Could someone explain the essence of postmodernism?

Postmodernism and Religion Part 1

Postmodernism and religion 25/1/95

Postmodernism is characterized by an atomization of structural structures. This is roughly what Theodor W. Adorno had said about modernity. Modernism was or is that current that dissolves traditional life structures and replaces them with individually combinable possibilities. Modernism has a kind of constant crisis that was defined by Carl Grünberg in a speech given in 1924:

“You all, ladies and gentlemen, know and each of us feels it every day in our own body that we are living in a transitional period

There are pessimists who, in the face of the fading and disappearing of much of what they are accustomed to, what is convenient for them and what benefit them, stand amid the ruins that the transformation process is bringing about. They see in them not only the ruins of their world, but the world in general. What they see does not seem to them to be the withering away of something that was historically conditioned, has developed, has matured and must therefore perish, but death and perdition as such ... Indeed, they lack an understanding of the essence of life - but if you look to the bottom, also the will to it. Therefore, they cannot be teachers and guides as they would like to

In contrast to the pessimists, there are also optimists. They neither believe in the downfall of Western culture or the cultural world in general, nor are they afraid of themselves or others of it ... Based on historical experience, instead of one disintegrating cultural form, they see another, higher-order form emerging. You are confident: Magnus ab integro saeculorum nascitur ordo, New order emerges from the abundance of times. And for their part they consciously promote the survivors' self-conquest for the sake of the future and to bring it to mature faster. ”(Carl Grünberg, quoted from Rolf Wiggershaus,“ Die Frankfurter Schule ”, p.36ff).

It is precisely this "disappearance of a lot that we were used to ..." that has become stronger at the end of the 20th century, not better. We may no longer feel that way, but the loss of social ties, the departure from traditions has progressed so far that many of our contemporaries do not particularly notice it. You live with it, just as maybe many people lived with it at the time the text was written and took it as it was. The controversy over the question of modernity and postmodernism goes around more through the ranks of intellectuals and less in the minds of the general public, although it affects everyone.

Still, if we want to understand why religion is so difficult for us, we cannot ignore postmodernism. Above all, we cannot ignore the fact that we have largely lost real roots in a basic religious structure of life. Today religion presents itself as a kind of handicraft set, where everyone, based on their own inclinations and needs, can put together a religion between Indian sweat lodges and astrological calculations. If religion was always a collective entity that was given to people, things now seem to be reversed. Before religion is the person who creates his religion.

Many enlighteners and enemies of religion represented this pathos as early as the 19th century, whereby religion was seen as identical with Christianity. But even such a fiery opponent of Christianity like Ludwig Feuerbach would not have thought of defining religion as a handicraft set for individuals. It is true that he said that people create a religious reality out of need, but that was a collective achievement and not an individual one.

If postmodernism has done anything in relation to religion, it is the dissolution of collectives. Religion, like all other areas of life, has become a matter for the individual with which he has to come to terms. It is true that there is still, almost astonishingly, a certain front against Christianity, but in principle everyone has to see for himself what religiously suits him or not. Just as more and more collectively handed down guidelines that told us what to do when and how are disappearing, so are religious flankings that tell us what to believe. As in all other areas of life, this brings with it a great deal of freedom, but also a great burden of having to see and experiment for yourself what is right for me or not

This situation is new in that there has not been a so consistently secularized society before us. So we will work on this problem and try to find out why it is so difficult for Western secularized people to accept something like religion as a given of life at all. As always, this only happens in parts and can hardly be presented in any other way in the short term. In addition, my own attitude plays a role, because the longer I feel, the more I feel connected to and deeply rooted in occidental culture. In addition, I am a Christian and see myself here as a participant in a large, complex context that is far greater than myself. This greater dimension can only be understood in a historical, cosmic and integral context. After the loss of overarching contexts, we also have greater difficulties in thinking in historical, cosmic or integral contexts

However, before we can understand their efforts to dissolve the traditional structures, we have to look back briefly in order to work towards the problem from history. Therefore we will briefly take a look at the tendency towards individualization of the Reformation and possibly discover traces here that help us to understand the concrete phenomena in time. The loss of the big picture has not just been lamented since yesterday, but has deep historical roots.

Breaking out of context

When Galileo announced that the sun did not revolve around the earth but the other way around, the earth around the sun, he said nothing that Johann Kepler had not said before him. But thanks to a technical innovation that Galileo had brought with him from Florence, Galileo was able to prove this assertion and, supported by the printing press, to make it known all over the world. The representatives of the Inquisition refused to look through the telescope to examine the facts for themselves. These facts were clear: the worldview of the Greek Ptolemy, which until then had been held to be irrevocable, collapsed under the weight of the facts like a house of cards.

