Saturday, 3 November 2018

The End Times - Reincarnation and Judgment

Can anyone doubt that these are the End Times as spoken of in the Christian tradition? Almost everywhere materialism and atheism have triumphed, and where spirituality does exist it is often a weak, impoverished thing that takes more of its ideology from contemporary political thought than religious teaching. Most people in the West reject Christianity and, of those that do embrace it, many see it in the light of the secular humanism that has developed since the 18th century. Christianity, it is thought, must be revised to reflect that rather than that being seen as wholly secondary to the Christian vision. I believe that traditional Christianity does need to be looked at afresh from the perspective of a developing consciousness which sees humanity as growing into godhood, but this should be done by deepening it not by making it spiritually shallow which is what is actually happening. The heart of Christianity is neglected, and teachings that only really apply to those who have renounced the sins of the world are opened up to all regardless of repentance. That, at least, is becoming the popular conception of the real meaning of the Christian message. God loves everybody equally, disrespective of what they are. Perhaps he does but he loves truth too, and if you love him, you keep his commandments. Only then can his love be expressed without the other side to it which is his anger, considering anger as a metaphysical aspect of justice. For justice and mercy must always go together.

I've gone slightly off the point I wish to address in this post. What I have just written is not without relevance to my subject but I am jumping ahead of myself. I want here to try to reconcile a belief in reincarnation with the idea of judgment. That's because both form part of my beliefs about the spiritual world and, at first sight, they seem contradictory. Reincarnation is normally assumed to mean you have a more or less endless number of lifetimes to get it right. You live a life and learn or don't learn and in your next life you carry on from where you have left off in a new incarnation, the circumstances of which will be a result of the previous one or the previous ones. The consequences of mistakes will be experienced in a future life and you evolve, you develop, gradually growing into higher consciousness. That's the theory which is appealing to many because it has a certain logic to it.

However, I don't think things are that simple. Today's world is radically different to previous eras for many reasons ranging from a hugely expanded population to great material comfort and technological sophistication to access to all the wisdom of the past for anyone who cares to look for it to the decay of all forms of religion. It is a time of crisis and I believe many people are being born now to experience a world in which a definitive choice has to be made between good and evil, truth and lies, with the latter often being presented as the former which makes it a real test of one's inner compass and true orientation. And also of courage. For it does take a certain amount of courage to hold onto one's faith in the true God when so many false alternatives are being presented, usually with the assumption that they are more intelligent, more compassionate or just that to hold them is the sign of a good person. We will find as time goes on that to stand by real Christian values will be seen as the mark of an ignorant or even bad person. That is because these values put God above Man. Modern ideology cannot countenance that. God, if he exists, must adapt himself to human requirements, and his purpose for us must involve the increase of happiness and concomitant decrease of suffering in this world.

Might it be that the population of the world is currently at an all-time high because so many souls are being assembled for a comprehensive test of their spiritual quality and dedication? Circumstances are being make hard in order to sort out the spiritual sheep from the goats. Now is an important time of decision when humanity will be divided into those who make the spiritual grade and those who don't, with the failures (which may be a hard word but is accurate) being sent elsewhere to learn the lessons they refused here. Where that elsewhere will be and what its nature will consist of, I cannot say but I would guess that it will be a descent into a lower level of consciousness which will require a concerted effort to escape from. There will be increased separation from the source with less of the consoling worldly pleasures one can find here.

This is how I reconcile reincarnation and judgment. During the course of a world age souls incarnate at various times and in various places with the aim of developing spiritual consciousness which requires for its proper growth the full sense of duality and awareness of individuality. Only by becoming a fully aware self can the God-created individualised spark of spirit grow into godhood and become a co-creator in the fullness of life which is God's wish for us. If we stayed in the heavenly realms without incarnation we would remain spiritual babes. Independence is acquired through incarnation. 

