Dualist Theology

Discussion in 'Comparative Studies' started by radarmark, Sep 9, 2013.

  1. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Recently I have been reading a set of books on heresy. Four are by Yuri Stoyanov of University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies, Near and Middle East Department. He has a pretty hefty resume in the area of Heresies (The Hidden Tradition in Europe, The Other God: Dualist Religions from Antiquity to the Cathar Heresy, Christian Dualist Heresies in the Byzantine World C.650-C.1450: Selected Sources, and Defenders and Enemies of the True Cross; as well as 30 academic papers).

    He lays out a pretty good case in explaining the dualistic heresy-theology from Zoroaster to the Cathari. Very interesting, if very arcane, stuff. What is the dualistic heresy-theology? Dualism (in this sense) is the theory that the universe has been ruled from its origins by two conflicting powers, one good and one evil, both existing as equally ultimate first causes. Sound familiar?

    Nearly all forms of Zoroastrianism (including “Mazdaism”, “Magism”, “Mithrism”, “Mazdakism”, “Yazdanism”, “Gnosticism”, “Manichaenism”, “Zuvanism”, and “Khurramism”) are strictly dualistic. That is there is one good g!d and one bad g!d. The world is a battlefield between the two. Usually the creator g!d, responsible for the creation of the material world is the bad g!d (roughly the “destructive spirit” or Angra Mainyu or Ahriman). The “illuminating wisdom” (Ahura Mazda or Ormuzd or Ohrmuzd or Hormazd) thetrue g!d. Mary Boyce and her thirteen books (and lord knows how many articles) is the academically outstanding Western Scholar on Zoroastrianism (there is much debate about her findings).

    In the Western (that is non-Iranian) world the basic schemata (a false creator g!d and a true g!d) is manifested in a long line of so-called heresies (from Paulicians through Bogomilism to Cathari to modern “Gnostic Churches”).

    Neither Zoroastrianism nor heresies are really what I want to bring up. It is rather the dualistic schemata itself. Is the material world really so false and evil that one should not propagate? Is the true g!d really utterly divided from the material world?

    As you all probably know, I take a pretty Kazantzakian-Whiteheadean approach to all of this. That is, while our ultimate aim is to rise above the merely material, strive towards the spiritual, there is nothing inherently evil in creation (except the mind of man, which can give rise to some pretty horrific things like Nuclear Weapons, Sarin Gas, torture, bigotry, and injustice).

    It is hard for me to say the Ebola virus, earthquakes, volcanoes, Grizzly Bears, and Great White Sharks are evil.

    What do you think?
     
  2. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    I would say not. In fact, absolutely not ...

    Agreed. I think creation is a theophany which we've reduced to the mundane.

    Well, I think in any tradition evil infers the moral dimension, so no, nature cannot be evil, nor even 'wrong'.

    Dualism, for me, is an untenable metaphysical proposition. God by (my) definition is Absolute, Infinite, and suffers no limitation or determination.

    If you have two 'gods', then by definition each (and why stop at two?) must be an instance of a prior universal called 'god', the qualities of which they posses only in part, because they are different to each other ... if that makes sense?

    I think the idea of living in utopia, that, for example, if Adam and Eve hadn't been naughty, we'd be living in a place where the sun always shone, where you never got stung by a wasp, no-one ever suffered from tooth-ache or flatulence, you never forgot where you put your keys, or glasses, and waves never did anything more than 'lap' ... is a bit anachronistic now.

    I also think that once you allow finitude and contingency, then you've got a universe in which shit happens, but that doesn't mean it's a shit universe.
     
  3. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Thank you, Thomas, for the reply. It seems to me (for what that is worth), that nature cannot be wrong, let alone evil. But it would seem that at least some believe that.

    The Santayana Dharma (which, by definition includes polytheism, monotheism, atheism, vaishnaism, shaiism, shaktism, or smartism (let alone vendatanaism) seems (to me) a pretty broad definition of all of this. Of course, Judaism. Christianity, and Islam can be interpreted this way (but that is pretty non-orthodox).
     
  4. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    As a dualist theology, you mean?
     
  5. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Yes. Fontaine's "Dualkism in the Chistian and Muslam world in the Middle Ages", Lewis' "Mere Christianity" and Wright's "The New Testament and the People of God" all defend this interpretation (to some extenet).

    I do not agree, I believe that Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, and Bahai all are non-dualist. And must be (the dualist interpretation is heresy in each). Make sense?
     
  6. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Absolutely.
    It's stated explicitly in the first proposition of the Christian Creed:
    "I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth."
     
  7. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    "I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth." Seems a pretty good starting point for any non-atheist theology. While we may quibble about "One God" or "Father Almighty" (for lots of reasons, not all theological), and I may believe that this is inclusive of the Sanatana Dharma and other theologies, it seems pretty spot on.

    If there is a physcial Kosmos, there is some creator (issues of creatio ex nihilio and pure chance aside). If there is a physical Kosmos, it must include mental elements (or else everything is merely predetermined and my qualia, things I experience, are merely the result of the turnips I ate last night). If the Kosmos includes both material and mental aspects, then it must contain spiritual aspects as well (otherwise the Kosmos and mentality is deceiving me).

