Great Philosophers cited by Theologians influenced by Buddhism

Heard of Rudolph Bultmann? Cited by almost every Theologian who graduate from a seminary in any church all over the world. Denies miracles, Christ’s virgin birth, Second Coming, Resurrection, Atonement and also Judgment. Said one of our denomination professors to me at Avondale College in 2011: “He is great. I use him in teaching John to my students”.


Bultmann liked Martin Heidegger but Heidegger was immersed in Zen Buddhism.

How does it work? Scholars thought he was an excellent philosopher that revolutionized thinking in Christianity. He certainly changed religion as classical Christian religion was understood. He inspired Bultmann as was already said.

But not only Rudolph Bultmann but also Keiji Nishitani who studied under him between 1937-1939. Nishitani, a Japanese, studied under Heidegger between these years and recounted how he was often invited into the house of Martin Heidegger so that Heidegger can teach Nishitani about Zen Buddhism. Both of them shared the fascination with the Middle Age Mystic Christian, also influenced by Zen Buddhism, Meister Eckhart. 

Eckhart was rejected by the papacy of that time in the 13th century.

Eckhart promoted Mystical Hermeneutics. 

Mystical Hermeneutics reads beyond the line and not on the line. This is very important. It wish to foreground and background things cognitively so that freedom is given to the cognition of the reader who let off with sensual reading, meaning using the senses to a literal reading what is in the lines to a situation where the person can come up with a multiple of meanings. Dogmatism is kicked out. Literalism is kicked out. Doctrines are flushed down the drain. The process involved four stages and Davis below outlined the four.

1. An ecstatic transcendence of the ego;

2. A mystical union with God or the One;

3. An ecstatic breakthrough beyond God or the One to śūnyatā;

4. A return to an ecstatic/instatic engagement in the here and now (Davis 2008: 223 see reference below).

Davis et al believes that M. Eckhart of the Middle Ages did the same. He let go with self, unified with the Trinity in him, let go of God and transformed into a new experience with the here and now which is ecstatic. Basically, he left himself open for Satan’s workings on earth. If anyone is without God they are automatically in the arms of Satan.

In 1939 Heidegger dismissed “Mysticism” as a “mere counter-image of metaphysics” but not so fast, exactly in 1955 he connected with it again saying “the most extreme sharpness and depth of thought belong to genuine and great mysticism …. Meister Eckhart gives proof of this.” (quoted in Davis 2007: 122f.).

So M. Heidegger connected to Mystical Hermeneutics.

Mystical hermeneutics tries to read between the lines. It does not follow sensus plenior nor a literal reading of the text.

Van der Braak, (see supra 2011 and below in the 2010 publication) also said that Nietzsche, the father of the God-is-dead theology, wrote a book to criticize Christianity called The Antichrist. In section 23 of this book, Nietzsche uses Buddhism to make a critique of Christianity.

So how does mystical hermeneutics originate?

First the individual renounced religion and become secularized. 

Then as a result of a guilt-trip they start to sacralize. In this process they do not use the traditional tools of religion, sensus plenior of the text, the lines of the texts, the literalness of the text, but try to find ghosts behind, below, in between the lines.

A mystical hermeneutics is born and the person takes hands with the popular trend today called re-emergent hermeneutics.

What is emphasized by mystical hermeneutics is experience, reader superiority over writer superiority, transformation, symbolic, personal meaning substituting historical meaning, insisting on spiritualizing of the text, a call to provide meaning for life and revitalize the dead text. The semantic potential of the text also change: there is a stress on the multiple meanings of the text. It means different things for different readers. All authentic!

And who smiles? Satan. Believers do not even realize it. They insist that the illluminatory and experiental aspects of the text should get first place. 

As Ricoeur said in 1980 it is a “semantic potential of the text” and of more importance to the reader than to the writer. It is no longer important what God said through the writer of the Bible, it is what I think when I read it and how I feel about it, regardless of God or the writer. Satan smiles.

Origen was the Father of this polysemantics.

“Polysemous readings of scripture, just as with poetry, open doors and windows to a hidden dimension. The contribution of Origen is such that he has been called the founder of "intellectualist mysticism".

