The Scale of Perfection, Book 2, Part 1 – Chapter 4

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That through the Sacrament of Baptism (which is grounded in the Passion of Christ) this Image is reformed from Original Sin

This is chapter 6 of The Scale of Perfection – Book 2 in Middle English:
That thorugh the sacrament of baptym that is groundid in the passioun of Crist this image is reformed fro the original synne.

experiential religion vs. mystic faith

What you interpreted as dismissive and rude efforts to shrug off argumentation might be a tip of the hat to your superior argumentative abilities with the concurrent insistence that we are past the point of arguments about the basic existence of God, and are now at the point of discussing the experience of God. And after all, this is a group discussion of Christian mysticism, not agnostic social theory, right? Would you walk into a church, participate in a service, and then chastise them for preaching to you about Jesus?

If I understand your appeal to reason, Jerome, you are insisting that any conversation about mysticism be conducted with intellectual honesty and rigor, a desire I very much share. But I think Will is correct when he says that mysticism as a subject isn't subject to the same rules of logic and evidence upon which scientific discourse is grounded. Scientific postulation and development is rooted in rational theory, cause and effect--you know better than I do, I'm quite sure. Theories give way to better theories, and that's as it should be.

Wittgenstein might say that a true proposition is one that corresponds with what exists in reality, but when you look at it from the "mystical" point of view, that's tantamount to saying something is true if it is true. Scientifically, reality is perhaps measurable, quantifiable, empirical. Or perhaps it's better said that that what is measurable, quantifiable, and empirical is scientifically "real." But mysticism does not exist at all under these criteria, except as a socio-religious phenomenon, and I think that most of the individuals here have gathered to explore or discuss mysticism not as a socio-religious phenomenon, but as a personal activity or endeavor. (Surely I don't speak for everyone on this point, but perhaps most). As a personal endeavor, mysticism is quite subjective, and though communication of the subjective is tricky (In communication, the real danger is the illusion that it has taken place) it is nevertheless the object and focus of discussion--it is the reconciliation of mystical experience across personal and religious lines which has driven centuries of seekers to seek out other mystics. Theories give way to better theories.

Mysticism describes an interior journey which the vocabulary of psychology and the rules of science can only touch on externally; your frustration is the frustration of a human trying to live among mermaids--these are different environs, and what is necessary to survive in one is fatal in the other. We can discuss the historical developments of mysticism, and can theorize on the social conditions and philosophical influences which lead to particular mystical movements or ideas, but that is not the same thing as discourse on the mystical experience, which, having risen up in history and society over time for a variety of reasons and in a multitude of conditions, is nevertheless something one experiences first and attempts to convey second--this seems unfair to the non-mystic, who might feel excluded or hostile towards those who refuse to communicate plainly the information he seeks. But the non-communication, or the inadequate communication, is the consequence of the futility of endeavoring to do precisely that.

Religious dogmatism is what you get when people decide that their linguistic efforts to capture perfect (or perfect enough) religion has been successful, and protect those efforts by making them sacramental. But for those who grow up in the religiously dogmatic environment, these concepts are just as abstract as any. Let's look at something you wrote in passing, because it's highly relevant.

The problem with "God" (and other terms) is not that we all do not have an agreed upon meaning for this word and it is therefore not valid in any discourse (though this is certainly a problem to consider), but that it, like "the good" (or any number of baseless, metaphysical ideas) refers to absolutely nothing, and is therefore meaningless and the end result of a severely misguided use of language over the centuries!

The problem is not that God is an ambiguous term and means nothing (because we don't all agree on what it means).

The problem is that "God," like" the good," refers to absolutely nothing, and is therefore meaningless and empty.

But there is quite a conflict between the two statements. The reason God is an ambiguous term, you argue, is because we don't all agree on what the term means. But you also say that according to Wittgenstein, a true proposition is one corresponding to something in reality, and therein lies the rub--if a true proposition about God exists (that God is X), then statements to the contrary (God is not X), which some may even ascribe to, are inherently false. By this fairly direct logic, the conclusion that we must all agree on what God is before we can engage in fruitful (meaningful) discussion about God is also shown to be false--one party may not agree with another party, but by the rules you have established through Wittgenstein one party may be right (their claims corresponding to reality) while another party might be wrong (their claims not corresponding to reality).

Your further conclusion, then, that "God" refers to absolutely nothing, is groundless by the first criteria you established (how do we know that our confusion of terms, and not the errors of a particular party, are the real problem?) and without a priori reasoning is but your own personal opinion, borrowed perhaps from one of the greats, or a conclusion reached on your own merit. Yet your claim that "God" is a nonsensical term is just but one claim among many--to insist that this opinion prevail as the answer to our real trouble in discourse, the hindrance to our own limited understandings of the way the world actually works, is to insist that your understanding corresponds with reality ("God is X/God is False") and that all other understanding is incorrect ("God is not X/God is not False"), when you know very well that while "God" or "the good" might be scientifically meaningless, science is not the realm of morality in the first place. "God is False/God is X," as you claim scientifically--or rationally, or materialistically, whichever paradigm we ascribe the claim to--but "God is True," under a different paradigm--morally, ethically, spiritually, philosophically--is as equally valid a claim as "God is False." A shape may be both a square and a rectangle, and likewise your claim that "God" is meaningless is only partially true from one singular perspective. Your final conclusion, that the failure to understand and embrace this conception of "God" has resulted in centuries of philosophical or societal abuse, seems then to leap bounds over the own rational criteria you have established.

My proposition is that mysticism as a school understands the difficulties of multiple perspectives, and agrees that "God" is a human construction of morality but is also an essential part of human living and society, an integral part of what I will call finite existence (because it's faster than getting into a debate about quantitative conceptualization), and that "God" is part of a reality that science does not correspond with at all. Mysticism recognizes both the scientific and the spiritual, even when by their own rules they stand opposed to one another. At the higher levels of mysticism--I'm told--even the facade of language is stripped away from the individual, an experience that breaks (to wax poetic) the fetters of dogmatisms, be they religious or scientific, as well as the fetters of anti-dogmatism, our demands for total freedom (which we will never have but in concept, and which concept then binds us).

Anyway, just trying to say that as careful as we're trying to be about establishing the correct criteria for conversation, simply finding some kind of common ground might be the first step towards that fruitful conversation we mentioned earlier, the ambiguity that should be resolved--"God is False" and "God is True" need synthesizing, so that we can discover which propositions fail to correspond with reality, "God is not this, nor that," but "This is true about God, but not that." Shall we let the scientific paradigm of rational proof decide the reality of God's existence? Shall we ignore the scientific paradigm altogether and cling to dogmatic notions about reality that are not born out? How do we eliminate the false and retain the true? That's where the meat and gristle really are, on my plate, and I think that's part of the essential mystical journey. Theories give way to better theories, but at the mystic end, all theories give way to experience.

Ye search the scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life;
And these are they which bear witness of me;
And ye will not come to me, that ye may have life. (John 5:39-40)




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