I've only read the first three chapters of this book and don't know that I'll finish it, and so am posting my notes on it below. As you can see, I have some misgivings and am mostly not enjoying the book.
The Christian church has always recognized the wisdom and mystical dimension of Jesus's teachings, which is why they are in our bible. The mistake Bourgeault makes is to consider Jesus as primarily a wisdom teacher who came to show us how to become as he is through contemplative practices that get us out of our dualistic Ego and established in the nondual (that word!!!) knowing of the heart. Her Jesus seems to be no different from us, ontologically, even in his relationship with the Father. The soteriological dimension of Christ's coming and how we are re-connected with God in and through his death, resurrection and gift of the Spirit are minimized, if not mocked, in places. So I've no need to continue reading this, even though she is very good in places. When I think of what this book might have been . . .
My notes: quotes from the book are followed by my comments in parenthases.
Re. Thomas: ". . . now largely accepted as an authentic teaching of Jesus."
(Largely? Regardless of its dating, it's pretty clear that it wasn't one of the "in" books, if it was much known at all.)
Re. Jesus and introducing him as a wisdom teacher and why this is important: " . . . because most of us think we know something about this Jesus already. We don't all agree on what we know, of course."
(We do know something about Jesus already, and I object to this implication that there is somehow widespread disagreement about him. The Christian churches agree on much more than they disagree about. I object, too, to the subtle insinuation that she will somehow, in her book, give us the real deal.)
Re. beliefs: "It's the primary way that we approach our teacher, through what we believe about him."
(Belief is more a backdrop, for most, and the common approach is through worship, prayer, and Scripture study. Still, beliefs are important, and bad beliefs are especially harmful to oneself and the world.)
Re. Jesus: ". . . I've been reaffirmed in my sense that Jesus came first and foremost as a teacher of the path of inner transformation."
(That's not really why Christianity arose as a world religion. Jesus' wisdom teaching seemed to be less important after the resurrection than Jesus himself as the way, truth and life. During his life, he was also much sought after as a healer, too, and seemed to spend as much time healing as teaching. Indeed, it seems that Jesus saw himself as the good shepherd, who came to seek and save those who were lost. They are found through his acceptance and loving embrace.)
Re. Christians meditating a la cp and Christian meditation: "For the first four centuries of Christian experience, this is the way it was done, Christians connected with their living Master present in their hearts (the name for this practice was anamnesis.)"
(I don't think the early Christians did cp or anything like that. There seemed to be more encounter through liturgy, charismatic prayer, verbal prayer.)
Re. Pauline writings and Paul's character (written in a spirit of dismissing his emphasis on soteriology): "Privately he was clearly worried that something in his being was dark and damaged (he mentions this from time to time in his epistles)."
(We do not know that this was Paul's experience prior to his conversion. It's certainly not apparent that this influenced his theology. In addition to his soteriological perspective, which is also to be found among other New Testament writers and the early Fathers.)
Re. the Eastern Christians emphasizing sophiology more than soteriology: "The Christians of the East saw things radically differently. Theirs was not a soteriology, but a sophiology."
(Actually they do have a very strong soteriology, believing in the fall, Original Sin, salvation through the cross, etc.)
"A sophiological Christianity focuses on the path. It emphasizes how Jesus is like us, how what he did in himself is something we are also called to do in ourselves. By contrast, soteriology tends to emphasize how Jesus is different from us--"begotten, not made," belonging to a higher order of being--and hence uniquely positioned as our mediator."
(This can surely be both/and, and I do think the New Testament and Fathers emphasize soteriology more. There's very little from these sources suggesting that "what he did in himself is something we are called to do in ourselves," not without his gifts of Sacramental presence and Holy Spirit.)
"From the Gospel of Thomas and the Nag Hammadi collection in general, from the Syriac liturgies, from the African desert fathers and mothers, from Celtic poetry and Chinese 'Jesus sutras' the same sophiological message emerges. 'Yes,' says Jesus, 'as I am, you, too, can and must become. I will be here to help you. But you must do the work yourself.'"
(I object to this whole idea of considering these sources as on the same level as the Gospels and writings of the fathers. There is, here, too, a kind of Pelagianism at work.)
"'Gnosis' is a perfectly acceptable New Testament word: the apostle Paul uses it repeatedly to describe the intimate experience of knowing and being known in Christ."
(Yes indeed! There is a strong mystical under-current in Paul's writing. Good that she recognizes this. Obviously, then, Paul's soteriology and mysticism can co-exist. But she has just dissed Paul's emphasis on soteriology!)
(Re. Jesus' teachings not being prophetic.) "His message was not one of repentance and return to the covenant. Rather, he stayed close to the perennial ground of wisdom: the transformation of human consciousness."
(Jesus certainly did preach repentance, metanoia. Repentance and transformation go hand-in-hand. For Jesus, metanoia had a moral dimension as well -- a turning away from a life of sin.)
Begins with a story about a "well-known Souther Baptist theologian" who stated ("in a broad Texas drawl" no less) that his whole Sunday school training could be summarized as: "Jesus is nice, and he wants us to be nice, too."
(Umm, was he talking to little kids? Is this supposed to be a comment on Southern Baptist beliefs, which I know to be much meatier. Listen to sermons by Charles Stanley or Adrian Rogers on the net if you have time; they're very good. Makes a nice foil for this chapter.)
