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Mysticism, esotericism, orthodoxy, and fundamentalism

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posted on Jul, 12 2009 @ 09:30 PM
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The Interent is filled to bursting with "religion versus science" or "religion versus athiesm" debates. But what of the divisions WITHIN religion/spirituality itself?

I maintain that these can be every bit as important...and I don't just mean differences in terms of WHAT religion or spirtual path one happens to follow, but rather HOW one approaches the topic to begin with.

After some thought, I have divided the spiritual into the following four categories. These are somewhat arbitrary, and there will be some overlap and gray areas, but each represents a fundamentally different approach to "the sacred," and each of these approaches can be found in every major religion.

1) Mysticism: This is the primal fusion with the divine through direct experience. Mystics of every religion have more in common with each other than they do with fellow co-religionists who are not mystics. The mystic seeks direct, usually wordless communion or union with the absolute through a variety of psychospiritual practices such as intense prayer, visualization, or meditation. Examples: Zen Buddhism, Sufi Islam, Vedic Hinduism, medieval Christian mystics (St. Theresa, St. John of the Cross), some Gnostics, "pure" ancient Taoists, etc.

2) Esotericism: This can be similar to mysticism and there is some overlap. Both seek direct experience of the divine, but the mystic usually relies on something SIMPLE and NONVERBAL while esotericism is defined by its COMPLEXITY and USE OF SYMBOLS. Various levels, initiations, secrets, and arcana define this path. Often it has a "left-hand" or "shadowside" aspect as well. Examples: Tibetan esoteric Buddhism, Hindu Tantra, Ismaili Islam, some Gnosticism, ancient Greco-Roman Mystery Religions, Hermeticism, Alchemy, Kaballah, etc.

3) Orthodoxy: This is the word I picked out for "bread and butter," everyday religion (i.e., I don't mean literal "Orthodox Christianity" as in Russia, for example). This is your grandpa's church...go to church once a week, go through all the major life rituals like baptism and funerals, don't think too much about the deeper aspects, "go through the motions," don't ask too many questions, etc. Embraced by the majority of religious people on the earth. Examples: The "straight-up" versions of every major world religion.

4) Fundamentalism: This is a more radical version of #3 above. These people hold extreme, fundamental beliefs, and obeying the received truths or hallowed code is much more important than understanding it or whatever you happen to "experience." They usually are text-centered and very focused on getting to what they see as the "original meaning" of whatever sacred text they embrace, usually through the most literal possible reading of their sacred texts. "Metaphor" is a dirty word to this crowd. They also view mystics and esotericists with extreme suspicion, perhaps even characterizing them as satanic or evil. In fact, I'd say there is every bit as much difference between a fundamentalist and a mystic as there is between either one and an athiest. Examples: Every major religion has fundamentalists...extreme Christian evangelicals, ultra-orthodox Judaism, Salafi Islam, etc.

So, does this sound correct to you? Do any of you identify with one of the above?



[edit on 7/12/09 by silent thunder]




posted on Jul, 12 2009 @ 09:54 PM
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I'll wager a post, why not. I was none, then 3, now 1. Interesting to me as I read the post and consider my beliefs is that 2 and 3 are the most distasteful to me now. #4 seems largely like a survival mode. A sort of separation from the world viewed as "wrong".

Thanks for the post. I think you got some major points correct here. Made me think, and I like that.



posted on Jul, 12 2009 @ 10:02 PM
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Sounds pretty good, id say i identify with 1 and slightly with 2.



posted on Jul, 12 2009 @ 10:14 PM
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Originally posted by phi1618
Sounds pretty good, id say i identify with 1 and slightly with 2.



Given a little more time to think about it, I do have some "2" identifications myself. Willing to wear a crystal, own moldavite, sow seeds occasionally in a glass pyramid, etc. But to me it is not esoteric, in that, I am extremely willing to discuss my reasons without requiring an investment, etc.



posted on Jul, 12 2009 @ 10:16 PM
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I'd say gray areas considered, you've got a pretty accurate, if simplified, list of things.

Personally, I started out at 3... then went 4 for a short while... then 1.. and now none.

none meaning I don't subscribe to any religion, though I am still spiritually inclined.. if that makes me into "mystic" category so be it



posted on Jul, 12 2009 @ 10:36 PM
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Pretty good description I would say.

Myself, I started with 3, went to 4, then to 1 now I am a mixture of 1 and 2.

