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Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Comprising most of Lewis' writings.

Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby Nerd42 » 30 Aug 2010, 13:31

postodave wrote:I'm not sure where your comments are picking up from. I'm intrigued by your idea that there is a realm of religion and its implication that there are other realms such as philosophy and politics that are non-religious.
Oh, no. I'm being much less general than that. I just think there's some degree of obvious division between Plato's philosophy and Plato's religion and that we as Christians can inherit whatever is good in the one without the other. Like, Plato believed in the doctrine of reincarnation and we don't. Plato was a polytheist and we're monotheists. Plato said alot of things we find very helpful and that's great but held religious beliefs that are more in line with Eastern religion than with Christianity.

I was responding to earlier posts that responded to my criticism that Lewis sometimes goes too far, in my view, in his praise of pagan myths and culture. Paganism was not seen as a live issue back then, but now we have a very active Neo-Pagan movement and I wonder whether he'd say some of the same things today given these changed circumstances. I don't say this on Puritanical grounds, much as I respect the Puritans.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby postodave » 30 Aug 2010, 21:25

Nerd said:
Oh, no. I'm being much less general than that. I just think there's some degree of obvious division between Plato's philosophy and Plato's religion and that we as Christians can inherit whatever is good in the one without the other. Like, Plato believed in the doctrine of reincarnation and we don't. Plato was a polytheist and we're monotheists. Plato said alot of things we find very helpful and that's great but held religious beliefs that are more in line with Eastern religion than with Christianity.

Or more in line with Indo-European religion than Semitic religion - yes I can see what you are saying. However you can ask to what extent Plato's philosophy grows out of his religion. Which parts of Plato do you think are particularly helpful?
Nerd said:
I was responding to earlier posts that responded to my criticism that Lewis sometimes goes too far, in my view, in his praise of pagan myths and culture. Paganism was not seen as a live issue back then, but now we have a very active Neo-Pagan movement and I wonder whether he'd say some of the same things today given these changed circumstances. I don't say this on Puritanical grounds, much as I respect the Puritans.

Those earlier posts were quite a way back but I see now. Yes - I don't think Lewis could have imagined the pagan revival. I met a Celtic Shaman who said the childhood influences that pointed her in that direction were Lewis, Tolkien and Lucy Boston. The people who come out of this new paganism seem to adopt a much more puritanical stance than Lewis and see the pagan thing as evil entirely.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby archenland_knight » 31 Aug 2010, 14:08

Rusmeister wrote:This is not a personal comment on you, AK, you've always been a bit above that, but it's just why I don't post any more.


Well, thanks Rusmeister. It is important that we all try to stay "a bit above that", and as nearly as I can recall (I'm not going to go looking through old threads) you did your best to do that. But personally, I found that sometimes it is hard not to get dragged down into the fracas.

Rusmeister wrote:and some that he would have shunned - there were some wrongs - primarily discourtesy and a failure to prevent it


I think that was the problem. Some of the discussions took such a nasty turn! Courtesy was almost non-existent in some threads. While I agree that the forum lost something, I wonder if it wasn't already irrevocably poisoned by the tone and nature of some of the debates. I still don't know what the best answer was.

Rusmeister wrote: has become an insipid place with only a few topics even coming close to touching on the issue of truth (this thread being one of them).


And on that note:

postodave wrote:Paganism was not seen as a live issue back then, but now we have a very active Neo-Pagan movement and I wonder whether he'd say some of the same things today given these changed circumstances. I don't say this on Puritanical grounds, much as I respect the Puritans.


It's not just "Neo"-Paganism that is different either. We have a huge influx of workers from India ... though perhaps not as many as a few years ago. And, of course, many of these folks are practicing Hindus.

