Different forms of religious experience

From an article by TAMAS PATAKI:

The only means of acquiring knowledge, however, resides in the slow, fallible progress of the empirical sciences and humanities, and these either ignore or obstinately refuse to endorse what the religious wish most to know. Not knowing, for them, is intolerable; it is like being abandoned. So reason, the wounded messenger, becomes hateful; it not only refuses to support religious belief, it challenges it. At the deepest level, reason threatens to subvert the cherished relationship to God and the (illusional) omnipotence and omniscience of the self. Thus, in the grip of offended narcissism, in precarious identification with God, the eye is plucked out and reason is abandoned. The religiose cannot say in their hearts: ‘I just don’t know!’ So the artifices of faith, revelation, and supernatural experience are employed to provide what reason cannot. Thought, unguided by reason or self-understanding, captive to infantile needs for attachment and omnipotence, becomes more or less phantastic and delusional.

Bataille’s concept of non-knowledge, which he equates with mystical experience, can be useful here. To dwell in it sets one apart from mass religion and mass psychology. Only the very strong can even attempt this. By virtue of departing from any predetermined formulas, one is more likely to find what one is looking for — oneself.

I have the view of human beings that more conventional religiosity is generally an attempt to short-cut (but actually serving only to short-circuit) the deeper spiritual cravings of human beings for community, art, belonging, meaning and purpose, and so on. Religion is, as per Marx, the cry of the oppressed. And it is a misunderstanding of the religious drive to say that it is “knowing” that they most desire. That is the confused cry of someone whose thinking has been short-circuited by so many social dead-ends, and caused by social aridity within oneself and in the broader sphere. It is very harsh to require that these infantile religious people force themselves to feast upon the bones of scientific knowledge when their real cry is for human community. It is a real misunderstanding on the part of both the sufferer and the one making the critique.

In conclusion, the feeling of “the need to know” something is often the result of at thinning of the spirit that comes from not having things — friendship, community, common reference points and a degree of control over one’s life. We all experience this at times and need to find the basic rhythms of life, all over again.

It is an illusion to feel that any knowledge that is not also personal and subjective is also power — a particularly bourgeois illusion at that. Those in more primitive conditions do not think in this way (and I know this because I was not brought up to think in this way).

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