Saturday, July 29, 2006

Nothing too wonderful...Part 2

The earliest generations of Irish Christians seamlessly wedded their faith with Celtic nature worship. There were no dualities of natural and supernatural, matter and spirit, body and soul. All was one, and, as Saint Columbanus said, if you want to know God, study nature.

Here was a kind of religion that was wonderfully welcoming to science, and Irish scholars went out of their way to find and study science texts from the Hellenistic world. Alas, when they carried Celtic Christianity to the continent it did not fare well. Eriugena, for example, an Irish monk who taught at the court of Charlemagne's grandson Charles the Bald, wrote: "We should not think of God and of the creature as two different things remote from one another, but as one and the same. For not only does the creature subsist in God, but God, in a wonderful and ineffable way, is created in the creature." Needless to say, his teachings were condemned by the continental Church as pantheistic.

Eriugena was part of what I have elsewhere called a "parallel Church," which included such people as Meister Eckhart, William of Occam, Tommaso Campanella, Nicholas of Cusa, and Giordano Bruno, and continuing into our own time with the likes of Teilhard de Chardin, Matthew Fox, and Thomas Berry, most of whom were condemned or marginalized by the official Church.

We have inherited in the West a dualistic world view that by its very nature makes tension between science and religion inevitable. The existence of the "parallel Church" is evidence that it need not have been.