This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

10.1. Spiritual Temperament

General remarks

Before we enter into the details of spiritual anthropology, it will be good to provide some general observations on the differences we encounter between the various human types. These differences often seem to reach beyond mere preference or even biological heredity, nationality, or race, differences so conspicuous that we get the impression that someone ‘is from another planet’, or at any rate that we ourselves are the aliens. And in a sense, this impression is valid, since men possessing very different spiritual temperaments will experience the world in ways that seem diametrically opposed, resulting in two distinct interpretations of reality that can be very difficult to reconcile. In these cases, it is not a stretch to say the live in different worlds.

Human nature is limited. Therefore, when it comes to the pursuit of truth and goodness, we can say that it is “natural” for man to lock himself into some conceptual limitation or “point of view,” to the exclusion of other possibilities. He must do this or else he could not conceive of anything at all. This limited point of view then becomes the point of departure for the individual, the framework within which he realizes his spiritual potential.

To refuse to acknowledge the naturalness and necessity of such a limitation is to spread oneself too thin and achieve nothing. Man is not God.

Human nature is also diverse. This means that all men cannot share the same point of view. All are limited as men, but their point of departure differs drastically. This again is “natural” to man.

Having acknowledged the necessity of a framework that corresponds to the limits of the human condition, and also the diversity natural to the human condition, we can see that the religions obviously serve as frameworks catering to a particular type of limitation. In other words, each religion corresponds to a certain type of man. For his type, and for his type only, it serves as the horizons which do not so much limit him as sustain and feed him, and beyond which he can only travel at great risk.

Each religion is the “natural environment” for a specific type of person and each Revelation is given by God for the sole purpose of providing a certain type of humanity with the means of grace to work out its own salvation. Such is the Mercy of God, that through each religion he “empties Himself, taking on the nature of a servant, being made in human likeness,” which is to say, becoming nothing (in comparison to what he is in Himself), taking on a limitation, a form comprehensible to man, so that man may know Him through that limitation.

Since each Revelation is given by God to serve a certain human type, we can say that the range of Revelation corresponds to the range of “spiritual temperaments” present in human nature, each with its own needs. These temperaments could also be described as modes of the spiritual life, or ways of relating to God. It is my purpose here to dwell on this particular aspect of human differentiation—the spiritual temperaments of man.

We can start with a fundamental distinction between bhakti and jnana, which are Hindu terms corresponding to love and knowledge as spiritual temperaments. These two primary types—love and knowledge—seem to precede all others, all others presenting themselves as variations of these two.

The disciple of love, or the bhakta, pursues God by distinguishing between charity and selfishness, or love and egoism. The bhakta emphasizes fervor and devotion, seeking salvation through faith and, in a subordinate but necessary way, good works. Bhaktic religion focuses on “salvation,” usually through the invocation of the Divine Name. As examples, we can cite Christianity, which seems to be the only religion emphasizing bhakti as a primary way, whereas in other traditions it is present but secondary.

For the jnanin, or the disciple of knowledge, the all-important distinction is between truth and error. While the bhakta concerns himself with righteousness before God, and as a result, salvation from his own unrighteousness through faith, the jnanin pursues “realization” through contemplation. What matters to him is not so much salvation as knowledge of God, since to know God is, in a sense, to be united with Him. While the bhaktic way leads men to become sons of God via devotion to a Divine Name, the jnanin seeks to become one with God, and this is the meaning of Deliverance.

Each type has its strengths and weaknesses, and when they go astray they go in predictable ways. The bhakta, by his efforts to overcome selfishness in the name of charity, will naturally tend toward moralism and emotionalism, because the goal of overcoming the ego in the name of love naturally requires a focus on fellow-feeling and right action. Catholic legalism is an example of the moralistic over-emphasis on right action; Protestant sentimentalism, on the other hands, displays the over-zealous pursuit of devotional feeling. Both of these extremes belong to the bhaktic way.

