The Bede Griffiths Trust
Bede Griffiths and the Absolute
By Andy Ross
Bede Griffith said that the truth is found where two opposites meet. He also
said that the most effective ways of transcending the ego are through
meditation and falling in love.
In the Upanishads, the true self is
described as the bridge between the phenomenal world and the Absolute. The
phenomenal world consists of name and form plus the Absolute. In meditation
and falling in love, we move beyond the phenomenal world toward the truth.
Opposites meet here. The world of objects and their oppositions disappears
in the light of the Absolute.
This meeting of opposites is found in
silence and solitude. Our everyday identity and our sense of union with the
phenomenal world arise from our attachments to objects. Realizing the
futility of attachment uncovers an awesome inner solitude. In seeing what is
unreal, the real is revealed.
With this realization, the light of the
Absolute shines through the true self. Once we know the real in this way,
the phenomenal world can no longer bind us. We discover our self as a divine
inner light. The light of the Absolute dissolves the veil of ignorance and
allows us to experience truth.
Father Bede said that it is in
meditation and falling in love that we can transcend the limitations of the
ego and part the veil of ignorance that thrives on name and form. Meditation
takes us beyond the phenomenal world and lets us experience the true self.
Falling in love puts us out of control and thus can also take us beyond
the phenomenal world. This experience need not be related to sexual
attraction. It can occur whenever we experience a level of union beyond the
normal tensions of opposites, indeed whenever we discover peace and truth.
Any such experience goes beyond the limited ego. We are overwhelmed by
something greater than ourselves, something beyond name and form.
Based with thanks on a meditation by Atmajyoti
The Swami From Oxford
By Robert Fastiggi, Jose Pereira
Edited by Andy Ross
Since the time of the apostles, the Church has always attempted to adapt the
Gospel message to the particular needs and circumstances of diverse
cultures. As the Christian faith spread to different cultures, many
indigenous ideas and practices were incorporated into Church usage.
The need to respect the practices of the native culture in the
evangelization of the barbarians was recognized in the sixth century by Pope
Gregory the Great. Gregory's policy of cultural inclusiveness allowed the
Church to absorb many of the local ideas and practices of the Celtic,
Germanic, and Slavic peoples who were evangelized and baptized. The
emergence of Gothic Europe is a direct result of this creative synthesis of
faith and culture.
With the advent of a Christian Europe in the
Middle Ages, ethnocentrism dominated Christendom, along with a generally
negative attitude toward Jewish and Islamic cultures. A type of
philosophical inculturation took place when St. Thomas Aquinas adapted the
newly discovered Aristotelian metaphysics into Christian thought.
the sixteenth century, the Jesuit Matteo Ricci won the confidence of many
Chinese intellectuals and gained approval for the Chinese rites from the
Jesuit superior general in 1603. These Chinese rites received pontifical
approval in 1659. Ricci's fellow Jesuit, Roberto De Nobili, applied the same
methods of inculturation in India. Pope Gregory XV finally decided in favor
of De Nobili's methods.
In 1919, Pope Benedict XV strongly encouraged
the formation of a local clergy to carry out the pastoral care of the native
populations in missionary lands. In 1951, Pope Pius XII said that when the
Gospel is accepted into different cultures "it does not crush or repress
anything good or honorable and beautiful which they have achieved by their
inborn genius and natural endowments." In 1965, the Vatican encouraged a
"more profound adaptation" in which "Christian life can be accommodated to
the genius and dispositions of each culture."
Bede Griffiths was born
in 1906 in England. His Christian faith was awakened at Oxford by his tutor,
C.S. Lewis. Upon graduation, Griffiths became more interested in
Catholicism. Ordained a priest in 1940, Griffiths always remained an avid
reader. He published an autobiography in 1954. In 1955, he move to India. In
1968, he assumed leadership of the Christian ashram of Shantivanam.
Griffiths has published a number of books relating Hindu concepts to the
Christian faith. Their main message is not what Christianity can contribute
to Indian culture but what Christians must learn from Hinduism. Griffiths
showed the deepest respect for the Hindu spiritual tradition but began to
show less respect for the Vatican. In a 1989 article, he called upon the
magisterium to repudiate doctrinal teachings. Later, he called for a
Griffiths invokes the principle of
the unity of religions. "Our search today," he proclaims, "is to go beyond
the institutional structures of religion and discover the hidden mystery
which is at the heart of all religion." Other Hindus who subscribe to this
view, he observes, are Sri Aurobindo, Ramana Maharishi, and Mahatma Gandhi.
He says: "I consider myself a Christian in religion but a Hindu in spirit."
Being a "Hindu in spirit" and a "Christian in spirit" either mean the
same thing or mean different things. If they mean the same thing, then
Griffiths is preaching the theosophical unity of faiths and cannot be
considered a Christian. If they mean different things, then Griffiths, who
says that he is a "Hindu in spirit," is not a Christian by his own
While we cannot form a judgment about Bede Griffiths'
personal sanctity or the depth of his spiritual experience, we can form a
critical judgment about his theology. He does not seem to represent a pure
Christian inculturation of Hinduism. Catholic inculturation expresses the
richness of the Gospel and the Catholic faith through concepts and symbols
reflecting the native culture.
Griffiths attempts to give Hindu
concepts Christian meaning or Christian concepts Hindu meaning. The result
is neither Hindu nor Christian. He reflects a theosophical rather than a
Christian point of view. Theosophy posits that there is a transcendental
unity behind all religions.
"Man is a transitional being. He is not final. The step from man to superman
is the next approaching achievement in the earth's evolution. It is
"If I could not accept Christianity either as a perfect, or the greatest
religion, neither was I then convinced of Hinduism being such. Hindu defects
were pressingly visible to me."
is a doctrine originating with H.P. Blavatsky. It holds that all religions
are attempts by the "Spiritual Hierarchy" to help humanity in evolving to
greater perfection, and that each religion therefore has a portion of the
truth. Together with H.S. Olcott, W.Q. Judge, and others, Blavatsky founded
the Theosophical Society in 1875. Its declared aims were (1) to form a
nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity, without distinction of
race, creed, sex, caste, or color, (2) to encourage the study of comparative
religion, philosophy, and science, and (3) to investigate the unexplained
laws of nature and the powers latent in man.
"Are the mystics and sages insane? Because they all tell variations on the
same story, don't they? The story of awakening one morning and discovering
you are one with the All, in a timeless and eternal and infinite fashion.
Yes, maybe they are crazy, these divine fools. Maybe they are mumbling
idiots in the face of the Abyss. Maybe they need a nice, understanding
A Brief History of Everything
"Ken Wilber is one of the great thinkers of our time. His great contribution
to world thought is as an integrator of a staggering breadth of
philosophical thought, psychological research and accounts of mystical
experience. He maintains that each of the wisdom traditions and methods of
inquiry into human experience has at least some valid contribution to make."
— David K. Bell