Stephen Prothero on “Separate Truths”

If you are interested in interfaith dialog, please take a few minutes and read this article by Boston University professor Stephen Prothero:

Separate Truths: It is misleading — and dangerous — to think that religions are different paths to the same wisdom

I’m on an email list where people are discussing this article, and folks have mixed feelings about it. I think it’s challenging for liberal-minded folks to have one of our cherished ideals — “way deep down beneath cultural differences, we are really all the same” — called into question. But I, frankly, pretty much agree with Prothero all the way. I think that religious tolerance and interfaith dialog are important because they are valuable in themselves, and not because of any kind of romanticized “unity” at the foundation of all religions. I think it’s simply more honest to acknowledge that there are some ways in which Christianity and Buddhism, or Islam and Neopaganism, or (insert two religions of your choice) are simply irreconcilable — at least, as long as we are serious about honoring both faiths. I think when western liberals start talking about “all religions are the same,” what we often really mean is that “all religions have encoded in them our highest ideals — and if they don’t, then something is wrong with them.” Then the point behind such liberal “interreligious dialog” is the gradual stripping away of everything that impedes the romantic vision of unity. Perhaps what is left is a nice way to hang out together, but it might also result in destroying much of the unique beauty of the world’s great religions.

In the article, Prothero uses the Christian concept of salvation as an example of why he thinks we need to acknowledge the deep differences between faiths. Other religions, such as Buddhism, simply lack any correlative concept of “salvation.” On the email list I subscribe to, people began talking about how salvation means different things to different Christians, which of course is very true. I’m the kind of Christian who thinks that an understanding of salvation that is truly rooted in the gospel — in the actual teachings of Jesus — leaves plenty of room for an understanding of Christian discipleship that does not require “converting the world.” Of course, other Christians will disagree with me. Part of the beauty of Christianity is that we have such broadly divergent views. If we get serious about “all religions are the same,” then perhaps we need to root out of Christianity those “negative” voices that disagree with such a perspective. In other words, Christians who want to play nice with the Buddhists end up getting hostile to other Christians, who think the Buddhists are lost without Jesus. See how messy this gets in a hurry?

The way I see it: If all Christians (or all Muslims, or all Neopagans, or whomever) can’t even agree on their religious identity within the same faith, then how can we meaningfully speak of a universal religious unity? To be clear: I am not arguing against religious tolerance or meaningful interfaith cooperation and dialog. I just think that such endeavors need to be honest: not based on “let’s play nice together because we’re all the same down deep inside,” but rather “let’s play nice together because it’s a good thing to play nice together.” Only then can our interfaith work truly be founded on reality (and contain the hope of bearing authentic fruit).

But of course, you might disagree with me (and Professor Prothero), so I’d love to hear your comments…

  • http://KnowYouAreGod.wordpress.com/ billyjef

    What a tangled web huh? I believe the official RC POV is any interdialogue is to make our fellow religious realize salvation is through the Roman Catholic Church and extraordinary circumstances.

    From what I understand, there can no longer again be interreligioius dialogue without the express admission that Roman Catholics have a direct missionary agenda, that salvation is through the Mother Church (only exceptions being named above…don’t know them, guess if the truth is really importan you will state them yourself.)

    Bummer really as we were getting so close to Truth.

    Jef

    PS Carl, your Roman Catholic positions are beccoming neither liberal as you seem to want to be, nor neither completely right winged, rather you seem to have adopted a libertarian sort of stance. I for one would like to see your blog be more honest about this.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

      Well, “libertarian” is not a word I would use to describe myself, either politically or theologically, so I’m really at a loss as to where you think I’m not being honest. Care to provide a bit more insight into where you’re coming from, perhaps pointing out places in my blog where you think I’m being less than forthright?

  • http://www.magicoftheordinary.wordpress.com Peregrin

    Hi Carl,

    Thanks for this link and your comments.

    While we cannot but agree with Professor Prothero’s general argument, and his very powerful conclusion, some things need a little clarifying.

    Professor Prothero writes: “Even the Dalai Lama, who should know better, has gotten into the act, claiming that “all major religious traditions carry basically the same message.”

