Greetings and Welcome – Science, Spirituality, Salvation

You see the extremes Of what humans can be? In that distance some tension’s born Energy surging like a storm You plunge your hand in And draw it back scorched Beneath it’s shining like Gold but better

Rumours of glory

Bruce Cockburn

You have reached the blog of Dr. Michael Sosteric. I’m a Sociologist whose primary focus is on religion and mysticism. I’m certainly not the only sociologist to focus on religion and mysticism, but my focus is a bit different than other sociologists. While most sociologists have a particularly hostile view of religion, dismissing it as an irrational stupidity, doomed to die out in a science led march to secular “rationality,” I actually think religion is going to bloom and blossom into a global force for revolution and transformation in the short years ahead. And I don’t see that as a bad thing. Actually, I see that as a necessary thing, a sort of “next step” in our “evolutionary” process.

And it is coming none to soon, I think.

I mean, look at the world. Any half awake individual looking at the world these days knows that something has gone horribly wrong. From violent weather to violent shootings, violent nations and violent beheading, suicide epidemics and mushrooming malaise, the world is going to hell, fast and something needs to be done. And while sanctimonious scientists like Richard Dawkins might want to say what we need is less religion and more science, I think science  is equally a part of the problem. The world is the way it is because science has given humans powers never before seen on this planet. Humans  (or I should say, elite humans) have taken the fruits of science and built castles, weapons, ideological machinery, Orwellian surveillance networks (what most people call “social” networks), pharmaceutical straightjackets, and sparkly little distractions that keep people oppressed and ignorant while “regimes of accumulation” put billions on the brink of environmental, social, political, and economic catastrophe just so that a fraction of a fraction can enjoy fabulously wealth. Scientists can pretend to themselves all they want, but science is the handmaiden of Capital and it has helped us to the precipice just as well.

In other words, despite what that “science guy” might say, science is not the solution, science is the problem.

Or at least, science is part of the problem. Science is not wholly responsible for the mess we are in of course. The world was a messed up crock of class related violence, abuse, and despair long before science came along. In fact, if you want to be honest, religion and spirituality have been at the center of that mess for thousands of years, long before science became a problem. From violent crusades/jihads, to ideological justification and excuse (for violence, privilege, and wealth), to pure violent suppression of freedom, religion is as culpable for the debacle unfolding around us as science. I won’t deny that, and neither should you.  All I’m saying is that when it comes to world ending catastrophe and violence science, scientists, priests, and religion walk hand in hand in hand.

So, if science is part of the problem, and religion is part of the problem, how can I say that religion is also the solution? Well, let’s be a little more precise shall we? It is not religion per se that is going to save us so much as it is religious experience that is our salvation. That is, it is not the organized institution of faith (i.e. the Church) that will awaken the planet and save us from catastrophe, nor it is the heroic scientist slaving away in her white lab coat developing wonderful news controls over the physical world, it is the individual’s authentic experience of the Divine that is going to save the day. More precisely, it is the individual transformed by authentic religious experience that is going to bring “salvation” to this planet.  Neo can stay home, you see, because the real saviour is you! I know this is going to sound like idiocy to some, and scientific blasphemy to others, and I know that while it is OK for me to believe these things in silence, as a scientist I’m not supposed to say any of this out loud– but I’m going to say it anyway because our time is running out. There is something in religious experience that will transform the individual and save this planet.

Now, I don’t expect the reader of this page to believe this statement right out of the gate. After all, we have ten thousand years of religious persecution, religious ideology, religious violence, and religious oppression, to deal with. I do think however there is something worth taking a second look at, and not from tired sociological perspectives already met (e.g. Durkheim, Marx, Weber, Berger), but from a new angle, and a new perspective — a perspective that respects authentic religion experience and sees value in its thorough investigation. I think we, as scholars, and as humans, have to take a good, long, hard look at religious experience. I think it is worth taking a look at because I think that religious experience is our salvation.

And why do I think such an odd (and some might think awful) thing?

Well, I’ll be honest with you, I’m a sociologist, but I’m also a mystic. Over a decade ago I had a series of powerful mystical experiences that blew the top off my skull and left me standing in a spiritual/mystical world that I had previously come to conclude was only the opiate deluded fantasy of the class misfed masses. Oh sure, I was raised Catholic and so I had roots in religion. My mom took us to Church every Sunday and dutifully spoon fed us the Christian ideology. However, after some traumatic exposure to religious hypocrisy and violence, and after meeting Marx in a Sociology class all those years ago, I became an atheist through and through. For a good twenty years all I could do was join my colleagues as they collectively spat at spirituality. But one day, that changed. One day the top of my skull popped off.  One day I confronted something much more than the vacuous materialism of modern science had prepared me for. It was big, it was grand, and it was nothing like I could ever have imagined it would be. It was certainly not for the weak of mind and the faint of heart. In fact, quite the opposite. It took every ounce of mental and emotional strength to get it all under control. I have to say, it changed my life and my worldview forever and it set me on a path of research and exploration that continues to this day. It has been an interesting journey, a journey that has led me to conclude that in this violent and collapsing world that we all live in, our only true “salvation” will come through authentic mystical connection and the transformation of consciousness and reality that this connection will, through the actions of those transformed, bring. Its a mouthful, and a mindful, to be sure but there, I said it.

Now as I say this I feel compelled to say, don’t misinterpret what I am saying here. I am not saying that our salvation comes at the feet of some Christ like figure descending from “heaven.” I’m also not saying that some patriarchal God is going to judge our worth and save our sorry asses. I’m not looking for perpetual Jihad or unholy Crusade to end the life of the heathens. I’m also not looking for some “magical” process of mystical transformation to suddenly bring global peace and harmony. All I’m saying is that authentic mystical connection with what I call The Fabric of Consciousness will transform your consciousness, and that once transformed you will be compelled not only to change your world, but change the world as well. Our salvation, you see, is you. And while a sidelong look at the world may undermine your faith in humanity and its potential, I will disagree. After a decade of mystical experience, and despite the growing violence and chaos of this world, I have absolute faith in the power in the deep down and glorious you.

Anyway, I’m saying a lot more than I can justify or explain on this page and so for now I’ll just leave it at that. In the weeks and months ahead I’ll start documenting my journey and what I’ve found. I’ll try to situate that as much as possible in the psychology and sociology of mystical/religious experience but I’ll also be talking about my own perceptions and “theories” as well. If you want to stay tuned, you can sign up for email notification or subscribe to the RSS feed. Links and forms are below.

Thanks for listening and, enjoy the ride.

Mike S.


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