Dear Rody – I’ve been thinking more about your note on meditation and Esse and I guess it raises the broader issue about the relationship between Esse and religion. As you know, I don’t see Esse as a religion and would be appalled to think that it could become one, but I am interested in the potential for existing religions to add it (somehow) to their world view. I haven’t really thought about this, but I offer here some preliminary ideas.
The link lies in the Judaeo-Christian idea of sacrifice—the ritual of atonement through which the relationship between man and God can be (re)established.
Esse sees the various religions as a branch of human creativity, and I think that the religions we have would appeal to people far more than Esse as vehicles for spiritual expression and fulfilment, because of the symbolism and traditions that they embody—attributes that would be so much more effective in engaging people’s senses and affections than the abstract and, let’s face it, arid nature of Esse. It’s the idea of religion as essentially a creative pursuit which helps us to maintain a rational perspective on it, and this rationality is (or attempts to be) consistent with the rationality that the Esse concept claims for itself.
[This underlines idea that Esse is potentially most useful in the secular sphere, as a positive statement about God and a counter-narrative to theocratic zealots who claim that nihilism lies at the core of the capitalist-democratic project.]
So, looked at from this rational/creative perspective, how does religion or the faith experience line up alongside your quasi-mystical take on Esse? I’m going to come at this from a liberal Anglican Christian point of view.
In the Old Testament, it was goats…
The first thing to note is that, in my personal experience, trying to exercise Christian devotion to Esse rather than to the traditional theistic God doesn’t work on a creative level. For the devotion to mean anything, it must embrace the anthropomorphic fallacy of theism (symbolism and traditions etc,; see above): the relationship with God through Christ has to be seen as a personal one (again I’m speaking for myself). This is where the creativity or “willing suspension of disbelief” comes in. But what’s the link, relationship or point of transition between this and the real world?
I think it lies in the Judaeo-Christian idea of sacrifice—the ritual of atonement through which the relationship between man and God can be (re)established. In the Old Testament, it involved goats; in the New Testament, it’s the Crucifixion. Here, it’s the sacrifice of reason to enable the creative engagement in faith. Like the other forms of sacrifice, it can take a sacramental form: the Eucharist, for example, sends us out into the world to be a “living sacrifice” to God.
The more I think about this the more powerful the idea seems to be, and the more it seems to offer a sane adjustment between the secular world and spiritual experience.
This doesn’t answer the broader question about how religions might relate to Esse but, for now, I’m enjoying the sense of balance that it’s restored to my life.
[Pic – The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt, 1854]