Generative (en)closures are like assholes -- everybody's got one.  

These "magic bubbles" are ubiquitous and universal.  Cells, selves & groups of all sorts are energetically engaged in establishing themselves as unique fields of relatively amplified coherence.  These fields are partially set apart from their surroundings by a permeable membrane of physical acts, subjective impressions, communication systems and shared spirit.  

Yet of all the myriad modes of generative (en)closure we find ourselves especially interested in the "sacred" versions of culture.  That means we are primed toward events, spaces, objects and forms of practice-communities that are conventionally associated with religious traditions.  

However we cannot take these traditions at face value.  Why not?  Because all they have meaning that meaningfulness is not the particular style associated with the rather loft "integralesque" and complicated vantage point from which these sorts of discussions may issue forth.  What cans the notion of a "religious tradition" mean to us?

Knowing the incorrigible habits of integralites, we can predict that such traditions must appear, eventually as metaphorical zones of heightened cultural coherence which are experienced distinctly through the cognitive apparatus of each major developmental layer of human consciousness.  

So let us take a quick peek:

AMBER

Conventional popular terminology operates a set of associations which connect these linguistic acts with the mentality of orthodox/supra-tribal/believer-sects.  For such people (within us) the production of religious bubbles is normalized into "traditions" which are based upon confessions of membership and the affirmation of standardized nation-like symbolism. 

We immediately see that this is the orthodox meaning of famous "traditions" inherited predominantly from nationalistic, racial, sectarian city-state / agricultural-kingdom phases of history... including parts of the world still largely involved in this reality.  So Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Shinto, Hinduism, etc. are a vision of generative (en)closures operating at this level and for this type of world.  

ORANGE

Modern "enlightenment" mentality typically investigates the abstract mechanism-objects which may appear in the mind under various different names.  This extra-cultural consciousness already seriously undermines the conventional assumption of religious bubbles as traditions.  It supposes that every individual, regardless of their geographic and ethnocentric origin, is free to select from the big "menu" of normally presumed traditions.  And we already begin to require those modifiers such as "seems like" and "almost" (which will become even more necessary at more complex layers) in order to fully clarify the experiential acts which are establishing generative (en)closures of the sacred-group type.

GREEN

Pluralism begins by alternating between realities.  It therefore revalues apparent alternatives, folds in the obvious examples of minimized or excluded "others", and quickly moves to begin appreciating the inter-contextual effects operating at the semantic boundaries between interpretations.  It proliferates alternatives and meta-models while deconstructing its options into creative sub-components.  Here we require quotation marks around the word "tradition" and expect that a variety of Christianities, Buddhisms, Islams, etc. are holding hands with an indefinitely unfolding mixture of neo-archaic, quasi-fictional or hyper-individualistic attempts to performatively enact a religious bubble.  The general ambivalence toward the hegemonic idea of a "tradition" arises quite naturally when our consciousness begins to emphasize background ecosystemic networks and the surprising world of unseen ingredients.

Here the definition of a tradition can only be a kind of game-piece in co-creative exchange.  Linguistic habits, divergent states of consciousness, the activation of "neurosomatic brain circuitry" and the rise of the relaxed/sensitized universalist ethos requires that: Traditions are "whatever" WE say they are.

TEAL

Integrative approaches to religious bubbles must take over and newly explain the complementary validity of the previous phases.  It is no longer good enough to imagine that traditions are anarchic mutual constructs any more than it is acceptable to pretend that popular group-designations represent monolithic "traditions" (or even easily comprehended sets of sub-traditions). 

A twin task emerges here.  We must enfold and validate the previous layers while also asserting a new coherent scaffolding of organic-functional & trans-structuralist "types" which form the REAL traditions.

Religion here must be a temporalized spectrum of transrational tantric wholism dependent upon synchronization, creative appropriation of apparent incommensurability, and and advanced dialectical sensibility.  

We assume that different modules/lines of development probably form the basis for a categorization of types of religious bubbles -- enacted in all quadrants and perceived distinctly at each layer of socio-cognitive reality.  These basic types are the valid "traditions" when viewed from this level but they must be held alongside the embrace of non-pathological junior levels as well as held open for any degree of pragmatic usage among people whose temperament or prior-level conditioning leaves them instinctively skewed toward inherited styles.

