Oh, no, not the “real” Jesus again!

Thomas

Administrator
Admin
Messages
12,459
Reaction score
2,678
Points
108
Hi again —

Again, my position is that these kinds of rational arguments, while they may be of intellectual interest, only carry weight for believers ...
Not even then, the Trinity is a Mystery. It's only people like me that enjoy the investigation.

But my point remains that the logical difficulties you pose for which a personal god is the answer only arise given certain fundamental dispositions. They are not inherent in the nature of things.
I think you misunderstand our appreciation of 'a personal God' — God escapes person, as God escapes every predicate. The point is rather, I can know God not only as a philosophical abstract and principle, but also commune with God at the most fundamental core of my being — a communion of being-to-being, even as I declare that God is beyond-being ... we use the term 'person' to signify such a union, as we do 'nuptial mystery', but the emphasis is upon mystery ... then you go on to a Denys, or an Eriugena, or an Eckhart, where even these barriers are transcended ...

they all boil down to the idea that the universe can’t explain itself, that the explanation must lie elsewhere.
Again, that's not the Christian argument.

Aquinas famously posed the arguments, both cosmological and ontological, but Aquinas also asserts that the God of the philosophers is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, nor the God who hung upon a cross.

... which, for me at least, in the end only distracts, obscures & leads away from the direct experience of interest to me.
I think authentic Christian spirituality is in the lived, the day to day, and not in numinous experiences of 'the other' or the fruit of exotic or esoteric technique.

Thomas
 

Vimalakirti

Well-Known Member
Messages
127
Reaction score
0
Points
0
I think you misunderstand our appreciation of 'a personal God' — God escapes person, as God escapes every predicate. The point is rather, I can know God not only as a philosophical abstract and principle, but also commune with God at the most fundamental core of my being — a communion of being-to-being, even as I declare that God is beyond-being ... we use the term 'person' to signify such a union, as we do 'nuptial mystery', but the emphasis is upon mystery ... then you go on to a Denys, or an Eriugena, or an Eckhart, where even these barriers are transcended ...

Your framing here runs in parallel for me with the Hindu distinction between saguna and nirguna Brahman and the way that some Hindu thinkers also manage to square the circle of a God that is simultaneously utterly intimate and utterly remote. You may know that Vedanta in India includes not only the non-dualist but also the qualified non-dualist & the dualist, with many variants on these positions, some of which would seem kind of familiar to Christians. You might be less aware that Shankara, the arch non-dualist who was so rigorous in his approach that some of his co-religionists called him a secret Buddhist, also wrote a fair quantity of straight out devotional hymns.

But as I’ve said before I’m sympathetic with the core of your Christian views, while not sharing your basic assumptions and being at variance on other aspects of the faith and its role in history. (I’m also fully aware that your views are your views, however well-founded, so there’s always that difficulty in fixing to what extent your arguments represent Christianity or even Catholicism as a whole on a given topic.)

As to the role in Christianity of rational argument for the existence of God, I think you would agree that it’s kind of complicated. One might first of all ask why it’s there in the first place, if at the end of the day it’s so much straw and revelation always trumps reason. It’s my impression that millions of Christians would quite happily answer that indeed it doesn’t need to be there.

But I’m pretty sure that’s never been the position of the Catholic Church, however, where rational argument has always been a key element of apologetics in the defense and propagation of the faith. It’s pretty easy to see how it all started – no sophisticated Roman citizen, nurtured on centuries of philosophy, was likely to take you seriously if you couldn’t offer at least some rational argument. Paul could never have shown his face in Athens or given intellectual battle on the Areopagus otherwise.

How reason became institutionalized is another matter. I would guess that it was first of all vital in constructing what had never before existed in the world: a civilization founded not on a legal but on a metaphysical code, i.e., the creeds, their founding axioms (dogmas) and all the doctrine that followed. Where previous codes invoked divine sanction or direction, this code was to set out the nature of divinity itself. Quite the tall order! Not only would Christians have to do battle against sophisticated pagan metaphysical systems already in full development, they would also need to do battle among themselves over the fine detail, the precise formulation of the relationships among Jesus, God, Man and the events of the passion & resurrection. Reason by itself could solve none of these mysteries, but it was essential to their definitive framing & elaboration.

Once reason became fully institutionalized, one might easily see it as no more than one more weapon of conversion, a way to baffle the intellectually inclined. Once one of these intellectual types had worked through a long chain of logical knots proposed by an Aquinas, say, even if he’s untied them all, he might well be disposed to throwing up his hands, saying at last, Jesus! I’m weary, give me rest!

But here’s where it gets interesting. Through the early centuries of Christendom, Christianity preserves Greek reason to do metaphysical battle, but in a kind of truncated form. Then along come primarily Muslim scholars who re-propagate this reason in something like its original amplitude.

The ultimate Christian response: the grand synthesis of your namesake, who brings reason & revelation together but who also erects a kind of firewall between them. Thus he’s able to safely import masses of Aristotle, making available and respectable a thoroughly rational view of nature as nature, which becomes another, if inferior text of God. It wasn’t all Aquinas and scholastics of course, but I think there’s a consensus that from such seeds grew the later technical and intellectual progress of the West.

The counter example is evident. Islamic culture, after a relatively brief golden age, elected to effectively ban philosophy (see Al Ghazali). And you can see the sense of it. Islam, unlike Christianity, was not at its inception a mystery religion. The question of the nature of God was taken as long ago settled; Jews & Christians had only garbled the message (here is the original fundamentalism), and the message was God’s authority & law, now under the seal of the final prophet, the shariah as embodied in the Koran and the hadith. So it was it up to the legal schools to sort out the details. And while reason is certainly essential to the interpretation of law, it’s reason of a much more narrow compass, plainly subservient to the text. Reason unleashed could only complicate and lead astray and should be excluded. This turned out I think to be a tragic error, and one which contemporary Muslims are still struggling to overcome.

But the strangest aspect for me is that I find this idea of legislating metaphysics, the creeds & dogmas, problematic in the extreme, and Krishna knows they’ve led to some terrible results, just as I find the doctrine of the trinity to be problematic and partly a manufactured mystery. And yet here are some of extraordinary consequences. History is certainly messy. You might say that God or nature loves messing with our heads. Or you might just call it “lila” the divinity at play.

