Monday, March 26, 2007
Saturday, March 24, 2007
And understanding is based on experience. Academia, physicalism, agnosticism, pomo relativism, and the ordinary “man in the street”, all do not have any experiences of non-physical states of existence. Not having experienced these things, they then reject them, because these realities don’t fit into the consensus paradigm of secular modernity that postmodernism is a part of.
Qoth Shakespeare in a line that has become a cliche but is nonetheless still as true now as ever: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” (Hamlet Act 1. Scene V).
[Nothing matters to the occultist/esotericist/traditionalist/guenonist/neofolkite but their own little elite incomprehensible magic circle. Postmodernism is Jewish, but at least knows that occultism is, and has always been, a sham]
A knee-jerk response like the above makes one consider psychological factors. Something I said has obviously touched a raw nerve!
Consider the resistance to occultism and esotericism that many more conservatively minded people have (I don’t mean politically conservative, I mean secular or religiously conservative, not wanting to explore or acknowledge possibilities beyond one’s own belief system). Looking at it psychologically, you will find that this resistance to anything outside one’s own sphere of understanding and belief is based ultimately on fear. Psychologically, the secular materialist, radical agnostic, and exoteric religionist all tend to build up a wall of fear (which they are generally not even aware of), because they themselves can’t conceptualise anything beyond the five senses. Hence they think what is being said must be crazy, and they project that quality of craziness that they are imagining onto the person saying or writing about these things.
Add to this the sublimional conditioning by the Church (such as the Exorcist movies, based on Catholicism), and the fear-based suggestions by mainstream media (like the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare of some 15 years back that was reported as fact by the straight-faced mainstream media). None of which is based on authentic occult or esoteric understanding, it doesn’t have the slightest connection. But it still helpss pump people full of fear regarding this subject by association with the world “occult”. So Christians will use bible language, and sceptical agnostics will use academic language like “guenonist” and “neofolkite”, in an effort to banish the threatening possibility that maybe there may indeed be something beyond their own limited and claustrophobic belief-system.
Sorry to be so cynical
I did google that book you referred to. By the way, I don’t follow newspaper astrology columns either.
It is also worth pointing out that many of the world’s greatest occultists were Jewish; Abramelin, Max Theon, Israel Regardie… and of course the Kabbalah, one of the greatest occult systems ever developed, is Jewish esotericism that is even accepted by many ultra-orthodox (such as the Chabad Hassidism).
I do not wish to criticise the great value pomo has as cultural criticism. But you wouldn’t hire a motor mechanic to explain to you about art history. Why believe a sceptical agnostic when it comes to esotericism?
It has always been my position that a true integral philosophy has to take iunto account occultism, something Wilber has been unwilling to do, perhaps for fear of offending mainstream academia (who still consider him a New Age crank in any case; check out some of the discussion in the Ken Wilber talk page archives on Wikipedia). This is why the Integral movement has to go beyond Wilber, to accommodate people like Gebser and Aurobindo.alan kazlev Says: March 23rd, 2007 at 7:18 pm Hi Edward, Yes, good point! Regardie is not in the same league as Crowley or Mathers or Theon or Blavatsky! Mea culpa. His contribution was really in popularising the Golden Dawn and also providing another perspective on people like Crowley who had been over sensationalised (something Crowley himself seems to have encouraged).
There are many lodges that trace descent and authority from the GD. GD Kabbalah is very different to the original Judaic form. Read Gershom Scholem for an excellent introduction to Jewish Kabbalah. The genius of the GD is that it constituted - through Mathers, one of the greatest esoteric syncretists of the 19th century, he was an \”integral occultist\” if you want to use the Wilberian definition of the adjective) a synthesis of all practical occult knowledge that was known at the time (just as Blavatsky did for the theoretical side). However the GD still represented a Hermeticised form of Kabbalah, notwithstanding Mathers\’ The Kabbalah Unveiled (which was an english translation of a latin translation and interpretation of the Hebrew original). Dion Fortune presents a good theoretical introduction to GD/Hermetic Kabbalah.
