Saturday, April 13, 2013

Responses to Panikkar II

Scott Bradley

We are considering the validity of Raimon Panikkar's statement regarding wu wei within the context of Daoist thought: "Nevertheless, it is not mere passivity, not quietism, because it is part of Man's dignity of being commissioned to bring the universe to perfection."

However, this consideration is complicated by my visceral antipathy for the sentiments of this statement, and from the Daoist perspective, this is a great deal more important than the 'right and wrong' of a point of view. Zhuangzi suggests we transcend such pettiness, that we break from the belief that 'truth' is contained in ideas. But alas, this idea can just as easily become petty and sectarian, or rather, one can make it so. I can make it so. And since negativity and a certain incipient fundamentalist belief in 'truth' are among my many vices, I feel the need to pause and reconcile myself to the validity of Panikkar's point of view. (If these acknowledged vices seem the opposite of my stated philosophy, then you understand how that philosophy is a remedial response to my reality.) So, yes, Panikkar's philosophy is affirmable — even though, for me, some of its most important foundational beliefs are groundless and belong to a tradition very different from and contradictory to those of philosophical Daoism.

Panikkar's statement is thus an opportunity to both explore how we can both embrace that with which we disagree and learn more about our own perspective in seeing what it is not.

In the case of the former, it might be helpful to share why it is that I am reading Panikkar at all. I presently live in a community, here on the ranch and more widely, in which Panikkar was and is a tremendous inspiring figure both as a person and a thinker. Inspiring to what? Many things, but perhaps most importantly, to a program of bringing personal spiritual liberation to women incarcerated for life in California's prisons. In view of this real-world involvement, philosophical differences seem moot. If his teachings have inspired this, what other validation could they possibly require? I too would truly like to find my own inspiration in Panikkar, but though I have tried, I cannot.

Having now made my disclaimers and confessed my sins, in the next post I will examine his statement.

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

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