Mysticism

In David Steindl-Rast’s essay, “The Mystical Core of Organized Religion” (READER 44-49) he argues that religion begins with mystical experience and ends up with empty ritualism, moralism, and dogmatism. The person in a religious tradition who is drawn to a deep experience often clashes with religious authorities. As Steindl-Rast puts it, “[t]his is the point where mysticism clashes with the institution” (48). Use Keating’s insights into the false self, the one that seeks security, affection and control, and applies it to our attachment to religious institutions. What could draw us from staying “safely” within the moralism and dogmatism of the institution into an experience of the divine? How does the heart, as Steindl-Rast puts it, purify dogmatism, legalities, and ritualism into truth, goodness, and beauty (READER 48)? Would Steindl-Rast agree with Emerson when he says “let the breath of new life be breathed by you through the forms already existing. For, if once you are alive, you shall find they shall become plastic and new” (Emerson, “Divinity School Address, last page, 116)? How does one come alive in this way? How do we move into Keating’s “true self” when the institution of our faith may be an obstacle to that move? What are the risks of making this move? What are the risks of not making it?

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