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VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies

5. Bicameral World Religions

The comparative study of religious traditions is another project of composite humankind. The great world faiths, both Abrahamic and Asian, arose in a first “axial period” circa 500 B.C. to 700 A.D. Within the theme of this website, we suggest that a worldwide complementarity might also be found between Western and Eastern modes of belief and doctrine. As many scholars note, the spiritual sentiments these hemispheres hold to basic responses or dichotomies of God and the human, heaven or earth, linear or cyclical time, and so on. Surely this is a huge, vested subject and these brief thoughts and references try to broach ecumenical openings and rapport.

For Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, in broad survey, a person and the Divine form a continuum, “God and man are one.” Within this sacred milieu human Atman is an embryonic divinity immersed in encompassing Brahman. Such unity holds because the numinous cosmos is animate in kind, a viable organism. Its quintessence is primal and ascendant mind, not lumpen matter. To theologian Peter Berger, these beliefs are more “interior” as turned to contemplation, the world accepted as given. Eastern cultures, as noted, seem more communal or “wave-like” with an emphasis on group values over discrete self.

Western creeds mostly prefer an opposite, particulate mode. An individual is separate, apart from God, the earth somehow flawed, broken or fallen. Again per Berger, a person is thrust to outward action in a “confrontational” role. To equate oneself with God is heretical. For Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the Divine is transcendent but remote; one is a sinful mendicant, the world of little or no value in itself. At the Western pole, an extroverted individual supersedes social concerns.

To press the analogy, such religious and societal contrasts could be seen to represent bilateral brain hemispheres on a planetary scale. In regard a special instance may be the Muslim essence, which although an Abrahamic faith sees itself as ‘neither east nor west.’ William Chittick’s essay “The Anthropocosmic Vision,” in collaboration with Tu Weiming, contends that Islam also aligns with Asian conceptions. One might note that Islam’s geographical location from Morocco to Indonesia is where an interbridging ‘corpus callosum’ would be. Such speculations are respectfully offered as an example of what might be gained from a humankind vista.

This outline section for global belief systems also records the 21st century theological resolution known as Pan-en-theism. Indeed, after all centuries, it is being realized that numinosity must abide both in paternal transcendence and a maternal procreative immanence. Prime works in regard are Panentheism by John Cooper, and Panentheism Across the World's Traditions, edited by Loriliai Biernacki and Philip Clayton.


Allinson, Robert, ed. Understanding the Chinese Mind. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1989. A study of a bilateral complementarity that seems to distinguish holistic Eastern and analytical Western cultures. Its introduction notes how Asian peoples traditionally view the human person at home in the cosmos.

Berger, Peter, ed. The Other Side of God. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1981. As this collection carefully considers each major world faith, a dichotomy of “interiority or confrontation” is seen to represent the two great geographic options of the Asian or Abrahamic essential beliefs. Some pertinent essays are included below.

Biernacki, Loriliai and Philip Clayton, eds. Panentheism Across the World's Traditions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. This broad collection of authoritative essays could serve as a coming of age for this 21st century theological movement to (re)unite heaven and earth, father transcendence and mother immanence, God and Human, sacred and secular, past and future. Its significance is just being appreciated as a simple, obvious resolve of religious dichotomies. Scholars across the faiths and globe give praise such as “Holy, Holy, Holy! Jewish Affirmations Of Panentheism” by Rabbi Bradley Artson, “The Heart-Mind of the Way and the Human Heart-Mind are Nondual: On Neo-Confucian Panetheism,” HYo-Dong Lee, and “The Body of Pantheism” by Catherine Keller (search each author). In addition, “The Emergence of Evolutionary Panentheism” by Michael Murphy, the sage founder of the Easlen Institute, achieves a unique survey across mystic, philosophical and scientific ages, noting Jakob Boehme, Sri Aurobindo, Pierre Teilhard, and others. Might we at last allow and evoke, just in time, a true family cosmos as our home and hope?

Not to be confused with pantheism - the ancient Greek notion that God is everywhere, an animistic force in rocks and trees - the concept of panentheism suggests that God is both in the world, immanent, and also beyond the confines of mere matter, transcendent.

