July 08, 2011

John Paul's theology is very much like Sri Aurobindo's

When I speak of "evolution" on the human plane, I mean it in exactly the sense John Paul does in this letter to a friend in 1957:  
"I am convinced that life is a constant development toward that which is better, more perfect -- if there is no stagnation within us." He adds that it is a great achievement "to see values that others don't see and to affirm them," but an even greater one "to bring out of people values that would perish without us. In the same way, we bring our values out in ourselves."
Put them together, and you have a life devoted to awakening and articulating the latent values that lay dormant in people, in the effort to help them evolve toward that which is better. This is only possible in light of the "perfect," i.e., the Absolute, without which there could be no hierarchy or gradations of quality. But in reality, man is always -- what's the word, Jeeves? Asymptotically? -- "on the way" to perfection. Man is surely a bridge, but not to nowhere, as he must be for the materialist.
As we have discussed in the past, this was the proper meaning of evolution before the word was appropriated and redefined by Darwin. Taken literally, evolution is precisely what cannot happen under metaphysical Darwinism. Rather, only horizontal change may occur. Notice, for example, how Darwinian fundamentalists are always so quick to cut man down to size, insisting in various ways that he is "just an animal." But I don't get my truth from animals -- with the exception of certain partial truths about animality.
In their worldview, it is as philosophically absurd to suggest that man is superior to animals as it is to say that blue is better than the key of C. It's just pure nonsense, because "better" can only be understood in the context of a hierarchy of transcendent values. 
As you all know by now -- actually, maybe you don't. But I'll be brief so as to not bore. When I made the formal decision to enter the spirituality racket -- to dive into the deep end of the cosmos -- it was initially as a disciple of the Indian sage, Sri Aurobindo, whose theology I felt at the time to be the most "capacious" and see-worthy. 
Probably because he was raised in the west from a very young age -- and was educated at elite places such as Cambridge by professors such as Whitehead -- he assimilated much of this environment into his theology and metaphysics after returning to India in his 20s. I don't know that it was intentional, but the end result was a "Christianization" of Hindu metaphysics, which was itself an evolutionary leap in what had theretofore been a less sophisticated theology. 
Interestingly, I came upon a passage that said as much in God and the World, a book length interview with then Cardinal Ratzinger. Hmm.... Lotta good stuff in here. Getting distracted. Pay attention! Right. Here it is: "We can already see how, by way of Indian intellectuals, the leaven of Christianity has found a way into Hinduism. The number of Indians who revere and love Jesus is extraordinarily great, far greater than the number of Christians, even if in this case Christ is simply counted in among a series of other saviors."

I don't remember when it was -- a few years back, anyway... charter Raccoon Will seemed to have already realized it -- but it dawned on me that Aurobindo's whole spiritual project was a kind of Christianized Vedanta, for several reasons. First, its focus was on this world. In contrast to the traditional view -- which regards the world as a kind of deception -- Aurobindo regarded it as important in its own right. You might say that the world is worthy of our being in it, which is saying a lot.
This led to a particular appreciation of the body, even the "divinization of the body," which essentially comes down to the idea that his is a descending path, in contrast to the ascendingones of Hindu tradition. In other words, instead of escaping up and out "into God," the spiritual vector is reversed, and the emphasis is placed upon bringing God down "into the world." 
Call it "incarnation" if you like. Or sanctification. In this regard, our earthly spiritual "evolution" is exactly as John Paul describes it above -- an adventure of consciousness from what we are towardwhom we ought to be; or toward whom we truly are, which always includes an element of relationship (which in turn imbues the relative with a kind of absoluteness, more on which in a subsequent post).
Now, John Paul's theology is very much like Aurobindo's, in the sense that its purpose is to encompass everything, i.e., every plane of being from the lowest to the highest, and yet, bring the highest into the lowest, so to speak, in order to appreciate it in a new Light. Jesus is obviously the quintessence of this, in that he represents the highest-made-lowest in order to "redeem" the latter -- not just man, but the entire cosmos. (Ratzinger notes that a better translation is "God so loved the cosmos...")
In practical terms, what it means is that -- at least from this Raccoon's point of view -- virtually everything can and must be bobtized and divinized. This is how his "theology of the body" is to be understood. But it doesn't just apply to sex and marriage. Rather, the priest's duty is "to help make God present in the world," not just in "official" ways, such as the celebration of Mass, but, as did Jesus, "to live with people, everywhere they are, to be with them in everything but sin." new. POSTED BY GAGDAD BOB AT 7/08/2011 08:14:00 AM

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