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Abstract:
History of the relativistic approach to truth, a response to Momen's "Relativism: A Basis for Bahá'í Metaphysics," and inter-faith dialogue.
Notes:
This paper is a modified version of the section by the same name, extracted from “Prolegomena to a Bahá’í Theology,” The Journal of Bahá’í Studies, 5:1, March-June, 1992).

Mirrored with permission from jack-mclean.com.


The Relativity of Religious Truth:
Relating to the Absolute

by Jack McLean

2007
The Relative View[1]

The belief in the relativity of religious truth, or relativism, is one of the fundamental questions in Bahá'í philosophical theology.[2] Shoghi Effendi names the relativity of religious truth in conjunction with progressive revelation and describes it as "the fundamental principle which constitutes the bedrock of Bahá'í belief." (The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh 115). The Bahá'í teaching on relativity dates back to the prophetic insights in the nineteenth century of the founders of the Bahá'í faith. The teaching is thus grounded in revelation, rather than speculation, and gives it the authority of scripture, and ensures it a lasting place in Bahá'í theology.

Like any concept, relativity has its own history. In western philosophy, relativity is usually traced to the first and most renowned humanistic Sophist, Protagoras (481-411 B.C.) with his well know proposition "Man is the measure of all things."[3] Protagoras's view of relativity was based on his understanding of perception which seemed to include both sense perception and opinion. In response to a critique from Plato, he cites the example of food that tastes bitter to the sick man but wholesome to the man who is well.[4] This subjective perception, Protagoras extended to his theory of truth. All opinions are true, he argued, for they are true for the one perceiving them. They have no universal validity. This lead to both a radical subjectivism in epistemology and an ethical relativism that was criticised by Plato in the Theaetetus.[5]

Although the idea of relativity stretches back into antiquity, it was given great impetus in twentieth century philosophy and religion by the impact of Einstein's relativity theory in physics, and the later Wittgenstein who indicated that human language can only express reality from one, or at the most a few, perspectives at once, and is bound to be a very limited description of reality, his famous language-games, each having its own specific and limited view of reality. This includes science. (Philosophische Untersuchungen (Philosophical Investigations) 1953). Ironically, members of the Vienna Circle of logical positivism first used Einstein's theory to strike a blow at theology and metaphysics by declaring such statements to be "nonsense", and by reducing meaning and verification strictly to the logical functions of language (Herbert Dingle Relativity: Philosophical Consequences," Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1959 ed.).

By contrast, practitioners of interreligious dialogue currently use relativity to render theological and metaphysical statements that are seemingly at odds, inter-relational. Although relativity is currently used as a tool to promote inter-faith understanding by deabsolutising the perception of one's own truth, it was first perceived as a threat to official doctrine by the Roman Catholic church because it ascribed temporal conditions and subjective limitations to duly perceived immutable dogma. Relativity was condemned by Pope Pius X in his encyclical Lamentabili sane exitu (1907) with its list of 65 modern errors, a syllabus that was modelled upon Pope Pius IX Syllabus Errorum (Syllabus of Errors) (1864).

The leader of Catholic modernism, Alfred Loisy (1857-1949), priest, noted bible scholar and lecturer at the Institut Catholique in Paris, was excommunicated in 1908 for relativizing dogmatic theology. Loisy had declared in L'Evangile et l'Eglise that dogmatic definitions are always relative, variable, and conditioned by historical circumstances. Loisy, however, had also extended his concept of relativity to Jesus himself and declared Jesus to be limited and fallible in his judgements and he opposed traditional teaching on the inspiration of scripture. (James C. Livingston, Modern Christian Thought 280-83, 291, 452). The American theologian H. Richard Niebuhr also treated relativity in The Meaning of Revelation (1941)[6] (7-38), although he distinguished it from a radical subjectivism and scepticism.

