Do practically all sucessful religions have to be mystical in some way to appeal to adherents? I can’t think of a current popular religion that doesn’t rely on miracles, spirits or mystical avatars in one form or another. Are there any truly non-magical religions, or are all major religions “magical” to some extent?
Does “magical” mean “not grounded in scientific fact”? Because it does seem that most (major) religions explain the world in terms of their own dogma or creed, rather than attempt to extrapolate a religion from observed facts.
Does “atheism” count?
Let’s get a working definition of “magic” here.
I present this one: the best I’ve ever heard: magic (in the sense of rituals, spells, gestures, special words invoked, pictograms, etc… not magic tricks like sawing a woman in half) is the attempt to manipulate actual reality by the manipulation of a symbolic reality.
Obviously, that’s very technical, and doesn’t include all those things that we normally call magic. Nevertheless, it does describe a key theme running through all sorts of entirely different “magical” practices that I hadn’t ever realized before, but is definately a pretty deep one.
And no, it has no necessary connection to religion. Praying to a god, for instance, at no time necessarily attempts to utilize any symbolic reality: you’re talking to a being you believe is listening, and asking it for or about whatever.
—Does “atheism” count?—
No. Nothing wagered, nothing gained.
Do practically all sucessful religions have to be mystical in some way to appeal to adherents? I can’t think of a current popular religion that doesn’t rely on miracles, spirits or mystical avatars in one form or another. Are there any truly non-magical religions, or are all major religions “magical” to some extent?**
If by magical you mean some element that defies rational explanation, then I would say yes.
This Sunday’s Sermon:
The Amazing Father Rando will levitate his beautiful nun assistant, and then attempt an underwater escape from his shackles in the Baptismal fount. Don’t miss it!
Zen does not require any supernatural beliefs.
So Zen Buddhism does not require a belief in re-incarnation or really believing (in a literal sense) in the earth-fire-water-wind nature of aggregates?
Zen requires no beliefs at all. In fact, belief is discouraged. The core of Zen is the cultivation of self-awareness. If Zen has any article of “faith,” it is only that the practice of Zen meditation (zazen) will eventually bring about a state of enlightened bliss, a “Buddha” consciousness. It’s a mental discipline, not a doctrine. One of the frustrating things about it is that it’s hard to articulate, but let’s just say thet the goal of Zen is to bring about a certain kind of consciousness in everyday life. Alan Watts once said that Zen “does not mean thinking about God while doing the dishes, Zen is just doing the dishes.” Zen does not necessarily exclude a belief in reincarnation, or in any other supernatural ideas, it’s just that those beliefs have no bearing at all on the success of acheiving satori. If anything, the concern with such things are seen as a distraction from this present moment which is the eternal focus of zazen.
Diogenes - who is\are the leader(s) of the Zen Buddhist movement?
I have read some wonderful books by Buddhist authors (the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh among them) but wasn’t sure if they were from the “Zen” school.
I know some Christians would howl at the thought of this, but to me, Christianity is a magical religion if you’re using Apos’s definition of magic, “the attempt to manipulate actual reality by the manipulation of a symbolic reality.” Sacraments such as Holy Eucharist, Baptism, even Marriage are rituals intended to manipulate actual reality. Of course, I believe the traditional Christian addition is, “but, in our case, it’s real.”
Zen doesn’t really have a single leader, it has reconized “masters,” of which Thich Nhat Hanh is a prominent one, but he is not the only one. Students of Zen will try to seek out a suitable Master to learn from, but there is no “pope” so to speak.
The Dalai Lama is the head of Tibetan Buddhism which is a separate school from Zen.
So per my OP we’re really not talking about a “religion” at all re Zen Buddhism, but more of a “mental discipline”?
I guess it depends on how you define “religion.” It’s not a religion in the western sense, in that it has no real doctrine and no object of “worship.” However, it provides many of the other aspects of religion. It seeks to provide inner peace, to better the world, to relieve inner suffering, to provide answers to eternal questions, and, in its most serious forms, requires a complete commitment to a monastic way of life. It’s actually a subject of debate within Zen itself whether Zen is a religion, but it’s at least “religious” enough to be recognized as such by the US government.
I am currently reading a very interesting book about magic in the middle ages. I don’t remember the author’s name at the moment, but I will post further this afternoon when I get home.
Anyway, in this book it is argued that the difference between magic and religion is that magic attempts to force a supernatural entitiy (be it a deity, God, devils, spirits, the spirit of nature or whatever) into a changing events for the benefit of a person or for the detriment of others, whereas in religious belief one pleads or asks the deity for assistance, guidance, etc. without the forceful aspect of it. This is by no means a generally accepted definition, but I think it serves for the purpose of this thread.
Not sure what you mean by marriage and baptism - nothing physically changes - but as far as the Eucharist it would depend who you asked. Most Catholics believe in transubstantiation, which means that the bread and wine ACTUALLY become the body and blood of Jesus. This is based on a literal interpretation of Matthew 26:26-28 (the whole “this is my body, this is my blood” thing). Some Protestant denominations believe in consubstantiation, which means that the body and blood coexist with the bread and wine. Both of these still fall under the “magic” category, because there is actual transformation going on. Other Protestant denominations, however, dont believe that any physical change takes place. For them, communion is a metaphorical remembrance ceremony. The logic behind this is that Jesus’s physical body was assumed into heaven, so how can he be here? kinda shaky, but i have an even harder time believing i just ate some 2000 year old flesh (needs some barbecue sauce…flash! bang! smite!)
In addition to defining ‘magic’, we also have to define ‘religion’ as pointed to by the discussion of Zen.
I would define religion as a faith-based, as opposed to evidence-based, set of beliefs about human functions and interactions. (I would thus exlude Zen, since there is no particular faith involved. And, in fact, people of many religions also incorporate Zen practices.)
I would define magical thinking as the idea that events that can be observed can be influenced by means that cannot be explained scientifically. (The validity of the explanation is not relevant: acupuncture is not magic, since there is a theory about how it is supposed to work.)
Magic is any practice that is based on magical thinking.
I think that many people who are believers of religions do not practice magical thinking: the things they believe can be affected by unexplainable means are strictly non-measurable: what happens to their souls after death and such. But many others believe in the ‘power of prayer’ e.g. that if they recite the prayer of Jabez, they will get money.
Isn’t love based upon some kind of magic? Especially those that adhere to the beliefs of love at first sight and finding “the one”? There is a multi-billion dollar industry that I, personally, have never heard critisism about. The same could be said for those who want and strive to have children. I would think that those who do it for “scientific” reasons solely, would be ostracized. Those who only want children to “perpetuate their bloodline” or only to have a brand new anima that we could mold and fill with our individual experiences.
Sure, those are valid reasons and desires to want children, but not something we ever tout. It is usually the “magic” of creating new life and most consider it a gift of some form or other, even those who have to work really hard for children still consider themselves lucky that they were given the chance.
—Both of these still fall under the “magic” category, because there is actual transformation going on.—
See, that would take it OUT of the magic category for me. Whether or not you buy the claims about what is “actually” going on, the fact is, it is direct actual effects that they are after. Knowingly being metaphorical in your actions also doesn’t really count either, as long as the purpose is something like contemplating the metaphor itself: something where it is the internal experiences are the goal.