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The Main Crossroads of Postmodern Spirituality

1. Two Modes of Self-formation of Postmodern Immanentism

Remain faithful to earth.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Even in the postmodern era, constant insistence on what is „intrinsic“ to man may prevail in a programmatic way over relation to what transcends him: immanentism moves in closed circles around what is naturally given to „us“, to „me“, to „mankind“, to „the world“, what can always be somewhow mastered, subordinated or at least safely appeased. Attempts have been made to apply this approach towards transcendence as well – and it invariably fails exactly on what it is no longer able to add to the credit of immanence or dismiss as „unhealthy“, „dangerous“ or irrelevant. Immanentism survives the clash with what man can thus neither absorb nor bring up only thanks to the fact that at the point of its potential inner transformation – when by genuinely recognizing transcendence it could lose itself – it allows fiction to come in: presenting immanence as the only living space of man and transcendence as either a mere fissure in a seemingly infinite womb of immanence or as a mere empty formal negation thereof.

In proportion to the expanding horizon of the postmodern search for transcendence, the range of the means available to postmodern immanentism is extending, too. This multiform shell succeeds in covering up many human weaknesses. But only at the price of burying the very humanity as well.


„God can be understood as transcendent in relation to the world without being thought of as existing independently of it,“ writes the American philosopher Jerry G. Gill. 142 His „God“ is „a symbiotic whole“ which is „more and other than its parts“ and at the same time „is itself dependent upon its parts“. 143 It is bound into a compact structure of the world as its mere integrating factor which basically does not defy its rules, connections, measures and dimensions.

142 Jerry G. Gill: Mediated Transcendence. A Postmodern Reflection. Macon 1989, p. 44

143 Ibid, p. 41

„God“ which thus lacks the basic independence and freedom towards the world can, however, appear to be only a terminological misunderstanding; in actual fact, his salient features rather correspond to what we are accustomed to call „cosmos“ or „universe“ or eventually „creation“; on the other hand, the word „God“ is usually reserved for what has no other name. Gill's semiotic procedure thus dismisses absolute transcendence to sudden anonymity and man to curt spiritual limitation. The term „God“ is used here only as a totalizing coping stone for the petrification of a limited field of experience which itself eschews a live and non-speculative relationship with absolute transcendence.

At the theological level, this horizontal programme of a holistic and organicist conception of the world with an immanent religious aura is spelt out by the leading personality of what is called American constructive postmodernism – David R. Griffin: Postmodern theology is „naturalistic theism“ 144. This term is presented by Griffin, in a free link to Whitehead's and Hartshorn's processual theology, in contrast with „supranatural-istic theism of premodern and early modern theology“ and with „nontheist naturalism of the late modern view of the world“.

144 David R. Griffin: God and Religion in the Postmodern World. Essays in Postmodern Theology. New York 1989, p. 4

He declares the primacy of extra-sensual perception 145 and qualifies relative transcendence accessible through it, which can be incorporated into the horizon of immanence, as the only possible: „God (...) cannot interrupt or unilaterally control events in the world.“ 146 Because God's transcendent independence is thus denied, naturalistic theism is without obstacles „fully compatible with the reality of genuine evil“ in the world. 147 That is also why no „jump of faith“ is necessary for the acceptance of this theological doctrine, faith is here completely devoid of the component of the open „risking“ trust and simply fused with Jamesian „radical empiricism“ and rationality. „The divine is the soul of the world.“ 148 Griffin proclaims this theology to be Christian, naturally not referring to Revelation – to the „extrinsic authority“ with its „truth claims“. 149 After all, in Griffin's view, God's presence in Jesus does not differ from the mode of his presence in other people; the reason for this statement, however, lies only in that the principle of naturalistic theism excludes such a difference. 150

145 Ibid

146 Ibid, p. 5

147 Ibid

148 Ibid, p. 8

149 Ibid, p. 9

150 Ibid, p. 10

The basic explicit rule of Griffin's theological reasoning is the requirement that truth should correspond to experience; however experience, which can be fitted into the speculative framework of his reasoning, is very limited. The basic explicit ethos of his work is „the salvation of God“; but what fits into this philosophical-theological category of Griffin evidently is not worth that name. 151

151 As for Griffin's conception, the following is valid without conditional: „If God lost his absolute transcendence, then he could degenerate into a usable deity or, still worse, into fiction.“ (Oto Mádr: Dialog zwischen zwei Theologien. In: Otto König – Gerhard Larcher (Hg.): Theologie der gekreuzigten Völker. Graz – Budapest 1992, p. 29

