What is the essence of Religion? 

What are the elements of its fully realized form?

How does this appear at each major phase of historical complexity?  

This thread solicits feedback about notes I am currently tinkering with.  


Hi.  Last month I working to elucidate my oft-stated remarks about "mythocolloquialism".  That is my fancy-fun word for the culturally deleterious effects of non-translated terms ("adam" in the Bible, "hippocampus" in the brain, etc.) and the persistent necessity to revitalize colloquial language by clarifying its trans-temporal and authentically mythic (generic) dimension.  Sounds great?  Well, this project was spontaneously enfolded by more general articulation on all facets of the true Religion.  

So this post presents my notes for the appendix to what I am calling This Whole "Religion" Thing.  My hope is that you will suggest any elements which may be missing from my list of essential aspects of fully-realized religion.  And also any quibbles or suggestions regarding the elaboration of these elements in the different "levels" of development.

My orienting presumption that religion cannot be rationally or authentically defined on the basis of a summary reaction to those parties which conventionally identify themselves as "religious" in an organized or traditional sense.  

The fact that they inhabit a perspective which strikes themselves as valid is no obstacle to our definition of religion according our own complexity -- provided only that our definition includes, and accounts for, theirs alongside many other definitions.  

The active form of integrative meta-theoretical (or Dionysian) understanding must propose its own understanding rather than remaining merely or exclusively concentrated in reactive evaluation and critical appraisal of definitions associated with less comprehensive viewpoints.

I will be editing this opening post in response to feedback and my own ongoing thoughts and thereafter I will compose my appendix on its basis.  So without further ado:


RELIGION is characterized by the following key elements:


  • Theology

  • Mythology

  • Spirituality

  • Embedded Rituals

  • Ethical Mobilization

  • Presumption of Inclusion

  • Edification Agencies
  • Bond-deepening Practices

  • Aesthetic Cultivation

  • Divine Communion

  • Exploitation of History

  • Cultural Convergence

  • Theory of Group

  • Transpartisan Politics

  • Responsible Theory of Mind

  • Supra-Economics
  • Anti-Fragility Praxis
  • Consecrations


Not all religious phenomena demonstrate all these elements -- just like not every nutritious meal contains all the nutrients needed to survive.  Yet every "religionizing" cultural field expresses many of these and increasingly tries to approximate the full form of religion in so far as its circumstances, intelligence and health will permit.


Let us examine these crucial elements in slightly more detail:


  1. Theology involves:

    1. Philosophy of Terminology - Every religion has some idea about the appropriate definition of

      1. an Apex Signifier (often but not exclusively called “God” in English)

      2. the nature of Religion,

      3. the condition of enhanced productive alignment with an experiential bio-cultural field

      4. Infidels (agents not aligned with the field or its ethos),

      5. Heretics (aligned agents who profess or are tempted by arguments which insufficiently or misleadingly describe the edifying power of the field

      6. Devils (intolerable agents who operate “as if” they were intentionally motivated to break hearts and bodies, to annihilate themselves and others, to injure their cultural field and ruin the promise of the biosphere).

      7. A self-referential conservation about "how we talk about our religiousness".
    2. Theodicy - a coherence-repairing set of notions which emotionally secure the individual and collective positive relationship to the cosmos in the face of horrible disruptions, trauma, inherent suffering & evil.  The popular inquiry "How can God permit Evil?" is only one style of this general attempt to secure the religious coherence of psyche, society and cosmology.

    3. Theogony - a set of basic principles for discussing the origin and status of the value-laden universe.

  2. Mythology - the poetic, therapeutic, artistic-entertaining & colloquial communication and contemplation of generic qualities and symbolic psychophysical powers. 

  3. Spirituality - the promulgation of particular self-developmental inner practices for individuals and the inclusion of various profound or self-luminous achievements associated with "grace" or "method".

  4. Embedded Rituals - the assimilation (not creation!) of emergent social rituals, values and energized customs. 

  5. Ethical Mobilization - the incitement and/or organization of values-based public actions designed to amplify the influence of a bio-cultural ethos and improve the efficacy & qualitative effects of the socio-technological habits of a cultural field.  Notably including:

    1. protests

    2. political strategy

    3. martyrdom

  6. Presumption of Inclusion - the active and voluntary habit of anticipating the essential goodness, trustworthiness, participatory membership, functional relatedness & extra-sectarian citizenship of all persons within your understanding of the general cultural background.

  7. Edification Agencies - Individuals, cultural-subtypes, institutions and artificats who specialize in generating, amplifying, securing, embodying, clarifying, templating and reminding people of the religionification potentials of their total cultural field.
    1. Priests - Individuals who are moved to specialize in the theory, experiment and practice of religionizing the existing cultural field. A set of "pious" types ranging from the very creative to the very predictable, from the very harmonious to the very challenging and disruptive, and from the participant mode to the guru-mode.  Of special note are their activities presiding over organic social rituals, offering suggestive sermons and clarifying the definition of "piety" appropriate to the current historical moment (in keeping with ancient trends). 
    2. Prophets - Forecasters who either provide rational/intuition anticipations of events related to the religionization of the cultural field OR provide warnings of the culturally-degenerative outcomes of current impious activities.
  8. Bond-deepening Practices - strategies and routines for creating, strengthening, refining and deepening the supportive and productive interpersonal creative relationships that flourish within the existing cultural field.

  9. Aesthetic Cultivation - the cultivation of the “emergent aesthetic peculiarity” of the group, epoch & worldspace of the contemporary cultural background.

