Thursday, September 09, 2021

In Other Words, There are Always Other Words

In rereading Ratzinger's Introduction to Christianity I've been re-reminded of something Schuon said to the effect that Christianity is an esoterism masquerading as an exoterism. However, now I'm not so sure he said that, since I've spent the last couple of hours unsuccessfully looking for the exact quote.

Which doesn't mean the search was fruitless; to the contrary, I ended up gathering way more fruit than my head can possible contain or fingers can transmit in the allotted time. It just wan't the fruit I was looking for. 

A reminder that a form can never be the only possible form of what it expresses; in other words, there are always other words available to express the same principle, concept, idea, archetype, etc. You could call Bruce "Caitlin" but he's still a man. The substance doesn't change. 

Looked at from this perspective, we understand that God is the only possible uniqueness-as-such. One might also say that he is thereby the source and ground of the relatively unique, in particular, of the human individual. The human individual is, as it were, God's uniqueness reflected in us (assuming we choose to actualize this potential and not sink into the progressive blob). 

But no human is utterly unique, if only because we would no longer be an instantiation of the species "human." To say human is to advert to what we share with other humans; orthoparadoxically, one of the most important qualities we share is none other than our uniqueness! 

But again, by definition only God is unique. For similar reasons, only God can truly create. Man too -- since he is again the image of the Creator -- can "create," but not from nothing. We can write a poem, but no poet has invented language. Rather, it was here when the poet arrived on the scene. Moreover, the principle of language is the eternal Logos, and it was (is) here before the beginning, AKA always.   

My point is that fruit is a species, and I was looking for a particular one. Instead, I gathered lots of other fruit, but what is fruit, anyway? And why is it one of those words that pops up everywhere in scripture, not just ours, but everyone's?  

Moreover, fruit can be both good and bad, so much so that it plays a central role in everything from our primordial catastrophe (the fruit of which is fatal upon ingestion or even touch) to our salvation ("blessed the fruit of your womb," "I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit").  Some fruits are forbidden, while others are praised and highly recommended for a healthy vertical diet.

Which reminds me. Analysis and synthesis are the metabolism of being. Eating the fruit is one thing, but weaving it into one's substance another. Letter and spirit; geometry and music; essence and form.

As I mentioned in a comment or maybe it was a post, Ratzinger's "Introduction" to Christianity is more of a meditation on how to reintroduce Christianity to a world that no longer speaks its language. But this goes to what was said above about how the same concept can always be expressed in different word-forms. 

Some people -- atheists at one end, "fundamentalists" at the other -- get hung up on the words and thereby lose what they're referring to. Then again, not exactly, because God knows his own, and there is still something of the essence in the revealed forms the fundamentalist takes overly literally, while for the atheist there are only the meaningless words. 

In this morning's search, I found a passage by Schuon that parallels Ratzinger's point about how to convey the Christian message to today's mentality -- a mentality that is materialistic, scientistic, ideological, anti-intellectual, and deeply superstitious. Ratzinger:

belief appears on the scene in the garb of days gone by and, indeed, seems itself to be something old-fashioned, the mode of life and existence current a long time looks much like a demand to bind oneself to yesterday and to affirm itself as eternally valid.

Anyone who tries today to talk about the question of Christian faith in the presence of people who are not thoroughly at home with ecclesiastical language and thought... soon comes to sense the alien -- and alienating -- nature of such an enterprise.

Frankly, it is precisely this alienation that is one of my motivations in blogging -- specifically, to make the faith less alienating to myself. If it also helps others, there's nothing I can do about that. I'm a lapsed unbeliever who shares the doubt of the unbeliever, just not his faith in his doubt.

For Schuon's part, he points out that the problem isn't so much one of modern/premodern but of exoteric/esoteric. In short, most of the problems of language can be resolved with a simple shift of planes, from the form (the words) to the substance:

The exoteric viewpoint is, in fact, doomed to end by negating itself once it is no longer vivified by the presence within it of the esoterism of which it is both the outward radiation and the veil.... the atrophy that overtakes dogmas when they are deprived of their internal dimension recoils upon them from the outside, in the form of heretical and atheistic negations.

The Passion of Marx and the stupidity of the New Age. 


EbonyRaptor said...

Herein the hammer has met the nail.

julie said...

My point is that fruit is a species, and I was looking for a particular one. Instead, I gathered lots of other fruit, but what is fruit, anyway?

Along those lines, today we learned about Gregor Mendel.

Once upon a time, if you wanted a good scientific education, you studied with the monks.

