Chapter

Liberative Knowledge as “Living without a Wh

Hugh Nicholson

in Comparative Theology and the Problem of Religious Rivalry

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199772865
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199897315 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199772865.003.0008

Series: AAR Reflection and Theory in the Study of Religion Series

Liberative Knowledge as “Living without a Wh

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This chapter challenges the contrast Otto draws between the activist ethic affirmed by Eckhart and the quietism and moral indifference allegedly espoused by his Indian counterpart. Specifically, it challenges Otto's assumption that the “works” that give spontaneous expression to the soul's participation in the divine life in Eckhart coincide with the “works” (karma) that exclude liberative knowledge in Śhaṅkara. The chapter goes on to examine Eckhart's critique of instrumental religious activity and his notion of “willing nothing” as a dimension of spiritual poverty in light of Śhaṅkara's polemical contrast between knowledge and action. This parallel focuses attention on the ideological dimension of the Eckhartian themes of spiritual poverty and will-less activity, a dimension obscured by a tendency, stemming from the formative influence of Romanticism on Eckhart's modern reception, to regard these simply as spontaneous expressions of an unmediated religious experience.

Keywords: karma; Eckhart; Śhaṅkara; willing nothing; spiritual poverty; Romanticism; knowledge; action

Chapter.  9558 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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