nondual christianity xmas 2011 by johnboyphilothea


									Shalom Place Community
Nondual Christianity - what could THAT possibly entail?

This topic can be found at:

25 December 2011, 02:59 PM
Nondual Christianity - what could THAT possibly entail?
From Santa Claus to Derek and pop-pop:

Barnhart's two axes of identity and relationship well
correspond to what I am calling our phenomenal experiences of
intra-objective identity and inter-subjective intimacy. For
him, contemplation and love are nondual modalities
complemented by purity of heart, which is the doorway to
nondual consciousness (of which faith, itself, is an aspect),
which well fits into my category of methodology or

By heart, Barnhart means an integral unity of body, soul, mind
and spirit (and not really the will as distinguished from
memory and understanding vis a vis, for example, Ignatian
formulations or even Scotistic versus Thomistic distinctions
as resolved by Bonaventure as discussed previously
hereinabove, indeed, per what Barnhart, himself, calls the
sapiental). It entails our beyond but not without integralism.
For him, the nondual self is a corollary to his axes of
identity and relationship and well corresponds to what I have
called our phenomenal experience of intra-subjective

What Barnhart calls the unitive Absolute corresponds to our
phenomenal experience of inter-objective indeterminacy. A lot
of what I have read in various attempts to reconcile East and
West, including Barnhart, reads much like a poetic Hegelian
dialectic of thesis, antithesis and synthesis of polar
realities. Reality is not that simple, however. There are
other ways that we engage paradox which I'll discuss later,

Cynthia Bourgeault has taught with Bruno Barnhart, Thomas
Keating and Richard Rohr, who are all pretty much resonating
with one another, all well-fitting into both my glossary and
meta-critique. In that Thomas Keating quote, he is discussing
a state, a phenomenal experience of no-self, which would
developmentally follow even a standing-outside-of-self in
ecstasy. Barnhart, for his part, distinguishes between a
nonduality of the beginning (Asian) and a nonduality of the
end (think Incarnation) and this would be a vague theological
reference to his axis of identity, which has ontological
implications. This fits, then, Keating's characterization of a
state of union explained as the grace of the Ascension, an
even more intense communication of the divine than even that
of the transforming union of a bridal mysticism.

Now, in Christian formative spirituality, there is no death of
the false self, only a realization of the true self. Living as
we do, to use Keating's words, an "active life of immersion in
the ups and downs of ordinary experience," our false self,
which judges reality and solves problems, is indispensable! We
need our empirical, logical, moral and practical problem-
solving dualistic mind to navigate reality as we get our
temporal needs met. What might it be like to have all of those
needs met, though? To require no problem-solving? No eye has
seen nor ear heard nor the heart of wo/man conceived!
Reportedly, a few have tasted some heavenly delights but, as
Fr. Keating says, God is beyond all of our categories.

We mustn't confuse, however, a phenomenal state of mind or
state of awareness, especially a lack thereof, with an
ontological fact of existence. Fr. Keating refers to a
phenomenal state or experience of no-self (no reflection of
self) and not an ontological status of NO-SELF. Most of what
Fr. Rohr teaches involves neither these phenomenal experiences
nor their ontological contexts but, instead, methodological or
epistemological approaches or stances, specifically, regarding
nondual consciousness, all within the context of matters
regarding intra-subjective integrity. His accounts of nondual
consciousness and contemplation resonate with Barnhart's;
among the dozens of contemporary spiritual teachers regarding
nonduality, he most highly recommends Thomas Keating, Cynthia
Bourgealt and Bruno Barnhart.

Regarding St Bernard's spousal love, it IS dual,
ontologically, inter-subjectively, which is a teleologically
deeper reality than any nondual intra-objective realization.
Methodologically, though, the nondual approach augments our
inter-subjective value-realizations and the merely dualistic
would indeed be impoverished, which is not to at all deny that
it can realize real value for, as I said before, in this life,
it is both necessary and sufficient to realize abundant value
in our relationships with both our Creator and fellow
creatures. So, the dualistic does not have a negative valence.
In fact, it is an indispensable moment in our human value-
realization movements. BUT --- I have said much of this
already? several times now? Confused At any rate, I welcome
the opportunity to parse and disambiguate others' works with
my glossary and meta-critical categories. Smiler

Again, the practical take-away is that nondual and dual can
refer to anthropology, phenomenology, ontology, metaphysics
(ontology with a capital "O"), axiology, epistemology or
theology. And not just from author to author or tradition to
tradition but within any given author's discussions!

