Posted by: aboutalbion | August 30, 2012

DIY religion (9)

The last but one topic in Colin Morris’ list is the sense of a sacred mystery.  And the question for my case is: “Has a nation state (such as the UK) the sense of a sacred mystery like that normally associated with a traditional religious organisation?”

In this topic, Morris is beginning to explore what I have called in some previous posts the numinous focus of a religion.  “This ultimate reality … inspires in us a strange combination of wariness and fascination.  …  We would describe as sacred those moments when we were stretched beyond our limits and survived.  Sacred – that’s the word we use to describe the ‘specialness’ of the reality which we have discovered to be of incomparable worth to us.” (p91f)

Morris adds that the sacred is not a puzzle (or a problem) to be solved, but rather a mystery “because its essence cannot be grasped by our minds …” (p92)  And one of its special qualities is the special experience of feeling that the sacred mystery takes possession of us when we finally choose to fully embrace a traditional religion.

My own view is that what Morris is describing here is the double-sided nature of ideology and identity.  To me, ideology and identity are two sides of the same coin.  When a person finds and embraces an ideology that seems to meet with her/his needs (conscious and unconscious), then s/he also finds that they have an identity.  And the transformation from identity confusion to identity clarification can be quite an overwhelming experience.  Someone has referred to it as ‘the ecstasy of influence’.

It is central to my case to suggest that the ideology of “the rule of law” as interpreted and managed in the UK by “the Crown in Parliament” provides UK citizens with such a personal sense of identity.  If I am able (in future posts) to continue to reasonably compare this ideology with the numinous focus of a religion, then I find that the UK has in principle a well-developed sense of a sacred mystery at the centre of its common life.

[Morris, Colin (1992) Start Your Own Religion.  London: BBC Books.]


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