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Christian nonduality, panentheism & anarchism revised


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Christian nonduality, panentheism & anarchism revised

  1. 1. RE:’s integral approach could be improved by becoming even more integral, I think.Epistemologically, when we “transcend but include” all quadrants [AQ] and all levels [AL], itwould be best to do that at all times [AT]. And by “time” I mean “kairos” not “chronos,”which is to say – not at every moment in time, temporally, but – every time we fully realizea value, axiologically.This distinction is subtle but important. What it means is that a truly integral interplay ofquadrants and levels is required for all optimal human value realizations. No quadrant orlevel, alone, is sufficient and all are necessary for every significant value realization. Wilber,contrastingly, tells us that there are different realms of knowledge and different modes ofknowing, each realm or mode both necessary and sufficient for yielding valid knowledge.That’s not true integrality, just a mere inclusivity.I’ll provide an example. We could divide human knowledge up into 4 methods or types ofquestions: 1) descriptive – What is that? 2) evaluative – What’s that to us? 3) normative –What’s the best way to acquire (or avoid) that? 4) interpretive – How do we tie all of thisback together (re-ligate)? Each method is distinct, hence autonomous. But all are necessaryto complete the picture and fully realize a value. We could say, then, that these questions(probes) are methodologically-autonomous but axiologically-integral.We might more broadly conceive the descriptive as our sciences, the evaluative as ourcultures, the normative as our philosophies and the interpretive as our great traditions. Wecould describe their integral relationship thus: The normative mediates between thedescriptive and the interpretive to effect the evaluative.What’s the difference? Without this important nuance, religion can claim a special gnosis –not just interpreting reality, but – describing reality. This isn’t new; it’s fideism. Science, forits part, would not only describe but also interpret reality, which is not a new conflation buta tired old scientism. They’re suggesting, then, that each of these these different methodsare both methodologically and axiologically autonomous.The nondual, epistemically, entails the robustly relational aspect of human value-realization.It describes the enjoyment of fellowship, of simple awareness. It goes beyond our dualisticproblem-solving epistemic suite (empirical, logical, practical, moral, etc) but not without it.For example, we could conceive of a nondual value-realization in terms of a spousalmysticism, which is caught up in the throes of ecstasy with our Bride (let’s not be coy, we’retalking about “knowledge OF” in the Biblical sense). Sticking with that particular example ofthe nondual, one dualistic value-added contribution might be realized in terms of some“knowledge ABOUT” our love-partner; for example, we could suggest that that knowledgeabout our love-partner came about as we determined beforehand that it was not, rather,our wife’s identical twin sister to whom we were going to be making love (persistent &seductive as she had been over the years, the little devil).I’ll return with a few comments on the nondual from an ontological perspective.As we consider the nondual realizations of the East, we must be clear in distinguishing 1
  2. 2. between epistemology (how do we know what we know?) and ontology (what’s the basicstuff of reality?). The nondual realization, itself, speaks to neither epistemology norontology but, instead, of an ineffable phenomenal experience (which characteristicallyleaves one with little of which to effable). The take-away is practical more so thantheoretical, existential more so than metaphysical and conveys a sense of radical solidarity,which then produces the fruit of an immense compassion. If you meet the metaphysicalBuddha on the road, kill her, I say.The West has a tendency to process Eastern experiences through metaphysical lenses. Now,the nondual experience does arise in the context of practices, which are epistemicallyfraught. But those practices have implications much more so dealing with how it is we SEEreality and much less so dealing with how it is we PROCESS reality. Those practices gift uswith perceptual purity and conceptual clarity but do not otherwise involve conceptualmapmaking.They help us fruitfully engage our participatory imaginations (or hometownknowledge – that skillset that gets us around town while meeting