Hinduism is no "Neo"pagan religion. This is paganism Old School, complete with idols and sacrifices to them. "Dark" gods have the same power as kinder gods. Shiva (the destroyer) is equal with Vishnu (the preserver). Neither is considered to be truly "evil". The violent, destructive gods must have their due just as the kinder, gentler gods. Sure, people tend to like Vishnu better, but Shiva must be placated.

I'm not bashing Hinduism as being any worse than any other religion which denies the One True And Living God ... or denies that He is the ONLY True and Living God. (Some Hindus believe in Jesus ... but this whole "only One God" thing eludes them.) I'm just saying it is a very real pagan religion of which the modern Western world is just now getting a full taste.

Like you, I wonder if on seeing pagan religions like this up close and personal, and seeing the effect they could have on a culture, if Lewis would have felt the same way about them.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby postodave » 31 Aug 2010, 19:19

Knight - you've quoted me quoting Nerd as if the quote were mine. I think I had a lot to do with the souring tone round here. I had some very bitter and pointless arguments with Mitch who left after he in response had been very insulting to me. I never minded but John did and as a result Mitch left. The final closure of RSP came after an argument between Rus and Xara (who was invited onto the site by me). Recently John said re-opening and policing RSP would entail too much work. I don't know what makes these arguments so bitter; whatever important philosophical point we are making charity ought to be more important but we are all perhaps a little bit insecure in our beliefs at some point.

Knight said
It's not just "Neo"-Paganism that is different either. We have a huge influx of workers from India ... though perhaps not as many as a few years ago. And, of course, many of these folks are practicing Hindus.

Hinduism is no "Neo"pagan religion. This is paganism Old School, complete with idols and sacrifices to them. "Dark" gods have the same power as kinder gods. Shiva (the destroyer) is equal with Vishnu (the preserver). Neither is considered to be truly "evil". The violent, destructive gods must have their due just as the kinder, gentler gods. Sure, people tend to like Vishnu better, but Shiva must be placated.

I'd be wary of calling Hinduism Pagan. It does have many gods but these gods are usually seen as part of an ultimate divine reality so ultimately one is looking to a final reality beyond images and idols. Lewis himself was very aware of the difference between the philosophical and what we would today call the 'folk' elements in Hinduism as this was his main reason for rejecting it.
I'm not bashing Hinduism as being any worse than any other religion which denies the One True And Living God ... or denies that He is the ONLY True and Living God. (Some Hindus believe in Jesus ... but this whole "only One God" thing eludes them.) I'm just saying it is a very real pagan religion of which the modern Western world is just now getting a full taste.

Like you, I wonder if on seeing pagan religions like this up close and personal, and seeing the effect they could have on a culture, if Lewis would have felt the same way about them.

There are Hindus who both believe in Jesus and in only one God. It's hard to say how many but they certainly exist. And of course western culture had been having up close and personal encounters with Hinduism for years in Lewis's day since India was part of the British Empire. British horror at some aspects of Indian culture such as bride burning stretches right back into the nineteenth century; but of course we met them as a conquered people convinced of our own cultural superiority. Being able to meet Hindus as fellow workers, as for example I did when living in Bradford, breaks down some of that distance; these are not odd superstitious people with destructive beliefs but normal people who believe in only one God but don't think one cultural group has privileged access to him.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby cyranorox » 31 Aug 2010, 19:38

As I don't offer my gender I'm surprised to be referred to as 'she'; I may have missed some things by not recognizing a reference to myself elsewhere.

I agree with Rus that this board has become a schoolchildren's resource, mostly. And the tone had become sour, or hectoring, too often.

I am gratified to be asked to comment by Postodave. Pagan inclusions is an old issue, quiet from about the 500's to the 1500's, when the P's began to accuse the RC's. The OC has easily transformed and subsumed the good of paganism, simply because we are the Greeks, the Romans; there is so much less discontinuity and of course no real language barrier. At the same time, there has been an ongoing vigilance to maintain dogma and not allow improper or false ideas from the pagans to creep in.

