Shalom Place Community Nondual Christianity - what could THAT possibly entail? This topic can be found at: http://shalomplace.org/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/15110765/m/614408711 8 25 December 2011, 02:59 PM johnboy.philothea Nondual Christianity - what could THAT possibly entail? From Santa Claus to Derek and pop-pop: Barnhart's two axes of identity and relationship well correspond to what I am calling our phenomenal experiences of intra-objective identity and inter-subjective intimacy. For him, contemplation and love are nondual modalities complemented by purity of heart, which is the doorway to nondual consciousness (of which faith, itself, is an aspect), which well fits into my category of methodology or epistemology. By heart, Barnhart means an integral unity of body, soul, mind and spirit (and not really the will as distinguished from memory and understanding vis a vis, for example, Ignatian formulations or even Scotistic versus Thomistic distinctions as resolved by Bonaventure as discussed previously hereinabove, indeed, per what Barnhart, himself, calls the sapiental). It entails our beyond but not without integralism. For him, the nondual self is a corollary to his axes of identity and relationship and well corresponds to what I have called our phenomenal experience of intra-subjective integrity. What Barnhart calls the unitive Absolute corresponds to our phenomenal experience of inter-objective indeterminacy. A lot of what I have read in various attempts to reconcile East and West, including Barnhart, reads much like a poetic Hegelian dialectic of thesis, antithesis and synthesis of polar realities. Reality is not that simple, however. There are other ways that we engage paradox which I'll discuss later, perhaps. Cynthia Bourgeault has taught with Bruno Barnhart, Thomas Keating and Richard Rohr, who are all pretty much resonating with one another, all well-fitting into both my glossary and meta-critique. In that Thomas Keating quote, he is discussing a state, a phenomenal experience of no-self, which would developmentally follow even a standing-outside-of-self in ecstasy. Barnhart, for his part, distinguishes between a nonduality of the beginning (Asian) and a nonduality of the end (think Incarnation) and this would be a vague theological reference to his axis of identity, which has ontological implications. This fits, then, Keating's characterization of a state of union explained as the grace of the Ascension, an even more intense communication of the divine than even that of the transforming union of a bridal mysticism. 1
Now, in Christian formative spirituality, there is no death of the false self, only a realization of the true self. Living as we do, to use Keating's words, an "active life of immersion in the ups and downs of ordinary experience," our false self, which judges reality and solves problems, is indispensable! We need our empirical, logical, moral and practical problemsolving dualistic mind to navigate reality as we get our temporal needs met. What might it be like to have all of those needs met, though? To require no problem-solving? No eye has seen nor ear heard nor the heart of wo/man conceived! Reportedly, a few have tasted some heavenly delights but, as Fr. Keating says, God is beyond all of our categories. We mustn't confuse, however, a phenomenal state of mind or state of awareness, especially a lack thereof, with an ontological fact of existence. Fr. Keating refers to a phenomenal state or experience of no-self (no reflection of self) and not an ontological status of NO-SELF. Most of what Fr. Rohr teaches involves neither these phenomenal experiences nor their ontological contexts but, instead, methodological or epistemological approaches or stances, specifically, regarding nondual consciousness, all within the context of matters regarding intra-subjective integrity. His accounts of nondual consciousness and contemplation resonate with Barnhart's; among the dozens of contemporary spiritual teachers regarding nonduality, he most highly recommends Thomas Keating, Cynthia Bourgealt and Bruno Barnhart. Regarding St Bernard's spousal love, it IS dual, ontologically, inter-subjectively, which is a teleologically deeper reality than any nondual intra-objective realization. Methodologically, though, the nondual approach augments our inter-subjective value-realizations and the merely dualistic would indeed be impoverished, which is not to at all deny that it can realize real value for, as I said before, in this life, it is both necessary and sufficient to realize abundant value in our relationships with both our Creator and fellow creatures. So, the dualistic does not have a negative valence. In fact, it is an indispensable moment in our human valuerealization movements. BUT --- I have said much of this already? several times now? Confused At any rate, I welcome the opportunity to parse and disambiguate others' works with my glossary and meta-critical categories. Smiler Again, the practical take-away is that nondual and dual can refer to anthropology, phenomenology, ontology, metaphysics (ontology with a capital "O"), axiology, epistemology or theology. And not just from author to author or tradition to tradition but within any given author's discussions! Finally, while I understand and appreciate what appears to me to be a lot of people's preoccupation with experiences and metaphysical speculation, methodological approaches have always had more traction with me. 26 December 2011, 01:52 PM Derek Very interesting. Now I'm going to have to read Bourgeault. 2
I've spent a fortune on Kindle books since I bought that thing (to save money Roll Eyes ). 26 December 2011, 10:02 PM Phil quote: We certainly need a modicum of intra-subjective integrity vis a vis human authenticity to enjoy beatitude but, in the end, how much we grow or how holy we get is very much God's affair . Beyond that, in my view, both now and forever, the experience of the inter-subjective , both vis a vis our primary beatitude of being happy with God and our secondary beatitude of being happy with our fellow creatures, is our highest good and to be most highly valued. Our experience of unitary being vis a vis a realization of our intra-objective identity will certainly round out and enhance our other experiences integrally and holistically and can even protect us from certain errors (overly dialectical imagination, deism, rationalism, pietism, etc).