It is certainly possible to concede the truthfulness of the pantheistic analyses of the delicate, non-violent ways of God's comprehensive effect in the world. But having embarked personally on those ways and trying to get nearer to their Creator, we are soon forced to abandon the idea of a kind of synchronicity of the world and God. Live God is not a tame assistant of the world, he is not a mere „soul of the universe“. But this is what theological immanentism fears most: that God does as he likes. As Griffin notes too, naturalist theism originated in America as a reaction to the religious mentality of the Calvinist voluntarism which has, however, made a caricature of Divine freedom, changing it into an infamous idol – a kind of feelingless, coldly observing and severely punishing Father-Tamer – which has become an efficient tool of neurotizing religious education and subsequent atheization of whole generations. 152 Faced with this religious idea, Griffin finds himself in the relation of negative dependence upon it. Vis-a-vis this „spectre“ he does not defend the honour of freely known Divine freedom; he keeps moving as if in the shadow of the Calvinist trauma; he thinks in fear of God 153, a fear which does not lead him along a straight path to an open inner communication but only to an ersatz solution.

152 Cf., for instance, films by Ingmar Bergmann, books by Erich Fromm and the entire stream of the so-called theology of the death of God.

153 Griffin goes out of his way to assert that God is necessarily (not out of freedom) compassionate. (Ibid) And also that he did not create creativity itself – that stands above him as „ultimate reality“ and is therefore binding to him. (Ibid, p. 139)

He constructs a universe in which man is protected against Divine „arbitrariness“. In which God does not stand outside the universal order of causal interaction – even at the cost of admitting that „God“ and evil in the world will quite successfully mutually tolerate themselves, without the hope of redemption, without the prospect of catharsis: eschatological liberation, conditioned precisely by that banned Divine freedom. The defence against Divine „arbitrariness“ thus protects man against Divine love as well. It destructs human hope (no less than the idea of a cruel deity), blocking normal sound confidence. The rigidity of irrational compensations attains its Pyrrhic victory here.

But immanentism „principally“ avoids direct encounter with Divine freedom – outside the world of any (either injuring or compensating) ideas: „If reality is approached as something that exists independently of the knower and the knowing process, then our understanding of it will take a dualistic form.“ 154 On the contrary, declares Gill, the main goal is to abolish „the dichotomy of the natural and supranatural“. However, there are, demonstrably, two modes of taking this commendable step (independently of J.C. Gill). The first one consists in the endless imaginary convertion of everything transcendent to the „unified“ structures of immanence (eventually to the Gillian structures of mutuality). The second mode, on the other hand, lies in establishing communication with transcendence as transcendence: for instance by posing the question to which I cannot myself give an answer within the limits of immanence. To put it very briefly, „the duality of the natural and supranatural“ can be surmounted either in an illusory fashion, by totalization based on immanence, or through dialogue with genuine transcendence.

154 Jerry G. Gill. Op. cit., p. 124

In the first case, it is impossible to check whether duality is surmounted genuinely or ficticiously at all because that mode of „overcoming“ is identical with the exclusion of such a distinction. 155 (We are thus finding ourselves in a world not responding to anything outside itself – and in this way actually promoting the duality -, in a world of totally sealed-off self-expression.) – In the second case, the act of overcoming is completed through an independent and free answer of the other side. (This answer is unpredictable, inexhaustible in terms of formulation and deeply influential towards the transformation of immanence.) In spite of eventual partial mistakes – which are, however, identifiable and can be ruled out 156 – orientation towards the transcendent Other, towards his self-expression is therefore the only possible path leading towards a non-fictitious abolition of the gap between immanence and Transcendence. (Under these circumstances, even relative transcendence may eventually be its own self, being freed from the yoke of unilateral assimilatory tendencies to master it only and only for the benefit of previously determined intentions of human immanence, and can – to a certain extent – become a mediating instance.)

155 Let us quote here a like-minded Czech postmodernist: „It is shown to us that with the very reality it is as follows: that in it is impossible to distinguish creation and discovering, fiction and finding.“ (Zdenìk Neubauer: Nový Areopág. Praha 1992, p. 126 – in Czech)

156 Cf. the principles of distinguishing especially in Christian and Buddhist schools of spiritual life.

Dialogue with absolute transcendence, sooner or later transposing itself into the sharing of its proexistence, is an efficient solution to the inner problems of totalizing immanentism – which however at the same time divests immanentism of its raison d' etre. But a turn from totalization to proexistence is a matter so radical and demanding that, under a less profound consideration, immanentism may appear to be an alternative whose inner contradictions and problems seem more tolerable than free efforts towards a dialogue with an utterly unimaginable partner. Through this consideration, however, man is mastered not by his top spiritual capacities but by his lowest psychic automatisms. 157

157 This particular danger of insufficient conscious decision-making in the field of spirituality was singled out, for example, by William Horosz: „Man is swept away by levels of awareness that are no longer under his control and directionality. (...) I think it is the lonely, solitary, aimless, alienated self that is deified. (...) The price of fulfilment is the loss of human directional awareness. (...) Self-2 doesn't want to humanize reality: it wants to be god.“ (William Horosz: Search Without Idols. Dordrecht – Boston – Lancaster 1989, pp. 6, 11, 40, 42). In the postmodern era, uncontrolled narcissistic self-deification at the cost of excluding reason and responsibility has had many specific and readily available manifestations even in many „spiritual personalities“. Also at a practical level, it is becoming obvious that immanentism noawadys no longer has the outer appearance of openly proclaimed atheism (as was customary in the modern era) but also the outward face of superficial spiritual perfection.

