Imagination in Religious Pluralism

by David C. Scott

David C. Scott is Emeritus Professor of religion and culture at United Theological College, Bangalore, India. Born in India the son of United Methodist missionaries, Dr. Scott received his M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary, New York City, and his Ph.D. in South Asian Religions at the University of Wisconsin. He is ordained in the United Methodist Church and has a distinguished career teaching in India at Lucknow Christian College, Lucknow; the Christian Retreat and Study Centre, Rajpur; Leonard Theological College, Jabalpur; and most recently in Bangalore. He is author of several books, the most recent being Re-Visioning India’s Religious Traditions (ed.), Bangalore: United Theological College, 1996.

The following essay is used by permission of the author.


The new religious diversity in America calls for both understanding and transformation. Christians, Muslims, African religious traditions, Buddhists, Hindus, and many others — all are now neighbors in our global village.

Even before the arrival of the Europeans to the continent they named America, religious diversity was a reality here. The religious ways of peoples indigenous to this part of the world were themselves varied and alive, and the European newcomers brought with them the religious traditions[1] of Europe. True, in some cases the immigrants set up colonies in which only one of these traditions was to be permitted, but in others small Jewish communities were established in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Also very early in our history slaves were brought to these shores and with them came Islam and African religious traditions, although the system of slavery crushed the practice of these religious traditions as part of its dehumanization of those it chose to buy and sell as working and breeding stock.

So it was, that even before we as a people thought of creating the political reality called the United States of America; even before launching the on-going social experiment in which we now live, religious diversity was one of the many threads from which the fabric of our society was and continues to be woven. One no longer has to go overseas to experience "the Muslim world." Detroit, Houston, Chicago, Cleveland, Washington, DC, and Springfield, Indiana, to name but a few cities, are now squarely within the Muslim world. Sikhs are our taxi drivers, accountants, and dentists. Buddhists are professional basketball coaches as well as our financial advisors or our grocers. Hindus are our doctors, computer programmers and scientific researchers. Indeed, America’s religious diversity is now more visible than ever before. It is not uncommon to see people wearing the distinctive dress of particular religious traditions, or read articles in the newspaper about the celebrations of a variety of religious groups. Or perhaps even more striking is the growing indication of our diversity to be seen in public buildings. In working- and middle-class neighborhoods in and around New York, Boston and Los Angeles and other cities, one walks past ordinary-looking houses which turn out to be small Sikh gurdwaras, or modest monasteries accommodating the priests and prayer halls of small Sri Lankan, Vietnamese, Laotian or Tibetan Buddhist groups. In Pittsburgh, a beautiful Hindu temple sits on a hill as clearly visible a manifestation of our new religious diversity as the domed mosque that rises out of the cornfields along an interstate highway on the outskirts of Toledo. Possibly the best picture of our current situation is to be seen driving along New Hampshire Avenue for several miles in Silver Spring, Maryland, just outside our nation’s capitol. Here one will find another Buddhist temple and monastery, a large new mosque and Islamic center, a Ukranian Orthodox Church, a Disciples of Christ Church, a Hindu Chinmaya Mission center, a Ukranian Catholic Church, and a Gujarati Hindu temple. In addition, along this same stretch of avenue, Hispanic Pentecostals, Vietnamese Catholics, and Korean Evangelicals share facilities with more traditional Methodist, Roman Catholic and Presbyterian congregations.[2] The religious diversity of America is not only more physically visible; it is becoming part of our everyday landscape as never before.