I'm a lapsed unbeliever who shares the doubt of the unbeliever, just not his faith in his doubt.

I like that; it explains why it can sometimes be a struggle to have faith in our faith. Lord, I believe; help my unbelief...

Anonymous said...

It seems people are bigger on a benevolent son of a god who offers hope to his lessers, than a sumbitch who preaches strength without honor. The latter is far too common these days, while the former incredibly rare.

Gagdad Bob said...

"Psychology." When I started out in the field, intelligence and normality were optional. Now they're forbidden. It's not a discipline, it's a cult. A sample of courses on offer at the APA convention:

--Strengthening Approaches for Optimal Health Among BIPOC Populations

This session will elucidate the nexus of psychosocial, sociocultural, and environmental issues that concern Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) populations and how these challenges increase risks that contribute to health disparities and inequities, addressing the unique concerns of at-risk, vulnerable, underserved, and marginalized communities.

--Cultivating a Safe Space: Risks and Protective Factors for BIPOC Psychology Professionals

Psychologists must cultivate positive ecosystems and practices that support scholars for enacting successful trajectories in various settings, including academia, healthcare systems, and corporations. This session will look at selected issues, like implicit bias, micro-aggressions, and intersectional systemic ideologies, that influence and advance career pathways for BIPOC professionals.


People whose facial features are more stereotypical of their racial group experience greater bias in social outcomes. Learn about evidence for this claim and the implications for policies designed to address racial disparities.


Through narrative, learn how the intersection of emotionally intelligent and culturally responsive practices can create equitable and welcoming communities, where students can learn in the comfort of their skin.

Cousin Dupree said...

Including white skin? Asking for a friend.

julie said...

Good grief. If I knew anybody with mental health issues that require professional help, I'd be very concerned about finding a therapist who is interested in actually helping them deal with their problems. I wonder how many patients these days are just flat-out harmed by their "therapy"?

julie said...

Following v e r y slowly along with Intro to Christianity, way back in the intro, there's an excellent observation about the eso- vs. exo- viewpoint which I think today effects (or infects, depending on your POV) pretty much all branches of the Christian tree. Well, he didn't describe it as eso- or exoteric, he just described the circumstances surrounding Vatican II in a very interesting way, (emphasis mine):

"Anyway, where was the voice of Christian faith at that time? In 1967, when the book was being written, the fermentation of the early postconciliar period was in full swing. This is precisely what the second Vatican Council had intended: to endow Christianity once more with the power to shape history. The nineteenth century had seen the formulation of the opinion that religion belonged to the subjective, private realm and should have its place there. But precisely because it was to be categorized as something subjective, it could not be a determining factor in the overall course of history and in the epochal decisions that had to be made as part of it."

It strikes me that any Christianity that seeks to make the world in its own image - a very exoteric goal indeed - is a Christianity that has accepted the Devil's offer which Christ rejected. Further, it is not only Catholic leaders who desire this power, it is every "Christian" church that puts social justice above the salvation of souls.

It is interesting that the idea of an esoteric Christianity is conversely so devalued, as though the actions of millions of people who live their lives guided by their lived faith each day can have no effect on the outcome of history, simply because they aren't demanding that everyone else do things in precisely their own way.

Anonymous said...

Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) populations are slated to take over control of government, commerce, the arts, and academia, taking the hand-off from the white males.

This is why BIPOC feature prominently in the field of psychology. Psychology has bent itself to the task of accomplishing the switch. BIPOC are not used to, and don't feel comfortable with, assuming the mantle of influence from the whites. They have to broken in and trained up to it.

The patriarchy gave us everything we have and what we see today, but the grand adventure which started in 1000 AD or so started to falter and to suck badly, and then gravely, as it is rapacious and predatory. By 1960 it was evident the patriarchy is not sustainable.

Therefore the deep government, the hidden powers that be, alright the freemasons if you must know, decided to effect the switch-out.

The Great Change will be completed about 5000 AD or so.

John Venlet said...

It strikes me that any Christianity that seeks to make the world in its own image - a very exoteric goal indeed - is a Christianity that has accepted the Devil's offer which Christ rejected. Further, it is not only Catholic leaders who desire this power, it is every "Christian" church that puts social justice above the salvation of souls.

I think part of the problem, which you note here Julie, is also associated with every "Christian" church, as you put it, attempting to align themselves with humanism, even knowing Humanism's secularity. This reaching out to humanists, by many Christian churches, began in the 1930s, the church's thought being that individuals who promoted humanism, secular though it is, were on the side of angels, so to speak, and as such humanists were working towards the same goal as Christian individuals. The proof that this is not the case is readily seen in "Christian" churches which push the social justice issues rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ.