I do remember Edward that rather than poo poo your experiences I was actually very impressed to hear that you ahd previously been involved in a Hermetic lodge. My apologies if I didn\’t articulate this. However I was and am disappointed that you haven\’t carried those insights through to your current understanding. The insights of GD practical magic are such as to completely overturn secular physicalism and radical agnosticism. Especially because practical magic has real effects, and these effects cannot be explained within a conservative secular paradigm. Like so many things, they are anomalies, that have to be resisted, denied, explained away, and ignored. In this context Thomas Kuhn\’s paradigm hypothesis, and its further applications by people like Charles T. Tart (Transpersonal psychology) and Fritjof Capra (New Paradigm/New Age - see The Turning Point) is extremely pertinent.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
- By fundamentalist I mean a belief in the inerrant literal Word of God for all doctrine and morals as found in the Bible. Common in English-speaking evangelical churches, Pentecostalism, Southern American Baptist Churches, born agains, etc.
- Liberation theologies works from the starting point of the experience of the poor and marginalized of our world. They are the context and medium (a 3rd magisterium after The Bible and Tradition) of God's word and salvific liberating praxis/action in our world.
- Liberal theologies start with human experience and culture. Liberation theology can be considered a sub-set of liberal but generally liberal support a middle class status-quo socio-economic structure and tend to focus on issues like women's empowerment, gay and lesbian struggles, anti-war, etc. The upside is an ability to listen to the Spirit working outside the Church. The abolition of slavery is a great example, as well as women's ordination (women's rights grew outside the Church). The downside is that it can often be unclear how one is different than social-political liberation movements.
- Conservative theologies--modern conservative theologies as opposed to fundamentalist modernizers--start with the Christian story and emphasize non-comformity to society (as do liberationists but with different aims and for different reasons). The upside (usually) a stronger sense of identity and of one's sacred story/narrative. The downside, in a postmodern world how does one argue that this story is any different/better than all the others? As well as possibility of being so story focused that the human element of the church and ethics is left untouched, leaving oppressive structures in place.
An excellent summation of Pope Benedict (Joseph Ratzinger) and his modern theological outlook here from Commonweal. Benedict is one of the greatest of these modern conservative theologians. Another great Catholic modern conservative theologian is Hans Urs von Balthasar, a influence on Ratzinger. Ratzinger's biggest influences are Augustine and Bonaventure (13th century Franciscan Augustinian). In Protestantism, the name most associated with modern theological conservativsm is Karl Barth. I've been getting more interested in the work of Hans Frei and the rise of what I call postmodern conservatives. Alisdair MacIntyre, Stanley Hauwervas, and John Milbank I think fit this category. (Ross Douthat too?). They promote a conservative ethos and communal reflection but do so in a postmodern worldframe.
Frei described his theology as "post-liberal." (Commentary here). Frei's work opened up avenues in Biblical studies towards literary theory and narrative study to the Biblical text. Prior to that in source criticism and form studies, the Bible had been read for historical content or sitz im leben (life-situation) of the stories, either in oral or literate culture.
Frei began to notice that the stories were crafted no matter what the sources and/or original form/life situations of the texts, especially in their hypothesized oral stage. These conservative theologies of the narrative variety have gained a strong following in terms of music, aesthetic, and dramatic portrayal of the Christian story in more evangelical circles. Some of these reflections are high quality--sadly a lot more is not (Christian pop & rock).
The issue all of these theologies struggle with, as Frei himself knew, was the move from an assumed Christian story/worldview to the rational Enlightenment modernist one (and now postmodernist worldscape). Once the Christian story was no longer the de facto organizer of reality, then what?
Liberals tended argue either for eternal truths from the text (Jesus as Great Moral Teacher for example) or the Bible as History (Historical Jesus Studies). Evangelicals, born agains, and charismatics Pentecostals have generally given up on the story and engagement with the world and can easily fall into individualistic experience based theologies and churches.
These conservative traditions---Balthasar and Frei especially--retained this notion of proclaiming the story, the narrative and seeping the world in the Christian vision. Like I said it has its limitations as an absolute path, but I'm finding that I've neglected this lineage and need to find more outlets for it. Don't know what that means for now but keeping it as a pray and desire of my heart. posted by CJ Smith @ 9:22 PM 0 comments
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Of the two, Breaking the Spell makes the subtler claims. Dennett argues that religion, by unwritten proclamation, enjoys an amnesty against criticism unknown to any other field of human thought and behavior — an unwarranted amnesty. He then goes on to show how logically and even spiritually impoverished religious faith has become in much of the country, pointing to the spread of market-based evangelical churches, where God’s purpose seems to be aligned with the crassest self-help books: Here’s how God can help you with your finances and love life.
Dennett also points out the phenomenon, which he refers to as “belief in belief,” by which many self-identified people of faith now operate. That is, belief in religion entails accepting certain doctrines as true, whereas belief in belief only means accepting that certain doctrines are desirable. By adhering to the second, one avoids the messy and difficult task of actually engaging one’s faith, and gets instead wish fulfillment: You want to be part of a higher meaning; you say you are; you are. But religious faith and spiritual searching are not so easy, and Dennett rightly deplores the vacuity of proclaiming one’s “spirituality” — as though it were a tool of self-promotion — without actually grappling with the difficult issues religion and spirituality pose.
As for The God Delusion, Dawkins essentially offers an overview of theological debate from Thomas Aquinas to Nietzsche, pointing out that the pro-God-ists have taken a lot more hits in the last few hundred years than they’ve dished out. The match likely culminated with the mid-19th-century philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, who finally just stepped off the canvas: Yes, he said, to believe in God we must defy reason; but we want to believe in God; therefore, we must make a leap of faith, bounding over the chasm reason presents, to land safely in the warm embrace of blind conviction.
But then Dawkins, and to a lesser extent Dennett, did something that critics did find easier to deny, or at least reject, which was to argue that most religion (Buddhism being a notable exception) is fundamentally opposed to the flourishing and progress of the human species, representing a way of thinking built around ignorance, illogic, and unreason, and dedicated, for the most part, to spreading these attributes as far and wide as possible, at the tip of a sword if necessary.
Critics responded by pointing out that religion hasn’t an exclusive claim on slaughter and tyranny — look at Stalin and Mao, they suggested, who were both secular mass murderers of millions upon millions. Yes, the critics said, God and dogma have caused a lot of terror and torment, but were there no gods and no religious dogma, the endless immolation of every living thing would still be the predominate rule of human existence. Engaging in the hypothetical history required to indict religion in contrast to secularism is bound to be a fruitless task, they said; as the poet T.S. Eliot once observed, to ask whether we would have been better off without religion is to ask a question whose answer is unknowable.
But there is a more interesting dynamic at work in these books. What Dawkins and Dennett seem to be doing on at least some level is reacting — with the anger of an unbeliever who has been unremittingly proselytized his whole life by people and institutions who believe they know something he doesn’t, and who, in their warm pity, want to let him in on the big secret. “But look at your big secret!” they each say. “It’s a ridiculous pile of anachronistic nonsense and ignorance, dated and unnecessary, and, in fact, illogical. It’s nasty and exclusive — when it’s not evangelical. If it’s Biblical, it can only be adhered to in bits; most of it is too bizarre, amoral, immoral, irrational, and untrue (6,000-year-old earth; Noah’s Ark; etc.) to countenance. The same goes for the Qur’an and the Bhagavad Gita. You believe in God in spite of history and discernable reality, not because of it!”
Within this tête-à-tête between belief and non-belief lays the crux of the issue at hand: proselytizing. There are very few of us who enjoy being proselytized, and Dawkins, Dennett, and their cohorts are getting in a couple of digs at the entrenched movement of religious society against the unconvinced. The digs are by and large legitimate — as any undergraduate religious studies major can tell you, the intellectual subtleties of St. Augustine, St. Aquinas, and Immanuel Kant notwithstanding, reasoned justification for God ended around about the time of David Hume, in the mid 18th century. When Nietzsche said, “God is dead,” he didn’t mean God had died, he meant that, morally and reasonably speaking, God’s existence could no longer be argued for — and he was right.
Yet people want to believe in God, and for many of them, doing so is ennobling and enriching. Christ’s fraternity with the poor, Muhammad’s invocation of God’s compassion and forgiveness, the mysticism of the Upanishads — these are things that help us inhale life’s tremors and exhale equanimity. And they can help us to understand and appreciate that which is alien to us. So perhaps Kierkegaard was right: Even if it takes blind faith to do it, embracing one’s desire to embrace God is perhaps not such a bad thing. Of course, as Dennett points out, to take such a course of action would be to believe in belief, not to actually believe. For actual belief, I like to think of Philip Roth. Roth summarizes, in his gloriously funny book Operation Shylock, Jewish religious faith thusly:
God sent Hitler because God is crazy. A Jew knows God and how He operates. A Jew knows God and how, from the very first day He created man, He has been irritated with him from morning ’til night. The goyim smile: God is merciful, God is loving, God is good. Jews don’t smile — they know God not from daydreaming about Him in goyisch daydreams but from living all their lives with a God who does not even stop, not once, to think and reason and use His head with His loving children!