How odd, then, that prior to the present generation the experience of so many of our people – especially in white communities -- has been one of religious and cultural homogeneity. It is only now that we are confronting and being challenged by a diversity of religious traditions and cultures which it is impossible any longer to ignore. As the Rev. James Forbes, senior pastor of Riverside Church in New York City reminded the international summit of religious leaders meeting in early September 2000 "We were once strangers in the past, but now we are neighbors in the global village." But what in human terms is involved in being neighbors in our global village? The answer to such a question, rather, has to do with a single word – the word we. Thinking of our world close up, as if it were a village of one thousand, forces us to confront what we mean when we say we. As Wilfred Cantwell Smith was wont to say, the meaning of the word we constitutes one of the most important facts about any people.[3] Is it we Christians, we Protestants, we Americans, we preachers, we human beings? Our we will include different people at different times and we need to signal this in our preaching and liturgies. But, how often does our we include people of other faith traditions, other nations, other races? How often does our we link rather than divide? Our relation with the "other" may move, as Smith suggests, through a number of phases. First we talk about them – an objective "other". Then, perhaps we talk to them, or more personally we talk to you. Developing a real dialogue, we talk with you. And finally, we all talk about us, all of us. This is the crucial stage to which our interreligious dialogue must take us if we are to be up to the task of creating homiletics adequate for a diverse and interdependent world.[4]

There is we language in every religious tradition, for the we issue is not simply a sociological matter but a theological issue, inextricably related to our deepest religious values. Hindus speak of the whole world as a single family – vasudhaiva kutumbakam. Buddhists speak of the sangha, ecclesial community, of the four cosmic directions; Muslims find ways of interpreting the umma, the Muslim community, in a broad and open sense to include all people who have aligned their lives toward God. Jews speak of God’s covenant with Noah as a covenant with all who keep basic moral precepts. There may be isolationists who see the future in terms of widening the distance between we and them. But in every tradition there are also currents of thinking and imagining that are attempts to steer toward a wider we, a we that links rather than divides.

In the Christian tradition, there is the language of the oikos, the household. The Gospel of John (14:2) tells of the household of God in which there are many mansions. It is commonly known that from this term oikos comes the word oikoumene (or ecumene), that means the household of the "whole inhabited earth." It is not surprising that the Christian ecumenical movement found this term expressive of the worldwide extent of the church, a universal household. And yet clearly the "whole inhabited earth" is not Christian[5], or Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu, or Buddhist. And yet, surely the bard is right.

There is scarce truth enough alive, to make societies secure, but security enough to make fellowships accurs’d. Much upon this riddle runs the wisdom of this world. This news is old enough and yet it is every day’s news.[6]

As we have seen, old enough, too is the habit of centuries. Cultures and religions relate themselves defensively to the rest of the humanity, believing in their identity as the service of truth – a conviction that at the same time reserves them from the human whole to which their truth belongs. Indeed, the impulse to the inward conservation of themselves suspects and refuses the pressures of a larger fellowship and, all too confidently – yet not confidently enough – they ‘salute their brethren only’. But surely we cannot have our own humanity unless we confess it everywhere. In the end, the denial of a common humanity is the damnation of our own. Nature leaves no ultimate privacies and now history is strenuously confirming the same lesson.

In the context of our pluralistic yet interdependent world, Benedict Anderson suggests that imagination plays critical role.[7] In fact, Anderson argues, the most powerful mapping of the world and its boundaries is not done by geographical survey teams or the armies of the world. It results from the power of the imagination, which creates and bears for us a sense of community, a sense of we—national, religious, cultural, multicultural. Indeed, as imagined communities, religious traditions are more ancient and more tenacious than modern nation states. Hindus posit the image of a four-petaled world lotus, with India being the southern petal. Muslims have a strong sense of center, spiritual but not "ecclesiastical," anchoring a world community of faith. In a very different way, the Roman Catholic Church has a strong sense of center, so much so that "Rome" and "the Vatican" convey a whole ecclesial order and authority. The Buddhist tradition is highly de-centered, with its imagined communities more ethnic than universal. The Oglala of the Great Plains thinks of themselves as one people among the "Seven Fireplaces" of the Sioux. The Aboriginals of Australia link their imagined community to the land and time they call "The Dreaming".

