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3.2: The Six Different Ways Described

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    The way of sacred rite centers on the use of sacred ritual or rite, as its name suggests. Yet students unacquainted with the diverse forms of sacred ritual may need to have their imagination stretched to include in their notion of ritual not only the repetition of carefully prescribed words and gestures but many other things as well, including objects specifically used in ritual: sacred images, objects, sounds (music, silence, rhythms), incense, vestments, architecture, and ornamentation; priestly roles and clerical institutions; sacred places, centers, routes, and zones of pilgrimage; sacred and auspicious times of the day, the month, the year and multiyear cycles; life cycle passages (birth, naming, puberty, adulthood, marriage, elderhood, and death); establishment and disestablishment of agreements (marriage, divorce, adoption, contracts, treaties), relationships, identities, institutions, communities, and nations; rituals of purification that acknowledge what is sacred and keep it separate from what is profane; and so forth.

    Rituals can be found in every religious tradition and in virtually every subtradition, though clearly some subtraditions emphasize them more centrally and strictly than others. But just because a ritual is involved does not mean that the way of sacred rite is present. Religious ritual serves many functions: it gives a certain decorum and order to religious activities; it enables many people cooperatively to carry out complex activities that would otherwise be impossible to do in an orderly way; it provides a context of meaningful symbols that focus and orient the mind in accordance with tradition; it satisfies the need for habitual pattern so that appropriate behavior becomes second nature and the mind is free to attend to deeper meanings; and so forth. All religious rituals symbolically make reference to the realitieso found within the other worldo of the religion and represent some kind of acknowledgment of, interaction with, or participation in those realitieso. But not all such rituals themselves actually constitute for participants entry into that other worldo or direct involvement with those realitieso. Many merely symbolize an entry or involvement-made, say, at another time, inwardly in independence of the ritual, or perhaps never seriously undertaken at all. The way of sacred rite is specifically present only when ritual itself is serving as a means, a primary means, of drawing near to and coming into right relationship to ultimate reality, where symbols do not merely represent ultimate realitieso but are presentations of them. That is what makes them sacred.

    A ritual exemplifying the way of sacred rite, which we shall call a sacramental ritual, is not an ordinary action in the mundane course of events (though it may be similar to such actions and for its meaning draw analogically upon them). It is a symbolic or sacramental action. Strictly speaking, it is not an action in the mundane ordinary world at all. Rather, it is an action set within a religious tradition's other worldo. The "time" of the rite is a sacred time that is not of this world: it partakes of the eternal. It is the timeless time of the central story (or stories) of the tradition. Typically, the symbols of a sacramental rite, though apparently simple, allude implicitly to whole constellations of meaning, layer upon layer. That is to say, though the rite may seem to have considerable meaning by itself, the rite has the meaning it has not abstractly but concretely in virtue of its being placed within that specific other worlt:P. In this connection, recall again the quotation cited in Chapter 2, which is especially appropriate to the way of sacred rite:

    In Japan, a simple open gateway acts as a symbol to mark off the precincts of the shrine. In passing through it, one leaves behind psychologically and symbolically the humdrum, ordinary world, and enters the sacred space of the temple. After worship, one again moves through the gate to re-enter the realm of everyday life-but as a renewed person. All peoples have set aside some place to serve as a sacred place, whether it be a mountain top, a garden, or a church, so that it may represent and activate within them a Great Power-another dimension of reality. So, one is allowed time when truth, significance and worth are recognized and cultivated to be carried back·into the ordinary world.3

    Identifying which rituals exemplify the way of sacred rite and which do not may be difficult without opportunity to explore in depth how the rituals function for their participants and how they are being taken by them. A difficulty here also is that there may be a difference between theory and practice, between the official account of a ritual and what participants, perhaps inarticulately, experience. For example, Baptists, among Protestant Christians, have traditionally played down or denied the sacramental significance of their observance of Baptism.

    More than any of the other ways, the way of sacred rite involves participants' bodies and typically makes use of symbols that address the senses holistically, invite bodily participation, and constitute an experience of perceptible beauty-lifting participants out of the ordinary and imperfect and into the extraordinary and ideal. This way calls upon great artistic talents to collaborate in the design and construction of symbolic and ritual patterns that are capable of disclosing (or at least intimating) the sublime and timeless, archetypal forms of ultimate realityo. More than disclosure, its purpose is to enable participants to enter holistically into the presence of these numinous forms and enable those forms to become a living presence in the lives of participants.

    In any case, the sacred archetype experienced in living sacramental ritual is not inert; it is a source of energy, vitality, and meaningful order. For participants, it is the source of their sense of propriety, a sense indistinguishably aesthetic and sacred of what is appropriate to do and what attitudes are appropriate to assume in facing the momentous and unsettling events of life. When having to take on such challenges, especially to communal life, participants seek restoration of that sense of propriety and of the rightful order and orientation to life that renewed participation in the sacred archetype brings. This is the characteristic existential need to which the way of sacred rite is addressed.

