Swans Commentary » swans.com September 26, 2005  



Bede Griffiths 1906-1993
Making Statements Through Action


by Milo Clark





(Swans - September 26, 2005)  In the Bhgavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna, plagued with doubt in the center of a great battlefield, that he cannot not fight. He cannot avoid actions for which he is uniquely prepared, uniquely sited to act. He cannot escape his karma.

A pursuit common to mysticisms is the union of opposites; realization of nonduality. In Vajrayana Buddhism, they speak of the union of perfected opposites as shown in the Yab-Yum statues dear to prurient non-Buddhists. Those who follow the Vedas see a similar state in Advaita Vedanta (non-duality at the end of the Vedas), sometimes summarized as Sat Chit Ananda. As Christianity is very hard on its mystics, faith in Godhead is mumbled as approaching nonduality somewhat, but who needs such things.

The excitements of Yab-Yum potentialities meet the very rational strictures of Advaita Vedanta and fall to sheer boredom around Godhead, unless, of course, Godhead is your path. In any case, as Buddhists generally agree, such matters lie within absolute truth, unknown and unknowable to us mired in actualities.

As an English Benedictine monk living in India after 1955, Bede Griffiths, prepared and sited, could not and would not avoid actions. He struggles mightily to find words and ways beyond relative truth while nibbling at the fringes of absolute truth. He sought to stand firmly on a mystic's path with arms outstretched to all who would join him. As one may imagine, he was not overly popular with those convinced that their way is the only way.

Recently, the newage communities have been much excited by a movie, What the Bleep Do We Know (Captured Light Industries). The Institute of Noetic Sciences and Captured Light Industries prepared an eighty-page "Study Guide and Manual for Navigating Rabbit Holes." (See Alice in Wonderland for a primer on rabbit holes.) Is it ironic that a movie with rabbit holes exploring intuitive actualities requires or inspires an eighty-page study guide?

"What the Bleep" looks at untidy matters such as paradigm shift, quantum reality, creating our days and healing the past. Untidy is both a characteristic and recommendation of such matters. Untidy is good.

If you are comfortable with David Bohm, Fritjof Capra, Ken Wilber, eschew the Perennial Philosophy and are not put off by Dao, Shunyata, Al Haqq or Godhead, "What the Bleep" is possibly old hat for you.

In context, however, Bede Griffiths may be able to save a lot of time while cutting quickly to the quick on most of this business. In his 1989 collection, A New Vision of Western Science, Eastern Mysticism and Christian Faith, Bede Griffiths covers the essentials (and then some) of "What the Bleep" in his first two concise chapters. He then charges onward storming the rabbit holes to end up (chapter 13) at the New Age.

"It is very significant that the physics and other branches of the new science are helping us to get a renewed vision of reality which takes us back to aspects of the ancient wisdom, and in the process assists the development of our new vision in ever more profound and far reaching directions." p. 11

Dump Aristotle, can Descartes and break free! Put mind back with body and power up soul!

Those familiar with Karl Gustav Jung know that he experimented extensively with both Eastern and Western alchemy. His efforts to relink psyche and soul, animus and anima found profound inspiration therein. (See his Mysterium Coniunctionis, ISBN 0-06910-1816-2, and The Secret of the Golden Flower, ISBN 1-56799-80-4.)

Few known that Isaac Newton very secretly pursued alchemical studies. He lived in terror that The Church would discover this work. We get stuck with him, therefore, as scientific anchor for a materialistic and mechanical science governing a largely dominant mechanical and materialist worldview. If it can't be measured, quantified, it isn't real, doesn't exit. It is subjective in an objective actuality. Bad!

"In Newton's case the irony was that philosophically he himself was not a mechanist at all; he believed the universe to be a body, an organism, rather than a machine." p. 15

After Newton and Descartes, ". . . life itself came to be explained exclusively in terms of mechanism." p. 16

"Jung discovered in the unconscious not only repressed emotions and desires but also creative principles which he called archetypes. . . formative principles . . . which opened the human mind to other levels of reality. From this Jung was led to conceive the collective unconscious as the repository of the inherited experience of humanity, manifesting itself particularly in dreams and in the myths of ancient man." p. 17

Modern physics now sees that ". . .the material universe is essentially a field of energies in which the parts can only be understood in relation to the whole. . . . The whole . . . is present in every part and . . . every part is interconnected with every other part." p. 17

David Bohm, a devotee of Krishnamurti, gives us implicate order (the compact unfolded state, one may say, before Big Bang) gone explicate, that is, unfolding ever since. Who needs specific dates within irrelevant time? Now covers all.

"But behind the explicate order, the implicate is always present, so in that sense, the whole universe is implicated beyond every explicate form." p. 18

Bring in the Heart Sutra's "Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi, svaha," add a dose of ontogeny recapitulating philogeny and we bump into Rupert Sheldrake's formative causation and morphogenic fields mixed with a healthy sprinkle of Gaia to inspire Ramtha's broad smiles in "What the Bleep." These sets of ideas tell us a lot about how everything organizes itself, that a cat will be a cat wherever a cat is a cat. Without, of course, being the last word on anything. pps 19-20.

Shall we go on through Prigogine and Teilard or settle for "What the Bleep"?

And be happy!


Beyond the Darkness, A Biography of Bede Griffiths, Shirley du Boulay, Doubleday NY, 1998, ISBN 0-385-48946-3.

Return to the Center, Bede Griffiths, Templegate, Springfield IL, U. S. Edition 1977, ISBN 87243-064-2.

The Marriage of East and West, Bede Griffiths, Templegate, Springfield IL, 1982, ISBN 0-87243-105-3.

A New Vision of Reality, Western Science, Eastern Mysticism and Christian Faith, Bede Griffiths (ed. By Felicity Edwards), Templegate, Springfield IL, 1989, ISBN 0- 87243-180-0.

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Published September 26, 2005