Christianity: An Integral Yoga?

Thomas

So it goes ...
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In a recent exchange of views I 'stuck to my guns' on the belief that the body has a part to play in the Scheme of Things as does the soul — the subtext being that the body is the form of the soul, and that the soul manifests a form according to whatever 'world' or order of being it occupies ... from this perspective the 'disembodied soul' is an incomplete human being, and furthermore that the Resurrection holds the promise for the future realisation of the whole and total perfection of the individual human person in a mode of being that is veiled within the mystery of the eschaton.

So it was with some subsequent surprise and delight that I picked up both (slim) volumes of "The Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo" at a car boot sale for the princely sum of 40p, and flicking through the pages came across this:

The second postulate is that this union with Chatushpat Brahman (the Fourfold Brahman) can and is to be realised not only in the soul (psyche), but in the whole being (person) — the soul (psyche) and nature (ousia) — of man. The mind (nous), the life (physis) and even the body (soma) of man are to participate, as well as the soul (psyche), in the blissful experience of identity, union and communion (beatitude) with the Supreme Being
(The Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo, author: Rishabhchand, pub. Shri Aurobindo Ashram Press, Pondicherry, 1953, p46 — Greek equivalent theological terms my insertion in parentheses)

Well, well ... :eek:

Sri Aurobino says that each part of the being of man is derived from the Supreme, is permeated and sustained by the Supreme and is developed and led towards a conscious union and communion with Him which is its birth-right.

And it goes on ...

... my gob is well and truly smacked! :D I always knew that Brahminic metaphysics is a profound discourse on the nature of being, and non-being, but this, so succinctly put, goes beyond my expectations.

This is the ground of true ecumenical discourse, as far as I'm concerned. With Eriugena's The Division of Nature (a recent and impatiently awaited purchase) on the one hand, and Aurobindo's Integral Yoga on the other, both of which assert that the Supreme is All in All, whilst resisting the temptation/assumption of any mode of pantheism, I'm set for some interesting times.

Life, I love it! It's full of surprises!

Pax bonum!

Thomas
 
Delightful post, Thomas. What a pleasure to read your brimming over with joy at the discovery of these treasures of thought.

Maybe it is a sad fall-out of the Enlightenment that we have a more difficult time envisioning the body (and resurrection, transformation) as part of the afterlife.
 
Manly P Hall says something along the lines of Man as Body, being one mirror of God's image. Hence the old verse that anyone here can quote.

Check out his writing, Man - Gran Symbol of the Mysteries. Great read.
 
Am I getting it wrong or are you iindicating we are all one with G!d and simply awaiting our conscious understanding of same?
 
Hi Wil —

Am I getting it wrong or are you iindicating we are all one with G!d and simply awaiting our conscious understanding of same?
Not really ... I am saying God wants us to be one with Him, but the choice is ours to make.

Thomas
 
I am saying God wants us to be one with Him, but the choice is ours to make.
Not sure what you mean by "being one," but sitting at the right hand of the Father certainly doesn't indicate oneness.

I'm pretty sure that Christianity is one religion that does not aim at oneness. So if the idea was to get some disagreement on your position....
 
netti - i think the point is that christianity, like judaism and any other religion (including hinduism) can be done in both non-integral and integral fashions, which is the point that thomas is making. thomas is already an integral thinker.

thomas, come over to the "ken wilber central" thread in "philosophy".

b'shalom

bananabrain
 
I'm pretty sure that Christianity is one religion that does not aim at oneness. So if the idea was to get some disagreement on your position....
Really? I wonder how anyone could come to that conclusion. I think the evidence of oneness in Christianity is overwhelming ...

Thomas
 
Maybe it is a sad fall-out of the Enlightenment that we have a more difficult time envisioning the body (and resurrection, transformation) as part of the afterlife.
Do you feel that Jesus likening the afterlife of humans to the being of angels encourages the view that there is a bodily resurrection?
 