In its totalizing variant, immanentism is fascinated with the whole, entirety, completeness out of whose bounds nothing should allowed to go; the denial of transcendence thus has a „positive“ nature of its absorption leading as far as the limits of human possibilities. This hidden desire for absolute trans-cendence (due to its proprietary traits being somewhat perverted and impracticable) is unable to accord the right to free existence to that over which it is impossible to exercise practical or theoretical power 158. It builds around itself a magic circle wherein symbols replace real relations; there is nothing „outside“, everything has been imaginarily sucked inside, absorbed into a manageable „unity of all contradictions“. The centre of immanence is, to be sure, „everywhere“, unifying everything; there is no otherness. – This state of unrelatedness eventually turns out to be a defenceless food to all external manipulative tendencies towards man thus shut off from everything, especially to tendencies managing to comply with the desire for restfulness, security and harmony.

158 This resembles the noetic logic of sleep described by Jan Pato_ka as inspired by the Heraclitean tradition: „In our sleep, in the dream, we are quiet, we are free from excitement. We are our own masters: whatever our phantasy likes that matters, we ourselves matter with our wishes and intentions, but only in an empty phantom, while in a dream we do not know anything about reality – great or even our own. Life contains the archetypal tendency to enclose oneself and to dream. This archetypal tendency is far more widespread than we would normally recognize. It does not appear only in sleep. It does not appear only in some people but in everyone. We do not want in it what is evident but we want only ourselves, only our life, only our wishes and interests. Sleep and dream is rest and delight, each enjoyment is, after all, just a piece of that elementary effort to enclose oneself. In it, in this endeavour we do not adjust only this or that particularity, we adjust everything, that opens an imaginary attitude to objects, that creates 'cosmos', the world of ours. (...) Thus we normally live being awake with closed eyes, ignoring the conflict inside us.“ (Jan Pato_ka: P_edsokratovská filosofie. Praha 1968, p. 98 – in Czech)

Entropic, regressive nostalgia for the lost Unity with everything, whether prenatal or prehistoric, disappointed by the failure of utopian attempts for its artificial reproduction 159 is even consciously turned towards natural sources of its re-experiencing: towards dream and myth 160 where everything is symbiotically intertwined. The human mingles here in direct continuity with the extrahuman, in itself personifying the expressive potential of the sub-human breeding ground out of which it arises and to which it completely plunges – without opening itself to the calling coming from „elsewhere“.

159 Many adherents to the New Age spirituality had a left-wing past. (New Age. Der Spiegel, 1988, 27, p. 169)

160 The postmodern remythologization of the world bears similar traits as its ideologization which immanentism proclaimed in the modern era: the inability to recognize a general error and, on the other hand, the ability to universalize its own particular point of view.

Apart from the postmodern world of relations – where respect is shown also to absolute otherness and where, therefore, dialogue and search for transcendence is possible – there exists a postmodern symbiotic world, guaranteed by immanentist idols, reducing human relations to a biogenous harmony and dismissing any radical spiritual otherness as something indigestibly anorganic. The emerging postmodern science, with its uncritically „universal“ holistic paradigm, ocassionally assists in building this immanentist spiritual world. But the postmodern search for transcendence invariably views any mere paradigm as that totalizing „bottom of the bucket“ which – according to the Zen saying – should be „pierced through“.


In the postmodern era, the principle of negative immanentization has been depicted in the most abstract terms by Jacques Derrida, notably in his term differänce. 161 In the author's words – differänce, „the driving discord of different forces and the difference of forces“, 162 „an ambiguous and winding road leading from the different to the different, from one term of opposition to another“ 163 thanks to which „each sign amounts precisely and solely to what it differs from the others“, 164 „is not a simple concept or term but it is the very possibility of conceptuality, of conceptual process and of conceptual system in general“. 165 „Philosophy lives inside differänce and out of it“ 166 and „permanent deciphering (of its traces) replaces the disclosure of truth as a presentation of the matter itself in its presence“. 167

161 By transcribing the unusual pronunciation of the French word, the author implies that the term is not identical with the ordinary „difference“.

