Defining (a) Religion

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by path_of_one, Feb 1, 2010.

  1. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Not quite. What I said was, generally speaking, paganism as it is practised today is largely the fantasia of the Romance Movement. It's philosophy owes more to the social dynamics of the early-mid 20th century upper middle classes than to any continuity of a tradition.

    Actually that kind of prejudice doesn't really help advance your argument.

    But this age is all about its obsession with re-invention! The whole of Western Consumer Culture works on the principle of reinventing the self one doesn't like.

    It seem to me the last thing we need is more fabrication.

    Isn't this just another case of robbing a spiritual tradition to repackage some 'magic formula' for the masses?

    Actually I like Moriarty, but then he's not into consumerism.

    Not one word of which is original, is it? Not one word of insight.

    I refer to the Dalai Lama: "If you can't find what you're looking for in ... (insert religion of choice) ... then I suggest the fault is with you, not the religion."

    The last thing we need is man-made religions, or more rampant spiritual consumerism.

    Thomas
     
  2. shawn

    shawn Well-Known Member

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    Agreed, they have the appearance of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh, with all their man-made regulations.

    A good case to scrap the Christian religion, as well as Islam.
    Unless we like living in bondage that is.
    If not, then pharaoh must be left behind.
     
  3. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    In my view, the philosophical distinction between body (Gk: soma) and the flesh (Gk: sarx) is what sets them apart. Certainly it seems to me that modernism has reduced soma to sarx, the body to mere flesh, and renders it a consumable, a meat to be traded like any other.

    Thomas
     
  4. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Hey Path, I found this:

    So there you have it, a definition of religion as 'a reasonable life'. Justin was a philosopher before a Christian, and a Stoic, so his idea of 'reason' is according to the Stoic idea of the Logos.

    But then, that does mean everyone's a Christian:eek: :D

    That'll go down well!

    Thomas
     
  5. path_of_one

    path_of_one Embracing the Mystery

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    No problem- I do have resources (books, websites) if you want them.
     
  6. path_of_one

    path_of_one Embracing the Mystery

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    That is all fascinating. Will have to mull it over. Energetic frequency, as I mean it, is not so much a common nature as a specific purpose and essence. I suppose I should break this down... it's out of my own mystical experience and so it might be a bit difficult to put into language, but I noted that you speak a lot of a song... and this is precisely what I have experienced. So I'll give it a shot.

    There is our body. It disintegrates after this life and returns to the earth.

    There is our soul- it has three parts (minimally) and potentially four (but perhaps not for everyone).
    1. Our etheric soul or "animal" soul- the energy of life as an animal body. This also returns to the earth after this life, but it is separate from our body and can do various things our body can't do.
    2. Our aura, or "talker" soul- the human soul and field of consciousness that surrounds us, takes in information of various kinds, and processes it. The part of us that communicates with others, both physically and psychically. I am not sure if this holds memory and survives or not, to be honest.
    3. Our "god-soul" or divine soul- the part of us that has the potential to commune with God. This part of us survives, and its memory and cultivation of a relationship with God forms the basis for the afterlife. This is also our energetic essence, which I experience as sound. I had a vision at one point of disintegrating (I left my body entirely) and I was a sound in a great Song. I was a single, essential sound. This was the real me, and when I was this sound, I forgot all about all the things I thought were me. I was entirely consumed by the Song and my small part of it. And I felt an incredible sense of peace and love and freedom in being wholly consumed by this infinite, complex, eternally beautiful Song. This is how I see creation- God is the force and being that manifests all of these sounds (including me) and the underlying order that makes them so beautiful... if and when they are willing to be consumed by what they really are, and be wholly devoted to the Song itself.
    4. Potentially, a fourth element of the soul, and perhaps not for everyone, is a broader field of consciousness that is both one being and many beings, that holds memory on its own as a sort of information storage device and to which individual beings within it can "plug in."

    I am not sure what you are saying about "new and improved." I think the soul either has three or four parts, or potentially, you might say the soul is only #3 above, and the other parts are something different. But in my own beliefs and practices, what I am going for is precisely what you are saying- oneness with God and oneness with all beings.

    Well, yes. Each sound is an essence of an individual, and these beings- at least some of them like humans- can choose whether or not to sing their sound.