The jnanin, for his part, tends to lack an appreciation for beauty and can easily become allergic to all things human, since the human condition is merely relative and is ultimately nothing in comparison to the Absolute, which it is the goal of jnanin to come to know. But the realization sought by the jnanin cannot be achieved except within a human context, and the beauty of the religious life, which provides the very atmosphere in which contemplation takes place and acts as its support.

The disciple of love risks neglecting knowledge and tends to spurn the very concept of orthodoxy, which for the jnanin is everything, and in this way the bhakta will resemble a fleshly body that lacks a skeleton: embodying warmth and beauty but lacking direction and support. The jnanin, for his part, may lack charity and will easily become like a skeleton without flesh, clinging to the abstract as if theory were the total of reality.

The religious tradition functions as the skeletal support for the bhakta. It does his thinking for him, and in this way he participates in the knowledge of the jnanin passively. This is why the major traditions typically make room for the bhaktic way but do not permit it to become a directing force, since the bhakta is prone to “cut off the branch he is sitting on” by denying the primacy of knowledge and orthodoxy that is in fact his sustenance and the only thing that permits him to safely pursue the Divine.

The bhakta is permitted to sacrifice his judgement in faith, as is his way, only when he operates within the context of a tradition which makes all of these necessary judgements for him. The way of love/faith requires dogmas in which to place one’s faith. Outside of the traditional context, the bhaktic way becomes dispersed and impotent until it dissolves entirely, even if it leaves behind a residue of vague religiosity. Such is the case with much of modern Protestantism which, acting on a legitimate impulse, surgically removed itself from the only body in which it could have thrived. This does not mean that all the blame for this must be placed at the feet of Protestantism, for by this analogy we mean to say that it represented a “vital organ” in the Christian body, and it was surgically removed in part because the protectors of orthodoxy—the jnanin—failed to appreciate its value and so permitted it to be separated from the body. Its loss is felt and is apparent: both sides have suffered from the operation.

Inward and outward equilibrium

The seat of equilibrium for the jnanin is the intellect. The intellect is not properly speaking human but is the human link with God. It is pre-human or supra-human. This means that for the man of knowledge, all worldly activity has a relative character and is, compared to what concerns him the most, unreal. The bhakti believes this also and he is happy to remind himself that he is “in the world but not of it,” but the difference is that the jnanin would not need to be told this at all, much less reminded. For him this knowledge conditions his awareness: he cannot not know it. Again, this is because the seat of his awareness is in the intellect. He is “inward,” and lives from within, and all action is relative.

Orthodoxy and universality

The jnanin will confuse and frustrate the bhakti by a paradoxical universality: he will insist on strict orthodoxy, since nothing is more offensive to him than error on any plane, but at the same time he may embrace the validity of alien religions. Since the world of human limitation is what it is, it is possible that there are multiple orthodoxies, and the jnanin will be capable—while the bhakta will not—of vigorously protecting the orthodoxy of “his world” without denying the existence of other orthodoxies, since he will understand that both are worth protecting in their own right.

For jnana, the protectors of knowledge, it is not this or that truth which matters, but Truth. Thus, it should not be surprising when these people are more offended by minor doctrinal extravagances within their own orthodoxy than by the existence of orthodoxies (other religions). The man of faith, on the other hand, is hardly able to perceive doctrinal deviations as they occur, and so heresy in his church isn’t a concern of his, and yet he is ready to go to war with any and every alien tradition as soon as he discovers them. We find this expressed in Christianity today, where most believers see no evil greater than “other religions,” particularly Islam; but the Magisterium seems little concerned about Islam, or about any other tradition, while spending a great deal of effort and energy to keep its own house in order. This is why the bhakta cannot be left to his own lights when it comes to the protection of knowledge: in the case just mentioned, he will permit his own house to be destroyed from within while spending all his energy trying to burn down the house of another faith, nor will it trouble him that he knows nothing about the people who live there. It is enough for him that they are “not of this house.” This all makes sense given the outward nature of the bhakta: what offends him is not the appearance of error but the absence of the love he feels for his God: in this sense, the Christian believer does not need to know and understand Islam in order to judge whether it possesses the truth and to what degree: it is enough to know that it rejects the Divine Name of Jesus Christ, which to the Christian bhakta is everything and beyond which is nothing.

