Spanish Roman Catholic Priest, Scholar and Proponent of Inter-Religious Dialogue
Raimon Panikkar, fully Raimon Panikkar-Alemany
Spanish Roman Catholic Priest, Scholar and Proponent of Inter-Religious Dialogue
Man is not alone in the Universe. But the human being has no equal partners.
The Divine only dwells: disorientating wandering and reassuring abiding. There
is a Mystery of Uniqueness in each being. Human self-consciousness discloses a
Self which is neither (an) Other nor (my) ego, neither a divine Self nor a cosmic
Whole. There is a theo-anthropo-cosmic myth - only visible in statu nascendi. et
morieiuii. The Divine is an abstraction. But so is Man, and equally so the Cosmos.
Divine Destiny, Human History, and Cosmic Existence are inseparable. The being
of God is not the god of Being. The historical character of Man does not exhaust
human nature. The Space of the Cosmos is not a scientific' magnitude. No one
controls or commands the rhythm of the Dance. Nothingness looms in the horizon
of Being. It is the locus of Freedom. Truth is related to Time as much as Time is related to Being. Historicity is dethroned. They put limits to eschatology. Time is
not an arrow, nor eternity the target. The human experience of a solar year allows
us to surmise the Rhythm of Reality.
Is it possible to live a truly 'religious' life, a full human existence while
transcending all theisms? The answer is yes. Worship persists, but free from
idolatry. Prayer remains, but free from superstitions and being a projection of
human frustrations. Love is not split into service of God and concern for our
fellow-beings. The 'Presence of God' is not an act of the memory or the will. The
Sacred and/or the Holy are then purified of all taboos. Each being recovers its
dignity and human freedom is not reduced to making choices. Ethics finds its basis
iii the very nature of Being. Human knowledge does not need to be divorced from
sacred knowledge and the vexing conflict between reason and faith, Science and
Religion is dissolved. True piety does not disappear, and humanism is no longer
anthropocentric. The rift between philosophy and theology is healed and all
sciences rediscover their proper autonomy. Furthermore the experience of the
divine dimension is compatible with different ideas about the Deity according to
the diverse religious traditions of humankind which are then seen as concrete
expressions of the deeper cosmotheandric intuition. We are Divine as much as the
Divine is Human - without confusion and division.
There may be no cultural universals, but there are human invariants. Practically
all cultures have experienced Reality as a tress of Matter, Consciousness, and
Infinity/or Atoms, Forces, and the Void/or Heaven, Earth, and Man, etc. The
modern civilization is not an exception even if the word for the Divine is
understood as Future, Justice, Liberty and the like. This seems to be more than just
an historical fact. It seems to be also linked with the structure of the human mind.
It might as well be a true character of the Real. The interpretations vary from strict
dualisms to severe monisms passing through all kinds of non-dualisms. The
cosmotheandric insight aims at doing justice to the deepest intuitions of most
human traditions and. carrying the insight a step further, claims to elicit a certain consensus. The data of History of Religions are intriguingly revealing. Everything
that is, for the very fact of being, is at the same time cosmic, human, and divine.
All the words used are not synonymous, but homeomorphic equivalents.
The question about Reality entails the awareness that we are also part of it. But
it implies also the awareness that we would not ask the question if Reality itself
were not, in one way or another, eliciting in us that very question. In any question
about Reality we are involved both as questioners and as questioned. The question
about the Divine is a question about Reality. It concerns us intrinsically. This leads
to a deepening of the Christian trinitarian insight on a much broader problematic.
Any attempt to isolate the Divine fails. Any effort at uniting it with the rest of
Being makes it superfluous. The non-quantifiable symbol of the Trinity seems to
be able to express the universal range of the human experience when dealing with
this problem. It is a non-dualistic experience.
Theogenesis studies what humanity searches after when it searches for the
Divine, and how it proceeds in this quest. The fact that Man asks about something
not empirically given leads to the suspicion that the very questions stem from an
extrapolation of the mind, or the other shore. But whether or not there is a
revelation from Transcendence it is Man who has to struggle with both the
question(s) and the answer(s). The Deity appears, or Man searches for it, in three
possible horizons: the meta-cosmic (Prime Mover, Creator) the meta-personal
(Supreme Being, Redeemer), or the meta-ontical (Absolute Being, Spirit). There
are several methods by means of which Man attempts to penetrate into the Divine
Mystery. The classical ways of action, love and knowledge yield three different
notions of the Divine.
