, Volume 71, Issue 3, pp 189-204
Date: 01 Mar 2012

A secular age? Reflections on Taylor and Panikkar

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Abstract

During the last few years two major volumes have been published, both greatly revised versions of earlier Gifford Lectures: Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age (2007) and Raimon Panikkar’s The Rhythm of Being (2010). The two volumes are similar in some respects and very dissimilar in others. Both thinkers complain about the glaring blemishes of the modern, especially the contemporary age; both deplore above all a certain deficit of religiosity. The two authors differ, however, both in the details of their diagnosis and in their proposed remedies. Taylor views the modern age—styled as “secular age”—as marked by a slide into secular agnosticism, into “exclusive humanism”, and above all into an “immanent frame” excluding theistic “transcendence”. Although sharing the concern about “loss of meaning”, Panikkar does not find its source in the abandonment of (mono)theistic transcendence; on the contrary, both radical transcendence and agnostic immanence are responsible for the deficit of genuine faith. For him, recovery of faith requires an acknowledgment of our being in the world, as part of the “rhythm of being” happening in a holistic or “cosmotheandric” mode. In classical Indian terminology, while Taylor’s emphasis on the transcendence-immanence tension reflects ultimately a dualistic perspective (dvaita), Panikkar’s holistic notion of the rhythm of being captures the core of Advaita Vendanta.