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The Word As Text And Doctrine.....and The Word As Living Word.

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I just happen to be reading some sort of analysis of Four Quartets, the poem by T S Eliot. There is a passage in the introduction that seemed to capture my own approach so well that I feel bound to quote it here.

The author is speaking of Eliot's use of various doctrines of various faiths.

......Eliot feels no compunction in alluding to the Bhagavad Gita in one section of the poem and Dante's Paradiso in the next. He neither asserts the rightness nor wrongness of one set of doctrines in relation to the other, nor does he try to reconcile them. Instead, he claims that prior to the differentiation of various religious paths, there is a universal substratum called Word (logos) of which religions are concretions. This logos is an object both of belief and disbelief. It is an object of belief in that, without prior belief in the logos, any subsequent religious belief is incoherent. It is an object of disbelief in that belief in it is empty, the positive content of actual belief is fully invested in religious doctrine.

There we are. My own belief in the Word is mediated via Pure Land Buddhism and its teachings. Others can choose differently. And I truly find that the expression of the Word in other Faiths help my understanding of my own.

 

Just to add to this. To read of the lives, and to read the testimonies, the words, of others of various Faiths as they seek to give voice to their actual experience of "enlightenment", or being found have been chosen, or the actuality of grace......to hear them express the selfsame thing but couched in varied words, supports and helps me see the reality that is often hidden from us in this world. As I have sought to say before, in Christian terms, the "work of Christ" goes far beyond our own experience or beliefs. And rather than fight such a thought, it should be cause to rejoice.

 

Interfaith dialogue is frowned upon by some, their opinion I assume being that if one has the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, then why enter into dialogue with another "truth"? However, for those interested, the Buddhist concept of "sunyata" (or "emptiness" ) is seen to be in correspondence with the mysticism of those in the Christian Tradition such as Eckhart and Jacob Bohme, in as much as their understanding of God is that as the "ineffable".......the "groundless". The tragedy is, that to mention "mystic" to some is to suggest the bending of spoons and suchlike, if not Ouija Boards and suchlike.....Rather than to see it as a rich source of Christian revelation of the Divine, by those who have sought the experience that belief can only point towards.

One interesting dialogue took place between the Christian Theologian John Hick and the zen Buddhist Masao Abe. In this dialogue, Hick acknowledged that even within the monotheistic faiths the experience of God differed......the Jewish experience, the Christian experience of the Heavenly Father, the Muslim experience of Allah. And these themselves differed even more radically with the Buddhist and Hindu forms of religious experience. And yet each of these great spiritual traditions seems to be more or less equally effective as a context of the salvific transformation of human beings from self-centeredness to a re-centering in some manifestation of the ultimate. That they apparently produce essentially the same human transformation - though taking varying concrete forms within different cultures - suggests that through these traditions the same ultimate transforming reality is affecting us.

This is because - as is suggested by John Hick - our human experience is always culturally conditioned. Or, as an ancient Hindu text says..."Thou art formless; thy only form is our knowledge of Thee"

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This reminds me of one of Joseph Campbell's anecdotes ... where religious people of various stripes got together at some conference. The monks from the various faiths got quite well and had an understanding of one another. Whereas the theologians were stuck in their own doctrines/dogmas.

 

Not suggesting we should become monks or anything.

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Albert Einstein
Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.

 

The experience is unity in a unified field, may we call it consciousness, energy, spirit, soul, atman or one of the many gods that are named. I feel the monks in silence experience this unity so got along well, but theologians are about words describing the experience so disagree like the blind men describing the different parts of an elephant. In relation to Christianity there are many non-Christians now and who predate Christ who are more Christ like than Christians, and I feel this is because we Chrisians are conditioned to believe in religion more than Christ.

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What finger is this pointing to the moon?

A beautiful finger,

Form to admire then to cherish and lust.

Easy to see, understand, and discuss,

So familiar,

Comforting like a childhood dinner.

 

What moon is this out there and up?

Mysterious, without definition,

Or classifiable with common reference,

Taboo they preach,

Not solid rock to build on,

The devil of deceit.

 

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That is a beautiful poem, but is the finger of Jesus is pointing to deceit?

 

The early Church Fathers were not bound to one meaning of the Bible so allowed the text to communicate in a number of ways. There are two basic levels of meaning or sense of Scripture; they are the literal sense and the spiritual sense. The spiritual sense applies to the meaning of the Bible when we read it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The early Church Fathers used many expressions interchangeably for this and they were: symbolic, metaphorical, mystery, mystical sense and spiritual sense. In our Christian tradition we believe the Word of God is directed to us internally to become aware of the continuous presence of the Divinity within so we can become completely human and divine as revealed in scripture. We do this by developing our spiritual senses so the Word of God can be understood beyond the mind in our spiritual consciousness according to our personal situation in life. Knowledge of the Infinite is spontaneous and cannot be proven with logic and reason because logic is linear and brings contradictions. In straight linear thinking one thing happens and then something else happens after that on the other hand, the spiritual is holographic so everything is spontaneous with the whole thing happening at once. In order to connect with the spirit instantaneously symbols, parables and mythology are used to take us to a deeper understanding beyond the mind. One immediately experiences a sense of wholeness, integrity, strength and beauty within us. We search for these things going around the circumference, but find it in our center. Running around on the perimeter we search for strength by means of control, but find it in the unity within just being in the soul, which is a happy place not guilty of anything. Life, the world and nature are not controlled and governed from without; on the contrary they are energized and invigorated from within. This helps us human beings live a healthier, more spiritually fulfilling life in accordance with just being who we are meant to be. The benefits are subtle and energizing because the soul never sleeps, it is even awake when we are sleeping the memory being called a dream. In sleep we get a taste and can go to a deeper mental plane. If the awareness of the soul is looked after and life is witnessed from its perspective, the material world can be blissful. Khalil Gibran who was a Lebanese American writer and mystic said, “Trust in dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.”

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