"One of the most important books to appear in recent years is called "Putting on the Mind of Christ," by a man named Jim Marion. . . ."
(JB reviewed this book briefly awhile back and found serious problems with it. I tried reading it years ago and couldn't get very far as it was a kind of Wilberian version of Christianity. Jim Marion and I also had an extensive discussion on this board about his book, "Death of the Mythic God." See my review of it on Amazon.com. There are serious problems with his approach, but it does resonate with CB's neo-gnostic spirituality.)
"While he (Jesus) does indeed claim that 'the Father and I are one' (John 10:30)--a statement so blasphemous to Jewish ears that it nearly gets him stoned--he does not see this as an exclusive privilege but something shared by all human beings."
(In the same sense that Jesus and the Father are one in Being? That's not been the Church's understanding. We are not one with the Father in the same manner as Jesus was.)
"There is no separation between humans and God because of this mutual interabiding which expresses the indivisible reality of divine love."
(This sentence follows the above and is a good description of a person living by the Spirit, as was Jesus, of course, but it obfuscates the ontological meaning of Jesus's "the Father and I are One.")
"'Love your neighbor as yourself'--as a continuation of your very own being. It's a complete seeing that your neighbor is you. There are not two individuals out there, one seeking to better herself at the price of the other, or to extend charity to the other; there are simply two cells of the one great Life."
(Well, at least there are "two" cells. But it's sheer nonsense to say that there are no individuals, or that love is a recognition of my neighbor "as" myself. That might be a kind of empathy or compassion, but love thoroughly recognizes and appreciates the other as "other," not as some extension of me.)
(Re. her section on the Ego as dualistic operating system. One gets the impression that she considers this some huge mistake -- an evolutionary error, perhaps, but definitely an infliction.)
"There is no small self, no egoic being, no thing that's separated from everything else that has insides and outsides, that has experiences. All these impressions are simply a function of an operating system that has to divide the world up into bits and pieces in order to perceive it."
(So why, then, would God and nature inflict such an illusory mechanism on the human race? Of course, she is correct in that the Ego is not an absolute center of reality, and is embedded in the Self and intended to function as the agent of Self-actualization. It's perceptions of separate things are not illusory except insofar as it fails to conceptually or attentionally understand them as parts of an interdependent whole, and this is indeed a problem. But the problem is not the perception of duality so much as the failure to perceive the broader web of existence. It is our false self conditioning that prevents us from doing so, and the consequent interior shame, fear and resentment that locks us in on ourselves. )
"His (Jesus's) whole mission can fundamentally be seen as trying to push, ease, shock, and wheedle people beyond the 'limited analytic intellect' of their egoic operating system into the 'vast realm of mind' where they will discover the resources they need to live in fearlessness, coherence, and compassion--or in other words, as true human beings."
(Well-said, but the means by which He accomplishes this is not so much by encouraging contemplative practice that we might become as he is so much as by bringing us into his own consciousness through the gift of the Spirit. That's what the good news is about, and is why Christianity spread throughout the world.)This message has been edited. Last edited by: Phil,
Thanks, Phil. You saved me $9.99! I don't think I'd enjoy the book, either. From what you've told us, she likes to make broad claims ("now largely accepted," "this is the way it was done") based on selective use of evidence followed by unwarranted generalizations.
Let's just take one point. I looked up what Maurice Casey (Jesus of Nazareth: An independent historian's account of his life and teaching ) had to say about the Gospel of Thomas. He relegates it to an appendix of his book on the grounds that it's of little use to the historian trying to reconstruct the historical Jesus. He concludes that it grew over time, beginning with authentic sayings of Jesus, but then incorporating material suggestive of second-century Syriac Christianity. That's a long way from CB's assertion that the Gospel of Thomas is "now largely accepted as an authentic teaching of Jesus."
I watched a video clip interview with C.B. She talked about Jesus being special insofar as he was 'enlightened' to the one-ness consciousness, like you and me can be too...as though that was his big gift to the world.
Sounded much like Tolle, et al non-dualists.
Did you mean this one, Shasha? (Fast forward to 13'41" to get to the relevant bit.)
You nailed it, Derek! That's exactly the piece I was referring to.
What she is suggesting is that finding the "Divine" is finding non-dual consciousness, as presumably she has. Here we go again...!
(Of course, reading her books directly is more important to understanding her full take, but my eyes can't handle too much reading so I resort to video/ audio teachings.)
Notice the hostess of the show ends with pitting the real teachings of Jesus, as an enlightened master, against the 'traumatizing' destructive Church created later. CB's teachings seem to set up this kind of conclusion, most unfortunately!
Hey, nice work embedding that video clip, Derek.
I don't know that you can draw too much of a conclusion about her approach from that clip, however. Jesus surely was an enlightened teacher, as she noted, and probably the first that part of the world had seen. But what does this mean, especially when the term "nonduality" is used to characterize his enlightenment? There can be no doubt that his primary focus was on doing the will of the Father, and that his spirituality was deeply influenced by Jewish theism.This message has been edited. Last edited by: Phil,
So many, both East & West, tend to get epistemology wrong (per my take on things, anyway). So, in recent years, when I go spelunking for spiritual treasures, I have learned to wear a hermeneutical hard hat to avoid gouging my empirical/logical head on erroneous propositional stalactites and thick existential boots to avoid stubbing my Gospel-ready toes on heterodox axiological stalagmites.
