Dr. J. Glenn Friesen

Studies relating to
Herman Dooyeweerd

Linked Glossary of Terms

Linked Glossary
List of Notes

De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee Volume I
Prism of Cosmic Time
Law and Subject

De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee Volume II
The Gegenstand
Dis-stasis/ Synthesis
Intuition and Time
Conceptual Limits
Horizon and Levels
God, Self and Cosmos

© J. Glenn Friesen 2003-2008

Linked Glossary of Terms
(references to De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee, unless indicated.See concordance for correlation with pages in the New Critique. The concordance is in pdf format.)


I, 5-8, 11, 19, 24
II, 145, 407

NC I, 58, fn 1, 60 (rooted in spiritual community of mankind)
NC II, 200, 324 (Hindu idea of atman), 417, 467, 472 (super-temporal I-ness or selfhood), 474 (central point of reference), 477 (experience is related to the human I-ness), 478 (transcendent selfhood), 479 (I-ness enters enstatically into cosmic temporal coherence),

loss of Self  
personality II, 415

I, 80

NC I, 16 (self is transcendent)
NC II, 19 (humanistic self-consciousness gets dispersed in the diveristy of meaning)


I, 5-10, 13, 19, 25-26, 27 (fallen), 30, 31 (fall from), 34-35, 39 , 43, 45, 52-54, 64 (reborn), 68 (fallen), 132
II, 400, 407-409, 413, 414, 415 (time-transcending), 424, 474, 491-2, 494, 496, 497
III, 627 (boven-tijdelijke zelfheid)

NC I, 4 (meaning is the nature of our selfhood), 5 (concentration point of all cosmic functions), 7 (process of thought can be performed only by the selfhood), 8 (in my central selfhood I must participate in the totality of meaning), 24 (Man transcends time in his selfhood, but within the temporal coherence, man is universally-bound-to-time), 33 (concentric relatedness to the selfhood), 51 fn1 (transcendent character of the ego), 58 (mode of being of the ego is itself of a religious character and nothing in itself)

NC II, 54 (transcendental direction of thought points towards the religious root in which the selfhood participates), 467, 479 (becomes cosmologically conscious), 480 (individual religious root transcending time, viz his selfhood), 523, 527 (Heidegger merges the selfhood into time), 527 (Kant maintained slefhood as super-temporal and super-sensory noumenon), 535 (transcendence of the religious selfhood above cosmic time); 560 (transcendent horizon of the selfhood); 564 (fallen selfhood); 571 (full selfhood), 593 (full selfhood)
NC III, 6, 7

De Crisis der Humanistische Staatsleer (Oct 20/31)

"De Theorie van de Bronnen van het Stellig Recht in het licht der Wetsidee," (1932)

The selfhood stands under a law of religious concentration. “Het dilemma voor het christelijk wijsgeerig denken en het critisch karakter van de Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee,” Philosophia Reformata 1 (1936), 1-16, at 14.

“Het transcendentale critiek van het wijsgeerig denken,” Philosophia Reformata 6 (1941), 1-20 at 11. The Archimedean point is supra-individual, since is is not only the concentration point of individual human existence, but of the whole temporal cosmos in its diversity of modal aspects. But our individual thinking selfhood must participate in this supra-individual point of concentration.12: The selfhood, as the concentration point of the whole of individual temporal human existence, is the ontical condition (de voor-onderstelde as opposed to mere subjective presuppositions) for all theoretical abstraction.

(“Van Peursen’s Critische Vragen bij “A New Critique of Theoretical Thought,” Philosophia Reformata 25 (1960, 97-150, at 133: Man's selfhood can never be identified with his embodiment.

true human Selfhood I, vi.

Dooyeweerd says that his philosophical anthropology, the place of man in the cosmos, is really the basic theme [grondthema] of the Philosophy of the Law-Idea (WdW III, 627). He refers on that same page to man’s “supratemporal selfhood in the religious root of his existence.”) Man's selfhood is his supratemporal heart, and it is the supratemporal root of temporal creation. In Dooyeweerd's “32 Propositions on Anthropology,” (De leer van den mensch in de W.D.W., Corr. Bladen 5 (1942), he says,

Whenever Scripture speaks to us in a radical religious way about the human soul or spirit, it always speaks of it as the heart of all temporal existence out of which are all the issues of temporal life. Nowhere does Scripture teach a dichotomy between a “rational soul” and a “material body” within temporal existence. Rather, it views this total temporal existence as the body, which is to be laid down at death. The human soul or spirit, as the religious root of the body, in contrast, is, according to Scriptural revelation, not subject to temporal death because it transcends temporal life (outside of Christ it is subject to eternal death). This revelation concerning the “soul” as the integral center of the whole of man's bodily existence, is completely in harmony with God's revelation of Himself as (integral Creator of heaven and earth who has no other authority over against himself. (Proposition 5).

