Religion, Dogma and the Codification of Theology

If Science has failed to provide the explicit knowledge because it leans too heavily on belief and mythology, Theology has failed equally to provide implicit wisdom for the opposite reasons. Theology, in its most perfect form, is completely implicit, subjective and personal, “gnosis”. When attempts are made to codify the experience, theology becomes a religion, a set of commonly agreed upon beliefs that will guide and inform the individual in their path towards gnosis. When these beliefs become codified within the religion, it is called dogma. Like the imperfect schools of Science relying on common beliefs and mythologies to guide empirical investigations, religions attempt to create an explicit “proof” for itself, setting out the “proper” thoughts, behaviors and moral attitudes. As a result, an individual consciousness becomes mired in all kinds of ideas and perceptions that lead away from the idea of gnosis, or any meaningful personal experience of reality.

The Buddhists have a saying: “If you see Buddha on the road, kill him.” Any distraction from a personal experience of the Universe is a hindrance to attaining fulfillment. Thou art God. It can be said that most religions actually have this concept as a teaching, though it is ignored. In Christianity, this is the true meaning of the Christ, the anointed one. But as with the “rules” of empirical science, the notion is quietly ignored in favor of the use of common dogma as a path of enlightenment. Any search outside the parameters of accepted beliefs is reviled, prosecuted and its practice is punished, often severely. To the practitioner who discovers their own gnosis lies outside the accepted dogma goes the title “heretic”. It only stands to reason that if you have a group all practicing the development of a personal understanding of reality, you will invariably have differences, and while these differences could be seen as part of the tapestry of the Universe, in practice, most do not share them, and endure the shame and guilt of having the “wrong” experiences, feelings and beliefs, as well as the fear of the public humiliation that comes from expressing them as authentic.

I try very hard to limit the dogma in my theology. Obviously, it is as impossible to rid oneself of dogma as it is to practice “pure science”. I believe it can be minimized, though, and I believe that a method known as Vipassana Meditation provides that path. While there are varying levels of dogma present within the various schools, in its purest form, this technique is has one simple offering. “If one’s attention is placed upon one’s breath, remarkable things happen.” The closest it comes to any dogma is an idea called “the 5 Hindrances”; Desire, Aversion, Sloth, Restlessness and Doubt. It is easy to learn and practice. Focus attention of the breath, as the attention is distracted, simply note the distraction and return to the breath. Vipassana is taught almost everywhere in the world, the teachings are free, and beginning in a group can be very helpful. There are many wonderful writings on the subject, I like the book “Wherever You Go There You Are” by Jon Kabat-Zinn. The stated goal of this practice is to experience something called “Mindfulness”, which is defined simply as “living in the present moment.” My experiences using this technique are actually hard to talk about. One thing I know very well from it is that my thoughts are not all of me. Something inside me is able to observe each though. The sublime self, the beginning of being and knowing the true me and the first step towards a path of self fulfillment and a true understanding of my Universe.

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