RECAP

  • If we start with traditional Traditions and unfold one extra functional layer we discover the tradition as "options" -- modernism.  
  • A further growth & migration reveals that these options do not pre-define our alternatives.  They can (and ought) to be unpacked to reveal an indeterminate manifold of alternate options located between, within or off-to-the-side of the hegemonic menu.
  • Finally (sic) we peer down at all of this from a dizzying height and become struck with the need to re-establish the functional power of traditions on the basis on the alternative manifolds. 

Um, what?

  • Traditional consciousness presumes a totalized core -- or "real nature" -- of a religion.  Often this is associated with a book-dogma or particular famous passages therein.  
  • Modern consciousness wants to know what these different tradition-machines do for different individuals.  
  • Postmodern consciousness wants to include everything and thereby discovers a sliding scale of identities between all the normal and abnormal options.  However this sliding scale does not acknowledge the anchoring parameters which enable it to operate.
  • When those are enfolded a new set of structures appears as the justification of previous forms and suddenly we are required to re-group all the groups according to perspectival and enactive ingredients.

THE SLIDING SCALE

What do I mean by a "sliding scale" between alternatives?  Consider the following two examples:

A cult of Medieval Buddhists practiced meditation in a very interesting fashion.  They called upon a compassionate Buddha-of-Light by Name.  He had once walked upon the historical earth but now lived in a heavenly afterworld.  By getting right with this figure your soul could be reborn in this heaven.  Here the grace of illumination is rapidly and easily attained.  

Not only does this sound a lot like what we normally mean by "Christianity" it was also noted by Zen Master Hakuin that a profound, insight and hard-practicing Name-Praying Buddhist should be considered to be doing Zen.

The Christian monk named Eckhart prayed to the Virgin Mary in a special way.  He made his mind still and empty like a virgin's womb so that an all-pervading and nameless wisdom-power would naturally flow in, impregnating him with a new self -- a "christ" who would feel, see and understand via the christ-mind.  That sounds a lot like Zen Buddhism.  

Very Buddhist Christianity.  Very Christian Buddhism.  

Our pluralist consciousness learns to situate people on a sliding scale of alternatives between these major blocs.  But we must ask whether or not those blocs are sustainable?  If these traditions are so various as to include each other in most practical ways then of what use are they as the reference-group at all?  Why situate the sliding scale between them?  Why not look for better grouping?  Why not look as a zoologist would look -- and not a record-keeping of names would look.

DHARMA & PRACTICE

Nothing is lost when a post-traditionalist deconstructs and (except for pragmatic and respectful gestures) dispenses with the connection between religionized cultural sub-fields and received nominal religious typologies.  Just as no magic is lost when we add a rational-technical understanding of the miracles of nature... although our pre-rational sentiments may contract uneasily in the face of such a shift... fearing to lose their bearings on what is most valuable.  

So practices, which form the core (or, in some versions, the totality) of a religionized cultural sub-field, persist perfectly well without old-fashioned categorization.  In fact they may themselves be the basis, when understood as perspectival and "developmental line" methods, of a superior classification system.   

The dharma or logos is understood in traditional models as something like a fixed book of wisdom to be affirmed and ritually duplicated.  At more complex levels we may view it as more akin to a bio-electronic conversation.  A certain set of the potential algorithms of the universe correspond to the underlying maneuvres which are elaborated as the skills, probings and insights whose total pattern-attractor, including its potential for surprises, constitutes the spiritual and religious and "set".  It can be engaged from within any local organismic, energetic or historical setting but, obviously, only in the degree to which those forms permit that generative conversation to occur.  Initially some glimpses and experimental practices are more possible than others.  Although as they produce depth, growth, coherence and divergence-convergence they tend to look more and more like the whole dharma.  Given an unconstrained situation and indefinite time we can suppose that this fractal will eventually regenerate its basic attractor shape.  However in contingent circumstances this only goes so far and therefore a great plethora of differences is apparent as the obvious fact.  

