I just came across an essay on religious pluralism which appears to touch on some of the themes we've explored here in the past (I've read the abstract and conclusion so far, and will dig in to the rest tomorrow.)

The Postmetaphysics of Religious Difference

For those interested, here's the abstract:

This article contests the dominant paradigm in the theology of
religions which promotes a type of pluralism purporting to recognise a
limited form of “otherness” and “difference” but which emerges upon
analysis to obviate these by incorporating religions into a single theological
or philosophical schema, reducing their concrete plurality and
particularity to an abstract unity based on ontotheological
presuppositions. It therefore proposes a perspective that draws upon
contemporary postmetaphysical thought, particularly the work of
Rosenzweig and Levinas. It suggests that the appropriate posture in the
face of religious difference is one that valorises otherness and nurtures
and sustains religious difference.

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And the concluding paragraph:


When we look at the rules Panikkar institutes for intrareligious dialogue and what he means by pluralism as a vigilant openness to the mystery of reality, it is clear that it does not fall prey to the common criticisms made of the pluralist position and does advance the goals of peace, cooperation, and mutual understanding. Most important, and most attractive, I think, is that Panikkar’s pluralist position aims not at some kind of live and let live tolerance among different perspectives, but instead at a dynamic religious interaction. While Hick’s pluralism presumes a neat ordering of different paths to one common and higher religious goal, Panikkar’s pluralism prescribes a religious posture of openness that stays quite messy and dynamic. It is this dynamism that marks the religious posture of kenosis for Panikkar, as we humans respond to an eternally infinite mystery that continually interrupts the totalities of our respective experiences and reminds us of their very incompleteness. Dialogue is justifiable not primarily because we all need to get along with each other, but because we need contradictory truth claims to jolt us out of our complacency, ignorance, and ingrained preconceptions. Rather than subject religion to some comprehensive Reason, Panikkar’s pluralism presents the challenges of inter-religious encounter as first and foremost a religious task. Subjecting our myths to the criticisms of others helps us grow in our sacred interrelationality. Pluralism describes reality’s infinite transcendence of our attempts to contain it, and it prescribes the religious task of kenotic unknowing to better grow in our dynamic relationship with others, with God, and with the world.

So, I'm working on the follow-up to my Kingdom Come paper (which explored an integral postmetaphysical approach to interreligious relationship), focusing now on a broader program of "integral religious studies."  I'm collecting thoughts and notes, but I'm having a hard time writing this weekend, so I thought I would post a few of my thoughts here to get the juices flowing (and, of course, would welcome feedback if anyone has any)...particularly since some of these thoughts are related to our OOO discussions.

The "call for papers," to which I'm responding, calls for papers which enact a dialogue between Integral Theory and three major fields within contemporary religious studies:  history of religions, comparative philosophy of religions, and constructive theology.  I will do this, to a degree, but will not limit myself to a simple comparison or integration of these fields.  For the constructive theology part, I am bringing in the work of constructive theologians such as Catherine Keller and Sharon Betcher (of Polydoxy); for comparative philosophy of religions, I'm using Panikkar of course (among others).  But given Jorge Ferrer's significant work in this area, and the consonance of his postmetaphysical/enactive/participatory orientation with aspects of Wilber 5, I'll also be looking at that in more detail -- particularly at the differences I have with Ferrer in relation to my own (still-forming) Integral Postmetaphysical orientation.

Two things I will write about here tonight:  1) What role(s) might an Integral approach play in the field of religious studies?  2) Speculative gestures towards an Integral onto-epistemology (as matrix for a religious studies IMP), drawing on some of our recent explorations of Critical Realism, OOO, etc.

1) The first idea is simple and directly derivative from recent readings of Bhaskar (and others):  In my Kingdom Come paper, I discussed my general agreement with Steve McIntosh's call for the differentiation of Integral spirituality from Integral philosophy (focusing on philosophy when it comes to interreligious 'mediation').  In relation to this, I think Bhaskar's discussion of philosophy as under-laborer for science is useful:  IT, in focusing on articulating an integral postmetaphysical philosophy, can "under-labor" for the field of religious studies.  It can do this in various ways, perhaps primarily by providing heuristic principles and an integrative framework for transdisciplinary research.  An IMP of religious studies (as I outlined here, using the 8 zones to map the field).  Here, it serves a meta-theoretical role.  But it might also help further, philosophically, by developing its (tetra-)enactive onto-epistemology, which takes me to point number 2.

