Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Sporting God

A little crazy around here. Some good friends are between homes -- the lease ended before the new house is habitable -- so they and three of their kids are staying here. So I'm a little fuzzy this morning. It is quite possible that the following post contains a lot of repetition, just stuff that bOb has ruminated about in the past...

In case you're wondering, most of my posts over the past month or more have been inspired by Schuon's Esoterism as Principle and Way, but not in any systematic way. Rather, for the most part, I simply read a line or two and things take off from there. Thus, despite all the posts that have been generated, I'm still stuck on the first essay, called Understanding Esoterism.

I find that interesting in itself. It is the polar opposite of saturated writing, about which there is nothing more to be said. There is certainly a role for this type of language, for example, with regard to law. A well written law should mean what it means, nothing more, nothing less.

But notice the mischief that ensues when liberal Supreme Court justices are inspired by what they regard as an unsaturated (AKA living) document. That's precisely how we end up with a Dred Scott, a Roe v. Wade, an Obergefell v. Hodges: slavery, death, and absurdity, for starters.

I suppose the difference is that something is saturated when it can be contained by our understanding. But certain types of language can never be contained, scripture being the quintessential case. Not only can scripture not be contained, but -- it should go without saying -- it cannot contain God. Or better, God is contained in scripture, but cannot be contained by it. In short, the finite cannot contain the infinite.

I didn't even know Schuon was going to say this, but here it is: "That the Psalms and Gospels are sublime can be accepted without the least hesitation." In other words, one can readily find God in them. However, "to believe that they contain in their very literalness... everything that is offered by the Upanishads or Bhagavadgita, is a completely different question."

I forgot. What is the question? The question is whether this or that scripture can exhaustively contain God, and the answer must be No. Am I pushing against an open door, or do we have disagreement? Which is fine. I'm speaking only for myself.

Let's put it this way: there are certain things I can't help believing, one of them being that God is necessarily beyond form, but provides man with certain forms in order to meet, greet, and understand Him. And I cannot believe that God would withhold all such forms to the majority of men, thus condemning them to ignorance, slavery, and ultimately, perdition. That wouldn't be very sporting, and our God is a sporting God.

For most of human history this wasn't an issue, since various groups kept to themselves. But now we know about these other so-called revelations, and there are only three ways to deal with them: 1) Those other folks are crazy, and only we have the truth; 2) No, you're all crazy, and this only proves that religion is invented by man; 3) Not so fast -- a religious revelation is a form of the formless, or a local expression of the nonlocal; the potential expressions of the formless are by definition infinite and inexhaustible, so of course there are different forms.

Which goes to the title of Schuon's essay, "understanding esoterism": "In fact, sapiential esoterism -- total and universal, not formalistic -- can alone satisfy every legitimate mental need," for only it "can reply to all the questions raised by religious divergences and limitations..."

Let us take, for example, the doctrine of sola scriptura. In a very real way, it runs headlong into the Great Wall of Gödel, since it endeavors to be both consistent and complete. But no amount of cogitation can eliminate certain inconsistencies. When people come up against such a wall, they often just rename the inconsistencies mysteries, and leave it at that.

But what about those legitimate mental needs? What about bOb?

First of all, a map needn't be perfect in order to get you where you need to go. But Schuon implies the existence of some sort of perfect map, one that can satisfy every mental need. Every legitimate mental need, to be precise.

Really? A Bold Statement Tell me more.

Yes, there are certain keys -- AKA principles -- that allow us to not only enter this or that religion, but religion as such. Importantly, this doesn't imply that all religions are equal, any more than positing the existence of beauty means that all artistic objects are equally beautiful. Rather, it actually gives us a vertical standard with which to situate the beauty on our side of creation.

Consider the fact that certain parts of a religion are more important or fundamental than others. How do we recognize this? It must be because certain ideas are closer to the Principle that animates them. Not only are some more distant, but in another essay Schuon posits a "human margin" where the revelation shades off into a region that is more man than God.

Gosh. Wouldn't it be great if we had an objective and disinterested way to explain to a religious believer where and why he has it wrong? Is there a universal standard to which we can appeal, or are we inevitably stuck with ignorant armies clashing by night?

To be continued...


julie said...

Is there a universal standard to which we can appeal, or are we inevitably stuck with ignorant armies clashing by night?

We were discussing today some of the bones of contention between Catholics and Protestants. Oy, vey! So many of them seem like things we shouldn't even find worth arguing about - say, focusing on either the Crucifixion or the Resurrection to the exclusion of the other, as if the two are separable. Like trying to argue that a coin should only have one side.

Abdulmonem Othman said...

Rumi rumination makes it easy for me to understand the rumination of Schuon and those who want to walk in the steps of Schuon. There is only one religion but different interpretations. Scriptures do not speak but humans speak through them. Scriptures contain pointers to stir the faculties built in the humans,specially imagination and memory, to find their way to what is behind the appearances the esoteric. God makes us laugh and cry but he does not laugh or cry. It is a movement from the prison of scholastic knowledge to the revelatory knowledge that is ignited by a process of dialogue between the divine and the human soul where the soul is compensated for its strife to open up to his grace. Once the door is opened the soul will find as schuon said all the answers to the unsettling questions. God oppresses nobody but alas people oppress themselves through misplacing their intention and attention. It is a world moving fast toward clarity of the real road to him.