This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
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).

Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3| Volume 4 | Volume 5 | Volume 6

Metaphysical realization

It would be wrong to put the goal of Eastern religion, which is spiritual realization, at the apex of all spiritual paths and to judge Christianity according to that standard, since of course the latter, operating in a different mode and utilizing some different techniques, albeit to the same end, would be judged poorly. Nonetheless, if we wish to develop a better understanding of what is meant by metaphysics and intellectual intuition, it will be good to speak a bit more about ‘metaphysical realization’ as it presents itself in Hinduism, as distinct from salvation, which is the ultimate ‘end’ of Christianity.

In short, metaphysical realization assumes that knowing and being are one. Or, to borrow the words of Aristotle, ‘the soul is all that it knows’. And although Western philosophy took so much from Aristotle, it did not really give this affirmation the attention it would seem to have warranted; and in fact Aristotle himself did not develop it very thoroughly. On this point, we find a significant divergence between Western and Eastern thought. The West, ignoring the principle of identity via knowledge, tends to speak in terms of ‘theories of knowledge’ and to delve into endless epistemological concerns, while the East tended to look at knowledge as an actual assimilation on the part of the knower.

Especially in the 17th and 18th centuries, the West became obsessed with ‘epistemological theory’ as an end in itself. In accordance with the scientific mentality, it was the explanation that mattered most, and he who explains a thing exhausts the issue. The East looked at theory as but a preparation for an effective realization of the knowledge in question. Theory is a basis, a means to an end, and the end is metaphysical realization, which is the identification of the knower with the known. Thus, to know God via contemplation is the same as to achieve a real union with Him. Ironically, although Western Christianity tends not to speak in this way, its symbols and metaphors are filled with explicit references to such a union, and no one who has read the works of Teresa of Avila could question that the mystic is describing the psychology of such a union. Nonetheless, since the starting point for the Western mind is not so much the oneness of things but rather the distinction between self and other, so too the religious outlook tends to take as a given a permanent division between creature and Creator, so much so that despite the witness of the mystics and many theologians, even at the moment of salvation it is imagined that it is not so much a union as it is a vision that is in question. That is why the Eastern emphasis on realization and ultimately union with the Absolute in the form of a ‘return to the principle’ may sound very odd to the Western ear.

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