Monday, September 05, 2016

What God Owes Man

Knowledge is always personal, whether the knowledge in question is scientific or religious. Probably neither side likes the sound of that, because it implies that knowledge is subjective. Religious dogma is intended to be objective, as are scientific theories.

Polanyi explodes that myth as it pertains to science. Coincidentally, Henry Corbin (via al Arabi) does the same with regard to religion. But each is really just describing the deeper structure of any kind of knowing.

First of all, there is no knowledge without a knower: "There is no purely objective knowledge, because nothing can be called knowledge that is not personally accredited as knowledge. Facts do not force themselves upon us" (Prosch). Nor do facts speak for themselves, but rather, require "an act of judgment... that something is a fact" (ibid).

People exercise good and bad judgment in determining what is regarded as a Fact. At the same time, an explicit theory or implicit worldview will engender and limit the facts that come into view. For example, as a psychologist listening to a patient, I will perceive many facts that will escape the notice of the layperson. But that is true of any profession, from plumbing to nuclear physics.

Therefore, Augustine's gag about believing in order to know doesn't just apply to religion. Rather, it is a more general principle. A good theory is like a pair of spectacles that brings things into focus. However, a bad theory does the same thing, and thereby creates "false facts."

The left is famous for this, for example, with Marx's labor theory of value. If you put on Marxist spectacles, then a whole world of class oppression comes into view. Victims everywhere! Likewise racial oppression, or feminism, or the war on police, or global warming, whatever. Each is a fact-generating... parasite, really. It hijacks the machinery of the mind and cranks out the facts needed to support it.

Over the weekend I read one of the few books by Schuon I hadn't read before, Christianity/Islam: Perspectives on Esoteric Ecumenism. In it he observes that "one cannot help but notice that there are men who lose their faith to the extent that they think and who no longer know how to think to the extent they have faith."

This being the case, then there is something fundamentally wrong with the way people are thinking, because no such rupture should be cosmically possible.

Indeed, this is precisely the ontological and epistemological rupture that Polanyi attempts to heal. What he calls "personal knowledge" eradicates "the abstract dichotomy of the subjective-objective. It combines these opposed polarities and thus is the only kind of knowledge existentially possible."

You might say that all knowledge combines what is seen with a way to see it. Also, it is always dynamic, such that it deploys imagination and intuition to probe the world in search of an ever-deepening coherence.

Through all of this, our One Cosmos is both Alpha and Omega. In other words, we begin with the faith that the cosmos is indeed one, such that our knowledge of any part of it applies to the whole. Scientists no longer believe that one set of laws applies to the terrestrial world, another to the celestial. And although existing knowledge is always and necessarily fragmentary, it is nevertheless guided by a kind of teleological intuition, or intuitive teleology, toward greater unity.

"[I]magination sets actively before us the focal point to be aimed at, but it is intuition that supplies our imagination with the organization of subsidiary clues to accomplish its focal goal.... Intuition thus guides our imagination" (Prosch). Thus, we cannot always articulate the clues that underlie belief, for the grounds are hidden in subsidiary clues that are integrated into coherent belief.

But one can never achieve integral unity if one has severed subject and object at the outset. Or, one can do so for methodological purposes, so long as one doesn't forget that this severance is simply a human abstraction. Just so, we can sometimes treat an organism like a machine, but that doesn't mean it is one. We can pretend the brain functions independently of the soul, but that doesn't mean it actually does.

When we refer to O as the Great Attractor, we are adverting to its Omega function (in contradistinction to its Alpha/ground function). Prosch describes the phenomenon well: "Our search for deeper coherence is guided... by a potentiality: 'We feel the slope toward a deeper insight as we feel the direction in which a heavy weight is pulled along a steep incline.'"

This is what I mean when I say that the mindscape -- or soulscape or beliefscape -- is dotted with archetypal attractors that pull us this way and that, guiding the terrestrial journey, so to speak. What, for example, is the telos of human sexuality? Does it have one, or are we truly no different from the beasts?

That is what the left would like for us to believe. And if that is your belief, that is what you will see. Far more important, however, is what you will unsee with your leftist spectacles. This in turn explains why feminist women are so much more unhappy than normal women: feminist spectacles exclude a whole reality necessary for human happiness.

By way of comparison, imagine if a lion could put on spectacles that made it impossible to perceive zebras and gazelles.

