‘I Am that I Am’ (Ex. 3.14): from Augustine to Abhishiktānanda—Holy Ground Between Neoplatonism and Advaita Vedānta
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Soars, D. (2020). ‘I Am that I Am’ (Ex. 3.14): from Augustine to Abhishiktānanda—Holy Ground Between Neoplatonism and Advaita Vedānta. Sophia, 60 (2), 287-306. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11841-020-00774-9
Abstract: We shall revisit a debate which has been going on at least since pioneering British Indologists like William Jones first encountered the ‘Brahmanic theology’ we now know as Vedānta, namely, the nature of the relationship—if any—between certain forms of ‘western’ and ‘Indian’ idealisms, and how these metaphysical systems have influenced Christian theology. Specifically, we look at the question of possible thematic and conceptual convergences between Neoplatonism and Advaita Vedānta, and argue that significant parallels can be found in their common conception of the Absolute as Being. Rather than attempt a comprehensive overview of the two systems, we take the divine ‘I AM’ revealed to Moses in Exodus 3.14 as the locus classicus of Christian philosophical interpretations of God as Being itself, and explore how four seminal figures read this passage in light of Neoplatonic and Vedāntic influences. We shall see that similarities and divergences in the readings of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Meister Eckhart and Henri Le Saux can be understood in terms of how they negotiate the relation between the One and the many, or between ‘being’ and ‘knowing’. The more these figures allow themselves to be influenced by Neoplatonism and Advaita Vedānta, the more we see any clear ontological distinction between creature and Creator start to break down. This verse, therefore, proves to be an unusually fruitful test case for exploring the relation between the underlying Neoplatonic and Vedāntic metaphysics which structure varying Christian interpretations of it.
Article, Exodus 3.14, Neoplatonism, Advaita Vedanta
Arts and Humanities Research Council (PhD)
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11841-020-00774-9
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/324938