Re: Science and the Mystic

Posted by Amaranth Rose on Mar 11, 2004 at 17:43

Re: Science (True)

All right. For once I'll shed my cowl and gown here and take up the cause of mysticism. Hopefully I won't do it too often!

For those of you who may not know or care, I am, in addition to being a Scientist, poet and writer, a legally ordained Minister. While my ordination is not in the Unitarian Universalist faith, I highly recommend their publication, "Building Your Own Theology", published by Beacon Press, available from the Unitarian Universalist Association, 22 Beacon Street, Boston, Mass USA as a very valuable tool in searching for your own guidelines to faith and religion (singular, lower case).

In the following, I'm making a distinction between Religions, plural, upper case, like Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Jainism, Buddhism, Hindu, Shamanism, etc., and religion, singular, lower case, which I will operationally define as that universal impulse that bends the spirit in reverence and awe.

IMHO, the only true religion (s, lc) is what an individual practices in how they treat the world, the living things in it, and themselves. They may think it's what they say they'll do, or what they hope they'll do, in a given situation, (which is their Religions (pl, UC)), but the sad truth is, it's what they actually do that reveals their true religion (s,lc).

Religion (singular, lower case) is what you find to guide your way through the crucible of life; if you've never been tested you don't know what your religion is. Most people's religion grows and develops, changing with their life experiences. Generally speaking, the people who've survived the worst experiences are the clearest about what their religion(s, lc) truly is. The ones that aren't need counseling, for the most part. Way down beneath Religions (pl, U C) is where you will find religion (s, l c), underneath all the varnish and veneer, all the gilding and the jewels, the pageantry and the rituals, the sanctity and the ceremony, the purity and the pedophily. Religion (s, lc) itself seeks to guide us in our actions toward ourselves, our neighbors, and the greater world so that we can see beyond our selfish, self-centered goals and help ensure the survival of the species, not just the individual, in the context of the greater universe.

Religions (pl, UC) are perhaps for some persons the only thing they encounter that seeks to bring their awareness beyond themselves and the little corner of the world they inhabit; it is their only broadening influence, and even that can act in a very narrow way.

Religion (s, lc) seeks to influence our awareness of others and how we treat them; Religions (pl, UC) seek to give us formulas and methods, labels and categories, scripts and situational guides to action. The underlying motive of religion (s, lc) is very simple and acutely austere: Love ye one another. Not love ye some of the others. It includes the ones that aren't like you, the ones whose beliefs are different than yours, or their gender, or their epidermal hue, or their sexuality, or their eye color, or their hair style, whatever. The motive of Religions (pl, UC) is to tell us how, exactly, we may behave in some situation or other when we encounter situations we find threatening or unfamiliar. Well, they have other motives as well, such as survival, replication, growth, control, and acquistion of resources, which tends to make Religions (pl, UC) somewhat resemble a living creature. For now I will try to stick with the first one.

When the Samarian took pity on the robbed, ill, injured, penniless man lying on the roadside, he was practicing religion (s, lc), in that kindness to another, while not necessarily of direct benefit to him, was the right thing to do in the greater scheme of things. It was an act that helped ensur the survival of the species, which has indirect benefits to the individual that are perhaps mostly intangible but still real.

In the acts of the others, scorning him and his people because they were Samarians, people whose Jewish ancestors had intermarried with the local tribes (a strict no-no, hence they were looked down upon as "fallen Jews", a very derogatory term), the point was being made that even though this was a behavior that was condoned by their Religions (pl, UC), it was not at its heart what religion (s, lc) was about.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is a useful teaching tool if we inspect it for what it is: a tale contrasting religion (s, lc) on the one hand with its antithetical behavior as personified by the discriminatory, derogatory behaviors illustrating the effects of Religions (pl, UC) on the behaviors of its adherents. This pattern of story as teaching tool can be found in many cultures, even to the Japanese story of the Tea-Master and the Ronin. Whether the lesson is the Parables of Jesus or the eight-fold Path, or anything in between, it is possible to discern, if one is able to see, the contrast between Religions (pl, UC) and religion (s, lc) and choose wisely.

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