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
Catholic Culture

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.

In 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 "propositionless Christianity."

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 confession.

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 inevitable."
Sri Aurobindo

"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."
Mahatma Gandhi

Theosophy 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.

Ken Wilber

"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 therapist."
Ken Wilber

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