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Raimon Panikkar



The Rhythm of Being: The Gifford Lectures by Raimon Panikkar (Orbis Books)

At a time of a much-heralded postmodern return to religion, much of it still vague and tentative, Panikkar actually offers bold alternatives that attempt to diagnose our religious condition and meet our spiritual needs. It is a mark of the sad insularity and provincialism of the modern Western academy that many of its practitioners are largely unaware of the vast body of religious thinking in other parts of the world. They could do worse than study Panikkar, a thinker with whom Martin Heidegger had conversations for over twenty years, but about whom he was characteristically silent in his published work. from the foreword by Joseph Prabhu

Twenty years after he delivered the prestigious Gifford Lectures, Raimon Panikkar's The Rhythm of Being is finally published. One of the world's most important philosophers of religion reveals the unity of cosmic Mystery in this distillation of the wisdom of East and West, North and South. The Rhythm of Being had its origin in the Gifford Lectures, delivered in Edinburgh in 1989 under the title "Trinity and Atheism: The Dwelling of the Divine in the Contemporary World." The long gestation allowed him to incorporate issues of Christology and theological anthropology that he pursued in his Christophany: The Fullness of Man, as well as questions about God published as The Experience of God: Icons of the Mystery, to mention only two of his recent publications in English.

One of the world's leading proponents of interreligious dialogue, Panikkar, who has doctorates in chemistry, philosophy and theology, has taught in Europe, Asia, and North America, including at Harvard University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, for at least sixty years of his life has engaged in center-to-center unions between no fewer than four traditions: Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and modern science. While in The Rhythm of Being he writes in a largely philosophical register, he also makes clear that the ground and springboard of his thought is spiritual experience filtered through metaphysical reflection.

According to Joseph Prabhu in the foreword, one reason why reading Panikkar is as challenging as it is rewarding is because of his mastery of different disciplines and multiple cultural idioms expressed at a high level of philosophical abstraction. It is nonetheless worth the effort because he deploys his vast learning and religious experience to meet some of the urgent challenges of our age in a daring and almost prophetic manner.

What for long has driven and unified Panikkar's thinking has been his cosmotheandric vision of reality, what he calls the trinity of cosmic matter, human consciousness, and divine presence in co-constitutive relationality. These three basic and irreducible dimensions of reality interpenetrate one another and exist only in relation to one another:

There is a kind of perichoresis, dwelling within one another, of these three dimensions of Reality: the Divine, the Human, and the Cosmic.

Panikkar's use of the theological term perichoresis, taken from the discussions about the Trinity by the Greek Fathers and paralleling in a loose manner the three moments of the eternal dance of Siva Nataraja creation, destruction, and preservation, is deliberate and is designed to articulate four closely related aspects of reality: (1) its trinitarian structure, (2) its differentiated unity, (3) the open-ended character of reality, and (4) its essentially rhythmic quality.

The trinitarian structure of reality not only allows for but invites differentiation and diversity. Nonetheless, the Trinity is unbroken because the three dimensions of reality in their relationality do not fragment or break up reality into parts. The life of the Whole courses through each and every one of its manifestations. This is the basis of the distinction Panikkar makes between the pars pro toto (the part standing for the whole, which it obviously cannot because it is a part) and the totum in parte, the Whole expressed and manifested in the part, which Panikkar's notion of full-fledged relationality tries to capture. He takes pains to distinguish his holism from what he calls the totalitarian temptation. To speak of reality as a whole is not to speak of the whole of reality. It is rather the attempt to discern the unity that underlies the differentiation. Likewise, the cosmotheandric intuition is the awareness of the undivided reality of the whole.

In The Rhythm of Being, Panikkar offers readers a Nietzschean genealogy of theism, tracing its origin to the Parmenedean equation of Thinking and Being, developed further in the laws of non-contradiction and the excluded middle, and receiving one of its clearest expressions in Leibniz's Principle of Sufficient Reason.

According to Prabhu, one of Panikkar's signal contributions in this area is to insist on the prevalence of such intuition not only in well-known mystics, but also in common experience. Mystical insight is a potential everyone has, but under the sway of a rationalistic culture the ability is sadly underdeveloped.

The perspective of The Rhythm of Being is twofold. First, it tries to overcome the monoculturalism of our present times, even though Panikkar uses the words of western tradition in order to make sense to most readers. His horizon is mainly that of the indo-European world from which he draws most examples and the majority of the words. Vast fields of human experience remain outside this angle of vision in spite of his efforts to make some sense of the sensibilities of peoples belonging to other cultures. He makes clear from the very beginning that words like World, Being, and God claim to have a universal meaning, but this is not the case; such words convey only one vision.

According to Panikkar, interculturality does not mean that we deal mainly with the problems of other cultures as we see them, but that we try to integrate the ways of thinking of other peoples into a contemporary intelligible language, as much as this is possible. The other perspective of The Rhythm of Being is that it is a contemplative work. The long delay in publication helped Panikkar delete any sentence that was not the fruit of an experience.