    What is missing here, and missing in his pithy analysis of Karen Armstrong’s work is a focus on religion as a means to enact compassion, not “carry a message”. When the Dalai Lama makes comments like the above he is always referencing compassion in action. He, like many others, sees diverse religions as similar – not the same, he is VERY clear on this – only when they promote acts of love and compassion.

    This is I think is a core truth, and one that has been somewhat distorted by the Reformation in the west with a focus on internal faith.

    Religion can be seen as a way of compassion in action, engaging the human need and capacity of myth, awe, creativity, mystical experience, in order to resolve the starting point of all religions that Professor Prothero clearly states – that something is wrong with the world.

    All religions are clearly not the same, are not one. But I do believe they stem from the same source, however we see that – human articulation that there is a problem with the world or divine impetus. If healthy expressions of the eternal verities, religions do in fact lead towards greater love and compassion in the world. We need to keep these things in mind as well as the truths you and Professor Prothero articulate. Thanks :)

  • paula

    I confess that I read Prothero’s piece about his book in the Boston Globe today fighting annoyance — a whiff of condescension, some loaded language, even scolding — and, although his points about diversity and plurality and the real world ramifications of how religions function and interact are well taken, I have always had a sense that any religious impulse begins at what the Cloud of Unknowing so beautifully calls the “sorrow” of “that I am” — the dislocating existential strangeness of being here at all — and that religions are languages that all attempt to discourse upon that sorrow (and its attendant wonder) and what flows from it. Different grammars, alphabets, modes of signifying, privileged events and figures, to be sure, but the impulse and source are common. It’s not either-or, either; I think it is both-and, like the Zen poem about the absolute and relative fitting like a box and lid. But I am a bit of a shameless syncretist, not to mention a Trinitarian Universalist w/ Zen tendencies & Episcopalian w/ Roman Catholic envy…
    Thank you for your lovely blog.

  • http://knowyouaregod.wordpress.com billyjef

    A Roman Catholic cannot in good conscience accept communion with syncretic politics or theology contrary to Church Dogma.
    There are many who do, even those who are members of the community you work for and if I remember an oblate. I know this. My Cousin is an actively gay priest. Oh sure, he believe he is working from withing the Church to change it, but it still doesn’t change the fact that what he is doing is unacceptable to the church.
    My mother, who is a devoted Catholic, sits at the back of the church and never receives communion because she married a man who would become a Catholic.
    If you believe I am wrong, next time you go for communion stand up in front of the congregation and state where you believe the Church is wrong, gay issues, interreligious beliefs, your Integral Beliefs etc. See how willing they are to share the blood and body of Christ with you.
    You cannot be honest and accept communion if what you believe, if how you vote is against Church Doctrine.
    As a gay man, I cannot openly accept communion, and if you believe it wrong of the church to refuse me communion, you are in conflict with Church Doctrine as well.
    So in regards to your being ambivalent to the article cited, the only label I can find for you is libertarian, you want to be both, liberal in regards to church social doctrine, but morally feel sincere to the Moral (political) doctrines of the Church.

    Now an apology, I had blocked your updates a month or so ago from my yoono reader, but it seems all my blocks (not blocking them from my fb or twitter accounts, just from what I read each day) became unblocked and I need to be reblock them. I should never have responded to your thread as I felt I could no longer understand where you were coming from…a proud ousted Catholic who still loved her as I do and wish and pray for her enlightenment or as someone who will renounce his beliefs confronted with excommunication and damnation.

    Jef

  • http://knowyouaregod.wordpress.com billyjef

    Just so you know who you are up against, I took the FaceBook quiz on Catholic Theology and I scored as a “Master Theologian” worthy of debating with the Holy Father. en garde!

  • http://knowyouaregod.wordpress.com billyjef

    Whoa, sorry again. Clearly you are more conflicted than I thought (guess my attempt at humor was lost). Peace and be well. I don’t believe in all the mumbo-jumbo either, so it really doesn’t matter then does it! None the less, as long as my blocks hold and I don’t forget I blocked you (as much as would rather not), we should be copacetic. My mother who still sits in the back of the church because of the churches judgement of her is still at her late age an educator of the econimcally disadvanteged in Dallas. I think she feels a bit more abandoned than my response seems to have made you feel, well maybe not abandoned, but certainly defensive.

