Spiritual Improvisations: Ramakrishna, Aurobindo, and the Freedom of Tradition

in Religion and the Arts
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Abstract

Stage 1: My path leads to the true goal, yours does not, therefore I'll kill you if you do not adopt my religion.Stage 2: Your path unwittingly serves mine by leading part way to the goal, so I will refrain from killing you.Stage 3: All paths lead to the same goal, therefore I do not need to subordinate you for professing another way. We can be friends. This phase envisages a heaven composed of sages from different traditions directly sensing they all share the same realization as they behold one another in a state of ineffable communion.Stage 4: All paths ultimately lead to the same goal, but along the way there are significant human differences, and on this less than ultimate level, there can be reciprocal learning.Stage 5: Even at the deepest levels, reciprocal learning can happen. Differences as well as similarities can be discerned in individuals and traditions at the most underlying and super-vening reaches of attainment. This stage posits a fallible and unfolding utopia in which heaven and earth forever inform each other, and everyone keeps learning from everyone. "Spiritual Improvisations" begins to portray the countenance of the fifth stage. To achieve this, modes of apprehension, intuition, communion, ecstasy, and heart-realization that are often said to be ultimate must be reconceived.

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