RE: MD quality religion

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sun Mar 21 2004 - 20:17:03 GMT

  • Next message: Sam Norton: "Re: MD quality religion"

    Jim and all MOQers:

    Jim Ledbury wrote:
    Maybe we ought to do a Big Brother and vote a religion out of the house
    until we have a winner ;-) ..Might take too long though.

    dmb replies:
    Hey, that's a pretty good idea. (And welcome to the nut house, Jim.) If
    nobody objects we could start by nixing Scientology, Voodoo and all forms of

    Jim wrote:
    I apologise if this observation has been made before, but maybe the
    distinction between mystical and religious experience is that a mystical
    experience is an transcendental individual relationship with the cosmos
    whereas a religious experience is a trancendental relationship with humanity
    (and perhaps via that to the cosmos).

    dmb says:
    Yea, maybe that's right. I'm pretty sure there is a wide range of mystical
    experiences, and if Ken Wilber is right that range is a kind of hierarchy
    that is marked by increasingly deeper or wider modes of consciousness. On
    the other hand, I suppose there is also a wide range of "religious"
    experiences. If Joseph Campbell is correct, for the rites and rituals of any
    religion to be effective in transforming the consciouness of the
    particpants, they must first be instilled with a "system of sentiments".
    Basically this means that all of the symbols, icons, gestures, coreography
    and all the other paraphenalia of the ritual must first be infused with
    meaning. Only then can the participant be moved. I believe I've experienced
    both of these, but neither of them occured in a church.

    "Perceptual modifications follow,... Emotions are intensified... The
    intellect is drawn to the analysis of complex realities and transcendental
    questions. Consciousness expands to include all these responses
    simultaneously. ...a feeling of union with nature...dissolution of personal
    identity...beatitude or even ecstasy... terror and panic..." LILA P35

    Jim wrote:
    Although I can't help David in his quest to find transcendance within
    the context of a particular Christian (or other) denomination, although
    technically atheistic myself I do find that I have a deep sympathy with
    the some aspects of Christianity, which I don't really find with other
    religions. Perhaps this is related to having being brought up as a
    Christian and relates to David's Jung quote "...if we desert our own
    foundations as though they were errors outlived...", although I have had
    some similar sympathy with aspects of Buddhism and Daoism.

    dmb replies:
    That's right. Like it or not, Christ is the central hero of Western
    civilzation. There's no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. As I
    understand it, the churches of the West have become obsolete and
    dysfunctional for complicated historical reasons. But I've also come to see,
    because of thinkers like Campbell and Jung, that the power and profundity of
    the myths that underlie and inform Christianity have remained untouched by
    that historical process. And the religions of the East are extremely helpful
    in our excavations of those myths. There is a mystical core found in all
    religions both East and West and this mystical core is also expessed in the
    Christian myth. (My so-called quest for a functional church is a bit of a
    put on. You'll find that I'm pretty much the resident gadfly with a penchant
    for cruel humor. My pleas to Sam, Wim and Don are really just aimed at
    egging them on, at lighting a fire under their butts.) I know mysticism is
    buried under the surface of Chistianity and so we don't need to abandon our
    cultural hertitage to find a connection to the cosmos. We Americans have the
    added advantage of a second source of mysticism buried deeply in our

    "Americans don't have to go to the Orient to learn what this mysticism stuff
    is about. It's been right here in America all along." "Phaedrus remembered
    saying to Dusenberry just after that peyote meeting was over, 'The Hindu
    understanding is just a low-grade imitation of THIS! This is how it must
    have really been before all the clap-trap got started." LILA P408

    Jim wrote:
    I can only feel that it was his discovery of this transcendental human
    ethic that gave Jesus his strength to go to the cross. I can find very
    real meaning in the concept that "he died for our sins". I can find
    similar resonances in all aspects of profound self sacrifice to the
    human ethic.

    dmb says:
    Indirect responses tend to bug me, but here I go with one anyway. Have you
    heard about Mel Gibson's THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST? There's been some
    controversy about anti-Semitism in the movie. (Mel's father is a holocaust
    denier and one of Mel's main sources was an anti-Semite too.) But what I
    find interesting is the breadth and depth of the gap between those who loved
    it and were moved by it on the one hand and those who were disgusted and saw
    it as little more than an excessively graphic and prolonged gore-fest. It
    seems to me that the latter are those who have not been brought into
    whatever "system of sentiments" and beliefs that would allow them to be
    moved rather than nauseated. As you might have guessed, conservative
    Christians, especially fundamentalists, are the ones who love the film and
    the secularists and intellectual class hates it. I've only read about it,
    but based on that I'd guess my reaction would be different than either
    group. I'd guess that Mel misses the point. Or rather, I think the film
    renders a shallow and literalistic picture of Christ. Based on who is loving
    it, I'd guess the film is emotionally manipulative and highly sentimental
    rather than an artful picture of transcendence. But if we read this story of
    death and ressurection as a myth about the mystical experience, then it is
    not so much that he died for our sins so much as he shows us how WE EACH
    must die in order to live. Its a myth about the dissolution of the ego. I
    think your reading of the Christ, as a hero for justice, is far, far better
    than the fundamentalist reading. That's how I see lots of great moral
    leaders too. Socrates, Ghandi, Lincoln, etc, but it still falls short of the
    mystical heart of the myth. (Not that one reading precludes the other. Not
    at all. One of the amazing things about myths is their multivalence and
    ability to be read on ever higher levels.)

    "He seemed to remember a book he'd always wanted to read called THE MASKS OF
    GOD. (A four-volume set by Joseph Campbell.) You could discover a lot about
    a culture by what it said about its idols. The idols would be an
    objectification of the culture's innermost values, which were its reality."
    LILA P401

    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."

    Jim wrote:
    ...But you probably do need a sympathy with them before the quality in these
    words becomes evident, and one cannot simply treat them as intellectual
    propositions and expect the same effect. It is in this manner that one
    could I guess experience transcendence in a Mass.

    dmb says:
    As Pirsig puts it, we don't practice rituals because we believe in God. We
    believe in God because we practice rituals. In other words, ritual effects
    us on a level that is not intellectual. Its prior to intellect in the same
    way that language is prior to intellect. They are pre-requisites for our
    thoughts and beliefs. I don't really doubt the ability of rituals to inform
    us in this way. If Campbell is right, the great cathedrals of Europe are
    like great machines for transformation. And one can imagine how impressive
    such a thing must have been to an illiterate 15th century peasant. The first
    time he stepped inside probably blew his mind. Add some fancy rituals,
    incense and sacred music to the stained glass and impossibly high ceiling
    and you've got yourself a quite a dazzeling spectacle. But if you've ever
    seen Pink Floyd in concert or been to Disneyland on acid... just kidding -
    sort of.

    "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."


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