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John Francis Duggan

Multireligious experience and pluralist attitude: Raimon Panikkar and his critics

University of St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto
Degree: PhD
Date: 2000 ; 325 pages
ISBN: 0-612-54046-4 Advisor: Ovey Mohammed


Theological reflection removed from the experience of encounter with other religious traditions is not adequate to situations of interactive religious pluralism. Some theologians draw explicitly on their experience of multiple crossing of boundaries. This dissertation studies multireligious experience and response to this phenomenon in the life and writings of one such theologian and scholar, Raimon Panikkar (b. 1918).

The dissertation is in four parts: problematic, exposition, interpretation and evaluation. The first chapter sketches elements of the problematic of multireligious experience and presents a rationale for focussing on Panikkar's life-work. The dissertation moves in the second part to an exposition of Panikkar's thought related to major changes in his geographical location. Thus the second chapter studies Panikkar's writings from the 1940s and 1950s in Franco's Spain. The third chapter recounts the adjustments in his theological stance that took place after his move to India in 1954; it was in India that his encounter with Advaita Vedanta (and Buddhism) gave him by the 1960s the grounds for claiming "multireligious experience." The fourth chapter highlights his recognition and fostering of a pluralist attitude related to his multireligious experience during the period be divided each year between North America and India (1967 - 1987). The fifth chapter does not focus on geographical context but gives an account of his call for a dialogical dialogue and illustrates the operation, in two of his reflections on the encounter between Hindus and Christians, of what he terms the diatopical hermeneutic.

The third part of the dissertation, entitled interpretation, is divided into two chapters that present contrasting understandings of and judgments on Panikkar's approach to religious pluralism. The sixth chapter is a study of the dissenting views of Paul Knitter and others. The seventh chapter is a presentation of the concurring views of Bernard Lonergan and others. The fourth part of the dissertation is a chapter of evaluation in which I take positions in response to two questions raised by critics: Is Panikkar's context that of commitment to the poor? and "Is Panikkar's pluralism a relativism?" I find that he works with a concern for and commitment to the poor and promotes pluralism as relatedness. This eighth chapter concludes with a postscript that suggests implications of the pluralist attitude for multireligious Canada.

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