Debate: Holy Spirit is not the same as Shakti or Kundalini

This riveting discussion surrounding a debate on: Shakti and Kundalini and its erroneous equivalence to 'Holy spirit', took place in June-July 2011. This was an online debate between Rajiv Malhotra and Francis Clooney, a Jesuit Catholic priest and a professor of Harvard, who is also knowledgeable about Hindu texts and visits India frequently. This debate started off well enough before Clooney suddenly dropped out of the debate and did not return despite Rajiv's request.[He's not the first and probably will not be the last person to debate Rajiv and suddenly vacate the stage]. We carry both sides of the debate and summarize impressions from RMF contributors. 

Some key reasons why very important voices of Christianity have stealthily appropriated fundamental concepts of Hinduism rather than openly borrow from it, become apparent after you read this thread.

On 'Holy Spirit is not the same as Shakti or Kundalini

This is an important thread and will be excerpted in depth in this post that was initiated by a post by Rajiv Malhotra on this subject in 
Rajiv's article is typically well-researched and factual, and ideally, must be read in full before following the rest of the discussion. Only the concluding remarks from his article in Beliefnet is carried here.

"... Many Westerners have appropriated aspects of the Hindu Goddess to address issues within Christianity, in particular its patriarchy, institutions, weak ecological base and absence of yoga. While this is laudable, great care must be taken that core Hindu notions such as Shakti are not imported as mere "add-ons." Dissecting the tradition into separate parts and digesting them selectively distorts the source. Shakti cannot be domesticated.

The authentic acceptance of Shakti and kundalini by Christians is much more daunting and would entail rejecting centuries of Church inquisition against pluralistic manifestations of the divine. It would involve reinventing Christianity with the Goddess accessible directly as the Supreme Being. This would rekindle memories of paganism, polytheism and chaos. "

We begin by carrying the opening remarks of Rajiv nearly intact:
"... It refutes the trend among many westerners whose tantra guru led them to shakti/kundalini experience, but who later want to abandon dharma and re-interpret it as something within Judeo-Christianity. Many gurus started to sell to such followers the notion that shakti/kundalini = Holy Spirit of Christianity. This means you can pluck what you need from Hinduism, reject the source, and in the process boost Christianity's appeal. Hinduism ends up in a museum just like the old pagan religions from which many "useful" things got appropriated by Christianity before those faiths got destroyed brutally.

An entirely new Christian theology has emerged that emphasizes Holy Spirit using this appropriation from Hinduism. It started among a fringe element of speculative thinkers who simultaneously had a guru. But it has penetrated into the Christian mainstream theologians gradually. Along the way, the champions of this wave have discarded Hinduism ever more forcefully and reinvented a whole new approach to seeing the Bible and the feminine in it.

This article is a summary of a longer argument that appears in my forthcoming book this fall. I hope gurus will stop selling out, as that distorts our tradition while also misinforming westerners who later suffer internal conflicts."

Ram Ohri comments:
"...Very few among them have any knowledge about 'dharma', and most of them are ignorant about the fate which is likely to befall the next generation of Hindus. In that sense they are followers of 'Charvak' believing in enjoying life to the
last dreg."

Rajiv Malhotra adds:
"....Francis Clooney (a Harvard Prof. and a Jesuit theologian) in direct response to my blog ... has called for an open discussion on the subject. I have posted a comment under his article accepting his challenging and asking him to arrange a level forum. I have also written to America Magazine to see if they wish to carry this debate at their site.

I hope such a debate materializes as it would help both traditions to clear the mis-perceptions that are out there..." [Here are the links to Rajiv's blog, and  Francis Clooney's article

Sutapas shares findings:
"Some interesting info on the origins of Christian ‘Demonology’ in Origen which I was just editing in one of my chapters. May be of interest in your debate.

I’ve also pasted a paragraph on William Blake’s views on such energies within us [not mentioned here is that Blake also read first English translation of Bhagavad Gita by Williams in 1785].

Rather like Emmanuel Swedenborg, J.H.M. Whiteman in his final book Universal Theology focuses on mystical encounters with ‘Co-Minds’, semi-autonomous elements of the complex nexus making up our individual psyches. Many Biblical references to groups, tribes, angels etc. actually refer to such perennial mystical realizations as in the Fathers and Relatives of the Vedas and Upanishads [UT]. These Co-Minds correspond to Jung’s autonomous ‘complexes’ which were called ‘demons’ by the early Church [P&M].