our needs with great easebut which may not, with equal facility, otherwise allow us to provide an out-of-towner witha clear set of directions to this or that destination, notwithstanding our own long familiaritywith same).Wilber’s nondual theology/theodicy has undeniable ontological implications and it’s nobetter (really worse in some ways) than many other onto-theology projects, as I see it. Thechief problem that I have with mixing metaphysics and theology is that we come off provingtoo much, saying more than we can possibly know, telling untellable stories. That’s notliving with paradox; it’s trying to banish mystery because we cannot bear the anxiety ofreality’s ambivalence toward us and ambiguity for us.Don’t get me wrong; I say we should let a thousand metaphysical blossoms bloom. But theirvalue-added take-away is in framing up our most pressing questions and most insistentlongings, orienting us existentially to Whomever it is that might answer them -notacademically & theoretically with formulaic answers, but – relationally & compassionatelywith a consoling Presence.So, of course, we will have our sneaking suspicions metaphysically but we best leave themin the form of vague questions and not definitive answers (even those answers conveyedallegorically):1) How can the Creator interact with creatures if we do not together participate in sometype of Divine Matrix of the same STUFF (forget the root metaphors: being, substance,process, experience, etc)? The placemarker I use for this question is intra-objective identity.2) How is it that the Creator and creatures dance together in an inter-subjective intimacy?3) How can each of us best grow integrally with intra-subjective integrity?4) If there is something wholly transcendent, ontologically, certainly, we cannot successfullyDESCRIBE it (even though we might successfully REFER to it) due to its inter-objectiveindeterminacy? 2
  3. 3. Now, there is truly something to Moltmann’s “tzitzum” and Simone Weil’s “divinedelimitation” and the Kabbalistic “shrinking of God” that also appeals to me in Wilber’screation theology/theodicy. But we can improve this account, I believe, with a healthy doseof apophatic theology, such as can be found in Robert Cummings Neville’s approach to theOne (indeterminate) & the Many (determinate vis a vis the act of creation).Theodicy problems arise from the presumption that we know more about God’s essentialnature/divine attributes than we could possibly know, especially vis a vis Her supposedmoral character (a truly anthropomorphic move). The problem of human suffering, evenwhen supposedly dismissed on theoretical grounds, will always perdure practically. Even aworkable academic solution will not ever be existentially satisfying? In the end, most comeacross as cruel, anyway? Ultimately, we just do not know WHY things are wrong or exactlyHOW they will be set right but can only live our lives with hope because of WHO it is whotold us THAT everything will be alright?Finally, there is nothing magical about preserving paradox. We do not know ahead of time(a priori), in any given encounter of paradox, which we can 1) dissolve via a paradigm shift2) resolve via some Hegelian dialectic 3) evade for all practical purposes 4) exploit bymaintaining its creative tensions. This is to make the point that some dualistic realities arenot illusory but real (good and evil) and, while we may not be able to satisfactorily accountfor their origin, theoretically, we definitely must approach them with the practical goal ofevading them (through more than denial or wishful thinking). Even though explicitly asked,neither the Buddha nor Jesus satisfied our theodicy questions, theoretically, but they didboth offer practical prescriptions grounded in a new way of looking at reality: nondually.This assertion invites much nuance but …Let me suggest a distinction between the unitary and the unitive.When we’re talking vaguely about the STUFF of primal reality, we intuit that it all somehowhas to share certain attributes in order for it to be able to interact, otherwise our accountswill suffer what the philosophers call a “causal disjunction.” How could a Creator, Whom weonly describe metaphorically, ever interact with creatures if all we have to work with areanalogues? Try to have an analogy tonight for supper and see if that fills you up! This refers,then, to a putative UNITARY being, hence INTRA (within) OBJECTIVE (an object).At the same time, when talking about the self as a true agent, it violates common sense longbefore it becomes a metaphysical conundrum to deny the reality of authentically interactingsubjects. This