Saturday, November 10, 2007

Our culture of new mysticism as spirituality

Its two years now since I read Eric Davis's book Techgnosis which heavily influenced the hypothesis of my book, that what is driving this new form of mysticism in our culture (spirituality not religion) is a cocktail of consumerism as an individual life strategy combined with the influence of information technology.

Information technology and consumerism - as a cocktail - are also heavily linked to globalisation - and hence they are now influencing many previously diverse cultures - and in some - bringing a sense of convergence through global technological development.

The hypothesis that Davis and Caputo hold - is that technology has created a re-appreciation of spiritual transcendence. In the ancient premodern world - reality was about heaven above and hell below as a form of transcendence. In modernity - with the focus on science - transcendence was seen as a myth - and all that was - was here and now. In postmodernity - information technology has driven a re-apprecation of transcendence - through cyber-reality, mobile telephones and such like, there is what some have called - hyper reality - or an impossible faith of neo-mysticism.

In the west - this means that what was more of a secularised culture - now has a deep sense of spirituality - and spiritual tourism, even when people don't realise they are spiritual tourists. As this is heavily influenced by individual consumerism - this spirituality tends to be more of a 'pic-n-mix' type - where people choose the bits they like and hold it as their spirituality.

This is now the cultural context for many cultures and subcultures within the world. I would argue it is heavily present in Europe, UK and USA, and would explain why some are heavily resistant to religion - as it requires and expects conformity of belief - rather than consumptive choice, and also focused on spiritual experience - rather than focused on right thinking - the greatest challenge to the church. So the challenge remains with the church - whether it can engage with this postmodern hyper real spiritual sensibility, and shift from 'is it true' to 'does it work'. Only if spiritual experience of the church - brings transcendence and spirituality - will people explore it. And if those involved in it seem to have a form of peace and centredness will it be seen to have something of worth. Often our churches fail on both these fronts.

My hope, is that forms of the emerging church and fresh expressions of church - will be able to radically re-orientate themselves around this emergent culture of new mysticism, in the way of being church. Offering places of spiritual engagement and hospitality for people who are searching for deep spiritual meaning and centredness. In this way they take inspiration from the mystics, the premodern wandering monastics, and many others - in the vision of assisting people to shift from being spiritual tourists to becoming co-travelling Christian pilgirms - shifting from an individually driven, never ending journey, to a place of travelling community, cented in the hope of Creator, Redeemer and Companion.

The challenge is if we can truly be this type of Christian spiritual community.
For me personally - I see new/old forms of church as the emerging church as the best hope. The ones experimenting with outward focused intentional communities in combination with alternative worship and radical hospitality through art cafes and other public forms of spiritual engagement engagement as the best hope. Moot, MayBe, COTA, hOME, Sanctus 1 seem to me to be heading the right way with all of this, but we will see if they become embedded and sustainable in the long term....


Sally said...

You say; "My hope, is that forms of the emerging church and fresh expressions of church - will be able to radically re-orientate themselves around this emergent culture of new mysticism, in the way of being church."
We have to! I am presenting a postmodern pastoral case study next week that centres around this thinking and picks up on emerging spirituality through techgnosis... we must take note!!!

Sally said...

just ordered your book!

Ian said...

I agree Sally - but not everyone sees it this way.