The Fourth Time Around

Midsommar                                                                   Most Heat Moon

ricoeur2This evening is the last of the introductory kabbalah classes. We’ll be discussing miracles again and hearing student presentations. Making it personal still seems like the right path for mine, how kabbalah has affected a decades long journey, a pilgrimage toward the world into which I’ve been thrown.

Paul Ricoeur, a French philosopher with a focus on hermeneutics, wrote about second naiveté*. It is a powerful idea. Ricoeur encourages any whose faith has been ravaged by the wildfires of Enlightenment reason to return to it again, a second time, and this time see “scripture and religious concepts as symbols, (i.e. metaphorical constructs) that we now interpret “in the full responsibility of autonomous thought.” (SE, p. 350)” (see below)

Kabbalah may be my third or fourth naiveté, a journey occasioned by a long ago commitment to religions inflected with Western cues, reasoning that the deepest knowing comes from within the way our inner world has been shaped by culture. I made this commitment over against the Hare Krishna, faux Zen, travel somewhere far away for a guru fervor of the 60’s. I faltered a bit in this commitment with my plunge into Taoism, which remains important to me, but in the main I’ve tried to search within the religious sensibilities of the West, especially the Judaeo-Christian flavors.

ricoeurHere’s a nice paragraph: “While the hermeneutic strategies to “open up the text” that Ricoeur presents are not simple or childlike, they’re only the first step in engaging with the ideas. If you understand “the meek shall inherit the earth” as a radical idea, what do you do with that? How do you apply it? How do you let it change you? Following Gadamer, we’re supposed to put ourselves at risk, allowing the possibility that the text could be life-changing.” The Partially Examined Life

I’m letting kabbalah change my empiricist worldview, again (third or fourth time) opening up to the world beyond mortal ken. How will this change me going forward? I imagine meditation and prayer will follow. Perhaps more regular worship, though with a much altered understanding of what that experience is about and what it is for. It will certainly lead me to further exploration of the kabbalah and, as a direct result, a deeper immersion in torah study, perhaps the Talmud, too. So, further into the Jewish worldview of the Reconstructionists.

gnosticismThe biggest change will be in how I sense the world around me. I will no longer be so reductive, imagining that even if there is an unseen world, that’s all it is, unseen. Perhaps this is how the reenchantment process works, seeing the living, intricately woven cosmos as manifest everywhere, visibly and invisibly. My pagan sensibility remains. I’m not sure that adding God language to the mix adds anything important.

Seeing all religious language, all religious ritual, all religious writing as metaphor is a radical shift in perception; and, it’s one I’ve been ready to make for a long time though I didn’t realize it. I’ll let you know how the presentation goes.

*Paul Ricoeur’s (from this summary)

Paul Ricoeur was more of a philosopher, but his work also crossed over into religion. His ideas on religion do relate to spiritual development, although Ricoeur did not use that exact term. Most of Ricoeur’s writings about religion dealt with the way a person would interpret scripture. But what they also definitely have bearing on religious belief as well.

Paul Ricoeur and the First Naïveté Though he mentioned the first naïveté only in passing, and as it relates to what happens after it, we can deduce that the first naïveté refers to the interpretation of scripture (or religious belief) where everything is taken at face value. This is the same as saying that the person in the first naïveté believes everything about his religion literally. This “first naïveté” is also the equivalent of the Faithful level of spiritual development, as described on this site.

Paul Ricoeur and the Critical Distance According to Ricoeur, the rational forces brought to our civilization through modernity have made it difficult to accept religion or scripture in the “first naïveté” sense. Once subjected to rational inspection, the literal meanings of religion really do not hold up. Once a person allows himself to take a step back from religious belief, and examine it critically, he really cannot believe the simple, naïve, concepts his religion teaches at face value. This “critical distance” is the equivalent of the Rational level of spiritual development, as described on this site.

Paul Ricoeur and the Second Naïveté After the critical distance phase, Ricoeur suggested, there is a way to engage faith in what he called a “second naïveté” way. “Beyond the desert(Rational stage) of criticism, we wish to be called again.” (SE, p. 349) In this second naïveté, scripture and religious concepts are seen as symbols, (i.e. metaphorical constructs) that we now interpret “in the full responsibility of autonomous thought.” (SE, p. 350) This means we accept that the myths we held as truth in the first naïveté (or Faithful stage) are in fact myths, but having passed through the critical distance (or Rational stage,) we begin to reengage these concepts at a different level. We no longer accept them at face value, as presented by religious authorities, but rather interpret them for ourselves, in the light of having assumed personal responsibility for our beliefs. We choose move toward our own interpretation that recognizes these concepts as symbols of something greater than that which the words or teachings imply in their literal sense. This “second naïveté is roughly equivalent to the Mystic stage of spiritual development as referred to on this site.

This entry was posted in Commentary on Religion, Faith and Spirituality, Great Wheel, Judaism, Myth and Story, Original Relation, Reimagine. Reconstruct. Reenchant., Third Phase. Bookmark the permalink.

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