  10. Divine Communion - the notion, invitation and methods (culturally communicated) of creating intensified resonance between individuals and the "excessive peak coherence" of the total bio-cultural field.  Generally involving emotional attentiveness (heart focus) to the intrinsically rewarding surplus dimension (“spirit”) which haunts a cultural field as a result of the effective integration of its component genres.  Religion enfolds various individual transcendental possibilities (in first, second and third person modes modulated through various conceptions) and draws them into alignment with the a superlative intensity that is culturally hinted at in all "renaissances" and socially anticipated by the place-holder function of apex existential symbols.  

  11. Exploitation of History - a maximally accurate interpretation of known historical data that is subordinate to an optimistic (empowering/hopeful) narrative that implies the inevitability of the arising of the current religionizing field and anticipates the superlative telos/attractor state towards which it is unfolding.

  12. Cultural Convergence - the active transdisciplinary attitude that intentionally operates across all social domains.

  13. Theory of Group - an implicit or explicit theory of collective intelligence demonstrated as a style of group organization and decision-making; principles of group intelligence describe the systemic dimension of what cultures feel as 'fair' and 'just'. 

  14. Transpartisan Politics - enfolding, incorporating, creatively underwriting and exceeding the left/right polarization, masculine/feminine duality & major active enfolded cultural levels present during the advanced standard worldspace.

  15. Responsible Theory of Mind - a doctrine which integrates the major prevalent contemporary notions of intentionality and challenges people in the direction of the integrated hybrid.  A way of taking over and making productive the natural intention-projecting capacity of human minds.

  16. Supra-Economics - Religion can only occur where the material foundation of life is more than adequate for survival.  The (relative) physiological flourishing of individuals and the abundance-balance of the overall economic infrastructure either enables or disables the production of integrative experiential surplus.  The economic manifestation of religion has the following key concerns:
    1. payment of religious figures; support and/or aggrandizement for yogis, monastics, priests, theologians, philosophers, religious organizations.
    2. public & private sponsorship of higher cultural projects;
    3. active promulgation of supra-economic values; constraining, utilizing and improving the material patterns which produce ideological effects on the hive-mind of the community.
  17. Anti-Fragility - Religion, in order to operate as the heartiness and progressive elevation of a cultural field, must be able to perpetuate itself and its members in world of unpredictable surprises. It recapitulates the nature of Organic life in its capacity to assimilate, feed upon and grow strong through non-linear and chaotic interventions.
    1. Systemic Anti-Fragility: The spiritual, aesthetic and moral forms of religion should be able to update themselves to emergent social moods and new technologies.  It must entrench itself in ways that are intensified under conditions of social stress, uncertainty, ambiguity. It must encourage cultural forms which are redundantly over-prepared for inevitable surprises and perturbations of the cultural field.  Subjectively, Religion must become something that appears to authenticate itself under conditions of traumatic rupture of social experience.
    2. Personal Anti-Fragility: Religion must encourage (by ritualization, demonstration, discussion and attitude) individuals to engage in habit-thwarting, anti-comfort, strengthening exercises.  Our bodies, minds and hearts languish if they are not periodically strengthened by adaptation to distinct low-level stressors (e.g. fasting, group enthusiasm, silence, stillness, mild self-torment, vertigo, empathic distress, intellectual confusion, frustrating inter-type interactions). And the moral promulgation of heuristic "wisdom" which clarifies robust or anti-fragile life-choices (avoid debt, turn the other cheek, befriend your enemies, etc.) must be considered an essential part of personal anti-fragility praxis.
  18. Consecrations - the encouragement of creative and standardized practices of consecration.  Notably
    1. creation or capture sites, settings and sanctuaries to produce something like a Sacred Topology.
    2. enshrining, through behavior, of shared excessive symbols
    3. creature of caption of Sacred Events in the life-history of individuals, couples, sub-groups and the total cultural background.
    4. promulgation of "blessing" and "empowering" activities




Theology: These are pre-articulate, or barely articulate, human beings so it is almost impossible to describe a theology or grammar of their religiosity.  The abstract grunt, the parental or body-like imagine of numinous self-power, the notion of "something else" may be said to populate the communicable logic of spiritualized proto-human society.  Their theodicy is inseparable from the physical fabric of being.  Animal life does not strongly distinguish its awareness from suffering and imperfection.  And its cosmogony may be considered as the visceral sense simply "showing up".  The obviousness of Things is the origin of things.  

Mythology:  The halo effect.  An exaggerated aura may surround material, natural and animal experiences.  An implied sense of Super-animals.  The compulsive power of certain plants and places. 

Spirituality:  The mood at burial sites; the subjective engagement of sacred leaping; honor the predator with cautious alertness and sober memory; sitting still in body trance; basking; alertly sustaining watchfulness for prey; OCD as worship.

Embedded Rituals: The religious life of dawn humanity permeates and is virtually indistinguishable from the cultural resonances of hunting, eating, sleeping, mating, aging, dying.

Ethical Mobilization:  Alert the pack to danger; encourage fleeing and fighting.  Make marks on things and show them to other.  Extend acts of revenge or respect over long periods of time. Martyrdom in the form of periodic risk to save the young and injured and in events of suicidal self-relinquishment in the face of depressing failure of the ethos of the pack.

Presumption of Inclusion: Eating and surviving together accomplishes a bond that runs deep.  The born members and the acquired members of a pack merge fairly easily provided the stronger members do not become overly stressed or insane.