    Does it matter by what name and in what language we refer to the Creator? For mental reasons, yes; for spiritual reasons, I think not.
     
  8. Gordian Knot

    Gordian Knot Being Deviant IS My Art.

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    If so, I do not understand how the Holy Trinity fits into the picture. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Are they all variations on one theme? If so, why speak of them separately.
     
  9. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Really?

    I would argue One God from metaphysics — God exists in a class of His own. There can only be one absolute, one infinite, etc., etc.

    Father is, of course, in the broader concept of source, creator, whilst simultaneously invoking an intimate and non-deist idea.

    I can agree with that, although I would suggest the mental can completely screw the spiritual.

    For the heart, which I think is what you're indicating, I quite agree. If your heart's in the right place, then you're home.
     
  10. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Well the Trinity doesn't fit into any picture, rather it's a case of the picture fitting the Trinity.

    Because it's not that simple, and to do so leads to erroneous assumptions.

    You and your father are two distinct beings, but you're both 'variations' on the theme of 'humanity'.

    Having said that, it's not God (Father), another God (Son), and another God (Holy Spirit), that would be tritheism. It is one God, one essence, one substance, one nature, revealed in three Persons.
     
  11. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Oh, Thomas, how I have missed these interactions. While I do accept the notion and validity of "metaphysics", one can make the case that the Greek-Augustinian-Christian metaphysics and something like (say Whiteheadean or Kabbalic or Buddhist) metaphysics lead to internally consistent but divergent instances of “One God”. A conundrum. My solution is to postulate the most general and abstract case as a limiting case. So Spinoza-Leibnitz-Bergson-James (IMHO) seem to fit better than Plato-Plotinus-Augustine-Aquinas.

    Is it simply a matter of taste, I think not but do not claim to know. This is really getting esoteric. Does this make any sense at all?
     
  12. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    I think so ... I'll have to remind myself what 'Spinoza-Leibnitz-Bergson-James' implies. :confused: (Can you do that in a nutshell? I should 'fess up and say if you ask me to explain Plato-Plotinus-Augustine-Aquinas in a nutshell, I shall probably first throw my mouse at the monitor :p).
     
  13. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Just for the record, my antipathy towards 'gnosticism' is directed towards any system that places impediments between man and the Divine, and the popular 'Christian gnostics' Valentinus, Basilides et al, did that with a vengence!

    Not to mention its tendency to secrecy, so called esoterica, and elitism, the mark of the esoteric schools that proliferated from the Middle Ages even to today.

    Gnosis as such is a component within every tradition, and should be understood from within that context.

    But then I push what I insist is an authentic Christian gnosis — that Christianity is the hypostasis of 'archetype presentified', 'the Word become flesh' or 'the symbol realised' under the auspices of 'the rended veil'.

    'See what you receive,' Augustine told the catechumen, 'and receive what you are.' Esoteric? Absolutely. Occult? Definitely!
    (I very much doubt our contemporary western catechists know, or even comprehend, that notion ... I doubt anyone would dare say such a thing today.)

    Where it falls down is in the attempt to extract a this-gnosis or that-gnosis from the tradition and try and make it stand alone outside it — it seems to me an attempt to replace the mundane with magic, the search for a 'key' that avoids all the boring hard graft of being nice, because you should be. It was, too often, the 'instant karma' of its day, a misreading of the alchemist's transmuting base metal into gold.

    (Like receiving the Eucharist and thinking: 'That's it! I've made it!")

    'A monk's life is toil', one of the Desert Fathers said. 'Toil is what a monk is.'

    Then again, the gnostic ideas often contained profound psychological insights, but again, too often directed at the wrong thing.

    The gnostic notion of the demiurge for instance, the idea that we are in the grip of some 'mad, bad' misbegotten sub-deity who had no idea that a Good God even existed, seems to say more about the human condition than the celestial hierarchy.

    The thing I really dig my heels in about is the idea that the 'gnostic esoterist', schooled in the most obscure and arcane ideas, is spiritually superior to the man in the street. (And the gnostics weren't alone in that. There's plenty of evidence over the course of history to accuse the clergy of assuming a spiritual superiority over the laity, just because 'I'm in orders and you're not'.)

    But I'm interested in your thinking regarding the deity on this point. I'm pushing the One God argument from a philosophical perspective, rather than the specifically Christian vision.
     
  14. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    I think so ... I'll have to remind myself what 'Spinoza-Leibnitz-Bergson-James' implies. (Can you do that in a nutshell?l Let’s see. There is an implication that the metaphysics of these four are related.

    Spinoza opened up Western Philosophy to the concept of the dual nature of reality (as both material and mental). In addition, he states that g!d is manifested in everything. I believe that the following three philosophers (and Whitehead and Hartshorne and my humble attempts at understanding this) additionally define reality or the kosmos or the universe in terms of both matter and spirit. That is a rather controversial pov in the XXIst century.

