Why the doctrine of the Fall of man is essential to us

I have read a few works by authors who study the notion of philosophia perennis – the perennial philosophy. While I am capable of appreciating their works, and I find some metaphysical, spiritual and ethical teachings in common for all of the major religions of the world, I have come to adopt a more exclusivist position.
While I truly despise the Enlightenment and atheism, I have seen people advocating the tempting idea of Traditionalists ignoring their differences in order to fight atheism. This, alas, won’t do. There are significant reasons why we should believe that the Church is the path to Salvation, and that the paths outside of it are either erroneous and/or incomplete and thus don’t lead to Salvation. Christianity is not just the supreme path of spirituality because of the healing of our Nous through the God-man Christ, but the true philosophy – as Saint Justin Martyr taught.

One of the reasons I have adopted this position is the doctrine of the Fall, proper to biblical theism. (Heretical versions of this doctrine are not included here, such as different gnostic/occult versions of it.) Here is a very brief introduction into the biblical doctrine of the Fall compared with the Monist and Dualist worldviews, by C. S. Lewis:

The Christian answer to the question [of human wickedness] is contained in the doctrine of the Fall. According to that doctrine, man is now a horror to God and to himself and a creature ill-adapted to the universe not because God made him so but because he has made himself so by the abuse of his free will. To my mind this is the sole function of the doctrine. It exists to guard against two sub-Christian theories of the origin of evil – Monism, according to which God Himself, being ‘above good and evil’, produces impartially the effects to which we give those two names, and Dualism, according to which God produces good, while some equal and independent Power produces evil. Against both these views Christianity asserts that God is good; that He made all things good and for the sake of their goodness; that one of the good things He made, namely, the free will of rational creatures, by its very nature included the possibility of evil; and that creatures, availing themselves of this possibility, have become evil.

C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, V. The Fall of Man

In most of the non-biblical traditions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Stoicism, Neoplatonism, Modern Hermeneutics, etc. either Monism or Dualism is adopted. Both views are radically defective, and here I will give you two excerpts from C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity in order to show the main flaws of these teachings.

People who all believe in God can be divided according to the sort of God they believe in. There are two very different ideas on this subject. One of them is the idea [called “Monism”] that He is beyond good and evil. We humans call one thing good and another thing bad. But according to some people that is merely our human point of view. These people would say that the wiser you become the less you would want to call anything good or bad, and the more dearly you would see that everything is good in one way and bad in another, and that nothing could have been different. Consequently, these people think that long before you got anywhere near the divine point of view the distinction would have disappeared altogether.
We call a cancer bad, they would say, because it kills a man; but you might just as well call a successful surgeon bad because he kills a cancer. It all depends on the point of view. The other and opposite idea is that God is quite definitely “good” or “righteous”, a God who takes sides, who loves love and hates hatred, who wants us to behave in one way and not in another. The first of these views—the one that thinks God beyond good and evil—is called Pantheism. It was held by the great Prussian philosopher Hagel and, as far as I can understand them, by the Hindus. The other view is held by Jews, Mohammedans and Christians.
And with this big difference between Pantheism and the Christian idea of God, there usually goes another. Pantheists usually believe that God, so to speak, animates the universe as you animate your body: that the universe almost is God, so that if it did not exist He would not exist either, and anything you find in the universe is a part of God. The Christian idea is quite different. They think God invented and made the universe—like a man making a picture or composing a tune.
A painter is not a picture, and he does not die if his picture is destroyed. You may say, “He’s put a lot of himself into it,” but you only mean that all its beauty and interest has come out of his head. His skill is not in the picture in the same way that it is in his head, or even in his hands, expect you see how this difference between Pantheists and Christians hangs together with the other one. If you do not take the distinction between good and bad very seriously, then it is easy to say that anything you find in this world is a part of God. But, of course, if you think some things really bad, and God really good, then you cannot talk like that.
You must believe that God is separate from the world and that some of the things we see in it are contrary to His will. Confronted with a cancer or a slum the Pantheist can say, “If you could only see it from the divine point of view, you would realise that this also is God.” The Christian replies, “Don’t talk damned nonsense.”

