Three Minus One Paths To God

Raimon Panikkar observes that there are three paths to God or the ultimate:

By means of knowledge (jnana): through the effort of the intelligence to transcend itself: God is seen as an I.

By means of love (bhakti): through the heart’s desire to seek what can fill it: God is seen as a thou.

By means of deeds (karma): through the creativity of the creature who wishes to imitate the creator by creating–that is, by doing: God is seen as a he or she (the model, the artist) (The Experience of God, p. 97)

This is an excellent short account of ‘the ways to God,’ but I want to suggest that the third path, given the development of the modern world, is beset by problems on all sides.

One must take into account the dominance of Total Work. The latter requires the belief that one is a separate self, a human agent claiming to be the doer. And being a doer presumes that there are (ontologically distinct) others on whose behalf one is doing good deeds. Thus, it does not begin with the great existential humility needed in order for one to embark on the path. “I [alone] can’t do. I am powerless. I am clueless. I am helpless. I am completely at a loss.”

Which, quite naturally and because the above expressions are expressions of love, brings me to the two very legitimate paths today: surrender to God or come to ultimate knowledge of Reality. These two paths are nicely spoken of by Ramana Maharshi. In brief, surrender everything to God or inquire until one truly knows it all.

Love all or know all. That is all. In the end, the love of the Christian mystic converges with the knowledge of the Eastern jnani, love and knowledge both arriving at the same centerless center.