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215 Conclusion On Reason, Religion, and the Real Jeffrey J. Kripal An old master says the soul is created in the middle between one and two. The one is eternity, which maintains itself ever alone and without variation. The two is time, which is changeable and given to multiplication. —Meister Eckhart, Sermon Fifty‑Two There are two in here. —Sri Ramakrishna How does one conclude such rich and diverse chapters on such a col‑ orful cast of characters—and in just a few pages?1 One certainly does not try to summarize the individual chapters, nor is dwelling on the particulars particularly helpful. Better instead to try to isolate a few core arguments of the book as a whole. This is always tricky, though, as these “core arguments” may turn out to be my core arguments instead of those of the authors. Still, an obvious consensus appears to be forming around key issues and concerns in the community of scholarship expressed in volumes like this one, so our risk is somewhat mooted here. With this trickiness and growing consensus in mind, let me frame my concluding comments around a series of questions something like this. . . . How does one put into an English‑language framework a com‑ plex set of Euroamerican spiritual teachers whose central doctrines originated well outside of Europe or America, that is, in South Asian 216 / JEFFREY J. KRIPAL cultures and languages? How does one understand historical subjects undergoing enlightenment events whose central implications appear to be that (1) the historically conditioned subject does not constitute the deepest nature of the human being; and (2) this deeper human nature can directly access the real beyond space and time since it is the real? Presumably, such a claim pertains as much to the historian of religions as the religious subject and is as true at 80º West longitude as it is at 80º East longitude. Or does the real discriminate according to profession as well as longitude and latitude? Is the real less real in some people and places? The Historian, the Believer, and the Knower Therein lies the rub. And it rubs as much against the reason of the tra‑ ditional historian as the religion of the traditional believer. This double rub constitutes the deepest challenge of the present volume. The topic of Western subjects becoming authoritative spiritual teachers of nondual systems that originated in Hindu India, after all, strikes at the very core of a whole set of assumptions commonly made by both the believer and the historian or humanist, if in very different modes. Allow me, for the sake of discussion, to exaggerate both positions. I am referring here, of course, to Western scholarship and modern Hindu guru traditions, as that is the focus of the present volume, but my observations could just as easily be applied to historical scholarship on any other traveling religious tradition, with different nuances and effects. The point remains the same: the historical study of religion, that is, the historical study of systems that claim to transcend history is a paradox through and through. One can remove this paradox only by removing one of its two poles: the historical method or the presumed experience of transcendence. Religious believers deny the former; traditional scholars the latter. Neither can really stomach the coincidentia at the heart of the professional study of religion. Beyond belief and beyond reason, however, the fundamental para‑ dox remains: The traditional historian or humanist—bound to a reign‑ ing materialist ontology that recognizes no form of transcendence and a reigning epistemology that is dualist, Kantian, and objectivist (with an internal subject perceiving external objects through the medium of the brain and senses)—generally insists that all human experience is local, relative, socially constructed, and, in the end, reducible to social, political, psychological, neurological, chemical, and, finally, physical pro‑ cesses. Oddly, the traditional believer makes an analogous move, if in a CONCLUSION / 217 very different religious register now. He or she generally insists that the very particular and very local form of belief and practice that just hap‑ pened to be in place where he or she was born (or has since adopted) is the ultimate or final truth of human existence, that there is, in the end, no real difference between ultimate reality and “my” cultural framing of it. We might accurately say, then, that the historian and the believer both absolutize the local. From the perspective of at least some of the nondual knowers featured herein (in particular...


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