Wednesday, February 28, 2018

By and For the Useless

We've been discussing certain fundamentals and even requirements of existence, such as necessity and contingency, absolute and infinite, being and beyond-being, possible and actual, divine and human. Our existence is always a tapestry woven of these complementaries, i.e., the elusive (or was it stolen?) but ever-present cosmic area rug.

Requirements of existence. In the last couple of decades -- mirroring the new atheist movement -- there have been any number of books on the numerical coincidences necessary for humanness to have emerged, both on the biological (intelligent design) and cosmological (the anthropic principle) planes. Each of these uses numbers, i.e., quantities, to deduce the impossibility of randomness or coincidence explaining our existence; therefore GOD.

Eh. You can't actually get from quantity to quality. Or, maybe it's just because I'm a wordman and not a numbergeek -- a logovert -- but why not begin with qualities, instead of pretending numbers can take us to ultimate reality? It's just a matter of determining which qualities are fundamental, and which are secondary and derivative.

By the way, numbers aren't completely futile in this area. For example, One. In a very real way, if you truly understand the meaning and implications of One, then you've not only proved the existence of God, but you are "in" God, so to speak. Certainly no other animal can understand, enter, or participate in oneness from the inside. (Which also proves that One has an exterior and interior; and that the former can never account for the latter.)

As alluded to above, two of our most important qualities are Being and Beyond-Being. Obviously these are not quantitative realities. At the same time, standard issue theology often gets bogged down in cosmic heteroparadox or absurdity because of the failure to distinguish between these two. Frankly, mosts religious folk don't seem to like the idea, since it seems to contradict, or interfere with, the Godness of God, which is fine. This blog isn't addressed to them.

Schuon lucidly breaks down the distinction between Beyond-Being and Being; the former

is "absolutely infinite" whereas the second [Being] is relatively so, which, while being tautological and even contradictory, is nevertheless a useful expression in a necessarily elliptical language; the gap between logic and transcendent truths permits the latter occasionally to override the former, although the converse is clearly excluded.

Check it out: he's essentially echoing exactly what was said above about quality and quantity: there is an inevitable gap between these two, but only from the bottom up. In other words, quantity cannot "reach up" to quality, whereas the converse is not only possible but necessary. Otherwise we wouldn't be here, let alone be here thinking about these qualitative realities.

You might also say that to conflate the conventional understanding of God with Beyond-Being is likewise "a useful expression in a necessarily elliptical language." Really, this goes to the time-honored distinction between apophatic and cataphatic theology. You can't go too far astray with the latter, even though -- somewhat like numbers -- it can only lead to the threshold of the unKnowable Godhead.

More clarity from Schuon:

If we set Beyond-Being aside, we are entitled to attribute Infinitude to Being; but if it is Beyond-Being that we are taking into consideration, then we shall say that the Infinite is in truth Beyond-Being, and that Being realizes this infinitude in relative mode, thereby opening the door to the outpouring of possibilities endlessly varied, thus inexhaustible.

Why is any of this important? Oh, no reason. Which is to say, the most important things are for their own sake -- human persons, for example. What is more useless than a baby? And yet, everyone short of a leftist knows babies are infinitely precious.

In another book by Schuon, I came across an intriguing and no doubt controversial claim, that "To understand a religion in depth, one must understand religion as such."

Here again, many religious folk will resist this idea, but it is "somewhat" inevitable (can anything be a little bit evitable?). For example, by what criteria does the Christian determine Christianity to be true? Protestants try to confine themselves to the letter of scripture, but still, someone has to decide what qualifies as scripture. Catholics will of course say the Church has determined what qualifies, but if you're following me, this leads either to an arbitrary stop or an infinite regress. Was man made for scripture or scripture for man? And how do we know, unless the truth is built into us?

I don't think it's useful for the average man to ask such questions, but again, this is a useless blog aimed at useless people.

Can we bring this discussion down a couple of notches, into more familiar territory? Sure, no problem. Let's turn to The Roots of Christian Mysticism, and see if we can come up with anything. I'm just going to thumb through and rely on providence.

"A life without eternity is unworthy of the name of life. Only eternal life is true" (St. Augustine).

