Theo-Anthropology and the Essence of Christianity

Continuing the discussion at the end of the Iran Film Festival thread – a discussion that has vanishingly little to do with film festivals – here is an explication of the idea of “Christian Theology” being overcome by “Christian Anthropology.”  The long quote at the end comes from Alexandre Kojève’s  Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, p. 67.

Theology vs Anthropology – it’s worth looking at the two terms closely, since the discussion is about the dialectical overcoming of the opposition theos/anthropos. We think of theology, these days, as something studied by odd humanists and true believers, and of anthropology as science. But the opposition is more direct, and, more important for a philosophical/theological discussion, the distinction between God and Man can be treated as a false distinction – because God and Man can be treated as constructions of each other. I am arguing, following Hegel/Kojève, that the Christian idea, properly understood, is the dissolution of the false opposition, a dissolution represented in the myth of the incarnation of God in Christ, simultaneously in the idea that God/the divine has an interest in/dwells within every particular individual, making slaves and emperors equal before/beneath God.

However, this last construction rests on a re-statement of a fallacy, of God outside/above the world, that the Christian anthropological, or theo-anthropological idea – Man as God as Man as God, etc. – exposes.  I may eventually – certainly not today since I’m majorly procrastinating as far as the real world is concerned – work up a more systematic “introduction to the introduction” or maybe a “how did you spend your Hegel Summer?” series of posts, but this spot may be as good a non-starting point as any.  (It may not really matter where you start, or pretend to start, in such a discussion, since it all gets taken up in the same philosophical circling/spiraling anyway.)

Take it away, Alexandre:

Now, according to Hegel, one can realize the Christian anthropological idea (which he accepts in full) only by “overcoming” the Christian theology: Christian Man can really become what he would like to be only by becoming a man without God – or, if you will, a God-Man. He must realize in himself what at first he thought was realized in his God. To be really Christian, he himself must become Christ.

According to the Christian Religion, Individuality, the synthesis of the Particular and the Universal, is effected only in and by the Beyond, after man’s death.

This conception is meaningful only if Man is presupposed to be immortal. Now, according to Hegel, immortality is incompatible with the very essence of human being, and, consequently, with Christian anthropology itself.

Therefore, the human ideal can be realized only if it is such that it can be realized by a mortal Man who knows he is such. In other words, the Christian synthesis must be effected not in the Beyond, after death, but on earth, during man’s life. And this means that the transcendent Universal (God), who recognizes the Particular, must be replaced by a Universal that is immanent in the World.

* * *

The history of the Christian World, therefore, is the history of the progressive realization of that ideal State, in which Man will finally be “satisfied” by realizing himself as Individuality – a synthesis of the Universal and the Particular, of the Master and the Slave, of Fighting and Work. But in order to realize this State, Man must look away from the Beyond, look toward this earth and act only with a view to this earth. In other words, he must eliminate the Christian idea of transcendence. And that is why the evolution of the Christian World is dual: on the one hand there is the real evolution, which prepares the social and political conditions for the coming of the “absolute” State; and on the other, an ideal evolution, which eliminates the transcendent idea, which brings Heaven back to Earth, as Hegel says.


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56 comments on “Theo-Anthropology and the Essence of Christianity

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  1. It’s not more complicated than John 3:16, either you believe or you don’t, but enough of the hermeneutic shell games

  2. O’Donnell says she was once a witch. There is no such thing as a witch, despite the fact that the Bible says, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (Exodus 22:18). If O’Donnell thinks she was a witch, then she must be a believer in the same religion that burned witches in Europe and hanged them in Salem.

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/sep/18/maher-digs-odonnell-witchcraft-clip/

    Further evidence that Chriistianity is alive after all.

  3. The history of the Christian World, therefore, is the history of the progressive realization of that ideal State, in which Man will finally be “satisfied” by realizing himself as Individuality… In other words, he must eliminate the Christian idea of transcendence.

    Having created man, a being whose dignity “rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God” (Vatican Council II) God has created the individuality of each person from other people and from God. Having done that, God as omnipotent being dies (man has free will beyond God’s power), leaving man the task of truly understanding his individuality, not transcending it. Only by this process is God resurrected in the being of each individual person.

    How close is that?