Pop, in addition to what JB has just posted, there is this quote above, which he posted earlier and which I commented on as well. He has been strongly affirming of traditional Christian spirituality and its love mysticism, which (I agree with you) is indeed dualistic in that it involves two who nonetheless can come to enjoy union. His use of "dualism" re. taxes is less a comment about ontology than a subject/object split that is a consequence of analytical activity. I will probably have to pass on going much into some of Richard Rohr's, Thomas Keating's and Cynthia Bourrgeault's writings, as we've already been around the bush numerous times about some of this on other threads. E.g., Keating's reference to experiencing the grace of Ascension is from Bernadette Roberts' book, What is Self?, where she understands the Ascension of Christ as a stage through which she has passed, existing now as a Eucharistic presence like Jesus does as well. Needlessly to say, this is a highly controversial assessment of her situation, unparalleled in Christian mystical theology, as is the notion that one moves beyond the unitive state. Jim Arraj never bought it and I don't either. I'm not as familiar with Cynthia's present writings, but we did have a correspondence years ago and even got to spend several days together when I was presenting workshops in the northeast. She's a gracious, gifted woman, but, at that time, she was also clearly enamored of BR's books and had been something of an assistant to Fr. Keating in Snowmass during that time when he, too, was endorsing her works and also using Wilber's stages to re-present Teresa's stages of Interior Castle (see 1992 edition of Invitation to Love). A directee recently bought a CD with some of Cynthia's chants for me to listen to, and the first was was "God is all there is . . ." chanted again and again. Well, not exactly. There is also creation. 3
What I have read in some of the Amazon book samples along with what I've heard in some of Rohr's recent videos has not resonated well with my faith and the theotic paradigm that I believe is central to Christian theology and spirituality. I'm also increasingly skeptical about your point that intraobjective mysticism can complement our traditional intersubjective approach. Maybe, theoretically . . . Far too often it seems that it undercuts inter-subjective approaches, as I believe I have already noted. When/if intra-objective mystical experiences come during the course of the Christian journey, that is another matter. That seems to be quite rare, however-especially the articulation of it in intr-objective language. 27 December 2011, 08:40 AM johnboy.philothea First things first! Anyone see Monday Night Football? 27 December 2011, 01:07 PM johnboy.philothea To further explicate the use of the term nondual, whether as an epistemic approach or phenomenal experience, it does not represent an etymological shoe- horning (tic-tac-toe cheating as per pop-pop) of everything that is of deeper value over against dualistic problem-solving. It derives first from our psychological categories as reinforced by modern neuroscience that can image which parts of our brain just so happen to be doing what when we are doing thus and such. Just like contemplation has been somewhat democratized (as some of us see it, anyway), nondual consciousness is, itself, ubiquitous. All have engaged reality with it even if not all have pressed that engagement to the same extent in any given setting or practice. As Phil points out, there can be real inefficacies that attend to the shadow side of such epistemic methods and/or phenomenal experiences. It has not been my primary purpose thus far in this thread to set forth norms for all of these categories; I'm trying to describe them theoretically with the intent of norming them practically later on. I have hinted, however, using a symphony as a metaphor, that not every note is going to deserve a whole measure of crescendo; some will best be sounded as but a quater-note in pianissimo. Something to think about, meditatively: Nondual consciousness seems to be often associated with our receptive mode wherein (in Teresian terms) we are gaining the strength to serve (Martha) via consolations (Mary) as we variously dispose ourselves to charisms and gifts, while our dualistic, problemsolving consciousness is often associated with works of mercy as we variously enjoy fruits and virtues. Avodah is a transliteration for the Hebrew word for worship and work. Might it be a good bridging concept? There are so many agapic moments in life that are remarkably dualistically engaged, requiring, in fact, a love of self for sake of others. Can you describe any? 27 December 2011, 01:08 PM johnboy.philothea I'm open to engaging and parsing the work of any writers, including Bourgeault, Rohr, Keating and others. But, following 4
what Phil said, I would encourage folks to first Google some items with the syntax +Shalomplace to check out what may already be there on the old message boards so we don't rehash stuff unnecessarily. Also, I am not inclined to respond to summary dismissals of individuals based on their isolated quotes as taken out of larger contexts or to general characterizations like "oddball" (Derek) without specific citations, again within context. For example, how is one to know whether Bourgeault's chant (Phil) was essentially affective (think mad, glad and sad psalms) in both tone and tenor rather than theologically descriptive? One could chant "Jesus, my all" and that should not invite a cursory retort like - "Well, no, what about your spouse and children?". Any given moment of spirituality is necessarily a matter of emphasis which does not set it up in a discursive over against other emphases such as, for example, knowledge of God versus love of God, apophasis versus kataphasis, affective vs speculative, our will vs our memory vs our understanding, erotic vs agapic, dual vs nondual. More is left unsaid than said when chanting psalms as that is the genre of that artform; to wit: "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" Any given spiritual lifestyle (think religious order) is similarly a matter of emphasis (think eremitic vs monastic vs apostolic). 