Thursday, September 06, 2007

Mother Theresa Again Again: Promise Last Time

Just one more thought worth considering that I have not seen anyone in this on-going thread mention.

The New Atheist Crew have jumped on this new piece of phenomenological evidence---i.e. that Mother Theresa felt God absent for something like 4 decades--as proof that God does not exist.

What they do not deal with is that the feelings of her absence followed feelings of presence. Deep presence. I.e. Mother Theresa had a famous mystical experience of Christ hanging on the cross and accepting her to be with him forever in that suffering. Her mystical marriage, as opposed to say Catherine of Sienna or Teresa of Avila, was about being married to Jesus' suffering.

Which is exactly what happened by the way. She saw Jesus everywhere, in everyone in the world but never inside herself. Just as Jesus on the Cross felt God everywhere but in his own suffering (My God, My God why have you abandoned ME....not them).

So the New Atheists are playing both sides (or perhaps neither side well). Here's their conundrum. They immediately seize upon and believe wholeheartedly (for their own purposes) Theresa's description of her inner feeling of emptiness. But if they are going to do they to be in any way consistent, have to by her description of her inner mystical experience of God's presence/vision.

Which obviously they won't do because it undermines their entire project. Instead, if they were being honest (which they won't but for the sake of the argument) they would be in a bind. If they tried saying the vision experience was either a hallucination, lie, or a random by-product of biochemistry, then so is the experience of emptiness & absence of God.

In other words, as always, we return to the central dilemma---interior experience. If someone is a true reductionist, then even the realization of reductionism (say Daniel Dennett) is itself simply a product of the reduction. And therefore is wrong. Or as useless or equal to any other experience.

A reductionist model does not allow for judgment of better or worse. So no one is ever truly a reductionist, as evidenced by Dennett, Harris, Hitchens, and Dawkins among others. They obviously have values they favor over others. They just do not usually have a solid basis for making the judgments that they do, in my estimation. Nor are they particularly insightful and/or honest (since they themselves don't know) why they hold what they hold. They have their own story about why they hold what they hold, but deeper study shows other factors at work I maintain.

They can't have it both ways here. Either we give Theresa the benefit of the doubt on her own experience and therefore she had years of feeling God and years of not feeling God--why is the latter right and the former wrong? Or for "defenders" of God--the opposite? Who makes that decision? What does the "fact" of her feeling God then not feeling God mean? How do we determine the answer to that question? [Much more important than any answer/suggestion itself because the answer to the question of how reveals the person's real existential/intellectual affiliations and hunches].

From a post-metaphysical pov, which I'm arguing helps solve these dilemma (or rather dissolves them), I say that you have to look into Theresa's background to understand what was happening. Namely in a quadratic, intersubjective view, one's background filters helps shape the content of one's own spiritual experience.

No Eastern Orthodox Christian mystic would ever have a vision of becoming wedded to Jesus suffering on the Cross. Theresa's own devotion, which is a product of her training in the Roman Catholic Feminine Spiritual Path, helped shape the experience she had.

God is real. Consciousness Is anyway. But God also forms depending on our mode and vision of who/what God is. God (not Godhead) is "God as God is For Us". Often without us ever being aware of that reality.

I'm not criticizing her per se for her affiliation. But it is worth asking in Christian theology, whether suffering should be glorified in the spiritual path. My personal opinion (and that's all it is) is that Theresa did over-glorify suffering. But I'm from the Masculine Path, so that determines my own opinions on the matter.

Suffering will come. I don't think we need to seek it out or glorify it. I don't think we should fear it and do everything we can simply to avoid it either. Suffering is as inherently (from the Absolute view) liberated as health. And as inherently addicting, from the relative point of view, as well.

What she did to was bring it to light and by not making the poor victims (as too many liberals do), she showed that even in their suffering, they were often happier than rich Westerners. I.e. the Real poverty was spiritual poverty and the West is drenched in that poverty. That to my mind, was her greatest gift, for those who are fortunate materially.

But back to the absence....

So on the relative side, the absence is explained as the truth of the assertion of Jesus: you will be with me in my suffering. Which itself does not exist separate from her own perspective. (Love relationship=Two Partners, though asymmetrical in influence).

On the absolute side, Theresa could have realized that in the presence and the absence, there is AWARENESS. She was locked totally into the content of the experience (the feeling of God being absent). At least that is how she comes across in her own reflection/letters. What she could have done was to realize and identify with the one that was Aware of her feeling God's absent.

That voice, the voice of I AM ("Before Abraham was, I AM"), is the voice of Nonduality, as experienced in the first person mode of awareness. Indistinct Union. Then the question of God's relative absence would have been less important than the non-separate nature of any content that arises. Presence or Absence. Visions or suffering. Consolation or Desolation.

The One that is Aware is Free of both the (relatively) good and bad. Of course that kind of discussion you will not hear from either the defenders or attackers of Theresa, theists, atheists, whoever.


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