RELIGION AND DEMOCRACY: AN EXCHANGE OF EXPERIENCES BETWEEN EAST AND WEST
THE CESNUR 2003 INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
The CESNUR organisation might be the only place in the world where NRMs are the focus point of « good meaning or good willing» sociologists, who seem to be really objectively interested in them and where these new religious minorities have the opportunity to present - or defend - themselves on a very scientific level.
Sociologists mainly concern themselves with a reception of religious thinking in some particular cases (of place or time); reception means « kabala » in Hebrew. The reception of this reception is the aim of this communication, or one might say a « squared» reception. And we draw attention to the fact that each reception work develops a particular research framework, i.e. a given way of speaking and thinking, so that anyone can recognize this type of discourse as such and participate in it, if one is willing to.
Also interesting is the fact that the original sense of « interpretatio » (that is to say in our context « reception ») is the definition given by men to divine manifestations! In other words, sociologists are used to doing nowadays what antic religious leaders did centuries before. Such a paradox!
So we may first look at how the sociological discourse on NRMs has been constructing itself from the beginning of the CESNUR international conferences until today.
But the second aspect of the question is: did the considered NRMs realize what was in fact expected from them at the CESNUR conference? And do they give the expected answer? If yes, sociologists mostly listen to them. If not, their contributions definitely get lost and there is no communication. This point has to be decided in the second part of the presentation.
Further new perspectives may then appear which modify the perception of each other, and thus contribute to a better communication between each other.
The essential complexity of scientific philosophy according to Gaston Bachelard in 1949 is due to the fact that each scientist relies on two metaphysics, both equal convincing, tenacious and natural, but nevertheless completely opposite meant are rationalism on the one hand and realism on the other hand. Bouty[i] said science is a construct of human spirit, a construct in accordance with the laws of our thought and adapted to the external world. That is why it shows two aspects, one subjective, the second objective, both equal necessary because we can change any thing neither in the laws of our spirit nor in the laws of the world. [My translation] In other words, science is not pure but rather ambiguous; it is a mix of both currents and this so-called metaphysical impurity forces every one to take into account the double meaning of each scientific proof: it must make sense in the experience (reality) as well as in the reasoning (reason). This builds the dualistic basis of each scientific philosophy. Bachelard attempts to reconcile the two contrary sights (picturesque against comprehensible or understandable) and it leads to an epistemological polarisation which for Bachelard characterizes the new present-day scientific spirit.
Commentaries replace comments; the question why not takes the place of the question why. But consider this: this epistemological flowering means a real extension of old teachings, an achievement, an adding up, says Bachelard[ii], not a concurrence anymore! See M. Lalande:Sciences goal does not only consist in the assimilation of things between each other but also and above all in the assimilation of spirits between each other. [My translation] And Bachelard goes on: Indeed scientific truth is a prediction, or better a preaching. I am begging spirits to converge, preaching the scientific (good) news, i.e. binding thinking and experience, in order to verify. [My translation] Above the subject, beyond the immediate object, modern science is based on project. In scientific thinking, the meditation upon the object by the subject still looks like a project.[iii]
Another author is here to be quoted, for whom a dualistic system is inescapable, because duality founds our world, this is Jan Van Rijckenborgh. He writes in The Gnosis in present-day manifestation[iv] a definition of what he calls dialectics: this is our present field of life, in which everything manifests itself only in pairs of opposites. ( ) By this fundamental law everything is involved in continuous alteration and dissolution.
Now if we first examine how the sociological discourse on religion has been constructing itself from the beginning of sociology and more precisely the sociological discourse on NRMs since CESNUR international conferences have been taking place, well notice a kind of change like a pendulum: every movement in a given direction will undoubtedly cause a countermovement in the opposite direction.
Moreover it matters a great deal to us to know if firstly religion, secondly NRMs have been favourably considered or on the contrary if sociologists have been prejudiced against them from the beginning and whether they are now free from this prejudice. But one more time: dont forget the law of dialectics!
