Friday, October 07, 2016

Between God and Religion

Another unblogged book sitting on my desk is Schuon's Christianity/Islam -- the only one of his (excluding poetry) I hadn't read. The reason I hadn't read it is in the title, as I am not particularly interested in Islam. But you know what they say: just because you don't take an interest in Islam doesn't mean Islam won't take an interest in you.

As usual, Schuon's perspective is far more universal than any single creed. He may or may not be correct, but one of his central principles is that each legitimate (God-given) revelation is an expression of universal metaphysics tailored to this or that cultural or ethnic group.

Thus the subtitle: Perspectives on Esoteric Ecumenism. For Schuon, the esoteric perspective is the only way to overcome certain inevitable incoherences and absurdities in religion -- not just in a religion, but between religions as well. As such, he is speaking of the "esoteric perspective" that transcends and unifies individual religions.

If such a thing exists. I think it is possible to take an intermediate position on the question. For example, rather than saying that only one religion is correct and all the others wrong; or that all religions are equally correct; or that all religions are equally wrong; we can say that this or that religion is a more or less adequate expression of certain truths embodied in religion as such.

Think of the analogy to music. We could say that "music as such" exists in the abstract. But in order to express musical truth or beauty, you need to "pick a path," so to speak, e.g., classical, jazz, blues, rock, whatever. Bach expressed the divine in one way, John Coltrane in another. We can't say that one or the other was wrong, even if we can affirm that one may have disclosed it more fully or adequately.

The book contains some previously unpublished letters, some of which touch on this question. For example, in one he writes that "A true metaphysician cannot unreservedly identify himself with a religious upaya [teaching or method] and take pleasure in it with a kind of nationalism, but obviously must identify with what is essential -- hence both universal and primordial..."

And yet, at the same time, Schuon always insisted that it was necessary to follow a particular religion -- just as you need a musical idiom to express music.

This is a tricky balance, for it seems as if one is trying to give oneself wholeheartedly to a religion even while holding a part of oneself in reserve, so to speak. He says, for example, that "theology tends to push" dogma "to the point of absurdity," but who could argue? Isn't this the problem of fundamentalism or literalism, which surely must alienate people who are not prepared to disable their God-given intelligence in order to embrace a "saving absurdity," so to speak.

In what Schuon calls the mundane "religious viewpoint" -- which you might say is a kind of worldly expression of the otherworldly -- there are certain "dogmatic elements" that are "unacceptable from the viewpoint of truth as such," even while "no doubt possessing a certain spiritually 'therapeutic' function." This cannot help sounding condescending, which would have once appealed to me very much.

Schuon suggests that "It is in the nature of theology to over-accentuate and exclude, and this is why no theology is intellectually perfect, though there are certainly degrees in this." I can't help agreeing with this, even though I also can't help feeling ambivalent about it.

In another letter, Schuon says he doesn't even like writing from the everyday religious perspective: "I would also just as gladly have preferred to spare myself having to deal with Muslim theology -- Lord knows how grating it can be -- but I had no choice since Sufism is situated parallel to this body of doctrine." More generally, "I am hardly enamored of exoterisms and would have preferred to deal only with pure metaphysics and the perennial religion..."

Regarding those latter two -- pure metaphysics and perennial religion -- Schuon was of the belief that the Vedanta was its most adequate expression. In another letter he writes that "we are of Christian origin, and our point of departure is the Vedanta," while being constrained to live in an essentially godless age.

Vedanta, of course, posits a radical monism. And yet, I don't see why it is intrinsically inconsistent with a trinitarianism that is an even "higher" or "deeper" expression of the same truth.

This is why one of my favorite cosmic pneumanauts is Swami Abhishiktananda, AKA the Catholic monk Henri Le Saux, who managed to reconcile the two in his own divided-but-united being.

He did so "through the medium of love, the axial Christian virtue.... The doctrine of the Trinity, understood in light of the advaita, 'reveals that Being is essentially a koinonia [fellowship] of love.' The inner mystery of non-duality 'flowers in communion and inter-subjectivity, revealing itself and coming to full expression in the spontaneous gift of the self to another.'"

