The Beams of the Absolute and The Struts of Discipline: Religion in the Post-postmodern Age by Chris Dierkes
Friday, 15 January 2010
As noble a goal as immanental transcendentalism was (and still is), it expressed itself via two major flaws in the postmodern age. Those twin errors have reaped untold amounts of suffering as well as caused nearly irreparable confusion regarding how we approach the ultimate.
The first flaw was that postmodernity had no real mechanism for differentiating between and judging amongst the various forms of immanental expression. In extreme cases, just about anything that could be expressed—anything within this world and particularly within one’s experience—was considered to be salvific.
A prosaic example is the notion, common since the 1960s, that the intellect is anti-spiritual and what you need to do to become more spiritual is “get into your feelings”—as if any old feeling were automatically more enlightened somehow than any thought. Martin Luther King Jr. you may recall had a dream, not a feeling. Dreams are visions that involve the mind.
This same virus has infected not only individual spiritual seeking but also social-political movements. By the (il)logical rigor of the position that feelings expressed are the mode of liberation, the Tea Party protests in the
this year were a great enlightening event—according to postmodern thought. It was a collective form of immanence and hence therefore, according to this school of thought, salvific. United States
In terms of collective expression of will—if that alone is what is salvation—then there is no difference between the Civil Rights movement and the Tea Party protests. None. Not spiritually, emotionally, or psychologically.
At which point of course postmodernists—generally not fans of hard right-wing American views—would likely balk and say something to the effect of “well I didn’t mean that kind of expression.”
And the phrase “that kind of expression” shows the limits of postmodernity and traps itself in its own self-inconsistency. In other words, that kind of expression understood to be somehow wrong or immoral shows that not all kinds of immanence are equally transcendent or salvific in nature.
Yet, generically speaking, postmodernity lacked any rationale as to why it held the opinions it held regarding which forms of immanence were valid and which forms were invalid. It all became essentially a matter of emotional preference, leaving individuals increasingly alienated from one another (because of their feelings!!!). As I will argue later in more detail, alienation (i.e. the avoidance of relationship) is the primary form of sin—or the breaking of the link to the transcendent. If that is true, then we are lost in a collective practice of sin.
The second flaw of postmodernism with regard to religion was not having a sufficiently grounded yoga or practice—or spiritual technology—to help illuminate the transcendent in the immanent in a profound and really transformative way.
An example. I mentioned earlier that Jacques Derrida towards the end of his life spent a significant amount of time studying and writing on negative theology (traditionally called apophatic theology). Though the term apophatic usually refers to Jewish, Christian, and Muslim mystical theology, there are Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoism versions of apophaticism (though they go by a different name)… Derrida—here representing the postmodern urge and mood—never undertook those practices (so far as I can tell by his writings on the subject)…
As such, postmodernity became a “talking school” of spirituality and religion. It was still all too identified with the eye of mind. All of the postmodern writers above, though they write beautifully and at times transcendentally, have no real way of teaching how they got to the point of view that they did that offered them such a majestic vista on the life process. Without a mature intellectual understanding of the spiritual nor a practice to help reveal and deepen it in one’s life, postmodernism floundered. 6:20 PM 9:26 AM