The body is a common image of the interrelatedness of the imagined community. For both Christians and Hindus, the body is an image of the interdependent whole. In the Christian tradition, the "body of Christ" is the church, one body with many members. The eye cannot say to the hand, nor the head to the feet, " I have no need of you" (I Corinthians 12). In the celebrated Vedic hymn called the Purusha Sukta (Rig Veda X.90), the whole created order – temporal, moral, and social – is seen to be the body of the cosmic person, Purusha, divided up in the primal sacrifice which gives rise to the creation. While the body is a holistic image for community and in that sense is positive, it is also a hierarchical image. There is a head and there are feet. No matter how valuable the feet are made to feel there is hierarchy. An image inherently hierarchical will not be adequate to imagine our interrelations as communities of faith in an interdependent world.

In developing a sense of we that is wider than the we of religion or culture it will be important to have an image of what kind of human relatedness we wish to bring into being. People of each religious tradition have dreams of what the world should ideally be and how we should be related to one another even though we are not all the same. Glimpsing one another’s dreams is an important step in beginning to reimagine the we. Do we imagine ourselves to be separate communities, concerned primarily with guarding one another’s rights in a purely civic construction of relatedness? Do we imagine ourselves to be related as parts of an extended family, or as many families of faith? Do we imagine ourselves to be religious communities competing in goodness and righteousness, as the Qur’an (42:14) puts it? Imagining a wider we does not mean leaving our separate communities behind, but finding increasingly generative ways of living together as a community of communities. To do this we must imagine together who we are.

Many religious traditions have their own distinctive visions of the imagined community of diverse peoples. In the Christian tradition the dominant image of the community coming into being is the Kingdom of God—the world that God intends, the world of which we must be co-creators. The New Testament is filled with images of the Kingdom. This imagined community is not finally the Christian community, but the community of the whole-inhabited earth. In Jesus’ time, as in ours, the term kingdom was intended somewhat paradoxically. Jesus overturned the regal understanding and expectation of "kingdom," for what was envisioned by Jesus was not like any earthly kingdom. This imagined community would not be imposed from above and ruled from on high, but would grow from the smallest seeds, like big bushes from tiny mustard seeds. It would be a kingdom inherited not by the rich and powerful, but by the poor, the widows, the homeless, and the strangers. This community would not secure its identity by dominion or exclusion, but was imagined to be an open house for all the peoples of the earth, coming from the East and the West, North and South, to eat at table together. This imagined community is not off in the future in some heavenly place and time, but among us in community in this very world and within us. It is not some other place, but this place transformed by justice and filled to the brim with peace. The Kingdom of God is much wider than the church; it is the Kingdom of God, not the Christian church. The role of the immediate followers of Christ in bringing this to be is not imagined in grandiose language, but in the most humble domestic language. We—all persons of faith—are to be like yeast in the bread dough, like salt in the food, like a light to the path.

Both Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. are among the many for whom the image of the household suggests our close relatedness. King introduced his talk "The World House" with these words:

Some years ago a famous novelist died. Among his papers was found a list of suggested plots for future stories, the most prominently underscored being this one: ‘A widely separated family inherits a house in which they have to live together.’ This is the great new problem of mankind (sic). We have inherited a large house, a great ‘world house’ in which we have to live together – black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu – a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest. Because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.[8]

A household gathers together a large and usually complex extended family, with all the diversity of temperament and personality that human beings possess. The imagined community of the household includes both hospitality and mutuality. A household may also have its hierarchies , but they are not the built-in hierarchies of the body. They will be open to challenge and negotiation. There is no household without its arguments, but its foundation is undergirding love and its language, the two-way language of dialogue. Can we imagine the world, locally and globally, as such a household? Can we imagine the diversity of religious faith and tradition as such a household?

