The Comparative Approach to Religion

page: 1
3

log in

join

posted on Jan, 20 2013 @ 09:36 AM
link   
There is the "science" approach. I can sum that up with the phrase, 'religion is superstitious nonsense'.

There is the "Bible study" approach... that is to say the approach of delving deep into the religion of your culture. Such as that of a Bible College. I can sum that up with the phrase, 'my religion is the only true religion, lucky me'.

And there is the much rarer approach of a comparativist.

"The origins of the discipline of religious studies in nineteenth-century Europe are not primary mystical or even religious. A highly developed secular sense is a sine qua non of the discipline and its social sustainability anywhere on the planet (hence its virtual absense outside the Western academy). I would like, though, to make a restricted and heterodox case that regarding the discipline as a modern mystical tradition could be useful in approaching the constructive tasks being explored in these reflections. In this, I am not suggesting that the discipline must or even should be read in this way.

Rather, I wish only to make the much more restricted, but no less unorthodox, case that some of the discipline's practices and practitioners (that is, those capable of forging a tensive mystical-critical practice out of the discipline's dual Romantic/Enlightenment heritage) can be read in such a way, and that, moreover, such a mystical-critical rereading of the discipline might be useful for the constructive tasks under discussion here, namely, the cross-cultural influence of religious systems toward a safer, more humane, and more religiously satisfying world."
-Jeffrey J. Kripal

Just as comparative anatomy is vital to understanding evolution, comparative religion is vital to understanding religion. By comparing the anatomy of animals, we learn how similar they are, how they share commonalities.

The comparative approach is not vital to following a religion, however. To follow a religion, a local narrow focus works just fine.

Nor is it vital so simply rejecting religion.

But comparative religion alone is not enough. Comparative mythology and comparative mysticism are also part of the comprehensive panoramic view of a comparativist. A comparativist then is at home in the sacred texts of all the world. Not just the religion of the culture he happened to grow up in.

Have any of you read The Mists of Avalon? A great book which tells the King Arthur saga from the perspective of the women, such as Morgan Le Fay, Igraine, The Lady of the Lake, etc. Christianity vs the Old Ways is a major theme.

Shortly after Arthur is crowned, he takes the Merlin and Archbishop Patricius as his advisers. There is a scene (page 259-260) in which Arthur introduces the Archbishop to his mother Igraine, and a brief theological discussion ensues (one of many throughout the book). I will present that short scene for your entertainment and philosophical consideration:

[...]

"Lady, I do not know, but I do know that the Mother Superior wanted to forbid one of them because" - her eyes grew wide - "he is a wizard and a sorcerer, so she said, and a Druid!”

Igraine rose. "It is the Merlin of Britain, for he is my father, and he is no wizard, child, but a scholar trained in the crafts of the wise. Even the church fathers say that the Druids are good and noble men, and worship with them in harmony, since they acknowledge God in all things, and Christ as one of the many prophets of God."

The little girl dropped a small curtsey, acknowledging the correction, as Igraine put away the embroidery work and adjusted her veil smoothly around her face.

When she came into the outer room, she saw not only the Merlin and a strange, austere man in the dark dress which churchmen were beginning to adopt to set them off from seculars, but a third man she hardly recognized, even when he was turned; for a moment it was as if she looked into Uther's face.

"Gwydion!" she exclaimed, then, quickly amending, "Arthur. Forgive me; I forgot." She would have knelt before the High King but he reached out quickly and prevented her.

"Mother, never kneel in my presence. I forbid it."

Igraine bowed to the Merlin and to the dour, austere-looking Archbishop.

"This is my mother, Uther's queen," Arthur said, and the Archbishop responded, stretching his lips in what Igraine supposed was meant for a smile. "But now she has a higher honor than royalty, in that she is a bride of Christ."

Hardly a bride, Igraine thought, simply a widow who has taken refuge in his house. But she did not say so, and bowed her head.

Arthur said, "Lady, this is Patricius, Archbishop of the Isle of the Priests, now called Glastonbury, who has newly come there."

"Aye, by God's will," the Archbishop said, "having lately driven out the evil magicians from Ireland, I am come to drive them forth from all Christian lands. I found in Glastonbury a corrupt lot of priests, tolerating among them even the common worship of the Druids, at which our Lord who died for us would have wept tears of blood!"

Taliesin the Merlin said in his soft voice, "Why, then, you would be harsher than Christ himself, brother? For he, I seem to remember, was greatly chided that he consorted with outcasts and sinners and even tax collectors, and such ladies as the Magdalen, when they would have had him a Nazarite like to John the Baptizer. And at last, even when he hung dying on his cross, he did promise the thief that that same night he would join him in paradise - no?"

"I think too many presume to read the divine Scriptures, and fall into just such errors as this," said Patricius sternly. "Those who presume on their learning will learn, I trust, to listen to their priests for the true interpretations."

The Merlin smiled gently. "I cannot join you in that wish, brother. I am dedicated to the belief that it is God's will that all men should strive for wisdom in themselves, not look to it from some other. Babes, perhaps, must have their food chewed for them by a nurse, but men may drink and eat of wisdom for themselves."