162 Jacques Derrida, Texty k dekonstrukci. Bratislava 1993, p. 163 (in Czech)

163 Ibid, p. 162

164 Miroslav Petøíèek jr., Post. Pøítomnost, 1991, 3, p. 26 (in Czech)

165 Jacques Derrida: Op. cit., p. 155

166 Ibid, p. 162

167 Ibid, p. 163

Relationship with transcendence is replaced here by watching the infinite negating referral in the circle of „sameness of difference and repetition in the eternal return“. 168 It is evident that „the totality of this field cannot be teleologically mastered by any transcendent truth present outside the field of script“. 169 Everything is subordinated to immanent differänce – to what is (as has already been mentioned) „the very possibility of conceptuality, of conceptual process and of conceptual system in general“. 170 Derrida's „deconstruction“ thus constitutes the logic of self-transformatory possibilities of the system of signs which moves against itself out of itself and which is open to nothing but its own negation.

168 Ibid

169 Ibid, p. 150

170 Cf. Note No. 165. If it is at all possible in this thought situation to use the word „undesignable“ then it is exactly diferänce: „The undesignable is not any ungraspable being to which no name can be approximated: for instance 'God'. This undesignable is a game thanks to which there are nominal effects, relatively uniform atomic units to which we give names, chains of substitutions of names in which eg. even the nominal result of 'diferänce' is anchored, carried away, transcribed just like an incorrect input or incorrect output is still part of the game, function of the system.“ (Ibid, p. 172)

But this free floating in space (or rather free fall of a torn-off artefact) is conditioned by the fact that there is still something to rebound from, something towards which we can delineate, that there is still something to turn against itself. The inability of creatively overstepping the horizon of negative dependence is precisely what makes postmodern immanentism just immanentism. In spite of its ambitions it is not „the shakeup of everything“ (Derrida); but rather some kind of final „withering“. Negating immanentism is a movement along a steady line of what was and failed; it canonizes the metaphysical failure of a certain mode of Western thinking through a fatal description of the (end) play of the system of signs resignedly left to themselves. 171

171 So that thinking would not become all that, it would have to break out of the circle of „eternal return of diferänce“, it would have to transcend its own fascination with inner laws of movement of a (mere) conceptual system, it would have to dare open up to a greater and different otherness than that brought by diferänce, it would have to encounter that which establishes metaphysics (of the Lévinasian type) quite differently than it is established by human dominating concept or by archetypes of unconsciousness and what can keep it living and inspiring quite differently from a play of differences which is an end in itself.

The principle of negating immanentism is also projected into the level of cultural and political discourse: through „play“ of convictions destructively negating one another and their mutually levelled-off contexts. This situation, lacking any relationship towards some kind of a universal criterion of truth and justice, is described in particular by Jean-Francois Lyotard. At the level of the diverging plurality of mutually closed „truths“, human „interests and passions are antagonistic. (...) People are situated into systems of heterogenous rules and principles and drawn into games of heterogenous genres of discourse.“ 172 As a result, the interhuman reality has the nature of insoluble controversies.

172 Jean-Francois Lyotard: Der Widerstreit. München 1987, p. 233 (Original: Le Différend. Paris 1983)

After all, at the level of impersonal discourse among different language games there is no other possibility. 173 The plurality of viewpoints can become a positive feature and mutual enrichment only when the level of discourse – the level of immanence incorporated in the rules of this or that game – has been overstepped and related to the highest level. Dialogic distance from the rules of all games (and from one's own entire immanence) is possible only towards the universal „space“ of Transcendence, which can be neither managed nor totalized by any particularity. The uninstrumentalizable ethical rules of moving inside it can make us more free and human – in mutual communication capable, without delay, of recognizing the terrorist illusion posed by the level of a mere discourse and trying to square up with our own human limitation in a manner turning it into a gift and not a threat to other people. 174

173 „Your eyes, accustomed to sunlight, must get accustomed to the light you are carrying yourselves,“ Václav Bìlohradský quotes a guide through old mines who was instructing a group of visitors to whom he had just distributed electric torchlights. (Václav Bìlohradský: Pravd svìtélka. Lidové noviny, October 8th, 1993, p. 1 – in Czech)

174 „When we then talked about the composition of the greater circle from which public initiative should come (we have agreed that it is to meet in August of that year) one of us, a man of passionate concentration and the strength of a judge's love, expressed his reservation that too many Jews had been appointed so that some countries would be overrepresented by Jews. Even though such reasoning was not totally strange even to me because I believe that only in its community, not in scattered members, can Jewry gain more than a stimulating, to wit efficient, share in the construction of a stable peaceful world, it seemed to me that once these reflections have been thus expressed, their legitimacy shall suffer. Being an obstinate Jew myself, I protested against that protest. I do not know how it happened that I then started talking about Jesus and about the fact that we Jews know him from our hearts in such a way precisely in stimuli and movements of his Jewishness, which remains inaccessible to nations subordinated to him. 'In a way which remains inaccessible to you' – that is how I put it to the former parson. He rose, so did I, and our eyes were locked. – 'Let us leave,' he said and we gave one another a brotherly kiss in front of everyone else.“ (Martin Buber: Zwiesprache. Werke I. München 1962, p. 177)