"In 'the very depth' of the Upanishadic experience of identity, the Christian may discover 'a reciprocity and a communion of love which, far from contradicting... the unity and non-duality of being, is its very foundation and raison d'être.'"

Elsewhere he compares the Vedantic trinity of sat-chit-ananda to the Christian Trinity: "Being, sat, opens itself at its very source to give birth eternally to the Son..." (Very Eckhartian there.) It "is essentially 'being-with,' communion..., the free gift of the self and mutual communication of love."

Cit, i.e., consciousness or self-awareness "only comes to be when there is mutual giving and receiving, for the I only awakens to itself in a Thou."

Which I've only said about a billion times.

And ananda, the the ultimate felicity or beatitude, "is fulness and perfect fulfillment, only because it is the fruit of love, for being is love."

Ultimately "consciousness (cit) is identified with being (sat) in the infinite bliss (ananda) of the Spirit, who is... one in the Father and the Son, one in God and man, undivided [Sat-chit-ananda]."

"Thus, for Abhishiktananda, the Trinity 'resolves the antinomy of the One and the Many.'" "Christ's experience actually surpasses the Vedantic experience because it recognizes distinction... on its far side, as it were; for Jesus, God is both Other and not-Other."

Makes sense to me us three anyway.

75 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

I think it is possible to take an intermediate position on the question. For example, rather than saying that only one religion is correct and all the others wrong; or that all religions are equally correct; or that all religions are equally wrong; we can say that this or that religion is a more or less adequate expression of certain truths embodied in religion as such.

Yes, that makes a great deal of sense.

10/07/2016 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Before I forget, thanks to everyone for the prayers. Florida was definitely spared a great deal of trouble. Where I am, there was nothing in particular in the way of bad weather - we get worse most afternoons. However, had the storm veered even a few miles closer to land, the story would have been quite different. And apparently, it could also come back for a second round...

10/07/2016 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

I would say that Wolfgang Smith's book, Christian Gnosis, is the best work in the attempt to lay out an authentic " Trinitarian Nondualism". Ever since I have drifted away somewhat from the Perennialist position, I can't but help think that a rigorous nondualism like that of Advaita or Theravada always comes off as condescending or patronizing to theistic religion. The reason being that 1) the mystical experience of the "quintessential esoteric", it is claimed , is "higher" or more profound than that of the theist's. 2) The unqualified nondualist metaphysic is more complete or comprehensive. It seems to me that the Perennialist is being rather arbitrary on both those counts.

10/07/2016 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Probably just a matter of sensibility and temperament, or "it takes all kinds to make a world."

10/07/2016 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Abdulmonem Othman said...

It is both my exploring mind, since there are so many sensibilities and temperaments as there are humans,we need all kinds to make a world.This is why we need to study sufism to complete the circle of all kinds, without the need to fell unhappy or compelled. There is no fault in theology, the fault in the human interpretations of the meaning of the one we are asked to surrender to and the how of that surrender. Meditation is the abode of meeting the god, the abode is open now to all, that is why we have so many psychic schools, The problem is that the spiritual experience is a personal job that require our own sincere efforts . All the schools or the masters can do is to point to the road that the seeker himself must walk. The school of meditation need no teacher. The Mantras of activating the gnostic window to the source.

10/07/2016 05:47:00 PM  
Blogger Leslie Godwin said...

So glad you are safe Julie.
Will, if you are reading this, Congratulations to your Cubbies!
Leslie G

10/07/2016 09:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A couple of months back I was trying to convince you folks that Donald Trump was a terrible person by any political or moral standard. I didn't make much of an impression.

How do you feel today?

10/07/2016 10:43:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

If he were up against Romney, dude, you might have a point.

So he's an asshole? So what? Has he *raped* anybody or spent days on an island where he can bang underage girls? Has he laughed about helping a rapist avoid punishment for raping a 12 year old girl? Is there a massive trail of dead bodies made of people who were about to testify against him for terrible, terrible crimes? Did he intensify a land war in the Middle East, and is he picking a fight with Russia? If he were anyone other than Donald Trump, would he be doing serious, hard time in jail?