Dooyeweerd had planned to devote a whole book to his philosophical anthropology (See NC III, 781). This was to be Volume III in the planned trilogy Reformation and Scholasticism. Volume III was never completed, although in his 1964 lecture, Dooyeweeerd said that he still planned to do so. Dooyeweerd did draft a lot of material that was intended for the book. That material has been thoroughly investigated by W.J. Ouweneel, who has incorporated many excerpts from it in his doctoral thesis, De Leer van de Mens (Amsterdam: Buijten & Schippheijn, 1986). An extract from this thesis was published in English in W. J. Ouweneel: “Supratemporality in the Transcendental Anthropology of Dooyeweerd, ” Philosophia Reformata 58 (1993) 210-220, where Ouweneel says (at p. 273),

From around 1930 onward, this view of the Supratemporality of the heart or the religious root-unity of the cosmos becomes the essential, unchangeable, and indissoluble cornerstone of his thought. The pivotal place of this view in Dooyeweerd’s thought must be emphasised over against all those who have expressed objections to this view. They suppose that it is possible to drop this idea but to maintain the “rest” of Dooyeweerd’s philosophy. They fail to see that the very core of his thought–the metaphor of the prism with its law of refraction, the law of concentration, the idea of the unity, fullness and totality of the religious root, the theory of time, the transcendental critique of thought–as well as the whole theory of the modalities, according to which the modalities are seen as “temporal aspects,” stand or fall with the idea of the supratemporality of the heart. The transcendence of the heart, as Dooyeweerd sees it, cannot be conceived as if the heart “points” within time to the supratemporal, as if it stands so to speak on the “boundary” of the temporal and the supratemporal, standing as it were on the shore of eternity but limited nevertheless to the beach. It is not the heart but the temporal modality of faith which Dooyeweerd calls a “border sphere” and an “open window to eternity.” The heart to him is always entirely above temporal diversity.

As Ouweneel points out, Dooyeweerd’s whole transcendental critique depends on this Idea of the supratemporal heart. I agree with that, since the three transcendental Ideas of Dooyeweerd’s transcendental critique depend on distinguishing eternity, supratemporality and cosmic time. The question of the Origin refers to God’s eternity; the question of Totality refers to the supratemporal selfhood and religious root in the aevum or created eternity; the question of coherence relates to cosmic time. Those who deny the supratemporal selfhood, and who start from some other basis for Totality have fallen back into what Dooyeweerd calls “immanence philosophy.”

The selfhood stands under a law of religious concentration, which makes it restlessly search for its own Origin and that of the whole cosmos. “Het dilemma voor het christelijk wijsgeerig denken en het critisch karakter van de Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee,” Philosophia Reformata 1 (1936), 1-16, at 14.

Dooyeweerd emphasizes that our selfhood cannot be found within time:

But the "authentic", the "fundamental" I-ness (or whatever you will name it) will ever recede from our view, as long as this latter is dispersed in time. A truly critical hermeneutic method in philosoophical anthropology has the task to lay bare the origin of these dialectical problems as to the ego and the true selfhood of man, and to unmask the temporal idols projected about it. (NC I, 58, fn 1).

The false idea of the ego then is an idolization of that which is temporal. I interpret this as meaning that we must go beyond this false idea of ego to our true selfhood, which is supratemporal.

Our supratemporal selfhood expresses itself as a temporal coherence:

Our selfhood, our "I-ness” expresses itself as a totality in the coherence of all its functions in all aspects of cosmic reality. And man, whose I-ness is expressed in the coherence of all his cosmic functions, was himself created by God as the expression of His image.(I, 5)

The NC translates this as our 'ego' expressing itself as a totality. But that confuses the supratemporal and the temporal idolization. Our I-ness expresses itself in the coherence of its functions.

But our selfhood transcends this coherence of its functions:

We shall subsequently see why this deeper totality necessarily transcends the mutual coherence of all modal aspects of temporal reality, just as our selfhood transcends the coherence of its functions in these aspects (NC I, 4, ft. 1).

