Monday, November 15, 2010

Perennialist Pope?

"Evidence of a close connection between a relationship with God and the ethics of love for everyone is found in many great religious traditions," said Pope Ratzinger, quoted in this story from Mother India — Pope finds Hinduism's "sense of the sacred, sacrifice and fasting" in agreement with Catholicism. His Holiness went on suggest that "the ancient religions and spiritual traditions of the various continents... contain values which can greatly advance understanding between individuals and peoples."

"Syncretism!" some will shout. "Religious Indifferentism!" others will cry. "Latitudinarianism!" still others will wail. "Perennialism!" I will exclaim, noting that Martin Mosebach's suggestion that Nicolás Gómez Dávila found "the Catholic Church, which he did not regard as simply one of several Christian confessions, but as the great collecting tank of all religions, as the heiress of all paganism, as the still living original religion."

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Blogger Tracy Fennell said...

This led me to a series of queries reading about Hinduism...and I learned NFL running back Ricky Williams is a convert to Hinduism.

4:06 PM  
Blogger David said...

I would disagree with the thesis that Catholicism is the "heiress of all paganism, as the still living original religion." Well, if you are only considering Greco-Roman paganism, sure, but if any religion today would deserve that designation, it would certainly have to be Hinduism which is at least 5,000 years old and has never had any interruption in its practice. David Frawley, in his article "A Universal Vision: Hinduism's Path to Unity," writes: "Hinduism is probably the oldest continually practiced religious and spiritual tradition on the planet, with its roots going back over 5,000 years. In fact Hinduism has no specific point of origin or end. The basis of Hinduism can be found not in a particular prophet or prophets or in a single book but in the eternal, in the cosmic mind itself, accepting a variety of great teachers and teachings over the long course of time and the different types of human cultures. Hinduism has never rejected any aspect of human religious aspiration, whether it is the use of images, a variety of rituals, or many techniques and approaches to meditation.

Hinduism is the third largest of the world's major religions, with over a billion adherents worldwide. It is the largest of the non-biblical traditions. It is the largest of the pagan traditions and the best surviving of the great pagan traditions that once dominated the world and traces of which remain everywhere." Source:

A more in-depth look can be found here:

2:08 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Tracy, it looks like yoga was his gateway drug.

David, all that you say is true, but I think you may have read Don Colacho's statement literally, rather than figuratively, philosophically, or theologically.

Some interesting points to ponder.

(1) The Hindu and Greco-Roman religions share the same Indo-Aryan roots.

(2) When Catholicism goes abroad, it is able to "baptize" local traditions, as Fr. Mateeo Ricci did with Confucius and Mencius and as happened at a grassroots level in the New World. This is in contrast to the other great missionary religion, Islam, which, V.S. Naipaul has said erases the original culture (with notable exceptions like Lombok, in Indonesia, if I might add.)

(3) Catholicism sees itself as the fulfillment of the universal pagan aspirations.

8:55 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

David, this interesting story just came up: 17th century Hindu-Christian epic against today’s fundamentalism.

9:34 AM  
Blogger David said...

Hindu fundamentalist nationalism seems to be a recent aberration, as the dominant impulse of Hinduism is simply to absorb and include the myriad spiritual impulses of man. It is not difficult to find swamis referring to Christ as an avatar or at least a great sage (there is even a "Sermon on the Mount According to Vedanta"). Christianity, of course, resists such syncretism.

From what I understand, this was a difficult point for the early Christian missionaries in India and other parts of Asia, and has been an ongoing factor in these peoples resistance to converting to Christianity: many people would be deeply moved by the story of Christ and enthusiastically bow to the cross and Christian images, but they wouldn't see any reason to abandon their pagan traditions. The concept of religious exclusivity was a strange one for them.

The Kristapurana seems like a rather good model of inculturation, as Indian culture has such a highly developed literary form for spiritual works. Other examples of this I have seen are priests and religious adopting the appearance of swamis and Hindu sounding names, as well as some of the customs expected of holy men, such as vegetarianism and living in caves or simple retreats. An interesting example of this is Henri Le Saux, who became known as Abhishiktananda.

12:30 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Fascinating comments.

The "Sermon on the Mount According to Vedanta" was one of the books that led me back to Christianity. Once, in Singapore, when I visited a Hindu home, I found a crucifix among the statues of Hindu deities.

There are also "Indian devotees of Christ who are not baptized into the Church" called Khrist Bhaktas.

My Anglican priest in Malaysia was a Tamil gentleman named Father Jesuthasan, the "Jesu-" from Our Lord.

7:10 AM  
Blogger Extollager said...

Tolstoy helped to lead you back to Christianity, you've said, so I thought you might like to see this:

10:22 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Extollager, many thanks!

12:54 PM  

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