Although the concept of the relativity of religious truth is not new to the Bahá'í Faith, its use is somewhat novel. The context of Shoghi Effendi's statement connects relativity with progressive revelation. Richard Niebuhr and Nathan Söderblom (1866-1931), Nobel Laureate for peace (1930), comparative religionist and primate of the church of Sweden, also had their own concept of "progressive revelation" and "continued revelation" respectively. Niebuhr's and Söderblom's understanding of progressive revelation were confined to what has been called "general" rather than "special" revelation,[7] whereas the Bahá'í understanding of the term is based on the more classical notion of prophetic revelation; that is, the periodic emergence of an appointed of God who reveals a new scripture and laws within the framework of dispensational religion.[8]

Shoghi Effendi's junction of the relativity of religious truth with progressive revelation yields, however, one first level meaning of relativity. The Bahá'í view of dispensational progressive revelation is that religious truth is relative both to our point in historical evolution, and to the state of our current understanding. According to this view, the Bahá'í Faith is not the final prophetic revelation. Revelation is unending, Bahá'í scripture affirms. There will, therefore, be other revelations. In that sense, the Bahá'í view of religious truth is not absolute, for truth unfolds progressively and will continue to do so "to the end that hath no end". This view can be contrasted with the more absolute and fundamentalist views of the finality of revelation in christocentric Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. However, there are other implications for religious relativity.[9]

The current discussion among practitioners of interreligious dialogue and "world theology" favours the a bias toward the relativity pole of the discussion, what Langdon Gilkey has called "the flood of relativity" ("Plurality and Its Theological Implications" 50) The polar opposite of the absolute has largely been avoided because of its negative associations with dogmatism and orthodox exclusivism. It has been the perception of the relativity of one's religious truth vis-à-vis another's, an inheritance of liberal Protestant theology, that has emancipated Christian theology from doctrinal exclusivism and driven Christian theologians to recognize revelation, truth, salvation and grace in the non-Christian religions.

Absolutizing Relativity: A Caution

However, there are certain cautions to be cited in connection with relativity. The value of the relativity of religious truth is that it acts as a bulwark against the one way interpretation of dogmatism, and posits that religious truth, although it is fundamentally one, is progressive, dynamic, infinite, and ever-changing. This allows for an acceptance of a variety of interpretations of metaphysical and theological truths, which would on the surface appear to be incompatible. It is thus an ally of a more inclusive view of reality, one that allows for a diversity of approaches and methodologies. The relativity of religious truth also has strong implications for re-establishing some measure of unity between science and religion or philosophy, which is one of the most meaningful and potentially fruitful of questions in our time.

As with any theory, however, there is another side to the dialectic of relativity. Certain cautions need to be raised: (1) Relativity should not fall into the trap of absolutizing relativity. Relativity as a concept is also relative. If we abolish the notion of some ultimate truth through a radical view of relativity, relativity itself ceases to be meaningful. Relativities become meaningful only in relation to and through absolutes. If there is no ultimate truth, Absolute Mind or irreducible absolute convictions, we are left with a series of disconnected relativities wherein every statement, can become a true statement, (Bahá'u'lláh is a manifestation of God/Bahá'u'lláh is not a manifestation of God), unless we wish to impose some other rational criteria for determining the truth, such as the arbitrariness of philosophical logic, or empiricism. This was precisely the position taken by the Vienna school of logical positivism.

We do, of course, perceive the Absolute (God) or irreducible truth statements (e.g. Bahá'u'lláh is a manifestation of God) in a relative way. This statement can have two meanings: (1) Our understanding of the absolute changes. Today's understanding is not tomorrow's. (2) To say that we perceive absolute mind or absolute truth in a relative way, becomes functional and meaningful in a situation of dialogue. It is here that we enter into the paradox of relativity. Theologians and comparative religionists such as Landgon Gilkey and Riamundo Panikkar, to name only two, are also aware that there are pitfalls with a "radical relativity".[10] The relativity doctrine, therefore, needs to be closely scrutinized lest it abolish the domain of the absolute, which has not only a long philosophical history, and is the pillar of mystical experience, but it also has definite implications for the grounding one's personal religious convictions, and for the impact of such convictions on the dynamics of interreligious dialogue.

