THE RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE, POST-POSITIVISM, MYSTICISM, CONTEMPLATION, AND KARL RAHNER’S ABSOLUTE MYSTERY

  • Miksang

  • The Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will not exist at all.

    Karl Rahner

  • There is a science for the subjective study of the Spiritual life, analogous to science that explains the mechanism, and laws  of the physical world, of course this science of the soul can’t be reproduced in a laboratory, since the laboratory it is the Self who is  the subject of investigation to the individual in question, but that if it is a knowledge impossible to reproduce in a physical laboratory, however it is a Knowledge possible to be experienced in the Soul, and transmit, to other individuals by analogies, introspection, meditation, Intuition, symbolism, synchronicity, dreams, through the study of Ontology, and Metaphysics, but before you roll your eyeballs, there are techniques, and spiritual practices conductive to Enlightenment, like Yoga, diverse Meditation methods, Prayer, Ritual and many other spiritual techniques used by a wide range of Mystics; Sufi, Shamans, Magi, Monks, and every individual seriously involved in Religious practice conductive to Enlightenment, or a Communion with God, Spirit, the Atman, the Infinite, the Tao,  or whatever term may apply to the specific method.

    • POST-POSITIVISM AND CRITICAL REALISM

    • If your eyeballs are still rolling up, it is time to update your old fashioned belief in Positivism:

    • “Let’s begin by considering what positivism is. In its broadest sense, positivism is a rejection of metaphysics (I leave it you to look up that term if you’re not familiar with it). It is a position that holds that the goal of knowledge is simply to describe the phenomena that we experience. The purpose of science is simply to stick to what we can observe and measure. Knowledge of anything beyond that, a positivist would hold, is impossible. When I think of positivism (and the related philosophy of logical positivism) I think of the behaviorists in mid-20th Century psychology. These were the mythical ‘rat runners’ who believed that psychology could only study what could be directly observed and measured. Since we can’t directly observe emotions, thoughts, etc. (although we may be able to measure some of the physical and physiological accompaniments), these were not legitimate topics for a scientific psychology. B.F. Skinner argued that psychology needed to concentrate only on the positive and negative reinforces of behavior in order to predict how people will behave — everything else in between (like what the person is thinking) is irrelevant because it can’t be measured.

      In a positivist view of the world, science was seen as the way to get at truth, to understand the world well enough so that we might predict and control it. The world and the universe were deterministic — they operated by laws of cause and effect that we could discern if we applied the unique approach of the scientific method. Science was largely a mechanistic or mechanical affair. We use deductive reasoning to postulate theories that we can test. Based on the results of our studies, we may learn that our theory doesn’t fit the facts well and so we need to revise our theory to better predict reality. The positivist believed in empiricism — the idea that observation and measurement was the core of the scientific endeavor. The key approach of the scientific method is the experiment, the attempt to discern natural laws through direct manipulation and observation.

    • Measuring the clouds

    • One of the most common forms of post-positivism is a philosophy called critical realism. A critical realist believes that there is a reality independent of our thinking about it that science can study. (This is in contrast with a subjectivist who would hold that there is no external reality — we’re each making this all up!). Positivists were also realists. The difference is that the post-positivist critical realist recognizes that all observation is fallible and has error and that all theory is revisable. In other words, the critical realist is critical of our ability to know reality with certainty. Where the positivist believed that the goal of science was to uncover the truth, the post-positivist critical realist believes that the goal of science is to hold steadfastly to the goal of getting it right about reality, even though we can never achieve that goal! Because all measurement is fallible, the post-positivist emphasizes the importance of multiple measures and observations, each of which may possess different types of error, and the need to use triangulation across these multiple error full sources to try to get a better bead on what’s happening in reality. The post-positivist also believes that all observations are theory-laden and that scientists (and everyone else, for that matter) are inherently biased by their cultural experiences, world views, and so on. This is not cause to give up in despair, however. Just because I have my world view based on my experiences and you have yours doesn’t mean that we can’t hope to translate from each other’s experiences or understand each other. That is, post-positivism rejects the relativist idea of the incommensurability of different perspectives, the idea that we can never understand each other because we come from different experiences and cultures. Most post-positivists are constructivists who believe that we each construct our view of the world based on our perceptions of it. Because perception and observation is fallible, our constructions must be imperfect. So what is meant by objectivity in a post-positivist world? Positivists believed that objectivity was a characteristic that resided in the individual scientist. Scientists are responsible for putting aside their biases and beliefs and seeing the world as it ‘really’ is. Post-positivists reject the idea that any individual can see the world perfectly as it really is. We are all biased and all of our observations are affected (theory-laden).Trochim, W. (2000). The Research Methods Knowledge Base, 2nd Edition. Atomic Dog Publishing, Cincinnati, OH.”