One of the fundamental premises of this groundbreaking collection of essays is that panentheism, despite being unlabeled until the nineteenth century, is not merely a modern Western invention. The contributors examine a number of the world's established and ancient religious traditions - Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and others-to draw out the panentheistic dimensions of these traditions and the possibilities they suggest. Panentheism is not only an esoteric, potentially heretical, and deeply mystical vision of the world's great religious pasts; it is also a key feature of contemporary global spirituality. As this volume demonstrates, the metaphors and practices associated with modern panentheism speak powerfully to the realities of our evolving species and our evolving technological world. As Panentheism across the World's Traditions shows, the dynamism between matter and spirit that panentheism offers has had a profound influence in the modern world. (Publisher)

Brown, C. Mackenzie. Hindu Perspectives on Evolution: Darwin, Dharma, and Design. London: Routledge, 2012. Akin to Clinton Godart’s volume herein about Japanese encounters, a Trinity University professor of religion illustrates receptions in India across colonial and modern periods by sages such as Sankara, Swami Vivekananda, and expecially Sri Aurobindo. As also the case in Japan, the Eastern milieu tends more to Henri Bergson’s and Peirre Teilhard’s numinous advance from fertile matter to spiritual consciousness.

Chilton, Paul and Monika Kopytowska, eds. Religion, Language, and the Human Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. A Lancaster University linguist and a University of Lodz philosopher achieve a unique collection that joins these prime realms by way of a numinous synthesis of literacy and spirituality. Among the 17 chapters are Speaking about God in Universal Words, Metaphor, Imagery and Vernacular in Vaisnava Hindu Traditions, The Muslim Prophetic Tradition, and Cognitive Pragmatics and Allegory in Christian Discourse. Their intent is to show how much our religious heritage, broadly conceived, has a deeply literal and rhythmic basis. Of especial note is God, Metaphor, and the Language of the Hemispheres by Iain McGilchrist, reviewed herein.

This volume brings together linguistics, cognitive science, neuroscience, and religious studies in three sections. Part I surveys the development of modern studies of religious language and the diverse disciplinary strands that have emerged. Beginning with descriptive approaches to religious language and the problem of describing religious, chapters introduce the turn to cognition in linguistics, theology, and especially metaphor. Part II continues on metaphor - the natural ability by which humans draw on basic knowledge of the world to explore abstractions and intangibles. Part III seeks to open up new horizons for cognitive-linguistic research on religion, looking beyond written texts to ritual, religious art, and religious electronic media.

Chittick, William. The Anthropocosmic Vision in Islamic Thought. Peters, Ted, et al, eds. God, Life and the Cosmos. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2002. Written in collaboration with the Harvard University Confucian scholar Tu Weiming, this definitive essay of the book finds a deep accord between the Chinese concept of an organic, encompassing cosmos and the essence of Islamic philosophy, which is most expressed in a mirror correspondence between numinous macrocosmos and microcosmic human person. By these insights and qualities, Islam may gain an Eastern dimension to complement its Western origins.

Chittick, William. The Heart of Islamic Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. An introduction to the source and depths of Islamic and Sufi wisdom. What is significant is that their cosmology of quality and quantity, original One and manifest many, scale of microcosm and macrocosm, gender complementaries, sentient intellect and ascendant soul is finding affirmation in humankind’s genesis vision, as is each traditional cosmology and sacred path.

The existential angst of so many modern intellectuals, who find themselves beleaguered by a hostile universe, is utterly inconceivable in the Islamic intellectual tradition, for which the universe is nothing if not a nurturing womb.

Choi, Kwang Sun. Ecozoic Spirituality: The Symphony of God, Humanity, and the Universe.. New York: Peter Lang, 2015. As the quote cites, by virtue of a comparison across a millennium span of eastern and western sages, namely Zhou Dunyi (1017-1073) and Thomas Berry (1914-2009), a Honam Theological University, Korea scholar proposes a 21st century synthesis of this once and future familial trinity. I was a friend of Thomas Berry since the 1980s, and publications person for the American (Pierre) Teilhard Association, of which he was long president. I have helped edit his writings such as The Universe Story (1992) and a number of Teilhard Studies. In this work, his Ecozoic age would replace the Anthropocene if we peoples might avail the natural revelation of a numinous ecological cosmos and reinhabit Earth communities in a sustainable way. Zhou Dunyi, as an epitome of Chinese Confucian wisdom, similarly evoked an organic milieu graced by a harmony and balance of masculine yang and feminine yin complements. Kwang Sun Choi goes on to broaches a “theo-anthropo-cosmic” essence to join the triume transcendent, immanent and manifest phases.

