Origin of Transtheism?

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billd89
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Origin of Transtheism?

Post by billd89 »

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Transtheism
Transtheism refers to a system of thought or religious philosophy that is neither theistic nor atheistic, but is beyond them. The word was coined by either theologian Paul Tillich or Indologist Heinrich Zimmer.1

1. In published writings, the term appears in 1952 for Tillich and in 1953 for Zimmer. Since the two men were personally acquainted, it is difficult to say which of them coined the term. Note that the term transtheism is avoided by both.

That makes no sense to me. But I know that since Heinrich Zimmer died in 1943, so his published work (1953, by Joseph Campbell) must have been composed before 1943. I don't know the source, so I cannot estimate when it was written.

I'm looking for the very earliest reference of this term (whether or not Zimmer is the coiner), which I suspect may be in German.

This suggests K. Barth is the source.

Jacob Taubes, The Journal of Religion, Vol. 34, No. 4 (Oct., 1954), pp. 231-243:
Barth's theology has written a new chapter in the history of dialectics. In the period of the Der Römerbrief [1919,1923] it was an attempt at theology without a theodicy, thus opening the possibility of a religious language in an age of the eclipse of the divine. This language of dialectical the­ ology seemed able even to absorb the atheism of Nietzsche and Overbeck as stages in the purification of man's image of God and could accept the realm of necessity as a veil of the divine. Karl Barth opened the gate to a transtheistic stage of consciousness, but he opened the gate to this stage as a theologian. Barth's commentary on Paul's Epistle to the Romans was 'expressionistic,' because it was an attempt to express a new, even unheard-of, situation in the­ological language: to interpret theologi­cally the eclipse of God that became manifest post Hegel. ...

Paull Tillich, Der Mut zum Sein [1952], p.12:
Der Stoizismus in diesem Sinne ist eine religiöse Grundhaltung, mag sie nun in theistischen oder atheiscischen oder transtheistischen Formen erscheinen. Deshalb ist der Stoizismus in der abendländischen Welt die einzig wirkliche Alternative zum Christentum. Das ist eine überraschende Behauptung angesichts der Tatsache, daß es die Gnosis und der Neuplatonismus waren, mit denen das Christentum auf religiös-philosophischem Boden zu kämpfen hatte, und daß es das Römische Reich war, mit ....

Stoicism in this sense is a basic religious attitude, may it appear in theistic or atheistic or transtheistic forms. Therefore, Stoicism is the only real alternative to Christianity in the Western world. This is a surprising assertion in view of the fact that it was Gnosticism and Neoplatonism with which Christianity had to contend on religious-philosophical ground, and that it was the Roman Empire with ....

Last edited by billd89 on Thu Aug 18, 2022 9:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Origin of Transtheism?

Post by ABuddhist »

At least one Roman Catholic scholar of Buddhism (either Paul Wlliams or Peter Harvey) has described Buddhism as transtheistic, presumably because of its treating gods as mortal, fallible, not uncreated creators of the universe, wisest when they convert to Buddhism, and not worthy of being worshipped of guiding people compared to Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and Arhats. But I, a Buddhist, regard Buddhism, Jainism, Scientology, and perhaps some forms of Daoism, as non-materialistic atheism.
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billd89
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Re: Origin of Transtheism?

Post by billd89 »

Paul Williams and Peter Harvey (born c.1950) are Too Late, unfortunately. I've contacted a Research Librarian who is a Barth specialist, in the hope that something will be discovered from the 1920s in German intellectual circles.

I cannot find this Buber reference either (although I suspect it is later, no matter):
Martin Buber criticized Tillich’s “transtheistic position” as a reduction of God to the impersonal “necessary being” of Thomas Aquinas.

See John Elliott Lein's lecture, May 5, 2019:
Transtheism: Theologian Paul Tillich wrote that “the courage to take meaninglessness into itself presupposes a relation to the ground of being which we have called ‘absolute faith.’ It is without a special content, yet it is not without content. The content of absolute faith is the ‘god above God.’ Absolute faith and its consequence, the courage that takes the radical doubt, the doubt about God, into itself, transcends the theistic idea of God.” (The Courage to Be)

I suspect -- but cannot prove -- this may go back to some German Existentialism discussions, c.1925. When Zimmer composed what Joseph Campbell published in 1953 is unknown; Ludwig Edelstein published several of Zimmer's' 1940 Lectures as Hindu Medicine in 1948.

The Zimmer quote involves the Jains' religion. N. Smart, Doctrine and Argument in Indian Philosophy [1964] p.215:
We now have a new use for Zimmer's neologism 'transtheistic', viz. to express (iii) above. Thus in this new sense of the term the Advaita and analogous doctrines can be classified as 'transtheistic'.

Prof. Zimmer was Ludwig Edelstein's roommate in Heidelberg for four years. (Yes: roommate, 1924-8.) He wrote a recommendation for a Jain book "Jain Mittra Mandal" in 1927/8. So Tillich was on about the Stoics, and Zimmer about the Jains: both are later employing a neologism from ... K. Barth?

I am wondering if Ludwig Edelstein had somehow adopted this idea for the 'We Agnostics' rhetoric in 1938. It does NOT originate w/ Tillich. German Existentialism starts with Edelstein's professors, Erich Frank and Karl Jaspers c.1914; Edelstein himself confirms it.
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Re: Origin of Transtheism?

Post by Ticishe »

Paul Tillich is a trans-theist and one of the coiners of the word, but it doesn't only apply to his viewpoints, it should probably be stated at the outset. Paul Tillich held that it was somewhat out of date to rely on a conventionally theistic god in the current world. The possibility that such a thing might not exist has to be accepted by everyone. However, this does not invalidate "theism's" aim or purpose. Since theism has been used by all cultures to quantify different kinds of things and experiences, including much more minimal concepts. Click Here
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