Thursday, July 24, 2008

What Is Your Religion?

Today I read this following passage, in George Eliot’s Middlemarch.
It is between Dorothea and Will.
Dorothea is married to this dust-farting old guy that is about as exciting as a bag of dryer-lint.
Will is a swarthy, curly-haired, hot-looking single guy…. artistic-minded.
You do the math!
They are both powerfully attracted to each other, but Will is more aware of it at this point, than is the ever-ethical Dorothea.
They are sitting in the library of the house…

“What is your religion?” said Dorothea. “I mean – not what you know about religion, but the belief that helps you most?”
“To love what is good and beautiful when I see it,” said Will. “But I am a rebel: I don’t feel bound, as you do, to submit to what I don’t like.”
“But if you like what is good, that comes to the same thing,” said Dorothea, smiling.

It’s from chapter 39.
I felt that this passage of dialogue was not only wonderfully written, but had some profound insight and depth to it.
Wouldn’t it be great, if rather than wondering what “religion” people adhered to, we could focus our attention [not only outwardly, but inwardly] upon “the belief that helps us most?”

Religion is most often defined as the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods. But there are so many variants in such a description of the word, that I really wonder…. is it not almost meaningless, connotation-wise?
Among other things, who is this "super-human" being?
I think that Dorothea is uttering a profound thing here, to Will.

Because really… if there is something, or perhaps an entire system of things, that “helps you” or “moves you” or “motivates you” toward a better understanding of who you yourself know yourself to be… isn’t this thing, whatever it may be, more important when it comes to the distilled version of who you ARE than would be the adherence to a pre-scripted set of religious criteria?

There are only two other sort of options available, aside from saying “Yes” to the above question.

One is to live in a sort of denial of the fundamental reaches of your inner being.
The other is to subject these realms of yourself so dramatically to a concept of what is religiously “correct” [← and how subjective is this option] that you come to identify the “ideal” concept of yourself as being that which is unattainably perfect. [Some might substitute the word “enlightened” for "perfect."]
Regardless…. I would call both options not only futile, but sad.

In other words, I am suggesting that Dorothea asks the best question we can ask.
And Will answers it in the best way possible.



Anonymous said...

"I have always been finding out my religion..."

Hello, Cipriano-of-the-wondrous-Puddle-blog,
I love this part of the book as well.
If I may...the quote continues...with Will (I like that name, don't you??) calling Dorothea's "religion" a "beautiful mysticism."
She says, "Please not to call it by any name." [such an interesting syntax.]

What Dorothea is describing, I think, is beyond naming. How does one name the ground of all being?

She continues: "You will say it is Persian or something else geographical. It is my life. I have found it out and cannot part with it. I have been finding my religion since I was a little girl."

It made me think of the mythic quest theme.

Always a pleasure, Cipriano. I too love what is good and beautiful. . . please keep up the good work here.

cipriano said...

Yes, anonymous.
What a voluminous response!
[Voluminous should be a word! What's that? It IS a word?. Hey look! We started something!]
You are so right.
Your Tillichian allusion.... the Ground of All Being.
Never was a definition so inferior to its limited-nomenclature.
As Eckhart Tolle might say, [Praise Oprah] "God is not a being. God is being."
As you noted, Dorothea goes on to say that she would rather not have her "religious" inclination "NAMED" [defined as "Persian" or whatnot else] because that would limit it to some sort of parameters, as opposed to letting it be what it IS... which is [simply put] "her life".
Ahhhhh..... that our religion were our life!
And yet.
I hesitate to leave that sentence as it is.
If our "religion" [initially] comes from something outside of ourself, then "God forbid" that it should be "our life".
The only thing that should be "our life" is........ our LIFE!
Our being, our bliss! [<-- Joseph Campbell].
Which is to say.... I honestly believe, if any of us were to be true to ourselves.... to what we know is "our bliss"..... or, "raison d'etre"...... none of us would come up with anything resembling any current religion.
What religion needs, today, is more individuality. More honesty.

Anonymous said...

Re: Eckhart Tolle....

"God, to me, it seems, is a verb not a noun."
-- R. Buckminster Fuller

Grammar matters, after all.

cipriano said...

Thank you for your comment.
I honestly believe that Eckhart Tolle probably knows more about what it is to be "spiritual" in our current world, than anyone presently alive.
So thank you for quoting him.
The guy is a certifiable nutbar but I love him.

Jen said...

Excellent, excellent post. And the comments are equally wonderful this Friday morning. Thanks.

Merisi said...

What a wonderful bright truth!
Thank you, Cip, and Anon,
for the comments too. :-)