The Great Metaphysical Heresies

The Great Christian Heresies crop up again and again, and the Church will probably have to deal with them all the way out to the eschaton. They tempt the mind because they are simply easier to take on board than many of the most difficult and mysterious Christian doctrines, such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Atonement. Being easier to make sense of, they seem to make more sense. And they all start from, and partake of, some kernel of theological truth. This too increases their credibility. But they are all errors.

Nevertheless they are perennial, precisely because they are so much simpler than doctrines that are adequate to reality – to, that is to say, the true doctrines. As perennial, they crop up again and again in various outward trappings. Arianism, modalism, Pelagianism, Gnosticism, and several others are almost always present in theological discourse.

There are likewise certain perennial metaphysical heresies, that are to the truths of metaphysics as the Great Heresies of Christianity are to orthodoxy. Monism, determinism, materialism, relativism, skepticism, atheism, nominalism, acosmism, idealism, and so forth are all in one way or another radically inadequate to reality, and lead to absurd consequences. Of these absurd results they are often quite proud, insisting that normal human experience is illusory. As inadequate to reality, they have no alternative but to repudiate that reality, if they are to survive. So all of them eventually repudiate human experience as such, in the process repudiating themselves.

So long as there are sophomores, these Great Metaphysical Heresies will never go away. We’ll always have to deal with them, and with their cocksure puerile creditors. This needn’t trouble us: sophomores have a way of becoming seniors, or even masters or doctors. Life schools them; or, if not, they become pathetic caricatures of themselves, credible only to succeeding generations of sophomores.

This would all be nothing more than an ivory tower sideshow, amusing, albeit somewhat sad, if it were not for the fact that bad metaphysics functions as a philosophical foundation for quite lethal social policy, as may be seen with the French Revolution or Marxism. Bad politics can arise from all sorts of errors; but if you’ve got the metaphysics wrong, then bad politics are inescapable. Politics expresses the culture, and culture expresses the cult. The cult is the root of everything. So it is important to get the cult right. And this one cannot do, if the metaphysics are bad (except by accident, or by a strict recusal of intellection in respect to matters religious). For cults are chock full of metaphysical propositions, whether or not this is understood by their adherents. Even “there is no such thing as metaphysical truth” is a proposition in metaphysics. Every act, every behavior is an implicit assertion of the truth of at least a few metaphysical propositions, in terms of which such acts make sense.

So not only is there no escape from metaphysics, but there is no escape from the duty to get metaphysics right; for, human flourishing depends upon it.

This is actually heartening news for us in the orthosphere, and for traditionalists and reactionaries more generally. We have no political influence, and that can be quite discouraging. All our influence is philosophical – and, especially, metaphysical. But that’s where the greatest leverage on society is ever to be found.

All we can do right now, apparently, is to educate our own children properly, to live ourselves hale and holy personal lives, and keep writing. But those are the most important and effective things we could possibly do in any case. Since all our thought eo ipso saps the present established cult of Moloch, the main thing is to keep thinking.

18 thoughts on “The Great Metaphysical Heresies

  1. Pingback: The Great Metaphysical Heresies | Neoreactive

  2. All we can do right now, apparently, is to educate our own children properly, to live ourselves hale and holy personal lives, and keep writing.

    You forgot to mention the Sacraments, prayer, sacramentals, and disciplines such as fasting, as well as the encouragement of those one has authority or influence over to practice them. In such hopeless and desperate times as these we must invoke Our Lord more fervently than ever, for it is with His help and His grace alone that we can triumph.

    • Good point. A fool discounts the aid of the Divine Realm at his own peril. In the end, all victories are indicative of force in the invisible world. We must have such forces at our back.

  3. Kristor,

    Do you regard “monism” as the same thing as nondualism? As you know, there has been intense philosophical debate within the various schools of Vedanta- Christianity lining up closest with Madhva’s Dvaita Vedanta. Nevertheless, one of the core doctrines of Christianity, the Trinity, strikes me as a perfect explanation of nonduality.

    • There are a number of flavors of monism, but they all tend toward the same terminus: the notion that there is really only one thing, and that the apparent plurality of things we apprehend are therefore simply not real. This has the effect that all our thought – including the thought that monism might be true – operates on illusions.

      Monism, then, is not quite the same thing as non-dualism. Some non-dualist theories are monist in that strong sense of the term, to be sure, but not all.