Origen, the first major Christian thinker studied under the same Ammonias Saccas who taught the great Plotinus [HC]. Von Franz tells us that Origen wrote that each of us is not One but Many. As long as we are sinners we have in us ‘herds of sheep’ and ‘birds of heaven’. These need to be integrated through the influence of Christ [P&M]. The role of ‘Christ’ here parallels the role of the so-called ‘Inner Self Helper’ in modern psychiatric studies of dissociative disorders which again seems equivalent to the Inner Light [O/OM].  Von Franz claims that the Monotheism of the Old Testament and the idea of Christ being the One Man required believers to confront the inner demons and animal souls....

... Freud actually secularized Jewish mysticism, stripping it of supernatural elements in his totally absurd but influential ‘Psychoanalysis’ [DB/RM] which posed fraudulently as a scientific psychology (see Chapter 5). Yahweh may be ‘ethical’ but his ethical code is that of a tribal wargod advocating genocide, hatred of outsiders, misogyny and countless acts of jealousy and violent rage! In the Gospel of John, Chapter 8 Jesus is said to have told his fellow Jews [UT]: You are of your father the devil ...He was a murderer from the beginning...and there is no truth in him.

In his essay, What India can Teach Us, Jung wrote that unlike the West, India had followed the other way of civilizing Man, the way without suppression, without violence. India embraced the whole man from top to bottom [JotE]..."

 Ravi shares his comments on Clooney's article:
" .. my supporting comment ..."

Chitra notes:
"What an excellent development. Fortunately, he doesnt seem like another Pat Robertson. I hope it happens, and that it remains cordial."

Rajiv's response:
"Clooney is extremely well educated in Hindu texts, teaches it with great passion and spends extensive visits for research in India. On a theoretical level he probably has more knowledge of Hinduism than most "activists" I come across. We
have shared the podium at Waves and we both felt that there ought to be more time to continue such conversations. That plenary event was at the invitation of Prof. Bal Ram Singh a few years ago and the audience felt good about it. These
are opportunities to educate our own people who tend to function very naively.

To compare Clooney with Pat Robertson is silly. I anticipate Clooney to bring strong arguments on how shakti-like principles might be found within Christianity. There is a discipline within Christian theology called Pneumatology, which is specifically the study of Holy Spirit. It has been around for centuries. Today's pneumatologists are sneaking in shakti-like principles (i.e. appropriations) sometimes after explicit comparisons with shakti and then gradually erasing these and claiming to be doing christian theology...

... Most members here probably dont know that Protestant theologians DO NOT want to appropriate Hindu philosophy and their approach is to reject it outright it. Catholicism is different, and its theologians have been busy appropriating for a century and i have a book planned for 2012 just on that issue...

... Clooney like all Jesuits is a Catholic theologian, a very
important one in the world today. Pat Robertson is a Protestant evangelist, and not a theologian at all. "

...This is why Clooney is taking my very brief blog on Holy Spirit so seriously. If left unchallenged, it could enable me to educate Hindus on this issue. That would make it tougher for Catholic theologians to do this appropriation.

I will constantly have to educate our folks on what the game board looks like, for they are too inbred and lack the basic knowledge to engage Christianity as serious intellectuals. I am sad to have to say this after 20 years of tireless efforts to get more people to do purva-paksha seriously."

Vish adds:
"Rajiv Malhotra's  position is absolutely correct. I have spent some personal and quality time, in the past, with Father Clooney during his sabbatical in Princeton, and have read many of his works on the Vedanta.  I am, to a certain extent, aware of the 'Vaasanas' (conditioned impressions) under which 'studies of the other' is made..
...  - He is very well acquainted with India, having spent time there and in having visited Jesuit schools and colleges (including St.Xaviers in Kolkatta about which this writer is acquainted)

- He does 'Praanayama' and prefers the new vogue photo of Christ, seated cross legged in a meditative pose.

- Being a Ph.D. and a professor and Theologian, he takes his view of life, profession, and knowledge seriously...