Finally, while I understand and appreciate what appears to me
to be a lot of people's preoccupation with experiences and
metaphysical speculation, methodological approaches have
always had more traction with me.
26 December 2011, 01:52 PM
Very interesting. Now I'm going to have to read Bourgeault.
I've spent a fortune on Kindle books since I bought that thing
(to save money Roll Eyes ).
26 December 2011, 10:02 PM

    We certainly need a modicum of intra-subjective integrity
vis a vis human authenticity to enjoy beatitude but, in the
end, how much we grow or how holy we get is very much God's
affair . Beyond that, in my view, both now and forever, the
experience of the inter-subjective , both vis a vis our
primary beatitude of being happy with God and our secondary
beatitude of being happy with our fellow creatures, is our
highest good and to be most highly valued. Our experience of
unitary being vis a vis a realization of our intra-objective
identity will certainly round out and enhance our other
experiences integrally and holistically and can even protect
us from certain errors (overly dialectical imagination, deism,
rationalism, pietism, etc).

Pop, in addition to what JB has just posted, there is this
quote above, which he posted earlier and which I commented on
as well. He has been strongly affirming of traditional
Christian spirituality and its love mysticism, which (I agree
with you) is indeed dualistic in that it involves two who
nonetheless can come to enjoy union. His use of "dualism" re.
taxes is less a comment about ontology than a subject/object
split that is a consequence of analytical activity.

I will probably have to pass on going much into some of
Richard Rohr's, Thomas Keating's and Cynthia Bourrgeault's
writings, as we've already been around the bush numerous times
about some of this on other threads. E.g., Keating's reference
to experiencing the grace of Ascension is from Bernadette
Roberts' book, What is Self?, where she understands the
Ascension of Christ as a stage through which she has passed,
existing now as a Eucharistic presence like Jesus does as
well. Needlessly to say, this is a highly controversial
assessment of her situation, unparalleled in Christian
mystical theology, as is the notion that one moves beyond the
unitive state. Jim Arraj never bought it and I don't either.
I'm not as familiar with Cynthia's present writings, but we
did have a correspondence years ago and even got to spend
several days together when I was presenting workshops in the
northeast. She's a gracious, gifted woman, but, at that time,
she was also clearly enamored of BR's books and had been
something of an assistant to Fr. Keating in Snowmass during
that time when he, too, was endorsing her works and also using
Wilber's stages to re-present Teresa's stages of Interior
Castle (see 1992 edition of Invitation to Love). A directee
recently bought a CD with some of Cynthia's chants for me to
listen to, and the first was was "God is all there is . . ."
chanted again and again. Well, not exactly. There is also

What I have read in some of the Amazon book samples along with
what I've heard in some of Rohr's recent videos has not
resonated well with my faith and the theotic paradigm that I
believe is central to Christian theology and spirituality. I'm
also increasingly skeptical about your point that intra-
objective mysticism can complement our traditional inter-
subjective approach. Maybe, theoretically . . . Far too often
it seems that it undercuts inter-subjective approaches, as I
believe I have already noted. When/if intra-objective mystical
experiences come during the course of the Christian journey,
that is another matter. That seems to be quite rare, however--
especially the articulation of it in intr-objective language.
27 December 2011, 08:40 AM
First things first! Anyone see Monday Night Football?
27 December 2011, 01:07 PM
To further explicate the use of the term nondual, whether as
an epistemic approach or phenomenal experience, it does not
represent an etymological shoe- horning (tic-tac-toe cheating
as per pop-pop) of everything that is of deeper value over
against dualistic problem-solving. It derives first from our
psychological categories as reinforced by modern neuroscience
that can image which parts of our brain just so happen to be
doing what when we are doing thus and such. Just like
contemplation has been somewhat democratized (as some of us
see it, anyway), nondual consciousness is, itself, ubiquitous.
All have engaged reality with it even if not all have pressed
that engagement to the same extent in any given setting or
practice. As Phil points out, there can be real inefficacies
that attend to the shadow side of such epistemic methods
and/or phenomenal experiences.

It has not been my primary purpose thus far in this thread to
set forth norms for all of these categories; I'm trying to
describe them theoretically with the intent of norming them
practically later on. I have hinted, however, using a symphony
as a metaphor, that not every note is going to deserve a whole
measure of crescendo; some will best be sounded as but a
quater-note in pianissimo.

Something to think about, meditatively: Nondual consciousness
seems to be often associated with our receptive mode wherein
(in Teresian terms) we are gaining the strength to serve
(Martha) via consolations (Mary) as we variously dispose
ourselves to charisms and gifts, while our dualistic, problem-
solving consciousness is often associated with works of mercy
as we variously enjoy fruits and virtues. Avodah is a
transliteration for the Hebrew word for worship and work.
Might it be a good bridging concept? There are so many agapic
moments in life that are remarkably dualistically engaged,
requiring, in fact, a love of self for sake of others. Can you
describe any?
27 December 2011, 01:08 PM
I'm open to engaging and parsing the work of any writers,
including Bourgeault, Rohr, Keating and others. But, following
what Phil said, I would encourage folks to first Google some
items with the syntax +Shalomplace to check out what may
already be there on the old message boards so we don't rehash
stuff unnecessarily. Also, I am not inclined to respond to
summary dismissals of individuals based on their isolated
quotes as taken out of larger contexts or to general
characterizations like "oddball" (Derek) without specific
citations, again within context. For example, how is one to
know whether Bourgeault's chant (Phil) was essentially
affective (think mad, glad and sad psalms) in both tone and
tenor rather than theologically descriptive? One could chant
"Jesus, my all" and that should not invite a cursory retort
like - "Well, no, what about your spouse and children?". Any
given moment of spirituality is necessarily a matter of
emphasis which does not set it up in a discursive over against
other emphases such as, for example, knowledge of God versus
love of God, apophasis versus kataphasis, affective vs
speculative, our will vs our memory vs our understanding,
erotic vs agapic, dual vs nondual. More is left unsaid than
said when chanting psalms as that is the genre of that
artform; to wit: "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?"
Any given spiritual lifestyle (think religious order) is
similarly a matter of emphasis (think eremitic vs monastic vs
27 December 2011, 01:13 PM
recapping intra-objective identity, our realization of unitary