RELIGIONIZED CULTURAL SUB-FIELDS

Spirituality is the work for personal coherence.  Religion is the work for cultural coherence.  It entangled, organizes and weds the various genres of social, biological and psychological collective activity in order to fulfill the intrinsically rewarding goal of production apotheotic "renaissance-like" degrees of surplus meaningful and aesthetically unique group empowerment.  Because of its wholeness orientation (since we are looking at this phenomenon from a wholeness-level of understanding!) it is supposed to be a generic process working with the general background of civilization in any contemporary epoch.  However in practice it appears first (and sometimes only) as sub-zones within the general condition of the culture -- and obviously we mean the total sapient culture of the planet and not the rather meager of local linguistic and thematic geographies.  

So religionzed cultural sub-fields of intensified coherence, exhibiting the flavor of religiosity for the current civilization, arise by means of insightful and effortful compliance with whichever of the dharmic algorithms (practices!) can be instantiated effectively in its circumstance.  These pools, insofar as they are operating with the same background civilization, are resonant with each other.  They may therefore merge by "complement" or "progressive mutual approximation".  

ADDENDUM

In addition to this striated vision of religious bubbles we must be aware that multiple types of bubbles may operate with largely overlapping sets of symbols and referents.  This is because the actual activity of generative (en)closing, like that experience of a layer of consciousness, is anchored in the style of the context -- the holding -- and not exactly the content which is affirmed.

This is especially pertinent when it comes to social discussion.  We have to make two critical distinctions: active vs. neutral (or even degenerative), sacred vs. topical.

1. The former implies that any communication (which reinforces a boundary by referencing it) might be vibrating with the freshness of new meaningfulness OR basically a mechanical reiteration.  For example, the perpetuation of the signifier "Christ" may in one utterance operate to help continue the vitality of a particular religious bubble or it may be indifferent to such a function -- used without spirit in a manner whose effects are primarily (if not totally) inert relative to the establishment of the membrane around a field of cultural coherence.

The slogan "no one is neutral on a moving train" reminds us that non-progressive or non-resonant embodiments of zone-establishing signifiers quickly move from the status of placeholder to the status of underminer.  Not carrying it forward frequently operates as if it were destructive.  And yet it may use apparently the same symbols or rituals, etc.

2. Our second distinction requires that we tease apart the production of "talk bubbles" from "religious bubbles".  Clearly there may be all kinds of overlap but it is not necessarily the case that a particular generative (en)closure is being established when it seems to be appearing in discussion and shared thinking.  People frequently manipulate conversation TOPICS in order to discuss other topics which are urgent, titillating or nearby.  

Just as any critical discussion of a thinker's positions may be quite valid while not actually pertaining to that person's ideas in any legitimate or comprehensive fashion, and just as the shadow of a celebrity can occupy a place in the politics of cyberspace which has little to do with their actual nature or positions (frequently unknown to the people discussing them) we can find this same pattern of "ghosts in the system" in the study of religious bubbles as well.  

Therefore, at minimum, we need to make sure that we do not mistake the transactional economy of conversation -- whether populist, academic or apparently "devout" -- for the symbolic and cognitive processes which support the establishment of a generative (en)closure of the religious-group type.  They may or may not be the same in any given instance.  A great deal of hesitation is required in front of apparently obvious topics.  Even those who appear supportive (and are therefore readily embraced and affirmed) may be supporting a phantom that simply bears an identical name in the discourse.

Hopefully this is all the beginning of a fruitful conversation...

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Great - thanks, LP.  I was also thinking of starting a separate thread for this discussion.  For context, here is the conversation that prompted these reflections:

~*~

Layman Pascal: Is it necessary or specially important to operate practices in connexion with "traditions"? No. It is aesthetically pleasing, ancestrally evocative or simply convenient for many people. However we need to go farther than just understanding that practices have no special relationship to traditions. We have to understand that these traditions don't really exist. They are talking points. They are received categories which, as often as not, do not distinguish one type of person and practice from another.