You might say I have been searching...not sure I will ever figure it out other than we all just 'are' and need to accept each other for who we/they 'are' at the moment. Allow ourselves to be who we are and grow at our own pace in whatever direction we are led



posted on Jul, 12 2009 @ 10:38 PM
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reply to post by silent thunder
 


The only thing that I would object to, would be the apparent negative judgements towards the Fundamentalists in catagory 4.

I was a 3, trying for 1 now, and as a 1, I can see some value in 4 to be perfectly honest, and I don't think they should always get the bad rap, which I myself always gave them. There is something to be said for a structured discipline within which we submit ourselves. That can take courage, insight, willingness, discipline, even rigorous thinking and deep contemplation to penetrate through to the heart of the structure.



posted on Jul, 12 2009 @ 10:42 PM
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Originally posted by silent thunder

3) Orthodoxy: This is the word I picked out for "bread and butter," everyday religion (i.e., I don't mean literal "Orthodox Christianity" as in Russia, for example). This is your grandpa's church...go to church once a week, go through all the major life rituals like baptism and funerals, don't think too much about the deeper aspects, "go through the motions," don't ask too many questions, etc.
[edit on 7/12/09 by silent thunder]


I don't think you're correct on this one. I am Reformed...a theological descendant of John Calvin of the Protestant Reformation. I think of myself as doctrinally orthodox within that line of Christian thinking.

If you read even a small sampling of Calvinist, Reformed, and Presbyterian literature, I think you would conclude that we Reformed do indeed think deeply about the deeper aspects of our theological tradition.

Also, we ask a large variety of questions about all kinds of things related to life, the universe, and everything.

Not too sure what you mean by "going through the motions". We do indeed participate in ritual observance...baptism, the Lord's Supper, and the liturgy. But these are called for in Scripture and are the vital center of Christian worship and are not merely rote rituals. Baptism is our entrance into the covenant and the community of Christ...even Christ himself. The liturgy is the setting and script of our worship of the Triune God. And the Supper is a participation in the body and blood of Jesus...it regularly joins us to Him and grants to us the benefits of His death and resurrection.

So...your description may fit "dead orthodoxy", but completely misses the mark when it comes to vital orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

And segregating these elements into categories may not be too helpful with some groups. I see all four within Reformed tradition. John Calvin is noted for his rich theology of the Holy Spirit and of prayer...making him perhaps one of the high mystics of the Reformed faith. And fundamentalism was defended by no less notable stalwarts as B.B. Warfield and J. Gresham Machen in the 1920s. These, and other men, came from Princeton and started Westminster Theological Seminary when Princeton was overrun by theological liberals. Orthodox, and yet defenders of fundamentalism. These really go hand in hand.



posted on Jul, 12 2009 @ 10:44 PM
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great post. one and twoish is where to be. two however assumes that there may be " a correct way of doing things" which is kindof where my own struggle of thought/agreement is right now.



posted on Jul, 12 2009 @ 11:10 PM
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Originally posted by OmegaPoint
reply to post by silent thunder
 


The only thing that I would object to, would be the apparent negative judgements towards the Fundamentalists in catagory 4.

I was a 3, trying for 1 now, and as a 1, I can see some value in 4 to be perfectly honest, and I don't think they should always get the bad rap, which I myself always gave them. There is something to be said for a structured discipline within which we submit ourselves. That can take courage, insight, willingness, discipline, even rigorous thinking and deep contemplation to penetrate through to the heart of the structure.



Yes, I think I was a bit hard on the 4's in my original description (you can see which side of the continuum my sympathies lay with, I guess
). To me these are the bomb-tossers and the persecutors, the thin-lipped puritans and witch-burners, the folks who shut off their minds rather than expanding them and who often are responsible for giving all of religion a bad name.

However, you are correct about "courage, insight, willingness, discipline, even rigorous thinking," of many 4s, although I have my doubts about how many fundamentalists go in for "deep contemplation." Still, the basic points you make are valid. Also, at their best, the 4s have a strong moral code that can make them excellent neighbors and members of a community with a real sense of helping others. #1s and 2s may be more in tune with the cosmos, but they tend to go sit in caves while the 3s and 4s are more often the ones who get kittens out of trees or pitch in at the shelter.

Another good aspect of fundamentalism is that it really can save people in dire straights, struggling with real pain or horror in their lives...this kind of simple, all-encompassing pure faith can be a powerful salve and a healing balm to those in deep anguish. Just so long as it doesn't become a permanent crutch....