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book II – What Christians Believe, 1. The Rival Conceptions Of God

As C. S. Lewis points out, the first main problem with Monism and Pantheism is that it renders any notion of the Good meaningless, making every choice or action one makes toward something one think is the good utterly meaningless – since it is a thing’s goodness that makes it desirable or lovable.
There is a second main problem with Monism and Pantheism (and I will add predestination and monergism as well –doctrines where in all things that happen it is God’s will that is done). These views of God lead to determinism – man has no metaphysical freedom to do anything except to execute the predetermined operations he is supposed to execute, as a particle of God/the Cosmos (as in the case of Monism and Pantheism), or as a creature that does God’s will out of incapacity to disobey (as in the case of predestination and monergism). Thus, we never really have a choice to act, and our acts have no existential significance.
Note: as you can see, modern atheism is fully compatible with both of these facets of Monism.

Moving onto Dualism:

A universe that contains much that is obviously bad and apparently meaningless, but containing creatures like ourselves who know that it is bad and meaningless. There are only two views that face all the facts. One is the Christian view that this is a good world that has gone wrong, but still retains the memory of what it ought to have been. The other is the view called Dualism. Dualism means the belief that there are two equal and independent powers at the back of everything, one of them good and the other bad, and that this universe is the battlefield in which they fight out an endless war […]
The two powers, or spirits, or gods—the good one and the bad one—are supposed to be quite independent. They both existed from all eternity. Neither of them made the other, neither of them has any more right than the other to call itself God. Each presumably thinks it is good and thinks the other bad. One of them likes hatred and cruelty, the other likes love and mercy, and each backs its own view. Now what do we mean when we call one of them the Good Power and the other the Bad Power? Either we are merely saying that we happen to prefer the one to the other—like preferring beer to cider—or else we are saying that, whatever the two powers think about it, and whichever we humans, at the moment, happen to like, one of them is actually wrong, actually mistaken, in regarding itself as good.
Now [i]f “being good” meant simply joining the side you happened to fancy, for no real reason, then good would not deserve to be called good. So we must mean that one of the two powers is actually wrong and the other actually right.
But the moment you say that, you are putting into the universe a third thing in addition to the two Powers: some law or standard or rule of good which one of the powers conforms to and the other fails to conform to. But since the two powers are judged by this standard, then this standard, or the Being who made this standard, is farther back and higher up than either of them, and He will be the real God. In fact, what we meant by calling them good and bad turns out to be that one of them is in a right relation to the real ultimate God and the other in a wrong relation to Him.

[…]To be bad, [the Bad Power] must exist and have intelligence and will. But existence, intelligence and will are in themselves good. Therefore he must be getting them from the Good Power: even to be bad he must borrow or steal from his opponent. And do you now begin to see why Christianity has always said that the devil is a fallen angel? That is not a mere story for the children. It is a real recognition of the fact that evil is a parasite, not an original thing. The powers which enable evil to carry on are powers given it by goodness. All the things which enable a bad man to be effectively bad are in themselves good things—resolution, cleverness, good looks, existence itself. That is why Dualism, in a strict sense, will not work.

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book II – What Christians Believe, 2. The Invasion

C. S. Lewis, in his main objections against Dualism, says that it is incoherent. Good and Evil are existing principles under the presupposition that Good is desirable and Evil isn’t. But Evil is thus the absence of desirability, of Good, it is a privation. If we don’t admit this, then by the fact that both exist we make them the two complimentary parts of a whole (Being itself), and that whole is God, and thus we end up with Monism/Pantheism.

Another doctrine, often encountered in both of these views, is that being a particular person with selfhood and free will is a bad thing because God is impersonal. In this view, the monist says that getting close to divine wisdom is losing one’s personhood and dissolving into the whole; the dualist says (in most cases) that the Good demiurge created the spiritual, impersonal and immaterial, and that the Evil demiurge created the material and the personal, that we are imprisoned in the material and the personal, and that Salvation consists in having an immaterial existence dissolved in the impersonal essence of God. The monist view renders one’s life, acts and words an absolute futility; the dualist view encourages us to ether hate the material world (in which we have to work for our Salvation) or become indifferent to it (thus waiting for death to start living good lives), and to view our particular souls as defective as long as they are not dissolved in impersonality.