    The core symbol systems of each religion conceive ultimate realityo in different ways, and accordingly present different sacred archetypes in the foundational stories that they tell. Indeed, the characteristic interpretive orientation or hermeneutic of the way of sacred rite is to highlight archetypes of meaningful order and vitality within a tradition's symbol system, archetypes that might be accessed through sacred ritual. The Native American Sioux tell of how White Buffalo Cow Woman in the time of yore brought the sacred pipe and the seven sacred ceremonies of their religion, through which the Sioux find access to the vital and energizing archetypes of their life as it is meant to be. Buddhists never tire of retelling the story of Siddartha Gautama's Enlightenment, and in it they find the original archetypes of their sacred ceremonies and way of life: the awakening of faith; the sight of old age, sickness, death, and the seriousness of a monk's quest; the great renunciation, the finding of a middle way between indulgence and asceticism, the classic form of meditation, the conquering of temptation, the breakthrough to nirvaYJa, the Buddha's compassion, the fundamentals of Dharma (the Buddha's teaching), and the form of showing homage to the Buddha. Christians who pursue the way of sacred rite (Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican) find in the Gospel accounts of Jesus (in his Life, Death, and Resurrection, and in his Second Coming, when the Kingdom of God will be fully realized) the archetypes of their life and worship, above all what is disclosed through what they call the sacraments: Baptism, Holy Communion, Confirmation (or Chrismation), Reconciliation of a Penitent, Anointing of the Sick, Marriage, and Ordination. In the sacred rituals of these traditions, the vital and energizing divine archetypes become present anew, temporal and spatial distance from them is overcome, and participants newly find themselves at-one with them.

    Essentially, the way of sacred rite involves a symbolic anamnesis and mimesis of the archetypal forms: a remembering or memorializing that makes present and an imitation, reenactment, or embodiment. Specifically, it involves bodily participation in a mimesis of the sacred archetype(s) in the confidence that thereby representation will become re-presentation, symbol will become sacrament, and alienation from the sacred archetype will be overcome. Participants enter anew into its presence and are transformed, touched by its power to renew life and reestablish identity within the original divine order of thingso.

    The way of sacred rite is typically a communal enterprise rather than an individual one-more so than the other ways of being religious. The identities, relationships, and order it serves to establish (and renew) are typically interpersonal and social. Complex and especially hierarchical social order calls for elaborate ritual to authorize, establish, and maintain. There must be some who know well the proper rites-not only know how to perform them but are also capable of orchestrating and performing them. Even more, they must be divinely authorized to do so. This is what a priest or priestess is: a master of sacred ritual, a keeper of the rites, who is duly authorized to perform them. Acolytes are his (or her) assistants. Typical of sacred rite are well-defined religious roles and functions.

    Typical as well are sacred edifices to house and provide an appropriate place for the rites to take place: temples, altars, pilgrimage sites, and shrines.

    Each of the features of the way of sacred rite that have been mentioned can go awry, can fail to realize its characteristic purpose, can be misused for ulterior and egoistic motives, and so forth. When they fall short of ideal realization-in different respects and to varying degrees-we find characteristic vices to which the way of sacred rite is subject, such as meaningless ritualism, idolatry of ritual form, and clerical corruption. But the opposite potential is there too for ideal realization, and there we find virtues specific to the way of sacred rite. (Specific virtues and vices of the way of sacred rite and the other ways will be taken up in greater detail in Chapter 5.)

    Putting these different features together in a compact definition, the way of sacred rite consists of participation in the sacred archetypalpatternS' through which ultimate reality is manifest, by means of symbolic ritual enactments or presentations that enable participants repeatedly to enter their presence, attain at-onement for the moment with them, and thereby establish and renew their sense of meaningful order, identity, and propriety. It is typically communal rather than individual.

    The way of right action, as its name suggests, is concerned with right action or behavior, both individual and communal. All religious life involves some concern for appropriate conduct, whether it be a matter of rules of discipline freely taken on, advice from a spiritual mentor, institutional regulations, basic moral principles, special obligations, or absolute imperatives. But just because concern for appropriate conduct is involved doesn't mean that the way of right action is present. The way of right action comes into play only when a certain sort of conduct in the world (which sort of conduct will depend on the tradition or subtradition) comes to be a primary way of drawing near and coming into right relationship to ultimate reality-that is to say, when it becomes inwardly or spiritually imperative.

    Such conduct may encompass prescribed rituals, but here the principal focus is not participation in the sacred otherworld ofultimate reality, as is the case with the way of sacred rite, but action and behavior in the ordinary, mundane worldthat is, on doing one's proper task, on playing one's role, on fulfilling one's ultimate responsibilities. Indeed, where the way of right action has primary emphasis, the focus is upon the whole of human activity--or at least all activity over which one has some control or influence-as opposed to some separate sacred sector of life. It is a matter of bringing the secular and mundane sphere of life into alignment with the sacred, of extending the dominion of the sacred, as it were, over the secular and mundane.