The household as an imagined community makes even more proximate the inequalities of the village of one thousand people. The rich will see the suffering and hunger of the poor in the very rooms of our common habitation. The household elicits from us the true recognition that, as King put it, "in a real sense, all life is interrelated. The agony of the poor impoverishes the rich; the betterment of the poor enriches the rich. We are inevitably our brother’s keeper because we are our brother’s sister and brother. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly."[9] To imagine such a household will require what King called a "revolution of values." "A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must be ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind (sic) as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies."[10]

Part of the revolution of values is a revolution of attitudes, a revolution of theological attitudes being foremost among them. A household cannot function on the underlying premise of exclusivity, though each community within the household may be exclusive in some things, such as its central rituals. A household cannot finally function on the underlying foundation of inclusivism either, for it will have to be our household as human beings, not ours as Christians, Muslims or Buddhists, to which everyone is welcome. No one community can set the terms for the whole. The underlying foundation of the world household will finally have to be pluralism.

In a household, people meet and live with one another at close range. The Hindu and the Christian know the Muslim and the Buddhist, who rise before dawn for prayer or meditation. Each community hears and overhears the prayers and sermons, the songs and silences of the others. Their privacy is respected. Occasionally there are invitations to join in. There are joint celebrations. Each community also hears and overhears the hypocrisy of the others. As in any household, we come to know one another at our best and at our worst. We cannot sustain our pretensions to perfection.

Whether globally or locally, the household provides the context for understanding one another, not as strangers, but as neighbors. Mutual understanding may well lead to mutual transformation, as each of us begins to catch a glimpse of the glory as seen by the neighbor. And above all, it provides the context in which the commitments of our faith can enable us to join with one another to solve the problems of our interdependent world.

But is this possible interreligiously? Thomas Merton, one of the foremost leaders in interfaith spirituality of our time, in lecture notes jotted down shortly before his untimely death answers in the affirmative. "I am convinced that communication in depth, across the lines that have hitherto divided religious and monastic traditions, is now not only possible and desirable, but most important for the destinies of twentieth-century Man (sic)"[11] John Dunne, another prominent guide in this area, expresses a similar conviction more graphically. "The holy man of our time, it seems, is not a figure like Gotama or Jesus or Mohammed, a man who could found a world religion, but a figure like Gandhi, a man who passes over by sympathetic understanding from his own religion to other religions, and comes back again with new insight to his own. Passing over and coming back, it seems is the spiritual adventure of our time."[12] Such a spiritual adventure is not only a new possibility, but also a new necessity, if we are to be neighbors in the religious diversity of our global village.

This has, among other things, implications for our worship, interpretation of scripture and preaching arising from shared visions of neighborliness in the religious diversity of our global village. Indeed, what we are talking about pertains to the business of interreligious dialogue. But the practical question has not yet been asked, let alone answered: how actually to go about it? This how-to question comes up especially in view of the assertion that in interfaith dialogue one is called upon to enter into another’s experience.

Perhaps religious imagination can provide such a point of entry into the heart of another’s personal faith. In recent years there has been much talk among theologians and religious educators about the necessity of a fertile and active religious imagination. The light of revelation, it has been realized, is received along the conduit of imagination, so that the imagination plays a vital role in the origin and continuing life of all religion. If our religious imaginations become dull and dry, our personal religious lives and our institutional religious practices cannot but lose their vital meaning.[13]

Crucial for the spirituality of the individual and of the community, the religious imagination can also be the springboard from which we can project ourselves into another’s religious world. One of the most scholarly and convincing cases for the central role of the imagination in attempting to converse with a religious classic or tradition alien to us has been made by David Tracy in his The Analogical Imagination.[14] For Tracy, the effort to interpret and converse with a classic, either of our own tradition or of another, is essentially the same as the experience of a genuine work of art. In it we must risk playing a "game,"[15] a game where truth is at stake; the truth of the recognition of our actuality and possibility, a game in which we have to abandon our intellectual control and our own self-consciousness and let our feelings and imagination take over. But what can seem less serious, more private, more the product of subjectivity than the game? Yet an understanding of the actual experience of playing a game yields surprising results. When I enter a game, if I insist on my self-consciousness to control every move, I am not in fact playing the game. Rather I am playing some curious game of my own, where self-consciousness is the sole rule, while all vulnerability and any ability to transcend myself are the forbidden moves in the only role or game I am willing to play.

