Friday, 24 August 2012

Zen masters talk about nothing but the existence of God - in Tillich's sense


How close is Paul Tillich's work to (Zen) Buddhism?

First some of Tillich's central ideas;

Tillich presents .......... God as Being-ItselfGround of BeingPower of Being

What makes Tillich's ontological view of God (RP ontology = being ) different from theological theism is that it transcends it by being the foundation or ultimate reality that "precedes" all beings. 

Just as Being for Heidegger is ontologically prior to conception, Tillich views God to be beyond Being-Itself, manifested in the structure of beings.[42] God is not a supernatural entity among other entities. Instead, God is the ground upon which all beings exist. 

We cannot perceive God as an object which is related to a subject because God precedes the subject-object dichotomy.[42]

Thus Tillich dismisses a literalistic Biblicism. Instead of rejecting the notion of personal God, however, Tillich sees it as a symbol that points directly to the Ground of Being.[43] 

Since the Ground of Being ontologically precedes reason, it cannot be comprehended since comprehension presupposes the subject-object dichotomy. 

Tillich disagreed with any literal philosophical and religious statements that can be made about God. 

Such literal statements attempt to define God and lead not only to anthropomorphism but also to a philosophical mistake that Immanuel Kant warned against, that setting limits against the transcendent inevitably leads to contradictions. 

Any statements about God are simply symbolic, but these symbols are sacred in the sense that they function to participate or point to the Ground of Being. 

Tillich insists that anyone who participates in these symbols is empowered by the Power of Being, which overcomes and conquers nonbeing and meaninglessness.


RP - A few comments;

Tillich's 'pointings' are no different to those of a Zen master.

Buddhist teachers, especially Zen masters talk about nothing but the existence of God - and how to be a drop lost in the Ocean - until the laundry needs doing

Literalism is the death of religion because metaphor is the language of the spirit - metaphor makes room for other viewpoints - and for the infinite God, the Whole, the infinite Mystery.

Yet these also are true:

"The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me." - Meister Eckhart

"Zen is the unsymbolization of the world." - R H Blyth  (RP Try explaining that to a fundamentalist - or to a child!)

"No reason can be given for the nature of God, because that nature is the ground of rationality."  A N Whitehead  in Science and the Modern World (1925). 

Zen and the thology of Tillich teach us to live in the presence of God as that which is beyond word, concepts or any symbols - about which we are mindful when and being overcome with self.

QUESTION - So are we supposed to live constantly in mystic union with the Whole in an ego-less reverie?

Abraham Joshua Heschel provides the best answer I've ever discovered;

The search for reason ends at the shore of the known;
on the immense expanse beyond it only ‘the sense of the ineffable’ can glide.
It alone knows the route to that which is remote from experience and understanding. ‘

Neither is amphibious: reason cannot go beyond the shore,and
the sense of the ineffable is out of place where we measure, where we weigh.

Citizens of two realms, we must all sustain dual allegiance:
we sense the ineffable in one realm;
we name and exploit reality in another.

Between the two we set up a system of references, but can never fill the gap They are as far and as close
to each other…as life and what lies beyond the last breath.
A J Heschel - Man is Not Alone p8.

a more poetic and fulsome presentation of the much more cryptic;

'After the Ecstasy; the laundry'


"Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water." 

Duality is the goal - but duality is a vital wing in the raising of consciousness, especially in children - without a self, there is no self to lose.

It also enables us to not bump into the furniture


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