The Essential Disagreement of Religions

Cassiodorus asked me to take a look at an essay by Perennialist scholar James Cutsinger and provide my reactions. The essay – The Mystery of the Two Natures – argues that Perennialist archon Frithjof Schuon was entirely orthodox, from a Patristic (and ergo Nicene) point of view, in his insistence that the divine pole of the Incarnation, entailing as it does the ubiquity of Christ’s saving power, means that there is a transcendent unity of all religions.

I have long admired both Cutsinger and Schuon. They are both formidable scholars, both write (so think) like angels, and both have penetrated deeply and sympathetically into many of the great religions. Both are sane, irenic, and wise, and seem holy (sanctity being a dissemblance difficult to carry off). Like all thoroughgoing exponents of the Perennialist proposal, they reject modernity root and branch. I agree with them, I have always found, in almost everything.  

I enjoyed the article a great deal, learned much from it, and recommend it as a wonderfully clear discussion of the Incarnation, and for its original and penetrating analyses of some of the major Christological heresies. But I disagree with it in two respects, one minor, one crucial.

My minor disagreement is with Schuon’s doctrine of the Trinity as Cutsinger has explained it. Schuon identifies the Father with the Absolute, whereas (with the Areopagite and the Russian Orthodox Trinitarian tradition that derives from him and his ilk) I would identify the Absolute with what Dionysius calls the Supra-Personal Godhead. In the Dionysian schema, the Godhead is prior to the actuality of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost – all Three – in rather the way that the paper is prior to the sphere scribed upon it, of which they are each one an orthogonal diameter and circumference.

The metaphor is not quite apt. The scription presupposes the paper, but not vice versa: whereas the Godhead and the Trinity presuppose each other, and this is enough to show that the Godhead and the Trinity are one integral thing, the paper as it were appearing together with all Three of the Persons in the scription of the sphere. 

The paper is like the possibility of God; but the possibility of a thing involves its definition as just that specific thing which is possible, and by the definition of God, the possibility of God just is God: by definition God is necessary, so that his actual existence necessarily follows from the mere possibility of his existence. Furthermore, the possibility of God can subsist at all only in virtue of the actuality of God, there being no other way for anything whatsoever to subsist.  

This seems to me an altogether cleaner parsing than treating one leg of the Trinity as altogether outside actuality, as prior thereto; as, i.e., inactual.

Despite all that, I may of course have misunderstood Schuon or Cutsinger.

So much for the minor disagreement.

My more important disagreement cuts at the very heart of Cutsinger’s argument. He writes:

Consider what the Christian exclusivist says. Salvation is impossible, he asserts, apart from a conscious, explicit, and active faith in Jesus Christ, for Jesus is the only man in history who at the same time was God, and it therefore follows that He alone can rescue men from sin and death. This reasoning can be expressed in the form of a syllogism: God alone can save; Jesus is God alone can save; Jesus is God; therefore, only Jesus can save. Now certainly the Schuonian will not object to the first proposition, for it is undeniably true that there is no possibility of salvation apart from Divine grace and the initiative of Heaven. The problem arises with the exclusivist’s understanding of the second claim, the minor premise of the syllogism. Jesus Christ is certainly God, but the exclusivist takes the further step of supposing that the verbal copula functions like the sign of identity in a mathematical equation, and hence that the nouns in the minor premise can be reversed: not only is Jesus God, but God is also Jesus. As a result, the unique and eternal nature of the Son’s Divinity is transposed onto the plane of history; the one-and-only quality of Him who was incarnate, “the only begotten Son of God”, is confused with the temporal and spatial particularity of His incarnation in Jesus, and His singularity in divinis is conflated with an event of a strictly factual or historical order. Now of course, to affirm that God is fully present in Christ is by no means false, and there is no question as to the formula’s great rhetorical power. But the homiletic or kerygmatic value of this expression should not blind us to its dialectical weakness, for as an ellipsis it risks identifying the Beyond-Being of the pure Absolute with the individuality of a particular human being.