Relativity, although it has promoted interreligious dialogue, has also led to an impasse surrounding the resolution of apparent doctrinal differences and contradictions. The theory of some perennial philosophy or "primordial tradition" at the mystical heart of all religions, as elucidated by Frithjof Schuon, S.H. Nasr and Huston Smith and others, is one of the more promising proposals as a way out the dilemma. Further, as Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) pointed out in First Principles, the question of relativity imposes a bi-polar discussion; that is, one pole of the discussion can only be meaningful in the light of the other. If relativity is pursued exclusively, without defining its relation to the absolute, it takes on the function of an absolute itself, which results in contradiction:

From the necessity of thinking in relation, it follows that the Relative is itself inconceivable, except as related to a real non-relative. Unless a real Non-relative or Absolute be postulated, the Relative itself becomes absolute, and so brings the argument to a contradiction. (Spencer First Principles quoted in Andrew J. Reck, Speculative Philosophy A Study of Its Nature Types and Uses 195)

Leonard Swidler, a Catholic ecumenical theologian, summarizes four convincing arguments for the relativity of religious truth, an approach he labels as "Deabsolutizing Truth" ("Interreligious and Interideological Dialogue: The Matrix for All Systematic Reflection Today" esp. 7-13) Swidler discussses in turn: (1) the historicization of truth. Statements are products of their historical Sitz im Leben and can only be understood by examining the Sitz. Statement A will not have the same meaning in one historical context (Sitz) as it will in a later one. At least it will require a qualifying or different statement. (2) the sociology of knowledge. All statements are relative not only to a point in time, but to the standpoint of the speaker, and are determined by that perspective whether cultural, social, religious, etc. The speaker's worldview determines the truth of the statement. (3) the limits of language. Following Wittgenstein, any statement is per force cast in the limited perspective of the speaker, whether categories, style, method, etc. (4) subjective hermeneutics.[11] We could reduce these statements to a simpler one. Statements of truth are relative to our ability to understand and express them, relative to the age in which they appear and relative to the speaker's viewpoint.

Dr. Momen's Article “Relativism: A Basis for Bahá'í Metaphysics"

Dr. Moojan Momen’s article [online here], one of the most frequently quoted in Bahá’í scholarship, aims to reconcile the seemingly contradictory positions of dualism and monism through its key ideas that we can have no absolute knowledge of ultimate reality (relativism), and that mutually contradictory positions (monism and dualism) are so only because of our intellectual inability to perceive the larger composite picture, something Momen calls a "non-understanding" (204). While one can certainly agree with Momen's general thesis, definite ambiguities and incompatibilities with Bahá'í belief can crop up in the wake of his thesis that have to with the origin or existence of evil and the concept of God. The mention of pantheism, which is usually associated with Hindu and Sufi monism, is conspicuous by its absence in the article.

It is not at all clear just how Momen's thesis relates to the monistic pantheism of Hinduism and Sufism which is rejected by `Abdu'l-Bahá. However, some qualification to the self as God (monism) would be in order in the light of `Abdu'l-Bahá's categorical rejection of pantheism. `Abdu'l-Bahá rejects pantheism on both metaphysical and moral grounds: the Absolute cannot become the contingent, and creatures who are sources of imperfection cannot be the predicate God who is perfection. "...that Pure Power should be restricted to the state of weakness, according to the limitations of contingent beings. And this is an evident error."...."[God] should resolve Itself into the forms of the realities of the creatures, which are the source imperfections? This a pure imagination which one cannot conceive." (Some Answered Questions 295, 6). The implications of `Abdu'l-Bahá’s statement for moral philosophy seem fairly clear. Creatures are the source of imperfections and evil. God is perfection and pure bounty.

