Archive for January, 2015

Hierarchical Non-Dualism

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

Yes, I certainly do believe that there is, or at least can be, an advaitic form of Christianity; as a matter of fact I’m at work on a book on the subject. I realize this may come as something of a surprise. But as I see it, that’s because you mistakenly think that a non-dual formulation of this, or any other, tradition must be to the exclusion of the hierarchical—and seemingly dualistic—point of view that you associate with neo-Platonic metaphysics. On the contrary, it seems to me that these are two equally plausible perspectives on the same apophatic Reality. Neither is “right”, and neither “wrong”.

It all depends on what a given person means by (your phrase) “the ordinary world”. You point out that the Bodhisattva sees “no difference between Samsara and Nirvana“. True enough, but is the Samsara he sees the same as the Samsara I see? That’s for me a key question. And the answer surely is no. Doesn’t the fact that he sees Samsara as non-different from Nirvana mean that he sees it more truly or clearly than I do? Otherwise what would be the point of this central Mahayanic teaching, if not to help me see in a new, more authentic way?

As I understand it, the hierarchical point of view of neo-Platonism and perennialist metaphysics, culminating “at the top” in an ens realissimum, has the soteriological function of helping draw me out of the old and “up” and “into” a new vision, a new level of experience. But once I have entered upon this higher level and have gained a certain distance on the world as ordinarily viewed through the screen of my habits and attachments, I will see that this ens realissimum, being necessarily infinite, cannot be other than “the ordinary world”, but an ordinary that is now in fact truly extraordinary.

Vigils and the Virtues

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

It’s risky, as you will no doubt appreciate, to advise a person one has never met regarding such a practice. In principle, yes: struggling against one’s desire for sleep—refusing to be controlled by the appetitive part of the soul, requiring instead that it submit to the rational part and, in turn, to the spiritual intellect—can be a useful exercise, and a good preparation for receiving the Mysteries.

But in fact the usefulness, and appropriateness, of such a practice depends on the motives, capacities, and understanding of the person in question. Pushing against one’s physical limits, or apparent limits, could harm the body and, much worse, could serve to inflate the ego of someone who was attempting to storm Heaven, as it were, by a show of power or prowess.

As for non-Orthodox readings (whether Sufi or otherwise), needless to say I see no problem with those, provided they assist you in the acquisition and development of the virtues: humility, charity, and veracity, above all. Do these texts help one to see himself more clearly and honestly? Do they empty us and open up a space within where God can act? If so, then yes: they are perfectly acceptable for the purpose you, as an Orthodox Christian, have in mind.