The Rhythm of Being...

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The Author

The Rhythm of Being : The Gifford Lectures. by Raimon Panikkar. Maryknoll, NY, 2010. $50.00

It would be absurdly arrogant of me to pretend to review a book by Raimon Panikkar. I am, however, so excited by The Rhythm of Being, that I would like to offer an appreciation. As a non-theologian, I thought that the book would be far beyond my range of understanding. I was wrong. While I stumbled through the deeper philosophical sections, and skipped over the phrases in Sanskrit, Hindu, Arabic, Greek, German, and French, I understood enough of the argument to feel new insights bursting into my consciousness.

An early and lasting insight came in the Introduction, when Panikkar confesses, "My subtlest temptation was to prepare these [Gifford] lectures instead of preparing myself. To search for something to say, instead of aspiring for something to be." How deep a lesson for a preacher, writer, teacher: May the words that I speak, the words that I write; the tone of my voice; the stance I take to my reader or audience—may these rise from the purity of my heart. Throughout the book, embedded within tightly argued positions, and restated in concluding paragraphs, are reminders that Panikkar writes not only from incredibly broad and deep scholarship, but just as broadly and deeply from what he calls "the third eye" and beyond.

Among several pages in which Panikker refers to the third eye, are those in which he addresses the topic of Divine Immanence, "Immanence entails that the immediate awareness of the Divine be given not to the senses or reason, but to that third eye, which may also be called intellectus in distinction to ratio." The third eye, nevertheless, needs the "complement and interpretation of the other two organs of knowledge." Elsewhere he relates the third eye to advaitic knowing; that is, knowing that, while dependent on sense and reason, functions non-dialectically, non-dualistically. It is immediate, a spiritual experience, as in the presence of beauty. In Chapter V, "The Triadic Myth, Panikkar broaches the topic of mysticism, in the context of the three eyes: ". . .while we can speak of the three doors of ‘understanding’ (the three eyes), we cannot properly speak of the mystical. . . ." It lies "beyond the field of consciousness," and "there is no proper eye to see it."

Another exciting feature I found in this book is Panikkar’s ease of movement among languages and cultures. He points out similarities of sensibilities, for example, when introducing the universal belief that "God cannot be experienced in words, or even in thinking or doing, but just by silence; that is, by being is silent." He quotes from an Egyptian prayer, a Sanskrit Upanishad, and a Hebrew psalm, and he names specifically twelve other disparate sources, including Pythagoras, Mithra, Kung-Fu-ze, Augustine, and Wittgenstein , as well as "the mystics and philosophers of all times." In addition to citing multiple sources for a universal principle, he cautions against oversimplifying seeming similarities by distinguishing nuances among words, and therefore among concepts: "’Mind’ is not the same as Geist, nor the same as esprit, let alone as budhi or manas, cit or kokoro.

Clearly, this is a book for the study, not the beach. As such, it calls for Dominican readers.

Patricia Chaffee, OP

Racine, Wisconsin

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