The following is an excerpt from a book I am working on. The book is about western mythology and spiritual practice. The following excerpt is about fundamentalism.
There are individuals spread out through history who have come to fully embody the sense of mystery that sits at the core of the human condition. Occasionally, their life is eternalized and mythologies begin to be organized around the example they provided. Not only are they no longer burdened by the limitations of time and space they now transcend the envelope of skin, symbolizing a living reality within each and every person regardless of race, nation, ethnicity, or gender. This form of mythology is a religion.
Religion is a powerful means of preserving, refining, and dispersing a mythology. In it’s purest form, religion is perhaps the most powerful vehicle of individuation. However, there are many draw backs to religion. The most unfortunate of these draws backs is commonly referred to as fundamentalism. Not only is fundamentalism responsible for some of the most egregious demonstrations of ignorant willfulness this planet has ever seen—war, genocide, terrorism, ecological devastation and civil rights abuses—it also immunizes man to the experience of transcendence that initially inspired the tradition. In fact, all of these examples of willful ignorance are but symptoms of an underlying problem, lifelessness. Once the individual is infected by the paralysis of lifelessness, he begins to see everything as lifeless and treat it as such.
The fundamentalist is the individual who subscribes to a network of ideas and beliefs that do not belong to them. These ideas and beliefs are unsubstantiated by personal experience, and are installed by the mechanism of fear. They rely solely on the experience of another person, who, interestingly enough relies on the experience of someone else. This line of co-dependency stretches all the way back to the source of the tradition, the owner of the original experience, so to speak.
Fundamentalism is not a dead mythology; it is the absence of mythology. It is a belief system that relies upon the experience of another. Unsubstantiated belief is insanity. It is a grotesque denial of personal responsibility that leads only to idol worship and spiritual laziness. The fundamentalist stands back at a safe distance in envy of this individual for embodying the fullness of their person. They lose themselves in this envy and as a result fail to make the journey for themselves. They mistake the central incarnation of the mystery for the mystery itself and end up drinking the cup instead of the water.
As a result, they are thirsty. The fundamentalist suffers because he is detached from the life giving waters of direct experience. He is dead inside, so he dreams of a utopia in the distant future where he will be able to once again take in the breath of life. It becomes, in the words of Brian McLaren a prominent Christian pastor, “a mass evacuation plan.” He never even considers the possibility that his utopian dream is an archetypal representation of the present moment, inviting him into the fullness of Life proclaimed by the tradition he has misplaced.