And to everyone else so far, thanks for your insights and info. Keep it coming; I'm glad this thread seems to resonate with many.



posted on Jul, 12 2009 @ 11:12 PM
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Thanks this is useful for me. I never really understood what Esoteric meant exactly in comparison to mystical. I know Esoteric means hidden or maybe secret, but yeah. I am more of a mystic who listens to esoteric types lol and in your description you talk about direct experience and not wanting to put it into words and go on explaining it and stuff. That's what I was telling some friends the other day, "I'm tired of putting it into words." Doesn't mean I don't want to discuss with others, but it means in all likelihood whatever I experienced great or small, I probably never tried to put it into words at any point unless for the sake of journalling practice.

It could mean a feeling, or an understanding, or realization, you know. Sometime something hits you and you feel better, you know you've gotten closer to God or spirit or have a better understanding. These moments and things like this are what I usually don't put into words anymore, I feel like it all happens "inside" and/or in ways that are outside of communication. I think one of the purposes of the communication is to strengthen the inner experience, the dialogue of religions and discipline or following is there to help us focus and put our minds in the right place in order for us to be more conscious of the experience.



posted on Jul, 12 2009 @ 11:21 PM
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Originally posted by Praetorian Guard

Originally posted by silent thunder

3) Orthodoxy: This is the word I picked out for "bread and butter," everyday religion (i.e., I don't mean literal "Orthodox Christianity" as in Russia, for example). This is your grandpa's church...go to church once a week, go through all the major life rituals like baptism and funerals, don't think too much about the deeper aspects, "go through the motions," don't ask too many questions, etc.
[edit on 7/12/09 by silent thunder]


I don't think you're correct on this one. I am Reformed...a theological descendant of John Calvin of the Protestant Reformation. I think of myself as doctrinally orthodox within that line of Christian thinking.

If you read even a small sampling of Calvinist, Reformed, and Presbyterian literature, I think you would conclude that we Reformed do indeed think deeply about the deeper aspects of our theological tradition.

Also, we ask a large variety of questions about all kinds of things related to life, the universe, and everything.

Not too sure what you mean by "going through the motions". We do indeed participate in ritual observance...baptism, the Lord's Supper, and the liturgy. But these are called for in Scripture and are the vital center of Christian worship and are not merely rote rituals. Baptism is our entrance into the covenant and the community of Christ...even Christ himself. The liturgy is the setting and script of our worship of the Triune God. And the Supper is a participation in the body and blood of Jesus...it regularly joins us to Him and grants to us the benefits of His death and resurrection.

So...your description may fit "dead orthodoxy", but completely misses the mark when it comes to vital orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

And segregating these elements into categories may not be too helpful with some groups. I see all four within Reformed tradition. John Calvin is noted for his rich theology of the Holy Spirit and of prayer...making him perhaps one of the high mystics of the Reformed faith. And fundamentalism was defended by no less notable stalwarts as B.B. Warfield and J. Gresham Machen in the 1920s. These, and other men, came from Princeton and started Westminster Theological Seminary when Princeton was overrun by theological liberals. Orthodox, and yet defenders of fundamentalism. These really go hand in hand.


Interesting post and I'm not sure how to answer it...sounds like you are advocating a "deep #3" which to my mind may take you either to #1 or to #4. Personally, I think some of the Reformed people fit more in #1 or #4. As with any schematic breakdown of a continnuum, there is room for debate and one can quibble with where I've drawn the line....also, I think people can and do show mixtures; although the idea of a "fundamentalist mystic" seems contradictory to me, I supposed one's faith can contain aspects of both at different times or in different individuals...so your points are worth considering carefully.



posted on Jul, 12 2009 @ 11:27 PM
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reply to post by silent thunder
 


He validates what I was suggesting about 1 and 4 as present in much of what we call Christianity. Once you carve away the simple minded intollerance, what's left can be very deep and rich, profound, and psychologically impactful, and re-vivifying.

So often we, who are outside of something, assume so much about it, when in all truth we know nothing about it, having never been there, and that's just plain ignorance, something which some of your descriptions seem to indicate. Even delineating them like that in a way betrays a certain ignorance about the value of religious sentiments, pratices and systems or methodologies.



posted on Jul, 12 2009 @ 11:36 PM
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reply to post by OmegaPoint
 



Good post, elegant solution.
I like it.



posted on Jul, 13 2009 @ 07:29 AM
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Originally posted by silent thunder
this kind of simple, all-encompassing pure faith can be a powerful salve and a healing balm to those in deep anguish. Just so long as it doesn't become a permanent crutch....


