Friday, July 22, 2016

God Becomes Asymmetric So that Man Might Become Symmetric

Again: it is not the unrestricted power and infinite nature of God that becomes man, because that would be impossible; the former would overwhelm if not annihilate the latter.

Rather, it is the second Person of the Trinity who does so. It is this Person who makes "unconditional use of the one unrestricted power and nature," and who enters "into a finite human nature."

This reminds me of something I heard Bill Buckley say many years ago, before I knew much of anything about Islam or Christianity. He pointed out that Islam has a simplistic and rather primitive theology, compared to the richness and sophistication of Christianity. Under the assumption that all western religions were equally products of magical thinking, I thought to myself, "what's the point of bragging about a more convoluted fantasy?"

Suffice it to say that I have since then understood his point. Islam begins and ends with the tautology that "there is no God but God." True enough, but it's like reducing science to the statement that "there is no matter but matter." Thanks for the tip! In orthodox Islam (we're not talking about Sufism, a la Schuon) there is no way to "enter" God, only to slavishly follow his external dictates.

But Christianity -- among other things -- invites us to enter into, and participate in, God's very interior reality. Instead of rendering us slaves, we can actually become children and brothers of God. Perhaps I'm being unfair to Islam, but it seems to me that there is a considerably lower level of divine intimacy. And of course, the Koran specifically denies that God could in any way be "three," (unsophisticatedly) confusing the Trinity with polytheism.

Thus, ironically, in the Muslim mind the Koran serves as a correction and progression from a more primitive and error-prone Christian polytheism. But in reverting from the intersubjective God of Christianity to an interobjective one (in which we are reduced to mere objects of God), I think it's the other way around.

I might add that the two metaphysical conceptions have obviously led to very different forms of civilization. Many ideas that underpin western civilization are unthinkable in the Islamic world, e.g., political liberty, freedom of conscience, and separation of secular and religious law.

At any rate, in the same appendix we've been discussing, Spitzer has a brief section called Making Sense of the Incarnation. Is that even possible? Well, it ought to be, since they say that nothing in Christianity should run counter to the highest gift God has given us, our reason.

Why would God's highest revelation violate his most precious gift? If it did, then God would be analogous to the "crazy-making" parent who places the child in a double-bind from which there is no escape.

Of the Incarnation, Spitzer notes that "if self-consciousness inheres (makes use of) a finite nature," then "it will be subject to the limitations of that nature." On the other hand, if it inheres in "an unrestricted power and nature, then there is no limit to the power of its understanding, creativity, freedom, and will."

So, with the Incarnation of the Son in the man Jesus, there are two vectors, as it were, one unrestricted and the other restricted.

I'm trying to come up with a useful analogy. Probably not a good one, but I'm thinking of how, as a psychologist, one must empathically "enter" the restricted world of the patient, even while another part transcends the limitation. Just as the second Person of the Trinity will really and truly know what it is like to be a man -- with all its limitations, conflicts, and suffering -- another "part" has unrestricted access to the divine relationship that transcends the finite. And he wants us to participate in the same power, which is none other than being fully in the world without being of it.

Spitzer: "Christianity holds that the second Person (self-consciousness) did not stop using the divine nature when He took on the limitations of human nature, but rather continued operating through His divine nature so that the one self-consciousness had the perspective, understanding, and will of both an unrestricted nature and a finite nature" (Spitzer).

Ah ha! This sounds a little like the bi-logic discussed a couple of posts back. Indeed, in searching for an (admittedly disanalogous) analogy, Spitzer suggests that our own dream state might illuminate "how a single self-consciousness could have two such different perspectives." (Again, it is not the dream state that illuminates Jesus's consciousness so much as vice versa.)

Note that in the dream, it is as if our consciousness is bifurcated into the "unrestricted" power of the Dreamer and the restricted power that we have as subjects in our own dream. I wonder if Bomford discusses this in The Symmetry of God? Let's have a look.

Yup: "The doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation, particularly, are dominated by symmetric logic and become virtual expressions of its laws." "In terms of bi-logic every effort seems to be made to make it rational and consonant with asymmetric logic: yet, at its heart, is irresoluble paradox " -- i.e., the co-presence of two forms of logic, and of a self-consciousness inflected through each.

To cite just one conspicuous example of symmetric logic, we could say that "because God has become human, humanity has become divine." "Symmetric logic makes unities out of things apparently different.... Many of the historic controversies of Christianity may be resolved by accepting the necessity of expressing them through paradox and myth, by recognizing the symmetric logic implicit in all talk of God."


julie said...

Why would God's highest revelation violate his most precious gift? If it did, then God would be analogous to the "crazy-making" parent who places the child in a double-bind from which there is no escape.

