Thursday, June 06, 2019

Immutable Life

Schuon writes of a seeming paradox, that ultimate reality is "on the one hand Immutable, which determines us," but "on the other hand it is the Living, which attracts us."

Immutable and Attractive. Determinative and Living. How's that?

One way of looking at it is to say that humans are always subject to two temporal "forces" or "streams," which we might call Fate and Destiny, the former more "exterior" (or imposed from outside ourselves) the latter "interior" (in which something inside us is "awakened" to its nature or essence).

Both dimensions imply That Which Must Be, but it seems that it is indeed possible to turn away from, or be denied, our Destiny, hence the reality of tragedy.

Those two words -- Immutable and Attractive -- also remind me of Absolute and Infinite, and therefore Male and Female in their cosmic dimensions.

Immutable is what? Strength, majesty, nobility, firmness, stability, authoritative, unwavering, rock, unconquerable, indomitable, incorruptible. Math. Geometry. Particle. Justice. Word.

Attractor is what? Radiant, beautiful, luminous, appeasing, liquiescent, dissolving, melting, nurturing, encompassing. Spirit. Wave. Mercy. Music.

All human beings are descended from one male and one female. Might we say the same of our vertical descent?

Interesting that as the soul ascends toward the source, it too becomes simultaneously Immutable and Radiant, i.e., centered and attractive.

For me, the "community of saints" -- and sages -- serves this function, for they are like fixed stars that radiate and attract us from above. They never compel, they attract.

Or, they are "compelling," but compel our assent in such a way that our freedom is never compromised. Indeed, our assent to this radiant attraction is the height of freedom, for it is a freely given assent to truth.

The Immutable Attractor defines the contours of existence, since it also implies the circularity that constitutes the human journey. For the Immutable is detachment, elevation, and eternal, in the face of which our lives are nothing but transient shadows on the horizon of nothingness, fleeting lessons in evanescence.

But there is elevation and there is compassion: "by elevation it withdraws from things, and by compassion it comes back to them" (Schuon). This is the divine circularity that saves us from cosmic absurcularity. Thankfully, God inhales: he ex-pires creation and in-spires (through) us.

Which is reminiscent of the bodhisattva principle, whereby the enlightened being renounces liberation until every person is so freed of his existential entanglements and ontological coagulations.

Or in other words, love overcomes death and returns to the battlefield of existence.

We'll leave off with a passage by Schuon, which goes to Immutability and Attraction:

God has opened a gate in the middle of creation, and this open gate of the world toward God is man; this opening is God's invitation to look towards Him, to tend towards Him, to persevere with regard to Him, and to return to Him....

Unbelief and paganism are whatever turns its back on the gate; on its threshold light and darkness separate....

[W]hat a waste and a suicide -- to slip through the human state without truly being man, that is, to pass God by, and thus to pass our own souls by...

And some aphorisms:

Everything is trivial if the universe is not engaged in a metaphysical adventure.

Values are not citizens of this world, but pilgrims from other heavens.

The thirst for the great, the noble and the beautiful is an appetite for God that is ignored.

Only the theocentric vision does not end up reducing man to absolute insignificance.

God is infinitely close and infinitely distant; one should not speak of Him as if He were at some intermediate distance (NGD).

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Adequate to Our Inadequacy

Schuon often mentions the principle of sufficient reason, which simply means that things happen for a reason, and that this reason -- i.e., cause -- must be proportionate to its effect.

Or, to put it the other way around, if you're going to try to explain an effect, the cause needs to be sufficient to do the job. For example, although natural selection is sufficient to explain some aspects of man, if pushed too far, it quickly becomes absurd and ultimately self-refuting.

Again, in taking a moderate, realistic, open-minded, and non-dogmatic stance, we must battle illiterates at both extremes, whereas those two extremes only have each other to hector and harass. So our job is more difficult, in that we must wage a two-front war against two types of illiteracy -- of fundamentalism at both ends.

Now, the existence of the human station testifies to no less than three miracles: of intelligence, of free will, and of love.

The sufficient reason for intelligence must be truth, while the sufficient reason for our freedom must be goodness itself, hence our ability to distinguish good from evil in the dimension of virtue. And the sufficient reason of love must be beauty itself, hence the love of all things beautiful, both objective and subjective.

Or, to turn it around, human intelligence is "absolutely meaningless" (if such a thing may be conceived) in the absence of the Absolute, just as our freedom is absurd in the absence of a transfinite end, and love deprived of truth and beauty becomes demonic.

As usual, Schuon expresses it in an extremely compact manner that is both intellectual and practical: "the sufficient reason for human intelligence" must be "knowledge of the Sovereign Good, and in consequence all that refers to it directly or indirectly"; for free will it must be "the choice of the Sovereign Good and in consequence the practice of all that leads to it"; and for human love, "love of the Sovereign Good and all that attests to it."

Which is why we are to love God with all our mind (as intelligence loves truth), with all our strength (as the will loves virtue), and all our heart (as the soul loves beauty).

No one but One accomplishes this "perfectly," which is to say, integrally, but our own integration and actualization depend upon it; in other words, we are to simultaneously become what we are and all we are. Only man has the great privilege of failing to accomplish this, since other animals are what they are, and nothing else. Which is why all men are in need of the mercy of grace.

In short, man is duty-bound to surpass himself, but clearly, on pain of absurdity, this is something that no man can do unaided. For in the absence of God, a man is just a man, if that. Cows don't fail to "measure up"; likewise the man who closes himself off from the divine: he is what he is and no man can save him, least of all himself.

Or, he has already saved himself, and thus condemned himself to the two-dimensional paradise of the human bovine, where there is plenty of grass and one doesn't notice the fences. In any event, failure to surpass oneself is to sink beneath oneself.

In reality, just as man's intelligence testifies to metacosmic intelligence as such, our own undeniable transcendence testifies to the Transcendent, i.e., the Sovereign Good.

Thus, we can only transcend ourselves by virtue of God's prior "pouring out" of himself, which is grace. You might say that grace searches for man until a man catches it.

Better yet, aphorisms, arranged stepwise:

1. The cause of the modern sickness is the conviction that man can cure himself.

2. No one who knows himself can be absolved by himself.

3. Authentic humanism is built upon the discernment of human insufficiency.

4. The dignity of man resides in the submission that frees him.

5. We only dig the channels for flash floods.

6. Man only has importance if God speaks to him, and as long as God speaks to him.

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