    The way of right action thus involves a concerted effort to bring life, both individual and communal, into agreement with the way things are ultimately supposed to beo. What the latter is, is conceived differently in different traditions. (The interpretive orientation, or hermeneutic, of the way of right action is to pick out and emphasize those features of a tradition's symbol system that convey a sense of how things are ultimately supposed to be'.) It may be conceived as a transcendent, absolute imperative in opposition to the present social order, as in the divine call for justice in the prophets of ancient Israel or in the denunciation of idolatry found in the Muslim Qur'an. Contrariwise, it might be conceived to be immanent in the very grain of things, as is the intuitively apprehended Dao of heaven and earth in Daoism or the rationally apprehended Dao of heaven and earth in Confucianism, which in either case tends to take existing social structures for granted or works within them. Then again it may be conceived as the eternal, natural order of the universe and society, as in the Dharma of Hinduism with its correlative law of moral cause and effect (karma). It may be focused in a few abstract directives for action such as Jesus' summary of the Torah in the two commandments to love God and love neighbor. It might be focused in a single principle of ego-less compassion (karuna) for all sentient beings, as in Mahayana Buddhism. At the opposite extreme, it may be expressed in innumerable concrete expectations tied to social status, relationship, and stage of life, as in Hinduism, Confucianism, or traditional Rabbinic Judaism. Although these several visions of the way things are ultimately supposed to be' hardly coincide, they nonetheless significantly overlap in many areas. They all seek to bring to realize and bring to fulfillment the intended divine order ofthingS' in the midst of mundane, this-worldly existence-to be it.

    Primarily, the way of right action seeks to realize this intended divine ordero not for the sake of attaining some ulterior good, whether in present life or in some life to come, though many will seek to do so for the sake of that good. Nor does it do so to avoid some evil consequence or threat of punishment, though again many will do so to avoid such consequences. Persons who pursue the way of right action do so primarily for the sake of that intended divine ordero; simply because this is the way life is supposed to be lived; because this is (partly, at least) what life is for; because this fulfills (partly, at least) one's own inherent nature. They do so because not to do so is to be for this time and place not-at-one with what is believed to be ultimate reality and to do so is to be for this time and place at-one with what is believed to be ultimate reality. In the final analysis, then, "God's will" is to be done because it is "God's will," but also because true fulfillment for self and community is believed to be solely realized thereby. Accordingly, worse than mistaken or inappropriate involvement is indifference or no involvement at all.

    The key existential motivation for the way of right action is the awareness (or anticipation) of a contradiction between the way things are and the way things ought to beo: perceived inequities and injustices but also legitimate needs and necessities that, if unmet, keep life (individual and communal) from realizing its inherent purpose. The motivating imperative to right action is an inwardly felt summons (whether outwardly proclaimed or not) to move from being part of the problem to being part of the solution, to help bridge the gap between the way things are and the way they ought to be, to help make things right. People who pursue the way of right action then seek to bring life, ultimately all of life, into conformity to what is deemed to be the way things are ultimately supposed to be' in the conviction that that realization itself will be at-onement with ultimate realityo and the greatest joy. Thereby mundane life will be made sacred, and earth and heaven, this world and the other worldo, will be made one.

    The way of right action operates out of the conviction that the content of the way things are ultimately supposed to be' is in some sense already known or has been revealed and that it is possible of realization. Consequently, it requires spokespersons to declare that divine order and provide directives for action. The kind of spokesperson will depend in large part on how that content is conceived: moral prophet, moral sage, or moral teacher. So also, moral leadership in implementing or embodying the intended divine ordero is needed: charismatic moral leader, moral reformer, moral sage, moral saint, and possibly martyr. Then, of course, the humble follower, disciple, or moral soldier is needed. The way of right action gives rise to characteristic social forms as well: legal and judicial institutions, alternative model communities, movements of moral and social reform, and so on.

    Ideal realizations of these many features will exhibit characteristic virtues of the way of right action. Failures, degenerations, and egoistic manipulation exhibit its characteristic vices-as in legalism, perfectionism, and moral hypocrisy.

    Putting the various features together into a compact definition, the way of right action consists in the concerted effort to bring all of life, individual and communal, into conformity with the way things are ultimately supposed to be' (however understood~that is, to realize and fulfill the sacred intendedness of lifeo-that promises individual fulfillment, social justice, and the embodiment of divine idealityo in the midst of mundane, this-worldly life.

    The way ofdevotion is centered on devotion, as one might expect, but not just any devotion. In a certain respect, all sincere religion involves devotion, whatever the way of being religious. What is commonly taken to be religious devotion, however, is considerably broader than what is here identified with the way of devotion. In consequence, not everything readers may be accustomed to identify as instances of religious devotion will be an example of the way of devotion. The way of devotion only occurs where personal affection as such becomes a principal way of drawing near to and coming into right relationship with ultimate realitY'. Even so, there may be aspects of the way of devotion to be found in connection with examples that are chiefly instances of other ways of being religious.

    In the way of devotion, unlike the other ways, one's capacity for devotion is the avenue to at-onement with ultimate realityo. Persons who pursue this way are preoccupied with expressing certain feelings and cultivating certain attitudes toward what they take to be a personal manifestation of ultimate realityo. Usually they do so in common with other persons, but devotional worship in common is not essential. In any case, they tend to withdraw from activities that interfere with or inhibit those feelings and attitudes. The way of devotion specifically involves cultivation of a personal relationship to ultimate realityo of whole-hearted adoration, devotional surrender to its transforming grace, and trust in its providential care. Accordingly, the way of devotion tends to arise or emerge only when ultimate realityo is conceived to have some sort of personal manifestation or "face" oriented toward potential devotees, along with a capacity for grace and a power to arrange events for the well-being of devotees. The hermeneutical orientation of the way of devotion, accordingly, highlights and identifies with those aspects of a tradition's system of symbols (e.g., its scripture) that manifest or at least intimate the personal side or "face" of ultimate realityo and its interest in the welfare of potential devotees.