2) One of Ferrer's strategies (for moving beyond the postmodern linguistic turn) is to rehabilitate ontology.  In Kingdom Come, I looked to Wilber-5, Cobb's Deep Pluralism, Ferrer's participatory ontology, Panikkar's radical pluralism, Varela's enactive model, and a number of other perspectives to argue for an integral postmetaphysical enactive onto-epistemology, which can provide a means for conceptualizing (and non-reductively holding or accommodating) multiple religious soteriological horizons and worldspaces.  While I do not think the approach I recommended is correlationist in the strict sense (since it is not anthropocentric, one of correlationism's primary offenses according to SR and OOO), it still could stand to be more clearly differentiated from correlationism, and it also needs to be revised somewhat to deal with Bhaskar's critique of the epistemic fallacy.  So, here are some rough notes on how I'd like to draw on some of the ideas we've discussed here recently to revise my integral pluralist model.

First, I'll start with a quote by Bonnie to address the charge of epistemic fallacy:  "IT commits the epistemic fallacy: IT confuses the “known world” from the “real world”, resulting in a “many worlds” view. In the symposium we talked a lot about the differences between CR’s one(shared)world versus IT’s  many –worlds view. IT describes all these “worlds” that are enacted at different altitudes across different methodologies. This is problematic, because all those worlds are actually world*views – or known worlds. This is the epistemic fallacy."

In my paper, I did endorse a "many worlds" view.  In fact, I still do.  One way I would address this charge, then, is to grant that "known world" is indeed the realm of the actual.  This seems in keeping with an enactive orientation, after all:  the multiple objects and worlds we encounter, describe, navigate, etc, are enactments, in this understanding.  I think Latour's "democracy of actors" here will be a useful term to possibly incorporate and further explore (actors, enactments, actualities); perhaps also Sean's "multiple object" can here be read in these terms, as a multiple actuality -- a site or vector (even Nishidan bassho?) of multiplistic enaction.  But what about the real world?  One of my thoughts here is to reserve the word, "world," for the actual.  I suggested this to Bonnie:   One tack, in this debate, may be to identify "world" as a category properly belonging to the "actual" -- since the etymology of the word, which is "the age of man," appears to be related to the concerns of sentient beings -- and then to describe the Real in different terms.  Although I'm not fully on board with the OOO framing of this issue, if we want to discuss Reality, and preserve it as a necessary (necessarily presupposed) matrix for actuality and enactment, I think we can follow the OOO resistance to the notion of a single all-encompassing super-context on holonic grounds, as I argued before:  To be consistent, in a holonic view, there can be no 'smallest' (foundational, atomic) holon, nor can there be a single 'super-holon' that encompasses all holons.  Both the imagined base-level objects or the ultimate super-object would be non-holons (since the former would not contain any constitutive smaller units, and the latter would not be included within anything else -- e.g., neither would be a part-whole).  Thus, there is no single-entity foundationalism, nor can there be a final 'over-mastering' super-entity (ass-holon, in Theurj's language).  In light of this understanding, we should not speak of "real world" in contrast to "actual world," as Bonnie did above, since "world" itself would be understood as a holon.  If we admit talk of the Real -- and I am for doing that -- it should not be in the form of world-language.

In a number of different posts, I've been touching on the possibility of a Latour/OOO-informed AQAL.  As I mentioned, I appreciate his insistence on the irreducible particularity of each actuality (actual occasion?) and have suggested ways to apply this to AQAL:  In OOO-related thought, there is the Latourian claim that everything is absolutely particular and thus irreducible to anything else.  Rather than holding that this irreducible particularity is related to island-like thing-in-itselfness (wholly withdrawn from all relationship), my suggestion is to hold reducibility and irreducibility at once, where each particular is (as Bortoft says) the unique and particular bodying forth of the whole, and thus each particular is infinitely reducible (there's no end to the relational lines we can trace out), which (following Joel's principle) is the same as saying that it is irreducible.  Using Latour's notion of irreduction, then, everything is both irreducible and thus an "object" (UR) but also subject to reduction, i.e. understandable in terms of its parts or its being-part of something else (endo- and exo-systemic relations, LR), although there is some "loss" in any such reduction and an object also exceeds any such reductive relational description.  Objects or holons are able to contact or "experience" other objects in some way (UL) and this contact will be mediated by its own internal code (LL).  

