Tag Archives: Raimon Panikkar

Living Between Worldviews: Toward a Trans-Modern Integration of Humanity, Nature and Spirit

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In ancient spiritually and transcendentally oriented societies, it was taken for granted that the foundation for both nature and humanity is Eternal Spirit as Divine Source. In the modern secular age of exclusive immanence and non-transcendence, it is equally taken for granted that there is not Eternal Spirit or Divine Source that serves as a foundation for nature and spirit. We’re on our own, orphaned and forlorn without divine consolation, ontological meaning or transcendent hope, yet radically free to create ourselves out of a tissue of nothingness for the fleeting duration of our passionate yet absurd lives in a universe that consists only of “matter and the void,” as the existential materialist might say.

It is within this modern secular naturalistic and increasingly nihilistic context that some people today are seeking to transcend both the mythic consciousness of pre-modern civilization and the materialistic consciousness of modern civilization, to affirm the natural and humanistic dimensions without altogether denying the transcendent reality of a spiritual dimension.

The so-called “cultural creatives” constitute an emerging demographic sub-culture today that is seeking to transcend the dialectic between traditional religious culture and modern secular culture with a new creative synthesis that is inadequately described as “spiritual but not religious.” Anyone interested in exploring this new creative synthesis is invited to read Paul Ray’s book, “The Cultural Creatives,” or to look at how various integral and holistic thinkers like Ken Wilber, Arthur Young, Fritjof Capra, Christian DeQuincey, Thomas Nagel, David Ray Griffin, Raimon Panikkar, Ervin Laszlo, Kingsley Dennis, Duane Elgin, Marilyn Schlitz, Jean Houston, E.F. Schumacher, among countless others, have been attempting to create a new scientific, humanistic and spiritual paradigm for the planetary future, one that includes all dimensions and levels of reality within an encompassing whole.

At the same time, as a counter-balance to all Grand Narratives and Theories of Everything, there is merit in the alternative approach that includes Socratic Doubt, Montaignian Skepticism, Shakespearean Irony and Equivocation, Keatsian “Negative Capability” and Rilkian “Living the Questions.” This “agnostic” approach does not so much affirm a transcendental and depth dimension to the encompassing reality as evoke the Mystery beyond the limits of human language and “make room” for the spiritual dimension by acknowledging the limitations of human comprehension in the presence of the Eternal Questions.

There seems to be some integral wisdom in holding these two approaches in creative tension. Moreover, it may be entirely possible, though not obviously so, that the insights of idealism, materialism, panpsychism and dualism may each be “partly right” rather than absolutely and mutually exclusive. The Universal Human living in the global age will at least need to come to terms with each of these worldview perspectives that have captured the hearts and minds of billions of human beings across the ages and in our contemporary world.

The Cosmotheandric Experience: Toward an Encompassing Vision of Reality

Sunrise In Space Wallpapers 2

In his book, “Three Philosophical Poets: Lucretius, Dante, Goethe”, George Santayana envisioned a future day when the ancient, medieval and modern wisdom traditions of Lucretius the Naturalistic poet, Dante the Spiritual poet, and Goethe the Romantic poet might be reconciled and integrated into an encompassing vision of reality. In his book, “The Cosmotheandric Experience,” Raimon Panikkar attempts to do just that, to reconcile and integrate the cosmological, anthropological, and theological dimensions that constitute the encompassing reality. It is, of course, the theological dimension that will be most problematic for modern secular people for whom any traditional theistic conception of “theos” has become archaic and incredible.

In “The Experience of God,” Panikkar understands and anticipates this problem by defining the word “God” as a symbol, not a concept. For Panikkar, “God” is a symbol “to designate the ultimate, the infinite, the mysterious, the unknown, the unseizable.” Karl Jasper sets forth a similar notion with his idea of “The Comprehensive.” Of course this concept of God as “Ultimate Mystery” will not be acceptable to those who conceive of “God” in traditional theistic terms as a transcendent, sovereign, benevolent Divine Person (or a Communion of Persons) who possess conscious, creative and purposeful agency.

In the unfolding history of the world’s religions, it may be helpful to speak of four cultural primary forms that that the “divine milieu” has taken to express itself. These are the forms identified with the figures of the Shaman, Sage, Prophet and Mystic. The Shaman engages in a vision quest and brings back gifts of healing and insight to his people. The Sage seeks to perceive the underlying principles of life that constitute the way of harmony and balance. The Prophet seeks to speak truth to power, to challenge cruelty, oppression, tyranny and injustice, and to envision the future consummation of all things in a realm of peace and freedom, harmony and joy. The Mystic seeks to envision the unity and oneness of all things.

It is, of course, possible to pit these four spiritual wisdom traditions against each other, to create a culture war between them, as has been all to common in the history of man’s various quests to capture the Ultimate Mystery of the nets of his own language, stories, concepts and traditions. But it is also possible to see these attempts to name the ineffable as complementary symbol systems that can learn from each other, realizing that none of them and even all of them together can capture the Infinite Horizon in the nets of finite human comprehension. That seems to be the point of Panakkar’s vision of the emerging global religious consciousness.

In my next blog I’ll have some things to say about the Natural and Human Dimensions, and about how we might envision an interdependent and symbiotic relationship between the Natural, Human and Transcendent dimensions of the Encompassing Mystery of Reality.