Pure subjectivity can perhaps account for an inability to play, a refusal to act, an impossibility of ever entering any game other than one’s own self-designated role, the narcissist game where one is sole actor and sole spectator. But pure subjectivity cannot account for the actual experience of playing any game. Rather self-awareness and self-centeredness are lost in the game. In playing, I lose myself in the play. I do not passively lose myself. In fact I actively gain another self by allowing myself fully to enter the game. Thus do I allow myself fully to be played by the game. I move into the "rules" of the game, into the back and forth movement, the experienced internal relationships of the game itself. The game becomes not an object over against a self-conscious subject, but an experienced relational and releasing mode of being in the world distinct from the ordinary, nonplayful one. In every game I enter the world where I play so fully that finally the game plays me.[16]

This game of conversing with another religious tradition, if played with serious intentionality will lead us into an experience in which we find ourselves participating in a reality that perhaps we did not realize existed. Indeed, authentic religious experience, on the testimony of those all consider clearly religious, seems to be an experience of the whole that is sensed as the self-manifestation of an undeniable power not one’s own and is articulated not in the language of certainty and clarity, but of scandal and mystery. The religious person does not claim a new control on reality but speaks of losing former controls and experiencing, not merely affirming, a liberation into a realm of ultimate incomprehensibility and real, fascinating and frightening mystery. Surely this is at the core of all religious worship.

One of the most popular and proven methods of conversing with, of listening to and learning from another religious tradition is John Dunne’s process of passing over, to which we have already made reference. Dunne offers a general description of what he sees, and I personally would concur, as "the spiritual adventure of our time":

Passing over is a shifting of standpoint, a going over to the standpoint of another culture, another way of life, another religion. It is followed by an equal and apposite process we might call "coming back," coming back with new insight to one’s own culture, one’s own way of life, one’s own religion.[17]

From his more detailed description of this process—and from the way he actually carries it out in his explorations of other lives, other cultures, and religious traditions—it is clear that Dunne’s whole effort pivots on the use of imagination. One enters the feelings of other believers by allowing the symbols and stories of their lives and religious tradition to set off images in one’s own imagination. One then runs with the images, following them wherever they might lead. From this exercise in imagination, one has something to think about—data for possible new insights, new "theory." One then comes back to one’s own religious tradition with these new insights and tests them, perhaps appropriates them, in the praxis of one’s own life.

The technique of passing over is based on the process of eliciting images from one’s feelings, attaining insights into the images, and then turning insight into a guide for life. What one does in passing over is to try to enter sympathetically into the feelings of another person, become receptive to the images which give expression to his/her feelings, attain insight into those images, and then come back enriched by this insight to an understanding of one’s own life which can guide one into the future.[18]

Dunne points out that the possibility of such a passing over to other religious traditions rests on the recognition of the relativity of all beliefs or standpoints. No matter what I already know there is always more to know. No standpoint can be the end point. This relativity, according to Dunne, does not throw open the doors of religious relativism. On the contrary, the very experience of passing over guards against the conclusion that, inasmuch as every belief is relative, one cannot really know anything and must be skeptical about all knowledge, including religious knowledge. Passing over proves that although one never attains a final answer, one can come to more answers, real answers. The imagination is persistently excited; new insights are born; the horizon of knowledge expands. Like all of life, passing over is seen not as a nervous pursuit of certainty but as a freeing, exciting pursuit of understanding: "If I keep in mind the relativity of standpoints as I pass over from one standpoint to another, therefore, I effectively hold myself open toward mystery."[19]

Passing over, although it is mainly the work of the imagination, also requires some hard intellectual homework. Eliciting images from the symbols and teachings of another religion may not be as easy as it sounds. Usually some preparatory work must be done before one can correctly grasp and be touched by very different religious imagery. This preparatory step requires the usual historical, socio-cultural, semantic study necessary for approaching any person or classic of another time or culture. If we are dealing with a myth or doctrine, we will first have to try to grasp the basic contours of its meaning by situating and trying to understand its text, its place within a broader literary work, and its context, its historico-cultural world. We then turn this general grasp of its vision and images over to our imagination, and let our imagination takes us where it will—to new insights, to new images of the world, ourselves, God, to new modes of being in the world, to surprisingly different perspectives on the symbols and beliefs of our own religious tradition.