Pagans, unlike Christians, generally do not have a systematic theology and do not always reveal their deepest doctrine. Hindus, for all the colorful gods and stories, are almost certainly Monists, and educated ones will commonly acknowledge this. Buddhists, too, although being as such is problematic for them. But there are multiple Indian schools of religious thought, including plain materialism, idealism, and pantheism [i use rough equivalents] and I'm not at all worried about my new South Asian neighbors.

Neopagans are usually disaffected Christians or Jews, who desire to escape the personal demand of the Deity in favor of impersonal forces and a new set of colorful characters representing aspects of the world. I have a great affection for theomachism, having been there. And I have pagan friends of several strains of paganism. Ultimately, though, I don't find this relgious culture very serious, partly because it is a reaction, partly because it accepts as true ideas or images that are known to be fantasies or inventions.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby Nerd42 » 01 Sep 2010, 01:26

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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby archenland_knight » 01 Sep 2010, 14:48

postodave wrote:Knight - you've quoted me quoting Nerd as if the quote were mine.


Oooops! Sorry. You guys were quoting each other. I guess I got confused. :??: While you may find this difficult to believe, it does happen to me from time to time.

Yeah! Really! :stunned:

Postodave wrote: I think I had a lot to do with the souring tone round here. I had some very bitter and pointless arguments with Mitch who left after he in response had been very insulting to me. I never minded but John did and as a result Mitch left. The final closure of RSP came after an argument between Rus and Xara (who was invited onto the site by me).


I don't think it can be penned on any one poster or any one exchange. Had that been the case, the poster could have been banned or the thread closed and that would have solved it. No, the problem went beyond any one person or thread.

postodave wrote:I'd be wary of calling Hinduism Pagan. It does have many gods but these gods are usually seen as part of an ultimate divine reality so ultimately one is looking to a final reality beyond images and idols. Lewis himself was very aware of the difference between the philosophical and what we would today call the 'folk' elements in Hinduism as this was his main reason for rejecting it.


cyranorox wrote:Hindus, for all the colorful gods and stories, are almost certainly Monists, and educated ones will commonly acknowledge this.


I would agree that Hinduism is really more "pantheistic" than truly "polytheistic". I learned this from my friends who were Hindu. But I think pantheistic religions can be just as "pagan" as truly "polytheistic" religions. In fact, I wonder how many truly "polytheistic" religions there ever were. Many religions we think of as polytheistic had this idea of an "Ultimate Reality" back behind all the gods that humans made sacrifices to.

So, I would still call Hinduism "pagan", with the acknowledgment that it is definitely pantheism rather than polytheism.

cyranorox wrote:Pagan inclusions is an old issue, quiet from about the 500's to the 1500's,


Well, sure! When the Emperor executes every pagan that doesn't join the church, and all the empire's pagans flood into the church, thus influencing everything it does! Any objections to pagan influence will be drowned out! You say the issue was "quiet". But is it not just as likely that it was "silenced".

cyrnorox wrote:The OC has easily transformed and subsumed the good of paganism, simply because we are the Greeks, the Romans; there is so much less discontinuity and of course no real language barrier.


But did this make it easier to keep harmful pagan influences out, or did it make it easier for pagan influences to come in unhindered and even unnoticed? I think the latter is as likely as the former.

cyranorox wrote:Neopagans are usually disaffected Christians or Jews, who desire to escape the personal demand of the Deity in favor of impersonal forces and a new set of colorful characters representing aspects of the world.


Well, if we can replace "Christian" with "people who were raised in Christian families but never made a commitment to Christ themselves," then I would agree. Many of them are mad at what they perceive as "injustice" on the part of God (never perceiving that His Mercy is poured out upon them with each breath they are allowed to take), or just mad at Mommy and Daddy for being too strict (when in fact they probably were not strict enough) and want to shock them and provoke them. It is, in essence, often just pure rebellion.