  4. No, she hung around some people that were witches, even before that
    revelation, which was part of her testimonial, she’s a rather conventional but devout Catholic, that is the Other now a days

    No, that last point was against individual salvation, for collective salvation, attempting to create Heaven on Earth, often reaching the antithesis. of sam

  5. Now you’ve done it. Thanks to you and Kojève I really am going to have to study Hegel. The quote is remarkably similar to “dualistic” commentaries written about the Yoga Sutras. The Sutras are dualistic but most contemporary yoga people put a non-dual spin on them. One of the things scholars debate continually about the two states, which with Christianity are Man and God, and with so-called Classical Yoga or Patanjalian Yoga are Prakriti (Nature) and Purusha (Pure Consciousness), is whether the yoga described in the Sutras can happen while the practitioner is alive or if it happens after death. This is debated, but most people believe there to be something akin to the Hegelian idea that “he must realize in himself what at first he thought was realized in his God. To be really Christian, he himself must become Christ.” The yogi would realize in himself what at first he thought was realized in Purusha. With Classical Yoga, however, the yogi realizes himself as a “separate and eternal Pure Consciousness.” There is no union, which is why some people see Classical Yoga as a-yoga, or no-yoga, because there is no union (yoga). And yogis who reject that fundamentalist type of dualism also reject the selfishness involved and would advocate, like Hegel, that “Man must look away from the Beyond, look toward this earth and act only with a view to this earth.”
    Any way, the yogic equivalence is clear.

  6. @ miguel cervantes:
    The philosophers explain the necessary implications of the idea-ideal. They don’t offer guarantees that it can be achieved, or estimate the probabilities, or promise aid, comfort, salvation, luck in love, victory in battle, or anything else. Worse, they assert that the possibility of failure is as essential to the potential achievement as death is essential to freedom. They assert, and history bears them out, that a long process of imperfect and even catastrophically misguided efforts are likely and even essential: That was the pre-history of the Christian Era, and even a vast improvement would still be a vale of tears.

    See also the comments about revolutionary nihilism on the prior thread.

  7. @ CK MacLeod:
    You would probably expect me to bring up the fatalism issue here, but no. I agree with the essentialness of failure. It may not be a positive or a negative, but it is essential. Because Christ’s love cannot be about success, because to be Love it has to be expressed with the knowledge that it can’t be about winning, because it most certainly can’t be about defeating the Romans (as some of Christ’s followers wanted it to be about and as all fundamentalists want it to be about now), true Love, true Yoga, true Art at a minimum connects with the “possibility” of failure. Just so.

  8. Unlike Islam, which from Dozy, Fletcher, et al, seems to have been always in authority, and conquered by the sword, Christianity was about abnegation of the self, based on the ability to transcend, it is not about state compunction. Now what happened in the Middle Ages, is that lieu of other civilian authority, it became a temporal power, with all the attendant downsides of each

  9. bob wrote:

    Having created man, a being whose dignity “rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God” (Vatican Council II) God has created the individuality of each person from other people and from God. Having done that, God as omnipotent being dies (man has free will beyond God’s power), leaving man the task of truly understanding his individuality, not transcending it. Only by this process is God resurrected in the being of each individual person.
    How close is that?

    In my opinion close as a narrative regarding the idea of God, but not the story that these philosophers tell. They don’t put God on the outside or somehow prior to the universe. Just as there’s no beyond, there’s no before.

    God might be one name for the self-creating, evolving “Spirit” brought into the present by its own future acting through the past (if you recall our previous discussion). But that’s not Magical Big Dude lighting the blue touch paper. He doesn’t get killed, but the idea of Him as a separate entity dies. So on the other thread when I wrote about Christianity killing God, the God that it killed was an idea of God that lived in consciousness, but whose mode of “living” was naively equated with modes of living that He/It could not subsist in and still be what He/It was supposed to be. Consciousness always belonged to the living only, so God could not precede and therefore make the universe in the manner of some somehow supernatural, super-universal entity.

    The killing of God would be the same as the retroactive unmaking of Him as that kind of maker, relating to a linear construction of time that he somehow stood above, before, and beyond. The resurrection of God the maker occurs within the expanded reconstruction of time and the Idea, in which the Future draws the Past into the Present re-making the Future.