Well and good. But the problem of the non-Christian religions lies not in their arguments that there is more to God than Jesus – as any Trinitarian would certainly agree – but in that they insist that Jesus is not God. Christianity is the only religion that asserts that Jesus is God. The other religions all say that he is not; if they didn’t, they’d be Christian.

If Jesus is in fact God, as both Schuon and Cutsinger (on Cutsinger’s account) agree, then to the extent that other religions do insist to the contrary, and no matter how many truths they do indeed express, they are false. This is not to say that a Buddhist or a Platonist cannot enjoy salvation – they can – but it is to say that there cannot be such a thing as Schuon’s transcendent unity of religions when one of them asserts p, and the rest assert –p.

The Law of Noncontradiction brooks no exceptions. Either Jesus is God, or not. However great and wonderful their congruity in other respects, religions that disagree about the Incarnation contradict each other fundamentally and irreconcilably.

39 thoughts on “The Essential Disagreement of Religions

  1. Pingback: The Essential Disagreement of Religions | Neoreactive

  2. Both the exclusivists and the universalists are wrong … as the parable of the sheep and goats makes clear.

    Yes, salvation comes only through Jesus Christ.

    The universalists err in imagining that there are other ways to God than Jesus alone. Ultimately, their error is in imagining that God *owes* us salvation. But, in fact, what God *owes* us — each of us — is damnation.

    But, no, salvation does not come through Christianity.

    The exclusivists err in imagining that there is no other way to God than membership in or affiliation with, however tangential, some bureaucratic organization which claims to speak for Christ. Is it precisely true, as Cutsinger wrote, that the Christian exclusivist says. “Salvation is impossible apart from a conscious, explicit, and active faith in Jesus Christ“? I mean, don’t they generally also hold that baptism of an infant confers salvation upon the infant? My point is, the exclusivists err in thinking that salvation comes via human actions — that one of us can confer salvation upon another. Ultimately, the exclusivists err in imagining that humans, if they are Christians, are outsmarting God in the question of salvation — it’s as though, understanding that what God *owes* us is damnation, they falsely conclude that he *desires* to damn us, and that in Christ’s death-and-resurrection God slipped up, and that now, through Christianity, we collectively have a legal means to compel him to save us against his will.

    • No human can save, but God did explicitly give humans (a bureaucratic institution no less) the power to forgive sins, to bind and loose, to offer the Son as a sacrifice, etc. He encouraged this institution to make disciples of all of the nations. Doesn’t this imply that He wants us to make use of this bureaucratic institution (even if their are other means of conveying the salvific power of Christ known only to Him)?

      • Ilion, yes he did, let’s check the source material:

        13And Jesus came into the quarters of Cesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is? 14But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am? 16Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. 17And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. 18And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven. 20Then he commanded his disciples, that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ.

        Jesus established, in fine Perennial tradition, a system of initiation by degrees, culminating in degrees of God-work where men participate in divine things, which does imply a bureaucracy to manage the system. Since Jesus IS God by definition, we can indeed say that God established this bureaucracy.

        As to the transcendental unity of religions; only in the sense that all true myths are in fact prophesies/types of the Christ and preparation for the Gospel. We can speculate that those who truly and with fidelity follow the natural truth, beauty, and goodness of their own naturally good but un-Christian (and therefore non-salvific) faiths, not out of rejection of Christ but out of love of their own things might have find his way to Christ and his mystical body (the Church) in purgatory, but this we cannot know, and is subjective in any case. Objectively, there is no other path to the Father than through the Son, whether that is in this life or the next, and that last part is unknowable, so in charity, why take the chance?

    • I doubt there is anywhere a thoughtful Christian who believes that sacraments somehow compel the Mighty One against his will, or fool Omniscience. The notion contradicts the Nicene church’s sacramental theology. God alone saves; sometimes he acts through human instruments – acts, rites, dogmas, books, traditions, offices, prayers – any of which may form an occasion for the ingress of his saving health to a human being. But ex hypothesi he acts in and through all things.

