Christianity and the Cosmic Thing
Secular fundamentalists struggle with the purported anthropomorphism of Christianity, but if a revelation doesn't in some sense take the form of man, how is man supposed to understand and use it? Conversely, the same people are not at all baffled at how we live in a cosmos that never ceases instructing us through forms accessible to our intellect. This is a great, great mystery, and to say that it goes unnoticed is something of a wonderstatement, as in, why?
Anyway, I find that one of the things Abhishiktananda (heretofore SA, because it takes too long to type) did was situate Christianity in a truly cosmic and even meta-cosmic --more on which later -- context. In order to do this, he occasionally borrowed a word or concept from Vedanta to illuminate a hidden aspect of Christianity.
Imagine a culture that has seven words for snow, while we have only one. Of course we will still have the seven varieties of snow, just not the names. But without the names, we probably won't see them. We will look but not truly apprehend them.
When it comes to Spirit, the important point is obviously to experience it, not necessarily to name it. But names can be of vital importance, especially for mapping, storage, and communication. (I am reminded of something Schuon said of Buddhism, to the effect that it was foolish to call it an atheistic religion, because it clearly has the thing, just not the word.)
SA found the Vedantic concept of akasha helpful, in that it refers to "both the infinite 'exterior' space and the infinite 'interior' space which really are one, both spheres being permeated by that same Spirit which fills not only the whole cosmos but equally the human heart."
Reader Will -- wherever he is -- often reminds us of the concept of the ether, which seems to have been tossed out when physics proved that there was no such thing on physical basis. But no one ever said (or should have said) that it was a property of physics. If anything, physics is a property of it -- which would be why, for example, the cosmos must be nonlocal, both in its interior and exterior, or subjective and objective, modes.
The second passage says that SA's "devotion to the person of Jesus never dimmed." Jesus was his sadguru, which means that he is the "guru of gurus," or the guru who makes guruhood possible.
To put it another way, all gurus are none other than Jesus, most especially the "guru of the heart" which is projected and crystalized in the form of the exterior guru. The purpose of the exterior guru is to allow us to "see" our own guru until such a time as we can identify Him within -- you know, in the Kingdom of Heaven (see Meister Eckhart for details).
A blasfumy point of odor: I'm writing this very rapidly, so I must gloss over many possible heretical (mis)understandings. Suffice it to say that those who are on the right track (or for whom this track is intended) will know what I mean, while those who aren't won't. No one ever said this path was for everyone.
The foreword goes on to say that in later years SA "came to see more vividly that in the Eucharist the entire cosmos is integrated, where both matter and human consciousness are brought together in union through the Spirit of God and the action of Jesus, who manifests God in his fullness."
Again: it is a cosmic religion, both horizontally and, more important, vertically. Indeed, one might say that the historical/horizontal aspect of Christianity derives its significance from the fact that it is a "prolongation" of what is going on vertically, i.e., trinity, love, communion, kenosis, etc. It's not an ether/or situation, but both/and. Or, as I put it in the book, it is earthereal.
To emphasize the horizontal in the absence of the vertical -- as do many "fundamentalists" -- is to indeed reduce Christianity to a worldly instead of cosmic religion. In a letter, SA wrote that "The simple man carves a piece of wood and bows down before it... The intelligent man forms a concept and does the same." Again, we want the thing not just the name.
Regarding that Thing, SA spoke in a letter of how "intellectual and social structures are so overlaid with what in the end is only a moment of history which men unfortunately absolutize." But for SA, the deepest vertical understanding reveals that "Christ is risen!" and "I AM" are "the twofold experience of a single mystery."
No one could suggest that this is in any way extra-Biblical, for "before Abraham was, I AM." This is one part of the Bible that you must take quite literally, that before -- which is to say, vertically anterior -- to everything is I AM THAT I AM," or "I AM HE WHO IS," or just I IS.
Thus, isness is, but not only externally. Rather, being itself is an interior I. And as we will later discuss, there can be no I in the absence of a Thou, as the two co-arise in eternity. "The individual only exists in his being-with" (SA). It is "The Father in relation to the Son -- to me -- to all. The Son in relation to me -- to all. Myself in relation to every conscious being," face-to-face in a sacred space.
You might say that Easter transforms the local me to the cosmic I, or allows it to take part in the I AM. In ether worlds, "The 'I' of the morning of Easter is of another order.... In the Resurrection there arises the spiritual I, of God, of Christ, of myself, of my brothers..."
In another rather ecstatic letter, SA wrote that "The mystery of Christ and of the Father is beyond words, more even than that of the atman.... You can only speak of it in parables, and the meaning of the parable is beyond the words used. No word could ever have given you the experience of the birth of the not-born."
One of SA's most important -- and possibly controversial -- points is that the Jesus mystery was deeply conditioned by the categories of Greek thought, through which it has been "filtered" down, so to speak, to us.
But for SA, "Christ is beyond all concepts." For example, what if he had appeared within the context of Vedantic categories of thought? (In the past, we have discussed how early Chinese Christians interpreted the Logos in terms of the Tao, which quite possibly makes even better nonsense of the reality behind the concept.) Or, more to the point, what if he appeared today (as indeed he must)? What categories of thought would we use to understand the message?
Bottom line: "People argue about Jesus -- it is easier than to let yourself be scorched by contact with him" (SA).