Sufism Jung Kaballah Interfaith Dialogue essay

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For a Catholic salvation without God or Christ is unthinkable. Admittedly, this is a comparison of two outwardly very different religious structures and cultures but it serves to illustrate the fact that important differences do occur and this can also be applied to other more homogenous religious groupings.

While one may add dozens of similar examples of fundamental differences between religions, at the risk of over-simplification one could also assert that all regions and faiths have one central core and similarity. This can be very broadly and somewhat obliquely referred to as the search for reality and truth. This fundamental aspect can be described in many different ways; for example, as the search and encounter with the numinous, the transcendent and the mystical. On the other hand, religion as a threat to world peace can be ascribed as one or another religious grouping claiming sole right and knowledge of the truth.

However, with the rise of secular society and the decline of many conventional and formal religious movements in the West and East, avenues have been created for new perspectives and interpretations of reality and a general falling away from the strict and dogmatic assumptions about religion and religious differences. This is particularly evident in the modern exploration of speculative psychology and psychoanalysis that was initiated by Jung and James Hillman, among others. Their search is a search for meaning essentially outside of the conventional theological context but which is nevertheless a search for meaning that attempts to transcend specific interfaith differences.

This search for new interconnections in terms of the fundamentals of regions can also be found in the works of modern and postmodern philosophers, such as Martin Heidegger. Heidegger's analysis and deconstruction of the western metaphysical tradition can be interpreted as an interrogation of the ideological master narrative that uinderlies the Western religious traditions. As such, in his essential oeuvre and analysis, Heidegger opens up areas that are vital to the modern view of reality and suggests a new religious attitude that transcends or supersedes denominational and religious differences. In the Jungian context there is an exploration of the human self as it expresses the archetypal "mythical' and core values and reality of human being.

Therefore, from one perspective it can be argued that the decline of conventional religion and the development of secular society and theories about reality have led to a modern openness or rather open-endedness in the search for new alternatives to the age-old antimonies between religions. It can also be argued that in this process, which includes modern thinkers like Nevill Drury and others, as well as the best efforts of the so-called 'new-age' movement, there lies a hope for world peace beyond religious confrontation. The increasing modern popularity of ancient systems of thought such as the Kabbalah also supports this view.

On the other hand one has to take into account many contrary view that do not see the modern world and its sense of 'progress' as conducive to a new holistic religious philosophy. For instance, traditionalists like Rene Guenon attack the modern era and its new gods of science and materialism as a complete deviation from traditional and valid religious knowledge.

In his work the Reign of Quantity Guenon states that all traditional views and religious knowledge have been lost in the context of the modern secular world and "...all characteristically modern conceptions are, consciously or unconsciously, a direct and unqualified denial of that knowledge (Guenon p.8). In his critique of modern thought he states that there is a tendency to reduce all thought and experience to an "...exclusively quantitative point-of-view..." (Guenon p.8). This view is not very conducive to interfaith connections but makes an important point that has been taken up by many modern thinkers such as Martin Heidegger; namely that the present mode of thought and perception in the contemporary world is not adequate in terms of a truly religious knowledge; and that a new ands more emotionally-based mode of thought is needed to counter the reductionist tendencies of technological materialism

3. Points of interconnection and correspondence

3.1. The modern context: religious myth and secularization

In order to understand the points of correspondence and agreement between faiths in the light of deeper levels of meaning one first has to understand the significance of the term myth and the advance of modern secular society. Myth has become a term that is understood as meaning fantasy, constructed imagination and spurious fiction in the popular consciousness. However, as eminent scholars like Mircea Eliade state, myths are narratives that relate to the sacred reality of the society. It is this element of sacredness that gives myths their power and which provides a possible point of intersection between faiths.

In essence myths are essentially ontological in nature and provide the "truth "about the reality of the past, present and future. In the Structure of Myths, Eliade states that a religious myth is not a fable or a fiction. A religious myth is therefore something that cannot be interrogated or held up for questioning, as its source is not human but from a transcendent entity or god. It is essence a "primordial revelation" (Eliade, 1963, p. 1).

However, Eliade also makes the point that since the Greek era, myth has been steadily "emptied" of its sacred and primordial meaning and status. Myth has therefore come to mean fiction and been reduced to just another discredited and primitive model in the eyes of science. This relates to the advance of secularization in the word and the loss of the meaning of many traditional religious views. This is an aspect that Jung and many other modern psychologists and philosophers bring to the fore in their research and which will be explored in more depth below.

The Sufi tradition also warns against this reductionism of the discrediting of myth in the secular worlds. Ibn Arabi stresses this point in a number of texts. The renowned interpreter of Arabi and Sufi thought, Henry Corbin, states the following in Alone with the Alone. Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi. He compares the Gnostic view of the imagination as a valid conduit of the eternal values and realities to the modern 'watered down' view of imagination. In his view, modern concepts of the imagination fail when "...measured against the Gnostic conception of an Imagination which posits real being" and has "...come to be an agnosticism pure and simple. On this level all terminological rigor is dropped and imagination is confounded with fantasy" (Corbin, 1969, p.181). Referring to Arabi, Corbin also states that in the secular world the "...degredation of the imagination is complete" (Corbin, 1969, p.181). This leads to a discussion of Ibn Arabi and the concept of the active imagination, which can in many respects be related to the view of myth that has been discussed. However, this discourse is extensive and would go well beyond the parameters of the present discussion

The point that is being made is that in the modern world myth and the sacred understanding of the imagination has been reduced by the scientific and secular worldview and that this in turn has led to a range of issues that pertain to interfaith communication. One of these aspects, which is also the focus of the present study, is the assertion that religion can only intersect constructively on the basis of the deeper and more intense mystical and esoteric level. This view will be explored in terms of modern psychology and transpersonal psychology as well as in relation to the resurgence of more traditional esoteric traditions such as Sufism and the Kabbalah.

Therefore myth and imagination in the mystical traditions of all religion is seen not as fantasy or cultural fable but as valid perception of religious truth and reality. This view also relates to the Jungian view of the archetypal unconscious.

Myth in effect describes the breakthrough and the contact between this and the sacred world, which is the source or originator of this world (Eliade, 1963, p.6). The hope for inter-faith and inter-religious connections and discourse and for the long-term prospects for world peace would therefore seem to lie in the area of a regeneration of myth, but in a modern context. This sense of myth can be understood not as an archaic relic of the past but as a point of intersection and contact between religious faiths and perceptions.

3.2. Points of interconnection and correspondence

The above section has very briefly sketched views of the significance of religion in both a traditional and modern sense and has attempted to extend the understanding of religion beyond traditional confines. The demise of ancient views and attitudes towards reality and the present state of the world has led many to reassess the value of more traditional religious views. However, as has been referred to, a central contention of this paper is that while there are differences in religious perceptions, the…[continue]

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