There are many who would say that religion manifesting as iron-fisted, petrified dogma is not religion at all. Enter the notion of “spirituality” and an examination of what is meant by that term, and for that matter, what is meant by the term “dogma,” such that it would be considered “not religion at all.”
These are the bedrock cornerstone issues that inspired this topic category.
Websters defines “dogma” as: “something held as an established opinion; especially : a definite authoritative tenet – a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds.” Within the ‘religious’ context it means that religious dogma sees religion as a body of black letter rules and edicts that must be blindly obeyed and followed, much like the hierarchy of military command, where the soldier’s ethos and thought processes are subordinate to the high command. Those who do obey and follow the tenets, the edicts, the religious laws, are deemed to be holy and religious.
Central to religious dogma is the belief that one need not ‘understand’ or ‘grasp’ the meaning or import or purpose of the edict or rule. To the contrary, such an effort “to understand the meaning and import” is considered an act of blasphemy, an act of heresy by religious dogmatists, because it is deemed tantamount to ‘questioning’ or ‘second-guessing’ the inspired imperial word, order, edict, rule, law that God promulgated. This belief is often expressed as “Yours not to reason why, but to do or die.” Blind, unquestioning acceptance and obedience is expected and demanded, as an article of ‘faith.’ The hallmark of religious dogma is apparent as a cardinal trait in all mainstream and “Fundamentalist” religions throughout the World.
Spirituality is the antithesis of dogmatic religion and the Fundamentalist movement. Spirituality holds that true religiousness lies in an ‘awakened’ understanding of the ‘spirit’ of the religious rule or precept. In support of this understanding, Spirituality would cite, for example, Christ’s rebuke of the hypocrites of his time when he chastised them saying “You adhere rigidly to the letter of the law, while you violate the heart of the law.”
Spirituality would rigorously contend that Christ was a fierce anti-dogma Enlightened One. In fact, they would argue that anti-dogma stood as the very heart and soul of his teachings. Hence, in violation of the black-letter religious laws and rules of the day, Christ fraternized with a prostitute, permitting her to “wash his feet with her tears and dry them with her hair” because compassion, not dogma, should be the compass that guides our way.
For Spirituality, ‘compassion’ cannot be translated as an edict, or a law, or a rule to be blindly and obediently followed. It must be understood, ‘realized,’ actualized, manifested in the heart, soul and spirit of each individual. St. Francis is often cited as the premier example of this understanding within the Christian religion. Mother Theresa stands as a giant contemporary example in Christianity.
Spirituality illustrates this principle by pointing to one of the Ten Commandments, “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” as an example. Under the blind obedience tenets of religious dogma, if asked why he does not kill, the dogmatist would answer: “Because the Holy word of God tells us not to kill.” Conversely, Spirituality would answer, “Because the idea of ‘killing’ cannot manifest in the heart of compassion which is the heart of God.”
One might ask, just how comfortable would I feel being around someone who does not kill, merely because a rule tells him it is not allowed. Now compare that comfort level with one surrounding a spiritual person who states, as St. Francis did, that in the heart of compassion which was in Christ and is in me, no impetus to kill can arise. I, personally, would feel infinitely more comfortable around the spiritual person. It’s a no-brainer.
When the notion of religious dogma is fully understood, it becomes apparent that organized mainstream religion today has become dogmatic. And it comes as no surprise that this dogmatized mainstream religion has become acutely politicized, something which the biblical records state its namesake, Christ, staunchly and adamantly repudiated.
Now let’s look at the term “Spirituality” so it is clear exactly what we mean by that term.
The term ‘epistemology’ sounds like a high-flying word only a Ph.D. academic would know. But it is really a simple term with enormous significance. Epistemology is simply the study of “the means available to humans for apprehending reality.” We have our five senses for detecting or apprehending reality. This is often called the epistemology of “Empiricism” and one who believes this is the superior, most reliable epistemological faculty is referred to as an Empiricist. Rationality is another epistemological faculty for apprehending reality and one who believes that Rationalism is the superior, most reliable epistemological faculty is referred to as a Rationalist.