Vimalakirti





 

Vimalakirti

Well-Known Member
Messages
127
Reaction score
0
Points
0
I think you misunderstand our appreciation of 'a personal God' — God escapes person, as God escapes every predicate. The point is rather, I can know God not only as a philosophical abstract and principle, but also commune with God at the most fundamental core of my being — a communion of being-to-being, even as I declare that God is beyond-being ... we use the term 'person' to signify such a union, as we do 'nuptial mystery', but the emphasis is upon mystery ... then you go on to a Denys, or an Eriugena, or an Eckhart, where even these barriers are transcended ...

Hi Thomas. I thought I should briefly revisit this, since what you're saying here would be news to most everyday Christians, would it not? What I have trouble grasping is the relation between the apophatic and cataphatic in your mind. Again, it reminds me of some dualistic Hindu theology, which similarly charts the tricky waters of the personal and impersonal God. Like some of them, you seem to be charting a course of progressively deeper realization, so the question for me is whether or not for you the personal God is a provisional concept (as the Buddhists would call it) or does it have some other status. Is your Christian God ultimately impersonal? I would assume not, but then you suggest that the "three persons" of God are not really persons at all but rather markers for the interrelationsips of some experientiel state of participation in the divine. Or am I completely missing the point? Your post above to Snoopy did clarify a bit, but I'm afraid you use idioms very much from inside your tradition and not all transparent from the outside. Thanks in advance.

Vimalakirti
 

Thomas

Administrator
Admin
Messages
12,459
Reaction score
2,678
Points
108
Hi Thomas. I thought I should briefly revisit this, since what you're saying here would be news to most everyday Christians, would it not?
I'm not so sure ... I think 'person' is one of the ideas people use, without philosophical investigation, and, to be clear, without the need to. But most Catholics, and I can only talk for Catholics, would, if pursued, say that the heart of Christianity is a mystery.

I sometimes talk theology to my mum. About 27 seconds in, her eyes glaze over. "I don't care about that," she said once, "as long as I can receive the Eucharist." With that, she sweeps me off the board, as it were.

The 'real' Jesus is He who is encountered in Scripture — that is, by the way, He who is encountered in my neighbour — He who is encountered in the Passion, and He who is encountered in the Eucharist. It's an encounter of deepening darkness and silence, but the degree of encounter increases exponentially in relation to the degree of silence and darkness.

Christianity is not an intellectual exercise, nor a matter of historical or textual criticism, it's the relation of being to being.

Of all the encounters (which is one encounter) the Cross is perhaps the most stark.

Everything else, as a friend of mine used to say, is toothpaste.

What I have trouble grasping is the relation between the apophatic and cataphatic in your mind.
Each informs and corrects the other. Neither is right, neither is wrong. It's a dialectic, I suppose one could say, in which neither party is the superior, although the apophatic is often assumed the superior status, especially in the East.

... so the question for me is whether or not for you the personal God is a provisional concept (as the Buddhists would call it) or does it have some other status.
An upaya? No, it's more than that.

It's the difference between a sign and a symbol. A sign points to its object, the thing signified, it is an upaya. In a symbol, the essence of the signified in immanently present in the signifying sign. The Person of Jesus of Nazareth does not point to the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, He points to Himself.

The Incarnation is the necessary and providential means of salvation. (The Fathers wonder would the Incarnation have been necessary if man had not fallen. My answer is yes, but the Cross would not have been, in the way that we experience it.) But it is not provisional. It cannot be replaced by something else.

Here's a thought: Rather than apply the term 'person', use the term 'subject'.

Philosophical and metaphysical inquiry into the Divine seeks absolute objectivity as a necessary condition for realisation of 'the real'.

I am suggesting that beyond this is required absolute subjectivity as a condition of the realisation of the real in its deepest sense. The Divine Union of which Christianity speaks is not an objective one. It's totally subject. Not one thing 'to' another thing, but one 'by', 'through', in' and 'with' another.

Is your Christian God ultimately impersonal?
No. God is the Source. The 'non-duality' of Christianity is the absolute participation of the person of the creature in the Person of God.

God does not know me because He created me. God knows me because He knows Himself, and He is the Creator and Sustainer of all. So God knows me, in Himself, as Himself (the Fathers call this the logoi or idea — Christ as Logos of God is the wellspring of all logoi).

Of course, the huge risk here is, having read whatI have just written, some might assume that if God knows me in Himself as Himself, then I am God ... which is of course not the case.

I am an idea in God, but I am also an act, in existence, and I have my own esse, my own 'is-ness', the gift of the Divine. Not the gift of the selfhood of God, but the gift of selfhood as such, a selfhood in the image and likeness of the selfhood of God.

Thus the distance between God's selfhood and mine is absolute and unimaginable, for anything I predicate of God's selfhood is based on my experience of my own. But that doers not invalidate the notion. I know God experiences His own Selfhood. I have no idea of what that is, it does not comprise any 'whatness' thatI can identify ... but I do have, from Revelation, something of the how of it ... the Doctrine of the Trinity.

but then you suggest that the "three persons" of God are not really persons at all but rather markers for the interrelationsips of some experientiel state of participation in the divine. Or am I completely missing the point?
Well here's the paradox: The Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity are Persons.

But: the Western philosophical idea of the 'person' is founded in Boethius: "An individual substance of a rational nature."

Well ...
God is not 'individual' in the sense that God is one thing among many things, God possesses no 'thing-ness' ...
God is not a substance ... although we use that term analogically.
God is rational ... or rather, we are obliged to accept this idea of God (everything in our experience confirms it) and if God is not, then there's really no point in the discussion at all ... we cannot reason something that is not reason-able.
God is not a nature ... although we use that term analogically, too.

The etymology of the term 'person' comes from the mask worn by performers in the cult of Persephone — and in a provisional sense this might be a better way of looking at it, by 'person' we mean that which presents itself to the senses, through which the divine speaks and makers Itself known.

St Thomas Aquinas said, "Everything that is in God, is God."
What he meant was that there is no contingency in the Divine.