Human value-realizations, in general, and where religion is concerned, especially, are not primarily realized through exercises like formal propositional logic and conceptual map-making. This means that, if we get one or more premises wrong, all value will not be lost and our edifice of faith will not come tumbling down (such as from the removal of some foundational epistemic cornerstone).
Instead, our realization of values is much more informal, a lot more like a simple combination of love and common sense, which grows from our actively engaged participatory imaginations. These imaginations are like our hometown knowledge, something we know backward and forward but cannot always easily articulate, for example, such as when we try in vain to help some out of town visitor with directions.
This is why we can so often find ourselves positively resonating with others' evaluative posits, with their practical approaches, with their moral sentiments, with their spiritual aspirations, with their social inclinations, with their cultural affinities, with their aesthetic sensibilities and even with their political prescriptions, only to otherwise, even perhaps much later, discover that we differ profoundly regarding their religious apologetics!
Because both life, in general, and religion, in particular, are far more common sensical, pragmatic and existential than formally logical, our religious 'argument' will be grounded in what I like to call an 'existential disjunctive' or a living as if and its so-called philosophy will best be expressed through a life well-lived and much less so through any conceptual formulations. This is to suggest that it makes a lot more sense when it comes to religion to, as the cliche' goes, do as I do and not as I say because, the fact of the matter is, I have found very few people who can offer a fully coherent apologetic for their deepest existential orientations even though I have encountered very many who are, otherwise and apparently, living lives so very lovingly, so very well!
It is precisely because of our immersion in dualistic thinking and problem-solving that we provide such miserably reductionistic accounts of the richly textured, heavenly-contoured depth dimensions of our unfathomable human experience as imago Dei! Only story-telling, lyrics, song and koan can even begin to convey the full participatory constellation of human belonging, desiring, behaving and believing! Whether encountering another in person or as an author, then, I am very much interested in what manner of community they participate, what constellation of desires, practices and beliefs they gaze at, all of this taken as a whole, and find that this will always be much more informative regarding my discernment of their actual existential orientation than any particular practice or belief of theirs otherwise considered out of context. (Concretely, for example, do they practice the sacraments? value Eucharist? engage liturgical prayer? kataphatic devotion? communal discernment? pray the Credo? value science, philosophy & culture? live the moral life? affirm community?) This is not to diminish any errors of theirs that I might encounter but it is to suggest that it is worthwhile investigating whether or not that error is located in their existential living out of the mystery or, rather, in their inartful accounting of same. This is also to suggest that there is a wealth of wisdom to be mined from our encounters with others of all traditions.
A lot of names have been mentioned along with Bourgeault's - Rohr, Keating, Barnhart, Marion, Roberts, Panikkar, Tolle, Wilber and others. I'm not going to wholesale endorse or defend anyone's entire approach but will critique one element at a time. Consistent with what I have said above, though, I can tell you that I have mined GREAT VALUE from these authors, some more than others, some less. I have found, at times, that, in some ways, certain authors get hypercritical of the West while over-romanticizing the East. Many others do just the opposite. Our first clues will ordinarily involve some false-dichotomy, either-or thinking, all or nothing approaches, categorical dismissals or uncritical defenses. Another clue will involve failures of nuance, category errors, poor definitions, no disambiguations, talking past one another and such. Hence, the mission statement of my present thread at philothea.net
My primary interest has been that of epistemology or how it is that we know what it is that we imagine we know. For my part, I subscribe to an integral, holistic epistemology that aspires to give each moment in every human value-realization movement its proper (not necessarily equal!) emphasis. Easier said than done. Hence my suggested correction of Wilber's aq | al with my aq | al | at or all quadrants | all levels | alt the time ( kairos not chronos). This is also how we correct either an undue emphasis on either dualistic or nondual approaches. But beyond these concerns of epistemology, both properly considered and properly articulated, there is MUCH to recommend, in my view, in the approach of those who pursue inter-faith and inter-religious dialogue and reconciliation. I resonate with the overall thrust of these visionaries even as I offer my corrections (whether epistemological, metaphysical or theological). These efforts are relatively new and the state of the art is immature. It is important, then, that we give everyone a fair hearing and the benefit of the doubt. It is true enough that we must avoid any facile syncretism, insidious indifferentism or false irenicism. But it is equally true that we recognize and affirm the truth, beauty, goodness and love found in others' approaches, even while critiquing any errors, for there is but One Author and Gift-Giver, Who lavishes such gifts and does not hold back.