The course of such an adventure is indeed, an odyssey. It starts from the homeland of one’s own religious tradition, goes through the wonderland of other religious traditions, and ends in the homeland of one’s own. Much depends, if this is true, on the religious tradition where it commences and concludes. Gandhi began and ended in the Hindu tradition. He passed over to Christianity particularly, and Islam also, but he always came back again to the Hindu tradition. A Christian, in accordance with this, would begin and end in the Christian tradition, a Jew in the Jewish tradition, a Muslim in the Islamic tradition, a Buddhist in the Buddhist tradition. If we examine the matter more deeply, though we find that there is a more ultimate starting and ending point; one’s own life. One has to pass over, to shift standpoints, in order to enter the live of Jesus, even if one is a Christian, and then one has to come back, to shift standpoints again, to return to one’s own life. From this point of view all the religious traditions, even one’s own, become part of the wonderland in this odyssey. One’s own life is finally the homeland.

Lives too are the wonderland, especially the lives of figures like Gautama, and Jesus and Mohammed. It is by entering into their lives, by examining the pattern of their lives that one learns the real meaning of their words. Gandhi, for example, called his adventures "experiments with truth." Let us call ours that too, though we may come to somewhat different results. When we pass over to his life, we find that he was led by his experience to a transformation of violence into creative satyagraha, truth force. To pass over to Gandhi’s life we would have to examine our own lives, our own attitude to violence. His was also a profoundly simple life, like that of Gautama given to insight and the sharing of insight with others. Nor are the experiences of Gautama’s life uncommon – a life in the world, then a withdrawal into the wilderness, and then a return to society. What is uncommon is his insight into his own experience, his enlightenment. To pass over to Gautama’s life we would have to examine our own lives, our own withdrawal, and our return. If there is truth in this, it should be possible for us to find a basis within ourselves for understanding even such alien lives as these

Raimundo Panikkar, another veteran guide in the interreligious sphere, for all his occasional mystical evasiveness, clearly holds up mythos as the main data for interreligious interaction, data that can be grasped and felt only through imagination. The creative way his own imagination plays with and learns from the symbols and images of other religions is evident throughout his works, especially in his monumental The Vedic Experience—Mantramanjari.[20]

At the end of the final book of the Christian Bible is another kind of imaginative vision. At the center of this vision is a holy city where there is no darkness, for the glory of God is its everlasting light. The gates of the city stand open in every direction and are never shut. Through them come people from everywhere in the world, bringing into the city the "glory and honor of the nations." John’s vision draws on the earlier imaginative vision of the Jewish prophet Ezekiel (47:7-12), who also saw the city and the temple. In Ezekiel’s vision, a stream is flowing from underneath the main door of the temple sanctum, facing east. Gradually it becomes a great river. Its waters are the waters of life, pouring forth from the temple and bringing life, abundance, and healing wherever they flow. John, too, saw that river, flowing with living waters, though in the city John saw there was no temple, solely God alone. "The angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life...and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." (Revelation 22:1-2) And the water of life is free, "Let any who wishes take the water of life as a gift." It is a beautiful image. There is no temple, only the river of the water of life and healing flowing from the very presence of God. Significantly, Diana Eck confesses that, having crossed over from her home in Bozeman, Montana to Hindu Benares, she cannot read the final chapters of John’s imaginative vision without seeing Ganga Mai, "Mother Ganges" in her mind’s eye. For Hindu sisters and brothers it is the River of Heaven, encircling the divine city of Brahma, flowing from the foot of Vishnu and washing the lunar orb, cascades to the head of Shiva. It touches the earth on the top of its highest pinnacle, sacred Mount Meru, and then generously splitting into four channels to flow in the four cardinal directions, it graciously waters the entire earth with streams of blessing. "The stream of the River of Heaven I know best," says Eck, "flows south into India and even today skirts the sacred city of Benares where pilgrims come to bathe at dawn. But surely the Jordan is one of those streams of the River of Heaven—and the Gallatin as well."[21] Let the Word be proclaimed.


