Wednesday, May 23, 2018

God Within Us, In Us, & Beyond Us

Continuing with the metaphysical basis of our "fallen" condition, Schuon describes in The Question of Theodicies how ambiguities and even absurdities arise because of -- and these are my words -- a failure to make distinctions within God.

In other words, all believers distinguish between Creator and creation, world and God, and indeed, this is often as far as Average Theology or Mainstream Doctrine goes. Most people don't want to be bothered with the details, but just get to the bottom line: that God Is and that he is both merciful and just. Being that he is merciful and just, we have faith that things will work out in the long run, if not in this world then in the next. We'll leave the details to him, but surely he cannot be less just than his creatures.

But again, in willing creation -- and in particular, free beings -- evil is baked into the cake, even if not willed by God. In fact, a specific purpose of revelation is to address this ineveateapple ontological rebound of evil. If evil is a side effect of creation, then revelation is like a remedy provided by God. Let me think of a good analogy...

Let's say I invent the automobile. The laws that allow it to work are entirely neutral, rooted in physics and chemistry. Nevertheless, what evils may come of this contraption! Injury, death, maiming, etc. Knowing this, I include as many safety features as possible -- seat belts, air bags, antilock brakes, etc. Nevertheless, you cannot simultaneously have automobiles and total safety.

Not for nothing has the Ten Commandments been called an "owner's manual" or field guide for the human race.

Back to the distinctions within God. First of all, is there any Biblical basis for these? We'll get back to that in a moment, but certainly there is a traditional basis, and tradition is prior to scripture. There is nothing about the Trinity per se in scripture, but it is nevertheless implicitly present from the start, and what is the Trinity but a way to talk about divine distinctions?

"The core of the problem here," writes Schuon, "is to be found in the confusion between Being and Beyond-Being," which essentially flattens the Divine Nature, thereby losing one or the other pole. In general, it seems that Westerners tend to anthropomorphize Beyond-Being, while Eastern approaches such as Buddhism tend toward the opposite, of annihilating God's being into the Beyond-Being of Samadhi or Nirvana.

But as far as I am concerned, we can't have one without the other(s), for both are necessary and exist in permanent dialectal tension. Moreover, I think this is something to which the Trinity alludes.

How's that, Bob? Let me see if I can enlist some patristic back-up. The easiest would be Eckhart, but he's not early enough. One of our foundational books is The Roots of Christian Mysticism. In it Clément writes of how "In God himself the One does not exclude the Other" but "includes it." This itself points to the existence of a Great Mystery within God, for the Other is necessarily a mystery, is she not? But this -- of course -- is a mystery-in-love, and thereby perpetually fruitful, you might say.

If the Father is the "principle of the Godhead," then the Son is the "manifestation." This manifestation is not only within God, but is the prototype of manifestation as such. In other words, creation down here mirrors the creation up there: as above, so below.

Therefore -- for example -- Gregory Nazianzen writes that "He is called Logos because he is, in relation to the Father, what the word is to the mind... The Son makes known the nature of the Father..." The manifestation manifests the unmanifest; or maya Brahman, the form the substance. Neither is prior, but rather, they coarise.

"In this wonderful unity of of the godhead the One is never without the Other. For God is the infinite Unity of Persons, each of whom is a unique way of giving and receiving the divine essence" (Diadochus of Photike).

"Thus the Trinity constitutes the inexhaustible fruitfulness of the Unity. From the Trinity comes all unification and all differentiation" (Clément). This is what I would call a Divine Key or Master Idea, because it means that what we call analysis and synthesis, or catabolism and anabolism, have their analogues within God.

Science goes to analysis, but there is no analysis without a synthesis that must come from outside or beyond science. Which is why ultimately science points both back and toward God, who is its Alpha and Omega. Either you see this or you don't, but it is nevertheless obvious. If you don't see it, it's because you just don't want to.

An Aphorism is worth a thousand posts: Any shared experience ends in a simulacrum of religion (Dávila).

It's difficult enough to define experience, and yet, we're never not having one. And how on earth is it possible to share experience? And yet, this is what human personhood is; the mysterious intersubjective space of Love, which first abides within Godidude.

"The Father is God beyond all, the origin of all that is. The incarnate Son is God with us, and he who becomes incarnate is none other than the Logos who gives form to the world by his creative words. The Spirit is God in us, the Breath, the Pneuma, who gives life to all and brings every object to its proper perfection" (Clément).

I could go on, and I have gone on in past posts, but you get the point. With this point in mind, it is perhaps not so shocking to read in Schuon that "we thus find ourselves in the presence of two Divine Subjectivities." While "intrinsically identical, they apply extrinsically to two different planes," which clears up an awful lot of theidiocy about theodicy.

In his book on Manliness, Harvey Mansfield notes with irony that manliness may be "the only remedy for the trouble it causes." Analogously, we might say that religion is the remedy for the trouble caused by God, AKA the creation of this world.

9 comments:

julie said...

Analogously, we might say that religion is the remedy for the trouble caused by God, AKA the creation of this world.

Yes, just so.

"The Father is God beyond all, the origin of all that is. The incarnate Son is God with us, and he who becomes incarnate is none other than the Logos who gives form to the world by his creative words. The Spirit is God in us, the Breath, the Pneuma, who gives life to all and brings every object to its proper perfection" (Clément).

All of the ins and outs here remind me of Celtic knotwork, except that it sounds like something happening in 4 or 5 dimensions.

Anonymous said...

Akhenaton of Egypt thought God was a single item, the solar disk. So simple, so easy. But I guess no chance it can be simple as that. Drat.

Gagdad Bob said...

Not even Sun Ra was right about everything.

Allena Conrad said...

“Let's say I invent the automobile. The laws that allow it to work are entirely neutral, rooted in physics and chemistry. Nevertheless, what evils may come of this contraption! Injury, death, maiming, etc. Knowing this, I include as many safety features as possible -- seat belts, air bags, antilock brakes, etc. Nevertheless, you cannot simultaneously have automobiles and total safety.”

Excellent analogy, Bob!
Liberty and absolute safety cannot coexist at the same time.
Those who insist on absolute safety, at the expense of liberty are the reason we can’t have nice things.

Olden Ears said...

...you cannot simultaneously have automobiles and total safety.

"There are no solutions; there are only tradeoffs." - Thomas Sowell

Gagdad Bob said...

That should be tattooed on every liberal's forehead.

julie said...

Allena, I was thinking of you recently. Glad to see you are still with us!

ted said...

This may be a fun, summer read, Bob! Just heard the author on an interview.

Allena Conrad said...

Thank you, Julie!
I often think of y’all as well.