So while we may cheer Harris for the degree to which he verbally supports meditation sans Buddhism -- we also have to move beyond thinking that "Buddhism" is a something.

~*~

Bruce: Layman, I understand your point about traditions ultimately not being a "something" -- Buddhists themselves would challenge the intrinsic or self-existent "somethingness" of personal or cultural identities -- but at the same time, I still think it makes sense to refer practically to traditions in a general sense as generative (en)closures. If you were to use this word, from your own understanding, how would you relate "traditions" and "generative (en)closures"?

One option would be to replace "tradition" with "generative (en)closure" and look more at the autopoietic networks we discern (say, of documents, stories, practices, etc) -- drawing new (ever-evolving) 'lines' based on this. I think we lose something, though, if we try to dissolve LL/LR 'entities' or 'systems' altogether, treating them as non-existent and totally negligible and arbitrary, and privilege instead only free-floating UL practices.

~*~

Layman Pascal: Yeah, when I say "aesthetics" and "ancestral evocation" and "convenience"... I am definitely pointing to an ongoing pragmatic utility. For some people. I think Trungpa is a great example of someone who was powerfully ambivalent about "buddhism".

How would I relate received traditions to the concept of generative (en)closure?

By three devices:

1. Level-appropriateness. This means that traditions are the normal forms of social and sacred generative (en)closure at the conformist/symbolic/ethnocentric/racial level of cultural and personal simplexity. An integral analysis therefore maintains this appropriateness, specifies where it should obtain, notes how the subsequent level tries to take possession of it, and embeds all of this in the twin integral moves of "embrace the validities & assert the critical patterns of our new validity-scaffolding".

2. Active vs. Neutral. This means that any communication (which reinforces a boundary by referencing it) might be vibrating with the freshness of new meaningfulness OR basically a mechanical reiteration. The slogan "no one is neutral on a moving train" reminds us that non-progressive or non-resonant embodiments of zone-establishing signifiers quickly move from the status of placeholder to the status of underminer.

3. Ghostbustin'. Generative (en)closure obviously has a linguistic and symbolic component. However we have to differentiate, in most common contexts, between acts which are producing the actual (en)closure and acts which are producing a socio-lingiustic phantom for use in conventional discourse. Language acts and their supportive cognitive habits are ghosts in the system. They are establishing an zone, yes, but not necessarily the zone to which they are ostensibly referring. The reason that public figures are advised to "own" public misperceptions of themselves is that the sociological conversation is constantly trying to create some OTHER entity which has the same label as the figure... or as the lineage... or as the sacred cultural zone. So basic we need to distinguish between overlapping enclosure-production activities which can operate via conventionally un-differentiated symbol sets.

At MOA-2 approaches we definitely want at least half our efforts to go into attempts to "zoologically" discern the organic, functional groups which are not necessarily anchored to received traditions. But to play in that territory, to pass through MOA-1 the requirements are very minimal. "Quotes" and "seems like" translate something in phenomenology and allow it to pass forward.

A phrase like "the types of things people call Buddhism" is perhaps excessive, clumsy, slow, etc. but as a piece of cognitive scaffolding it allows us to keep a virtual tradition active in our self-consistent phraseology even while we begin to look for classification systems that are not based primarily or exclusively on confessed identity and the popular conversation habits of the last few centuries.

~*~

Bruce:  I also would like for you, LP, to say a little more about what you mean about practices not having any special relationship to traditions (because, as you say, traditions don't exist). As you might gather from my initial question, I was concerned that this sounds like you are advocating for a non-AQAL understanding of practices, which are free-floating and instantly transposable intact to any situation (without work or transformation) -- the view Latour characterizes as Doubleclick. But knowing you, I don't expect you actually mean anything like that (and may be wanting to suggest that the other -- AQAL -- factors are simply not covered by, and may be obscured by, reference to things such as "Buddhism" or whatever).

Bruce, I'm responding with additions to the original text.  I've touched on practices viz. traditions but let me know if there are more specific areas you might like to explore.

