Religious Fundamentalism at its Core

Religious fundamentalism is a recurring problem  – indeed it’s an all-too-familiar subset of the even greater problem of recurring religious wars.  No matter how hard we try, it seems nothing  gets better.

“Leaked documents released by al-Jazeera TV suggest Palestinian negotiators agreed to Israel keeping large parts of illegally occupied East Jerusalem.” (excerpt from yesterday’s news)

In that light, I thought it appropriate to reexamine what’s really going on.  Although written in 2006, the following article does just that.  Maybe there’s something we missed the first time around?  Or maybe there’s something we didn’t want to see?

Religious Fundamentalism at its Core

By Debra Moolenaar

© 2006

Nothing much happened during the years 1506-1508, except that a rather ill tempered monk named Martin Luther took his vows in an Augustinian monastery in Erfurt.  After that, Western culture was never the same.  Luther asked some unprecedented questions about the nature of man’s personal relationship to God, Church, and State, opening the door to an individualism of truth that still drives Western society today.

Oddly enough, it was also during those very same years that the planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto were last in exactly the same astrological configuration they’re in today.  As an astrologer, I’m not surprised to find the same questions resurfacing, albeit in a different guise.  Planetary cycles never leave us in the same place where we began.  What good would it do for the baby chick to return to the egg from which he hatched?  This is growth.  This is evolution.  It’s programmed in the genes.

The visionary Jesuit Father and palaeontologist Père Telihard de Chardin would seem to agree.  In his acclaimed book The Phenomenon of Man (1959), he suggests that man and the universe participate together in an intelligible evolutionary movement toward unity and individualisation.  Such an apparent contradiction in terms does not faze him.   He posits there are two major evolutionary trends, one towards extreme individualism, and the other towards interrelation and co-operation.  What’s more, he’s defined the conditions of our advance – a global unity of awareness coexisting with a high degree of variety.

Consider what, for example, might underlie the recent controversy over the Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed?  Or certain ‘crimes’ committed in the name of religion, such as the London bus and tube bombings in the July 2005?  What underlies the cataclysmic backlash? What’s the pattern and where does it lead?

In the recent prestigious Gifford lectures in Edinburgh, the guest speaker Jean Bethke Elshtain, Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the Divinity School at the University of Chicago, delivered a series of talks entitled ‘Sovereign God, Sovereign State, Sovereign Self’.  Elshtain argues that, although once God alone was the sovereign in all things, over time his sovereignty became ‘privatised’.  Such sovereignty was usurped first by the State, and then by the ‘self’.  It would seem that the sovereignty of ‘he’ evolved into that of ‘we’, and then solely to ‘me’.  The boundaries between politics and religion blur.  Where once I prayed to God for Z.Y, and Z, I now demand it from the government.

Like Luther, Elshtain asks uncomfortable questions.  If we disobey the state, in the name of who or what do we do so?  Is it possible to defy state sovereignty in the name of God’s sovereignty?  If so, what kind of sovereignty must that be?  Should we be subject to an obedience unbound by human law?  Can a privatised God sustain us into the future?  Like Teilhard, she deals with apparent contradictions.

Teilhard considers that our evolutionary challenge is to ‘see’ or ‘perish’ in the sense that man cannot survive unless he understands the bigger picture of who and what he is.   For Teilhard, ‘seeing’ is not the same as ‘believing’; indeed they are mutually exclusive.  Beliefs are all too often an excuse to bury our heads in the sand.  Beliefs are narrow, pigeonholed, and dead-end.  Evolution requires a broader view.  It requires us to consciously transcend our individuality.  The truth lies before us if we choose to see it.

Religion throws up enormous questions with which it’s difficult to cope.  It’s comfortable to demand certainty where there’s none to be had.   This is religious fundamentalism at its core.  And who is best placed to provide the answers – ‘he’, ‘we’, or ‘me’?

That’s the question that we must answer if – as sovereign societies – men are to survive.

Christ Consciousness at Christmas

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Christ, a boy named Jesus born in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, by revisiting the concept of ‘Christ consciousness’ you may find the holiday season more meaningful.

The Jesuit priest, philosopher, and palaeontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, used the term ‘Christ consciousness’ to denote an Omega point, toward which he believed human collective consciousness is evolving.  Reaching the Omega point (the end of the world as we know it) will bring us not only ‘peace on earth and good will to men’ but also a transcendent, love-dominated enlightenment through which we will become one with the ‘ultimate reality’, otherwise known to some as God.

Quantum physics supports this view.  In essence, mankind, acting as a collective Christ, plays the role of the conscious quantum-mechanical observer:

“One might say that, by virtue of human reflection (both individual and collective), evolution, overflowing the physico-chemical organisation of bodies, turns back upon itself and thereby reinforces itself (see note following) with a new organising power vastly concentric to the first—the cognitive organisation of the universe. To think the world (as physics is beginning to realise) is not merely to register it but to confer upon it a form of unity it would otherwise (i.e. without being thought) be without.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man

That’s all very well and good – but how do we relate Christ consciousness to our daily lives in the here and now?

The Kabbalah may help.

The 6th sephirah, known as Tiphareth and associated with the ‘Christ’, lies at the exact centre of the Kabbalistic Tree.  Because the Kabbalah is a system based on balance and symmetry, it’s not hard to understand why this sephirah is also known as Beauty.

At the point of balance, Tiphareth is where the archetypal brilliance of the higher sephirot are grounded in the rich, dark nutrients of the bottom sephirot.   According to the great occultist, Dion Fortune, Tiphareth is a link where ideals are brought to focus and transmuted into ideas.  As such it that it is a Place of Incarnation; it is also called the Child.

In Tiphareth, soul and body, self and ego, higher consciousness and personality come together.   It is associated astrologically with the Sun and heart-chakra; Tiphareth is the place of our humanity.

It also referred to as the place of the sacrificed god, thus its association with Christ Consciousness.   As Christians know, it wasn’t enough for Jesus to feel sorry for the lot of mankind; Jesus, or Christ, had to be born into the world and sacrifice himself in order to save it.

Thus Tiphareth is the place of the wounded healer, a concept on which all twelve-step programs of rehabilitation are based.  It’s the place where one, through the loving heart, brings his own human experience to the help of others – personal Ego is sacrificed for something more.

In this context, at the time of the Winter Solstice, when the life-giving Sun is farthest away from the Earth, Christmas – or the celebration of Christ Consciousness – offers spiritual symbolism far surpassing that of the birth of a lowly babe.

At Christmas, we’re privileged to glimpse the possibilities of a whole new world – a world in which in relationship with himself man stands truly at the centre of his universe.