Origen continues

“The final goal of such an "anagogic, or uplifting, reading of the Bible ... is divinization of the soul" as Origen says: ‘For Christians see that with Jesus human and divine nature begin to be woven together, so that by fellowship with divinity human nature might become divine, not only in Jesus, but also in all those who believe and go on to undertake the life which Jesus taught, the life which leads everyone who lives according to Jesus' commandments to friendship with God and fellowship with Jesus’ (Origen, Against Celsus 3.28 in McGinn & Ferris McGinn 2003:38).

The misunderstanding of 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 is used by mystics and Carmelites like Elizabeth the Trinitarian who was a Catholic mystic to say that Paul was a mystic. He was not. Christ is still in heaven but indwell in us by His Spirit Who works in us with unspeakable sounds Romans 8. Thus, silence.

These mystics feel that the indwelling Christ must be deified in the person and the process must be theosis. The person become “godly”. God-making.

Origen said the following mystical comments after studying Romans and Matthew

“The scribe of the gospel is one who knows how, after studying the narrative of events, to ascend to the spiritual realities without stumbling [and then] gallop through the vast spaces of mystic and spiritual understanding” (Commentaries on Matthew 10:14 and Romans 7:11, in McGinn & Ferris McGinn 2003:25).

Reading beyond the lines is encouraged recently in scholarly works:

“Reading literature requires not only understanding the literal meaning of the text, but also constructing a nonliteral interpretation of the text’s deeper meaning (Goldman, 2004; Langer, 2010; Lee, 2007; 2011; Schraw, 1997) yet little is known about the psychological processes involved when interpretations are constructed.” (see McCarthy). They push the boundaries for main understanding not in the text but what the reader squeeze out of it.

Are you a Psychology major?

Carl Jung was involved with mysticism and zen Buddhism.  

He wrote that the satori experience of Zen can be found in the West in Eckhart (Jung 1991: 14,19). Eckhart was the Middle Ages Christian mystic that was mentioned supra.

Before Christian Psychology majors or oncoming Psychiatrists adopt the model of Jung for their practices, ask who are they dealing with. This is no longer the Word of God, or even God and what is not of God is of the devil, that is biblical.

(Koot van Wyk reflecting on current trends in Hermeneutics, on Sabbath, Seoul 17th of March 2021)


Van der Braak, André. (2010). “Nietzsche als brugfiguur: het boeddhisme bestuderen om het eigene vreemd te maken.” In: Hans van Rappard and Michiel Leezenberg (ed.). Wereldfilosofie: wijsgerig denken in verschillende culturen. Amsterdam: Bert Bakker. Pp. 106-12.

Davis, Bret W. (2007). Heidegger and the Will: On the Way to Gelassenheit. Evanston: Northwestern University Press; op. cit. pp. 155-156 of the article by A. van der Braak (January 2011). The mystical hermeneutics of eckhart and Dōgen: The continuous selfrevelation of Buddha nature. Article in conjunction with some of the authors of this publication who are also working on these related projects: Reimagining Zen in a Secular Age View project Meister Eckhart and Zen View project Andre van der Braak Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Downloaded on the 17th of March 2021 from file:///C:/Users/user/Downloads/TheMysticalHermeneuticsofEckhartandDogen.pdf

For the work of Nishitani the student of Heidegger, see Nishitani, Keiji (1982). Religion and Nothingness. Berkeley: University of CaliforniaPress.

Ricoeur, P. 1980. Essays on Biblical Interpretation.  Philadephia: Fortress Press.      

Ricoeur, P. 1981. Hermeneutics and the human sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.        

Mcginn, B & Ferris Mcginn, P. 2003. Early Christian Mystics. The Divine Vision of the Spiritual Masters. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company.        

Beiringer, R. 2011. St. Paul, Participation and Mysticism. Keynote Paper given at 'Mysticism Without Bounds', International conference on Mysticism. Christ University, Bangalore, India: January 5-8, 2011.         

Kathryn S. McCarthy, Reading Beyond the Lines: A Critical Review of Cognitive Approaches to Literary Interpretation and Comprehension. University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Psychology Accepted for Publication in Scientific Study of Literature, June 30, 2015).

Hermeneutics of the mystical phenomenon in Edith Stein the Mystical Phenomenon. Downloaded 17th of May from

Jung, Carl. (1991). Foreword. in: D.T. Suzuki. An Introduction to Zen Buddhism. New York: Grove Press. Pp. 9-30.