Really nice thinking on this, LP.  I don't have time to respond immediately but will try to do so tonight.  Some of what you are suggesting here appears to align with the "foamy" Sloterdijkian approach I've been taking recently to this topic, and to my current project on Bhaskar's (perichoetic) concept of co-presence, which I've been applying to religious systems, so I'll discuss that a bit then.

Hi, Pascalakirti, I admire the prodigious amount of deep and often luminous content you can deliver, seemingly always on-tap.  Your amended opening post offers a lot to engage with -- and often, I am silent in the face of such longish documents because I don't have much time, unfortunately, to take up all the threads that catch my interest ... so I sometimes just take up none.  But here I am swimming against the tide of my other obligations today because I really think this inquiry is important, for this forum, for our joint reflections on metatheory and emergent integral/dionysian culture, for our mutual interests in integral spirituality and religiosity, etc.

Okay.  So.

A generative (en)closure is formed through the communal establishment of a "membrane" which serves as a protective, unit- or field-defining boundary as well as a means of interface, for the enactment of a domain of distinctions (i.e., a worldspace).  As a "bubble" or "globe" in Sloterdijk's sense, it establishes an immunological zone which, the stronger or more vital it is, the more it enables the (en)closure to interact with diverse cosmic beings without risk of compromising its integrity.  While generative (en)closures are fragile and impermanent compositions, they are also ir/reducible in Latour's sense: not finally reducible to anything else, and yet always (through effort, with some loss, always via some 'transformation') indefinitely reducible or relatable to other things.  One way to express this is that the irreducibility of a holon or generative (en)closure is found precisely in its indefinite or inexhaustible reducibility.  Or we could understand this using Bhaskar's frequently paired terms, concrete singularity and dialectical universality.  Taken together, they suggest that holons or generative (en)closures are not only irreducibly particular (concretely singular), but also intimately enfolded within and co-present to one another (in potential if not in actuality for any particular being at a given time).  In Morin's terms, a generative (en)closure (of the kind we are interested in here, such as religious or spiritual generative (en)closures) is autopoietic or auto-eco-reorganizing -- self-producing and deeply participatory, in both embedded and enactive senses.  

A healthy or generative (en)closure (as opposed to a degenerative (en)closure) circulates and amplifies meaning or information, allowing for greater 'field' coherence, and greater potential for any element of the field.  I understand your differentiation between spirituality (which furthers integration and generates surplus coherence for the individual) and religion (which blends genres and generates surplus coherence in the socio-cultural domain).  We might then talk about different generative enclosures, or we might talk about generative (en)closures in their spiritual and religious functions.  In my view, a religious generative (en)closure can serve both to provide 'hothouse'-like space for cultivating and encouraging the full flowering of individual practitioners, and -- in its religious function per se, if we use your terms -- to perform those creative acts of meshworking and translation to foster inter- or trans-genre alliances and fusions.

I agree we can distinguish "talk bubbles" from "religious bubbles" (here, meaning, not only 'practice' or 'ascetological' or 'anthropotechnical' bubbles, but those bubbles which foster integration and spiritual flowering), since sometimes people may talk in religious words but not in a way that is generative or genuinely religious in the sense we mean here.  But granting this, I don't want to suggest with that that "talk" is merely incidental to religious generative (en)closures, or that "talk"/translation can be cleanly separated from "practice"/transformation.  While I think Latour's understanding of religion and spirituality is seriously limited (he seems only to reference conventional Catholicism in his reflections), he makes a distinction between religious and other types of language that is useful here.  He says that we make a mistake to treat religious language as if it were similar to the scientific language of reference, whether describing this world (which science just gets wrong -- the earth is only 6000 years old!) or else describing a metaphysical world instead of this physical one.  Instead, religious speech delivers "a type of original truth which gives meaning to the predication only if it creates anew the person to which it is addressed."  Here, words, concepts, stories, and so on, are not ghostly abstractions 'about' being, but are beings themselves, angels or dakinis themselves:  they are part of the composite that constitutes any given generative (en)closure.