Our selfhood is not this systasis (WdW II, 400; NC II, 467). The NC correctly says on p. 5:

The self is the concentration-point of all my cosmic functions. It is a subjective totality which can neither be resolved into philosophical thought, nor into some other function, nor into a coherence of functions. Rather it lies at the basis of all the latter as their presupposition. (NC I, 5)

Dooyeweerd says that Heidegger's views the selfhood with reference to its innermost original essence as time itself. For Kant, the transcendence of the selfhood then remains of a temporal character:

It is only the transcendence of the temporal finite human "Dasein" above the 'Vorhandene' (the sensible things that are given), but it is not an ideal transcendence above time itself. (NC II, 525)

Heidegger eliminates the cosmic order of time and even merges the selfhood into time (NC II, 527). He gets into a contradiction of first calling the selfhood the origin of time and then identifying it with time (NC II, 531).

In contrast to such a temporalized view of the selfhood, Dooyeweerd emphasizes its supratemporal nature. Our selfhood is the religious center of our existence. Our selfhood expresses itself in all modal aspects of time, but it can never be exhausted by these (NC I, 58). Humans participate in all aspects, but their supratemporal center goes beyond all aspects (NC I, 51; NC III, 88). Our selfhood is a totality that transcends the mutual coherence of modal aspects of temporal reality, just as our selfhood transcends the coherence of its functions in these aspects (NC I, 4, ft. 1; I, 5; III, 71 ft 1).

If the selfhood is not seen as transcendent, then its radical unity disappears:

As soon as this transcendent character of the ego is overlooked, and the ego is conceived of as a merely immanent centre of its acts, its radical unity disappears and the ego is viewed as a merely structural unity in the diversity of its mental acts. (NC I, 51 fn1).

Our selfhood is not only the center of our own existence. It is the center of the existence of all of temporal reality. It is the root of temporal reality, and apart from it, temporal beings have no reality. See root. There is a "radical individual concentration of temporal reality in the human I-ness" (NC II, 417).

Others have said that Dooyeweerd's view of man as the supratemporal root is too "anthropocentric." Such an objection of "anthropocentrism" belies a temporalized view of our existence--a view that Dooyeweerd rejected. He says that our authentic or fundamental I-ness will ever recede from view as long as it is dispersed in time (NC I, 58 fn. 1). Of course if Dooyeweerd is wrong in his ideas of cosmic time, religious root and supratemporal selfhood, then his philosophy is anthropocentic. But if Dooyeweerd is correct, then any criticism of anthropcentrism fails to grasp the true nature of man's existence, and cannot see the central importance of man's participation in the redemption of the temporal world, which has its existence in the religious root.

It is true that man's appearance "in time" does not occur "until the whole foundation for the normative functions of temporal reality has been laid out." But this temporal priority of the rest of reality does not come until "after" our creation as the supratemporal religious root and creaturely fullness of meaning. He says,

According to the temporal relationship between foundation and superstructure in the cosmic world-order, man is not there before the things of inorganic nature. But, viewed from the supertemporal creaturely root of the earthly world, this inorganic nature, just as the vegetable kingdom and the animal kingdom, has no existence apart from man, and man has been created as the lord of the creation. (NC II, 52-53).

In the fall, we fell away from our true self. (I, vi; II, 496). This is not translated in the NC. We discover our self to our self in the anastasis (standing again, resurrection) (I, 80). Such resurrection occurs even in this present life.

The rediscovery of our true selfhood is at the same time a rediscovery of the true God; this discovery is brought about by the working of God's Spirit. Dooyeweerd says,

Slechts Gods Geest kan ons de radicale zin van de Woord-openbaring onthullen, die ons in afgrondelijke diepten tegelijk de waarachtige God en ons zelven ontdekt. Gods Woord leert ons wanneer het in reddende zin werkt. En waar het in reddende zin werkt, brengt het onafwendbaar de radicale omwentelling in de wortel van ons van God afgevallen bestaan. (Vernieuwing en Bezinning 11)

[Only God's Spirit can disclose to us the radical meaning of the Word revelation, which in abysmal depths discloses to us simultaneously the true God and our selves. God's Word teaches us whenever it works in a redemptive sense. And where it works in this redemptive sense, it inevitably brings the radical revolution in the root of our existence which had fallen away from God.] (my translation; the translation in Roots 12 obscures the meaning).

But even our true selfhood has no existence in itself. It exists only as meaning; it is dependent on the Origin, and points towards it. Even our selfhood, which is supra-temporal, is nothing in itself (NC III, 6). The Christian conception of the human selfhood is that it is

…a spiritual centre, which is nothing in itself, but whose nature is a "stare extra se", a self-surrender to its true or its fancied Origin. As long as the human person in its central kernel is conceived as a "substance", it is impossible to understand the profound Biblical meaning of the creation of man after the image of God (NC III, 7).

