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Friday, January 09, 2009

Comparative Religion

Final Essay……Comparative Religion (Kythera Ann)
Submitted By Rev. Ernest Kayorie
It has been some weeks since I finished reading and re-reading the materials that comprised the Comparative Religion course and now feel that I am ready to write the final essay. 
Initially, I would like to express gratitude to the Reverend Kythera Ann for putting together an excellent course on Comparative Religions, Part One.  The format of the course and the fact that it was an in depth overview and introduction to the study of Comparative Religions was truly refreshing.  Usually, courses on Comparative Religion end up presenting an extensive look into various religions with sidebars that attempt to explain  how they are similar or dissimilar. Because of this introductory format, it was relatively easy to establish a foundation on which a study of the various religious traditions could be started.
I enjoyed the sections that explained the difference between exoteric and esoteric aspects of the religious experience and how that expresses itself in society among various cultures.  As ministers, we certainly should be aspiring to enter the inner courts of that temple and as such should be familiar with the various initiations that are required.
Although the esoteric tradition was adequately represented , it might be interesting to expand the section on the mystical tradition, a tradition that pervades every religion  and in addition explain the difference between esotericism and mysticism. 
The pursuit of these "isms" have been accelerated  in modern society as people search for a new way to delve into their own spirituality.  The old is quickly passing away as those so inclined turn to alternate expressions and find that they can go directly to their inner selves and find the strength and solace that the exoteric religion traditions have failed to provide.
In an attempt to protect the "truth" or their version of it, traditional religions have thrown the baby out with the bath water.  Centuries of greedily guarding the message from those who were not prepared for it unfortunately crystallized this stance in a system that became rigid and dogmatic. It has never recovered …nor can it…To this day, traditional religion devotees adhere to the exoteric rites and rituals of their tradition and have no interest in pursuing further.  That is left to the meanderings of the select few (saints and mystics). 
Ironically, we all possess the faculty to delve deeper and to understand.  After all, did not the Master Jesus tell us that we would do all that he did  and even better.  Matthew records that  the people were astonished at what he said and taught as if one having authority and not as their teachers who mouthed  meaningless doctrines and laws. As exhibited in the example of Jesus, we too are able to speak with authority as masters of our own lives. We are searching for their own individual truths separate from the dogmatic "truths" of  established institutions. When faced with this pursuit, it is easy to follow a path of esoteric and mystical experiences unhampered by rigid rituals and established doctrine.  
I am not sure where I read or heard this but it seems to express what I am attempting to convey….. 
Esoteric thinking is concerned about a sincere interest in investigating different levels of consciousness and viewing them as "way stations" and not as obstacles in your search for God/Truth. 
Mysticism, on the other hand, focuses on reaching God/Truth in the most direct manner as possible and as such is an intensely personal journey that cannot be expressed in ordinary terms. 
In short, the mystic wants to reach the destination as quickly as possible and the esotericist wants to learn  about the landscape on the way. 
While I was reading the weekly lessons, I was also reading a self selected text that presented all religious traditions and belief systems written under current scholarship.    Michael Molloy's, Experiencing the World Religions  Tradition, Challenge and Change provided  an excellent backdrop for the course.
Hopefully, this course will be the first of a series examining the various aspects of the study of Comparative Religions. I anxiously wait……
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