But, they are desperate too. Our churches and families have failed to bring them truly into touch with The True and Living God. Their journey into paganism is often part of a frantic search for Him ... IMO.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby Nerd42 » 01 Sep 2010, 15:48

Now you're quoting me as saying a bunch of stuff I never said.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby archenland_knight » 01 Sep 2010, 15:54

Nerd42 wrote:Now you're quoting me as saying a bunch of stuff I never said.


I'm really sorry. I'm not having my best day today. :blush: I wonder if I should really be writing code, or if I should go home and go back to bed.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby postodave » 01 Sep 2010, 18:02

Knight said:
I would agree that Hinduism is really more "pantheistic" than truly "polytheistic". I learned this from my friends who were Hindu. But I think pantheistic religions can be just as "pagan" as truly "polytheistic" religions. In fact, I wonder how many truly "polytheistic" religions there ever were. Many religions we think of as polytheistic had this idea of an "Ultimate Reality" back behind all the gods that humans made sacrifices to.

So, I would still call Hinduism "pagan", with the acknowledgment that it is definitely pantheism rather than polytheism.

Actually pantheism is a western idea that has been imposed on Indian ideas. The concept of 'religions' is another western idea that is often unhelpful and so for that matter is 'Hinduism'. The term Hindu was originally a Muslim term and Hinduism a Christian one. You are assuming that all Hindus are credally united but this is not so. Some have views that could be called pantheistic, others are theists, others are atheists. Some as I have said are both theists and believers in Christ. Cyranorox suggests that Hindu's are monists. The Vedanta school has been called monist but more precisely it is said to be non-dualist. The ultimate reality is said to be not one or many but to transcend this distinction. Interestingly St. Dyonisius says the same when he says God is neither one nor oneness.

Cyranorox you said:
As I don't offer my gender I'm surprised to be referred to as 'she'
I can't remember how I came to think that you were female, you may have told me or . . . no I can't remember. Is it a problem? I can call you he or I can circumlocute if you prefer.

You said:
I am gratified to be asked to comment by Postodave.

I thought there had been some interesting developments. Ideas about the nature of God and what it means to be truly human seemed to be being linked so that saying God has no passions implies that man should aspire to a state of passionlessness. The problem with this is that the God of scripture is in many ways a passionate God. He has strong feelings. In so far as the Greeks have a concept of God it is of a God without passions an unmoved mover - (although the gods have very human passions and alongside the Apollonian aspect of Paganism which the Church adopted you have the Dyonisian). Similarly in scripture we find that passion is seen as a gift from God and the basis of compassion whereas the Stoics see passion as an evil to be avoided. The Church picks up this idea from the Stoics so my question was whether they then in some way transform this to fit the Biblical world view or whether they simply take it over as a piece of unreconstituted Paganism. Then I was asking whether in so far as the Fathers did adapt Pagan ideas we should not be doing the same thing with the ideas of our own culture. In the days of the enlightenment there was a huge emphasis on reason, in part a return to our Greek heritage, but this proved one-sided and there was a backlash in the form of Romanticism which values passion above reason and restraint. In therapy you find sometimes an emphasis on restraint but often the most successful therapists, like the romantics want to give passion it's due (think of Freud, Jung and Rogers) so this is a question with many practical implications. Can we as Christians find a way to transcend the dualism in ancient and modern thought and see value in the openness advocated by the post-enlightenment therapists as well as the discipline of our heritage as Christians? Can we learn to value our passions as scripture teaches us to or must we abandon them? Can we learn to harness these wild horses and turn them into a source of power?

