Like a Moth to a Flame
The two primary conditions of elementary life are attraction and repulsion. A healthy organism will be attracted to whatever is good for it, including its genetic integrity. Likewise, it will be repulsed by anything that threatens its well-being, again including its genetic integrity.
In the animal soul, an emotional element is added to those conditions. Attraction and repulsion are no longer merely mechanical, but are reinforced by that strong emotional component. Since there is no abstract intelligence in animals, these emotions can be easily fooled. For example, the proverbial moth is attracted to light, which is good, but also to a flame, which will be its downfall.
Many people live primarily an animal life of emotion, with occasional forays into a true intellectual understanding. These emotions have quite a hold, so it is difficult to dissuade them from unnatural attractions and repulsions, because they feel so good. That emotional life is so sweet and appealing, except when it isn’t.
The definition of love, for such people, is defective, since it is purely passive:
Love is attraction with a strong and pleasant emotional component.
True Love, on the other hand, is active, a matter of the will. The intellect must decide what is attractive and repulsive; the emotions and body will follow.
To Love is to will the Good.
Stray Dogs in the Intellect
If our intellect is inexperienced in the art of watchfulness it at once begins to entertain whatever impassioned fantasy appears in it, and plies it with illicit questions and responds to it illicitly. Then our own thoughts are conjoined to the demonic fantasy, which waxes and burgeons until it appears lovely and delectable to the welcoming and despoiled intellect. The intellect then is deceived in much the same way as lambs when a stray dog comes into the field in which they happen to be: in their innocence they often run towards the dog as though it were their mother, and their only profit in coming near it is that they pick up something of its stench and foulness. In the same way out thoughts run ignorantly after demonic fantasies that appear in our intellect and, as I said, the two join together and once can see them plotting to destroy the city of Troy like Agamemnon and Menelaus. For they plot together the course of action they must take in order to bring about, in practice and by means of the body, that purpose which the demons have persuaded them is sweet and delectable. In this Way sins are produced in the soul: and hence the need to bring out into the open what is in our hearts. (from the Philokalia)
Beyond Good and Evil
Many people claim to have learned of “unconditional love” from their relationship with a pet. Now unconditional love is not necessarily desirable if the object of such love is not the Good. True Love is an act of the will toward the Good.
Now the dog is beyond good and evil, and has no interest in the moral state of its human companion. It is only interested in what is good or bad for its own well-being.
Oddly enough, such people like being the recipient of the pet’s “unconditional love”, but not so much as the giver of such love. A woman who took that lesson to heart would experience better relations with her lover. For example, she would give him three square meals a day, clean up his shit without complaint, and scratch his belly every night. Try that at home and let me know.
States of the Spirit in the World
In Heaven and Hell #435, Emmanuel Swedenborg writes:
All this has been said to convince the rational man that viewed in himself man is a spirit, and that the corporeal part that is added to the spirit to enable it to perform its functions in the natural and material world is not the man, but only an instrument of his spirit. But evidences from experience are preferable, because there are many that fail to comprehend rational deductions; and those that have established themselves in the opposite view turn such deductions into grounds of doubt by means of reasonings from the fallacies of the senses.
Here is the key to understand Swedenborg. He is not really describing a visit to the spirits in Heaven or Hell at some future time, but he is describing phenomenologically the spiritual states of people in the here and now. This is a matter of direct experience and is called in Tradition “external considering” or “reading souls”.
This is obvious from this paragraph from the web site of the Swedenborg Foundation:
Swedenborg writes that each person self-selects a destination in the afterlife depending on what they loved most while on earth. Those who become evil spirit are people who love things like power and wealth and even being cruel to others at the cost of all else. After death, such people push away anything that was good within them and become completely focused on the thing that they value above all else—they become their emotions in tangible form. Spirits are grouped together into societies according to what they love.
Such behavior does not just happen “after death”, but right now in the life of such persons. The death referred to here is a “spiritual death”. Swedenborg’s colorful descriptions of the various evil spirits he encountered are his way of describing their inner soul life.
