Sunday, 29 August 2010

Spirituality - my reasonings....

I can't believe based on 'faith alone' without 'reason'. A reasonless faith can believe anything. This can lead to complete confusion, and delusion, usually at the hands of preachers, clergy and gurus.

Nor do I find 'reason' alone adequate to account for my spiritual and holistic experience of the world and of myself. Reason appears to be a machine or tool of discernment but which needs to receive some kind of feedstock in order to create a 'world view'. A machine without something to work on, results in nothing.

It seems to me that our understanding of the world and science is the result of reason working upon the basic datum which is 'sensation' filtered through careful measurement and recording of observation. But cannot spirituality also involve a basic datum which is similarly worked upon by reason? Yes I think the basic datum upon which reason 'operates' in relation to spirituality is the 'mystical experience'. The mystical experience is 'intuitive'. And it is characterised as di-polar. The mystical experience is both an intuition of a fundamental 'unity' of all things, and also by a pluralistic numinous experience encountered in different parts and aspects of nature.
Reason focussing on 'unity' tends to deduce a monism or monotheism;
Reason focussing on the plurality of numinous experiences posits an animism or polytheism.
But then reason realises these either-or rationalisations fail to encompass the di-polar nature of mystical experience. One 'bridging' rationalisation of the mystical experience is 'pantheism'. The universe provides the unity and the plurality - it is one reality encompassing plurality.
However this rationalisation is wholly 'immanentist', and somehow also unsatisfactory. Why?
Because the mystic experience is not purely 'one-way'. It is not just an intuition, but also an emotional response and longing. The response and longing is a desire to go beyond finititude, a desire to 'transcend' the limited nature of our existence in time and space and physical bodies.
This is the desire for 'transcendence' and, I think, the 'other side of the coin' to the mystical experience. Now if pantheism is the rationalisation of both the intuition of unity and numinous plurality, then it seems to fail to provide a transcendent goal or fulfillment. But if the desire for transcendence exists so strongly co-joined with the mystical experience, does this not point to the fact that transcendence is really possible? I think so, and thus we cannot afford to 'lose' the transcendence neatly done away with by a pure pantheism.

But transcendence is a problem for many people of a 'rationalist' mind set. For trying to rationalise transcendence as a concept, the machine of rationalisation (to continue our earlier metaphor) can break down. Generally, for modern people, reasoning involves understanding the relationship between things in the universe, where again, the feedstock is sensation that has been processed via the 'filter' of the scientific method. Our everyday kind of rationalisation apparently cannot 'work upon' that which is not of the universe, though the possibility of transcendence is hinted at by purely abstract concepts, logic, axioms and universals and the possibility of idealism, which notions seem to inform and give an absolutely necessary metastructure to reason itself. A denial of the real existence of the purely abstract leads reason into a morass of relativism and soliphism. However an acceptance that abstract logic and axioms and universals are not always instantised in worldly examples but 'free-floating' is also at odds with all everyday experience.
Reason itself I think demands that there is a transcendent reality to 'ground' the abstract and idealistic notions suggested by the structure of reason. Having then 'discovered' the need for transcendence 'by the back door' as it were, reason immediately wants to be reductionist and now transcendence seems all important. We end up again equating the transcendent reality to the 'object' of the 'unity' intuition of the mystical experience. Clearly the numinous plurality is now left without a rationalisation if a purely immanent pantheism is unworkable. The answer for that conundrum superficially appears to be to identify the plurality with the transcendent, requiring after all, a transcendent polytheism. But oh, dear, we have we have again lost contact with the 'unity' intutition....and so it seems we can never find a rational framework for our spiritual life.

Ultimately we seem forced to either dispose of reason in our spirituality or doubt the mystical experience itself is veridical. I was close to this view only a few months ago.
But reason still suggests we have one possibility left: that we can have transcendence and an immanent grounding for the mystical experience of unity and numinous plurality. What is strange is that this possible rationalisation, or rational 'output' takes our di-polar mystical experience very seriously, also our transcendental longing, so that the solution was always speaking to us from the character of our mystical experience/longing, but not adopted rationally initially because it seems to be less parsimonious than a 'simpler' reductionism to 'unity' or 'plurality' with 'transcendence' or 'immanence' respectively. The rationalisation is that reality is itself 'di-polar' and so exactly consistent with the mystical experience itself, thus providing a system that avoids the logical problems and reductions to absurdity that result from any form of strict and pure monotheism, polytheism and pantheism. The rationalisation has a name: it a form of 'heno-theism' or 'pan-en-theism'.

So which is it, henotheism or pan-en-theism. They are not quite the same thing. For this rationalisation itself comes in 'two flavours' or 'emphases'. The rationalisation says there is an underlying and supreme 'unity' to reality that is 'divine' where any object of the mystical experience is understood as being properly labelled 'divine'. . But the mystical-divine quality also extends to every being 'to some degree. That there are two 'flavours' come from our subjective positions and prejudices I think, not because there are really two rationalisations we must choose between'. In pan-en-theism, the transcendent is all unity, and the numinous plurality is all immanent; the mystical-divine quality of the plurality is not so emphasised - the numinous is related to a panpsychism or animism and that the unity provides an ordering and a goal for the plurality. Henotheism allow that there is a plurality even in transcendence or at least ramps up and emphasises the 'divinity' within the immanence. The truth is probably some further synthesis of pan-en-theism and heno-theism, but for now we know that our conceptualisations are true to the mystical experience, transcendental longing and reason.

Presently I have chosen my preferred emphasis is Henotheism because it can ground a pagan type religiosity without recourse to association with the 'revealed' religions of the book. And once we have our rationalisation and conceptual framework we can then find we understand many ancient pagan existing religions and cultures. For humankind has long had henotheistic traditions though only as fringe spiritualities in recent centuries in the West ; For henotheism is exemplified by religious communities who believe in a supreme principle and ineffable unity self manifested as many individual gods. Henotheism is seen particularly in the Western Esoteric Tradition. Pan-en-theism is found in pure form only in a very modern form of Christian theology - process theology - but offers no tradition or living community outside of Christianity.
Thus I have come to my present position and the above essay I hope shows the 'route' by which it has been fully reasoned - I have also tried all the blind alleys discussed above and found - it seems - the 'solution' that was there all the time, if only I'd taken my mystical experience perhaps a little more at face value!

1 comment:

  1. The term Henotheism was coined by Max Muller with specific reference to the religious traditions of Hinduism. There are three major traditions Vaisnavism, Saivism and Saktism. Each regard Visnu, Siva & Sakti respectively as the one supreme God and see the other gods of Hinduism as lesser gods or manifestations of the supreme God. Another term was coined by Muller and this is Kathenotheism and this was with Vedic religion in mind. In the Vedas each God is addressed as supreme in turm. The Smarta tradition in Hinduism wanted to return to the simplicity of ritual over the compexity of belief brought by the Henotheistic traditions.

    In Henotheism the supreme being, or Brahman, is explicity identified with one of the higher Gods (Visnu or Siva etc) and transcends the other lesser gods. In Kathenotheism Brahman is immanent in all the Gods both the higher Hindu Gods and the lesser Vedic ones. Each God can therefore regarded as supreme, eternal & infinite and omnipotent, omniscient & omnipresent.

    Unity and plurality in perfect harmony.

    Blows yer mind :-)