I felt we were teasing something out on this theme.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby cyranorox » 01 Sep 2010, 20:57

The language of passions can be ambiguous: i mean what-is-suffered, what-is-received; opposed to actions. 'Compassion' is chiefly shared suffering, a choice, not intrinsically the emotion that goes with the act; paradoxically an active choice of a passive predicament.
As God has, but for the Incarnation, no passivity, he cannot have passions in that sense. That He has definite desires, views, and demands is not in question; that they are expressed to us in the language of emotion and feeling is also agreed. If you look at one strain of thought in the Fathers, particularly Isaac the Syrian, you find an understanding of God that does not imagine him angry or passionate. It's been a while since I spent time with the texts, but a good reinterpretation can be had in MacDonald - although I disagree with him [as does Isaac] on the issue of punishment. Our Uncle Origen also hold these views.

The man of apatheia is not subject to his passions; in a sense, that must mean he has them not. However, he can choose to feel, and ought to, warm, generous, charitable, or just emotions. The distinction is in the process. The passion is the man *being dragged* by the horse, not the horse itself, which is the energy or activity; you can keep him. Plato's black horse with hairy ears can get a trim and nowadays looks rather sleek in harness ;~>

I think others here are using 'passion' to cover some of the semantic territory that belongs properly [iirc]to 'energy' or feeling.

As for Pagan infiltration, again it's an old story; but the burden of proof must rest on the latecomers who claim to hold a normative content and then point out what they feel is extraneous. Withal, their innovations must also be scrutinized; I've pointed out the Pagan strain in medieval western thinking about soteriology.

The warp of Christian life is revelation and sacrament, But where should the woof come from? where but the substrate of bread and wine, dress and speech, thought and discourse, all brought into and through Christian community, principally from the Greeks and Jews. What God is, how the universe is set up, is in the Creed- error, pagan or otherwise, is locked out. What He did and said is recorded in the Gospels and elsewhere- this is a pure source and admits no additions, pagan or otherwise. BTW I don't think the Fathers had quite the 'Biblical' view; the Gospel view, certainly, and a deep knowledge of the OT, but that is not quite the same thing.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby postodave » 02 Sep 2010, 19:02

Thanks Cyranorox; interesting:
The language of passions can be ambiguous: i mean what-is-suffered, what-is-received; opposed to actions. 'Compassion' is chiefly shared suffering, a choice, not intrinsically the emotion that goes with the act; paradoxically an active choice of a passive predicament.

Kenosis in fact. I think I am seeing a model of the self here where the agent is set in opposition to other aspects of the self. When we experience passions the agent is overwhelmed, feels like it has no choice but to feel a certain way and feels compelled to act in line with those feelings. What you call compassion sounds a lot like what some have called empathy, and this is partly an act of will, a being open to the other but it also a learned skill, something one can grow in. But empathy seems to work not simply as an act of the agent but through a drawing on deeper aspects of the self.
As God has, but for the Incarnation, no passivity, he cannot have passions in that sense. That He has definite desires, views, and demands is not in question; that they are expressed to us in the language of emotion and feeling is also agreed. If you look at one strain of thought in the Fathers, particularly Isaac the Syrian, you find an understanding of God that does not imagine him angry or passionate. It's been a while since I spent time with the texts, but a good reinterpretation can be had in MacDonald - although I disagree with him [as does Isaac] on the issue of punishment. Our Uncle Origen also hold these views.

You have used the idea of compassion as willed passivity, in this sense I think we can say God even aside from the incarnation has passivity. The very act of creating in a sense limits God. I wonder if you are familiar with Jurgen Moltmann who deals extensively with this theme. I am not familiar with Isaac the Syrian but probably should be.
The man of apatheia is not subject to his passions; in a sense, that must mean he has them not. However, he can choose to feel, and ought to, warm, generous, charitable, or just emotions. The distinction is in the process. The passion is the man *being dragged* by the horse, not the horse itself, which is the energy or activity; you can keep him. Plato's black horse with hairy ears can get a trim and nowadays looks rather sleek in harness ;~>

This sounds very like what Scott Peck has called transcendent consciousness. But here you are talking of the energy as neutral. Could it perhaps be seen as purposive? That is is the energy part of a greater self, wiser than the ego or agent, and guiding us towards growth or wholeness? So then I would not be either master of my passions nor yet subject but rather I would walk in harmony with them. I think this is the goal of therapy.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby cyranorox » 02 Sep 2010, 21:20

Moltman is new to me.