"Come, come!" Arthur interrupted with a smile. "I will have no controversies between my two dearest councilors. Lord Merlin's wisdom is indispensable to me; he set me on my throne."

"Sir," said the Archbishop, "God set you there."

"With the help of the Merlin," said Arthur, "and I pledged to him that I would listen to his council always. Would you have me forsworn, Father Patricius?"

[...]

Arthurs two councelors embody two different approaches. St Patrick's approach is the approach of local religion. Merlins is the apporach of cross-cultural religion. Merlin will find bonds of brotherhood across cultural divides. St Patrick won't.

If you really want to understand your religion, study the religion of other cultures. The fields of comparative religion, comparative mythology, and comparative mysticism provide the means to do so. These fields give one the means to escape the inevitable trap of exoteric dogma that obscures the esoteric truth. They give one the tools to see God in all religions, all people.

"If you can't see God in all, you can't see God at all." - Siri Singh Sahib

You can't think your way out of the subtle trap of localized, cultural thinking with the tools and terms that your local culture gives you. You need a new set of terms...a new perspective... a new set of cognitive tools. The comparative fields give you that.

So where to start? Stay tuned...

edit on 20-1-2013 by BlueMule because: (no reason given)




posted on Jan, 20 2013 @ 10:06 AM
link   
I'm glad you decided to do a thread on this. Hopefully, there will be a part two...

So would I be out of order then to suggest that you believe all but the most localized religion, mythology, and mysticism, have a common, but much older and earthly source of which all others have succeeded?

Or...

Would it be more correct to say that these systems were developed over time, independently, but have similarities because many of their tenets are simply common to human perspective?

S&F.

ETA: What would you recommend as good beginner sources to help someone understand how to embark on comparative studies?
edit on 1/20/2013 by Klassified because: eta



posted on Jan, 20 2013 @ 11:06 AM
link   

Originally posted by Klassified
I'm glad you decided to do a thread on this. Hopefully, there will be a part two...


Part two commencing in 3... 2... 1...


So would I be out of order then to suggest that you believe all but the most localized religion, mythology, and mysticism, have a common, but much older and earthly source of which all others have succeeded?

Or...

Would it be more correct to say that these systems were developed over time, independently, but have similarities because many of their tenets are simply common to human perspective?


Universal themes and motifs are imprinted on our psyche, as Jung would say. They will therefore find expression in world religion and myth, and even in unlikely places such as comic books and sci-fi... which have surprising histories.


ETA: What would you recommend as good beginner sources to help someone understand how to embark on comparative studies?


I would recommend the classic that George Lucas turned Hollywood onto.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces


Since its publication in 1949, Joseph Campbell’s seminal work on the archetypal heroes and myths shared by world religions and traditions has focused countless artists and academics on our cultural commonalities rather than our differences. Legend has it that George Lucas used Campbell’s book as a foundation for his Star Wars trilogy. Harry Potter also closely hews to the classic hero’s journey that Campbell drew from ancient allegories in dozens of cultures and codified into one rollicking human epic, a universal saga that he referred to as the monomyth and that, he argued, sits deep in our subconscious, woven into all our rituals, from marriage to burial.

A prolific author and editor, he believed that people need these superhuman figures because they are “the symbols that carry the human spirit forward.” But in a wistful last chapter, he noted that modernity has devalued this collective consciousness in favor of self-expression and a fragmented culture tilted toward science and economics. In his view, we are enriched and supported when we embrace the “oneness of the individual and the group.” Today that bond is frayed. “The lines of communication between the conscious and unconscious zones of the human psyche have all been cut,” Campbell wrote, “and we have been split in two.”


Source

edit on 20-1-2013 by BlueMule because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 20 2013 @ 11:06 AM
link   
reply to post by BlueMule
 


Good thread. I can see what you're saying, and I agree with it. I'll be checking in on this.


One must be very careful when comparing religions. One may find that one is predisposed to lean in favor of one or another, and thus all others are examined critically because of a subconscious desire to find fault. In all things, we are our own enemy. Remember this.
edit on 20-1-2013 by AfterInfinity because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 20 2013 @ 02:15 PM
link   
reply to post by BlueMule
 


edit on 20-1-2013 by wildtimes because: whatever
edit on 20-1-2013 by wildtimes because: I don't know why someone starred the previous edit.......my interested response to the OP was, apparently, what he considered a thread-kill (as in: no, not you). So I deleted it.....so as not to upset him.



posted on Jan, 20 2013 @ 02:40 PM
link   

Originally posted by AfterInfinity
reply to post by BlueMule
 


Good thread.


It was a good thread.


I can see what you're saying, and I agree with it. I'll be checking in on this.


/shrug

If you wish. I won't be.


One must be very careful when comparing religions. One may find that one is predisposed to lean in favor of one or another, and thus all others are examined critically because of a subconscious desire to find fault. In all things, we are our own enemy. Remember this.


Yup.





top topics
 
3

log in

join