Raimon Panikkar, Richard of St. Victor, and Ken Wilber

Here’s a sweet little quote from interreligious theologian Raimon Panikkar’s newest book, The Experience of God: Icons of the Mystery:

Without purity of heart, not only can one not “see” God, but it is equally impossible to have any idea of what is involved in doing so. Without the silence of the intellect and the will, without the silence of the senses, without the openness of what some call “the third eye” (spoken of not only by Tibetans but also by the disciples of Richard of Saint Victor), it is not possible to approach the sphere in which the word God can have a meaning. According to Richard of Saint Victor, there exist three eyes: the occulus carnis, the occulus rationis, and the occulus fidei (the eye of the body, the eye of reason, and the eye of faith). The “third eye” is the organ of the faculty that distinguishes us from other living beings by giving us access to a reality that transcends, without denying, that which captures the intelligence and the senses.

Immediately this calls to mind Wilber’s theory of the “nested holarchy” (holarchy basically means a non-oppressive heirarchy) of the cosmos: from the physiosphere, the biosphere emerges; from the biosphere, the noosphere emerges; from the noosphere, the theosphere emerges. From matter emerges life; from life emerges mind; from mind emerges spirit. And the three eyes are the means by which consciousness apprehends each of these emergents: the occulus carnis sees within the biosphere; the occulus rationis sees within the noosphere; and the occulus fidei sees within the theosphere. Each “sphere” can only be observed by its appropriate eye; so it is useless to “look for God” using only the eyes of the body or of the intellect. Kind of gives a whole new shade of understanding to the notion of “seeing is believing.”

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About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • Peter

    Thank you! This is very sweet, and substantial too. I often find myself reminding the dear saints that we are meeting with that “the mind is either the greatest friend, or the greatest enemy, of faith” and “reason is an excellent servant of the life of the Spirit but a terrible master.” The quote from Panikkar and the reference to Wilber’s “nesting” make sense of a kind of spiritual hierarchy without demeaning or dismissing any part of it as “less” or “less important” than any other part–each in the natural place it has been given to fill.
    One more thought from Wilber’s teaching: he takes a saying like this one (quoted from above), “From matter emerges life; from life emerges mind; from mind emerges spirit” and presents it in a diagram in this order and also in REVERSE ORDER as well: from Spirit emerges mind; from mind emerges matter–for those of us with a bent toward the kind of “realism” that likes to see the non-material as more “real” than the physical, and indeed as the origin of what we see and hear with our outer senses.
    A hearty “Amen!” to the “reality that transcends, without denying, that which captures the intelligence and the senses”!
    Thanks again,

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