    That's a great way of putting it. I quite agree. You might be surprised that you and Feri witchcraft seem to have identical beliefs on the matter. :) Basically, the way I see it- our essence, or soul, always longs after God. However, we have the capacity to forget our soul and our connection to God and to all other beings. It is in this forgetting and distancing that we become less than whole.

    Yep, I entirely agree. This is exactly what my mystical experience entailed.

    Well, not exactly. At least not for my own beliefs and those of some Pagans. In general, we don't necessarily believe that the purpose of reincarnation is to work toward the perfect life. Rather, the purpose of life is to live, and to fulfill whatever one's individual purpose might be- which is to say, to sing one's unique note in the song. For me, every life has its significance in that I have a choice to serve God and love my fellow beings or not. I am not after perfection so much as consummation. Perfection implies a goal or destination that I don't think exists, at least for me. The point of living is to offer myself to God, and to be a vessel for God's love that I can pour out toward other beings. That is all, really. The rest is details that change life to life. You might say, in a Christian sense, the point is to live in heaven where ever and whenever one is. God is always available and calling us, will we listen? We can always learn, give, grow, love- are we willing?

    God is. All beings are. That about sums it up for me. Not sure if I'm saying the same thing or not. As I see it, we "live, move, and have our being" in God. From Her all has manifested, and unto Her all will return. There is nothing outside Her reach, just beings that may have temporarily forgotten they are within it.

    And that is what makes the song beautiful... the diversity in the unity. The many in the One.

    I am not sure I get what you're saying. Are you saying the soul is co-dependent, or co-arising, with the self (personality, genetics, etc.)?

    Why would you think there is an end product? There is no point, in my own belief, to reincarnation... except that some beings may have something they are to learn, or to give and teach, or simply... some beings may like being incarnated. Perhaps some beings were manifested/created to incarnate continuously- this is part of their purpose and nature. I don't think there is a single goal, an end product, or one purpose to reincarnation.

    So far as I understand it in my own experience and belief, I reincarnate because that's what I'm meant to do. It's part of my little note in the song. Whether or not others do- I haven't a clue. I don't think everyone sings the same note. So maybe a lot of folks live one life and go to heaven. I don't know. I can only speak for what seems to be my own experience and a belief that fits with it. And I can only say that while the idea of heaven was lovely, God asked me to give it up and to accept whatever God's will is for me, however long it is that I am called to incarnate. So I pretty much did, and am content with being in relationship with God and learning to serve other beings, and whatever comes after I die, I will try to meet with the same willingness to go where God puts me.

    If I understand you correctly, no one has ever achieved theosis, because humanity has never been in a state of theosis as a whole. I disagree, but then, I am not only concerned with humanity. I have a more ecological view and am really concerned with all beings- on earth and beyond. I think there are countless beings out there, and if unity with God is dependent on all of them reaching theosis, it seems that we have a difficult situation- because without unity with God in some beings, the drive to change their overall consciousness (what Jung would refer to as the collective unconscious) is absent. The change has to come from somewhere.

    Is this somewhat like the collective consciousness of those awakened to God? I'm trying to relate in more general terms. I get what you're saying in Christianity, but trying to see how this would translate to religions where there is no "church" but there is a sense of a group of people doing the Great Work of transformation of self and humanity.

    I can understand (I think) what you're getting at. I'd say it this way- let me know if you think it is similar: without manifestation (including me), God Herself existed as only a singularity, as latent power and potential. God Herself began to know and love Herself (and all in Her) when she began to manifest beings. I am real because what is held in Her embrace is real; She is real, and perfect in Her self-knowing, because She has no limitations and suffers no illusions about Herself or any of manifest reality.

    I don't deny the reality of myself. Rather, I see myself as not knowing myself fully, and so the "me" I think I know isn't the "me" I really am. The "me" I really am is an essential core, a sound of my soul, that at first is so foreign that the ordinary "self" (my personality and whatnot) is fearful to become it. It is in dying to this "self" that I am able to live in the state I really am- the real me.

    And I agree- God Herself had no need to manifest reality, but She did. Whether that is a "choice" or simply part of Her nature is to me, an unknowable and immaterial question. But there was no need- manifesting reality was out of love within Herself. You might say, God loved Herself, so manifest reality came into existence.

    It really is difficult, isn't it? Especially in this sort of writing. Mostly, I write poetry and create art to express mystical experience. In trying to write about it this way (and in the book I'm currently working on), it's incredibly difficult, and often loses its meaning. I really think mysticism is something that can be shared between mystics- but the more poetic and the less dependent the sharing is on words... the better.