  • http://christiannonduality.com/blog/ John Sobert Sylvest

    Prothero’s right in that it’s not as easy as many have suggested. But so much of what he talked about involved the more exoteric and mythical aspects of the traditions, including that aspect of religion that engages our conceptual map-making and dualistic, problem-solving mindset vis a vis empirical, logical, practical and moral approaches to reality. Religion is so much more when, as you know so well, it also involves the more esoteric and mystical aspects of the traditions, including that aspect of religion that engages our participatory imagination and nondual awareness vis a vis a more robustly relational approach to reality.

    Religions are truth-laden – not in the manner in which they conceptually describe the ultimate, but – in the manner in which human value-realizations re: ultimacies get realized. Interreligious dialogue, then, is going to much less involve conceptual mapping and remapping exercises and much more involve the mutual engagement of our praxes, participatory imaginations & esoteric mystical experimentations. It will thus much more involve an axiological exploration of human value-realizations re: our ultimate concerns and much less will involve any analytic parsing of ideas. This is not to deny its important propositional and discursive elements only to remind ourselves that so much of religious experience is nonpropositional, nondiscursive and devotional, fostering intimacy (construed in some traditions as identity) with the Divine.

    I think Lonergan’s categories of conversion (expanded by Don Gelpi) offer a helpful anthropological heuristic: intellectual, affective, moral, sociopolitical and religious. We can ask how well any institutionalization of religion fosters these conversions and intimacy with the Divine. And our answers need not be either-or, yes or know, but can speak, instead, to degrees of realization of human values re: ultimate concerns.

    Finally, I’d suggest that the most fruitful interreligious dialogue has come from exchanges between those who’ve gone deep into both the exoteric and esoteric aspects of their traditions. We might thus reaffirm a mystical core to organized religions and indigenous traditions along with a pneumatological inclusivity without, at the same time, suggesting that all traditions are equally efficacious in fostering human conversion and transformation and cooperation with the Spirit, Who coaxes and encourages us all along.

  • Tana

    Very interesting article. It reminded me of a class I took in college where the professor had to spend a lot of time undoing our “melting pot” understanding of American society. Instead of melting pot, we were to see our culture, our society as a salad bowl. At first I was pretty irritated by this change up. I rolled my eyes at the ridiculousness of it all. But the more this very patient and kind woman spoke, the more I started to see how important it is to respect each person’s culture, identity and history because it is what shapes who they are and what they become. How drab would it be for us to all walk around looking like, speaking like, thinking like, reacting like, and believing like one another. Thank God it’s not possible.

  • http://knowyouaregod.wordpress.com billyjef

    @jsb as a Gnostic Christian I of course refute nonduality…being a contemporary christian gnostic and hermeticist, I embrace something more evolved, something that is less than its center at its edges.
    Is this anything close to what you are saying? My focus and attention became exhausted.

  • Ellen N. Duell

    I believe that the Creator has given us minds/brains with which to think, to appreciate and evaluate and learn about our world. I do believe that there is more than a humanly measureable dimension to life, and that, although scientifically unproveable, I am better able to live when I pray to the One I call Creator, or “Loving God”, than when I decide that there is nothing beyond what my own senses perceive.

    The spring season, here where I live in southwestern Ohio, U.S.A., is so beautiful! And I am fortunate to have all my needs met–with enough and not too much. I wish that tranquillity for all people on Earth.

    Thus I respect the rights of all people to follow their best lights. I do not want to try to preach “salvation”. I believe that Jesus of Nazareth, in Galilee of Judea, taught that people should be just and fair to each other, and merciful. I don’t believe all religions are equal, but I do want all human beings to have “abundant life”, as Jesus is reported to have desired.