    • Black and White twins

    • If post- positivism, and post-modernism in general may not mean for many a return to Metaphysics,  no doubt it had humbled and deflated many scientist egos, and let those interested in the study of Metaphysics and Ontology proceed without the rolling of the eyes, and the dismissive attitudes of hotheaded  materialist, atheist, deterministic and positivistic individuals, who believed to be the torchbearers of Truth, and Reason, after all there is an argument of why we posses a Intuitive, and Subjective right side brain,  think about it!

    • MYSTICISM

    • A Religious experience (sometimes known as a spiritual experience, sacred experience, or mystical experience) is  a subjective experience in which an individual reports contact with a transcendent reality, an encounter or union with the Divine. Such an experience often involves arriving at some knowledge or insight previously unavailable to the subject yet unaccountable or unforeseeable according to the usual conceptual or psychological framework within which the subject has been used to operating. Religious experience generally brings understanding, partial or complete, of issues of a fundamental character that may have been a cause (whether consciously acknowledged or not) of anguish or alienation to the subject for an extended period of time. This may be experienced as a form of healing, enlightenment or conversion. The commonalities and differences between religious experiences across different cultures have enabled scholars to categorize them for academic study.

    • William James’ definition

      Psychologist and Philosopher William James described four characteristics of religious / mystical experience in The Varieties of Religious Experience. According to James, such an experience is:

      • Transient — the experience is temporary; the individual soon returns to a “normal” frame of mind. It is outside our normal perception of space and time.

      • Ineffable — the experience cannot be adequately put into words.

      • Noetic — the individual feels that he or she has learned something valuable from the experience. Gives us knowledge that is normally hidden from human understanding.

      • Passive — the experience happens to the individual, largely without conscious control. Although there are activities, such as meditation (see below), that can make religious experience more likely, it is not something that can be turned on and off at will.

      • William James

      • Norman Habel’s definition

        Habel defines religious experiences as the structured way in which a believer enters into a relationship with, or gains an awareness of, the sacred within the context of a particular religious tradition (Habel, O’Donoghue and Maddox: 1993).Religious experiences are by their very nature preternatural; that is, out of the ordinary or beyond the natural order of things. They may be difficult to distinguish observationally from psychopathological states such as psychoses or other forms of altered awareness (Charlesworth: 1988). Not all preternatural experiences are considered to be religious experiences. Following Habel’s definition, psychopathological states or drug-induced states of awareness are not considered to be religious experiences because they are mostly not performed within the context of a particular religious tradition.

        Moore and Habel identify two classes of religious experiences: the immediate and the mediated religious experience (Moore and Habel: 1982).

        • Mediated — In the mediated experience, the believer experiences the sacred through mediators such as rituals, special persons, religious groups, totemic objects or the natural world (Habel et al.: 1993).

        • Immediate — The immediate experience comes to the believer without any intervening agency or mediator. The deity or divine is experienced directly

    • The Numinous RUDOLF OTTO

    • The German thinker Rudolf Otto (1869–1937) argues that there is one common factor to all religious experience, independent of the cultural background. In his book The Idea of the Holy (1923) he identifies this factor as the numinous. The “numinous” experience has two aspects: mysterium tremendum, which is the tendency to invoke fear and trembling; and mysterium fascinans, the tendency to attract, fascinate and compel. The numinous experience also has a personal quality to it, in that the person feels to be in communion with a holy other. Otto sees the numinous as the only possible religious experience. He states: “There is no religion in which it [the numinous] does not live as the real innermost core and without it no religion would be worthy of the name” (Otto: 1972). Otto does not take any other kind of religious experience such as ecstasy and enthusiasm seriously and is of the opinion that they belong to the ‘vestibule of religion’.