But you are right, the 'names' of the Three Persons of the Trinity are relational (Holy Spirit, I grant, is not so immediately obvious); each Person is wholly and entirely God, they are not Three Persons who are in God, which implies a fourth, but Three Persons who are God, and their 'God-ness' is indistinguishable, it is One.

Your post above to Snoopy did clarify a bit, but I'm afraid you use idioms very much from inside your tradition and not all transparent from the outside.
The doctrine of the Trinity lies entirely within the tradition and can only be properly understood within it, comparisons with other traditions, such as cit-sat-ananda, are close, but not equivalent, and usually lead to erroneous assumptions. Thus external idioms do not apply.

Thomas
 

bananabrain

awkward squadnik
Messages
2,749
Reaction score
4
Points
36
Location
London, UK, Malkhut she'be'Assiyah
Vimalakirti said:
the main these kinds of Christian claims merely come across as a kind of metaphysical boorishness, which do little more than incite similarly boorish claims of Christianity’s rivals.
hah! extremely well put and agreed.

From the outset Abrahamic religion positively demands that we conflate its specific language (word by word, number by number) with God’s unitary script, the one key to the kingdom.
this may be true of christianity and islam but is not true of judaism, which, although we hold the Torah to be the Divine Word, do not expect everyone to follow it; *everyone*, jewish or not, has the "keys to the kingdom" (not that we think of it in those terms) in that "the righteous of all nations have a portion in the world to come".

But if the gospel of love had truly overturned the old authoritarian ideology of the rulership of G!D
this was and remains merely a straw man argument; we never saw our religion as an "authoritarian ideology" of Divine Rulership; if anything, it was about learning to take responsibility for our own actions, lives and destiny.

I believe other traditions, the Indian, even the Tao of the Chinese, are more pure in that unlike the Abrahamic their absolutes do not derive from an old creator/warrior god – a derivation the Abrahamic faiths have never quite overcome.
this, again, is quite the straw man, considering that G!D-concepts in judaism can also be shown quite clearly to derive from old mother goddesses as well, as names like "E-L ShaDaY" (from the word "shadayim", breasts) indicate. i would also point out that the hindu traditions seem, in their most revivalist flavours nowadays, rather obsessed by being combative - look at the rss and the endless riots set off by re-enactatings of the ramayana, or the fact that the most well-known applications of taoism are to be found in martial arts forms.

Now as I’ve said this radical ideology is double sided. It’s enlisted on the side of the underdog, whether the ancient Hebrews or the contemporary oppressed, but it also depends on rigid abstract authority that must always run through frail human interpretation. That’s why it can turn on a dime from being an ally of the oppressed to a fellow traveller of the powerful, turn from raving against the empire to serving it, turn from serving the dispossessed to merely serving the deranged.
this is wonderfully put - and it is the task of those who follow it to learn to walk the fine line, which is the ultimate test of the free will we gained when man "chose choice" in the garden of eden.

While most creation myths begin with the human person in some fashion or another, the Abrahamic God is human in a very unique way (as any Jew will tell you, they’ve been wrestling with him for thousands of years).
the way we'd probably put it is rather that humans are Divine in a very unique way and it is our task to wrestle with how best to live up to being made in the Divine Image.

Polar opposites in many respects, here Jews & Greeks combined to world-conquering effect.
as can be evidenced by the highly visible rationalist ideologies followed from the classical talmudic period all the way through to the renaissance via the babylonian geonim and the great reconcilers of aristotle with jewish though such as maimonides.

we can no longer maintain the same universalist claims we held when the world was so much smaller and we knew so much less of others.
as i say, the only universalist claim we hold is that there is something unique about judaism, not that we understand entirely of what that consists - it is certainly odd, anomalous and noteworthy, but it is certainly not chauvinistic. it also differs significantly from christianity and islam in universalist terms in that we do not hold out our system as being universally appropriate for everyone - i.e. requiring them to convert to it. i cannot overemphasise how much this position acts as a moral and theological safeguard.

At the base is the persistent mental/emotional disposition to the effect that “somebody must be running things”.
at, perhaps, a granular level. but you see, one of the most fundamental axioms of judaism - indeed, one of the first to be mentioned - is that of free will. now, it may very well be that on a quantum level, the physical forces of the universe, from particle vibration to genetics to evolution, are determined by the rules Designed into the universe, but they do tend to be plausibly deniable as well. however, we have long been aware that we need to act as if someone *isn't* running things. this is established as early as deuteronomy chapter 30; indeed, there is an argument to be made that this is implicit in the expulsion from eden. at any rate, we observe a gradual withdrawal of G!D from history, from "Walking" through direct communication through declining levels of prophecy to the current public silence known as "hester ha-Panim", or the "Hiding of the Divine Face". we believe that this is due to our own increasing intellectual, philosophical and emotional maturity as a species and a civilisation, in the same way that a parent withdraws gradually from control and interference in the affairs of their child, as the child matures and becomes an adult that can take responsibility for itself. at this point, what we refer to as "particular providence" gives way to "general providence" at which point, as maimonides puts it, ha 'olam noheg keminhagho - the universe continues in its usual practice, or to put it more simply, the laws of gravity will not be suspended on your behalf if you step off a roof, no matter how hard you pray. there may be a soft landing and there probably won't be, but this will be subject to a billion different deterministic variables and outcomes of causality chains; certainly this appears to us as randomness, but it is clearly not at a granular level; the particles in the air will not vibrate slowly enough for it to solidify beneath us, that much is empirically demonstrable whilst at the same time being sufficiently random to provide cover for the Divine Face.

