Secular Mysticism


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Public universities are ideally equipped to address Fred Dallmayr's concerns about the future of religion and the religion of the future. The Republican primaries of 2012 reflect the unsettling confrontation of secularism and religion. Universities were attacked as centers of indoctrination. President Obama was accused of having a new religion. How much of this is true? Is the advancement of knowledge in a collision course with religious understanding? Could the gap be bridged? The historical unfolding of religious traditions reveals a gradual superposition of different forms and content. If these constituents were identified as cherished heritage that may be critically reassessed, religion could find a natural pathway to incorporate new content within traditional forms. Secular mysticism (SM) is an example of such adaptation. By separating the form and content of religion, SM enables a new narrative and a new attitude that could help individuals with different religious traditions (form) incorporate the advancements of science (content) without losing the continuity of their ancestral beliefs and identity. The mystical dimension of SM highlights the importance of recognizing that we are all interconnected (given its ubiquitous message that "All is One"), as well as the value of collaboration, asceticism, meditation, and so on. The secular dimension of SM highlights the value of scientific knowledge as the fundamental understanding of reality (an enduring element of theological narratives the world over). SM could start experimenting with these processes of adaptation in the setting of a university course/workshop. For example, someone with a Christian background could study St. Teresa or Meister Eckhart to identify how their mystical experiences could inspire their lives, while key advancements in molecular biology (DNA), neuroscience (mind-brain), thermodynamics (gradient reduction), and quantum mechanics (charged particle/waves) could rekindle the amazement of life's revelation. SM's goal is to preserve the best of both worlds.