This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Christian mysteries

All traditions are constituted as a two-fold, esoterism-exoterism, hierarchically related teaching. The difficulty with Christianity is that, unlike other traditions, its exoterism is one ‘of fact’ and not ‘of principle.’ It was never consciously formulated or developed, and so the line between the two levels of doctrine remains blurred, if indeed it is acknowledged at all. To quote (once again) Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar:

Even so truly a ‘church of the people’ as the Catholic Church does not abolish genuine esotericism. The secret path of the saints is never denied to one who is really willing to follow it. But who in the crowd troubles himself over such a path?[1]

Christians do not consider their religion to have an esoteric component because they are too familiar with it. They do not understand it, mind you, but they are so familiar with it that they forget that they do not understand it. For example, the doctrine of the Trinity and the Eucharist are both purely esoteric, and while contemporary Protestantism pretends to have rejected all of these elements that are not ‘obvious’ and immediately accessible, first and foremost the Eucharist, it retains almost unanimously the Trinity, which is no more comprehensible on rational grounds and is a doctrine which could in no way be derived from Scriptures alone. It is part of the Tradition and persists in Protestant theology only as an odd superstition.

The term ‘mystery’ is also inseparable from initiatory and therefore esoteric doctrines, but here also Christians have become so familiar with the term that they generally assume it means no more than it means it common parlance: something mysterious, to be ‘believed,’ and that is all. In other words, when applied within the religious or ‘theological’ sphere, the term is simply a mask for the fact that certain doctrines are not capable of theological proof. Instead of having the positive meaning it retains within the initiatic order, mystery becomes an admission or ignorance.

To further elaborate on the meaning of ‘mystery’ when used in the religious or exoteric domain, we can refer to the example of the Trinity. Now Divine Unity is easy comprehensible to anyone of sound mind, and so it is capable of exoteric formulation. The Trinity, however, pertains to a development of Divine Unity at a more differentiated and secondary point of view. It is an aspect of Divine Unity. Particularized knowledge is, by nature, not accessible to everyone, and the Trinity itself cannot be formulated in exoteric terms–as a thing both necessary and accessible to all, for it is neither of those things. Augustine said that the Trinity was ‘incomprehensible’, and from the standpoint of rational development, he was speaking truly. That is why the Trinity is only accessible to those capable of engaging with metaphysical knowledge, and this is not a common aptitude.

We must insist, however, that from the standpoint of pure intellectuality, no mystery, however ‘mysterious’ it may be from the exoteric point of view, is incomprehensible. The only thing that is properly speaking ‘incomprehensible’ is pure nothingness, or ‘impossibility,’ which, as ‘nothing,’ cannot become an object of the understanding.

There is much more to be said about the role of ‘mystery’ and its doctrinal significance, and so we will dedicate a separate section to this subject.

[1] The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics, vol. 1.

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