Friday, July 14, 2017

The Good News and the Fake News

Just another rambling interior dialogue with myself, AKA circumnavelgazing the vast and luminous ocean of... Friday, I guess.

It's tricky enough for human beings to know what is, but it's equally important to know what is important. It seems that the purpose of religion is to provide a shorthand means to accomplish both, because not everyone -- few people, actually -- have the time or aptitude to do this on their own. Indeed, left to their own devices, they will nearly always get it wrong.

How do we know this? Consider the purpose of college, which was to set aside a space free of worldly concerns, so that Really Smart People could explore the nature of What Is and helps us understand What Is Important. How's that working out?

Note that their theories -- in particular, in the social sciences -- come and go, while premodern approaches such as Christianity and Buddhism are still with us.

The idea we're playing with is that religion is an expression of Religion -- in other words, that there is a universal truth prior to religion, but which religion embodies and expresses. It seems to me that the great majority of religious folk would reject this idea out of hand. But how can any doctrine be self-authenticating? Mustn't there be an external criteria of truth against which to compare it?

I haven't fully thought this through, but I'm guessing that believers appeal to such external criteria all the time, but without acknowledging it. Let's take an obvious example: just because one is a Christian, this doesn't mean one cannot make an appeal to common sense. And yet, common sense is not an explicit part of Christian doctrine.

Analogously, is there an "uncommon sense," an eternal Truth written on our hearts? If so, it is something we have either forgotten or has become obscured by layers of passion, self-interest, cultural nonsense, higher education, what have you.

Here again, a shorthand way of expressing this truth is to simply say that man is fallen and be done with it. Man cannot save himself, which is another way of saying that he no longer has access to the truth that saves and liberates, so he must receive it from an external source. Hence the need of revelation.

It just occurred to me. You know the old gag that where two or three gather in His name, there I AM? Well, conversely, where two or three get together while explicitly excluding Him, then there the anti-Christ appears in their midst. Do you see why? The principle operates as surely and inevitably as a mathematical equation. You can commune with O or with Ø. There is no in between.

You must surrender to what surpasses you. This presupposes recognition of what surpasses oneself, and how many tenured do that? Isn't the whole point of tenure to set oneself up as the authority? It is a spiritual practice, but an inverted one we call the Way of Pride.

There are actually two parts to this: 1) recognition, and 2) surrender. One way to tell if you have truly recognized what transcends you is that you will spontaneously bow before it. This is something the mediocre man cannot -- or more likely, will not -- do.

I'm thinking of a proud atheist of my acquaintance. Several, come to think of it. I cannot imagine them bowing before anything or anyone. But that is only testimony to the fact that they recognize no reality -- and certainly no authority -- higher than themselves.

Which is another way of saying they recognize no reality, full stop. And they are hardly atypical. To recognize greatness is to want to submit to it.

The friend who is staying with us has a weekly men's Bible study group at his house. Being temporarily homeless, it more or less took place at my place. He mentioned that he had always been captivated by the image of the knight, who is a warrior but bows before the good king who in turn bows before God. I can't explain it as well as he did, but the idea is that he is restrained by a kind of vertical reality to which he willingly submits. In the absence of that reality, the knight is just a trained killer.

Back to the main subject: essence and form. Do they apply all the way up through religion and into God? Here is how Schuon explains it: "by definition every religion has to present itself as the only possible one, since its point of view is dependent on the Truth and consequently must exclude any danger of relativism..."

In other words, the Absolute is Absolute, just as God is God. There can be only one. The moment it sets foot in finitude, it is something other than the Absolute, and yet, it must express Absoluteness in a way accessible to man. The most essential lesson from this is that the Absolute is. Knowing it is, we submit to it.

Just so, the Great Danger is relativism in all its forms. It is the metacosmic Error of errors. And isn't this the lesson of Genesis 3? For when man falls, he falls precisely into relativism, tenure, and fake news.

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...