refers, then, to our UNITIVE strivings, hence INTER (between) SUBJECTIVE(persons).Combining these insights we might affirm a panentheism. I call it a vaguepanSEMIOentheism because this meta-critique is a step away from the more metaphysicallyrobust panentheisms, which rely variously on different root metaphors like substance,process, being, experience and so on. In other words, it is a semiotic realism, which suggeststhat, even though I’ve only offered a putative heuristic with some vague placeholders thatlack robust descriptions (root metaphors), still, those placeholders might very well makesuccessful references to a putative primal reality in a way that we can realize someSIGNificant value vis a vis our God-talk.To be sure, much of what we seem to take away in our more Eastern-like experiences of the 3
  4. 4. Indeterminate Ground of Being (just for example) seems to correspond to an experience ofabsolute unitary being (cf. Andy Newberg, neuroscientist) or intra-objective identity. Ourmore Western-like experiences of a determinate Creator and creation seem to correspondto an experience of our unitive strivings or inter-subjective intimacy.Interestingly, people who’ve experienced either/both the unitary or/and the unitive comeaway with a profound sense of solidarity & compassion for all sentient reality and deepgratitude for all reality. These general categories are much too facile though for authenticinterreligious dialogue for there are prominent devotional elements in the East (bhakti andsuch) that affirm the value of our intersubjective experiences.Most of the valuable take-aways from Western encounters with the East have been in therealm of practices and asceticisms, more epistemic than ontological. There’s more to be hadby the West, though, in further cultivating the Eastern wisdom of remaining silent on allthings metaphysical as it pertains to God’s essential nature? Not that the West doesn’t havea great apophatic tradition of its own. Let’s just say it’s been under-employed in manycircles, just like our contemplative tradition, the reawakening of which remains in its infancy(post-Merton).Was I too harsh on Wilber? I see the self as a quasi-autonomous agent, free-enough torealize values and not as some vestige of divine amnesia. In other words, there is a trueontological distinction from which we realize value, inter-subjectively, vis a vis God andother persons in our UNITIVE strivings. This is not to deny — but to held in a creativetension with — the notion that we and God, in some mysterious way, also share some ofthe very same “stuff” from which we may have issued forth vis a vis primal reality, creatioex nihilo notwithstanding. Otherwise, whither any divine interactivity?I’ve always thought the Hesychasts of Mt Athos might have been on to something with theirdistinction between the divine essence and the divine energies. Maybe they were on tosomething — not in a robustly metaphysical way, but — and providing us a vaguemetacritique?So, I’m only suggesting that Wilber’s account would be fine once sufficiently nuanced.I’d also like to affirm Cynthia Bourgeault’s notion that our experience of “constriction” is anencounter with a sacrament and all that that would efficaciously entail! It matches myintuition that we, as co-creators, amplify risks to augment values. I’m not suggesting thatthose values that are derived from all of the suffering attendant to that risk-taking could nothave been gotten some other way (how could we know?), only that there IS value and Iembrace it even as I positively eschew the suffering and would love to realize valueswithout having to make sacrifices! Some day we’ll all understand … cried Fogelberg. Iadamantly maintain that that day hasn’t arrived and that no theodicy is good that does notcontain a huge measure of the case for the sacramentality of creation as informed by Edwards, my dear late fellowYat (NOLA native), Donald L. Gelpi, S.J. published: Incarnate Excellence’: Jonathan Edwardsand an American Theological Aesthetic,” Religion and the Arts 2 (1998) 423-42RE: Nondual Week: Panentheism & Interspirituality – What’s Jesus Got to do With It? | MikeMorrell – January 31, 2012 – want to follow up yesterday’s Ken Wilber interview with thisblast from the past – something I wrote for the previous iteration of TheOOZE 4