    • Otto’s most famous work is The Idea of the Holy, published first in 1917 as Das Heilige – Über das Irrationale in der Idee des Göttlichen und sein Verhältnis zum Rationalen (The Holy – On the Irrational in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational). It is one of the most successful German theological books of the 20th century, has never gone out of print, and is now available in about 20 languages. The book defines the concept of the holy as that which is numinous. Otto explained the numinous as a “non-rational, non-sensory experience or feeling whose primary and immediate object is outside the self”. He coined this new term based on the Latin numen (deity). (This expression is etymologically unrelated to Immanuel Kant’s noumenon, a Greek term referring to an unknowable reality underlying all things.) The numinous is a mystery (Latin: mysterium) that is both terrifying (tremendum) and fascinating (fascinans) at the same time. It also sets a paradigm for the study of religion that focuses on the need to realize the religious as a non-reducible, original category in its own right.

Rudolf Otto

KARL RAHNER’S MAN IN THE PRESCENCE OF ABSOLUTE MYSTERY

Mark F. Fisher’s condensed Foundations of Christian Faith: “The title of this chapter does not include the word “God.” Strictly speaking, the title indicates that the chapter is about the human being. That human being, however, is in the presence of absolute mystery. The chapter focuses on this mystery. It asks what it is, why it is absolute, and how it is present.

Chapter II has five parts. The first part is a meditation on the word “God.” The meditation distinguishes between the word and what it represents. Even if the word were to be stricken from the dictionary, says Rahner, the question implicit in the word – the question about the origin and destiny of life – would remain.

After Part 1 has raised the question, the second part discusses whether we can know God. It advances Rahner’s central thesis, namely, that we encounter God in a transcendental experience of God’s Holy Mystery. Whenever we experience our limits, imagining what lies beyond them, we begin to transcend them. In that experience, we recognize the mystery of our existence, whose origin and destiny are not yet clear. To know that mystery, says Rahner, is to know the source of transcendence.

The source of transcendence is not, however, a blind and impersonal force. The third part states that the source is a personal God. We speak of God as a person by way of analogy. God is not a person in the same sense that we human beings are. But God is indeed a person in that God cannot be reduced to a thing. God is the absolute ground of all things, “absolute” because irreducible to anything else.

The human being is related to God as a creature to the source of creation. The fourth part explains how human beings “know” God. We know God by knowing ourselves in relation to the mystery of our lives. This mystery is nothing other than what gives us our place in time and invites us to fulfill the possibilities allotted to us.

In Part Five, Rahner states that the Holy Mystery is present “in” the world as its fundamental ground. It is “holy” because it enables us to be complete. It helps us to be what we are meant to be. Doubtless we find God in historical religion and its holy places, people, and things. But God may not be confined to phenomena. Rather, the phenomena of this world, including the holy symbols, sanctuaries, and deeds of religion, mediate the presence of God and teach us how to discern it. But we already know this God immediately as our transcendent ground.”

Karl Rahner

In this most challenging part of Chapter II, Rahner begins with the fundamental idea that we know God in our reflection on experience, but not as some entity that we can “prove” independently of experience (A). Before any natural or revealed knowledge of God, we have an encounter with God (B). This encounter is given in the human experience of transcendence. This experience is mysterious, for it is both given to us (subjectively) and is something upon which we can (objectively) reflect (C). The mystery was recognized as early as Greek ontology. Ontology, the “science of being,” showed that one both can express something as a concept and yet not capture everything in the concept (D). So instead of a concept, Rahner uses the phrase “Holy Mystery.” He calls it the “term” of transcendence (E). Term is related to terminus, end, or goal. This term is both present in transcendence and as the way to transcendence. It enables us to know the reality of God, and is our experience of it (F). Finally, Rahner makes a comment on the proofs for the existence of God (G). They are signs that point to the reality, he says, and can enable the listener to reflect on the transcendental knowledge of God that he or she already has.

When Rahner speaks of “transcendental” knowledge of God, he means it is something “a posteriori.” We know it, in other words, “after the fact,” e.g., while reflecting on human experience. Our experience with others, Rahner says, enables us to know ourselves, whom we “see” as we reflect on our experience. So too we know the divine in reflecting on our experience of the world. The experience raises in our minds the question of who we are and what we ought to be.

