John J. Thatamanil There is a widely accepted convention that distinguishes between spirituality & religion. Hence, the idea of SBNR, Spiritual But Not Religious. We need a genealogy for how this came to be. I wonder if there is good writing available that gives to this (perhaps questionable) distinction some disciplined content. Are there really useful/illuminating ways of defining these 2 terms that you like? John N Veronica Dr. T., I found the work of Bernard Lonergan inspirational, especially as articulated by his protege Daniel Helminiak, who drew distinctions between progressively broadening horizons of human concerns: 1) positivist 2) philosophic 3) theistic 4) theotic in 2 technical works: The Human Core of Spirituality and Religion and the Human Sciences. Per Helminiak, spiritual concerns emerge on the philosophic horizon, religious on the theistic. But I do not fully subscribe to the theological anthropology of Lonergan or Rahner's transcendental Thomism, which is too Kantian & a tad too optimistic. Taking further inspiration from Peirce, I don't view epistemology in such a tidy, foundational way but as a hermeneutical spiral that is, in a word, messier, where one may begin "in media res," as the normative mediates between the descriptive & interpretive to effect the evaluative. In my account, abstractly, the spiritual might entail a dance of sorts between the descriptive, evaluative & normative human concerns without the imposition of a substantive interpretive stance. Concretely, some type of interpretive approach, however inchoate or implicit, will be in play as an integral dynamic of our evolutionary epistemology.
It may be that the SBNR is a self-description that more so indicates one's eschewal of organized or institutional articulations of interpretive stances but it would be a dubious claim, in my view, for anyone to claim total immunity from the semiotic process of interpretation that, in fact, differentiates our species as "sapiens." All have a fundamental trust in uncertain reality (Kung's phrase) and maybe not all "justify" it in explicit terms, but this justification must be more broadly conceived beyond the mere epistemic to also include prudential (both moral & pragmatic) and relational (robustly unitive) norms, i.e. those existential patterns of habits and expectations that betray the beliefs of those who'd deny having any. re: I'd like to include in spirituality something other than the gathering or happening of experiences, but as disciplined transformation of our capacities for attending to attention-to cultivate attention for the sake of self and world-care, or something like that. <<<
Thomas Merton would agree, as he wrote: "And so, many contemplatives never become great saints, never enter into close friendship with God, never find a deep participation in His immense joys, because they cling to the miserable little consolations that are given to 1
beginners in the contemplative way."
I very much resonate with this approach of "disciplined transformation." And I think, again, of Lonergan's epistemological precepts: Be attentive! Be intelligent! Be reasonable! and Be responsible! I rather refer to them as existential imperatives, though, a broader conceptualization of the dynamism of sensation, abstraction, reasoning and judgment. And I think also of Lonergan's "conversions," as expanded by the recently deceased Don Gelpi: intellectual, affective, moral, sociopolitical & religious. This is precisely what Don's Peircean aphorism addresses when he said that orthopraxis authenticates orthodoxy; specifically when Don asked how well our churches institutionalize conversion, fostering transformation. It's the challenge, too, to any SBNR approach? Another thought about experiences. From the East, I learned to seek Enlightenment out of compassion for those who would have to otherwise continue to experience my unenlightened self. Often, in the Western literature, mystics like St. John of the Cross come across as rather severe in their asceticism. His fellow Carmelite, Teresa of Avila, regarding experiences, wrote: "The water is for the flowers." And she said something along the lines that we must desire and occupy ourselves in prayer not so much so as to receive consolations but so as to gain the strength to serve.
But John's emphasis on nature, the imagery of his poetry and his relational imagery reveal a man overflowing with sensuality and delight! He is selling us on nothing less than Divine Eros, an embodied love, and, in the words of Richard Hardy: â€œin the light of this erotic love challenges todayâ€™s Christian to embrace a lifestyle that risks all for the sake of all.â€? John is forsaking whatever only in order to purchase the field where he's discovered a more valuable treasure!
So, there is a balance to be struck between any dismissal of experiences as trivial epiphenomena and any chasing after experiences apart from our pursuits of truth, beauty, goodness, freedom and love, which are their own reward. Experiences of absoulte unitary being and/or of intimate unitive communion do ensue as by-products of solidarity/compassion and/or of authentic loving relationship and not from selfish pursuits, as our agapic quests transcend without negating our erotic realizations.
David Dault wrote: "Spirituality is our answer to the eclipse of religious power from civil life - we construct an interior world, recognized as sacrosanct by the Supreme Court precisely because it has been relegated to political ineffectiveness." Our experience of the Enlightenment in the US does differ in some ways from the 2
Continental, which more so marginalized religion? Our 1st Amendment's nonestablishment and free exercise clauses actually strengthened the influence of religion in our society in many ways? In a pluralistic society, we might even conceive of such norms as are found in documents like the Declaration of Independence, the UN Declaration of Human Rights and so on as reflecting a type of religious consensus. While we adopt secularization as a political strategy, this need not be conceived as a relegation of religious influence only as a practical strategy that requires the translation of any normative religious claims into terms and logic that are transparent to all human reason. At least in America, perhaps what we call the secular order is no reality from which the Spirit has been either partially bracketed or fully abstracted but represents, rather, our "pneumatological consensus" to date, even if such a "religious" accord is somewhat implicit and unconsciously competent and not otherwise negotiated through explicitly conscious dialogical processes. Still, what David & Michael suggest does seem to explain a lot as this is a complex reality w/many aspects. I fear that I may have more so described an ideal of sorts and less so a sociologic reality?
In my own studies of spiritual asceticism, disciplines and practices, I have especially been impressed with those of the East where they address the mastery of one's internal milieu, encouraging a most efficacious pause between sensation and abstraction (conceptualization), gifting one --- not so much with a new way of thinking about or processing reality, but --- with a new way of SEEING reality, of engaging it with a more raw awareness. This is not to deny the happening of experiences, but I don't think we would want to presume that folks â€” who, self-described, would kill the Buddha â€” are returning from ineffable experiences only to clearly effable about reality, or that they are telling us tales about, what they claim to hold in-principle as, untellable stories. Something else is going on, which is an invitation into an experience and not an initiation into a philosophical system. Still, many of these phenomenal experiences point to a deep interconnectedness of all Reality. This interrelatedness is ineluctably unobtrusive, which is why so few see it, but utterly efficacious, which is why all experience it, even unawares.
Because we are dealing with vague phenomenal experiences and existential realizations and not, rather, robust phenomenological descriptions and philosophical arguments, category errors and confusion will inevitably abound for any critic who chooses to engage such experiences through dualistic Cartesian lenses rather than engaging the wisdom that is there to be had even in, maybe especially in, paradox. Whatever one thinks about any putative ontological nonduality, as an epistemic stance, a nondual approach seems to be an indispensable complement to our more dualistic, problem-solving mindsets (which have 3
been no less impressive in advancing the mastery of our external milieu).