Christian Nondualism is a mysticism that does not try to escape from the world. Instead, it seeks to fully experience the world, in both a theoretical and a pre-theoretical way, from out of our nondual center or heart. It seeks a nondual perspective for understanding the nature of our selfhood, of our relation to God, of our relation to others, and our relation to the world. In my books and on this blog, I compare this with other traditions, both eastern and western, and to understand what the specific dualisms are that each tradition seeks to overcome, such as the dualism between body and soul. Click on the menu above for details on my books and for access to published papers on these and other topics.
James Skillen, former director of Citizens for Public Justice, has written this article that is very critical of the Trump administration. I know Skillen, and have discussed reformational philosophy with him at his home in Annapolis, Maryland. I am glad to see that he is taking this stand against Trump. I wish he had gone even further and explained how some mistaken ideas in reformational philosophy, and in the Christian schools that he supports, have directly contributed to the present political situation.
Betsy DeVos, the new Education Secretary in the US, comes from a Christian Reformed background, and is a supporter of charter schools, including Christian schools. This Atlantic Monthly article traces her heritage back to Abraham Kuyper and the education debates in the Netherlands. But it makes the important point that in the Netherlands, there is regulation of religious schools, whereas DeVos is opposed to government regulation. So apart from the fact that DeVos will be weakening the public system, her support for unregulated Christian schools will encourage those schools to continue to teach alternative science and alternative facts, all in the name of an “antithetical” worldview. I believe that such Christian schools do more harm than good. Dooyeweerd tried to correct such mistaken ideas when he opposed creation science, and when he affirmed that there are common states of affairs despite different worldviews. I hope that reformational philosophers will see how an incorrect idea of worldview and antithesis has led to Trump’s outrageous nonfactual viewpoints, and that they will speak out against DeVos’s views.
Donald Trump’s distrust of the media, his refusal to take a question from CNN, his desire to move the press corps from the Press Room in the White House, his misuse of the term ‘fake news’—these are all developments that are welcomed by his supporters, who mistrust anything that the “liberal media” reports. I believe that the religious right is in large part responsible for this attitude with its incorrect idea of the “religious antithesis.” Such people believe that we cannot know any facts correctly unless we have the right religious beliefs. As I have argued elsewhere, this comes from reformational philosophy, but it is a misunderstanding of Dooyeweerd, who said that the religious antithesis is not to be used to divide people, but only for self-critique. Furthermore, he said that there are common “states of affairs” that can be appealed to regardless of one’s religious convictions.
The problem is not confined to the religious right. On the left, the idea of constructivism is the dominant ideology—that we construct our reality by the ideas that we bring to it and by our background. The end result is the same as the idea of religious antithesis in leaving no common ground or common facts on which to base our discourse. In its extreme form, we are left with solipsism, where we can never understand the other person. It is said that one race can never understand another, that one sex cannot understand the other and that he/she should not even write about it, that the classic literature of the past is by dead white colonialist males and therefore irrelevant. And it is said that constructivism will lead to a kind of postmodernism and even post-truth society. In fact, as I have shown in my recently published article, constructivism is not postmodernism at all, but an extreme form of Kantian modernism in its denial of a common “givenness” to our experience. It is this idea of a common “givenness” to our experience that is lacking in both the religious right and in the constructivism of the left, although I would extend the idea of what is given to our experience to more than a sensory manifold.
It is the job of the press to explore and bring to light the common facts by which we can test the truth of what politicians are saying. And when Trump is shown to have lied about facts, it is not a proper response to then “pivot” and say that Clinton also lied. That kind of pivoting is a refusal to answer the question, and it only reinforces the idea that there is no common standard by which to judge truth. Lies on both sides need to be addressed head on. Yes, there is bias, and yes we need to beware of the “echo chamber” effect when we listen to only one source of news. But there must be a bedrock belief in common facts if we are to ever be able to communicate with each other.