But a world age comes to an end and that is what ours is now doing. It's the end of term, the time when all spiritual students must take their exam to see if they can pass on to the next stage. Call it graduation. Those who succeed, on whatever level because some are primary school students while others are at higher stages, ready for full graduation into theosis, ascend to higher levels appropriate to their consciousness. Those that do not pass this spiritual exam descend. The choice is ours and it is never too late to make the decision that will be determining. There are temptations galore at the moment, precisely to test the heart. They range from simple materialism and atheism to numerous false forms of spirituality, united in their focus on the human self and its spiritual potential. But it is up to us to see through all of these and open our hearts and minds up to the true reality of God. Then we must act on the measure of that reality without distorting it by egotism, emotionalism or pride. In this, I believe, we are most guided by dedication to the person of Christ. The truth of his being will direct us to the truth of our own being. Using him as a kind of universal standard time by which we set our own spiritual clocks will serve us well when the moment comes for the judgment of our soul.


Unknown said...

According to Hindu calculations, we entered the End Times some 3000 years ago, and have some 400,000 years left to go till things wind up...

A scary thought...

In the end, though, I agree with the mystics that everything is fundamentally OK with this universe despite appearances, and there is no reason to get so alarmed or anxious.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William this is excellent. I am particularly interested to see your remarks on reincarnation and the end times - these make a lot of sense.

You make the concession to modernity "God loves everybody equally, disrespective of what they are." - I don't think the word 'equality' does any useful work there, and indeed misleads. Try removing the word 'equally' - and that is more the truth of it.

God loves us like an ideal father of a very large family loves his children - that is, he loves them all, although not 'equally' - but loves in quite different qualities and intensities.

Furthermore (if we accept the fourth Gospel as true), Jesus shows no sign at all of having loved everybody equally - explicitly, he did not even love his disciples equally - although he explicitly loved them all.

Can you imagine how it would stand-out as fake if 'equally' was intesrted into Jesus's Gospel expressions of love!

William Wildblood said...

You're absolutely right Bruce, and, in fact, if it wouldn't make your comment look odd I would edit the piece and remove the word 'equally'. As you say God loves everybody but the degree of his love must be based on how much an individual conforms to what they should be,how much their heart inclined to the truth of God. And, of course, Jesus loved as you say too. If love is directed to everything equally it would be a soulless kind of thing.

Thanks for pointing this out. I must have been guilty of what you call RUP!

William Wildblood said...

Actually I've just reread my post. I wasn't saying God does love everybody equally but that that is the distorted misconception of what Christianity means. So I'm not so guilty of RUP after all!

Anyway your point still stands.

Chiu ChunLing said...

God loves everyone.

But the attitude that love demands towards a given person depends absolutely on their own willingness to respond to that love. That I love someone is not enough to decide whether I should allow them to drive a car, it only raises the stakes of the decision, which must be made on completely different grounds. If they are not competent and responsible enough to drive safely, love forbids that I should allow them to drive. If they are merely my employee and I am thinking of having them drive to better fulfill some purpose I have decided without regard to their benefit, that is still true. But it is far more true if I care about their personal welfare, if that is in fact the main purpose I would have in allowing them to drive.

Children learn to think of "love" as an argument that they should get whatever they desire. Parents need to think of love in terms of understanding that children often have conflicting desires without having thought much about the nature and importance of the conflict. A child may have a desire to show off how much status and freedom they have, by having a car and then by driving it like they are not accountable to anyone else for what happens. A parent has to recognize that this desire contradicts the desire to live rather than die or suffer crippling injury and irreparable loss as a result of "expressing their independence". For a moment, the impulsive intensity of the desire to act "liberated" may overwhelm the desire to not kill yourself (or innocent bystanders). Being a parent means resisting that impulse, both in yourself and your children.

Being a parent should also mean being able to explain this to children. But we have a generation of parents who failed at that, leading to a generation that failed to love their children enough to care whether they killed themselves or innocent bystanders, followed by a generation of children who are busily doing just that to their own children.

And are inevitably doing it to themselves, as is becoming clearer every day.