Sociology was born in the same time as the positivism of Auguste Comte (1798-1857) who created first the social physics, which he reappointed sociology. His aim was to create an autonomic science of social facts. Anthropology was the mother of the future social sciences; sociology was one of its branches, where Comte transposed the research methods of physical science (or exact sciences) to the analysis of society. There was no place for admiration, critics, or value judgments anymore, only the interrelations between facts themselves were of importance: to find laws and rules which govern the social development of human beings[v] was the main goal. But the metaphor he used was taken from the register of medicine: he wanted to observe perturbations, pathological cases which were for the social organism analogically the same as sicknesses for the individual organism.[vi] Comte asserted too that the past could help to forecast the future, even if he recommended first of all the sociology of action, which took root in the present.
Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) reduced the investigation field of sociology to non logical forms of human action (feelings, believes, instincts ) and neglected the logical forms (economics ). But Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) was the first sociologist to elaborate a scientific method[vii] and to make clearly the difference between psychology and sociology. He fixed the basis for later studies: social facts consist in ways of acting, thinking, and feeling outside the individual and they possess a power of coercion thanks to which they impose upon the individual. Besides, social facts should really be considered as such, not as abstract ideas. Durkheims analysis too leads to the notion of anomy: disturbed needs, impossible to satisfy in a given society, lead to a failed social integration. Durkheims nephew and disciple, Marcel Mauss (1872-1950)[viii] in his turn tried to bring sociology and psychology together, by searching for a global framework to establish in order to take into account all aspects (physical, physiological, psychological and sociological) of behaviour. In that way, he initiated a globalization trend in sociological surveys: Max Weber (1864-1920) worked on economical systems (capitalism), the School of Chicago on communities, Michel Crozier (born in 1922) on organizations (for instance bureaucracy). The opposite trend was developed by Raymond Boudon (born in 1934) in rejecting the determinism and focussing the discussion upon the individual. He wanted to impose a methodological individualism in sociology. Again a counter movement arose (supported in 1923 by the School of Frankfurt Adorno, Benjamin, Marcuse), and lead to the modern position of Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2003) who attempted to reconcile objective and subjective approaches, using a new intermediate category : the habitus, to classify and explain all sorts of sociological phenomena. He stated as a conclusion to his work:The sociologist can produce a rigorous science of the social world, far from condemning all individual players to the iron cage of rigid determinism, rather making them aware of a potential liberation.[ix][My translation]
To sum up this brief chronological look at sociology from its beginnings to the twentieth century, we could consider the main issues of sociology and stress that the different contributions, related to the time where they originated from, only try to cast new light on these issues but never give a definitive answer to them maybe it wouldnt seem so interesting and productive!
v What does come first: the individual player (individualism) or the social forces (determinism)?
v Should sociology globalize its views (expansionism) or limit them (protectionism)?
v Is sociology rather fascinated by the anomy and the pathology (Deviance) or interested in finding general rules and laws governing societies (case in general)?
v Does sociology want to have an effect in the present (Action) or rather aim to forecast the future (Prediction)?
v Does sociology fall within the framework of exact sciences (Tradition) or search for new methods and frameworks (Innovation)?
v Is its sole aim to state facts (Statement/ Statics) or to liberate through awareness (Change/ Dynamics)?
See diagrams: MAIN ISSUES OF THE SOCIOLOGY (Diagram1/4 is detailed and 2/4 shows in broad outline the dualistic scope:
Let us now turn to the sociology of religion and ask if the early prejudiced orientations are really dead, or if they still go on misleading present-day sociology.
See diagram 3/4: ARE THE OLD DEMONS REALLY DEAD? MAIN PREJUDICES OF THE SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION:
Evolutionism: Malinowski means the homo religiosus is used to dominating his fear before an unknown environment which he cant master (so he created rites and beliefs) or before the impenetrable mysteries of his condition (so he found dogmas and myths).
Limit or/ and error: Religion cant be reduced to the sigh of the oppressed creature.
Positivism: Beliefs and rites are nonsense and useless so far as they defy any logical-experimental verification, i.e. they are the fruit of spirits which havent yet reached a properly positive development.
Limit or/ and error: Even high-tech societies didnt eradicate religious behaviours.
Universalism: For Durkheim for instance, even if Catholicism was nearly dead, the sacred had to continue to be considered as a universal topic of human experience, thats why he replaced religious transcendence with the secular, sacred.
Limit or/ and error: At the same time he reduced religion to society (see reductionism).
