Neural Buddhists, Ctd
Ross chimes in:
Christian theology and Christian ritual are compatible with the universal human ability to experience the sacred through prayer and meditation, but they're "built on top" of particular encounters and revelations that tend to have little in common with the "transcending boundaries/overflowing with love" experiences that neuroscientists are equipped to measure. Indeed, in both the Old and New Testaments, the foundational encounters with God - the religious experiences that created Judaism and Christianity - are nothing like a meditative, free-floating sense of one-ness with the universe. Instead, whether it's Moses encountering the burning bush or Job being addressed out of the whirlwind or the disciples encountering the Risen Christ, the encounters with God that shape the Judeo-Christian tradition tend to be extremely personal on the one hand (God has a personality, a voice, even a body; He isn't just some cosmic soup we can all go swimming in) and extremely terrifying and difficult to comprehend on the other.
All this is clearly true. And yet Christian mysticism also envelops some of the Buddhist insights into peace and ease with nature, as Merton and others came to explore. It may not be a free-floating sense of one-ness with the universe, but it can be a free-floating sense of one-ness with Christ, and the Trinity, and thereby, at some point, the Universe. At some level, the kinds of experiences we are crudely trying to explain are so beyond our categories that insisting on the exclusive validity of one kind of interaction with God seems a little, er, defensive, even narrow. What, to throw the question back to Ross, is the difference between a personal God and a personal Love Force that is also the power behind all Creation? In a word: Jesus. But what then of the Father and the Holy Spirit? Are non-Christians unable even to sense them - in a different idiom and practice? And could we not have already evolved to understand them in our minds/souls/genes - long before Jesus' revelation made so many things so much clearer? And if we had not, how could Jesus have even made sense to anyone?