The question of the nature of G!D was taken as long ago settled; Jews & Christians had only garbled the message (here is the original fundamentalism), and the message was G!D’s authority & law, now under the seal of the final prophet, the shariah as embodied in the Koran and the hadith. So it was it up to the legal schools to sort out the details. And while reason is certainly essential to the interpretation of law, it’s reason of a much more narrow compass, plainly subservient to the text. Reason unleashed could only complicate and lead astray and should be excluded. This turned out I think to be a tragic error, and one which contemporary Muslims are still struggling to overcome.
i think the error follows from the original assertion that jews and christians had garbled the message - i have examined these arguments in detail both here and elsewhere and, to my total lack of surprise, have found them to be without foundation other than that supported by the assertion of the evidence of the Qur'an itself, circularly reasoned. indeed, there is no argument about contradictions in jewish interpretation that cannot locate a parallel in islamic interpretation, the difference being that we never "closed the gates of ijtihad", nor do we regard bid'a or "innovation" as a bad thing - quite the opposite in fact. i personally think that the issue is that the prevailing interpretative orthodoxy has gone down a very unfortunate alley of religious supremacism, from which they will only be able to withdraw by an islamic discourse of liberty and equality before G!D. the casualties of this will be the dhimma and jizya and the attitudes exemplified by the "pact of 'umar". similarly, it will have to become the consensus of scholars that the jews and christians mentioned in the Qur'an are not *all* jews and christians at all times, but particular groups at particular times, or they will have no room whatsoever for manoeuvre and islam will schism as indeed it shows signs of doing.

But the strangest aspect for me is that I find this idea of legislating metaphysics, the creeds & dogmas, problematic in the extreme
so do we, which is why there is no unified, authoritative, systematic jewish theology, but a number of different options, any of which is acceptable. for example, one is free to accept reincarnation, or not. we have always had furious arguments over dogamas and creeds and nobody has ever won. that, in my opinion, is very much for the best.

b'shalom

bananabrain
 

Vimalakirti

Well-Known Member
Messages
127
Reaction score
0
Points
0
Each informs and corrects the other. Neither is right, neither is wrong. It's a dialectic, I suppose one could say, in which neither party is the superior, although the apophatic is often assumed the superior status, especially in the East.

That would certainly apply to the more rigorously non-dual approaches, like that of Shankara, which many in the West have found most congenial because most “philosophic”. But of course in India there have been many different ways of putting the relation. My personal bias is that I go almost all the way with Shankara but differ in point of emphasis (partly perhaps because by nature I’m not a renunciate). My sense is that while the universe may be ultimately non-dual & inconceivable, operationally or functionally it’s dual, i.e., a vast binary system of off/on switches, and experientially, creatively it’s plural, an endless array of alternative beings & designs.

So for me it’s a question of perspective, which keyhole (which glass we’re darkly) peering through, though ultimately it’s all one, with all levels of being simultaneously mapped one on to the other. I would only privilege the non-dual as the therapeutic perspective, a way of “cleansing the doors” as Blake puts it. Again, as non-renunciate my aim is not to disappear into the inconceivable or seek some ultimate spiritual thrill but to illuminate being in all its levels. Here I guess I partly echo the Madhayamika/Nagarjuna view of interdependence, the idea that the inconceivable itself is dependent on the everyday and exists in no other place, or more dramatically that ultimately nirvana & samsara are one, that there is not one iota of difference between them.

So I agree with you that finally it comes back to our lived experience – by their fruits ye shall know them – and after all our wanderings…

It's the difference between a sign and a symbol. A sign points to its object, the thing signified, it is an upaya. In a symbol, the essence of the signified in immanently present in the signifying sign. The Person of Jesus of Nazareth does not point to the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, He points to Himself.

I guess I would quibble a little bit with the way your use of “sign” and “symbol”. In ordinary usage as you probably know a sign denotes a one-to-one relationship with what it signifies, while a symbol stands for a complex of possible meanings. This is parallel with the distinction between simile and metaphor, the former pointing away to a likeness, the latter pointing to itself, as it were, and compelling interpretation. But a symbol as well as a sign remains a signifier. It doesn’t contain an “immanent presence” of the signified, except where ordinary linguistics is supplemented with theology.

I am suggesting that beyond this is required absolute subjectivity as a condition of the realisation of the real in its deepest sense. The Divine Union of which Christianity speaks is not an objective one. It's totally subject. Not one thing 'to' another thing, but one 'by', 'through', in' and 'with' another.

It’s very cool when you suddenly map onto another way of expressing similar ideas. In the BG (chapter 15) and elsewhere you see this notion that beyond the material world, beyond the devotional God, beyond the impersonal absolute, there is yet another level, the “purusha” the (really!) supreme person. It seems clear to me that this is not simply an iteration of the personal God, of saguna Brahmin, but precisely the deeper level of “absolute subjectivity” you talk about here.


No. God is the Source. The 'non-duality' of Christianity is the absolute participation of the person of the creature in the Person of God.

This is a delicate question, isn’t it? I guess my orthodoxy is the Hindu identity of Atman/atman. But what are the relationships within that identity? Here I’m reminded of the Christopher Hitchens’ canard against Abrahamic religion; that on the one hand its adherents see themselves as the lowliest worms, on the other as the moral fulcrum of the universe. But of course he misses the point, and while I don’t personally subscribe to the Abrahamic meta-story as such, I think it’s built on an underlying truth.

For on the one hand, we are mere masks (personae) of God, myriad temporary expressions; on the other hand, as sentient beings, as persons, we call God into being, into conceivability as well as inconceivability; God is interdependent with us the way as I said above that Nirvana is interdependent with samsara. The number of our separate individualities (on the level of jiva) is infinite because God is infinite and merits infinite perspectives, infinite ways to be called into being, while our individualities (on the level of atman/Atman) remain fundamentally one, of the same substance you might say.

Again, on the one hand we’re mortal creatures, life is hard, then we die; on the other hand, our birth & death is a grand magic show where at birth we conjure up a universe and at death we draw it back inside our top hats, while in our essence “swords can not cut us, fire can not burn us…”(BG, Chapter 2).

Of course, that’s a bit rosy isn’t it? This is not to dismiss pain, suffering, anguish, evil, confusion. It hardly solves all difficulties. No metaphysical blather will do that. It’s only a starting point I personally find congenial. Like you, I’ll still have my own cross to bear.


The doctrine of the Trinity lies entirely within the tradition and can only be properly understood within it, comparisons with other traditions, such as cit-sat-ananda, are close, but not equivalent, and usually lead to erroneous assumptions. Thus external idioms do not apply.Thomas

I had a brief scan through the Catholic Encyclopedia on some of these questions – holy smoke! For me it would be a trip too far down the rabbit hole to try to argue these questions in their original terms. Thankfully, I think you’re doing a fair job of shedding some light and making some of it understandable.

