Rethinking the Sacred – Philosophies of the Divine Nature in Indian and Western Sources: Session one (HT20)

Location: OCHS Library
Speaker: Dr Jessica Frazier
Date: January 30, 2020
Time: 2.00pm – 3.00pm

These four seminars rethink the ways that the sacred is defined in the world today. Questioning current assumptions about science, reality and religion, it draws on both western and Indian scholastic philosophy to explore ideas of the divine as: 1) The creative ground of a sacred continuum between nature and ‘super-nature’; 2) The material and foundation of existence; 3) The impetus of all dynamic movement and development; 4) A basis for new emerging forms of existence and value.

Classical debates about creation, immutability, Being and transcendence in the Western philosophical tradition remain unresolved, and these seminars seek new solutions in Indian conversations about these ideas. We draw on sources in the Bhedābheda Vedāntic tradition of Indian thought to suggest different ways of formulating the divine nature. Typically, we see the divine paradoxically as something more than the world’s realm of mere transient and finite forms, yet the ground and creative source of them all. This way of thinking was continually challenged by Buddhist theories of mereology, change, and anti-essentialism, leading to an evolution of the original doctrines through novel and innovative new approaches. Yet we also see how this Hindu theory of a ‘sacred continuum’ challenges the way that Western ideas of God tend to oppose ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’, human vs divine will, and the supposed conflict between the religious and the secular.

Week 2, Thursday 30 January – Divine Materials: Rethinking the Sacred

In this first seminar we look at current academic theories of the ‘sacred’, and explore tendencies to treat the idea of ‘god’ as something other than the world, beyond reason and evidence, and counter to human creativity. In contrast, we explore notions of a ‘sacred’ continuum between the world and its divine source in ideas of aseity, sovereignty, immutability, simplicity, and creation in both Western and Indian scholastic sources.