"[T]heologians praise the divine Origin for having no name and yet possessing all names.... They declare, moreover, that this divine Origin is simultaneously at the heart of the universe and far beyond the sky, sun, stars, fire, water, wind, dew, cloud rock, stone, and in a word all that is and nothing that is" (Dionysus the Aeropagite).

O?

"The infinite is without doubt something of God, but not God himself, who is infinitely beyond even that" (Maximus the Confessor).

Infinitely beyond infinitude -- which is to say, the absolute infinitude of Beyond-Being contains the relative infinitude of Being.

"God's transcendence eludes even our very idea of transcendence. God transcends his own transcendence, so that he may not be lost in abstract nothingness, but may give of himself" (Clement).

Which "is why the Fathers also speak of God as inaccessible, of God beyond God, in terms of a springing forth, a creative and redemptive leap outside his essence, following the eternal movement of the divine energies, but also in order to communicate these to creatures..." (ibid).

O --> (↓). Being marches forth from Beyond-Being!

31 comments:

ted said...

Us useless people find the blog useful. If anything, it points us beyond "our" being.

Gagdad Bob said...

Not useless then. Just beyond useful!

julie said...

"[T]heologians praise the divine Origin for having no name and yet possessing all names.... They declare, moreover, that this divine Origin is simultaneously at the heart of the universe and far beyond the sky, sun, stars, fire, water, wind, dew, cloud rock, stone, and in a word all that is and nothing that is"

Interesting, in light of the story of Adam being tasked with naming everything in the Garden...

Gagdad Bob said...

Yet another crazy conversation at Instapundit.
Like I said, it happens every time I say anything about religion. And yet, they love Jordan Peterson. I don't get it.

Gagdad Bob
Good thing Jesus wasn't Jewish. {A sarcastic little joke.}

terrylan Gagdad
Never understood why non-Christians think this is some sort of zinger. I suppose you think if Jesus were here on Earth today he'd be horrified that the Christians reject Jewish assumptions?

Gagdad terrylan
"You worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews."

JD Gagdad
Do you think judaism and christianity are the same or even compatible?

Gagdad JD
That was decided in the affirmative by our apostles and early fathers -- in other words, that the old and new Testaments -- or revelations -- are continuous, not two separate revelations. Some didn't want it that way, but they lost the argument. To paraphrase Jesus, "I do not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it."

JD Gagdad
You are a liar and have denied the basic law of non-contradiction.
You cannot simultaneously believe Christ is the Messiah and He is not.
Much less believe He is the Messiah and is oiling in excrement in the after life as the Talmud states.
Romans 11, branches cut off have nothing to do with the tree.
Edit: I see you have edited your comment, you said nothing of the testaments previously. You just insisted the religions were the same/compatible.
It is dishonest of you to try and hide you're inability to argue by changing comment replied to.

Gagdad JD
Okay then. So Jesus and the apostles lied.

JD Gagdad
Only in your mind sophist.

Gagdad JD
You will no doubt reject it, but there is nothing controversial, let alone sophistical, in this account of the mainstream view. I repeat it not for your benefit, but for the benefit of readers who may regard you as credible:

"The first Christians (the disciples or students of Jesus) were essentially all ethnically Jewish or Jewish proselytes. In other words, Jesus was Jewish, preached to the Jewish people and called from them his first disciples. However, the Great Commission, issued after the Resurrection, is specifically directed at "all nations." Jewish Christians, as faithful religious Jews, regarded "Christianity" as an affirmation of every aspect of contemporary Judaism, with the addition of one extra belief—that Jesus was the Messiah.

"The doctrines of the apostles of Jesus brought the Early Church into conflict with some Jewish religious authorities, and possibly later led to Christians' expulsion from synagogues. While Marcionism rejected all Jewish influence on Christianity, Proto-orthodox Christianity instead retained some of the doctrines and practices of 1st-century Judaism while rejecting others. They held the Jewish scriptures to be authoritative and sacred, employing mostly the Septuagint or Targum translations, and adding other texts as the New Testament canon developed. Christian baptism was another continuation of a Judaic practice."

Gagdad Bob said...


