Friday, August 31, 2007

On Mother Theresa again: "Unfaith"

(Hat tip to C4 for the coverage He's got all the links you'd ever need or want...and more possibly).

I'm loathe in a sense to bring this up again because it doesn't matter a whit obviously for Theresa. She is wherever she is. It matters (I guess) only for us, which ought to be remembered in all this commentary (mine included)--how self-centered this whole thing can easily become.

None of it in a sense matters, so therefore I'll just dive in knowing that Theresa, God, whatever is going to be whatever it/they/we are.

That said, it does matter relatively. At least when moronic de-humanizing screeds abound--they have to be combatted.

C4 has the links for the usual cast of characters--Hitchens, Dawkins, etc. But Sam Harris has weighed in too, which is a shame. He's better than those guys. He knows more, has had more intimate experience of meditation and should not so easily dismiss inner turmoil to score a cheap, short-term victory against religion. He doesn't realize his own criticisms undermine his own project for a science of contemplation.

A little known Christian (non)mystic by the name of Hadewijch comes to mind (nondual realizers in my books actually transcend the divide between mystics and "regular" people). H was a 12/13th c. Dutch woman. Not a nun important to note, but a member of the Beguines.

In my previous ramblings on this issue, I discussed more the Christian phenomenological map and noted that Theresa may have suffered unnecessarily because of certain subtle attachments to high mystical realms.

Hadewijch adds a key element in this regard---the notion of "unfaith" (her term in translation). Unfaith was not atheism. This is the first and most important point. When you understand experientially what Hadewijch meant by "unfaith", you will see how flat, pathetic Hitchens and New Atheist Crew are. Atheism is just the flip side of weakly developed theism.

In other words, atheism/theism are both of the relative world. Where all questions eventually get reduced to something like: Is the universe for or against us (or neutral?)?

For Hadewijch that question was inquiry, was to be faced through not every solved (dis-solved). Unfaith was the point at which one faced finally into the awful reality of all relativity but has not yet awakened to the Absolute.

A person has gone through all the previous stages: subtle union with God, the Witness, Causal Darkness. Visions perhaps. Lack of visions. Dark nights. Ecstasy, suffering. Whatever.

At some point the individual realizes that all of this have still left him/her ultimately at the core un-happy, confused, and searching. One must realize that all of these are changes of condition/state. And that (from the Ultimate pov) all such changes/conditions are ultimately unfulfilling. For they come, arise, decay and pass. Including union with God. Which Theresa of Calcultta seemed never to understand/accept. She was going through the natural cycle of decay/death of her soul and its union with God.

Unfaith Hadewijch boldly proclaimed comes next. One simply sits and lets all thoughts/feeling arise and faces the great existential questions and all of one's assumptions/positions through this burning fire. (Usually located in the right-causal heart).

You have to face the bigiges: God and the Devil (let them pass/choose no side). Heaven and hell. Good or evil. Theism and atheism.

Choose no side. See that all are relative.

Unfaith is not the opposite of faith but rather the suspension of the faculty that determines faith or lack of faith.

Alternatively, it could be the realization that all such positions (atheism and theism, life is meaningful vs. life is meaningless) are faith. Unfaith is the natural relative counterbalance to faith.

After awakening, there is neither faith nor unfaith.

Theresa, I would guess, never went into this realm of unfaith. And as one smart commenter noted, this could be attributed in part to the fact of her being in charge of the Missionaries of Charity.

Hadewijch was not a nun. She had no superior. She was not in the public eye. She was able to isolate herself for awhile to experience her "unfaith" time. And also to readjust after her awakening to the Nondual. [What Bernadette Roberts called the God Awful moment, a 2nd Incarnation----entering the marketplace with open hands in the Zen Oxherding Pictures].

Theresa was sadly not afforded those life conditions. Whether God wanted it so or not, is not for me to decide. It is a difficult choice to make, when all the information is not out there. Talking about God's will without any mention of the institutional and theological obstructions/obstacles and ignorance/repression of the truth seems fairly sterile and empty to me.

If Theresa had gone to unfaith she would have had to face the possibility that the entire order was just relative. Was locked into the wheel. This is a tough place to go because it is a knife's edge. Thinner than the razor you are preached upon. I know from experience.

It is hard, for someone raised to love and sacrifice, to face the possibility that I/you/we have never really loved (from the Absolute pov), have never really sacrificed.

In Unfaith there is the deep anxiety that on the far side of Awakening, you will no longer care. I'm sure that partly explains Theresa's existential dilemma. God had fled from her inner life but was seen everywhere in her outer life. But outer/inner are themselves just another version of the same basic duality.


At 3:18 PM, Blogger ~C4Chaos said...

excellent post, bro! i always look forward to you expounding issues like this using a Christian perspective. i didn't know about the "unfaith." it sounds similar to Krishnamurti's "choiceless awareness."

"But Sam Harris has weighed in too, which is a shame. He's better than those guys. He knows more, has had more intimate experience of meditation and should not so easily dismiss inner turmoil to score a cheap, short-term victory against religion. He doesn't realize his own criticisms undermine his own project for a science of contemplation."

that was my first thought too after reading the Harris piece. it was a cheap shot. he's a Dzogchen practioner fer Chrissakes so i expected more from him. then again, they're talking to an audience who probably won't get the mystical stages anyway.

keep it flowing, my friend.


At 1:53 PM, Blogger bigdaddy said...

great post: thanks for your meditation on faith and unfaith.
BTW, I tried to go to the Integral Christian blog, but it seems to have disappeared -- the message was something like "account suspended"...

At 11:27 AM, Blogger CJ Smith said...

Thanks guys.

Big Daddy--the Integral Christian blog has been shut down. Joe still blogs and I do separately. Peace.


At 11:32 AM, Blogger Constance Cumbey said...

I am reading your blogspot with deep interest. We have extremely different perspectives, but I'll bet we could have one extremly interesting long talk. I agree with you on Sam Harris; would take issue with you on "contemplative prayer." I have researched the "hidden dangers" of the New Age and related altered state movements since 1981 and find many sincere people taking refuge in this with out viewing the full spectrum and direction of its literature.




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