If there is no qualification to the view of monism of the self as God, then clearly the morally imperfect creature who is the source of evil is being identified and equated with God. This erroneous view of pantheistic monism is the basis for `Abdu'l-Bahá's strong objection. As Momen points out, there are certainly both monistic and dualistic statements in the Bahá'í writings, and it may well be possible to reconcile these. Yet it is important to qualify that the Bahá'í view of monism is exclusive at the start. It is possible to postulate a monism purified of pantheism. Otherwise the Bahá'í scholar may be interpreted as being in contradiction with his own teachings.

The Function of the Absolute

The domain of the relative invokes that of the absolute. Like so many other bi-polar questions, such as the universal and the particular, the one and the many, fact and value, spirit and matter, logic and intuition, revelation and reason, the domains of the relative and the absolute engage us in a dialectic that invites consideration of both poles of the discussion. At the outset, there is something chilling in the notion of the absolute. As a philosophical concept of God, it would appear not to coexist well with the view of God as a Being who enters into a personal relationship with the believer, although serious, successful attempts have been made to combine a personal God with the Absolute. The absolute also has connotations of an arbitrariness of will, of unlimited self-determination and power. According to Karl Popper, it was applied in Hegel's political theory to justify absolute power in the rising German nation in a philosophy of state that led to the rise of nationalism and totalitarian regimes. In religious praxis, absolutism has led to narrow dogmatism and orthodox exclusivism which, in the sacred academy at least, has gradually given way in the post world war two years to a growing relativism that recognizes the validity of the convictions of the faith of others.

There are, however, aspects to the notion of the absolute that make it de rigueur for the functioning of our religious beliefs, and when balanced with an appreciation of the deabsolutising and limiting aspects of relativity, make it a congenial ally for both the praxis of interreligious dialogue and the self-recognition of the limited, but ever-expanding nature of our cognitive beliefs. Langdon Gilkey makes the point that the absolute functions as a kind of existential center for our religious beliefs. It is in this absolute center or ground that we stand when we interpret the world in spiritual terms. Otherwise, we would be like one adrift on an iceberg, our direction determined by the passing of every current:

We need a ground for the apprehension and understanding of reality — a ground that undergirds our choices, our critiques of the status quo, our policies. We need a ground for the values and eros that fuel and drive toward justice, and for the confidence and hope necessary for consistent action. We need criteria for the judgements essential both for reflective construction and for liberative doing; and we need priorities in value if we would creatively and actively move into the future. (Plurality 46)

While Gilkey's statement does not constitute an attempt at a philosophical reconciliation of the absolute and the relative, it does provide, nonetheless, a strong dose of realism as to the actual functioning of the absolute nature of our spiritual values in the perspective of faith in action or praxis. Speaking as a Christian engaged in interreligious dialogue, Langdon states that he has chosen to remain within the Christian tradition, since one "cannot escape all particularity". (same 49) For the Bahá'í, and indeed for the member of any faith, Gilkey's words ring true, for they alert us to the existential center and to the point of departure. By opting for a spiritual center, we avoid the "slippery slope" of so-called value neutrality, of being nowhere by standing everywhere. Interreligious dialogue begins, then, from the center of our particular faith, and sets out in an adventure to discover new and creative understandings our own particular spiritual truth, in the hope of creating new universals, in Plato's sense of discovering if there might be some essence to all of the particulars. Our religious convictions are, then, functional absolutes. They orient us in life, without imposing a claim to immutability or finality in terms of our understanding of them.

