Saturday, April 06, 2019

void does in some marvelous way 'exist'

 Some wonder what will happen following what we've known as religion disappears.
In Anatheism, Richard Kearney sets a path of returning to God "after God". This is a road map for those who have moved intellectually away from the notion of God. Following the hermenutic tradition of Paul Ricoeur, Kearney sets way forward for adherents of the "death of God" theology, French phenomenology and literary deconstruction, to make a theological turn toward a Western and Christian notion of God. This returning to God is not a religious turn, but a hermenutic one. It does not promise salvation or religious certainty, rather shows a way of engaging in the world.  
Kearney analyses the literary tradition of the west as well the Abrahamic tradition. He locates the movement towards God, as lying in hospitality to the stranger and the alien. When we now accept God, we accept him/her as stranger and alien. This movement find its physical reference not in ritual, prayer, existential certainty or wish fulfillment but in the way we engage in the world ― a world that is strange and alien. Anatheism thus lies neither in the spheres of atheism or of theism, but in the yet unexplored lands of A/theism.  
Anatheism is a work of weak theology [*], other authors in this tradition include John Caputo, Peter Rollins and Gianni Vattimo. 
 (--Chris Samuel, (non)Conformist, Answered Jun 11, 2013, Quora)
[*] re. weak theology, see Spring 2015 Report on Weak Theology, Westar Institute
Some wonder what will happen following what we've known as self disappears.
Bernadette Roberts' The Experience of No-Self is a remarkable and valuable book. It is an account of an inner journey she went on after many years of trying to live out the Catholic contemplative life, a journey that ended in what she called the experience of no-self. But this very word no-self and an attentive reading of her description of her experiences reveal an inner structure and language that is much closer to Buddhist enlightenment than Christian mystical union, a fact made all the more interesting because the author was not trying to explain herself in Buddhist categories. 
She will say, for example, "Where there is no personal self, there is no personal God." (p. 24) or God "is all that exists... God is all that is." (p. 31) The individuality of the object observed is overshadowed by "that into which it blends and ultimately disappears." (p. 34) What is is that which can neither be subject or object. (p. 67) God is not self-conscious (p. 75) and we must come to "terms with the nothingness and emptiness of existence" (p. 75), which seems equivalent to "living out my life without God." "I had to discover it was only when every single, subtle, experience and idea - conscious and unconscious - had come to an end, a complete end, that it is possible for the truth to reveal itself." (p. 75) 
But if there is no self, "What is this that walks, thinks and talks?" (p. 78) The end of the journey is "absolute nothingness" (p. 81), but "out of nothingness arises the greatest of great realities."(p. 81) It is the "one existent that is Pure Subjectivity" and "there is no multiplicity of existences; only what Is has existence that can expand itself into an infinite variety of forms..." (p. 83) Our sense of self rests on our self-reflection and "when we can no longer verify or check back (reflect) on the subject of awareness, we lose consciousness of there being any subject of awareness at all." (p. 86) This leads to the "silence of no-self." (p. 87) 
1 don't think it is necessary to go to great lengths to draw out Buddhist, especially Zen, parallels to these thoughts. There we will find talk of no-mind, and letting go of body and mind, and the question of who is walking, and the famous saying that emptiness is form and form is emptiness and so forth. Let's let one brilliant passage from Huang Po suffice: "When your glance falls on a grain of dust, what you see is identical with all the vast world-systems with their great rivers and mighty hills. To gaze upon a drop of water is to behold the nature of all the waters of the universe. Moreover, in thus contemplating the totality of phenomena, you are contemplating the totality of Mind. All these phenomena are intrinsically void and yet this Mind to which they are identical is no mere nothingness. By this I mean that it does exist, but in a way too marvelous for us to comprehend. It is an existence that is no existence, a non-existence which is nevertheless existence. So this true Void does in some marvelous way 'exist"'. (The Zen Teachings of Huang Po, P. 108) 
Bernadette Roberts as a Catholic and someone relatively unfamiliar with Buddhism has rendered an important testimony to the universality of this kind of mystical experience. But inevitably, she has had to face the question of its relationship to her own Christian contemplative heritage, and it is here that her conclusions need a careful examination. Since she had a deep life of prayer in the Christian contemplative tradition before she went on this journey that ended in the experience of no-self, it is understandable that she will see this experience as the next stage in the Christian contemplative journey, and a stage that the Christian mystics like John of the Cross know very little about. (The one exception is Meister Eckhart, a predilection which is shared by D.T. Suzuki.) Thus she is forced to put the no-self experience at a level higher than the spiritual marriage described by John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila and therefore place her own experience above that of the Church's mystical doctors. I don't think this interpretation is correct. This mysticism of the no-self, as well as Zen enlightenment, is not a supernatural mysticism that comes from grace and leads to an experience of God's presence and of sharing in His life. It is a very different kind of experience that attains to the absolute, to God, but through emptiness. (For details on this position see God, Zen and the Intuition of Being, and Mysticism, Metaphysics and Maritain, both by James Arraj.)
(--from, Inner Explorations, J. Arraj)
That's Arraj.