  • Jeff

    I said I wasn’t going to comment anymore, but this last post I can’t pass up!
    The final refuge of those who want to say all religions are about the same thing is to presume a
    hypothetical ineffable elephant that contains all the contradictions. The Buddhist is touching and describing the broad flat side, the Christian has located three of the four legs, while the Jew grabs the fourth, the Neopagan has embraced the wiggly trunk and the Moslem is enamored of the tusks, and the atheist has grasped the skinny tail and says, “I’m sorry, but that’s all there is to reality!” I don’t believe there is a higher elephant that will remove the differences, to say so is to smugly invalidate our neighbor’s beliefs and genuine experience and to play sophistical games to create a false peace and unity. Can we be brave enough to accept the ambiguity and real differences and with equanimity, make our own choice as to what we embrace, be bold and loving in expressing what we believe and express it with no compromise and yet do so graciously? Be big enough to accept AND disagree with love?

  • Johnboy

    The nonduality I speak of is an epistemic stance, a contemplative approach, not an ontological position. But neither is it an ontology for many (perhaps most) in the East, who are not doing metaphysics in the classical western sense but are instead trying to lead one into an experience. This is a good example of what Prothero was talking about, imposing our own categories on other systems. So, no, my own position is not heterodox vis a vis Catholicism, where, by the way, one would do well do distinguish between its essential dogmas (creeds, sacraments, liturgical traditions, incarnational outlooks), moral doctrines (none are infallible) and church disciplines & polity (both are accidentals & in need of major reform). Affirming the Spirit’s activity in other religions is not syncretism.

  • Jeff

    I once heard some one say in response to hearing some things taught by Christianity, “I may have to consider the possibility that God is different from what I want him to be.” I now realize this is an aspect of repentance. Most of us if left to our own devices would choose “I am whoever you think I am or want me to be” over “I am who I am”. I know I would!

  • Karen

    I was one who believed the ‘all roads lead….’ but now I suspect that it is instead a very subtle form of control. At the same time I professed the unity in diversity creed which could also be controlling if you so wish — but I will wallow in my paradoxes and remain happily confused. Blessed be all the oddities and generalities and confusion as long as I continue to grow and learn to listen. I don’t really know. Do you?

  • Tana

    I once heard some one say in response to hearing some things taught by Christianity, “I may have to consider the possibility that God is different from what I want him to be.” I now realize this is an aspect of repentance. Most of us if left to our own devices would choose “I am whoever you think I am or want me to be” over “I am who I am”. I know I would!

    Jeff – I wonder if the implicit message of what you’re saying (unless I’m misunderstanding you) speaks to the point being made in the article? I’ve heard my whole life about God being the I AM and not the “I am who you want me to be.” And I agree, but there’s an implicit message when you specify “Christian” and that is that perhaps no other religious tradition or spiritual practice is as exacting, as challenging, as life changing as Christianity or its God. I could be completely wrong and be reading more than what you intended into it.

  • http://www.suprarational.org Ron Krumpos

    What I am about to say may raise howls from all sides.

    There is no “one true way.” There are now about 7 billion people on Earth and, therefore, 7 billion possible ways.

    AND ALSO

    One in all, all in one – spiritual unity – is the mystical “Truth.”

    These are not contradictory statements. The first is rational and the second is suprarational, i.e. apparent, temporal truth vs. underlying, eternal Truth. Someone who says “my way is the best (only) way” seems to me to be irrational.

    Who said life was easy to understand?

  • Jeff

    Hi Tana,

    I am a Christian, but I was pointing out the universal human propensity for self centerness. In other words I think our default setting is to think that for something to be true it has to fit us and be pleasing to us and be just what we want in every way. Even Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane had to pray “not my will but yours be done” and sweat drops of blood and pray in anguish to meet his Father’s will. Naturally I think the Triune God is the truth and I’ve had to pass through struggles of surrender in different areas, but I can see I would find struggles in fitting myself to any faith If I take that faith seriously. Unless I mix and match and pick and choose just what fits me and became a “buffet buddhist” or a “cafeteria catholic” or a “potluck protestant” or a “smorgasbord sufi” for instance.