God has warned us that this would happen. But not everyone was willing to listen. Fortunately, this is only the end of their mortal lives. But it does forebode their eternities.

Hrothgar said...

Disproof of the notion that God loves everyone equally is inherent to Christian belief, when it stays true to itself and is taken to its logical conclusions, rather than those which wishful thinking might suggest. By the very fact of his incarnation, Christ was put in a position where it was not, by definition, possible for him to love or even know everyone equally - with those who came into personal contact with him and followed his leadership (or whom he chose to feel compassion towards), always taking priority over the great mass of humanity. Even among these, there is a clear order of precedence, with certain individuals gaining special mention in Scripture for being loved more than others (as Bruce said), so there seems to be no reasonable doubt about the matter.

We may assume that his capabilities in this respect are now vastly enhanced, with his potential for personal association/leadership and personal compassion potentially extending to everyone who makes the sincere choice to seek it in the first place - but the precedent has already been set. I see no good reason why it should not still apply, and only the most convoluted (and counter-factual, counter-intuitive) argumentation even attempts to prove otherwise (which, incidentally, explains a good deal of modern theology).

WRT reincarnation and judgement. The sentiments expressed in the last two paragraphs are approximately what I believe. I would add that I think reincarnation – at least in our day – should be regarded as being above all a chance to resit the exam, to learn and apply the things that were not successfully learned and applied the first time round. (This requires that the person also did not choose to drop out of the course, scrawl over the exam paper, inscribe willfully incorrect answers, or otherwise fail completely, and in general, put in a performance not too far away from what was needed, that suggests successful passage into higher learning would still be possible for them).

This may in practice restrict reincarnation to a fairly select group of persons – such as those Christians who had devoted and sincere faith in their terms, and were capable both of goodness and sincere repentance, but were significantly decieved as to the true nature of Christ and his message, making further post-mortal progress impossible without further assistance, of which Reincarnation is one potential form. To take one example, Christians who actually reject the resurrection because they believe in the primacy of the spirit world over the material would seem liable to have this problem (though some of them would presumably reject reincarnation too, on the same basis).

I actually had an interesting and enlightening recent experience which indicated to me that this re-taking of the test is indeed something that occurs, and for approximately the reasons suggested above - but due to the nature of the experience and the fact that it involves people close to me, I’m not sure I want to post about it in these comments. I could explain further in private, though.

William Wildblood said...

Just to be clear, the point I was making is that the idea that God loves everyone equally is a modern perversion of Christian teaching which has no doubt come about because of the false idea that all men are equal. You could only have equality in a world of clones which, thankfully, is not what God wants because it would be very boring.

The best you could say is that God loves all people potentially (italicised) to the same degree but that depends entirely on what the individual makes of himself, on how he fulfils his potential. And actually even then there will always be degrees of closeness to God.

Eric - said...

Sometimes, I compare these end times with a thief who snaked in through the backdoor while you were out and waited for you. Now, a person who knows his home would be able to detect that something is wrong - things might perhaps look a little bit too neat and tidy to be true - like our modern condition. This would enable you to take preemptive measures and expose the thief in time. Now, since most modern people have a hotel mentality and don't know their homes, they don't seem to be able to detect the thief in time, and unconsciously become hostages. The thief then uses the hostage, per stockholms syndrome, to trick more people into his trap by making them play pretend. As a consequence, society starts masquerading itself and begins hiding that something ought to be wrong. After all, the thief seems to be looking after us. And this is what frightens me about the modern condition. Being so blinded by comfort and the outer serenity of things that you willingly embrace damnation. Well, at least world wide poverty is decreasing..

Unknown said...

Eric -

I think the current decadence is probably a good and necessary thing.

I don't think in terms of progress but in terms of cycles - and from that perspective, European culture of the past 500 years was very destructive and unstable, and it was natural and healthy for it to eventually get destroyed.

Death is a part of life and leads yo renewal - everything must die. You can't have life without death or good without bad.

From that pov while these end times can seem scary and horrifying, from a larger perspective they are inevitable and necessary.