Bond-deepening Practices:  Grooming and sleep proximity establish deeper connections; sexual pleasuring; food sharing;

Aesthetic Cultivation: The "style" of humanimal religion is accomplished rather minimally by factors like breeding choices and adaptation (overcompensation) to local environmental patterns.

Divine Communion:  They sink mindlessly into pleasure, rest and pride which is at once a biological and low-level cultural event.

Exploitation of History: Special spots are returned to or avoided.  Habits are demonstrated to children including tool-use.  Trips are make to locations where old things of good or bad importance occurred.  Burial zones may be used to indicate the past persistence of the pack.

Cultural Convergence:  The imperative of the body colors and combines with all activities.

Theory of Group:  Establish collective intelligence through visual organization of pack roles.  Keep pack roles flexible by adjusting them according to physical bonding and tussles.  Use freak outs to alert others of danger.  Pacify any upset dominators that you care about.  Use a “cool” alpha member to extend visual confidence by keeping their stress out of sight. Use boastful, strength-honoring betas to broadcast claims.

Transpartisan Politics:  Both those who strongly identify with language and those who maintain a cynical distance from the semantic content of “words” are included as full pack members.

Responsible Theory of Mind: “it” happened.

Supra-Economics: Food sharing.


Consecrations:  Somber moods, burial grounds, affirmative and uncanny free dance.





Theology:  The term "Great Spirit" is associated with indigenous concepts.  As is the "dreamtime" statement of bio-cultural ethos.  Notions of the "Eldest" or "Ancient One" transpose the awakening awareness of matured psychology into the supreme signifiers. These are people who live very much by what is now called hypnosis or superstition.  Violation of entrained habits and lore of the clan, and the unpredictable but familiar impulses of biospheric powers are the source of evil -- they can be pacified sometimes but must ultimately be incorporated through sacrifices. A distant creation moment is foreign to such psychology but a dim sense of the arising and vanishing of ancestors places them on a small section of a great circle resembling the seasons.  

Mythology:  The animal and plants are whispering or singing the world into exist from a sideways time in which the living, dead and unborn are continuous.  Symbols are alive like portals into another world.  Names are things become confused and co-resonant. The intuitive response to qualities in the natural world is a necessary form of logic for survival.

Spirituality: Trance repetitions, contemplation of sacred symbols, follow nonlinear prompts, heed ancestral voices, eat magic plants, surrender into ecstasy,

Embedded Rituals: Hunting, childbirth; burial.  Sacrifice.  Propitiation.  Communion with Nature Powers.  Problem solving by use of random chance.  Group use of relaxant drugs.

Ethical Mobilization: Express group pleasure or displeasure through “charades” routines of approval/disapproval; the elderly going off to die on ice floes. Making dangerous efforts to preserve purely symbolic aspects of social life.

Presumption of Inclusion: We are all children of the Great Mother, etc.  Man is conceived as a unitary type of being which makes each human being venerable in a certain sense and established in well-understood kinship with the natural world.

Bond-deepening Practices:

Aesthetic Cultivation:  Get branded. Establish song-lines; style hair; mark experiences on objects.  Repeat the evocative effects of spontaneous emotional-verbal glossolalia.

Divine Communion: Return to natural dream.

Exploitation of History:  The shared dreamtime of all the natural beings embraced the ancestors and exists in a great cycle of return no matter what.

Cultural Convergence:  Make jokes (integrate different stressful activities with generic humor).  Everyone follows lore.  Stay close together, brand each other in common ways

Theory of Group: Obey the stories and elders; hypnosis keeps a culture going.

Transpartisan Politics: Lore & counsel of elders (stories) are accepted by all as an currency of thought which unites disparate options.

Responsible Theory of Mind:  Intentionally should be projected into all types of beings; animism; negotiation with nature is responsible.

Supra-Economics: Gifting rituals; ownerless trades; use of resources imposed upon by story-telling and insights born of trance states.


Consecrations: Making the Mark; forbidding certain foods, acts or locations; to trance upon; journeying to sacred sites.





Theology:  This involves associating the Apex Term with the apotheosis of Village Characters -- Great Chief, Great Hunter, Great Witch, Great Mother, Great Seer; similar villages (visually, racially, strength-wise) are heretical; dissimilar peoples are infidels.  Evil appears to be the fault of weakness, competing tribes, or the failure to honor the Gods and Order of the Village Horde. It will persist until they are vanquished by strength and boldness in the honor of our emblems.  In the beginning the Great Heroes rescued the world from Original Chaos and Titanic Dangers.

Mythology:  Competing families of quasi-human villager-roamers operate all qualities with violation magic. Totem is secured by original taboo of the strong.  Muscular and emotional demonstrations of etheric forcefulness both exemplify and organize the qualitative psychophysical "powers".

Spirituality:  Lone journeying; the shaman's hut; the primal rave; battle trance; the ecstasy of victory; the deep appreciation of vertical differences (proto-altitudinal contemplation)

Embedded Rituals:  Inter-tribal competition is made sacred; calendars enfold the village's year; drug taking is systematized; copulation is assimilated into public magic on behalf of private enterprises.

Ethical Mobilization: Protests are invented as a political tool.  The shaman voices the religious concern to the chief.  Berserkers are an example of "hero" as martyr to the cause of the tribe's glory.  The flagrant suicide of individuals overwrought by the behavior or circumstances of the tribe. 

