Friday, June 08, 2018

Deus-continuity Amidst Discontinuity

Yesterday's post didn't quite achieve Total Clarity on the subject of radiance and reverberation, no doubt because I'm not quite clear myself. Let's give it one more shot. One problem is that Schuon doesn't say all that much about these principles -- leaving them unsaturated -- so it's up to us to fill them with meaning.

First of all, Creation doesn't just occur 13.8 billion years ago (or whenever you posit the "beginning") but absolutely continuously. This is indeed orthodoxy -- not just for Christianity, but for thought. Put conversely, if your doctrine doesn't allow for continuous creation, then it's wrong at best.

So, how are we to think of the creation of this world? And when we refer to this world, we don't mean just earth, or the galaxy, or even the cosmos, but existence as such. In other words, how does existence exist? What is its source?

Again, religious doctrine -- just like any other map -- provides "points of reference" to approach this problem in a fruitful manner. For example, the Bible lets us know on the first page that existence is not self-sufficient, but dependent upon a higher principle. This dependency is perpetual, not a one-time event.

According to González, the doctrine of creation "stands at the root of the Christian understanding of the relationship between God and the world." The Creator, according to the creed, is the maker of all things, both visible and invisible. Perhaps you've noticed that no secular creation myth can even begin to account for the latter. Rather, they always try to swallow the invisible into the visible.

Think, for example, of Marxism and all its ghastly progeny, from feminism to climate hysteria. It rightly (from its own standpoint) sees religion not just as wrong, but as a kind of disease, wholly parasitic on matter. Religion is the opiate of the masses, when in reality Marxism is the pacifier of the tenured; the latter provides a kind of pseudo-heart in a heartless cosmos, or an archimedean vertical perspective in a world devoid of verticality. It is a view from nowhere by a bunch of nobodies.

Often a Christian doctrine is not just to posit a truth but to counter falsehoods. In order to understand certain doctrines, you need to appreciate them in the context of what they are arguing against.

In this case, González points out that the doctrine of creation "rejects two views that have repeatedly challenged it through the centuries: dualism and monism," the former positing two ultimate principles of creation, the latter denying the distinction between Creator and creation.

Both of these alternatives -- dualism and monism -- are heretical, not just for Christianity but for religion as such. In short, they are intrinsic as opposed to extrinsic heresies, the latter going to doctrines that only apply to this or that religion.

This heretical confusion persists to this day, in both religious and irreligious circles. Scientism, for example, begins with the inexplicable dualism of mind and matter, but then makes the dualism go away by reducing it to an absurd monism. I'm not sure if the pilgrimage from inexplicable to absurd represents progress, but there you go.

As for religious heresies, "creationism" comes to mind. Creationism is most definitely not synonymous with the venerable doctrine of creation, but rather, a kind of vulgar substitute that borrows from and tries to imitate scientism. You could say that it horizontalizes and temporalizes what is properly vertical and atemporal.

Interestingly, the doctrine of creation also set itself against another ancient idea (embraced by Neo- and Paleo-Platonists alike), emanationism -- the notion that

All things are derived from the first reality or perfect God by steps of degradation to lesser degrees of the first reality or God, and at every step the emanating beings are less pure, less perfect, less divine.

In other words, the doctrine of creation opposes the idea that the world is simply a kind of necessary side-effect of the One. Rather, it wants to emphasize and preserve God's freedom and autonomy in creating this world.

However, in emphasizing this one side, the doctrine of creation tends to obscure important truths conveyed by emanationism. In my opinion, the most fruitful approach is to see the two principles -- creation and emanation -- as complementary, not opposed.

For ultimately, creation goes to the discontinuity between Creator and creation, man and God; while emanation goes to the equally important continuity. Indeed, the principle -- or fact, rather -- of Incarnation seems to me to harmonize the two, i.e., Christ as simultaneously all God and all man. Come to think of it, there is a kind of discontinuity-amidst-continuity within the Trinity itself.

Note how different denominations tend to emphasize one side over the other. For example, Augustine highlights the discontinuity, what with our fallen depravity, whereas in the Orthodox east they have always emphasized the continuity with the doctrine of theosis (itself a reflection of the idea that man is a reflection of God).

We're almost out of time here, but Schuon relates this to the distinction between substance, which goes more to emanation and continuity, and essence, which would go more to creation and discontinuity:

The notion of essence denotes an excellence which is, so to say, discontinuous with respect to accidents, whereas the notion of substance implies on the contrary a kind of continuity...

Hmm. I'll bet radiance has to do with substance, reverberation with essence, but we'll have to wait until next week.

Just heard about Charles Krauthammer. Damn. That one hurts. There is a man.

18 comments:

ted said...

Very interesting. I'd like to know if this lines up with Aquinas' view of substance and essence.

Gagdad Bob said...

I'd have to look that up.

Okay, I will.

Essence is "that which makes a thing be what it is."

To paraphrase, substance would be the underlying reality. For example, the Trinity is one substance in three persons.

Substance goes to that something is, essence to what it is.

julie said...

Perhaps you've noticed that no secular creation myth can even begin to account for the latter. Rather, they always try to swallow the invisible into the visible.

