Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Ultimate Reality is a Fractally Organized Motion Picture or Something

The following passing comment by Schuon caught my eye. It is in the context of a discussion of how the Pure Absolute necessarily takes on this or that form in a particular religion. 

I say "necessarily" because I don't see a loophole here, as comforting as it might be to believe one's own religion is the Pure Absolute. But even St. Thomas cautioned against this, what with his radical apophaticism. I don't want to put words in his mouth, but he did say this:

This is the final human knowledge of God: to know that we do not know God.

Having said that, I don't think such an esoteric doctrine is appropriate for all and sundry. Rather, only for the pneumatic weirdo type discussed in yesterday's post, the "man-center" who is "determined by the intellect" as opposed to the "man-periphery, who is more or less accident." 

And by no means is Schuon trying to downgrade the practice of religion. I myself only practice an orthodox one because Schuon says I must. And no, this doesn't mean that I only do so based on his authority. Not at all. Rather, it is because I see and understand his point entirely, that you can't play music without learning an instrument, so to speak. I'm not a cultist. 

Ultimately it has to do with that distinction between the Pure Absolute, AKA Beyond-Being, and Being. Again, this is the First Line, and once seen it cannot be unseen, at least by me. For me it literally makes perfect nonsense, except now it is up to me to situate the "perfect sense" of religion into this necessary context. 

In practical terms it means I must situate Catholicism in this "deeper" context, which is bound to clash with anyone who thinks that Catholicism is already literally the deepest context. 

Well, the latter is also correct, so long as we're talking about the Being side of things. I've mentioned before that the deepest structure of deep structures must be a kind of eternally dynamic perichoresis between Beyond-Being and Being.  

I've also said that I suspect the Trinity is revealed to us precisely in order to help us get a handle on this deeeeep structure. I don't recall ever devoting an entire post to this subject, because I don't know that I've ever thought it through completely, nor if it is even entirely thinkable; surely not, although we can try, can we not?

For Christians the Trinity is revealed to us in the form of "Father," "Son," and "Holy Spirit." At the same time, however, there is nothing about any Trinity per se in scripture, rather, it is something the early fathers had to piece together and infer from various clues left to us. 

The bottom and/or top line for us is that Ultimate Reality is at once radically one and more than one -- not quantitatively, of course, but qualitatively. 

I like to pull back and open the aperture of our lens as wide as humanly possible, to an f-stop of, say, plus or minus 1/∞, in order to allow for the maximum light. But apparently there are tradeoffs, because we also want the sharpest possible image and the greatest depth of field. Where is Robin Starfish when you need him?

Maybe the photography analogy is no good. Obviously it's a motion picture.

Is it obvious?

Good point. Is God -- or the Ultimate Real, AKA O -- really immutable? Or does O change? Or both -- even though that would seem to violate the law of noncontradiction?

In my opinion we have to say "both." Moreover, I believe this must be one of points of the revelation of the Trinity, since... there are many ways to put it, but the Son is always returning to the Father via the Spirit, and the number 3 itself implies the return to Unity... if I can find the reference... something to the effect that if 1 is Unity and Principle, 2 is duality and Manifestation, so 3 is the return to the Principle.

My blood sugar is a tad low at the moment, but I do vaguely recall an old post touching on the idea of considering the Father as a way of talking about "Beyond-Being" and the Son as "Being." By no means is this a perfect analogy, nor can it be perfectly harmonized with Christian metaphysics... unless we consider Beyond-Being and Being not as a duality, but indeed an always dynamic tri-complementarity. Then I think it works, at least if your blood sugar is low enough.  

Let's consider the following passage by Schuon, and see if we can't tweak it a bit: 

The “Father” is God as such, that is as metacosm; the “Son” is God insofar as He manifests Himself in the world, hence in the macrocosm; and the “Holy Spirit” is God insofar as He manifests Himself in the soul, hence in the microcosm.

That is a fruitful way of looking at it, but I doubt Schuon ever thought or even knew about fractals, and I believe that if we think of the Trinity as a single substance fractally organized, this helps us to grasp the idea that Being is always dialectically related to Beyond-Being, and vice versa. But it's not a dualistic photograph, rather, a trialistic motion picture.  

Elsewhere Schuon writes that  

The vertical perspective -- Beyond-Being, Being, Existence -- envisages the hypostases as “descending” from Unity or from the Absolute -- or from the Essence it could be said -- which means that it envisages the degrees of Reality. 

Except that Christianity specifically rules out such an emanationist metaphysic. Rather, it would horizontalize this scheme and say that all three are always involved as coequal branches of divine government.

I'm just about out of time, and I never even got to the passage mentioned in the first paragraph, which was that "to change one's religion is to change planets." 

Moreover, I had intended to write of how this applies to contemporary politics, i.e., what planet the left is from, and what kind of barbaric religion they practice there. It'll have to wait...


julie said...

In practical terms it means I must situate Catholicism in this "deeper" context, which is bound to clash with anyone who thinks that Catholicism is already literally the deepest context.

This is one of the points where both Fr. Steven and Ann Barnhardt lose me a little. It's not that they're wrong when they say that there's no salvation outside of the Greek Orthodox or Roman Catholic church, it's just that they are looking at the issue backwards.

julie said...

I've also said that I suspect the Trinity is revealed to us precisely in order to help us get a handle on this deeeeep structure.

Continuing my half-baked musing from above, it's like looking at things through a telos-scope. If you use the wrong end, or a very narrowly-focused lens, you'll still have the view but there will be elements missing.

julie said...

Guess I should have kept reading...

ted said...

Have you heard the joke about the atheist deepakin the chopra?

ted said...

Bob: This interview with Wolfgang Smith gets good at the 1 hr:45 min mark.

Gagdad Bob said...


Another reader sent me that interview, but I haven't had time to listen to it.

Also, after writing the post, I took a close look at the first three sentences of Genesis, looking for evidence of a Trinitarian metaphysic:

1. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Beyond-Being eternally manifesting manifestation.

2. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Transcendent Spirit of God hovering above manifestation.

3. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

"Said" = Logos-Word-Light-Son-Being, etc.

ted said...

Nice! I bet Prager didn't even notice that in his commentaries!

Gagdad Bob said...

Also, I finished Prager's exegesis of Deuteronomy, and was delighted to read this little bit of absurcularity from such a logical man:

"The Torah begins with God's creation of the world and ends with 'before all Israel.' The Torah's first word is 'In the beginning'... and its last word is 'Israel' [wrestle with God]."

Also, when the congregation has finished reading Deuteronomy in the synagogue, it immediately circles back to Genesis, as if to say, "You think you've completed studying the Torah? In fact, you have just begun."

ted said...

That's cool... innocence at the far end of experience!

Gagdad Bob said...

Allman Brothers:

At first, there are live recordings like mountains, including boot, but I thought what more now. Was a fan and the price is affordable, so the purchase decision is made. Personally, I like the raided-back country rock of Dickey Betts. I used to desperately search for sound sources on the net, but I thought that the sound quality was too poor and I stopped listening on the way with a yole-yore.

robinstarfish said...

-- Where is Robin Starfish when you need him? --

Well now. A little tuning fork in the back of my head said to check in on OC (it's been awhile). And what do you know? It's still synchronized to f/0, apparently. ;)

Timing is everything, especially when it happens all at once.

Van Harvey said...

Hey now, I thought there was only One Cosmos, why does it exist in two bloggin' realities?! 🤔

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