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VII. Our Earthuman Ascent: A Major Evolutionary Transition in Individuality

5. Bicameral World Religions

Cooper, John W. Panentheism: The Other God of the Philosophers. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006. In contrast to a more familiar “pantheism” whence all that exists is in some way numinous, in a “panentheistic” view, creation both resides within God, while at the same time a Creator retains a separate presence. Cooper, a professor of philosophical theology at Calvin Theological Seminary, achieves a well organized, even-handed, and clearly written tome that would make a good textbook. Everyone from Plato and Plotinus to Pannenberg and Polkinghorne, some 200 men and 5 women, is given their due. A topical spectrum runs from Greek and Renaissance neoplatonism to romantic, process, liberation, ecological, and scientific approaches, along with entries for each world religion and for salient personages.

Cousins, Ewert. Religions of the World: Teilhard and the Second Axial Coming. www.interreligiousinsight.org/October2006/Cousins10-06.pdf. In this online paper, as a synopsis of his thought, the late Fordham University theologian (1927-2009), editor of the World Encyclopedia of Spirituality, and my friend over many years, identifies three definitive stages of an historical spiral of belief and culture. A primal “pre-Axial time” is evoked with a holistic “cosmic, collective, mythic” essence. The first “Axial Age,” from Karl Jaspers, marks the advent of the Abrahamic faiths as they came to emphasize individuals and one’s own salvation. This prominence has lasted for two millennia with its particulate, analytical mindset. From the 21st century can now be perceived a nascent “Second Axial” phase of a once and future “global consciousness.” Whereas the first stage tended to divergence, this risen realm favors convergence, an imperative ecological, emphatic mind and social spirit for our very survival. Other volumes by Ewert Cousins such as Christ of the 21st Century (Continuum, 1992) and A Spiritual Journey into the Future, a collection of his essays, (Wyndham Hall, 2011) expand on and embellish this vital wisdom.

“In the Second Axial Period we must rediscover the dimensions of consciousness of the spirituality of the primal peoples of the pre-Axial period. As we saw, this consciousness was collective and cosmic, rooted in the earth and the life cycles. We must rapidly appropriate that form of consciousness or perish from the earth. However, I am not suggesting a romantic attempt to live in the past, rather that the evolution of consciousness proceeds by way of recapitulation. Having developed self-reflective, analytic, critical consciousness in the First Axial Period, we must now, while retaining these values, reappropriate and integrate into that consciousness the collective and cosmic dimensions of the pre-Axial consciousness. We must recapture the unity of tribal consciousness by seeing humanity as a single tribe. And we must see this single tribe related organically to the total cosmos.” (Christ in the 21st Century, 10)

Cukur, Cem Safak, et al. Religiosity, Values, and Horizontal and Vertical Individualism-Collectivism. Journal of Social Psychology. 144/6, 2004. Noted also in The Complementarity of Civilizations, this detailed study goes on to perceive Islam as a balance of Eastern and Western propensities, as its geographical location might suggest.

Noted also in The Complementarity of Civilizations, this detailed study goes on to perceive Islam as a balance of Eastern and Western propensities, as its geographical location might suggest.

Godart, G. Clinton. Darwin, Dharma, and the Divine: Evolutionary Theory and Religion in Modern Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2017. Similar to Mackenzie Brown’s work habove about East Indian encounters, a Hokkaido University religious historian finds more affinity with the vitalist evolutionary theologies of Henri Bergson and Pierre Teilhard. Some chapters are Evolutionary, Individuals, and the Kokutai, and Socialist Darwinism and Evolutionary Utopianism.

Hall, David and Roger Ames. Thinking Through Confucius. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987. A dichotomy exists between an Eastern emphasis on natural immanence and the Western fixation on transcendence. Other terms to phrase the polarity are events vs. substance, object abstraction or subjective context.

