Religion, violence, secularism, and spirituality
Many years ago, when I first read Professor William Cavanaugh’s book The myth of religious violence, it thoroughly shook my views on religion and secularism. Religion is generally thought of as something inherently violent because it is based on irrational beliefs, while secularism is seen as a rational way of organizing difference of opinion. Cavanaugh’s book, however, completely upends such commonplace assumptions. Considering the continuing popularity of the book, I clearly was not the only one who found his arguments intriguing. Even though the book was published in 2009, he was recently invited to the Netherlands to give several lectures on the topic at various universities. We met in Nijmegen, where he ended his tour, and had a long, in-depth conversation about various blind spots in the daily discourses on religion, secularism, and spirituality. We were also joined by my good friend Paul Van der Velde, a professor of Hinduism and Buddhism at the Radboud University. Having Paul with us, allowed us to bring in a more Asian perspective on the topic. Our various expertises eventually combined into a coherent whole. Besides discussing the myth of religious violence, we als discussed violence in historic and contemporary Buddhism, we questioned whether or not words like “religion” and “secularism” should be completely abandoned, wet analysed historic and contemporary elements of the Iranian regime, we delved deeper in professor Cavanaugh’s views the Catholic Church’s relationship with violence, and we wondered whether we could perhaps interpret Donald Trump’s view on life as a form of extremist positive thinking.
December 14, 2022
Researching the vertical dimension of life
Researching themes like spirituality and religion leads to particular conundrums. One of them is the fact that any discussion about religion is always framed within a particular worldview and thus, inevitably, always also brings along its own religious presuppositions. In this respect, it seems fair to say that the American view of religion started dominating the public debates about religion. For example, a concept like “being spiritual but not religious” is often discussed as if it has universal validity, even though it is strongly connected to the historical dynamics behind Transcendentalism, Theosophy and New Thought. So can we truly apply such concepts when talking about other religious traditions? And should we not be more aware of the history behind them and the specific approach they entail? To discuss such questions I sat down with professor Jeffrey Kripal, who teaches at the department of religion at Rice University in Houston Texas and who is well known for his interesting writings on mysticism, esotericism and the paranormal. We started our conversation with a reflection on Ramakrishna and how he does or does not fit contemporary categories of the study of religion, which led us into a discussion on how the ideas of transcendentalism found their way into academia; why those ideas arose specifically in the US at the end of the 18th century; how the comparative study of religions later on became strongly influenced by the counterculture and ecstatic psychedelic experiences; why it nonetheless remains difficult to seriously discuss the vertical dimension of life within academia; and what the future might hold in this respect considering the current approaches toward spirituality. ** For more on Jeffrey Kripal, see his website: https://kripal.rice.edu
September 02, 2022
An idealist perspective on God and religion
A conversation with Bernardo Kastrup The dominance of the mechanistic-materialist world view seems to be broken. Important findings in the field of quantum mechanics have made scientists and philosophers question the paradigm that was long taken for granted. On top of it, that paradigm turned out to be incapable of solving the hard problem of consciousness. As a result, during the last decades novel ideas about the relation between consciousness and reality have come to the fore. Idealist philosophies, which propose that everything in reality is eventually made up of mental processes, have returned. One of the more vocal defenders of idealism is Bernardo Kastrup. Holding a Phd both in computer sciences and philosophy, this director of the Essentia Foundation is frequently asked on Podcasts, YouTube videos and television shows to explain why he thinks "materialism is baloney" and why an idealist view of our universe is a much more convincing possibility. He builds his argumentation on scientific facts and analytic philosophy, but I've always felt his ideas resonate extremely well with age old monistic and non-dualist forms of religion and mysticism. So I invited Bernardo on Re-visioning Religion to talk about possible links between his form of idealism and traditional religious concepts. After first clarifying some basic elements of his thinking, we discussed whether he is in fact talking about God; how his views relate to Hinduism, Islam and Christianity; why this helps us to reinterpret Carl Jung; how he disagrees with many "mind over matter" approaches of contemporary spiritualities; and why he thinks an idealist perspective has a lot to say about the meaning of life. ** More info about Bernardo's work can be found on bernardokastrup.com and essentiafoundation.org. Episode image based on a photograph by Jack Dempsey.
June 20, 2022
The spiritual journey of individuals and humanity
A conversation with Mark Vernon about spiritual development. Mark's latest book takes a deep dive into Dante's Divine Comedy, a classic masterpiece, which, after many centuries, still provides many helpful insights for those who find themselves on a spiritual journey. We place Dante's work in a longer lineage that can be traced to the philosophers of Ancient Greece. Often, those philosophers are presented as purely 'rational' thinkers who's thinking was repressed by early Christianity because it would conflict with a religious outlook on life. Yet, the historical facts paint a different picture. The ideas of the Greek philosophers were not merely precursors of modern science, but were fully embedded in a general search for spiritual development. Even more so, according to Mark, their personal spiritual journeys were connected to larger spiritual developments of human consciousness, in which the emergence of Christianity also played an important role. This leads us to discuss whether or not the spiritual journey of humankind can truly be seen as a form of 'progression', and how Mark assesses contemporary "New Age" ideas about the spiritual growth of humanity. --- For more info on Mark, his books, and his courses, see www.markvernon.com.
March 08, 2022
Good anger, bad anger and the potential of prophetic healing
A conversation with Abdal Hakim Murad -- The corona pandemic seems to have somewhat cooled down the media’s obsession with ‘Islamic terrorism’. At least for now. Sadly enough, when life gets back to normal, chances are that the ‘clash of civilisations’ discourse will pick up where it left off. So, while this moment of silence presents itself, perhaps we should try to take a step out of the many circular debates and rethink Islam’s position in Western countries. As such, the publication of Travelling Home: essays on Islam in Europe could not be more timely. It’s the latest book of Abdal Hakim Murad, the dean of the Cambridge Muslim College and one of the most influential Islamic scholars in the world, and it discusses many pressing issues like Islamophobia, the ecological crisis and the place of religion in a supposedly secular world. Professor Murad lays out some unexpected approaches to such matters and offers pathways out of the typical dynamics of pure action-reaction. Since it had been many years since I first interviewed Professor Murad, I was more than happy to use the publication of his new book as a good opportunity to have another dialogue. And this time also making a podcast out of it.
September 25, 2020