A breakthrough from discourse to dialogue is, at the same time, an opening of possibility to transform one's own singular world in a creative fashion: to see anything beyond its boundaries through unbiased eyes and let this sight efficiently address ourselves. 175 Just as such a plurality-filled search for transcendence – or mutual search through transcendence – with its infinitely diversified perspectives can be for everyone participating immensely enriching, on the other hand such a relation-free 176, negatively delineating variant of plural immanence is in its consequences destructive. 177 Because closeness, intransparency and incalculability is the most intrinsic characteristic of wild beasts. In an environment where the possibility of dialogue has been totally forgotten, hedonism and brutality are, after all, the only „meaningful“ modes of communication. For how long after that can the initial plurality postmodernism „was so concerned with“ still manage to last? 178

175 The opposite to this attitude is a „free“ rejection of any claims: to my responsibility, ability to communicate, creativity, personal identity, respect, refinement, solidarity etc. This rejection of one's growth and development is associated with the negation of the qualitative conception of human time in general (time as emptiness „from nowhere to nowhere“) and may lead as far as to a necrophiliac contempt for life – both one's own and other people's.

176 In this sense, postmodern autism is sometimes mentioned. Cf. H.J. Luibl: Rain Man oder: Autismus als postmodernes Lebensgefühl. Orientierung, 1989, 10, pp. 119–120.

177 In its ruthless game I accept only the surface of the otherness of the other one; I do not care about his suffering, I relish his goodwill with ironic restraint, I am prepared to respond to his eventual hostility harshly. The plurality thus structured does not bring life: it is a mere mutual degradation to the lowest possible human level. It aims to destruction, entropy, extinction.

178 „If I do not relativize my approach by nothing else but by the power of others, freedom (... becomes) a mere broomstick used by the will to power insolently to smooth its way.“ (Václav Jamek: V_d_í bludièka a rozmrzelost doby. Literární noviny, 1993, 10, p. 4 – in Czech)

But the only thing negating immanentism is capable of genuinely negating is, once again, only immanence. Coming to the rescue of people who do not resign is that what has absolutely defied any negation.

2. The Specific Features of the Postmodern Search for Transcendence

Man cannot live on sand dunes.

Czeslaw Milosz

We have been created for transcendence just as a bird for flying or fish for swimming.

Mwalimu Imara

Only God has a value.

Anselm Grün

Openness to Experiences

Accentuation of the importance of process of direct experiential knowing has been accompanying the postmodern search for transcendence at all its levels. This stress on the authentic personal experience makes it possible to maintain a constructive distance from many ingrained modern prejudices (the conception of nature as a dead raw material, of history as a process that can be managed, of the human mind as determined exclusively non-spiritually, of one's neighbour as nothing but an alter ego, of God as a mere idea or illusion etc.) and from specifically limited modes of modern search for transcendence, encumbered primarily with a one-sided rationalistic natural theology and of course also with a one-sided prescriptive theology of Revelation. Through them the modern functionalization and rationalization of life even in the spiritual sphere has exacted its price in the shape of a relative suppression of the role of the intrinsic personal experience. 179 Its newly added significance is often supported by the most important insights of authentic traditional spiritualities. But no more than supported. The independent ability of spiritual intuition, once again, ranks among the most valuable human qualities 180, because to understand transcendence in the postmodern era means experiencing it. Beyond the limits of concepts and words, where discoursive reason has no dominating position and religious faith justified by mere arguments is found to be too shallow and unstable, hunger for direct experience will arise.

179 „Over the past centuries up to the middle of our century in catechesis and also in university training, natural theology was conceived as if man 'in natural state' and grown up in utter isolation could get to know God by himself and come to the certainty about his existence simply on the basis of reflecting about the real world.“ (Henri Bouillard: Transzendenz und Gott des Glaubens. In: Christlicher Glaube in moderner Gesellschaft I. Freiburg i.B. 1981, p. 110)

„The proofs of Divine existence evoke in me admiration and great respect for the precise logic of the structure and bold upsurge of the principles. This is a difficult ascent to the heights of metaphysical abstractions. (...) We strenuously overcome difficulties throughout the journey and we are full of anticipation of what will loom ahead of us. We do not want to discover a new bird species or a hitherto unknown island but an existence which is to be the meaning of our life. From the very bottom of our hearts we aspire to reach that goal. Shall I betray my disappointment? (...) I would like to implore philosophers not to leave their listeners with abstract names which appear to them as dried-up wells but lead them to a live God.“ (Karel Šprunk: Dokazovat Bo_í existenci. Nad knihou Ji_ího Fuchse Cesta k d_kazu Bo_í existence. Souvislosti, 1992, 1, p. 127 – in Czech)