Perhaps a view with respect to the Fall will clarify at least my side. Passions are post fall; the primal state was passionless. The final freedom of the sons of God will also be passionless, because perfect freedom would exclude compulsion, and the essence of passion is that it is experienced as compulsory.

Milton has a comment on this: in PL, Adam, who has been in voluntary control of his sexual appetites before the fatal apple, finds himself 'ripe for play' after some conversation with Eve. It's the "finds himself", the status of recipient instead of commander, that is passionate.

This view marches with stoicism some way, but the good in view is rather different. Without the Christian virtues and the Spirit, indeed passionlessness is the equipment of a villain or a conqueror, no more. It can look cold because it's a space cleared and awaiting content.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby Nerd42 » 03 Sep 2010, 00:23

Lewis pointed out somewhere, I think it was in "Beyond Personality" that God having no passions suggests we have experiences of real value which He lacks. Lewis suggested it would be better to think of God as being superpassionate or transpassionate rather than nonpassionate. Like, God can't "fall in love" because He IS love.
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Re: Lewis' thoughts on other major religions?

Postby postodave » 03 Sep 2010, 18:39

I won't dwell on Moltmann; he's a long story.
Cyranorox said
Perhaps a view with respect to the Fall will clarify at least my side. Passions are post fall; the primal state was passionless. The final freedom of the sons of God will also be passionless, because perfect freedom would exclude compulsion, and the essence of passion is that it is experienced as compulsory.

Milton has a comment on this: in PL, Adam, who has been in voluntary control of his sexual appetites before the fatal apple, finds himself 'ripe for play' after some conversation with Eve. It's the "finds himself", the status of recipient instead of commander, that is passionate.


I understand. Augustine got quite carried away on this theme. He speculates that prior to the fall getting an erection would have been voluntary. However he knows this will seem hard to believe so he backs up his claim with a list of other actions not normally under the control of the will that sometimes are; this includes people waggling there ears and musical farting without making a stink. The trouble with this is that we now know much more about the involuntary nervous system and how it works and given how human beings probably evolved it seems more than unlikely that there was ever a time in history when we did have voluntarty (I meant to write voluntary and I am sure that was not a Freudian slip t being so close to r) control. I can image a pre-fallen or redeemed man however as being more in harmony with his sexuality, neither being controlled by it nor controlling it. There's a story about two Zen monks who meet a girl and one picks her up to help her through the mud. They walk on in silence and then later when they rest the other says, 'Why did you carry the girl when we are forbidden to touch women?' The other replies, 'Are you still carrying the girl, brother? I put her down long ago.' I think a lot of girls would prefer a man who was less governed by his passions, for example one who could cuddle without always wanting 'it'; but how many would want a man who had no passion and had to will himself to get aroused?
Cyranorox
This view marches with stoicism some way, but the good in view is rather different. Without the Christian virtues and the Spirit, indeed passionlessness is the equipment of a villain or a conqueror, no more. It can look cold because it's a space cleared and awaiting content.

That's what I was wondering. Stoicism redeemed rather than aped.
Nerd:
Lewis pointed out somewhere, I think it was in "Beyond Personality" that God having no passions suggests we have experiences of real value which He lacks. Lewis suggested it would be better to think of God as being superpassionate or transpassionate rather than nonpassionate. Like, God can't "fall in love" because He IS love.

He says something similar at the start of one of the space books, either the second or the third where he says that in heaven we will be trans - all kinds of things. Reminds me of an old joke. Religious education teacher asks the class to ask any questions about religion they want her to answer. One boy says, 'Is there sex in heaven?' A second boy says, 'Is there ----in' hell!' and the teacher says, 'One question at once please!'
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