Dooyeweerd does not even speak of our selfhood in terms of Being. He rejects the idea of an analogy of being; he says that it originated from Greek philosophy and was ruled by the form and matter motive (NC III 73) .Only God, the Origin, exists as Being. Everything else exists as meaning.

And our selfhood is supra-individual. Dooyeweerd cites Abraham Kuyper's view that individuals do not exist in themselves; there only exist membra corporis generis humani (NC III, 248, ft)

The Christian conception of the human selfhood is that it is "a spiritual centre, which is nothing in itself, but whose nature is a "stare extra se," a self-surrender to its true or its fancied Origin." (NC III, 6).

In De Crisis der Humanistische Staatsleer (Oct 20/31), Dooyeweerd says that cosmic individuality is

…op ons standpunt volstrekt religieus, boven-tijdelijk gefundeerd (p. 107, cited by Verburg 144).

[on our standpoint completely religious, supratemporally founded]

This supratemporal selfhood must be the presupposition of any truly Christian view of society:

Maar naar onze beschouwing, de Christelijke opvatting der persoonlijkheid, kan evenmin het 'individueele ik' in den tijd worden gezocht en daarmede nemen wij principieel tegen de 'geesteswetenschappelijke sociologie' positie, die zulks met de geheele immanentie philosophie juist wel doet. De individueele zelfheid is door en door religieus, boventijdelijk. In de kosmische tijdsorde kan nòch aan den individueelen mensch, nòch aan het verband zelfheid, ikheid toekomen. Dit is het cardinale uitgangspunt voor iedere wezenlijk Christelijke beschouwing der tijdelijke samenleving. (De Crisis der Humanistische Staatsleer (Amsterdam: Ten Have, 1931), p. 113.

[But according to our view, the Christian understanding of a person, the 'individual I' can no more be sought within time. And we thereby stand in principle against the position of sociology in the humanities, which seeks to do just this in its immanence philosophy. The individual selfhood is through and through religious, supratemporal. In the cosmic temporal order, selfhood or I-ness cannot be reached by [sociological conceptions of] either individual man, or of societal structures. This is the principal point of departure for any truly Christian view of temporal society.]

In "De Zin der Geschiedenis in de 'Leiding Gods' in de Historische Ontwikkeling" (1932), Dooyeweerd said that the Christian religion has always taught that the supratemporal creaturely root of creation is not found in temporal reality nor in the temporal function of reason, but in the religious root of the human race. For out of the heart (which he says is the religious root of existence) are the issues of life. (Verburg 149)

In "De Theorie van de Bronnen van het Stellig Recht in het licht der Wetsidee," (1932), Dooyeweerd says that our selfhood, which is broken [gebroken] into temporal meaning functions, is found in our heart, the religious root of our existence, which individually participate in the religious root of the whole human race. (Verburg 156).

Dooyeweerd uses the terms ‘zelfheid’ [selfhood], ‘ikheid [I-ness], and ‘ik’ [I or ego]. Is there a difference in these terms? See my discussion in the Glossary entry for ego.

Criticism of Dooyeweerd's Idea of the Self

Initially, Dooyeweerd was criticized (by Hepp and others) because his Idea of the heart as our supratemporal selfhood did not agree with the traditional dualism between body and soul. Dooyeweerd does reject such a dualism, so this criticism was correct. Dooyeweerd is clear that the idea of the immortal soul is a Greek idea. The idea of a substantial soul is an hypostatization of the logical aspect of reality. Dooyeweerd does use the word 'soul,' but only in the sense of an integral selfhood that is supratemporal, and the basis of all our temporal aspects, including the logical.

Vollenhoven rejected rejected the idea of a supratemporal selfhood. This disturbed early critics like Hepp even more than Dooyeweerd's Idea of the heart, since in Vollenhoven's view, there was nothing that remained after death. Our entire existence was subject to death. The resurrection therefore had to be a re-creation. I am not aware of any discussion by Vollenhoven of such a re-creation.

Later criticism rejected the Idea of the supratemporal selfhood because they saw it as still too dualistic! They argued that the division between supratemporal and temporal was itself a dualism. I believe that these critics are wrong. Dooyeweerd is not dualistic, but rather nondual. Furthermore, if we reject the supratemporal selfhood, we end up with a temporalized view of the selfhood. But why should we deny that we have experience of the supratemporal? Dooyeweerd and Kuyper saw supratemporality as key to the immediate fellowship that we have with God. Those who temporalize the selfhood accept postmodernism's contention that all our knowledge is mediated through time. They say that any view of a supratemporal selfhood is a totalizing that must be rejected. What is interesting is that even Vollenhoven's Idea of a pre-functional but temporal unity is not immune from this kind of criticism. What we are left with is a de-centred and fragmentary selfhood.