In Hindu mythology at the end of the a world-cycle Shiva dances the dance that will destroy the world in flames, but he has one hand extended with an open palm - which is the symbol for "fear not". (Buddha also always uses this gesture).

Even as all is being destroyed we are meant to know that something new and beautiful will arise and we are not truly in danger, and all is in an ultimate sense well.

William Wildblood said...

All will be well, Unknown, for people who recognise the decadence of the cycle but what about those who embrace it and even regard it as progress? They are the ones in spiritual peril.

Everything in this world passes and it is futile to regret that. At the same time, when decay and corruption occur we have a duty to point that out, to make clear exactly what it is. To say it is just part of a cycle, while true, is not enough. We must also condemn it as the evil it is or else we are, in a sense, complicit.

Unknown said...

"All will be well, Unknown, for people who recognise the decadence of the cycle but what about those who embrace it and even regard it as progress? They are the ones in spiritual peril."

William -

The mystic vision that despite the corruption and badness in the world all is nevertheless well depends on the insight that individual things are an illusion, and that everything is part of a larger whole.

If individual things are absolute, then of course all is not well with a universe that contains so much evil, and for the universe to become good it must fundamentally alter its character - through a process of evolution or growth.

However, a universe that contains nothing but good is metaphysically impossible as you can only perceive the good by distinguishing it from evil, meaning there is an underlying unity and interdependence beneath, and neither by themselves can be absolute. Like good, the individual can only be called so by distinguishing him against his environment - which means he depends on his environment, which means that individuality cannot be final but must depend on an underlying unity.

Forgive me for this rather long winded preamble, but to answer your question - the sinner and the righteous are not separate, but part of the same total system which is in some unfathomable way good. They are both expressions of the universe and thus are each other in an underlying sense.

As for pointing out evil, that is OK as long as we don't think either evil or good is ultimate - true spirituality is in a certain sense beyond good and evil. Evil can never win, nor can good. Neither are ultimate or absolute.

This is the "faith of Job" - which seems to me the true religious faith and attitude. Accepting everything just as it is as an expression of a wisdom far greater than anything our minds can comprehend. It is this attitude that leads to religious peace, contentment, joy, and bliss. Often however it can only come after a long period of search and extreme effort, after every personal resource has been exhausted and every intellectual device and contrivance has failed, and one is often brought to the edge of sickness and collapse of will - then God steps in.

That is why on Bruce's blog I suggested it is a very good thing that he is striving so mightily to penetrate the mystery with elaborate intellectual metaphysics and striving so hard to realize the state of mind he is after. And I would say this if you too.

If he keeps up this mighty effort with all his being, he will eventually - if he is lucky - collapse in exhaustion and futility as nothing works - and it is at that point that he will be given what he is looking for.

The religious literature is full of cases like this, where mighty striving brings the aspirant to sickness and the edge of death and despair, when he realized the futility of his own efforts, becomes empty, and God finally had a place to lodge.

The important thing is not yo be lukewarm - keep on striving with all your might until you've exhausted everything.

The idea that we must work to make the world good in a final sense can seem from the mystic pov almost a kind of blasphemy and lack of faith - it is to reject creation. This point is brought home most vividly in Job.

William Wildblood said...

Unknown, we don't agree about this and I don't want to argue the point. I will just say that truth is not beyond good and evil. It is the good. To think of good as the opposite of evil is a mistake. It is the reality that evil rejects. And individual things are neither an illusion nor the absolute but they do exist.

It's not a question of trying to make the world good but to affirm truth which is a very necessary thing if human souls are to be released from the darkness of their own making.

One last thing, a universe containing nothing but good is certainly not metaphysically impossible for there are degrees of good, based on degrees of openness to God. God created the universe like that. Only later did evil enter in. It was not a necessary part of the created world.

Unknown said...

I do not see this as an argument but a discussion, and I do not see my task to persuade - "conquer" - you :)

We disagree - but I find your language curiously echoing my thoughts though different - so I find it useful to explore these differences for my own illumination or anyone else's. But ideas of argument and persuasion are far from my mind.