    These are just blog comments so I’d be happy to amend them where I’m blabbering.

  10. @ Scott Miller:
    The Introduction (linked in the post) is for the most part an excellent introduction, but if you’re not willing to roll with it, not to mention role with it, you might experience massive intellectual traffic accidents before you’re hardly out of the driveway with the first chapter, as there are certain concepts that you may feel compelled to rebel against. If you decide to take the jump, let me know, and I may have specific suggestions.

  11. @ CK MacLeod:
    Very funny, Mr. Role. You know, as a fellow Scorpio, I will get you back on that level. The thing I love about Scorpios like ourselves is that we always retaliate in kind. We don’t use a Louisville Slugger when someone else has used a whiffle bat. So, somewhere down the line I too will recall some little soft spot of yours and tweak it with good humor.

  12. @ Scott Miller:
    I’m tempted just to collect my winnings, but this understanding of the possibility of failure, not just as an intellectual position but as a fundamental and operative fact of life and consciousness leads among other things to a view of violence and fear of death that is difficult, to say the least, to square with pacifism.

  13. @ Scott Miller:
    And anyway I thought that role worked well for roll in the context you intended. When you’re asking someone to roll with you, you’re asking them to play a certain role more conducive to the development of a dialogue than, say, aggressive-skeptic. Even if they’re obvious Sagittarians like George.

  14. @ George Jochnowitz:
    But you do have powers, George. I wrote a whole response to your earlier astrology question, posted it, and then it came up “this post is under moderation.” Then, when I posted another comment, the earlier one disappeared. Maybe it had to do with the Cabbala word in it. Anyway, I explained the relevance of astrology along Carl Jung lines. You probably wouldn’t have related to it anyway.
    The best part was that I commended the Tsar for this quote: CK MacLeod wrote:

    I thought Scorpios were supposed to be secretive. You must have some other sign burglarizing your House.

    He was right. Dead on. But I’m not telling him what the other sign in the other “House” is. It’s a secret.

  15. @ miguel cervantes:
    That brought a smile to my face, Miguel. No shit. Really? A Libra. I would not have guessed that, but now that I think about it, I get it. You’re not out actually causing the conflict you advocate. So, okay. Libra.

  16. @ CK MacLeod:

    How about this:

    Having created (the idea of) God, a being whose dignity rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with Man, Man has simulataneoulsy, created the idea of separteness, of individuality. But it is an incomplete individualty since it contains the idea of communion, of transcendence.

    But man’s true task is to truly understand his individuality, not to transcend it.

  17. @ bob:

    But man’s true task is to truly understand his individuality, not to transcend it.

    could also be

    Being human means coming to understand one’s individuality.

    So in that sense there is no other task; all tasks fall under that category; and thinking otherwise is mistaken – with the the understanding that, as for Hegel, (true) “individuality” is the mediation of particularity (separateness) and universality. (And, incidentally, this construction isn’t just about a simple physical opposition between separate body and universe – “universality” arises in different forms in different “places.”) So “individuality” and “communion” are almost two names for the same thing. There’s no positive aspect of the life of the individual human being that doesn’t bring him into relationship with others, doesn’t reproduce that relationship within him, doesn’t have him finding himself in others. Moreover, all of these seemingly separate relationships exist simultaneously and imply and co-determine each other. Individuality is the constant movement between them, not any kind of static, absolute separation.

    When Hegel, rather in contrast to his interpreter Kojève, moves to praise Christian practice or theology, it is often along such lines, though both see the Christian myth as embodying precisely this fundamental truth about the individual as simultaneous interpenetrating particularity and universality. Communion might fall under the same category – an expression in theological and ritual terms that corresponds to philosophic truth.

    Hegel (Intro. to Lectures on the Philosophy of World History):

    …the discipline of philosophy… thinks and comprehends that content which appears in religion in the form of sensuous and spiritual representation. Christianity expresses in the doctrine that God has brought forth a Son. This is not a conceptual relationship but a natural one. What religion grasps as a living relationship by means of representational thought is grasped by philosophy by means of rational comprehension, so that the content remains the same but appears in the latter instance in its highest, worthiest, and most vivid form.