  • Brian Doyle

    Isn’t it more likely that Unitarianism in its postmodern form (which is really what we’re talking about here), whether we view it as a seperate religion or as a philosophy within diverse religions, is its own ideology? Recognizing this, we would have to acknowledge that there are those who are clearly not Unitarian. But that doesn’t, in itself, prove Unitarianism wrong, any more than Christianity, Buddhism, or Islam are proved wrong by the fact that they only represent a portion of the world’s people of faith. It’s not wrong to postulate that spiritual reality, ontologically speaking, is the same for various practitioners–regardless of their concepts of that reality.

    Where I disagree with Prothero is the assertion that Unitarianism is “dangerous.” Wishful thinking? Naive? Maybe. But I don’t know any UUs who are running around with bombs strapped to their chests.

  • Johnboy

    Within each tradition, there always seem to be some who will treat essentials as if they were accidentals (the heterodox) and others who will treat accidentals as if they were essentials (ultra-traditionalists). And there will be settlers (w/a conservative charism) and pioneers (w/a progressive charism). Some will establish boundaries (kings & queens) while others maintain (warriors & maidens), negotiate (magicians & crones) or transcend them (lovers & mothers). Many of us experience all of these roles within ourselves through time in a developmental dynamism, so each role can be, as they say, developmentally-appropriate.

    These roles and dynamisms play out in every tradition. What we cannot deny is that each of our great traditions has produced great saints. These saints will typically have delved very deeply within their own traditions, fully engaging both the exoteric-mythical & esoteric-mystical aspects of their traditions and sagely in touch with the developmental dynamisms and charismatic diversity (many gifts, same Spirit) of all traditions.

    Chesterton famously suggested: Christianity has not been tried and found wanting but has not been tried at all! Similarly, other traditions may not have failed but may not have been fully engaged in this time or that, this place or that, by this people or that. There is a danger in suggesting that all of the great traditions are not wisdom paths: we might be engaging a facile caricature of those traditions and ignoring the developmental dynamisms that tend to take people through different stages of faith, most often over the course of a lifetime, sometimes through a rather spectacular metanoia.

    Why do ALL of our great traditions have some truly radically fundamentalistic elements? That’s how I would reframe Prothero’s critique.

  • Tana

    Jeff – I thought perhaps I was reading more into it. :) Thank you for your kind reply and clarification.

  • Ken Lovasik

    It is interesting, for me, to note that Huston Smith, whose name is the first to come to mind when one thinks of those who study Comparative Religion and who has spent his life (he is now in his late 80s, I believe) studying the Religions of the East (Buddhism & Hinduism), had this to say in a series of interviews with Bill Moyers on PBS: Each of the five Wisdom Traditions (his name for religions)–Buddhism,
    Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism–has a mystical dimension…and when you reach that mystical dimension in each of them, you realize that we are all sitting at the same table.

  • http://www.suprarational.org Ron Krumpos

    15 quotations of mystics of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. They are remarkable in the similarity of their message, although the words differ. The divine essence pervades all: on Earth, this Universe and beyond.

    “One Nature, perfect and pervading, circulates in all natures. One Reality, all-comprehensive, contains within itself all realities.” Yung-chia Ta-shih B

    “To gauge the soul we must gauge it with God, for the Ground of God and the Ground of the soul are one and the same.” Meister Eckhart C

    “Wherever you look…see that one unique Presence, indivisible and eternal, is manifested in all the universe. That is because God impregnates all things.” Anandamayi Ma H

    “Behold the One in all things; it is the second that leads you astray.” Kabir I

    “There exists nothing which is not united to Him and which He does not find in His own essence.” Moses Cordovero J

    “One in all, all in One. If only this is realized, there is no worry about not being perfect.” The Third Patriarch of Zen [Seng ts’an] B

    “Eternally, all creatures are God in God. So far as they are in God, they are the same life, same essence, same power, same One, and nothing less.” Henry Suso C

    “For the Self [soul] is not the ego; it is one with the All and the One and in finding it it is the All and the One that we discover in our Self.” Sri Aurobindo H

    “I went from God to God, until they cried from me, ‘O thou I.” Bayazid of Bistun I

    “They are then actually united with the Divine Essence and, in all aspects, your soul is included with them.” Israel ben Eliezer [Ba’al Shem Tov] J