Theology as a merely human logos about God defeats its purpose, and as a
purely divine logos about God begs the very problem. When in the logos ton theou
the objective and the subjective genitives coalesce the categories of identity and
difference collapse. Can we overcome thinking without destroying it? Where is the
locus of the Deity?
Theism is one of the most important treasures of humankind. There are many
types of theisms. In the judeo-christian-islamic traditions there is a tension
between the notion of God as Absolute Being (ipsunt essej and as Supreme Entity
(ens a se). Three main problems have been haunting the monotheistic mind: the
existence of Evil, Freedom, and Multiplicity. Asian religions have proceeded
along different lines. African religions and the primitive Biblical tradition have
kept theology apart from metaphysics and thus avoided such problems at the cost
of others: is God only the ultimate point of reference for acting or also for thinking?
Most of the mystical moods either insist so much on immanence, so that theism
turns into pantheism, or on transcendence, so that the question does not even
appear - and when it does, theism turns into dualism. Modern Science has
successfully criticized the picture of a gap-filling' God (for unsolved problems).
Modern humanistic consciousness has sapped the credibility of a God acting in
history. Monotheism may be unconvincing on theoretical, practical and scientific"
grounds. But is there a more satisfying alternative? For whom?
Being designates all that (there) is. We designate it with a verb. Being is
flowing, rheon, rhythmic. It moves, but it cannot go anywhere else. Humans have
life and conscious life. Life seems superior to or independent of its bearers. Has
it a destination? Is that its sense? But the Destiny of Being is different from though
The inquiry about the most fundamental questions for humankind assumes
already both the meaningfulness of the queries and that there is a factual end to an
ever further questioning. The quest eventually stops when we believe that we see
things as they are - even if provisionally. We have reached a horizon which is the
proper locus of the myth. We take it for granted and the answers are satisfying for
the time being. The roughly 8,(XX) years of historical consciousness seem to show
(reveal?) a Cosmotheandric Invariant. We call it the thcoanihropo-cosmic myth.
It is the story of three intertwined elements or dimensions always present in (the
human awareness of) Reality: the Cosmos, the Human and the Divine. There is a
certain consensus today in believing that we are facing a turning point in the
History of Humankind. Plato and the Bible may be insufficient, or Sankara and
K'ung Fu Tzu for that matter. There is a felt need for a fresh experience of Reality.
We shall explore whether this mood does not reflect a crucial moment in the
History' of Being as well. Does Being also have history? Or is Rhythm a better
I would like to communicate to you that I believe the moment has come to withdraw from all public activity, both the direct and the intellectual participation, to which I have dedicated all my life as a way of sharing reflections. I will continue to be close to you in a deeper way, through silence and prayer, and in the same way I would ask you to be close to me in this last period of my existence. You have often heard me say that a person is a knot in a network of relationships. In taking my leave from you I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for having enriched me with the relationship I have had with each of you. I am also grateful to all of those who, either in person or through association, continue working to spread my message and the sharing of my ideals, even without me. Thankful for the gift of life which is only such if lived in communion with others: it is with this spirit that I have lived my ministry.
If the church wishes to live, it should not be afraid of assimilating elements that come from other religious traditions, whose existence it can today no longer ignore.
The cosmotheandric intuition expresses the all embracing indissoluble union, that constitutes all of Reality: the triple dimension of reality as a whole: cosmic-divine-human. The cosmotheandric intuition is the undivided awareness of the totality.
There are not three realities: God, Man, and the World; but neither is there one, whether God, Man or World. Reality is cosmotheandric. It is our way of looking that makes reality appear to us at times under one aspect, at times under another. God, Man, and World are, so to speak, in an intimate and constitutive collaboration to construct Reality, to make history advance, to continue creation.
If there have been divine manifestations before, we cannot assume that they will never again occur. Moreover, the present situation of the world, new in the history of mankind, could be the right time for a new revelation — I don’t know if through Masters who came before or new ones, I don’t think that’s very important. But it might well be that this revelation has not much to do with, or it does not resemble, the ones we have known until now. Reality is always new.
The realization that no separation exists between ourselves and our reality, and from that emerges a new consciousness, what I call a new innocence. In broad terms, it emerges from the knowledge of our ‘ignorance’, of knowing that our knowledge does not exhaust knowledge, not because we know ignorance, but because we understand our limitations: it is a consciousness born from a conflict of knowledge. Then we overcome knowledge through a leap of faith, confidence, sensitivity, intuition.