The truth is that the Rationalists and the Empiricists are actually very intimate, accommodating, friendly and compatible bedfellows who are joined at the hip and who work very well together in the fields of science and technology. The real dogfight is between the epistemology of Rationalism and the third epistemological faculty known as “Insight” or the “Intuitive,” which most commonly manifests itself as the faculty of “Compassion.” This ‘other’ epistemological faculty once was the special province of Religion, until mainstream Religion abandoned it in favor of Rationalism (Thank St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas for that treason).
I noted, with great sadness, that one of the very first things the new Pope proclaimed, was a reaffirmation of the Aquinas peace-maker treasonous pronouncement that the epistemology of reason \ rationality is fully capable of delivering devotees to moral and ethical rectitude and the Promised Land. Until that time, for Religion, it was the epistemological faculty of Insight, Intuition and Revelation, manifesting as Compassion, that delivered devotees to moral and ethical rectitude and the Promised Land. But mainstream Religion renounced and abandoned that precept, and as a result became a Rationalistic institution. Dogma is a common manifestation of rationalism.
This is what the predicament now is between the epistemology of Rationalism and the epistemology of Insight, Intuition manifesting as Compassion. Rationalism is insisting that Insight \ Intuition \ Revelation meet the standards of Rationalism, that Insight & Compassion’s “sightings” be discernable by the faculty of Rationalism, and that is an impossibility precisely because they are two totally different epistemologies. In fact, that is precisely what makes them two completely different epistemologies. Rationalism can never detect and observe what is discernable to Insight, just as the Optical Telescope, by its very nature and limitations, can never detect the invisible radio waves perceived by the Radio Telescope — because it only operates on the visible spectrum. Now, we need to consider the single-most damaging, negative consequence that has flowed from Rationalism’s victory over Insight and Compassion.
For both religion and global society, substituting the epistemology of Rationalism for the epistemology of Insight and Compassion has proven to be a catastrophic mistake. This is, at its core, an epistemological problem.
The epistemological faculty of “Insight \ Revelation,” i.e., the faculty of the “intuitive,” manifests most commonly for most of us in the form of “Compassion.” This is a distinctly different epistemology altogether, and it alone, has the capacity, the ability to serve as a reliable moral compass, to reconcile what we commonly refer to as “ethical” and “moral” issues of empathy. Calling upon Rationality to handle such matters is like calling an electrician to fix a backed-up toilet. You call an electrician to resolve electrical problems, and you call a “plumber” to repair plumbing problems.
The problem with the “Rationalism is King” notion that rationalism (the intellect) is an all-around handyman who can fix everything, is that it isn’t true, it isn’t accurate. At best, it gives you a “Jack of all Trades — Master of None” charlatan snake oil salesman who is scavenging the countryside extolling his brain surgery expertise, to the detriment of those who believe him. At worst, it results in the wretched condition that is epidemic throughout the World today, namely, a rudderless morally destitute, spiritually malnourished culture that has abandoned “the Real thing” (Empathy & Compassion) in deference to a fraudulent surrogate that has dumped its passengers in the middle of a barren wasteland without a map or a canteen.
When you look at the state of affairs in the World today, man’s inhumanity to man and animals, the immense amount of violence and greed and rampant, acute sociopathic mental disorders on an epidemic scale, what you are actually witnessing is the horrific consequence of calling a plumber to correct an electrical short in the household wiring. And it doesn’t require a Harvard Ph.D. to figure out that, although the plumber may be an expert in plumbing, he is utterly incompetent at electrical work; he is profoundly inept at electrical repairs and if he tinkers with the wiring in your house, at your insistence, he is likely to burn the house down. The “rationalization” of empathy, Compassion and the moral \ ethical ‘conscience’ of humanity is the single-most colossal, horrific mistake in all of human history.
In truth, Rationalism is utterly incapable of responsibly and competently performing the tasks we assign to it. Rationalism has reigned as king for centuries now, and when you look around at the decrepit conditions of corruption and inhumanity you are actually looking at proof positive that rationalism has absolutely no moral compass. And when you look at mainstream religion today you see a “political” institution that also lacks a moral compass. That is because the epistemology of Empathy and Compassion, the true moral compass, has been muzzled, maligned, subordinated, castrated, denigrated and forsaken, in large measure, by rationalism and by mainstream religion which renounced the epistemology of Empathy and Compassion in favor of rationalism.
