On religious exclusivism

21 12 2020

I have been asked / goaded into responding to the latest two hour interview with David Bentley Hart. I really would rather not, but as this particular interview was hosted by a fellow Hare Krishna devotee, I feel that I must clear up certain misrepresentations of Krishna consciousness. I am submitting this to the unconvinced or third parties who may have gotten the wrong impression of Gaudiya Vaishnavism and Hart’s position in contemporary Christian discourse.

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A review of Work of Human Hands

23 11 2020
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An “ex-Catholic’s” look at Fr. Anthony Cekada’s book

When I learned of Fr. Anthony Cekada’s death earlier this year, my thoughts turned to another lifetime ago. I was in the Society of St. Pius X seminary in La Reja. It was summer and thus very hot (no air conditioning, of course). I was in the seminary library by myself supposedly answering the phone (no one ever called). I found a stack of journals to pass the time, among them one called “Sacerdotium”. It was in English and dated from the 1990’s. Unlike so many other traditionalist publications, this one contained decent writing. Namely, the author who stood out was one Anthony Cekada. The content of his articles consisted of the same sedevacantist arguments, yet he added quite a bit of humor to it. Some of it was hit or miss, but overall I enjoyed the effort.

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Person-to-Person

16 11 2020
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A first reading of the Srimad Bhagavatam

You could say that the purpose of the 18,000 verse Bhagavata Purana or Srimad Bhagavatam is to tell you what it means to be a person. Or rather, it’s to introduce you to the first or Supreme Person, the one you have been looking for, the one you always knew existed, or at least wish you did. In Vaishnava thought, reality has three levels or manifestations: Brahman, Paramahtma, and Bhagavan. Perhaps I will oversimplify these and say that they are the answers to three separate questions: What, Why, and Who. Brahman is a question of “what”: that there is existence, but not particularly why it is. It’s the truth barren of any qualities or distinctions. Many people seek this, they seek stillness and a peaceful void. This is often the subject of cheap mysticism. Paramahtma is the truth as it works within us and all over: it’s the reason why philosophers ask questions and it’s the voice that provides them with answers, often wildly divergent from each other. Those who seek it still don’t really know the origin of the truth. In a manner of speaking, it is the logos (λόγος) of the Stoics and St. John’s Gospel. But the ground of both of these, the ultimate reality if you will, is not a question of “what”, or even “why”, but of “Who?”

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The morality of voting

29 10 2020

I have a hard time accepting that there is any spiritual, ethical, or moral dimension to voting in a mass democracy. To state otherwise seems to be invoking the proverbial butterfly that flaps its wings and causes a hurricane on the other side of the world.

If you’re going to impute moral credit or culpability for one vote in the midst of millions, you have to be precise about it. If I vote for the “wrong” candidate and am thus worthy of Hell because of it, what degree of fault do I have for the sins of my favored candidate? How many babies did my vote in particular abort? How many migrant children did my vote in particular put in cages? How many foreign people did my vote in particular kill in unjust wars? And so on. If we are going to use moral and juridical language, if we are going to assign fault, we have to quantify it. Or if I back into someone in a parking lot, am I somehow worthy of the death penalty because the trauma of the accident subtracts so many seconds from the person’s life?

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Defending eternal Hell with Vaisnava theology?

3 10 2020

I don’t know why I keep obsessing about the question of Hell in Catholic theology. I have already stated that it wasn’t a major consideration when I was an orthodox Catholic. I have never really had scruples or an overactive sense of guilt, or a fear of punishment for that matter. My religious concerns have always been about meaning and who I want to be at the end of the day. It has always been for me about transformation and an encounter with that which is outside of me. Meaning is out there, so I have come to think. The question of whether I will be personally saved or damned, and if others will, seems a bit self-absorbed.

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Yoga-maya and the Bible

27 09 2020
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I have wanted to write about the topic of Yoga-maya for some time. While I don’t feel adequate to the task, I’ve gotten to the point of needing to write my thoughts down now or not at all. The question at the center of this reflection is: What is the ultimate meaning of conscious action? And also: Does God need to stop “being God” to fully be God? And perhaps: Why does anything outside of God exist at all, and how?

