Secular Mysticism: Sketches for a New Form of Religious Understanding

By Ilan Vit-Suzan.

Published by Journal of the World Universities Forum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

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.

Keywords: Secularism, Mysticism, Multiculturalism, Communicative Action, Transcendental Phenomenology

Journal of the World Universities Forum, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp.27-36. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 269.566KB).

Prof. Ilan Vit-Suzan

Professor, Architecture Faculty, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico, Mexico

Ilan Vit-Suzan's relation with public education is driven by her interest in the engagement and reception of intangible heritage, understood as knowledge, systems of thought, beliefs, and traditions. In this sense, it is a delicate terrain, located at the intersection of science, religion, and politics. She has entered this field of study after years of practicing conservation and management of archaeological sites. For two years she was part of Teotihuacan's management team, acting as the technical sub-director. Vit-Suzan was in charge of all academic activities associated with the site. During this period, she was closely involved with cultural movements articulating new forms of spirituality. After these experiences she decided to pursue a PhD at the University of Texas at Austin, devoted to the study of intangible heritage. My proposal stems from these studies.

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