RE: MD quality religion

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sat Mar 13 2004 - 22:21:31 GMT

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    Wim, Sam and all MOQers

    Sam said:
    ...I'd rather get on with the conversation than have yet another exhausting
    digression with people about what counts as a religion or mysticism or not,
    but I still think we need _some_ sort of container in which to hold the
    debate, and I think the SQ/DQ language is the most appropriate. What do you

    dmb says:
    Yes. I agree that SQ/DQ language is the best. However, despite your wish to
    avoid another "exhausting digression", I think there is no way to avoid a
    discussion of religion and mystical experience. In fact, the SQ/DQ
    distinction is what seperates them and this is precisely where the SQ/DQ
    distinction provides so much explanatory power. I agree with Eckhart, who
    said, "Those who seek God in ways will find ways and not God." As I
    understand it, religious ways are static and God (DQ) is not. And it seems
    that Pirsig desribes the differences between religion and mysticism in SQ/DQ
    terms too...

    "In all religions bishops tend to gild Dynamic Quality with all sorts of
    static interpretations because their cultures require it. But these
    interpretations become like golden vines that cling to a tree, shut out its
    sunlight and eventually strangle it."

    "Phaedrus saw nothing wrong with this ritualistic religion as long as the
    rituals are seen as merely a static portrayal of Dynamic Quality, a
    sign-post which allows socially pattern-dominated people to see Dynamic
    Quality. The danger has always been that the rituals, the static patterns,
    are mistaken for what they merely represent and are allowed to destroy the
    Dynamic Quality they were originally intended to preserve."

    dmb continues:
    Just in case anyone is tempted to think of Pirsig as the odd man out in this
    debate, we can see the same basic idea, although expressed in various terms,
    in the words of Gerhard Wher, C.G. Jung, Matthew Fox, Joseph Campbell, Ron
    DiSanto and Bruno Borchert....

    In an essay titled C.G. Jung in the Context of Christian Esotericism and
    Cultural History Gerhard Wher writes:
    "The real problem is that it is not enough merely to deal with the
    testimonies of the religious or spiritual traditon by means of the known
    methods of philology and histrorical and textual criticism. That would be to
    seek to grasp the mystery of Christianity purely in external terms, that is,
    exoterically. However, esoteric spirituality that is worthy of the name is
    primarily concerned with the development of personal inwardness, with one's
    own experience and with transformation. A theology without experience is
    hardly is a position to mediate that spiritual knowledge and spiritual
    direction which is nowadays sought more than ever."

    "I was equally sure that none of the theologians I knew had ever seen "the
    light that shineth in the darkness" with his own eyes, for if they had they
    would not have been able to teach a "theological religion," which seemed
    quite inadequate to me, since there was nothing to do with it but believe it
    without hope. This is what my father (a Reformed pastor) had tried valiantly
    to do and had run aground. .. I recognized that this celebrated faith of his
    had played a deadly trick on him, and not only on him but on most of the
    cultivated and serious people I knew. The arch sin of faith, it seemed to
    me, was that it forestalled experience."

    Matthew Fox The Coming of the Cosmic Christ:
    "The Christian West was too alienated from its own mystical tradition to
    resist this secular effort to eliminate a living cosmology, symbolized
    religiously by the Cosmic Christ. Augustine's theology, which heavily
    influenced the philosophy of Descrates, has no Cosmic Christ. Augustine's
    preoccupation with human guilt and salvaltion offered no resistance ..."

    From J. Campbell, volume three (P449) of THE MASKS OF GOD...
    "It is a law of our subject, proven time and time again, that where the
    orthodoxies of the world go apart, the mystic way unites. The orthodoxies
    are concerned primarily with the maintenance of a certain social order,
    within the pale of which the indivdual is to function; in the interest of
    which a certain 'system of sentiments' must be instilled in every member; in
    the defense of which all deviants are to be, one way or another, either
    reformed, deformed, or liquidated. The mystic way, on the other hand,
    plunges within, to those nerve centers that are in all members of the human
    race alike, and are at once the well springs and ultimate receptacles of
    life and all experiences of life."

    From the Guidebook to ZAMM, page 23...
    "In the spiritual traditions of both the East and the West - I am thinking
    not about particular religions, but about the mystical element to be found
    in them all - we find the claim that eventually one must let go of the
    activities of thought and imagination in order to enter regions of
    consciousness that such symbolic activity cannot reach. The journey then
    becomes no longer a matter of metaphysical musing and horizontal ramblings
    but a matter of vertical plunging (or rising) toward what T.S. Eliot
    referred to as 'the still point of the turning world'. We might say the
    journey becomes journeyless."

    "Whatever nuance the language of union is given, if there is to be talk of
    mysticism, some sort of deep union must be involved. It perhaps cannot be
    emphasized enough that to speak of mysticism is to speak of an EXPERIENCE of
    union and not merely speculations about union." (Guidebook to ZAMM P27)

    From MYSTICISM: Its History and Challenge by Bruno Borchert says that in the
    mysticism of the East, such as Japanese Zen, "cultural pursuits are actually
    used to encourage the right atmosphere for mystical experiencs: archery,
    raking a garden tidy, tea drinking, painting, paradoxical speech, Za-Zen
    during the daily routine. Culture plays a big role in Western Mysticism too,
    but often is a negative sense: the individual withdraw from society because
    its culture is felt to be too coarse, too rich, too oppressive. When this
    attitude leads to a counterculture, a mystical culture will often arise
    within it based on experiences of a reality that is rewarding enough to
    mitigate life's hardships. Such a counterculture came into being very early,
    in the 4th century, when Christianity, having become the state religion,
    clothed itself in imperial purple and employed civil power to enforce a
    specific doctrine concerning god."

    dmb concludes:
    At the risk of using TOO MANY different voices to illustrate the point, let
    me use Alan Watts' anology to summarize it. He says that when it comes to
    mystical experience most of us Westerners are like deaf people at a dance
    performance. Normally, we can NOT hear the music. Those of us in the
    audience utterly rely on the ability of these dancers to hear the music and
    interpret it well on our behalf. All we can do is guess about the mysterious
    music, based on the dancer's movements. In this analogy, the dancers are the
    church leaders, the prechers, priests, bishops and such. The problem with
    religions in the West, says Watts, is that the dancers are deaf too! This
    leaves most Westerners in the sad position of having to rely on deaf music
    teachers, of marching to a drumer whose never heard a beat. Our religious
    leaders are presenting the audience with "a theology without experience",
    have committed "the arch sin of faith" and have otherwise "strangled" DQ and
    "shut out its sunlight".

    Jeez, my feet are sore!

    If the task of religion is to guide a soul toward the point where he or she
    can hear the music for themselves, (and I think that IS the primary purpose
    of religion.) then surely the quality of each religion should be ranked and
    measured by how well it achieves that task. By that standard, Western
    religions have failed. If there is one that can be said to function at all,
    I would very much like to know about it.

    ...So, the nominees for best religion of the year are... Zip. Zero and Nada!
    (Wild applause)

    ...And without further ado, the winner is... Nobody!

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