Often, after writing another perfect post, I will *randonly* bump into something that speaks to it -- like a NONLOCAL AUTHORITY confirming it with ABSOLUTE CERTITUDE.
Well, yesterday the exact opposite occurred: after writing the post, the very first thing I read told me why I am so wrong. Not necessarily in the head. In the heart, rather. Whatever that's supposed to mean.
It was in Fr. Garrigou's Three Ages of the Spiritual Life, chapter VIII, The True Nature of Christian Perfection. You'd think such a brilliant guy would be on my side, but no.
Perfection. What is it? We all implicitly understand the term, but how and why?
Lng stry shrt, because perfection is one of the principle attributes of the Absolute, such that we see its shadows in diverse modalities and dimensions down here. We all tap into this implicit standard, which is how and why we can rank things on a vertical scale. No dog says to itself, now this is the perfect bone, probably the best one conceivable!
But it is routine for humans to recognize when they are in the presence of perfection. Perfect 10s are everywhere. But this can only be because God goes up to 11.
Indeed, think of what befalls people who imagine they are the source of their own perfection -- "artists" and "intellectuals" of various kinds: it always ends in self-beclownment in one form or another.
Schuon discusses this in an essay called Dimensions, Modes, and Degrees of the Divine Order: the Supreme Principle, or O, in addition to being Absolute Reality and Infinite Possibility, is Perfect Quality.
You could even say that this constitutes a -- or maybe the -- fundamental trinity, for it covers everything: everything that exists, can exist, and will exist.
Come to think of it, you can even see how the Trinity lines up with this more abstract conceptualization: if the Father is the Absolute, then the Son and Spirit must be Perfection and Radiation or something. We'll have to circle back to this subject in a later post, as it's only half-baked at the moment.
In any event, we can agree that not only is God perfect, but he alone is perfect, since he is outside manifestation.
Or, to put it conversely, even the best things down here are slightly imperfect, not that we're complaining. However, if we fail to appreciate this, we may spend our lives in a vain pursuit of perfection on earth. This is how one ends up a leftoid cult member, and the result is a perfect hell.
What did Jesus say? Why do you call me perfect? This is actually an ambiguous question. I used to think it simply meant that Jesus was acknowledging that only God is perfect.
More cleverly, it could be a rhetorical question meaning: how did you know I was perfect? It wasn't via your natural perception! In other words, it's a testimony of the Holy Sprit about the Holy Spirit -- or something proceeding from and returning to God, in a perfect circle.
But let's get back to Garrigou's essay, because the clock is ticking down. In it he addresses the proper end of the Christian life, which is, of course, perfection -- as in Be ye perfect even as your Father in Heaven. Never mind that this is impossible. It's the process that counts.
Now, in God, perfection is perfection, full stop. But down here we can appreciate several modalities, in particular, with regard to truth, beauty, and virtue. In yesterday's post we presented an argument for perfect truth. Apparently this is not enough for the Christian. And, when you think about it, it's not difficult to see why.
Think of the other virtues. One can be, say, courageous, but still rotten. Likewise, one can be brilliant, a genius even, but a sick lunatic. Chuck Schumer, for example, is said to have obtained a perfect score on his SAT, way back when it meant something. But whatever it means, it hardly means a perfect man, to put it mildly. A perfect RAT is more like it.
More generally, since Jesus did not leave us with a written doctrine, that's either inexcusably careless or maybe the whole point. He didn't speak much about intelligence, but about a whole lotta love on the stairway to heaven. Garrigou:
A philosopher with a powerful intellect, though he has a correct idea of God, First Cause of the universe and Last End, may not be a good man, a man of good will. At times he may even be a very bad man. That which is true is the good of the intellect, but it is not the good of the entire man, not the whole good of man (emphasis mine).
Ouch. So close. Yet so far.