Monday, March 27, 2017

Misbegotten Duties and Vital Irresponsibilities

Programming alert: probably no posts tomorrow and Wednesday. In addition to my regular responsibilities, I am the substitute home schooler, since the wife is on a ski trip with friends. In short, I have no time for my vital irresponsibilites such as the higher non-doodling memorialized by the blog.

Speaking of which, it turns out that the following touches on the idea of "vital irresponsibilities," or at least doing things for no reason other than doing them. Pointlessness has a point, you know.

"The idea of original sin," writes Schuon, "situates the cause of the human fall in an action" -- which suggests by implication the erroneous idea that if we simply refrain from the forbidden action, then we are sinless.

But the story is supposed to embody and convey a metaphysical idea, not enjoin any particular action per se.

So, what's the big idea? For Schuon, it is "the presence in our soul of a tendency to 'outwardness' and 'horizontality,' which constitutes, if not original sin properly so called, at least the hereditary vice that it is derived therefrom."

I would say that it's not just outwardness and horizontality, but rather, these two divorced from the inwardness and verticality that are their complements.

And although they are complementary, one side of a complementarity is always primary, in this case verticality and inwardness, the reason being that verticality could never derive from horizontality, nor inwardness from outwardness.

Which for practical purposes means that the "pole of attraction which is the 'kingdom of God within you' must in the final analysis prevail over the seductive magic of the world" (ibid.). We must be master of our own domain before we are safe running loose in the world, what with its virtually infinite supply of temptations and seductions.

It reminds me of an article linked on Instapundit yesterday, What if All I Want is a Mediocre Life? It's not particularly deep or well written, but it does make a valid and even vital point about detaching oneself from what amount to worldly idols. It's really a plea for being -- or for a life of inwardness and verticality over the converse.

Now, properly speaking, being is not necessarily located in "doing nothing," so to speak. As Schuon explains, "it expresses above all an attitude of the heart; hence a 'being' and not a simple 'doing' or 'not doing.'" One can always do as an extension of being, which is the basis of karma yoga (and one can certainly practice a Christian karma yoga).

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna reminds Arjuna that "in this world, aspirants may find enlightenment by two different paths. For the contemplative is the path of knowledge: for the active is the path of selfless action."

Furthermore, as alluded to above, "freedom from activity is never achieved by abstaining from action. Nobody can become perfect by merely ceasing to act." Therefore, one should "perform every action sacramentally, and be free from all attachments to results."

Or, as we've said in so many ways, the True, Good, and Beautiful are not "for" anything other than themselves: one wants to know truth because it is true, and for no other reason. Likewise, action should converge upon the Good for its own sake, not for some extrinsic reward, whether in this life or the next.

So (godsplains Krishna), "Do your duty, always; but without attachment. That is how a man reaches the ultimate Truth; by working without anxiety about results." Therefore, wise up: "Shake off this fever of ignorance. Stop hoping for worldly rewards. Fix your mind on Atman. Be free from the sense of ego. Dedicate all your actions to me. Then march forth and fight."

How exactly is this different from Christian yoga or yogic Christianity? Parallels are too numerous to mention, for example, in the distinction between Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. Bear in mind the One Thing Needful, and let the dead bury the tenured.

"If the requirement of the supreme Commandment is to 'love God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind,'" then "the contrary attitude is the supreme sin," with various degrees in between. Again, one doesn't have to take it literally to get the message, which is probably impossible to carry out in any event, for even Jesus asks "Why call me good? None is good, except one, that is, God."

The expression may sound polemical, but it conveys a practical reality that there is no mere action one can accomplish in order to earn salvation. Jesus is essentially putting forth an impossible standard, so we don't fall into the trap of elevating ourselves to our own savior by some meritorious action.

"To be 'horizontal' is to love only terrestrial life, to the detriment of the ascending and celestial path." And "to be 'exteriorized,' is to love only outer things, to the detriment of moral and spiritual values" (Schuon).

One-sided horizontality is "to sin against transcendence, thus to forget God and consequently the meaning of life," while exclusive exteriority and outwardness "is to sin against immanence, thus to forget our immortal soul and consequently its vocation."

Truth and presence. God manifests as one or the other, the former being transcendent, the latter immanent. Actually, God manifests as one and the other, as the presence of truth and the truth of presence.

Just as Hell is simply the last word in God's respect for man's freedom, one might say that sin is the first word in his commitment to the same. "Eve and Adam succumbed to the temptation to wish to be more than they could be" -- or, to be precise, more than they could be in the absence of being grounded in God. Their usurpation equates to a claim "to be equal to the Creator," which "is the very essence of sin."