      • Men are all defective, to be sure, but still they are preponderantly sane. Were it otherwise, man would long since have disappeared from the earth. Sane and thoughtful men abhor contradiction among their beliefs. One discovers and roots them out as one goes through life. But somehow one never quite finishes the job.

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  4. I suspect that the Perennialist would agree that the world’s religions do, indeed, contradict one another:

    Outwardly the doctrines of the world’s religions are clearly different, even contradictory, as can be seen in their theologies….According to the perennial philosophy, however, such outwardly divergent teachings, providentially adapted to the spiritual, psychological, and cultural needs of of different peoples at different stages of history, can be inwardly reconciled by those who are sensitive to their metaphysical and symbolic meanings and prepared to follow the golden thread of the dogmatic letter to its deeper spiritual meaning. It is for this reason that one finds such a remarkable consensus among the great mystics and sages, such as Shankara in Hinduism, Ibn Arabi in Islam, and Meister Eckhart in Christianity … Perennialism teaches that the world’s true or orthodox religions are directly revealed by that Reality (God), each of them corresponding to an archetype within the divine mind.

    – Cutsinger- Christianity and the Perennial Philosophy.

    Clearly, the question of whether or not Christianity (or any particular faith) reveals something “more” than the other Revelations is extremely important. I think that the bottom line on this matter is if Trinitarian theology can be reconciled with the Perennialist nondual metaphysics. I’m doubtful if it can. The reason for this is the inversion of the relationship of mysticism (esoterism) and Revelation. The Perennialist claims that esoterism transcends theology, but transcends it only from within (hence the necessity of a doctrine of Truth-Orthodoxy). On this mystical view, ignorance is the great sin: ignorance of the supreme truth that, ultimately, duality is an illusion (separation from God) and therefore, the heart of spirituality is realization (Eastern) or union (Western). But on the Christian view, union (the mystical path) is simply not possible without the saving work of the Incarnate Christ. The Christian places absolute significance on the Word Made Flesh- to refer to Jesus as a “temporal set of saving facts” or a “saving mirage” is the point of contention.

    Christian critics of the Perennial Philosophy have said that Christ is not merely a “path” than can be tread if the “map” is provided or “combustible material” for the “slumbering intellect.” He is more like a rope that drops down from Heaven, without which there is no possibility of deification. Much more could be said, but I need to get to a cookout!

    • The only way the esoterist can evade the absolute exoteric choice between the notion that Jesus is God and its contradiction is to change the subject and talk about the other things that the great religious traditions do indeed have in common (by “[following] the golden thread of the dogmatic letter to its deeper spiritual meaning”). If he once admits that Jesus is in fact God (as Schuon does), and that the Incarnation is the enlivening yeast of all the great religions (as Schuon does), he must then in all honesty explicitly – i.e., exoterically – profess Christianity. There could in that case be no harm in doing so, but rather only great good.

      But there could in that case be great harm in doing otherwise, for the only way that the Perennialist convinced of the reality of the Incarnation could then avoid taking the path to explicitly professing the exoteric baptismal creed is by explicitly rejecting Christ. If he does this knowingly, it will render all his spiritual work dishonest; it will tend to his damnation.

      I think Christianity can be reconciled with non-dual metaphysics, but not with the idea that the Absolute is inactual. The reconciliation can be accomplished by drawing a distinction analogous to the distinction between the Persons and the Being of God, which allows us to say that God is Three (Persons) and One (Being). The three and the one do not contradict each other, because God is not Three and One in the same way.

      Likewise with non-duality. In one way, everything is in God – he is immanent in everything, and everything lives, moves, and has being in him. He is furthermore the sole source of every aspect of every being. Nor can anything exist in contradistinction to God; for the contrary of God is just non-being, and non-being is not possible, in the sense that it cannot be actualized. In that way, everything is God.