No??

He said some crude things about women, between men, when he thought the conversation was private? What a dick! OMG!! WHERE'S MY SAFE SPACE!!!!'

He's still a better choice than Hillary.

10/08/2016 05:24:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Frankly, I'm with a commenter I saw somewhere else a while back: if we're going to bring up old audio tapes of the candidates saying terrible things, let's pit Hillary's laugh about the girl against Donald's tips for picking up chicks. One is boorish and crude, the other is downright evil.

Though I would prefer most of all a saint, the choice before us is these.

10/08/2016 05:31:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Leslie, thanks :)
I think we need to be praying for Joan this morning, she was next in line for the storm.

10/08/2016 05:32:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Bill Clinton wants to know how this guy stole all his best pick-up lines.

10/08/2016 07:40:00 AM  
Blogger doug saxum said...

I ask anonymous, are you the same person you were a decade ago?
If this is all the Democrats can come up with to try to derail Trump, than their desperation is showing.

10/08/2016 08:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You people are truly lost causes. Enjoy going down with your chosen champion. Don't worry, it'll be good for you, you run on fear and resentment so having a Democrat in power will give you plenty of fuel.

I remain mystified as to why Bill Clinton's supposed bad behavior is a reason not to vote for his wife.

Also all these offhand references to things which I guess are common knowledge on the right, like Clinton's evil laugh...and of course, are composed of 99% pure bullshit. Yummy!

10/08/2016 09:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@doug saxum: right, it is the Democrats who are displaying desperation today. Prediction markets have Trump's chances at 14%, down from 30% a few weeks ago. He was just disinvited to his own rally amidst widespread calls for him to step down from the nomination.

And one thing you can say for Trump, his persona has remained fully consistent for decades. The implication that he's somehow matured in the last ten years is ridiculous -- didn't you see him spend a week recently trying to slut-shame a former beauty pageant winner with a fictitious sex tape? Is he not the one that introduced the term "sex tape" into a presidential campaign? And another thing you can say: he doesn't make much effort to hide what he is, so people who support him know damn well what they are buying into.

10/08/2016 09:37:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Being that I was once a hopeless liberal, I am reticent to believe in lost causes.

10/08/2016 09:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Every Progressive Before 2016 said...

"It's only sex."

10/08/2016 09:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, but this is worse than sex with an intern. It's locker room boasting!

10/08/2016 09:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Bubba said...

Give that man a cigar!

10/08/2016 09:45:00 AM  
Anonymous HRC said...

I wish someone would objectify me. I mean, besides Huma.

10/08/2016 09:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Carlos Danger said...

I wish anyone would objectify me except Huma.

10/08/2016 09:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

I agree with this guy:

"But while Trump will occasionally disappoint me (when he does I’ll call him on it) I am convinced he will neither persecute me nor strip me of my rights for holding my Conservative Catholic beliefs and acting on them.

"I am very sorry to say I can not make that same statement about Hillary Clinton, and I’m even sorrier to see the day when I would say this about a presidential candidate.

"If we concede that Donald Trump’s character is bad, Would it be better for the country to have a President of poor character who will be under intense scrutiny by the press, pols and law enforcement agencies (Trump) or to have a President of poor character who will be given a pass and or defended by the press, the pols and apparently the FBI regardless of what they say or do (Hillary)?"

10/08/2016 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

My far fetched prediction: Trump doesn't survive this. Romney steps in. And that would be a vote my conscience would be okay with.

10/08/2016 11:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

It will be ironic if the GOP tries to solve this problem by grabbing that pussy.

10/08/2016 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

I so set you up.

10/08/2016 11:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's simple: if you criticize the left's vulgarity, you're a prude. If you imitate it, you're a terrible person by any moral standard.

10/08/2016 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

If Trump were a rapper, the left would call him a genius.

10/08/2016 11:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Call me when "the left" nominates a rapper for President.

10/08/2016 12:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait. It's too late. He already served two terms.

10/08/2016 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Stop insulting rappers. Obama was a community organizer.

10/08/2016 12:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eh, who really cares, so long as he doesn't invite rappers into the White House.