    “The great path has no gates, thousands of roads enter it. When one passes through this gateless gate he walks freely between heaven and earth.” Zen poem B

    “The soul lives by that which it loves rather than in the body which it animates. For it has not its life in the body, but rather gives it to the body and lives in that which it loves.” St. John of the Cross C

    “Liberation cannot be achieved except by the perception of the identity of the individual spirit with the universal Spirit.” Shankara [Sankara] H

    “I am He whom I love, and He whom I love is I. We are two spirits in one body. If thou seest me, thou seest Him. And if thou seest Him, thou seest us both.” Hallaj I

    “A man should actually detach his ego from his body until he has passed through all the worlds and become one with God.” Maggid of Mezerich [Dov Baer of Mezerich] J

    Other faiths have mystics, but you do not have to be religious to be a mystic. Your comments are most welcome.

    (quoted from my ebook at http://www.suprarational.org)

  • Jeff

    Years ago I had a life changing experience. I was spending a weekend at a Trappist monastery. A friend and I entered the church for the first time, We suddenly and simultaneously each had a marked spiritual experience. We stared at each other in shock and surprise. It was the presence of the Holy Spirit, fiery and enlivening. It lasted but a moment. What shocked me most was not the mere fact of experiencing “spirit” (I was used to that in my new age and eastern religious exposure) It simply wasn’t the same spirit as I had encountered in those arenas. I had been taught the cardinal principle that God or Spirit or the Absolute in every religion, despite different approaches and words, was the same in essence and taste. I could no longer think that, based on my experience and what I was reading in the Bible. I was undone. Unless I reinterpreted and redefined the words of the Bible in the light of systems alien to the Bible – making it say things it doesn’t. – I couldn’t blend Christ with Hinduism/Buddhism. I still had a way to go but eventually I left eastern and new age thought behind and became a Trinitarian/Nicene creed type as that understanding had the best fit to scripture and my own experience of the Three Persons of the Godhead.

    A parable I wrote about this subject.

    The coast of Namibia is the only place in Africa where elephants swim in the ocean. Two gnats went out to sea. One landed on an elephant; the other on a whale. Both returned to land and shared their experiences. While their respective accounts had differences both said something like this: “It was huge beyond understanding, wet, gray, and above all, alive!” Many gnat theologians decided the two gnats had experienced the same thing, while others disagreed. The discussion continues.

    Obviously the whale is Yahweh.

    What is the experience of the elephant? I think the “elephant” is deifying and absolutizing via “spiritual” practices and teachings your inward awareness which is created in God’s image. Your inner awareness and self is Godlike and through proper training and continued mental programming you can expand it into an experience and perception of “absolute reality”. From the Christian perspective this is embracing the primal lie found in Genesis that you can be as God. Anyway, this is the conclusion I’ve come to in this area. I know this is offensive to many people, but Jesus Christ is termed the rock of offense and the stumbling stone in the New Testament. I barked my shins against him and it was painful, but in the end I trusted in him.

  • Cindy

    Carl – I had a different view of Prothero’s critique. Well, I think it’s different but maybe it is not.

    He suggested that the metaphor to understand is that basketball seeks hoops and baseball seeks runs and thus all religions are not the same.

    Or something.

    I say they all really seek to win. Period. No one plays basketball just so s/he can ‘get a hoop’ and no one plays baseball just so s/he can get a run. They seek an ultimate goal – winning.

    Religions have various ways and structures and words and beliefs. They must be taken very seriously to participate in them. One cannot be Christian and suggest seriously that Hinduism is “the same” nor can I be serious about baseball and say that scoring a basket at the gym is “the same.”

    However, when we each win we know what the essence of the others’ experience is. In that way we can also begin to grasp the essence of the others’ journey toward his/her goal.

    I felt like the idea that “all religions are the same” according to Prothero was a kind of idea that would be put for by a school child the way he suggested. Surely no serious adult of any religious affiliation would suggest such a thing. I believe, like one of your other readers, that he very much misrepresented (and did so condescendingly) the Dalai Llama.