      In another way, creatures are quite distinct from God, as the cell is distinct from the body, and the planet is distinct from the sky. That the planet is entirely composed of bits of sky does not mean that it is the same thing as the sky.

      What won’t work, as I said, is the notion that the Absolute is inactual. The inactuality of the Absolute entails the inactuality of everything.

      As to the suggestion that the Incarnation is like a rope tossed down from Heaven: sure. But it is more than that. The Incarnation is the first fissure in the cosmic order that, as it progresses and spreads, will end at the completion, fulfillment, redemption, healing and transfiguration of the cosmos at the eschaton. The Incarnation changes everything, because by it the Logos is concretely actual as an accomplished fact of this world; as incarnate in a human body integral with the cosmos, the Logos is incarnate in the cosmos as a whole; for no body is an island.

      Christ then offers creatures an opportunity to surf the ever swelling flood that is already transforming the world – or, fighting that flood, to find themselves overwhelmed. So we see that Noah’s Flood was a type of the Passion.

      • Ultimately non-duality, if we mean by that Sankara’s advaita, denies the reality of the individual soul but that, in a sense, is the whole point of Christianity which alone, as far as I can see, is able to integrate unity and multiplicity in a way that does violence to neither. So I don’t think you can reconcile Christianity and non-dual metaphysics. Christianity is closer to the qualified non-dualism of Ramanuja in that both accept the integrity of the person.

      • I think Sankara’s advaita is incoherent; not conceivable in the first place, strictly speaking. There’s no way to reconcile anything to what is incoherent.

      • The “great religions” sound most alike with reference to natural law (Lewis’s “Tao”). The crucial difference is always with reference to the Cross and the Gospel. St. Paul didn’t preach a cosmic Logos and leave it at that, but Christ crucified — folly to most Greeks, scandal to most Jews. The issue is salvation, and there’s salvation in no other name (Acts 4:12). As a descendant of Renaissance high-mindedness (Ficino), I think, the “Traditional” school here comes up against what it can’t wholeheartedly affirm. It is helpful to remember John Wesley’s phrase about “the old coarse Gospel” if our heads start to get turned by the perfume of Traditional incense (which burns on whose altar?)….

      • The Perennialists are right that all religions derive from the original religion of man – in logic, how could it be otherwise? They err in this respect only in their failure to recognize with Saint Augustine that that original, which has always been with us, is what came to be called Christianity with the advent of Christ. The Natural Law, the Stoic logos, the Tao, is the Name of YHWH – of Jesus.

        The Perennialists are right in saying that YHWH has spoken through many prophets, in many traditions – who can fail to speak of YHWH, who speaks any wisdom at all? They err in this respect only in their failure to recognize the significance of two facts, which radically differentiate Christianity from all other religions: that Jesus is the only such prophet who also specifically claimed to be himself YHWH, and that Christianity is the only religion that agrees with his claim.

      • It is absolutely true that the world’s religions contradict each other- so it would seem that the transcendent unity of religions (TUOR) must be false. I don’t think that necessarily follows if the exoteric/esoteric distinction is valid. And I think it is valid, but I’m not sure if it is valid for Christianity. Perennialists will often use the metaphor of “many paths to the same summit” or “different grammars” communicating the same truths. But I think that these metaphors simply may not work for Christianity. The subject of an authentic Christian “esoterism” can be a very controversial and thorny topic. As some know, Rene Guenon spent much of his early life engaged in the project of bringing the sapiential dimension of Catholicism back into the mix . He abandoned that undertaking.

        The thing that I find interesting about Perennialism is its insistence on the irreducible importance of both mysticism and orthodoxy. Consequently, it is criticized by both the “spiritual left”, who reject Revelation and dogma, and also by the religious right who typically clumps it into the box of the spiritual left- as a kind of modern day mutant gnosticism. Of course, the atheo-materialists have no use for any of the above.