To the point regarding Bourgeault, then, as I mentioned on the other thread, she does appear to present a false choice between soteriology and sophiology. But this isn't fatal for, while her critique of the sophiological tradition in the West somewhat misses its mark from a theoretical perspective (it's in our core teachings and tradition), it is, in my view, otherwise pretty much spot-on from a practical perspective (as per Merton, too many are being merely socialized, too few fully engaging transformation). Personally, I am much less interested in the evidential questions and answers regarding Jesus' celibacy, whether drawn from exegetical interpretations (Bourgeault) or literal data-based descriptions (Brown), and much more interested in why anyone imagines that it would change the meaning of Jesus' life or overturn any essential teachings of the apostolic tradition. Also, Bourgeault is NOT presenting a false dichotomy between celibate and noncelibate spirituality but is clearly speaking to elements in our tradition that have perversely over-emphasized the former. As I wrote on my own thread: In the rather narrow issue under consideration (i.e. the gender and sex part of the Jesus Path ), our Christian faithful writ large have a pretty darned good sense of how those realities should or should not be approached when it comes to church disciplines, moral doctrines and formative spiritualities. I find Bourgeault's critique spot-on and her general sensibilities in that regard positively refreshing! Again, whatever one may think of her imaginal interpretations regarding Mary Magdalene and Jesus, the far more important question is WHY does it rankle this person or that? Some have better objections than others, to be sure, but there is no kidding ourselves regarding the dysfunction arising (and persisting) in manifold and multiform ways regarding sex and gender in some elements of our tradition?!!!
My main point is, I reckon, that the values woven into the fabric of anyone's spiritual, religious, theological & philosophical garments will not wholly unravel from a few heterodox threads or pulls of propositional inconsistency; even though human beings do not always properly don their formal epistemic attire, this does not mean that they will necessarily also be axiologically naked.
Bourgeault-related EXCERPTS from philothea.net thread:
For Bourgeault, both gnosis and sophia imply an integral, participational knowledge carried in one's entire being toward the end of transformation of one's entire being. She points out that the Oneness that Jesus talks about is --- NOT that oneness often implied in the Eastern sense regarding an equivalency of being (a robust intra-objective identity) but, rather --- that of mutual indwelling. Once more, the thrust is epistemic and not ontological as she teases out the distinctions between those aspects of our consciousness that do or do not differentiate.
As long as one engages transformation (which I broadly conceive in terms of theology, Christology, pneumatology and human anthropology) integrally and holistically (along with soteriology, ecclesiology & eschatology), as did Lonergan, for example, that makes good sense to me. Discussions regarding over- and under-emphases can also be useful. It even helps to discuss matters of primacy but we must take care to point out whether we mean it in an ordinal or cardinal sense, in other words, does it indicate merely the first in a series or in time or first in importance or in value?
There is likely a case that can always be made against this or that approach to Christianity vis a vis matters of relative emphasis. To the extent that sophiology, as inherently integral and holistic, would include soteriology, it would make little sense to me to ask which is more important. While a case CAN be made against many who've overemphasized both the soteriological and epistemically dualistic, Bourgeault's question, Savior or Life-Giver? and juxtaposition, soteriology or sophiology?, DO present false dichotomies, in my view.
Her explication of sophiology was helpful. To the extent that foils can be useful, the proper foil for her, as I see it, would have been this or that overemphasis on soteriology and not, rather, soteriology per se. Also, in citing such an overemphasis, it does seem that her indictment of the West was much too broad. Within Western Christianity, there has existed a constant tradition of sophiological teaching, in the early fathers & mothers, in medieval doctors, mystics & mendicants, in esoteric and minority reports, in our religious orders and consecrated vocations, in our saints and unheralded lay anawim, in our contemplative and apostolic, cenobitic, monastic, eremitic and prophetic traditions. So, the core teaching has always been there as have practical supports and approaches to robustly transformative realizations. So, the indictment doesn't stick in that regard. On the other hand, as Merton observed and lamented, our churches have been much more about the mere tasks of socialization (part of the journey to authenticity, to be sure) and much less effective, it seems, in fostering transformation (coming closer to completing the journey vis a vis True Self realization and moving beyond the moral, social and practical to the robustly relational & intimate). In that regard, the indictment sticks fairly well? Witness the political polarization of our Christian country as so often grounded in shallow, fundamentalistic religious apologetics.
There is a difference in suggesting that "from the start Christianity has gotten the Jesus path slightly wrong" and in believing that "the apostolic tradition that emerged was a distortion of Jesus' teaching and the meaning of his life?" that celibacy is an essential requirement of the ascetic path but not the kenotic path? As far as Jesus' physical celibacy is concerned, Bourgeault is correct, we just don't know.
And it helps to be clear when we say nondual whether we mean, as you said, nondual mystical experience or nondual epistemic approach. Keating says that, when Christians hear identity they best translate that as intimacy, consistent with what Bourgeault meant in her distinction between an equivalency of being and an indwelling. Also, as Arraj pointed out, it is a mistake to impose Western metaphysical concepts on Eastern phenomenal experiences because the East isn't really doing ontology; it's more vague than all that. A nondual mysticism of the self gifts one with ascetical, practical & moral take-aways; it refers to neither metaphysical nor theological realities, only to an impersonal, existential experience. In other words, it's religious but not theological; it's ascetical, practical and moral but not metaphysical or creedal. The inter-subjective union of the Christian tradition is actually prayer-related, as is mystical contemplation. Non-dual mysticism belongs to an entirely different category and would not in any way be properly considered in competition with or as a substitute for anything taught by either the historical Jesus or our Jesus of faith. So, while one can certainly ask what place such a meditative discipline may or may not have had in the Gospels, I personally don't see how the answer would provide us any normative theological take-aways or even practical ascetical insights.