Really? I wonder how anyone could come to that conclusion. I think the evidence of oneness in Christianity is overwhelming ...
Thomas, if may ask what Christianity are you talking about? You can't possibly be speaking as a Catholic. If you really feel the term "yoga" is applicable, you may want to contact the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in this matter. You need to set them straight asap.

The stated catholic view is that union — understood as as absorption of "the human self into the divine self" — is in fact "never possible, not even in the highest states of grace."
Catholic Culture : Library : Some Aspects of Christian Meditation

Best to luck in your consultations with the Vatican, Brother Thomas. :)
 
Hi Netti-Netti —

You might want to check out the definition of yoga:
"Yoga" comes from the Sanskrit verb yuj, to yoke or unite. The goal of yoga is to unite oneself with God; the practice of yoga is the path we take to accomplish this.
Seems pretty close to the Christian idea of the journey into the Divine. In fact Scripture even uses the word yoke "Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is sweet and my burden light." Matthew 11:29-30

The question mark at the end of the thread title should, I would have thought, signalled the intention. Am I saying Christianity is a yoga? In one sense, yes. Is then Christianity a subset of an Indian Tradition? Of course not.

The stated catholic view is that union — understood as as absorption of "the human self into the divine self" — is in fact "never possible, not even in the highest states of grace."
Catholic Culture : Library : Some Aspects of Christian Meditation
That's because 'absorption of the human self into the divine self' is not a union is it? Union is much higher than absorption, as the article you reference goes on to state:
"A consideration of these truths together brings the wonderful discovery that all the aspirations which the prayer of other religions expresses are fulfilled in the reality of Christianity beyond all measure, without the personal self or the nature of a creature being dissolved or disappearing into the sea of the Absolute."
Catholic Culture : Library : Some Aspects of Christian Meditation, paragraph 15.

Thomas
 
Hi Wil —

I would say one-ness with God is not a given, but something we must aspire to.

If one considers human nature, one is talking of a universal category; if one is talking of a human being, one is talking of an instance of a universal nature.

The purpose of all life is to seek to be, according to its nature. In that sense the human, like any being, can attain its own perfection, which is the perfection of its nature. But as perfect as that nature can be, it remains a created nature, and its perfection remains within the confines of its nature.

So being 'all one with God' means either that the human nature is sublimated into the Divine (which is its ontological cause) and therefore ceases to exist as a nature — like the droplet absorbed into the ocean, the droplet loses all its integrity as a droplet, and cannot be recovered, or, that the human becomes joined to the Divine in such a way that the integrity of both natures is not compromised.

Such being the case, by virtue of the Union, the human not only perfects its own nature, but transcends it, by being drawn into a higher nature, without loss of itself, which seems to me to be a gift beyond all 'reasonable' expectation.

So I can acknowledge that we can all be 'one with God' as long as we never lose sight of the fact we are not God, but are participating in God ... which is why I do not accept pantheism, or its derivations.

The point that kicked all this off is the recognition, in another doctrine, of the same principle, that as a created nature, we can enter into Union with the divine, without loss of or a change of nature ... we remain human ... and that means, by implication, that God, who willed the nature in the first place, and draws it towards Union with Itself, wills that the human should and can experience the beatific vision in the flesh, otherwise, why give the nature flesh in the first place (which would limit its possibility of the experience of the Divine and thus be 'a bad thing').

When man attains this state, then he becomes a sacrament for the world, and the world is sacralised in him, because everything in relation to him stands in relation to God to whom he is enjoined. All will be one, because all will be joined to the one without discontinuity or interference by any one of its members (which broke this union in the first place).

Everything that was broken will be made whole.

That's the job in store for us ... and not even the angels can do it, because they do not possess a physical being.

But man cannot do this in, of, or by himself ... only by, through, in and with the Creator and the Logos of All.

Thomas
 
Thomas,
The question mark at the end of the thread title should, I would have thought, signalled the intention. Am I saying Christianity is a yoga? In one sense, yes. Is then Christianity a subset of an Indian Tradition? Of course not.
I question the use of the term "yoga" because I see the old Indian and Christian soteriologies as incompatible.

Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Bhagavad-gita As It Is 2.20
na jayate mriyate va kadacin
nayam bhutva bhavita va na bhuyah
ajo nityah sasvato 'yam purano
na hanyate hanyamane sarire

SYNONYMS

na -- never; jayate -- takes birth; mriyate -- dies; va -- either; kadacit -- at any time (past, present or future); na -- never; ayam -- this; bhutva -- having come into being; bhavita -- will come to be; va -- or; na -- not; bhuyah -- or is again coming to be; ajah -- unborn; nityah -- eternal; sasvatah -- permanent; ayam -- this; puranah -- the oldest; na -- never; hanyate -- is killed; hanyamane -- being killed; sarire -- the body.

TRANSLATION
For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.

PURPORT
Qualitatively, the small atomic fragmental part of the Supreme Spirit is one with the Supreme. He undergoes no changes like the body. Sometimes the soul is called the steady, or kuta-stha. The body is subject to six kinds of transformations. It takes its birth from the womb of the mother's body, remains for some time, grows, produces some effects, gradually dwindles, and at last vanishes into oblivion. The soul, however, does not go through such changes. The soul is not born, but, because he takes on a material body, the body takes its birth. The soul does not take birth there, and the soul does not die.

Anything which has birth also has death. And because the soul has no birth, he therefore has no past, present or future. He is eternal, ever-existing, and primeval -- that is, there is no trace in history of his coming into being. Under the impression of the body, we seek the history of birth, etc., of the soul. The soul does not at any time become old, as the body does. The so-called old man, therefore, feels himself to be in the same spirit as in his childhood or youth. The changes of the body do not affect the soul. The soul does not deteriorate like a tree, nor anything material. The soul has no by-product either. The by-products of the body, namely children, are also different individual souls; and, owing to the body, they appear as children of a particular man. The body develops because of the soul's presence, but the soul has neither offshoots nor change. Therefore, the soul is free from the six changes of the body.
Bhagavad-gita As It Is Chapter 2 Verse 20

Physical resurrection is seen as logically impossibe if you accept the premise that the body as a temporary vehicle has an end: "Anything which has birth also has death."

I think it is a novel idea to try to defend the notion of physical resurrection on the basis of a philosophy that is obviously intent on promoting a very stark dualistic outlook. But I dont see it as workable.

Individual souls are aspects of the Universal Soul, Brahman, who transcends matter. There is no need for physical existence at all. This should be fairly easy to understand for someone familiar with the idea of G-d as spirit.
 
Thomas,

I question the use of the term "yoga" because I see the old Indian and Christian soteriologies as incompatible.
And so do I, that's why I am, and remain, a Christian, and not a born-again Hindu!

Really, you're reading this all too literally. As I tried to suggest, the topic of the thread was a question, not a statement, and in that question, I find ample grounds for ecumenical discussion, without either 'side' necessarily abandoning its faith, that's all.

It seems to me the way forward for humanity is to find some order of common ground, and build a dialogue on that.

Certainly, there is much I could discuss in the text you quote from the Bhagavad-gita, but I see no point in so doing.

Physical resurrection is seen as logically impossible if you accept the premise that the body as a temporary vehicle has an end: "Anything which has birth also has death."
Depends how you read death. What is rebirth, if not a re-birth after a death?

I think it is a novel idea to try to defend the notion of physical resurrection on the basis of a philosophy that is obviously intent on promoting a very stark dualistic outlook. But I dont see it as workable.
OK. Doesn't mean it isn't. Perhaps it's time to open up to 'novel ideas'?

Individual souls are aspects of the Universal Soul, Brahman, who transcends matter.
I agree ... but then 'aspects' is quite an indeterminate term, so we could agree, and yet understand something entirely different.

If you mean individual souls are Brahman, then I would disagree. Christians believe individual souls are willed by God, which therefore one can express as 'aspects' of God, but that does not mean individual souls are constituted of God. By, yes ... of, no.

