Christian Yoga: Different Yokes for Different Folks
Nature always transcends itself; or, we might say that the transnatural cannot but spill over the boundaries of the natural. Man is nature transcended, while religion is man transcending himself. And truth of any kind, whether sacred or "profane," rests on a foundation of love and communion.
Objects can know nothing of one another -- or of themselves, for that matter. Only the subject may know, and the subject may only know via participation in the being of another (whether object or subject). Either this participation is real, or it is not. If it is not real, then science is impossible. And if it is real, then science is intrinsically rooted in something that transcends itself.
This would be consistent with Abhishiktananda's experience, through which Christianity and Vedanta are reconciled in love. For him, the Trinity reveals Being as "essentially a koinonia of love" (SA, in (Oldmeadow). (Koinonia means "communion by intimate participation.")
Thomas Aquinas said that "the thing known is in the knower according to the mode of the knower." Thus, if we change the knower, then a different reality comes into view -- not, it should go without saying, a reality "invented" by the knower, but disclosed to him.
This disclosure -- or unveiling, ooh la la -- is a result of deeper communion and "in-timacy" (fr. L intimus innermost). Thus, truth is the innermost perception of the Real. Given these intimate circumstances, it should not be surprising that this disclosure is often accompanied by tears of joy and gratitude. Looked at impersonally, Truth is a very personal thing.
Now, yoga is one of the six orthodox schools of "Hinduism" (which I place in quotes, because there really is no such doctrine as "Hinduism"). The classic formulation of yoga was given by Patanjali, and for those who don't know, the Bhagavad Gita is a fictional account in the form of a conversation between Arjuna and the godman Krishna about the different types of yoga.
Now, the idea of yoga has some overlap with what we said above about communion, since the ultimate purpose of yoga is to obtain "unitive knowledge of the Godhead," not through ordinary learning, but through experience.
In fact, the word yoga is often translated as to "unite" with or "yoke" oneself to the Divine -- which immediately brings to mind Jesus' remark that "my yoke is easy" -- which it is, by the way, in the sense that Jesus has already done the heavy lifting for us. This is very much in contrast to religions which require us to do most of the work, without the indispensable assistance of grace.
Thus, Christianity is often interpreted as a bhakti yoga. That is to say, yoga as such is an all-purpose pneumatechnology that takes into consideration individual differences. Because each of us has a different gift, a unique personality, a particular style of learning, and a different hat size, a one-size-fits-allah type religiosity will not do.
To take some obvious examples, there are emotional types and thinking types; extroverts and introverts; sensualists and intuitives; doers and be-ers, or men of action and men of contemplation; warriors and priests; sages and administrators; merchants and laborers; respectable people and Raiders fans; loons and Coons. So if you have just one religious message delivered in one narrow manner, it will inevitably be addressed to a particular "type," and thereby exclude and marginalize the others. There will be no testavus for the rest of us.
This is especially problematic for the tiny minority of Raccoons, who are "outsiders" but surely not "rebels." But one can well appreciate the chaos that would ensue if the religious message were addressed to the Raccoon population instead of the average mentality, for if that were to occur, there would be no Raccoons, precisely. Religion, in order to survive, must at the very least be addressed to man as it finds him, not the man already transformed by religion, for "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick."
I am reminded of something Schuon said, which is no doubt autobiographical but nonetheless true and not the least bit self-aggrandizing: "The pneumatic is in a way the 'incarnation' of a spiritual archetype, which means that he is born with a state of knowledge which, for others, would be precisely the end and not the point of departure; the pneumatic does not 'progress' to something 'other than himself,' he remains in place so as to become fully himself -- namely his archetype -- by progressively eliminating veils or husks, impediments contracted from the ambience [e.g., mind parasites] and possibly also from heredity."
This is a potentially dangerous and destructive doctrine, and one can well understand why wholesale religion could never express itself in this manner, for if the message is assimilated by the wrong type -- especially disreputable ones -- soon enough he will be deepakin' the chopra in the most egregious and self-serving ways imaginable.
So to even say "Christian yoga" in the wrong company is to invite either suspicion (from the fundamentalist type) or absurd self-flattery (from the new age type). Nevertheless, it is clear that the Christian message may be tailored to different psychic types, who in turn will practice it in different ways, e.g., bhakti, raja, tantra, gnana, karma yoga -- or the yogas of devotion and prayer, meditation and contemplation, virtue and good works, etc. In truth, each yoga not only contains the others, but the practice of one form should nourish and bring the others forward.
Which is why we can say, for example, that the highest knowledge is love, something that the bhakta already knows intuitively. But Raccoons are just a little slow. Oh well, bhakta the drawing board...
to be continued....