The Function of Religion: Protective Walls or Connective Bridges? 

A friend shared a post from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation the other day.  (I highly recommend it, by the way.  You can click here to access and sign up.)

In the post, Rohr took considerable space and time quoting from Ken Wilbur’s One Taste: Daily Reflections on Integral Spirituality (Shambhala Publications, Inc.: 2000), pp. 25-26)]—highlighting two basic, yet distinct functions of Religion. 

The first way that religion can functioned, for Wilbur, is in a shoring up of what I have come to call the false (or insulated, protected, silo-ed) self — what Wilbur calls the “separate” self:

One, it [Religion] acts as a way of creating meaning for the separate self: it offers myths and stories and tales and narratives and rituals that, taken together, help the separate self make sense of, and endure, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. This function of religion does not usually or necessarily change the level of consciousness in a person; it does not deliver radical transformation. Nor does it deliver a shattering liberation from the separate self altogether. Rather, it consoles the self, fortifies the self, defends the self, promotes the self. As long as the separate self believes the myths, performs the rituals, mouths the prayers, or embraces the dogma, then the self, it is fervently believed, will be “saved”—either now in the glory of being God-saved or Goddess-favored, or in an afterlife that ensures eternal wonderment.

In contrast with this way Religion can function is the way it can promote spiritual health and vitality — breaking down the protective walls that insulate… and helping the soul to crossover to richer, fuller, freer life.  Writes Wilbur:

But two, religion has also served—in a usually very, very small minority—the function of radical transformation and liberation. This function of religion does not fortify the separate self, but utterly shatters it—not consolation but devastation, not entrenchment but emptiness, not complacency but explosion, not comfort but revolution—in short, not a conventional bolstering of consciousness but a radical transmutation and transformation at the deepest seat of consciousness itself.

Rohr goes on to conclude in his post:

Thwalls vs bridges
is second function is the ultimate goal of all mature spirituality. This is the contemplative dimension of religion. As Thomas Keating says, “The primary purpose of religion is to help us move beyond the separate-self sense to union with God.”  (Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, “Two Roles of Religion,” August 26, 2018)

My friend was kind enough to conclude: Jim, the second function of religion is precisely what you are about [at and in and through Zoe-Life Explorations].  The rest is just feeding false self.”

To which I can only respond, “Thanks… I hope and pray so!


posted by Jim Reiter on August 29, 2018

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