I agree that to think of good and evil as opposites is a mistake. There is a different kind of relation between them. And I also agree that individual things are neither absolute not non-existent.

The mystic vision tries to avoid binary extremes - the modern mistake is to see individuality as absolute. To see things as having individual essences - Buddhist "self being" - rather than being part of an interdependent whole is what is the illusion. But individuality as part of an interdependent whole is not considered by any religion as an illusion.

I know I am I by knowing I am not William - therefore I depend on William and am interdependent on him. To think I can be me without being interdependent on William - that I can have "self being" - that is the illusion. But it is no illusion that I am I and you are you.

I also like the language you use of souls being released from darkness rather than changing the fundamental character of the world being the needed thing - this is very similar to my notion of liberation being the spiritual thing, not changing the world.

As for evil not being a necessary part of the world, we could not distinguish good unless it's against a background of evil - so in that sense it is necessary, although it isn't necessary in any given instance. Even if you define evil as merely rejection of reality, acceptance of reality could only occur against a background of the possibility of rejecting it.

So the two ideas imply each other - metaphorically, they go with each other, just in the same way as William implies me, and I imply William - none of these things have "self being" we could not even be conceived of completely on our own.

Chris said...

Since Truth is one and indivisible, I would like to think that these views can be reconciled. But, it's not clear how. At the very least, non-dual spirituality has to accept and use duality, not just dismiss it. Even if we realize that we are
no-self- that we are nothing- we have to also realize that we are also the self. Unity and duality both exist on some level. Just because a self cannot be consciously identified as a thing- an experience localized in space and time- does not necessarily mean that it is an illusion.

Unknown said...

Chris -

Good comment. What is the illusion is our sense of a self as a "thing" that has its own nature separate from everything else and can exist alone.

Eastern scriptures constantly warn not to cling to the One - and non-duality expresses something subtly different than monism.

Interdependent, like two sides of the same coin, is what is meant. One conceptual aid I like is that of the wave - the wave has an up and a down, you cannot have the up without the down and still be a wave. Same with the mountain. One side is up, one side down - but one cannot say the mountain is only one of those. Trying to have only the up side of the mountain is the source of much of our troubles and the illusion that needs to be penetrated. Trying to having only individuality without seeing how it depends on everything else as its backdrop to even be conceptualized, and hence individuality is just as much unity as it is individuality, is our problem.

The same way you cannot have existence without nothing - they are two sides of the same coin. Existence comes from nothing - or rather, they are part of the same package. In that sense, nothing is the same as existence, and vice versa. Yet we fear and are terrified of the nothing and try and suppress it -yet it is the condition for there to be anything at all, and in a sense is the same as existence itself.

Likewise you can't have space without objects, or objects without space. Only space makes no sense, or only objects.

People fear that the whole universe could theoretically be destroyed and only nothing will prevail - but nothing depends on existence, and existence on nothing. So in a sense they are not separate.

"form is emptiness, and emptiness is form" as the Diamond Sutra has it.

The wave is also distinct but connected to the ocean and every other wave.

Chris said...

All of what you said is fine and well. But , to be fair , the theist could call you out for playing words games - that monism and nondualism actually amounts to the same thing - differences are not real , and that is clearly false.

Unknown said...

It may be that we should ditch terms like non dualism and monism altogether, as perhaps they are a stumbling block to the modern mind.

It may be we have to develop a modern idiom for these ideas.

The old mystics delighted in paradox because once you had the "key" it all made sense and our minds were not so used to thinking strictly logically.

But we have lost that subtlety - I My self like to sometimes speak in bold paradoxes simply as a revolt against the modern addiction to logic and to snap people into a different mode of thought, but it may be counterproductive.

Perhaps words like inter-dependent, arising together as part of the same package, etc, etc, would make more sense to the modern mind.

The ideas themselves are what's important not the idiom in which they are expressed.

