Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Dogma in the Postmodern World

Originally posted on August 20, 2012

As we’ve become increasingly aware of the nature of mind and its intrinsic complexity, I perceive a rationale for a postmodern perspective. The perception of a non-trivial truth must resonate through the wholeness of our being, and as we recognize several elements, the idea that two people can deeply experience (perception plus interpretation) in the same way becomes clearly impossible. Consider that minds are as unique because they are made up of innumerable subtle differences and permutations of the following:
  – genetic mix, temperamental bias, tendencies to interpret this or that with greater or lesser sensitivity
  – ability variation, not only along one spectrum of strength in type of intelligence, but along many types of sub-intelligences, as mixed with many types of other intelligences, as well as supporting or undermining functions of other functions
  – unique background due to having been raised and formed in infancy and early childhood by the unique combination of
        – mother’s uniqueness, father’s, the peculiar family dynamics of their interactions as they impact the baby, the added influence and complexifying elements of the uniqueness of any sib(s) plus other relevant extended family
       – the subculture and generational and general historical era and its impact, along with the socioeconomic class and other sub-cultural variables, gender, race, ethnicity, etc. 
        – etc. Plus other variables, the list goes on.

The point is that each individual thus developed will never be able to perceive the deep relationship of self-to-cosmos in exactly the same way that any other individual perceives and inclined to interpret and relate. Orthodoxy-heresy is thus a spectrum, which if examined closely enough, will exhibit innumerable gradations and varieties even among the seemingly orthodox. (Among the non-orthodox there are branchings into again innumerable different ways—not just degrees, but ways of imagining, thinking, myth-making, differently.)

This process has been recalled to me in reading Elaine Pagels’ recent book on the New Testament book of Revelation. She addresses the cultural vicissitudes of spirituality in the few centuries of our common era, before political considerations led to actions by the main complex of church officials that first marginalized and then ruthlessly suppressed as works of the devil any deviations from those beliefs that are officially sanctioned. That process flowered repeatedly throughout Christian history—with a variety of denominations around the time of St. Augustine, with the Albigensian Heresy, throughout the Inquisition (which, though celebrated mainly for its focus on Jews and witches, was also concerned with non-orthodoxy). It continues today without the state cooperation in torture-executions, but squabbles continue about which denomination, sect, or cult is the real truth and all the others can (and will!) go to hell. This general dynamic of the belief that truth can be captured in doctrine and heresy is incompatible with the good of the whole operates in many parts of history, more noted in Islam, but here and there in small bursts in Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.

Gradually, a more tolerant, inclusive, and psychologically-oriented awareness has emerged that spirituality must of necessity partake of the personal (and unique) makeup of the individual. Ralph Waldo Emerson and many others support this view and it is evolving through a variety of liberal trends in Judaism and Christianity as well as even more non-denominational movements.

In other words, I think we’re at a point in the evolution of consciousness where no two people can ever be 100% aligned about something so personal (and so unique) as the relationship with God, any more than any love between two people can ever be perfectly the same. So then the content of spirituality becomes less crucial and the general themes or activities more relevant. (As might be guessed, I’m personally aligned with a more non-descript and inclusive approach that allows generously but not in all ways for my friends to believe what they will, as (according to Thomas Jefferson) it does not break my legs or pick my pocket.

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