Presumption of Inclusion:  Villagers are honorable until proven weak; family ties are bestowed upon genetic and non-genetic alike; whoever generally looks like us and is not "pathetic" is given the benefit of the doubt.

Bond-deepening Practices:  Sharing spoils, making treaties, self-expression and feasting ceremonies,

Aesthetic Cultivation:  Totems of the tribe set a style in motion.  Locally tradeable goods and the colors of the landscape form an aesthetic template.  Artists are beginning to emerge and their "violation" of existing patterns is tolerated.  The faces and postures demonstrated in inter-clan gathering and shamanic psychedelic voyaging direct stylistic evolution; successful tools are used massively and enshrined. the predilections of “big men” and “assertive matriarchs” guide the village's style.

Divine Communion:  The emotional-physical ecstasy of battle is an invocation of the Great Chieftain.  Drugs and trances that involve pushing deeply into the primal well of Emotional Force are presumed to be Ultimate.  The mindless state which releases chaos in the service of the Highest Totem is a communion with the convergent surplus of the established culture.  To embrace and be embraced by the excessive (and culturally mediated) power of the natural world.

Exploitation of History:  Order was established by the arising of the Human-friendly Powers who gave pattern to the world and by fighting on their behalf we sustain it; if we fail it fails and we will be replaced.

Cultural Convergence: The village life provides a container for all the disparate human energies.

Theory of Group:  Form villages and "fraternities" around totems; use mob intelligence; follow experience and visions; make use of weirdo-advisers; go raiding and divide spoils by loyalty and demonstrated prowess; seek private counsel between genders and public counsel among men.

Transpartisan Politics: Shaman and Chief operate as team;  best warriors and matriarchs try to achieve volatile consensus; argument and contest and public charisma are used to assimilate intelligence from various sides of issues; everyone speaks up about decisions involving whole village; muttering rebuffs bad decisions; Protests are invented .

Responsible Theory of Mind: Only a few agent-like Great Powers in the natural world have full intentionality and have arranged to share it with human beings.

Supra-Economics: shamanic figures use demand, loyalty and uncanny effects to place themselves prominently in the "distribution of spoils" economy.  "big men" invest in totems and self-expression festivals. trickle down & slavery are advocated as general enrichment schemes.


Consecrations:  Glorification through gift-giving; use of masks to make event holy; village environment as field of empowerment; declaration of festival days and sites; sacred private spaces and property begin in earnest.





Theology:  The apex signifier is associated with the Great Monarch who rules the many tribes.  The name and role of this figure are ascendant beyond the temporary form. Heretics defy the bureaucratically established kingdom-wide "common sense" interpretation of scriptural dogma.  Infidels are the "believers" from rival city-state kingdoms. The Original Plan governs all even when you do not understand it; decisions are already made in the great book.  In the beginning the One made the world and assigned all roles in advance to serve his ethical agenda.  His subjects constantly fail and therefore deserve their misery which must be constantly offset by tribute payments moving up the hierarchy toward the Absolute Lord.

Mythology:  A courtly pageant of aristocratic super-beings under the overpowering presence of the Parental Monarch/s.  Division of reality into Heavenly, Demonic and Middle-Kingdoms occupied by systematized and indexed entities who mythologically embody particular qualitative powers.

Spirituality: Ascending meditation, ascetic disciplines, mantra of divine names, formalized prayer,

Embedded Rituals: For example: Christmas is moved to take over Saturnalia, etc., spring festival, weddings, calendars, sex, name-givings, tribal friction becomes annual “sports” in the "capital cities".  Going to War acquires patriotism and grave pageantry.

Ethical Mobilization:  Building churches.  Revivals.  Missionary works begins.  Deliberate education of the young in the religion begins.  Attempts to influence power holders and secure the cultural ethos through alliances with barons.  Public arguments about the moral significance of the scriptures begin.  Martyrs who are willing to be tortured to death while professing the identifying statements and signs of the emerging religious field.  Risking death under the symbol of the Faithful.

Presumption of Inclusion:  We are all “the people” and God loves and supports us as long as we do not overtly oppose the inherited symbols or look too different. Equality before God.  Equivalence of social roles in comparison to the Ultimate Role.

Bond-deepening Practices:  Obedience; loyalty demonstrations; sharing of phrases from the Great Book; pledges to the supreme symbol; working together in rural agrarian tasks; honoring the nationalist speech and eating customs; agreeing.  The romantic splendor of marriage contracts is established and adorned with voluntary pledges of emotional depth and intentional heart-work.

Aesthetic Cultivation:  The gilded style; Gothic combinations; the mixture of filth and luxury, the mingling of mud and furs, the mood of reaching toward the zenith of heaven; celestial and demoniac imagery working together; the shared righteousness of landscapes and fortresses.  Demonstrations of national splendor; crowns, flamboyant styles, etc.  Birth of the impractical "urbane" fads and fashions of the courtly life in legal society. Religion may incorporate ridiculous hats.

Divine Communion:  Public and private acts of surrender, acceptance and remorse and relinquishment of guilts, affirmation of the superlative nature of the Apex Mythic Being,

Exploitation of History:  The universe begins with the recorded history of the current cycle of the appearance of people like ourselves and proceeds as a series of successful or unsuccessful alignments with our fickle national-racial deity from whom all successes and torments flow.  if we succeed there is prosperity but all the failures around us are from non-obediences to the “old fashioned” (traditionalist grandparents) interpretation of the dogma; either we get back on track or punishments will increase until the “end of our kind of world” occurs and only a few are saved in a metaphysical manner.

