Transcendence [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 24 (1):147-148 (1970)

Abstract
This is an engaging book on a subject which most people in our culture assume went out of fashion long ago. The book had its genesis in one of a series of symposia convened by the Church Society for College Work of Cambridge to explore certain themes and ideas which have great import for our time. The various authors of the essays eschew the habit of viewing Transcendence as the traditional content of metaphysical arguments or revelatory statements about the nature of God outside or independent of the world and seek for signs of the possibility of achieving a renewed sense of Transcendence in the domains of inner experience, history, culture, language, science, technology, and the arts. Huston Smith suggests two options of human fulfillment: psychological and ontological, both providing a kind of transcendence of self and society. He refuses to accept one and reject the other but instead to convince us that both are legitimate. M. Murphy claims that the experience of psychological and social transcendence can be fostered by educational projects such as encounter groups, gestalt therapy workshops and sensitivity training programs. In his "Manifesto for a Dionysian Theology," Sam Keen analyzes the Apollonian way of reasoning and planning which has come to dominate in Western culture and makes a plea for a reassertion of the Dionysian principle in religion which might be expressive of life as dance, centrality of feelings and sensations, a pantheistic conception of God and a theology of play. Harvey Cox asserts that our society has lost its capacity for utopian fantasy resulting in the inability to conceive of any world which is not a mere modification or extension of our own world. He suggests that we consciously become "fools for Christ" again and give full rein to our powers of creative fantasizing even at the risk of contracting "religious madness." Donald Schon urges post-modern man to give up hope for achieving a stable political order and to develop an "ethic for change" appropriate to the demands of our society where change is all-pervasive. Essays by R. Bellah and H. Richardson explore myths of transcendence as ordering structures in society and plead for increased attention to correspondences among the disciplines of theology, sociology, and psychology. E. Fackenheim and W. Kaufman seek to clarify the notion of transcendence in Judaism and Christianity respectively and to "clear the way for a positive revelation." In keeping with the shared notion that transcendent reality is present and active within the human process, two eminent process philosophers, Wieman and Hartshorne discuss the "implications for a concept of transcendence that follows from affirming the creative freedom of man." The essays singly and together reject the notion that the existence and nature of transcendent reality can be arrived at by pursuing a single line of argumentation to its bitter end and instead they work together from various points of view to reinforce our sense of man's renewed thirst for the Divine and the subsequent rediscovery of God's uninterrupted presence within the world of "Immanent Possibility."--J. B. L.
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