- Different Paths, Different Summits: A Model for Religious Pluralism
In Different Paths, Different Summits, Stephen Kaplan provides us with a metaphysical system whereby we may view each religion as simultaneously existing, equally valid, and (perhaps) mutually exclusive, yet not contradictory. In this metaphysics there may exist multiple ontologies. Each is to be viewed on its own terms and judged within its own soteriological providence. What, for Kaplan, constitutes a valid religion is the efficacy of its soteriological solution to the human condition. To this end, he utilizes the model, provided initially by David Bohm, of holography.
Bohm's goal in the use of the holographic model is to explain the possibility of viewing both quantum mechanics and relativity theory as simultaneously existing and mutually exclusive, but not contradictory. Using Bohm's holographic model as a guide, Kaplan is able to explain the possibility of viewing multiple religions in the same fashion. Kaplan indicates that (1) both domains logically demand the other; (2) both are simultaneously existing, and neither is logically prior; and (3) both are interpenetrating.
Kaplan chooses to use Bohm's holographic model in order to understand particular soteriological solutions as proffered by three specific religious traditions. The soteriologies with their representative religions are: theistic salvation according to Richard of St. Victor, monistic nondualistic liberation as represented by the Advaita Vedāntin, and the process nondualistic liberation of the Yogācāra Buddhist. With these, Kaplan achieves a variety of religious perspectives and places them, complete with their ontological perspectives, within his metaphysical system.
Therefore, Kaplan's ontological and soteriological pluralism can be better understood in terms of each religion's soteriological solution to the human condition as being simultaneously existing with, equally ontologically valid as, and (perhaps) mutually exclusive of, but not contradicting the soteriological solution of, other religions. Put another way, each may be viewed as ultimately real, but not penultimately real.
Kaplan has provided a basis for reconsidering the notion of religious pluralism in terms of both soteriology and ontology. This work, therefore, deserves the attention of philosophers and theologians currently interested in the concept of religious pluralism, as he enlists one of the great scientific minds of our time to provide a foundation for his novel ideas. [End Page 503]