Oh, no, not the “real” Jesus again!

Discussion in 'Christianity' started by Vimalakirti, Sep 30, 2010.

  1. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Hi Vimalakirti —

    I disagree. 'Enlightenment' in the Buddhist Tradition implies the same thing as revelation, as a principle. The same applies in other non-theist traditions, and I believe the Hindu Tradition regards its sacred texts as 'remembered' rather than 'revealed', which amounts to the same thing.

    This is the thinking of the Sophia Perennis, as I recall.

    I think lectures on gullibility first ... !

    Don't think it does ... or rather, give man any idea, and he'll cook up a radical ideology.

    Because people do not love ... if they did, it wouldn't be abused, and love is the message of Scripture.

    No, he was in the minority, period. Athanasius and Hilary of Poitiers were in a minority when they defended 'orthodoxy' against Arius, even though, at one point, 70% of Christendom was technically Arian!

    I know I tend to write a bit tersely (a necessary discipline, if I opened my heart, space would not allow) ... but please don't ever feel I'm 'correcting' you in the schoolmaster sense ... rather, as a brother ...

    Generally I think they were the 'pop culture religion' of their day. The Stoics really laid into them.

    Yes ... and therein lies the problem.

    It's a broad discussion, can be approached on many levels. I think it's when the jnana is seen as superior or excluding the Bhaktic Way ... in Christianity it's all of a piece, not a this-or-that.

    Only recently Pope Benedict said words to the effect that Christianity is absolutely a religion of gnosis, as it is the encounter of God in Jesus Christ, not the encounter with some abstract, unknown or unknowable 'Other' ...

    The Doctrine of the Trinity is a gnostic doctrine, in fact one could say the Creed is a gnostic statement — it's a series of assertions.

    On the other hand, Christianity balances the apophatic and the cataphatic, whereas 'gnosis' tends to the cataphatic ...

    And again, the 2nd century spat with the gnostics was to refute an idea of knowledge as somehow what you know opens the doors.

    It was also to refute the idea of innumerable intermediary stages between God and man.

    Christianity is a gnosis of being, a gnosis of the will, not a gnosis of the intellect ... of course there is the gnosis of the intellect there, in spades, in its doctrines and theology, in its mystical and metaphysical speculations ... but the Church never allows this gnosis to usurp or distort its vision.

    All forms ... gnosis, bhaktic, etc., exist in a symbiotic union.

    The term 'heresy' comes from the Greek verb 'to choose' — at one level it's obvious, as when one chooses to believe something that flatly contradicts orthodoxy, but there is a more subtle heresy, and that's when rather than a choice of 'this and not that', it's a case of over-emphasising one element, at the expense of one or more others ... which distorts the organic and holistic 'body' of the orthodox message.

    Thus, for example, the Montanists, or those with whom the Johannine scribe contends in the Epistles of John — both tended to overplay the importance of the spirit to such degree that the body was regarded as completely ancilliary, as it were.

    Quite. I think scholars now recognise that Thomas is not 'gnostic' in the sense of his near-contemporaries, which makes him, in one sense, somewhat original.

    Possibly so ... but that itself 'fudges' a whole number of issues.

    I remember a scientist saying of 'solutions', when speaking of Hawking, is that there are signs when a solution is a good one; they are often elegant in their coherence and presentation, another is that often they offer a solution to a raft of apparently unrelated problems.

    I think gnostic cosmology created more problems than it solved, a sign of a lack of metaphysical rigour. Having said that, a lot of the issues were because 2nd century cosmology was dualist, so was in that sense hamstrung from the start.

    Yes.

    Yep, he wan Manichaen until he saw the essential problem, then Plato offered a solution, then Christianity.

    The ethical dualism places too much emphasis on spirit/body dualism, it's an Hellenic notion that's proving very difficult to shake off.

    Then again, the Fathers used this kind of language, in their Platonism, with a far greater plasticity of understanding than we allow today.

    I think the answer is in Augustine's catechetical teachings ... they are of a non-duality but not a non-identity ... in a sense there's a direct line from Augustine to Eckhart.

    As a pedagogic device, yes ... but too much has been made of this, I think.

    Thomas
     
  2. shawn

    shawn Well-Known Member

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    Very nicely put.
    :cool:
    They don't have a thumbs up smilie so that one will have to do.
    Cheers.
     
  3. Vimalakirti

    Vimalakirti Well-Known Member

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    Hi Thomas.

    I think it depends on how one is drawing these parallels and to what purpose. You can point to simple homology and say that “shruti” (or “the heard” those Vedic writings considered of first authority, underlying “smriti” or the “remembered”, the later legal writings, histories, epics, etc.), and Buddhist enlightenment occupy parallel positions to revelation in their respective traditions. And that might be fine in a given context. I mean it depends on just how far back one is standing.

