johnboy.philothea http://johnboy.philothea.


Posted 10 January 2012 10:11 PM 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 mapmaking. 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 1

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

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 2

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. johnboy.philothea


Posted 10 January 2012 07:00 PM

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quote: Originally posted by Phil: How could one possibly know if the early Church got the "Jesus path" more "slightly wrong" or "mostly wrong?" It seems only Jesus could tell us that, for sure, but that doesn't stop scholars armed with the Gospel of Thomas or Mary or Judas, etc. from assuming that they now know better than the early Apostolic tradition what Jesus intended. That seems rather arrogant, to say the least, imo.

I broadly conceive the sensus ecclesiæ and believe its sensus fidelium thus guides us! Thus, 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.

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Posted 10 January 2012 07:31 PM

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quote: Originally posted by johnboy.philothea:

quote: Originally posted by Phil: 4

Derek, my point about the "Jesus of faith" was that the way the community presented Jesus' life and teaching in its oral/written tradition doesn't indicate much interest in pursuing nondual mystical experience other than the kind of inter-subjective union we've talked about on this thread.

Good point. 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.