Han, Shihui and Georg Northoff. Culture-Sensitive Neural Substrates of Human Cognition: A Transcultural Neuroimaging Approach. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 9/8, 2008. By way of 21st century brain imaging capacities, Peking University, Culture and Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, and University of Ottawa, Mind, Brain Imaging and Neuroethics Research Unit, psychologists (search each here and their own website) discern which relative cerebral regions are a locus source of a person’s social proclivity. In regard the general inclusive wholeness of Eastern spiritualities, and individual soul-centered concerns of the West could be attributed to the alternative neural architecture of each cultural hemisphere.

Our brains and minds are shaped by our experiences, which mainly occur in the context of the culture in which we develop and live. Although psychologists have provided abundant evidence for diversity of human cognition and behaviour across cultures, the question of whether the neural correlates of human cognition are also culture-dependent is often not considered by neuroscientists. However, recent transcultural neuroimaging studies have demonstrated that one's cultural background can influence the neural activity that underlies both high- and low-level cognitive functions. The findings provide a novel approach by which to distinguish culture-sensitive from culture-invariant neural mechanisms of human cognition. (Abstract)

Cultural diversity of human cognition: By comparing cognitive functions in people from Western (European and American) and East Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, et cetera) cultures, the ‘culture-and-cognition’ approach demonstrates that different sociocultural systems give rise to dissimilar thought styles. Westerners generally think in an analytical way, whereas East Asians generally think in a more holistic manner. For instance, during a perception task, Americans were better at detecting changes in salient objects than East Asians, and were less affected by contextual information. Cultural differences are also evident in social cognition. In a game that involved two individuals interacting, Chinese participants were more in tune with their partner’s perspective than Americans. Furthermore, Chinese people were more likely to describe memories of social and historical events and focused more on social interactions, whereas European Americans more frequently focused on memories of personal experiences and emphasized their personal roles in events. Westerners were better at remembering trait words that they associated with themselves than they were at remembering words that they associated with people close to them. (849)

Jaeshik, Shin. Mapping One World: Religion and Science from an East Asian Perspective. Zygon. 51/1, 2016. An exemplary article by a Honam Theological University, Korea, professor of constructive theology, in a special issue on East Asian Voices on Science and the Humanities. The author draws upon many references in our Complementarity of Civilizations above, to advise a similar religious contrast of an eastern predilection for relational, both/and, integral, sensitivities with a western emphasis on individual, oppositional mores. The general endeavor of this journal has been at an impasse for some time because the main mechanical, pointless paradigm can never accord with life and love affirmations. A topological approach is offered, along with theologian John Haught’s view of how an informational universe might revive a book of nature. In this regard, a 21st century recovery of an Oriental genesis universe would be more conducive and actually based on the latest global scientific findings.

This article aims to delineate a model of religion-science relationship from an East Asian perspective. The East Asian way of thinking is depicted as nondualistic, relational, and inclusive. From this point of view, most current Western discourses on the religion-science relationship, including the interconnected models of Pannenberg and Haught, are hierarchical, intellectually centered, and have dualistic tendencies. Taking religion and science as mapping activities, “a multi-map model” presents nonhierarchical, historical, social, multidimensional, communal, and intimate dimensions of the religion-science relationship. (Abstract)

The writer expects that the East Asian way of thinking might provide profound insight for understanding the science-religion relationship. Then, what are the characteristics of the East Asian worldview? It may generally be characterized as more cosmological than anthropological, more holistic than analytical, more correlative than causal, and more polaristic than dualistic. In the East Asian worldview, the universe is an organic whole in which all of the parts of the entire cosmos belong to one organic whole. Everything in the world is a part of a single world, and is merging and interacting with everything else without regard for mathematically or mechanically demonstrable cause and effect. The world is seen as spontaneously self-generating, self-renewing, and self-sustaining without any creator or agency. (207)

