How far can you walk into the woods?
Halfway! Because then you start walking back out!
If religion remade itself for the present and for the future, what should it be like? Robert Mangabeira Unger thinks religion is an important aspect of human existence but doesn’t serve our own needs and those to each other or to the world that we find ourselves in and are so dependent on. In “The Religion of the Future”, he continues the program that he introduced in his previous book “The Self Awakened”.
There are four major existential flaws of human existence: mortality, insatiability, groundlessness, and belittlement. Our mortality is the inevitable end of our struggle within life, although some scientists think it may be overcome someday. Our insatiability does seem to be part of human nature, a yearning for more of life and even life itself, but perhaps it could be quelled with training and resolve. Our groundlessness is due to the incompleteness of our knowledge as to the reasons of our existence and the future that we should pursue.
Unger considers belittlement to be a repairable flaw, unlike the other three. Belittlement may be different because we could learn to not reduce each others dreams and goals, but it may also be part of human nature to raise ourselves up by belittling others. We are social beings, but we are also confrontational and competitive. Even if we can learn, what is to stop the world itself from belittling us by placing physical limits on our actions and resources, or constraints on our abilities and plans?
These four flaws make us craven, clueless, needy, and terrified. Could a revolution of religion make us face up to our flaws in a mature and dignified way? Unger seems to think so and lays out his ideas. Four important principles that this religion must serve are apostasy, higher cooperation, plurality, and deep freedom. Four needful virtues that this religion must promote are self-transformation, connection, purification, and divinization.
The major religions of the past have the themes of overcoming the world, struggling with the world, and humanizing the world. What would the theme of the religion of the future be? Accepting the world? Embracing the world? Loving the world? Many religions avoid or even despise the world because it is only a means to an end, instead of an end in itself. We are indeed part of the world and must learn to accept, embrace, and love it as well as ourselves.
From the book description:
How can we live in such a way that we die only once? How can we organize a society that gives us a better chance to be fully alive? How can we reinvent religion so that it liberates us instead of consoling us?
These questions stand at the center of Roberto Mangabeira Unger’s The Religion of the Future. Both a book about religion and a religious work in its own right, it proposes the content of a religion that can survive faith in a transcendent God and in life after death. According to this religion–the religion of the future–human beings can be more human by becoming more godlike, not just later, in another life or another time, but right now, on Earth and in their own lives.
Unger begins by facing the irreparable flaws in the human condition: our mortality, groundlessness, and insatiability. He goes on to discuss the conflicting approaches to existence that have dominated the last 2,500 years of the history of religion. Turning next to the religious revolution that we now require, he explores the political ideal of this revolution, an idea of deep freedom. And he develops its moral vision, focused on a refusal to squander life.
The Religion of the Future advances Unger’s philosophical program: a philosophy for which history is open, the new can happen, and belittlement need not be our fate.
Roberto Unger / The Religion of the Future
Other links of interest:
By convention sweet and by convention bitter,
By convention hot, by convention cold,
By convention color; but in reality atoms and void.
The ancient and archaic system of medicine called Humorism still has associations with modern psychological investigations via analogies with the Four Temperaments. Mentioned more for completeness, the four qualities of Humorism (Hotness, Coldness, Dryness, Wetness) may be considered linked to other fourfolds presented here such as the Four Seasons, the Four Elements, and as I mentioned the Four Temperaments.
These are called the four qualities because four relations between the Four Elements generate them, out of the six possible. Dryness is the relationship between Fire and Earth, Hotness is between Air and Fire, Wetness is between Water and Air, and Coldness is between Earth and Water. Alternatively, one can say Air has the qualities of being Hot and Wet, Fire is Hot and Dry, Water is Cold and Wet, and Earth is Cold and Dry.
As such these relations can be considered lying between the poles of the Four Elements. Along with the elements they may form a double square star, or two squares within a regular octagon. I’m not sure if this figure has a special name: in the anime “Inuyasha: the Final Act”, “Kagome” was this double square figure as well as the name of a major character. However “Kagome” actually seems to mean a different symbol: a star formed by two triangles within a regular hexagon. We don’t talk much about triads here.
There is also a children’s game called “Kagome Kagome”, where one child is centered within a ring of others, circling and chanting a song. The central child is only released if she can guess who is behind her when the chant stops. No peeking! Perhaps this position is reserved for reality or metaphysics in our representations.
These two axes can also be thought to encircle typical earth-type organisms within their habitable zones of humidity and temperature: neither too cold nor too hot, neither too dry nor too wet. This is known as a “Goldilocks effect”, after “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”. Also, the desirable middle between extremes is often called the “Golden Mean”, or the “Happy Medium”.
If humidity is considered to be a Cosine wave, and temperature is considered a Sine wave, then the Four Seasons can be located where x = 0 (Spring), π/2 (Summer), π (Fall), and 3π/2 (Winter). Q.E.D.!
[*8.36, *8.107, *9.6]