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meaning2.jpgOne of the things that interests me in Huston Smith’s book “The World’s Religions” is this comment on the question of the God-Man nature of Jesus:

“We may begin with the doctrine of the Incarnation, which took several centuries to fix into place. Holding as it does that in Christ God assumed a human body, it affirms that Christ was God-Man; simultaneously both fully God and fully man. To say that such a contention is paradoxical seems a charitable way to put the matter— it looks more like a blatant contradiction. If the doctrine held that Christ was half human and half divine, or that he was divine in certain respects while being human in others, our minds would not balk. But such concessions are precisely what the Creeds refuse to grant. In the words of the Creed of Chalcedon, Jesus Christ was “at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man… of one essence with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one essence with us as regards his manhood, in all respects like us, apart from sin.”

In particular, I noticed his statement that “To say that such a contention is paradoxical seems a charitable way to put the matter— it looks more like a blatant contradiction.”

I’m not sure it makes much sense to try and follow the early church’s intentions on this topic in a rational or historical way. I suspect the whole point here is that this is something beyond the power of ‘reason’ to comprehend. Please note that my definition of supra-rational does not mean ir-rational.

We like to think proudly that human reason is the pinnacle of creation, but I serious doubt it. From Plato onwards, and actually from long before, we have always been taught by our great Teachers that there are far higher forms of consciousness; Plato even delineates them: from our usual state of consciousness where we are hypnotized by superficial images and mere appearances in an illusory world, to a consciousness that fills itself with untenable beliefs and silly opinions based on concrete experiences in the material world, to the faculty of pure reason which begins to look beyond the ‘obvious’ and seek real truth, to the opening of the ‘Eye of the Soul’ when Intuition awakens, we comprehend eternity, and Spiritual Revelation becomes possible.

It is only in this last state of consciousness, which Plato calls Noesis, that we could comprehend the otherwise-rationally-impossible idea of the dual nature of Christ. And the really important point here, in my opinion, is not whether this is an accurate description of Jesus, but that it is an accurate description of all of us – we just can’t truly comprehend or fathom it until the Eye of the Soul opens. We have to stop reducing the vast meaning and awesome power of symbolism and mythology to mere questions of literal fact or fiction.

This sort of “paradox” has also been found in the “wave-particle duality” of physics. A particle, by definition, can be understood as a ‘something’ that at any given moment is either ‘right here’ or ‘right there’ or someplace specific and local in space. A wave, on the other hand, is defined in great part by its quality of simultaneously filling all the space available to it (if no matter were in its way, an electromagnetic wave would fill the entire universe). Clearly, since a particle cannot be “over here” and “over there” at the same time, a particle cannot be a wave. And since a wave is not localizable in just one small area of space, a wave cannot be a particle. To call something “both” would be just what Smith mentions: “To say that such a contention is paradoxical seems a charitable way to put the matter— it looks more like a blatant contradiction.” And yet, this is exactly what quantum physics has been dealing with since the early 20th century: some experiments demonstrate clearly that particles are waves, and some experiments indicate just as clearly that waves are particles. As Neils Bohr said long ago, “If you understand this, you haven’t been paying attention.” (Bohr often spoke of the “complementarity of opposites”, and even created a family coat of arms based on the Taoist Yin-Yang symbol.)