Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
Hi. This is Layman Pascal. I was just tinkering with my Christmas Wiki entry on the Modern God and realized that it might be interesting content for general post-metaphysical discussion. Although it deals only with religion at the level of modern ("orange") consciousness it can still clarify a lot about the overall situation of religious awareness at post-mythic stages of development. Enjoy...
The Modern God:
Any concepts or intuitions of Deity which is appropriate to the Modern/Rational cultural operating system.
The Modern God is primarily characterized by (a) natural order (b) absence.
A normal response to the Modern Deity embraces all humanity (all individuals) within a sacred attempt to rationally improve inner and outer world-conditions while periodically submitting to Cosmic Wonder. Any form of religion exhibiting these elements should be considered as Modern. And anyone embracing these must be considered as an active participant in modern-level religion.
It is common (but also quite superficial and premature) to view the Spirit of Modernity in opposition to the notion of God. This is most likely the historical result of an over-attachment to the concept of the Mythological God which persist within the struggle to free ourselves from ethnocentric dogmatism. It is also has roots in the failure of many Modernists to acknowledge their particular style of religious and to produce many conscious "priests" or "consecrators" responsible for specifying that God must meet Modern Rational standards.
The Problem of Post-Mythic Religion
A developmental model of history and psychology observes several stages of adaptation beyond mythic-membership consciousness -- which is common to traditionalist, dogmatic & believer-patriotism society. More complex cultural operating systems are typically referred to as Rational (modern), Pluralistic, Wholistic & Transpersonal. And while it is not unusual to encounter people whose values and cognitive capacity are rational, pluralistic or higher, the general impression of Religion still remains locked into its mythic definition.
One notable element of this problem is the widespread difficulty in the "developed world" of engaging in profoundly sane and transformative relationship with Ultimate Reality in the 2nd Person (i.e. as a Divine Other). This continues to strike many modernists as an inherently dangerous relic of mythic nationalism. Even many spiritual practitioners feel that this has no place in higher forms of consciousness.
A general (but obviously not total) developmental arrest of the Concept of Religion & the Relationship-to-God confronts us. Religion remains largely stuck, in the popular consciousness, among groups of mythological claimants and seems unable to make a widespread transition into the good conscience of the modern world. Although this is changing. Such changes require a basic shift in our sense of God and Religion such that they can be understand as viable elements of Modernity and not merely the inheritance of mythic orthodoxy.
The 4 Limbs of Modernist Religion
We may say that there are four main Modernist "religious perspectives". These are: Deism, Atheism, Agnosticism & Aprolepticism. Once we have understood that these are forms of Religion (i.e. that none of them, regardless of their attitude toward mythic religiosity, constitutes an anti-religious stance) then we are empowered to inspect the basic religious characteristics of Modernity.
This general platform of religion became common in the 19th century but is not unique to the world formed by print literacy & international industry. In fact rational religious agents were central players in the history of faith from the Axial Age onward. There are many ways of describing and intuiting the rational, natural and absence-like power of the Chief Deity. Buddhists frequently discussed An-Atman (the non-present Great Spirit). Egyptian priests spoke of Osiris being vacant from his throne -- wandering unseen in the underworld. And Christianity has long been characterized by the motif of "God's Death" and the rolling away of the stone to reveal that Christ's tomb is mysteriously empty.
Such images feed into and describe a general layer of religion. It can be seen occurring almost interchangeably within the following common forms:
Deity is the Unseen Source of Rational Natural Order. The Name of God is -- the Universe. Both Pantheism (God IS Nature) and Divine Reason may be placed here. Hegel & certain Ancient Greeks proposed that the "Nous" (Rational Spirit) is the God who progressively orders human History and brings patterns to light. It is a science-friendly, progressive & Wonder-ful Spirit.
There is Natural Order but Deity appears non-existent. The Name of God is "No God" or "Chance & Progress".
God is an Unknown Fact -- an uncertainty. The Name of God is "I don't Know" which leaves us facing the apparent Natural Order with a wonder-like embrace.
God is not the kind of thing which can be rationally asked about. The Name of God is: "It makes no sense to ask". The observed natural order of the universe and the rational mind is such that propositions about God, positive or negative, invoke that which cannot appear.
To clarify the modernity-appropriate forms and concept of Religion we must clarify and emotionally affirm the common elements of all these "modern, rational, individual" attitudes.
Ambo, my participation online has been flagging recently, with changes in my work and other things going on, but I've wanted to say for a week now that I was moved by your creative piece and appreciate why you chose it to offer a "reflection" back to the article I shared. Yes, I feel the shared spirit in them. And I relate to the images and feelings you relate so well in this piece, having visited the hospital several times in the last couple years, and having had a very clear confrontation with my own vulnerability, limitation, and mortality once years ago while out hiking (instead of surfing): getting into a situation I was not at all sure I would escape. The encounter was intense and raw and poignant, not filled with the calm or faith I had hoped would dawn in such a moment.
I'm not sure if this piece is semi-autobiographical for you, but I do recall hearing about your getting injured awhile back and having to stay out of the water. I hope you are on the mend, if so, and can slip again into mother sea before too long.