Ptolemy imagined the earth as the center of the universe, which was surrounded by various shells, so-called spheres, to which the fixed stars were in turn attached. Since these spheres were in motion and produced a harmonious sound, one believed, if one was lucky, to be able to hear this "music of the spheres". No less than a whole cosmic order was attached to Ptolemy's view of the world! The human being was integrated into a larger whole through this structure, which in turn was harmonious in itself and also assigned a position to the human being in this context. Man was integrated into this cosmic order and held in it.

With the discovery of Galileo, this cosmic order broke up, it disintegrated and left behind a huge heap of broken glass. The church, which Galileo forced to keep silent by the inquisition, reacted as if frozen to this shock. She refused to take note of the facts and Luther also considered Galileo out of the question. Rene Descartes, who at about the same time had come to the same conclusion through mathematical calculations, kept his findings to himself for the time being and did not publish them.

But the time was ripe for this realization and it was unstoppable. Only because of the rigid attitude of the church did the awakening or the dissolution of the cosmic order take place past the church. With a gradual disappearance the cosmic order broke and man fell into the void. The space was infinitely large, the earth a planet among planets, which fell through empty space without knowing an above and a below. Berthold Brecht worked out this breaking of a cosmic order that was administered by the churches very well in his play "The Life of Galileo".

And since the church largely refused, science, which was still young, moved out of the church. Not suddenly and abruptly, but slowly and steadily, the young research became independent. When Darwin finally published his main work on "The Origin of Species", it was like a stab in the back in the Anglican Church. Up until that time it was assumed that God created the world as we find it. The Church in England had nothing to counter the empirical force of Darwin's knowledge. Vincent Cronin (“The Pillars of Heaven”) describes this process as a very drastic and incisive process in Western history. Darwin himself struggled to reconcile Church doctrine and empirical facts. Eventually he turned away from Christian teaching and became an agnostic. And so, like Darwin, fared many intellectuals and spiritually alert people. The breaking of cosmic structures continued consequently.

When natural science made immense advances in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Church withdrew more and more from this domain. Moreover, the natural sciences, which were linked to materialistic philosophy, were used as a sharp weapon against Christianity. The natural sciences undermined the cosmic worldview and declared without further ado that the world was a gigantic machine, the functions of which had not yet been fully recognized, but which would soon be fully explored. Christianity gradually got on an ideological defensive and had trouble keeping up. The natural sciences came more and more to the role of world-view pioneers. The traditional teaching of the church was no longer decisive when it came to the question of nature and the cosmos or the integral relationships, but science.

And she, in turn, completely impressed by her considerable successes in the 19th century, was also convinced that she could explain and master more and more. But since it, coming from Descartes, was not interested in a cosmic vision of the whole, but in the functions and the controllability of these functions, it could only become a supplier to the technocrats, who in turn converted science into functioning technology, but not in a cosmic order. In terms of its intention, natural science was and is not concerned with a cosmic order, but with the exploration of the factual. The universe that becomes a machine can be dismantled, taken apart and without a final secret in the sense of religion.

The sociologist Max Weber coined the term “disenchantment of the world”. The world was no longer a mystery but an explorable and controllable reality. That which had a secret disappeared from the world and has largely disappeared to this day. The churches, neither the Catholic nor the Evangelical Church, could not bring about an integrating vision in order to give people a place in this new order of the world. The cosmos became a gigantic machine and the mystery became nothing but banalities.

Thus, described in the brief sketch, the cosmic vision, the cosmic order structure was levered apart. This structure of order had, however, been given a further twist, which was only to develop fully in the second half of the 20th century. We are talking about shifting the center of gravity of reality from the world of things to the subject of man. On the basis of the Reformation, which can only be explained on this cultural-historical background, I would like to briefly outline what I mean.

The way into the subjects

The theologian Paul Schütz criticizes the Reformation knowledge to the effect that it is not the gospel or the kingdom of God that is their real center, but the subject of the believer. According to Luther, everything was about right faith, which had to be oriented towards Scripture, grace and oneself, that is, towards faith (“Sola fidei, Sola scriptura, Sola gratia”). The Lutheran catechism is about the believing subject believing the right thing. And so the question of how I can get a gracious God becomes the linchpin of Reformation knowledge. It is not the gospel, not the kingdom of God or any external quantity that prevails, but the faith that the subject receives from the spirit.