    Oh, on this note, I don't think anyone is much closer. Basic glitch in human nature- whether one calls it original sin or problems with human evolution- the result is the same. There are certain attributes of humans that disrupt the soul's work and must be dealt with somehow.

    The struggle for me is that I want a community that really practices what it preaches, and I want it to be primarily focused on serving other beings. And this is very, very hard to find. It just isn't what most groups are primarily cut out to do, it seems.

    By the way... the more I have learned of Catholicism, particularly as it is practiced and the diversity inherent in it, the more I have been able to see it as a universal sort of religion. There is quite a bit about that doesn't fit with my beliefs, practices, or needs, but I appreciate it a lot. There's a depth of history there, and while it has had lots of problems and injustices and causes of suffering to humanity, it also has a lot of beauty and wisdom. Two of my co-workers are Catholic and we've had some interesting conversations. I suppose what I am appreciating is the open-mindedness, the tolerance, and the thoughtfulness behind beliefs. Makes life interesting and happy. :)
     
  7. path_of_one

    path_of_one Embracing the Mystery

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    Well, from a social scientist perspective, all religions are man-made. From my own belief, most religions are grounded in humans' attempt to express their experience of God, their ethics, and so forth.

    And to also paraphrase the Dalai Lama from In God's Name: "We need different religions because they help different kinds of people. It's like food. Not everyone likes spicy food. Only some people do. There are lots of kinds of food because there are lots of kinds of people. It's the same with religion."

    Not everyone "fits" with the religion they are born into. I really don't think the Dalai Lama was saying any religion is fine and any person fits in any religion. I think it was more saying that one's dissatisfactions and challenges will be present where ever one is (with or without religion, in fact!) and so one might as well pick a tradition and stick with it. Though obviously from his other thoughts, he must think a person may need time to find the right flavor.
     
  8. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Again, this is not a my way/thy way, but correspondences ...

    To us, the body is the means by which the soul 'materialises' itself, so we don't accept the old dualism of the body and soul being two separate things, or the gnostic idea of the body as a prison or container for the soul. Rather, the body is the projection of the soul according to the medium in which it finds itself.

    Having said that, the relationship between the two has become inverted ... in theory (or rather in speculation) the soul can and should be able to manifest any physical form it likes (and in the less glutinous worlds, can do so) ... I'm not saying shape-changing, necessarily, but rather that the soul can present to another soul the image of itself which is more 'real' than the material and surface image.

    A soul in possession of its own soul faculties can determine what a lesser soul sees, or does not see ... this is not 'power of the mind' or some order of psychic persuasion, it's to do with self-projection ... disclosure ... revelation ... This all ties in to the post-Resurrection sightings of Jesus ... the clues are all there in Scripture.

    The other idea is that we never had physical bodies. Essential human nature is one, although unitive, but did not have gender, rather reproduction would have been in the order of ideas, rather than physical generation ... a new idea would be a new life, a new soul ... harking back, rather like two notes causing a third note? Or a harmonic? Not sure if the analogy works...

    Physical generation and garments of skin became necessary when man surrendered his unitive being to enjoy his own singularity ... and suddenly found her/himself naked and alone, surrounded by strangers ... s/he didn't even recogise her/himself ... still doesn't. without a 'surface' to preserve her/him, she/he would have vanished entirely ...

    We see the soul the same way — mineral, flora, fauna, human, spiritual — and so encapsulating the whole world in itself, as it were. There's also accounts of movements in the soul ... straight, circular, spiral ...

    Beautiful account of your experience, by the way ...

    I think we agree in the broad stroke, but maybe differ in the detail.

    Our view is that God creates, and when the soul is brought into being, the end is already there (God is eternal), so the idea of perfection is to be that which we were created to be.

    That's perfection! "Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect" Who is this perfect being ... what is this perfect being? God. What is God? God is love.

    We believe that love is God living, and singing, in the soul ... when not in love, it's just that we don't hear the song, haven't focussed our attention ... we were made for love, made to love ... love is all there is (etc., etc.)

    But self-love, which began in Adam and continues today, is not true love. The seven deadly sins are, I think, aspects of self-love. That's what renders them deadly, they cut off the person from love.

    I'm saying the soul is the core, I suppose ... the 'self' is the (limited) conscious awareness of the itself of the soul ... know thyself is know thy soul, when you know your soul, all barriers disappear.