For example, Jim Olthuis has argued against all centering metaphors like the prism or the selfhood:

Who we are is web-like, our textures woven and interwoven with the threads and textures of the people and the world in which we live. (“Of Webs and Whirlwinds; Me, Myself and I,” in Contemporary Reflections, 37)

He says that the self is like a convection pattern in air or water, a whirlwind (p. 41). He rejects Dooyeweerd's Idea of the body as merely “the free plastic instrument of the I-ness” (NC III, 88). He also rejects Dooyeweerd's Idea of the immediacy of our experience of the supratemporal self. He says,

However, if we set aside the supratemporality of the self, and, so to speak, “lower” the self fully into hurry-burly [sic] exigencies of corporeality, relationality, and time, we are able, I suggest, to do more justice to diversity, difference, divergence, relation, in self-experience (which Dooyeweerd already emphasized in terms of the body), as well as to the tensions, fragmentations, and disruptions in our experience of self-identity. (p. 37)

Olthuis's idea that we are "web-like" reminds me of the Buddhist Idea of coherence, Indra's Net, and indeed of the Buddhist view of the self. It is also similar to what Panikkar expresses:

I describe the person as a knot in a net of relationships. Individuality would be the abstract knot, i.e., the knot abstracted, severed from all the threads which precisely make the knot. The knots without the threads are nothing, the threads without the knots could not subsist. The knots have a very practical use; they allow efficient ways of treating the individual, from identification cards to the human rights of the individual. But a knot is a knot because it is made of threads tied together with other knots through a network of threads. The knots are not unreal, nor the threads, for that matter. they belong constitutively together. But this is too spatial and objective a simile. It shows how an individual knot is impossible, and how all the knots imply each other and hang together. Reality is the net, reality is relational. But the simile does not stress sufficiently that other human intuition, which is both eastern and western, that in each being all other beings are somewhat reflected, included, represented. The en panti panta ("everything in everything" or "all in all") of Anaxagoras, the sarvam-sarvatkmakam of shaivism microcosm/macrocosm correlation of Aristotle and the Upanishads, the pratityasamutpada of buddhism, the speculation of neo Platonism, the periochoresis of christianity (and Anaxagoras) and the specular nature of the universe (from speculum, mirror) along with the universality of the intellectus agens of the medieval scholastic up to modern scientific morphogenetic and magnetic fields, seem to suggest a less individualistic worldview in which the castle of our story may not need such formidable dragons for its defence. (Panikkar: “Mysticism of Jesus the Christ,” Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity, ed. Bettina Bäumer (Abhishiktananda Society, 1997), p. 101. )

The "fortress" he speaks of is the assumption that each individual consciousness is a closed fortress. Olthuis's description of a person as a "knot" interwoven with the threads and textures of others may therefore still be too individualistic a conception of the world. Is not all the emphasis on the "other" a denial of the interpenetration of consciousness?

Furthermore, says Panikkar, how are we so certain that there is no overarching Being, "or that the idea of reality as a Mystical Body is simply a figure of speech?' [Or, in Dooyeweerd's terms, a supratemporal root?] Panikkar looks at this issue from the perspective of how we interpret the human consciousness of Christ. The relation between "I and "Thou" is not dualistic, like two substances. I and Thou are not two 'things.' But neither is it a monistic relationship. They are not identical. They are nondual.

To discover myself as Thou is to discover my deepest identity, neither in the face of 'another,' nor within a narcissistic mirror. It amounts to discovering my dynamic ipse, to being my-self: tat tvam asi! The tvam belongs inseparably to the tat. 'That art thou.' How can I know another person? How can I even dare penetrate into the holy of holies of the personal intimacy of another human being?
This is, I repeat, a wrong question. Wrong in itself, because if we mistake a person for an individual, there is an internal contradiction between being one individual (divisum a se ab alliis vero distinctum) and being another individual. I would cease to be the individual that I am if I were to really know another individualqua individual–and vice-versa. (p. 104).

Panikkar says that there remains a relation to the selfhood:

Know your 'Self' reemphasizes the Indic tradition: the Self which is your true Self and not precisely 'your' self, not 'yours', and only when it ceases to be yours it will emerge as the Self–which is, to be sure, your Self (cp. Mt XVI.24; Lk IX.23). (p. 111)

Building on what Panikkar says, my response to Olthuis is, yes, we are inter-related with others and with the world we live in. But this inter-relatedness must not be seen as a relatedness of individual and other, but rather as interpenetrating consciousness. The inter-relatedness is a temporal relatedness, or in Dooyeweerd's terminology, a temporal coherence. The temporal coherence is related to a supra-individual supratemporal selfhood that is the root of temporal creation.