Cultural Convergence:  The Great Book and the Layout of the Kingdom combines art, spirituality, politics, finance and war in the public space.  Totalitarian fusion of genres.  All types of literature and study are presumed to be One.

Theory of Group:  Merge with your role; serve the inherited order or castes; gain sacred advice before making big decisions; keep group together through sacrificing painfully for its symbols; repeat the grandparents; overcome all subcultures to impose the national will upon the Meta-Tribe; organize in relational opposition to other Great Nations; homogenize to create progress (linguistic, racial, customs); enforce moral obedience upon children

Transpartisan Politics:  Our “Supreme God” is affirmed by official statements and ritual attendance by leaders of all factions.

Responsible Theory of Mind: All agency and intentionality (and empathy and justice) derive from the unitary Great Power who gifts it equally to all human beings who then use it better or worse relative to his official orienting instructions

Supra-Economics: bureaucratic sacred taxation (tithing) & bribery of religious officials is normative; majestic sculpture and architectural investments anchor the ascending values of the community; priestly oversight is required to seal deals, initiate building projects or engage in to resource wars; oligarchs are interfered with and solicited by priests by many means - including advice, control of mobs through ritual, education of aristocratic children; lower castes are sanctioned and sometimes protected as "holy roles" and "essential equals in the eyes of God".


Consecrations: officially sanctioned magical rituals and role-investitures determine the well-being of individual and collective life; building of churches; fixing the calendars; establishing sacred sub-zones within cities and communities; meta-tribal pilgrimage sites linked to dogmatic texts; marking the Kingdom in opposition to chaotic nature and foreign powers; superlative ornamentation of role-spaces (the royal bedchamber, the graveyard, the pillar of the law).  Very importantly the rise of sacred, rule-bound monastic communities and fortifications.






Theology:  God is now the Great Maker-Mind.  Dogmatists are Infidels but Infidels should not be put to death.  Poor Scientists and the Factually Uninformed are Heretics. GOD appears under the aegis of the RATIONAL IMMATERIALITY.  This one conception admits to a variety of functionally similar forms:

(a) Deist - The Invisible Supreme God is the Intelligence of the Natural Order in its Predictable and Unpredictable Forms.

(b) Atheist - The Absence of a Visible God is the Rational Proof of the Supremacy of the Natural Order in Random and Non-Random Forms.

(c) Agnostic - It is Rational to Accept the Unseen Determination about the God of the Natural Order.

(d) Aprolepticist - We Rationally Cannot even think to accept or non-accept or be undecided about an Unseen Origin of Natural Order.

Evil is produced from the failure to understand and achieve.  One must thwart the gods and history in order to prevent catastrophe which lingers inherent in the misunderstanding of the Great Machine.  But since we will always fail a little we must learn to be "philosophical" about life in order to secure benign conscience under the conditions of the Divinely Natural Order.  An inexplicable and vastly ancient Beginning to the mechanical unfolding of cosmic and human events; a designer of the System.

Mythology:  Insubstantial, non-personified qualities and categories metaphysically organize material realities that are bound by cause and effect; rational identities populate the universe and are bound by consistent “game rules” of the cosmos.

Spirituality:  Analytic meditations, pondering, study of Reason, separation of consciousness from roles, steadiness of mind, intensification of personal being,

Embedded Rituals:  Civic holidays, family visits at holidays, elections, sporting seasons, industrial-commercial festivals, summer holidays, weekends, getaways, private funerals, graduations, retirements.  These all arise and must be enfolded into the rising ethos in order to function religiously. 

Ethical Mobilization:  Decency revolutions, surrender to the public outbursts of sensible protesters. Not running a tank over Gandhi!  Taking time to listen to sensible complaints.  Taking risks to prevent rash and irrational responses.  Explorers martyr themselves to "discover the truth" or "stand up to herds". Free press risking death.  Dr. Frankenstein risking the monstrous. 

Presumption of Inclusion:  One man, one vote; innocent until proven guilty; existential equality; basic capacity for meritorious and successful action is extended to all regardless of their caste and role. 

Bond-deepening Practices:  Write your own vows; educational fraternities; shared trips; investigation clubs; conferences; international meetings;

Aesthetic Cultivation:  Modernism/futurism in art, architecture, writing; the invention of the narrator, subjectivism and impressionism in painting, the style of rising revolutionary achievement; imperialism.  The spirit of Star Wars.  Metropolis.  Reagan’s “Morning in America”.  Warmth.  Special Icons: the straight shooter, the rising entreprenuer, the inventor, the explorer, the secret agent, the rebel against small town life.  Growth of "wives and mothers" beyond the family.

Divine Communion:  Liberating wonder of poetic-rational expansive of the worldcentric cosmos and the victories of “the enlightenment”.  the private communion with Natural Splendour; omnipresence and victorious absorption into REASON.

Exploitation of History:  A long history of pre-human and a short history of human history is wondrous but largely ignorant and superstitious under the earthquake of modernity sets us free or a significant historical example of a caring, rational progressive individual who puts sectarian divisions, mythic priests and kingdom rules aside brings a universal and sensible moral message.

Cultural Convergence: Rationality, individual freedom and/or experimental science must organize all aspects of life as we awaken from the dream of historical indoctrination and childish misunderstandings.

