Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Round About the Queer God

For any curious human being -- and a human without curiosity is scarcely worthy of the name -- the existence of God is the Question of questions. But merely answering the question in the affirmative is insufficient. Rather, "having answered it," writes Chittick, human beings "must then set out to verify the truth of their answer by finding God in fact, not in theory."

This is precisely what we mean by (k) vs. (n): our "main concern is not with the mental concept of being [k] but with the experience [n] of God's Being," whereby "finding," "perceiving" and "being" are united in "that which truly is."

This constitutes what we call the Bewilderness Adventure: "To find God is to fall into bewilderment, not the bewilderment of being lost and unable to find one's way, but the bewilderment of finding and knowing God and of not-finding and not-knowing Him at the same time."

You could say that (k) is mere knowledge, the sort of thing that can be easily passed from mind to mind. But (n) requires a wide-I'd state of blunderment, in which we first empty ourselves of what we know in order to make room for what we don't.

Thus the orthoparadox: "Incapacity to attain comprehension is itself comprehension." So, be wary of those who only know. As the saying goes, if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.

A gag by Kierkegaard just popped into my head, so perhaps it is relevant: "Only a strange gospel can differentiate itself from the culture around us." Conversely, imagine if the gospel were as assimilable as any other form of (k). In the end, it would render us equal, if not superior, to God, because it would mean we could contain him (rather than vice versa).

Indeed, the fact that we can know God but never contain him is guaranteed to generate an endless stream of partial answers -- as no amount of two-dimensional circles can add up to the three-dimensional sphere. Thus, our answers can and will be completely true and yet utterly false. To tweak a famous saying, "Why do you call it truth? There is no one true but God allone."

Any extreme seeker knows that "the answer to every significant question concerning God and the world is 'Yes and no.'" Whatever Yes you can come up with simply isn't big enough for God. Indeed, there are certain gods so puny -- and you know who they are -- that the No! is far preferable to any Yes. Saying Yes to them would be an insult to God and man. Give me an honest naytheist to a narrow-minded yeatheist.

"'Finding,' it needs to be repeated, is never just epistemological. It is fundamentally ontological. Being precedes knowledge knowledge in God as in the world" (ibid.).

In God, of course, knowledge is Being, and vice versa; in giving existence to the world, God literally gives being, but this being is at the same time not-being. If you don't know that, then death is here to remind you. You might say that the purpose of religion is to bridge that otherwise unbridgeable gap between being and Being.

And when I say "unbridgeable," I mean of course from our end: again, we can never contain the Container. But "what if" -- "I'm just thinking out loud here," said God -- "what if the Container were somehow to become the content?" What if the Timeless were to enter time, the Infinite the finite, the Author his story? Wouldn't that be a kick in the godhead?

To paraphrase the early Fathers, The Container becomes contained so that the contained might become Container.

Is any God-spiel down here adequate to accomplish this? If so, it would have to be a strange spiel indeed, not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.

"None knows God but God." True enough, even self-evidently so. And if not for the Incarnation, it would be an impenetrable tautology.

But as a human individual who has come into existence and then returned to his Creator, he has tied together the Origin and the Return.... He is the part and the Whole, the many and the One, the small and the Great, everything and All. Just as he turns round about God, so the cosmos turns round about him. --William Chittick


julie said...

Ha - this would be a good introduction to the 1st chapter of John.

will said...

>>Thus the orthoparadox: "Incapacity to attain comprehension is itself comprehension." So, be wary of those who only know. As the saying goes, if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.<<

Old Jewish saying I read somewhere - "The messiah will not appear until you have completely despaired of his coming."