Sunday, December 13, 2009

Syncretism: What's the big deal?

According to a USAToday article recently published (Friday, Dec. 11), syncretism or "mashing up contradictory beliefs" appears on the rise. Well, the article referred to "mashing up contradictory beliefs" but this is a typical, superficial American way of putting it. According to Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionary, the term means "the attempted reconciliation or union of different religious or philosophical principles, practices or belief coda".

Thus, a Catholic may believe in the Virgin Birth and Trinity, but also in reincarnation and the Jewish Kabbalah. An Anglican, such as many I knew when living in Barbados, may believe in the Anglican doctrines but also Universal Mind, karma and esoteric Gnostic practices. A mainline orthodox Christian may accept his King James Bible, but also the Upanishads and the Talmud. The point is that the person makes a concerted effort to reconcile what he has been presented with along with other ideas, beliefs to which he's been exposed, and doesn't elevate one over another in a kind of spiritual one-upmanship.

According to the same USAToday piece, upwards of 35% of Americans, from a Pew Religious Survey, now embrace syncretism in some form or other - if not attending different services, churches, etc. then reading different "good Books", including the Qu'aran, King James Bible, and Catholic Revised Standard Bible along with the Upanishads. According to Pew researcher Greg Smith, "these findings all point toward a spiritual and religious openness — not necessarily a lack of seriousness."

However, not all observers are pleased with the prospect that their "flocks" might be dipping their spirtual toes in other realms and concepts. According to Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, all those pursuing syncretism in any form are "confused". According to him, and bear in mind he's approaching it from the rigid fundamentalist stance:

"This is a failure of the pulpit as much as of the pew to be clear about what is and is not compatible with Christianity and belief in salvation only through Christ"

But is this really so? A failure of the pulpit? Not according to religious philosopher, Ken Wilber. According to Wilber (A Sociable God, New Science Library, 1983, p. 26.) religious integration correlates with ever higher states of consciousness. Wilber identifies specifically seven levels of increasing consciousness which are, in ascending order:

1- Archaic
2- Magic
3- Mythic
4- Rational
5- Psychic
6- Subtle
7- Causal

A major division separates the 'Personal' levels (1-4) from the 'Transpersonal' (levels 5 - 7) The personal levels embody lower-order cognition. The rational state is the highest of these, in which scientific thought, comes to full flower. Most orthodox religious adherents are at the ‘Mythic’ level, having adopted one or other monarchical ruler or 'Father-God-King', in the words of Ken Wilber. In this scheme, the avowed scientific atheist would occupy the level 4 rank (rational) and Hindus - Science of Mind Christians, Gnostics would be at 3. Catholics and Jews would occupy the "magic" realm - and we know the Trinity and Virgin Birth are definitely magical concepts. The lowest rung of all, the "archaic" is occupied by fundamentalists because their God-King is a tyrant (as manifested by his actions in Genesis) and they take all the assorted passages about him literally. Also, they fail to recognize Jesus as a spiritual metaphor for the human "Christ state" of mind, instead taking him literally as a real person. In addition, their childish adherence to the heaven-hell afterlife doctrine consigns them almost automatically to the most rudimentary and naive level of conscious cognition.

In the transpersonal levels, all allegiance to specific discrete beliefs and practices is transcended, and the person finally sees all human religious beliefs as forms of mental bondage and slavery. This allows him to escape menial separateness via meditation or other practices, whereupon he is then able to "become a Christ" - in other words, attain the mentality of Christhood, which has always been a state of higher consciousness, never a single person. The point here is that a dedicted syncretism is the first phase en route to the transpersonal. A well-rounded person steeped in diverse practices and spiritual thinking (not necessarily beliefs) is then on his way to the "Psychic stage".

A Christ, by definition, transcends ego and abstracted cognition. This means it possesses these attributes:

l)No interest in territory, personal 'space' or property

2) No interest in accumulation of material resources, or money

3) Manifests cooperative as opposed to competitive dynamic

4) No thought for 'the morrow', or security consciousness, i.e.

Look at the lilies of the valley, how they neither reap nor sow...and look how your Father has provided for them

5) Ethic of maximized efficient use, so no concept of disposal or obsolescence dictated by any market, or fad, or fashion.

6) Total simplicity mindset in all spheres: walks, or bikes - doesn't drive, simple clothes & sandals, nothing fancy, or evocative of a false image ('status').

7) Unity mindset with the planetary "spirit" (Gaia) so that all global warming threats would be assiduously confronted.

At the final, transpersonal phase ("Causal") the person is himself the cause of every and anything. He can use his mind to control external reality and events about him. At this stage, he can say (according to Wilber):

"I Am GOD"

In other words, the progression in the ladder of consciousness from the lowest "dogg-ish" realm, to the highest causal, is in fact a progression of Man toward conscious Godhood. Are any humans there yet? Wilber doubts it, and I seriously doubt it too. If there were, the world would not be in the mess it's in. However, the door is left open for another alien sentience to have possibly arrived - or at least to stage 6.

Another interesting aspect of all this is how it ultimately dovetails with the Socinian God. In some past blog entries I noted that, with only one exception, all the Christians I've ever argued with failed to provide the necessary and sufficient conditions for their deity. The only one who ever did, embraced the Socinian God, as first outlined by the heretic Socinus.

According to him, the reason for the manifestly imperfect God (given the imperfect events all around) is because the deity can possess no higher consciousness than the existing highest sentience. If some advanced alien race is therefore already at level 5, or 6, and this is the maximum in the whole cosmos, then God is no higher - and hence, may still make mistakes! This is because the Socinian rejects all the "omni-attributes" which most lazy theists append without thought. Hence, no omniscience, no omnipotence (so God could not have stopped the Holocaust), no omnipresence and so forth.

This begs the question that IF level 7 is finally reached, what will happen? My take is all humans would have to reach it at once, because if one God exists in one place, all others must similarly be localized points of Godhood. Bohm's Holomovement brought to fruition.

Of course, the typical fundamentalist will find this all bordering on "blasphemy". But since their consciousness is of the lowest order- barely one up from dogs and cats, who the hell cares?

Bring on the syncretics!

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