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Saturday, March 3, 2007

Living Religion V: The Urgency Of The Sacred

[This is the fifth installment in a spiritual/philosophical series in which I try to concisely summarize in clear prose some of the more arcane facts about our collective psychology, and our relationship with the world around us. In reviewing my efforts, I see that I am failing utterly. But one does what one can.]

I am here coining the phrase "urgency of the sacred" to illustrate what I see to be a prime mover in human psychology on which I see little discussion elsewhere. For, while I have given the fear of impermanence and the search for security as motivations for many of our errors, I would like to point out something which is veiled to the mind which is caught up in these baser motivations.

[Important note: This involves touching on personal experience, which I intend to write about in more detail in a later post in this series, but I want to be clear to the reader that this is something that I am putting forth. What I mean by this is that without the experience itself it is but empty rhetoric, and it should therefore not be taken as a fact, not believed in, as it were. I hope that the reader can think along with the writer and perhaps begin to intimate just what I may be talking about, so that a door of perception may open. I would also like to caution that one be careful about the word "experience," because by that word I do not mean an accumulation of knowledge or a memory of an experience. I am speaking of the immediate in-the-moment observation which is available to those fortunate enough to shake off the folly of the self and belief in general. Not to beat this point mercilessly into the ground, but I think it far wiser to consider the author batshit crazy in the absence of the reader's own corroborative observations.]

Simply put, the world is alive. As with most truths, at first blush this sounds pretty trite, but it has deeper implications. So it is appropriate here to touch on just what life really means. Life is the animator. It is an involuntary force which moves us and compels us to be. What I wish to emphasize by this observation is that we, you and I, have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that we are alive. This in itself infers a force independent of us. Again, I beg the reader to be cautious. Please do not fall into the ready habit of conceptualizing an independent force as something separate from us, for that is the road to deism and belief and all sorts of nasty side effects which are to be avoided at all costs if one is going to be a good little philosopher. No, this "force," while independent of the will of the individual, it nevertheless is irrevocably infused with us, and we are an unavoidable manifestation of it. In other words, one could almost say that we are necessary, in the sense that without the manifestation, there is place for life to hang its hat, as it were, and as such would vanish as a fact. (This last statement is, of course, merely illustrative for the discussion - if taken literally it is complete nonsense.)

It is to life, the animator, I assign my phrase "the urgency of the sacred." We are impelled to be, and I propose that this imperative, this "force," plays a large role in our all-to-human tendency to create religions and worship and to try to penetrate the mystery. Earlier, I posted that the search for security and permanence moves us to create religions and "final solutions" to the problem our experience in a temporal world (more about "final solutions" later,) but I state here that these are only secondary motivations which come into play once self-awareness rears its ugly head. The primary motive is the animator, life, which brought us into being before we were stupid enough, as it were, to develop our first thought.

It is the secondary motivations generated by self-awareness which have dominated our appeals to the sacred, and this is the reason religion, as manifest in the world, is such a source of trouble for us. We are constantly being drawn from the immediacy of the sacred by our fascination with our own theorizing about the nature of the sacred. The sacred doesn't have a "nature." If we are disciplined enough not to run with that ball, we stand a better chance to remain consciously within the sacred. It is a distracting seduction to "think about" it.

Why "urgency?" Because, as life must be done, the sacred must be done, as they are one and the same. We as living human beings "know" this at our very core. It is from this fact that we see the mysteries of altruism and love arise, events which cannot be discovered by any rational analysis of our nature. They simply come out of nowhere, it seems.

If we are able to strip away the illusions of belief and the fiction of self, we would see that the default human condition is to do good. We are, after all, born of the urgency of the sacred, we are its manifestation.

The world, in my view, is in a sort of hormonally-challenged adolescence brought on by the problems of self-awareness. Self-awareness is a gift which, when properly understood, is the source of a boundless awe which thrills. When we come to terms with the fictions that thought necessarily puts before us, put thought in its place, then this birthright of awe and observation of the mystery is right before our eyes.

Before I close, I would like to fulfull my promise to discuss "final solutions" in the context of this urgency. As I have said, we are impelled towards the sacred, but this is a very frustrating state of affairs when one is still in thrall to the concept of the self. Our response to this frustration can take on quite ugly forms, and we are seeing much of that in the world today. The very fact that so much weight is given to apocolyptic tendencies illustrate this frustration. "End-timers" are one such manifestation. The longing for a final solution to the struggle of life is a compelling one, and this is why the myth of the Rapture has such a purchase on our collective imagination. This is to be condemned - not with a mean spirit, but only with a recognition that it is anti-life, anti-sacred. It is here where our otherwise seemingly trite meditation on life illustrates its extremely important relevance.


I was going to post next on the observation of the sacred, but I think now that there is not much more I can say about that which would be of any use. I will dismiss that topic by saying the work must be done by the reader, by the persistent and sincere effort in observing how we distract ourself from something which is right in front of us. I am instead going to leap joyfully into an even more ambitious and impetuous topic, "Deconstruction And The Ecstacy Of The Aporetic Oscillation."

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