Operative Absolutism

Amidists, you say, are necessarily proponents of a “situation ethics” since the absolutist’s presumption of knowing exactly how to act or what to do in every circumstance betokens a lopsided reliance on himself and “his own purported knowledge” to the exclusion of “faith” in the Power of the Other.

But surely a “situationist”, basing himself as he must on a horizontal consideration of empirical circumstances and a best-guess approach as to the expected consequences of a given action, places at least as much emphasis on “self-power”. I agree, if I’ve understood you correctly, that a “formulaic” absolutism, which presumes to have all the answers in advance of all questions, is at odds with the humility and openness of true faith in Heaven. But there’s also what might be called an “operative” absolutism, where our moment-to-moment choices and actions are based, not on our own frail calculations, but on a vertical apprehension of metaphysical principles. In this case there is—or should be—no doubt as to what should be done in any given situation, not because one already knew what to do before the situation arose but because, in the very midst of its arising, a deliberate emptiness is filled with the Real.

It’s because they are operative absolutists that the actions of saints, let alone those of avataric personages, can easily run counter to the prescriptive morality of a given orthodox system. One thinks of Al-Khidr and Moses in the Koran (S?rah 18:65-82) and of the teaching of the Tao Teh Ching: “When the Great Tao was abandoned, there appeared humanity and justice” (Chapter 18).

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