After considerable unrest among the peasants, who were also stimulated by Luther's struggle, calling for an uprising against the princes, Luther struggled not to allow himself to be drawn into this political turmoil. He publicly renounced the “gang of peasants” and after the bloody suppression of the peasant uprising he constructed the “doctrine of two empires”. The doctrine of the two kingdoms says in short that the worldly lords have to take care of political issues, but the church has to take care of the kingdom of God, that there is none of this world, as Jesus had said to Pilate.

Thus, at least in the long term, the Church withdrew from political issues and after the loss of politics and nature only the soul was left. And when the doctor Sigmund Freud interfered in the domain of the soul at the end of the 19th century, the church also lost this resource. All that remains is salvation that no longer has a landing place in this world and very pious people reduced the act of salvation in the human being to the spirit (according to the Chinese Watchman Nee, "The Spiritual Christian", Vol. 1).

The fleeting sketch makes it clear what it is about; the subject is literally peeled out of its contexts and is dissected until it wandered around naked and merely as a lost individual being in a world in which, as Martin Heidegger said, it finds itself as "thrown". The life contexts in which the subject was so firmly integrated that it would not have occurred to him for a long time to ask about himself disappeared more and more and the burden of interpreting the world in context fell upon the subject. The world no longer found itself given, but rather the subject had to say and decide how it wants to see the world. The big specifications broke up and dissolved into nothing but disconnected parts.

Step by step, but consistently in this, something like a cosmic connection was lost in the subjects who now had to establish their connections themselves. The historian Theodore Roszak works out very well in his book “Ökopsychologie” that every psychology or therapy needs a cosmic context and has always been understood in such contexts. The fact that, since psychoanalysis, the soul has been examined and broken down as an isolated individual in order to handle disturbances as an individual, inner-psychological defect that can be resolved independently of the rest of the world, in the subject alone, that is new. The subject is no longer in any context in which it would know how to understand itself

The subject is a kind of microcosm that no longer finds any connected variables and therefore has to create these connections itself. In all cultures this microcosm of the subject stands in a meaningful context of a larger cosmic structure, which is always influenced by religion or is completely dominated by the respective religion. These connections are largely consumed in the West without a binding cosmic order taking the place of the old idea, which was largely dominated by Christian ideas.

Man stepped out of an ideologically closed case into the open, if you will, and as a result of these developments now experienced the world as a gigantic construction site. Nothing, it seemed, was in any way ready, everything had to be made first.

On the one hand, this is a loss and, at the same time, a gain, but it is linked to the risk of possible failure. The old cosmic order had collapsed and, at least on the part of left-wing intellectuals, they did not want this case back either, which was based on pure idealism. On the contrary, that Heil was a long way off, in an unknown future, waiting for a new order of world and nature, which one first had to discover experimentally.

At the turn of the century, this awareness was very widespread, especially among left-wing intellectuals and artistic avant-gardists. The old order, the old housing, was shattered and one waited full of hope for a new, a new cosmic order based on Marxist messianism.In Rolf Wiggershaus's reading of “Die Frankfurter Schule”, one can sense something of this agitation that comes close to religious motifs without explicitly calling oneself religious. The demolition of the old order was not seen with sadness, but rather with hope. And this hope that something new would emerge from the rubble drove many intellectuals and artists to question this old order even more radically, to dismantle it. Because only out of the rubble, only behind the ruins could the new order become visible.

This hope was severely dampened by the terror of the Nazis and the dictatorship of the Soviet party and so after the Second World War it was difficult to create something like a utopia, a bold hope for a new ideological housing. The material upswing did its best, and if one was only materially well provided for, then it was enough.

The war generation was extremely disillusioned with reality and the great utopian world designs. Only the children of the war generation demanded this hope for something that went beyond their own box of materialistic provision. The generation of 68 hoped to be able to land a great utopian draft, but at the same time helped to dissolve traditional contexts by denouncing the petty-bourgeois values ​​of the war generation as a kind of front-garden ideology. In any case, this generation became aware of its homelessness and discovered the missing housing and the associated unhoused existence of the subject.

Heidegger gave the impulse to understand life as an unhoused existence. If Marx saw the alienation as a consequence of capitalist development, we have to say in retrospect that the roots are deeper historically. The alienation of the subject from the world of objects was the result of a long cultural development. The homeless existence of the subjects who felt alien in their world was not the result of capitalist economic organization, but an expression of the loss of large, overarching, that is, cosmic contexts of meaning.