Monday, July 10, 2017

Simon Says Grab Your Bucket

So often problems result from trying to divide complementarities that cannot be divided -- for example, realism from nominalism.

The latter denies the existence of essences, such that there is no such thing as (for example) human nature, rather, just this or that particular human. A nominalist would insist that essences such as human nature are just products of our imagination that do not exist in reality.

Which sounds crazy to a Raccoon. Nevertheless, it has its place in the scheme of things. For example, I remember stories of people on LSD suddenly realizing that this was a TREE! Not just any tree, but a TREE! Prior to this realization they had merely perceived the category of treeness, but now they were seeing and communing with a real TREE!

Trees notwithstanding, there are some entities that cannot be members of any other category. Or one entity, anyway: God. Only God is God -- although even then, there are certain qualifications, more on which as we proceed.

Man would be the closest such entity this side of creation, being that every human being is a unique instance, with the exception of MSM journalists, who are all the same.

As to the qualifier around God being God, Schuon suggests -- or insists, rather -- that the first division is not between God and creation, but rather, within God. Indeed, you might say that the essence/form complementarity extends all the way up and into God: there is the formless God known only to God, and the "confessional face" of God, which is turned toward us.

By way of analogy, we can see our friend's face and know it's him. But is it ever really possible to know him, from the inside out? No.

And indeed, the central Christian mystery is God literally taking on a human face. But can we really know what's going on behind the face? Nah.

In any event, it should be uncontroversial to a Raccoon that "The psychic and mental consciousness perceives appearances" whereas "intellectual or heart knowledge perceives the Essence." We see both, but not with the same eye(s).

Recall Jesus asking the disciples face-to-face: Who do you say I am? Peter, stone cold sober but with eyes surely not made by Darwin, blurts out, You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!

Like anyone could know that! Or, like any merely terrestrial eyes could see that.

For this is not revealed to Simon "by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven." A communication of essence occurs, but it is Essence-to-essence, as it were -- from the deepest part of reality to the deepest part of the erstwhile Simon. No doubt Simon surprised even -- or especially -- himself with his left-field utterance.

If the first "division" is between Godhead and Creator, the second must be between Creator and Creation. Bear in mind that this is all "in a manner of speaking," or from the human point of view. From God's perspective...

Well, we can't really know, can we? But it might be something as simple and spontaneous as the Aeon playing like a child along the shore with with colored balls (to paraphrase a gag from Heraclitus). God is the endless nonlocal ocean, we are the materialized local shore. Didn't Rumi say some perfectly nonsensical things about this?

It's been awhile. Let me see.

The introduction says that Rumi's creativity was like a continuous fountain "from beyond forms and the mind," or "from a mind within the mind." His poems "are not discrete entities but a fluid," "not so much about anything as spoken from within something." Indeed, his poetry "can be felt as a salt breeze" from the ocean, "traveling inland." And inward.


My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that, / and I intend to end up there...

I'm like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary...

Lo, I am with you always means that when you look for God, / God is in the look in your eyes, / in the thought of looking, nearer to you than your self...


Try to be a sheet of paper with nothing on it. / Be a spot of ground where nothing is growing, / where something might be planted, / a seed, possibly, from the Absolute....

Do you think I know what I'm doing? / That for one breath or half-breath I belong to myself? / As much as a pen knows what it's writing, / or the ball can guess where it's going next.


This is how it always is / when I finish a poem. / A great silence comes over me, and I wonder why I ever thought / to use language.

I'm lookin' at you, bOb!

1. Grab your little bucket. 2. Proceed to the ocean. 3. Fill bucket with colored balls. 4. Play on shore. 5. Repeat.

Child playing on shore with colored ball, taken by Mrs. G:

Beach Boy #beach #flip #momwithcamera #cali #photography #photos #weareparkour #freerunning #flipping #parkour #pier

A post shared by Leslie Godwin (@parkourmom99) on

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