- This dichotomy is sometimes uncritically assumed even by serious scholars, not least Max Weber and many of those he has directly influenced. See, for example, A. James Reichley, "Pietist Politics," in The Fundamentalist Phenomenon, ed. Norman]. Cohen (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990), pp. 73-98. For a critique of this antithesis as it applies to the religion of ancient Israel, one of the first subjects to which Weber applied it, see Rodney R. Hutton, Charisma and Authority in Israelite Society (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1994).
- Susan Walker, ed., Speaking ofSilence: Christians and Buddhists on the Contemplative Way (New York: Paulist Press, 1987). This book contains a brief annotated bibliography on the contemplative way in each tradition and on Buddhist-Christian dialogue. See also the informative Bulletin ofthe North American Boardfor East-West Dialogue (focused on monastic inter-religious dialogue) published by the Abbey of Gethsemani, 3642 Monks Road, Trappist, KY 40051-6102. The bulletin contains reports, announcements, articles, and reviews of books and other resources. Another, more academic, resource is the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies Newsletter published by the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies, Graduate Theological Union, 2400 Ridge Road, Berkeley, CA 94709. Gilbert G. Hardy, Monastic Quest and Interreligious Dialogue (New York: Peter Lang, 1990) develops a theoretical and theological justification for intermonastic dialogue.
- On the concept of reconciling divergent forces, see E. F. Schumacher, "The Greatest Resource-Education," in his collection of essays, Small is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered (New York: Harper and Row, 1973), pp. 72-94. There he attributes the idea to G. N. M. Tyrell. Schumacher gives a fuller treatment of the concept in his book, A Guide for the Perplexed (New York: Harper and Row, 1977), Ch. 10: "Two Types of Problems," pp. 121-136.
- For this conception I am relying, to some extent, on the ontology of human existence developed by Soren Kierkegaard in his,book, Tbe Sickness Unto Death, trans. Walter Lowrie (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press 1941).
- See his Nichomachean Ethics, Book 2, Sees. vi-ix. There are aspects of Aristotle's catalogue of virtues that directly reflect the culture of ancient Greece, lending force to the charge that virtue ethics generally is culturally relative. However, despite this, it can be argued that Aristotle provides an approach to the identification of nonculturally relative virtues. See Martha Nussbaum, "Non-Relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach," Tbe Quality ofLife, ed. Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen (a study prepared for the World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), pp. 242-269.
- Aristotle simply called it prudence Cphronesis). See ibid., Book 6, Sees. v, viii, and xiii.
- Charles Davis has identified and insightfully analyzed four problematic "temptations of religion"-namely, lust for certitude, cosmic vanity, pride of history, and anger of morality-each of which falls into my classification of the vice of infinitude, or loss of finitude. Although he primarily refers to Christianity, most of his observations can be readily generalized to other religious traditions, and thus are substantially in agreement with the conception of qualitative variation in religious practice being developed here. See Charles Davis, Temptations ofReligion (New York: Harper and Row, 1973).
- See W. Montgomery Watt, "Ghazali, Abu Hamid al-," Encyclopedia ofReligion, Vol. 5, ed. Mircea Eliade (New York: Macmillan, 1987), pp. 541-544, and the bibliographical references at the end of Watt's article.
- See Thomas Merton, Contemplation in a World ofAction (Garden City, NJ: Doubleday, 1971); Rebecca S. Chopp, "Praxis," Tbe New Dictionary o f Catholic Spirituality, ed. Michael Downey (Collegeville, MN: Michael Glazier/Liturgical Press, 1993), pp 756-764; and Kenneth Leech, "Spirituality and Social Justice," Tbe Study ofSpirituality, ed. Cheslyn Jones, Geoffrey Wainwright, and Edward Yarnold (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 582-584. For discussions of the uniting of contemplation and action in other traditions, see Yusuf Ibish and Ileana Marculescu, eds., Contemplation and Action in World Religions (Seattle,WA: University of Washington Press; a Rothko Chapel Book, 1978).
- There is a growing body of literature (often allied with the feminist critique of gender bias in Western culture) that is critical of the ideal of selflessness that has been maintained at times in certain moral and religious traditions within American culture. (See Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982], and Eva Feder Kittay and Diana T. Meyers, eds., Women and MoralTbeory [Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, 1987].) In part, the force of the criticism is that the ideal of selflessness is used to legitimate servitude, reinforce unhealthy relations of codependency, and discourage healthy patterns of self-development. In Carol Gilligan's scheme of moral development, a selfless placing of the interests of others before one's own interests, while better than sheer egoism, is nevertheless a penultimate stage. Psychological health requires that it be surmounted by the higher stage of balanced caring for the interests of oneself along with the interests of others.
I think there may be something to what Gilligan is getting at beyond its reference to American culture in particular that has genuine relevance to the matter currently at issue. However, it needs much more careful working out in relation to living traditions of religious common sense than I am presently prepared to accomplish. At first thought, it suggests that the parameter of qualitative variation here identified as selflessness/egoism might better be conceived as a matter of balance/imbalance, like the second parameter discussed above. In that case, moving more and more in the direction of selflessness would not necessarily be a good thing. Rather, it suggests the parameter should be reconceived as a matter of finding an appropriate balance between the opposite extremes of pro-ego interests and anti-ego interests. Though it has a certain plausibility, I am not at all sure whether this conception is compatible with Buddhist, certain Hindu, and Sufi Muslim traditions that speak of the dissolution of the separate ego. I suspect it may not be compatible. If not, then it clearly will not do as a component of religious common sense.
- For a fuller discussion of these issues, see my article, "Having Faith, Being Neutral, and Doing Justice: Toward a Paradigm of Responsibility in the Comparative Study of Religion," Method and Theory in the Study ofReligion 6:1 (1993), pp. 155-176. In the introduction to their anthology, The Experience ofthe Sacred: Readings in the Phenomenology ofReligion (Hanover, NH: Brown University Press/University Press of New England, 1992), Sumner B. Twiss and Walter H. Conser, Jr., discuss how the existential-hermeneutical approach to the phenomenology of religion is oriented not to detachment and neutrality as such but to these techniques as serving certain normative existential aims, insights, and hunches about what is most important in the human condition.
In a transcribed panel discussion of "Neutrality and Responsibility in the Comparative Study of Religion" at the 1992 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Judith Berling, scholar of Chinese religions and dean of the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley, advocated a very similar approach: "I have a responsibility to use the knowledge that I have of Chinese culture to sophisticate, to nuance, to enrich perceptions that people in the field of Chinese religion-that students of Chinese religion, whether they're freshmen in the classroom or graduate students or in the culture at large-have about the religious dimensions of life, to sharpen my own and my audience's perception, their focus, their ability to discern aspects of religious life with both appreciation and critical discernment. Here I want to add a theme to the notion that our task is to interpret, which it certainly is. Recently I have come to think about 'discernment language' as a useful addition to the theory of interpretation. An interesting metaphor for this would be the kind of discernment, the kind of discrimination, that we try to cultivate when we are trying to understand and appreciate dance or the visual arts. That is, training the eye, the mind--dare I say even the soul-to appreciate what is there to see, to discern, to notice, to be aware of, what is there. And also to discern both excellence and the variations: to be able to see subtleties, to see variations, to see excellences and make judgments, critical judgments, that perhaps we could not have seen before."
- Hans Kung, Global Responsibility: In Search ofa New World Ethic, trans. John Bowden (New York: Crossroad, 1991), p. 132.
- Ibid., p. 97f.