1. I find important Wilfred Cantwell Smith’s (The Meaning and End of Religion, reprint, Philadelphia: Augsburg Fortress, 1994) distinction of "religious tradition" and "personal faith" as two components of what we normally speak of as a "religion."

2. Diana Eck and students working with the Pluralism Project based at Harvard University, have collected these and many other examples, both in print and photographs, of the physical appearance of the new religious diversity in the United States. These are most easily accessible in the Pluralism Project’s CD-ROM, On Common Ground (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997).

3. W.C. Smith, "Objectivity and the Humane Sciences," in Religious Diversity: Essays by Wilfred Cantwell Smith, ed. E.G. Oxtoby (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), and p.178.

4. Ibid.

5. In the Office on Interreligious Relations at the WCC headquarters in Geneva, a poster bears the reminder "Oikumene is the whole inhabited earth – Not just the Christian part of it."

6. William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, Act 3, Sc. 1, line 214 f.

7. Benedict Anderson, in Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1983) investigates the process through which nations imagine themselves and imagine others and argues that it is through imaginative process that nations come into being.

8. Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (Boston: Beacon Press, 1967), p.167.

9. Ibid., p. 181.

10. Ibid., p. 190.

11. Thomas Merton, The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton (New York: New Directions, 1973), p.313.

12. John Dunne, The Way of all the Earth (New York: Macmillan, 1972), p. ix.

13. See, for example, Paul Ricoeur, Figuring the Sacred: Religion, Narrative and Imagination, David Pellauer, trans. ( Philadelphia: Augsberg Fortress, 1995); Paul D. Avis, God and the Creative Imagination, (London: Routledge, 2000); William Lynch, Images of Faith (University of Notre Dame Press, 1977); University of Dayton Review, Fall, 1980: the entire issue studies religious imagination.

14. David Tracy, The Analogical Imagination (New York: Crossword, 1981). See especially his chapters on "The Classic" and "Interpreting the Religious Classic," which might well be read as a handbook of guidelines on the nature of conversation with other religious traditions and the pivotal role of the imagination in such conversation.

15. Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens (Boston: Beacon Press, 1955) is of course, the classic modern study of the ludic character of human existence. Tracy follows Wittgenstein, who chooses the phenomenon of the "game" to understand the experience of language itself, and Gadamer, who uses it for understanding the experience of art. It is relevant to note that in this kind of "game," as distinct from other games, the spectator is necessary to play the game.

16. Tracy, The Analogical Imagination, pp.113-15. It is important to note that in his analysis Tracy emphasizes the attitude of the players. An attitude, as Gadamer correctly insists, is ontologically dependent on the phenomenon of the game itself. It is that reality that determines the attitude of the players, not vice versa.

17. Dunne, Way of All the Earth, p.ix.

18. Ibid., p.53; italics added. In Way of All the Earth Dunne attempts this with the lives of Gandhi, Gautama and Jesus. Other studies in which Dunne carries out his method of passing over: A Search for God in Time and Memory (University of Notre Dame Press, 1977); The City of the Gods (University of Notre Dame Press, 1978).

19. Dunne, Search for God, p.7, also p.ix.

20. Raimundo Panikkar, The Vedic Experience (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977). See also the creative way his imagination works with the Hindu symbols of Brahma and Isvara in The Unknown Christ of Hinduism (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1981), pp.97-162.

21. Diana Eck, Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Benares (Boston: Beacon Press, 1993), p. 231. Bozeman