Perhaps a modern religious genius is needed to explain these ideas in a modern idiom.

Chris said...

Don’t forget that Vistadvaita , Dvaitadvaita , Dvaita and the classical theistic traditions of the West all reject the doctrine of illusion because they insist that differences are “really real “ and not merely “ relatively real”

Unknown said...

On the other hand it could be these insights are not for everyone.

The important thing it seems to me is to develop a kind of 'faith' - the faith of Job, an acceptance of the world as is as an expression of an incomprehensible wisdom beyond our ken. To no longer set ourselves up in opposition to the world but to have faith and go with the flow of life.This is the opposite of faith as belief in propositions

The path of insight into reality is by no means the only path.

In Japan the most popular Buddhism is Shin, not Zen. Zen is the path of insight and Shin is the path of faith - you put your faith entirely in the Buddha Amitabha and merely invoke his name and you will be reborn in a perfect Buddha realm.

Both paths lead one to acceptance of life and cooperation with it rather than fighting it.

Unknown said...

"Don’t forget that Vistadvaita , Dvaitadvaita , Dvaita and the classical theistic traditions of the West all reject the doctrine of illusion because they insist that differences are “really real “ and not merely “ relatively real"

Point taken. However I am partial to the mystics as the essence of religion.

The classical theistic path of the West is not quite so posivistic as that - even St Thomas Acquinas said any conception of God is limiting and we should abandon it.

Nevertheless, however one achieves religious acceptance of the great Mystery is good.

Chris said...

I have noticed that those of who are partial to a nondual perspective often make the claim that there is unanimity among the mystics of the ages . But, is that really the case ?It seems that we cannot escape the need for interpretation which brings us back into the domain of discursivity . It’s weird to hear arguments for the claim that arguments are inadequate .

Unknown said...

One consistently Chris -

The theory is not that differences are not resources - that they are really real is actually necessary to the mystic theory. Contrast is of the essence of the mystic vision - as the individual can only be distinguished against a background of others.

What is not really real is independence - is existence on its own of an entity without being dependent and implied in all other entities.

Relative reality is a wrong way of expressing it that some philosophers attempted - time to discard it.

Unknown said...

Meant one final remark Chris sorry spell check :)

Unknown said...

"It’s weird to hear arguments for the claim that arguments are inadequate."

From the mystic point of view the proper function of arguments critical when the highest point if logic is when it abolished itself.

Any one who takes logic really seriously and follows it to the end funds that it abolished itself. This has been done philosophically East and West, and is part of the reason concepts cannot be ultimate.

As for the unanimity of mystics, what is common is the experience not the language they use to describe it, which is particular to each tradition.

However, even the language is stroking my similar as one common element of the mystic vision is the inadequacy of language and the insistence that no concepts can capture the experience.

Chris said...

I totally agree that Aquinas and classical theist tradition is much more apophatic than many people realize . To make a connection with our current discussion - when Thomists speak of “ pure act” or Being Itself , could this be understood in a way that parallels the Buddhist’s tathata or “ suchness “?

Unknown said...

Sorry for all the spelling mistakes typing in haste and spell check wrecking havoc with me.

"Resources" above should read "really real" etc, etc, and so on.

Unknown said...

"when Thomists speak of “ pure act” or Being Itself , could this be understood in a way that parallels the Buddhist’s tathata or “ suchness “?"

I do believe they are equivalent. Being itself always struck me as a not very inspiring term, and likewise the Buddhist suchness. These are not great expressions.

But when you think of suchness and Being itself as the luminous magical aspect of things that cannot be expressed in words or concepts it takes on a new meaning - but often too much study is needed to really understand what the fuss is about. After all pure Being and suchness don't seem so exciting at first glance!

Chris said...

Unknown ,
Full disclosure views have been significantly by a universalist point of view . But , I began to find this position problematic and that’s how I found William’s blog - he does a good job in arguing for Christian theism . You said that spiritual experience are common and concepts fail, yet that doesn’t stop nondualists from arguing that their concepts are truer or higher than the concepts of say , dualistic theists .