    The point of the way of devotion is to have ultimate realityo (or rather its personal "face") come to be the center of one's personal life, the central focus of one's primary affections. The expectation is that this devotional centering will result in the influx of sustaining energy, hope, and a sense of nearness to it. Typically, attainment of such a devotional centering (or recentering) of life will involve some kind of conversion experience (from a life not affectively centered on ultimate realityo to one that is so centered) and passage through an emotional catharsis (a purifying or figurative cleansing of the emotions). Repeated passage through some sort of emotional catharsis, for many who follow the way of devotion, appears to be widely practiced and encouraged. Thus, at-onement with ultimate realityo is principally sought by way of inward, personal devotion-not primarily by way of outward "acts of devotion," however, but by a sustained commitment to cultivate an inner attitude of adoration toward ultimate realityo in every circumstance of one's life, whatever one may be doing outwardly. It is characteristic of persons who pursue this way to place little emphasis on outward actions (whether of a ritual or a moral nature) as a means of establishing rapport with ultimate realityo--especially not when such actions are undertaken in the absence of the right devotional attitude.

    Persons who freely choose the way of devotion often do so with the existential motivation that in no other way can one find the emotional wherewithal to bear up under the pain, loneliness, and emotional traumas of everyday life, the guilt at having betrayed what is highest and best, the profound sense of one's own inadequacy, or the despair at not being able to cope on one's own or in one's own strength. These persons seek a focus for their otherwise disparate affections-an "object" worthy of worship, yet also one that affirms who they are in their weakness, a compassionate source of grace and coping power. It is through giving themselves in devotional surrender to ultimate realityo in its compassionate, grace-full aspect, letting go entirely the attempt to "make it" in their own strength, that they find their lives brought back into meaningful shape and the grace to bear what otherwise would be unbearable-and more. Theirs is the faith that through such a devotional surrender they will find as well an ongoing, personally affirming intimacy with ultimate realityo, with other devotees, and with all other things. It is, ideally at least, not for oneself alone that this personally transforming intimacy is sought, but just as much for the sake of others-extending the reach of joyful intimacy with ultimate realityo to the larger community of devotees and beyond, including, in some traditions, even the nonhuman realm of nature.

    Different religious traditions portray ultimate realityo in very different ways, yet remarkable parallels can be found in the way of devotion at work in Protestant Evangelical Christianity, which focuses on being "born again" through giving one's heart in devotional surrender to God in response to His gift of salvation in Jesus Christ; in Jodo-shin-shu Buddhism, which focuses on cultivating a relationship of complete reliance on, and faith in, the grace of Amida Buddha to meet the trials of this life and be reborn in the Pure Land in which true enlightenment is found; and in Sri Vaishnavite Bhakti Hinduism, which focuses on cultivating a relationship of passionate intimacy with the compassionate, most personally accessible form of the divine among human beings, Krsna. Expressions of the way of devotion can be found in other traditions as well, but perhaps no more distinctly than in these three.

    The way of devotion tends to generate social forms that facilitate cultivation of the appropriate feelings and attitudes and dealing with emotional problems and crises. Characteristic leadership roles include the charismatic preacher or storyteller who is a master at bringing people to the point of conversion, devotional surrender, and catharsis, and the pastor who is a master in counseling and helping devotees cope with the ups and downs of their devotional lives. Social institutions tend to be quite informal and more subject to local congregational control than not. Indeed, little more is necessary than informal gatherings of devotees joining in devotional praise to ultimate realityo, sharing stories of itso (whether "his" or "her") compassion and grace toward devotees, and offering fellowship and support for one another.

    Each of these features of the way of devotion has the potential for ideal realization and for corruption. When participants find meaning, the wherewithal to cope with physical and emotional suffering, a sense of fulfilling intimacy with ultimate realityo, and lives changed for the better, the way's characteristic virtues may be found. Where devotional life becomes nothing but indulgence in sentiment on the one hand or an otherworldly passion that eclipses all mundane concerns on the other, or where emotions are manipulated for self-serving motives, there may be found the characteristic vices.

    Putting these several features together into a compact definition, the way of devotion consists in cultivation of a personal relationship to ultimate realityo of whole-hearted adoration, devotional surrender to itso transforming grace, and trust in itso providential care, anticipating in return an influx of sustaining energy, hope, and a sense of affirming presence or at-onement. It typically involves a conversion experience and emotional purgation.

    The way of shamanic mediation is existentially concerned with meeting the overwhelming challenges that life offers, such as serious illness or injury, great danger, or loss of food supply. It is not simply a concern with great challenges; it is rather a concern with challenges that overwhelm the resources of power and imagination available in the mundane, ordinary world. It operates out of a confidence that "supernatural"5 or spiritual resources for meeting these challenges really do exist. Even more: it boldly assumes that there is a whole other dimension of existence, an autonomous realm of spiritual realities (at least part of the tradition's other worldo) on which mundane life depends for good and ill. Persons who pursue this way of being religious are convinced that the "supernatural" resources of the spirit world can be tapped and brought to bear on present needs through certain practices that mediate between the spirit world and the mundane world. A master of these practices or a person who is able to play such a mediating role is a shaman, whether male or female.