This “other” very different epistemological faculty has integrity and legitimacy in its own right and in its own sphere of influence and it is unwise and premature to discount it or dismiss it merely because a different epistemology (rationalism), of an inferior scope, cannot metabolize its contents. And while this “other” very different epistemological faculty may not be amenable to microscope identification and corroboration, it is nevertheless discernable. At least this much can be said about it: “I can’t tell you exactly what it is, but I know it when I see it and when I experience it.” It is entirely possible, realistically and credibly plausible, that this is an epistemology that exists beyond the faculty of the rational and beyond the faculty of language. There is absolutely no tenable, coherent logical basis for discrediting its integrity for this reason.
But what we have today is the epistemology of “Rationality” reigning supreme, with absolute veto power over the epistemology of “Insight” and Compassion. Yet the historical record strongly favors the view that, reason (intellect), unbridled and uninformed by compassion, is meaningless, aimless and often dangerous. The typical western view today inverts this premise, holding that compassion, insight and intuition must be bridled by “reason” and the intellect.
In trying to ferret out the truth of the matter, one might ask, “In all of human history, What great harm and evil has ever been wrought against the masses by COMPASSION when it has been ‘let loose’ and is off the leash and in command?” Then ask that same question of ‘rationality’ and the intellect. What Frankensteins of harm has unbridled rationality created in human history? The Holocaust? Hitler’s Ultimate Solution with his Grand Scientific Scheme for genetic perfection? The Crusades? The Stalin Holocaust? The Lenin Holocaust? The Mao Regime Genocides? The Pol Pot Regime Genocide? The Bosnian Ethnic Cleansing genocides? The Rwandan Genocide? The Darfur Genocide? Few would try to argue that these horrific ‘social engineering’ debacles were the product of ‘unbridled‘ COMPASSION. Indeed it is unmistakably clear that rationality, unbridled by Compassion, has proven to be a horrendously dangerous thing. Which means that for as long as anyone can remember, the fox has been guarding the henhouse and the hen mortality rate has been skyrocketing ever since.
Respected philosopher Huston Smith graphically stated the problem when he wrote, “Reason makes a very good servant and a lousy master.” Given the spate of evidence throughout human history, it is fair to say Smith’s remark is a gross understatement. Reason unbridled by Compassion has proven to be the greatest, most disastrous “mistake” in all of human history.
Because of the erroneous compartmentalization of the epistemology of Insight and Compassion as a trivial, inferior ‘emotion,’ subordinated to Rationalism, mainstream Religion and the notion of ‘religiousness’ has been condemned to wallow in the mud as nothing more than rationalistic “Dogma,” the inevitable result whenever rationality attempts to muscle-in on another epistemology in order to handle something that is beyond its ken . . . beyond its capabilities, beyond its grasp and comprehension. Given this pathetic state of affairs, we are justified in stating that Rationalism, mainstream Religion & Dogma represent The Three Wicked Sisters in human history. When mainstream religion renounced, defected, betrayed, deserted the epistemology of Insight \ Intuition \ Revelation with a Judas kiss, it abdicated its throne in an act of treason that removed religion from its special place as the guardian of the Spiritual dimension of human consciousness.
It is a bitter irony indeed, because the epistemology of Insight \ Intuition \ Revelation, manifesting as Compassion, had always been the hallmark and special province of Religion and it was this ‘Spirituality’ component in religion that brought many religions together under one roof, as one family, in the name and service of Compassion. And it is nauseating to have to contemplate that mainstream Religion traded away this precious jewel, for something as mundane and stunted as rationalistic ‘Dogma’ and the politicizing of the entire institution of religion by mainstream dogmatists. It is unmistakably obvious, that “Religious Fundamentalism” in every religion throughout the World today, has become nothing more than a ‘political clan’, a political tool, a political whorehouse, and it no longer has much of anything to do with true Religion, having renounced and abandoned Spirituality long, long ago. It was mainstream religion’s renunciation of the spiritual and its embrace of rationalism that has made it so amenable to the dogmatic political manipulation so commonplace today, something which, in bitter irony, the biblical records indicate, Christ repudiated with every fiber of his being.
This brief summary stands as the framework for this subject category entitled: “Has Religion Forsaken Spirituality?” This is an open forum and participation by way of Comments on the posted articles is invited and encouraged. At this point in time, no membership, registration or log-in is required to post a Comment. (See also, “Rationalism Religion & Dogma – The Three Wicked Sisters” and “On Moral Questions – Science is Clueless“).