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Pointers to Presence
Bede Griffiths and Wayne Teasdale—One of the Crucial Threads of Christian/ Hindu Mystical Dialogue
Contributed by Kurt Johnson
If you have not already read Wayne Teasdale’s classic The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions (1999) a couple dollars for a used copy will put you immeasurably ahead in your vision of the role of the world’s spiritual heritages in our seriously challenged modern world. And, if you have not read Bro. Waynes last book (before his sudden transition due to cancer in 2004) Bede Griffiths: an Introduction to his Interspiritual Thought, another two dollars for a used copy will inform you of a crucial thread in human discovery and wisdom-- the “straddle” of Christian and Hindu contemplative, mystic, and unitive experience indispensable to our understanding of where the world is wanting to evolve.
So, I will give a small tidbit of the crucial contents of this latter book in case all your efforts don’t allow you to get to it!
What is important about the Bede Griffiths book is that it represents the major “straddle” in the mystical understanding of reality as experienced directly by a long lineage of Christian monks who, from the 16th Century, migrated to India, lived in India, mingled into Oneness their understanding of reality through mystical Hinduism and mystical Christianity, often lived double lives as Christian priest/monks and Hindu guru/teachers and, in later years, defined very clearly the unresolved issues within the theological and religious contexts of these two great cultures. These “issues” and “differences”, they concluded, are not issues at all when understood at their mystical core. Further, resolving these [non]issues is part of our further peaceful evolution toward a world in which cultures meet, interact, mingle, and co-enrich.
The issues of major world moment examined thoroughly through the eyes of this lineage of contemplative mystics include the following, in ten quick points:
(1) the true nature of nondual (“Oneness”) mystical experience with full balance of its transcendent and immanent (embodied) aspects; (2) how the different discursive languages of the Christian and Hindu cultures obscure the common understanding found by both Christian and Hindu mystics; (3) the question of whether an actual convergence is ongoing between these cultures and their mystical roots (of which your very reading of this piece is a part); (4) the strengths and weaknesses, seen as complementary yin and yang, in the Christian and Hindu historical approaches to mystical spirituality; (5) the role of the “New Science” (modern physics, quantum mechanics, string theory etc.) in helping further elucidate these mystical understandings in fully modern terms; (6) the unfolding of the feminine spiritual perspective, and the process of interspiritual (intersubjective) dialogue, between these cultures and their spiritualities as a major tool in our growing understanding; (7) a re-examining of Christology and the historical Jesus in the context of our understanding of shared unitive consciousness by both Hindu’s and Christians; (8) an understanding of the fundamental sameness in what has become the Christian understanding of “Trinity” and the Hindu understanding of “Advaita/Saccidinanda” (as “One” but also “Three”); (9) the healing of doctrinal and theological understanding between these two great cultures based on these insights once shared and digested; (10) the opening for both cultures to adopt the treasures of each other’s philosophical metaphysics, just as Christianity allowed itself to historically take on the structures of Greek philosophy (there is no modern Christianity independent of Greek philosophy etc.). Exciting and crucial!
There is further unique flavor in emphasizing the importance of work, often little known in the west, by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, author of Knowledge and the Sacred. This work is viewed as uniquely important in developing a mature synthesis of the mystical understanding of reality common to Hindu and Christian direct mystical experience. It is noted that Nasr’s work is a spiral model, similar to modern spiral dynamics (see “Spiral Dynamics”, Don Beck; and “Integral Theory”, Ken Wilber) which have made so many important contributions to modern interspiritual syntheses.
To conclude, Bro. Wayne labored in his last year to complete this work on Bede Griffiths and the mystical tradition of Christian monks who had lived and worked in India. He apologized that his health did not allow him to completely rewrite the text, which had been used as his doctoral dissertation in Theology at Fordham University. This was because, since the dissertation was addressed to his Doctoral Committee (of mostly Christian theologians), it often sounded “apologetic” with regard to the Hindu experience. However, Wayne’s treatment of this rich lineage of experience in India manages to eclipse this limitation and fulfill, we believe, Wayne’s dream that this rich historical thread of Christian and Hindu direct mystical experience not be lost.
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