maandag 13 augustus 2018

The personal belief of Gerry van Klinken

On 12 June Gerry van Klinken celebrated the beginning of his new life as 'pensionado': the freedom of retirement. First there was a conference of two days with papers and speeches about civil rights and status of citizens in pre-colonial Southeast Asia. The final lecture was for Gerry himself who talked not about Southeast Asian history or present status, but about his personal belief.
Wilfred Cantwell Smith has written much about the difference between institutionalised faith and personal belief. They can be quite different, so beware of all kind of too easy statistics!
To my surprise, Indonesia did not play a role in his vision, unless a short remark that he had 'abandoned the last relics of his Christian belief during the wars in Maluku'.
Gerry started with singing: an ancient Greek hymn to Apollo for his fighting the dragon Python and stabilizing, giving order to the world! Then he moved to Socrates, as described by Plato, giving his views about events and myths in a philosophical discourse about the ideal state, a theoria, a true vision, not a lifeless theory in some science to be applied and interpreted.
Lucretius De Rerum Natura had been of much influence for him in his vision of human beings amidst the universe. Lucretius did what Nurcholis Madjid would call sekularisasi: forget the myths, look at the things around as part of the universe that includes also human beings. Material things and conditions are not divine. But Van Klinken did not need Nurcholis or other indonesian people, he likes here Lucretius.
The last model figure here was Spinoza, who formulated the phrase: Deus sive natura,  God or nature are interchangeable: all nature is 'divine'  so to say and the divinity is not separated from nature, instead. Therefore there are ethical commands inherent and clear for all rational people, also for politics: republican and democratic values against monarchy and dictotorship.
The talk is on the KITLV site, available to be read (code: 12062018).
When reading Hamzah Fansuri about the 'unity of being' the wihdatul wujud, unity of man with nature, with other human beings as a condition that includes the divinity, I feel the company of Spinoza, compatibility with the contemporary religious author, as well.
But also now concentrating on the traditional religion of Timor, where Sun and Moon are symbols for a sublime and ultimate reality, shared and supported by the ancestors, I see that also Indonesian spiritual poetry can contribute to our understanding of man amidst the universe. For a Professor of Indonesian Culture and Society, I found this neglect of Indonesian aspects somewhat surprising.

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