    As for g!d, again all seven of us (I believe) define the ultimate as a non-material entity that interacts with (in fact, is the basis for) all reality (again, material and mental). This is blatant panentheism… the view that g!d is both all-there-is and beyond all-that is.

    How is this possible? Let me try a very Maimonidistic approach. The l!rd really has no positive attributes, only things which h! is not. These things are not really qualities of the l!dy but are merely attributes of h!r love and interaction with mankind.
    Is that confusing enough?

    This is all "pointing at the wind", do you understand that, do not abrade me, but try to communicate (which you do much better than I).
     
  15. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    So what is the point of either version of dualism (as a pure ditheism, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dualism or monarchism, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabellianism).

    Somehow matter is evil in and of itself. So physical love, procreation, drink, and a lot of other pleasurable things are all, by definition, bad. The Shakers (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakers) believed this and are no more (it is not a view supporting physical or cultural, genetic or memetic continuity).

    The parallel at an individual, philosophical level is hard solipsism… If I believe that I truly am the cause and origin of all things.

    How can one really think that the world as wondrous as it is evil? Or that we are somehow “more moral” because we are celibate? This simply is not logical to me.
     
  16. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Thomas... we agree on Gnosticism. I believe "hidden words" or the "hidden Imam" are merely ways human beings (as you said) can get in the way--and if they were true, like Wiesel in the Trial of God, I would lay my case for the unfairness before the l!rd.

    Furthermore, reading their texts (esp the Manichaean-Bogomil-Cathari stream) is really like opening up The Turner Dairies or some Area 51 website... just a long, overly complex conspiracy theory.

    Lastly, the hatred of flesh is overwhelming in these texts. The g!d gaves us a form, how can its very nature be evil? Okay, I am a libertarian but I am no libertine. "The Middle Way" is (JMHO) pretty much usually the best way.

    Monotheism seems like the most logical and acceptable alternative to me. Obviously by this I do not mean "Father-on-a-throne-in-the-sky". I do not pretend to understand or know the truth about this. It would seem that if one accepts one ruling entity, it suffices (be it Tao, Creativity). Likewise if one worships a series of entities (Grandfather, Grandmother, the Hindu pantheon) with the knowledge that they are merely aspects of the one (like love or truth or wisdom or mercy), it suffices.

    This allows me to see the 10,000 names of g!d of Kabbalah, Sufism, Roshi Ueshiba and Ham Sok Hon as worshipping the one g!d.

    But is the existence of one g!d provable within Western (or even Eastern) Philosophy? I think not. That does not mean a coherent and comprehensive metaphysics does not lead one that way.
     
  17. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Nor me.

    As you may be aware, I have been busy elsewhere, so cannot do our conversation justice just now.

    Rather than leave you hanging, I am roughly in line with the Orthodox notion of the Essence and Energies of God.

    Basically: All that God is, is His essence, which is unknowable (and where the Latins depart, insisting God can be known in His essence — this is where Eckhart is headed — where God and I cease to exist as separate entities. For the Orthodox, I think the apex is hesychia, the vision of the Divine Radiance.)
    All else is the manifestation of God's Energies, which I would read, and I haven't checked to see if Orthodox theology would refute me, is the act of the Divine Will.

    We are panentheist in that everything has God as its cause and its end, but we depart when we assert that created natures are not inherently divine, but willed into existence as themselves — not as the Divine at one remove — but truly brought into being from nothing.

    The only thing we have of God is life itself, and from wither it comes, to paraphrase the Beloved disciple, and wither it goes, we know not.

    God and life are the self-same Mystery.
     
  18. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Search, be your own guru.

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    Radar, there is a simpler word for it, hinduism. Or say 'Sanātana' (eternal), that too is not very difficult (you spelled it correctly in your next post). Sanatana is really a new name applied to hinduism by some people who feel that it is the muslims and the Europeans gave us this name. However, that is not true. Even before Zoroaster, and in the Gathas (Indo-Iranian Aryan epics), we were known as hindus (Hapta-Hendu). :D
    Why? It could be an association of equals, like Shiva, Vishnu, and Mother Goddess, at peace with each other (most of the time). They have been at peace with each other for thousands of years. :D
     
  19. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Search, be your own guru.

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    You have created a problem for yourself by accepting God and divine. Hinduism (advaita) avoided the problem of God and divine by not compulsorily making Brahman into a God, but only that which constitutes the universe and all things in it ('Sarve khalu idam Brahma' - all things here are Brahman, 'Tat twam asi' - You are that, 'Eko Brahma, Dwiteeyo nasti' - Brahman is one, there is no second, 'Ayam atma Brahman' - This self is Brahman, 'Aham Brahmasmi' - I am Brahman, 'So Aham' - I too am the same).
     
  20. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Well, put Aup. I shall drop the Sanatana Dharma thing. Is Hinduism really known as it (as you indicate) throughout it's history? I guess I missed that in history.

    Good comment on Thomas' point. That is the problem for us Westerners... hard to get rid of that Greek influence, you know. It really is as simple as "tat twam asi". And once you experience that, the Greek nonsense just goes away.
     

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