James HeisigJan 27, 2022
Of Gods and Minds
In Search of a Theological Commons
Chisokudō Publications 2019
One of the trailblazers in the field of Japanese philosophy, James W. Heisig, delivered his five lectures in 2019 at Boston College as the Duffy Lectures in Global Christianity. These lectures were compiled into this book, Of Gods and Minds: In Search of a Theological Commons (Nagoya & Brussels: Chisokudō Publications, 2019). In them the author begins from the assumption that if the Christian God is to have global significance, it will not merely be a matter of Christianity accepting cultural and religious diversity and retreating from its mission of converting the entire world to its own way of thinking about God. The conversion to tolerance and hospitality towards other modes of belief and practice marks a watershed for Christianity, but only as a transition to straighten out its past in the face of a graver, commoner concern: the care of an earth abused by human civilization and devalued by organized religion. The author approaches this question from a broader consideration of the origins and functions of gods in minds and from there suggests grounding metaphors of the divine and its relationship to the natural world in a nothingness beyond being and becoming.
During our interview, I asked Jim: The ongoing challenges of bringing our ecological concerns and street activism to the centerstage of our intellectual and philosophical discussions in academia are daunting. We (academics) tend to create another specialised branch of "environmental philosophy" or "philosophy of nature" as an elective rather than the core discourse in the field of philosophy. I asked him what is needed for philosophers and specialists of religious studies to take seriously the practical concept of the "care of an earth." His nuanced answer was this: a "revolution."
We also delved into the concept of nothingness as "connectedness" and the logic of soku 即 as a particular rendering of it in reference to contemporary Japanese philosophy. The examples he provided towards the end of the interview was stunning to say the least: A genuine connectedness between humans and nature, which also means to be faithful to emergences of gods in our minds from diverse cultural and historical backgrounds, should look like Kintsugi 金継ぎ. It can not only heal what is once broken but the process of healing can be beautiful and renew our appreciation of what we have broken once. We hope that philosophy programs from around the world will follow this revolutionary practice of connectedness.
Takeshi Morisato is philosopher and sometimes academic. He is the editor of the European Journal of Japanese Philosophy. He specializes in comparative and Japanese philosophy but he is also interested in making Japan and philosophy accessible to a wider audience.