I have transferred the Linked Glossary to this website. This involves transferring hundreds of subfiles. I would appreciate being alerted to any broken links. This Linked Glossary was created when I translated the excerpts from Herman Dooyeweerd’s De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee (Philosophy of the Law-Idea) [‘WdW’]. I was surprised to see that many essential terms of Dooyeweerd’s philosophy were not included or indexed in Volume 4 of A New Critique of Theoretical Thought [NC], which is a translation and revision of the WdW. I was also surprised how many of these terms are defined in terms of each other, and are used in ways that the translators had not understood. Nor had the terms been translated in a consistent way, which is not surprising, since different translators were used for each volume of the NC. By linking these definitions in a glossary, I was able to understand Dooyeweerd’s philosophy in a unified way, and in a way that I believe honours his original intent. It also allowed me to connect his ideas to the sources that he used for his philosophy.
If I had known in 1970 what I know now of reformational philosophy, it is very, very doubtful that I would have pursued it. I was unaware of the bad blood, political infighting at the Free University of Amsterdam, and its atmosphere of theological narrowness. And, like everyone else, I wrongly assumed that Vollenhoven and Dooyeweerd were saying the same thing. Nevertheless, I am not sorry that I have spent such a large part of my life studying Dooyeweerd, learning Dutch, and studying at various institutions. I am comforted by what Nabokov told his students:
“The more things we know the better equipped we are to understand any one thing and it is a burning pity that our lives are not long enough and sufficiently free of annoying obstacles, to study all things with the same care and depth as the one we now devote to some favorite subject or period. And yet there is a semblance of consolation within this dismal state of affairs: in the same way as the whole universe may be completely reciprocated in the structure of an atom,…an intelligent and assiduous student [may] find a small replica of all knowledge in a subject he has chosen for his special research….and if, upon choosing your subject, you try diligently to find out abut it, if you allow yourself to be lured into the shaded lanes that lead from the main road you have chosen to the lovely and little known nooks of special knowledge, if you lovingly finger the links of the many chains that connect your subject to the past and the future and if by luck you hit upon some scrap of knowledge referring to your subject that has not yet become common knowledge, then you will know the true felicity of the great adventure of learning, and your years in this college will become a valuable start on a road of inestimable happiness. “
I have indeed found many interesting byways and branching paths. By concentrating so much of my work on Dooyeweerd, perhaps I have found a small replica of all knowledge. I have discovered the sources of his philosophy in Christian theosophy, and I have been able to relate many of his ideas to nondualism. I hope that my work will be of help to others.
My article “Sophia, Androgyny and the Feminine in Franz von Baader’s Christian Theosophy” has been published in “Adyan/Religions”, a bilingual Arabic/English journal based in Doha, in its issue devoted to the topic “Women and the Feminine in World Religions.”
Baader’s view of humanity’s original androgyny is a good counterweight to the early church’s wrongheaded emphasis on asceticism and denial of female sexuality. Baader’s “40 Propositions Taken from a Religious Philosophy of Love” celebrates the ecstasy of sex and provides the basis for a positive appreciation of marriage. His views on the inner feminine and masculine also anticipate C.G. Jung by almost a century. But of course Jung read Baader.
The Reformed theologian J.H. Gunning, Jr. adopted Baader’s views, and regarded Jesus as having been androgynous. Abraham Kuyper followed many ideas of Gunning and Baader, but disagreed on this point. Dooyeweerd was silent on this and most other theological issues.
Website design has been greatly simplified since I designed my first website in 2002, using Dreamweaver, which was one of the first WYSIWYG editors. I am impressed with the capabilities of WordPress and I recommend it for those wanting to start their own websites. The image of the ocean that I have used in the header has many associations for me. It is from my own photo collection from the north coast of Kauai. There is a wild beauty in this image of the ocean that reminds me of romantic paintings of nature by artists like Caspar David Friedrich. Any philosopher that takes nondualism seriously must integrate nature into his or her ideas and worldview. Conversely, any ascetic turning away from nature and the world is inherently dualistic. We are said to have our beginnings in the sea, and the sea is also used in many metaphors of unity of our self and God (although I believe that our individuality remains). Finally, just as there are dangers navigating in rough seas, so there are risks to philosophical self-enquiry. I hope that my writings have identified some of the shoals and reefs that we may encounter, and that even if what Karl Jaspers referred to as philosophical shipwreck is necessary if we are to overcome our previously limited ideas, we may have the hope of ultimate transcendence. Here is another image from nature in Kauai that I have used on the cover of one of my books: a rainbow eucalyptus tree displaying a prism of colour that reminds me of the prism of our many modes of consciousness that arise from the unity of our selfhood.