Now there’s a God I can sign onto. But I’d rather not. The Santa Barbara Independentvoices home » opinions » voices
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Monday, March 05, 2007
Intriguing as the spandrel logic might be, there is another way to think about the evolution of religion: that religion evolved because it offered survival advantages to our distant ancestors. This is where the action is in the science of God debate, with a coterie of adaptationists arguing on behalf of the primary benefits, in terms of survival advantages, of religious belief.
The trick in thinking about adaptation is that even if a trait offers no survival advantage today, it might have had one long ago. This is how Darwinians explain how certain physical characteristics persist even if they do not currently seem adaptive — by asking whether they might have helped our distant ancestors form social groups, feed themselves, find suitable mates or keep from getting killed. A facility for storing calories as fat, for instance, which is a detriment in today’s food-rich society, probably helped our ancestors survive cyclical famines.
So trying to explain the adaptiveness of religion means looking for how it might have helped early humans survive and reproduce. As some adaptationists see it, this could have worked on two levels, individual and group. Religion made people feel better, less tormented by thoughts about death, more focused on the future, more willing to take care of themselves. As William James put it, religion filled people with “a new zest which adds itself like a gift to life . . . an assurance of safety and a temper of peace and, in relation to others, a preponderance of loving affections.”
Such sentiments, some adaptationists say, made the faithful better at finding and storing food, for instance, and helped them attract better mates because of their reputations for morality, obedience and sober living. The advantage might have worked at the group level too, with religious groups outlasting others because they were more cohesive, more likely to contain individuals willing to make sacrifices for the group and more adept at sharing resources and preparing for warfare.
One of the most vocal adaptationists is David Sloan Wilson, an occasional thorn in the side of both Scott Atran and Richard Dawkins. Wilson, an evolutionary biologist at the State University of New York at Binghamton, focuses much of his argument at the group level. “Organisms are a product of natural selection,” he wrote in “Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society,” which came out in 2002, the same year as Atran’s book, and staked out the adaptationist view. “Through countless generations of variation and selection, [organisms] acquire properties that enable them to survive and reproduce in their environments. My purpose is to see if human groups in general, and religious groups in particular, qualify as organismic in this sense.”
Wilson’s father was Sloan Wilson, author of “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit,” an emblem of mid-’50s suburban anomie that was turned into a film starring Gregory Peck. Sloan Wilson became a celebrity, with young women asking for his autograph, especially after his next novel, “A Summer Place,” became another blockbuster movie. The son grew up wanting to do something to make his famous father proud.
“I knew I couldn’t be a novelist,” said Wilson, who crackled with intensity during a telephone interview, “so I chose something as far as possible from literature — I chose science.” He is disarmingly honest about what motivated him: “I was very ambitious, and I wanted to make a mark.” He chose to study human evolution, he said, in part because he had some of his father’s literary leanings and the field required a novelist’s attention to human motivations, struggles and alliances — as well as a novelist’s flair for narrative.
Wilson eventually chose to study religion not because religion mattered to him personally — he was raised in a secular Protestant household and says he has long been an atheist — but because it was a lens through which to look at and revivify a branch of evolution that had fallen into disrepute. When Wilson was a graduate student at Michigan State University in the 1970s, Darwinians were critical of group selection, the idea that human groups can function as single organisms the way beehives or anthills do. So he decided to become the man who rescued this discredited idea. “I thought, Wow, defending group selection — now, that would be big,” he recalled. It wasn’t until the 1990s, he said, that he realized that “religion offered an opportunity to show that group selection was right after all.” « Previous Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Next Page » Robin Marantz Henig, a contributing writer, has written recently for the magazine about the neurobiology of lying and about obesity.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
In discussing the "God" of the new religio-scientific synthesis, we should comment here on an apparent contradiction in Fr. Seraphim's prognosis. In one place Fr. Seraphim says that the new God will be that of the deism of Freemasonry and the Enlightenment, and elsewhere he says that Teilhard is the predecessor of the New Religion -- and Teilhard, as we have shown, was a panentheist.