    Among the six ways of being religious, shamanic mediation is the least compatible with the so-called modern scientific world view. The modern scientific world view presumes to explain all phenomena in terms of natural, material causes-that is, resolutely nonsupernatural causes. As well, it stresses human autonomy vis-a-vis all allegedly higher powers. For Buddhists and Christians who identify with the modern world view, for example, shamanic phenomena in their respective traditions are viewed as archaic holdovers from an earlier credulous age, contaminations of "high religion" by animistic folk religion, and in no sense essential to true Buddhism or true Christianity. We shall not enter into this controversy here except to note that the evidence is fairly clear that shamanic phenomena have occupied a place in each of these traditions all along, at least on the fringes of institutionalized orthodoxy. The same is true in most other religions. Readers are encouraged for the sake of understanding to suspend this modern prejudice and approach shamanic expressions of religion with no less empathy than is due toward examples of other ways of being religious.

    From what has been said so far, the impression may have been conveyed that the way of shamanic mediation is a kind of spiritual technology-that is, simply a matter of harnessing "supernatural" resources for the solution of mundane problems. This is a misleading impression. Recall that a way of being religious is a way of drawing near to and coming in right relationship with ultimate realityo. Thus considered, the way of shamanic mediation is a way of becoming united with ultimate realityo in itso purpose to bring about healing, well-being, and fulfillment for the world. This points to the hermeneutical orientation of the way of shamanic mediation-always looking for clues in the tradition's symbol system to the availability of "supernatural" resources, to the readiness and disposition of ultimate realityo to make available those resources, and how to come into alignment with that disposition. In other words, the "supernatural" spirit resources that shamanic mediation would tap are not just there for exploitation. It is rather that they are ultimately and comprehensively disposed ("intended" may not be too strong a word) for the welfare of the world. They may also be misused for ill effect-but at the prospect of dire consequences for the person who misuses them, so say knowledgeable shamans of almost every tradition. The way of shamanic mediation therefore seeks to mediate or be a channel for, and thus be an intimate ally of, the beneficent power of ultimate realityo to meet the needs of the individual and the community.

    In the way of shamanic mediation, a person gains access to the spirit world through what might be called the deep imagination, which is largely unconscious in most persons, in an altered state of consciousness. Typically it involves entering a state of trance in which, at least in initial stages, one loses consciousness of the mundane, ordinary world but gains consciousness of the spirit world and is thereby enabled to move about in it. Fully developed shamanic mediation, however, involves bridging or mediating between both worlds, enabling the resources of the spirit world to be received by, or transmitted to, persons and circumstances in the ordinary world. Typical shamanic phenomena include being "filled," "taken over," or "empowered" by a "supernatural" divine spirit to do what is otherwise beyond human capacities; seeking and receiving ecstatic visions that give direction, purpose, and personal identity; oracular utterances that bestow divine instruction, guidance, and otherworldly knowledge; and going on "spirit journeys" into the other world for the sake of divine instruction, spiritual maturation, or solving some problem in the mundane sphere such as "soul loss" (in which a person has lost the spark of life).

    Accordingly, this way of being religious gives rise, depending to some extent on the religious tradition in which it occurs, to more specialized shamanic roles, such as oracle, prophet, visionary, medium, wonder worker, spiritual healer, geomancer (one who discerns auspicious and inauspicious sites for human activity in terms of the alleged flow of spiritual energies in the landscape), necromancer (one who communicates with the spirits of persons who have died), and so forth. Being more attuned to the unpredictable movements of the spirit(s) than to mundane considerations, shamanic mediation tends not to establish enduring social institutions other than those directly associated with the largely individualized, charismatic role of the shaman, whether as generalist or as specialist. In some traditions, the role of shaman may nevertheless be more social than individual, however, and thus an institution-meaning that, as one holder of the role either dies or loses her (or his) charisma (spiritual connection and power), another is found to take her (or his) place. More or less informal shamanic guilds can often be found that maintain what can be a considerable body of shamanic lore and a regimen of apprenticeship for would-be shamans.

    It is important to recognize that according to every tradition of shamanic mediation not all spiritual powers are identical, not all are compatible, not all are necessarily good; and many are downright dangerous. All traditions attest to the need to cultivate some form of "spiritual discernment." Some traditions accredit the activities of shamans in other traditions, while some do not. Few if any traditions engage in or accredit all shamanic practices. Most traditions explicitly warn against, if they do not forbid, involvement in certain practices.

    Expressions of the way of shamanic mediation are found throughout the world in almost all long-standing religious tradition, unless for some reason the tradition discourages or condemns shamanic practices. They are particularly evident in indigenous, nonliterate, small-scale cultures. They may be found as well in major religious traditions, particularly where people find themselves confronted with overwhelming, life-threatening problems and grossly insufficient mundane resources with which to solve them. In Christianity, shamanic practices are found in Pentecostal Protestantism and the more recent, interdenominational Charismatic Movement. Outside the bounds of Christian orthodoxy, the Spiritualist Church in England and North America puts the way of shamanic mediation at the center of religious life. In Arabic Muslim countries, although shamanic-type practices tend to be censored as non-Muslim by mainstream authorities, the wonder-working shamanic figure of the wali ("friend of God") can often be found among poor and nonliterate folk. Aspects of shamanism may be seen in Hasidic Judaism, especially in its formative years in eighteenthand nineteenth-century Eastern Europe. Shamanic practices can be found throughout Asia and are often regarded as a holdover from "primitive" indigenous religions. Nevertheless, in places they have found a relatively stable home within Buddhism (e.g., Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism), Hinduism, and Daoism. In addition, they are a major phenomenon in Korean religious life and have had a long-standing place within rural Japanese Shintoism, as well as in the New Religions of Japan