Pessimism: Many predicted the decline of religions.
Limit or/ and error: They re still alive today
Fathers reductionism: In a sense the fathers of the discipline followed the attitude required by Max Weber[x]: If I finally became a sociologist, thats because I wanted to put an end to these exercises based on collective concepts whose ghost is still lurking around. In other words, sociology too must originate in actions of one, of some, or many separated individuals. Thats the reason why it must adopt strictly individualistic methods. [My translation]
By Marx: the mystic orientation leading to a life cut off from the rest of the world;
By Weber, the ascetic orientation leading to self-control
By Freud, the universal value of the oedipal complex to explain the link between frustrations and religious culpability
By Durkheim, the complete similarity between religion and society (or: deus sive societas!)
Limit or/ and error: It would have been easier to establish the specificity of the religious phenomenon if, instead of searching of what the religious experience is the copy, it would be asked in what conditions a regular symbolic communication can exist between members (through rites and beliefs) upon the fundamental questions of human experience. In this perspective only, religion can be considered as objective even though the religious experience doesnt originate in a reality (nature or society).
Let us now study what kind of special relationships are going to be established in an international conference like this one in Vilnius, where many sociologists are together to discuss on spiritual issues. To be more precise, let us distinguish the different roles or statuses each individual is supposed to play.
First of all, roles must be defined and classified, then measured and analysed. Strötzel[xi] states: If the focus of the observation is an individual, the place he occupies determines his status and his role: his status means all the behaviours he can legitimately expect from others; his role means all the behaviours others can legitimately expect from him. [My translation] Ralph Linton (1893-1953) maintains: « no status without a role, no role without a status ». Dynamic and functional aspects belong to the role whereas static and structural aspects characterize the status. Moreover many roles are linked together (Merton call them a role set) as well as statuses (status set).
Roles are preestablished, social conducts permitting a somehow comfortable relation as far as each protagonist can expect certain behaviours from the other. This predictability or certainty that the other will act in a determined way reduces the uncertainty inherent in any relation. Also anticipating behaviours is then possible. The same is true for statuses. If I introduce myself as a doctoral student at a French university, you can impose me a particular role associated with my status as a student, as French, and so on. Directly you can consider me as a future member of your congregation and welcome me by listening to me kindly and giving favourable consideration to what I am talking about. Or by virtue of my age for example, you could test me. Because everybody getting in touch with somebody else compares the expected role with the behaviour of role or the individual interpretation of the role (All the worlds a stage, said Shakespeare, and he is right from a sociological point of view too!). In case both roles are adequate, the position is considered to be conformist, otherwise anomic or deviant. We could carry on entering into details, like Talbot Parsons did in the fifties[xii], but it is of no matter for our subject. But it is much more interesting for us when roles come into conflict. Associated roles define one another and change together. Together they build role fields. They come into conflict when the role doesnt live up to somebodys expectations. Ignasse[xiii] points out three sorts of conflict inside a role field: if distinct roles compete with each other; if someone cant play his role, faced with contradictory or incompatible expectations; if roles are incompatible with the role game of somebody.
Now let us see how to use this terminology to describe the present situation. First we must stress that no members of NRMs are participating in this conference anymore, apart from maybe two or three (see program of proceedings[xiv]), (this fact is really worth a statistic study, isnt!) and this puts the finishing touches to a trend which is to be noticed from the first eclectic conferences (1998- 1999- 2000) to the last ones (2001-2003), more and more specialized, now nearly totally reserved for sociologists and no one else But let me repeat a general rule on role fields: each modification (or disappearance) of a role may disturb the whole field which thus must be deeply redefined. Indeed some NRMs could have been expecting from sociologists at the beginning that they would listen to them, with respect, they would even protect them from calumny, lies/ liars or unfounded accusations What some have done before (e.g. as anti-cult movements in France were so virulent some years ago) or are still doing (see proceedings again). But parts of them werent sociologists, but jurists, or historians of religion (A. Faivre, Roland Edighoffer, and J.-P. Laurant from the E.P.H.E. ). How should we now consider the CESNUR if the melting pot of yesterday has today become a monopolistic trust in the name of the sacrosanct sociology? Of course we must clearly admit that the CESNUR has extended worldwide its recruitment among sociologists; particularly its geographical working field has broadened (building a promising link between east and west, coupled with the fact that the conferences have taken place in various towns and countries is not inconsiderable to explain the great success of these meetings), nevertheless the price to pay has probably been the disappearance of NRMs themselves!
