Sunday, February 19, 2012

Quoted in Full (Shuon & Modern Men)

I am particularly taken by Stephen’s critical insight – following Don Colacho – above: “Intellectual resistance is more demanding than military resistance. As the Colombian aphorist Nicolás Gómez Dávila said, ‘To think against is more difficult than to act against.’”

This is, I believe, profoundly true, as the necessary understanding – thoroughly assimilated, firmly held to and hard against the grain of modernity – is sufficiently difficult as to be largely inconceivable to the mass of contemporary individuals. What is needed is a ‘heroic act of the intellect’, a conversion – or, better, an un-inversion – of worldview, with all the concomitant consequences for the soul that flow from this. Man, having turned away from God, must turn back, and – having worked himself into an intellectual cul-de-sac – this re-turning will necessarily be, in critical aspect, intellectual in character.

Let me pass to a garland of quotations from Frithjof Schuon that exemplify the articulation of ‘intellectual resistance’ such as is needful:

“The ‘mystique’ of modern man is one of revolt. Between the spirit of revolt and the spirit of submission there is no communication: like oil and water they neither mix nor understand one another; they speak different languages or lead incompatible lives; there is between them a fundamental divergence of imagination and sensibility, to say the least of it. This spirit of revolt has nothing to do with the holy wrath that is by definition directed against error and vice, but is rather a case of pride posing as victim; it marks both a ‘hardening’ and a ‘freezing’ of the soul; it is a spiritually deadly petrification – for hatred is inseparable from it – and an agitation without issue which only intelligence and grace can conquer.”

– Frithjof Schuon, “Dimensions of Islam”, p.39

“Most ‘intellectuals’, to speak without euphemism, are not intelligent enough to understand writers like Saint Anselm or Saint Thomas Aquinas, that is to say to understand them in depth and to find there evidence of God. The darkening of our world – whether we mean the West properly so called or its ramifications in the East and elsewhere – appears patently in the fact that an extreme mental dexterity goes hand in hand with a no less excessive intellectual superficiality; it has become habitual to treat concepts as if they were playthings of the mind, committing one to nothing, in other words everything is touched on and nothing is assimilated; ideas no longer bite into the intelligence, which slides over concepts without taking time to really to grasp them. The modern mind moves ‘on the surface’, all the time playing with mental images, while not knowing their possibilities and role; whereas the traditional mind proceeds in depth, whence come doctrines, which may seem dogmatist, but are fully sufficient and effectual for those who know what a doctrine is. Twentieth century man has lost the sense of repose and contemplation; living on husks, he no longer knows what fruit is like.”

Frithjof Schuon, “Stations of Wisdom”, pp.x-xi

“Independently of doctrinal atheism and of cultural peculiarities, modern man moves in the world as if existence were nothing, or as if he had invented it; in his eyes it is a commonplace thing like the dust beneath his feet – more especially as he has no consciousness of the Principle at once transcendent and immanent – and he makes use of it with assurance and inadvertence in a life that has been de-consecrated into meaninglessness. Everything is conceived through the haze of a tissue of contingencies, relationships, prejudices; no phenomenon is any longer considered in itself, in its being, and grasped at its root; the contingent has usurped the rank of the absolute; man scarcely reasons any more except in terms of his imagination falsified by ideologies on the one hand and by his artificial surroundings on the other.…What we need is to become once again capable of grasping the value of existence and, amid the multitude of phenomena, the meaning of man; we must once again find the measure of the real!”

– Frithjof Schuon, “Light on the Ancient Worlds”, p.41

“Promethean minds believe themselves to be creatures of chance moving freely in a vacuum and capable of ‘self-creation’, all within the framework of an existence devoid of meaning; the world, so it seems, is absurd, but no notice is taken – and this is typical – of the absurdity of admitting the appearance within an absurd world of a being regarded as capable of remarking that absurdity. Modern man is fundamentally ignorant of what the most childish of catechisms reveals, doubtless in a language that is pictorial and sentimental, yet adequate for its purpose; namely, that we are inwardly connected with a Substance which is Being, Consciousness, and Life, and of which we are contingent and transitory modalities. He is consequently unaware of being involved in a titanic drama in terms of which this world, seemingly so solid, is as tenuous as a spider’s web.”

– Frithjof Schuon, “Logic and Transcendence”, pp.59-60

“It has been said that modern man has lost the sense of sin, the kind of attitude in question can best be described by saying that man no longer has a feeling of his own smallness or that he has become insensitive to all the violations brought about through the decadence of his nature, in short, that he has become insensitive to the point of being pleased with himself and of no longer having any awareness of the ambiguity attaching to his own condition. The empty shadow of this awareness he calls ‘anguish’ and he hates all those who, still possessing this awareness and accepting the positive responsibilities implied therein, escape this ‘anguish’ and thereby also escape ‘revolt’; these two complexes, anguish and revolt, he wishes to make universal, for it is in the nature of man not to wish to go to perdition alone.”

– Frithjof Schuon, “Treasures of Buddhism”, p.57-8


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