    Before quibbling with the language (“vivid”?), it’s always worth recalling that we’re dealing with translations. Also, the above comes from notes prepared for lectures given near the end of H.’s life.

    So the language of God dying and maybe even of God “making” or “doing” anything in the way that a human being makes or does things is a “sensuous and spiritual representation,” not precise and rational, critical or philosophical language. We tend to mix the modes a lot, especially since a bit of sensuously spiritual exaggeration can liven up a dry rational treatment, and possibly also because language is inherently metaphorical.

  18. @ miguel cervantes:
    There is something and not nothing. Human being is the coming to self-consciousness of and within that “something” – which we call the universe. “God” is a word simultaneously for the idea of absolute knowledge and justice, and transcendent, infinite being, and for a self-conscious being (or Subject) in possession of absolute knowledge and acting upon it. As in that discussion we had under the Hawking post, the real dissatisfaction among theists with the atheist critique lies in their “sensuous and spiritual” intimation of that self-conscious being who/which has no place in the lifeless descriptions of scientism. The philosophical understanding is superior to the (bourgeois/non-self-conscious) scientific understanding because it returns that self-conscious being to its proper, universal and integral place. Non-self-conscious science seeks to create the universe from its own nothingness, but the universe it creates is always as lifeless as non-self-conscious science is. So this is why Heisenberg, at the limits of physics is profound – and why the insight pre-existed the scientific formulation of it in so many ways and in so many places. At the furthest extreme of science we (re-)encounter “ourselves” – self-consciousness, which, seen as a universal and all-encompassing subjectivity, we can perhaps informatively call “God.”

  19. @ CK MacLeod:

    There’s no positive aspect of the life of the individual human being that doesn’t bring him into relationship with others, doesn’t reproduce that relationship within him, doesn’t have him finding himself in others. Moreover, all of these seemingly separate relationships exist simultaneously and imply and co-determine each other. Individuality is the constant movement between them, not any kind of static, absolute separation.

    This co-determination of the universal and the particular, the interdependence and inter-penetration of self and others would seem to be similar and possibly identical to ideas in Buddhism.

    Inter-being in the words of Tich Nhat Hahn and Tibetan Budhism co-dependent origination and the deep ecology movement flowing from Heidegger seem superficially similar, but, if I’m understanding you correctly, quite different.

    With these, individuality is in fact an illusion (if functional) or a delusion (if not). I’m guessing this difference is what you referred to in your characterization of Buddhism as a “one-sided universality”.

    I need to break this discussion into pieces, so I’ll pause here. Doses this seem accurate to you?

  20. To the Buddhist, universality is also a ilusion/delusion.

    All of it, conceptualization, metaphor is useful as a tool, traditionally, as a boat useful to cross the river, but then to be discarded.

    “Being human means coming to understand one’s individuality” vs non-self.

    The idea of non-self uses the same reasoning of interdependence to arrive at the oposite conclusion.

    Yes?

  21. @ bob:
    I don’t know enough about how the word “illusion” functions within an authentic and representative Buddhist discourse to relate it responsibly to my own understanding of Hegelian philosophy. Likewise, I’m thinking that the word “individuality” probably means something different for Hegel than it does for the philosophers whom you seem to be describing as skeptics.

    An idea can make perfect sense in the context of a higher understanding, or process of coming to a higher understanding, but lead to erroneous conclusions – perhaps turn into “delusion” or “illusion” – if separated from the whole and overextended. So, Hegel critiques Stoicism, which in many respects overlaps with the Eastern religions/philosophies as commonly understood, in a manner that doesn’t seek to refute Stoic beliefs, but assesses them as incompletely developed. So the error wouldn’t be in following Stoicism to its end, but in seeing it as the end. It’s only when Stoics become, you might say, Stoicists, that their Stoicism becomes refutable.

    As for the critique of the “Eastern” position, I’m happy to concede that Hegel’s exposure to it may have been too limited and culture-bound for him to appreciate it fully. On the other hand, I think it’s also possible that he got it exactly right regarding Buddhism in and up to his time, but that Buddhism in our day, including our understanding of ancient texts, has been transformed or is always in the process of being transformed by the circumstances in which we receive it. Buddhism after being (mis-)understood by Hegel wouldn’t be the same as it was beforehand. It now “knows” of the Hegelian critique, whether or not through a direct confrontation with Hegel’s words, concretely through its encounter with the West.