There is no need for physical existence at all.
No, there isn't. Have you ever asked yourself why is there physical existence?

This should be fairly easy to understand for someone familiar with the idea of G-d as spirit.
Your argument is fairly shallow, yes.

Thomas
 
Hi Netti-Netti —

My closing comment on my last post was perhaps a bit harsh, but the point is, I posted this question here, rather than under Christianity, partly because it's a personal note, and partly to open up interdisciplinary debate.

You say there are no grounds for debate, then OK, but I happen to think — ever the optimist — that there is always a way through, a common ground, of respect at least, that does not require one side or t'other to abandon their millennial traditions.

As for my part, the books mentioned in my opening post were bought with a friend in mind, a Daoist, who came to stay with us for a few days after attending a Buddhist retreat. We spent a few hours rollicking backwards and forwards across various points of intersection between our various traditions!

I felt obliged to tell her I had bought the books with her in mind, and she has taken them, promising to send them on as soon as she's read them. I've plenty to keep me going!

Only this morning I realised that I have had on my shelves Christianity and the Doctrine of Non-Dualism for a few years now ...

The word advaita, which designates Vedantic non-dualism, is Sanskrit for 'non-dual' or 'not two'; but the doctrine itself is by no means exclusively Hindu, being present in Buddhism, Islam, Taoism, and Judaism. In Christianity it has always been more implicit, though explicit with writers such as Dionysius the Areopagite, Eriugena, Eckhart, and even Dante. The great merit of this work by 'a Monk of the West' is that it shows that non-dualism is neither pantheism nor monism, and that there is no incompatibility between orthodox Christian doctrine and the strictest understanding of non-dualism in the Advaita Vedanta. The implication is that non-dualism can again find expression within a Christian ambience. With a subtle care for detail, the author clarifies the relationship between the hypostatic union embodied in the person of Christ and the Supreme Identity of Atma and Brahma, two distinct notions seemingly opposed in certain respects but curiously compatible in unexpected ways. The radical disparity that seemingly exists between the phrase 'I am Brahma' and the sacred formula of the Eucharistic consecration 'This is my Body' melts away, allowing these separate worlds to shed new meaning on each other.

... but that I leant it to a friend in Spain!

Luckily I have the Guénon corpus to draw on, and one could not hope for a better exposition of Brahminic metaphysics.

Thomas
 
As I understand it, according to the Christian view individual souls are created. Brahman is uncreated and so are the individual souls that are part of Brahman. As you can see, we're aleady confronting very different views of Creation, which are likely to influence soteriology.

What is the relevance of Vedic nonduality to an understanding of a physical Resurrection? As yet, I don't see any. Classic yoga - i.e., Patanjeli - deals with the body as part of a meditative discipline. There is an effort made toward the perfection of a discipline, not a perfection of the body as an aspect of perfecting the person. In my mind, these are very different things.

As for metaphysics, it seems to me that the mind-body dualism you were talking about in the OP is quite different from the self-Self nonduality of the Vedic view.

It seems to me the way forward for humanity is to find some order of common ground, and build a dialogue on that.
Yes. One way to identify common ground is to examine differences.
 
As I understand it, according to the Christian view individual souls are created. Brahman is uncreated and so are the individual souls that are part of Brahman. As you can see, we're aleady confronting very different views of Creation, which are likely to influence soteriology.
OK.

What is the relevance of Vedic nonduality to an understanding of a physical Resurrection? As yet, I don't see any. Classic yoga - i.e., Patanjeli - deals with the body as part of a meditative discipline. There is an effort made toward the perfection of a discipline, not a perfection of the body as an aspect of perfecting the person. In my mind, these are very different things.
Neither I nor Sri Aurobindo were talking of the body in those terms ... but OK.

As for metaphysics, it seems to me that the mind-body dualism you were talking about in the OP is quite different from the self-Self nonduality of the Vedic view.
OK.

Yes. One way to identify common ground is to examine differences.
That's what I said ...

Thomas
 
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