10/08/2016 12:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know how you people can take Trump's words so lightly. Look at the Clintons. They started with low level sexual intrigues, and soon enough evolved into major crime and corruption. I wouldn't take any chances on Trump doing the same.

10/08/2016 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

No, they started with low level crime and corruption and evolved into major crime and corruption.

Until somebody comes forward and credibly claims rape, fraud, embezzlement or murder, I don't care if he talks like a stereotypical rich businessman when he's around other men.

10/08/2016 01:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Until somebody comes forward and credibly claims rape, fraud, embezzlement or murder

Are you kidding? Don't know about murder; there have been multiple rape charges, but I don't know how credible they are.

But the evidence of massive fraud has been all over the news for months now (Trump University, the various Trump Foundation tax scams, and persistent failure to pay contractors...). If that isn't evidence of fraud I don't know what is.

Here is a useful guide to Trump's various frauds and scandals. Highly condensed but still yuuuge.

he talks like a stereotypical rich businessman

Huh, I am the leftist here but apparently I have a much higher opinion of rich businessmen than you do.


10/08/2016 02:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and if Trump really got all those women just because he's famous, it speaks horribly. Of women.

10/08/2016 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Familiarity breeds contempt. It wasn't so long ago - certainly within the past couple of decades - when business deals were still being commonly made over hard drinks between rounds of lap dances. Depending on the business, of course.

And quite frankly, a lot of women really are horrible. If you don't think that the sort of women who hang around with the rich and famous in hopes of living the lifestyle of the rich and famous wouldn't be all over him, you are a moron. Being born with a vagina does not automatically make a person virtuous.

10/08/2016 02:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Barry O said...

Come on, now - what red-blooded presidential candidate hasn't talked about how much he gotta have some pussy? And ribs, too!

10/08/2016 02:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Barry O said...

And let's not forget the classic, "bitch nigga buy your own damn fries!"

10/08/2016 02:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being born with a vagina does not automatically make a person virtuous.

I can't even imagine the thought processes that would generate such an irrelevant remark.

Since I'm apparently dealing with moral morons here: grabbing a vagina without the consent of the vagina's owner is sexual assault, and the virtuousness or lack thereof of the vagina or its owner is entirely immaterial to that.

Seriously, what is wrong with you people?

10/08/2016 02:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

McCain has bailed. Better late than never.

10/08/2016 02:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Vagina Monologist said...

Consent? Like the man said, when they’re a star, we let them do it.

10/08/2016 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Anon, you're the one who said that if he got all those women just because he's famous, it speaks horribly of women. I was simply agreeing with you.

Re. the gross conversation, yeah, it's gross. It's also talk, and if I had to distance myself from everyone who ever said anything crass in a *private* conversation, I'd probably have to move to Antarctica. After somehow splitting myself in two, since there are plenty of conversations I've had - even in the past ten years - which, by this standard, would make me ineligible for office. Especially if every word spoken was taken literally and assumed to be perfectly truthful. I mean, no man has ever exaggerated about his success with the ladies or about the speed of his approach. Especially not to impress another man. /sarc

10/08/2016 03:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Hillary said...

Can you really trust a man in the White House who has no idea how to deal with a bimbo eruption?

10/08/2016 03:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Slick Willy said...

Hey, who hasn't just grabbed for that pussy when the opportunity strikes?

10/08/2016 03:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can bet John McCain never heard any crude sexual talk when he was in the military.

10/08/2016 03:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and more confirmation that he does more than just talk about sexual assault. You're welcome!

Love the smell of wingnut desperation. The Republican party is undergoing complete internal collapse. I feel a little bit bad for gloating, but only a little.

10/08/2016 05:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, maybe I will gloat little. I wasn't just born a Pajama Boy, I worked hard at it!

10/08/2016 05:11:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Fair enough - he's a depraved pervert.

That puts him closer to a level with the Clintons, then. Still don't have a trail of bodies, nor many of the other little problems that dog Hillary, but it's not good.

Since that almost rules out the comparison between perversions, I suppose we'll have to consider the actual issues. What does Hillary promise to do for the country vs. what Trump wants to do?