180 „Intellectual understanding does not transform the character and behavior. Experiential understanding is necessary for that.“ (Claire Myers Owens: Zen Buddhism. In: Charles T. Tart /ed./: Transpersonal Psychologies. New York 1975, pp. 197–198)

With the naivity of beginners the Western civilization has been rediscovering how to meditate and pray. „There are no closed experiences. (...) Each experience we gain is open to other, more profound, more fundamental one.“ 181 The postmodern man discovers that the equilibrium of human life and world could be restored from inner resources, which exceed the material world and selfish human interests. 182 „Reckoning with transcendence (Jenseits), that is a new life attitude. Its cognizing sign is openness and enquiry; the art of waiting and searching; acceptance instead of defence.“ 183 This relaxedness is always ready for something more than can be encompassed by actual comprehension. This is a relaxedness open even to radical experiences: to a rebirth of one's own personality, a new vision of the entire world, a new encounter with God. It is „biophilous-ly“ opened Upwards – towards a perspective which has no end, towards light which cannot be exhausted, towards purity which cannot be dragged down to earth:

181 Norbert Scholl: Gott ist immer grösser. Wege der Gotteserfahrung heute. Mainz 1985, p. 20

182 But the utopian idea of a New Age's paradise on Earth (perhaps the residue of modern ideological deposits) sometimes obstructs a non-consumer – and genuine – deepening of experiences of transcendence. However, it depends on the seekers themselves what they are prepared to contend with.

183 Herbert A. Gornik. Einführung. In: H. A. Gornik (Hg.): Das Jenseits. Erfahrungen mit einer anderen Wirklichkeit. Freiburg i.B. 1985, p. 11

„To experience God

To kneel before him in respect
To be lifted up towards light
To be touched by the ardour of love

To experience God

To be unable to understand-grasp him
To be allowed to look into fire
To be overcome by light and beauty

To experience God

To be given the ability of feeling one's weakness
To be touched by powerful energy
To be penetrated by the charge of suprahuman strength

To experience God

To touch the source of life
To be immersed in light
To leave darkness behind

To experience God

To understand genuine Being
To become aware of one's own humanity
To realize the distance and proximity between Creator and creature

To experience God

To accept the created as a gift
To see the world divinely and God mundanely
To embrace the earth with the force of his love

To experience God

To be drawn as if by a huge magnet
To understand that „everything revolves“ around him
To be unable to disengage from him any more

To experience God

To sense what self-giving means
To be consumed by the desire for him
To want to be more and more unified with him“ 184

184 Norbert Scholl: Op. cit., supplement following page 96

This searching, focused on the Infinite, makes it possible to perceive even the infinite transparency of everything relative, which thus manifests and communicates more than it is itself. 185 By closing off the horizon at anything only seemingly infinite, this speech disappears; in things and persons we see again only them and our own reflection. An experiential openness to a live relationship with Transcendence in its furthermost depth and most subtly correcting presence is possible only in an attitude of profound relaxedness and flexibility of searching and, at the same time, of vigilant soberness and caution of distinguishing. All the indications are that the main distinguishing feature of the experience of transcendence is unconditional respect. In it „each reality is perceived in its unmanipulatable depth“. 186 „Respect is a tacit 'yes' to another one, even if we know of its distance.“ 187 Amidst the often consciously and deliberately necrophiliac turmoil of the postmodern violence and killing, cultural regression and spiritual aggressiveness, there flowers postmodern experience of transcendence as the latest example of anthropologically invariant experiential possibility, the condition of whose updating is invariably nothing but a „free preparedness to accept the experience. (...) Without willingness to freedom it cannot be done“. 188

185 „Things, people, scenes are more than their surfaces. They are messages, they are a sacrament, they are the real presence of God.“ (Fulbert Steffensky: Wie ernähren wir unsere Träume? Über den Zusammenhang von Spiritualität und der Liebe zur Gerechtigkeit. In: Kuno Füssel, Dorothee Sölle, Fulbert Steffensky: Die Sowohl-als-auch-Fälle. Eine theologische Kritik des Postmodernismus. Luzern 1993, p. 88)

„When I accept all the things from him, I will accept his joy into my soul, not because the things are what they are but because God is that which he is and his will wanted my joy to be in all those things.“ (Thomas Merton: Co je a co není meditace. Prostor, 1993, 25, p. 178 – in Czech. Original: Thomas Merton: New Seeds of Contemplation)

