Since modern science only deals with quantity owing to its goal of precision, it eventually rejects anything that it cannot measure
The modern age with its episteme (way of knowing Reality) is extremely malnourished, devoid of verticality, immersed in reductionism and Physicalism. It acutely suffers from the loss of transcendence. First Galileo’s reductionism of qualities down to quantities evaporated the traditional hierarchy of higher orders of Reality. Spirit was reduced down to psyche and psyche was reduced down to biological activity which in turn is reduced down to physics of dumb, blind, random atoms banging against each other. Since modern science only deals with quantity owing to its goal of precision, it eventually rejects anything that it cannot measure.
In due course of time, Newton, the founder of new physics, provided a purely mechanical view of the world (pushing back the belief in God to Deism & thus initiating the gradual withdrawal of God) which influenced the functioning of almost all sciences after him. The rational mechanical method thus became the norm.
On the other hand Bacon declared that ‘Knowledge is Power’ and advised science to study nature in order to “master” it. This led to a pragmatist instrumentalist outlook of the whole knowledge enterprise where utility derived became the main driving force and truth (that liberates) and reconnects man with sacred was rendered irrelevant.
Before proceeding any further let us mention the sacred element of Knowledge/intelligence/intellect itself that has been reduced down to mere cunning reason in modern times leading to the erasure of the sense of Scared. Man’s intellect is directly rooted in Sacred/Being/God and that is what enables him to know anything at all.
If man is fundamentally/ontologically disjoint from Reality/Being in essence then how can he even participate in Knowing at the first place? Man can know the objective reality and at the same time dive deep into the deepest recess of his own self- only because his intellect is rooted in Sacred/Divine which manifests both as an objective reality on the outside and is also the supreme self underlying man’s subjectivity, on the inside.
The same principle is within and without. Ultimately only like can know like. Sacred in ultimate analysis is both knower and the known. Knowledge may start as “subject trying to know an object” but ultimately true knowledge reveals to subject only when he enters into/becomes the object. Hence “knowledge” becomes “being”. As long as subject remains disjoint from object, it cannot truly know it. Till then everything amounts to mere mental abstractions, adaptations and appropriations in a sort of a Kantian way. This dualism as we know it leads to Hume’s Skepticism and Kant’s Agnosticism.
This “intellect” that roots man in Sacred is a separate faculty of Knowledge distinct from human reason which is nothing but a reflection of this very intellect on a subjective plane. Therefore “Intellectual Intuition” is highest Principial knowledge as one directly participates in being. It is infallible means of knowledge because it is directly rooted in Reality itself.
It knows Truth because it “is” the Truth. Different religious traditions refer to it as the “eye of the heart” (ayn al qalb). Therefore above five senses, human reason and other rational & emotional cognitions, human being possesses “metaphysical intellect” which allows him to directly grasp metaphysical principles.
Although potentially (& principally) it is part of every human being but practically only few men (realized men) become true metaphysicians. This shall also explain why Aristotelian metaphysics is a ‘pseudo metaphysics’ as it is a product of subjective human reason and therefore not metaphysical at all. Whereas the Traditional metaphysics is truly metaphysical in the real sense of the word as it is the endeavor of the metaphysical faculty in man (the intellect) and not reason/emotion.
Two currents of modern (western) thought played a pivotal role in the erasure of the sense of Sacred. First Descartes & Kant reduced intellect down to subjective reason which could not fully grasp the “noumena” owing to its arrestment in dualism.
This silenced the supra subjective intellect to the background although its reflection on the human subject was still present. But soon it was followed by the Hegelian thought reflected in the likes of Marx which ushered in Dialectic becoming dissolving the immutable Reality/Being into a temporal process of becoming and thus even the notion of any permanent Sacred was lost.
The realization of Sacred as immutable eternal reality whose reflection in the matrix of becoming induces sacredness into everything was completely lost. When Reality was stripped of its Sacred character, it naturally led to the alienation of man on the inside (resulting into nihilist absurdism) and an exploitation of nature on the outside (causing worst environmental crises ever). In contrast the Traditional man was at peace with Reality as he saw everything rooted in Sacred which was also the ground of his own Being.
Now since modern man was only left with bare isolated subjective reason therefore he exhausted Rationalism to its end (in an attempt to understand Reality) only to return dejected with the symptoms of Nihilism and Absurdism. Because Reality is about Whole, a ripped off individualistic cogito (with no grounding in Sacred) cannot comprehend Reality in totality.
The worldview restricted to material frame of reference, trying to explain material world itself is doomed to fail miserably. It is only in the light of absolute that the contingent makes sense.
Our world is therefore characterized by the historic omission of God (the source of meaning) as Nietzsche dramatically summed it up in The Gay Science “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers?...who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent?” There have been a number of unsuccessful attempts of replacing God/meaning by “inventing” pseudo idols of modernity which now remain shattered in the post modern rubble.
Human subject, severed from Transcendence, defined by neurological, psychological and historical underpinnings, pushed by Modernity as the decipherer of the mystery of existence stands Deconstructed in the post modern abyss. Meaning only descends down from above. In this haze of post modern wilderness, we need to reclaim back the sense of Sacred, the light of Transcendence.
In the post enlightenment period there has been a general desacralization of Reality. The emphatic Rationalism of Cartesian sort was flaunted, set on the path of rejecting mystery and analyzing everything on discursive turf. However the modern man’s science through Quantum Mechanics and his Philosophical thought through Post Modernism has rejected rational man’s ambitious project. They have again restored back the scent of mystery into our lives.
The Traditional man under the light of Sacred respected the mystery element of Reality. Not everything can be rationally and logically categorized on discursive analytic turf. The modern man affirms truth but only half heartedly. He embraces the immanent but fails to appreciate the Transcendent. He accepts the manifest (az-zaahir) but fails to register the hidden (al-baatin).
By Transcendence we do not mean to posit any proposition of some abstract beyond that one could rationally prove or disprove but rather it refers to the mystery element of this immanent reality itself that we find ourselves in which no theist or atheist can deny.
Modern man accepts the “rational” that which is not troublesome and violating of the arrogant rational mind. But he is too lazy to confront the supra rational. He analyzes Reality but hides from the question why Reality is in the first place? Why does existence exist? Why is it just a brute fact? The answer that “it just is” is the submission to mystery.
Reality in totality fundamentally escapes thorough going rationalistic syllogistic formulations and categorizations. This fundamental mysterious aspect of Reality refers to transcendent which is stubbornly elusive and thus powerful and overwhelming. This respect for Reality informed Traditional man’s being in the world, thus generating ritualistic humble submission to the unknown.
Having accepted and submitted to the transcendent, traditional men understood deep secrets of existence. Every empirical/sensible existence became manifestation of deeper reality and thus the birth of pervasive symbolism of all sorts. Everything becomes a symbol/aayah of God. Therefore with the sense of sacred on, reality ceases to be mere reductionist, materialist, cold, meaningless existence.
This sense of sacred, if restored, helps one appreciate the deeper/higher patterns of reality formerly not accessible to the post enlightenment decadent thought.
(Author is Student of Philosophy, Religious Studies and Traditional Metaphysics)