Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
The danger and the promise of such approaches seem clear.
The danger lies in muddying the lineages of personal development with an excess of contemporary socio-political concerns & critique-addicted academia. The promise lies not so much in a clarification of Buddhism principles (the effort of all Buddhist and meta-Buddhist movements for the last three thousand years) but in the possibility of establishing the Dharma's right relationship to the principle of life.
The famous incidents involving the Zen schools and the aggressive imperialist hysteria of 20th century Japan a "hole" in esoteric teachings, a hole which is related to cultural intelligence and to the omnipresent threat of culturopathy (nihilism and its occasional fascist fruits). Unless Buddhism or any esoteric school has a keen ability to discriminate between subtle life-positive/progress and life-negative/regressive elements within our emotions and social attitudes then it not only cannot serve as a good model for establishing future evolutionary spirituality but it also places its own vitality in danger.
So the critical effort of discerning negative and affirmative principles within the manifestations of the dharma historically is excellent and should be prepared to withstand push-back from both habit and latent cultural nihilism existing in the present BUT we should not overlook the danger of "pointlessness" which lurks around every corner of an intellectual, historical and ethical critique of the foundational attitudes and procedures of Buddhism.
We probably already see a good deal of this mixture in the great Zen teachers like Hakuin who walk a fine line between their own potent, emotive idiosyncratic efforts and tremendous criticism of Zen culture AND their steadfast adherence to the ethical, aesthetic roots of the school - including the freedom to wield the claims and narratives of the school without any hesitation.
As I've noted before and confirmed by the author, Buddhism generally avoids essentialism and dualism but there is still a more subtle forms of it via the thing in itself or Absolute Mind (156-7). And due to Buddhism not having gone through the linguistic turn (157).* Hence we still see things like language and thought being obstructions to a pristine, original awareness (absolute mind and/or thing in itself) free from such debasements. He argues (as have I) that creates "a second order dualism" (162).
I appreciate how some Zen writers went in another direction, that of "some form of non-objectifying language though which the experience of immediacy might be mediated. They sought a transformed rhetoric of 'live words'...through which awakening might be evoked" (167).**
I also appreciated the discussion of Mead and the between-ness of mediation (168), Nishida and topos (basho/khora) (167), and Merleau-Ponty and Levinas (169). All explored in our forum along similar lines made in the article.
** Granted the article focuses on human language, and it is of paramount importance concerning human meaning-making (hermeneutics). But I'm extending language all the way down via ir/rhetaphor with theurjeneutics.
I've just read through the section "Problems in Modern Zen Thought" -- and it feels like I have been eating a sand sandwich. Just an awful presentation of themes which should be fascinating. Like a timid animal hiding in a thicket of references! Or perhaps I exaggerate slightly...
The section makes a few good points insofar as contemporary discussions of the relation between aesthetics and ethics in Eastern Thought should bear in mind that "aesthetic spirituality" plays a huge role in the Western Tradition AND (as should be painfully obvious) aesthetics and ethics mutually penetrate at many points.
Most criticisms of so-called aesthetic approaches miss the fact that ethics is rooted in an aesthetic appreciation of the forms of mutuality and the intactness of sapient personhood. Yet most affirmations of the aesthetic approach miss the great differential in the velocity of ethical development between those who slowly produce a morality of appreciation and those who accelerate the process through more direct sociological engagements and political struggles.
It is in that slow development that nascent or corrupt trends within Zen leave practitioners vulnerable to the danger of "surrender to a higher will" as the primary cultural and moral act.
Also (in a theurj vein) I note in "Problems in Modern Zen Thought" the assertion that the Japanese character "ri" means "reason". This might be perversely useful since it implies that the ir- prefix floating around in these discussions implies the "reverse of reason".
No, 'ir' refers to 'not just' instead of just 'not.' In terms of reason I propose not the pre- or irrational but the post- or ir/rational, where reason is included with other faculties. Hence the '/' in ir/rhetaphor or ir/reason, which modifies the usual meaning of 'ir' as just not. I.e., postformal vision-logic can handle the 'excluded middle' whereas formal logic cannot. See this recent post as but one example.
Yes, of course --and how lucky we are to have that first 'ir' with which to wage the Great War against the reductionistic significance of "just". But a Greater War awaits, you say? And the guitarist for Guns'n'Roses will have to be invoked with due reverence!
Or is that ir/reverence? Hopeful my tri/ronic three-finger air quotes were obvious?
It is even quite likely that I was being deliberately unreasonable in reasoning that a reversal of the "ri" of reason could supplement the existing usage of "ir" with a vaguely humorous background implication of the principle of the reversal of reasoning.
On the other hand, the proposal to differentiate the transrational from the irrational by use of a "/" with an "ir" seems to border on the unreasonable (I say tihs without a drop of ire) -- but is it unreasonable enough to justify "ir" as bearing within itself a trace of the reversal or reasoning per se? Perhaps...
But, on yet a third hand (with which post-formal vision logic can readily provide us), we might say that the simple dichotomies of formal logic define the ordinary assumptions of reasoning ("ri") and that it is precisely this kind of reason which is reversed in the non-exclusionary assumptions of vision-logic... making "ir" quite applicable. Unless I err? I err? Quite right, I err -- but this error (characteristic, perhaps, of this era) is, fortunately, not irredeemable but ir/redeemable.
Do you perchance know Nickeson? Or are him in disguise? You remind me of him.
If so, it is a very poor disguise. However -- and for whatever reason -- thank you.