    Theosis in that sense is not an individual state, it's a cosmic state ... but 'provisional theosis' or individual degrees of realisation, yes ... Some 'sleep in Christ' and others are 'awake in Christ' ...

    The Church is a presence ... I'm really not wanting to go on with that, at this moment in time ...

    I think in principle very similar, so the below is not difference, so much as perspective ...

    We would say there is no latency or potentiality in God, as they are conditional modes of being. God is, eternally, absolutely, infinitely, unchangingly ...

    Again, we're struggling on the limits of language, as God has no beginning, but I see your point, and this sets up an apparent duality: God and God's self-knowing — which we call Father and Son — the Father begets the Son eternally, knows Himself in the Son, but because God is perfect, the Son is likewise perfect and everything that God is ...

    Again, but this we call Holy Spirit ...

    The point for us is the principle of manifestation must be in the Divine Nature first ... God will not manifest if it is not in the Divine Nature to do so.

    Equally, we would say (some of us) all manifest reality is unreal because it susbists according to the Will of God, God is the only 'thing' that exists of Itself.

    We exist by participation in the real.

    That is the human condition, currently.

    Again, and increaingly so, some would declare. I said above that man was more 'plastic' or more immaterial in its foundation ... many agree that this process of thickening is continuing. Far from the modern assuption of 'progress', the movement is cyclic, not linear, and we are still moving towards the low point of the cycyle.

    My dear old pagan father in law was railing against mobile phones just recently. He used the analogy of the white man turning up in foreign lands and buying off the natives with beads and trinkets ... now, he declares, we dazzle ourselves with our own trinket-technologies, and think we're so very clever, so much better off, so advanced ... so evolved ... Lord, it took ages to calm him down!

    The inner man and the outer man, as it were.

    Absolutely ... we only argue that point in the face of those who argue that God 'must' do this or that ...

    One might say God saw Herself and thought, 'this is too good to keep to Myself', so created other things to share in that.

    And some.

    Pax et bonum!

    Thomas
     
  9. Radical_Reformer

    Radical_Reformer Interfaith Forums

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    I have some serious reservations about the existence of the soul. Can you offer what you believe is a convincing argument for its existence ?

    I believe that a strong argument can be made that the soul is purely fictitious.
     
  10. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Hello Radical Reformer —

    Well you would have first to accept the data of the Bible.

    Then build a reasoned and logical argument from that, as Aquinas does, for example, in the First Part of the Summa:
    If you do not accept the data of Scripture, then its a moot point.

    Undoubtedly ... Buddhism for one mounts a compelling argument within the context of its own doctrine.

    So really it's a matter of what doctrine one embraces.

    Thomas
     
  11. Snoopy

    Snoopy zennish

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    Me too and Hokusai as well. :)

    s.
     
  12. The Undecided

    The Undecided Well-Known Member

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    Agreed. Very good point.
     
  13. The Undecided

    The Undecided Well-Known Member

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    I am a firm believer in the idea that all religions, and philosophies too, are based on universal truths. This is why the scriptures of so many different religions agree with each other. So the defining of each religion is either to give the person making the definition a sense of spiritual identity or to create a barrier between themselves and another group of people. The latter invariably causes conflict, the former is ok as long as one doesn't begin to think of oneself as better than others because of thinking that our definition/religion is the only correct one. These definitions/boundaries are man made anyway, so I would not worry about trying to define a religion, or 'your' religion. Defining a religion for yourself is not necessary, just believe in what you believe and be open to all other points of view.

    TU:D
     
  14. nativeastral

    nativeastral fluffy future

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    hi Path, as an anthropologist, where you hear from adherents of a religion that its 'a way of life', you can apppreciate why some would prefer the term 'worldview' rather that 'religion'.
    valk_2009.pdf religion or worldview
     
  15. Radical_Reformer

    Radical_Reformer Interfaith Forums

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    Yes, and some folks just like to make waves. :D
     
  16. path_of_one

    path_of_one Embracing the Mystery

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    Absolutely. Of course, a worldview need not include religion, though religions usually include distinctive worldviews.

    Certainly, it is difficult in a way to fully classify some traditions of Druidry, for example, as religion. Lacking a common theology, doctrine, and so forth, yet sharing similar ways of viewing the self and cosmos, common ethical concerns and virtues, etc. renders it more like a worldview... yet they do all these ritual and symbolic things and are generally animist, so it's sort of like a religion.
     
