I Am Not a Space that God Does Not Occupy: Part III – Panikkar

This is Part III of an eight-part Northeast Wisdom Home Page Blog series that began on Sunday January 12, 2020. Cynthia introduced the series with this message:              

“Dear Wisdom Friends,

As the new decade gets underway, it feels like an appropriate moment to share one of my earlier essays, which is still to my mind one of the best things I’ve ever written. It was originally published in the 2018 How I Found God.anthology, how I found GOD in everyone and everywhere.                  

I will be sharing my entire essay in eight successive posts, which will be headed your way in bite-sized doses over the upcoming season of Epiphany. I look forward to you sharing your reflections in the Comments section. Enjoy! And Happy New Year!!!

May this “year of perfect vision” indeed shed some new light.”  

In “Part II: Panentheism,” Cynthia remembers how frequently she met resistance teaching Centering Prayer with its understanding of levels of consciousness:

“Clearly the whole notion of a divine indwelling, for all its certifiable theological orthodoxy, continues to make many traditionally reared Christians squirm.”

Inevitably, the word “panentheist” would come up, a term which Cynthia says, “like a ‘jet airplane’… tries to define itself in terms of a prior term (in this case, pantheism), to which it offers an ostensible improvement… while still implicitly keeping the paradigm in place.”

As our world hovers on the threshold of a second axial age, I believe that it’s time to recognize pantheism as a concept whose era has long since come and gone… This old wineskin’s simply gotta go before we can break out the new wine of an authentically nondual Christianity.”

She concludes, “I hope to share with you a bit of the story of how I have come to see things in this way—in particular, the three “aha” insights that changed everything for me.” And here we are…

III. Panikkar

Raimon Panikkar, photo courtesy of Milena Carrara

I had been slowly drifting toward a more unitive worldview for decades, but it was Raimon Panikkar who finally put me across the line. Panikkar had been on my distant radar screen for some time, but my immersion began in earnest in the spring of 2008—thanks, I should say, to a nudge from my longtime friend and spiritual mentor Thomas Keating. Eighty-five years old at the time, Thomas had himself recently taken the plunge into Panikkar’s 2004 magnum opus Christophany and was electrified by its brilliant, dynamically nondual vision. “Can you imagine how this would change the face of Christianity if it were better known?” he mused, then added, staring straight at me with that signature twinkle of the eye, “But of course, it’s too difficult for lay people….”

True Trinity
the true Trinity in true unity, Hildegard of Bingen

Well, them’s fighting words! It’s long been a point of pride with me (and TK knew it!) that anything worth teaching can be taught to anyone if you can only find the right angle of approach. So rising to the wager, I too plunged into Christophany, only to find my heart, just like Thomas’, blown wide open by this theologically exacting yet breathtakingly nondual rendition of the Christian mystical vision. As I waded into the section called “The Mysticism of Jesus Christ,” I was floored by what Panikkar seemed to be arguing: that the Trinity, often dismissed as a theological add-on hammered out at the later theological councils, was actually an original—because it originated in the mind of Christ! It encapsulates in a single elegant mandala the entire personal experience of Jesus himself in his relationship to divinity. Far from either a static immanence or static transcendence, Jesus’ experience of God was cosmotheandric, the infinite and the finite continuously interabiding one another, dynamically changing places through a process of continuing self-giving, or kenosis. At the “Abba, father” pole, claims Panikkar, Jesus is most fully identified with his finite selfhood, reaching out to God with what Panikkar describes as “a very intense experience of a divine filiation.” (p. 93) At the opposite pole, “I and the Father are one,” there is simply a unity of being, no place where God stops and “I” begin, just a unity. Between these two poles, the third of Jesus’ three great mahavakyani, or master sayings—“It is good that I leave”— places the other two in a perpetual kenotic dynamism which Panikkar beautifully summarizes as “I am one with the source insofar as I too act as a source by making all I have received flow again.” (p. 116).

Vortex, Space, Form, Giacomo Balla, 1914

Dynamism, the missing link: like a bicycle, the whole thing only works when it’s in motion. “Cosmotheandric” is Panikkar’s neologism of choice to describe this dynamic intercirculation. Denotatively, it covers much the same turf as panentheism, but connotatively, they are light years apart. Panentheism ties us back into that old static paradigm (this “thing” called the created order is not God, but God can still visit it without getting stuck in it); cosmotheandric (forged from the words cosmos, world; theos, God; and andros, human) speaks implicitly of an intercirculation of realms, of whole different dimensions or planes of being actively infusing each other. It is cosmic, quantum, Einsteinian, portraying the paradox of form and formless more like virtual particles dancing in and about existence in a single unified field than in the old substance theology categories now largely outmoded as we have discovered that energy, not substance, is the coin of the realm.

Mount of Flame courtesy artist Agnes Lawrence Pelton

                 Panikkar’s words knocked my socks off, for it felt so in tune with the heartbeat of the 21st century, the dynamic, evolving, interabiding world we are coming to find affirmed far more in science these days than in theology, still so stuck in defending an ancient and long since superfluous abyss between form and the formless. Nor did it come as much of a surprise to me when the lay people in my Wisdom School ate it right up.

Look for Cynthia’s next post in this series, “I Am Not a Space that God Does Not Occupy: Part IV. Jesus was not a monotheist (!?),” Wednesday, January 22, 2020 here, on the Northeast Wisdom Home Page Blog. You may click on these links to go to “Part I: The Light Within,” and “Part II: Panenthesim.” Cynthia says, “how I found GOD in everyone and everywhere is an anthology of spiritual memoirs, edited by Claremont School of Theology faculty members Andrew M. Davis and Philip Clayton and published by Monkfish, our intrepid publishing partner here in Northeast Wisdomland! Compiled in honor of Marcus Borg, this anthology is broadly structured around the theme of Panentheism and features the usual suspects among Christian nondual teachers, including my colleagues Richard Rohr, Matthew Fox, and Ilia Delio. It’s well worth a read in its entirety.”


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6 thoughts on “I Am Not a Space that God Does Not Occupy: Part III – Panikkar

  1. So when it is said, “God is in me but I am not God.” and “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” — is this still panentheism or pointing to the cosmotheandric way?

  2. It feels like that consciously or unconsciously the creative powers of God flow through us. When unconscious we are not aligned with the unconditional Love of Father/Mother/Son and fear is our semi-constant companion…and scapegoats (other people, addictions) are often our choice.

    This Unified Field of Love that we all abide in yearns to become KNOWN. We are each that hidden treasure.

    Thank you for being our teacher Cynthia and giving us a glimpse of the treasure that all are/is. May 2020 be the tipping point in Human Awareness of The Oneness.

  3. Dynamism as the key acknowledges that the hallmark of life is movement. Dimensionally dualism is 2D vision; static, either/or, non-movement. Non-dual is 3D vision; it recognizes oscillatory movement, both/and halves of a complete cycle of horizontal movement. Unitive vision is 4D and adds time with the addition of forward and backward motion. The law of three expands to 5D as co-creative vision when the addition of the third from another angle creates the new–the 4th in a new dimension.

  4. Western theologians just don’t let go of dualism. Imminent, panentheism, cosmotheandric — there is so much contortion to hold on to a dualistic theology. Saying that God is in everyone and is everywhere is still dualism.

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