Underlying this there would be what I call the Cosmotheandric Principle, in which what is divine, what is human and what is earthly (let everyone find their own terminology) are the three irreducible dimensions which constitute what is real. These three parts are not juxtaposed simply by chance, but they are essentially related and together constitute the Whole. They are parts because they are not the whole, but they are not parts which can be separated from the whole.
When man breaks his connection with Earth, wanting to fulfill himself, he becomes a monster who destroys himself. When man breaks his connection with heaven, wanting to lead himself on his own, he becomes an automaton that destroys others.
I don’t think we can talk about real democracy unless we include the idea of consensus. To accept a decision simply because the majority decides it doesn’t seem to me very natural. Consensus requires a very special technique, and we are still ‘democratically illiterate’. Because of our lack of vision and patience we just take the shortest path. We have to learn to put consensus into practice, first in small communities and then widening the sphere of action. In some communities it exists already.
There are a number of ways in which we can help these ‘undeveloped’ countries to be self-sufficient, but not by imposing our notion of development; that kind of development normally serves only to enlarge the already saturated markets of the industrialized world. We all know there are strong economic interests which prevent countries from realizing their full potential. The example of foreign debt reflects that which is immoral in our help.
Many of our present-day problems arise when a group seeks to impose its vision, believing there is only one solution, and that solution is, of course: its solution. This is fundamentalism. There are many kinds and degrees of fundamentalism, some more destructive than others, but the fundamentalism I am referring to is that which is convinced that our ideas are the only real ones and that they are absolute or at least definitive. It is difficult to find someone with a truly open attitude, free from absolutism.
Peace cannot merely be achieved by a military disarmament. It also requires a ‘disarmament’ of the prevailing cultures, the abandonment of the ruts of habitual attitudes in which modern, Western culture has developed. This would also include letting go of or re-assessing traditional, acquired values, and values we currently consider non-negotiable — like progress, technology, science, democracy and the world economic market. We unthinkingly impose our value-systems as indispensable conditions for establishing a dialogue with other cultures. But don’t forget that, at the same time, 70 per cent live in conditions of utter inferiority and degradation, and, of course, it’s an affront to speak of dialogue if the conditions of equality are absent, if somebody is starving and has been deprived of all human dignity. If we regarded other cultures as equal, we would no longer consider the ‘modern’ criterion as a necessary condition to create lasting peace for humanity.
Religion is not an experiment, it is an experience of life through which one is part
of the cosmic adventure.
If I do not take my intellectual vocation seriously, putting it before everything else even at the risk of appearing inhuman, then I am also incapable of helping people in more concrete and proximate ways. Conversely, if I am not alert and ready to save people from a conflagration, that is to say, if I do not take my spiritual calling in all earnestness, sacrificing to it all else, even my own life, then I shall be unable to help in rescuing the manuscript. If I do not involve myself in the concrete issues of my time, and if I do not open my house to all the winds of the world, then anything I produce from an ivory tower will be barren and cursed. Yet if I do not shut doors and windows in order to concentrate on this work, then I will not be able to offer anything of value to my neighbors.
The cosmotheandric principle could be stated by saying that the divine, the human and the earthly--however we may prefer to call them--are the three irreducible dimensions which constitute the real, i.e., any reality inasmuch as it is real... What this intuition emphasizes is that the three dimensions of reality are neither three modes of a monolithic undifferentiated reality, nor are they three elements of a pluralistic system. There is rather one, though intrinsically threefold, relation which expresses the ultimate constitution of reality. Everything that exists, any real being, presents this triune constitution expressed in three dimensions. I am not only saying that everything is directly or indirectly related to everything else: the radical relativity or pratityasamutpada of the Buddhist tradition. I am also stressing that this relationship is not only constitutive of the whole, but that it flashes forth, ever new and vital, in every spark of the real.
Without purity of heart, not only can one not “see” God, but it is equally impossible to have any idea of what is involved in doing so. Without the silence of the intellect and the will, without the silence of the senses, without the openness of what some call “the third eye” (spoken of not only by Tibetans but also by the disciples of Richard of Saint Victor), it is not possible to approach the sphere in which the word God can have a meaning. According to Richard of Saint Victor, there exist three eyes: the occulus carnis, the occulus rationis, and the occulus fidei (the eye of the body, the eye of reason, and the eye of faith). The “third eye” is the organ of the faculty that distinguishes us from other living beings by giving us access to a reality that transcends, without denying, that which captures the intelligence and the senses.
I left Europe [for India] as a Christian, I discovered I was a Hindu and returned as a Buddhist without ever having ceased to be a Christian.