At this time of year, it is certainly de rigueur to meditate on the meaning, actuality, or possibility of the Incarnation of the Logos in Jesus Christ. This will involve brief excursions into the implications for a spiritual path, metaphysics, and the radical change in the world process in the current cycle.
Of its actuality, I am sure all readers are familiar with the story; if not, it is easy enough to find. There will be objections to the story as miraculous and incredible, but these objections can only arise from an a priori commitment to a positivist world view that cannot prove itself to be true. If, on the other hand, one is ready to accept the actuality of unusual preternatural or supernatural phenomena, e.g., miraculous cures, amazing powers of yogis and tulkus, the skills of magicians, etc., then the story of the birth of Jesus cannot be so easily rejected. There is only the “vexed theological question of grace”, as Julius Evola called it in a recent translation; some will be willing to see it, others will not.
However, in this meditation, we are not as interested in the Incarnation as a matter of faith, but rather as gnosis. We will stipulate it as a given, and move on. As one of our mottos indicates, “truth lies in the interior of man” (St Augustine). Augustine moved beyond Neo-Platonism when he came to the realization that the Logos of the Greek philosophers, understood in an objective and exterior way, was actually the same Logos Who was incarnated and is known in man’s interiority.
The Path of Affirmation
This is expressed in the Path of Affirmation that is conceivable in the Incarnation. All previous forms of spirituality follow the path of denial. Specifically, these would include Advaita Vedanta, Buddhism, and Neo-Platonism. This path ultimately tries to transcend the material conditions of life, including the human person, by the realization of one’s true identity as Brahman or the One. In this path, any determination is a limitation.
In the Path of Affirmation, on the contrary, God is approached through these determinations. St Athanasius describes the Incarnation: Not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the Manhood into God. This differs from Oriental the idea of an Avatar in which a god takes on the appearance of a man for a specific purpose, e.g., Parashurama, an avatar of Vishnu, appeared to overcome the rule of the Kshatriyas.
Rather, the Logos raised up the human to God, once and for all. Christ, as the second Adam, restored the possibility of the Primordial state to man. In this Path, man is not annihilated, so that only God remains, but instead there are two who are united. Although largely ignored in common practice, this is an essential element of the catholic, apostolic, Roman religion. Some quick examples, although many more can be found, including the official Catechism:
Irenaeus: The Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself.
Clement of Alexandria: The Word of God became man, that you may learn from man how man may become God.
Of course, the premier example of this teaching is Dante’s Divine Comedy, where he shows us the path to union with God through the rich imagery of his poetry.
In Christian Hermetism, particularly as evidenced in Valentin Tomberg in our time, the birth of the Logos in consciousness is the result of the alchemical marriage between the Holy Spirit and the purified soul. That becomes the new, or absolute self, in union with the Father, or absolute being.
So, the goal of this path is the spiritual and alchemical transformation of man, and even the world. Ultimately, no one can be convinced of this through any type of rational argument, so this is only an invitation to follow that path. Once any type of realization of this nature is reached, one’s faith is secure.
The World Process
In the literature on tradition, most of the attention is focused on metaphysical teachings that aim to transcend all material circumstances. There is lip service to social organization, viz., the idea of castes and hierarchy, as well as the notion of cycles of the four ages. However, the relation of metaphysics to the world process is often left unclear; to those who are striving to be liberated from all worlds, what difference would it make?
But, if the real path is the Path of Affirmation, then it does indeed make a difference. In the idea of the four ages, there is often the misconception that the ages run according to some independent and objective cosmic clock. If that is true, then one can be passive and simply wait for events to occur. In particular, the end of the Kali Yuga comes at the prescribed moment apart from any consciousness of it. That is indeed odd for a teaching that regards consciousness as primary over the physical and material. If that were true, then Guenon’s call for the establishment of a new elite would make no sense.
All traditions recognize three forces: the three gunas in the Vedanta, or the Great Triad of Taoism. We will stick to the Western formulation of Providence, Will, and Destiny. Destiny is the automatic and deterministic element of the world process. Its law is that of increasing entropy; left to its own devices, the world winds down, ultimately to a totally undifferentiated state. This is compatible with profane science.
Of course, such a state is impossible, since nothing could occur in it and God is Infinite possibility. Providence is God’s or Heaven’s influence on the process, not through force, but rather through suggestion and persuasion. This opens up new possibilities, especially the possibility for a new world to follow the old when all its possibilities have been exhausted. The middle term in this is the Will of man, responding to Providence and transforming his being and that of the world.
Creation and Redemption
The pagan view of cycles was defective. It regarded the world as uncreated with no beginning and man as perpetual. Hence, cycles reoccurred, in perpetual return, the same thing over and over. Even Guenon rejected this, since, in his view, a world had a beginning and an end, the end of one being the beginning of another, much different, world.
This we take as closer to the truth. Hence, we must understand the cycle, from a perfect age to an ever more degenerate one, and finally to the birth of a new age that is both in continuity with and different from its predecessor. This must be understand as a drama involving God, man, and the earth, not as the predetermined result of a mindless process, or even worse, some demiurge.
Hence, the transition from a golden age to a lesser one, did not happen according to some calendar, but was rather the result of man’s will. On the other side, the transition from the kali yuga to a golden age cannot happen from within the world process but rather it must be interjected into it from a transcendent or providential source, to then be adopted by the Will of man, at least by some who will be the leaven.
So the Incarnation is the beginning of the process of Redemption, that is, the regeneration of man and the world in a world to come. That is why Valentin Tomberg could regard Creation and Redemption as the two great magical acts since magic “requires the perfect union in Love between two distinct and free wills: the divine and the human”.
We know creation interiorly through the memory of the Primordial state and its loss. There is the testimony of saints and mystics, there is the evidence of it through perduring vestigial preternatural powers of the soul; ultimately, conviction comes through our own remembrance of that state.
Similarly, for the Incarnation. We know that there have been saints who have reached the divine union in this live, the Western equivalent of the jivan-mukti. We, too, may have been graced with a taste of that union.
A follow up will deal with the scientific and metaphysical issues involved with this.