Olthuis refers to Glas's view that centering metaphors can make us lose sight of Dooyeweerd’s “luminous emphasis that the self is nothing in itself, and only exists as relational.” But we must distinguish between temporal and supratemporal. Yes, the supratemporal self does not exist except in relation to God, its Origin. But temporal reality exists only in relation to the selfhood, its supratemporal root. These two levels of relations must not be confused. It is a valuable insight that our ego expresses itself as a coherence of temporal functions, and that it is often not even in coherence. But that insight must not be transferred over to say that the supratemporal selfhood is nothing but these temporal relations. The temporal relations are the expression of the central selfhood.

Olthuis says that centering metaphors have the danger of undervaluing human activities, and there is a temptation to view all community in sameness and uniformity (p. 36). I agree that there may be a temptation to do this. The temptation is that of monism. At its extreme, monism not only levels temporality to a sameness, it says that temporality is an illusion. But Dooyeweerd is not a monist. He is a nondualist. And his nondualism is founded in a Trinitarianism that values both unity and diversity. As Panikkar says,

The I and the Thou are not just interdependent, but interindependent, as in the Trinity.
We will never penetrate fully into another individual consciousness precisely because each of us shares that very consciousness in a unique way. (p. 108).

In our present "earthly dispensation" (NC II, 560-61), where we exist as a supratemporal selfhood with a temporal mantle of functions [functiemantel], nondualism values both the supratemporal and temporal diversity. Even within the supratemporal there is a diversity, but Dooyeweerd refuses to speculate about what our supratemporal reality may be like. I like Baader's emphasis that it "will not be less" than our present reality.

The debate between Ideas of a temporalized selfhood and a supratemporal selfhood also occurred in eastern philosophic traditions. Hinduism maintained an Idea of a supratemporal selfhood (atman). Buddhism reacted against this Idea of the self, and said that there was no-self (anatman); there is only the world of dharmas or particulars. The Buddhists said that everything, including our selfhood, was relative. They spoke in terms of dependent origination. The Hindu response was that it does not make sense to speak of anything as relative except in relation to an absolute. Temporal reality may be relative, but it is so only in relation to the supratemporal self. Furthermore, how could Buddhism still maintain the doctrine of karma and reincarnation when there is no Self to migrate across time? How can we deny the reality of the empirical world without the acceptance of another reality? For the Vedantin, the lack of any substance anywhere seems nihilistic.

David Loy says that Vedanta prefers to speak of "the One" and Buddhism prefers to speak of "emptiness." But this is because Shankara was trying to describe reality from outside. The Buddha says that we cannot get outside of this phenomenal reality. Similarly, the Zen Buddhist Masao Abe says that monistic oneness is an attempt to conceive and objectify reality from outside:

Monistic oneness is realized as the goal or end to be reached from the side of duality. It is somewhat ‘over there’, not right here. It is conceived and objectified from the outside. Contrary to this, nondualistic oneness is the ground or root-source realized here and now, from which our life and activities can properly begin. When we overcome monistic oneness we come to a point which is neither one nor two nor many, but which is appropriately referred to as shunya or empty. This emptiness or shunyata is true oneness in the sense of being completely free from any form of duality. (Masao Abe: “Buddhism is not Monistic, but Non-dualistic” Scottish Journal of Religious Studies 1, no. 2 (Fall, 1980): 97-100).

Loy acknowledges that the Buddhist idea of emptiness is “unattractive in comparison with an eternal immutable, all-encompassing Absolute.” (Nonduality, 215). Loy’s answer to the charge of nihilism is that although there must be something, there need not be some thing. In other words, there need not be anything that can be experienced as object.

Some Buddhists like D.T. Suzuki and Thich Nhat Hahn have said that the Buddhist doctrine of no-self means only that we are to overcome the temporal ego, and that we cannot form a concept of our true selfhood. That is more in line with Dooyeweerd's thought.

Hisakazu Inagaki has made an interesting comparison between Kuyper and certain currents of Japanese thought. See his article "Comparative Study of Kuyperian Palingenesis: The Transcendent and Human Ego in Japanese Thought," in Kuyper Reconsidered. Inagaki, in a dialogue with Nishida's Buddhist philosophy (Kyoto school), discusses "the self in contact with the religious root." He discusses this in relation to Nishida's 1932 article "I and thou." He quotes Nishida:

When it is thought that the self sees the self in the self, together with it being thought that the self sees the absolute other in the self, it must mean that that absolute other is precisely the self. (p. 173).