The subject no longer found such connections and was even dismissed as foolish when asked about them. At least that was the later tenor of existentialism with French influences. Life is random and therefore meaningless! What sense should coincidence make? Sarte and Camus asked consistently. The heroic achievement they demanded of the subject was that, despite the absurdity, it had to wrest something like meaning from life. For Camus, this heroism went so far that he made the Greek anti-hero Sisyphus the model of modern existence. Sisyphos, who had risen against the gods, had to roll a large stone up a mountain as a punishment. Once at the top, the stone rolled back down and the work started all over again with the same result and so on.

The problem of religion in the dissolution of large contexts We are so secularized and demythologized that we do not necessarily know or feel what religious experience actually is. The whole question of religious experience becomes the only question mark for us and it fits into this landscape if Karl Barth, one of the greatest theologians of this century and before him Bonhoeffer, could diagnose a strict separation between Christianity and religion. According to Barth, Christianity is not a religion, while Bonhoeffer stood up for it for pragmatic and theological reasons and said: We are approaching a completely religionless time and must therefore rethink our theological thinking

The troubled question about the essence of religion corresponds to the lack of resonance of the religious in secularized people. The direct experience of religion has become alien to us, we have neither reference to our own religious tradition nor direct access to its nature. Therefore, when people ask about religion, they only find a more or less great confusion for the time being. Nevertheless, people are increasingly asking about religion and there may be many reasons for this.

According to the avowed atheist Günther Anders (“The Antiquity of Man”), the threat posed by the self-created means of destruction is so great that this threat potential itself represents a kind of negative religion. Because it is about a comprehensive annihilation of life and where we come to do with such final questions, so Anders, we step on the ground of religion.

Before we can understand the situation of the religious market, however, we have to go back and outline what postmodernism means. I refer to my paper on the arts and crafts biography, in which, under point 3, I have already touched on this question.

The discussion about modernity and postmodernism

The term postmodernism has been circulating through the landscape of artists, literary figures and philosophers for about two decades. Postmodernism, we can assume, begins where modernity, with its claim to plan and clarify life on the basis of reason and a new, reasonable order. But this clarity is deceptive, when we talk about postmodernism, we often don't know what exactly is meant by it. The term is as colorful as the reality it describes. Postmodernism, one could say, is the radical affirmation of pluralism and the renunciation of any overarching explanation of the world. Postmodernism is serious about rejecting any overarching order. The subjects have to see for themselves how they get along, or they also have the freedom to decide for themselves what should make sense and what shouldn't.

But we want to try to determine more precisely what is meant and what the concerns of modernity are to be seen in. In addition Panajotis Kondylis:

“As is well known, the term“ modern ”is used in a double sense. On the one hand, it denotes a certain phase or direction in literary and art history, which began in the second half of the 19th century and in the first three or four decades of the 20th, despite all its inner diversity, took on more solid outlines; on the other hand, it means as much as "modern times" or "enlightenment", namely in their demarcation from the theological world and human image as well as in their claim to the autonomous shaping of human coexistence on the basis of immanent, but not arbitrary, criteria and values ​​that emerge Let reason determine. A corresponding double meaning had to be assigned to the term "postmodern" ... shortly afterwards, the epoch was apostrophized as postmodern, which followed on from the modern in the sense of the modern age or the Enlightenment and was based on the knowledge that the project of modernity had failed and to avoid the universalisms and totalitarianisms of reason, it would be best to take the path of the free play of intellectual forces and the many centers of power and opinion of a pluralistic society, which is finally viable today, and indeed only open. "(Panajotis Kondylis," Der Niedergang der bourgeois way of thinking and living ”, p.9).

The modern age was undoubtedly a more or less deliberate dismantling of bourgeois values. But it was about more than this dismantling. As already mentioned above, the aim was to construct a new reality by abolishing bourgeois ways of thinking and living, which was more radical than before based on reason. Human reason, it was believed, though certainly not so explicitly, would eventually become a constant evolutionary development. So far one cannot necessarily claim that evolution behaved sensibly, but there was a silent hope in the dawn of modernity to be able to create something new, a new culture that should no longer be based on reason than on questionable traditions.

The emergence of psychoanalysis was one offense to this hope. After all, Freud said that man could not be the master of his own house because he was completely exposed to unreasonable instinctual impulses. But the offense was quickly compensated for, since in psychoanalysis it was believed that they had discovered the remedy with which one could counteract the enemy, that is, the id and its instincts.

The Frankfurt School, which came together in the 20s of the 20th century, namely as an employee at the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research, built its sometimes very sharp criticism of capitalistism on the link between sociology, political criticism and psychoanalysis. economy and its influence on culture. The institute was opened on June 22, 1924 and it was intended to cause unrest, especially in the post-war period. For the time being, however, it was of the opinion that a better society could be built with the means of reason. That was not only the concern of the Frankfurt School, but also of modernism as a whole, as the expression of which the Frankfurt School can be understood in the early days. Later, doubts arose here too about such a project.

