Thursday, April 13, 2017

Every Problem is a Mystery, but Not Every Mystery is Problem

We left off yesterday with a comment by Schuon that I will quote in full, since it contains multiple and interlinked observations:

Only metaphysics can resolve these enigmas which faith imposes upon the believer, and which he accepts because he accepts God; not out of naivety, but thanks to a certain instinct for the essential and for the supernatural. It is precisely the loss of this instinct that allowed rationalism to flower and spread; piety having weakened, impiety was able to assert itself.

And if on the one hand the world of faith unquestionably comprises naivety, on the other hand the world of reason totally lacks intellectual and spiritual intuition, which is more serious; it is the loss of the sacred and death of the spirit.

There are so many points embedded in this paragraph ("metagraph" is more like it), that one scarcely knows where to begin. As I've already mentioned, these late works of Schuon that we've been unpacking are even more concentrated than usual.

Implied in the first sentence is that faith imposes inevitable enigmas on us. However, one might say there are "two ways out" of the enigmas, one way abstract and intellectual, the other concrete and experiential. Or in brief, Head and Heart.

The former (the headway) conveys truth via an explicit metaphysics that religion expresses more or less adequately through its implicit symbolism. The second (the heartway) is through a direct intuition (intuition being a vertical perception) that God Is.

And if God Is, then certain implicit conclusions follow, e.g., that he is Good and Just, and therefore we are not created just for the hell of it. Life has a meaning and a purpose, and since these cannot be fullyfilled on this plane -- and are often mocked -- then there must be an afterlife. Otherwise God isn't fair, which makes no sense at all, for it would imply that humans have a standard of fairness superior to God.

Of course that sentence is written out in longhand, when the whole point is that the heart doesn't necessarily explicate them in such a wideawake and cutandry way. Rather, it's more of a right-brain thingy, implicitly seen all at once -- like, I don't know, the phenomenon of love at first sight.

The point is, man is equipped with "a certain instinct for the essential and for the supernatural." Elsewhere Schuon said something to the effect that -- in a manner of speaking -- instinct represents animal intellect, whereas intellect represents human instinct.

Note that this human instinct isn't just restricted to the plane of religion, but is precisely what marks us out as human (i.e., it is literally a condition without which we wouldn't be human).

What I mean is that our "first act of mind" is the direct apprehension of a concept. And although the least of us does this automatically, science has no idea how. Let this google-selected guy break it down for you:

Understanding (or "simple apprehension") is the "first act of the mind" for two reasons. First, it lays the foundation for the "second" and "third" acts of the mind and second, it is fundamental to the difference between truly human thought and the thought possible by the higher animals (e.g. dolphins, apes, whales) and the "thought" possible by "artificial intelligence," (e.g. a computer)....

[T]he first question any person asks is "what is that?" The answer to this question, "what?" (quid in Latin), gives us the thing's essence or quiddity, its "whatness." The understanding of something's essence gives rise, in our minds, to concepts. A concept is an immaterial (sorry materialists, but you're wrong already), abstract, universal, necessary, and unchanging mental realities by which we understand the real world around us. When I see a triangle, for example, I only physically see a material, concrete, particular, contingent, changeable object. I don't physically see "triangularity" (i.e. the essence of "triangle-ness"). However, by asking that distinctly human question, "what is it," I can come to understand this essence.

Since this is the first act of mind, and because science has no idea how we can accomplish such a marvelous feat, it is entirely accurate to say that scientific materialism doesn't know the first thing about the mind (certainly nothing in Darwinism explains how this is possible).

The point is that humans, by virtue of being human, can instantaneously abstract essences from encounters with concrete things. And if we couldn't do this, we wouldn't be human.

But the Real Point is that we not only do this horizontally, but vertically. We can have concrete encounters with vertical realities through which we can experience, say, beauty. This is so ubiquitous that we can easily take it for granted, but what is the apprehension of beauty but the direct perception of an essence in a concrete object?

I don't know if we're getting far afield or moving the ball forward. Let's just say that our direct and intuitive perception of God is no more mysterious than the perception of a beautiful sunset. Which is to say, VERY! mysterious.