    But in most other contexts that would be paying all traditions a disservice. The problem is that “revelation” in the Abrahamic tradition is of a piece with the God of history who reveals not just the way things are but the way things will and should be, and who gives the appropriate marching orders. There’s nothing like the same thing going on with Hindu shruti, which run from the Rig Veda to the Upanishads, and it’s certainly even more remote from Buddhist enlightenment. If it weren’t you talking, I’d say you were going all new-agey on me!


    Interesting remarks. I wouldn’t dispute the notion that the church as it matured synthesized a whole range of ideas and certainly represents a far more sophisticated and nuanced whole than anything we have left of the Gnostics. But of course the Gnostics were stillborn and didn’t really survive to develop, deservedly or not. What to ultimately think of them will depend on your situation of course. Not being a Christian I have the luxury of not really having to take a position, so I see them as a mixed bag. But in the end I can’t see that the Gnostics really offered any coherent, full-bodied alternative to what became orthodoxy. So in that sense I don’t think the Church has anything to fear and might in the end benefit from the unearthing of these documents.

    Vimalakirit
     
  4. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Hi Vimalakirti —

    Quite. Thanks for the detail, by the way ...

    Heaven forfend! :eek: Moi???

    But, tell me, are there no 'marching orders' towards an eschatalogical dimension of the Hindu Tradition?

    I know the God active in history is unique (perhaps) to the Abrahamic ... but surely Buddhism and Hinduism have their moral dimension which is eschatalogically focussed?

    How do you see them different? I realise my knowledge of this aspect is very limited, so I don't think I can offer you anything useful to take a bite at.

    I'm sure the traditions have their moral dimension, I'm not questioning that ... perhaps it's not so much a difference in the process, but the content. I'll gladly acknowledge that the content of Abrahamic revelation is in a sense unique, but I was talking more generally of a process.

    My Course Director used to mention, quite pointedly, that a theology of 'inspiration' was an area of Church thinking that needed fresh eyes ...

    Well I complement that view ... there's a few 'scholars' around who could learn from it!

    But you're right. Of course, at the time (1st-2nd century) it was a huge issue. Now, no problem ... it does get rather tiresome when, as a Catholic, one is arguing against a philosophy that was shown to be deeply flawed some two thousand years ago ... if Irenaeus came back today, he'd be gob-smacked that the same old errors persist!

    Thomas
     
  5. Vimalakirti

    Vimalakirti Well-Known Member

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    These comparisons I think are always tricky once we get into the details. First problem is that all the basic elements are usually present in all traditions. Take the idea of divine sanction for human affairs. The ancient Chinese had their “mandate of heaven”, pre-modern Europe had its “divine right of kings”. You can say they’re roughly parallel but peeling back the labels reveals pretty divergent genealogies and understandings. (I have the crackpot theory that China fell to the radical ideology of Communism because light on radicalism in its own traditions it didn’t have enough ideological anti-bodies.)

    Of course the other thing that happens is that over time different elements get developed through contact and competition with other traditions, so that what was present in seed form or tangentially starts to become more important.

    One great example is Maitreya, the projected future successor to the previous Buddha Shakyamuni. He’s barely or doubtfully even mentioned in the earliest Buddhist writings. Even comparatively later Mahayana writings like the Lotus Sutra have little to say about Maitreya and certainly nothing to feed the eschatological imagination. Only later and probably under the influence of Persian religion (there’s the famous Buddhist culture of Gandhara) did this idea begin to develop. And so it did through Tibet, China… And it just gets messier with Muslim incursions, Christian, theosophists, so that now we have people fully convinced that the coming of Maitreya maps onto the second coming of Christ – or alternatively that he’s the anti-Christ. Such are the follies of eschatology! (Okay, I’m not a fan.)

    As for the comparison we started with, the Indian and the Abrahamic, again all these sorts of elements come into India over the course of the tradition’s development – I mean the one thing we all know about Hinduism is that it absorbs and integrates all influences. But I think it remains important to compare apples with apples, primordial texts with primordial texts, not just because they were the first but because they remain formative. What makes a person a “Hindu” or a “Christian” in a fundamental sense can still be found in these texts, to the extent he or she remains recognizable as such.