    Because of its involvement in unusual and sometimes apparently bizarre parapsychological phenomena, the way of shamanic mediation is sometimes the object of intense curiosity. This alone makes it ripe for unscrupulous exploitation and charlatanism. And because of its promise of supernatural resources for the solving of mundane problems, it has the potential for degenerating into occult magic (where ultimate reality is treated as a mere means for mundane, egoistic ends). In any case, it would be a great mistake to suppose that the way of shamanic mediation is adequately represented by its most degenerate forms. That is to say, these expressions are examples of the characteristic vices to which the way of shamanic mediation is subject. At the opposite end of the spectrum, though, are the virtues exemplifying shamanic mediation is at its best-namely, practices whereby beneficent power of ultimate reality is channeled with genuine effectiveness to meet the real needs of individuals and the community.

    Putting these various features together into a compact definition, the way of shamanic mediation consists in entry into altered states of consciousness in which persons become mediators or channels for the intervention of spiritual realityo, in the expectation that "supernatural" (transmundane) resources of imagination, power, and guidance will be released for solving or dealing with otherwise intractable problems of life. Expressed through phenomena such as "possession trance", "oracular utterance," "ecstatic vision," and/or "spirit journeying," it seeks at-onement with ultimate reality in what is taken to be itso readiness to bring about healing, well-being, and fulfillment for the world.

    The way of mystical quest is a deliberate endeavor, using ascetic and meditative disciplines, to transcend the limitations of ordinary conscious experiencespecifically, its unconsciousness of ultimate reality-for the sake of conscious union with ultimate realityo. Several elements in this statement need to be highlighted in order to distinguish the way of mystical quest from the confusion surrounding common usage of the words "mysticism," "mystical experience," and "mystic." Notice the emphasis on "deliberate endeavor" and "use of ascetic and meditative disciplines" and not on supernatural visions, psychic phenomena, or mysterious happenings. According to the classification given here, the latter, so far as there are such things, are to be associated more with the category of shamanic mediation than mystical quest. Notice also that the emphasis is not on seeking after "mystical experiences," whatever they might be-which, being experiences of something (even if they be of "no-thing") could only be appearances of ultimate reality and not that ultimate realityo itself. The emphasis is rather on seeking ultimate realityo itself (as opposed to experiences of it) and being immediately united with it. Notice too that the focus of the definition phrased here is not on the end result (e.g., on the culmination of the quest, or on those "mystics" who have attained that culmination, whether by deliberate endeavor, unbidden miraculous grace, or however) but on the path, on the deliberate, long-term endeavor-on the lived meaning of the quest. Hence it includes all those who trod the path and not merely those who arrive at the end. In short, it is about the path itself and the practices that constitute the path.

    Persons who pursue the way of mystical quest are discontent with merely accepting what others say about ultimate reality; they want nothing less than to experience it directly for themselves. Not merely ultimate reality, they seek to become aware of all things, both within and without, as they ultimately areowhich is to say, as they have been testified to by the tradition to which they belong. In an important respect they distrust appearances and what is on the surface. This disposition characterizes as well the hermeneutical orientation of the way of mystical quest toward the scriptures and symbols of traditions: the meaning sought is always the deeper meaning and not the literal meaning on the surface, and the passages it highlights are those that intimate a way forward to a deeper realization of ultimate trutho

    Those who pursue the mystical quest have a passion to reach out and taste what is ultimately realo with their very being. In that respect they are discontent with ordinary awareness as a species of unconsciousness, conditioned and fettered by ignorance, lust, and egoism. Persons who pursue the way of mystical quest passionately seek an extra-ordinary, contemplative consciousness of ultimate realityo that is free of the distortions and distractions of ordinary experience and the distractions of extra-ordinary experience too (including experiences associated with shamanic mediation). Additionally, they are discontent with any lack of integration between awareness on the one hand, however true that awareness may be, and how life is lived on the other; they seek to be integrally united with ultimate reality in their whole being. The way of mystical quest thus pursues not only a transformation of one's conscious awareness but also a transformation of one's entire self, so that nothing of oneself might be in conflict with or out of touch with ultimate reality.

    The would-be mystic pursues her goal by way of meditative and ascetic disciplines designed to uncondition and unfetter her experience of things, to free it of distortions and distractions. Such disciplines serve to interrupt, slow down, focus, and/or otherwise break through the obscuring impulses and patterns of ordinary experience to enable her to become more and more directly aware of, receptive to, and grounded in the ultimate reality she seeks. In well-established traditions of mystical quest, she will trod a relatively well-groomed path under the guidance of a spiritual master or spiritual director who has already trodden it before or who has at least progressed farther along it. Because it is often such an all-consuming, solitary preoccupation, persons who pursue the way of mystical quest are drawn to a way of living that facilitates and supports it, free of the distractions and busyness of ordinary life. Some, accordingly, choose to live with others in a monastic setting, where life is pared down to its essentials and they are free to devote time and energy to the quest in a mutually supportive way. Others choose the life of a hermit or, as in India, the life of a wandering mendicant. Although it may appear so, in most traditions of the way of mystical quest it is not for herself only that a person pursues the mystical quest, but typically she pursues it for the sake of improving and intensifying others' awareness of, and connection with, ultimate reality as well.