Theory of Group:  Modular, hierarchical industrial model of increasingly rewarded managerial individualists; corporate model; non-sectarian oligarchy; all’s fair in keeping with game rules which we should try to modify in our favor; progress or die; provide stability for employees.  Achievement of Promotion and quantitative reward are used to modulate the importance of individual input.

Transpartisan Politics:  Bicameral legislatures, dialectical courtrooms, rules of debate and the spirit of reasonable mutuality guarantees solutions even among the disparately minded.

Responsible Theory of Mind: Only rational persons have intentional agency.  It is irresponsible to attribute this to other creature or to forces of nature.

Supra-Economics: sale of sacred objects, tourist-darshan, evangelical entertainment, guru-consultants, religious authorship; negotiated legal protections for religious enclaves; charitable giving; advocacy for the poor; conversion and education for excluded minorities; arrangement of visiting and living in alternative international economic zones.


Consecrations: a bottle smashed on the bow of the maiden Titanic; mass-distribution of the ritual-official power to "open" buildings and "start" projects; the sky-scraper and uniform suit; the financial and military support of giant scientific projects; the flag planted on the moon; staging areas for space shuttle lift-off; monumental practicality and entertainments; the traveling professional stimulators (carnivals, USO shows, etc.), international darshan (world tourists to magic spots and exotic empowerments); holiness of the Great Facillity; the Wonder of the World sites;




Theology:  Alternatives are everywhere.  The apex signifier takes whatever form or meaning you and your community would like.  The components of "God" are in novel circulation.  Preference and Value and enfolded into the concept. God persists as a disputed term of perpetual, ironic and critical usage.  Evil may or may not actually exist.  Our feelings are interpretations but the consequences of removing negativity from our interpretations is unjustified.  We must use health and meaningful life-choices to create a counterbalance to essential uncertainty and ambiguous finitude.  Multiple universes appear to co-exist and create each other via somekind of relationship associated with the leap from Nothing to Something.  A common creative void sustains co-created realities and multiple histories.

Mythology:  Multiple forms of each essential power exist.  You must find or invent the one that works best for you; all myths are “as if” forms of entertainment and potential instruction; myths interpenetrate and resonance in stories from various cultures and history periods including pop culture; creative personal mythology becomes an option; the line between inherited myth and novelty entertainment/art is mercifully blurred.  The "as if" usage of mythological caricatures becomes standard.

Spirituality:  Mindfulness meditation, flow states, right brain integration, self-creating, self-esteem, biospheric care, health-oriented prayer, energy work.  Descending meditations are extra attractive.  Kundalini, yoga, health-spirituality, neuro-buddhism, intentional thought styles. 

Embedded Rituals:  Emerging entertainment cycles, personally invented version of public rituals, celebrations of re-defining, criticism festivals, retro styles, decentralized events, ecological planetary holy days; alternative pride parades

Ethical Mobilization:  Cultural sensitivity and ecology-over-modernist economy protests; inclusion riots; Martyrs oppose oppressive oligarchs; Advocates of the sensitive, meta-style engage in humorous acts of chaotic resistance; Self-confession and transparency takes on a spiritual dimensions.  Gay pride parades in Palestine, etc.  Abortion doctors risk their own lives.  

Presumption of Inclusion:  Everyone who thinks everyone should be included is automatically included; tolerators are tolerators; all subjects can be studied; all races and religious are assumed included until proven intolerable.

Bond-deepening Practices:  Sharing of daring, idiosyncratic, culture-challenging enthusiasms; be entertaining together; co-growth is idealized; learn to invent ourselves together; integrate “PR” into life through strategic relational communication styles; rebalance masculine and feminine in communication and life-roles.

Aesthetic Cultivation:  The “green” style of cities and propaganda, return of intensified ambiguous tragedy, rainbows, unfolding biological imagery; splices; multi-channel style, explicit and hyper-ironic entertainment, participatory electronic style, scruff, half-professional; half-public style, Dune/LOTR clothing; Emergent archetypal favoring of “the exotic revolutionary of inclusion” (Gandhi, MLK), the casual enthusiast, the ragged technological conqueror, the cryptoanalyst (snowden, marx, derrida, zizek, the hacker); ethos of play, analysis and very sophisticated flowing acceptance of disturbing content.

Divine Communion: awesomeness, cool, mind-boggling, popular zen/taoism, the magical expansion thrills of paradox, surrealism, infinities, loops, sudden multiplicity, the buzz of endlessness, the restoration of neo-pagan methods for entering culturally-significant naturalness; psychedelic epiphany; the decentralized peak-and-flow experiences as alignment with "whatever is beyond".

Exploitation of History: Naturalness followed by natural humanity and then rise of imbalanced humanity culminating in industrial mind/body split and then the Great Paradigm Shift begins to restore our natural diversity and holism and private ease and exploration. The "paradigm shift" and "expressing oneself authentically" as echoes of a future-oriented spirituality in which we attempt to overcome the sinful divide between ourselves and our "self-authored Real selves".

Cultural Convergence:  Transdisciplinary experiments, creation of novelty hybrid genres, infiltration of institutions by political correctness, democratic quotas, enforced gender balancing.

Theory of Group:  Consensus cooperation, concern sharing, P2P networking, free information, voluntary reimbursement; unionize; establish “class consciousness”

Transpartisan Politics: Partisan becomes dirty word, cooperation idealized, moderate progressive majority drives both sides; intentional understanding and kindness extended to the Other in general -- despite provocative offense.