Which raises a provocative question that came to me while reading the Schuon book mentioned above: to what are human beings owed by God?

When you just blurt it out like that, it may sound arrogant or ill-conceived, but I will insist that Man has his Cosmic Rights. Or in other words, when you bring something or someone into the world, it entails certain responsibilities. Every parent knows this, at least intuitively.

In my opinion, when God created Adam, he owed him Eve. In other words, he realized straightaway that it wasn't Good that man should be allone. In another reading he creates this primordial complementarity right out of the gate, such that the one refers to the other; each is intrinsically incomplete, a helpful reminder that we can never be independent and self-sufficient monads. Even -- or especially -- God can't do that, if Trinity.

Much of what Schuon says about what God owes man is in the context of the widespread Islamic belief that Allah is essentially pure will -- that he does what he wants, when he wants, with no constraints at all. A corollary of this is that Allah doesn't will things because they are good, but rather, something is good because Allah wills it.

But before you scoff at them, remember that many Protestants fall into the same theological omnipotentialism, such that there is no point in trying to understand God outside dogma, even if the consequences are absurd.

But God is constrained. He is first of all constrained by his nature, which is Good. To put it another way, to say that God cannot will evil is not a limitation; similarly, if we affirm that God is One, "we do not inquire whether is obliged to be so." To "say that God cannot not be God" doesn't imply that "He is 'forced to be God.'" And yet, certain "obligations" or entailments follow from the fact that God is who He is.

Did God "need" to create the world? Yes and no. He didn't necessarily have to create this particular world, but I don't see how he could fail to create, any more than he could fail to be Good. Indeed, the former follows from the latter: part of his goodness manifests in a desire to share or prolong or radiate his goodness with respect to creatures. It is in the nature of the Divine Perfection.

Bottom line, because we're out of time: "If God 'owes' us the truth, this is because He is perfect, noble, good, and truthful, and He cannot but wish to be what He is and to act in a consequential way; He does not have the 'power' not to be perfect, hence not to be God" (Schuon).

After all, it makes no sense to create a bee without "owing" it flowers. Likewise, it makes no sense to create human intelligence without the truth it needs in order to fulfill its mission.


julie said...

First of all, there is no knowledge without a knower: "There is no purely objective knowledge, because nothing can be called knowledge that is not personally accredited as knowledge. Facts do not force themselves upon us" (Prosch). Nor do facts speak for themselves, but rather, require "an act of judgment... that something is a fact" (ibid).

A bit of a tangent but there's an interesting read at The Art of Manliness about the feminization of Christianity, particularly the idea of a "personal relationship with Jesus," and how it came about. The phenomenon of "boyfriend Jesus," for obvious reasons, does not make most men want to develop a more personal knowledge of who God is.

So much depends upon balancing the head and the heart.

Gagdad Bob said...

I guess that's one reason why I like Schuon. Very masculine approach to the subject, but without at all denying the feminine.

Gagdad Bob said...

Speaking of weird spectacles, this academic looks at politics via digestion.

doug saxum said...

Question for the Host and anyone else that would like to share:
Are there any frustrations you have with God?

Gagdad Bob said...

Of course. Way too much evil, cruelty, and sadism in the world for my taste.

Razzbuddy said...

"Are there any frustrations you have with God?"

Oh yes!
1. You did not make me smart enough.
2. My journey will take me my whole life. No shortcut given me!
3. ditto on Gagdad Bob sentiments
4. 'Bright Moments' too far in-between.

Gagdad Bob said...

Agree with #1. I'm always wishing I could increase the old brain power. Lately I've been experimenting with homemade bulletproof coffee, spiked with grass fed Irish butter and coconut oil, both obtained from Trader Joes. I think it's helping a little.

ted said...

Ditto to all, and...
*Too many dark nights of the soul (sometimes I just assume I was a real shite in a previous life)
*Not enough justice and mercy in the world
*Too mysterious for my taste

doug saxum said...

Overall, is mankind more civilized than anytime in known history?

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes and no.

Gagdad Bob said...

Although lately more no than yes.

Magister said...

Great post.

I have few frustrations with God, but Lordy how frustrated he must be with me.

Mosquitoes, though. That's a tough one.

ted said...

Unfortunately, this is how most find truth.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Yeah, mosquitoes. And wasps.