The surrealists even went so far as to play with the unconscious in the hope of encountering something original there that was not shaped by cultural development or deformation. In the pictures of many surrealists one feels reminded of dreams in which there are similar landscapes. Behind this, however, was the hope of something essential, of finding something that adhered to the human being from his origins. Here, as art by its very nature must, art intervened in the question of religion. In the sense of asking what a person is before his cultural formation. Of course, one can only deal with this question if one senses that we are alienated from this origin. Be it through culture, ideologies or other forces that influence people.

For about two decades now, the term postmodernism has haunted the landscape and has caused a lot of debate. Postmodern dismantle dismantling! Postmodernism aims to put the utopia of reason in its place as well as to dismantle the dismantling of reality itself. What emerges is a mixture between disillusionment and intoxication, a strange, radical pluralization of life structures into a hardly foreseeable variety of possibilities. While modernity accepted the pluralization of forms of life as a consequence, postmodernism plays with diversity and regards it as an opportunity in which, however, it is easier to crash into the unknown.

Heiner Keupp, social psychologist at the University of Munich, describes his experience with postmodernism as follows:

“My preoccupation with postmodern criticism was less out of inclination than out of an understanding of necessity. The crisis of modernity that is invoked and experienced on all sides wants to be understood, and this modernity is examined most radically from the camp of postmodern criticism. My inclinations still tend to draw me where I see the chance to find out something about "what holds the world together at its core"; At the same time, however, I have become increasingly aware of the cost of such a fundamentalist desire for an explanation. So I set out to explore discontinuities, differences, ambivalences, breaks and insecurities and their potential. Even if my longings are still clinging to unity and holistic thinking, I am aware that this path no longer exists. With this initial confession I want to make it clear that for me getting familiar with the idea building, which is summarized as "postmodern", did not lead to any spontaneous enthusiasm. With him, I did not receive a mental offer that would have been answered by my attitude towards life as an aha experience. At first I pointed a long way away from myself. It seemed to me to be fashionable frills that I did not want to give any theoretical seriousness. Some of the things that come under the label “postmodern”, I cannot take seriously even today.

Today, when I nod my head and read texts by authors who call themselves postmodern, I am also watching a memory film in which my skepticism and rejection are recorded, which are not that far back and which are still barbs in my thinking today available. So I read in a recently published text by Wolfgang Welsch: “If postmodernism differs significantly from modernity, it is precisely because it does not just grudgingly accept plurality as an unloved but unavoidable reality, but rather agrees out of conviction. It is important to get rid of the old obsessions, to see through them as dangerous phantasies. The pressure of unity and holism that pervades western thought is eminent; in German minds he is particularly strong. ”(1990, p.196). I can read approvingly and at the same time don't forget that I have always seen celebrating pluralism as liberal opportunism, which always likes what the market has accepted and which yields returns. Isn't there also "something to it"? In spite of this, one situation remains that we simply cannot ignore: The social forms of life go beyond all traditional formations, and this “radical pluralization of society has long affected and today also affects individuals in general. Identity is less and less monolithic, but only possible in plural. Life under today's conditions is life in the plural, that is to say: life in transition between different forms of life ”(ibid., P.171). And I want to deal with it further. ”(Heiner Keupp,“ Basic features of a reflexive social psychology ”in Heiner Keupp, ed.“ Access to the subject ”, p.228ff).

So it is no longer up to us whether we want to face postmodernism or not, we are always in the middle of its continuum. The Polish philosopher Zygmunt Baumann sees the “end of unambiguity” in postmodernism. It will no longer be possible to present a “one piece” reality, but only differences that can be combined with one another. With this, according to Baumann, a “life from a single source” is no longer possible. Only the multiplicity in loose networking offers itself as future design space. But that has considerable pitfalls, because the social structures change with the inner structure of institutions, as I recently heard in a specialist lecture about changes in inpatient psychiatry.

Religion, and this is what this is about for us, has always been integrated into cultural contexts and has essentially shaped these contexts. The fact that cultural contexts could be “made from one piece” was partly thanks to religion. Religion, I would like to say, without understanding much about religious studies, was the core of cultural identity (and still is in many cultures) until the secularization and demythologization of the modern age. Let us let the following text by Axel Honneth work on us from this point of view.