I've mentioned previously, particularly in relation to Bryant's work, that I think autopoietic 'closure' may be sufficient to explain an object's relative autonomy and 'detachability' from particular contexts, without having to insist on a Harmaneque thing-in-itself-ness.  But I have a few additional thoughts to add to this.  One thought that occurred to me today was that we might also see 'interiority' (subjectivity) as the site of OOO's looked-for withdrawal.  I can connect this, for instance, to Panikkar's discussion of the divine as the depth dimension of individual beings, described in terms of infinitude, freedom, and nothingness.  Bhaskar, in his recent work, emphasizes 'inwardness' as an important dimension of Being, and in his talk at the recent IT/CR conference, he noted appreciatively the similarity of this notion to Wilber's interiority.  But there's another way to look at this that connects more directly to autopoiesis.  As I noted in a post to Thomas last year:  A well-known implication of autopoietic organization is the enactive model of perception, in which it is held that the nervous system is not only self-organizing but self-referring, such that perception does not consist of "representation" of the environment, but rather the ongoing creation of new relationships within the neural network.  In Maturana's view, this process of circular organization, even without a nervous system, is identical to the process of cognition...  He and Varela define the activity of self-generation and self-perpetuation exhibited by living systems as 'cognition.'   In other words, there is a direct correlation here between autopoietic closure and interiority or subjectivity.  Following what I said above, then 'withdrawal' could be seen, if not in terms of the indefinite reducibility that I suggested earlier, then as 'closure' (from a 3p perspective) and 'interiority' or subjectivity (from a 1p perspective).

In relation to this, I was thinking about a technical term I might use:  generative (en)closure.  Here, enclosure can be read not only as a noun, but also actively, like enaction (en-closing).  The reflexive closure of autopoietic systems is generative.  One reason I am considering using this term -- I'm actually still thinking it through, to see if I want to keep it -- but if I keep it, then I'd like to do so because, in the context of religious studies, it can be related to structures such as temples or churches (as generative enclosures) or to the Sabbath (as a generative enclosure in time, a temple carved out of time) as well as to the autopoietic body (body-as-temple).

And this will conclude my rambling for this evening.  I feel good, at least, to have given some shape to these ideas, rough as this treatment is.  


I'm finding an interesting and fruitful resonance in an essay by Gendlin with something I suggested above: 

In relation to this, I was thinking about a technical term I might use:  generative (en)closure.  Here, enclosure can be read not only as a noun, but also actively, like enaction (en-closing).  The reflexive closure of autopoietic systems is generative.  One reason I am considering using this term -- I'm actually still thinking it through, to see if I want to keep it -- but if I keep it, then I'd like to do so because, in the context of religious studies, it can be related to structures such as temples or churches (as generative enclosures) or to the Sabbath (as a generative enclosure in time, a temple carved out of time) as well as to the autopoietic body (body-as-temple).

Reading Gendlin's paper, I see a direct complement to this in his discussion of body-constituting as generative.  Body-constituting is what I mean by (autopoietic) generative (en)closure: this active enclosure is generative of objects, i.e. enactive, in a single process of body-world flowering or co-constitution.  I was playing with the word 'enclosure' for a couple reasons, as I noted above: 1) I could extend this term to cover not only the organismic body, as it is used in the enactive model, but also other 'bodies,' such as religious traditions, cultures, contemplative disciplines, etc; 2) I could use it as a complement to Jean-Luc Nancy's notion of dis-enclosure, which I will discuss in more detail later.

I was not thinking, at the time, of an etymological connection between enclosure and implication, but it is obviously there: the root of implication is enfold, enwrap, entangle.  For the purposes of my discussion of an integral enactive model of religious phenomena, this connection to the Gendlinian body is useful: 
The body is a temple, and the temple is a body -- a body which (ongoingly) implies a world.

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What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

This group is for anyone interested in exploring these questions and tracing out the horizons of an integral post-metaphysical spirituality.

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