Theology and Autotheography
For example, a number of truly great theologians who are central to Orthodoxy have had almost no impact on Catholicism, at least until the latter half of the previous century, for example, Denys, Maximus the Confessor, Gregory Palamas, and Symeon the New Theologian.
In fact, speaking of theologians, East and West have a very different conceptions of who qualifies as one. In the East, they never really bothered to develop an intricate system of rational theology, and I believe I am correct in saying that Thomas Aquinas has had no influence at all.
Interestingly, they would probably say that he only became a full-fledged "theologian" when he put down his quill for the last time in late 1273. After all those years of contemplating God, he had finally "snapped," going on a permanent summa vacation and telling his faithful scribe Reginald that "I can write no more."
"Er, why's that, master? You've been working on this Summa thing for what, seven years? We're up to 3,000 pages, and you're gonna quit on me now? Are you telling me I developed this nasty carpal tunnel syndrome for nothing?!"
"Well... I suppose in a way... you see, all I have hitherto written seems to me nothing but straw."
"Nothing. But. Straw? Is that what you're telling me?! Because...."
"I mean compared to what I have seen and what has been revealed to me."
"Ohhh, that's just great. Pope's gonna love this. Helloooo, paging Dr. Chopra."
Fortunately for us, we don't have to choose. We have a left brain and a right brain, and both are equally "spiritual" after their own fashion. And they are even more spiritual when they work gland in gland to excrete the "transcendent third" of which we have spoken in the past.
So Thomas Aquinas is the most important theologian in the West, while in the East it would be -- I don't know, perhaps one of the folks referenced above. For example, Symeon (949-1022) affirmed "the primacy of the spiritual experience," specifically, "communion with the Incommunicable One and knowledge of the Unknowable One, made possible by the Incarnation of the Word who draws the creature out of sin and grants him a divine life."
In fact -- not unlike Abhishiktananda himself -- "The whole life of Symeon illustrates the conflict between Prophet and Priest, between Experience and the Institution, known by many other saints...." Nevertheless, he "had an undeniable grasp of theology and profound knowledge of the Bible," and Gregory Palamas would later come along and clarify his teachings "on a doctrinal level."
Just had a jarring interruption, getting Future Leader ready for picture day at school. Love the uniforms. I wish I could wear one to work. One less thing to think about. But now I've lost the thread. Back to SA, I suppose...
Oldmeadow (HO) quotes SA, who wrote in his book on prayer that no religious thinker "wants to develop and feed his mind simply for the mind's sake alone." Rather, "there is no knowledge that should not pass into love."
To put it another way, the mind must always be fixed on its proper object, whatever it is thinking. God is the context of all (true) thought, which properly bears on eternity. Clearly there is something higher than the mind, and that is the object of its preoccupation, its devotion, and yes, its love, for one must love truth before it will come around and begin sniffing at your door.
In any event, SA's own writings are a bit of a jumble, because he was not a theologian in the Western sense. Rather, he felt that his primary vocation as a monk was to be, only secondarily to know. I think he would agree that what we in the West think of as theology is more a means than an end, somewhat like the function of the guru, about which he wrote (and bear in mind again that his sadguru was always Christ),
"What does it matter what words the guru uses? Their whole power lies in the hearer's inner response.... When all is said and done, the true guru is he who, without the help of words, can enable the attentive soul to hear the 'Thou art that" (in HO), or the old I AM.
A Raccoon simply calls this well known phenomenon (≈), but in my experience one should not minimize the capacity of words to be potent carriers of (≈). This is "the divine Shakti which somewhat resembles the shekinah of Jewish tradition" (ibid), to say nothing of the divine energies of Symeon and Gregory Palamas.
Gotta run. I'll just end with another passage cited by HO. SA is writing about himself in the third person:
"The guru's words rang bells within him in a way no one else's had ever done. It was as if, deep in his own heart, profound secret mysteries were coming to light, which till then had been buried in unfathomable depths. What the guru said vibrated through his whole being and the harmonies thus evoked were incomparable."
Here again, the Raccoon just calls this "pickin' up God vibrations."