While most of the Church Fathers did interpret that verse in an ontological sense, there are reasonable minority views that received this verse moreso in terms of sharing a design or plan . It is doubtful any Jews, including Jesus, were doing metaphysics, in general, much less using a substance ontology of being/essence, in particular. This is not to deny the tradition's ontological affirmations, only to suggest that they needn't rest solely on this verse. Furthermore, if one changes one's root metaphor to process, then new interpretations arise, even of the concept being. To wit, check out Joe Bracken's Process Philosophy and Trinitarian Theology.
These are some good points. I will add another excerpt of mine from our philothea.net thread:
Considering Bourgeault's work as a whole, including her priesthood, I'm certain she'd not object to your above-contextualization of belief.
Your observation that bad beliefs are especially harmful to oneself and the world is certainly true but those bad beliefs do differ in nature and of course present in degrees of harm. To your point, for example, Stanley Jaki made a compelling case that science was stillborn in certain cultures! On the other hand, some disagreements regarding ascetical disciplines and meditative practices and their practical implications remain unresolved and good peer reviewed research is needed. Since Centering Prayer keeps getting a mention, folks may want to dig deeper. For example, Google the syntax: +"centering prayer" +complementary and alternative medicine and see Pastoral Psychology Volume 59, Number 3, 305-329, DOI: 10.1007/s11089-009-0225-7. Other research is being done at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, as well as in chemotherapy settings, for depression relapse prevention, in post traumatic stress disorder and even using brain tomography. And Jim Arraj left us this gift.
But morality is not what differentiates the Christian brand in the marketplace. It is not the value-added take-away above and beyond the (old) covenant. The New Covenant is suitable to moral ends, of course, but its concerns go beyond same. Jesus' essentially value-added teachings weren't moral, although He did not do away with the Old Covenant. But prophetic teaching is more broadly conceived to include testimony to the testament , new or old, hence included the Good News regarding an even higher law, love. So, clearly, Jesus had a prophetic role and we are baptized priests, prophets and kings after our High Priest, King of Kings and Jesus Ο προφητης!
Talk about a great place to introduce our distinctions? God, self, ego, other, false self, inter-subjective intimacy, intra-objective identity and so on. At the same time, we don't really want to turn this into a theodicy question? Why indeed, necessarily finite in principle, did we have to be so dang radically finite in so many ways?
Even within the West, soteriology is variously conceived such as by minority reports in our tradition which did not see the Incarnation as being occasioned in response to some human felix culpa but, instead, built into the ontological cards from the cosmic get-go. Not all would view Original Sin in terms of some literal Fall or ontological rupture between us and God located in the past but as each person's experience of the consequences of their own personal sin plus the sins of others plus our radical finitude, which is caught up in a teleological striving oriented toward the future. Natural evil is experienced as part of the cosmic groaning in the great act of giving birth rather than as some punishment visited on us due to our ancestors' failings. The theodicy question, which results from too much onto-theology and trying to prove too much about God's indeterminate nature and analogical attributes , gets transformed for us Scotists into What are we going to do about it? How are we going to respond? What return shall we make? from the age-old preoccupation with Why so much suffering if God is all powerful and all good and all knowing? It is that last poorly-conceived question that gave rise to all the metaphysical speculation and theological machination and substitutionary atonement models. This view of soteriology is, in fact, one major locus for the difference between East & West.
Re: John Veronica's comment on facebook.
> It is precisely because of our over-immersion in dualistic thinking
> and problem-solving that we provide such miserably reductionistic
> accounts of the richly textured, heavenly-contoured depth dimensions
> of our unfathomable human experience as imago Dei (images of God)!
> Only story-telling, lyrics, song and koan can even begin to convey
> the full participatory constellation of human belonging, desiring,
> behaving and believing! (from my take on Bourgeault's recent works
> in a spirited discussion at Shalomplace)"
I'm afraid you're right John. A key prerequisite to an understanding of the apparent disconnect between Tradition and Bourgeault's teaching is a more basic understanding of why people are uncomfortable with the idea that their Tradition may, in point of fact, embrace paradox.
Cynthia Bourgeault is one of my favorite authors. I find her perspectives good, true, beautiful and refreshing.
Hi Kevin, and welcome to the forum.
The Catholic tradition I belong to does not have a problem embracing paradox, and we also cherish "story-telling, lyrics, song," liturgy, Sacraments, contemplative prayer, and other "non-linear" approaches to God. We also value doctrine for its role in directing the intellect and forming the will in our relationship with God. The intellect and will do need proper formation, and doctrine has its role to play in that regard. See http://shalomplace.org/eve/for...?r=56010395#56010395 for a discussion we had sometime back on the importance of dogma.
Re. the disconnect people have with religious traditions -- that would be a good, new topic, and it's one we've addressed here in various ways, especially through the lenses of Spiral Dynamics. I don't see Cynthia's writings as helpful unto building bridges between Traditional Christianity and newer expressions.
Hey, mon ami, see http://shalomplace.org/eve/for...?r=50910695#50910695 which I think you might have missed out on. Plenty there to keep anyone ruminating for awhile.
Re. soteriology East and West: there are various models in both traditions, as you noted. My larger point was that the Eastern Christians do indeed emphasize soteriology, and that it's very important to their understanding of who Jesus is and why he came. CB had made the point that she thought sophiology was more important to them, and I am disagreeing with her about this. Why, again and again, she has this need to pit sophiology against soteriology, I don't know! Both are obviously important, and it's obvious that even the evangelists are presenting a soteriological "take" on Jesus, "the lamb of God" (John the Baptist's introduction of him at the river Jordan - Jn. 1:29). She's clearly implying that "the West" got it wrong by emphasing soteriology so much, and that sophiology is more important. Obviously, there are many implications for spirituality, here, none the least of which pertains how we understand the meaning of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and how we are re-connected with God in him and through him. Must we really be re-hashing all this again these days? The first four centuries of Christianity gave it all a thorough going-over.
