Recently, previous winner of the The Clark Prize in Apologetics, Michael Sudduth, published a letter stating that he has left Christianity for the Eastern Hindu Tradition. Yesterday, when my friend Stephen Macasil linked the article to me I immediately assumed that his apostasy into Van Tilism and the worship of the Monad was directly linked to this conversion. I turned out to be right. Let’s review Plotinus’ Monad one more time:
In an exposition of Plotinus’ One, which in fundamental to most Eastern Religion and Hinduism Clark says,
“These Ideas, however, this Divine Mind, is still not the highest principle of all. For in this realm duality remains. Since the Ideas are distinct from each other, there is multiplicity. In knowledge there is always a subject and a predicate, a knower and an object known, and hence duality. But duality is secondary to unity. Therefore it still remains to climb the steep ascent of heaven to the source, the One. The climbing of the ascent and the resting of the summit, let it be noted, are not the same thing. The rational process of philosophic dialectic demonstrate the necessary existence of the One. He who has felt the urge to unity can never rest in plurality, and is forced to posit a source superior to all diversity. But if we are to know that source and not just infer it, we must experience the One in mystic trance…the ordinary conditions of consciousness are suspended and, having become oblivious of self and the world, the soul sees the One alone. The soul no longer knows whether it has a body, and cannot tell whether it is a man, or a living being, or anything real at all.…The vision is a direct contact with the One, a divine illumination.
All knowledge is rather like our sight of sense objects on a cloudy day; in the vision we see the Source of the light which made knowledge possible, and we see it directly in all its brilliance. ..This experience is not abnormal, it is but the exercise of a faculty which all have though few use…The experience itself cannot be written down, it can only be experienced ”[Truth as Encounter-DS] Clark, Gordon Hellenistic Philosophy (Appleton-Century-Crofts: New York, 1940), pg. 229-230
Once someone believes that truth and God cannot be found in a proposition, but in a psychological state, truth by defintion becomes something subjective and arbitrary. What also needs to be understood is that this thinking is all an extension of the idea that God, or the Ultimate Principle, is a distinction-less monad on a chain of being where simplicity moves one up the chain of being toward the Good and distinction lowers one on the chain of being towards imperfection. This is how Turretin explains God in his Institutes Volume 1. 3rd Topic. Q 7
“Proof that God is perfectly simple. IV. This proved to be a property of God: (1) from his independence, because composition is of the formal reason of a being originated and dependent (since nothing can be composed by itself , but whatever is composed must necessarily be composed by another; now God is the first and independent being, recognizing no other prior to himself) ; (2) from his unity, because he who is absolutely one, is also absolutely simple and therefore can neither be dived nor composed; (3) from his perfection, because composition implies ***********IMPERFECTION*******************
inasmuch as it supposes passive power, dependency and mutability. ” Institutes of Elenctic Theology Volume 1 (P & R Publishing: Phillipsburg, NJ, 1992), pg. 191
And Muller in an exposition of Bonaventure, in explaining the Scholastic doctrine of Simplicity says, “there is something prior to every imperfect or composite being.” (Muller Vol. 4, pg. 41)
This fundamental Thomistic Scholasticism is the soil from which Van Til and his cronies have sprung. The passages that moved Sudduth so strongly said,
“He who is rooted in oneness realizes that I am in every being; wherever he goes, he remains in me. (Bhagavad Gita, 6:30-31)”
“Abandoning all desires,
acting without craving, free
from all thoughts of ‘I’ and ‘Mine’
that man finds utter peace.
his is the divine state,[Abstraction-DS] Arjuna.
Absorbed in it, everywhere, always,
Even at the moment of death,
he vanishes into God’s bliss.
(Bhagavad Gita, 2:71-72)”
“And I found God directly present to me in such experiences, but present to me in such a way that I experienced both tremendous awe and reverence for God and a deep intimacy with God through my consciousness of Lord Krishna. And I began to see my former “God conceptions” as limited expressions of a fuller, richer, and more experientially meaningful view of God that was now present in Lord Krishna himself.”
Just like in Plotinus where one feels “the urge to unity can never rest in plurality” Sudduth desires to “Abandon…all desires” and to be “rooted in oneness “. Just as in Plotinus where “the ordinary conditions of consciousness are suspended and, having become oblivious of self and the world” Sudduth abandons propositional rationality to “find utter peace” and be swallowed up in “the divine state”. He realizes that his previous understanding of God was a “limited expression ” of what he now believes (The word “believes” becomes synonymous with experiences) .
A major problem with Scholasticism is the innate desire that all men have to participate directly and ontologically in their God. We all want that real connection. Sudduth explains, “I pondered this experience for several minutes, while at the same time continuing to experience a most blissful serenity and feeling of oneness with God”.
The fact is Van Tilism and Scholasticism, its Grandfather, can never give man real and ontological connection because like the fools they were, they tried to take the Ultimate Principle of Plotinus and the Pagans and somehow get a Christian worldview out of it with their theory of Absolute Divine Simplicity. This leaves only a pagan ecstatic trance state for Christian men to seek in their attempts to connect to their creator. Thus Sudduth, was in my opinion, simply following his monad back to its Pagan source. He is being consistent. Sudduth says, “I had gone so far in my Christian faith, but it was now necessary for me to relate to God as Lord Krishna.” Notice he doesn’t say, “through Lord Krishna” but “as” Lord Krishna. In Plotinus’ construction hierarchies of being emanated from the One which represent levels of composition , and at each hierarchy was an intermediary. In different versions of this metaphysical construction, the gods are intermediaries on this chain of being. As one moves up the chain of being one becomes ontologically identified with the intermediary. Sudduth says, “Since this time I have experienced Krishna’s presence in the air, mountains, ocean, trees, cows, and equally within myself. I experience Him in the outer and inner worlds, and my heart is regularly filled with serenity and bliss.” You see on his view, God is in the state of mind not the proposition.
In conclusion, I commend Sudduth for his logical consistency. When will the rest of the Scholastic Reformed have the courage to do the same? My Scholastic reader, Sudduth is taking Absolute Divine Simplicity to its logical end. I have two options for you.
1. Follow Sudduth
2. Leave Scholastic Neoplatonism for Gordon Clark’s Scripturalism: An absolute Triad: Three ontologically distinct persons; three distinct complex-non-simple eternal divine minds who find their hypostatic origin in the person of the Father.