    The impossibility of retrieving a pure or innocent Buddhism of the sort Hegel summarized would follow from the same perceptions underlying the critique of Christian religion and the critique of science. It would further follow from Hegel’s philosophy of world history that all ideas we encounter fall under the same philosophical hegemony: It makes us who and what we are as we make it what it is, and we cannot step outside of the circle of Absolute Knowledge to know and understand things in some other way.

    So, understanding Christianity in the very broad sense I’ve been discussing it – as a “sensuous and spiritual” religious expression of what Hegel calls the Idea and also Absolute Science – any Buddhism, any Deep Ecology, any Islam that we look at will already be a Christianized Buddhism, Christianized Deep Ecology, Christianized Islam.

  22. bob wrote:

    The idea of non-self uses the same reasoning of interdependence to arrive at the oposite conclusion.

    Yes?

    If so, then “non-self” is probably the same as or part of or another aspect of “self” – or at worst a “moment” of self inseparable from the whole – within “self-consciousness” as understood within the Idea.

    The possibly inaccurate perception of Buddhism as you describe it is that it aims for nullification/nihilation. The Hegelian approach tends toward unification and inclusion – transfiguration rather than extinction of terms like “individual,” “self,” “universal.”

  23. @ CK MacLeod:
    This is very “Ken Wilber.” As a Buddhist, it was unique for Wilber to put forth the idea that things had changed from the time of Buddha even from an Ultimate (not just a relative) perspective. He has been criticized for thinking that the Buddha’s philosophy needs updating. Wilber explains why in context of Form and Formlessness. All Buddhists, including Wibler, see it is as a mistake to connect Buddha’s realization of Emptiness to the transcendence of “illusion.” “Form” is not just an illusion. Everything is empty, including Formlessness. To see things differently would create a dualistic perspective. Buddhists always see dualism in a negative light and that’s okay in connection with the Buddha’s ideas (not in connection with yoga). So Form is as eternal as Formlessness and no less real. Form is Formlessness and Formlessness is Form. Therefore, as you point out in a different way, Form will impact Truth. What was True for the Buddha is different now. Like I stated, most Buddhists don’t go for that idea. They think of the Buddha’s dharma as Ultimate Truth that does not change. You really should check out Ken Wilber’s writing. I know he has written about Hegel extensively. I’ll research which books would be the best.

  24. Buddhism uses philosophy to ready the mind for the nonconceptual, but does not see itself as that.

    The illusion I refer to is the illusion the self has of itself as existing as an independent, non-contingent entity. So it is illusion like a dream is understod when we wake up, or if one is capapble of lucid dreaming. It is delusion if we understand ourselves to truly exist, but have n awareness it could be otherwise.

    Non-self is misunderstod as nullification. It is the mode of independent existence that is negated, not existence as such.

    “Buddhism” as a religion is understood (or should be) by Buddhists as a historical contingency (just like everything else).

    “Christianizing” seems a word that cause more problems than it solves at this historical juncture.

    A big difference in Buddhism and Hegel is the engine of realization. Buddhism sees the contribution of the State to simply not be an obstacle- much like living in in place in which one won’t be eaten by wild animals.

    By locating realization completely in the subjective experience (one school is called Mind Only) the historical contingencies are thought to be eliminated. The mind to mind transmission from teacher to student becomes central.

  25. @ Scott Miller:

    The reason the Dharma does not change is because the content of thought is irrelevant. So yes, the content can change, but so what?

    Awareness without the fabrication of the self. How can that change?

    Probably a barrier to a discussion between us is how to specifidcally understand some of the terms we might use. As I said in my The Wall conversation with Colin, I use therms as the Gelupa school does.

    At this level, even slight differences of terminolgy can lead us astray.

  26. I agree with Scott that “transcendence” does not apply to Buddhism. Enlightenment is a metaphoical uncovering of something that is already there. Buddha Nature is the potentiality for Enlightenment. Traditionally one metaphor is a great treasure buried beneath the house of a destitute person who does not know it’s there.