Agreed. This is where problems with Biblical literalism come in, as well.

Gagdad Bob said...

Along those lines, an interesting looking book was recently released, but I'll wait for some reviews.

julie said...

That does look promising.

Gagdad Bob said...

There is a positive review of the Hard Sayings book mentioned above, culminating in a great quote by Chesterton:

"Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground."

Chris said...

Hi Bob,

(As you probably know) I am a long time reader of your blog and have gained many important insights from your writings. But, I must say that I find your antagonism to Islam somewhat puzzling, especially since you hold Schuon's thought in such high regard. I don't think that FS would have accepted the distinction between Orthodox Islam and the Sufi tradition any more than he would have accepted a fundamental divide (let's say) between hesychasm and Christianity. FS was firmly committed to the transcendent unity of religions and, as such, believed that orthodox Islam is equally salvific to Christanity. Now, I realize that one need not be persuaded by all the views of any one person, no matter how highly revered; nevertheless, your position does still seem odd to me given that the TUOR was so central to Schuon's perspective.

Kind Regards

Gagdad Bob said...

What can I say? On balance, I don't think Islam has contributed anything to the world. Ask yourself: would the world be better or worse off without it? Or, more concretely, why is every Muslim majority country such a backward and oppressive place where human potential is prevented from flourishing? What if Christian lands in the middle east hadn't been converted by the sword from Christianity to Islam? Would they be better or worse off today? Say, you're about to be born. Would you choose to be born into Christendom or an Islamic state? Israel or Palestine? The United States or Saudi Arabia? England or Turkey? Or would you just flip a coin?

Schuon can say what he wants, but people vote with their feet, and his brand of mystico-metaphysical Sufism bears very little relationship to what goes on in Iran, or Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan, etc. And of course, he chose to live in the Christian west. I would be surprised if his books aren't banned in most Muslim countries.

Gagdad Bob said...

As Dennis Prager writes in his Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph, there are really only three ideologies competing for world supremacy, classical liberal Americanism rooted in Judeo-Christian values and principles, leftism, and Islamism (although we could add a fourth, the authoritarian state crony capitalism of China). In my opinion, three of these are more or less satanic.

Gagdad Bob said...

Nor, for that matter, can there actually be a transcendent unity of Christianity and Islam. Rather, if one is right the other is wrong. This is not to say there aren't partial revelations of God, but we shouldn't put the partial and the total (or fuller) on the same plane.

Gagdad Bob said...

In other words, Islam absolutely denies the fundamental tenets of Christianity, i.e., Incarnation, Resurrection, and Trinity. It takes considerable mental gymgnostics to maintain otherwise.

julie said...

I'd like to throw my two bits of zinc in, as well:

When people study the Bible with an eye toward deepening their understanding, one expects to see certain types of development: a better sense of love and compassion, mercy, a desire to turn away from evil, a sense of bravery and courage in the face of hardship, kindness, and a desire to see other people turn away from evil to do what is good.

When people study the Koran with an eye toward deepening their faith, all too often it results in sudden jihad syndrome, a hatred for anyone not muslim, a hatred for the wrong sort of muslim, a desire to institute sharia law all over the world, an insistence on throwing gays off roofs, calling for the slaughter of massive numbers of people, the promise that enslaving and raping women and boys will be rewarded in the afterlife, the insistence that women are best neither seen nor heard, etc. ad nauseum

By its fruits you shall know it. The fact that Islam sometimes fosters a Schuon does not change the fact that its practitioners are vastly more likely to either engage in or merely just support acts of diabolical evil. All things considered, what's to like about Islam?

Gagdad Bob said...

When it comes to Islam, our leaders are either liars or idiots.

Then again, when it comes to most anything, they are liars or idiots.

Gagdad Bob said...

Useful blog that aggregates what makes Islam so different.

Chris said...

Bob, I totally see where you are coming from. For the record, I am neither a Muslim apologist nor a political leftist. At the end of the day, I am man of the West and a defender of the Great Tradtion. Neverthelss, I am reluctant to take such a manichean stance vis a vis Islamic civilization. One of the reasons for that being that secular leftists tend to use similar questionable arguments and polemics against conservative Christians all of the time. Also don't forget that many Western traditonalists and rightists of various stripes argue that classical liberalism itself represents a departure and break with the spiritual civilization of Christendom. Again, it was Schuon himself who was largely of that mind-set. Much appreciation for sharing your views.

Julie- how bout Rumi? Everyone digs Rumi.

julie said...

Granted. I also like this guy, though I suspect that if someone dropped him in the middle of Syria or Iraq his head might not be long for his shoulders.

