Archive for April, 2007

Initiatic Activity

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

Let me add an additional word on the subject of what one should expect from a Path. It is well known that Guénon placed much of his emphasis on intellectual doctrine and the “technical” aspects of initiation and method, whereas the Schuonian doctrine is considerably more “global”, emphasizing in addition the necessity of the virtues and good character. And yet even Guénon could write:

“In order to be truly profitable, initiatic teaching naturally requires a receptive mental attitude, but receptivity is not at all a synonym for passivity; on the contrary, this teaching requires of the one who receives it a continual effort of assimilation, which is essentially active, and even active to the highest degree that can be conceived” (“Initiation and Passivity, Perspectives on Initiation [Sophia Perennis, 2001], p. 222).

It is in the nature of things that some initiates, because of their greater effort and “activity”, assimilate more of the teaching than others, with evident results.

Heresy and Heterodoxy

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

When it comes to the way in which the terms are actually used in practice by the Orthodox, I would agree with your interlocutor that “heterodoxy” is less grave than “heresy”, though this is a little paradoxical inasmuch as the former word betokens a larger, and more comprehensive, difference of viewpoints. Thus most Orthodox would regard Roman Catholicism and Protestantism as “heterodox”, for each comprises an ensemble of differences making them truly different darshanas (the Greek doxa being tantamount to the Sanskrit darshana), though at the same time of course each of these other Christian communions shares certain fundamental dogmas with the Orthodox. By contrast Arianism is a “heresy”, even though it is based on a less encompassing difference, for it willfully denies an explicitly formulated doctrine of the Church, one obviously of the highest magnitude.

There are doubtless other nuances that one would have to consider, but it seems to me that there is a certain correspondence between heterodoxy and what Schuon calls “extrinsic heresy” and between heresy as such and “intrinsic heresy”.

Christian Missions

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

Historically, most Christian “missions” have been focused on converting the “heathen” to Christianity, with social service and aide—medical care, building projects, and so forth—being looked at, at least in part, as a means to that end. But it is not always that way, nor obviously does it have to be. I have been told—by Rama Coomaraswamy, who knew her quite well—that Mother Teresa, for example, did not look on her work with the poor of Calcutta in this way, but instead recognized the truth and value of Hinduism, while simply helping the people who came her way.

As you know, I am all for dialogue and discussion between people of different faiths—provided each party fully accepts his own traditional dogmas—and it makes a certain amount of sense for Christians to talk about their religion with people who know nothing about it; but of course I also think that those Christians need to be prepared to listen and learn from the people they talk to about their own religious tradition. The problem is that it is seldom “a level playing field”. In other words, the missionaries have usually been trained to be spokesmen for Christianity, and any given Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist they meet may or may not have the training or mental equipment to explain his beliefs.

Some of the most interesting cases have been those where highly educated Christian missionaries, like the French Benedictine monk Henri Le Saux (1910-73), who went to India as a missionary, were able to meet their non-Christian equals (or superiors). Father Le Saux had an especially important encounter with the great Hindu jnanin master Ramana Maharshi, and became convinced that Hinduism and Christianity were merely two forms of an identical truth. The monk actually changed his name to the Sanskrit Abhishiktananda (meaning “Bliss of the Anointed One [i.e., Christ]), and lived in India for the rest of his life, no longer concerned about converting the people around him.

Enhypostatic Humanity

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

You object to my saying that “Jesus was not a human being”, but I am afraid this has led you at least to the fringes of the Nestorian heresy. For Orthodoxy, the humanity of Christ is not hypostatic, which means that, though He was an “individual”, He was not an individual man. His humanity was anhypostatic as such, but “enhypostasized” in the Logos, which is the “who”, or “individuality”, of Jesus of Nazareth. To say otherwise is (1) to do violence to Chalcedon and (2) to forget that the Logos is fundamentally the Self of all men (“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” [John 1:4]).