Thursday, March 23, 2017

God is a Giant Disco Ball, and Other Truisms

Since we can think of nothing better to do, we've been flipping through one of Schuon's later collections of essays, The Play of Masks. Why that title? I suppose it's because each of the essays explores some aspect of the Reality and Appearances of which our world -- both interior and exterior, subjective and objective, vertical and horizontal -- is composed.

I previously mentioned that this is one of Schuon's more compact and concentrated efforts -- only 90 pages, and scarcely a wasted word. It brings to mind a challenge I've often contemplated: how to express the Maximum Truth in the minimum space.

This would involve explicating all of the principles that govern existence -- not just this existence, but any and all possible existences. It would be like reading the operating manual for creation as such.

This, of course, goes to the very meaning and purpose of metaphysics. But why do those famous metaphysicians -- e.g., Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, et al -- have to be so wordy and obscure about it?

Not to mention numerous. How in the world can there be more than one metaphysic? If there are even two, only one can be correct. Is there really no way to arbitrate between them? If not, then man has no access to truth, period, and metaphysics is indeed reduced to cosmic ønanism.

Which I reject a priori. Which I mean literally, because one of my prior convictions is that 1) truth exists, and 2) that it is accessible to man. Truth and knowledge are complementary realities; or just say the cosmos is composed of intelligence and intelligibility, which are two sides of the same reality. You might say they are the first two Masks at Play in the world.

Metaphysics, as I see it, consists of the principles that cannot not be true, on pain of total unintelligibility, meaninglessness, and absurdity. Many, if not most, popular ideas render the world just that: an essentially dark and silent prison in which any meaning we extract is imaginary and certainly time-limited, ending with death. Ironically, many metaphysics render metaphysics impossible: they are instantaneously self-refuting, as in atheism, scientism, Darwinism, etc.

In his foreword, Schuon writes that the individual chapters "are small independent treatises which often summarize the entire doctrine." Or Entire Doctrine, as I would put it. One might say that each chapter is one of those Masks alluded to in the title. Peekaboo!

The book "presents the same fundamental theses in diverse aspects." Why? Because the divine reality is like a giant Disco Ball. Now, what is a Disco Ball? It is

a roughly spherical object that reflects light directed at it in many directions, producing a complex display. Its surface consists of hundreds or thousands of facets, nearly all of approximately the same shape and size, and each having a mirrored surface.

Usually it is mounted well above the heads of the people present, suspended from a device that causes it to rotate steadily on a vertical axis, and illuminated by spotlights, so that stationary viewers experience beams of light flashing over them, and see myriad spots of light spinning around the walls of the room.

Precisely. O is situated "well above the heads of the people present." It is at the top of a vertical axis, and it is indeed illuminated by light flashing upon it.

Take the example of, I don't know, the Bible. It is quite obviously similar in structure to a disco ball, in that we may aim our intellect at it from countless angles and illuminate this or that part. Indeed, it has always been understood that scripture is like a mirror in which the soul may "see" its reflection. And it takes all kinds to make a world, so that's a lot of mirrors.

The divine disco ball has mirrors within mirrors -- it is fractally constituted -- but there are certain "principial" mirrors that reflect the metaphysical axioms we seek. "Metaphysics," writes Schuon, "aims in the first place at the comprehension of the whole Universe, which extends from the Divine Order to the terrestrial contingencies."

This alone is a Critical Point, because the contingencies are echoes or shadows of the Principle(s). We don't say they are mere prolongations of the Principle, because if that were the case, it would eliminate our freedom and enshrine a total divine determinacy.

No, freedom is another one of our first principles, and freedom consists of an ontological glass that is exactly half full. Or half empty, depending upon how one looks at it. Our freedom cannot be "total," or it could not be free. But nor can the cosmic order be total, for the same reason.

The world consists of Reality and Appearances, Person and Mask(s), with all the Wiggle Room occurring in between. These ontological interstices -- "humanly crucial openings" -- are the designated play areas, or where the slack is located, and where the prevalent winds blow upward.

You might compare our situation to the eye of the hurricane, which doesn't feel windy because the air is spiraling upward.

In any event, I'm up to a chapter called In the Face of Contingency. Contingency is precisely that ambiguous area between chance and necessity, consisting of the World of Might Happen rather than Must Happen.

There are a lot of metaphysical control freaks who don't care for contingency, but in truth, if we didn't have it there would be no surprises, so existence would get old very quickly. A surprise is a happy contingency.

"We are situated in contingency, but we live by reflection of the Absolute [disco ball], otherwise we could not exist."

Again, we could not exist because there would be no human freedom apart from the Divine Will. To ex-ist means that there is a kind of outline around the existent thing. This is why we say that God cannot possibly exist, because he cannot be contained.

As such, the freedom of O is infinite, while ours is, and must be, finite or bounded. It is bounded by, among other things, truth; or better, given direction and meaning by the Truth which "lures" on one side and "seeks" at the other. You might say that the Truth chases us until we catch it.

Getting late. To be continued....

Wo, look at the size of that discO ball!


julie said...

There are a lot of metaphysical control freaks who don't care for contingency, but in truth, if we didn't have it there would be no surprises, so existence would get old very quickly. A surprise is a happy contingency.

In John 17, the truth of contingency seems to be made explicit - or else why would he bother praying for us? Further, so much of the bible - old and new - is like a dare. We are dared to follow him - even when all signs indicate that we won't. Jeremiah is essentially one long exhortation for people to open their eyes, to the point where the last remnant of holdouts, upon asking for God's advice and swearing up, down and sideways that they'll follow it, are given what they ask, along with the wry acknowledgment that it is unlikely they will in fact listen. They don't of course, deciding that they hate the advice and thus Jeremiah must be a liar.

Still the hope is there, the offer of redemption for the worst of us always on the table, even to the last wretched minute. Why bother if there's no hope that we will, in the end, surprise him?

Christina M said...