If they, and Schuon, were representative of the majority of Muslims and Islamic understanding, the world would be a vastly different and more beautiful place.

Meanwhile, today in Germany, sumdood went on the attack with a machete. I don't want to jump to any conclusions, I'm sure it's just some crazy Nazi on the rampage... maybe a tan German, but probably a Christian...


It's a Muslim.

Huh. Who could have seen that coming?

julie said...

Apparently those Germans are collectively losing their minds. In another incident today, somebody prematurely exploded outside a wine bar. Surely a German nationalist and card-carrying Pegida member. No reason to suspect a muslim, there's nothing in Islam that would encourage a man to commit suicide while attempting to kill as many kafir as possible in order to be richly rewarded with a harem of eternally virginal sex slaves in the afterlife.

Ephrem Antony Gray said...

Yer back!

We're getting Muz-booms erry day now. When we get to dozens of attacks a day, we're on the cusp of some kind of insane civil conflict. My hope is that those who technically have authority will be goaded into action - some sort of action before then. (Hopefully said action is not surrendering.)

Then again. Turkey has Nukes.

Good Job, NATO...

Anonymous said...

On Schuon and Islam. Schuon at times takes account of the fact that people aren't the same everywhere you go, but in the end, he does not think it is of real import. Of course, he also thinks the modern world is diabolic.
The thing is, we now know what is required to MAKE a modern world, and that is a fairly high national IQ. Europe (including Europe settled areas--Australia/NZ/White US/White S.A) and East Asia have the highest, along with Ashkenazi Jews. It's not accidental that these areas are the least violent (before immigration controls were loosened) and most technologically advanced, since IQ is correlated with innovation and inversely correlated with violence.
In the Middle East, it's not just that Islam is violent and retro, it's also that they have practiced consanguinity for generations, which is a proven brain drain, similar to Bolsheviks murdering scientists. One of the main utilities of Christianity (there were many) was banning endogamy. If the Middle East converted en masse to Christianity (or atheism as in Israel), but did not solve for cousin breeding, there would be little change in violence.
Latin America has been Christian for 500 years, but the low national IQ keeps them down and violent.

In the US, if you examine violent crime stats (or abortion; or AIDS) and examine by race, you find interesting facts. Blacks in the US are as violent as blacks in sub-saharan Africa, more or less. Again, low average IQ. It has little to do with slavery or poverty. Indeed, IQ is highly correlated with wealth.
The most useful science in understanding history and politics is Human Bio-diversity. Human groups in breeding isolation for extended periods evolved differently, and not just their skin tones, or other morphological differences. Also behaviors. Genes affect behavior as much as vertical leap.
American conservatism has spent decades denying these facts, allowing an endless stream of low IQ immigration, thinking that these folks can be educated into the American way of life. It's been a complete failure for the reasons given above.
The traditionalists deny the basic facts of evolution as well, though they do take account a little better that different religious worlds are really different. But, since they reject the modern world, they consider them more or less equal. In the year 1000 they were more or less equal.
I prefer A/C to wigwams. Iphones to eye gouging. The West to the rest.

Gagdad Bob said...

I've only recently pulled the plug on my last vestige of liberalism, the scientifically unsupportable idea that human groups genetically are equivalent. This hardly means they shouldn't be accorded equal rights and equal dignity, only that there is no reason on earth to assume equal outcomes. Otherwise, white privilege would create more NBA players. It's not a white-black thing, just a truth-myth thing, otherwise white people should be consumed with envy over Asian privilege.

Anonymous said...

Here here, Bob.
Equal dignity, absolutely. Equal treatment under the law. Equal rights, that's a little more problematic, since a "right" is an idea that evolved out of western European tradition, in high trust societies.
The right to bear arms, for example, perhaps should not be given to someone with a 77 IQ, white or black. George Washington wasn't imagining arming the Indians or slaves.

Anonymous said...

For anyone interested in books and articles on Human Bio-diversity, here's a useful link:

I don't necessarily subscribe to all of these things/links. It's science, so information is partial, tentative, forthcoming.

Gagdad Bob said...

Good if unworkable point about guns and IQs. If we could just get guns out of the hands of Democrats, we'd have the murder rate of Sweden!

Unfortunately, the Overton Window won't even allow us to discuss the problem, let alone solutions. Therefore, the available solutions will only aggravate the problems. And the more we become a "knowledge based economy," the worse things are going to get. New Mexican immigrants are thrilled to be gardeners, but their children won't be. Their heads will be filled with liberal inspired envy and entitlement, with predictable consequences when reality doesn't conform to the fantasy.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely true on the consequences of masses of low IQ people in a knowledge based economy. We thought we had a permanent underclass before.