Why did NRMs disappear? Do they now stay away from the CESNUR? Should we speak of a boycott? Let us come back to the discussion on roles. There must have been a conflict between two roles.
The first reason to be pointed out is: comfort. Weve seen that roles are used to permitting the anticipation, consequently a better understanding. If recruitment gets wider and wider, selecting people and taking those who share a priori the same professional role amounts to giving the organisation a better chance to survive without exploding or losing control.
The second reason might be the difficult position of intermediary roles: the go-betweens (sent by NRMs) may feel torn between the aims of their hierarchy or movement or own conscience and the expectations of sociologists, whom they also feel close to.
The third reason is that there was no place left for NRMs themselves: discourses on NRMs were accepted and welcome, contributions of NRMs were less interesting, because they didnt necessarily come up to the expectations of sociologists (i.e. they didnt correspond to the given framework, which has the effect of a sieve: what seems too insignificant is rejected.
See diagram 4/4: SCOPE OF THE SOCIOLOGICAL RESEARCH:
I should like once more to draw attention to the fact that the CESNUR organization has been created by sociologists for sociologists (at least by positivists for positivists), excluding those on the periphery with time. Incidentally, the hypothesis of some lobbies bearing pressure on the CESNUR to evict NRMs doesnt seem relevant at all.
From all this, it follows that the number of NRMs at the last CESNUR conferences is decreasing; in the same time, thanks to the CESNUR, NRMs are better and better known and studied, all other the world. To put it bluntly, cult-watching is in.
But the world of sociologists can also be considered from the point of view of NRMs if we want to be more exhaustive.
Through a silent smile, a distant reserve, one can feel if what he said was absorbed or not, taken seriously or not. Sociologists can believe they are indispensable for NRMs because they make them known. Indeed they nearly have the monopoly on the information. The goal is then power. And NRMs can react by escaping into an inferiority complex, towards other well-known religions or towards these overspecialized critical scientists. In addition, members of NRMs are supposed to have problems of integration; they must face racism, they might be ostracized, victimized, feel insecure because unsecured In a word, they represent the so-called anomy. But then they attract again sociologists like magnets: remember the importance of violence by cults and NRMs in the CESNUR conference in London in 2001. Jean-Marie Meyer and Eileen Barker spoke about it. QED! Even if not necessary the main problem of cults, violence got and still gets a lot of media attention
Two linked issues must now be raised. First the resistibility of sociologists, secondly the perverse effect of a common discourse.
To the second point: the perverse effect of a common discourse. Pierre Bourdieu dealt with such a question in Questions de sociologie[xv]. « By accepting in advance the suspicion of compromising, [the sociologist] should attempt to return against the intellectual power the arms of the intellectual power, then he would say the most amazing thing, the most unlikely, the most out of place where this thing is said; it means refusing to preach to the converted as the common line does. And the public listens to such common speech because it tells them exactly what they want to hear. »
Conflicts between roles are not only negative; they could even be beneficial, so far as they shake up received ideas and enable people to change their mind. Pluralism is a sort of guarantee to avoid soliloquizing and deluding oneself with certainties. And this is a challenge especially for sociologists, according to Bourdieu. Because the risk of a single ideal theory on a given subject is: the soft violence of new professional ideologists, who often use a nearly scientific rationalization of the dominant ideology to back it up.[xvi] Here is meant in Bourdieus mind a symbolic domination which every culture develops and which the sociologist is expected to draw attention to.
In my opinion the distance sociologists put between themselves and NRMs originates in the difficulty they had t establish sociology as a science in the whole sense of the word. Bourdieu noticed that many were pernickety about the scientific character of sociology because it was disturbing. He said sociology is a very scattered discipline, maybe not focused enough and consequently divided too, like philosophy, but it is not the reason why its scientific nature is so often called into question. No, sociology poses problems: First, because this science in its infancy allows itself to subject other sciences to examination. Secondly, because it is its nature to reveal occult or even sometimes repressed truths which technocrats or epistemocrats (sic!) dont want to hear about.
