THE PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEM OF THE HISTORY OF RELIGIONS by Xavier Zubiri ------ Conclusion (361-365)



In these pages I have shown that religion is the molding of religation, the surrender of our whole being to God in a faith: it is the way of stepping from my relatively absolute I to the absolutely absolute reality, which God is.

This religion has two aspects. On the one hand, the aspect of an objective body, which involves a conception of God —a theology— and afterwards a mundology (Tr. note: Sp. mundología, Zubirian neologism, literally “world-logy”), a conception of the world. This mundology consists of four points. In the first place, a vision about the origin of things. In the second place, a vision of the participation of others in the faith, which —abusing the term— I called ecclesiology. In the third place, an eschatology, a vision of the beyond after our death. And all of it, —as a fourth moment— in a tradition, which is what provides stability to the objective body of religion. On the other hand, within this body, each one carries his own personal life.

Above all, this religion presents itself with a characteristic of diversity. A diversity, which essentially depends on the different ideas one has about God. These ideas are contained in three groups, characterized by a polytheist idea, a pantheist idea, and a monotheist idea. The three are {362} true in their own way. They are only undertaken by man because man —velis nolis — is really and actually accessing the reality of God. Due to this, the diversity of these ways, and the diversity of these ideas about God manifest the diffraction of the reality of God in the depths of the human spirit, through the characteristics of this human spirit.

These religions are not only diverse, but also historical. They are historical because each one involves diverse internal possibilities for the intellection of that divinity to which they inexorably accede. Such possibilities are always present in every situation. Within this inchoative situation, man appropriates or chooses one of those possibilities, and then that particular possibility is converted into a way. From that way the outlook for different possibilities begins to appear, and as a consequence, the systematic network of history is progressively constituted. History is not constituted —in this case or in any other— by a system of realities, but by a system of possibilities. Indeed, these three ideas of God are the result of three ways: the way of dispersion, which leads to polytheism; the way of immanence, which leads to pantheism; and the way of transcendence, which leads to the reality of one God. If the diversity of ideas was the result of a diffraction of the presence of God in the depths of the human spirit, here the diversity of the ways precisely consists in a detour. A detour, which the human spirit takes to reach the real and actual God starting from the divine depth he carries within himself. Monotheism, in this sense, has a type of historicity, which is not of “ab-erration”, but of ups and downs. These ups and downs in turn constitute a series of appropriations of possibilities inchoatively given in every situation. Of course, taking an isolated point one might say: What is it that distinguishes one situation from another? For example, How can we distinguish the situation of Abraham from {363} the situation of those Bactrians I described further above. Probably we cannot, but history is not only constituted by things like this. History consists not only of ways, but also of viabilities, of what the different ways provide in the course of history. What the enterprise of Abraham provided is completely different from what several other isolated monotheisms that have existed in the world produced. These rather arrange themselves as collateral branches, and blind alleys without exit on the trunk of truth, central and prolific, which is the one that has the historical future.

In the case of monotheism, this historical future is the attribute of the monotheism of Israel. Israel is a Semite people, for whom to be God is always to be the God of someone. In a first stage, with the patriarchs, God is a God who is the friend of a family, the family of Abraham. In it, his characteristic of oneness, the monós characteristic of its monotheism, is something quite modest and simple: their only God, the solitary God. In the second place, with Moses, God is God of a people, of the people of Israel, and not just of a family. But now this God is not only solitary, but also something more: He is jealous, wishes no other gods next to Him. In the third stage, at the time of the Judges, the people that settle in Canaan in a certain way appropriate characteristics, which belong to the God of urban civilizations. God appears then not simply as a jealous God, but as an exclusive God precisely excluding all other gods. Yahweh is not only the God of a people, but of a nation, and the entire cosmos. In a fourth stage, in the Israelite monarchy, God is king. Here He is not simply exclusive, but has a more radical characteristic: He is only one, because He is the maker of the world. In a fifth stage, in the phase of restoration, Israel, converted into national church, finds or conceives {364} a God who is not only maker —one can be a maker in many ways—, but is creator oúk ex ónton, “out of nothing” (2 Mc 7:28). Hence, He is not only creator of the world, but in addition provides the configuration —is not only rector— of the history of Israel. In a sixth stage, during the first century, we have the work of Christ. There were still two possibilities: the possibility that this God might be relegated to a distant transcendence, and the possibility that this God might be accessible. Christ pointedly preaches God as Father of all men.

Christianity lives from the Spirit of truth and becomes an objective body. This is the seventh stage. This Spirit of truth unfolds into five successive stages. In the first stage, facing the gentiles, it affirms and discovers its true characteristic of being absolutely universal, and of being so directly, without passing through the national church of Israel. In the second stage, facing the sophía —the Greek wisdom— facing the gnosis and illuminism, Christianity affirms the finished characteristic of revelation as such, so that gnosis can only be but a better knowledge of what has already been revealed. In the third stage, facing Greek reason, this knowledge is going to be interpreted through Greek concepts. With them there is going to be a conception of the One Triune God in the Councils of Nicea and Constantinople, and of Christ as person in Ephesus and Chalcedon. In a fourth stage, Christianity encounters modern reason. Now Christianity sees its God as a God accessible to human reason, and in addition accessible through historicity. Finally, at the present moment, Christianity finds itself facing all other religions, and before them what I think should be done, in all modesty, is the theological elaboration of the idea of the historical incorporation of the other religions into Christianity. Christianity as definitive truth {365} is interior to every religion. It is the truth of every religion. Because of this, the attitude of Christianity before the other religions is purely and simply to be the presential, sanctifying, perennial and expectant testimony of the truth.

Because of this the history of religion is a groping, an enormous groping of the human spirit. It concerns not only the human spirit taken as a specific characteristic of man, but of a search and a groping by which religation, in a historical fashion, continues to mold itself into religion. In a religion, which leads to the only God through a variety of ways, by the possibilities inchoatively given in every situation, as appropriated and elaborated by man in a systematic way2. As such, the history of religions is for Christianity the historical groping for the Christian truth. A groping, which is a revelation of God in the depths of the human spirit. Every religion —I said at the beginning— is religion in the objective form of religation. Because of this, every religion is the objective expression of the heartbeat of the divinity of God in the depths of the human spirit. Christianity sees a revelation in this heartbeat. That is its theological truth. Nevertheless, the philosophical truth is in the heartbeat as such. To understand it this way is —from my point of view— in what “the philosophical problem of the history of religions” consists.

1 This conclusion comes from the 1971 seminar.
2 From this point on we follow the conclusion to the 1965 Madrid seminar.

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