Monday, May 21, 2007 One Cosmos Under God Robert W. Godwin Centers of Being and Points of Entry. A new test of blogging fortitude, with the addition of a very active Coonine puppy at my feet. I'll just proceed with a spontaneous riff on the fragment of a thoughtlet that was in my head upon arising, which is that, if we are to love the lord with all our hearts, minds, and souls, the benefits of doing so are quite tangible and verifiable with regard to the first two, while the third requires a leap of faith that even I sometimes continue to struggle with (and I shouldn't even say "even," since there is nothing special about me). However, being that the first two are so demonstrably "operative" in time, perhaps we can deduce the promises of the timeless third.
When we talk about heart, mind, and soul, we are talking about 1) virtue, will, beauty and sentiment, 2) knowledge and wisdom, and 3) eternal salvation, or, at the very least, some sort of nonlocal process of growth (i.e., outside space and time) that we can only understand dimly.
It is very easy to see how loving the lord with all one's heart and mind "bears fruit" in the herebelow. In the first instance (heart), doing so should make you a happier, better, and more well-rounded person. In the second case (mind), it should make you a wiser, more intelligent, and more "sober" person. But as I said, the third case (soul) is trickier, because there we are dealing with certain "post mortem benefits" that we can only intuit through a dark presidential tint, at best.
Frankly, it's somewhat similar to the essentially backword route through which I approached Christianity, which was first through the mind. The Bobway has probably become an exception in our day and age, but there is no reason it should be, since I have personally vetted all secular philosophies and ideologies and declare Christianity to be much more intellectually nourishing than any of them.
Frankly, there's just no comparison. One of the reasons I am able to blog every day is that the pool of religious wisdom is just so infinite that it can never be exhausted or contained. On the other hand, if I had to rely upon secular concepts in order to think and write, that well would run dry very quickly. That's how you end up being an inveterate triteweight such as Krugman, Dionne, Hitchens, Matthews, the entire idiotorial board of the New York Times, and all the rest of the MSM clowns, clones, and drones.
For one thing, when we are thinking within a system of revealed knowledge, it transcends and contains us, rather than vice versa. On the other hand, any secular philosophy ultimately rests upon the -- in my view, absurd -- notion that it is possible for the limited human mind to "contain" the whole of reality, when the mind is an expression of that Reality (and the presence of the intelligent human subject is the single greatest mystery in this irreducibly mysterious cosmos -- that and the appeal of Al Sharpton).
While it is true that Tongan men are so macho that they lose their virginity before their fathers, they are a special case. For the rest of us, we are the "sons and daughters of existence," so to speak, so that our own existence cannot explain existence as such in the absence of an outside perspective. This outside perspective is known as revelation, and one of the reasons revelation is so intellectually fruitful is that it specifically creates an open system between human beings and their transcendent source. There is a dynamic tension between two radically different forms of existence, God's and ours, and it is within the dynamic tension of this infinite space that true theology takes place, i.e., O-->(n).
As we have mentioned before, the Bhagavad Gita describes the different methods of yoga that correspond to this or that personality type. "Yoga" simply means "union," specifically, union with God. Thus, since human beings have at least three centers of being -- body, mind, and soul -- there is a yoga for each. But there is also the basic division of emotional man, mental man, and the man of action.
Christianity is often reduced to a form of bhakti yoga, which involves heartfelt adoration of the personal God, but frankly, I believe this approach is most effective for a particular personality style, that is, someone whose emotional being forms their human center of groovity. This center will also be the source of much ungroovy weakness -- of many falls -- so aligning it with God is a way for the emotions to transcend themselves and keep you out of jail. But the troubles caused by the wayward intellect probably far surpass the troubles caused by ungoverned passion. But when you combine the two -- that's when you have hell on earth.
As I touched upon above, it must be said that Christianity is doing a mediocre job of marketing itself, to the extent that otherwise sophisticated people believe that you must disable your intellect in order to be a practicing Christian. There is no question whatsoever that I suffered from this delusion in my sercular days, when I just dismissed religion -- western religion, anyway -- as so much shallow-minded fantasy, nothing worthy of even a moment's serious coonsideration.
