Faithlessnesses and faiths

I’ve speculated that the extremes of exoterism (fundamentalism) and esoterism (mysticism) have little do do with the faiths they are thought to exemplify.

They are faiths of their own — the former a faith in a divinity who dwells beyond (who demands particular observances), the latter a faith in a divinity who dwells within (who bestows universal insights).

Neither fundamentalist nor mystic can be told anything new, and in this they are strikingly similar. Both have already arrived at the truth. I suggest that this is the entire point of them: they are perennially convenient evasions of religious struggle. They are certainly faiths, but not religious ones. And “spiritual” dissociation from religion (with the insinuation that religion is essentially exoteric), only shows the extent to which transcendence is misunderstood, and confused with what ought to be called “inscendence”, an intensification of self within itself.

Perhaps it is a symptom of my essentially Judeo-Christian nature or second-nature that I believe so strongly that 1. religion is essentially struggle with the truth of transcendence — of relating oneself to the reality that exceeds and involves each particular person and demands that one participate in universality as custodians of a particular and unique everything among innumerable everythings — 2. that the primary locus of this struggle is not within the individual, nor between the individual and supernatural beings, but rather between individuals in the medium called the world, and 3. that the primary action of religion is transformative learning: metanoia — unlearning and relearning for the sake of relationship with beings beyond the mind’s bounds.

According to this view, avoidance of being schooled by one’s irritating neighbor is symptomatic of an avoidance of religion itself, and a removal of oneself from the realities religion seeks to inhabit with increasing intimacy, extent and awareness. The loss of religion is not wrongness but loss of the desire for ever greater rightness.

The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but less then hee
Whom Thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; th’ Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choyce
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav’n.
— Milton

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