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Notes on St. Bonaventure

5 09 2020
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As a Christian, my mind was Augustinian, though I am by no means a scholar of St. Augustine. As I have written elsewhere, I have always had a problem with Thomistic Scholasticism. This is not for lack of engagement, as I like reading Thomistic authors, and have even tackled the Angelic Doctor himself on occasion. Much of it still didn’t sit well with me. As stated previously, one of my difficulties was trying to reconcile faith and reason. Though my problematic dives into modern philosophy led me down disastrous paths, I think I have purged enough of their influence to soberly realize that the narrative of making sense of faith through purely rational premises still doesn’t appeal to me. In my opinion, trying to marry faith and reason too closely can only be done through “cooking the books,” or begging the question. If you value the “reasonableness” of faith that much, you are already beginning the inquiry with a foregone conclusion.

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On sectarianism

22 08 2020

I was listening to Hare Krishna content while doing things around the house (as I am wont to do these days) and I listened to first a talk and then an interview with devotees from two different parts of the world. The first was by an initiating guru and sannyasi with a reputation for conservatism and orthodoxy. But this time, his line was more that, if people were really doing proselytism, in this case distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books, there would be less inner tension within ISKCON itself. Internal strife according to this reasoning isn’t an impediment for preaching to others, but rather it’s a product of not preaching and focusing on internal problems. The interview was with another devotee who seems to be coming from a less controversial position. He helps run a temple in Utah, of all places, and has nothing but praise for the Mormons around him, stating that the Mormon church even helped build their temple.

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Notes on theological liberalism

20 08 2020

Some of you have been reading me for almost fifteen years, so you know that I am not some knee-jerk reactionary. On the other hand, I hate attempts to “update” and explain away various religious premises and doctrines. Here I am jotting down some ideas as to why:

  1. I find that, in a lot of revisionist / liberal projects, there is an overt switch in belief from submission to power. In other words, there is always an unspoken agenda to it, a fake deference to tradition all the while planning to stab it in the back. And if you try to call it out, gaslighting ensues. The liberal will never fess up to his or her bias or real agenda, but everyone knows they have one, and most everyone knows what it is, but it dare not speak its name lest one be called a “bigot,” “closed-minded,” fundamentalist,” etc.
  2. In that vein, the favorite tactic of the theological liberal is the mote and bailey: attack one premise under the guise of going deeper into the tradition, only to knock the whole edifice down gradually, and retreat back into the particular interpretation of tradition whenever attacked. This is actually a pretty effective tactic.
  3. Don’t cite, just assert. Don’t actually engage with particulars, stick to words like “hermeneutics,” “higher criticism,” etc. Claim that you have the mind of the authority but don’t actually cite anything the authority says. After all, almost every interpretation of the authority seems to be defective, except your own.
  4. Bad cases make good law, and exceptions are rules. Every system has to deal with difficult cases, and all of the past methods of dealing with them are defective except the one you are now proposing (fancy that!) In other words, all problems of the past were too complex for simple solutions, but all modern solutions are totally transparent and will totally work.
  5. This is about sex, isn’t it? Everybody must be as depraved and is having as difficult of a time of it as you are. Of course, people in the past were not more virtuous or at least didn’t have enough of a sense of shame to fake it. That’s crazy talk.
  6. Credentials are the new priesthood. Even though most humanities fields just regurgitate the same theories over and over again with more opaque language, somehow degrees somehow still mean something. When all else fails, argument from authority.





Deus sub ratione Deitatis

26 07 2020
I love the frolicking Krishna' - The Hindu

In summer, I sleep badly. I have come to expect this from the humid swampy nights. In the last decade or so, summer has been both a time of rest and exhaustion, of trying to keep up with the time clock and suffering through periods of languid repose. There are long days and short nights, fits of furious activity and weeks when less gets done than expected. In this subtropical heat, I have to catch up on a lot of neglected reading. Time for this slips through my fingers quite easily. It is in this heavy air, amidst the buzzing of insects and continuous discomfort due to the climate, that I have to contemplate the higher things. It’s not ideal.

In my express sightseeing tour through the Srimad Bhagavatam, it is precisely at this time that I have come to the most significant stop in the whole scripture, and that is the description of the rasa-lila: Krishna’s dancing with the cowherd maidens of Vraja in the luminous autumn nights. In Gaudiya Vaishnavism, the socially inappropriate dancing of Krishna with the wives and daughters of Vrindavan is the highest manifestation of the love of God, and of God’s nature itself. Though it may be inappropriate for a relative neophyte to comment on the mystery of the rasa-lila, I am a man in middle age so I don’t think it will be any more appropriate later in life. As I have said elsewhere, I am probably about as wise as I will get in this lifetime.

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