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Experience: Religious, Mystical, Human?

Experience: Religious, Mystical, Human?

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Published by Convivium Press

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Published by: Convivium Press on Oct 31, 2011
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10/31/2011

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NOTESONSPIRITUALITYFOROURTIMES
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xperience:
eligious,
 ystical,
uman? 
TheeminenttheologianKarlRahnerhassaidthattheChristianofthefuturewillbeeitheramystic(whichmeans,someonewhohasexperiencedsomething),orhe/shewon’tbeaChristianatall.Rahner´sprophecyisaccurate,notonlyconcerningChristiansbutalsoforanyonewhoexperiencestranscendenceinthesetimes.Inthesamewaythatmodernitydoesnotacceptanythingthatisunverifiedbyrationality,thepost-modernityinwhichweliveconsidersexperienceaprivilegedwayof knowledge.Despitetheriskof disillusionmentthatisinherentinexperiencesre-mainingsuperficialorinducedbyartificialmeans,itseemsperfectlycleartodaythatpeoplearenolongeracceptingideologies,theoriesordoctrinesthatarenotrootedinexperience.Inthenewreligiousconsciousnesspresentinourpost-modernage,experienceisatthecenter,andthisisaprinci-pal,perhapsevenafundamental,issuefortodaystheologytoaddress.Thesensibilityof menandwomenof ourtimessearchesforacontactwithmysterythroughdirectexperience;itisthirstingtotouchUltimateRealityandtobeincontactwithit,evenifnotthroughthemosttraditionalandinstitutionalizedmeans.Intheactofseekingandfinding,ourcontemporariesshowatendencytoturninward,towardtheinnerself.WhatwecallGodorUltimateRealityisnotfeltassomethingexternalandobjective,but,onthecontrary,assomethingthatcanonlybefoundininnerexperience.Whenthishappens,the«external»elementsthatsurroundtheexperiencearenecessarilyputinasecondaryandrelativeposition.Institutions,dogmaticformulas,ritualsystemswon’tcomprehendtheirsignificanceatitsprofoundestdepthunlesstheyareexperiencedintheinwardnessoftheself.Thisnewconsciousnessismorethanjustoneperspectiveamongothers;instead,itisactuallyrevealingitselfasanewparadigm.Furthermore,itdemandsfromWesternChristianityawidervisionthantheecclesiasticalvision,specifically,avisionofthede-institutionalizationofChristianity.Thetraditionalecclesiasticalstructureiscurrentlyundergoingaseriouscrisis.Evenso,thethirstforGod,fortran-scendence, for the supernatural,for spirituality is very much alive,expressing itself in varied and concrete ways.ThissearchforGodandspiritualexperiencecanleadsomeofourcontemporariestoreconnectwithtruelife,alifefullofjoyandmeaning,evenifthismusthappenthroughalternativemeans.Still,itisimportanttomakesomedistinctionsbetweentermswhenwespeakofexperience,andspecificallyofreli-giousexperience.Weliveinacultureof sensations,whichaffectsourinnerspace.Thesensationsofferedtousareusuallysointense,refinedandpersistentthat theycannotenteruswithoutbeingconsciouslyapprehended,re-flectedupon,digestedandassumed.Thisimpliesarisk:theriskof livingpermanentlysubjecttothefluxof sensa-tionsthatreachourmoresuperficialsenses,skinandsensitivity.
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Thistypeofsensateexperiencebringswithittheextremedifficultyoflookingrealitystraightintheeyeandtakingonthechallengesthatitposes,whicharetoughandveryoftenfrustrating.Italsocangeneratewithinusaviciousandcompulsivebehavior,stimulatingreactionsandmanipulatingourcapacityforattention.Continualsuperficialandimmediatelygratifyingsensationsleadustoloselimitsandengenderadangerousvolatilityinrelationshipsanddecisionmaking.AsithasbeensaidmanytimesbyZygmuntBauman,whoisjustlycalledtheprophetof post-modernity,ourlivesare becoming «liquid»,flowing non-stop in the cascade of sensations that invade it and stun it.This is true evenabouttheveryexperiencesof transcendencethatareoftencalled«mystical».Itisn’ttrue,however,thatallexperi-enceidentifiedas«religious»canbecalledamysticexperience.Thesupernaturalelementsexistinginallmenandwomenrenderthemcapableofanexperienceofthesacred,understoodinthetermsofRudolfOttosfamoustext,
TheIdeaoftheHoly 
,asterrifying
(tremendum)
andfascinating
(fascinans)
,asourceofbothwondermentandfear.Itisanexperienceinwhichthehumanbeingfeelstakenoverbyamysterythatisnotreducible,acategorythatisorigi-nalinallitsmanifestations.Amysticalexperience,oranexperienceofGod,isnotonlyanexistentialexperienceofthesacred,butalsoanexperi-ence of meaning. It is through such experience that we understand the radical meaning that gives structure tohumanlife.Ifweacceptthatdefinition,andifwealsoacceptthedefinitionofthehumanbeingasarelationalbeingwhocanonlybeunderstoodfromtheperspectiveoftherelationalopeness,themeaningofhumanlifecanonlybegivenandexperiencedthroughconnectionwithothers.Inotherwords,humanbeingscanonlyfeelassuch human-throughtherevelationofanOtherthatinvitesustotheadventureofmutualknowingandoflove.Intermsofthere-ligiousexperience,thiscanbeanexperienceof «fusion»,orfeelingdissolvedintheAbsolute.Themysticalexperi-ence,accordingtowhatwehaveheredescribed,isalwaysanexperienceofrelation,ofanexchangewithOtherness,withthedifferenceoftheOther.Thisrelationalstatus,whichisvalidfortrulyhumanexperience,isespeciallysowhenwespeakofmysticism.Inthemysticalevent,whichhappensbetweenahumanandthedivine,itisnotjusttheegothatisinaction,butalsotheOther, who according to his own Otherness, moves the ego to an unprecedented journey, with no previously plannedorthought-outways.Withoutapre-plannedroute,thejourneybeginsandcontinueswithoutanysecurity otherthantheprogressivediscoveryofsomeonethatisnot«I»,butthatis«Other»,asubjectwhosedifferenceover-whelmsmeasanepiphany.
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NOTESONSPIRITUALITYFOROURTIMES

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