Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Trinitarian Reality

Scott Bradley


Raimon Panikkar definitively declared that "all reality is trinitarian". By this I believe he meant that there are three unavoidable dimensions to reality, namely 'God', humanity and the world (universe). He summarized his philosophy as "cosmotheandric" (world, God, man). In this he had a great deal in common with most every religious philosophy, those of China being no exception. Indeed, the Heaven, Earth and Humanity of Confucianism in particular are often described as a "triad". Daoism uses a similar paradigm, yet invites us, I believe, to go beyond this model. Zhuangzi, for his part, declared himself unable to distinguish between them.

Whenever we say "go beyond" it needs to be remembered that this does not immediately imply the negation of that which is transcended. What is negated is the idea that what is transcended is the final word on the subject and consequentially that we can only engage our reality on this basis, uninformed by something beyond or outside this idea. Speaking of the transcendence of self, for example, need not imply that the self is either unaffirmed as valuable or eliminated. Rather, it may mean that, in being transcended it is transformed into what is most affirmable. (Ultimately, all things are affirmable — even the untransformed.)

I am utterly unqualified to critique Panikkar's position since I cannot claim to understand it well enough to even say what it is, but I do wonder if statements such as "the purpose of Man is the perfection of the universe" do not reveal a failure to allow a more transcendent view to inform his understanding. He certainly has this more transcendent view, but perhaps he has not allowed it to thoroughly transform his understanding of how best to engage reality. This is not about Panikkar, in any case; I am simply using my probably erroneous understanding of him as a foil (straw man?) to further explore the point of view of philosophical Daoism.

Here I would like to suggest an entirely heterodox view (if for no other reason than that it is a view): Death is extinction; and in the extinction of the individual human being is the extinction of 'God' and the Universe. All things die with me. Trinitarian reality dies with me. If this seems too solipsistic and self-centered (though I see it as precisely the remedy for the same), then let's rephrase it: With the extinction of humanity (and it shall surely have its end) is the extinction of trinitarian reality. The point is that all this human blabber about reality is just that, a lot of blabber. We are, in fact, in no position whatsoever to say anything definitive about it.

Daoism invites us to a life informed by a realization of our utter not-knowing, that everything we say about reality is blabber, the chirping of baby birds. What's left? Life. And though life blabbers through us, life does not depend on blabber; nor need we.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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