Responsible Theory of Mind:  Sensitive extension of intentionality to all human subgroups and many types of organisms.

Supra-Economics: eco-tithing; rise of studios/weekends as sites where sacred practice is promulgated; distributed micropayments; advocacy for progressive economic systems; sacred status of local/organic; imposition of authenticity/well-being standards to divide the sea of commercial products and services; participation in festival economies & surges; priest-therapists; spiritual sensuality services; demand for authenticity, creativity and play in establishment of legitimate socio-economic "roles"; advocacy for the status of all under-represented parties in the economic infrastructure; alliance of churches with safety/growth nets.


Consecrations: Improvised, Hyper-personal & Interfaith rituals. Inclusion of excluded elements in blessing rituals. Idiosyncratic holy places; shared holiness of "leading edge entertainment"; the sacredness of "other places" (off the beat track, peculiar, authentic); localness as decentralized principle of sacred topology; the Sacred "Commons" as a increasing concern; encounter groups; spiritual friendships; loose, flexible and voluntary experiments in establishing sacred space.




Theology:  “God” names the unitarian implication of apex value experience coordinating multiple quadrants and ontological states.  Evil is....  The principle of creative novelty is ongoing, there cannot be a First Cause or Beginning of Time but the current scientific story of emergent cosmic evolution is an adequate frame for social storytelling.

Mythology:  Spirit has been constantly trying to manifest through evolutionary surges particularly in the person of spiritual philosophical agents who set the “forms” which make the grooves easier.


Embedded Rituals:

Ethical Mobilization: the subtle martyrdom of sacrificing one's values to affirm the forms of other levels; sacrifice to secure multiple value systems and types active in any solution; risks on behalf of establishing missing balance; mobilizations which understand a way beyond the selfish/altruistic alternative;

Presumption of Inclusion:  All sapient beings at all levels of development are already “on side” and all sentient being are worthy to receive love and gratitude and compassion.  The nondual interpenetration of the dual means that one must intentionally affirm pre-inclusion in general and attempt to bodily and emotionally enter that reality regardless of adversarial force.  Disjunctions are perceived as the form and essence of conjunctions.

Bond-deepening Practices:  Wisdom conversation in the meta-sangha beyond our personal work and our tradition’s statements,

Aesthetic Cultivation: bio-futuristic, auric, erotic, trans-genre, post-ironic

Divine Communion

Exploitation of History:  The notion of evolution and emerge evolves and emerges as Spirit reveals itself in endless new forms in which we are responsible participants in a great story of “layers” and complexity.  Emergent telos of self and society as locus of meaning.

Cultural Convergence:  Integral theory, multi-line intelligence, cosmic planetary styles,

Theory of Group:  Personal/intersubjective balance, conscious relationality, collective peak experiences, holacracy; establish skills- consciousness; participatory rather than membership; graduated post-majoritarian decisions; internal profiling is necessary.

Transpartisan Politics “integrative hybrids”; challenge pluralists by pointing out their failure to achieve their goals due to their rejection of traditionalist and modernist attitudes; voluntary practice of adopting and integrating the viewpoints of one's adversary; selection of issues which can be sustained at multiple levels of understanding; 

Responsible Theory of Mind:  Subjective interiority includes ‘as if’ intentionality in varying degrees of intensity from minimal cosmic background through different types of species and in different gradations within human communities.




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Terrific feedback, Bruce -- thanks.  I've added sacred topology as the first major subheading of "consecrations".

And I've tweaked the wording of Divine Communion to make it more clear that a wide variety of individual experiences of transcendental and superlative modes are primary material that the bio-cultural field must weave together into its "excessive peak coherence".  

I do tend to use cultural as short for bio-cultural and bio-cultural as shorthand for all quadrants -- so the necessarily implied individual having spiritual experiences that they would like to call "divine" was perhaps too implicit in my assumption about what the culturally communicated concept of "divinity" is trying to enable. 

Balder said:

Hi, Layman,

Yes, I see the relation of spirituality and religion in exactly the same way: religion is the cultural/collective correlate of that which we call 'spirituality' at the individual level (and which therefore should not be confused with just one particular form or level of collective expression, i.e. traditionalist religious institutions).

However, I see 'divine communion' as something which, like spirituality, is not intrinsically or exclusively cultural (here, as a function of the surplus generated by the successful integration of cultural genres).  For spirituality, your description acknowledges it as an individual practice and suggests the role of religion is to promulgate such practices.  But for divine communion, you seem to say something more; you seem to define or explain divine communion itself as a strictly cultural phenomenon (attention to and experience of the haunting surplus dimension of successfully integrated cultural genres).  

I suggest divine communion might involve 1) an intensity of participation experienced by an individual in relation to nature or being, or to their own interiority, possibly experienced as 'Thou'; 2) an intensity of participation among members of a group, or in the intensification of the experience of the 'between' (as in the current We-Practice and 'waking down in mutuality' communal spiritualities); and/or 3) in the more strongly (eudaimonistic) cultural sense you mention.

So, with this in mind, I would recommend tweaking the definition to indicate that one role of religion is to provide for the coordination and intensification of participation or participatory experiences (which might manifest at multiple levels or in multiple ways, including but not limited to 'attention to and participation in cultural surplus energy' generated by successful integration of various cultural genres).

