Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Yin Yang of religion

When I made the comment about the "neurotic nun" who saw the "Sacred Heart" being used to stop the emphasis on rules in a Catholic revival in France, I was not criticizing neurotic nuns.

I refer to James' The Varieties of Religious experience (Wikipedia summary):

He believed that religious experiences can have "morbid origins"[4] in brain pathology and can be irrational but nevertheless are largely positive. Unlike the bad ideas that people have under the influence of a high fever, after a religious experience the ideas and insights usually remain and are often valued for the rest of the person's life.[5]
Why, yes. This is true, whether you are talking about St Margaret Mary, St Faustina, Martin Luther, or the Buddha.

Ancient religion was often a ritual by priests (in ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia) to keep the Gods from smashing you. There was also a "live a just life" aspect (see Egyptian pyramid texts) if you wanted to go to heaven. This is a "lateral" experience, where religion was about rules and justice (which is good, unless you are the poor peasant who gets punished for minor infractions against the establishment).

But the reaction to this burden by those seeking God/enlightenment was often neurosis, because they can't follow all those rules... the personal experience let them get a personal relationship to the deity/enlightenment as more important than ritual (see the Gita, Buddha, or your local Pentecostal church) and often leads to a peacefulness in life, loss of neurotic worries, and a personal kindness that is a balm to everyone they meet.

Of course, this can also lead to excess zeal one one hand, or a "I'm spiritual not religious" experience, where the personal high of knowing God  has nothing to do with helping others.

 But as a whole it can lead to social reform from below, either a renewal of society or a complete breakdown of the social order. This is not just European: The history of Buddhhist thought in China and Japan show similar infuences.

The emphasis on mercy renews the neurotic and is a godsend to the poor, who often are too weak to follow the rules (or break them out of need). But this weakens the idea of "rule of law", so it can also send out the idea to the sociopath types that rules are allowed to be broken with impunity.

Put name of your favorite sociopathic politician (or religious leader) in blank.

So te Yin and Yang of religion is going on in the Catholic church, with the Pope on the side of Mercy at a time when some of us think he should be pushing the idea of law like the Old Testament prophets who condemn not only divorce but bribery and corruption and cruelty toward the poor.

Micha, call your office...

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