I would only hazard a few remarks on the trinity, fool that I am. From a more general comparative religion perspective it would seem to fall in line with the idea of emanation or evolution of states of consciousness.

God can only become conscious of himself through the Son. The Son shows God who he is, for in his non-dual state he may possess a kind of consciousness but not one in which he can view himself as an object. The Son in turn knows who he is by turning back to God, who is not an object for the Son but an internal state, as it were. His turning back is a turning in – I and the father are one.

The Son in turn is a communicator of all that God is, the Word. God in his non-dual primal state cannot be the creator of the universe since creating the universe is simply one of God’s attributes, activities or states of play, and in his non-dual state he doesn’t “know” what any of these things are. Through the Son all of God’s attributes, etc. are realized, including the creation.

Now that creation (along with all other actualizations of God of which we may not be aware) requires a third emanation or level of consciousness, the Holy Spirit. We might imagine that while God’s eyes are fixed on the Son, the Son’s eyes are fixed on God as an internal state, and that internal state is precisely that state of actualization, of God’s intimate involvement with his creation, or the Holy Spirit. So whether the Father (God in the absolute) the Son (God as the word) or the Holy Spirit (God as actualization), we have only one God who when he said “let there be light” was simultaneously all three: the absolute, the word & the actualization of the word.

Parallels? There are the emanations of Plotinus: the One, Nous & the Soul. And there is my more bloodless version cited above: non-dualist, dualist & pluralist. At a stretch, we might cite the Dharmakaya (truth body), Sambhogakaya (glorified body) & Nirmanakaya (body of transformation) of the Buddhists. Or maybe we should consider the three-leaf clover…

Vimalakirti
 

Vimalakirti

Well-Known Member
Messages
127
Reaction score
0
Points
0
this was and remains merely a straw man argument; we never saw our religion as an "authoritarian ideology" of Divine Rulership; if anything, it was about learning to take responsibility for our own actions, lives and destiny.
this, again, is quite the straw man, considering that G!D-concepts in judaism can also be shown quite clearly to derive from old mother goddesses as well, as names like "E-L ShaDaY" (from the word "shadayim", breasts) indicate. i would also point out that the hindu traditions seem, in their most revivalist flavours nowadays, rather obsessed by being combative - look at the rss and the endless riots set off by re-enactatings of the ramayana, or the fact that the most well-known applications of taoism are to be found in martial arts forms.

Hi BB.

Just like old times! And just like old times we return to similar points of divergence. It’s to be hoped that each time we dissolve at least some portion of misunderstanding.

But this ideology/theology stress point has always been a crux hasn’t it? So far we’ve come close but perhaps never quite got past it.

In the end the divergence is pretty simple. You speak from inside a long & evolving tradition that is at once deeply rooted and light years from its ancient beginnings. Of course it can’t be reduced to an ideology, not even and maybe especially when we look at those bare beginnings. To the extent that I tend to do that then I’m clearly presenting a caricature and stand in the wrong.

But what I try to make clear in my better moments is that the faith of Abraham only truly becomes radical ideology once it’s lifted out of its original context, first by Christianity with its emblematic creeds and legislated metaphysics, and then by Islam with its absolutist shariah. It seems to me that universal religions of conversion are by necessity ideological and tend toward the authoritarian.

So we’re approaching from different ends, and I certainly do err when I read later radical ideology too simply or too reductively back into the biblical source. I do tend to fall into that kind of shorthand.

But why do I do so, and what’s the point? It’s my sense that many Christians let alone Muslims have a decided blind spot when it comes to the strong ideological strain of their faiths, or simply conflate that strain with theology or the will of God. I think that’s a critical problem, for all the obvious reasons. My ranting & story telling on these forums have comprised my clumsy attempts to break through this roadblock to comprehension.

But again there’s the bigger picture of cultural transformation, as I touched on above. History is nothing if not one long train of unintended consequences. Both Christian & Muslim ideology have permanently altered the world’s DNA, and of course this extends far beyond the folks officially Christian or Muslim. Maybe it’s this very success that makes it so hard for us to develop a deeper kind of self-criticism.

As you have done in the past, you offer examples of the violence of other religious believers, Hindu nationalists, etc. But the point is not to keep that kind of score. Rather it’s to show the underlying motivation, and trace the genealogy of these and other sorts of cultural manifestations. I already pointed out above how Gandhi adopted the gospel message to his purposes, how the moral fervor he needed just wasn’t available in his native culture (sure you can get a mob together anywhere, but we know that’s not the same thing). The Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaj, even the Congress Party were all attempts to reproduce the dynamic social engagement Indians saw as so successful for the Christians. The idea of the nation state itself, as you know, wasn’t just some random product of Europe but rested on the twin supports of the rationalizing power of the state on the one hand, and on the idea of an anointed people on the other – for every leading state from Charlemagne’s to the US of A has seen itself as God’s instrument on Earth. Imposed on the alien environment of the Indian sub-continent it has been both a resounding success – the largest democracy in the world - and a hideous tragedy – sixty years and counting of communal strife and the failing state of Pakistan. So that Hindu nationalist we’re speaking of, whether benign or violent, is hardly simply a Hindu, whose good & bad deeds can be put simply under that ancient heading, without reference to Western ideology.

But again consider Gandhi, the Buddhist monks who immolated themselves in protest of the Vietnam War, the protesters at Tiananmen Square, Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, or Liu Xiaobo of China, who’s just won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. It’s no insult to any of these non-Westerners to say that the idea of social engagement, moral fervor & thirst for justice ultimately traceable to the Abrahamic faiths has been instrumental in forming their worldviews. And it’s no insult to the Abrahamic faiths to admit their universal influence, not just pertaining to the good, as in these cases, but also to the bad & the ugly.


the way we'd probably put it is rather that humans are Divine in a very unique way and it is our task to wrestle with how best to live up to being made in the Divine Image.

at, perhaps, a granular level. but you see, one of the most fundamental axioms of judaism - indeed, one of the first to be mentioned - is that of free will. now, it may very well be that on a quantum level, the physical forces of the universe, from particle vibration to genetics to evolution, are determined by the rules Designed into the universe, but they do tend to be plausibly deniable as well...

