Archive for August, 2008

Doctrinal Truth and Avataric Presence

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Metaphysically, there is clearly no incompatibility between the divine unicity of God, on the one hand, as this is expressed in the Islamic shahadah, and the divinity of Jesus Christ, on the other hand, as this is expressed in the Nicene Creed. The Christian is not obliged to assume that Christ is on the same “level” as His Father; on the contrary the Father, who is the fons et origo of the Trinity, is “greater than I” (John 14:28), and it is from Him that the Son and the Spirit both derive their Divinity. The difference is that between the Absolute and the Relative Absolute.

Operatively, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), and this is because the human form of Christ, the man Jesus of Nazareth, is precisely the form of the uncreated Logos, who in turn possesses precisely the same Divinity as does God the Father, with whom He is thus “consubstantial” (homoousion). Now since the Name is the Named, the Name IESUS is sacramentally and methodically none other than God; indeed this Name is “as much” God Himself as is the Name ALLAH.

It is true, of course, that the Name ALLAH is in a sense “more direct” than the Name IESUS, but this is simply because Islam is a religion of doctrinal Truth whereas Christianity is a religion of avataric Presence. Nonetheless every Divine Name qua form is other than the Divinity itself, even though qua essence it is that Divinity. ALLAH is and is not God, and in the same way IESUS is and is not God. Believing in the Divinity of Jesus Christ is essential for someone who uses the Jesus Prayer or another Christian formula, but—as I hope you can see—believing in His Divinity is in no way in conflict with believing in the Divinity of the One God.

My Love Has Been Crucified

Monday, August 18th, 2008

The passage you cite from Ignatius of Antioch—”My love has been crucified” (Letter to the Romans)—is profound indeed.

The saint seems to be punning on eros. He means (among other things no doubt) that insofar as the object of his love, Jesus Christ, has been killed, the loving has died as well. Surely this is closely bound up with the metaphysical fact that God is most present in absence, in those providential interstices where we can’t help but look but in looking see nothing—or rather No Thing, Sh?nyamurti: “Those who do not know what Buddha is think there is Buddha; those who know what Buddha is know there is no Buddha.”

When God dies on the Cross, all that is Most becomes Least. What had most attracted man’s desire draws that desire through itself and into a state beyond object. But then of course we’re no longer talking of eros, or not at least of eros in its usual sense. Desire has died, for the wanting and needing that are characteristic of such love have been quenched, which means (paradoxically) that they are at once deprived and fulfilled.

“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto me. This He said, signifying what death He should die” (John 12:32-33). “A full investigation into Truth will extinguish your desires at once, and the extinction of desires will restore your mind to rest” (Yoga-Vasishtha).

Focused on the One

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

There are of course many things an Orthodox Christian might read concerning Prayer of the Heart. What I often suggest that people read first is a little book by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), called The Power of the Name. It is a superb introduction to the subject: short and to the point, beautifully written, and (of course) thoroughly traditional.

I would beware of “Hindu mystics”. I have never heard of the man you mention, but what you describe has all the trappings of the “New Age”: syncretism, a thirst for the paranormal, and a total absence of any sense of spiritual proportion. Jesus is of course perfectly capable of showing Himself, or speaking, to whomever He wishes. But I very much doubt He feels obliged to corroborate the transcendent unity of religions by making a special trip to rural Texas!

Keep in mind that Orthodox startsi (“elders”) have always cautioned their disciples against seeking experiences or placing too much stock in supernatural phenomena. One is to turn away from prelest (“charm”) and plan? (“wandering”) so as to remain exclusively focused on the One who is named in the Prayer.

Perhaps I should add that—mutatis mutandis—this is the advice you would get from traditional authorities the world over. The spiritual traveler must endeavor to detach himself not only from material distractions but from “spiritual” (in fact psychic) distractions.


Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

It’s not enough to read the results of other people’s thinking nor even books about how one might learn to think for oneself. You have to engage in the process itself, and this is not something for which there are formulas or rules. It’s a living act—unpredictable and (in a sense) uncontrollable. One of course “positions” the mind, but the insights that come always remain a kind of grace or gift.

What you need is someone with whom to engage in real dialectic—elenchos or cross-examination of the Socratic variety, an incredibly rare thing these days, even in so-called “discussion” courses in colleges and universities. Dialogues with oneself, of the kind you envision, aren’t the solution. Supposing they could be would simply prove one’s ignorance of the traditional maxim, “He who chooses himself for a master has chosen a fool.”

The self can never bring about its own aporia or sense of “no exit” , and aporia is the necessary prelude to genuine wisdom.