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Suturing the body corporate (divine and human)in the Brahmanic traditions
journal contributionposted on 2010-06-01, 00:00 authored by Purushottama Bilimoria, E Stansell
In this discussion, we ponder the discourse about the ‘body of the Divine’ in the Indian tradition. Beginning with the Vedas, we survey the major eras and thinkers of that tradition, considering various notions of the Supreme Divine Being it produced. For each, we ask: is the Divine embodied? If so, then in what way? What is the nature of the body of the Divine, and what is its relationship to human bodies? What is the value of the body of the Divine to the spiritual aspirant? We consider, where relevant, which views are pantheistic and which might be considered panentheistic. Panentheism is connected with discourse on the world as the body of God. It has origins in medieval Christian theology with anticipatory traces in Plato’s Timeaus. Under pantheism, were the world to end—were it to collapse or disappear irreversibly, perhaps, into a huge black hole—then God would disintegrate without a remainder as well; for in this view the Divine Spirit is the universe. The same is not true under panentheism which posits a more complex relationship between the Divine and the world. According to panentheism, God pervades the world—God is in the world—and at the same time, God sustains the world—the world is in God. This allows that God be greater than, transcendent of and independent of the world. In our conclusion we remark on how the views we have surveyed link to, resonate with, or dis-compare with the current—should one say revivified—interest in intellectual quarters with panentheism.