Continuing his discussion of #435, Swedenborg denies that pets “go to heaven” because, unlike man, they are not spirits. Nevertheless, many people have little self-knowledge of themselves as spirits in the world and remain entrenched in corporeal imagery. They can see little difference between themselves and animals.
People who have convinced themselves [of the opposite view] tend to think that animals live and sense just the way we do, so that they too have a spiritual nature like ours; yet this dies along with their bodies. However, the spiritual nature of animals is not the same as ours. We have an inmost nature that animals do not, a nature into which the Divine flows and which it raises toward itself, in this way uniting us to itself. So we, unlike animals, can think about God and about divine matters of heaven and the church. We can love God because of these matters and by engaging with them; and so be united to him; and anything that can be united to the Divine cannot be destroyed. Anything that cannot be united to the Divine, though, does disintegrate.”
I don’t he writes about the destination of those who love their dogs more than they love God, other than that they will organize themselves together, probably into a pack.
Living like a Dog
A year or two ago, I watched a short feature – whose title now eludes me – about a man who designed a pharmaceutical that turned him temporarily into a dog. His drug became very popular, so that clubs arose whose members became dogs, prowling the streets of the city, and rutting, for a night, only to return to the human state in the morning.
Eventually, the authorities regarded his drug as the cause of a public nuisance and ordered him to cease and desist manufacturing and distributing the drug. Instead, he found a way to make the effects permanent and turned himself – and his many followers – into dogs.
The Complete Man
Nicolas Cabasilas (1320-1392) is a Greek saint and his writings appear in the Roman Liturgy of the Hours. According to Mircea Eliade, he considered the layman to be superior to the monk. The goal of the latter is the angelic life while that of the layman is the complete man.
[The Law of Love] demands no arduous nor afflicting work, nor loss of money; it does not involve shame, nor any dishonor, nor anything worse; it puts no obstacle in the pursuit of any art or profession. The general keeps the power to command, the labourer can work the ground, the artisan can carry on with his occupation. There is no reason to retire into solitude, to eat unusual food, to be inadequately clothed, or endanger one’s health, or to resort to any other special endeavor; it suffices to give oneself wholly to meditation and to remain always within oneself without depriving the world of one’s talents.”
This confirms our claim about the need, in our time, for the spiritual man to be active in the world. The complete man actualizes all his possibilities, not just the angelic ones. The spirituality of the monks has dominated religious discourse, although it is not necessarily appropriate for the man living in the world. It is to these latter men that the future belongs.
Christendom and Skillful Means
Frithjof Schuon describes the spiritual state of European man, and why he had to overcome the ancient pagan religion:
European humanity has about it something Promethean and tragic. It therefore required a religion which could surpass and sublimate the dramatism of the Greek and Germanic gods and heroes. Furthermore, the European creative genius implies a need to “burn what one has worshipped,” and from this comes a prodigious propensity for denial and for change. The Renaissance offers us the clearest proof and the most stupefying example of this, not to speak of what is going on in our own time on an incomparably more dangerous level; it is still “Man” that is at issue, but with totally different emphases.
The new religion overcame the arbitrary forces, experienced as the whims of gods and goddesses, that seemed to dominate life. It added Providence to the forces of Destiny and Will, bringing warmth to the world. With the Logos, the world could be experienced as an ordered cosmos rather than the result of Fate or blind Will. Nevertheless, Schuon points to a certain tension, which has only become more exacerbated over time.
Christianity has a dramatic quality about it: it has the sense of the Sublime rather than that of the Absolute, and the sense of Sacrifice rather than that of Equilibrium. In this second aspect it extends to society as a whole a vocation that is properly speaking ascetic – above all in the Latin Church – something which, as a particular upaya, it certainly has a right to do, but which has nonetheless provoked historical disequilibriums that are both disastrous and providential.
Time, Space, and Equilibrium are the three preliminary conditions of manifestation from which the active, passive, and neutralizing forces arise. If Tradition is the Civilization of Space, then Time will tend to consume Space unless Equilibrium is established. The re-establishment of equilibrium will require the replacement of “skillful means”, that may have been appropriate at a given time and place, but are no longer effective. The tendency to accept upaya as equivalent to dogma must be avoided, since skillful means are appropriate to a particular time and place. Ultimately the goal is prajna, i.e., gnosis.