  27. @ bob:
    Within the phenomenological approach – which by definition puts phenomena, the real, in primary position, even if what is meant by “real phenomena” is transfigured through the logos – historical contingencies are understood as objectified thought as well as objects of thought, and therefore as equally internal to the (collective as well as individual) mind as external to it.

    The attitude toward the State would as well be so opposite to Hegel’s that it makes the paradoxicalist in me desperate to discover where they’re “actually” saying the same thing, but skeptical of my chances of success. Presented with the idea of the State as merely a non-obstacle, a phenomenologist might begin with that idea and then demonstrate logically that achieving non-interference would require a, b, c through z positive moments of the State, just as appearing as a teacher and student in a position not to be interfered with presumes a, b, c through z pre-conditions dependent on the State. Even “mind to mind transmission” relies on a materials – brains, words, thoughts – that are social products.

    Throughout Hegel’s major writings, the State broadly defined becomes the vehicle through which the Spirit advances, and that would be the same thing as saying it’s where the individual realizes freedom – the State by definition is human beings realizing freedom. Unfreedom or obstacles to self-realization in real existing states would be a product of their malformation, and would need to be overcome through working/fighting… For Hegel, that IS all history ever is or can be (everything else is unknown to history and therefore simply unknown – by definition not of interest). A merely subjective overcoming would be impossible, because subjectivity inevitably re-produces the supposedly external internally. “What is yonder is here.” “Mind Only” becomes a truism: Mind just becomes another name for real phenomena.

  28. Note also: There’s a much more extensive discussion, one of the most famous sections of the Phenomenology, that applies here, in which Hegel, having re-constructed consciousness through a critique of Cartesian first principles (the “I,” “thinking,” and “existence”), moves through Stoicism, Skepticism, Dualism/Unhappy Consciousness, and Reason (Science) as necessary and essential advances in the life of the Spirit, but incomplete and leading to erroneous and un-satisfying false conclusions when taken as totalities or stopping points. That brings him about to where he can begin to critique religion and history systematically – the moment touched on in the Kojève excerpt.

    It’s also the point in the Phenomenology, rather than in secondary or overlapping texts, where I happen to be right now. So we don’t have to solve this one once and for all today! In fact, let’s not…

  29. @ CK MacLeod:

    I have focussed most of my my Buddhist comments on Emptiness related ideas. The other pole is referred to ususally as Mind or Buddha Nature.

    The presentations can differ enormously because the experience is ineffable.

    The Buddhist concept of space is not so much negative thingness defined by the things around it, as either the absence of obstacles (much like the State) or the potentiality for phenonomen.

    Mind is like space.

    In that way it both is eternal and unchanging, but not a thing at all.

    Mind is unobstucted awareness, or the potential for awareness.

    In this way it is also a continency since it depends on some form of contingent pheonomen and specific thought to manifest. So it is in this way empty of inherent existence just like the objects of thought (other phenonomen) are.

  30. @ CK MacLeod:

    I wrote the last comment without reading your last one.

    So we don’t have to solve this one once and for all today! In fact, let’s not…

    Couldn’t agree more. I’m done.

    Just one question…when reading about Hegel’s broad idea of the State to include various civic asscociations, do Hegalians ever break out into chants of “All power to the Rotarys!”?

  31. bob wrote:

    The reason the Dharma does not change is because the content of thought is irrelevant. So yes, the content can change, but so what?

    Agreed. That’s why I think what Colin was getting at with the Hegelian philosophy really connects more with the dualistic aphorisms of the Yoga Sutras than Buddhism. Some people think the Sutras are a yogic response to Buddha’s teachings. The only problem with that idea is that they probably came first.

  32. The other challenge when it comes to comparing things to Buddhism is that there are three kinds: hinayana, mahayana, and vajrayana. The last one is tantric. That means all bets are off with it. Vajrayana equals “Crazy wisdom” level of practice. Naturally, that’s my favorite. The other ones relate more to the reasonableness and rationality that the world thinks of as Buddhist–“the Buddhism without belief” part. Tantric Buddhism even includes a kind of Buddhist form of worship in connection with Chenrezig, which was Avilakeshvara in the pre-Buddha, Hindu days of compassion oriented spiritual teaching.