- If its possible, I feel the young adults (college going or professional) who have been introduced to Hindu thoughts in their school going lives, such as the Arya Vidya Peetham in Saylorsburg or Chinmaya Mission in Boston/Cranberry NJ (both of whom carry mention in Harvard Web pages)  or the Hindu Students Council, should be encouraged to attend these debates. These are the future American-Hindu citizens to whom these things will matter..."

Rajiv adds a clarification to is response to Chitra:
"...My remarks at the end of Chitra's post were NOT intended to refer to her per se, but to the general state if affairs concerning our activists. I often append my general thoughts at the end of someone's post as a matter of convenience, because I see an opportunity to express myself. Just to clarify, I respect Chitra a lot; we go back many, many years and we are on the same page on such matters"

Rajiv also shares his comments posted at Clooney's article to give readers an idea of the significance of that thread:
Hello P.J. Johnson,

I am glad to hear your candid position, that many Christians DO espouse the kind of sameness I refer to. You go further and ask, in effect, whats wrong with doing that?

My first goal is to get Christians to come out as in your case and admit this appropriation. There is nothing wrong with the cross-fertilization of cultures and faiths. But why hide this? It might surprise you how many Christian who DO approrpiate shakti into Christianity are in denial mode and like to camouflage this. Why, I ask?

Why is it that Greek influences on Christianity since St. Augustine are so explicity acknowledged and the Greek sources honored, but the same is not true of Hindu sources that have been so influential in modern re-interpretations of Christianity?

In a book planned for 2012, I show that Hindu influences on Christian theology far exceed the Greek influences but that Hindu sources have to be erased as something embarassing to Christianity, or as somehow making the appropriated element suspicious.

The Greeks were also heathens and infidels, hence that should not be the basis for hiding Hindu influences. My analysis goes deeper and locates the REASON for Christians wanting to distance themselves from Hindu sources after learning so much from them ..."

Rajiv posted excerpts from a response of Mr. Johnson. For Hindus who are used to open debating and sharing since times immemorial, the information in this comment can be stunning:
"Below is an excerpt from one PJ Johnston's comment, in which he responds to my question: Why must Christians who appropriate from Hinduism hide their sources rather than respect them with honor:

"Speaking entirely from personal experience, I think there are a lot of reasons why individual Christians who borrow from Hinduism or other religions might avoid publicizing the fact.  ... I was already the organizer of a small interfaith prayer group, and we had a Yahoo group and a website that documented our projects.  Someone associated with the community discovered the website, was deeply scandalized by the fact that we borrowed from other religions and admitted doing so, and printed a thick file of material from the website and circulated it to several bishops on the seminary Board of Trustees, which began a heresy investigation and put pressure on the seminary dean to remove me as a student ...  the head of the alumni association was the former parish priest of my academic advisor at the University of Chicago, which would have meant that the seminary would have sacrificed a significant amount of money in lost donations).  ... after which I received anonymous death threats, had Indian iconography stolen out of my prayer stall, and became an absolute pariah.  ... but this effectively destroyed my hope of livelihood as a mainstream Anglican priest and forced me to go back into Ph.D. studies. The financial, spiritual, and psychological costs associated with being open about interfaith borrowing were more than one could expect a rational person to accept, and if I were a rational person at all (instead of an unreasonably stubborn survivor of childhood bullying with a serious problem with giving into injustice) I would not have been willing to pay them."

Ravi shares more links:
"Please see links ... Thinly veiled appropriation? I'm inclined to think so.

But the keypoint is how seriously Catholic seminaries (among many many other Christian educational institutions) take their "purvapaksha".  This site is from them, though not very obvious immediately. A Fr. Vensus George there has done (extremely detailed) comparisons between Vedanta & western thought (Shankara vs Heidegger, etc etc, eg :    ). I've spent time reading the whole Advaita explanation in detail, & would invite scholars here to refute his understanding if they could..."

This definition of "gadfly" from wikipedia will be useful to while reading the next comment:
"A gadfly is a person who upsets the status quo by posing upsetting or novel questions, or just being an irritant."

Rajiv shares is disappointment at Francis Clooney suddenly choosing to drop out of the debate:
"I have posted the following comment at Francis Clooney's blog in America Magazine:

I am disappointed that Clooney has run away after posting this blog in response to mine. My letter to the magazine editor got no response. Clooney wrote back declining my offer to publicly discuss the issues concerning false comparisons of Holy Spirit and Shakti. I persisted, and he has written back praising me, saying that calling me a gadfly was in the same vein as Socrates was a gadfly.