Yeah, you don't want to hang on to anything like a powerful salve or a healing balm. Salvation and healing are for the weak, and we're certainly not weak, are we?


[edit on 13-7-2009 by Praetorian Guard]



posted on Jul, 13 2009 @ 07:37 AM
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Originally posted by silent thunder
Interesting post and I'm not sure how to answer it...sounds like you are advocating a "deep #3" which to my mind may take you either to #1 or to #4. Personally, I think some of the Reformed people fit more in #1 or #4. As with any schematic breakdown of a continnuum, there is room for debate and one can quibble with where I've drawn the line....also, I think people can and do show mixtures; although the idea of a "fundamentalist mystic" seems contradictory to me, I supposed one's faith can contain aspects of both at different times or in different individuals...so your points are worth considering carefully.


I'm actually just advocating not trying to pigeonhole people's spirituality. And I, a Reformed fellow, think of myself as a blend of all the categories you've outlined.

Oh, and to add fuel to the fire, a number of Puritans would fit into the mystical slot, as well as the orthodox.

I don't think fundamentalist mystic is contradictory. Paul comes to mind. (Keep in mind that your and my understanding of what fundamentalism is probably differs a great deal.)



posted on Jul, 13 2009 @ 10:44 AM
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reply to post by Praetorian Guard
 


Let me jump in on this lol, It sounds like you have a good mix of the four in your practice. I can see how certain people would span across the spectrums. I guess it isn't fair to assume that mystics come along and add to the orthodoxy, because sometimes their experiences become part of the orthodoxy itself over time. So their contributions were not exclusively mystical at all, like Paul yes? After some time, those things that were mystical become part of the book and you can't really draw the line anywhere, cause if they fit into the book then they were always fitting I suppose.

I have never been big on part 3 and 4. In some ways I envy the person who has truly found those parts for themselves without selling out of 1 and 2.

I read part of the Bhagavad Gita and I took it to say that a person should live by the scriptures to ensure that they are not living by their own lust and desires, doing whatever they want. That's the best answer I've come across, but to me it's not good enough. Now it does make sense if I feel like the scriptures are guiding me, but not if I feel like I'm just doing what they say because they say to. I can live away from desire and lust without scriptures and how do I know the scriptures wouldn't only bring them out further, without knowing all of it?

And I feel like spirituality is rooted in the scriptures, that's where people start. At the least everyone's spirituality is affected by the religion they grew up around or started with. At the very least these scriptures whether Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Tao, whatever, greatly affect our spiritual nature.

So I feel like I'm not ever seperate from the scriptures, because they affect that part of us that says, "I'm going to live according to some higher morals," or, "I'm going to follow something other than my base instincts."

I feel like that in itself serves the purpose of the scriptures, and I don't see how calling God by this name or that one, and sticking to just one major set of scriptures really gets me to the point.

But I know having that sort of base can really ground you and give you direction, so I envy that in ways, but none of the scriptures truly resonate with me. In fact, I get a whole lot more out of hearing someone teach or explain these religions than I do reading any of these scriptures.



posted on Jul, 13 2012 @ 01:28 PM
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As a former Christian fundamentalist turned mystic, I have a strong desire to help my fundamentalist brothers outgrow their fundamentalism.


Many, perhaps most, people view their own religion as the only top-down religion in the world. They believe that their God is the only deity in existence. Their God created humans and the universe, and gave humanity its only valid moral codes. Their fellow believers are often believed to be the only people who are assured of salvation and eternal life in Heaven or Paradise. Those of other faiths have no such certainty of an afterlife. Knowing that their religion is true and that other religions are in various degrees of error, it can become difficult to extend religious freedom to persons of other faiths. Some top-down believers accept the Golden Rule, but apply it mainly to fellow believers, to the exclusion of followers of other faiths.

Followers of the only top-down religion often consider all other religions to be bottom-up faiths -- ones that teach false Gods and a false moral code. These other Gods are created by humans rather than vice-versa. Their Gods may even be considered as demons. These bottom-up faiths are seen as leading their membership down a trail of destruction. They are often viewed as having a negative affect on society.


www.religioustolerance.org...

One of the ways to overcome fundamentalism is an education in comparative religion, comparative mythology, and comparative mysticism. Then the fundamentalist can learn to see with a panoramic cross-cultural perspective. That perspective is incompatible with the tribalistic, myopic perspective that fundamentalism demands.


edit on 13-7-2012 by BlueMule because: (no reason given)



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