Monday, May 14, 2018

Does Christianity Disclose a Universal Metaphysic?

Which is to say, the universal metaphysic, being that there can be only one. I suppose most Christians will affirm that Christianity is true, but true because revealed, as opposed to being revealed because true. In other words, its ultimate truth must be taken on faith.

Is that true? That ultimate truth is a matter of faith? This would imply that faith is higher than truth, but that can't be, because the merit of faith derives from its object. Faith in, say, Hillary Clinton, is not a meritorious faith.

And yet, there are exceptions. I was reading somewhere... Here it is, in an essay by Schuon called The Sense of the Absolute in Religions:

Normally it is the object that has precedence over faith since it is what determines faith and provides it with a sufficient reason; but from a certain point of view and in certain cases, faith can be more important than its content and can "force" the gates of Heaven despite the insufficiency of some immediate objects of belief.

In other words, God doesn't leave you hanging just because the details of your theology might be a bit off. He doesn't expect you to have a PhD in religious studies, but rather, assumes you are as confused as any religious studies professor.

Think, for example, of slaves who may have received a garbled version of Christianity, in which they nevertheless believed with all their hearts. Would God hold this against them? Indeed, the history of Christianity -- or, go all the way back to Adam if you like -- is a history of mangled doctrine and partial understanding. It's always Light + shadow down here.

Schuon adds that "Faith includes two 'poles,' one objective and dogmatic and the other subjective and mystical," such that "the ideal is perfect faith in an orthodox truth." Nevertheless, there are cases of the pole of faith taking precedence over the idea; for example, the Tibetans claim "that a dog's tooth which is mistaken for a relic and becomes the object of a sincere and ardent faith actually begins to shine."

Still, there can obviously be a malignant side to this process: the cult of celebrity, political messianism, romantic idealization in all its gruesome iderations. Or just violent religions, which is to say, religions in which faith is tied to the mesmerizing spectacle of death and suffering.

Now interestingly, Christianity is all about that "mesmerizing spectacle of death and suffering," isn't it? Indeed, some Christians have even been known to wear necklaces bearing the image of a man being tortured to death. However, the purpose of the image is not bring about more of this; rather, to atone for having had a hand in it.

So, there can be no question of a pure faith in an evil object. In such a case, faith is tainted by the object and loses all merit. Yesterday I was reading about the naive progressive faith of the folk music boom of the early 1960s. Many of those people are still with us, and just as naive today as they were then. Except that a naivete this antiquated becomes a kind of malignant soul rot. I have one that lives down the street -- a seedy looking 70 year old aged hippie and Bernie Bro.

I'm enjoying the musical history, even if passages about the politics make me nauseous. Example. "[M]uch of the socially conscious progress set in motion by young people in the 1960s -- antiwar activism, championship of civil rights, personal and sexual liberation, a questioning of authority, and determination to enjoy life rather than merely get on with it -- was fueled, directly or indirectly, by folk-rock."

In other words, the decade of 1960s has bequeathed to us the social justice bulliers, Blame America Firsters, Black Lives Matter, AIDS, rampant bastardy, moral and intellectual relativism, and mindless hedonism as compensation for a suffocating political correctness. And those are only the good things.

Back to the subject at hand: that universal metaphysic. Now, it is critical to bear in mind that no metaphysic can absolutely model the Absolute, or it would be the Absolute: the map is still a map, no matter how accurate. As Schuon writes -- and this should be obvious to believer and unbeliever alike, but it never is to the latter --

there is inevitably a separation between the thing to be expressed and its expression, that is to say, between the reality and a doctrine. It is always possible to fault an adequate doctrine for being inadequate, since no doctrine can be identified with what it intends to express; no single formulation could take into account what the innumerable needs for causality might demand...

For "If the expression of a thing could be adequate or exhaustive in an absolute sense or from every point of view," then "there would no longer be any difference between the image and its prototype..."

For which reason the Bible sternly warns us against idolatry, which essentially happens when people conflate the image and prototype, or form and substance, or spirit and letter. Nevertheless, idolaters gonna idolize, which is to say, men will be men.

But again, the worst offenders are the votaries of scientism, Darwinism, materialism, etc. They are the literalists, not us. I do not think God created the cosmos in six days, but they actually believe their theories map reality, when we know ahead of time that they do not, cannot, and never will.

Again, the map is not the territory. But this hardly means the map has no purpose, even a vital one. As to the religio-metaphysical map, its role "is to provide a set of points of reference which, by definition, are more or less elliptical while being sufficient to evoke a mental perception of specific aspects of the real." This is all we ask of the map: to show us where we are and to show the way to where we would like to be.