Re. the value of soteriology in Eastern Christianity, see http://www.philtar.ac.uk/encyc...t/east/eastorth.html and http://christianity.about.com/.../orthodoxbeliefs.htm
Hello Phil. It's good to be here and to see you.
Thanks for the lead on your discussion about the importance of dogma. I've scanned a few posts from that thread.
I have some sense of the issues in this discussion, which is to say it interests me. Please forgive me if I restate a point or an understanding already expressed.
Has anyone suggested that the Pre/Trans Fallacy <http://bit.ly/1voaF0> may inform this conversation? Depending on the particular context, questions about dogma and paradox have got to look very different. I'm convinced that these things mean very different things to young children than they do to young adults than they do to emotionally, spiritually and psychologically mature septuagenarians. I'm only 57 and still developing. So I'm looking forward to newer and better perspectives.
Re: Tradition's role in directing the intellect and forming the will in our relationship to God. Right. We get very different answers depending on how we view our relationship with/to God. For me, today, relationship and God is more with than to. Could this explain the different perspectives on Bourgeault's teaching?
In the past few years I've given much thought to what the Resurrection and Ascension mean to me. I believe I understand what Catholic doctrine and dogma say they mean to the Church and to the faithful. But when I reflect on my life, my relationships (both concrete and spiritual) and my experiences I find very meaningful questions that I can't reconcile with Tradition as I used to understand it. For example, the flesh and bones of the faithful departed from thousands of years ago (e.g., Abraham and Sarah) are likely to have completely disintegrated by now. And I credit/blame my ego (my false self) for anxious feelings and dreadful thoughts that my very existence (my unique self) depends on the precise form and structure of the atoms and molecules that constitute my physical body.
Now I understand, and I honestly believe, that a person's true self (their soul) is, always has been and always will be both uniquely spiritual and uniquely physical. We need only express ourselves in a personal relationship to understand what this means for us here and now. But we have to imagine what it means for these same beings before our bodies were conceived and after they disintegrated.
I'm rambling now. More later.
KevinThis message has been edited. Last edited by: Kevin Perez,
Interesting, and challenging, words by Richard Rohr on Tradition and Traditionalism.
All good points, Kevin, including Richard Rohr's short missive. Of course, one is left wondering how to draw the line between proper concern for Tradition and Traditional/ism. The ism people are surely out there, but so are those who do not see much value in Tradition in the first place. Remember that Jesus not only castigated the Scribes and Pharisees for their hypocritical concerns for doctrine and morality, but also said that he had not come to abolish the law.This message has been edited. Last edited by: Phil,
JB, even in the perspective you sketch above, there is a beginning to the development of a passing on of the sins of others, which is partly what the doctrine of Original Sin is indicating. I'm also not seeing an either/or situation with respect to Original Sin and our teleological striving toward the future, either. We would probably experience this without Original Sin, as it seems to be an intrinsic dynamic of the human spirit. And as for an ontological rupture, there are differences between how Catholics and some Protestant groups understand this, with Catholics speaking of a wounding moreso than a complete rupture.
To my understanding, the doctrine of the Fall/Original Sin is an essential of Christian faith. While it may well be true that God would have become incarnate even had there been no fall, that's not been the situation for humans on this planet. The operating system upgrade that the Incarnation would have effected needs be accompanied by some anti-viral cleansing if it is to be effected, and it seems the traditional teachings have recognized that.
JB, this was pertaining to "the Father and I are one." I never said nor implied that the tradition's ontological affirmations rested on this verse alone. I was objecting to CB's contention that it's not intended to indicate an exclusive kind of unity between Jesus and the Father, and I think she's wrong. This statement by Jesus in John is congruent with John 1's affirmation that "in the beginning was the Word. . . the Word was with God . . . the Word was God . . . the Word became Flesh." John's high Christology is very clear that Jesus is God, and there are other passages that point this out as well (Jn 12:45, 5:19, 3:13, 8:58). This is not so much the conclusion of metaphysical reasoning as a theological expression of the faith of the community. I don't know what "reasonable minority views" you're referring to, here, so perhaps you can clarify when you have time. They certainly haven't found much traction in the Church. To me, the burden of proof lies on CB and anyone else who maintains that Jesus wasn't really indicating a special, "exclusive" unity with the Father that he enjoyed.
From JB post of 11 Jan 2012 @ 2:24 AM on the *CB Wisdom of Jesus* thread: [note my repentance via precise pointing; see, I am -- paying attention].
“Not all would view Original Sin in terms of some literal Fall or ontological rupture between us and God located in the past but as each person's experience of the consequences of their own personal sin plus the sins of others plus our radical finitude, which is caught up in a teleological striving oriented toward the future. Natural evil is experienced as part of the cosmic groaning in the great act of giving birth rather than as
some punishment visited on us due to our ancestors' failings.”