Interreligious Dialogue: A Means of Resolving the Tension Between the Relative and the Absolute

If practitioners of world theology and interreligious dialogue have concentrated on the relativity side of the relativity-absolutism equation, it is not without good reason. Andrew J. Reck asserts that "few categories in the history of philosophy have been intractable to conceptual specification as the category of the Absolute." (Speculative 167) Ernst Grünwald rejecting Karl Mannheim's notion of "relationism" in the sociology of knowledge (Wissenssoziologie) as a proposed middle ground between relativism and the absolute, stated flatly: "Relativism and absolutism are contradictory opposites with no more "middle ground" between them than exists between true and false, yes and no." ("The Sociology of Knowledge and Epistemology" 240) The problematic nature of God as the Absolute has already been alluded to. In Hegelian philosophy, God as the Absolute is the Absolute Idea, the perfect resolution of all the contradictions of dialectic in some higher meta-idea what remains of the personal God? But if God is merely an Idea, albeit the perfect idea, He remains primarily an object of pure thought. How can this be reconciled to the concept of God as a Self, who is in some sense a Person who relates to other persons or selves in intimate relationship? An attempt to reconcile these concepts have been made by the American idealist philosopher Josiah Royce (1855-1916) who maintained a belief in a personal God while postulating God as the Absolute, the Universal of universals, an attempt that Frederick Copleston regards as only partially successful.[12]

Gilkey sees in the relative-absolute equation a frustrating paradox that is difficult to resolve, at least theoretically: "The interplay of absolute and relative — -of being a Christian, Jew, or Buddhist, and affirming that stance, and yet at the same time relativizing this mode of existence — -both stuns and silences the mind, at least mine". (Plurality 47) We can admire Gilkey's frankness and his intellectual modesty. The relativity/absolute paradox is in theory unsolvable, or so it would seem, and yet Gilkey goes on to propose a resolution of it, but not one that lies in the realm of speculation, but rather in the realm of religious experience and action, that of religious dialogue.

Following the pragmatics of John Dewey that what may seem to rationation a "hopeless contradiction" may become "successfully resolved" through "intelligent practice" (Plurality 46). Dialogue sets up the imperative for relativity, while we remain nonetheless in the domain of the absolute. On the psychological level, our religious convictions function as absolutes, otherwise we would not be Christian, Bahá'í, Buddhist or some other. We would be that other. Once we enter into dialogue, however, we must abandon our absolutes, otherwise, there would be no dialogue, only a monologue whose covert agenda would be conversion. Praxis requires, therefore, that we relativize our absolute convictions. In interreligious dialogue, we become only one faith among others, or stand face to face with the other. As we interact in dialogue, we feel limited. Our absolute convictions (e.g. Bahá'u'lláh is the promised Manifestation of God) become relativized by the presence of the other, with their equally weighty claims on truth. In dialogue, Gilkey sees an on-going dynamic tension between the relative and the absolute, "a dialectic or paradox combining and interweaving...a relative absoluteness." (Plurality 47)

What to reflection is a contradiction, to praxis is a workable dialectic, a momentary but creative paradox., Absolute and relative, unified vision and plurality, a centered principle of interpretation and mere difference, represent polarities apparently embodiable in crucial practice despite the fact that they seem numbing in reflective theory. (same)

In other words, Gilkey is calling for a new type of experimental scholarship, one that would take the scholar out of the refuge of his study into a praxis of colloquia with other scholars. The solitary individual must engage in a kind of cooperative learning, a creative participatory approach which bases its method in dialogue: "Thus reflection must not, because it cannot, precede praxis; on the contrary, it must be begun on the basis of praxis." (same) By pursuing such a method, we discover that the One is revealed in the many, the Absolute appears within the relative, new and creative understandings of the oneness of spiritual truth are discovered.

Conclusion

While I have, in this paper, indicated some of the merits of the relativity of religious truth, it would be too hasty to conclude that relativity has done away with either the Absolute or with absolute truth. Relativity must always be considered in the light of its polar opposite. While the postmodernism has fallen into an uncritical acceptance of relativism, and has paradoxically conferred upon it the status of an absolute, relativism should not be used to undermine a belief in God, or to reduce the "normative" or the host of irreducible truth-statements that are found in Bahá'í scripture.