    But then again, I am a woman with no voice whatsoever in the Catholic Church and yet I remain a faithful Catholic. So I suppose by my very life I embody a paradox that is inarticulate at best.

    Cheers to you – hope to see you soon,

    Cindy

  • http://www.suprarational.org Ron Krumpos

    In my comment on April 30 the URL for my e-book should be http://www.suprarational.org/ That is only important if you wish to read more of the 120 quotations of mystics of five faiths who are speaking from their direct experience.

    Whether mystical experiences vary in their cultural context, or are similar for all true mystics, is less important than that they transform each one’s sense of being to a transpersonal outlook on all life. Perhaps it is the seeing which differs.

  • Johnboy

    Ron, in a similar vein, Thomas & Cynthia Lynch published a book called
    The Word of the Light. In this book they juxtapose, topic by topic, 900 quotations from the scriptures of the world’s five largest religious traditions.

    While the traditions do differ greatly in their exoteric and mythic expressions and the manner in which they foster human socialization for those early on the journey, for those who delve deeply into each tradition and also take seriously their esoteric and mystical dimensions, the traditions begin to converge in the manner in which they foster further human transformation. To the extent we are all invited to journey through stages of humanization, socialization and transformation, Merton notes that, even in our churches, many are not going beyond mere socialization, which very much involves, by the way, the construction of our persona or false self, which is necessary but not sufficient for true self realization.

  • http://www.suprarational.org Ron Krumpos

    Johnboy,

    I agree with Thomas Merton (as I usually do) in his observation that in our churches, many are not going beyond mere socialization, which very much involves, by the way, the construction of our persona or false self.

    It is overcoming that constructed persona and false self that is the first (and most difficult) step toward mystical awareness. When we shift from I, me and my to attention to we, us and our we see this world more objectively.

    From there we must move on to suprarational consciousness. Millions of people have done it, although only a small portion of the billions who have lived on Earth.

  • Jeff

    The dogma that all religions end in the same Spirit, Absolute, God or whatever and ultimately are speaking about the same spiritual reality like any other dogma has arguments for and against, and like any other dogma needs to be challenged and examined. I’m glad Mr. Prothereo has chosen to do so. Also when your dogma (and your experience) is challenged it may rock your chosen reality and make you uncomfortable! What if God is different than what we would perhaps prefer? We may be caught between a rock and a hard place at times – our way and the Lord’s ways.

  • Johnboy

    To some extent, at various moments in life, most everyone inhabits a contemplative stance, enjoys a unitive experience, employs a suprarational approach. I think what happens is that, most often, they lack a fellow pilgrim to point out the significance of such moments that they may be more often recognized and then better cultivated.

    As it says in the product description of Carl’s The Big Book of Christian Mysticism: The Essential Guide to Contemplative Spirituality: The mystic is not a special kind of person; every person is a special kind of mystic. ~ William McNamara. I really believe that this is, as they say, a BIG possibility for all and that’s why I am excited about the BIG book, which can introduce people to such fellow pilgrims, who will thus help them to recognize these contemplative moments and encourage them on this path.

    If there is one thing about the witness of Thomas Merton’s life that stands out to me, it is the notion that many, many people are mystics via an ordinary or hidden mysticism that he called masked contemplation. There is, then, an extraordinary emphasis on the ordinary, in any authentic contemplation. Unitive experiences are most often realized in the mundane routines of each life, each day, and can be realized everywhere and in everyone. It is more so a matter of cultivating higher degrees of awareness and greater degrees of realization.

  • http://www.suprarational.org Ron Krumpos

    It is a delight to participate in this amiable, intelligent discussion. We can disagree without being disagreeable.

    Unfortunately, some other blogs on similar topics too often get into a shouting match, each one saying “I’m right.”

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

    While I often choose to sit out discussions such as these, I do monitor them. And when people don’t play nice, they lose their posting privileges.
    :-)

    Thanks to all participants in this current thread for allowing me not to have to go there.

  • http://www.suprarational.org Ron Krumpos

    Those who believe the kinship of faiths should join the social network of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Look at http://www.peacenext.org/profile/RonKrumpos and I would be happy to be one of your first friends there.


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