THE MIRROR MIND: Spirituality and Transformation by William Johnston

THE MIRROR MIND: Spirituality and Transformation

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A thoughtful but only semi-persuasive attempt at a rapprochement between Buddhism and Christianity. Johnston is an Irish Jesuit, a long-time resident of Japan, and a sensitive writer on mysticism, East and West. But it takes more than solid ecumenical qualifications to bridge the gap between the two religions. Johnston opens by sensibly suggesting that Buddhist-Christian dialogue should be based not on metaphysics but on ""transcendental method."" Both partners can agree that to live authentically humans have to be attentive, intelligent (the spirit of inquiry rather than a high IQ), reasonable, responsible, and committed. The last is important, as Johnston insists that the dialoguer must not temporarily bracket his own convictions to meet the other person half way. Building on this five-part schema, he works out a series of fruitful comparisons. Buddhism, he notes, ""is totally centered on union, on oneness, on non-dualism, and it claims that my greatest sin is my separated self""--all of which is easily translatable into Christian terms. But Johnston overstresses the possibilities of harmony by too often neglecting the here-and-now dissonances. What, for instance, is the Buddhist to make of the Christian obsession with history, with the kingdom of heaven on earth, with personal guilt, substitutionary atonement, eternal salvation, orthodoxy and heresy, etc.? And aren't some branches of Buddhism (Hinayana, say) likely to remain a closed book for practically all Christians? A bit too pious and far too optimistic, but defnitely worth listening to.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1981
Publisher: Harper & Row