Aposteriori Experience

But this knowledge is no mere reflection after the fact. It is what Rahner calls a “permanent existential,” i.e., a part of who we are. We encounter ourselves whenever we try to speak of our experience of God. It is we who are capable of an encounter with God. In this encounter, we find that we can transcend what we once thought to be our outermost horizon. The discovery of this experience itself is a mystery. The mystery is not reducible to what we can say about our transcendental knowledge.

To be sure, our knowledge of God remains “a posteriori.” We know God “after the fact,” after reflecting on our experience of meeting our limits, of imagining what lies beyond them, and of realizing the possibilities given us to respond to God’s call. Our transcendental experience does not cancel the fact that we know it only afterwards, in the reflection on it. This cautions us to beware that God is not a thing we can “know” beforehand. We cannot indoctrinate another person about God, but only lead him or her to recognize the God whom they in an implicit way already know.

What can we know about God? Our knowledge of God is indirect, like the knowledge of “our subjective freedom, our transcendence, and the infinite openness of the spirit” (p. 53). We know the experience of God, even when we do not consciously reflect on the experience. Moreover, we know God, even when our conceptualization of God is unpersuasive to other people.

So we can finally say: the concept of God is not a concept we can grasp. It is, rather, what grasps us. We do not formulate a concept and ask if it is God. No, it is better to say that both the concept itself, as well as the reality, move us into the unknown.

God is not a concept we can grasp. It is, rather, what grasps us

Traditionally, one speaks of “natural” knowledge of God, and of knowledge through “revelation” (in word and in deed). Rahner says, however, that there is a more “original experience,” an experience upon which both natural and revealed knowledge rely. The more original experience is a transcendental experience. It is not reducible to metaphysics, and it is fully compatible with the theological concept of grace. Transcendental experience is not purely “natural” because it takes place in freedom. We can choose to reflect on it or ignore it. This God-given freedom, the freedom to act responsibly and to make choices, is itself “supernatural.”

Transcendental experience, says Rahner, is “the basic and original way of knowing God” (p. 58). More basic than “natural” and “revealed” knowledge? Yes, says Rahner. Natural and revealed knowledge is mediated. It comes to us through the media of categorical experiences. Transcendental experience, by contrast, is not a neutral power by which to know God. It does not enable us to “master” our experience. Instead, transcendental experience allows us to know ourselves as finite beings – finite beings who can transcend their finitude.

Are human beings united with their transcendence? This is an important and dangerous question. Since God is our transcendence, a “yes” might suggest that we are our own gods. But the unity we experience, says Rahner, is not that. It is rather the unity between the ground and the person who is grounded, between the Word and our response to it. There are two ways, says Rahner, to understand our knowledge of God in transcendence.

1. Subjective knowledge. This transcendental knowledge comes to light in conversation or even in something like Victor Frankl’s “logotherapy.” Subjective knowledge enables us to see that our experiences (experiences of love, of freedom, of joy, etc.) are experiences of transcendence. We bring our experience to light in discourse with another person.

2. Objective knowledge. This transcendental knowledge comes from a direct contemplation of the source of transcendence. We contemplate it and call it “God.” But there is a danger in such objective knowledge. The danger is that, by speaking of God we might lose sight of what we mean. What we mean is the source of the experience of transcendence, the holy mystery. It might be obscured by the concept we use to express it. If we try to describe the source as “absolute being,” we might settle for an abstraction, not the source itself.

through comes Light

So Rahner proposes that we call the source of our original experience of transcendence the “holy mystery” (p. 60). This phrase, this image of God, may not be easily confused with a stereotype, a myth, or a conventional image.

Rahner states that his goal is to express the source of our experience of transcendence without reducing it to a mere object, one topic among others, or a system. What gives him hope is that, whenever he tries to reflect on the meaning of transcendence, “an experience of transcendence takes place” (p. 62). The human being reaches out to or anticipates the “term” of transcendence. This technical word (German: “Woraufhin”; English: “where-to-there”) means goal, end, or terminus. Every person implicitly anticipates an ultimate goal, and in the anticipation of it, grows toward it. The lure of God’s future is the “term” of transcendence.