    The Bhagavad Gita is always a good place to start. In a previous post I touched on this comparison, so to be brief here we have Krishna stating the principle in effect that from time to time adharma (wickedness) becomes so dominant in the world that he (God) must intervene to set things right. But here are the relevant lines, in the Nikhilananda translation:
    Whenever there is a decline in dharma, O Bharata [Arjuna], and a rise of adharma, I incarnate Myself.
    For the protection of the good, the destruction of the wicked, and the establishment of Dharma, I am born in every age. (BG 4, 7-8)

    Now understand this is chapter 4. Back in chapter 2 Krishna has already taken a decided metaphysical turn away from the conflict at hand to focus on the ultimate nature of things – “the sword cannot cut, fire cannot burn…” But of course the telling phrase is “in every age”.

    For here you have some of the basic elements of the human condition – life is struggle, sometimes war; from time to time we must forsake relative goods and virtues for absolutes and enlist in the fight of good against evil (the ideological turn) – but here in a quite different atmosphere and mix. There is no sense that this is some final dharmic battle, that history will end, for it happens in every age. This is not the “God of history” since there is no essential relationship between the meaning of history on the one hand and the meaning of God on the other. While the Abrahamic writings tend to point to a future where history and God absolutely coincide, the BG almost immediately pivots away from history and into the absolute (where God coincides with everything). You may say that the Christian God is too bound up in history. Or you may say that the Hindu God is too impatient to go beyond.

    Anyway that’s the nutshell. It’s easy to see and argue the difficulties and advantages of these contrasting religious traditions. In the broadest sense I would say vive la difference! In individual terms, however, it is a kind of line in the sand, and I think most of us are compelled to choose one or the other.

    Vimalakirti
     
  6. China Cat Sunflower

    China Cat Sunflower Nimrod

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    This a really interesting conversation. Thank you!

    Chris
     
  7. bananabrain

    bananabrain awkward squadnik

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    hur, hur, hur. i'd do the same to my mum if it would shut her up for five minutes.

    it's from the mishnah - we came up with it, not hitch: "everyone should have two pockets, containing two pieces of paper. on one should be written: 'for my sake the universe was created' and on the other 'i am dust and ashes'". i don't really see why that should be such a bad thing; it is our ability to maintain the equilibrium between these two positions that translates into healthy spirituality and a credible moral position.

    i think mark twain put it best: "ideology, like halitosis, is what the other guy has".

    you are forgetting that if you go back in our history, you eventually come to the point at which judaism first engaged as a radical ideology - in its original pagan / polytheist environment in the middle east, as well as in its centuries of conflict with hellenism and roman value systems, in which it was subversive enough to enable the eventual triumph of monotheism through christianity. nowadays, the main radical ideologies available within judaism are ultra-orthodoxies, loony settlers, environmentalists, extreme post-zionism and assimilation, but there are others; generally speaking our history has been marred by outbreaks of radical ideology (for example, sadduceeism, the zealots / sicarii, the karaite schism, the maimonidean controversy, abulafian kabbalah, lurianic excesses in the form of sabbateanism and frankism, the hasidic / mitnagdic conflicts and of course the haskalah and the rise of "progressive" denominations - all of those began as radical ideologies in their time, but it was when they threatened to unbalance and overwhelm the underlying religious biodiversity that they had to be overcome. they have mostly destroyed or disempowered themselves in the end but they remain an ever-present reminder of danger averted - and they could still become resurgent yet again.

    it seems absolutely the same to me. christianity has managed to paint itself out of a corner by ditching the supersessionism and coming up with the "older brother" theology; of course i think there's a certain amount of doublespeak there sometimes, but there are many who genuinely understand and believe in this, although nowhere near enough. islam has not yet managed to paint itself out of this corner in any of the mainstream sects, although sufi approaches would offer one route, as would a healthy egalitarian theology of the "people of the book" as opposed to the thinly disguised supersessionism that currently exists towards everyone else. although for some reason they don't like it when anyone brings up the baha'i, so i guess what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

    well, i think you're partially right. what we see today as the global norm of abrahamic monotheism came about, in my view, because of the triumph of monotheism as a radical ideology, for which judaism prepared the ground; there is no way the roman empire would have gone christian, let alone at the speed it did, if two thirds of its citizens hadn't been affected by the ideas and concerns of monotheism.

    i know that, i'm just pointing out that the assertions you make when you oversimplify are not warranted by the examples from other faiths.

    i suggest you investigate spiral dynamics as a theory which creates a sort of cultural "rosetta stone" - www.spiraldynamics.org; the arya samaj are just as much an example of red / blue vMeme behaviour as salafist jihadis, west bank wingnuts or indeed the chinese communist party in their more militant moments.

    i might also point out the practical commitment to non-violence practised within the jewish diaspora and indeed the huge influence of jews on the american civil rights movement, all of these of course being excellent examples of green vMeme behaviours.

    hah! not too inaccurate - although where do you think the archetype of the drives-you-mad-always-worrying-and-bitching jewish mother came from?

    well, if it bothers you, feel free not to contribute, if you have nothing germane to say.

