quote: Originally posted by Phil: quoting JB: While Zen indeed gifts Christianity, it is true that Christian contemplation and Zen enlightenment should not be facilely equated; but neither should they be facilely differentiated in terms of grace versus nature. Here I may depart from Jim's paradigm - not necessarily by way of contradiction but by employing different categories.
JB, I'll pick this part of a post above to reply to, as it's where I intended to go next with my reflections. I want to take seriously the experience of Oneness being described, even though the site is somewhat "pop" in its tone and content. It certainly does give the impression that nonduality is "procurable," but so do Wilber and Tolle in many of their teachings. I want to take seriously this matter of an accessible nondual experience and inquire as to what might be going on. JB responds: As I mentioned above, in my view, the spectrum of phenomenal experiences, East and West, is richly variegated. That there may be an accessible nondual experience among them sounds reasonable enough but that description would not exhaust, as I see things, all manner of nondual engagements with reality, proximate or ultimate, intraobjective identity or interobjective indeterminacy. When I leap from positivistic science and normative philosophy to an interpretive theology of nature, I only employ vague categories. I don't aspire to interpret such things in a robustly metaphysical manner. My chief concern with the pop-nondualists is that many seem to consider consciousness a primitive alongside space, time, mass and energy, or even as THE primitive that grounds reality, itself. Human consciousness, in my view, is an emergent physicalist reality. In other words, I reach my impasse with some of these folks long before I engage them theologically. In my parlance, they seem to refer to an intrasubjective identity, which, as you know, is NOT one of my categories. Does this make sense? I understand what you are saying but I haven't gotten that determinate or specific; I don't have a root metaphor, metaphysically (at least not yet) but you seem to implicitly employ being in a Thomistic sense, which is certainly one of the best heuristics around.
quote: Originally posted by Phil: It seems to be a given in these discussions that "duality" is a bad thing, and that experiences of oneness are of a higher order.
JB responds: Duality is a different thing, indispensable even. Nonduality, variously presenting as phenomenal experience, ontological or metaphysical intuition, epistemic approach, aspect of theo-ontology, and so on, does seem to come later, developmentally, for most folks. Certain aspects of nonduality are necessary for human value-realizations, but they are not, alone, sufficient. It doesn't matter in what order certain furnishings of our axiological suite arrive as long as they get assimilated and carried forward. I see no reason to subjugate one to the other. Now, it certainly can be a bad thing to engage an aspect of reality dualistically when any given value-realization calls for a nondual approach. Vice versa would be equally unhelpful.
quote: Originally posted by Phil: I have known of the oneness of creation and the interdependence of creatures long before I learned to "tune in" to my nonreflecting awareness (#2 above), or was given glimpses of cosmic Christic graces (#3). I learned of this in ecology classes, for example, and my mind got it! It's demonstrably undeniable that all things are connected, and we can even tune in to a kind of affective, intimate sense of this as we read Carl Sagan, for example, or Brian Swimme. The mind has its own way of knowing and appreciating oneness, and I would submit that its knowing is of a higher order than nonreflecting awareness.
Our entire epistemic suite is available to intraobjective identity. Recall Jim's discussions of Maritain's distinctions regarding such as natural mysticism, intuition of being, philosophical contemplation and so on. It is helpful, too, to consider lines, states, levels, stages, quadrants and so on. Also, intellectual, affective, moral, social and religious conversions. Nondual experiences present across an axiological-epistemic spectrum as well as along a continuum of intensity; empirical evidence is mounting that correlates specific brain mechanisms with these experiences as they present from the mildest aesthetic experience to the most existentially profound experiences of absolute unitary being. It's a very complex reality. Pitting the dualistic problem-solving and nondual non-reflective 2
awareness one against the other misses the whole point of integrality, which esteems reasons of the heart and of the mind. Too much focus on these phenomenal experiences misses an even larger point, which is Lonergan's account of authenticity, self-transcendence and conversion. As I mentioned yesterday, in an earlier post, the unitive way is always marked by heroic virtue but many, maybe even most, of the virtuous are neither mystics nor contemplatives, so theosis vis a vis authenticity, self-transcendence and conversion is the chief criterion we should employ in evaluating spiritual paths and praxes. What Lonergan calls conversion is not mystical prayer, which may or may not even be involved (neither that of East or West). And religious self-transcendence has parallels in Christian, Hindu and Buddhist traditions (as well as many others) not just in my polydoxic account but per Lonergan's account. The more pertinent question, then, to ask of our traditions, and even of their quasi- and -oidish pop-iterations, is less so what happens during your 20 minute sitting over a 20 year period and very much more so have you fostered religious conversion? and religious love? which, universally, is the mission and gift of the Holy Spirit in joy, in peace and a love of neighbor, which is known by our fruits.