Transtheism or Numinalism

I am continuing to think about this word that we don't yet have to describe a religious point of view that sees all conventional religions as inadequate human constructions, that have not been able to communicate the experience of an ultimate reality that transcends us.

Love this randomly generated abstract cloud of words associated with Transtheism!

Love this randomly generated abstract cloud of words associated with Transtheism!

While this must be enough already (I have published two recent blog posted on the subject), it isn't because it remains unresolved for me.  It is an important concept, and I need to be able to talk about it in a way that distinguishes it from other talk about religion. 

For instance, it is different from mysticism because mysticism is the practice of the mystical, when certain activities are undertaken to experience the divine directly.  It is different from perennialism because it doesn't advocate that the world's religions are expressions of the same reality.  In some ways we are dealing with the opposite position, that religions have done a poor job and have yet to express that reality in any really meaningful way.

I am thinking now about these possibilities:

1. Transtheism

The view that the ultimate reality is beyond the gods that the conventional religions advocate.

2. Numinalism

The view that the ultimate reality is the numinal, something that can't be captured by conventional religions.

Transtheism it is

I have continued to ponder this terminology, and I have fallen in love with it. What it will allow me to do in terms of analysis is truly astonishing. I wish I had thought about this earlier in my career. To name the type of theism that these ancient thinkers were involved in allows me to cross boundaries and open up discussions of their ideology. I am not going to be restrained by previous research and definitions! The limits are gone.

So who is our first transtheist? Plato may be the one, although I need to do some more reading in early Greek philosophy. It might go back to Pythagorus, but I need to study him more. Anyone out there who knows, chime in. Now Plato was not worshiping the God-Beyond, but he postulated that such a god existed. It was not a personal god, but the abstract Good. Nonetheless, this Good was outside the kosmos. And it was the goal of the pious life to encounter him.

Our first worshipers of the God-Beyond appear to be the Hermetics. And then this combines with Judaism and then with Christianity, and we get quite diverse systems of transtheism, with different combinations on how the God-Beyond forms the God-World-Beyond, and then how a creator god comes into being, who he is identified with (Abrasax? IAO? Samael?), what his characteristics are, how he creates the kosmos (heavens, earth, human being), and how he rules. The systems develop very interesting figures who descend from the God-World-Beyond to aid humans trapped under his rule. And they develop practices (magic/ritual) to aid the person's return to the God-World-Beyond.

So what I am working on now is seeing chunks of the systems. What I have noticed over the years is that these chunks are clusters of traditions that roam about together from system to system. Moreover, they are made of single traditions that change out. So the language I'm pondering to identify and talk about this comes from the word "modular". A single tradition that can be interchanged with another like-tradition I am calling a "modeme". I am not using "meme" because I do not want to bring into my discussion the evolutionary theory that meme scholarship brings with it. I have my own ideas about how and why these modular units develop in the way that they do.

So a modeme is a modular unit of tradition, the simpliest form a tradition can have. Modemes don't usually circulate on their own. They are clustered into a complex. So these I will call modeplexes. A bunch of modeplexes form a religious system.

I am hoping that this type of language will aid my analysis of the transtheistic systems by breaking them down into smaller tradition complexes and then identifing the modular units themselves. A modeplex might be "astral architecture". The modemes in astral architecture might be "astral ruler"; "subordinate rulers"; "heavens"; "planets"; "fixed stars"; etc. The modeplex will usually contain all of these elements, although the particular modeme might switch out. For instance, in one system, the astral ruler is Abrasax, in another he is IAO, in another he is Samael. When this modeme switches out, what does it do to the rest of modeplex? And then the rest of the system?

At any rate, this is where my thinking is going, the direction I am heading. There is so much to do - even more than before!