Simply to follow Panikkar as he sweeps across times and cultures and languages in the attempt to nuance each detail of his thinking is demanding enough. But more humbling than his erudition, which is without equal among twentieth-century theologians, is the way Panikkar allows the core ideas of his book to make light of his own attempts to grasp them. Only such a humor of wealth and poverty is worthy of the rhythms of being and of the extraordinary musician who has spent his life on this unfinished score. James W. Heisig, Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture

Raimon Panikkar is a unique thinker of our age a philosopher, theologian and mystic; a Christian who has also internalized central moments in both the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. This book, a product of years of deep reflection, is his most accessible and his most moving. I highly recommend it to all philosophers, theologians and religious seekers. David Tracy, University of Chicago

For over half a century, Raimon Panikkar has been developing a world-view and vision of reality weaving together the most profound experiences and insights of eastern and western religious traditions. This book offers a distinctly clear and systematic exposition of Panikkar's unique method, central ideas and original concepts .... The Rhythm of Being will be a source of inspiration not only for Panikkar's many fans and followers, but for anyone in search of a vision of reality transcending the confines of a particular cultural or religious system of thought. Catherine Cornille, Boston College

I could not read this book. I had to keep putting it down to ponder it, to feel it, to let it sink in. This is Panikkar at his best. In language that is as philosophically profound as it is poetically engaging, Panikkar creatively and sometimes playfully draws on his multi-religious identity and knowledge to present his vision which is really his experience of the triune inter-being of the Divine, the world, and humanity. Paul F. Knitter, Union Theological Seminary

In The Rhythm of Being one of the world's most important philosophers of religion reveals the unity of cosmic Mystery in this distillation of the wisdom of East and West, North and South. It is a tour de force of profound insights gleaned from a lifetime of connecting the worlds of religion, philosophy, science, and revelation. The volume offers scholars and students, philosophers and seekers a challenging and breathtaking voyage into the very heart of human belief and meaning.

Christophany: The Fullness of Man by Raimon Panikkar, Foreword by Alfred DiLascia  (Faith Meets Faith Series: Orbis Books) Definitely an astounding “Christology,” one that envisions a truly universal encompassing the spirit of the Christ as the completion of humanity, outside the dogmas and orthodoxies, denominations and traditions of history and sect, to embrace all people of all religions or none. Here is a Christology that Atheist, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Daoist, Animinist and Pagan could embrace without abandoning the distinctive mythos of their own tradition. Panikkar’s excursions into world religions offers some saving theological insights that should be deeply considered because his ideas easily and definitely subvert the polarities of symbol and concept to reground the religious vision in the human condition.

 This volume can be a demanding summation of his basic views and as such works as a useful entrée into his larger oeuvre. This study constitutes an attempt to concentrate the pathos of an entire life into a few pages. Panikkar has been meditating and writing on this topic for more than fifty years. The first part of the work constitutes a reflection on the central figure of Christian consciousness and proposes a deepening of classical christology. This deepening discipline, named christophany, intends to offer to the contemporary world, characterized above all by a widespread scientific mentality and collapse of the religious and cultural frontiers of humankind, a response to the yearning for the fullness of life that burns in every heart. It is a profoundly simple affirmation of the living transformation of the fact of Christ for all of humanity beyond the social/cultural conventionality ethnic or confessional identity to the universal human condition of humanities divinization.

The second part consists in a bold attempt; decipher the mystical experience of Jesus of Nazareth, since it is difficult to understand a message without knowing, to a certain extent, the messenger's heart. This important uncovering of the human depth of Jesus comes close to affirming the total aspect of his humanity and his divinity and in exclusive terms but universal and salvific grace.

The third part is limited to describing, in nine sutras, the christic epiphany in the light of an experience that has passed through the scrutiny of the methodology mentioned in part one. Some readers might ask why citations are given in Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit--sometimes untranslated. The bolder the undertaking to set out on new paths, the greater the need to be rooted in one's own traditions and open to others, which makes us conscious that we are not alone and allows us to reach a wider vision of reality. (Panikkar  acknowledges insights from some of the giants of recent theology from reading the rich and profound works of such admirable theologians as Von Balthasar, Barth, Bonhoeffer, Brunner, Bultmann, Congar, de Lubac, Feuerbach, Garrigou-Lagrange, Jaspers, Lévinas, Lonergan, Mancini, Rahner, Scheeben, Schmaus, Tillich—to list only a few of recent and contemporary authors.)  Even the notes are intended to be an invitation not to forget the wis­dom of our ancestors. Panikkar does not intend to be "original," rather (perhaps) originario, in the sense of seeking communion with the origin from which we obtain our inspiration, not in order to repeat lessons more or less known but in order to participate creatively in the very Life of reality.

Panikkar  recognizes that such commitment  is not fashionalble and may even be off putting for reader too use the the distancing of contemporary explanation and description. However Panikkar’s purpose is not to explain but to deepen the faith which has been given to him. By submitting his insights and intuitions to the critical examination of the intellect and the wisdom of tradition, not merely for his own interest but in order to flow into that vital current that flows in the deep arteries of the mystical body of real­ity, Panikkar invites us to take a simmular plunge. As he reminds us: The first task of every creature is to complete, to perfect, his or her icon of reality.