Upon close examination, however, the difference between deism and panentheism is seen to be more one of degree than of substance. In his Survival Course, Fr. Seraphim pointed out that, "in terms of religion, deism was perhaps the most typical movement" of the Enlightenment, but at the same time the deistic philosophers of that time replaced God with "Nature" as their central concept, and some called God "the soul of the world." Fr. Seraphim described the Enlightenment ideal as follows: "Nature ruling over everything, the mysteries of Nature being discovered, God still being in His heaven although not doing very much, and scientific knowledge progressing over the whole world." The Enlightenment thinkers were fully in the tradition of modern science, which arose during the Renaissance out of a kind of "natural mysticism" -- and even, as in the case of Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), out of the marriage of science and total pantheism.In his book The Making of the Modern Mind, J. H. Randall, Jr., writes that, in the Enlightenment, the ideal of the Natural was "that which men wanted to realize themselves; and it easily passed over into the Divine. Nature was God's model for man; nay, it was the very face of God himself." In this way, Enlightenment deism passed over not into pure pantheism, but into a kind of deism/panentheism. Enlightenment thinkers kept their impersonal deistic God "in heaven, not doing much,," but their religious interest became directed toward the "face" of God which they identified with impersonal Nature.
If Teilhard de Chardin is indeed the prophet of the future combination of science and religion, then for the most part this combination will be not purely pantheistic, but rather deistic/panentheistic. It will be remembered that Fr. Seraphim called the famous evolutionary scientist Theodosius Dobzhansky a "deist" after reading Dobzhansky's "theological" statements -- and Dobhzaansky was an admirer of the panentheist Teilhard de Chardin.
But it is a secondary point just how far the future combination of science and religion will go on the scale from deism to pure pantheism. The main point is that, unlike the scientific materialism of today, the religio-scientific synthesis of tomorrow will have a "God," and it will not be He Whom Teilhard disparagingly called "the Father-God of two thousand years ago." It's "God" will be vague, and it will not be Personal.
The same can be said of the "Christ" of the New Religion. Already we can see within the mainstream culture a concerted effort to reinterpret Christ so that He is no longer threatening to the fallen human nature and to the devil -- so that He is no longer a Saviour.
If, according to the neo-pagan view, both we ourselves and Christ (together with everything else) are but diffusions of the Divine Nature, then there is nothing for Christ to do but guide us back to gnosis of what we already are. This idea, of course, is precisely the idea that is now being promoted under the guise of being the authentic, esoteric teaching of Christ. In actual fact, it is but a revival of the ancient gnostic heresy, based on pagan philosophy, that was rightly condemned by the early Fathers.
Ken Wilber speaks of the teachings which are being "rediscovered" in the gnostic texts:
Quote:It is obvious from these texts that Jesus' primary religious activity was to incarnate in and as his followers, in the manner, not of the only historical Son of God (a monstrous notion), but of a true Spiritual Guide helping all to become sons and daughters of God.... Elaine Pagels points out that there are three essential strands to the esoteric message of Christ, as revealed in the Gnostic Gospels: (1) "Self-knowledge is knowledge of God; the [highest] self and the divine are identical." (2) "The 'living Jesus' of these texts speaks of illusion and enlightenment, not of sin and repentance." (3) "Jesus is presented not as Lord but as spiritual guide." Let us simply note that those are precisely tenets of Dharmakaya religion.
Here is a clear example of the denatured Christianity of which we spoke earlier. Christ is seen as a vague concept of ultimate Good, the belief in Him as the only begotten Son of God is rejected as a monstrous notion, and the idea is put forth that we ourselves can be just like Him. This is a crucial element in the "religion of the future," for by it the Antichrist will actually be convinced that he is another incarnate Son of God.
In an outward way, the imitator of Christ will appear as a kind of saviour, solving man's economic and political problems and offering to satisfy his spiritual aspirations through what Fr. Seraphim called a "melting pot" of science and world religions. On a deeper level, however, the real saviour will be seen as evolution itself, moving forward in a natural development of this world into the Kingdom of God. The last great deceiver, who in the end will pretend to be Christ, will be seen as but another magnificent product of evolution.
Rose, Fr. Seraphim (2000). Genesis, Creation, and Early Man: The Orthodox Christian Vision. Platina: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2000, pp. 557-567. March 02, 2007 Permalink