Dry Bones

People keep talking about Luke Timothy Johnson’s article on the role of mysticism within religion that recently appeared in Commonweal. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you do. Here is a link to it: Dry Bones: Why Religion Can’t Live Without Mysticism by Luke Timothy Johnson.

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  • Brian Doyle

    While Johnson does address the interdependent nature of esoteric and exoteric religion, there is nevertheless an oppositional subtext to this article that I find distracting. The author seems to be at odds with himself. For instance, while referring to Merton’s “turn to the world,” Johnson seems to criticize the viewpoint that mysticism without social action is self-indulgent. But then, referring to Madonna and “deracinated” celebrity mysticism, he suggests that it amounts to little more than self-grooming.

    Rastafaris have a very interesting expression for the first-person plural, “we.” They say “I and I.” If we adopt the viewpoint that our selves are spiritually the same self that lives in every person, then there is no conflict between the personal and the social. What I do believe is that you can’t truly help another being until you cultivate love (or bhavana) in oneself and remove the proverbial plank from one’s eye. But once this begins, we are naturally compelled to turn the world.


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