Regarding the designation or creaton of sacred topology, or sacred space, as a component of religiosity, I definitely think it is important (and distinct and ubiquitous) enough to merit specific inclusion, but whether that is through the addition of a separate category, or through specific mention under your existing categories, I don't really mind.  Your current descriptions don't really highlight the importance of 'place' and 'generative physical structures' for religion, though, so if you decide not to include a new category, I'd like to see these elements highlighted more.

Best wishes,


Now I've gone through and played up some of the topological elements in the level-by-level examples of the components of religious phenomena.

You might also consider a series of recent posts on Scharmer starting here, referencing his blog post on his new book. In this post our spiritual divide is due to the division of our self with our future self, not God or even reality as such. This is being promulgated by the current fascist oligarchy and private property rights. In this post he sees the levels of consciousness manifesting through economic systems, and sees the commons as emerging after the social market economy, the latter being more 'green.' In this post he is "creating spaces" (aka generative enclosures) for the various consciousness levels, and in this post those spiritual spaces for the commons are awareness based collective action and commons based ownership.

Thanks. I'm going to add "emergent future selves" as a spiritual and ethical concern in the "exploitation of history" category for both pluralist and integrative forms of religion (a bio-cultural phenomenon in which spirituality, ecology and "society" are combined).

Although my 'element of religion' makes it clear that integration and convergence of all areas of personal and shared life are involved I wonder whether or not to specify something particular about economics.  given the historical interplay between money and religion, the sacred ritualism of tokens and exchanges, etc. we may assume that the failure to "religiously" integrate resource transaction with the rest of cultural life creates an "evil" or "impious" social condition in which the structures of previous phases run amok (oligarchs and mobs).

And the persistently emergent concern for the sacred "commons" is definitely an aspect of the holy topology pertinent to plural and post-plural approachs.

Very nice additions and amendments, LP.  I'll write more soon.


Conservation or conversation?

"A self-referential conservation about "how we talk about our religiousness"."

Is there no place for my god hydrogen, the saectum saectorum?

Hey, don't feel too bad! These were just getting comfortable!Now I have to give them away! I blame LP!

And how would you place our polyphiliacs? Recall e.g. this post and following on in/difference, which sounds akin to your splice. And as Balder eloquently describes them here as "a  mature (not merely relativist) polyvalent understanding of transcendence," so it seems disingenuous to label them as mere 'pluralists.' I don't though see them represented in your gigi-glossing.

Also recall Faber's older, seminal article here. He mentions Whitehead's infamous statement on how the "many become one and are increased by one," oft used by the Lingam to support his transcend and include hierarchy. And yet Faber argues that this process is not hierarchical. Yes, it is a mereology but more of the kind we see in OOO, like Bryant, DeLanda and Delueze. (The latter is prominent in the linked essay.)

And btw, where to you place the OOO crowd, since their language isn't apparent in you gigi-gloss, unless they too are just pluralists?


ISM - I'll circle back to "what are categories" and "let's talk about the essentiality of essence".

THEURJ - One of the most beautiful things about attaining at least the pluralistic level of consecration is the good conscience we develop about playful holiness.  From the Church of the SubGenius to the sacred quasi-omnipresence of saecular hydrogens.  People may find these forms a little weak, not as ferocious as more primitive forms of consecration but that should be modulated by (a) the dangerousness of more intense forms (b) the insufficient emergence of other pluralistic level social powers to stabilize the causal, voluntary, creative and humorous trans-materialism "holiness" into its full potential potency.

ANDREW - Sorry about the shoes.  I guess we've really stepped in it now.  Holy shit. 

DAVIDM58 - If I refer to your reference to my reference about how the living theology of religion (at any level of cognitive or social development) involves at least some conversation which converse our organic religiosity by making it the subject of its own discussion then our heads will explode and Andrew will lose another perfectly good pair of shows.  So I shall make no such reference!  Wait!  Uh oh...


It is more "short hand" than disingenuity to connect these with pluralists.  I would argue that the normal conversation about pluralism is quite flat and does not grasp the full range and profundity still emerging for that level.

But the crucial distinction (the MOA-1/MOA-2 distinction, essentially) is whether we are taking multiplicity at face value as the intuited and repeated cognized nature of reality, as the alternative to former unities, or whether we are attending more regularly to the odd conjuctions -- univocal multiplicity as the primary nature of the pre-one-ifed Being/s. 

So polyphiliacs first arise properly amid pluralism and then continues to inform integrative levels.  Balder's reference to "mature" and "not merely relativistic" polyvalence nicely captures the operating of multiplicity consciousness in at least two distinct levels of complexity.  

Many odd mixes bedevil us.  I would probably argue that Whitehead was (as some feel about Ken) integrative in cognition but had been quite narrow or minimal in his passage through the pluralities of relativism.  Today we find that the pluralism is more intellectually and socially fleshed out so that Faberses, Deleuzes, Badious of all kinds have enriched the non-hierarchical world.  Thus we hope to pass into "integrative" levels with a much more robust, nuanced and capable armature of polyphilia.

As for the OOO crowd (generalizing them), they exhibit this two-level thing.  So I would consider them to be connected with at least the theology of both plural and trans-plural levels.  Again it depends on how they are holding it in any given moment -- as with all of us.  

Wherever the Many-One and the Is/n't and Ish are present we have "at least" pluralistic religion and probably more than that (since pluralism is likely to simply hold many alternative next to each other without fully eludicating the differential inter-being which forms the theological bridge into integrative religion).

How's that sound?

"Fully eludicating the differential inter-being which forms the theological bridge into integrative religion" is precisely what I see with the polyphiliae.

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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?

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