“C) Finally, the dissolution of the aesthetic and normative medium of interaction in the social world is accompanied by a weakening of the communication skills of the subjects themselves. On the one hand, the loss of the cultural binding forces that had previously maintained the identities of the social groups expressively and normatively, turns the subjects into atomized individuals; In addition, however, the decline in the biographical significance of industrial work is also linked to the dissolution of that traditional path of individual self-realization, on which individuals learned to perceive and appreciate themselves as productive cooperation partners in a socially useful field in the course of their work commitment. Taken together, both tendencies lead to a state of increasing disorientation, even fragmentation of the individual subject; Detached from the communicative ties of traditional lifestyles, Baudrillard sees the isolated, internally flattened subject so exposed to the influence of electronically fabricated media reality that it gradually begins to lose the cognitive ability to differentiate between reality and fiction: within the social lifeworld a process of fictionalization of reality takes place, which lets the atomized individual become an imitator of medially prefabricated styles of existence and accordingly leads on a large scale to an artificial pluralization of aesthetically shaped lifeworlds. Because the individual has lost the communicative support of a commonly shared cultural and narrative practice, he is subject to the overwhelming power of that secondary flood of images that continually urges him to simulate foreign lifestyles; In this respect, internally motivated modes of self-realization are increasingly being replaced by the pattern of an aesthetically organized biography produced by the media ().

The consequence of the accelerated disintegration of social binding forces is a tendency towards the motivational emptying of subjectivity, in which the electronic media world can then intervene with its simulation offers to compensate.The specifics of postmodern social theories emerge from the fact that they try to give the diagnostic connection between cultural erosion and individual loss of authenticity an interpretation that removes any negative or problematic character. ”(Axel Honeth, quoted from Keupp, op. 238ff).

We should no longer be concerned with the psychosocial sequelae that Honeth is addressing here, but rather we want to acknowledge that the meaning of religion cannot be sustained when everything else around changes completely.

That brings us to the question of what we want to understand religion as. I'm not a religious scholar, but I still dare to define religion. In its previous form, religion was the framework that encompassed individuals right down to cosmic concerns, that allowed extreme coordination from the last things to everyday life. The very big and the very small had their internal and external coordinates in the structure of religion, which in turn always appeared as a cultural asset. So every culture had its respective religion or form of religion within its cultural fabric. So we can say: religion has always been rooted in cultural contexts, integrated in coordinate systems, of which it was itself the producer and maintainer. Even where religion became missionary, such as in Christianity or Islam, they took root in the respective cultural structure into which they spread or changed culture through their specifications. In the history of Christianity it has proven to be extremely problematic if a culture is to be included with the religion.

But what does religion look like in the light of postmodernity? The theologian Paul Tillich, who founded a theology of crisis and was also able to justify it through his concurrent degree in sociology, spoke of religion in the catchy formula: religion is that which concerns us absolutely. With this, Tillich justified the thrust of a definition of religion that is no longer self-evident and unconditional in a cultural context. Neither Christianity nor any other religion are in the context of our culture, which is dissolving in its contextual form or is in rapid change. It becomes more difficult for religion to move in contexts since there is no longer any unquestionable context.

It is therefore not surprising that we approach religion like children are approaching a construction kit, where we only have to try out what fits where or not. By dissolving one's own integration into traditional references, in principle everything comes into question that somehow smells of religion. It is only logical that we encounter a flanking market that puts together religious elements from different cultures. If all of life encounters us as a craft project, how can religion make an exception ?! Religion is a piece of culture, even if culture is in the process of dissolving, then it dissolves along with its meanings ...!

We therefore come to the religious supermarket:

The religious supermarket

When the New Age movement took the public stage in the 1980s, it had a great utopia to offer. The Age of Pisces is running out and the Age of Aquarius begins. The musical "Hair" from the 60s had already given the beginning: light, harmony, truth, religion without dogmatic narrowing. The whole thing was initially only negotiated among a comparatively small group of interested parties. In the first half of this century, for example, Buddhism was considered exotic and only of interest to a small group. In the 1970s and 1980s there was a surge in interest, and in the meditation movement and demand for meditation, the whole thing got a broad public sounding board.

In the 1970s, the Hugendubel bookstore in Munich had already set up an entire floor of the literature class: meditation, esotericism, secret sciences, etc. So there was a corresponding demand in the market. In 1976, Ingrid Riedel published the book “Der unspent Gott - Neue der Ways der Religiosität”, in which various authors tried to get an overview of the newly awakened interest in religion, especially in eastern religion. Names like Karlfried Graf Dürckheim had a moving sound. Dürckheim endeavored to link Buddhist meditation with Western culture, which he succeeded in a good way, despite all the appropriate criticism (cf. Manfred Bergler, “The anthropology of Count Karlfried von Dürckheim in the context of the reception history of Zen Buddhism in Germany “Unpublished dissertation).