The Eucharist and Nonduality
The Tao acts and does not exhaust itself. ~ Tao Te Ching
About 6 weeks ago, I heard a sermon at mass on the Eucharist by a visiting priest. In retrospect, I wish I had taken notes for the 45 minute talk, but I had no expectation of it.
Ultimately, it was a nondual explanation of the Eucharist. The thought experiment for the priest was how the Christ can be present in all the hosts while remaining undivided. He compared Christ to the Sun, which is inexhaustible, while all the masses received the light and substance of the Sun. However, this is not a dualism. The priest himself represents Christ, so that he is also present in the Eucharist. Moreover, the whole congregation, is also the Body of Christ, and so is present in the Eucharist.
The sacrifice of the Mass is not a repetition of Calvary, as the heretics mistakenly assert, but is rather the very same sacrifice. So the Eucharist transcends both time and space, and is a theophany connecting the world of being to that of becoming.
The Conversion of Russia
At the end of the Latin rite mass, prayers are said for the conversion of Russia. The missal explains:
These prayers were introduced by Pope Leo XIII to obtain an acceptable solution to the Vatican’s relations with the Italian State after the seizure of the Papal States. After its resolution by the establishment of the Vatican State through the Treaty of 1929, Pope Pius XI asked that these prayers should be said for the conversion of Russia.
So for over 80 years, these prayers have been said. Perhaps some have noticed a small change in Russia today, different from what it was in 1929. What Western ruler has asked his subordinates to study the works of such eminent philosophers like Vladimir Solovyov and Nicolas Berdyaev?
If the Orthodox still have a beef with the West, perhaps they should return the favor instead of engaging in useless carping.
Huxley on Love
Thomas Molnar, in The Decline of the Intellectual, notes the fundamental message of Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World:
Aldous Huxley had come to the disturbing conclusion that culture, that is, the inner man, cannot survive without tragedy, that is, outside traditional society, where human rapports and not scientific organization, prevail. This is the disillusioned statement of the World Comptroller from which everything incalculable, the last ounce of freedom and hence the restlessness accompanying creative work, had been eliminated.
That is, the World Comptroller wants knowledge without gnosis, by which he will organize society. So-called scientific control of society is the dream of leftism, although it is a nightmare for those controlled. It tries to control the outward circumstance of life to replace the sense of inwardness.
It leaves out of the picture transcendence, darkness, the depths – or the abyss. Consider, for example, Jacob Boehme’s revelation of the Ungrund which is prior to Being, from which creative freedom arises, which cannot be anticipated in any scientific organization. The world is a mix, then, of Darkness and Light, and the darkness cannot be hidden by any technocrat. Nay, he actually is the darkness.
Unfortunately, Huxley eventually ended up California dreaming, that strange attractor. Molnar explains:
In a series of lectures sponsored by the University of California, he advocated the strengthening of love among people by suggesting that mothers all over the world, while suckling their babes should rub them against other people and animals saying “nice-nice, good-good,” and should point at everybody around repeating some incantatory formula like “this is a good man, we must love him.”
In other words, he thinks people should start acting more like pet dogs.
Loving your Enemies
If true love is to will the good for someone, then the desire for justice, as the greatest natural virtue, is an expression of love. For example, a general would engage only in a just war with an enemy, not targeting women and children, or anything with no military purpose. Such a general would become a complete man.
Now the principle of justice is “to each his own”, or in other words, in justice a man should get what he is entitled to. In particular, a good general will give the enemy exactly what he deserves.
Answer at the Back of the Book
The angels are the thoughts of God incarnated in the celestial flesh. ~ Pierre Deghaye, La Naissance de Dieu
Specifically, there is an angel of the dogs, which serves as the “group I” for all dogs, which lack an “I”. This angel will know all the dogs, in a supra-individual way, as non-formal manifestation. Presumably you can communicate with that angel and experience your pet “from the inside”, in a much more intimate way.
But first of all, you need to work out your own salvation first.