Drawing Boundaries in Religious Experience

After another long hiatus, I’m resuming my blog with the intent of pursuing a theme for periods of time.  Beginning today I am introducing the notion of human beings as “distinction-drawers,” a notion that I broached casually months ago.  And this is a very personal issue as “distinction-drawing” is very close to the core of my ego identity though now I am apparently in “recovery” from this death trap.

We are born into a world that was “always already underway.”  Even before we started to venture toward consciousness, this pre-existent world was beckoning, a gentle beckoning which would become more demanding as our journey through infancy continued and we approached the threshold of consciousness.  Becoming human depended on acceding to the demands of this “exterior” world and formulating a template through which we would view the world, a template which must be shaped so that it is consistent with the world view of the tribe into which we were born.  This template is a narrow prism through which we view the world and we will never completely leave it behind…even when in the “recovery” mentioned earlier.

One primary feature of this “template” is thinking itself which is a carving up of the world into discrete categories, providing escape from that matrix into which we are born and in which we spend the earliest months of our life.  This matrix (i.e. mother) is a womb, the mythological Uroborus in which there is no distinction drawn between me and the outside world.  It is the Garden of Eden from which we must be banished.  And if we fail to escape that matrix (i.e. “mother”) we will not be able to “join” the human race.

I will admit that there is some sense in which I have never made this escape as I’m still deeply rooted in that primeval world where distinctions are not as clear as they are to most people. I have spent most of my life “pretending” to have escaped by imprisoning myself in a conceptual world which has allowed me to function well in the “real” world.  This “real” world is a world of reason, a highly structured world which we call culture.  Without this fabricated world we would still live in that Ouroborous which means we would not really have a world at all, living in an undifferentiated state of unity with all things.  Having an “object world” is necessary for the creation of culture and our own infantile development of an “object relationship” with the world is necessary if we are to participate in the world into which we are born.

Joining our “object world,” our tribe, always means subscribing to reason and the “rational world” of the tribe is a “necessary evil” that we will need to gain some freedom from when we mature.  And that certainly does not mean we will need to become “un” reasonable only that we learn to see that the distinctions that we have learned to draw in our early tribal life are not as pronounced as they were seen, and felt, to be.  Early cognitive development turns us into a “distinction-drawer” and that is a developmental imperative.

Problems come, however, when neurophysiology creates too great of a reliance on this “distinction-drawer” and we never learn to see the world in terms other than black and white, us vs. them, good and bad, Republicans and Democrats, right and wrong, etc., etc.  And another dimension of this infantile imprisonment is that sometimes the social “norms” are so rigid that the developing child is basically tyrannized into his/her “distinction drawer” which helps the tribe to perpetuate its collective “distinction drawer.”

In my next post, I intend to explain how my Christian faith contributed mightily to the development of my “distinction drawer.”  And this is not the fault of Jesus Christ but merely an illustration of how human nature tends to use everything at hand to formulate a “distinction-drawer” early in life.

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2 thoughts on “Drawing Boundaries in Religious Experience

  1. Anne-Marie

    I’m also in recovery. I think it helps when ‘stuck’ in fixed patterns, to breath deeply down into the belly.
    John Main talks about the Christian vision of life as a vision of unity. “The central task of our life, in the Christian vision, is to come into union, into communion. Putting this from the point of view where most of us start, it means going beyond all dualism, all dividedness within ourselves and beyond the alienation separating us from others.”

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