For the believer, the disciple of love, religious conflict is always personal. It is all about Christ conceived as a person with whom one must be on good terms and to whom one must show the proper respect. For the jnana, religious conflict is intellectual, hinging entirely on the presence or absence of truth in a doctrine. He acknowledges the “personhood” of Christ but he does not relate to Him “as a person,” since personhood is relative. He relates instead via the Intellect, and so he relates not to the name Christ but to the Principle of which Christ is the manifestation, and so what is important to him is not so much that everyone speak the name of Christ but rather that everyone understand and know the Principle, and this Principle has many names.

Here we should pause to head off a confusion regarding the “intellectuality” of the jnanin. What we have in mind is not mere speculation or rational thought or philosophizing, much less do we mean erudition or “learning.” The intellectuality of the jnanin, insofar as he is truly following his path, is manifested in a contemplative communion with the Divine which proceeds via symbolism to the realization of supra-rational Truth. In other words, what the modern world calls an “intellectual” is not a jnanin but is something very different and—usually just an accumulator of profane data and theory. What we have in mind is instead the Intellect as understood by the traditional doctrine, which is to say the supra-human link with the Divine, which proceeds not by rational thought but by transcendent intuition. The intellect is “pure knowledge.” Rational thought is always proceeding by distinctions, whereas intellection does not and grasps things as they are, beyond relativity and distinction. If there is still confusion on this point, the reader should examine the other passages of this manual that pertain specifically to knowledge and the Intellect as an aspect of man’s becoming. It is true that the contemplative will display the same theorizing rationality of the modern intellectual, but the difference is that he does not pursue thought and theory for themselves alone or for any worldly end, but engages in these activity as a means to an end. Nothing matters but the contemplation of the Absolute.

The foregoing was necessary in order for us to be properly understood when we say that jnana as a way is situated beyond the human plane because it proceeds via the Intellect and seeks to “realize” God and not simply to be brought into a particular relation with him. This kind of intellectuality will always be trying to move beyond distinction and duality. Relation, as well as any “relationship,” is by definition “relative,” and the goal of jnana is to get beyond all relativity.

Bhakti as a way is, on the other hand, situated on the human plane, as evidenced by the fact that it pursues the Divine through a “relationship” with the Divine Person. The bhakta accepts relativity as a given and does not seek to transcend it and cannot imagine transcending it. Because of this foundational relativity, he cannot avoid conceiving of God as “other.” This explains the importance of Christ-as-historical-person for the bhakta. The jnanin accepts the same historicity, but does not really worry too much about it, and if he does consider Christ he will find more nourishment in contemplating the cosmic Christ “through whom all things were made” and who precedes history itself and individuality as such. In other words, the “believer,” the man of faith and love, must relate to God as “someone”—as an individual like other men, or if not like them at least resembling them—and this someone must be “out there” rather than inside oneself or beyond oneself.  According to the bhaktic way, salvation itself is a matter of the believer’s proper relation to this “other,” and through this relation (faith) to the other (Christ) the believer is brought into right relation with God. To simplify, in other words, through faith in Christ the believer is saved. Moreover, the framework of love guarantees that this way will take the form of action and affection, which again are means firmly situated on the human plain. The emphasis on belief or “faith” likewise excludes the purely intellectual element and acts as an alternative to it, since the disciples of love are not called to the path of knowledge and participate in the Intellect indirectly, via their traditional context and its doctrinal moorings.

To summarize, the believer takes for granted the human context and works out his salvation according to its means. For the knower, the point of departure the Intellect, which is already beyond the ego. For such a one, it makes no sense to frame everything in the context of ego-other.