In that case, I still have to vote a Trump. At least he seems to like America.

As far as the GOP goes, it's their fault we don't have someone better. They got elected by making promises they turned around and violated as quickly as possible. A collapse? Couldn't happen to a nicer party.

Whichever way this election goes, as a nation we are getting what we asked for. There is no hope in man.

10/08/2016 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

We've always known that Trump had a problematic character, only not nearly as problematic as Clinton's, so nothing has changed. I'll support crude over evil every time.

10/08/2016 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The trouble is, no one looks at things from a cosmic perspective, so trivial things appear huge while massive objects are rendered invisible. But that's job one of the liberal media -- to keep the LOFOs distracted.

10/08/2016 06:23:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Exactly.

Hillary is pure poison. She must not be elected.

10/08/2016 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

White males are the only voting bloc with the good sense to not vote for Nurse Ratched.

10/08/2016 07:14:00 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

A quick drop-in from Elephant/Anna... This discussion is so refreshing! Thank you.
I second GB @ 5:59pm and 6:23pm and Julie @ 6:49pm.


"no one looks at things from a cosmic perspective, so trivial things appear huge while massive objects are rendered invisible"

This was a tonic -- not just re. the presidential race but re. life. Typing with one hand while holding a tired one-year old so must go...

Shall try to keep tuned to good sense here as the elections approach. Thank you!!

10/08/2016 11:11:00 PM  
Blogger doug saxum said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10/09/2016 04:41:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

:D
It's been a while since I've had to type with a sleepy baby on one arm. Sweet age. It's good to hear from you!

10/09/2016 04:45:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Our choices are Han Solo or Gollum.
And we're being invaded.

10/09/2016 06:17:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Objects in mirror may appear smaller due to media obsession with dirty talk. Which is the whole point.

10/09/2016 08:15:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Exactly. I noticed yesterday people were even harrumphing because in his apology he called all of this "a distraction." Well, it is.

If we were paying attention to things that are really important and relevant to today, we'd hardly be talking about Trump at all.

10/09/2016 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Trump should just just paraphrase Paul and admit that "When I was a liberal, I spoke as a liberal, I understood as a liberal, I thought as liberal."

10/09/2016 08:27:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Ha - yes.

Ten years ago, before I stumbled across this blog - in hindsight, surely a coonspiracy - I was pretty much an atheist. I said, did, and thought about things that today just make me shake my head. I wasn't an awful person, I don't think, but could well have become one. Some of the things I thought about doing would surely have led me down a dark and troubled path.

A lot happens in ten years. Even in one.

I don't think Trump is the same person today that he was even a few months ago, before he started his daily run of campaign stops around the country. I hope he is a better person in many ways.

But at the same time, it doesn't really matter all that much; even if he is exactly the same man he was ten years ago, he'd be a better president than Clinton.

10/09/2016 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, we're not voting for pope or king or even "leader of the country" (conservatives don't need leaders), just the executive of the freaking federal government. It shouldn't even matter nearly as much as it does, but the reason it matters is because of the vast, illegitimate expansion of government.

10/09/2016 08:49:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

As someone said, the less politicians control, the less it matters who controls the politicians.

10/09/2016 08:50:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Yep. What we're really voting for in this election, ultimately, is whether we want to be Germany (or worse, Venezuela) or America.

I know which one I want.

10/09/2016 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Speaking of the absence of a cosmic perspective, 35 well-intentioned things you can't say on campus. It is literally impossible to imagine the smallness of such minds.

10/09/2016 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger neal said...

Trump as Commander in Chief, Putin deals.
Hillary? As I speak, Russia is preparing for nuclear war- which they can survive.

Sometimes nuclear physics should be factored into the metaphysics.

10/09/2016 10:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What oozes from this audio is evil. We hear a married man give smooth, smug and self-congratulatory permission to his intense impulses, allowing them to outweigh the most modest sense of decency, fidelity and commitment. And although it speaks volumes about sexual morality, it goes to the heart of all ethical behavior. Trump’s banter belies a willingness to use and discard other human beings at will. That characteristic is the essence of a despot.