For "indeed, the sinner decides what is good, counter to the objective nature of things." What happens next is simply "the reaction of reality," which always gets the last word.


julie said...

Vital irresponsibilities make life worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

Wise words indeed in today's post. There was a philosopher, Lakein, who came up with "Lakein's Question: What is the best use of my time, right now?" What is unique about the question is that it is meant to be applied during all waking hours, without cease, for life.

It does not necessarily promote actions. The best use of person's time could just as well be inaction for some duration. It leaves room for both doing and being, and prevents the anxiety some people feel when they are "not doing something constructive."

Plus some people labor under the impression they have but one life to give for God, adding further time pressure and anxiety. This idea has never been corroborated by anything but a minority of world scriptures, and must be considered unproven.

Whereas, if each soul was deemed to have several million years to play with, things would be more relaxed. Also unproven, however.

Unknown said...

It is a question of intention.We are living in a world that imposes on us to be ,to have, to do and to relate and the vital list of activities is endless nothing terminated it but death, the door to him with pure heart or diseased heart. It is not a balance between horizontality and verticality, immnanence and transcendence, attachment and detachment but a sure proclivity toward him and this is exactly the message of Jesus, do not call me good because god is the only good. God is one and humanity is one, the earth is one and the air we breath is one so is the water and we all enjoy the radiation of the one sun and make poems to the same,one moon. The only unifying factors are truth, justice and honesty of heart. All interpretations away from the oneness that encompasses the true, the good and the beautiful and has created the opposites to test and to see who go with what he encompasses and who go for the opposites. Earth is our divine school to compete in the realm of the true ,the good and the beautiful and not in the realm of the ugly, the cheap and the harmful. People have to realize that god is not only merciful but he is also wrathful and gives ample time fo humanity to amend but when they persist, the wrath is expected. It seems from history that all nations have not corrected their crooked disposition until the doom have engulfed them. I do not want to sound gloomy but that is the truth.

julie said...

For "indeed, the sinner decides what is good, counter to the objective nature of things." What happens next is simply "the reaction of reality," which always gets the last word.

Speaking of which, I see Malibu is now declaring itself a sanctuary city. I wonder if this means that illegals will be free to actually live there, or whether it just means they promise not to deport any of their service people? I can't help thinking of the scene where the Dude gets escorted out of Malibu; somehow I can't picture the "elites" willingly living in close proximity with the diversity they prescribe for everyone else.

winston rothschild iii said...

What happens next is simply "the reaction of reality," which always gets the last word.

That is an interesting way to word that....

Gagdad Bob - The claim of Christianity is that man cannot pull himself up by his bootstraps to save himself (as you imply in this post). So just curious, what is your view on the main crux of how man accesses God's grace? For the Catholic it is the sacraments. For the protestant it is faith. What is your view if you don't mind my asking?

Gagdad Bob said...

My view is that grace is ubiquitous, but that God also provides specific channels for its recognition and reception.

Gagdad Bob said...

I suppose you could say I have a mystical/metaphysical/esoteric view of things, which entails a somewhat more universalistic view of religious phenomena.

Winston Rothschild III said...

Thanks for the response. My view is similar. I suppose we could attribute some of the decline of Christianity to exclusivist claims in a world where people are constantly exposed to other viewpoints. It is interesting that the Catholic Church became slightly more universalistic in its teaching with Vatican II. Not sure what to make of that.

Leslie said...

Here is hoping the homeschooling is going well, and you are enjoying every moment.

Sal said...

Anonymous said:
"Wise words indeed in today's post. There was a philosopher, Lakein, who came up with "Lakein's Question: What is the best use of my time, right now?" What is unique about the question is that it is meant to be applied during all waking hours, without cease, for life."

Also, the Sacrament of the Present Moment, explored by de Caussade. Which is a bit more "what has God put in front of me right now?", but the same general idea.

julie said...

Sal! How lovely to see your name again :D

And yes, I like that. Not only what, but often who has God put in front of me, and why?

Gagdad Bob said...


Homeschooling is going great, especially recess. With the extra time, he's almost made himself a professional parkourist. With luck, maybe he can swing a sponsorship deal and I can retire. Or at least he can pay us for the schooling.

julie said...

Wow - he is fearless! Is he really 12 already??

Sal said...

thanks, Julie. easing back into blogs now that I have more free time.

Leslie said...

So glad. All the free time was what gave my kids the opportunity to "do their thing".