Having radically different views of God and His Creation makes us seek God differently. If one is to have a philosophy that will neither render itself or man ultimately insignificant, nor make the Good ultimately as divine as Evil, then one has to give up both Monism and Dualism.

Sin has its roots in willing, not in knowing

Socrates actually gives no explanation at all of the distinction: not being able to understand and not willing to understand; on the other hand, he is the grand master of all ironists in operating by means of the distinction between understanding and understanding. Socrates explains that he who does not do what is right has not understood it, either; but Christianity goes a little further back and says that it is because he is unwilling to understand it, and this again because he does not will what is right. And in the next place it teaches that a person does what is wrong (essentially defiance) even though he understands what is right, or he refrains from doing what is right even though he understands it; in short, the Christian teaching about sin is nothing but offensiveness toward man, charge upon charge; it is the suit that the divine as the prosecutor ventures to bring against humankind.
But can any human being comprehend this Christian teaching? By no means, for it is indeed Christianity and therefore involves offense. It must be believed.To comprehend is the range of man’s relation to the human, but to believe is man’s relation to the divine. How then does Christianity explain this incomprehensibility? Very consistently, in a way just as incomprehensible: by revealing it.
Therefore, interpreted Christianly, sin has its roots in willing, not in knowing, and this corruption of willing affects the individual’s consciousness. This is entirely consistent, for otherwise the question of the origin of sin would have to be posed in regard to each individual.

Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death

The genius of foundationalism – A response to “The Impotence of Atheism”

This article is a response to Kristor’s article “The Impotence of Atheism“.

I really liked Kristor’s article. I think that we Christian reactionaries are often aware of the fact that nominalism is an important part of via moderna, but we don’t mention coherentism so often. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, in the domain of epistemology, coherentism is the denial of basic beliefs (i.e. things that are axiomatically true, true by inferred necessity). Its opposite is called foundationalism, which accepts basic beliefs.
Kristor writes about atheism being “Not wrong; not uninformative; often utile; but, just inadequate”. Albeit I really despise the anthropological and spiritual beliefs that are the logical consequences of atheism, I agree with a friend of mine (David P. Withun) who said that atheism is not so much wrong as it is incomplete. The same goes for coherentism and modernistic theories of knowledge like empiricism and rationalismthey are not bad in obtaining true (or valid) data about the cosmos, but they miss some important stuff, the basic beliefs, on which we can build an ordered cosmos where man can live a meaningful, worthy and purposeful life. 

I find foundationalism important for the intellectual life of Christians. While spiritually and existentially it is important for us to connect with Christ and not with an abstraction, I think that an act of will is not enough to convince a sincerely truth-seeking person to become a Christian. A leap of faith may be intellectually interpreted and justified, it doesn’t have to be unjustifiably absurd, otherwise it would be just as meaningless to make it as not to make it. If one is hanging on a bridge between atheism, nihilism and nominalist insanity on the one side, and theism, meaningfulness and metaphysical realism on the other, and one yearns for the truth yet cannot obtain it in a coherentist fashion, then the leap of faith may just as well be an adoption of foundationalism, making the existence of objective meaning, worth and purpose axiomatic (because they are a necessity for us humans and for our endeavours). This may as well be expressed in a more existential fashion, as I (among many others) have done it beforeAs foundationalism has an existential side, that means that it may as well contain an existential and intellectual struggle. One atheist empiricist with whom I once talked said to me that he would love if all these things that I say are true by necessity were true indeed, but that he cannot accept that because there was a lack of certitude, that he’d rather shut the door to both infinite wisdom and infinite error (i.e. uncertain and unverifiable knowledge) than open it to both. I think there is a real struggle in this, for indeed, once one deals with the truth as studied in domains outside of science and mathematics, one deals with much less concrete and less certain pieces of datafor example the faculties of the soul, or how universals manifest themselves in particulars, or the nature of the beautiful and the sublime. One must recognize that it is indeed a leap of faith that one takes, once one recognizes basic beliefs.

