The Challenge to be Peripatetic Hermes

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How do we understand the other as an Another?  The other certainly does not understand him/ her as some Other. Every other that we meet has his/her self understanding.  No one understands oneself as other. Each of us thinks of our self as a distinct self. How are we to understand the other as he/she understand himself/ herself.  The Other that we encounter is both spatially and temporally  distant from us. Often the other is geographically distant.  Besides He/she is also culturally distant to us.  Like the self, the other is a being in the world and as such is not just a being in time but is a being that is rooted in  space through , culture, religion and tradition.  Therefore, we cannot fully understand the other diachronically (across time). We have to understand the other together in time.  We are synchronous with the other and have to understand the other synchronically.  But synchronicity demands us to also facto in the spatial dimension of the other.   This requires us to bridge the distance in space and not simply time. 

Western Hermeneutics following Heidegger’s Being and Time is mainly concerned with time.  Somehow it has forgotten the hermeneutical circle between two distant traditions, cultures, and others over space. Today the distant traditions, cultures, religions and other persons are no longer distant apart. This gap is overcome by globalization and new developments in communication technologies.  This is why the other is not far away but is immersed into our daily life. Globally we are facing Otherness is entering into the comfort zones and is disrupting homogenous cultural living conditions of humanity. This condition of our global community has produced new forms of alienations, enmities, distrusts and even violence.  This is why we have the challenge to build hermeneutical circles that assist us to make the ‘topoi’ as the new locus of doing hermeneutics. 

Thanks to the effort of Raimundo Panikkar , we can spot a spatial turn in hermeneutics.  He has christened his hermeneutical method as diatopical hermeneutics. He presents is as the tool to bridge across cultural as well as religious otherness.  He is rightly indicating that we cannot understand otherness through dialecticism.  Dialecticism opposes the other on the bases of it’s ‘either/ or’ logical structure and comes to understand the other by assimilating the other into it’s frame work of sameness.  Emmanuel Levinas has already argued against this violent digestive approach and demonstrated the otherness cannot be totalized as it has a trace of infinity.  

Panikkar is sensitive and avoids such a reductionism and hence, proposes his homological principle that avoids the temptation to mutually translate one concept in one tradition with a corresponding one in another tradition. Homological principle tries to unearth correlations of functions within two distinct traditions.  He teaches the homological principles work alongside dialogical principle. The dialogical principle pushes us to dialogue both ad intra and ad extra.  This dialogue ad intra and extra opens us to assumptions and presumptions of the tradition in which we root our self understandings.  Therefore, the working of the two principles brings into effect an expansive understanding of the self and it’s other. The coordinating process that brings about this understanding is called as dialogical dialogue.  The dialogical dialogue opens oneself to the other as a fellow pilgrim or co-traveller and not an opponent to be conquered. 

 The dialogical dialogue challenges us to understand one’s own rootedness to one’s own tradition. It is a challenge to initiate an ad intra dialogue.  It opens us to the preunderstanding  that becomes a lens of our understanding. Panikkar teaches that this preundrstanding lens cannot be theorised and rationally rendered into language.  He calls it mythos which becomes a light through which we see and understand our world and our life within it. It is like the light that enables us to see everything but we are not able to see light itself. This dialogue with one’s own rootedness brings us to the understanding of limitation of individual understanding and opens us to understand the other.

 Dialogue with the other happens at the level of logos. Panikkar teaches that logos belongs to the level of language and reason. It is only through the dialogue (logos) that we be enabled to stand into the mythos of the other and thus be able to understand the other. Dialogue with the other brings about mutual understanding that is not just limited to the logos but is open to the mythos or the preunderstanding of the partners in dialogue.  This means we can come close to the self understanding of the other.  Such an encounter with the other can become a prophetic moment that challenges our self understanding. We may come to understand our own limitations and be enabled to reach a new level of self understanding. It can also open us to understand how our self understanding is conditioned by error, pathos, pain and trauma. 

While operation of the two moments of dialogical dialogue (dialogue with self and dialogue with the other), Panikkar proposes a third dimension of dialogue that he calls cosmic confidence.  This is confidence that there is always more to reality.  At their primordial level all things, traditions, cultures and religions are inter-related.  Everything is becoming and is growing through these inter-relations. This believes is important to enter into dialogical dialogue. Cosmic confidence is the condition of possibility of dialogical dialogue.  It is our radical openness to the world.  When one finds God as coordinate of what Panikkar calls cosmic confidence dialogical dialogue. 

Dialogue (intra and inter) becomes a mission. With the self and it’s other  being placed within a dynamic and vivifying religious and cultural plurality, dialogical dialogue  simultaneously becomes inter-religious dialogue.   It is this dialogue that enables us to reach a convergence of our hearts. Panikkar says that dialogical dialogue leads us to articulate our experience through a new common language with the other tradition leading us to a larger horizon that installs a new mythos.  It is at this level that each person involved in dialogical dialogue reaches a point of understanding the other in accordance to the self understanding of the other.  But this understanding has to continue to grow.  We all have the challenge become peripatetic Hermes willing to go through the  passover of  the encounter with the other . 


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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao