April 24, 2010

Fundamentalism, Freedom, & Immortality

Fundamentalism refers to a variety of thinking involving a religious system which broadly has five attributes…Fundamentalism works as an intravenous morphine for those who cannot cope with the burden of being sane. Being sane involves coping with six problems…
It is not easy to bear such a burden. In return, we are offered a feeling of safety, identity, continuity in time, sexuality and efficacy. When these compensatory factors are threatened, sanity becomes hard to bear and fundamentalism steps in…
Fundamentalism absolves us of conflict and misery by turning us from adults to children — in fact, worse, because children try to overcome their innocence. To prevent fundamentalism, we need to make it possible to bear the burdens of sanity. The burden of being sane Fundamental Truths Times of India: May 7, 2005Salman Akhtar 6:06 AM [Freud Along the Ganges: Psychoanalytic Reflections on the People and Culture of IndiaIntimacy and Infidelity: Separation-Individuation PerspectivesThe Damaged Core: Origins, Dynamics, Manifestations, and Treatment, ]

This trajectory of sincere political action assumes that just such a state exists and is possible to attain, a variant on the Manichean theology that supplants good and evil for power/oppressed and freedom. Experience, on the other hand, tells us that things are not so simple.
In reality, the ability to gain a degree of freedom is a sense of false hope held tight by those who have articulated the context bound nature of our understanding and, indeed, existence, but are unwilling to grapple with the ultimate and logical conclusion of those realizations. Not only our understanding of the world, but our very experience of and existence in the world are bound within the context of a particular set of experiences. We can seek to expand the boundaries of our experiences, but the finite nature of our reality makes the kind of omniscience required to overcome our contextual circumstances both physically and logically impossible. Post-postmodern Politics - A Going Under by Scott Payne Saturday, 30 January 2010 9:26 AM

The Age of Enlightenment popularized the ideal of religious tolerance, and we are doubtless better for it. But the idea of religious unity is wishful thinking nonetheless, and it has not made the world a safer place. In fact, this naive theological groupthink—call it Godthink—has made the world more dangerous by blinding us to the clashes of religions that threaten us world-wide.
Faith in the unity of religions is just that—faith, and perhaps even a kind of fundamentalism. And it does not just infect the perennialists. Denying differences is a recipe for disaster APRIL 23, 2010 A Dangerous Belief By STEPHEN PROTHERO  1:56 PM

The second flaw of postmodernism with regard to religion was not having a sufficiently grounded yoga or practice—or spiritual technology—to help illuminate the transcendent in the immanent in a profound and really transformative way…
As such, postmodernity became a “talking school” of spirituality and religion.  It was still all too identified with the eye of mind.  All of the postmodern writers above, though they write beautifully and at times transcendentally, have no real way of teaching how they got to the point of view that they did that offered them such a majestic vista on the life process.
Without a mature intellectual understanding of the spiritual nor a practice to help reveal and deepen it in one’s life, postmodernism floundered.
Opposed to (but ultimately aided by and dependent upon) that postmodern school of religion has been the rise of fundamentalism.  Fundamentalism is an attempt to return to the premodern world of imposed traditional myth and social formation.  This drive towards fundamentalism is occurring in all of the world’s major religions: Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and yes even forms of Buddhism.  Fundamentalism is ultimately about a drive for power, in its most disturbing cases, through the use of violence.  Buddhism has merged with Sinhalese nationalism in Sri Lanka to lead one of the most bloody horrific counterinsurgency campaigns in contemporary history.  Right-wing Hindustanis proclaim India a Hindu country for Hindus.  The “settler” movement to claim the whole of the supposed ancient land grant from God to the Jews in modern Israel is driven by a religious apocalyptic messianic Zionism.  Evangelicals in the United States seek to undermine the teaching of science, the civil rights of gay persons, and the rule of law in a pluralist secular society.  And of course there are Islamic fundamentalisms of all kinds of shapes and sizes some seeking utopian states others nihilistic terrorists.
Fundamentalism is a modern phenomenon—it is only at most one hundred years or so old.  As religious scholar Karen Armstrong has brilliantly shown, fundamentalism is just another one of the utopian modernist visions of an unstoppably progressive march into a perfect future for all beings under the umbrella of one ideology and anyone who stands (stupidly) opposed to their own social salvation will just be crushed to a pulp.  This worldview is the same mentality that drove communism, fascism, nationalism, modern globalizing capitalism, and socialism.
Fundamentalists have assumed the modern understanding of truth—whereby things are true only if they are materially real and provable (usually via science).  Islamists argue the Qu’ran offers the real form of human social, political, and economic organization.  Creationists argue The Bible is the real source of true science in the world.  And on and on.  In the actual traditional world to which all these fundamentalist claim to stand for and desire to revive, modern science did not exist and was not afforded such a prime value.  Traditional Christian theology—like in St. Augustine from the 5th century—did not believe The Bible’s ultimate truth rested on its scientific value.  It did not rise or fall on whether creation happened in exactly 7 days or not.  As Augustine said, if the science shows The Bible to not be scientifically true, fine go with the science, as The Bible’s truest message is about the nature of God as Love and the redemption of the universe, something to which science cannot speak.
Fundamentalism, particularly since the 1960s, has also taken advantage of the postmodern (or pluralistic) world.  It has cloaked itself in the aura of an oppressed minority needing special rights.  It displays itself in aggressively emotional, anti-intellectual forms of social protest, like a collective mass of 3 year olds throwing an enormous temper tantrum—though possibly a temper tantrum with bombs and guns. 9:26 AM

Often people pin their sense of self on a group identity. As a group develops, things may get done at certain times in certain ways and over time these characteristics get fixed in the minds of that group as defining that group’s reality. This reality is reinforced by a theology or ideology – the fundamental yet invisible pillars around which identity is built – as well as parables, metaphors and stories, mythologies, which make the members of the group identify with the ideology at the personal, core level.  Finally certain people start authorizing these characteristics as defining  a movement and rigidly controlling what can or cannot be done or believed. As the characteristics of identity crystallize in a group, people seeking power gravitate inevitably to set themselves up as self-appointed controllers of the boundaries of the group.
The need for a clear self-identity is also fostered by ‘othering’, the feeling that “I am who I am because you are not who I am.” In its most extreme form, the members of the group may see outsiders as evil, as not worthy of a place in this world. All this may crystallize in what I call fundamentalism.  Auroville Today interview with Debashish Banerji

If we can and must be severe critics of Enlightenment, it is Enlightenment that has empowered us to be so. Terry Eagleton 2:11 PM

For it is only through life that one can reach to immortality. Sri Aurobindo, 19.6.1909 (CWSA.13.9). 3:47 PM

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