Ha - reminds of the story that was making the rounds this week of how physicists have discovered a completely unexpected particle dubbed "the ghost particle". With a big asterisk, apparently, but still the idea is that it's a neutrino that can pass through matter, but is affected by gravity.

julie said...

Re. Krauthammer, that really is sad.

Seems like the world is being shaken up in some serious ways this year.

Van Harvey said...

"Rather, they always try to swallow the invisible into the visible."

AKA that ultimate in Do It Yourself projects: building your own homemade Matrix, and moving in.

Anonymous said...

Hello Gang.

This post seems disconnected from the struggles of the working class. Marxism is panned as the root of many evils. Julie and Van, in their comments, allude to changes occurring in society.

Our means of production, the all-important Marxist substrate, is undergoing some changes, largely moving from raw material and manufacturing, to data processing and services. On the street level, people are somewhat shell-shocked by the rate of change.

Capitalism sees hand-outs to the people as deleterious, but many people I talk to harbor a wish to have the government take over the whole money thing, so they can stop worrying about what they must do for a buck. The whole employment thing is a colossal drag. Some young adults are fortunate enough to have parents who will see to their needs for life (said parents having accumulated wealth in the old system which is rapidly fading).

Less fortunate youth must "try to find work," which has become a cruel joke. There is no work for people. They can try to lick some capitalist boot by being a "clerk" or a "salesperson," but these kinds of things quickly lead to despair. Who cares who buys what when, or for what price? We don't need people to either make or sell things to other people. It's all done by machines and sold on line.

So...if your philosophy can correct the waste of the young, you might have something. Otherwise, you've got your head in the sand.

Van Harvey said...

aninnymouse "...hing. Otherwise, you've got your head in the sa..."

Translation: 'You think reality and truth are relevant. We reject you and what IS, preferring to be flattered by those who value our resentment, above all else. If you too don't deny what is true, you are doomed to be disliked by us.'

Drat.

I'll just point out that Dyin' ain't much of a living, boy

julie said...

Perhaps off topic, or maybe just a tangent, I was thinking today about how the parable of the wheat and the tares refers not just to individual people (i.e. some people are wheat and others are tares, but both are allowed to thrive till the end lest the wheat be destroyed with the tares), but also to the impulses which develop within the human heart.

By which I mean, for instance, love rightly ordered may grow along with love for something very dis-ordered, but it may be that destroying the dis-ordered would do terrible damage to that which is right - after all, they grow so closely together that their very roots may be entangled, they are nourished by the same sorts of ideas, and from the outside they may even be virtually indistinguishable from each other. As an example, love of serving one's fellow man may be healthily expressed through charity, humility, and kindness, but also unhealthily through serving programs which actually harm, not help, those they purport to aid. Compassion is so easily co-opted! A pro-abortion activist may genuinely be acting out of charity and love for suffering women, even though the solution she advocates is monstrous.

There's a story people love to share about the two wolves at battle within the human spirit, the evil and the good, with the victor being whichever one feeds. But often, it is not so simple as that; in feeding one, we feed the other, and in destroying one, we destroy the other. Not because they are both "equally valid" expressions of human behavior - that is to say, not for any dualistic reason where both are necessary - but rather because they are so deeply entwined, with the evil being parasitic off the good, that they can only be truly sorted in the harvest.

Anonymous said...

Hi Julie

I enjoyed your insightful comment. I'll will meditate on it. I may have to re-examine the conduct of my life to evaluate for tares intertwined with the wheat. I hope there is some wheat.

Anonymous said...

Van, I think you've got something there regarding resentment.
What is there to be resentful for? As long as a person can pull a breath, they are in the game.

Nobody gets out alive. The resentment of the young may stem from having many decades to pass through, and the quality of the journey is more important, the longer it is perceived to be.

The mature, having already served much of their sentence, can progressively relax a little bit as the end game approaches. And, they can rest on their laurels, if they have earned any.

The Millenial, bereft of any accomplishments and with fading hope of achieving success, mate, home, and progeny, feels panicky at the stretch of tedious failure, self-recrimination and humiliation which beckons ahead.

Van Harvey said...

aninnymouse whined "...Millenial, bereft of any accomplishments..."

Don't blame Millenials for your own bereftness, just embrace your inner resentment and let it drag you down and out of sight.

Just go with it.

You know you want to.

Ta.

ted said...

Bob: Now that I'm pet-less, should I take the leap?

Gagdad Bob said...

When I was a kid, a friend of mine somehow captured a wild raccoon. Looked cute, but was the most vicious and bloodthirsty animal you could imagine. I'll never forget what it did to a frog he gave it for dinner. I think they only kept it (in the homemade cage they caught it in) for a few days.

In other news, blogging will continue tomorrow. My work schedule changes from week to week...

Gagdad Bob said...

I even have a title for tomorrow's post, albeit with no content downloaded yet: Little Big Self.

ted said...

Better to be a psuedo-Raccoon who only eviscerates Deepak quotes.

julie said...

Ted, too funny. I lived across the street from Hialeah for a little while; doesn't seem like the kind of place where someone would raise raccoons.

ted said...

Okay, this is beyond coincidence.

doug saxum said...

My only experience with a raccoon went badly,..
for the unfortunate critter 😔