27 December 2011, 01:13 PM johnboy.philothea recapping intra-objective identity, our realization of unitary being: My category of phenomenal experience is much more broadly conceived than that which we would more narrowly categorized as intra-objective mysticism. Again, it includes the methodological naturalism of science, philosophical naturalism of materialist monism, various root metaphors of metaphysics and natural theology, as well as some of the aha moments that may be associated with philosophical contemplation, the intuition of being and metaphysical insights of Zen. In theologies of nature, it features prominently in different pantheisms and panentheisms. By intra-objective mysticism, we mean any nonconceptual natural mysticism or mysticism of the self. The values to be mined from intraobjective insights can be realized either/both intellectually or/and existentially and in varying degrees. This is true for the other phenomenal categories, too. In various and sundry ways, any and all of these conceptions (as well as their epistemic corollary, nondual consciousness) might shed some light on the different experiences of the practitioners of the great traditions of the East, including those schools with and without prominent devotional elements. These practitioners have comprised a giganormous swath of humanity through time and we want to validate and honor their experiences and to continue in earnest dialogue with them, both to deepen our own self-understanding by engaging them as a foil as well as to gain whatever wisdom they may offer, 5
especially vis a vis their practices but not at all excluding many of their conclusions. Thus we seek to earnestly inventory and exchange our manifold and varied virtues, fruits and gifts. The soteriological exclusivism that our traditions have only fairly recently eschewed certainly precludes any pneumatological exclusivism. This is to say that we certainly do not believe that practitioners of other traditions merely gain salvation through an exculpability grounded in ignorance but that they actually have something meaningful to contribute to how we might move much more swiftly and with much less hindrance along this journey that we call life on this path that we call faith. Now, avoiding any facile syncretism, insidious indifferentism or false irenicism is no easy chore. Developing and articulating norms for appropriating practices (or not) across traditions is no easy task. What I suggest is that any given criterion one offers should be received as taking its place among other criteria as something that we would weigh in the balance without it, alone, necessarily tipping any scales. For example, while the history of Christian mystical theology, its authoritative spiritual writings and prevailing theotic paradigms certainly well speak to these issues, they certainly do not comprise all there is to meaningfully and substantively say about them, especially given new understandings from modern psychology and evolutionary anthropology. We are not talking about central tenets of the faith, creedal essentials or core teachings but about spiritualities that are much more dynamic than static and which, by their very nature, evolve and change emphases as the Spirit leads and new circumstances of God's people emerge (and substantive interfaith engagement is clearly an emergent reality) . Thus religious orders have come and gone or reformed or morphed. This is all to further suggest that truth- indicative realities like authority and tradition are dispositive but not exhaustive as we take up formative spirituality, which is better served by approaches like heuristics that are suggestive and tentative than by those like systematics that are definitive and dogmatic. Arraj used a great tennis analogy to describe various syncretisms - theology without a net . Such a net more so applies to the realm of dogmatic theology, however, less so to mystical and ascetic theology, in my view. Of course, there are no too few who've precisely made mistakes vis a vis essential dogma as they clumsily try to articulate the theological implications of their spiritual experiences. Some rather explicitly and systematically depart from core teachings, to be sure. Others may occasionally misspeak or poorly articulate a theological concept, from time to time, but their real meaning can be more clearly discerned within the contexts of both their bodies of work and practices of faith. We can expect that the steps toward East-West maturity are 6
going to be necessarily immature. We should not be shy in speaking the truth but we should be gentle with others and give them the benefit of the doubt, sorting through the wheat and chaff, not categorically dismissing them but affirming what we can, correcting what we must and remaining open always to what it is we might learn from them - even when --- and maybe especially when --- they are giving us grief! (There's so much the Falcons can take away from last night's whuppin' that they might could use in a playoff rematch with Breesus and the Saints!) What we want to manifestly embrace is a spirit of authentic and charitable dialogue. What we want to positively eschew is any approach that reinforces any meritocracy, any winners and losers, any who's in and who's out, any who's with us or against us or any having of all the answers.