        I was actually reluctant to bring this topic up, mainly because the Perennialists themselves typically have no inclination in quarreling with “exoterics” who faithfully practice their tradition and are not in the game of “converting” anyone. It isn’t a “super-religion” or a kind of Platonic third realm. It is more, perhaps, “Aristotelian” in the sense each form (religion) is an instantiation of the formless- but each form doesn’t “exhaust” the formless. But at the end of the day, I suspect that their greatest value is in their numerous scathing critiques that they delivered on the errors of the modern apostasy and bringing the “worldlings” back to Tradition.

      • I think [the distinction between exoteric and esoteric] is valid, but I’m not sure if it is valid for Christianity.

        Exactly. As we would expect of the true religion, in Christianity the exoteric and the esoteric are in total agreement. There are deeper meanings of the exoteric dogmas, but no hidden meanings. All the mysteries are right out there, in your face; what you hear is all that there is to hear. And it doesn’t change as you get into it; rather, you do. At no time is an initiate to a higher Christian order told, e.g., that Jesus is not really God; rather, he learns ever more deeply what the divinity of Christ really means.

        This may account for Guenon’s difficulty in restoring the sapiential tradition of Christianity. It doesn’t need restoring! It’s hiding in plain sight, and all communicants may partake of it.

  5. Thank you so much for addressing this topic! I had been hoping it would be tackled by the Orthosphere as right now I’m grappling with the question of reconciling theological truths outside of Christianity with the Faith itself in a text I’m working on.

    I have rejected Schuon’s Perennialism because for the reasons you cite, it cannot hold true where it runs in contradiction to the clear message of Holy Scripture, that sacred text whose veracity cannot be called into question after its confirmation by God Himself. Jesus Christ was the Lord God in the flesh, and it is ultimately due to His sacrifice that man is able to achieve salvation after death.

    However, the exclusivists are incorrect in dismissing all other religions, especially in the case of dismissing them as lies concocted whole-cloth, with no supernatural character. This wasn’t even the claim of Christianity for a large part of its early history. The best example would be the lauding of Hermes Trismegistus as a Pagan prophet who foresaw the coming of Christianity, by many early Christian intellectuals.

    From the primordial state, the Divine Realm has touched all great religions, even if in a fallen demonic form. This current woven throughout the religious practices of humans across millenia may in only one case bring man the ultimate truth, but that is not to say lesser orders of truth don’t exist for instance in Hinduism, or that these truths can’t provide invaluable insight into the spiritual life.

    That said, I do think Schuon is underrated in many circles. A real intellectual behemoth.

    • Relevant to the question of the exclusivists claim might also be Titus I: 12-13 – unless, that is, St Paul is being very tongue-in-cheek – and Acts XVII: 28.

  6. And don’t underrate Schuon’s late Indian Days festivals, with girls in ornamented bikinis. This was OK for a spiritual man like himself because “‘Earthly beauties'” assist the “‘spiritual man'” to God. “‘They lead the vulgar man merely to himself.'” Vide Sedgwick’s Against the Modern World, pp. 173-174 (p. 172 for Schuon’s “vertical wives”). The spiritual man gets a Godward boost and the vulgar man’s no worse off than he was before, I guess, so bring on the dancing girls. Hubba hubba, jewel in the lotus.

  7. Isn’t the fundamental error of the Perennialists that, in line with Sankara’s Vedanta from which they take their metaphysics, they put the Personal at a lower level of reality than the Impersonal? In other words, as Cassiodorus implies, they don’t see that the Trinity is not a step down from Unity but exists at the highest level of reality. Indeed, beyond any idea of level.

    Regarding exclusivists and universalists, would not the saying of Jesus that he has other sheep who are not of this fold reconcile the two in some way? So salvation can only be through Jesus Christ but not everyone necessarily has to approach this through Christianity, though that is the best way as it is the most open to the truth of Christ’s teachings.