JD Gagdad
Again amphiboly. Also look up St. Paul calling out judaic practices.
"Let us not, therefore, be insensible to His kindness. For were He to reward us according to our works, we should cease to be. Therefore, having become His disciples, let us learn to live according to the principles of Christianity. For whosoever is called by any other name besides this, is not of God. Lay aside, therefore, the evil, the old, the sour leaven, and be changed into the new leaven, which is Jesus Christ. Be salted in Him, lest any one among you should be corrupted, since by your savour you shall be convicted. It is absurd to profess Christ Jesus, and to Judaize. For Christianity did not embrace Judaism, but Judaism Christianity, that so every tongue which believes might be gathered together to God."
St Ignatius Epistle to the Magnesians.
Since you probably didn't know, their opinion is more important than wikipedia's.

Gagdad Bob
I realize I'm beating a dead horse, but Ignatius also wrote that "wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church," and the Church has never taught the doctrine you are advocating.

JD Gagdad
The doctrine that judaism and Christianity are separate religions?
Riiiiight.
Titus 1:14 "and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth."

Gagdad JD
Of course they are separate, but also continuous -- like the old and new testaments. Before today, I'd never even met a Christian who rejects the Jewish scriptures.

JD Gagdad
Amphiboly again.
You are repeatedly and willfully conflating ancient and modern judaism. It is a religion more comparable in age to Islam. See the Talmud among other changes. "Jewish scriptures" now include that which contains passages like these http://www.realjewnews.com/....
I presume you just meant the old testament.
Again Romans 11, branches broken off from the tree, those people we now call jews, are not part of the tree and to conflate the two is to deny the faith.

Gagdad Bob said...

Here is a better link to the thread.

julie said...

Ah - you've run afoul of the, "there's no such thing as Judeo-Christ" contingent.

ted said...

Sigh. I find these sort of discussions disheartening (and amusing). But I guess as a Raccoon, you're doomed to be too exoteric for New Agers and too esoteric for Traditionalists. It's a small club, with not many good meeting places (except online).

Gagdad Bob said...

The person is completely heretical, and yet, such confidence! I suppose the one goes with the other....

Gagdad Bob said...

There's more!

Do you know what amphiboly is? The answer will show whether or not you are a liar or willfully ignorant.
On this subject I mean, you have shown yourself to be both these things and a fake christian who willfully denies the faith by claiming it is the same as a false religion.

Gagdad Bob JD • 33 minutes ago
Please don't insult me. Of course I know what an amphiboly is. As if I've never seen a frog!

JD Gagdad Bob • 32 minutes ago
Now you're not even in realm of sophistry.
Don't you have unbelievers to be equally yoked with?

Gagdad Bob JD • 26 minutes ago
Yes, but the yoke is light, so I got that going for me.

JD Gagdad Bob • 22 minutes ago
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? - 2 Corinthians 6:14
You have now blatantly denied scripture and your alleged faith.
Repent and be saved. If not it's no skin off my back, we don't have any fellowship unbeliever.

Gagdad Bob JD • 16 minutes ago
Nor shall I joke together with unbelievers, for the humor eludes them.

JD • 9 minutes ago
What are you a teenage girl?
That bs isn't going to fly when you are called before Judgement.
Well I suppose you don't believe it that having rejected Christianity and all.

Gagdad Bob JD • a minute ago
Got it. God hates Jews and teenage girls. He must have detested Mary.

Gagdad Bob said...

JD • 2 minutes ago
Lord hates a lying tongue, that doesn't bode well for you Bob.
I will now shake the dust from my feet.

Gagdad Bob JD • a few seconds ago
That wasn't your feet.

julie said...

If it helps clarify anything, this particular contingent reject today's Jews on the basis of Talmudism.

And yes, they are pretty humorless about it.

doug saxum said...

Sooo many rules and requirements to religious narcissists.
They just don’t get the slack that it takes to embody the truth.

I could really get his panties in a twist if I was to proclaim that cursing G_D is to be blessed of the Almighty.

Do I need to quote Jesus on this?

julie said...

It's almost too easy. This guy is likely an avid reader of Vox Day, trying to use the established rhetoric and talking points to attack what he considers a churchian or a cuck. One of the weaponized autists; they are great when pointed in the right direction, but being autists they don't get what they don't get.

By the comments, he likely doesn't have his own considered thoughts on this, preferring instead to use a few scripted ideas, which is why when Bob went off script with puns he went with the "teenage girl" insult. Not original or based on anything Bob said, it's just something Vox mentioned a while back since for most of these guys, most likely young single men, it's one of the worst things you can call them. To anyone else, it just sounds silly and completely non-sequitur.