  5. 5. It would be difficult to improve on that BLAST!Let me offer a strategic note re: interreligious dialogueIf one accepts that, formatively, in most traditions, belonging precedes desiring whichprecedes behaving which is last followed by believing …If those desires are largely formed by practices which engage us participatively andholistically …If so much of the early stages of the journey within most of our great traditions thus entailsevaluative attunement to reality via participatory praxes prior to any interpretiveindoctrination via conceptual map-making and is thus much more nonpropositional thanpropositional …Then there is an INTERFAITH BONANZA that awaits us if we would only [BRACKET] the[propositional elements] of our interfaith exchanges, at least at the start, to lead with thenonpropositional (practices)…Then, when we do begin to engage the propositional elements of our respective traditions,there is yet a further INTERFAITH BONANZA to be enjoyed if we would only [BRACKET] our[Christology], at least at the start, to lead with our pneumatology (the Spirit)!Now, some might offer the objection that many doctrines are inextricably intertwined withcertain practices and that may well be true but, for all sorts of reasons (some listed above),the converse is manifestly not true.If we’d approach interfaith exchanges in this manner, we’d have so much to celebrate in theway of belonging, desiring and behaving and even regarding some rudimentary sharedbeliefs regarding the Spirit! And this could help pave the way for a more fruitful dialogueregarding the propositional elements of our faiths, which are not unimportant.Importantly, even the term inter-religious dialogue reveals a certain rationalistic, dualistichegemony in its emphasis on the dia-logical. I now prefer the term inter-faith exchangebecause it goes beyond the logical and propositional, but not without them, to include themore robustly relational and nondual approaches to such human value-realizations assolidarity and compassion.Finally, I don’t advocate this approach only for the academic and theological guilds but feelstrongly that we need to popularize it and make it more accessible, perhaps throughstorytelling vehicles like The Shack. In a country and a world so torn apart by destructivepolarizations that are grounded in religious differences, this strategy for engaging thereligious-other could be a viable route to more peace, less war.There are two ways that panentheism is most often conceived. The first, a fundamentalisttake, panen-theism, sees God as part of all things but more than the sum of all things; thesecond, an orthodox parsing, pan-entheism, sees God indwelling in all things. My pan-semio-entheism suggests that there’s value to be realized in both of those parsings,panentheism via our realizations of intra-objective identity (absolute unitary being), pan- 5
  6. 6. entheism via our realizations of inter-subjective intimacy (relational unitive strivings). Whatit also suggests is that we can (maybe even better) realize these values by relaxing with ourvagueconceptions and questions, holding (exploiting even) these creative tensions while abidingwith mystery and paradox, rather than anxiously rushing forward with specific rootmetaphors and answers, imagining that every paradox is ours to resolve dialectically,dissolve paradigmatically or evade practically. This is to say, for instance, that it doesn’tambition a theodicy. In fact, the theodicy “problem” doesn’t arise precisely because ithasn’t tried to say more than we could possibly know by “proving” too much regardingGod’s essential nature or divine attributes.It seems clear to me that our panentheisms begin within the faith as theologies of nature, aspoetic reflections of our affective attunements and participatory imaginations, as anagogicalexpressions of our hope in a God Who deeply cares for us and desires to be with us. Theycannot credibly proceed from a natural theology or metaphysics, which at best could onlyraise the plausibility of a deism, which could have no inkling of whether or not primal realityis ultimately friendly or not (nature being so red in tooth and claw).I have come across some beautiful neo-pagan reflections which did seem to link theirpanentheist intuitions and anarchist inclinations via what I would call a divine sparkanthropology. (Now, when it comes to theological anthropology, even Rahner’stranscendental thomism was too optimistic, so, we must take care with any “divine spark”anthropology to avoid getting too dualistic, too Kantian. Human knowledge is way moreproblematical and a gnostic rationalism is no cure for other epistemic vices.) I haveelaborated my own “norms for intervention” based on my reflections on nature as it danceswith both freedom and coercion (from an emergentist perspective). I’ll simply say this –that, notwithstanding the initial, boundary and limit conditions of the cosmos and theconstrictions we