Cosmotheandric Experience

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* Book: The Cosmotheandric Experience: Emerging religious consciousness. By Raimon Panikkar.



"For Panikkar, the human adventure on Earth cannot be separated from the adventure of the whole of reality. For centuries we have seen ourselves as superior to the rest of reality, but now we find ourselves in a universe that, as described by modern science, seems to ignore us completely. Today, though, we are starting to realize that “our relation with the Earth is part of our self-understanding”. “Heaven and Earth share the same destiny”.

Modern culture has been through an “experience of excruciating isolation and solitariness”, but now it is starting to rediscover the interdependence of all that is. “All the forces of the universe… are intertwined”, to the extent that “individualistic souls do not exist: we are all interconnected, and I can reach salvation only by somehow incorporating the entire universe in the enterprise”. We must concentrate on “bringing to completion the microcosm that is Man, both individually and collectively: mirroring and transforming the microcosm altogether”, with “full participation in the realization of the universe”. We are called to overcome the dualisms of our habitual, desacralized experience of reality: “the chasm between the material and the spiritual and, with this, between the secular and the sacred, the inner and the outer, the temporal and the eternal”. Every person is “a knot in the net of relationships… reaching out to the very antipodes of the real. An isolated individual is incomprehensible… Man is only Man with the sky above, the Earth below, and his fellow beings all around”.

The first part of The Cosmotheandric Experience, “Colligite Fragmenta: For an Integration of Reality”, describes “three kairological moments of consciousness” and formulates the intuition that kosmos, theos and anthropos cannot be conceived separately. “The cosmotheandric vision does not gravitate around a single point, neither God nor Man nor World, and in this sense it has no center. The three coexist, they interrelate and may be hierarchically constituted or coordinated… but they cannot be isolated, for this would annihilate them”.

The second part, “The End of History” analyzes the threefold structure of human time-consciousness by distinguishing a nonhistorical consciousness, a historical consciousness, and a transhistorical consciousness that is quietly arising in our time. The book concludes with the epilogue “Anima Mundi, Vita Hominis, Spiritus Dei”, stating at the outset that “the Earth is alive” and inviting us to overcome the dichotomy between so-called “nature-mysticism” and “theistic mysticism”, for “the entire reality is committed to the same unique adventure”."



Collected by John O'Neill:

Panikkar’s cosmotheandric understanding of reality.

“Panikkar shows his discontent clearly with theism:

I have been saying that theisms are inadequate, that they often contradict each other, although they may also be mutually complementary if we enlarge the horizon from which they emerge. I have also been suggesting that theisms as such do not exhaust the human ways to encounter the divine Mystery. The world of theisms has been a domain of great power. Theism has persisted for millennia and will no doubt continue to survive in some form. “Right” or “wrong” are inapplicable epithets here. The world of theism is a universe in itself, which selects its own criteria for judging what is right and wrong. Yet theisms no longer seem able to satisfy the most profound urges of the contemporary sensibilities both in the civilizations that first nurtured these theisms, and in others as well. The world of theism is not alone in facing religious problems, as well as vital metaphysical issues. In short, the divine Mystery remains a mystery.

(Panikkar 2010, loc. 4832)

We suggest the concept of meta-theism (openness to the notion that there are unfathomable depths behind an anthropomorphic God). Perhaps no two words than “ressourcement” and “aggiornamento” were used more frequently by the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) to define the question regarding the nature and extent of the Church’s aim of renewal. First, the concept of ressourcement, regarding it as the questions that confront us big as life, makes it imperative to return to authoritative sources to meet the challenges of our time. Second, aggiornamento is essentially a question of a new and wider contextualisation to find new ways to rethink and reformulate the fundamental affirmations of faith to come to grips with reality10. Wisdom or Sophia provides a vital cue to connect God as the Divine Sophia with the creaturely world and come to terms with the suffering and loss of our dispensation. This is rooted in the wisdom of the cross, the deep incarnation or the “shadow Sophia” (Deane-Drummond 2021, n.p.).