Because of what we have just said, it must be acknowledge that there is a hierarchical relationship between jnana and bhakti, in that one is situation on the human plane and one on the supra-human plane.

Through faith in the Divine Name the believer is saved, but the jnanin is not a believer, he is a knower, and as such and according to his nature his way of being “saved” does not coincide with that of the believer. He needs to “know” God directly and does not and cannot pursue salvation strictly within the moral or legal framework of righteousness that is the end-all-be-all to the believer. For both the believer and the knower, we are separated from God by sin, but for the believer this always implies a moral failing and therefore a question of legalistic redemption, whereas for the knower sin is first and foremost a question of ignorance, a separation from God-as-Truth by the fact of relativity. In other words, morality is important but it is a symptom of a separation that exists on a higher plain, and so moral action, however necessary and important it may be to the pursuit of the Divine, is always secondary, which is to say “relative.”

Christ Himself was clear on this point. Again and again he confronts those obsessed with the moral law and with righteousness-as-a-legal-question, and each time he places moral law on a lower plane and demonstrates with clarity that salvation is not ultimately a question of right action. For this reason we must insist that whenever we are confronted with the supposed representatives of doctrinal knowledge and we find that they are obsessed with moral action, that we are not dealing with jnanin or the representatives of jnana. That is to say, the Pharisees were not an example of jnana persecuting bhakti, but were an example of what happens when the class responsible for jnana allows themselves to be ruled by a bhaktic mentality and becomes moralistic rather than contemplative. In other words, the class responsible for the preservation of knowledge is often, in the history of the religion, overwhelmed by individuals who do not belong to that class and whose path is not jnana.

We have gone to great lengths to distinguish between bhakti and jnana as separate paths, but it should be admitted that they are never, in actual fact, completely separate. This is true of traditional religions as a whole, which always contain a mix of the two that may or may not be neatly separated. It is also true of individuals, which may be called primarily to one or the other path, but in whom the tendencies of both will always be present to some degree. In other words, there is no “pure” jnana, since such a one would be identical with God and cease to exist separately from him; and there is no “pure” bhakta, since this person would be locked into the relative and could never reach the Divine.

What we have just said requires an additional clarification. Both paths intermix but it is union with the Divine that is in a sense the ultimate goal of both: the difference is that one pursues it directly and the other indirectly. This is why, although one can never really “get beyond” jnana without losing everything, one can in a sense abandon bhakti if one is in a position to transcend it. But this should be considered a lost resort or a final end, and not something that even the greatest contemplative can do at will. It is simply the admission in practice that moral action does not have the last word. Here we can cite Ananda Coomaraswamy:

“There always remains a last step, in which the ritual is abandoned and the relative truths of theology are denied. As it was by the knowledge of good and evil that man fell from his first estate, so it must be from the knowledge of good and evil, from the moral law, that he must be delivered at last. However far one may have gone, there remains a last step to be taken, involving a dissolution of all former values. A church or society—the Hindu would make no distinction—that does not provide a way of escape from its own regimen, and will not let its people go, is defeating its own ultimate purpose.”[1]

[1] Hinduism and Buddhism, I, “The Social Order.”

Intellect and will

So far we’ve used various terms to clarify the love-knowledge distinction. We’ve used primarily the jnana-bhakti distinction, borrowed from Hinduism, but also used several terms interchangeably with the “love” component, such as “faith” and “devotion.” All of these highlight the fact that bhakti is situated on the plain of action. There is still another way of framing the confrontation, which is the intellect-will distinction, and this way of dealing with the distinction became particularly pronounced in Christianity through the opposition between Duns Scotus and Thomas Aquinas. For Scotus, the will was primary, while for Aquinas it was the Intellect. While we can say that from the point of view of the Absolute, Aquinas was perhaps “more right,” but at the same time we need to point out that Thomistic philosophy limits itself to a rationalized conception of the Intellect and in this sense it stops short of metaphysics properly speaking. It is this self-limitation that opened the way for Scotus, who was, for his part, right in seeing the Thomistic form of Intellect-primacy as insufficient, hence his formulation which placed the will above all else.

