December 09, 2007

I accept any truths discovered by science, including natural selection, but I place those facts in a much wider metaphysical context

While I am greatly indebted to the "traditionalists" -- especially Schuon -- one thing I wish they would specify is exactly when they think the so-called "golden age" of mankind occurred. Sometimes they seem to imply that it was Atlantis -- i.e., a highly advanced civilization that ended catastrophically but which was the source of later ones such as Egypt.
This strikes me as an evasion, since there is no actual evidence that Atlantis existed. It's possible -- for example, the persistent rumors in all of the world's mythologies of a catastrophic flood that wiped out civilization. Look how long it took to to just find a single Coon in the Great Flood of 2007. Perhaps we have no physical evidence of Atlantis because it's under the ocean, just like Donovan said it was. And who could question the judgment of Donovan? [...]
The traditionalists are also profoundly anti-Darwinian, and in this regard -- despite the great wisdom embodied in tradition -- I believe they go too far. In my case, I would not call myself "anti-Darwinian," just "un-Darwinian." In other words, I accept any truths discovered by science, including natural selection, but I place those facts in a much wider metaphysical context that can never be explained by the empirical facts of science. To put it another way, the facts of science are only intelligible within a metaphysical framework that cannot be derived from science. In this regard, the water-tight logic of Raccoon emeritus Kurt Gödel can never be surpassed by humans.
And perhaps not coincidentally, the traditionalists are also profoundly anti-psychoanalytic. In this regard I suppose I can cut them some slack, as they all seem to share the same ignorance of modern psychoanalysis as does academia. They seem to assume that psychoanalysis began and ended with Freud, which is analogous to rejecting modern physics on the basis of Newton's ignorance of quantum physics. So the traditionalists rail against Freud -- for example, his determinism (because it erodes free will) and his hostility to religion -- even though there are almost no purely Freudian psychoanalysts anymore.
And in any event, I don't think it's particularly intellectually admirable to deal with anomalies in one's world view by simply rejecting them a priori, a strategy which is ironically shared by both fundamentalism and scientism. I cannot believe that this is what the Creator wants of us -- to bury our heads in the sand whenever we encounter a fact that seems to contradict revelation, and then turn this intellectual vice into a virtue by claiming that we are more "faithful" than the person who believes in evolution or psychoanalysis. I mean, I would actually have more respect for these people if they had the courage of their convictions and stop taking antibiotics.
Yesterday Nomo cited the well-known passage by Paul, which I will reproduce in the contemporary English translation:
"Where are the wise? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."
Prior to the modern fundamentalist deviation, this was never interpreted by Christian Orthodoxy to mean that we should reject worldly knowledge, only that worldly knowledge should not be conflated with ultimate knowledge or salvation. Just yesterday I was reading about this in the new biography of the great Catholic historian Christopher Dawson. I don't pretend to be an expert in these intra-familial Christian theological squabbles, but it was his position that this error crept into Christianity with Luther, which, ironically, paved the way for both an anti-intellectual Christianity and militant secularism -- two mirrors of the same phenomenon, which ultimately comes down to failure to sanctify or "Christianize" the world. For Luther

"rejected the complexity of Christendom... and attempted to de-intellectualize the Catholic continuity with the classical. 'He took St. Paul without his Hellenism, and St. Augustine without his Platonism,' Dawson wrote. By attacking the natural laws and creating the Manichean dualism of Law and Gospel, Luther attempted to destroy the human need for mystery and 'prepared the way for the secularization of the world...' "

This false dualism argued that "man is fallen to such an extent that he can know nothing outside the truth of scripture." But "if the world tells us nothing of value, the past, equally, sheds no new light on the situation of humanity and becomes worthless."

I certainly sympathize with Dawson's view. One reason why so many people get the "Jesus willies" and therefore reject their own precious spiritual and intellectual heritage is because their only exposure to Christianity is in its anti-intellectual fundamentalist version, which I myself find impossible to take seriously. As Dawson wrote, the intellectual synthesis of Christianity and classical thought "was not a contradiction but the crown and completion of continuous effort to achieve an integration of the religious doctrine of the Christian Church with the intellectual tradition of ancient culture." On this view, the "wisdom of the Greeks" is not opposed to Christianity. Rather, the Christian synthesis was the completion, perfection, or sanctification of these other vital intellectual streams -- which is an ongoing project, since history doesn't just arbitrarily stop historing.
This is a much more expansive view of reality whereby, for example, the great wisdom of Plato and the neo-Platonists is not rejected but integrated, say, in the deeply mystical works of Denys the Areopagite (see here as well for a fine introduction to the synthesis of Christian and Greek thought). By the same token, with this time-honored intellectual approach, a Christian needn't necessarily reject the wisdom of, say, Vedanta or Taoism, for ultimately, the appearance of Jesus in the Hellenized Roman world is not essential but accidental. What if he had appeared in the Indian subcontinent? Then the task of early Christians would have been to place Christ within the context of Vedanta -- to demonstrate how he represented, say, the "perfection" or "completion" of the Upanishads, so to speak.
Indeed, what if Jesus were here today -- an absurd hypothetical, since he is. Then the task would be to integrate Christianity with current knowledge. Which I, as a Coon, believe is the whole point: to integrate wisdom and knowledge and thereby sanctify the intellect.
I don't know how I ended up down this byway. I had intended to discuss premodern childrearing practices, and how they resulted in such widespread historical craziness. Oh well.... next week. I'm sure this is enough to start a rumble in the Coonosphere. Go at it!

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