What do I think about dualism, seeing as the issue has arisen? I've always wanted to avoid a dualistic approach, because inevitably it involves split ethics, action and duplicity.
For me, the heart of Christianity is dualistic. I don't mean a battle between evil and good, or the kind of set-up in Zoroastrianism (which still does have a supreme deity). The notion of a God-man is itself dualistic, however much the concept is fused, and it isn't entirely fused. It is also dualistic in effect to divide something into three even if also one.
Now surely all religion involves dualism somewhere, and a battle against dualism. Yin and Yang in Taoism is a perfect example of accepting the dualistic nature of life and then showing how the aspect of one is in the other on each side. So no one can ever be a purist.
Gnosticism, of which part of Christianity formed a part, is dualistic, in regarding the spirit as pure and the material as dirty. Here proto-orthodox and orthodox Christianity was at its least dualistic in intention, in affirming (including through ritual) the goodness of the material world, and indeed the dualism of the God-Man was to fight the dualism of the Gnostics. Some esoteric Christians today talk about the Christ-principle and have no interest in the historic Jesus, and of course that is a dualistic extraction - though they would argue that the purity of the Christ-principle is their form of non-dualistic unity.
I would be at the other end, but I am not. I would be, in affirming a purely human Jesus. This must mean a man who was born of two parents, grew up and learnt, made mistakes, was not successful in tackling his own ego, was not morally perfect, and died a tragic death. Whatever religious experiences his followers then had, they didn't involve the consciousness of the person who had died.
People would say how do I know, but the actual need for proof in any historical or scientific basis is on the other foot. I think we know how human beings come about, live, die and how the generations move on. People who make exceptional fantastic claims are the ones who have to make the proof, but what the fantastic claims do is undermine the chap's humanity.
Of course one way to avoid dualism of a fantastic God-Man is to simply wallow in the text, the text formed in the heat of a charismatic and culture-crossroads early Christian communities. It is then less about a man, less even about the supernatural, but just about texts and beliefs and communities: what has become known as postliberalism. That postliberalism also links to a Karl Barth who made a non-dualistic theology by having his God so high and dry and one way that such a God may as well have disappeared.
But that form of postliberalism is self-limitation, a cultural freezing, and that's not how it came about. There is far more to the inspiring, interesting, potentially transcendent religious world than the biography-like activities of one man in one place. The cult of this individual cuts off rather than expands out.
Mark Harris at Preludium recalls his trip to India a year ago, and adds the wisdom of Ganesha and other Hindu deities to his current nativity scene. But they are not aspects of wisdom to attach to an Incarnate figure in Palestine: such does violence to both religious figures. Ganesha is a God, and not only that but a God in the statue where made, displayed and blessed. The mantra of 33,000, 33, 3 and 1 Gods in Hinduism is again a dualism, but a dualism so plural and spread out it almost becomes non-dualistic, and then again there is the battle within the religion where some (but not all) say that Brahman subsumes all. And if Hinduism is pantheistic, then the non-dualism of that results in a form of atheism.
Of course if Mark Harris adds Ganesha as a deity, he is expanding out the trinitarian nature of his faith. To call it wisdom is a protection, but I suspect it is to keep on the right side of the line. In my house I too have Ganesha and I have Hanuman and Krishna and Buddha and the lot, and Jesus too.
They are just part of the tapestry of the religious outlook. So I am a religious humanist. The way I avoid dualism is to be clear: given that I would preach against the moral perfection or even superiority of Jesus of Nazareth, then it has to be that the Jesus character lessens away as any form of commitment. Yes a lived ethical life is important rather than just a set of ethics, but this is open to anyone's struggle. Each religious figure in story form indicates something of a pathway, and has parts not covered and in the end it is about our lived lives.
And also in non-dualistic terms, though highly plural, is that I assert signals of transcendence rather than just transcendence, via a whole series of different language games and potential realities, pointing towards but never quite demonstrating a quality beyond that might be transcending.
This is, of course, all very minimalist and is about questions. On the other hand, there is so much to express awe about in the natural world, in the cosmos and in what we think we know about it all. That's why I am attracted to the notion of the beauty of equations and the results of fractals. Another key for reflection is paradox at the deepest level (expressed in many a Buddhist sutra). Our cultures are rich and can be deeply mined for for our reflection as transient beings. In thinking about what points to transcendence, we can think of pain as something that is endured, but that the transcendent pointer beyond such pain is joy. If we can make and see joy in the other, and in the self, then we are making some deep progress. Reality, of course, is often so much grimmer - and that is an unavoidable dualism.
Is the Church of England going to help people become who they truly are? - Because I’m the Director of Changing Attitude, I’ve felt it necessary to be circumspect about revealing too much about my experience of God. I have been wo...