The anti-transfiguration

5 10 2019

In one of the most dramatic episodes of the Bhagavad Gita, Krsna’s friend Arjuna asks to see Krsna’s universal form, the visva-rupa. The universal form is how Krsna, who is Bhagavan or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, interacts with the world. The original form of Krsna, the source of all of His expansions and avatars, is just as Arjuna sees Him on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra: blueish-black, two handed, and appearing no older than a sixteen year old boy (even though by then Krsna had been on the Earth well over 100 years). Having been instructed by Krsna, and knowing Him to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he asks to see the visva-rupa to know better who his friend is. Srila Prabhupada translates the manifestation of the universal form as follows:

Arjuna saw in that universal form unlimited mouths, unlimited eyes, unlimited wonderful visions. The form was decorated with many celestial ornaments and bore many divine upraised weapons. He wore celestial garlands and garments, and many divine scents were smeared over His body. All was wondrous, brilliant, unlimited, all-expanding.

If hundreds of thousands of suns were to rise at once into the sky, their radiance might resemble the effulgence of the Supreme Person in that universal form.

At that time Arjuna could see in the universal form of the Lord the unlimited expansions of the universe situated in one place although divided into many, many thousands. Read the rest of this entry »

On universalism again

13 09 2019

The summer has been busy so keeping up with blog posts has been difficult. In June, the Church Life Journal published Taylor Ross’s reflection on Origen’s doctrine of salvation in The Severity of Universal Salvation. Here the premise is that the doctrine of universal salvation is far from a “walk in the park,” that the process of purification by which a soul is ready to go back to God is difficult and, more often than not, very long. Ross writes:

It should not require a theological treatise, much less the anxious methods of psychoanalysis, to recognize that the human will is capable of a seemingly endless charade of avoidance. Origen infamously entertained a seemingly endless proliferation of ages because he knew, presumably firsthand, that very often the soul would rather journey on with its false attachments than be transfigured. So, if he countenanced the idea of a God patient enough to make time for fallen creatures to willingly repent, it is because Origen knew, presumably firsthand, that there is no shortcut to reformed desire. Read the rest of this entry »

On the spiritual body

14 05 2019
Narada Muni Transcendental Spaceman

Narada Muni (source)

A reader left a comment with a link to an article by David Bentley Hart entitled The Spiritual Was More Substantial Than the Material for the Ancients. Here I will offer a few comments, specifically on the main themes of the corporeal vs. the spiritual body. Read the rest of this entry »

In praise of bad marriages

22 04 2019

In my intellectual traversing around Hinduism, I encountered the above clip of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada [Founder of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), popularly known as the Hare Krishnas] speaking of his former married life. Prabhupada left his family once his children were grown to become a sannyasi, or renounced monk, but his marriage was apparently not a happy one. In this clip, Srila Prabhupada speaks about how as a young man, he went to his father to complain that he didn’t like his wife. At that time, marriage to more than one woman was permitted in colonial India, and the insinuation was that he was asking what his father would think if he were to take another wife. Instead of giving the blessing to take another wife, the father told his son that he was most fortunate not to like his wife. For by having a wife he didn’t like, it would be easier to leave her aside and go back to Godhead (that is, Krishna). We all have to give up what we love in this life sooner or later, and loving your wife less would mean that leaving her would be easier. Read the rest of this entry »


22 02 2019

He says, “That I have great sorrow and unceasing pain in my heart.” Go ahead, have sorrow; go ahead, feel pain because of the lostness of your brothers, “who are kinsmen according to the flesh.” But does it really extend so far that you should wish to become accursed from Christ? And why would their salvation benefit you if you should be cut off from salvation? And what benefit is it to save others if you yourself perish? He says, It is not so, but I have learned from my teacher and Lord that “whoever wants to save his soul shall lose it, and whoever loses it will find it.” What is so astonishing, then, if the Apostle should desire to become accursed for the sake of his brothers? He knows that the one who was in the form of God emptied himself from that form and took on the form of a slave and became a curse for us. What is astonishing then if, since the Lord became a curse for the sake of slaves, a slave should become accursed for the sake of brothers? Yet I believe that this is also what Moses was saying to the Lord when the people sinned, “And now, if indeed you will forgive their sin, forgive it; but if not, blot me out of the book of life that you have written.”…

“Origen had a motto that he taught to his students as the guide to their whole intellectual (and psychic) lives: Hopou Logos agei, which translates as “Go wherever the Divine Wisdom leads you.” Studying Origen, and being led more and more deeply into his speculations on God and the cosmos, is a highly infectious thing.”