Second, this book  offers an uncompromising interrogation of the twenty centuries of christological tradition and allows itself to be likewise interrogated by that imposing doctrinal corpus which needs both aggiornamento ("updating") and reform (ecclesia semper est reformanda, "The church must always be reformed"). In this way as much as it seems to buck common religiosity, it actually, profoundly reverts to the heart of the truth of the tradition.

It is cum magno timore et tremula intentione ("with fear and quaking intention")—to cite Hildegarde von Bingen's prologue to Scivias—that Panikkar brings this contribution to the rich two-thousand-year-old theological tradi­tion concerning trinitarian and christological mysteries, since all dogmas are intrinsically related. A profound humility should accompany such a great ambition. And a simple will to pray toward understanding for the reader may help those who find his formulations too stark or too unconventional.

Panikkar  isconvinced both by the signs of the time and by the work of contemporary scholars that the world finds itself before a dilemma of plane­tary proportions: either there will be a radical change of "civilization," of the meaning of the humanum, or a catastrophe of cosmic proportions will occur. This leads me to see a genuine meeting of cultures as a first step toward a metanoia pregnant with hope.

Third, but no less important, this study addresses itself to those for whom the name of Christ bears no particular meaning, either because they belong to other cultures or because, for various reasons, they have canceled him from their interest.

These pages constitute a reflection on the human condition in its deepest dimension, least conditioned by historical vicissitudes. There exists in each of us a desire for fullness and life, for happiness and the infinite, for truth and beauty that goes beyond religious and cultural contingencies. To avoid abstract or generic generalizations Panikkar  has followed the thread of a two-thousand-year tradition whose symbol is the Greek translation of a Hebrew name. Note that Panikkar is not saying that Christ is the fullness of life but that this fullness, effective since the beginning, is one that the Christian tradition calls Jesus the Christ (a position that can have profound resonance with the Sufi understanding of the Qur’anic Jesus).

The theological translation summarized in these pages highlights a conviction Panikkar been expounding for many decades: it is the task of the third Christian millennium to transcend Abrahamic monotheism without damaging the legitimacy and validity of monotheistic religions. This task, initiated at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-33), entails not a denial of the divine but an opening to the great intuition of the Trinity—the meeting point of human traditions.

A sociopolitical translation would constitute an acknowledgment that the last half millennium of human history is so characterized by European domination that one may now talk of the europeanization of the world. In this way the westernization of life has been spread over the whole planet. But these Western values are inseparably bound to Christianity, which finds itself today ever more detached from any ecclesiastical organization, understood as a more or less open sociological body. What remains is Christ: real symbol of divinization—that is, of the Fullness of Man. (Some would prefer that Panikkar say "symbol of human Fullness," but this would not be correct; the fullness of Man is more than a human fullness. The complete Man is Man divinized; that unique being, athirst for the infinite, is not oneself until each reaches their destiny.) Man is more than a "human" nature. Here Panikkar insists that Man is rooted is manas, mind, consciousness and is not gender exclusive.

Panikkar reminds the third group of readers of the only scriptural phrase in which the word "divinity" appears: "For in him the whole fullness of divinity dwells bodily" (Colossians 2:9). It is sadly significant that the phrase "the body of Christ" (Col 2:17) has disappeared in numerous contemporary translations.

The human vocation is to embody divinity through the body of Jesus Christ.! 

An Emerging Cosmotheandric Religion?: Raimon Panikkar's Pluralistic Theology Of Religions by Jyri Komulainen (Studies in Christian Mission: Brill Academic) Raimon Panikkar (b. 1918), a Catalan-born Hindu-Christian, is a prominent theorist of interreligious dialogue. This study gives a detailed analysis of his theology of religions. On the basis of the most recent sources available, it appears that even his radical pluralism cannot eschew the inherent problems characteristic of pluralistic theologies of religions.
Unlike other pluralists, Panikkar does not subscribe to the Enlightenment tradition. Instead, his plea for the transformation of existing religions is based on an idiosyncratic cosmotheandrism, which draws on both primordial religious traditions and existentialist philosophy. The prerequisites of interreligious dialogue, as outlined in his work, thus entail commitment to a particular cosmology and mode of consciousness.

'A fine and highly competent analysis of Panikkar's thinking, rightly interpreting his 'radical pluralism' as an inclusivistic kind of cosmotheandric meta-religion. Dr. Komulainen presents us both with a thorough study of Panikkar and a provoking reflection on the aporias of a pluralistic theology of religions.'
Prof. Rudolf von Sinner, Lutheran School of Theology, São Leopoldo, Brazil.
'Dr. Komulainens close reading is the best I have seen of Panikkars work. He captures the complexity of Panikkars thought, both in the melding of multiple discourses, and expressing the mystical quality which strains at times toward apophasis. This is an unusually difficult task, and he has succeeded well in achieving it. He brings thereby a level of lucidity to Panikkars work which Panikkar himself does not always achieve. In so doing, he has created a milestone in the Panikkar literature to which future authors will need to refer.' Prof. Robert J. Schreiter, Catholic Theological Union, Chicago.

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