To be continued, but possibly not until Thursday...

27 comments:

julie said...

In other words, God doesn't leave you hanging just because the details of your theology might be a bit off.

A phrase comes to mind: Whole hearted but half assed.

Like trying to accomplish something for which one lacks both adequate tools and requisite knowledge and experience, but nevertheless it has to be done, and to the extent that one can, it ought to be done as well as possible.

Sums up a large swath of life in general, come to think of it...

Gagdad Bob said...

As Chesterton said, anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.

julie said...

So, there can be no question of a pure faith in an evil object. In such a case, faith is tainted by the object and loses all merit.

Just thinking again of general life, how dispiriting it is when we put our faith in someone we believe should have some knowledge or skill that we lack, only to find that they themselves either don't know, or simply don't care. Thinking mainly of teachers/ professors, or even contractors who supposedly are able and willing to do something that we ourselves cannot. At some point, we stop having faith that people are, well, acting in good faith.

Conversely, finding someone who does do as they promise is like finding a rare treasure.

Gagdad Bob said...

Civilization runs on faith -- which is to say, trust. When institutions abuse this trust, the result is... MOAR TRUMP!

Anonymous said...

Jesus himself seems not much of a conservative.

Tax and business records reveal he had virtually no economic activity going on. Whereas his adoptive father, Joseph, cleared a modest income with his carpentry business and duly paid his shekels in taxes.

Jesus could apparently mass produce baked goods and ready-to-eat fish, both in high demand, yet there is no sign he capitalized on this talent.

Jesus had considerable acumen as a physician, and could have easily been doctor to kings for a princely sum, but again, nothing.

His highly acclaimed anointing oil, was likewise not branded or sold.

The only thing on record for Jesus was disruption of banking activities in a synagogue.

He was known to disdain mammon (money). Still, today's conservatives seem to forgive all that and accept Jesus as their ideal. A bit confusing but charming nonetheless.

Inflaton said...

"But again, the worst offenders are the votaries of scientism, Darwinism, materialism, etc. They are the literalists, not us. I do not think God created the cosmos in six days, but they actually believe their theories map reality, when we know ahead of time that they do not, cannot, and never will."

What are you talking about man? So how long did it take him then? Oh, the ignorance!

Faith over truth, all for you.

Anonymous said...

The Big Bang theory is not a bad try, right up there with the 6 days bit. I don't see how one is better than the other.

During an intriguing interview with God, circa 1968, He was quoted as saying He "baked the cosmos for all time like a loaf of bread." Beginning, present, future, and end, the whole shebang, one baguette. Yum.

Inflaton said...

The idea of god and the teachings of all religions are such a leaky leaky boat. You plug ine hole, two more appear. At the end all religions lead you to the same dead end alley: faith. They will ask you to stop asking and just believe. Because you will never understand. No winder why.

Inflaton said...

Let me ask you one thing, mr Blogger. Do you think you understand god? Because if you do, I have some questions for you.

JWM said...

Good morning folks. It has been forever and a week since I've dropped a comment here. I still stop by several times a week, just in lurker mode. Recently I've been able to retire, and I've been revisiting the psychedelic experience. (in modest amounts) It's been fun, too. I met Inflation over on another forum, (Good morning, Inflation!) and recommended that he pay a visit. He's a good guy, but rather strident in in his non-belief. He does have a bad opinion of bad religion, so that's a good sign. I just get 'the voice' here. I have a gut feeling that he's on the cusp of the great "AH-HA!" A little dialectic for the soul may be in order. Or perhaps not. It would have been remiss of me not to try. Hope everyone is well and happy.

JWM

William Wildblood said...

It seems to me that you don't have to understand God to know that God exists and that everything has to be seen in that light. I mean know as well as you can know anything including your own existence which, of course, we're all free to doubt if we want to.

Inflaton said...

Well, my own existence seems quite obvious to me. At the very least I am happy with that working assumption. But where did you get that knowledge of the existence of god? Someone else told you about him, right? And suddenly you knew he was right? Feeling you know something or wanting to believe it does not make it true.

Gagdad Bob said...

Other way around: God is necessary. You are contingent.

William Wildblood said...

I'm not sure if you're being entirely serious or not but here goes.

It's what Bob says. Your
I am is a personalised version of the universal I am, no you without him.