This book guides the reader to the emerging Ecozoic Era when humans will be present upon the Earth in a mutually enhancing manner. Indeed, this book calls for an Ecozoic spirituality that is timely and much needed. It also illustrates an important direction for theology and spirituality and for deep ecumenism that is yet to be fully realized and opens more doors for such dialogue. By giving special attention to the integral relationship among God, the cosmos, and humanity, the works of Thomas Berry and Zhou Dunyi provide insights that speak to the current ecological crisis, a cosmological context for developing an Ecozoic spirituality, while helping to advance clear values and ethical parameters that lead to a more authentic human presence on Earth.

Zhou Dunyi was a Song dynasty Chinese Neo-Confucian philosopher and cosmologist. He conceptualized the Neo-Confucian cosmology of the day, explaining the relationship between human conduct and universal forces. In this way, he emphasizes that humans can master their qi ("vital life energy") in order to accord with nature. He was a major influence to Zhu Xi, who was the architect of Neo-Confucianism. Zhou Dunyi was mainly concerned with Taiji (supreme polarity) and Wuji (limitless potential), the yin and yang, and the wu xing (the five phases). He is also venerated and credited in Taoism as the first philosopher to popularize the concept of the taijitu or "yin-yang symbol". (Wikipedia)

Clarke, John James. Oriental Enlightenment. London: Routledge, 1997. A study of a bicameral yet reciprocal world that expands its insights by way of the new holistic physics.

For some it signifies the possibility of a more harmonious and complete mental life that encourages the integration of opposite yet complementary psychic factors such as introverted and extraverted tendencies, or which brings into balance the ‘feminine’ qualities of the East and the ‘masculine’ qualities of the West. And for yet others it has powerful political implications, addressing the modern dilemma of a world which is converging socially and economically, yet which at the same time is riven with mutual enmity and strife, and which needs the complementary qualities of both East and West. (5)

Clarke, John James. The Tao of the West. London: Routledge, 2000. Further thoughts on the intersect of an Eastern sense of a holistic, ecological cosmos spontaneously engaged in self-creation and the Western deterministic mechanical paradigm which defers to transcendence.

Clayton, Philip. Pantheisms East and West. Sophia. 49/2, 2010. The Claremont School of Theology scholar and author revisits this venerable and lately revived vista whence “the transcendent is in the immanent, and the immanent is in the transcendent,” rather than their separation and opposition. The paper was presented in a Pantheism panel at the Parliament of World Religions in Melbourne, December 2006, some other talks there are in this issue. See also Philip’s 2013 chapter Panentheism in the Tapestry of Traditions in the work he edited with Loriliai Biernacki.

In the West panentheism is known as the view that the world is contained within the divine, though God is also more than the world. I trace the history of this school of philosophy in both Eastern and Western traditions. Although the term is not widely known, the position in fact draws together a broad range of important positions in 20th and 21st century metaphysics, theology, and philosophy of religion. I conclude with some reflections on the practical importance of this position. (Abstract)

Cohen, Adam, et al. Religion and Culture: Individualism and Collectivism in the East and West. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. Online August, 2016. Cohen and Jacob Miller, Arizona State University, and Michael Shengtao Wu, Xiamen University, China, review how these widely accepted, generally appropriate, global complements similarly distinguish their relative belief and ethical systems.

Religion is an important topic to understand in cross-cultural psychology. More theorizing and empirical work has gone into Western religions than Eastern religions. We briefly review work on cultural differences among Western religious groups, using the framework of individualism and collectivism. Such work raises questions on how religions and cultures affect each other, how diverse cultural groups are, and how confounded country and religious identities are. We then ask some of the same questions about Eastern religions and propose new questions for a cross-cultural psychology of religion, such as what counts as a religion, and whether there are nonreligious parallels of religious constructs that serve similar functions (e.g., belief in a just world [BJW], or social axiom of reward for human application). In all, we propose that a greater attention to both Western and Eastern religions in cross-cultural psychology can be illuminating regarding religion and culture. (Abstract)

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