Clooney is a very controversial figure among Hindus, but despite that I have always enjoyed our frank discussions over many years. To many Hindus, he is a Vatican spy and subversive, wanting to befriend Hindus in the same manner as the infamous Robert de Nobili, and for similar motives. This is Catholic inculturation at its greatest heights. To others he is a gadfly on Hinduism who has used naive Hindus to boost his reputation, and thus get himself a prestitious post at Harvard,
where, ironically, he is seen as an expert on Hinduism. He now mentors many other scholars on Hinduism...

...I dont think this hit-and-run is in the interest of advancing our mutual learning or that of readers. i have requested that he return to the table. Let us celebrate the differences between our respective faiths with mutual respect" 

Madhukar adds:
"This is not just the problem in America it is also in India. When one challenges the statements and practices of Christianity and their missionary zeal in public they hide themselves from the challenges. No wonder. "

Excerpts from a response by George who does not take kindly to Clooney's hit-and-run:
"... takes up, among other things, the costume of a gadfly only to deceive people. His chief assignment from Vatican is to cannibalize Hinduism, like they did many other traditions in the past... Clooney is never known to have debated anybody who knows anything about the subject to be debated. ... In his line of work, Clooney explores and scrutinizes points in Hinduism worthwhile to be plagiarized and transfer them to Jesus Christ and then summarize these in a supposedly scholarly work..."

Mary is not thrilled by George's comments:
"The post by George is a shocking ad hominem. I'm surprised that such fact-free vitriol would be allowed to sully what is otherwise tempered and
judicious exchange..

I was raised a Catholic and am quite familiar with teachings about the Holy Spirit. When I first read Rajiv's published article on Shakti, I observed several errors in understanding and history about the Holy Spirit. I mentally noted to myself that pre-publication, the article would have benefitted from a
collegial review by someone well-versed in the theology in question ..."

Rajiv's response:
"I wont comment on the allegations against George - he can do that.

But in the same post Mary mixes up an ad hominem against me for writing the article on Holy Spirit. This has nothing to do with George.

She dismisses it as filled with errors, but fails to give a single argument in support of such a sweeping statement. This is illogical. Being raised in a religion does not necessarily make one an expert in it. In fact, most popular ideas of a religion are what some folks want to sell, and much that is true gets blocked. Today, much that is taught in Catholicism is appropriated from various sources over time, and then the sources blocked/erased...  I have hired more
than one product of Princeton Theological Seminary, one of the best in the world, precisely to find mistakes and suggest better alternatives... I find it troubling to have my work dismissed flippantly with no reason cited or backup provided whatsoever"

George responds to Mary:
"Ms. Mary, I didn't have you in mind personally when I mentioned "fools of other persuasions" being taken for a ride by Clooney. I am sorry if I gave you a rude shock. [Many] people get fooled by the seeming "tempered and judicious"

However, if one removes the wool of faith over one's eyes, one will begin to see what I mean about Clooney and one day thank me for pointing out the facts. I've never heard of a Jesuit who seemed what he really is.

You can check this out yourself: ask Fr. F. X. Clooney why doesn't he participate in a debate with Rajiv Malhotra "

Bhakthi comments on U-turns:
"After 36 years in ISKCON, I know of very few members who U-turned back to their Judao-Christian roots. Many, however, either having left their commitment to Vaisnava-dharma, or even while ostensibly remaining within it,
have UTurned into postmodern relativism."

Rajiv has the last word in this discussion as he responds to BV: 
".. What I explained in ou[r] chat when we met in
Princeton was a small bit of it.

Uturn does not necessarily return the person back to his/her original faith or identity. In fact that is very rare. In most cases of uturn, the person seeks some other western identity, or even defines a new original one, or remains in what I call stage-2 where "there is no identity at all" or there is  everything is the same" identity.

Uturn process does not end with the individual. It continues through others who follow in that person's footsteps, taking it further. So while the primary uturner might not go back to a western religion, his/her followers/readers/students later on DO take that dharmic appropriated material and re-frame it into explicitly western history. I cite numerous examples of
these multi-generational trajectories."

Hence, individual uturns are just one kind in my model. There are two other kinds, one of which is the uturn of a SCHOOL OF THOUGHT OR LINEAGE."

No comments:

Post a Comment