Sunday, January 27, 2013

Eastern Orthodox Spirituality (Alan Watts)

Alan; Roy (of Hollywood) Tuckman, (audio); Wisdom Quarterly
Deva as beautifully portrayed in the West (Joe Temmel/

LISTEN: PLAY, Sunday, 8:00 am, Jan. 27, 2013

Young Alan Watts on American TV (
Alan Watts demonstrates amazing scholarship and a broad view of spirituality East and West. Much of what we find offensive about fundamentalist Christianity is actually the latter Western conception of St. Issa's ministry. In the East -- or the non-Catholic, non-Protestant older Eastern Orthodox tradition -- a great deal more of what Jesus Christ (Issa) says is an echo of Buddhism, Hinduism (Vedic Brahmanism), and Sufism. As all of these traditions drifted West, they lost some of their essence. It was not replaced wholesale but rather subtly misinterpreted. Protestantism in particular made a Trojan (sparse, ascetic) exercise of a more liberal Athenian (relaxed, spiritual) tradition.
Eastern Orthodox scholars view Western Christianity and its grand papacy as a continuation of Romanism and the worst aspects of the Roman Empire Christianity is alleged to have conquered. This would go a long way toward explaining the offensive feel of most American and European forms of Christianity today. One notable connection made by Watts is seeing Hotei (Budai, "the Laughing Buddha") as an "Ivan of God" character, a spiritual fool of great wisdom; St. Peter takes the role of Sakka, King of the Devas, and  intervenes. (Wisdom Quarterly has identified Buddhism's Sakka as archangel Michael, who Protestants understand to be Jesus himself). While Eastern Orthodoxy did not escape corruption, examining both -- particularly in the light of a Buddhist understanding of the world -- goes a long way to resurrecting spirituality as it exists, at least nominally, in the West today. This is not coming from an Eastern monk but from Alan Watts, a former Episcopalian priest turned Zen Buddhist master.

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