The general characteristics of the East Asian understanding of reality can be categorized into two concepts: “cosmoanthropology” and world as a dynamic whole. On the one hand, “cosmoanthropology” describes the correlation between nature and world. The inseparable relationality between the cosmos (nature or the world) and humanity is a distinctive characteristic of the East Asia worldview. This correlative insight between nature and human beings is rooted in the East Asian view of reality; everything in the world is derived from an undivided cosmological reality (Dao) and is a part of an unbroken ontological continuity. (207-208) The process of change is constituted by the interchange of the two forces of Qi: Yin-Qi and Yang-Qi. Everything gives rise to change or transformation in terms of Yin-Yang polarities and, hence, forms a dynamic whole with the Yin-Yang process of Dao. In this regard, for East Asians, the primary category by which to understand the world is not “substance,” “essence,” or “being,” but “relationship,” “transformation,” or “movement.” (208)

Johnson, Elizabeth A. She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Disclosure. New York: Crossroad. 1992. The classic volume from two decades ago by the Fordham University theologian that set this vital gender adjustment on its course. We additionally note for one of the earliest affirmations of a “pan-en-theism” to include both away father and natural mother, which essentially conceives a familial trinity.

Women typically witness to deep patterns of affiliation and mutuality as constitutive of their existence and indeed of the very grain of existence itself. From this perspective the image of an unrelated or only superficially related God is a distortion. (225) A feminist perspective that prizes mutuality in relations quickly parts company with classical theism, critiquing its isolationist and dualist patterns. Reflection arising from women’s experience also finds pantheism waning. The culturally induced tendency for women to submerge themselves in the “all” of a man or family or institution to the detriment of their own genuine personhood is a perennial temptation, as is plasticity to the direction of dominant others rather that free self-actualization. (231)

A third position, variously known as dialectical theism, neoclassical theism, or more typically, panentheism, offers another, more congenial model. Here is a model of free, reciprocal relation: God in the world and the world in God while each remains radically distinct. The relation is mutual while differences remain and are respected. If theism weights the scales in the direction of divine transcendence and pantheism overmuch in the direction of immanence, panentheism attempts to hold onto both in full strength. (231) In a unique way the paradigm of panentheism opens speech about God to a fruitful use of metaphors gleaned from women’s existence, especially maternal and friendship imagery. (233)

Kathami, Mohammed. The Soul’s East, Reason’s West. New Perspectives Quarterly. Spring, 1999. The philosopher president of Iran believes a much needed rapprochement on our bipolar planet might occur if eastern spirituality can come to mutually complement the rational West. As for Islam, Kathami states that its premier tenet is to see the human person as an exemplary microcosm.

Kim, Heup Young. Cyborg, Sage and Saint: Transhumanism as Seen from an East Asian Theological Setting. Calvin Mercer and Tracy Trothen, eds.. Religion and Transhumanism: The Unknown Feature of Human Enhancement. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2015. In this unique edition (search) which seeks to relate and resolve past and futures, the Kangnam University, Korea theologian, dean, and founder of the International Society for Science and Religion is deeply troubled by western technological excesses. Our mechanical model daunts any sense of an encompassing organic, anthropocosmic unity and balance of human and universe. Prime sources for this oriental wisdom are the Korean sage Yi Toegye (1501-1570) and today Tu Weiming, the Confucian theologian at Harvard. As ever a deep affinity between natural macrocosm and human microcosm is the iconic crux. Its essence is then a sustaining complementarity of the gender archetypes, which is conveyed in this quote from the Benedictine monk Bede Griffiths (1906-1993).