Very interesting points (including the whole paragraph, only cut here to save spacee). The way forward.

i think the error follows from the original assertion that jews and christians had garbled the message - i have examined these arguments in detail both here and elsewhere and, to my total lack of surprise, have found them to be without foundation

I’ve come to see the Jewish portions of the bible, your Tanakh, as only readable through the Jewish perspective, the original people of the book. Traditional Christians as you know are so bent on having everything point forward to Jesus that they’re completely unreliable as readers, and Muslims seem to me to leave out most of what’s interesting in their strain toward purity. Of course being held captive by an ideology makes anyone a poor reader. The special relationship of Jewish readers to the text allows them (potentially at least) to transcend ideology and give the text the breathing space it needs, as you do here.

Vimalakirti
 

Thomas

Administrator
Admin
Messages
12,459
Reaction score
2,678
Points
108
Hi Vimalakirti —

If I may paraphrase your own words: "The special relationship of Christian readers to the text allows them (potentially at least) to transcend ideology and give the text the breathing space it needs... "

I think that, by your presuppositions, you're not seeing that.

Thomas
 

Vimalakirti

Well-Known Member
Messages
127
Reaction score
0
Points
0
Hi Vimalakirti —

If I may paraphrase your own words: "The special relationship of Christian readers to the text allows them (potentially at least) to transcend ideology and give the text the breathing space it needs... "

I think that, by your presuppositions, you're not seeing that.

Thomas


Point taken. But I think I stand only partially corrected. In that, to return to the original dichotomy, the “special relationship” of Christians consists in the gospel of love/mystery, and as I’ve said several times I’m certainly in favor of that. But I also maintain that the distortions of the ideological side of the Christian ledger still operate.

But the issue is how to read the Jewish portions of the bible, and here I think that mere labels and interior arrangement may be the best guide and we should consider the Christian Old Testament, the Jewish Tanakh and whatever imaginary sets of Jewish scriptures Muslims carry around in their heads quite simply as distinctly different sets of books. And I guess if you take a readerly pov the various communities are in effect reading different books, and not merely bringing different interpretations to the texts.

From Marcion and the Gnostics on we non-Jews have always had trouble with that gnarly old God we read into the Jewish scriptures (leaving aside those fundamentalist types who embrace the gnarly God they’ve invented), while for Jews the G!d of the Tanakh is more like an indispensable but eccentric uncle, a fierce defender of the family who’s a little uncomfortable to be around but who on occasion says unforgettable things.

So while what Christians or Muslims think of the Jewish scriptures has had enormous historical importance, their respective ideological & theological presuppositions make them notoriously unreliable. Besides, is it really so bold a statement to say that the Jews are the best keepers of their own texts?

I’m afraid that in previous posts I’ve tended to conflate the Old Testament and the Tanakh, partly out of ignorance, so here I was only trying to correct my error.

As for Marcion, I understand the practical reasons why Christians retained the Jewish scriptures. For one thing, the Romans were great respecters of antiquity; Christianity probably would not have succeeded without its Jewish pedigree. But on principle I think he was right. In the best of all possible worlds Christianity would have started out fresh.

Vimalakirti
 

shawn

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,085
Reaction score
0
Points
0
Location
No longer here
You guys are as exciting as reading through legal briefs.
Gahhhh.
Over-intellectualization of a simple thing so as to obfuscate the fact that it is much ado about absolutely nothing.
But one can look really smart slinging high powered words around which signify nothing.
Too bad there is nothing of substance to be found in any of this gnat straining.
 

Vimalakirti

Well-Known Member
Messages
127
Reaction score
0
Points
0
You guys are as exciting as reading through legal briefs.
Gahhhh.
Over-intellectualization of a simple thing so as to obfuscate the fact that it is much ado about absolutely nothing.
But one can look really smart slinging high powered words around which signify nothing.
Too bad there is nothing of substance to be found in any of this gnat straining.

In the perambulations of our tottering, febrile & felonious prestidigitations, undertaken as avatars of undertakers in surreptitious nods to clods of ready earth & readier worms, we follow in fright & delight the ultimate One bereft of all seconds but sliding & slipping unending minutes & hours of hurry & flurry & drizzling & sizzling with sizeable & upriseable conspiring cohabiters flying hairbrains & airplanes like saucers (like Chaucer), like bullets, like ballots, like three cornered sombreros, all wrangling & dangling the keys to the kingdom of oil & toil & the parboiled phrases of deserted voices & choices & the echoing & the reckoning & the echoing, echoing, echoing…

(One man's blather... But let’s see, since May of 2005, I have a total of about 110 posts; since February of 2007 you have over 2,000. By word count at least, I hold you to be the far greater windbag! I salute you sir or madam!)

Vimalakirti
 

shawn

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,085
Reaction score
0
Points
0
Location
No longer here
In the perambulations of our tottering, febrile & felonious prestidigitations, undertaken as avatars of undertakers in surreptitious nods to clods of ready earth & readier worms, we follow in fright & delight the ultimate One bereft of all seconds but sliding & slipping unending minutes & hours of hurry & flurry & drizzling & sizzling with sizeable & upriseable conspiring cohabiters flying hairbrains & airplanes like saucers (like Chaucer), like bullets, like ballots, like three cornered sombreros, all wrangling & dangling the keys to the kingdom of oil & toil & the parboiled phrases of deserted voices & choices & the echoing & the reckoning & the echoing, echoing, echoing…

(One man's blather... But let’s see, since May of 2005, I have a total of about 110 posts; since February of 2007 you have over 2,000. By word count at least, I hold you to be the far greater windbag! I salute you sir or madam!)

Vimalakirti

LOL
Your latest words to voice were most exquisite and choice.

Sometimes less is more, and sometimes more is a terrible bore.
So I shall leave you folk to your long winded chore.

(and actually I had periods of unemployment in the aforementioned period where I needed some distraction that I hoped would be edifying, hence my many posts.)
 

Saltmeister

The Dangerous Dinner
Messages
2,130
Reaction score
2
Points
36
Location
Australia
I've been a bit too busy with other things to post my own "high-powered rants," but I decided to comment on your (shawn's) post here.

