Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

3.6: Chapter Summary

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    This chapter describes in some detail the basic features of each of the six ways of being religious. It begins by pointing out how the descriptions of the ways are the result of factoring out features of actual religious phenomena (grouped together on the basis of similarities) that are due to the specific symbol system and theological" beliefs of the traditions in which they occur in order to isolate the underlying generic pattern. In effect, the descriptions result from removing the flesh and blood of the phenomena in order to get at the underlying skeletal structure. Readers are warned not to confuse associations they are likely to attach to the names of the ways with the ways themselves. For example, not every instance of religious ritual is a case of the way of sacred rite, and not all ideas about religious ritual drawn from the work of other scholars (having been developed with other purposes in mind) are likely to be congruent with the descriptions offered here. The descriptions are the result of an attempt to apprehend and articulate generic structural commonalities shared by religious phenomena, not the particular phenomena themselves. They are abstractions derived from those phenomena and so they should not be taken as more real than those phenomena. Their value and justification depend on how well they promote empathetic understanding of, and do justice to, the actual phenomena of human religiousness as we find them.

    The way of sacred rite focuses on participating anew in archetypal manifestations of ultimate realityo that are rendered present through sacramental symbol and ritual. Right action centers on conforming individual and social behavior to the ultimate normative order of thingso. The way of devotion is preoccupied with centering one's affections in devotional surrender to ultimate reality as compassionate and grace bestowing. Shamanic mediation seeks to be united with ultimate reality as mediator or channel of itso "supernatural" intervention in mundane affairs through entering altered states of consciousness. Mystical quest pursues a direct, conscious union of one's entire self with ultimate reality by using ascetic and meditative techniques designed to overcome the obscuring limitations and distracting compulsions of ordinary experience that, as it were, have gotten in the way. The way of reasoned inquiry aims for a union of mind with the ultimate mindo in seeking a reasoned understanding of things in the ultimate perspectiveo.

    The distinctive hermeneutic each way employs in its interpretation of a tradition's scripture and symbol system is briefly described. Abstract relations of tension and balance between each of the ways are explored and possible correlations with personality types are suggested. Finally, practical suggestions in making use of the categories to classify and interpret phenomena of actual religious traditions are offered.

    This page titled 3.6: Chapter Summary 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.