Inagaki says that Nishida has changed the usual Buddhist emphasis on the self as nothingness to the 'absolute other.' Inagaki comments: "This is a scheme of human self-understanding in contact with the religious root." He sees it as an improvement over the normal Buddhist emphasis on nothingness, which he says "impedes the establishment of the self of Japanese people in the true sense." Inagaki says that for the Christian, this 'absolute other' should be regarded as absolute being:

The 'topos of absolute being' is therefore the encounter with Jesus Christ as the fullness of meaning. The motivation of change should be Jesus Christ. The scheme of self-understanding in the Christian is this: 'I see the true self in Jesus Christ.' Furthermore, that is the scheme of self-understanding resulting form redemption of sin in Christ. It is the 'self-awareness' that the purpose and meaning of my being created as me is restored, that I will fulfill my responsibilities to others and to society (i.e. palingenesis in the Kuyper's terminology […] I will be made 'like Jesus Christ' ( I John 3:2), that is I must approach the 'true self.' In this way, one can actually say that 'the knowledge of God and self-knowledge are mutually related' (John Calvin). (p. 175)

Inagaki thus relates "absolute being" to Kuyper's views. In his emphasis on being and fulfillment, and of the 'absolute other' over nothingness, Inagaki's views of the selfhood are contrasted to Buddhist thought. Although he does not say so, these views are more similar to Hindu thought, which tends to emphasize being (although not in a Western static sense).

What is interesting is that Inagaki also relates 'absolute being' to Jesus Christ, in whom we see our true selfhood, and as Dooyeweerd says, the New Root in which all temporal meaning is fulfilled. However, Inagaki rejects any idea of being 'united with Christ' as a mystical experience. It seems to me that Dooyeweerd's vision goes further than Inagaki's, in that Dooyeweerd speaks of our participation in the New Root. It is not just that we are to become 'like' Jesus.

It is possible that Inagaki has misunderstood Nishida's emphasis on 'absolute other.' According to James Heisig, Nishida rejected Aristotelian logic, according to which something in “the subject that cannot become a predicate.”

Nishida turns this on its head, suggesting that we need a logic that makes room for a subject to become a predicate, and for the universal predicate to become the final subject. Because if we do not, then the whole idea of individuals determining themselves and in the process being the self-determination of something else falls on its face.” (Heisig, Philosophers of Nothingness, pp. 77,

Heisig cites Nishida's I and You.

The defining activity of personhood is self-reflection, a dialogue between I and I, and that this is the locus for the encounter of I and you. (Heisig, 82).

Thus, the encounter with the other is within the dialogue of "I and I." It seems to me that Inagaki's view of the 'other' assumes an individualism that is not in Nishida (nor in Dooyeweerd). For Nishida, the other is seen in our own inwardness"

By seeing the absolute other in the recesses of my own inwardness–that is, by seeing there a you–I am I. To think in these terms, or what I call “the self-awareness of absolute nothingness,” entails love. This is what I understand Christian agape to be…It is not human love but divine love; it is not the ascent of the person to God but the descent of God to the person…As Augustine says, I am I because God loves me, I am truly I because of God’s love…We become persons by loving our neighbor as ourselves in imitation of the divine agape. (cited in Heisig, p. 85)

In this quotation, Nishida speaks of the 'absolute other' as "the self-awareness of absolute nothingness." Thus, the contrast that Inagaki sets up does not seem to be there. Furthermore, Inagaki does not critically examine to what extent Nishida's ideas are derived from Western thought. It is true that Inagaki acknowledges Western influences in Nishida:

In this way Nishida, while on the one hand using Western philosophical thought, on the other reaches the religious root lacking in humanistic (human-centered) modern, Western philosophy. (Inagaki, 172).

But according to Heisig, Nishida and the Kyoto school of philosophy are more Western than has been admitted. Heisig says (p.25) that the Kyoto school is more within the framework of Western philosophy than of Buddhist thought.

Nishida, Tanabe and Nishitani claim they are being religiously Buddhist when a philosophical criticism hits close to the core, and claim they are being philosophically western when a serious objection arises from the Buddhist side. (James Heisig: Philosophers of Nothingness, p. 17).