„Yet in the relation to God and in it alone does all that is not God assume the role of a penetrable, transparent image. Seen in terms of that relation, nothing has a 'firm' purpose of its own, everything becomes a means of the global communication between God and humans, an expression of their essential dialogue. The world as (originally, in its purity) the work of God and the life and work of humans in this world are, down to the last vibration of their being, something like a total speech in which God and humans communicate. A person who is not overly concerned about the truthfulness of faith just does not realize that, will it or not, he is conversing, and with whom. Communication with God cannot be restricted to the self-conscious act of intentional prayer at a given time. For God, all our being is translucent and bears testimony about us. And in turn, as we relate to God, all that we encounter becomes translucent to us, as we sense in it the speaking which touches the very core of our being.“ (Jolana Poláková: The Truthfulness of Faith. Ultimate Reality and Meaning, 1991, 4, p. 274)

186 Gerhard Marschütz: Ztracená úcta. Teologické texty, 1993, 5, p. 156 (in Czech). (Original: Die Verlorene Ehrfurcht. Über das Wesen der Ehrfurcht und ihre Bedeutung für unsere Zeit. Würzburg 1992)

187 Theodor Steinbüchel: Christliche Lebenshaltungen. Quoted from: Gerhard Marschütz: Ibid

188 Bernhard Welte: Das Licht des Nichts. Von der Möglichkeit neuer religiöser Erfahrung. Düsseldorf 1985, pp. 55, 56

Therefore, in its full shape, the postmodern radical extension of the experiential horizon represents the introduction into the all-embracing relationship whose focal point lies in the absolute Other one 189 and his activity. Communication with him can be never closed.

189 „Nothing else is important now. (...) After a long search I am finally home here.“ (Anselm Grün: Modlitba jako setkání. Kostelní Vydøí 1993, p. 38 – in Czech. Original: Gebet als Begegnung. Münsterschwarzach 1990)

Need of Participation

Also the second accent of the postmodern mode of searching for transcendence is partially stimulated by the one-sided nature of the typically modern situation. The manner of incorporating individual persons into the whole of a modern society was and is systematically immanent. Smooth function of the dynamic structures of production, education, public life etc. calls for man's functional reduction to his outward, technically and bureaucratically graspable dispositions. Under such a situation, his deep personal identity remains socially undiscovered and unconfirmed, and spiritually unaddressed, undeveloped. Also modern search for transcendence – its psychosocial aspect – was marked by this one-sidedness. Frequent reduction of common Christian life to a functionalized run of emptied forms of prescribed individualistic behaviour considerably complicated the penetration „towards the core“ where it would be possible genuinely, ie. spontaneously and with personal creative satisfaction, and jointly to participate. 190 As for postmodern man (especially young), search for transcendence is, therefore, often associated with a desire for more intense participation in something „genuine“ and inner, that would offer the possibility of communicating about matters most fundamental for the meaning of human life, that would offer the opportunity of a reliable value orientation and would present personal models thanks to which man could find and strengthen his own inner identity. 191

190 On the Catholic soil a comprehensive practical breakthrough out of this modern masss-based religious mortification came in the 1960s in the shape of the Second Vatican Council. Its unequivocal spiritual overtones, stressing personal responsibility, dialogic mutuality, an openness to the broadest possible contexts and a relaxed sensitivity for „the Spirit which blows, where it wills“ (Cf. Documents of the Second Vatican Council), qualify its historical initiative as intrinsically post-modern. In a negative sense, this is attested to by the typical reactions of those Christians whose mentality has actually remained unreflectedly enclosed in the confines of the modern era: fanatical „revolutionaries“ and (versus) unquestioning „functionaries“. They share what seems to be fear of that new and deeper spirituality: dialogue (in the true, spiritual sense) is by infinitely more difficult than self-centred populist protests, and responsibility for others is far more demanding than a skill, without feedbacks frequently only illusory, to lead someone and organize things. The rhetoric used by these contented as well as discontented late modern Christians unconsciously confirms the postmodern truth (to put it in the words of a post-Council Dominican) that „we cannot know of any value unless we live in its spirit“. (A.-M. Besnard: Duchovní život dnes a zítra. Samizdat edition „Duch a život“, Praha 1980, p. 13 – in Czech. Original: A.-M. Besnard: Ces chrétiens que nous devenons. Paris 1967)

191 „Many members of the younger generation apparently feel a basic need to live naturally, simply and spiritually, to obey the laws of their innmost nature and of the cosmic principle rather than the artificial rules of man-made ego-based society.“ (Claire Myers Owens: Op. cit., p. 194)

But only absolute transcendence is in a position to satisfy this need in a perfect and inexhaustible fashion – whether outside or within the social context. A direct mode of establishing contact with it, basically opened to anybody and at any time, is „contemplative prayer“: an uncompromising inner path of human desire and courage outside any words, concepts and images – to „a place of inner silence“ to which „neither people, nor problems, nor ideas, nor feelings, nor troubles, nor worries“ have access 192, where we are „alone with God“. Gradually we can learn to live in the light of this relationship even when we are not expressly thinking of him. – But this ultimate fulfilment is, at the same time, being injured by everything in the human world that is not compatible with it. 193 Born out of this collision is the desire to build in the world at least islands of such compatibility with absolute transcendence – to seek and create social focal points and structures at least mediatedly radiating the fulness of this ultimate participation. To a greater or smaller extent, this role is discharged by the churches and some other religious communities.

