Twice now in recent days I have been accused by idealistic men of “education” and some standing in their religious communities of being a”gnostic”. Both are fathers. Both are professors. Both are serious to some degree.
Both seemed to be reacting to something that I will continue to press on the kind of which they are members.
They are members of a group of men I would describe as energetically interested in defending their choice of “Christianity” and its claim to be the best choice. They have both chosen Christianity and membership with what apparently is the earthly embodiment of the divine (the body of Christ) here and now.
What elicited the accusation from each of them was a request for verification of the measurement that the church, in the “deeper” spiritual sense that they meant it when affirming its status, was over here and not over there. It was my claim to not know precisely whether I was a member of said spiritual community that startled them. First, they were surprise thinking we were comrades in this community, and my doubt stimulated a rupture in the conversation. Second, they were put on the defense so quickly. The accusation was meant to be from brother to brother. So, they didn’t really take my doubt seriously. They thought I was just being…well me. But neither liked that I was challenging the “settled” judgment about the location of the instantiation of the divine here and now.
The reason for what they called “gnosticism”: there are a few premises one must take seriously, but these men don’t even ask for them. They simply reject out of an instinct to defend, forgetting or ignoring whether there is any reason in the doubt. To them the only one who could doubt would be he who did not assert intellectually by will (they call this faith but it is not. It is really no different than any other willed assertion of words and not faith in any sense. As if merely the intellectual asserttion “The divine is here” would make such a claim true!).
First, the human animal knows through feeling. Yes, he knows. This is his rational aspect. But he is limited to extracting what he knows through feeling. This is his animal aspect. This first premise sets limitations on what we can call knowledge, what we can assert with confidence, and the feeling provides both material and verification. It is that material upon which intellectual work is done and from which knowledge is extracted.
Second, the instantiation of the divine must be a measurement of the presence of the divine and not merely effects that would be consistent with the presence of the divine, as well as explained by other possibilities. Else, the evidence will under-determine the existence of the divine. It is not enough, here not in any other area of investigation, for the evidence to be minimally consistent with a theory, especially if there are multiple possible theories.
Third, the divine is not material or feel-able in any articulat-able or ordinary sense that can raise contact with the divine to knowledge status. This has produced apothatic theology, poetry, mysticism and even in Aquinas analogic meaning which reduces knowledge status. My sense is that it is not until the Modern era of intensification of verification technique that those who wanted to speak of the divine really cranked up the effort to speak in verifiable terms. How else to be taken seriously?
So, no knowledge of the instantiation of the divine is not possible beyond what can be verified. If we lose the notion of verification we will lose the notion of knowledge. In the philosophical community I will be faced with questions about “basic” knowledge or “first principles”. The law of noncontradition? Is it verifiable to the degree that we are certain about it? Yes! It is universally true in experience that nothing can both be and not be at the same time in the same way. So, you are open to that changing in the future which you have not experienced? About as open as I am to anything else that has been universally constant so far changing. No, not very open, and with good reason! Back to our target.
Verification is increased with familiarity, and there is one part of the world in which familiarity is increased exponentially. This is the relation of the human soul to itself. But, what I have found here is imperfect in spite of some (but not all) real training and practice. So, even here, I cannot assert the reality of the divine. The further I get from HERE the further I get from the possibility of verification. The point is, if I am looking for the instantiation of the divine anywhere, the best chance of finding it is here. And I have some evidence. How dare I! Yes, there has been some development here, and such is not naturally explainable (but again, a diversion. Enough that it does not constitute the kind of verification that would satisfy he who desires to know. And I have no interest in trying to satisfy him).
What is wrong with faith as a substitute relation for the assertion of the body of Christ? What is wrong with faith as a willed assertion of a string of words about reality like “This is the church, here.”? Everything! It is nothing. It is phantasmagoric. If you want the church (body of Christ) to be anywhere why not be it instead of merely willing the intellectual capacity to assert it?
This raises the all impoartant question of what faith is, what it is about, and why it is an awful idea to ascribe to faith what he who treats it as a willed string of words ascribes to it.
First, treating faith in this way makes it no different from any other arbitrary willed string of words. Thus, faith would be indistinguishable from sin. (Be careful outwardly faith is often indistinguishable from sin. But inwardly it couldn’t be further from it. Remember how Abraham looked like a child-murderer as the father of faith. Remember that what looks like sin is relative to the character of the perceiver).
Second, faith, as treated by he who recommends it, is inconsistent with sin. He who believes in the sense that the sage Jesus recommends gets what he wants, gets living water, gets the bread of life, gets new life, attains the second birth. Faith is SO MUCH MORE than mere intellectual will and urging something. Whatever else it is, it is the key to the instantiation of the divine. But there are two ways to go here: first, I may think little of faith and that the little I think will get me the instantiation of the divine. Second, I may start from what would be required for the instantiation of the divine and work my way back to what faith must be. The latter is a much safer strategy.
Third, we already have a faculty for the assertion of strings of words. That faculty is meant to map reality Intellectually understood perception of reality). That is all. Utterance arbitrarily separated from the mapping of reality is setting aside what such utterance is for. We need a faculty concerned with sharing reality in communication. To do anything else with it is to demean it. Thought and speech are about mapping reality. To introduce the willing of reality with thought and speech, as reasonable endeavors, is to confuse categories.
Fourthly, given the function of speech is to communicate reality one must first grasp it (the truth). And as long as one is in sin, under-developed, there is truth that one does not grasp(this is tautological). And if it is essential truth, as moral truth is, then such lack risks infecting the communication of any lower part of the truth. Reason is the tool for grasping being. We need a tool for becoming. We need a tool for making progress. We need a tool (faculty) for the development of reason out of unreason, for the making of the good out of the bad, and all of this is unreasonable but necesssary.
Thus, faith. Faith is that which enables a conformity to the structure of the “kingdom of God”, “logos”, dharma” when one is actively becoming any of that. Save faith for that. Save faith for becoming, reason/intellect for being.
The end result is that by silently working toward conformity with the kingdom of God we enhance the presence of the kingdom of God on earth ion the soul that we have control over. Forget the rest (for now). Stoicism is helpful here. But note, the minute we take our efforts off of conformity and invest in measurement (am I secure in my membership? Let’s see…) we fall from our calling. And maybe this is where we should stop. But to my accusers:
Stop worrying about secure membership and do all you can to attain membership. Stop worrying about whether you are worthy of membership in the community that is supposed to be the instantiation of the divine and make yourself worthy of such membership. Let anythign less than real instantiation be mere earthly social club stuff. Leave membership verification in the hands of he who has that capacity (he would have to have already attained status as a measurer of the more material and feel-able). Trust accurate measurement. You just focus on becoming.
Where would such a strong motivation come from to defend confidence in security in membership of the instantiation of the divine in this world? Well, we are social animals, herd animals. Our animal being desperately yearns for membership. It is a part of our security. But this craving also must be spiritualized. When it is, we will care only about membership in the divine body and working toward worthiness. I have looked here inside THIS soul and not found the instantiation yet complete. Back to work. No time for your confidence. Back to work.
He who defends membership in the community that is supposed to be the instantiation of the divine has implied that he is finished becoming. If he has more becoming to do, better to worry about worthiness, then to assume the divine is a part of his imperfection.