From The Desert News!. Guess those Mormons have sold out to the left.

Better spin up more of those feeble justifications. Or you could, you know, change your mind like an increasing fraction of the completely insane wing of the Republican party is starting to do.

10/09/2016 09:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Joseph Smith said...

No planet for Donald Trump!

10/09/2016 10:00:00 PM  
Blogger William Wildblood said...

Going back to the topic of the post if I may, I really don’t see how you can square Christianity with advaita Vedanta and keep the integrity of both. That is, square Christianity with advaita as it really is not as it is in the romantic interpretations of Christians who want to mix it with their Christianity and keep the best of both worlds. The problem is you can’t do that with advaita since it absorbs and relegates to the relative plane anything you try to reconcile to it. Your Christianity will become just a provisional thing to be transcended when you are wiser. Fundamentally it’s part of the world of maya.

The fact is that advaita denies the reality of the individual soul and of God in any real and personal sense. You can’t escape that. There are various mental contortions by advaitins that seek to have their cake and eat it, usually something along the neither real nor unreal line, but, when all is said and done, advaita is exclusively monistic and does not allow any true existence to creation or anything in it. Hence to be intellectually consistent you cannot follow advaita and believe that God is love. Love requires duality. Even if there is a oneness underlying it, for love to be real duality has also to be real.

That’s why Ramanuja rejected Sankara’s one-sided and highly selective interpretation of the Upanishads. Reality is far subtler and more wonderful than the simplistic version of it propounded by Sankara who seems to me to have been primarily an intellectual motivated by the attempt to defend the Vedas against Buddhism. He therefore incorporated bits of Buddhism into his system, the better to fight it. I really don’t think that people like Swami Abhishiktananda, and probably Schuon too, understood what advaita is actually saying. Seduced by the apparent profundity of its non-negotiable doctrine of oneness they just sought to blend it into views they already had, not appreciating that if you took it on its own terms it just demolished these, rejecting anything else as a half way house to be left behind once true knowledge dawned. The Trinity cannot be reconciled to advaita. It is precisely what saves us from the illusion of advaita!

I seem to recall that you once wrote that you used to think that Ramanuja was a degeneration from Shankara, but now considered him an evolution to a higher understanding. I think that’s right. By the way, I hope you don’t think I’m having a go at you in this comment. I’ve got the greatest respect for your insights and have learnt a lot from your posts. I just don’t agree with you on this point! For me now advaita is not that different to atheism.


10/10/2016 07:16:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

--I seem to recall that you once wrote that you used to think that Ramanuja was a degeneration from Shankara, but now considered him an evolution to a higher understanding.

That is correct. Also, I am not arguing for a mixture or a hybrid religion that does violence to both. However, if God is both one and three, then it is possible to over-emphasize the one to the exclusion of the three, which it seems to me is what non-dualism does. Indeed, there are certain Christian mystics who sound more like advaitins than trinitarians.

Let's just put it this way: there is not doubt that the experience described by advaitins is attainable by man, and that it is a religious experience. But there is no reason to call it the "ultimate experience."

I just read an old note to mysoph this morning: "Never make a God of your religion. Worse yet, your irreligion."

10/10/2016 08:02:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

--By the way, I hope you don’t think I’m having a go at you in this comment.

Perish the thought. I welcome criticism, up to and including trolls, who provide so much fodder for insultainment.

10/10/2016 08:04:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I have a book called Christianity and the Doctrine of Non-Dualism, by "A Monk of the West." Looks like I bought it in January 2008, so I probably wrote about it back then. Let's see what the concluding chapter says.

His bottom line: "not incompatible with with our full and complete faith in the Christian Revelation."

10/10/2016 08:11:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

What I wrote back in 2008:

In the end, the Monk makes only the claim that Orthodox Christianity and the classic Vedanta of Shankara are not incompatible, as opposed to being identical. For example, Meister Eckhart, according to no less an authority than Vladimir Lossky, expresses "a vision of the unity of being which is not pantheistic monism, but rather a Christian 'non-dualism,' appropriate to the idea of the world created ex nihilo by the all-powerful God of the Bible -- 'He who is.'" In other words, at the very least, Christianity is capacious enough to formulate a doctrine of non-dualism in its own terms.