It's quite possible this guy isn't a fan of Peterson, either; they tend to think he's too soft on women.

ted said...

William must have read your post.

Gagdad Bob said...

Except that I don't at all disregard the personhood of God, which is his being-ness. As I've said before, I don't see being "emanating," so to speak, from beyond-being, but rather, a complementarity between the two; the relation between them is more horizontal than vertical -- can't have the one without the other. I would never insist that I am correct on this score, only that I can't help seeing what I see.

Gagdad Bob said...

I'll try to flesh out what I mean in a subsequent post.

Gagdad Bob said...

I keep using the term "points of reference," but the main purpose of religious ideas, rituals, art, and iconography is indeed to provide points of reference between the seen and unseen, such that we may think the otherwise unthinkable. So, none of the terms we use can be literal, and everything must be ratified and filled in by experience.... even thought experience cannot trump truth. Hey, it's complicated...

Gagdad Bob said...

Even THOUGH experience....

Gagdad Bob said...

Just know them by their fruits, and you won't go too far astray.

Gagdad Bob said...

About the relation between being and beyond-being: think of the analogy to knowing a person. No matter how well you know the person, a larger part will always be unknown and unknowable and therefore "beyond being." Seems to me that God is like anybody else in that respect, only more so!

Gagdad Bob said...

This, I think goes to what Jesus says about not judging the person. We can and must judge the act, but mustn't condemn the person, since so much of what constitutes him is beyond our ken -- unknown and unknowable. For example, yesterday my interlocutor was calling me a liar and condemning me to hell, which seems a tad presumptuous if nothing else.

ted said...

No matter how well you know the person, a larger part will always be unknown and unknowable and therefore "beyond being."

That's a great way of relating to it!

Gagdad Bob said...

Think of how the disciples "knew" Jesus, and yet, how much they didn't know!

Gagdad Bob said...

The Jewish God is certainly beyond-being. Chesterton points out how this was a necessary condition prior to the Incarnation, in that God had to first be cleansed of human projections before revealing himself. It's as if the YOU ARE from the human side had to be eliminated before the I AM could appear, if you catch my drift.

ted said...

I never thought of it that way. I always assumed the Jewish God to be more the tough love guy that made the rules, while Jesus is one who fulfilled them through agape.

julie said...

Re. "tough love" God, I used to think of it that way as well. However, in more recent years having finally studied with some smidge of understanding, it seems clear that the God that has loved us from the beginning was there all along. When you really understand both the patience and the sheer stupid stubbornness of his people, the real wonder is that he stayed his hand after Noah. Jeremiah's warnings went on for decades, and even until the last moment the message was always, "repent, and none of this will happen!"

Going back to the blessing and curse at the end of Deuteronomy, while the curses listed there - and really, almost everything seen as God's punishment - is ascribed to the wrath of God, the reality is more like saying, if you put your hand in the fire, it will be angry and burn you! Living according to God's laws is really more like living in accord with reality and the nature of the cosmos. If you act in opposition, you aren't so much making God angry as you are suffering the consequence of your actions. God doesn't have to do anything, anymore than the fire has to decide to be angry to burn you; it's just what always comes about.

Gagdad Bob said...

I think it helps if you just reframe everything in terms of gift.

Anonymous said...

For questions regarding Jesus, one can always ask Jesus. He might be saying "Guys. I'm right here."

Anyhoo, ya got into it with a religious zealot. These folks are very tightly wound, and laden with unmet needs and strong emotions.

Good times, eh?

doug saxum said...

Wherever two or three are gathered in his name.
Do you want an audience with Him?

Anonymous said...

Doug:

An audience with Him should be conducted on a daily (or hourly) basis by all. A nearly continuous conversation with Jesus is best practice. This is not easy to do and requires a lot of focus. The average Jane will tune in about twice daily, usually upon arising and then prior to sleep.

Jesus can handle it; he can talk to millions (billions?) simultaneously due to the His quality of omnipresence.

Talking about Jesus to other people is another thing entirely. People have so much baggage and pent up angst you are pretty much going to get drawn into discussing whatever is bugging them at the moment (more like a therapy session).

No, for serious theological discussion, best practice is to have that with Jesus Himself.