    "what is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour - the rest is commentary, now go and study". of course, this is about as much use on its own as the wiccan rede.

    we, i believe, mean different things by Revelation and the attainment of "ruah ha-Qodesh" or prophetic wisdom; but only really in degree.

    hilary of poitiers? i had no idea he got about that much after he left hogwarts.

    b'shalom

    bananabrain
     
  8. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    :eek: You can't say that!

    My Scripture teacher at Maryvale once observed that, whilst the Christian West has this innocent and waif-like image of the Blessed Virgin, he did often wonder if the stereotype of the 'Jewish momma' was closer to the reality?

    I do wonder ... when Mary and Joseph discover that the 'child' Jesus (He was about 12 by then?) had been missing for three days, they backtrack to Jerusalem, if that was me, I'd have run at the first sight of my dad's face. In this case tho', Joseph is quiet, and it's she who reads Him the Riot Act.

    +++

    Agreed ... I was reading an essay "Where was Jesus Christ at Auschwitz?" ... the author insisting that contemporary theology, and the contemporary Christioan, can neither bypass nor overlook this question.

    +++

    Mr B! You're a very rude man, but I do like you ...

    God bless,

    Thomas
     
  9. Eschat

    Eschat Member

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    Real Jesus = God Almighty. Doubting Thomas finally got it right.
     
  10. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Finally?
    "Thomas therefore, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples: Let us also go, that we may die with him." John 11:16

    This was in reference to Jesus going to Bethania, close to Jerusalem. Thomas knew that if Jesus went to Jerusalem, He would be killed ... but he had no fear of that fate, rather, it would seem, he saw it as inevitable.

    And, as some note, Thomas was not in hiding with the others when Jesus made His appearance. We can assume he was 'out and about' and not hiding behind locked doors...

    Thomas
     
  11. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Hi Vimalakirti —

    Just a thought, but if there is a 'radical ideology' of Christianity, it must be this:

    "Then shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me."
    Matthew 25:34-36

    Note the king stands in relation to the Father, and also that the king identifies himself with the suffering and the dispossessed ...

    ... just a thought.

    Thomas
     
  12. Vimalakirti

    Vimalakirti Well-Known Member

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    This is certainly one of the keeper verses.

    But our contrasting perspectives have already been repeatedly hashed out. Only a post or two above I effectively acknowledge that the Biblical God, whether in the Jewish or Christian reading, is enlisted on the side of the oppressed. I think we would both agree that historically that order has been not infrequently reversed (I would say psychologically as well as politically). But we diverge on how precisely to locate the problem.

    Again, I think we would agree that these texts, assembled in radically different cultural contexts are inherently difficult. You appear to believe, however, that there is a clear path through, that their mis-use or mis-interpretation is fundamentally a question of user error. I believe that the structure of transcendental authority in the texts is itself problematical, and open to error, with every promise comes a threat, that the problem is both intrinsic and extrinsic to the texts. (Of course, from my perspective these texts are human products, and so the bad readings as well as the good are there from the beginning.)

    The only place to go from here I suppose would be into the questions of theodicy or predestination – they have eyes, but cannot see, ears, but cannot… - but since I’m not a believer, in fact can’t even take these notions seriously, I can’t (see!) that leading anywhere.

    But in the end I think the texts are the texts and history is history, and what really counts in a practical sense is not how or why Christianity went wrong when it did or right when it did, but rather what kind of Christianity do we favor now, what is now the best uses of the texts, and in that I think we pretty much agree:

    I feel compassion for the people because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come from a great distance. (Mark 8, 2-3)

    Vimalakirti
     
  13. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Hi Vimalakirti —

    The 'believer' issue is the fundamental point.

    That aside — I am beginning to think that the West has arrived at a point where its own inherent dynamism has rendered it frightened of the dark and of the silence — so rather than enter into the text, as it were, the practice is to talk about it, ad infinitum, as a means of keeping it at arm's length.

    The only real way to get to grips with the text is do it ...

    Thomas
     
  14. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    Evidence of my recent Irish ancestors (5 generations back) is so tenuous that it could be said they never existed, but for the stories the family tells...yet I am here...therefore they must have existed.

    Ergo, something/someone must have set the stage 2000 years ago for what we call Christianity today. And "mythos" is not a fable...it is a story told from generation to generation, in order to keep something important, alive.

    Even "Santa Claus" has a basis in fact, though the details have worn smooth and some were lost to time. But the "core" of the man/character/deeds, remains intact.
     

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