(Actually, it was partly because I felt I needed to take some time off from posting here because I was getting a little too over-excited with what was happening and needed to get away from the action.)

You guys are as exciting as reading through legal briefs.
Gahhhh.
Over-intellectualization of a simple thing so as to obfuscate the fact that it is much ado about absolutely nothing.
But one can look really smart slinging high powered words around which signify nothing.
Too bad there is nothing of substance to be found in any of this gnat straining.

That's easy for you to say when you're not an adherent of any "big tradition" and in that sense maybe you don't care.

You may wonder why we don't have better things to do. My theory on that is that it has to do with the social and human element in religion. I think you should be aware that there are some 2.2 billion Christians in the world today.

If you are not an adherent of any "big tradition" you may well not care. You're not a Jew, Christian or Muslim so it isn't your problem. But for those who are Jews, Christians and Muslims, it is their problem, and it isn't just because people feel so desperate to have a religion. It's not necessarily religion for the sake of religion, obsession with big ideas for the sake of big ideas.

If you think religion is all about big ideas you may be missing the mark. You are probably neglecting the social and human element of religion and that is a major component of religion. Religion isn't just about ideas. It's a social, political and economic phenomenon. It's about people, community, action, purpose and mission.

Why did I mention that there are 2.2 billion Christians in the world today? It's because these people need a vision. A religion without a vision is pretty pointless and people rally behind religions that they believe have a meaningful mission and purpose. 2.2 billion people is a lot of people looking for a vision.

I do see a point to these "big ideas" and I hope that one day we will be able to tweak these ideas in a way that will really do the world a lot of good. Ideas are a source of power and the important question is how we tweak the ideas so that we can use this power for good and make a big impact.

I don't dabble in big ideas for my own sense of pride. I actually believe that one day this knowledge will be useful in steering people toward a meaningful purpose. Intellectualism isn't necessarily for one's own benefit, but could be for the benefit of others. Knowledge and ideas are not necessarily useless and it's not always about some nerd sitting in a room by himself all day reading and comtemplating. Sometimes it's contemplation with a purpose.

I'm talking here about the politics of religion. It's not about theology, but policy. Leaving 2.2 billion Christians without a good vision is not only bad policy, but somewhat ...... irresponsible.

Food for thought.
 

shawn

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,085
Reaction score
0
Points
0
Location
No longer here
Again you miss the point and go off on a tangent.
I was basically joking around as the banter on this thread has been all super-intellectualized to the point where it is off in the stratosphere.
So I was seeking to lighten the load a bit with my typical irreligious stance.

I do think that both these people have interesting points of view however and certainly mean no disrespect or insult.
But I am not going to let an ivory tower go un-egged.;)


Some further food for thought would be if the religion is unable to instill a vision in a simple and clear fashion that any garden variety fool or child could understand, then they aren't worth spit and ought to go find a hole and bury itself to rid our planet of its ideological emptiness.
 

Saltmeister

The Dangerous Dinner
Messages
2,130
Reaction score
2
Points
36
Location
Australia
Again you miss the point and go off on a tangent.

As we go for a walk in the land of ideas, we should not expect everyone to be visiting the same places. People who walk in the land of religion do tend to visit the same places over and over again. I have dual citizenship.:rolleyes:

Some further food for thought would be if the religion is unable to instill a vision in a simple and clear fashion that any garden variety fool or child could understand, then they aren't worth spit and ought to go find a hole and bury itself to rid our planet of its ideological emptiness.

I think I'm getting close to developing a good and viable vision. Nearly there!:D A reason to persist......

Little child in the back seat: Are we there yet? Are we there yet?
Driver: Yes, almost there, dear; almost there, honey.

2.2 billion Christians is like a harvest waiting to be picked up and used. It is a collective waiting to receive instructions. We just need a vision that is good enough to override the existing ones in geographical localities.
 

shawn

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,085
Reaction score
0
Points
0
Location
No longer here
I think I'm getting close to developing a good and viable vision. Nearly there!:D A reason to persist......



2.2 billion Christians is like a harvest waiting to be picked up and used. It is a collective waiting to receive instructions. We just need a vision that is good enough to override the existing ones in geographical localities.
If it has gotten rid of the self centeredness of saving the one life from the stick of eternal hell, that people are alleged to get to "figure it out" then it may have some merit.

Funny though...if that religion had any merit it would already have such a "vision".
(especially after this long a time with so very many committed and intelligent people working at it)
That is a prerequisite to a religions validity.
Maybe that project has gone on for long enough and it is time to move along to the next one.

Another would be simple and easy verification of certain basic fundamentals within it.

Philosophy is all well and good for whiling away ones life with tricky word games, but it lacks the power of a real spiritual experience which a person doesn't have to be an einstein to experience.

I see that (the crafting of such vision), which includes everybody, as a keynote to forums such as these.

And it takes all sorts from the irreverent atheists to the most orthodox fundamentalists of whatever stripe.
 

Thomas

Administrator
Admin
Messages
12,459
Reaction score
2,678
Points
108
Hi Vimalakriti —

Point taken.
OK.

But I think I stand only partially corrected. In that, to return to the original dichotomy, the “special relationship” of Christians consists in the gospel of love/mystery, and as I’ve said several times I’m certainly in favor of that. But I also maintain that the distortions of the ideological side of the Christian ledger still operate.
I think that's an inescapable factor of any Revelation ... and of any tradition. The point is not to let the latter overwhelm the former.

Scripturally, Israel sought a king, even though her prophets spoke against it.

Christendom modelled itself on the best pattern available to it, which was the Roman Empire. Sadly, in so doing, it rather underplayed or failed to notice the 'radical ideology' of Christianity that opposed the ideology of the secular empire ...

(As a sub-text, most people place the 'faultline', if we should call it that, at the point when Constantine declared Christianity the religion of state. I think this is wrong — it's invariably founded on hearsay or ignorance — the Christian administrative model was already established by then: Bishop-priest-deacon. The influence of the Roman legislative model began a shift from a liturgical culture to a litigious one, a shift more subtle and more pernicious... )

From Marcion and the Gnostics on we non-Jews have always had trouble with that gnarly old God we read into the Jewish scriptures...
I don't think that's the case at all.