Bhakti is the perfection of the will; jnana is the perfection of the Intellect. This summarizes each, and demonstrates why no imperfect being can perfectly exemplify one or the other.

The opposition between Aquinas and Scotus should be seen as the opposition between a kind of baptized rationalism and a transcendent voluntarism. Scotus developed the doctrine of the will to its fullest while Aquinas (without unduly insulting his work) degraded the doctrine of the Intellect, and the result was that the two could appear to be placed on the same plane and come into opposition. The truth is that the will, being the principle of action, belongs to the relative order. All action is relative, in other words. This means that the will is subject to the Intellect properly understood, which is its principle. But this is only true if the Intellect is properly understood as supra-rational and, in its essence, not other than the mind of God Himself insofar in which the individual participates. If one stops short of this doctrine of the Intellect, then one gets a limited notion that is only slightly more than the rational faculty itself. The intellect is no longer clearly seen as the principle of the will and in order to demonstrate it as such one must do a bunch of philosophical gymnastics, which not everyone, including Duns Scotus, will accept.

The point of this digression is to say that a bhaktic people will tend to see things in terms of will and action, and the first thing to be lost in this context will be a proper appreciation of the Intellect as inherently Divine. The identity of Intellect and the Absolute, once lost, is difficult to recover. One cannot arrive at the identity by elaborating from below. Aquinas is an example of what it looks like when you try. He worked from the point of view of relativity and built his epistemology accordingly, effectively decapitating the Intellect. It is telling that he tried to fill in the void by grace and faith—in other words, he made up for the absence of the Intellect in exactly the way we would expect from a bhakta. This does not mean that he was necessarily of that spiritual type, but we cannot deny that his whole theology is a bhaktic theology, and so is that of Scotus, although more explicitly by making the will primary. Both of these men produced bhaktic systems because they worked within the context of a budding rationalism that in a few centuries would become Descartes.

It is also notable that Aquinas drew much from his Islamic contemporaries, and that one of the most significant points on which he ignored them was precisely on the Divinity of the Intellect. For Aquinas, as the reader may know, man needed a kind of “infusion of grace,” which is to say man needs specific Divine intervention in order to participate in the Intellect, as opposed to the Islamic and traditional view which is that the Intellect itself is Divine and requires no intervention since it is what it is. This rejection of traditional “intellectuality” demonstrates, in minute clarity, the mental rift between East and West in its beginnings, and between Europe and the other traditional worlds.

We can conclude by saying that the examples of these two men are helpful to demonstrate that a person need not be a pure-and-simple bhakta in order to fight against jnana, since Aquinas clearly had a profound contemplative life. Moreover, this allows us to see that powerful minds do not necessarily always produce complete doctrines if the forces of the Age are working against them, which was precisely the case near the close of the medieval period. The whole lesson of cosmic cycles and the Dark Age is that doctrine will (in fact must) become more and more obscured. Try as they may, even men as great as Aquinas and Scotus cannot stop it.

All things participate in the Intellect

All things participate in intelligence, although we only refer to those who have the power of active participation as “intelligent.” Even vegetable life possesses knowledge in its way, or else it could not become what it is. Man is the most intelligent being because only he has the power to actively participate in the Intellect—to realize it in himself. But this does not mean that a given man, who is by nature intelligent, will always actively participate in intelligence. Men also have the capacity to forgo the exercise of this power and to revert to passive participation. They continue to think, but at a low level and in a way similar to the higher animals, and regarding this level of participation the scientists are correct who see in man and ape only a difference of degree and not of kind. The error here is in taking only the instinctual, passional man as the standard for the comparison.