Chris said...

Oh, and sorry also for also my wagon of writing mistakes and especially for blurting and bouncing all over the place - trying to wrap it up for the night .

Unknown said...

Well, non dualists do use arguments its true, although the main thing is an experience or intuition.

But the arguments are not meant to set up one set of concepts in opposition to the concepts they are destroying - the arguments are meant to leave one with no concepts whatsoever of any kind.

Even the concept of no concepts whatsoever should not be left. For instance, Nagarjuna shows that all logical concepts are empty using meticulous logic - and then warns that one must not set up now the concept of emptiness as an affirmative one can then cling to as true.

Even emptiness is empty - I.e not a description of reality.

In other words, the inadequacy of concepts - which is itself a concept - is not something that is then affirmed in a positive way about the nature of reality.

Rather, we are dealing here with an entirely negative technique - nothing can be said about ultimate reality, even that nothing can be said about it. No general attributes can be posited as final and ultimate, and the moment you so so, it can logically be shown to be inadequate.

Its like pulling up the ladder once you've climbed up it - you don't then cling to the ladder. Or the raft you use to reach the other shore. You don't cling to the raft then.

It's about final liberation not finding something you can ultimately settle down in.

However, if this path of insight into the nature of reality does not work for you, there is absolutely no reason you should follow it. It is not necessarily superior to other paths.

If by reading William you can gain a transcendental faith and heal the split between yourself and life then that is perfect.

To be honest I am also moving away from the path of insight as I think I've benefited from it all I can and I'm moving towards simply faith and total acceptance.

Chris said...

Intetesting ........
When you said that you were “moving away from the path of insight “, something occurred to me ....

Jnana cannot do without bhakti. Jnana is not necessary . But bhakti is . Shouldn’t that give us insight into the nature of reality ?

Unknown said...

Chris - I suspect it's a question of temperament. Some people really do well on the jnana path. I feel it was very valuable for me too for a time.

But I think the jnana path is designed to cause one to reach a state of intellectual collapse - in Zen, this is explicit. Its purpose is to show the futility of purely intellectual effort and to create a state of acceptance and intuition.

For highly intellectual people - like Bruce, for instance - the intellect may first have to be humbled in this manner, but it can take a long time.

The end result is not necessarily bhakti but acceptance of the world as is as an emanation of a wisdom beyond our ken, and an affirmative attitude towards life despite its evils.

Chris said...


Apologies for a subject that I can't seem to let go......Let me try to articulate succinctly what troubles me about a universalist perspective from a Christian theist perspective. The unqualified nondualist says that both the Christian and Vedantic revelations are soteriologically equivalent, but Advaita is a clearer more transparent revelation because of its distinction between Nirguna and Saguna Brahman., the absolute unqualified and the qualified absolute (as the Perennialists would say). Whereas in the Trinitarian revelation, though this distinction is esoterically present, many are going to mistakenly identify the relative absolute for the unqualified absolute (pure negation), and so, as a theosophist just remarked to me the other day, mistake the finger for the moon.

But Christ is not a personal signpost to a transpersonal, apophatic end. For the Christian, He is both means and end, the final destination in our spiritual journey. If this is so, then perhaps the Catholic metaphysician Jean Borella is right in declaring that: "In a certain manner it could be said that, before the reality of the incarnation of God in Christ Jesus, every religion is abolished, before the figure of Christ every figure of the sacred is obliterated."

If that is not the case, then the universalist is right to reproach the exoteric Christian for mistaking the sign for the thing signified. But it seems to me there is an imperialism either way (my impasse).

Will the real sanatana dharma please stand up?
East is East, and West is West, and never shall the twain meet?

Unknown said...

If I understand you correctly, Chris, you are saying that nondualists accept the validity of Christianity but place it on a lower level, whereas Christians claim that other religions are completely invalid.

Either way, both deny absolute equivalency and a value judgement is made, hierarchy established, and a difficult and perhaps painful choice becomes necessary.

