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Wandering Monks in Twentieth-Century Thailand
"I stayed [in the forest] for two nights. The first night, nothing happened. The second night, at about one or two in the morning, a tiger came--which meant that I didn't get any sleep the whole night. I sat in meditation, scared stiff, while the tiger walked around and around my umbrella tent (klot). My body felt all frozen and numb. I started chanting, and the words came out like running water. All the old chants I had forgotten now came back to me, thanks both to my fear and to my ability to keep my mind under control. I sat like this from 2 until 5 a.m., when the tiger finally left." --A forest monk During the first half of this century the forests of Thailand were home to wandering ascetic monks. They were Buddhists, but their brand of Buddhism did not copy the practices described in ancient doctrinal texts. Their Buddhism found expression in living day-to-day in the forest and in contending with the mental and physical challenges of hunger, pain, fear, and desire. Combining interviews and biographies with an exhaustive knowledge of archival materials and a wide reading of ephemeral popular literature, Kamala Tiyavanich documents the monastic lives of three generations of forest-dwelling ascetics and challenges the stereotype of state-centric Thai Buddhism. Although the tradition of wandering forest ascetics has disappeared, a victim of Thailand's relentless modernization and rampant deforestation, the lives of the monks presented here are a testament to the rich diversity of regional Buddhist traditions. The study of these monastic lineages and practices enriches our understanding of Buddhism in Thailand and elsewhere.
Meditations onyChristian Doctrine
Philosophers have long and skeptically viewed religion as a source of overeasy answers, with a singular, totalizing Godand the comfort of an immortal soul being the greatest among them. But religious thought has always been more interesting-indeed, a rich source of endlessly unfolding questions.With questions from the 1885 Baltimore Catechism of the Catholic Church as the starting point for each chapter, Karmen MacKendrick offers postmodern reflections on many of the central doctrines of the Church: the oneness of God, original sin, forgiveness, love and its connection to mortality, reverence for the relics of saints, and the doctrine of bodily resurrection. She maintains that we begin and end in questions and not in answers, in fragments and not in totalities-more precisely, in a fragmentation paradoxically integralto wholeness.Taking seriously Augustine's idea that we find the divine in memory, MacKendrick argues that memory does not lead us back in time to a tidy answer but opens onto a complicated and fragmented time in which we find that the one and the many, before and after and now, even sacred and profane are complexly entangled. Time becomes something lived, corporeal, and sacred, with fragments of eternity interspersed among the stretches of its duration. Our sense of ourselves is correspondingly complex, because theological considerations leadus not to the security of an everlasting, indivisible soul dwelling comfortably in the presence of a paternal deity but to a more complicated, perpetually peculiar, and paradoxical life in the flesh.Written out of MacKendrick's extensive background in both recent and late-ancient philosophy, this moving and poetic book can also be an inspiration to anyone, scholar or lay reader, seeking to find contemporary significance in these ancient theological doctrines.
An assessment of the rise and fall within the Franciscan Order of the doctrine of the absolute poverty of Christ and the apostles. Covering the decades between 1210-1323, Lambert describes the doctrine as found in the mind of St. Francis and moves to Pope John XXII’s condemnation of one particular form of the doctrine.
Psychoanalysis, Mysticism, and the Culture of Modern Spirituality
"It is arguably the case," writes William Parsons, "that no two figures have had more influence on the course of Western introspective thought than Freud and Augustine." Yet it is commonly assumed that Freud and Augustine would have nothing to say to each other with regard to spirituality or mysticism, given the former's alleged antipathy to religion and the latter's not usually being considered a mystic.
Adopting an interdisciplinary, dialogical, and transformational framework for interpreting Augustine's spiritual journey in his Confessions, Parsons places a "mystical theology" at the heart of Augustine's narrative and argues that his mysticism has been misunderstood partly because of the limited nature of the psychological models applied to it. At the same time, he expands Freud's therapeutic legacy to incorporate the contemporary findings of physiology and neuroscience that have been influenced in part by modern spirituality.
Parsons develops a new psychological hermeneutic to account for Augustine's mysticism that will capture the imagination of contemporary readers who are both psychologically informed and interested in spirituality. The author intends this interpretive model not only to engage modern introspective concerns about developmental conflict and the power of the unconscious but also to reach a more nuanced level of insight into the origins and the nature of the self.
"Christian philosophy" is commonly regarded as an oxymoron, philosophy being thought incompatible with the assumptions and conclusions required by religious faith. According to this way of thinking, philosophy and theology must forever remain distinct.
In From Theology to Theological Thinking, Jean-Yves Lacoste takes a different approach. Stepping back from contemporary philosophical concerns, Lacoste—a leading figure in the philosophy of religion—looks at the relationship between philosophy and theology from the standpoint of the history of ideas. He notes in particular that theology and philosophy were not considered separate realms until the high Middle Ages, this distinction being a hallmark of the modern era that is coming to an end. Lacoste argues that the intellectual task before us now is to work in the frontier region between or beyond these domains, work he identifies as "the task of thinking."
With this argument, Lacoste resets our understanding of Western Christian thought, contending that a new way of thinking that is at once philosophical and theological will be the lasting discourse of Christianity.