The Monk cites the authority of St Thomas, who taught that "integral doctrine is not circumscribed within the limits of 'what is written,' but that by reason of its excellence, not only is Christ's teaching not totally contained in the written accounts, but cannot be so contained."

.... The Monk also cites a declaration from the Secretariat for Non-Christians, who wrote that Christians are to "refrain from a priori rejecting as necessarily and wholly monist and non-Christian, the ideal of identification with the Absolute which dominates Indian spirituality" (i.e., tat tvam asi, or "thou art That," which is to say, Atman and Brahman are not-two).

In fact, the Monk goes into considerable detail explaining how Indian mysticism has historically been confused with pantheism or simple monism in order to dismiss it, when it is anything but. To the contrary, there may be no metaphysical doctrine that is more explicit about avoiding the conflation of world and God.

Elsewhere he refers to an encyclical by John Paul II, who wrote that "the strength of belief on the part of members of non-Christian religions -- this too, the effect of the Spirit of Truth operating beyond the visible frontiers of the visible Mystical Body -- should shame those Christians so often brought to doubt truths revealed by God and announced by the Church."

.... Finally, the Monk again cites St. Thomas, who wrote that "the power of a Divine Person is infinite and cannot itself be limited by any created thing. Hence it may not be said that a Divine Person so assumed one human nature as to be unable to assume another." Naturally this cannot mean that there could be a "plurality of unique sons." But what can it mean then?

In the preface to the book, Alvin Moore describes Christianity at its core as "a bhaktic esoterism," while in common practice it is "an exoteric religion of love," thereby accessible to "a considerable sector or mankind." He goes on to say that since only God can truly know God, to know God is to "become him." Or, if that doesn't sound quite right, our knowledge of God "is God's knowledge of Himself through man as instrument," a formulation that might well have come from the pen of Meister Eckhart.

10/10/2016 08:22:00 AM  
Blogger William Wildblood said...

You say, Bob. 'Let's just put it this way: there is no doubt that the experience described by advaitins is attainable by man, and that it is a religious experience. But there is no reason to call it the "ultimate experience." '

But the thing is advaitins, following Sankara, do think that what they are describing is the ultimate. And they wouldn't call it an experience. They would say any experience is still part of duality and they would also say that Christianity is part of duality and therefore still rooted in ignorance. So from the point of view of advaita Christianity would always be inferior to it. I'm sure there is a state in which everything is experienced as one with no division and no centre anywhere. But I think this entry into the undifferentiated ground of being is a lesser state than the union in love with God described by some Christian mystics, though there are certain similarities. But the differences are crucial. And the main one is that in the highest Christian state individuality is preserved. That is not the case in advaita which thinks itself the highest realisation but is, in my opinion, a lesser understanding because it doesn't see that unity and multiplicity are both true. Christians would say that God created the world and saw that it was good. Advaitins don't really believe in God, creation or even goodness! That’s a pretty fundamental difference.

I can see why people might think you can reconcile advaita and Christianity because there is oneness at the bottom of both of them but it is a very different sort of oneness, if you can say such a thing, because the oneness of advaita allows for no differenntiation at all in ultimate reality which is exactly what the Trinity and Christianity does allow.

10/10/2016 08:46:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I'll have to respond later.... attempting to give birth to a post, and it's a difficult delivery.

10/10/2016 08:48:00 AM  
Blogger William Wildblood said...

Sorry, I don't want to take up your time! There's no need to respond. You know, I think we probably agree at bottom. it's just the old problem of trying to express the inexpressible.

10/10/2016 08:53:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

Great discussion Bob & William. Just to add some grist to the mill, the thing about mystical states that you get into is that the states are real and they have their own characteristics, but they are influenced by the ideas that you have in mind about what the ultimate state is like and what you should experience. These are the ideas that you carry into the state, and when you come out of the state these ideas are what you first see. So both Advaitins and Christian mystics are probably right about their experience, and there may be more than one ontological stream to the cosmos!

10/11/2016 12:41:00 PM  

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