Our modern Western society is now seriously fragmented into four embattled ideological camps, each vying for the minds of the people, each trying to have its views become normative for society as a whole.
These four camps are: 1) mainstream theist religion (with its sub-camps: Christianity, Judaism and Islam — each of which is further split into different denominations); 2) an amorphous New Age movement; 3) scientific/rationalist secularism; and 4) postmodernism (in both its secular and quasi-spiritual forms).
Each ideological camp possesses certain virtues and certain limitations.
So … which of these four basic ideological camps am I favorably biased toward? All and none. I see advantages and disadvantages to each position. I want to completely affirm what is positive about each of these camps, but, because of their serious limitations, I prefer a way beyond all of them — the Perennial Philosophy / Psychology or Primordial Tradition.
This is that esoteric or mystical way of enlightened adepts, found within all the sacred traditions, who live and teach from the context of authentic God-Realization. I want to celebrate and proclaim what these greatest sages and saints have discovered and so beautifully exemplified. We can be enormously enriched by their virtuous life-examples and inspiring wisdom-teachings, which comprise the real gold shining in a glitz-darkened world.
Anyone who resonates with the mystic Traditionalist / Perennialist view will not be enamored of scientism (scientific reductionist materialism), though a mystic-traditionalist will appreciate the scientific method and careful thinking. Nor will a mystic go along completely with the postmodernists, though appreciative of their Zen-like sense of “indeterminancy,” “non-knowing,” emptiness and “this-ness” and deconstructive stance toward phenomena, dogmas and institutions.
Nor will a mystic be enthused by non-mystical, institutionalized religions, though appreciative of their many exceedingly positive contributions for the individual and the commonweal. Nor will a mystic be impressed by New Agers who invent their own religions or sects based on a few “peak / peek” experiences, fancy thinking and garish gimmickry, though a mystic will appreciate the new, open attitude that New Age circles have catalyzed in our society.
Mystic-traditionalists cherish excellence and find themselves being critical of mediocrity, especially in the fields of psychology and spirituality, where mediocrity often runs amok. A mystic clearly sees the potential in each and every person for so much joy, fulfillment and beatitude, and yet so much of this potential goes unrealized, especially when people explore unfruitful or limited psychological and religious paths.
Though I align with the Traditionalist camp of the Perennial Wisdom, like the mystics in whose footsteps I endeavor to follow, I also tend to be a pragmatist. My attitude: whatever truly works or gets results in wholeness / holiness, then use it. This might consist in devotional surrender to the Beloved, selfless service to one’s community, detached mindfulness or witnessing of the flow of experience, formless contemplation, penetrating self-enquiry (“Who Am I?”), radical stillness / relaxation, group chanting, vision quests in nature, pilgrimage to sacred sites, or “letting go, letting God.”
It seems to me that the world’s religious traditions must be evaluated, not in terms of their membership numbers — it would be better to use percentages of authentically holy people, if that could ever reliably be determined — nor the lavishness of their pageantry and pomp, nor the impressiveness of their architecture and artwork, nor the cleverness of their theological or philosophical schemas. Rather, the traditions need to be evaluated on how effectively they free people from the trap of egotism and liberate them into godliness.
All else, to my mind, is ultimately irrelevant.
~ by Timothy Conway, Ph.D. (Excerpted from his book: Our Religions’ Future, Ch.1: Biases & Basic Issues in Spirituality, 2006.),
~ To read Tim’s unabridged paper on the West’s Four Ideologies and the Perennial Wisdom Tradition, >>> Click Here