Bahá'u'lláh's claim to be the prophetic figure for the present age carries with it an extraordinary apocalyptic certitude, and while he affirms a fundamental oneness in the revealed religions, he also maintains that his revelation is, in our age, the Standard for determining other truths.[13] In this sense, Bahá'ís view Bahá'u'lláh's teachings as the ultimate standard for truth in our present religious dispensation, the metaphysical point beyond which we cannot presently advance, a kind of speed of light or point of "absolute zero" of spiritual truth. Bahá'u'lláh's prophetic prerogative to distinguish the true from the false may well be perceived by some as dogmatic presumption or orthodox exclusivism, a perception, however, that is not justified by a careful reading of Bahá'u'lláh. Arnold Toynbee, just one of several to make a similar observation, perceived, among the Abrahamic religions, a remarkable spirit of tolerance in the Bahá'í Faith: "Of all the Judaic religions, Bahaism is the most tolerant. In its catholicity, it comes near to Mahayanian Buddhism or to Hinduism." (Christianity Among the Religions of the World 104). Scriptural admonitions to observe ethical conduct are also made in an absolute way. Existential faith also makes an absolute claim on our lives. Any attempt to relativize this claim would only weaken it.

Notes

  1. The limited introductory scope of this paper does not allow for an in-depth treatment of several vital themes relating to the relativity of religious truth. Some of these vital themes include: the relative understanding of the observer of any given question or phenomenon, the immutability of spiritual truth, the metaphysical unity of the prophets which Bahá'u'lláh qualifies as "absolute", and the nature of God as the Absolute, the relative and absolute nature of spiritual values and experiences, and the Absolute as a unified field of reality. Some of these important themes are treated in passing below but such monumental questions require greater depth than can be given here.
  2. Moojan Momen treats the relativity of religious truth in the "Relativism: A Basis for Bahá'í Metaphysics." Studies in Honor of the Late Hasan M. Balyuzi 5:185-217. Following the progressive revelation line of reasoning, Udo Schaefer also treats relativity in "Die Relativität der Offenbarung" (The Relativity of Revelation) in Heilgeschichte und Paradigmenwechsel. Zwei Beiträge zur Bahá'í-Theologie (Zero Palm Press Ltd. Prague, 1992, pp. 116-120). (Beyond the Clash of Religions: The Emergence of a New Paradigm, Zero Palm Press, Prague, 1992, pp. 58-60). Nader Saiedi also deals with relativity in order to relate it to a view of progressive social reality in "A Dialogue With Marxism" in Circle of Unity: Bahá’í Approaches to Current Social Issues, Anthony A. Lee, editor, Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1984, pp. 242-46.
  3. The complete and obscure quotation reads: "Man is the measure of all things, of things that are that they are, and of things that are not that they are not." Protagoras was a pragmatist concerned chiefly the development of civic virtues in the newly emerged democracies of the city states, and he enjoyed the protection of the Athenian statesman Pericles who empowered Protagoras to become the chief legislator for the Athenian colony established in Thurii in Italy in 443 B.C. One of the main points of his philosophy was concerned with the transmission of Arete (excellence). Protagoras wrote treatises in grammar, logic, ethics, political and religious theory, but only fragments remain. At one point, he was driven from Athens for impiety for reportedly having said: "I know not whether the gods exist or not; the question is difficult and life is short". Plato maintained in the Theaetetus that he also charged "huge fees".
  4. See Protogoras's response to Plato's critic in An Introduction to Early Greek Philosophy, p. 247.
  5. Reacting to Protagoras' affirmation of the subjectivity of perception, and through Socrates' voice, Plato makes a personal criticism of the Sophist, viz. if no one opinion is better than another, and if all opinions are true, how can Protagoras presume to teach other people and to charge them "huge fees"? Plato also indicated that with his relativity of sensations, Protagoras was making no distinction between the human being and the animal. Why not, therefore, take the animal as the measure of all things? (An Introduction to Early Greek Philosophy 246) Plato maintained, however, that in contrast to mere fluctuating opinion, there was sure knowledge and fixed concepts which could be authoritative for all.