All men are intelligent, or else they could not think at all, but thought, or the exercise of the rational faculty, is not identical with the Intellect. Rational thought is the instrument of the Intellect in rational beings: it is evidence of the Intellect, but is not the thing itself. It is possible that the reason becomes so tenuously connected to the Intellect that it ceases to be subject to its principle and becomes “unprincipled.” It will then serve some lower faculty, which might take the form of a mental passion, of which materialistic science is one. It might also mean that reasoning is subject to an emotion or a temperament, and that it acts only as directed by this passion. This is why we say that reasoning alone cannot guarantee the truth of anything, since we can reason ourselves into anything, provided we desire it.

Masculine and feminine

We can speak of the relationship between the jnanic and bhaktic ways by saying the jnana is masculine and bhakti feminine. This should not be interpreted in such a way as to degrade those of a bhaktic nature any more than it is degrading to women to be feminine. What this classification does is describe characteristic and relations. Moreover, we should remind the read that Christ Himself spoke of the faithful collectively as the “bride” and he the groom. Likewise, it has been commonly observed in the writings of the saints that there is a markedly feminine tone in them. This is only surprising if one forgets that Christianity is a predominantly bhaktic way.

Intellect and reason

Here we will quote Frithjof Schuon:

“[I]ntellectual genius should not be confused with the mental acuity of logicians; intellectual intuition comprises in its essence a contemplativity that is in no way part of the rational capacity, this capacity being logical rather than contemplative; now it is contemplative power, receptivity toward the uncreated Light, the opening of the Eye of the heart, which distinguishes transcendent intelligence from reason. Reason perceives the general and proceeds by logical operations, whereas the Intellect perceives the principial—the metaphysical—and proceeds by intuition.”[1]

[1] Gnosis: Divine Wisdom, p. 36.

The jnana cannot neglect charity

After having established the logical primacy of jnana (knowledge) over bhakti¸one might wonder why the jnanin need bother at all with charity, especial when the context in question is the modern one where the traditional moral structures have been cleared way and at any rate are not practically accessible. To this, we simply answer that knowledge requires virtue not because the Intellect is insufficient but because man is not the Intellect, at least not insofar as he is an undelivered and relative human being. Man as man requires the supports of virtue, which is to say morality and the actions that go with it, because virtue brings all of the relativities of human existence into right order and only the virtuous man has properly ‘prepared’ himself to be a receptacle of knowledge. Thus, while it is possible to imagine an immoral contemplative, even a powerful contemplative who is also powerfully immoral, it can be stated with certainty that such a person would be far more powerful if he were also virtuous. Disregard for right action is therefore perilous because it can easily blot out the light. It is risky to the utmost degree. Here we finally see why the jnanin should always be sure to protect the pursuits of the bhakta even if he does not always appreciate them. He depends on bhakti to create an environment in which he can thrive, the incense for the performance of his ritual, even if his vocation is technically prior to the moral order. It is the bhakta who builds the cathedral in which the jnanin contemplates the Absolute.

Intrinsic virtue and the moral law

The disciple of knowledge cultivates intrinsic virtue; the disciple of faith and love tends toward the observation of an extrinsic moral law. Both are necessary for each and every being and no one can completely neglect either intrinsic virtue or extrinsic law without arriving at a kind of Pharisaism or self-alienation from the real.

The ego-other distinction

The bhakta sees salvation as a struggle to overcome selfishness (egoism) and for this reason his primary distinction is between love of self and love of other, whether this other is his neighbor or God. In other words, he has for his foundation the ego-other dualism. His goal is to “die to self” in favor of a selfless love for this “other.” The jnanin does not deal in oppositions but sets himself to transcending dualism, which means that the only thing he must love is the one true Self, principle of all selves, his or anyone else’s. The jnanin does not love either himself or his neighbor, but loves the Self in both himself and his neighbor. Insofar as he admits of ‘egoism’ as a problem, he sees it less in terms of a moral selfishness than in a failure to know the Self in created beings. We can point out that this transcendence of the self-other perspective is present in Thomism when it is said that a man must love himself even above his neighbor for the sake of his own salvation, which is to say, the Christian must die to self so that he can love the Self in himself, but this will already coincide with any real love for his neighbor, regardless of the order in which he cultivates the loves. It is merely a matter of relation or emphasis.