This may sound very paradoxical and unreal, but for centuries now the western world has been following the path of Yang of the masculine, active, aggressive, rational, scientific mind and has brought the world near destruction. It is time now to recover the path of Yin, of the feminine, passive, patient, intuitive and poetic mind. This is the path which the Tao Te Ching sets before us. (Bede Griffiths Universal Wisdom 1994)

Knysh, Alexander. Sufism: A New History of Islamic Mysticism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017. A University of Michigan professor of Islamic studies writes an insightful exposition of this “ascetic-mystical” phase of Muslim beliefs. For reference, in Complementarity of Civilizations above, an East/West and South/North dichotomy is well documented. This section goes on to cite how their relative religions hold to these modes. But it ought also to be noted that within each pantheon and panoply (more or less) a similar archetypal duality exists. This reciprocity may be most evident in Islam, whence Sufism embraces rhythmic prosody and whirling dance. But sadly, an unresolved, internal conflict with literal scripture has led to massacres of Sufi worshippers such as in Egypt. On page 112 is a 2016 photo of the Sufi sage Shaykh Kabbani (now in the US) in traditional robes, looking at his iPhone. We would like to believe that humankinder’s 21st century bicameral edification in vision and text, which this website seeks to convey, might finally reveal and heal.

Ibn (al-)Arabi’s (1165-1240) exegesis can be subdivided into three distinctive levels: the metaphysical-cosmological, the analogical (microcosmic/macrocosmic), built around implicit or explicit correspondences between the universe and the human organism, and the existential-experiential that rests on his claim to possess an intuitive, supersensory comprehension of the underlying unity of God, man, and the universe. (97)

Lee, Hyo-Dong. Spirit, Qi, and the Multitude: A Comparative Theology for the Democracy of Creation. New York: Fordham University Press, 2013. As the publisher and quotes convey, a Korean-American, Drew University, theologian astride the continents and centuries draws a luminous synthesis of bicameral world wisdom as “A Meeting of Two Stories” of “Eastern and Western Learning.” Once again, from every portal, a complementarity of archetypal gender principles, in their infinite iteration, distinguish each global hemispherical mode. In regard, an Asian “pre-Axial” mode is seen as a double domain of energy and emanation, more “indigenous and contextual” in kind and contrast. In closing, a “pneumatocentric and panentheistic” conception is advanced based on this mutual nature, along with a 21st century familial spirituality. See also Panentheism Across the World’s Traditions edited by Loriliai Biernacki and Philip Clayton (Oxford, 2013) with a chapter by Hyo-Dong Lee.

As befits a world so interconnected, this book presents a comparative theological and philosophical attempt to construct new underpinnings for the idea of democracy by bringing the Western concept of spirit into dialogue with the East Asian nondualistic and nonhierarchical notion of qi. The book follows the historical adventures of the idea of qi through some of its Confucian and Daoist textual histories in East Asia, mainly Laozi, Zhu Xi, Toegye, Nongmun, and Su-un, and compares them with analogous conceptualizations of the ultimate creative and spiritual power found in the intellectual constellations of Western and/or Christian thought namely, Whitehead's Creativity, Hegel's Geist, Deleuze's chaosmos, and Catherine Keller's Tehom. The book provides a model of Asian contextual theology that draws on the religious and philosophical resources of East Asia to offer a vision of pluralism and democracy. A reader interested in the conversation between the East and West in light of the global reality of political oppression, economic exploitation, and cultural marginalization will find this book informative, engaging, and enlightening. (Publisher)

Psychophysical energy is the primordial energy of the universe that constitutes whatever exists – visible and invisible, with form and without form, nonliving and living, and material and ideal. The entities that appear to be solid and unchanging are in fact temporary coalescences or harmonies of psychological energy’s own bifurcated and mutually complementary modalities of the receptive force (yin) and the active force (yang), which are themselves in a constant process of following and turning into each other. The creatively harmonizing operations of the two modalities of psychophysical energy is captured by the symbol of the Great Ultimate (Tao) that depicts a ceaseless dynamic union of complementary opposites. (42)

Furthermore, this relation of mutually dependent coming into being has a “fractal” structure in which each pole of the binary reproduces within itself the polarity of the whole. The receptive force always carries within itself the seed of the active force, which always carries within itself the seed of the receptive force, which always carries within itself the seed of the active force. In other words, the Great Ultimate has a dynamically fractal structure of constantly self-differentiated opposites that come into being and cease to be in through an unending process of one differentiating itself from itself by having the other within to negate itself. (43)

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