experience, we are generally free enough to love and the normativetakeawayis that our default bias must be on freedom. The rub has always been whether or notfreedom can be absolutized, for all practical purposes, and this speaks to anarchist andpacifist stances. And this comes full circle back to just what type of Kingdom the Good Newsaspires.Ted wrote: “I think there is corollary here to what I consider one of the key dynamics ofChristian anarchism: that the Christian anarchist’s allegiance is to Christ as king who isprimarily present by dint of having his spirit poured out on all people (that’s a theologicallysloppy gloss but I’m trying to keep it succinct). It seems to me the relationship some arearticulating between panentheism (and similar constructions) and anarchism would be atleast tangentially related to this.”Ted is spot on here. Let me extrapolate to suggest that, only articulating my view,panentheism is such a corollary in the sense that it would follow as a direct inference fromthis or that pneumatology (stance re: the Spirit) which, for Christians, would follow from thisor that Christology (view of Christ). What I am implying is that, as with theTranscendentalists, any compelling intuitions of God in nature will be articulated frominsights gathered from within some faith perspective rather than derived merelyphilosophically, much less metaphysically.To what values, then, does the Good News really aspire? temporally vs eternally? How 6
  7. 7. might any Christian, in general, articulate and practice anarchist-pacifist norms or reconcilethem to extant historical, social, cultural, economic and political realities? How might apanentheist, in particular?Niebuhr employs a temporal dialectic, drawing normative distinctions between now andeternity, eschatologically. It’s as if he’s saying that anarchism and pacifism will indeed enjoytheir MOMENT, just not yet? Now, it has been claimed that Yoder employs a spatialdialectic, drawing normative distinctions between the world and the Kingdom,ecclesiologically. And that would sound as if he’s saying (he’s not?) that anarchism andpacifism enjoy their PLACE, just not everywhere?What if, in keeping with our hesitance to resolve such tensions dialectically, dissolve themparadigmatically or evade them practically, we aspire to exploit them creatively ascocreators? Our panentheist intuitions might then employ a pneumatological imaginationinspired by such a fivefold Christology as would see the Spirit at work “orienting” usthroughall of history (an implicit eschatology), “empowering” us through all social gatherings (animplicit ecclesiologly), “sanctifying” all cultures (an implicit theology), “nurturing andhealing” through every economic sphere (an implicit sacramentology) and “saving” ineverypolitical order (an implicit soteriology)? (This is not to suggest that cooperation with theSpirit, hence realization of the fruits of the Spirit, does not present in varying degrees fromtime to time, place to place, as best we can communally discern.)Now, it takes a radically nondual perspective to imagine that the Spirit has, always andeverywhere, been thus gently coaxing us along orienting, empowering, sanctifying,nurturing & healing and saving us? However, if this is true, then, while Niebuhr may becorrect, descriptively, insofar as we enjoy merely proleptic (anticipatory) realizations of aKingdom that is both now and to come, still, normatively, who could reasonably deny thatanarchism-pacifism is a realizable vocation, NOW? And while it would not be incorrect torecognize with Yoder, descriptively, that our world seems to enjoy so few wholly “voluntaryassociations of wo/men” (as Dorothy Day might say), still, normatively, it wouldnevertheless be wrong to imagine that he would suggest that anarchism-pacifism is not arealizable vocation, EVERYWHERE, for there is no antinomy between the sacred andprofane, the church and the world, precisely because the reality of God permeates thereality we call this world?This panentheistic view is really catching on, too, for just yesterday, a Lucky Dog vendor inNew Orleans’ French Quarter asked: “Would you like me to make you one witheverything?”In the same way that Mike has been challenged for not doing full justice to the divinity ofJesus, so some have taken issue with Bourgeault vis a vis her John 10:30 interpretation inthe thread above. But note that she also makes the following Christological affirmations,which go beyond but not without, which transcend but include, her “high anthropology.”Mike’s affirmations similarly cohere for me.>>> beginning of quotes: [T]he resurrection proves that Jesus is the only Son of God, that 7