The rest here

Krazzy 4

25 06 2008

On Bollywood movies, the English language, Argentine billboards, little black dresses, strip malls, the Fathers of the Church, and the role of language in religious discourse

One of the vices that AG has introduced me to is the joy of Bollywood movies. Since India is a poorer country and movie-goers have to get more bang for their buck, Bollywood films have to be over-the-top spectacles that boggle and overstimulate the mind into a complete entertainment stupor. The story lines are contrived, the plot twists barely worthy of belief, the dance sequences long, the women pretty, and everyone has a good time doing what they do best: dropping everything to dance and sing (or more often than not lip synch) at a moment’s notice. Here is an example from “Dhoom 2”, that AG and I recently watched:

(No, seriously, this movie is way cool. You should watch it.)
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St. Dionysius

15 05 2008


The Holy Father’s catechetical discourse yesterday was on the role of St. Dionysius the Areopagite in Catholic theology. I think it was a much needed reflection on Dionysius’ thinking as a helpful remedy to the spiritual malaise of the Christian West.

I found that some people have said that the Holy Father was beginning to sound “Orthodox”. Many think that speaking of hierarchies, Divine Light, and apophaticism is something that has become foreign and exotic to the Western Christian mind, more suited to Easterners. That has not always been the case as many things I have posted on this blog suggest. The divines of fifteenth century Florence were perfectly at home in the texts of Dionysius, as was Meister Eckhart and various Rhine mystics. Fray Luis de Leon also was very Dionysian, as were all the other Spanish mystics as the Holy Father points out. It is arguable from my perspective that the glories of Christendom are due to the élan that Dionyisian Neoplatonism bestowed on Christian consciousness, and our decline is due to the belittling of the figure of Dionysius the Areopagite. (It was Martin Luther himself who dismissed Dionysius as being “more Platonic than Christian”).

Two thoughts that I had:

1. A quote that the Holy Father cites from Dionysius’ Seventh Epistle: “I would not like to cause polemics; I simply speak of the truth; I seek the truth”. That best reflects the ethos of the late Neoplatonic approach to philosophy: since the truth is beyond all human thought and words, there is very little point in arguing or quibbling over its details. Many Neoplatonists were profound reconcilers: both Proclus and Pico della Mirandola, for example, sought to unite the thought of Aristotle and Plato, saying that both were true when applied to their legitimate realms. The role of human discourse is to silence the mind so that it can adequately approach Divine Truth. It does this in a sense of surrender and awe, not of polemic and control.

2. In this way, I have always wondered how people could argue so much about the meaning of Patristic texts in particular. I guess when I read them, I didn’t read them to prove a point or win an arguement. I read them in a seminary or monastery in order to help me pray and meditate. So I could really care less about the gnomic will in St. Maximus Confessor unless it leads me to peace and contemplation. That doesn’t make me holier than anyone else. I guess I just feel that maybe people who argue these things are missing the point of these texts. They are means to a higher end. Heck, I even read St. Thomas Aquinas this way. I prefer a cultic rather than a dogmatic reading.

Maybe that is what the Holy Father is saying the world needs.

Scripture as Incantation

12 05 2008

…and other aspects of Cardinal De Lubac’s Reading of Origen

Henri Cardinal De Lubac’s book, History and Spirit: The Understanding of Scripture According to Origen, was one of the many works of the Patristic resourcement of last century that sought to rescue the ill-fated early Christian theologian from the scholarly dismissal of history. Though this lack of respect for this towering intellect of early Christendom is waning on many levels, there is still some residual distrust of Origen’s theology.  De Lubac seeks to address only one aspect of the Origenist corpus: exegesis and the allegorical approach to the interpretation of Scripture.  He seeks to prove that Origen’s idea of allegory stems not primarily from the Hellenic ethos but from the letter of Scripture taken in and of itself. De Lubac’s main thesis is that Origen was not overly obsessed with Greek thought forms but took the Word of God alone as the highest criterion for truth. In all things, De Lubac argues, Origen was a vir ecclesiasticus, a man of the Church, whose main inspiration was always the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
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The Closed Door

6 05 2008

There is a certain unique Door, which is also closed like the Book, the Door through which “no one passes”. There are in fact certain things unknown to any creature, known by One alone. For the Son has not revealed to the world everything that he knows. The creature does not understand what God understands; and, considering even the least things, all do not have the same knowledge of them. Paul has more than Timothy… And Timothy, in turn, understood more things than I can understand. And there is perhaps someone who understands even less than I. There are, finally, things that Christ alone understands: and that is why the Door of the Temple of God is closed.

-Origen, from the Homilies on Ezekiel