What about Irenaeus, Justin, Clement and Origen? Polycarp and Ignatius? And the list goes on and on ... Marcion, Celcus et al were in the minority.

The Gnostic problem is that they are fundamentally dualists, and Christianity fundamentally isn't ...

is it really so bold a statement to say that the Jews are the best keepers of their own texts?
Not at all ... just as the Christians are the best keepers of theirs.

As for Marcion, I understand the practical reasons why Christians retained the Jewish scriptures. For one thing, the Romans were great respecters of antiquity;
Nothing to do with Rome ... everything to do with how the Christians saw themselves, as the fulfilment of the promise of Hebrew Scripture.

In the best of all possible worlds Christianity would have started out fresh.
But then that would have completely misrepresent Christianity.

Thomas
 

Vimalakirti

Well-Known Member
Messages
127
Reaction score
0
Points
0
I think that's an inescapable factor of any Revelation ... and of any tradition. The point is not to let the latter overwhelm the former.


Of course “revelation” itself is not a universal concept but is native to Abrahamic faiths. My sense as you know is that we need to wrestle not just with extrinsic but also intrinsic difficulties in religion, i.e., it’s not just the way people use texts but also the texts themselves.


Christendom modelled itself on the best pattern available to it, which was the Roman Empire. Sadly, in so doing, it rather underplayed or failed to notice the 'radical ideology' of Christianity that opposed the ideology of the secular empire ...

(As a sub-text, most people place the 'faultline', if we should call it that, at the point when Constantine declared Christianity the religion of state. I think this is wrong — it's invariably founded on hearsay or ignorance — the Christian administrative model was already established by then: Bishop-priest-deacon. The influence of the Roman legislative model began a shift from a liturgical culture to a litigious one, a shift more subtle and more pernicious... )


These are good points. All the people who’ve gone to see the DaVinci Code should be required to attend lectures in early Church history. But again, as I’ve said in previous posts the radical ideology you’ve referenced turns on a dime. It’s an indispensable part of world consciousness but remains highly dangerous and open to abuse. The criticism and disciplining of radical ideology cannot I think stop at the gates of scripture.



What about Irenaeus, Justin, Clement and Origen? Polycarp and Ignatius? And the list goes on and on ... Marcion, Celcus et al were in the minority.

The Gnostic problem is that they are fundamentally dualists, and Christianity fundamentally isn't ...)

Of course you’re right that Marcion was in the minority, as the final outcome shows. I didn’t mean to say that this was a majority pov but only that it has been a persistent strain among a not insignificant minority, so in that I stand corrected.

As for the Gnostics I agree there are good reasons why they lost out to what became orthodoxy – their metaphysics tended to be kind of messy, their methods maybe too individualistic, their politics maybe unwise. But then “Gnostic” is kind of a loose term, isn’t it? In its broad sense it seems to refer to the approach to God through direct knowledge. There it’s cognate both in word and practice with Indian “jnana”. The Church I know officially disapproved of this approach, positing its own soteriology of (love, obedience & grace?). Yet didn’t the contemplative traditions preserve something of the Gnostic?

In this broad definition even the Gospel of Thomas is considered “Gnostic”; in fact, this covers a whole grab bag of heresies.

The narrow definition is metaphysical dualism, as you’ve pointed out. But even here there were stronger and weaker, cruder and more subtle forms. I think some of the scenarios of the demiurge, the lower order god who’s made this hash of the material world was intended as metaphor among the more sophisticated, a thought experiment to direct one to the God beyond god.

Leaving these distinctions aside, can we really say that Christianity overcame metaphysical dualism? Augustine was Manichaen in his earlier days (was that before or after his Neo-Platonic phase?), which I understand is metaphysical dualism of the cruder sort. Did he really fully transition from the metaphysical dualism of this strain of Persian religion to the ethical dualism of orthodox Christianity? Doesn’t he retain a kind of war between flesh & spirit?


I think the line between ethical dualism – where the battle between good & evil is internalized, the mental fight of William Blake – and metaphysical dualism, where evil is projected into the world, is not an easy one to draw, and in the history of Christianity has frequently been crossed

Vimalakirti
 

Vimalakirti

Well-Known Member
Messages
127
Reaction score
0
Points
0
Philosophy is all well and good for whiling away ones life with tricky word games, but it lacks the power of a real spiritual experience which a person doesn't have to be an einstein to experience.
I see that (the crafting of such vision), which includes everybody, as a keynote to forums such as these.
And it takes all sorts from the irreverent atheists to the most orthodox fundamentalists of whatever stripe.

Hi Shawn.

I don't disagree. Let me add a few quick points:

- It’s not that “religion” whether as institution or concept has any special value in itself. It’s just that in our present condition it provides one of the few contexts wherein we can talk about what really matters – life, death, the textures of experience, the sheer inconceivability that anything exists at all.
- It’s true that as we go on from ritual & magic through mythology, ideology, theology, philosophy we seem to be getting farther & farther away from the bare sniffin’ truth. But in a way it’s all a kind of Zen koan writ large. We have to exhaust all our machinations before we’re finally ready to shut the f*** up and just see. So sure it’s a matter of getting back to the original wonder, except that this original wonder only exists as a thought experiment pointing forward to what we can scarcely imagine.
- One of the great barriers we face is our warring worlds of discourse. We think there’s a scientific discourse, a religious discourse, a literary discourse, a discourse to describe household chores, another to describe first love, and in a practical sense there is. Each discourse has its use. The difficulty arises when we become captive of a particular discourse, when it ceases to be transparent and becomes opaque, and we forget that each discourse maps onto all the others. Try this: 1. Life sucks, than you die. 2. Swords cannot cut you, fire cannot burn you… Your assignment: map 1 onto 2 and 2 onto 1, seamlessly (and please avoid cheap metaphysical tricks or limp apologetics).
- So I don’t see the problem as one of developing some “vision” but one of collapsing these idols of discourse into the world as it is, rendering transparent the maps to reveal the topography, there I think we’ll all – theists, atheists, non-theists, assorted nimrods & nincompoops – be very pleasantly surprised.

There you have it. My claim to being the biggest Pollyanna of them all!

Vimalakirti
 
Top