    As is fairly well known, the way of mystical quest can be found in all of the major religious traditions, though not always in their mainstream expressions. Buddhism places it front and center, as it were, in most of its principal subtraditions for the sake of achieving nirvatJa via some adaptation of the Eightfold Path, at least for those who are ready to undertake the quest. Islam has several varieties of Sufism; Judaism has Kabbala; Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christianity, since the fourth century at least, have had a revered place for contemplative monasticism; Hinduism has multiple varieties of what in Chapter 1 was called dhyana yoga, Daoism has its revered forms of the mystical quest, and even Confucianism and Shintoism have given expression to it.

    Some writers, impressed with the striking and profound similarities between the way of mystical quest in each of these traditions, are only too ready to draw the conclusion that the mystical quest is the same in each tradition. But this, on the basis of the author's investigations, is a premature judgment, to say the least; it conveniently ignores the differences that remain to be explored by confusing generic structure with specific form. For example, in virtually all Christian examples of the way of mystical quest, ascetic and mystical techniques by themselves are said to accomplish little of significance. Much more important than techniques or anything one can do is to wait upon (that is, make oneself available to) the intervention of divine grace, upon God's freely electing to reveal himself to the seeker. Indeed, some would emphasize that the Christian mystical quest presupposes having already become a member of "the Body of Christ" through Baptism and regular participation in the sacramental life of the Church. To the contrary, virtually all Buddhist examples of the way of mystical quest make no reference whatsoever to divine intervention or to the necessity (as distinct from the usefulness) of formally joining the Buddhist Sarrtgha (monastic community), and place primary responsibility on the efforts of the individual pursuing Enlightenment. Although there may be unacknowledged aspects of something akin to the experience of grace in the Buddhist quest and unacknowledged greater dependency on technique than most Christian mystics explicitly allow, a clear difference seems evident.

    Finally, the way of mystical quest, too, has a potential for characteristic vices as well as virtues. Its vices include mystical dilettantism (e.g., seeking after extraordinary "mystical experiences"), using the mystical path as a means of escape from things one cannot face in the mundane world, spiritual elitism, and extreme self-mortification, among others. Virtue in the way of mystical quest is found not only in attainment in the mystical quest itself, but also (if not more so) in such things as thoughtful consideration for fellow pursuers of the quest, good humor in coping with human foibles and limitations, and the humility that abhors self-inflation at having attained some goal on the path.

    Putting these various features together into a compact definition, the way of mystical quest consists in employment of ascetic and meditative disciplines in a deliberate quest to interrupt, slow down, or otherwise become free of, the obscuring limitations and distracting compulsions of ordinary life in order to attain a direct awareness of ultimate realityo, come to be wholly at-one with if', and have life and one's relations with all things become transparently grounded in ifo.

    Thewayofreasonedinquiryisconcernedwith understandingthings, grasping how things fit together and why things are the way they are, first of all for oneself, but for the sake of others' understanding too. Hence the existential need that motivates this way is lack of understanding and discontent with the ignorance, unreasoned opinions, and secondhand answers with which others rest content.

    The way of reasoned inquiry involves investigation into, and a pondering of, the nature of things. It begins with the study of scripture and past attempts to articulate how things ultimately are"-which for the way of reasoned inquiry contain not a set of pre-established answers but the starting point, basis, and set of clues for moving to an understanding of ultimate reality and how it relates to the matters of immediate concern. This indicates something of its characteristic hermeneutical orientation: it looks for clues that will lead to a comprehension of the problems and perplexities of life (especially ones that suggest reasons for why things are they way they are), clues to a reasoned view of the world as a whole within the ultimate perspectiveo, and rationales for (and promise oD reasoned inquiry as a means to at-onement with ultimate reality. Hence, it can be simply called theologyo. Characteristically, though, the way of reasoned inquiry does not involve just any sort of study. It is where study takes on the dimensions of a passionate quest, a way of drawing near to and coming into right relationship with ultimate reality, a way of worship. What is sought is an understanding of reality as it ultimately iso, as it is for ultimate reality or "God." Hence, implicit in its pursuit of understanding of any given thing is a pursuit of a progressive at-onement with ultimate reality: the ground and source of truth, the ultimate reason for being of all things, the Absolute itselfo. Truly to seek truth is to seek Trutho, which in most traditions is one of the names of ultimate realityo.

    The truth and understanding thus sought are ultimately, then, not a matter of "right" or "correct answers" but an at-onement of mind with Mindo, a lifetransforming insight into the ultimate nature ofreality as a wholeo and the place of the part with which one may be concerned within that whole. The goal is not so much knowledge as it is wisdom, divine wisdom, the ultimate basis of sound judgment-a wisdom just as practical as it is theoretical, a wisdom that clarifies how life therefore is to be lived. Nevertheless, it should be said here that some traditions, whose core symbol systems emphasize the normative, action-guiding features of ultimate realityo, dispose the way of reasoned inquiry more in a practical than a theoretical direction. Other traditions, whose symbol systems do not emphasize the normative, action-guiding features of ultimate reality, or that stress ultimate reality as being beyond good and evil, dispose the way of reasoned inquiry, to the contrary, in a more theoretical direction. Nevertheless, the way of reasoned inquiry seeks not truth for one's own sake, but truth for truth's sake, and, as an attendant responsibility, participation in the making known of truth to, and the appropriation of truth by, the community of faith and beyond it to humankind at large.