This choice can be difficult because there isn't necessarily enough information on which to choose and be confident one has made the right choice. There will always be some doubt. Plus, each tradition has compelling aspects one may be loathe to leave behind.

This is the nature of your hang-up as I understand it, and the cause of your restlessness and uncertainty.

It is a predicament I am not unsympathetic to.

There does seem to be something compelling about the notion that the combined wisdom of mankind since ancient times has been working towards the same end. This creates a sense of certainty and safety. But this may be hard to reconcile with real differences in the traditions.

I wrestled with this myself.

I am extremely attracted to Buddhism, but found myself increasingly dissatisfied with Theravada Buddhism which seems too life denying and positivistic, but it was hard to reject it in favor of Mahayana Buddhism which was more attractive to me since on what basis can I make that choice? Them when I turned to Zen I thought I found the school of "effortlessness" which is consistent intuitions about the spiritual path only to discover that Zen is further subdivided into branches manu of which preach strenuous effort!

Only one branch of Zen, that of Bankei, Hui Neng, Lin Chi, and a few others are really consistent in their message of effortlessness, while the others are very mixed.

So I found myself plagued with doubt and forced to make choice after choice.

Eventually my doubt settled onto one path and I found elements of this path reflected in all the other paths which convinced me that the sought experience is the same but the method to reach it differs by temperament and understanding.

So there is unity amid the difference but the differences reflect real differences in mentality and understanding as well.

My only advice to you is accept that doubt is a part of the process and may take years to resolve.

And that in the end after all your intellectual efforts are exhausted you may awaken to an experience that is beyond intellect and find echoes if it in all the paths.

Unknown said...

Just to clarify - I am an not a Zennist and have not settled in any path and find myself illuminated by all of them while the experience I seek seems to be beyond paths of intellect.

However I am most attracted to Mahayana Buddhism, Zen, Taoism, Jesus, and to some extent Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

I would also recommend reading some Alan Watts see if you like him - he resolved many of my doubts and helped me look past the intellect. He has the virtue of being consistent and clear with no confusions yet very profound. After reading him the inconsistencies of other traditions became clearer. He is not for everyone and he has a reputation for being a lightweight - but that is a convenient disguise for radical ideas.

He discusses Christianity and Christian mysticism at length.

William Wildblood said...

Chris, I would forget about Christianity and Buddhism and think about Christ and the Buddha because they are what matters. (Advaita is just Sankara's attempt to save Hinduism, or what we now call Hinduism, from Buddhism by taking its best bits -so to speak- and incorporating them into the Vedanta). So really all we have to think about is Christ and the Buddha and ask ourselves who taught the higher truth.

Then we can see that what the Buddha taught was realisation of the ground of being which required the effective denial of individuality but what Christ taught was sanctification of the self through union with the divine. So the Buddha more or less rejected creation but Christ brought matter up into spirit combining the two in a holy marriage and thereby making something new. He fulfilled the purpose of creation. The Buddha went beyond suffering by going beyond desire but Christ, by taking suffering upon himself, sanctified the whole of creation and made it holy.

As I wrote on the Homeless thread, Christianity, when it is lived as it should be, really does take the spiritual quest to a higher place than Buddhism which is to be expected since it was a revelation from above whereas Buddhism represents the highest the unaided human being can go without the input of divine grace.

Unknown said...

As always William gives excellent advice.

If your heart is tending towards Christianity, why not embrace it and see where it takes you? Why fight it?

Another option is to not make a decision - live for a while with uncertainty. What's the harm? We modern think too much that we have always have to do something, make a decision, and that we will save ourselves by our own efforts.

The religious attitude is different. There are other forces in the world than us, and if we wait in a receptive mood and have faith, the answers may come to us.

Wandsworth has this wonderful poem where he says don't reproach me for sitting on this mossy rock watching the clues idly - do you think if I do nothing there aren't other forces at work in the world aside from me?

Unknown said...

Err, "Wordsworth".