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Multiple dimensions and textures of transcendence are evoked not just by reflection on humans in their relationship with God and community but also by encounter with bonobos—primates that are very close genetic kin with humans. The promise for theological reflection is rooted in bonobo social adaptation as a highly cooperative species. Bonobo sexual behavior accompanies and expresses a high level of social intelligence. The point of my project is not a scientific one intended to argue persuasively for individual self-awareness or self-transcendence in bonobos. Instead, it emphasizes connectedness, interdependence, and sociality as windows on transcendence. Such a view does not require consciousness or intellectual recognition of self-in-relation, but it certainly presumes embodiment of self-in-relation. Various textures of transcendence reflect multidirectional relationships among Pan paniscus (bonobos), Homo sapiens, and the Sacred.

Keywords: bonobo; immanence; language acquisition; panentheism; process thought; social organization; transcendence

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9744.2009.01018.x

Affiliations: Professor of Theology and Philosophy of Religion at Saint Paul School of Theology, 5123 E. Truman Road, Kansas City, MO 64127;, Email: howellnr@spst.edu.

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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