Mithya, Mythology, and Metaphysics – an exchange, ll

13.5.2013

“All that now exists will die” (The goddess Erda, in Wagner’s opera Das Rheingold, 4th scene)

M: P, I have to commend you for the exacting work and research you have done on The Terrestrial Garden in such a short time. I am in substantial agreement, as you will see, with much of what you are saying, but take some exception with respect of part of the methodology (parallelisms mostly, rather than contrasts) you use, which has consequences to me either excessive or unwarranted. Also, agree that it is  “pointless to look for the single Truth in this story”. I start with some observations in the way of contrasts (rather than parallelisms or analogies): ‘unlike’, rather than ‘like’, realizing that I am not actually discovering anything new to you.
1. Mythology vs. Mithya

2. Monotheist exoterism (Moses, Old Testament) vs. Esoterism (Jesus,
New Testament)

3. Right and wrong (ethics & morality; or ‘moralism’) vs. sat-asat
(metaphysics or spiritual science)

4. (Christian) God vs. (Hindu) Ishvara

5.  a) Knowledge, empirical, religious, philosophical (‘categorial’) vs.
KNOWLEDGE (reality, realization)

5b) doctrine (theory) vs. method (practice)

1. We could consider, I think, The Garden of Eden, or Terrestrial
Garden, as a myth, like that of Prometheus, or the deeds of heroes –
as much in the East as in the West (puranas, sastras, sagas). They are
illustrative, imaginative stories applicable to man and society (or
collectivities). Not so mithya, which belongs to the spiritual or
metaphysical science of the Indian tradition exclusively, as you know
(that is, esoteric or sapiential: jñana). They (myth and mithya) are
quite different; though there is an overlap in the way we can make use
of them in order to bring out a deeper understanding of something
which may only be implicit in them. I think this is what phenomenological
analysis consists of (briefly, ‘the contents of consciousness’ – to be
elicited). Also, myth and mithya are in the same relationship as pratibhasika and vyavaharika – the first of each pair being merely illusory, subjective, imaginary.

2. Exoterism, following F. Schuon, designates three different orders:
a system of symbols and means, a way, and a mentality. “The first
category embraces dogmas and rites, then legal, moral and other
prescriptions, and liturgy in the widest sense… the second, general
religious practices… the third, a psychism corresponding to a
particular religious climate (piety, social conventions)”.

Esoterism.  Schuon: “To speak of exoterism is to speak also of
esoterism, meaning that the statements of the former are the symbols
of the latter.” Esoterism, thus, is the spirit that complements, or
completes the letter that exoterism is, the latter being a truth of
Revelation, and the first a truth of intellection (buddhi) following
Schuon. He says, however, that the truth of intellection is, in its
intrinsic reality, independent of the other, and is the total truth…
the colourless light. He held that esoterism as such is metaphysics, to
which an appropriate method of realization is necessarily joined.

The following quotation of Schuon is revealing, related to the meaning
of these two key concepts:

“The exoteric point of view is fundamentally the point of view of
individual interest considered in the highest sense, that is to say,
extended to consider the whole cycle of existence of the individual
and not limited solely to terrestrial life. Exoteric truth is limited
by definition, by reason of the very limitation of the end it sets
itself, without this restriction, however, affecting the esoteric
interpretation of which this same truth is susceptible thanks to the
universality of its symbolism, or… to the twofold nature, inward and
outward, of Revelation itself; whence it follows that a dogma is both
a limited idea and an unlimited symbol at one and the same time”.

An important point, I think, that Schuon makes is that “the exoteric
aspect of a religion is thus a providential disposition that, far from
being blameworthy, is necessary in view of the fact that the esoteric
way can only concern a minority”. What he decries is an “all-invading
autocracy… the narrow precision of the Latin mind… the exoteric
viewpoint doomed to end by negating itself once it is no longer
vivified by the presence within it of the esoterism of which it is
both the outward radiation and the veil [and leading to] heretical and
atheistic negations”. The veil, that is, maya.

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