    • Regarding exclusivists and universalists, would not the saying of Jesus that he has other sheep who are not of this fold reconcile the two in some way? So salvation can only be through Jesus Christ but not everyone necessarily has to approach this through Christianity, though that is the best way as it is the most open to the truth of Christ’s teachings.

      Exactly, and the point of my prior post. Both are looking at only *part* of what the Apostles, and Christ himself, said (though, the universalists are doing it far worse than the exclusivists). And for that partial picture, insisting that *this* is how it is.

      • Or.. He could have been referring to the ingrafting of gentiles into the relationship with God. That comment was made to a Jewish audience, no? Seems that is a more reasonable explanation than Christ telling his apostles to make disciples of all nations and then… ahh, just fuggadaboutit

      • c matt shows that many readings of the same passage are possible. Thus, an institution is required that would authoritatively define correct reading. But the intellectual dishonesty of bible-worshippers does not permit them to reach this conclusion and hence each bible-worshipper defines his own dogma and creed.

      • No… Many different readings do not require an authoritative bureaucracy. This is nearly equivalent to the solution to the bad apples of society where everyone gets punished for the transgressive acts of the few and this sets the standard for “leadership.” There can only be one true meaning to the Logos and so with that must be many, many false interpretations. Should the few who have grasped and preached the one true meaning be badgered and beaten down by a bureaucracy who, ideally, is overwhelmed with combatting the near ubiquitous propagation of false interpretations?

        The greatest teaching of Christ was man’s will do all right. This told man he was free to seek Perfection. That’s the prime mover. That’s the real *magic* of Christianity.

  8. In the Fifth Book of Moses, there is a verse highly relevant to discussions such as that of the salvation of those who never heard the Gospel, etc. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)

    I don’t take this verse to mean that it is simply wrong to discuss the issue. But it seems the Christian mind here comes up against one of those matters regarding which the Father has reserved some things to His own knowledge. Humble faith is more likely accurately to discern the implications of what -has- been revealed than the bold speculative intellect. There are things we don’t know. Propositions we do know fence round an area that now must be obscure to us: We know that all who are saved are saved by Christ. We know that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to everlasting life. We know that some will be damned although Christ is the propitiating sacrifice not only for our sins but for the whole world. We know that the evil one is defeated even though he rages now. And, as the citation above shows, we know that there are things we don’t and won’t know this side of heaven.

    Then look at the second half of the verse and consider the implications.

    • I can’t reply to Kristor’s comment in the appropriate place above but I agree with it. Sankara is just a logician but not always very logical! However his form of advaita is pretty much the source of all non-dualistic teachings. Certainly that’s where Guenon and probably Schuon got it from.

  9. Yet, the pertinent debate as far as white Westerners are concerned is not whether Jesus is God, but rather, whether Jesus was Perfect. And because in the minds of the enemy, the perfect did not and cannot exist then no man possesses the will to do all right. And if no man possesses the will to do all right then all men are some degree of transgressive liberationist. Christians seem loathe to admit that there are good outcomes derived from worshipping Perfection and acknowledging its ultimate ordering nature. In secular-speak, Perfection equals objective Supremacy. White men who worship objective Supremacy are, in the liberated disorder, the most “vile” and “evil” of individuals because they dare give even rhetorical existence to a white man with a will to do all right.

  10. Pingback: The cataphatic disagreement of religions and their spiritual disunity | semel traditae sanctis

  11. Vishmehr 24, you’ve summed up a fundamental problem within mainline (liberal) Christianity very nicely. Traditional Catholics and Confessional Protestants are obviously not as inclined to make an idol of the scriptures, or, more properly, to make an idol of *their interpretation* of the scriptures, as are the mainline denominations and the visible (small-c), post-Vatican II catholic church, but it is a big problem, yes.