192 Anselm Grün: Op. cit, p. 24

193 „I am scared of this era in which killing is becoming an entertainment.“ (Pavel Zemek: Psycho /interview/. Signál, October 26th, 1993, p. 11 – in Czech)

The degree of the credibility of spiritual mediation is goverened by a similar law as that of the openness to experiences: a live relation with Transcendence is transmitted only by the participation which does not give up deep relaxedness and flexibility of search and, at the same time, vigilant soberness and caution of distinguishing. This attitude also represents a backbone coordinate of contemplative prayer. Its spirit permeates only such a community which is concerned with the mediation of the same in which this prayer participates. Blind desire for religious participation at any cost (to which the postmodern freedom of spiritual choice is actually of no use), however, does not distinguish anything: it does not prove the external forms through independent inner search and defencelessly devotes itself to any authoritarian immanent substitute as it were transcendence. 194 Also, in any cases of individual, personal spiritual guidance, a „guru“ or a spiritual therapist is capable of opening to another person only that horizon to which he is opened himself. 195 That is why the freer and spiritually more open mode of religious participation, described from one's own experience by the Catholic priest and theologian Gisbert Greshake, has a more profound justification:

194 „The so-called destructive cults gravitate towards total subjugation of their members to the will and orders of the leader of the sect. (...) They are exposed to more or less strong psychic pressure which can lead to the loss of identity or to self-destruction.“ (Joachim Keden: Takzvané mládežnícke sekty a okultná vlna. Bratislava 1990, p. 9 – in Slovak. Original: Sogenannte Jugendsekten und die okkulte Welle. Neukirchen-Vluyn 1989)

195 „The transpersonal context in therapy is determined exclusively by the therapist's convictions, value standards and intentions. (...) What happens during therapy is inevitably restricted by the personal apprehensions and convictions of the therapist.“ (Frances Vaughan: Transpersonální psychoterapie – kontext, obsah a proces. Gemma, 1992, special issue, p. 9 – in Czech).

„The fact that (in the Church) salvation is mediated through the institutional aspect offers to its 'recipient' something immensely liberating. Through office the Lord just does not connect his salvatory work with subjective abilities of certain persons but rather (...) with a supraindividual quality which as such relates above itself to whom it embodies here. (...) The immediacy of the believer's relationship with God is not disturbed even by the confinement to religious grandeur and giftedness and subjective religious pathos of a certain person, neither to its limitations and poverty. It is the objectivity of office that causes that the community involved is not bound to a specific person of churchman but to the Lord.“ 196

196 Gisbert Greshake: Imprese k Drewermannovým „Klerikùm“. Getsemany, 1993, 11, p. 5 (in Czech)

A healthy „system for resting“, which is really opened to the impact of Transcendence, is not a system of mere human power, based on human weaknesses; it does not stand on the „soft“ principle of spiritual infatuation and uncritical admiration (disturbing one's sense of reality), neither on the „hard“ principle of indoctrination and control (turning people into puppets or gramophone records). According to W. Lauer, the supreme mode of participation is genuine love, which abolishes isolation while preserving independence. 197 Therefore, absolute love (hiddenly relating to each of us separately) should not be replaced in a religious community by anything human. Artificial „family“ worlds of religious immanentism satisfy the human need of spiritual participation only at the cost of amputating its transcendent dimension.

197 Wolfgang Lauer: Partizipationsbedürfnis und christliche Glaube. Theologie der Gegenwart, 1973, 3, pp. 140–148

Participation in absolute transcendence is infinitely more than a collective euphoria, a meditational experience or an enrichment through a mysterious piece of knowledge. It is a sober, deep and subtle awareness of the ever present absolute Relationship – that can be abolished only through our voluntary betrayal. This relationship, whose „matter-of-factness“ can be perceived only in a respectful inner silence and openness, has its ethical conditions and requirements (it is never with us in any lie or act of violence) but, at the same time, it immediately protects human willingness if we want to comply with its conditions. To a cursory glance, the presence of the ageold, institutionalized Christianity in the postmodern spiritual milieu is provocative. With its inner plurality, ability to dialogue and the transparent openness Upwards it, however, remarkably anticipates and with the qualification of a thousand-year old experience behind it confirms precisely the most profound and demanding positions of the postmodern spiritual quest.

198 Alexandr Kramer: Jsou Spojené státy (anti)intelektuální? Lidové noviny, March 27th, 1993, p. 16 (in Czech)

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