  33. @ Scott Miller:

    Any valid comparison depends of specificity of what’s being compared.

    Vajrayana= crazy wisdom. This is incorrect. Crazy wisdom is a tradition within vajrayana. It can refer to either a general style of teaching or a very specific system within the tradition.

    As for the rest of vajrayana being more rational based – that’s just crazy. All forms of Tibetan Buddhism start with some version of a graded curriculuum before starting with various forms of tantric practices.

    Many Tibetan meditational figures derive from Hindu gods and goddesses.

  34. George Jochnowitz wrote:

    Could anything in the world be crazier?

    Yes, George, crazier would be believing that crap.

    Seduced or coerced into sex, for sure.

    Forced to convert and marry is bull.

    Care to guess the reason that few people in the leftist media run stories about the fact that Jewish men have extraordinarily large penises?

  35. fuster wrote:

    Care to guess the reason that few people in the leftist media run stories about the fact that Jewish men have extraordinarily large penises?

    Does it have anything to do with crazy wisdom level practice?

  36. @ bob:
    Glad I missed this comment. Now Colin will probably be the only one to read my response.
    I’m trying to go easy here. After the aggressive “incorrect” misstatement on Bob’s part, what he says about Vajrayana practice and Crazy Wisdom is true. But that’s from the student perspective. I was referring to what we get from the teachers–the Lamas and Rinpoches. I was referring to their teachings. So I was not incorrect. Then there’s the “As for the rest of vajrayana being more rational based – that’s just crazy” part. Uh…what? How does anything I wrote connect to that? It’s amazing that someone who calls for “specificity” can muddle things to this degree. Bob proves my point. The comparison between Hegel and Buddhism is something that leads him into confusion. I was trying to be nice about it. He makes it very difficult.
    “Many Tibetan meditational figures derive from Hindu gods and goddesses.”
    So? Again, does that have anything to do with anything? The fact that some Buddhists are much more religious than others was my point. And again, when Buddhists are so different, it makes it hard to compare Hegel to Buddhism. Which Buddhism? Bob makes one point. It takes a great deal of specificity to make the comparing at all meaningful. He could have made that point without adding a false conclusion and an irrelevant statement.

  37. @ Scott Miller:

    The comparison between Hegel and Buddhism is something that leads him into confusion.

    Ah Scott, I’v been living in confusion for much longer than this latest exchange with Colin.

    I’m sorry for the inartful #44.

    On the comparison issue, in #36 I had specified that I was following the Gelugpa school’s presentatin of these issues. So I wasn’t sure what your comment referred to. I should have made that clear.

    My “gods and goddeses” point was to amplify your Chenrezig point. From your comment I inferred you did not know it was a more general phenonomen. Perhaps that was incorrect.

    On “crazy wisdom”…I don’t really get the point you’re making in #48.

  38. @ bob:
    Apology accepted, Bob. Thank you. My main point was to possibly steer the Hegel comparison away from the complexity of Buddhism to the Yoga Sutras, or Ken Wilber. I’ve been checking back on Wilber and he is commonly referred to as a “neo-Hegelian,” and “post-Hegelian.” So it’s not just that he writes about Hegel. His whole “integral psychology” deal is considered very Hegelian.

  39. @ Scott Miller:

    Not really familar with Wilber. Could be a interesting discussion re Hegel. But why steer the discussion away from Buddhism. I’m OK with the complexity and I’m sure Colin’s up to it.

  40. @ bob:
    It’s all good, got a new post on this question to be up shortly, though I’m getting frightened now about Ken Wilber and there’s nobody here to hold my hand.

  41. @ bob:
    Annie has been a little crazy lately – possibly a combination of high heat (multiple successive >100 degree days) and something she ate out of a garbage container she knocked over upsetting her digestion. Little present in the living room… keeping me up for an hour last night, and having to be taken out twice, the second time wandering around in the yard distractedly at around 3:00 AM.

    I might have to turn on the air conditioning after all, but a) it’s wasteful and b) I’ve adapted pretty well to doing without over the course of a lifetime living in So Cal.

    A bit harder on pooch than human bodies…

    OK, dammit, I’ll turn on the AC, and beg for Annie’s forgiveness… and then maybe she’ll hold, or at least lick, my hand.

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TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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