RE: “Not all would view Original Sin in terms of some literal Fall or ontological rupture between us and God” – Evidently! … though I’m thinking most Blue-meme clan do. I do I know, and a lot (most) of my acquaintance – being largely blue-memes anyway. ‘Birds of a feather’ stuff I’m guessing.
But like you correctly state: “Not all.” Not all. .. And I’m thinking based on it being your statement, that perhaps you are (these days) part of that “Not all”. Do I read you right?
If one moves to considering original sin as being the consequence of experiencing one’s own personal sin and the sins of others plus our finitude, then the ‘flesh’ has no force. Experiencing is an after-the-fact phenomenon. It doesn’t attest to the disorder that provokes one’s sin in the first place. In your stated context, original sin is merely an equivalent to one’s feelings of personal guilt (and not from original sin really) but from personal sins committed or the personal sins of others undergone in one’s current life. There’s nothing original in that consideration of what is original sin. The experiencing of the sins of others in these days is not original sin. And for such a consideration of original sin, relationship with God does not come into play, does not need remedy, does not need God’s clarification on what constitutes sin, would not require repentance where personal sin is not ‘experienced’ (prochoicers for example), and does not need God’s intervention … rather it all has to do merely with my relationship with me and my understanding of myself – with my understanding of where I may have missed the mark. All is reduced to the realm of psychology and to one’s personal concepts of what is sinful (malformed conscience is a non issue; blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is a non issue). Everything becomes subjective, relative. Judgment by Christ seemingly would go away too, as everything becomes judgment by me. My experience of my sin becomes the determiner of sin. Those who hate the idea of absolutes like that, of course. And in the conceptualizing we’ve abandoned scripture – and for RC’s the CoCC as well.
Is this part and parcel of your ‘winked little-c status?’
The Genesis account of the fall can now be highlighted and the ‘Delete’ key pressed. (Silly Holy Spirit, silly inspirer … sheesh!). Btw, since the fall would no longer apply, perhaps there are other passages in scripture that could be deleted as well. Maybe a rewrite via Wikipedia could be pursued ..? A great candidate for early deletion might be “All scripture is inspired by God” (2 Tim 3:16). Then all those paranoid passages about false teachings and antichrists among us etc etc could be deleted or at least struck through
390 in the CoCC affirms the fall as a primeval event that took place at the beginning of the history of man and that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault.
That’s different from an individual’s experience of their personal sin; different from my (as an individual of today’s generation) experiencing of my personal sin.
No ancestors’ failings required, though.
And in 389 of the CoCC one reads: "The church .. knows very well that we cannot tamper with the revelation of original sin without undermining the mystery of Christ"
You seem to be tampering. Your 'mining', after all is said and done, seems an undermining.
RE: “Natural evil is experienced as part of the cosmic groaning in the great act of giving birth rather than as some punishment visited on us due to our ancestors' failings.”
Well, I know from your posts that you take great pains (as the saying goes) to be accurate in all your statements so as to disambiguate discussion and thereby promote a ready understanding. So, I’ve noticed your use of the term ‘natural evil’. You didn’t state ‘evil’ and you didn’t mention the supernatural. So, help me out (or up, depending on how you perceive my questioning) and share with me your present thinking on supernatural evil and the role of the devil and fallen angels. Many Blue-meme clan I’m thinking believe in a supernatural dimension of evil. Have you moved on in this regard? I realize that this too is a “Not all” kind of thing, but I’m asking where you now stand (or have spelunked to).
You write (above) ‘some punishment visited on us due to our ancestor’s failings’, but you could have just as easily, though not as negatively nor derisively, have stated it as ‘a consequence visited on us due to our ancestor’s failings’. Btw, our ancestors have also blessed us in myriad ways. We have profited by civilization’s fruits – it hasn’t been all bad. We are willing to accept their blessings, so perhaps the acceptance of their failings is equally appropriate.
RE: your 12 Jan 2012 8:08 post – “To me, the burden of proof lies on CB and anyone else who maintains that Jesus wasn't really indicating a special, "exclusive" unity with the Father that he enjoyed.”
Well said, methinks. How many ‘Only-begotten Sons of God’ are there – COULD there be? (John 1:14). This is not exclusively Catholic scripture per se; it is the scripture of all Christians. Do we need JB to parse the word ‘only’ for us?
Engaging in spelunking has some real risks. One loses sight of the heavens straight off; and proceeds from the outset in a direction away from the light. The labyrinthine ways can be fascinating of course – even mesmerizing -- but one needs be very, very careful, even with protective equipment. The other scary reality is that the reservoir of light one initially has at the start becomes more and more diminished the longer one explores. A good rope, one firmly tied to scripture and tradition and magisterial support is essential to safety.
Pop, I'll let JB respond himself to your points, but I can tell you that "natural evil" refers to the forces of nature and how they impinge on human life -- e.g., floods, hurricanes, etc. Some writers attributed even natural evil to Original Sin. I've never really understood that one, though it does seem that some of the writings on Original Sin speak of a disorder that spread beyond the human sphere (or perhaps through it) to nature itself. I suppose the climate change issue would be one of the most spectacular examples of this.
On 08 January 2012 04:32 PM Phil posted:
I've read Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening and A Wisom Way of Knowing. But I have not read The Wisdom Jesus.