Now I wonder: how did I come by this attitude? -- for it was not grounded in any personal experience I had ever had. Rather, it was all just the secular brainwashing I had endured by virtue of being plunged into secular culture. But had I ever personally read, much less comprehended, the works any of the great Christian intellects -- Origen, Dionysius the Areopagite, Gregory of Nyssa, Clement of Alexandria, Maximus the Confessor, John Climacus, Augustine, John Scotus Eriugena, Meister Eckhart, and so many others?
No, I had not. Rather, I had simply taken their dismissal on faith -- mostly a faith in mid-level intellectuals who are incapable of raising their intellects to religion to begin with. But even leaving spiritual considerations aside, what an intellectually cluelesscidal thing to do! It is only through grace that I found my way back to them, through which I am able to comprehend them (and they us) and with which I am able to use them as a springboard for additional forays into the wild godhead. In other words, they are the ones who created the map. No, the map is not the territory, but you still need a good one to get from here to nowhere, since the deustination we seek is nowhere here, but beyond time and space. In actuality, it is a way to find your way back from the nowhere here to the eternal now.
Again: revelation and its "little sister," true theology, are the principle means we have for thinking vertically rather than horizontally. Furthermore, it is no less scientific and systematic than conventional science, which applies to the horizontal. Being that human beings are uniquely crucified at the innersection of the vertical and horizontal axes of existence, we are the only being with both senses and intellect, the former for exploring the outer world, the latter for comprehending the inner nature of things -- and this inner nature may ultimately be traced back to the Intellect of the intellect, that which sponsors both man's intelligence and the intelligibility reflected in every thing that exists.
Now, if we say that "Jesus saves," people generally mean the soul. However, I am here to testify that he and his authorized agents also save the mind, or the intellect properly so-called. As I said, this was my point of entry into the Christian stream. For other more "heart centered" individuals, perhaps it might have been the gloriously transcendent music of Bach, the compassionate heart of a great saint, or the heroic martyrdom of the early Christians. For more simple souls, it may simply be because scripture speaks to an intuitive place that is way beyond thought. In a way, they are the lucky ones, because they don't have to go through the complicated process of re-conquering their own wayward and prideful intellect.
But in my journey into the magnificent intellectual cathedral of Christianity, I was eventually confronted with one inescapable fact: that I was, so to speak, still dealing with the "penumbra" around the great mystery at the very heart of Christianity, that is, the Incarnation and Resurrection. It was as if I were simultaneously looking over and overlooking the center from which all this truth has continued flowing for the subsequent 2000 years -- a big smoking crater left by the ultimate depth charge plunging through history and cutting it in two like a Tongan tears a telephone book in half. I better stop now. I have an eery feeling that all hell's about to break loose in the house. To be continued.... posted by Gagdad Bob at 5/21/2007 07:27:00 AM 46 comments links to this post
Right now, this blog is quite heart-centered. But the integral yoga is very comprehensive — a real hero’s (or heroine’s) journey. We are not just offering up the heart, but also the head and the body for transformation. I’m very cautious about indulging the mind too much, though, because I’m wary of what I’ve seen happen to other people. People get trapped in what the Mother calls a “mental fortress” — they construct an elaborate intellectual model of Reality and become completely attached to it. And if you try to criticize this mental-rational framework, or make suggestions for its further evolution, they are enraged and lash out at you, because they have become so invested in being “right” all the time.
It’s intellectual vitalism: having had a few spiritual experiences, one’s lower nature grabs the higher and becomes inflated and narcissistic. It has happened to me a lot during spiritual experiences, and I am grateful that the princes of darkness were there to attack me and put me in my place immediately when this happened. It is terrifying to learn humility the hard way, but there is frankly no other way to learn it. The inspired nafs is a dangerous initial stage. If transcending the mind is what we want to do, it is extremely important not to take one’s theories and frameworks too seriously. One of the first things you have to get ready for if you are seriously pursuing a spiritual path is uncertainty. You will never have all the answers... the stumbling mystic God shall grow up . . . while the wise men talk and sleep.