Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Manichaens, the World, Beauty and God

Have been enjoying on my Kindle Voices of Gnosticism: Interviews with Elaine Pagels, Marvin Meyer, Bart Ehrman, Bruce Chilton and Other Leading Scholars (Miguel Conner)

Here is an interesting quotation by Jason BeDuhn of Northern Arizona University on the Manichaens.  This is in response to the meme that the Manichaens had a pessimistic, life-denying view of earthly existence.

And so, if you look at the Manichaean hymns, as apparently you have, you’ll see this poetry, a lot of affirmation of the natural world as the manifestation of God. And there’s even the claim in the later Islamic tradition, when it is trying to suppress certain radical forms of Sufism, the claim is made that the Sufis have learnt from the Manichaeans how to meditate on beauty as a form of drawing close to God. And of course that’s everything from meditating on a flower to meditating on the face of a beautiful woman. So, for more conservative Islamic forces, this kind of religious devotion to material forms is antithetical to the values they’re trying to cultivate. But it fits perfectly the Manichaean view that God is tangible in what is beautiful, is tangible in what affects the senses in a positive way. So God smells sweetly and God is light as opposed to darkness. These very sensory ways of talking about the divine which are the very things that Augustine and others criticised as too materialistic are actually ways in which you can see Manichaeans affirming the world as being permeated with divinity in a way that you miss in many other forms of spirituality.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

The Secular Age by Charles Taylor continues to attract attention

It was my Christmas present shortly after it was published.  It takes a long time for him to say things, like so much that philosophers write.  It is densely packed with a lot of interesting information.  Shortly after it was published, the blogging world had a lot to say about it.  But since then, every once in a while, I see reference to it.  That is a testament to its value.  Just came across this interesting article in the NYT by David Brooks.  The comments are just as insightful.  The culture has  moved from an enchanted world in which it was easy and obvious for anyone in the year, say, 1500 to believe in God to the modern world where such is not the case.  Charles Taylor argues, according to Brooks, that it is not a matter of a secular view replacing a religious one, but that there are multiple expressions of the spiritual living along side secularism within the same people.  

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