Sergeev gives a concise conclusion where he states:

In other words, however far the world has fallen, it is always possible for the creatures to become saved, because the divine idea of creation, this wisdom of God or Sophia rooted in God’s will, is eternal and unchangeable, and serves as a guarantee for the ultimate goodness of every creature. (Sergeev 2000, p. 15)

The Russian sophiological tradition does not promote only religious ecology and eco-theology. Due to its complex range of meanings and intricate symbolism, Sophia may situate itself rather uncomfortably on the verge of Christian orthodoxy leaning towards heterodoxy and even heresy, or it may just make sense in a non-Christian religious context. Either way, however, Sophia does speak about religion, it does point to creation, and it does explore the reality of the universe in a way that may inspire people to investigate religion, theology, ethics, and other similar fields of inquiry leading to personal (even sacrificial) involvement in society and the public square (Tapley 2017, p. 50). In which case, Sophia—by its capacity to connect the spiritual divine and the material universe—may be a specimen of eco-theology and a foretaste of public theology.

Paul S. Chung provides ample evidence of how Sophia is viewed in the Judeo-Christian tradition as pointing incessantly from God to creation:

Wisdom (Sophia) is begotten and brought forth before the beginning of the earth. God’s Saying is connected with the bringing forth of Sophia from within God’s self. In Proverbs’ account of the beginning, Sophia is poured out of the depths of God’s self. God’s being is the One who is concerning the Word and the Spirit. The inner life of God through the Word and Spirit (Sophia) is directed toward the world. (Chung 2010, p. 54)

If God demonstrates interest in the world, so should we, and this is the very essence of eco-theology as public theology. Subsequently, Denny states it aptly: An inclusivist theology of religion departs from theological exclusivism in its willingness to afford revelatory value to other religious traditions, but insists that other religious traditions are at best a less adequate path for adherents to achieve the enlightenment and salvation offered in one’s own religion.

(Denny 2016, pp. 363–64)

In line with this insight, Paul Valliere (2000, p. 263) emphasises that sophiology is a new theology in “a new key”, but also a theology that “empowers progressive Christianity”. This means that sophiology is neither secularist nor traditionalist. Its progressive aspect lies in its delving into cultural creativity and cultural activity (Valliere 2000, p. 262) to open a middle way between metaphysics and history. In so doing, sophiology creates a progressive form of Christian thought that aims at serving the whole society, not only atheists and their secularist philosophy or practising Christians with their traditionalist theology. Solovyov, Bulgakov, and Florensky did, alongside Blavatsky, provide a cultural and progressive Christianity that promoted the importance of creativity in the public square for the benefit of all human society. In the end, sophiology is a form of progressive Christianity that puts together philosophy and faith by promoting an ecological public theology that is concerned about raising society’s awareness about creation as material nature. Ressourcement is about revisiting, and aggiornamento is the challenge of a new and broader contextualization to find new ways to rethink and reformulate the fundamental affirmations of the (Christian) faith to more effectively communicate the Gospel. God, humans, and cosmos combined as an integrated approach are expressed in the concept of a cosmotheandric sophiology finding its ethical complement in ecodomy11 (cf. Buitendag and Simut 2020, p. 2, as well as Rossing and Buitendag 2020, pp. 1–2).

Panikkar set this task already at the Gifford Lectures:

Our task and our responsibility are to assimilate the wisdom of bygone traditions and, having made it our own, to allow it to grow. Life is neither repetition nor continuation. It is growth, which implies at once rupture and continuity. Life is creation.

(Panikkar 2010, loc. 416)

Cosmotheandric sophiology looks at the interrelations of the economy, ecology, theology, religion, life, and suffering where the emphasis is on an ontology of relations and processes rather than of substance in which the One is both grounding differences as well as emerging in and through them (Panikkar 2010, loc. 271). The only feasible way out is an advaitic12 approach of pluralism and interdependence. Panikkar was “painfully aware that the health of our natural environment and what we human beings do to it are all causally interconnected and interlinked” (Yusa 2017, p. 235). We desperately need the hope of the invisible."