Nowadays, the same criticism could apply to sociologists too!
At any case, in 1998, when the CESNUR began to exist, it was of great importance for it to be distinguished from non scientific participants in the discussion on NRMs, that is to say: a question of honour and scientific respectability!
Another criticism Bourdieu made of the sciences is that even the scientific world is a place where people are in competition with each other to obtain specific profits (Nobel, prizes, priority of discovery, prestige) and where they are neither unselfish nor disinterested, on the contrary![xvii]
We have already stressed that the CESNUR conference is a place of struggle for power in this sense a sociological study of the CESNUR is all the more welcome since according to Bourdieu, the sociologist is occupied by this struggle for power. And hes personally concerned too, thats why he must think of it and practice continuously the sociology of sociology, not as a special field on its own, but as one of the prime conditions of scientific sociology.[xviii]
At the very end of his book[xix], Bachelard writes: the actual essence of reflection is to understand that one hasnt yet understood. [My translation]] Christian Rosy Cross in the Alchemical Weddings of J. V. Andreae reaches a similar conclusion, as he says:summa scientia nihil scire[xx]: the grand total of science is to know that one knows nothing. But it is very far from a despairing lamentation. On the contrary he claims afterwards:If one only realizes psychologically how unachieved present-day science is [in 1949], one can then receive an intimate impression of what may be an open reasoning. It is a state of effective surprise faced with the suggestions coming from the theoretical thinking. [My translation] In 2003, good fifty years after the concluding words of Bachelard, and nearly 400 years after Christian Rosy cross[xxi], the same wisdom appears but still new and enthusiastic: only a kind of creative imagination can associate what the mind separates.
But from a Gnostic point of view, these new images and associations are only possible if an extraordinary inner force is born in the seeker, the candidate. At that very moment, he can testify to an arising new thinking power, a new mentality, which really gives him the power to foretell arriving events. That is exactly what sociologists today are interested in, without daring say it obviously, because the resemblance with the first receptionists with antic prayers is too hard to be borne: it would mean, NRMs and sociologists are not so different from each other as they may seem, but in a sense, very close to each other. We have already established that paradox extremes meet! The consequence is that NRMs and sociologists really have to cooperate with each other: experience (of I-less ness for instance) and theoretical survey must be brought together in order to open a wide way to non-dangerous, well-tempered spirituality. Both branches of (re)search have to converge, a purified experience of the heart and a renewed participation of the brain, to rebuild the subtle structure of a well balanced human being: in a word, a subtle blend of authority and tenderness.
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[i] Bouty, La vérité Scientifique, 1908, p. 7, quoted by Bachelard, Le nouvel esprit scientifique,PUF, Paris, 1949, p. 1 « En fait, la vérité scientifique est une prédiction, mieux, une prédication. Nous appelons les esprits à la convergence en annonçant la nouvelle scientifique, en transmettant du même coup une pensée et une expérience, liant la pensée à lexpérience dans une vérification : le monde scientifique est donc notre vérification. Au-dessus du sujet, au-delà de lobjet immédiat, la science moderne se fonde sur le projet. Dans la pensée scientifique, la méditation de lobjet par le sujet prend toujours la forme du projet. »
[ii] Bachelard, op.cit. p. 11 « En fait, la vérité scientifique est une prédiction, mieux, une prédication. Nous appelons les esprits à la convergence en annonçant la nouvelle scientifique, en transmettant du même coup une pensée et une expérience, liant la pensée à lexpérience dans une vérification : le monde scientifique est donc notre vérification. Au-dessus du sujet, au-delà de lobjet immédiat, la science moderne se fonde sur le projet. Dans la pensée scientifique, la méditation de lobjet par le sujet prend toujours la forme du projet. »
[iii] See also p. 13 « La raison thaumaturge dessine ses cadres sur le schéma de ses miracles. La science suscite un monde, non plus par une impulsion magique, immanente à la réalité, mais bien par une impulsion rationnelle, immanente à lesprit. Après avoir formé, dans les premiers efforts de lesprit scientifique, une raison à limage du monde, lactivité spirituelle de la science moderne sattache à construire un monde à limage de la raison.»