As zones of translation as well as practice, religious generative (en)closures are rehearsal and performance halls for the practice of the onto-choreographic arts.  It is where we practice a local dialect of the pluri-univocal speech of Sophia, so we can prepare ourselves to sing to her, and entice her to sing for and through us.

Ciao Bruci!

An important inquiry, si si.

1. Every religious bubble, being a generative enclosure, is also a Causal Entity.  It is has an aspect which is irreducible, indefinite, autological.  It contains a perspective from which it is self-experienced as self-determined.  And is possesses an open-ended potential to be unpacked in ways that are not technically predictable.

2. Every religious bubble is a many-one monad which can be characterized by at least some version of the quadrants inherent to a holon.  That means they are describable as a definite singularity co-arisen from a plurality and existing in resonant and structural relationships.

3. Every religious bubble is always actively creating itself.  It consists of this activity.

4. Every religious bubble creates or is a field of intensified coherence which operates AS IF it had a semi-permeable membrane operating in multiple dimensions (energetic, material, linguistic, psychological, etc.)

5. Each religious bubble may be increasing or decreasing its integrity and empowerment.  Mere repetition is equivalent to degeneration since these bubbles exist only insofar as they are actively self-generating.


6. A religious bubble operates culturally (in the broadest sense).

7. The spiritual life of individuals represents a critical genre within religious bubbles.

8. Symbolic referencing (talk, assumption of normative categories) and social habits (rituals) can operate as elements of the practice of sustaining a religious bubble or as elements sustaining alternative "talk bubbles" or neither.

9. Talk is religious when it contributes to the productive of more "coherence" in the bubble and bring level-appropriate intensified cooperation between contemporary social genres.  This is the standard of religious speech as distinct from poetic speech, scientific speech, therapeutic speech, etc.

He's especially fond of # 7!

Ah, the Buddy Jesus!  He is a good icon for Green-level religion.  That whole film (with its moral about "it doesn't matter what you believe in as long as you believe in something" & "god is female or indistinguished or inconceivable") presents a lot of the elements required for a valid Postmodern religiosity.

We might envision 'nominal traditions' as foam-like identity clusters, or cultural-linguistic clusters, which consist of numerous 'religious bubbles' -- partly overlapping, contiguous, or connected-at-a-distance -- each of which maintains itself through practices and forms of religious speech.  If we take the generation of coherence and surplus meaningfulness as at least two characteristics of spiritual and religious activity (and there may be other important ones to consider), we must also recognize that this coherence itself is a multiplicity of 'coherences' -- of forms and modes of flowering, integration, becoming-whole -- that might be sought and enacted by practitioners belonging to any particular religious bubble.  The "dharma" of different bubbles may be to attend to and exercise different lines, in other words, or cultivate different states, privilege different perspectives, seek different levels of maturity and visionary-ethical embrace, etc.

But if we consider that 'nominal traditions' may also include 'bubbles' which no longer function religiously, at least from an integral perspective; and also that religious bubbles also form well outside of the nominal religious traditions; and also that different nominal traditions may include bubbles that are rather structurally and functionally similar to (or homeomorphically equivalent to) religious bubbles outside of their boundaries, then ... well, this foam is quickly getting out of hand!

Keeping this visualization going, we might imagine injecting medical dyes into this giant foamy mountain, with different colors to indicate the 'territory' claimed by any nominal tradition as well as those religious bubble-territories that lie outside of traditional boundaries.  Each of these colored swaths may overlap or intersect at various places of homeomorphic equivalency.  If we further imagine that the bubbles can be differentiated along soteriological, developmental, and other lines -- the forms and styles of being they seek, the lines they exercise, the perspectives they privilege -- then we may dye the bubbles in additional colors, until they all begin to shine with rainbow iridescence, each bubble reflecting the other teeming spheres.  In this foamy topography, we may still be able to pick out differently hued swaths that correspond roughly to the various traditions and lineages we first marked -- different continents, islands, and currents of opacity and radiance in the teeming mound -- but at the same time, we will be able to discern entirely different strands and masses of color, new geographies which have little to do with the old circles of belonging.  Rising up high enough to capture such a global view will likely impact us the way our first vision of Earth did: we can no longer view or inhabit our 'countries' in quite the same way, if we feel inclined to identify with them at all.