    I personally know a lot of people who fall into this category, at least in a broad sense. Some of them do so (misinterpret the scriptures) for purely self-serving reasons, and they’re fairly easy to spot because they make it a point to recognize no authority in the matter but their own (and perhaps their misguided pastor who shares their view), not even the Church Fathers, and certainly not 1,900 years (give or take) of Church history; others I know are more sincere and have purer motives as far as I can tell, but just as misguided nevertheless. It’s one of the reasons I’ve come to greatly appreciate the (Traditional) Catholic Church’s emphasis on proper catechesis.

  12. This suggests hierarchy.

    4. And if anyone should consider and examine this, no long discussion will be required. For faith such a proof is simple, given the word of the Lord. For the Lord said to Peter: “I say to you that you are Peter and on this rock I shall build my Church and the gates of Hell shall not conquer it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven and what you shall bind on earth, will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, will be loosed as well in heaven.” (Mt 16.18-19) He builds the Church on one man, and although he gives similar power to the Apostles after the resurrection and says: “As the Father sent me, I also send you; Receive the Holy Spirit; If you remit the sins of anyone, they will be remitted; if you retain them, they will be retained.” (Jn 20.21-23), still in order that the unity be made absolutely clear, he arranged by his authority that the origin of that same unity begin from one man. To be sure, the other Apostles were what Peter was, endowed with equal honor and power, but unity takes its origin from one person in order that the Church of Christ might be shown forth as one and united. The Holy Spirit, in the Lord’s name, underlines this unity of the Church when he says in the Song of Songs: “One is my dove, my perfect one, her mother’s chosen, the dear one of her parent.” (Sg 6.9). Can anyone who does not maintain the unity of the Church believe that he maintains the faith? Can he who stubbornly fights against the Church trust that he is within the Church, when the blessed Apostle Paul teaches this same doctrine and shows forth the mystery of unity when he says: “One body and one Spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God.” (Eph 4.4 f.)

    5. And we bishops above all, we who are leaders in the Church, we are obliged firmly to hold and defend this unity so that we may show forth the episcopal authority as one and undivided. Let no one trick the brethren with a lie; let no one corrupt the truth of the faith by faithless misrepresentation. For the authority of the episcopate is one, with each bishop holding his part in its totality.

    – Eno, Robert B.: Message of the Fathers of the Church
    Volume 14: Teaching Authority in the Early Church (p 86-87).
    Wilmington: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1984.

  13. Pingback: The Way of all Ways | The Orthosphere

  14. Schuon has always been my least favorite of the Perennialists; I’ve always gained much more from Coomaraswamy and even from the critiques of modernism by Guenon. Schuon always seemed too eager to create a new syncretic religion. The central insight of Traditionalism is that the metaphysical order is objective, and I agree. However, I hold, contra Schuon, that this order cannot be known apart from revelation. Authentic revelation gives us knowledge of the three aspects of religion: metaphysics, ethics and telestics (i.e. spiritual practices); all of which are necessary for a man to obtain salvation. (I know this is a presupposition. Sue me.) There is no non-revelational knowledge of these essential truths, so no independent standard by which religious claims can be judged. The best we can do is to critique religious doctrines by questioning their logical coherence.

    • Without disagreeing, I would add only that, as expressing itself in and at every instance of being, metaphysical order reveals itself everywhere without possible exception. This follows from the definition of metaphysics. In Christianity, this is the Doctrine of General Revelation.

      That this must be true does not of course entail that Fallen man might discover the whole of metaphysical truth under his own natural steam; for, the whole of metaphysical truth includes the supernatural truths to which his human intellect cannot by its own powers ascend. Man is natively capable of God, but only so far as Natural Religion extends – i.e., to the Paradise of Eden, but not to the Heavens. To approach from Paradise to the BV, he needs supernatural help.

      Put another way: Before he Fell, Adam was capable of perfect manhood. After he Fell, he was not capable even of that. After his Redemption and Atonement, he was by supernatural graces made capable, not only of perfect manhood, but of godhood.


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