My category of phenomenal experience is much more broadly
conceived than that which we would more narrowly categorized
as intra-objective mysticism. Again, it includes the
methodological naturalism of science, philosophical naturalism
of materialist monism, various root metaphors of metaphysics
and natural theology, as well as some of the aha moments that
may be associated with philosophical contemplation, the
intuition of being and metaphysical insights of Zen. In
theologies of nature, it features prominently in different
pantheisms and panentheisms. By intra-objective mysticism, we
mean any nonconceptual natural mysticism or mysticism of the

The values to be mined from intraobjective insights can be
realized either/both intellectually or/and existentially and
in varying degrees. This is true for the other phenomenal
categories, too.

In various and sundry ways, any and all of these conceptions
(as well as their epistemic corollary, nondual consciousness)
might shed some light on the different experiences of the
practitioners of the great traditions of the East, including
those schools with and without prominent devotional elements.
These practitioners have comprised a giganormous swath of
humanity through time and we want to validate and honor their
experiences and to continue in earnest dialogue with them,
both to deepen our own self-understanding by engaging them as
a foil as well as to gain whatever wisdom they may offer,
especially vis a vis their practices but not at all excluding
many of their conclusions. Thus we seek to earnestly inventory
and exchange our manifold and varied virtues, fruits and

The soteriological exclusivism that our traditions have only
fairly recently eschewed certainly precludes any
pneumatological exclusivism. This is to say that we certainly
do not believe that practitioners of other traditions merely
gain salvation through an exculpability grounded in ignorance
but that they actually have something meaningful to contribute
to how we might move much more swiftly and with much less
hindrance along this journey that we call life on this path
that we call faith.

Now, avoiding any facile syncretism, insidious indifferentism
or false irenicism is no easy chore. Developing and
articulating norms for appropriating practices (or not) across
traditions is no easy task. What I suggest is that any given
criterion one offers should be received as taking its place
among other criteria as something that we would weigh in the
balance without it, alone, necessarily tipping any scales. For
example, while the history of Christian mystical theology, its
authoritative spiritual writings and prevailing theotic
paradigms certainly well speak to these issues, they certainly
do not comprise all there is to meaningfully and substantively
say about them, especially given new understandings from
modern psychology and evolutionary anthropology. We are not
talking about central tenets of the faith, creedal essentials
or core teachings but about spiritualities that are much more
dynamic than static and which, by their very nature, evolve
and change emphases as the Spirit leads and new circumstances
of God's people emerge (and substantive interfaith engagement
is clearly an emergent reality) . Thus religious orders have
come and gone or reformed or morphed.

This is all to further suggest that truth- indicative
realities like authority and tradition are dispositive but not
exhaustive as we take up formative spirituality, which is
better served by approaches like heuristics that are
suggestive and tentative than by those like systematics that
are definitive and dogmatic. Arraj used a great tennis analogy
to describe various syncretisms - theology without a net .
Such a net more so applies to the realm of dogmatic theology,
however, less so to mystical and ascetic theology, in my view.

Of course, there are no too few who've precisely made mistakes
vis a vis essential dogma as they clumsily try to articulate
the theological implications of their spiritual experiences.
Some rather explicitly and systematically depart from core
teachings, to be sure. Others may occasionally misspeak or
poorly articulate a theological concept, from time to time,
but their real meaning can be more clearly discerned within
the contexts of both their bodies of work and practices of

We can expect that the steps toward East-West maturity are
going to be necessarily immature. We should not be shy in
speaking the truth but we should be gentle with others and
give them the benefit of the doubt, sorting through the wheat
and chaff, not categorically dismissing them but affirming
what we can, correcting what we must and remaining open always
to what it is we might learn from them - even when --- and
maybe especially when --- they are giving us grief! (There's
so much the Falcons can take away from last night's whuppin'
that they might could use in a playoff rematch with Breesus
and the Saints!)

What we want to manifestly embrace is a spirit of authentic
and charitable dialogue. What we want to positively eschew is
any approach that reinforces any meritocracy, any winners and
losers, any who's in and who's out, any who's with us or
against us or any having of all the answers.


To top