Heisig says that Nishida got the term and idea of a conscious state of undifferentiated unity from William James. But whether Nishida's philosophy is Buddhist or Western, his philosophy does seem to have some important parallels to Dooyeweerd. Heisig says,

Nishida begins with assumption that reality is one, and that means it has a single principle that makes it one, or unifies it. “At the same time as reality is a unity, it is not a static unity. It unfolds in time, and this unfolding means that the unity is refracted in a plurality of items that are transient, interrelated, and therefore the relative stuff out of which that single principle maintains a unity.
Now among all of the items of reality that show up in this process, only one completely mirrors the whole. Only one can stand at the cutting edge of the unity as it unfolds, see it happening, and then talk about it. That single item is human consciousness. To understand consciousness is therefore to have the best possible paradigm of how reality “works.” To be fully conscious–or as fully conscious as a human individual can be–is to achieve a unity that mirrors, as if in microcosm, the ultimate principle of reality and mirrors it from within the dynamic unfolding process itself.” (Heisig, pp. 42-43)

We see here similarities to Dooyeweerd's ideas of unity and totality as dynamic, as unfolding in time, and as refracted [the prism] in a plurality of interrelated temporal "items" [aspects]. And Nishida's emphasis on consciousness as true selfhood, as a mirror of the ultimate principle of reality, can be compared to Dooyeweerd's understanding of man's creation in the image of God. And I believe that Nishida's emphasis on love in the sense of a descent [or kenosis] is also a key idea in Dooyeweerd, although he did not develop it as fully as did Baader. And Nishida's idea of the true self is similar to Dooyeweerd's emphasis on the supratemporal self that gives us a new standpoint for knowing [Archimedean point]:

…the idea of awareness as timeless, nonsubjective, egoless presence that opens up the possibility of a new standpoint for knowing and acting, naturally flows into the recognition of a more authentic, truer self that acts and knows in the state of self-awareness. (Heisig, 51)

See my thesis on Abhishiktananda (Henri Le Saux) for more discussion regarding Hindu, Buddhist and Christian Ideas of the selfhood.

Dooyeweerd rejected the Hindu Idea of atman because he regarded it as dualistic. See his comparison to atman. But he was interpreting atman in Western terms, and the Hindu Idea of atman is much closer to his view of selfhood than he acknowledged.

Baader's Idea of Selfhood

Baader also says that Being is not a term that can be applied univocally to God and to creatures. Being is a temporal term. He does say that that there is a supratemporal body or ‘nature,’ even in God.

Our self is not to be identified with any either thinking or feeling:

Wir suchen nämlich das Prinzip unserer Erkenntnis in unseren Gedanken und unseren Empfindungen, und bemerken nicht, dass wir selber als denkend und empfindend diese Gedanken und Sensationen sind, und dass, da unser Geist das Organ (Instrument) unseres Erkennens ist (Werke 5,55)

[We therefore seek the Principle of our knowledge in our thoughts and our sensations, and we do not notice that it is we ourselves, as thinking and sensing, are these thoughts and sensations, and that is because our spirit is the organ (instrument) of our knowing]

Baader refers here to spirit [Geist]; he must mean our spiritual functions in the sense of those that are normative. For Baader, although our supratemporal reality is not any of our temporal functions, it is not nothing. And it is "not less" than our temporal existence:

…the visible comes from the visible, but man doesn't usually see that the not seen, not heard, not understood, unmoved is not only not nothing, but is not less than the visible, audible, understandable, movable, but more than these. It is the Seeing, Hearing, Understanding and Moving. (Philosophische Schriften I, 323).

Elsewhere Baader speaks in terms of a fulfilled individuality. He says that the completely fulfilled individuality or personality is even what the divine in God consists of (Philosophische Schriften II, 22).

van Eeden's Idea of Selfhood

In his student article on van Eeden, "Neo-Mysticism and Frederik van Eeden," Dooyeweerd refers to "the intuitive dream-life of our second 'I' " (p. 135).

Van Eeden obtained his idea of the Selfhood from at least two sources: (1) the Hindu Upanishads (as did C.G. Jung more than twenty years later) and (2) his reading of Boehme. In later life, van Eeden became a Catholic, so he may have moved away from some of his more monistic conceptions of the selfhood. In my notes on van Eeden, I have indicated some similarities with Dooyeweerd. the similarities are not surprising, in view of the fact that Baader was the one who re-introduced Boehme to western philosophy through Schelling.

According to van Eeden, our selfhood is supratemporal and supra-individual. It is the source of existence for the temporal world. It cannot be expressed in concepts, since it lies at the source of our concepts. See the notes on van Eeden for a more extensive discussion.

Notes revised Jan 29/08