Kristor writes “This is why the juridical question is efficacious against an atheist. Just keep asking “Why?””. I think here we are getting to the point. Without the axiomatic presumption of objective meaning, worth and purpose, things such as the following are justified in no manner whatsoever: the knowledge and the search for truth, the survival of the human individual or the species, the holding onto one or more values. All these things are either true/desirable by necessity or absolutely arbitrary. If we adopt the latter position, this makes them unjustified.

I will insert, here, a small tip on the ontological argument that the greatest of all beings needs to exist otherwise it would not be the greatest. As we see, the ontological argument uses a more foundationalist than an evidence-based approach. It is usually rejected by atheists, but I think that a Spinozist, a Nietzschean, or a modern stoic, may actually find a way to agree with the reasoning of the argument.
Imagine now that good is not that which designates what we traditionally perceive as “the Good” but that the good is all that isthe cosmos, fate, all things happening, necessary and inevitable. Thus we find that the cosmos is God and that the premise that God’s existence is self-evident is not contradicted.
I would have much more respect for a naturalist who argues like this than for one who simply denies the self-evident existence of Godbecause the former shows that he understands the ontological argument, while the latter is an adherent of via moderna with no understanding of the genius of the via antiqua he opposes. Of course, if fate/the cosmos are in fact eternal and that in which all else exists and takes place, then we still live in a disorderly cosmos with no inherent meaning, worth or purpose for humans. But the purpose of my statement that pantheism is superior to Enlightenment atheism is that, is to demonstrate the philosophical worthlessness of Enlightenment philosophy, for it is philosophy done in the fashion of via moderna that has no practical use for us humans.

Pierre Hadot, the author of the wonderful “Philosophy as a Way of Life”, writes in the same book:

“…at least since the time of Socrates, the choice of a way of life has not being located at the end of the process of philosophical activity, like a kind of accessory or appendix. On the contrary, it stands at the beginning, in a complex interrelation with critical reaction to other existential attitudes, with a global vision of a certain way of living and of seeing the world…This existential option, in turn, implies a certain vision of the world, and the task of philosophical discourse will therefore be to reveal and rationally justify this existential option, as well as this representation of the world. Theoretical philosophical discourse is thus born from this initial existential option, and it leads back to it, in so far as – by means of its logical and persuasive force, and the action it tries to exert upon the interlocutor – it incites both masters and disciples to live in genuine conformity with their initial choice. In other words, it is, in a way, the application of a certain ideal of life.”

The nihilism and anthropological and spiritual bankruptcy of modernity come precisely from the fact that Enlightenment philosophy (and also mediocrities like the New Atheists) does philosophy as we do sciencein a detached way, completely independent of the needs, desires and aspirations of humans. And this is, basically, how we got to today’s functional specialization within society, and how things such as science, ethics, religiosity and literature seem to lack a minimum of cohesion. And the response to this impractical world-view and organisation of society is in what we Christians differ from modern gnostics, occultists and (to a lesser extent?) stoics. We make the leap of faith and submit our wills to an all-loving God who is the Way, the Truth and the Light. The gnostics follow the “path of the left hand”, they embrace the cosmos as perceived by modernitychaotic and indifferent, and decide to seek godhood, power and freedom.

A scientist and a mathematician who recognize the objective validity of human reason are, without realizing it, making a metaphysical claim. And Nietzsche and the post-modernists knew only too well that if one is to be a naturalist, then one is to dispense also with the idea that reason is a principle objectively valid on a cosmic scale.
It is for the sake of sanity that most secular people do not (fully) embrace vitalism or something of the sorts. If only they saw that our espousal of foundationalism is simply the next step towards sanity.