What is the future of Continental philosophy of religion? These forward-looking essays address the new thinkers and movements that have gained prominence since the generation of Derrida, Deleuze, Foucault, and Levinas and how they will reshape Continental philosophy of religion in the years to come. They look at the ways concepts such as liberation, sovereignty, and post-colonialism have engaged this new generation with political theology and the new pathways of thought that have opened in the wake of speculative realism and recent findings in neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. Readers will discover new directions in this challenging and important area of philosophical inquiry.
Reflections on Merold Westphal's Hermeneutical Epistemology
Merold Westphal has been in the foremost ranks of philosophers who proclaim a new postsecular philosophy. By articulating an epistemology sensitive to the realities of cognitive finitude and moral weakness, he defends a wisdom that begins in both humility and commitment, one that always confesses that human beings can encounter meaning and truth only as human beings, never as gods.The present volume focuses on this wisdom of humility that characterizes Westphal's thought and explores how that wisdom, expressed through the redemptive dynamic of doubt, can contribute to developing a postsecular apologetic for faith.This book can function both as an accessible introduction to Westphal for those who have not read him extensively and also as an informed critical appreciation and extension of his work for those who are more experienced readers.
Tamsin Jones believes that locating Jean-Luc Marion solely within theological or phenomenological discourse undermines the coherence of his intellectual and philosophical enterprise. Through a comparative examination of Marion's interpretation and use of Dionysius the Areopagite and Gregory of Nyssa, Jones evaluates the interplay of the manifestation and hiddenness of phenomena. By placing Marion against the backdrop of these Greek fathers, Jones sharpens the tension between Marion's rigorous method and its intended purpose: a safeguard against idolatry. At once situated at the crossroads of the debate over the turn to religion in French phenomenology and an inquiry into the retrieval of early Christian writings within this discourse, A Genealogy of Marion's Philosophy of Religion opens up a new view of the phenomenology of religious experience.
Questions of Jean-Luc Marion
After the subject and beyond Heideggerian ontology,Marion suggests, there is the sheer givenness ofphenomena without condition. In theology, this liberationmeans rethinking God in terms of phenomena such aslove, gift, and excess. In addition to an important essayby Marion, The Reason of the Gift, and a dialoguebetween Marion and Richard Kearney, this book containsstimulating essays by ten other contributors: Lilian Alweiss,Eoin Cassidy, Mark Dooley, Brian Elliott, Ian Leask,Shane Mackinlay, Derek Morrow, John O'Donohue,Joseph S. O'Leary, and Felix a Murchadha. After the subject and beyond Heideggerian ontology, Marion suggests, there is the givenness of phenomena without condition. In theology, this liberation means rethinking God in terms of phenomena such as love, gift, and excess. In addition to an important essay by Marion, The Reason of the Gift, and a dialogue between Marion and Richard Kearney, this book contains stimulating essays by ten other contributors: Lilian Alweiss, Eoin Cassidy, Mark Dooley, Brian Elliott, Ian Leask, Shane Mackinlay, Derek Morrow, John O'Donohue, Joseph S. O'Leary, and Felix a Murchadha.
Apophasis and Overcoming Theomania
This book explores the co-dependency of monotheism and idolatry by examining the thought of several prominent twentieth-century Jewish philosophers Cohen, Buber, Rosenzweig, and Levinas. While all of these thinkers were keenly aware of the pitfalls of scriptural theism, to differing degrees they each succumbed to the temptation to personify transcendence, even as they tried either to circumvent or to restrain it by apophatically purging kataphatic descriptions of the deity. Derrida and Wyschogrod, by contrast, carried the project of denegation one step further, embarking on a path that culminated in the aporetic suspension of belief and the consequent removal of all images from God, a move that seriously compromises the viability of devotional piety. The inquiry into apophasis, transcendence, and immanence in these Jewish thinkers is symptomatic of a larger question. Recent attempts to harness the apophatic tradition to construct a viable postmodern negative theology, a religion without religion, are not radical enough. Not only are these philosophies of transcendence guilty of a turn to theology that defies the phenomenological presupposition of an immanent phenomenality, but they fall short on their own terms, inasmuch as they persist in employing metaphorical language that personalizes transcendence and thereby runs the risk of undermining the irreducible alterity and invisibility attributed to the transcendent other. The logic of apophasis, if permitted to run its course fully, would exceed the need to posit some form of transcendence that is not ultimately a facet of immanence. Apophatic theologies, accordingly, must be supplanted by a more far-reaching apophasis that surpasses the theolatrous impulse lying coiled at the crux of theism, an apophasis of apophasis, based on accepting an absolute nothingness to be distinguished from the nothingness of an absolute that does not signify the unknowable One but rather the manifold that is the pleromatic abyss at being's core. Hence, the much-celebrated metaphor of the gift must give way to the more neutral and less theologically charged notion of an unconditional givenness in which the distinction between giver and given collapses. To think givenness in its most elemental, phenomenological sense is to allow the apparent to appear as given without presuming a causal agency that would turn that given into a gift.