Shunryu Suzuki-roshi (1905 – 1971)
I’m wary of labels… especially when placing them on myself. The moment someone identifies with a label, I’m pretty sure they’re no longer in beginner’s mind. I don’t mind labels to any great extent because I use them tentatively. At its best, a label is just a way of looking at things.
I was criticizing a certain type of Christian in my previous blog post, and this is related. A label is a way of looking at things. And when one identifies with that label, it limits the way one can look at things. Comparative mythology and integral theory is more interesting to me because they both allow one to switch perspectives.
I’m attracted to Christianity and to that extent I’m Christian. But, to me, Christianity is a very loose network of ideas, myths, and cultural paradigms. There is no one true Christianity. Christianity is a confluence of trends that come from diverse cultures much of which predates or was concurrent with Christianity.
I’m also wary of hegemony whether of the Christian, perennial, or integral varieties. I do believe there is a universal truth of some sort, but within that infinite specific differences. Yes, all gods point to the mystery beyond but so do all humans. Monotheism doesn’t negate polytheism. The powers that be(archetypal or whatever) are as distinct from eachother as one human is to another. When you consider all of the saints and angels and demons, its easy to see that Christianity isn’t essentially different in kind from Hinduism for instance. Its more apparent in Hinduism how Monotheism and Polytheism relate. To be technical, most modern world religions are henotheistic… which means they have a favored deity but still aknowledge the reality of other lesser deities(powers, spirits, angels, demons, etc).
For certain, all the monistic and monotheistic religions arose from and were largely based upon polytheism. Whenever looking at different views, I’m often mildly annoyed and amused at how ignorant most people are of this fact.
Similarly, is the phenomena of conversion. How do people know what they’re converting to? There is a whole lot of biased interpretation in the conversion process.
As an example, I was reading of an agnostic lady who while on vacation visited a Christian shrine. She had a vision and became a Christian. I find this amusing because many shrines were built on pagan holy ground. She saw a spiritual vision, but how does she know that this spirit wasn’t the ancient spirit of that holy place? Just because Christians built a shrine there(possibly incorporating some of the pagan shrine) it doesn’t mean that this particular spirit converted to Christianity. The spirit of that place may not give a hoot about Christianity. Maybe that spirit likes anybody with sufficient devotion no matter what there religious affiliation. Maybe the spirit was simply saying hi. Furthermore, the shrine this lady visited had a statue of Jesus. I’ve read before that the image of Jesus was based on previous pagan savior god-men. So, which god-man came to save her? Maybe it was Mithras and he was disappointed after she left because she didn’t sacrifice a bull for him.
She took an ineffable experience and effed it up with Christian theology. =) Now she is a Christian who filters the world through a theological lense. She has gained something, but I suspect she lost even more.
But nobody ever said religion is rational… sort of like love. Essentially, conversions is just a form of falling in love… and that goes a far way in explaining the insane things that some religious people do. Its not accidental that a monotheistic religion like Christianity promotes monogamy. God is jealous and so are his followers. There is a difference between falling in love with a god and falling in love with a person. Many people when they fall in love with a god become devoted in a way that is rare when they fall in love with another person. Falling in love with another peson usually doesn’t lead one to deny the existence of all other people or else deem everyone else as evil. Could you imagine if people treated their romances the way that many treat religion? What if when people fell in romantically fell in love, they felt they had to deny their love for their parents and family?