  17. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Hi Path —

    I recall reading somewhere that Rome, which was generally pragmatic about non-Roman religion, as long as you made all the right noises re the Roman cults, but they persecuted the Druids with some vigour?

    Again, if memory serves, 'Celtic' is something of a generic term, cos it covered all of Europe, and thus a number of different tribes and peoples, but the Druids could move between them with relative ease, and religious respect ... it the Romans reckoned it was the Druids inciting revolt and ferment, spreading news, carrying messages, etc.

    I'm assuming there would have been local gods and regional deities ... and that the Druids in a way transcended those ... or spoke a general language?

    My BA (Divinity) course finishes this July. I wonder what my tutors will think if I tell 'em I'm starting a BA (Druidry) course next! :eek: :mad: :D

    Thomas
     
  18. Penelope

    Penelope weak force testosterone

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    Thomas:
    But this age is all about its obsession with re-invention! ... The last thing we need is man-made religions, or more rampant spiritual consumerism.

    Thomas, we live in a consumer world.
    (So did the Jews in Jesus' time, by and large. And there was "rampant spiritual consumerism" then, too. As you well know.)
    Live with it.

    (Spiritual sources aside ... Thomas, I feel sorry for you if you ACTUALLY believe that Christianity - or Paganism - is NOT a "man-made religion"!)

    & & &

    Today "Roman Catholicism" is just another brand-name, one which you personally have brand-loyalty to. But it is just one of many brands, out there, for those looking to 'buy into' (or invest with) some religious faith.

    The Pagan-revival, if it is going to have any economic (or political) clout ... is going to have to put its brand-name and logo and "product line" (tenets of belief, ritual practices) out there, too.
    (Religion has always been big business and big politics ... as soon as it stops being a fringe 'cult.' From your knowledge of history, you know this dam' well.)

    The shallow and the deep have always gone hand-in-hand.

    William James:
    The world we see that seems so insane is the result of a belief system that is not working. To perceive the world differently, we must be willing to change our belief system, let the past slip away, expand our sense of now, and dissolve the fear in our minds.

    Seems to me that this is what Eco-Paganism and other new 'cults' are trying to do.

    But frankly, I prefer William James to Eco-Paganism.

    I see no Ecological insight within mainstream Christian Theology, till very recent times. Christian Theology is so rooted in, and bolstered by, classical Metaphysics - that it privileges Mind as seated somehow above and separate from the material facts of the world.

    William James:
    The 'I think' which Kant said must be able to accompany all my objects, is the 'I breathe' which actually does accompany them.
    and
    Knowledge about life is one thing; effective occupation of a place in life, with its dynamic currents passing through your being, is another.

    For all the wonderful theological shadings which your lovely colloquy with Path has revealed (to us all), if Christianity is to prevail as a viable religion in the future, it will first have to toss classical Metaphysics to the wind and begin its Theology virtually anew, upon firmer - more modern - foundations.

    Or one must jump ship, from Christianity entirely, as Path has done. And build one's faith, from one's feelings, up.

    & & &

    Thomas, I don't much like Eco-Paganism. But you stated puff-ball prejudices against this religious cult, not arguments. It needs to be taken seriously, in a planet which may be on the verge of ecologically destroying itself.
    (The Pope's soft-Environmentalism ain't going to do the job.)
    But I will not defend Eco-Paganism and its thinkers. In my view, they carry the wrong answer (which I may lay out, at some point).

    If you want to attack a serious-minded modern 'spiritual' figure whom I will defend ... attack Henry David Thoreau.

    And then you will see my teeth.
     
  19. path_of_one

    path_of_one Embracing the Mystery

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    What is Eco-Paganism? How is it different from deep ecology or just plain 'ole Paganism? Curious...
     
  20. path_of_one

    path_of_one Embracing the Mystery

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    No. My argument is all based in my own experience, and what to me is the most logical reasoning about this experience.

    Your mileage would vary considerably.

    Of course. But a strong argument and truth are not synonymous. A color-blind person could make a strong argument that red and green are not separate colors. And it would be correct, in its own way- for that person. But then, for a person who is not color-blind, they could argue just as strongly that red and green are in fact distinct.

    Perhaps those that do not experience or believe in a soul do simply end after this life. Who knows?
     

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