The necessity of charity for all types

Everyone needs to integrate charity into their lives because man is not pure Intellect, but is body-soul-spirit and as this composite he is situated in the human order, which is the order not of intellection but of action, which to say of love. Yes, charity is transcended but this implies that it is already integrated into one’s being—transcendence is not rejection but implies the possession of the thing transcended. It means that the thing is no longer relied upon as the primary support. An absence of virtue divides man against himself and undermines even valid intellectual pursuits.

We receive and we are the Truth

We have mentioned already the disconnect between Thomist epistemology and the traditional doctrine regarding knowledge. At root this represents a failure to synthesize antimonies, which is the plague of rationalistic schools of thought. The light of the Intellect is natural to man but its present is not constant because it is of the same order as that “spirit that blows where it listeth” and cannot be controlled or predicted or manipulated. Thus, the apprehension of spiritual truths are, as Aquinas would have it, a matter of grace and in this respect they have the appearance of a superadded “gift” that man receives; but this capacity to receive the Truth and, by receiving it to be the truth, is proof that this power is “supernaturally natural” to man. The presence of the Light in the mind of man is subject to fluctuation and can be rejected or accept to our own detriment or development, but this does not mean that its presence is not as “normal” as breathing is to the body.

Apophasis and negative virtue

The bhakta pursues positive virtue, and judges himself by what he accomplishes. Likewise his relationship with God is conceived in terms of who Christ was and what he did and his relationship with these facts.

The jnanin pursues a virtue that is in a sense “negative”: he judges himself by how far he has purified himself of confusions. He does not ask if he is being charitable but whether or not he is seeing past the illusion of things, discarding errors. His theology reflect this approach, being normally apophatic. It is notable that in many bhaktic spiritual manuals the emphasis is on personal conduct: St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life and the famous Imitation of Christ. These are far different in tone and emphasis than apophatic works such as The Cloud of Unknowing which takes pains early on to explain the distinction between Mary (contemplative life) and Martha (active life) and to warn the student that the latter will never understand the former, and only then does the author offer his advice on the pursuit of this “unknowing” approach to the unknown God. It is also very telling that the author to this work is anonymous.

Law and orthodoxy

Christ did not come to replace the law because the law cannot be replaced without instituting chaos. There can be no lawless Christianity. Jnana is spirit while bhakti is form, and without the superstructure of orthodoxy, which is the concern of jnana, bhaktic art, music, and architecture will become disconnected from Truth, and Beauty cannot exist apart from Truth. In other words, as much as the modern spirit, which is a kind of perverse and isolated bhakti, would like to proclaim an ‘art for art’s sake’ through which the artist owes no allegiance to Truth in his work, this kind of work can only result in ugliness. The bhakti always has need of orthodoxy in order for it to develop and thrive without detaching itself from transcendence, just as we have already said that jnana has need of bhakti’s musical, artistic, and architectural productions in order to support its contemplative work.

Two perfections

We can summarize what has been said by describing jnana (knowledge) and bhakti (love) as two perfections, and they should not be imagined to be comparable to what in contemporary psychology are called “personality types.” These are spiritual types that result in two fairy distinct vocations or paths, and each individual will find himself “called” toward one more than the other, although the two frequently intersect. Due to the intermingling of jnanabhakti across what is really a spectrum of subtypes in mankind, we find a diversity that is complex than the fundamental pair. When a traditional civilization focuses on these distinctions with a view toward providing each man a means of realizing himself within his vocation and according to his spiritual type, the result is a hierarchically order society of types, which are called castes. This last subject will be taken up alongside our sections on Hinduism, since caste, although universal in principle, has received its most detailed elaboration in that tradition.