[iv] Rijckenborgh, Jan Van, The gnosis in present-day manifestation, Rozekruis Pers, Haarlem, 1980, p.266 (Index). The whole quotation is as follows: Dialectics: our present field of life, in which everything manifests itself only in pairs of opposites. Day and night, light and darkness, joy and sorrow, youth and age, good and evil, life and death are inseparably bound to each other, they follow each other unavoidably and bring each other into existence. By this fundamental law everything is involved in continuous alteration and dissolution, in rising, shining and fading. By this our field of existence is a territory of finiteness, pain, sorrow, demolition, sickness and death.
[v] « Des lois qui président au développement social de lespèce humaine », Comte, Auguste, in Cours, IV
[vi] Des cas pathologiques « qui constituent pour lorganisme social, lanalogue exact des maladies proprement dites pour lorganisme individuel », Comte, Auguste, in Cours, IV
[vii] Durkheim, Emile, Les règles de la méthode sociologique, 1895
[viii] Mauss, Marcel, Essai sur le don, forme archaïque de léchange, 1932-1934
[ix] « Le sociologue peut produire une science rigoureuse du monde social qui, loin de condamner les agents à la cage de fer dun déterminisme rigide, leur offre les moyens dune prise de conscience potentiellement libératrice », in Bourdieu, Pierre, Réponses, 1991, p. 185
[x] Weber Max, quoted by Boudon in Boudon Raymond, Bourricaud François, Dictionnaire critique de la sociologie, PUF, Paris, 1982, at the very beginning of the book! Si je suis finalement devenu sociologue, cest essentiellement afin de mettre un point final à ces exercices à base de concepts collectifs dont le spectre rôde toujours. En dautres termes, la sociologie, elle aussi, ne peut procéder que des actions dun, de quelques, ou de nombreux individus séparés. Cest pourquoi elle se doit dadopter des méthodes strictement « individualistes »
[xi] Strötzel, J., Psychologie sociale, Paris, Flammarion, 1963, p. 178 « Si lon prend pour centre dobservation un individu, la place quil occupe détermine son statut et son rôle : son statut est lensemble des comportements à quoi il peut sattendre légitimement de la part des autres ; son rôle est lensemble des comportements à quoi les autres sattendent légitimement de sa part. »
[xii] Parsons T., Shils E., et al., 1951, Toward a general theory of action, Cambridge, Harvard University Press
[xiii] Ignasse, Gérard, Génissel, Marc-Antoine, Introduction à la sociologie, Ellipses, Paris, 1999
[xiv] e.g. Pascal Jean-Claude, a member of the international spiritual School of the Golden Rosy cross (session 20)
[xv] Bourdieu Pierre, Questions de sociologie, Editions de Minuit, Paris, 1984, in : Prologue : « acceptant davance le soupçon de la compromission, tenter de retourner contre le pouvoir intellectuel les armes du pouvoir intellectuel en disant la chose la moins attendue, la plus improbable, la plus déplacée dans le lieu où elle est dite : cest refuser de « prêcher des convertis » comme fait le discours commun qui nest si bien entendu que parce quil ne dit à son public que ce quil veut entendre. » (p .9)
[xvi] Bourdieu, op. cit. p. 13
[xvii] Bourdieu, op. cit. p.20 « ( ) montrer que le monde scientifique est le lieu dune concurrence ( ), cest mettre en question une hagiographie scientifique dont participent souvent les scientifiques et dont ils ont besoin pour croire à ce quils font. » (We emphasize)
[xviii] Bourdieu, op. Cit. p.22 : « Cela, il doit lavoir toujours à lesprit pour essayer de maîtriser tout ce que sa pratique, ce quil voit et ne voit pas, ce quil fait et ne fait pas par exemple les objets quil choisit détudier doit à sa position sociale. » (We emphasize)
[xix] Bachelard, op. cit. p. 173 sq.
[xx] Gorceix, Bernard, La Bible des Rose-Croix, PUF, Paris, 1998, p.123 or Rijckenborgh, Jan Van, Les Noces Alchimiques de Christian Rose-Croix, anno1459, Rozekruis Pers, Haarlem, the Netherlands, 1989, t.2, p. 72
[xxi] The alchemical wedding of Christian Rosy cross, anno. 1459 was published in 1616 in Strasbourg.
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