Somebody told me about God you say. Well, yes that's revelation which clarifies what's already present in an undeveloped form.
Perhaps you only don't know about God because you live in a culture that either doubts him or rejects what seems to be an old fashioned idea of him. Maybe if you lived in a completely unconditioned world you would more easily sense a spiritual undercurrent to existence.

julie said...

Hi JWM! I hope retirement is treating you well!

Inflation,
But where did you get that knowledge of the existence of god? Someone else told you about him, right?

Speaking for myself, for a while I rejected the idea of God, because someone else told me about him. Frankly, being a bit of an assoul at the time, I thought they were stupid, crazy, or lying.

It was only when I finally admitted that it is possible that God Is that I slowly began to understand that it is all true.

Gagdad Bob said...

"Nothing is more dangerous for faith than to frequent the company of believers. The unbeliever restores our faith."

Gagdad Bob said...

And "Every Christian has been directly responsible for the hardening of some unbeliever's heart." Certain types of Christianity are exercises in reverse evangelism. Maybe we should call them Devangelicals.

Inflaton said...

"I am is a personalised version of the universal I am"

That is the one part with which I agree. That's why I am not afraid of death. I know I am just a conscious machine among the many, many there have been and there will be in this amazing universe. It creates a sense of transcending the self to think of that, to understand it. But to me that has nothing to do with god. I dont need it.

Future "I am"s will be so different from us and so much more powerful we'd probably would not believe it if we were told. Conciousness is just waking up now. It is still not even a baby. The posibilities are endless.

julie said...

God doesn't exist because you don't need it? "Feeling you know something or wanting to believe it does not make it true."

Speaking for myself, I know that God is not because I want it to be so. In fact, in many ways, this detail is quite inconvenient! That jerk has standards!

God Is. I know this because when you ask him, with a heart open to the answer, he tells you. In different ways for everyone, since we are each an individual problem of God, but it is so. When I started this journey, I wasn't even looking for the God of Christianity, I just wanted to know if he Is, since his existence or lack thereof has existential implications. Skip ahead a decade or so, and now we're Catholic. Oops!

If you really want to know the truth, give it a try - ask him - and see what happens. Best case scenario, not a thing that you will notice. Worst, you might come to believe. It usually goes downhill from there, especially for those whose hearts and heads are tough to crack.

Inflaton said...

Hahahah. And do you have his number?

Lady you should try psychedelics. You will meet god for real.

Inflaton said...

And I must tell you, psychedelics would reinforce your faith. One of the advantages of being religious is that psychedelics give you the full-blown mystical experience. You'd become even more of a believer... not what I was intending with my messages here but well, so it is. They would make you more open minded also, which is always good. That goes for Bob ;) pun intended. Or attempted at least... ;)

julie said...

You don't need his number. He is closer than your own skin. All you have to do is start up a conversation, and be open-minded enough to listen for a response.

Best case scenario, it's one-sided. At worst, you enter a rather surprising dialog. No psychedelics required.

Anonymous said...

And if it gets answerd by Allah? Or Zeus and Jupiter? Or the spirit of the forest? Why is Christianity superior? I'll tell you why. Because you were born in the US in the 20th century. You can't see that? People in other times and places are all deluded but you are not? Really?

Inflaton said...

And yes that was my comment!

Dont you see how parochial are all religious belief systems? And how many there are? You just tuned to one of the most popular radios out there, that's all. Playing oldies goldies greatest hits. But they are all the same, none is special. They are all just radios.

julie said...

Respectfully, I disagree. Or rather - certainly, I am a product of my time and place in the cosmos. I recognized at the beginning of this journey that other avenues of exploration were essentially closed to me, in no small part because I am an American and a Christian by culture and birthright. However, that is not by any means the only reason.

In the comments of the most recent post, Ted linked a very interesting article which speaks far more eloquently than I can about this matter. Suffice to say, this man speaks for me. I do hope you will read it, if for no other reason than to consider some arguments you may not have encountered before. Or not. I don't know you, nor you me, after all.

Also, it might make things easier/ more interesting to continue the conversation on that post. There may be other commenters there who wish to join in, as well.

Inflaton said...

I do agree with this sentence in that link "And particularly, classical mystic
states can be induced by pranayama or “scientific” manipulation of breath or by
drugs like LSD or psilocybin in magic mushrooms. The latter point supports the
idea that it all begins and ends with chemical changes in the brain."

Anonymous said...

Inflaton, stop waffling and get cracking on that communication attempt. Get back to the committee in 10 days with the results.

That means now. Move it.