The transcendental experience (of God) and the categorical objects that mediate it (in the world) are united but different. If they were only united, their relationship would be pantheistic. God would then “be” our experience of the world. If the experience and the categorical objects were only different, their relation would be dualistic. God would be the unknowable “other.” Rahner sees the relation between the two as unity in difference. “God establishes and is the difference” between the world and God (p. 63). Anyone searching for a God “contained in” reality seeks a false God. Those searching for a God wholly other and distant will never know God or themselves.

God Shining Through

The earliest Greek philosophies touched upon the mysteries of first principles. Greek ontology saw that human beings cannot measure the first principles, but are themselves to be measured. True, we can have legitimately categorical knowledge of God – knowledge that we can categorize and classify. But we recognize that such categorical knowledge is not the whole. There is more to God than what we can say: that is why we acknowledge that God is infinite, indefinable, and ineffable.

“Holy Mystery” is Rahner’s “term” of transcendence. Since “term” means “way of access to” as well as terminus or goal, “Holy Mystery” indicates the way to transcendence and remains the goal of transcendence. Rahner says that this Holy Mystery possesses absolute freedom. The Holy Mystery, the Term of Transcendence, is our freedom. In it we are free to be present, in whatever way we choose, to other “subjects of transcendence,” other free persons.

Moreover, transcendence moves us toward Holy Mystery, its proper end. The experience of transcendence opens up to us the Holy Mystery. It is a “mystery” because we cannot fully fathom it. It is “holy” because it enables us to be complete. It allows us to be present to other persons in a communion of freedom and love. When we put ourselves “at the disposal of” transcendence, we move beyond ourselves and form relationships with others, above all, with God. Holy Mystery includes the capacity to freely love.

Transcendence, Rahner concludes, does not depend on its “ground” or “term,” that is, on Holy Mystery. Transcendence is not derived from or reducible to it. Rather, Holy Mystery is what we encounter in the experience of transcendence. Transcendence moves us in freedom and love toward its goal.

God is what we encounter

Transcendence does not create God. Rather, transcendence is “borne by” God, who makes transcendence possible. Rahner calls the term or goal of transcendental experience a “Holy Mystery,” namely, the unity of essence and existence. If it were existence alone, then we could experience it in the same way we experience anything else, like a sunset. If it were only an essence, without any concrete existence, then we could not experience it at all. But as the unity of essence and existence, Holy Mystery has a reality that is grounded for us in the experience of transcendence. That experience is a necessary part of the human being, the one who is created so as to hear God’s Word.

The proofs of God’s existence are, in Rahner’s view, “signs.” They point to God but do not make God graspable or a mere concept. Just as we can only point to our experience of transcendence in words, but cannot reduce the experience to a concept, so we can point to God in “proofs.” These proofs are not “ways” by which a previously unknown object can be known. By means of the proofs, however, one can show another person that they are already involved in the experience of transcendence and of Holy Mystery. The listener, presented with “proofs,” is really being confronted with the light of his or her own spirit. He or she is faced with questions, anxiety, joy, moral obligation, and the anticipation of death – all of which recall the very experience of transcendence.

In the “proofs” of God, there is an element of causality. Causality in this case does not mean, for example, that one sees creation and is moved to belief in a first cause. Rather, causality is a way of indicating that being itself moves our judgment. Absolute being points to the relation between finite creation and its incomprehensible source.”

Waterdrops

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About theburningheart

Blog: KoneKrusosKronos.wordpress.com
This entry was posted in Being, Biblical Scholars, Biblical Studies, Cosmogony, Counsciousness, Critical Thinking, God, Heart, History, Human Nature, Immanence, Inner Journey, Karl Rahner, Materialism, Metaphysics, Mysticism, Ontology, Philosophy, Positivism, Post-Positivism, Postmodernism, Religion, Revelation, Spirituality, Subjective, Theology, Transcendence, Transformation, Uncategorized, Via Negativa, Via Positiva and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to THE RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE, POST-POSITIVISM, MYSTICISM, CONTEMPLATION, AND KARL RAHNER’S ABSOLUTE MYSTERY

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  3. Larisa Peva says:

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