      The Trinity is indeed a pretty good way of approaching non-duality. The Trinity is three distinct Persons in one subsistent Being. It is three and one, but it is not three and one in just the same way. It is interesting to apply this analogically to the relation between creature and Creator. They differ in many ways, but are one in one way: namely, that they are actual, and that creaturely actuality is entirely in virtue of Divine actuality, as a product thereof and participation therein.

  4. The notion that there is really one thing does, indeed, come in a number of flavors. But, I think those “flavors” are the result of the objection to the unreality of the apparent plurality of things. For example, the qualified nondualism of Ramanuja tells that the one Reality is God; however, individual souls and the world are also real, being parts of the Divine Principle or modes of His manifestation.This strong form of panentheism is often described by the metaphor of the pomegranate fruit- the seeds are the living soul and the rind is the universe. One cannot think of the fruit without the seeds and the rind.

    • … those “flavors” are the result of the objection to the unreality of the apparent plurality of things.

      Agreed. Every metaphysics must grapple with Many/One. Strict monism says there just isn’t a Many. Ramanuja and the panentheists ain’t buying that. With good reason: it contradicts experience as such.

      • I don’t think it is easy to parse answers to the Many/One question by religion. All the various important answers to that question may be found in the arguments of thinkers in all those religions.

        But maybe I misunderstand your question, no?

  5. One more thing: be emotionally and financially ready to help those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Honorable businessmen and businesswomen, teachers, and more are going to lose their jobs and insurance because of conscience. The faithful will need to shelter and feed them, help them (if possible) find work, etc. I am a university teacher, and except for two years on the high school level, that is basically all I have ever done, since the 1970s. I may lose may job one of these days — yes, despite tenure and “academic freedom” — if I am compelled to take a stand against contemporary notions of gender, etc. But I probably will be all right. So am I ready to help someone who really does lose his job because of conscience?

    Here’s one more thing, which perhaps should be the subject of an Orthosphere discussion of its own: under what circumstances, if any, may a Christian lie? I don’t mean “mislead,” I mean simply lie, as in: the cops come to your house to ask if you know anything about the whereabouts of some homeschooled kids who were due to be taken away from their parents. And you are hiding them. Do you lie, as convincingly as possible, as well-prepared as possible, to the cops?

  6. Also: we should discuss the making and keeping of oaths.

    For many Christians, the next couple of months or so will see the most heartbreaking annual event in their congregation’s lives. Young people will publicly confess the Faith in which they have been instructed, and they will make vows of faithfulness. They will then partake of the Sacrament; and that’s about the last time you will see many of them. They start their adult Christian lives, that is, with a lie to the Church.

    Surely this calls for more than a regretful sigh or a feeble resolution to instruct parents better, etc.

    Perhaps a several-stage thing would be a better idea:

    1.Have a brief public ceremony in which the young people “graduate.” Give them a Bible, or a prayer book, etc. if the congregation wishes, and have a reception. Let the adults make their videos if they must. For the parents who want their kids to do this rite of passage, OK, they should be satisfied. They have their reward; and the uninterested kid can stop going to church without having added a false vow to his sins.

    But no Communion for these youngsters.

    2.If they keep coming to church regularly, without having vowed to do so, for six months or more, they may be permitted to make probationary vows of some sort.

    3.Admit them to the Sacrament a year after their “graduation” if they have continued to come to church and have counseled privately with the pastor or priest, professing with evident sincerity their desire to live and die as faithful Christians, and apparently really want to make and keep vows, with God’s help. There should be no ceremony connected with this, so that parents who are primarily interested in accumulating videos of their kids, etc. will not be attracted. The young person will just join the other communicants.

    Thoughts?

    The churches should, deliberately and carefully, become communities in which the giving and keeping of one’s word is important. This would pertain to pastoral marital counseling, both of people who intend to marry and of people who want to end their marriages.

    • I have long thought that the Church would do well to make the Sacrament of the Eucharist available only to those who have completed a three year course of study and askesis, as was the practice in the Early Church, when it was growing like wildfire. Back in those days you could not even get into the nave for the Eucharist unless you were confirmed, and there was great mystery surrounding the details of the rite. In all, it was a lot more like the mystery religions we ever compete with, in that respect – the Masons, the Orphics, and so forth. It was, as it should be, a terrific honor and privilege to partake of the Eucharist.

      It’s the pearl of great price, and we strow it before swine.

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