A religion for progress? –Robert M. Shelby, 7-9-12. [489 txt wds]

Religions are not without human value but, examined both closely and broadly, I find (and you likely will, too,) that the value reduces to “spirituality.” Religiosity has often hampered or thwarted spirituality, leading to schism, conflict, unhappiness and violence. Spirituality is the means and pathway to heal these ills. The reality is that metaphysics is indeed defunct but people’s minds are still widely deprived of closer access to reality. What bars access are false “maps”: defective assumptions including groundless beliefs; ideas involving circularity. These are what shape false conflict between religion and science. (I suggest Karen Armstrong’s 1993 book, A History Of God: The 4000-year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, 460 pages, from Knopf.)

“Metaphysics” begins with the way some followers of Aristotle arranged his works for their convenience; i.e., “All (monographs) following his Physics, in sequence.” Pretty vague, right? A good shot in the head from Alfred North Whitehead should put one on track to unitive thinking which, stepping it up a level, need not integrate “God” with the result unless one knows which possibilities for non-mythical meaning can be saved. In present and future worlds, metaphysics is only imaginarily or conceptually distinct from physics.

Blame our dictionaries. They offer words defined as if they had referential value, or denotation apart from connotation. Similarly, spirit and matter can be no more mutually distinct than space and time, mass and energy, conductance and resistance, structure and dynamics. When I speak of spirituality I do not involve metaphysical entities like souls or ghosts. As “entities” these latter do not exist, notwithstanding our sub-cultures of imaginatively perpetuated, popular delusion. My soul is not separate from me like a candle’s flame that can dance around off its wick! That happens only in dreams. The phenomenon of St. Elmo’s fire involves no actual flame. Modern biology is a branch of modern physics.

My soul is my fount of feeling and awareness from which perception and thought take form. Soul (or spirit, in that sense) is referable to biology: it is the “elan vital” in Bergson’s sense, one’s living process inseparable from the body, like flame and candle. Bergson was misunderstood by many otherwise sensible thinkers; the spirit of a living organism is not a separable “thing” but life itself.

If progress needs the social energy of a religion, let that religion be no more than a spirituality of compassionate determination to improve self, societies and world, bringing all into a viable community of peacefully adjusted, harmonious members and elements. This may require a newly heuristic sort of mythology for bringing the young into focus. Valid history might substitute well for myth. Most of the religions we know about, besides Zen Buddhism, will certainly prove stultifying or retrogressive. (Zen stresses no dogmas but a personal goal of transcendental “enlightenment” in the realm of objective “trans-mind.” Our ordinary words, of course, fail here. One “returns” with balance, good nature and clarity.)

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