  8. 8. there is none other like him, that in and through him God has reconciled heaven and earthand laid the foundations of the New Creation, that this is the pivotal moment in salvationhistory …[A] sacrament does not merely symbolize a spiritualreality; it lives that reality into existence. Jesus’ life,considered from this standpoint, is a sacrament: a mysterythat draws us deeply into itself and, when rightly approached,conveys an actual spiritual energy empowering us to follow thepath that his teachings have laid out.Yes, we come into constriction, but is that the same aspunishment? I believe not. I believe rather that thisconstriction is a sacrament, and we have been offered a divineinvitation to participate in it. … It is difficult to risklove in a world so fragile and contingent. And yet, thegreater the gamble …<<< end of quotesCynthia Bourgeault in _Wisdom Jesus_ wrote: “While he (Jesus) does indeed claim that ‘theFather and I are one’ (John 10:30)–a statement so blasphemous to Jewish ears that it nearlygets him stoned–he does not see this as an exclusive privilege but something shared by allhuman beings. … There is no separation between humans and God because of this mutualinterabiding which expresses the indivisible reality of divine love.”While most of the Church Fathers did interpret that verse in an ontological sense, there arereasonable minority views (including Calvin) that received this verse moreso in terms ofsharing a design or plan . It is doubtful any Jews, including Jesus, were doing metaphysics, ingeneral, much less using a substance ontology of being/essence, in particular. This is not todeny the tradition’s ontological affirmations, only to suggest that they needn’t rest solely onthis verse. 8
  9. 9. Furthermore, if one changes one’s root metaphor to process, then new interpretationsarise, even of the concept being. To wit, check out Joe Bracken’s Process Philosophy andTrinitarian Theology:quote >>> The second theologian to be considered is Heribert Mühlen, a Roman Catholicwho has published two works on the Trinity in recent years: Der heilige Geist als Person andDie Veränderlichkeit Gottes als Horizont einer zukünftigen Christologie. Only the second willbe considered here. Taking note of the altered world-consciousness of human beings in thiscentury, according to which Being is to be understood in strictly interpersonal terms,Mühlen suggests, first of all, that the classical expression homoousios, as applied to theSon’s relationship to the Father, does not necessarily mean that the Son is of the samesubstance as the Father but only that he is of equal being (gleichseiendlich) with the Father(VG 13). Accordingly, the way is now open to conceive the being of both the Father and theSon as the being or reality of a community. In fact, says Mühlen, Scripture itself implies thatthe union between Father and Son is not really a physical union within a single substancebut rather a moral union within a community (e.g., John 10:30: “The Father and I are one”).Like Moltmann, Mühlen then presents the Spirit as the personified bond of love betweenthe Father and the Son, who at the moment of Jesus’ death on the cross is breathed forthupon the world to unite human beings with one another and with the triune God (VG 23-24,33-36). <<< end of quoteFrom Brackens discussion, the John 10:30 take away was the moral union within acommunity and the bond of love which can unite human beings with one another and withthe triune God. From Cynthias discussion: "There is no separation between humans andGod because of this mutual interabiding which expresses the indivisible reality of divinelove."There is, I believe, some value to be derived from the distinction between an Ascensionand an Assumption, the former describing Jesus’ lot, alone. Our move up Mt Carmel(journey of transformation) is much more like the latter.But do check out the herein-referenced distinctions of Bourgeault, Bracken and others.While so much of our God-talk vis a vis the human experience is necessarily analogical orotherwise descriptively apophatic, aren’t we otherwise invoking a conceptual univocitywhen we reference the reality of LOVE? In other words, we love God and each other withthe very same love experienced by the Trinity, not some weak metaphor of same? 9
  10. 10. I am not suggesting we can fully describe this unfathomable mystery that we refer to aslove or that we can in any way fully comprehend it, but I am suggesting that we canpartially apprehend it and successfully reference it because it is nevertheless infinitelyrealizable (incl intelligible). 10