The interest in Eastern religion aroused everywhere and accordingly a market opened up where the seekers served with appropriate offers. At the beginning of the 80s, when the movement around Baghwan Shree Rashnesch caused waves, I and a friend visited a tea room run by the Baghwan disciples in Cologne. There we had the opportunity to talk to a man about the pros and cons of Eastern meditation. During the conversation, however, I soon noticed that the man had hardly any concept of culture. My argument was to understand Eastern meditation or its adoption in Western cultural contexts as absurd. I could rely on C.G. Jung called, who, as a connoisseur of Asia, still maintained that it was downright ridiculous if a European believed he could practice yoga, that was impossible.

According to Jung's argument, yoga is far too deeply linked to Asian culture, it has deeply shaped the consciousness of Asians or is an expression of their consciousness structure, so that it is not possible for a European, who has a completely different consciousness structure, to do yoga to operate. What emerges for us Europeans is a westernized form that no longer has much to do with yoga as it is practiced in India.

My interlocutor reacted to this argumentation with complete incomprehension and could not assign the term culture in connection with religion or perhaps did not even want to. The effects of the meditation spoke for themselves, what was needed for the theory or even a culture-critical inquiry from either side. That was understandable to me at the time, because I had similar attempts behind me and at the same time it made me angry because every form of argumentative reason had to fail because of the conviction of these people, who did not have to go as far as to come up with a cultural justification.

In 1982, Marilyn Ferguson's “The Gentle Conspiracy” hit the book market, fascinating to read, with a good shot of utopia and full of optimism, she announced the imminent “Personal and Social Transformation in the Age of Aquarius”. At that time, the New Age movement was still largely driven by this utopia. Even critical voices could not avoid respecting the culturally critical aspects of the thought leaders. The way into the new age seemed to be borne by a departure from the paradigm of scientific-technical thinking and its guidelines, which have dominated culture since Descartes.

This utopia, which was linked with many innovations and rethinking processes in the natural sciences, attracted. There was something fascinating about it, not least because it hit a nerve. The criticism of the Cartesian separation of spirit and matter was in line with contemporary history and not only discussed in circles of New Age utopias. The prospect of a new beginning was tempting and met with a surprisingly broad public response. In the bookshops corner shelves were set up on the subject, the adult education institutions offered meditation, yoga, alternative healing methods, tai chi etc. Whoever opens the program of any educational institution today will find offers in Bach flower therapy, aroma therapy , Tai chi, belly dancing, dervish dances, yoga etc. have to make their own rhyme.

And, since religion no longer has a cultural context, it is integrated into the context of the market. Religion is becoming an ideological commodity with which one can also earn good money, as the magazine “Materialdienst” showed in its January issue of this year. Excursions to the de Germanic cult sites are offered for a lot of money, or esoteric secrets are introduced to esoteric secrets in a pyramid (“Etora Center”) in luxury apartments on Lanzerote. Eduard Gugenberger, the author of the article, speaks of a sale in the New Age supermarket. ("Mystic Journeys": Spiritual sellout in the New Age supermarket ", in" Materialdienst "1/95, p.11ff).

The utopia, it seems, has vanished and what remains is the market for a wide variety of cultural and religious set pieces. So you can be instructed relatively effortlessly in a weekend crash course in the secrets of shamanism. You take part in Indian rituals, experience the ritual cleansing of the sweat lodges of the Hopi Indians, dance like an Islamic dervish or meditate towards an anticipated enlightenment. If you want something more exclusive, you can go to Lanzerote in a specially built pyramid in order to be introduced to various esoteric varieties in a luxurious environment. The costs for participating in the ongoing events are of course paid extra. But a night in the open air at an old Germanic cult site is also required. Bookings are made in the package: bus travel, accommodation, instruction, food, etc. everything is precisely planned and constructed and everything is available for an appropriate fee. Last but not least, the question of money has so far made New Age offers a market for middle and upper class members. The company “Mystic Journeys” offers such trips nationwide and earns a lot of money because the prices are quite impressive.

In his book ("New Age & Co - Shopping in the Spiritual Supermarket"), the journalist Lukas Lessing describes his odyssey through the range of offers in the religious supermarket. Reading tried out various offers and processed them in a journalistic manner. Even if there is no extensive analysis of the situation, one can assume that his experiences are typical. From recreational shamans to management training, everything is tried out.

