Principles of Religious Scholarship

Ancient and Medieval philosophers had a thorough-going relationship with the religious scholarship of their day. They largely applied the same principles of their secular thought to their religious thought. They sometimes differentiated the two areas of thought; however, even then, they largely used a similar approach in both cases.


The Departure

This began to change in the Middle Ages with Aquinas. Aquinas made a sharp distinction between religious and philosophical thinking. This distinction deepened significantly with the advent of modern science and philosophy. Bacon and Descartes, in particular, greatly distanced themselves from taking on religion. Descartes does reference religious concepts; but only when absolutely necessary, in order to clarify his metaphysical stance.

This trend continued throughout the Modern period of philosophy, as most philosophers adopted the Cartesian view as a shared starting point. In the twentieth century, with the advent of phenomenology, we begin to see a more robust relationship emerge between spirituality and philosophy.


The Dissolution of Cartesianism

Hegel’s philosophy, in contrast to most other philosophies of his day, fully integrates his philosophical and religious views. His followers, like Marx, however, accept the Cartesian premise and modify the Hegelian influence, accordingly. Arguably, Marxist philosophy does retain religious overtones, but those overtones are buried underneath Cartesian jargon.

Nietzsche, while espousing a philosophy that is overtly atheistic, ironically, begins a tradition whereby religion can return to the philosophical stage. He does this by tearing down the Cartesian premise in favor of an Aesthetics-centered approach to philosophy.


The Return

"The Marriage of Inanna and Dumuzi," by an unknown Sumerian sculptor, taken from [Wikipeida.Com]; this image is in the public domain. Sumeria is an interesting place for religious scholarship.
“The Marriage of Inanna and Dumuzi,” by an unknown Sumerian sculptor, taken from [Wikipedia.Com]; this image is in the public domain.
Heidegger follows in Nietzche’s footsteps. He begins to overtly tie philosophy to spiritual experience; albeit not religion, per se. His approach to the philosophy of technology is particularly telling. He approaches the question of technology by a method of contrast.  The contrast he cites is the modern mind’s appropriation to the “enframing;” that is, a narrowing way of being in history that reduces objects to use-related properties; to the ancient technological view, which incorporated object and creator with spiritual significance and practices organic to a poly-relational being.

Arendt then analyzes philosophical problems of her day in such a way that her religious ethic shines through; though this is still not overt. Her approach to ethical and epistemic questions reveals an outlook informed by her Jewish heritage. There is a significant emphasis on activity and work as social in nature, emphasizing the role that society plays in such questions. Arendt directly contrasts thinking to activity. While activity and work are largely social, thinking is much more individual. Consequently, action must stop in order for thinking to take place. This is an application of the Sabbath principle. Arendt thus fully merges religious and philosophical thinking in a way that had rarely been seen since the Middle Ages.


The Transegoist Place in the Historical Arch of Philosophical Religious Scholarship

Transegoism overtly embraces religious scholarship as a serious branch of contemporary philosophy. In this way, it echoes the traditions of the Ancient and Medieval philosophers. However, there is a difference. Because it is an outlook rather than a system of thinking, Transegoism approaches religious scholarship in multiple ways simultaneously. It approaches religion generally from the perspective of historical archetypes and psychology; and by this approach, religion is viewed both from a Jungian archetypal, mass unconscious perspective and from a Lacanian perspective (as being a pre-conscious outgrowth of the syntax of the alienated subject). Yet it also approaches specific religions as philosophical systems unto themselves; which they are, when we consider philosophy as an over-arching system, method, or approach to reality and/or being. All religions match that description. Finally, it approaches religions from within as instances of being; that is, from the perspective of the adherent, applying the Transegoist outlook.

General Transegoist Principles of Scholarship

Transegoism is a holistic phenomenological philosophical outlook. It is not a system, because when systems are placed in the superior, rather than the subservient place in the epistemic hierarchy, the entire modeling process gets captured inside of the emergent projection. Transegoism recognizes the usefulness of systems but places them in a category subservient to the general outlook. Most philosophies are essentially metaphysical, and metaphysics is inherently systemic.