EbonyRaptor said...

Right on Julie. Well put. Another complimentary elucidation of the topic being discussed from you is appreciated.

Anonymous said...

It can be said that iron fisted tyrants like Constantine, Charlemagne, or hell, even Charles the Bald, did more for growing Christianity than did other rulers who preferred a gentler approach.

Anonymous said...

Hey there EbonyRaptor. I see you have complimented Julie. Don't hold your breath waiting for any acknowledgment of that from her.

In fact the Raccoons will studiously ignore you. You know which ones are the cool kids who talk to each other, don't you?

You make nice, you compliment, you analyze the posts and add great commentary, and for this you shall be ignored.

Sad. And you are possibly a black person, which to the Raccoon raises suspicion of BLM involvement.

Anonymous said...

Now here's the thing with the Catholic Church in regards to "Humanism." You don't find the latter where there hasn't been a long history of the former. Chomp on that. The two are probably two prongs of the same bloc.

The anonymous commenter who predicted the demise of the white man's tenure probably has something there. We live in distorted, truly disturbing times because of massive changes coming down the pike; we have built a house which cannot stand.

Therefore you get humanism which demands odd and illogical things.

Anonymous said...

"It can be said that iron fisted tyrants like Constantine, Charlemagne, or hell, even Charles the Bald, did more for growing Christianity than did other rulers who preferred a gentler approach."

To say nothing of the Inquisition. The Church was the dominant political force in Europe for much of its history.

ted said...

I hear the Taliban are now civilized. Thank goodness for equality for all.

julie said...

And once again we see an example of anon's completely alien way of thinking.
Apparently, not jumping in and instantly responding to comments in response to my comment is some kind of hate crime.

In fact, I appreciate my fellow non-anon commenters very much, especially when the conversation becomes genuinely fruitful.

@John: Agreed, completely.

@EbonyRaptor: Thank you. It's always good to know something I said might have added to the conversation.

@ Ted: As I said elsewhere recently, re. Afghanistan, I hardly know whether to laugh or cry.

EbonyRaptor said...

My screen name may imply something that is or isn't true but I've never gotten the feeling it matters to Bob or any of the regular commenters here, nor should it. People who don't have racist leanings tend not to view things from a racist perspective and it's been my experience here in the land of the Raccoon that these good people share that view. I'm not a frequent commenter because I usually don't have much to add and I don't comment to push an agenda or hear myself talk. I appreciate this site and get more than I give, by a long shot.

EbonyRaptor said...

Regarding Afghanistan, my daughter served in Afghanistan and is permanently disabled with a brain injury sustained from an IED. With medication she is leading a relatively normal life, thank God, but she is very upset with the current situation. She lost fellow soldiers - friends - in the battle where she got injured. It's personal to her and many many others. She is most upset knowing her son will not grow up in the America she and I grew up in. She and her husband have a strong faith and I pray that will sustain them for whatever is coming our way in the years ahead.

So, I'm not dispassionate about the situation but I don't use this site for a platform to spout off about things not germane to the topic being discussed.

julie said...

EbonyRaptor, re. race, agree 100%. It literally never occurs me to think about the race of any commenter here, unless they make it an issue themselves. And even then, I care as much about your race as I care about your hair color or your gender or any other characteristic, which is: not at all. What you say matters far more than any of that.

Re. your daughter, she'll be in my prayers. I don't think I know anyone personally who was in Afghanistan, but the Vietnam vets I know had severe PTSD when they saw how the pullout was going down. They are just devastated and angry.

I worry about my kids, too, even as I trust that God has them in His ever-capable hands. There is so much insanity right now in the broader world, all we can do is keep praying and carry on with life.

Anonymous said...

Well that's more like it, now you are talking civilly amongst yourselves.

jonathan said...

Anonymous, I think you are a racist. All you talk about is race and skin color. Why the obsession with race and skin color? This blog is about spiritual matters. No one, except you, cares about race and skin color. It’s almost a sickness.

Van Harvey said...

"I'm a lapsed unbeliever who shares the doubt of the unbeliever, just not his faith in his doubt."

Now that's fruitful.

Van Harvey said...

Gagdad said "A sample of courses on offer at the APA convention:..."

Oh, I'm involved in the schools & CRT & SEL in them, again... I can match you chapter & verse, as the educationistas both breed the conventioneers on the one end, and their rotten fruit on the other. Sad.

Van Harvey said...

EbonyRaptor, thoughts & prayers for your daughter.