    The process of coming to an understanding of fundamental things and drawing near to Trutho is almost never straightforward-at least not for those who seek to understand things freshly for themselves. It is almost always a dialectical struggle to move beyond the mistaken, distorted, and partial apprehensions characteristic of conventional, this-worldly understanding to draw progressively nearer to the Trutho that lies beyond them. Depending on the particular religious tradition, the struggle is sometimes laced with paradox because what it is one seeks to understand is fundamentally incompatible with a conventional, this-worldly frame of reference (in Buddhist terms, a "samsaric" point of view). In such a case, the conventional frame of reference must at some point be challenged, broken through, and displaced for true insighf to occur. For example, in the Prajna-paramita "theologyo" of Mahayana Buddhism, the shift is so radical that conventional categories for speaking of what is real are said to have no application to ultimate realityo, which is characterized as "emptiness" (sunyata), as having no "self-being" in the conventional sense at all.

    Despite the involvement of intuitive leaps of insight (more so in some traditions, little or none in others), the characteristic mark of the way of reasoned inquiry is the use of reason. Persons authentically drawn to the way of reasoned inquiry never rest content with things that don't make sense or are not reasoned through. Reason here, though, is not to be understood as necessarily discursive or explicit in form. Some reasons may make sense only upon a shift in one's perspective. Some reasons may be grasped intuitively but not be statable in plain language at all. According to certain traditions, as in Mahayana Buddhist Prajfiaparamita, crucial steps in understanding require leaps of intuitive comprehension that cannot be mapped as explicit inferences. They will be leaps that make perfect sense within their own frame of reference but from the perspective of other traditions and mundane ways of making sense they may appear irrational. To the contrary, other traditions, such as traditional Jewish Talmudic study, are bastions of systematic, discursive reasoning that have no tolerance for intuitive leaps of insight at all.

    The way of reasoned inquiry finds expression in most of the great religious traditions, some more centrally than others. Iq some it is stands by itself, but in others (at least in some subtraditions) it is closely allied with the way of right action or with the way of mystical quest. In traditional Rabbinic Judaism, participation in serious dialectical study of the Torah and Talmud has been expected of all males, to the extent of their ability, and has been counted as worthy as prayer, and by some as even more worthy. Here the focus is primarily upon practical or prudential wisdom, on the many implications of the Divine Commandments for the living of life. Islam, too, although it has traditionally been wary of liberal theological tendencies, has given special honor to the serious study of theology and religious law. Confucianism's elevation of the ideal of sagehood above all other ideals made the way of reasoned inquiry and role of the scholar, focused on study of the Confucian Classics, central to its tradition. Here too the goal stressed is primarily prudential wisdom pertaining to human relationships, yet it is concerned more with cultivation of virtue than with rule and law as in Judaism and Islam. Buddhism has placed a central emphasis upon the pursuit of wisdom combined or balanced with contemplative meditation. In a somewhat similar way, Hinduism recognizes and honors the path of jfiiina yoga, the path of knowledge and insight that has about it some elements of mystical quest. Christianity in its different subtraditions has variously emphasized serious theological and scriptural inquiry-some more discursive, some more intuitive. Although some pietistic Protestant sects have gone so far as to explicitly discourage theological inquiry, most major Christian denominations have stressed serious study of scripture and theological tradition (at least for clergy) as a help for drawing near to God, if not actually a way to God.

    Characteristically, the way of reasoned inquiry involves study of sacred texts and commentaries on them. But just as important is apprenticeship (formal or informal) to the greatest interpreters (living and dead) of those texts and working collaboratively with others who agree to hold each other's reasoning responsible. Current reflection and inquiry thereby become part of an ongoing conversation and argument concerning ultimate realit)f that includes sages of the past and appeals to generations yet to come. In its social manifestation, the way of wisdom naturally spawns teachers and students, theologianso (persons who have attained competence in a given tradition's expression of the way of wisdom and mastery of its classic texts), master teachers and sages; schools, academies, and seminaries; critical editions of scripture, scriptural commentaries, responses to commentaries, treatises on theologyo, and theologicalo textbooks; and, of course, libraries.

    And, just as the other ways have a potential for characteristic virtues and for characteristic vices, the same is true for the way of reasoned inquiry. Each of the features mentioned above is capable of ideal realization and failure in one respect or another. Characteristic vices include pedantry, nitpicking, intellectual pretentiousness, and losing sight of the partiality of one's own understanding and perspective. Characteristic virtues, on the other hand, include a commitment to reason things through thoroughly and articulate them freshly, a clear sense of the heart of the matter to be understood an~ communicated, a thoughtful sensitivity toward the ability of others to understand and follow an argument, and a keen awareness of the limitations of one's own understanding and perspective.

    Putting these various features together into a compact definition, the way of reasoned inquiry consists in the rational, dialectical struggle to transcend conventional patterns of thinking in the effort attain understanding of, and consciousness-transforming insight into, the ultimate what, how, and why of thingo-that is, to bring together and unite, so far as possible, mind with the ultimate Mind' and thereby acquire a portion of divine wisdomo. It typically involves systematic study of a tradition's scripture and previous attempts to articulate what is ultimately the caseo.


    This page titled 3.2: The Six Different Ways Described is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Dale Cannon (Independent) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.