Saturday, November 06, 2004

Sick and Healthy Religion

How do we deal with sick religion? Let's begin by acknowledging that a great many of our fellow Americans are in the toils of sick religion. That's the only way we can account for the sick political scene we all suffer from.

The normal reaction to sick religion is to reject it. Millions of Americans have done that in the past couple of generations. The consequence is a large population who have rejected religion per se. Many others have taken up alternative religions of various sorts.

Eastern religions in particular are attractive to a great many of the literate fraction of our population. I note a fair number of friends who appear to be happy in their Buddhism or some approximation thereof.

Quite a few others claim an allegiance to Eastern Religions, but exhibit a sense of dis-ease. I recall that 50 years ago Carl Jung exclaimed that most of his patients were suffering dire psychic consequences from abandoning the religion of their early childhood.

A healthy and happy Buddhism may well be a therapeutic adjustment to the sick religion so prevalent in society. Or it may just not quite ever come off; it may never quite deliver a person from the toils of the past.

A couple of generations ago a man named
Thomas Merton
, a Cistercian monk, had reached the apogee of Christian mysticism and contemplative life. His 50 books on these subjects had a wide readership.

Merton ended his life in Tibet where he had further (and supplemental) religious and mystical experiences. (See also The Zen in Thomas Merton.)

Merton's inspiring life and writings speak to us vividly of the creative solution to the quandary in which we live:

Christ loved Buddha; and Buddha loved Christ.
Can any of us who are true Christians and/or true Buddhists do any less? Here we may all be healed!


david said...

I've known too few Buddhists to comment effectively. But Buddhism seems so enmeshed in Eastern ways of seeing it makes me wonder whether western Buddhists can really be Buddhists. I speak of what I do not know -- yet I have met a few western Buddhists who seemed so much more angst ridden than your average westerner even (and we can do angst so VERY well).

Yet Jesus was an oriental -- at least by European standards. So it must be possible. I only know that Jung's comment you cite -- resonates.

clanlally said...

Hi Larry. Sparky ( recommended your blog. I found her randomly the other day and have been pleasantly surprised at our "chance" meeting. Spark and I are on some similar paths together. She recommended your blog and Merton. A quick visit to Amazon left my head spinning. He certainly was (is?) prolific. Can you make a recommend a good place to start? There are a couple of "readers" and "essentials"...its hard to decide.

Meredith said...

Dear Larry,
I have found great inspiration in Merton, Jung, and in Buddhist mediation and mindfulness practices. These inspirations have been fundamental to my spiritual growth. My Quaker Meeting was a great beginning,and provides me with a home base, but venturing out into Merton's mysticism, Jung's insights, and Buddhism practice has made such a difference in my relationship with God, and with my ease in the world. I don't view this as a rejection of my religion, which I never viewed as sick, but rather a deepening of my spirituality. With this has come a richness, an awareness of Presence in my everyday, my every moment, that amazes and delights me. Venturing into this core, where all religions merge, has been very healing. And with this, a great compassion and love for my fellow human beings has emerged - on all sides of the political spectrum, and in spite of any differences. This fundamental goodness, that of God, is what I point to in all people. The way to discover this is very near; indeed, it resides within each of us. It resides in you.

Namaste' Larry,

Marjorie said...

What a wonderful circle of friends you have on your blog, Larry -- I have to join them (even if I have nothing to add). While I feel that Christianity has all of these elements that are also found in other religions (mysticism, healing, wholeness, awareness), they don't seem obvious, certainly not from once a week attendence at church. I really admire Quakers because from what I've seen, you are all so earnest and dedicated to your spiritual quest and I don't get that feeling from my fellow parishioners. However, I realize I'm being judgmental and spiritually arrogant and I realize that many people have deep yearnings once they really start talking about them.

Larry said...

God bless us, everyone. As Sparky said, I'm certainly blessed with a "wonderful circle of friends". And all of us with so much in common.
Jesus prayed in John 17 'that we all might be one, as he and the father are', and here, together with you I see that happening so richly.
I don't mean to sound macabre, but, like some other beautiful things that have happened to me throughout life, I feel like I could die now much more happily. Nevertheless I hope to live to 100.
More to follow.

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