Speaking of which, I'm reading a book on whether or not God changes, called Does God Suffer? One reason I'm reading it is because the author comes to the exact opposite conclusion I do, and I'm very curious to see how he manages this, and if I need to revise my thought accordingly. I might add that he is quite intellectually scrupulous, and spends an entire chapter outlining the strongest arguments for why he might be wrong.

I don't want to get into his main theme, but he says a few preliminary things that touch on the present discussion -- for example, asking what it is we are doing when are doing theology? Are we beginning with the direct perception of God, as described above (the "first act," of theology, so to speak), and then trying to make intellectual sense of it? This would be the classic approach of "faith seeking understanding."

Along these lines, Weinandy makes what I consider to be a crucial distinction between a problem and a mystery. The clock on this post is starting to run out, so I'll be brief. Science treats things as problems to be solved, whereas religion deals more with mysteries to be enjoyed -- and deepened. This latter seems paradoxical, but only if you look at it from a left brain perspective.

I'm going to have to stop before I can tie all this nonsense together. Tomorrow I hope to locate the missing area rug that can accomplish this mysterious feat.


julie said...

Re. whether God suffers, looks like an interesting argument. Not having read it, I can't agree - it seems to me that the Bible makes it fairly clear that He does indeed suffer, particularly having been fully human. One could argue that, humans being not necessary to the creator nor to creation, the creator cannot suffer as a result of loving them. I foolishly wonder, though, if a side-effect of man's fall was that in introducing death to death to mankind, we also introduced suffering to our creator...

Gagdad Bob said...

The author is starting to irritate me. He insists that God is impassible, and yet, concedes all the attributes that would seemingly make him passible. I don't really get his point, or what is at stake in the insistence on absolute impassibility.

Another book I recently read made the point that when we speak of God's impassibility, there are four possible areas of change: nature, will, knowledge, and feelings.

I don't think God's nature changes, nor his will.

However, if he is in relationship with us and with the world, then it seems to me that there would have to be something like "change" in God -- which doesn't mean God is somehow changing his nature, only that he can relate.

Maybe I'm missing something....

julie said...

Makes perfect sense to me. Otherwise why all the kabuki theater about sweating blood in Gethsemane? Why throw tables? Why weep at the tomb of Lazarus, and also "snort in spirit" at the obtuseness of his followers?

For that matter, why call Adam his image and likeness if Adam had something - the capacity for emotion and for suffering - that God lacks?

Gagdad Bob said...

If God is "the most wonderful thing we can imagine," it's hard to imagine him as immune to suffering. Doesn't make it correct, but if not, it makes God completely incomprehensible and almost irrelevant. I mean, if he doesn't care about us, why should we care about him?

Doug Saxum said...

Maybe not immune to suffering, but stronger than it.

Unknown said...

God is both passible and impassible, both merciful and wrathful. Perfection requires the inclusion of all in order to be called perfect other wise it will be imperfect the quality,through which we know what is perfect. Unified bi-logic that is why the human has been programmed on bi logic, the way of the heart and the way of the head as you put it or right and the left. Existence is not a god problem but a human problem and the humans have to know their zone and do not transgress. It is dangerous to apply human attributes to god ,the human is asked to improvise the divine attributes in himself in order to save himself. God,the truth, is the mystery that is not invented but it exists outside and inside us below us and above us. The mystery which as, you beautifully put, to be enjoyed not to be deciphered and enjoyment is the realm of the heart. It is a co-created choice where the two wills converge and the problem sleeps in the domain of the shared self which I referred to in a previous comment. The centrality of information, thoughts and meaning is the foundation of the existence as whole and that is the symbol behind the word the word that is with god and through which he issues his never stopped manifestations. We are living in an epiphanic world where the intensification and expansion of consciousness run amok, in fast srides to meet the origin of consciousness. The unified human consciousness that water its garden from the same divine river. Afterlife is a must another beautifully revealed revision, in order for the god alone to judge our accomplishments. it a run for repentance the best transformatio event in the human life before the inevitable death. Honesty truth and justice and not creeds and beliefs, or that I am moslem and that is christian or that a jew and that a hindu etc etc. Thank you .