The thing I like most about Bourgeault'a writing is her subject; awareness, prayer, self-reflection and a blend of epistemology and ontology she calls wisdom (my perspective). She's not a Christian apologist. But she has definite opinions. She doesn't write about systematic theology. But her writing is consistent and comprehensive.
I agree Phil. The Jesus Bourgeault describes is very different from what I would imagine most Christians imagine Jesus to be. I credit a panenthistic theology as opposed to a more traditional theistic theology.
The question all this raises in my mind is whether Tradition teaches theism or panenthism and if the former what are the implications?
I heard the following story several years ago during a meeting of a Men's Group at the Malvern Retreat Center. I found this copy on the Internet. I post it here to suggest one perspective on panentheism. Enjoy.
According to an old Hindu legend there was once a time when all human beings were gods, but they so abused their divinity that Brahma, the chief god, decided to take it away from them and hide it where it could never be found.
Where to hide their divinity was the question. So Brahma called a council of the gods to help him decide. "Let's bury it deep in the earth," said the gods. But Brahma answered,
"No, that will not do because humans will dig into the earth and find it." Then the gods said, "Let's sink it in the deepest ocean." But Brahma said, "No, not there, for they will learn to dive into the ocean and will find it." Then the gods said, "Let's take it to the top of the highest mountain and hide it there." But once again Brahma replied, "No, that will not do either, because they will eventually climb every mountain and once again take up their divinity." Then the gods gave up and said, "We do not know where to hide it, because it seems that there is no place on earth or in the sea that human beings will not eventually reach.
Brahma thought for a long time and then said, "Here is what we will do. We will hide their divinity deep in the center of their own being, for humans will never think to look for it there.
All the gods agreed that this was the perfect hiding place, and the deed was done. And since that time humans have been going up and down the earth, digging, diving, climbing, and exploring--searching for something already within themselves.
The Tradition has long acknowledged God's presence to be both immanent and transcendent, which is what panentheism affirms. I've heard that Hindu story you allude to before, and one difference between it and Christianity's affirmation of God's immanent presence would be that this divinity is not "ours." Sometimes Hinduism seems to conflate the human spirit and the Divine, but I get the point of the story and I think it's a good one.
As you note, Cynthia has "definite opinions," and that's just what they are: her opinions. They're not an inevitable outcome of her centering prayer practice, or even a study of the documents like the Gospel of Thomas or Gospel of Mary. She's interpreting, as we all do, and the mystical experience she points to as well as the disciplines that open us to them could all be presented in a manner more congruent with Traditional Christianity. There is no need whatsoever to diminish the importance of soteriology, nor to pit it over-and-against sophiology, nor to try to relativize the Christian scriptures by listing them with Syriac liturgies, Chinese "Jesus sutras" and so forth, nor to minimize "orthodoxy," nor to present such an idiosyncratic understanding of the Ego (one that pychologists would not recognize). All that stuff is just her opinion, and the experience she points to is not in any way contingent on agreeing with her on any of this. I've continued reading and browsing more in the book and there are very fine sections on the meaning of Jesus' death, on Eucharist, and a few other topics that can also stand without her shallow dismissal of "the West." It's too bad she didn't get some feedback about all this before publishing, as she needlessly burned bridges that more traditional Christians do need to cross, but would never consider doing without some degree of trust in the author. I don't think she did much to earn their trust, and she reinforces the common view that Christian contemplative spirituality is somewhat at odds with its more kataphatic pathways.
Bourgeault doesn't strike me as someone who would miscalculate her book's affect on her audience. And I have no reason to doubt that she wrote with purpose and intent. So it would be my guess that she needed to say exactly what she said exactly the way she said it.
I'm afraid I don't get why congruence with Traditional Christianity has to be used as a touchstone.
Last week a YouTube video was circulated mostly among evangelical Christians. It's a rap and rant against religion. Have you seen it? It got me thinking about my own religiosity, or lack thereof.
Saturday morning I posted to my Facebook wall my response to the arguments that followed that video. I hope I'm not overstepping bounds by posting it here. But I'd like to let you know something about my perspectives on religion. I'm not against it. But I also don't believe religion is the end all and be all of a life well lived.
Pairing things promotes their understanding. Saying things are two sides of the same coin is a way to compare and contrast differences while at the same time pointing to a common base. Religion and politics is such a pairing.
For the past couple of days I've been struggling with my conflicted response to Why I hate Religion, But Love Jesus <http://bit.ly/yPHiPC> and the push-back <http://bit.ly/zYKa4Q> <http://bit.ly/xZYXX5> to it.
I've got Rachel Maddow on the flat screen. She and her guest commentators are talking about how, in some adversarial relationships (e.g., the two-party political system), it's not all that uncommon to see sides flip-flop on an issue for no other reason that to avoid the appearance of agreement so to protect their identity and ensure the survival of their party. Maddow cites the individual mandate that Republicans first proposed and Democrats first opposed. Then Obama became an advocate of it and so Republicans opposed it. In '08 McCain criticized Romney on the same issue he's now complimenting him. Now Obama has stolen a page from the Republican play book. He wants to shrink government; consolidate 6 agencies in the Commerce Dept. I shouldn't be surprised when the Republicans oppose this move.
So I think I'll settle my internal conflict with the religious/non-religious debate by recognizing that both sides will defend their position for no other reason than to protect their identity and to ensure its survival. And that, I believe, is something worth criticizing...and accepting.
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