Nicely summarized, Bruce.

Once we see "bubbles" (in whatever version) we are already standing well beyond the traditionalist worldspace.  Probably beyond the modernist worldspace as well.  From this vertiginous height, we peer down tentatively at a seething and remarkable panorama.  What do we see?  Delicate but robust entanglements of interpenetrating zones.  Each one marked at its edges by an ongoing activity of self-reference, attunement, engagement, assimilation & self-defense.  Atop the central spire of the largest bulge we see the flags we have inherited from the modernists -- the great "options" which they have discovered in their exploratory journeys between orthodox cultural modes. 

We are delighted, intrigued and provoked.  Perhaps we begin a new round of investigations?  Our anthropologists start to dispense with the notion of a single hegemonic interpretation at the "core" of a dogmatic text.  We rove about asking all the Mohammedans, Christians, Buddhists & Mosesites about their experience of their own faith.  A great diversity is recorded.  Look at all these difference types of that one "thing" we are studying... but truly the diversity is excessive!  It overwhelms our studies.  Our subject of investigation appears where it should not be and vanishes from key areas where we relied up it as a reference.  The bubbles proliferates so rapidly we are left with handfuls of sheer fluid... leaking through our fingers. 

Vexed, we resolve to climb a little higher and get a "better view".  But as our altitude increases the problem only gets worse (although, admittedly, our sense of its problemness seems to diminish).  Now the inherited labels seem arbitrary or misleading as often as useful.  They retain no privilege in the categorization of the topology we are inspecting.  And yet the result is not a free-for-all.  Like men watching the fractals on the surface of a flower river we are clearly confronted by recurrent patterns -- even by a typology. 

As we slowly familiarize ourselves with these previously obscure types of patterns, inventing new terms as we go, there begins to appear an astonishing and imposing vision.  These types-of-religion are appearing sometimes near the rituals, practices & conversations of traditions... sometimes far away... but always in a great mutuality with each other.  They are active according to their own natures and from whatever context they emerge from within.  Yet they are not independent.  From this height it is appears clear that they are immediately mutually supportive -- counterbalancing each other in great variety -- and progressively self-similar.  Each one that thrives does so by expanding into mutations and assimilations which approximate the expansion patterns of the others.  Yes, they are idiosyncratically emerging and diverging but they are also cooperating with each other and enfolding each other in ways that push them forward toward a seemingly totalized manifestation.

Now we feel that we behold the rise of universal religion -- not by the conquest of one nominal tradition nor by their cooperation (although both factors play a subordinate role) -- but as a kind of botanical phenomenon operating at a level more frequently resembles "generic human culture" than "popular notions of religion".  And yet its religiousness is amplified, enhanced.  It is building a force, and operating through mechanism, appropriate to the sheer planetary (and perhaps interplanetary) nature of its task.

Balder, you might be interested in this article I happened upon in my research, especially the last sentence of the abstract: "Inside, outside and the space between: Territories and boundaries in the study of religion." The abstract:

Insider/outsider issues are of central importance for the definition of religion and for the identity of religious groups, for the subjectivity and relationships of their adherents, for methodological issues within the study of religions and for the relationship between non-theological and theological studies of religion. Conceptions of ‘inside’, ‘outside’ and ‘boundary’, the emotions surrounding them, their origins in the social relations of body, family and strangers, and the metaphors used to depict and manage them all provide important insights for thinking about religions, how they are studied and by whom. A discussion of socio-spatial and cognitive linguistic theories of categorisation, containment and boundary-making is followed by several case studies in which territories and boundaries are explored with reference to the relationship between ‘religion’ and ‘magic’ in medieval Europe, the Enlightenment construction of ‘religion’, ‘religions’ and ‘non-religion’, and, briefly, the disciplinary engagement of religious studies and theology. The application of the concept of the ‘sacred’ to these boundaries and the spaces they produce is considered.

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What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

This group is for anyone interested in exploring these questions and tracing out the horizons of an integral post-metaphysical spirituality.

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