quote: Originally posted by Jacques: I like where Johnboy is going with this. I always thought Arraj pointed to Eastern mysticism being a potential encounter with the Eternal Logos who indwells and sustains all of existence. This ground of being is an act of God and hence not particularly personal. If a person only knew me through something I did, like a prison guard pushing food through a slot in the door, this action may seem impersonal. But if the guard speaks to the prisoner and develops a relationship with them, suddenly the whole reality takes on personal expression. The first is an Impersonal but Sustaining Act The second is a Personal and Relational Reality that even gives Personal and Relational qualities to the Sustaining Act.
Thanks, Jacques. Jim was onto something that Merton seemed to be on the verge of anticipating or articulating, which is that our great traditions are not saying the same thing only in different terms. I would have liked to explore with Jim, though, whether or not we might better say that our great traditions are not emphasizing the same thing. Much of Jim's dialogue and some of Merton's approach took place within Maritain's existential Thomist tradition with such classical distinctions as natural and supernatural, nature and grace, existential and theological, and so on. And that's all good and internally coherent. Jim was not bound, however, by a strict substance ontology for he had begun to consider formal causation in terms of deep and dynamic formal grounds. He also knew the dangers of nominalism that might inhere in any improperly nuanced process approach. Jim is the first person who suggested to me that Christianity was indeed nondual vis a vis knowledge and love but he also realized that distinctions perdure at the ontological level. So, in my own nondual approach, I have prescinded from any robustly metaphysical account to a more vague phenomenological perspective. Thus, I have also moved away from classical natural and supernatural distinctions and their ontological baggage. Let me expand on what I meant by a polydoxic vision: 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. If, from Advaita Vedﾄ］ta, we draw an account of ultimate reality as ground, from Christianity - an account of ultimate reality as contingency, and from the Madhyamaka school of Buddhism - an account of ultimate reality as relation, and if we hold that the 1
totality of reality has diverse aspects as is entailed by our trinitarian conception of ultimate reality, might we not reasonably suggest, instead, that, while these traditions do indeed have different soteriological trajectories, they, nevertheless, engage different dimensions of the same indwelling divine life? Practices and experiences would then be differentiated by the variety of the textures and fruits associated with each unique healing transformation (same Spirit, different gifts). While we must neither deny nor dismiss the tensions that exist between these different trajectories, we might acknowledge that those tensions continue to play out, creatively and to our mutual edification, not only between but also within our great traditions. (I liberally borrowed and then reformulated the phraseology from John J. Thatamanil's chapter in Polydoxy: Theology of Multiplicity and Relation, Edited by Catherine Keller and Laurel Schneider. He wrote Chapter 13, God as Ground, Contingency and Relation: Trinity, Polydoxy and Religious Diversity. Any misconstructions are my own but this vision of polydoxy belongs to him and his sources). I think the nature and grace distinction is an artefact of earlier interreligious dialogue that came about from notions that enlightenment was a democratic experience, something Merton might suggest smacked of being procurable. Merton, himself, has been known as the democratizer of contemplation, but he also introduced critical distinctions (masked), employed other classical distinctions (infused) and mostly sidestepped yet others (acquired). It is dubious, however, just how "procurable" the enlightenment experience really is and, further, the experience is likely pluralistic in both form and interpretation both within and across traditions, so neither it nor contemplation should be considered from within the narrow perspective of any given tradition or spirituality (John of the Cross may be normative for certain ascetic disciplines and phenomenal experiences but I don't receive his writings as exhaustive, for example). There are rich variegations of textures and fruits that ensue from the manifold and multiform practices of our richly diverse schools and spiritualities within and across our traditions and the picture is further complicated by such as lines, levels, states, stages and other developmental paradigms that present along the journeys of spiritual sojourners everywhere. No gifts are procurable apart from God's grace and creatio continua. Lonergan would not differentiate the infrastructures of different practitioners using the interior gift of grace (See Modelling the Method: A Lonergan Approach to Christian Responsibility in Interreligious Relations by Patrick McInerny.)