Professor R. C. Zaehner's distinction between panenhenic, monistic and theistic mysticism will be examined. It will be argued that there is no necessary reason to suppose that the latter two types involve different sorts of experience: the difference lies rather in the way the experience is interpreted. Likewise it will be argued that the Theravperennial philosophy’ common to mystics. Their doctrines are determined partly by factors other than mystical experience itself.
It has in recent years been argued, by Professors Antony Flew and J. L. Mackie, that God could have created men wholly good. For, causal determinism being compatible with free will, men could have been made in such a way that, without loss of freedom, they would never have fallen into sin. This if true would constitute a weighty anti-theistic argument. And yet intuitively it seems unconvincing. I wish here to uncover the roots of this intuitive suspicion.
First published in 1968, Ninian Smart’s The Yogi and the Devotee: The Interplay Between the Upanishads and Catholic Theology is based on lectures given in Delhi and explores in a novel way the relation between Hinduism and Christianity. The author puts forward a general theory of the relationship between religious experience and doctrines, a theory he had developed in earlier works. He argues that a new form of ‘natural theology’ should be presented, which would show the relevance of religious experience (...) and ritual to what is given in revelation. Smart believes this could be the key to a new understanding between Christianity and Indian religions, and also examines what Christians can learn from other faiths. During a career as a Professor of Religious Studies and Philosophy, Ninian Smart was hugely influential in the way Religious Studies was taught, not only in Britain but around the world. (shrink)
My title is of course a variation on Professor H. D. Lewis' well-known Our Experience of God . There he expounded a variety of religious intuitionism, which stands in the line of Schleiermacher, Rudolf Otto and Martin Buber. These and other writers have characteristically made ‘the move to experience’, as a new blend of natural and revealed theology. The move makes a great deal of sense. On the one hand it grounds belief at a time when the older natural theology (...) apparently had crumbled. On the other hand, it points to the dynamics of religious inspiration and gave a new perspective on revelation. It softens both reason and faith, of course, but it also provides a defence against skepticism. It fits well with a liberal attitude to scriptures and tradition. So there are manifest advantages of the move to experience, for those who wish to make it in the context of the Western theistic tradition. The writers I cited above, and Professor Lewis himself, have discussed religious experience from a mainly Western and theistic angle – even Otto with his great comparative concerns did so; and more needs to be said about the nature of religious experience in the broader context of Eastern and other religions. Lewis, however, paid attention to this wider problem, for instance in his 1963 article ‘Buddha and God’. In some respects this issue of the relationship of apparently non-theistic religions to theism is the most important one in contemporary crosscultural philosophy of religion. (shrink)
The chief point in Professor Flew's reply is this. God could have made men perfectly good, not by altering their inclinations, as I suggested in my main Utopia, but by boosting the forces which resist temptations. All men would need is more strength of character and more sense of duty. Perhaps I was psychically blind not to go into this. Let us do so now. Flew seems to have a monolithic idea of the concepts sense of duty and strength of (...) character , as though these have nothing to do with particular dispositions like courage. (shrink)
The pursuit of linguistic analysis should mean that philosophers pay attention to the facts: in particular, the philosophy of religion cannot ignore the comparative study of religion, social anthropology, etc. A main aim should be to discover a ?grammar? of religious experience, which may help to illuminate the reasons for certain patterns of religious belief, etc. Here it is necessary to resist the functionalist views of some social anthropologists, stemming from the conviction that religion is an illusion and from a (...) conflation of reasons and causes. But in so far as a functionalist approach applies, it can help to exhibit the accidental and ?non?religious? features of a given religion. (shrink)