Sep 14 2009

September 2009 Newsletter

Published by under Newsletters


Sea of Faith            Newsletter

 NETWORK N.Z.                 September  2009



The Rev. Dr Rod Mitchell talked about:

The 21st Century Religious Landscape –
as mapped by Ken Wilber.

Rod explained :

There will be three key elements to my presentation:

a. I will briefly introduce the meeting to the person of Ken Wilber. He was born in 1949 in the States and has now become the most widely translated living American author of nonfiction.

b. I will then attempt to give an outline of how Ken Wilber has gone about mapping the best knowledge available to the human community as at the beginning of the 21st Century. Some of his impressive conclusions in relation to Spirituality will be hinted at.

c. Finally we will examine some of the implications that the Wilber method is likely to have for Religious communities and specifically to our understanding of a Spiritual reality. Wilber wants to apply some of the strengths that are found in the scientific method to the claims of spiritual experiences which are a central part of the many great religions traditions still alive and well today. He wants to explore the question of whether spiritual experiences are simply primitive claims that arose in a pre-rational period of our history; in which case we as modern people, who now have the skills and tools associated with scientific and enlightenment rationality, can with confidence and ease simply declare them childish, immature and thus unworthy of serious consideration for sophisticated 21st century people. But of course Wilber asks rather pointedly, if 3000 years or more of spiritual knowledge, experience and practices can be so cheaply dismissed.


Homework ?

One of the best-known of Ken Wilber’s many books is “Integral Spirituality”. Or, if you Google either “Ken Wilber” or “Integral Wilber” you will find lots of stuff about him, his books and his ideas.


“Know Thyself”

This advice was engraved on the temple in Delphi 25+ centuries ago. If it is sound advice, it may be good to have some idea of “How religious am I?” Perhaps these quotes will make you more clearly aware of where you are now, and where you once used to be:

“The very strength of Islamic conviction is evidently of a kind that we in the West have not ourselves felt since the seventeenth century, reminding us that whereas in the West supernatural faith has been severely weakened or moderated by the application of critical thinking to the Scriptures and the early history of Christianity, Islam has not yet been moderated by the kind of critical study that shows the only-human and culturally relative character of all religious expression.”
[Don Cupitt, “The Meaning of the West” p. 49]

And this comes from the report in the latest national Sea of Faith Newsletter, of a discussion in the Auckland Sea of Faith group of Richard Holloway’s recent book, “Between the Monster and the Saint: Reflections on the Human Condition”:

“ … I [Holloway] can detect four responses to the human quest for meaning. Using the radio metaphor, I describe the first notch on this long continuum or spectrum as ‘strong religion’, because it claims to be in possession of a clear and perfect signal from the divine. … Believers claim to be owners of a body of revealed knowledge … and they claim to be in possession of the final and unalterable lifestyle manual dictated by God during the original broadcast”.
[p. 94]

The second notch Holloway describes as ‘weak religion’ because “we could describe the people who occupy this place as those who receive a weak and intermittent signal from God. … Humans can never be sure of the meaning behind the signals of transcendence they receive because they themselves are the faulty equipment that has to interpret them … While weak religion reverences and learns from the religious tradition that has nurtured it, it also respects the society of its own time and learns to go on adapting to its best discoveries”. [pp. 105-106]

The third notch is called ‘after religion’: “People in this position see religion as an entirely human construct, a work of the human imagination, but one that carries enduring meaning. …. They may even go to a synagogue, church or mosque … because they want to stay in touch with one of the oldest and most enduring of human institutions. … They do not want to cut off themselves or their children from the old truth-bearing myths.” [pp. 113-114]

The fourth notch is ‘the complete absence of religious consciousness. … It is totally deaf or colour-blind to the imagination that conjures up the religious response to the mystery of life … Life is its own meaning. It just is. So get on with it.

In the weak form religious consciousness ”is tolerated as an example of a comforting faith … their response is completely without hostility. Strong fourth notchers are a different breed. … The most passionate neo-atheists are motivated by a strongly ethical and entirely praiseworthy loathing of cruelty and violence. …. It is the theory that religion is the root of all evil that lies at the heart of the new atheism”. [pp. 116 – 117]


A Reminder:
If you want to check up on what Murray Rae said last month, go to our Branch website [see below]


Chairman: Geoff Neilson – Phone 489-6727 – Email: Geoff

Newsletter Editor: Donald Feist – Phone 476-3268 – Email: Don
Branch Website

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