This short essay draws up the principal ideas from a book chapter concerning the historical field of Chinese religions in comparative context in order to identify its distinctive problems and possible pathways. In order to distinguish religions in the Sinosphere from other state-religion relationships in the longue durée, we need to identify how the state and religions have managed the question of transcendence. Scholars working with the Axial Age theories of religion have often expressed confusion or hesitation with regard to Chinese notions of transcendence. I argue that Chinese religions have a transcendent dimensions often missed by analysts because they operate with an Abrahamic notion of radical transcendence and dualism rather than what I call “dialogical transcendence.”
Posts Tagged ‘transcendence’
Prayer may be an act of gratitude after the fact. It may be a weapon, a request to heal the body or boost the brain, an epistemic cry, a meditation, a mediation, a quip, a plea, a means of passive resistance, a wonderful gift from God. Or any manner of combination.
Whatever prayer is or has been, it often seems to be bound up in the play of transgression and transcendence. Within the move across, there are the moves against and the moves beyond. Against and beyond simultaneously, continuously, even as a prayer is conceived and uttered, even after it is ignored or answered.
By insisting that this is all there is, the secularist position forecloses the emergence of anything other than this. Since people are violent, we must manage violence with violence as responsibly as possible—any other option is just foolish. What troubles me is that by sticking to what is probable and practical, secularism misses that which from our perspective seems impossible—say, peace, justice, compassion for all sentient beings, swords into plowshares…. These sorts of promises, it seems to me, are only held by something like transcendence—even if only the possibility of transcendence—the possibility that things might genuinely be otherwise.
Anyone who has entered the labyrinth of A Secular Age should welcome this volume as a guide. Its contributors unwind many threads—some leading deeper inside, others promising a way out—but this series of posts can follow only one. Taking up Taylor’s distinction between traditions of transcendence and those of immanence, while remaining sensitive to its subtleties, William Connolly divides these traditions still further, observing that they are constituted not only by the beliefs they affirm about the world but also by the emotions they cultivate toward the world thus affirmed. Not content to delineate merely abstract possibilities, though, he adds that “each tradition is equipped to honor Jesus by offering a distinctive interpretation of his calling and mode of inspiration.” Accepting his invitation, this post (and those to follow) will attempt to offer such an interpretation—from the perspective of the Heraclitean tradition.
n his most recent contribution to The Immanent Frame, “Waiting for Godot, who is either late or not coming at all“, Vincent Pecora provides a provocative response to posts by Alex Hernandez and Justin Reynolds, which question, criticize and reflect on Pecora’s distinction between “secularism” and “secularization” (and particularly his statement that “ ‘secularization’ is a conceptual improvement over ‘secularism’ ”).
I wondered how long it would take DPDF participants to undo what I thought I had carefully assembled in my opening post on “Secularism, secularization, and why the difference matters.” Not very long at all, it seems. And so, I will try a response here to Justin Reynolds and Alex Hernandez, both of whom have questioned what I actually mean by saying that “secularization” is a conceptual improvement over “secularism.”
Voegelin’s central, surprisingly Kantian thesis is that some recognition of transcendence is the precondition of open, self-reflexive inquiry. Founded on this recognition, he seeks to build “a new science of politics and history” capable of overcoming the dogmatic tendencies in “scientism.” He’s after, I think, something very similar to what Edward Said – and Vincent Pecora in his recent post – meant by the term “secular criticism.” If this is right, it raises the question of whether the “infinite” process Pecora recommends should be called “secularization” at all. Maybe God is less worth barring from the public realm than forms of dogmatic faith. It’s worth remembering that theology has its own resources for the fight against what Said calls “pseudo-religion.”
Charles Taylor, in his magisterial book on the Secular, periodically engages a constituency he calls immanent materialists. I would like to pursue that discussion, focusing on a subgroup within it, to see how its devotees and those Taylor identifies with most might interact in noble ways. [...]
Heidegger did not need to point out (but he did) that God occupies a hegemonic place as the figure of transcendence that characterizes the Christian and post-Christian tradition (let us not rush too quickly to operate our own secularizing machines, global experts on world-religions that we are, to claim that other “traditions” equally partake of this particular character). But – and here is some more outbidding – God is not transcendent enough. In order to be a critical secularist, one would have to demonstrate a more unyielding antagonism, take a more radical stance (or agonizing distance), and install oneself in a more transcendent position vis-à-vis the object of one’s critique. What object? More often than not “religion” and better yet “religions.” But not only religion, of course.