Archive for October, 2012

Update on Splendor

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Thank you for your inquiry concerning my forthcoming Schuon anthology, Splendor of the True: A Frithjof Schuon Reader. It has been some months since I mentioned the book on this weblog, and it is probably time for a quick update.

The book is gradually wending its way through the production process at SUNY Press. Final proofs should be ready for my review by the end of this month, and then the index will need to be prepared. SUNY is projecting a release date of May 2013. They have just recently created a page for Splendor on their own site. Here, in case you are interested, is the link:

I am very grateful indeed to Professor James Morris, of Boston College, and Professor Kimberley Patton, of Harvard, for their generous comments.

The “Physics” of the Ascension

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Why, you ask, if Heaven is a spiritual state and not a physical place, do we read in the Acts of the Apostles that, at His Ascension, Christ “was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going” (Acts 1:9-10). Why the apparent locomotion upward?

If one understands—or at least is willing to believe, for the sake of the argument—that what we call “matter” is a product of consciousness (and not vice versa, as the neuroscientists think); if one realizes, in other words, that physical “things” are not simply sitting “out there” in some inanimate space, but exist instead at the intersection of the Real and our sensory and cognitive faculties: then it seems no great leap to suppose that a noetic or spiritual transposition will have some sort of sensory parallel. C. S. Lewis comments on this very issue somewhere—I can’t find it right now—and makes much the same point: though Heaven is not itself a physical location, it doesn’t follow that an “ascension” to Heaven won’t have visible consequences or corollaries.

Schuon makes a similarly pertinent point: “A creature appears on earth, not by falling from Heaven, but by passing progressively—starting with its archetype—from the subtle world into the material world; its materialization comes about within a sort of visible aura that is comparable in every way to the ‘spheres of light’ in which, according to many accounts, celestial apparitions begin and end”; and he then adds in a footnote: “one recalls the ‘chariot of fire’ that lifted up Elijah and the ‘cloud’ that veiled Christ during the Ascension” (From the Divine to the Human, “The Message of the Human Body”).

You have two choices, or so it seems to me: You can either say that (1) the physical and sensory components or dimensions of a spiritual “elevation”, such as Christ’s Ascension or the Prophet’s Miraj, are the “natural” (though doubtless mysterious) effect of the elevation itself; or you can say that (2) God, in a merciful condescension to our sensory expectations, “makes it seem” that such an elevation entails physical consequences. Either way I do not think the metaphysician need be troubled by the “physics” of Acts.