Further reading:

Deux idées contre l’épistémologie moderniste

Deux idées épistémologiques d’inspiration platonique et patristique, avancées contre le modernisme

 

1. L’épistémologie platonique est (fondamentalement) beaucoup plus cohérente et complète que toute épistémologie moderniste. La Noésis, la connaissance purement intuitive et supra-discursive qui n’est pas limitée par la subjectivité humaine et individuelle, est le type de connaissance le plus fondamental et certain que nous pouvons posséder – ceux qui ne l’ont pas sont incapables de faire de la philosophie sans des défauts fondamentaux au moins dans les prémices de leurs arguments. Apres la Noésis, nous avons Dianoia, Pistis et Eikasia comme types de connaissance, de moins en moins certaines et fondamentales.

Les principales systèmes épistémologiques du monde moderne (comme l’empirisme ou le rationalisme) regardent comme les plus fondamentaux et certains l’expérience sensorielle et la raison discursive. Toute invention philosophique du monde moderne contient des imperfections fondamentales parce qu’elle renie le noétique (ou au moins son importance comme base philosophique).

L’allégorie de la caverne (de Platon) est une bonne explication pourquoi nous restons bloqués dans le paradigme moderne – nos théories de la connaissance ne reconnaissent que le sous-noétique (lui-même “assiégé” par le post-modernisme). Nous sommes bloqués dans la caverne, et nous ne pouvons pas saisir la possibilité-même d’acquérir un type de connaissance plus haut et certain que ce que nous possédons à présent – notamment, l’expérience par notre faculté noétique des énergies incréées de notre Créateur en vivant une vie ascétique.

 

2. L’absence de passions (“apatheia” en grec)  doit être un axiome de la raison pratique. Le manque d’apatheia des humains est la raison pourquoi les systèmes épistémologiques individualistes (rationalisme, empirisme, scepticisme) ne fonctionnent pas. Comme l’ont aperçu même les mouvements romantique et pragmatiste, l’individu qui ne se fie qu’à ses propres expériences sensorielles et qu’à sa propre raison discursive n’a aucune assurance que son cerveau produira la plus cohérente conclusion ou solution à quoique ce soit – car cette solution peut l’empêcher d’atteindre l’agréable récompense psychologique  produite par l’obéissance à certaines passions.

L’épistémologie individualiste est très souvent, pour les gens ordinaires, une excuse pour vivre dans le nihilisme, dans la subversion irrationnelle de tout ce qui ne leur plait pas.

 

(Le point 1 a été presque entièrement inspiré par les idées de Clark Carlton dans sa série de podcasts “Understanding the Modern and Post Modern Mind”)

Deux idées sociopolitiques et métaphysiques avancées contre le féminisme

Deux idées sociopolitiques et métaphysiques d’inspiration platonique, aristotélicienne et patristique, avancées contre le modernisme

 

1. Selon la théorie des formes appliquée au genre (1) – un homme est une manifestation singulière particulière de la forme/idée de la masculinité, une femme – une manifestation singulière de la forme de la féminité (et les formes ont éternellement été pensées par le Créateur (2)). L’homme et la femme appartiennent à l’espèce humaine tous les deux et sont en relation de complémentarité et non pas d’interchangeabilité.

 

2. L’être humain est un animal moral, politique et social par nature, il naît ainsi, son espèce a évolué ainsi. Donc, les fondements (ou bases) des structures des ordres moral, social et politique (ces trois ordres étant eux-mêmes liés) sont inhérents à toute l’humanité; chaque individu est porteur de cette essence et celle-ci se manifeste une fois qu’il assume ses rôles dans les communautés auxquelles il appartient. Ainsi, le patriarcat est inhérent aussi à la relation homme-femme (3) – et celui-ci ne peut pas être aboli sans détruire aussi les fondements de l’ordre moral.

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(1) du point de vue de la métaphysique des universaux, la théorie du genre n’est rien d’autre que le nominalisme appliqué au genre; à celui-ci, il faut répondre par l’application du réalisme au genre.

(2) référence à la notion d’idées divines de Saint-Augustin d’Hippone.

(3) car la société humaine depuis la préhistoire a toujours été ainsi et car l’autorité patriarcale s’est souvent manifestée interdépendante avec des éléments de l’ordre moral et religieux.