  6. Richard Niebuhr recognized that our spiritual convictions were determined by historical relativism: "The patterns and models we employ to understand the historical world may have had a heavenly origin, but as we know and use them they are, like ourselves, creatures of history and time; though we direct our thought to eternal and transcendent beings, it is not eternal and transcendent; though we regard the universal, the image of the universal in our mind is not a universal image." (10) His view of relativity, however, did not culminate in but without a scepticism and unbridled subjectivity which undermines one's basic convictions: "It is not evident that the man who is forced to confess that his view of things is conditioned by the standpoint he occupies must doubt the reality of what he sees." (18)
  7. In The Meaning of Revelation, Richard Niebuhr uses the phrase "progressive revelation" to refer to a continuous working out of the meaning of revelation in the on-going history of the human community: "...by being brought to bear upon the interpretation and reconstruction of ever new human situations in an enduring movement, a single drama of divine and human action." (135-136) On the individual level, it refers to a continuing dialectic in the ever-widening circle of reason and experience in understanding "first principles". This understanding of "progressive revelation" points to a moment of mystical illumination which Niebuhr likens to the journey and the mountain ascent during which there are moments of "new understanding", "wonder" and "surprise". (137) Söderblom's view of revelation was something he called "continued revelation". His Gifford Lectures published as The Living God held that revelation was ongoing in the creative genius, in secular history, and in the regeneration of the individual.
  8. By dispensational religion I refer mainly to a prophetic cycle of fixed duration characterized by an outpouring of divine revelation, occurring within the divinely revealed world religions. The period of this dispensation of divine revelation, however, is superseded by the proclamation of a succeeding prophetic figure who exercises his own authority within his own fixed prophetic cycle. The fact that the dispensation occurs within a fixed historical period of time, relates it to the relativity of religious truth since certain features of the divine revelation — -some laws, social ordinances and even spiritual concepts — -are temporally determined and valid only for the period of that dispensation.
  9. See below. It might also prove fruitful to examine relativity in its interactions with Advaita Vedanta and the monist philosophies of the Absolute found in Spinoza and in Anglo-Germanic idealism, viz. how the perception of some metaphysical one system theory might coexist with a pluralist view of the world, or how the "wholly other" transcendent God might be reconciled to the view that God indwells creation.
  10. The expression is Panikkar's.
  11. For a more complete discussion of these relativities see Swidler in "Interreligious and Interideological Dialogue: The Matrix for All Systematic Reflection Today" in Toward a Universal Theology of Religion" 5-50, especially pp. 7-13.
  12. See Royce's The World and the Individual. Copplestone sees an ambiguity in Royce's use of the term `individual' and in his relationship of the One to the Many. For details, see further "The Philosophy of Royce" in A History of Philosophy, vol. 8, pp. 42-44. According to Copplestone, Royce was, however, aware of the ambiguities in his own position. It remains, however, a matter of dispute exactly how his absolute idealism changed in later years in order to reconcile previous ambiguities. (Coppleston, "The Philosophy of Royce" 8, 44)
  13. This notion of His possessing the standard of truth is a repeated theme in Bahá'u'lláh's writings. Bahá'u'lláh makes such a weighty but nonetheless unambiguous claim in a tablet addressed collectively to the leaders of religion: "Say: O leaders of religion! Weigh not the Book of God with such standards and sciences as are current amongst you, for the Book itself is the unerring balance established amongst men. In this most perfect balance whatsoever the peoples and kindreds of the earth possess must be weighed, while the measure of its weight should be tested according to its own standard, did ye but know." (Gleanings 198)
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