Here's what Bernadette Roberts (who died November 2017) said:
There is really no great mystery about “self” or man’s self-awareness. The real mystery is the true nature of “what” remains when it is gone – has ceased to function. With the cessation of self-awareness, all the experiential effects it generated are gone in the blink of an eye. And what were these effects? They were the experience of “being”, of life”, “soul”, “energy”, “mind and will”, “interiority” (within-ness), the “affective system”, even theawareness of ”being one with God” all these experiences are suddenly blown out and gone forever! Now there is no center (God) and no circumference (self). In truth, this “blow out”(or cessation) is the only death-experience man will ever experience – could ever have, in fact. So take away self-awareness with all its experiential effects, and the real question becomes what is the true nature of what remains beyond all self?” This is the realmystery of man and the real question he needs to have answered.13 No idea in the mind could ever come up with a satisfactory answer to this mystery, only God can reveal the truenature of “what” remains beyond all self and individuation. Since only the Creator knows the true essence of man’s common human nature, only God can reveal its eternal oneness with God. I have written a book about this revelation, and its title is The Real Christ. 
Some food for thought: Some time ago, listening to the quiz show Jeapardy, one of the questions was “What is the name of the German psychiatrist who had a patient say to him,“Doctor, I have no self”? No one on the panel knew the answer - which turned out to be Doctor Alzheimer”. For people who want to get rid of their “self”, at least Alzheimers might be one way to go. 
I have never advocated the idea of "getting rid of self" - why? Because no one knows what self is – until it is gone. Until people get to the Unitive State (what some call their "True Self"), all they know of self has been what Jung called the "ego-self". But who has ever advocated getting rid of the "True self" and its union with God? NOBODY! No human being can go beyond this Unitive State or could even think about doing so. Going beyond one’s (self’s) union with God – in this life at least – is solely God’s doing for God’s own purposes. 
(from, What is Self? A Research Paper by Bernadette Roberts )
Clearly, there's more to mull here.

We will.

I add W.S. Merwin's poem as epilogue:


Every year without knowing it I have passed the day 
When the last fires will wave to me 
And the silence will set out 
Tireless traveler 
Like the beam of a lightless star 
Then I will no longer 
Find myself in life as in a strange garment 
Surprised at the earth 
And the love of one woman 
And the shamelessness of men 
As today writing after three days of rain 
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease 
And bowing not knowing to what 

-- W. S. Merwin, “For the Anniversary of My Death (1927–2019)
                 (Winner of National Book Award and 2009 Pulitzer Prize)

Friday, April 05, 2019

don't know

This, from Friday afternoon's Poetry, Tea, and Thee at Quarry Hill:

Spring Morning

Where am I going? I don't quite know.
Down to the stream where the king-cups grow-
Up on the hill where the pine-trees blow-
Anywhere, anywhere. I don't know.

Where am I going? The clouds sail by,
Little ones, baby ones, over the sky.
Where am I going? The shadows pass,
Little ones, baby ones, over the grass.

If you were a cloud, and sailed up there,
You'd sail on water as blue as air,
And you'd see me here in the fields and say:
"Doesn't the sky look green today?"

Where am I going? The high rooks call:
"It's awful fun to be born at all."
Where am I going? The ring-doves coo:
"We do have beautiful things to do."

If you were a bird, and lived on high,
You'd lean on the wind when the wind came by,
You'd say to the wind when it took you away:
"That's where I wanted to go today!"

Where am I going? I don't quite know.
What does it matter where people go?
Down to the wood where the blue-bells grow-
Anywhere, anywhere. I don't know.

(--poem by A.A. Milne,)

Thursday, April 04, 2019

one called into a life

Happy to read this piece by Simon Critchley in NYTimes, THE STONE, 3APR19, Athens in Pieces: The Happiest Man I’ve Ever Met.

At our hermitage, these words:

     Embodying the dwelling place of the Alone;
     Stepping aside to make room for Another.

The monastic vocation and practice invites the one called into a life of solitude in the midst of community -- with respect, recollection, and engaged kindness.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

following God

To be alone

with God --

monastic practice.

To be alone

in community --

hermit grace.

To be alone

with the

Alone --


we've done here


is the practice

of listening

and speaking

with one another

toward achieving

clarity moving

into action



Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Monday, April 01, 2019





ice floes

one duck


Sunday, March 31, 2019

song to heal our time

let's look at each other
let's look at each other
let's look at each other

with love

let's listen to one another
let's listen to one another
let's listen to one another

with  light

let's find what is true
let's find what is true
let's find what is true

with no fear

and when we come to see
and when we come to hear
and when we come to feel

there will be peace

hospice house, Saturday evening


In the room

he, not there,

only recently

wife takes guitar



In another room

she, not there

hay square meal

lets family



In rooms

sitting with

absence realizes

what is



if asked

after silence

all response