stand it any longer and go over to the lone holdout. One of them says, "Why are you standing here? Come on over with us."

The guy shakes his head, "My wife told me stand here."

That will be me.

River Cocytus said...

I do tend to think that most of Western Christendom is actually a dualistic perversion of orthodoxy (no offense to those in the West.)

My conclusion after reading the fathers as much as I have (probably not nearly enough!) is that the principles of unity and multiplicity are the fundamental atomic laws of all existence, including invisible existence (ideas, angels, etc.)

So you have a pair of principles, but these principles do not stand in contradiction to one another, but mutually reinforce one another. They seem to be hierarchical, in that it all starts with the One, but this beginning is outside all time and creation within the divinity itself.

Thus to say that there is a hierarchy is to say yes, the many originates in the one, but neither then permits one to be primary and the other secondary; they are equals in their stability and permanence.

This would (in my mind) explain why Godel's theory is correct, because these axiomatic systems are qualitatively singular: Science for instance even if has a thousand laws still reduces to the idea that all causes belong to the order of physics, forward in time, whether deterministic or non-deterministic.

Without a second underlying principle that overlaps and reinforces the former set, producing its own manner of laws, you cannot have a complete grasp of reality.

We are taught that the Trinity is a mystery and that we do not intuit the Threeness in Oneness from our experience, but that it is revealed to us. We can from there see the ramifications of the One in Three in all things.

So those who try too hard to come up with new theories about God's nature, or additional doctrines if you will, from nature, are in error, or must do so with the caveat that they are performing some seriously funky mind jazz, and by goodness take it with levitas.

Prayers By The Lake is perhaps one of the most profound theological texts ever written. But St. Nikolai is just riffing off of Maximus, Eckhart, John, Gregory(s) and others.

Jason T. said...

Bob Said in the post: "Along these lines, Davie goes on to suggest that Judaism's "main concern" lies with "finding an answer to the question, Who? (who is this God revealed to Abraham, Moses, and the prophets?...)," whereas the central concern of Vedanta "is identity-with" the ultimate principle. In Judaism there can be no identity with God, just as in Vedanta our apparent separation is only a stubborn illusion."

Now, I personally have a difficult time following some of these somewhat abstract and metaphysical discussions, at least enough to be able to express myself adequately in response. But the above quote hits upon something for me, and in that I can speak not abstractly, but from personal experience.

I regularly practice Zen meditation, merely witnessing the non-dual nature of Being-ness in all of Its nonGLORY. And yet, sometimes, in that vast spaciousness which is most definitely loving in its immanence, a question arises within me: "HOW?! HOW CAN THIS BE?! THIS MIRACLE?! THIS MYSTERY?! HOW AND WHEN AND WAS THERE A BEGINNING?!"

And then, oh so slowly, Understanding descends. Yes, there is an Other, a God, a Conscious and Truth-Giving Creator fully aware of my linguistic-energetic questioning. And He responds in kind, showing me the Miracle of my own self, my own person, my own ego, even, and sometimes brings raw insight into the structure of cosmic and meta-cosmic manifestation. And then comes the profound realization that as awe-filled as I am through awareness of the Presence of God's Being-ness, God is awed by ME.

This is how I experience it: By having willed Creation into being, God let go of an aspect of Himself, his Plenitude, His radical and overflowing Fullness. This Involution, this descent into Time and Matter, manifested a Boundary between Himself and Himself, and in that offered each particular self the possibility of sharing in His own Self-Revelation.

Each human Revelation is a gift to God. God delights in nothing anything more, I believe, than re-living the Miracle of His own Being-ness, his own Truth, his own Beauty and Goodness from the perspective of the finite.

This relates to the above quote, I feel, and to what Bob has been discussing in the last few posts. I am That, and yet I am not That, and it is this very flow of Epiphanies (yes and no, hot and cold, Free and Full) which creates Unity itself. There needs to be a boundary, a differentiation, for the Miracle to be re-Discovered, re-Loved, re-Worded, re-Integrated.

I always come back to Schuon's quote about the Sun, and its rays of Light. The rays are of the Sun, they feel like the Sun and are one with the Sun at all times, but they are not ACTUALLY the Sun....yes and no.

JP said...

"Conversely, Vedanta maintains that creation has no beginning, and that this particular cosmos is just one in an endless series of emanations."

Well, yeah. Kinda. Except that there are other where-whens. I mean, if you change e and pi, among other things, you can get another where when. It just has to work.

"Likewise, with J, creation involves divine choice, whereas with V it is somewhat "automatic," in the sense that Brahman cannot not create, because this would violate its own nature."

Well, yeah, God chose to create. And apparently it's fun. Because he keeps doing it.

I mean, I can do all kinds of things that violate my own nature.

Like killing myself (I'm still trying to figure out why people have suicidal ideations, since I'm generally not mad at *me*, personally).

So, is suicide in my nature?

I just confused myself.