With his experiences Lessing confirms what the sociologist Ulrich Beck said in an interview with the magazine “Psychologie Heute”. Beck thinks that although there is a lot of talk about nature and ecology, the concept of nature is completely empty (“Psychologie Heute” 10/94). We have no real access to nature or to what happens outside of our living environment. And so it comes to comedic scenes like this:

"Karin, Gerhard, Heidi, Hanni, Fredl and Lukas, well me. all around thirty years old, almost all from Vienna, want to get to know the basics of the Indian-shamanistic thought structure. They want to learn to create an alchemistically correct ceremonial framework, they want to enjoy the liberating power of holistic thinking and get an animal ally on a drum trip

In the evening the group travels to the world of animals lying down, everyone looks for an ally. Günther (the PM group leader) has of course long since found one for himself, a practical vulture that he can use again and again - for example when he is stuck in a traffic jam with his small Japanese car: “Then I'll go into my vulture and keep absolute calm. But when the next junction to the right is free, bang, I'll bump into it and make good progress, ”says Günther, who looks more like a sparrow. “Real shamans do shape-shift at such moments, of course, that is, they really get into the shape of their animal.” Which does not necessarily mean that real shamans spend their time in small Japanese cars in ordinary motorway traffic jams

The action highlight of the seminar is the construction and subsequent ceremonial use of the sweat lodge. Stop, the construction is already carried out according to ceremonial aspects: Nobody should simply drag away any of the stones lying around in this area, nobody should tear up one of the numerous trees, bushes or branches. Günther suggests a suitable dialogue: “Hey Stein, would you like to come with us, we want to build a sweat lodge in order to become balanced people ?!” Then you will also feel how the stone feels, whether it feels like it, To come along right now, or whether he would rather stay a few years at the edge of the forest. “Be Indian,” says Günther, “move carefully in nature. Do not leave any traces. And always thank her when you take something away. For each stone, leave a few crumbs of tobacco there as a thank you. "

With de Steinen it works quite well, most of them can be heaved into Heidi's VW bus without contradiction, with which they are then comfortably brought across the meadow down to the sweat lodge by the stream. That leaves traces in the meadow, but it was also more about avoiding human traces, not about bus lanes "Lukas Lessing, New Age & Co - Shopping in the spiritual supermarket" p. 193ff)

The market for ideological offers is unmistakably large, and it is not always safe to embark on various therapies or excursions inward. Sometimes, as has been proven by a number of studies, the weekend excursion into the unconscious also leads to psychosis or another long-term disorder instead of the source of strength. In the confusing landscape of the New Age, a completely autonomous therapy market has developed that not only earns a lot of money with great promises and inadequately trained “therapists” but can also cause some latent mental illnesses to break out without anyone being found who would know how to absorb such dynamics of the psyche. It is not uncommon for people to be left alone with the consequences.

The professional association of psychologists in Germany therefore warns against such offers and calls for an examination. But who is able to do this, especially without orientation? The craft religion project is an expression of our basic cultural and psychological prerequisites and therefore only consistent.

“Everyone tries in his own way to“ reconcile ”his or her everyday and biographically often broken, fragmented identity. The consequences of the war in families, the deprivation of a father in many families, uprooting, migration and reassimilation have contributed in the course of the last 50 years to the fact that - despite economically and structurally similar basic conditions - an understanding psychology the coping patterns and life plans of the concrete individuals has to explore anew every time. They are objectively de-standardized. Nowadays, psychotechnics are useful and an aid to communication when they engage in the concrete communication of life and social history. In the quick reference to the spiritual dimensions, both sides are not taken seriously and do not come together. An apparent community formation ensues (...) The New Age consciousness takes into account the modern “patchwork identity” in a certain way. Everyone can use the large, meaningful general store to tinker their private religion in a do-it-yourself process, just as it fits their current facets of identity and personal coping patterns. It looks as if, as in the days of Protestant ethics, the new economic and career individuals also need a motivation that does not refer to the disdainful money-making. A higher meaning is sought, and there are already people who declare that spiritual progress can also be recognized in economic success. In any case, both are compatible. Toughness and individualization in the everyday jungle, meditation, enlightenment and cosmic symbiosis in leisure time, in the extended lunch break or in special seminars for the upscale staff. ”(Klaus Ottomeyer, in Keupp, op. Cit., P.265ff).

The religious market or religion, the worldview as a commodity, makes it difficult for us to find any access to the essence of religion at all. But the market is also an expression of our feeling that it would not exist if it weren't for a need. And so there is, as absurd as it sounds, religion as a purchase, as a handicraft set or as a weekend trip. This form of craft religion, however, if it has anything to do with religion besides the name, is only a loss report of the religious. If we attach ourselves to Beck we can say: The concept of religion (in this scene) is empty, completely empty.

Peter Münch