The Phenomenological Aesthetic of Transegoism

By contrast, Transegoism places Aesthetics at the top, with ethics below that, and metaphysics below that. This is because Transegoism holds that the mass unconscious is, in some way, integral to the substrate, if not fully responsible for it. Thus, Aesthetics, which deals with the excavation of the unconscious, plays a primary philosophical role. Likewise, Ethics is right below Aesthetics because the Aesthetic informs us of what is correct before our reason is able to do so. Our reason follows the Ethic after the fact as the substance of the Ethic is discovered within the latent pre-conscious.

Nevertheless, Metaphysics is entirely integral. The entire Transegoist philosophy must be backward-compatible with reason; that is, once language has been created such that the essence of the ethic has been concretized and integrated into the updated system, that system should then clarify the Ethic and the Aesthetic. If the Ethic has generated an inconsistent system, then the inconsistencies of the system have to be worked out. Once they have, the metaphysical system then refines the Ethic. Aesthetic evolution then follows suit. In this way, the Aesthetic and the Metaphysics refine one another in real time. As above, so below. As below, so above.

True to the claim that Transegoism is an outlook, rather than a system, one can invert the linearity of the hierarchy of thinking depending on the circumstance. Yet the outlook is that the Aesthetic is the wider reality, whereas the Metaphysics is the narrowed reality.


Systems Versus Outlooks

A philosophical system is a fully worked out nominal set of inter-related logical relationships between fully defined objects that captures an entire area of study. There are good and bad systems.


Good and Bad Systems

A good system is both internally and externally consistent. That is, to the extent that facts are fully relevant to its premises; they are consistent with the premises (this is the external component), and there are not any internal contradictions or circular rationales within its set of definitions and logical relationships (this is the internal component).

A bad system strays from that description in one or more ways. If a discovered fact is fully relevant and directly opposed to a central assumption; or, if there is some logical fallacy, inconsistency, or circular rationale; then the system is not valid. That, then, is a bad system. One must then modify it, strip it for salvage, or abandon it completely.


What is an Outlook?

An outlook is different from a system. The outlook is an approach to being. An outlook, among other things, develops and analyzes systems in a certain way. It is related to a sense of life, although it is somewhat more specific. An outlook allows itself the freedom to not buy into the premise of a question, but to point out other areas of relevance that remove the question’s centrality to the discourse, rendering it of secondary importance. An outlook integrates many systems and recognizes that there is a hierarchy among them. It interacts with systems outside of systems. It recognizes systems as having boundaries of relevance.


The Differences

The object of the system is fact. The object of the outlook is being. The system is linear and logical. The outlook is non-linear; and while it is backward compatible with linear, logical thinking, it also has the flexibility to determine the relevance of a logical argument to a wider sense of being. Truth is of being and is manifold-relational. By contrast, a fact is a truth refined of its manifold relations. Its relationships are refined to what is relevant to the system. This lends it relevance to a line of thinking. However, it strips it of its wider essence, thus limiting its wider relevance to being. For this reason, in the hierarchy of thinking, being is above fact, even though it is backward compatible with the same; thus, the outlook, which deals with being, is above systemic thinking, which deals with facts.


Transegoist Religious Scholarship

To review the previous description of the Transegoist outlook toward religious scholarship, there are three simultaneous approaches. Religion is approached as a part of the human condition (archetypes of the mass unconscious and latent objects of the alienated subject). It is also approached as a philosophy unto itself; that is, as a philosophical system of thought or outlook that is separate from Transegoist thinking. Finally, it is approached from the perspective of the adherent; as a sense of being subject to Transegoist thinking.


