Monday, August 23, 2010

Dupré on the embellishment "by a religious glow" of one's "basically secular existence"

"the fundamental question from our point of view is not whether the new trend is weak or strong, but whether it is fully religious, that is, whether it restores the sacred to its previous position. . . . Indeed, one might intepret the [new] religious trend as a more radical (and more sophisticated) effort to be secular by expanding the immanent world view so as to include even the religious experience.  Thus modern man would attempt to embellish by a religious glow his basically secular existence. . . . After man has ceased to take seriously the traditional expressions of the transcendent, he nevertheless continues to feel the need for that other dimension which neither Enlightenment nor scientism nor even the new social activism can provide.  So he endeavors to regain the experience which now lies buried in deserted cathedrals and forgotten civilizations.  But he intends to do so at no cost to his secular lifestyle, that is, without accepting a commitment to the transcendent as to another reality.  Instead of risking the leap into the great unknown which his ancestors so adventurously took, he cultivates self-expanding feelings.  He may even share his religious enthusiasm with a privileged few and articulate it in symbols borrowed from ancient traditions.  But by and large he is not committed to their content and his concern remains primarily with his own states of mind."

Louis Dupré, "Has the secularist crisis come to an end?," Listening 9, no. 3 (1974):  14 (7-19).  "feelings, by their very nature, lack real transcendence.  One feels one's feelings and nothing more. . . . to be truly religious, feelings must be determined by a more outward-oriented act:  In themselves, they remain self-centered and never fully deserve the name religious.  There is no doubt that feelings and passive experiences have at all times played an important role in the religious consciousness.  But they have never been sufficient.  Today this is more than ever the case because the 'religious feelings' of the new culture are, as a rule, no longer contained within the complex structure of dogmas, myths and moral and ritual demands which once provided them with the necessary outward-orientation.  They appear in a more fragmented state, isolated from any religious attitudes.  To escape the immanence of the secular universe demands a positive commitment" (15).

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