Religion as Part of the Human Condition

All religions, and especially the religions of the Western World, follow the trajectory of human history. The major Western religions (including the religions of the Middle East, such as Islam and Zarathustrianism) have their roots in the very beginning of recorded history. Islam follows the traditions of the early Israeli Christians. The Christian sects of the West represent a merging of Judaism and the ancient religions of Europe. Judaism (and most other ancient religions) carry on the traditions of Hammurabi and/or Nimrod, and have roots that evade us into pre-history, but certainly go back as far as the ancient Sumerians and Egyptians. Notably, some religions of the Far East (like Hinduism, for example) share the same archetypes as these root religions, resulting in a resonance with the Western religions that persists to this day.

Furthermore, these religions express hermetic principles. Hermes Trismegistus described many of the underlying archetypes that underlie all of language, and therefore thinking, itself. Via Hermes, we have a merging of language and religion. Thus, religion, generally, can never be fully captured by a system of thought, because all systems are inherently linguistic. Thus, religious archetypes are prior to any system a human might devise. All religions of the world have a relationship with at least some of the principles that Hermes describes. Thus, one can analyze every religion on the level of human historical trajectory and linguistic archetype. A full exploration of archetypes which connect religion and language is a field of study unto itself.


Religions as Philosophies

True religious scholarship also has to recognize religions as philosophies unto themselves. Few intellectuals give religions this credit, but religions deserve it. Religions are, among other things, comprehensive ways of approaching being. Most of the time, religions create an outlook that is subservient to a very particular system of thought. This is particularly true of the Abrahamic religions in the way that they have unfolded, socially. This is somewhat less true of Eastern religions, such as Taoism and Buddhism, which are less systematic in their orientation; by contrast to Western religions, they tend to describe an outlook, rather than prescribe a system of narrative metaphysics and deontological ethics.


Weighing Relevance

In analyzing religions as philosophies, multiple things have to be weighed against one another for relevance. Among these things are, the contents of the religious texts, the hierarchy of religious texts, the hierarchy among interpreters and teachers of the texts, the theological traditions associated with the faith, individual, social, and institutional applications of the texts and traditions, and the historical and linguistic contexts from which the faith emerged, both in theory and in practice.


Other Considerations

It is important, on this level of religious scholarship, to take care not to project a personal interpretation of the texts, traditions, or practices of the religion. One must analyze the religion on its own terms; both in terms of what its texts and scholars say, and in terms of how individuals, social groups, and institutions associated with that religion enact it in the world.

It is also an important part of religious scholarship to note that religions evolve over time, much in the same way that all philosophies do. Thus, there is necessarily a historical component to the analysis.


Transegoistic Religious Adherence

On this level of analysis, the religious scholar is simultaneously the most constrained in terms of outlook, and yet free in terms of interpreting the religion itself. Religious scholarship from the perspective of the adherent has a very constraining starting point. That is, what is it that is essential to being an adherent of the religion in question? This question leads to many other questions. What emphasis do you place on the foundational religious text? Also, what emphasis do you place on the interpretive traditions of the faith? Finally, what emphasis do you place on the social norms and institutions that are associated with the faith?


Transegoistic Religiosity

Here, the Transegoist adherent leverages the other two systems of religious scholarship, as well as his/her wider philosophical outlook to arrive at a balanced and deconflicted model of his/her religion. This model then has to be tested against the approach toward being that he/she regards as relevant to the essence of the faith. Here, again, the adherent has a significant amount of freedom.

But first, one must consider what it is to be an adherent to that faith. What is most essential? Are the associated institutions the most essential things? Is it the social being which relates to that faith? Or is it the place that the religious text occupies within the trajectory of human language and being? Or is it the pragmatic utility of the ethics that the faith instills? If it is some combination of these (or other) things, then what is the hierarchy of importance, and what are the spheres of relevance for each, and how do they relate to one another?


Theology as Religious Scholarship

On this level of analysis, religious scholarship is far less dependent on assessing the religion as a philosophy unto itself, and is open to the scholar’s own analysis and approach toward being. From outside of a religion, the Transegoist is a student of religion as it is. From within a religion, as an adherent, the Transegoist is a theologian of his/her religion.

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