Fundamentalism as easy mysticism


CSH: I think that what drives a lot of American Christian Fundamentalist culture is this dream to find a text that represents something that’s not human.

We love interacting with non-human animals because we can read their physiology and behavior and from this project a theory of mind. We grasp (some) of their behavior as the effect of an inner self not unlike our inner selves. Oh, maybe it’s like this to be inside that.

But if the animal were to write a text, then by ingesting the words, you would not merely infer the animal’s inner self, but also hallucinate as that other self, as that consciousness of the animal.

You can’t beat American Fundamentalist Christianity because of its Germanic fantasy that the text fell from the sky and that the text is, actually, the autobiography of God. And, if you take the text deeply in, you can access what is completely other than yourself.

People basically hate themselves and at the root of this is the hate of their own needy fixity. They want to be free. They want to transcend themselves. This is nothing unusual. Consciousness itself is, after all, negation and freedom.

I am only making explicit something that tends to get ignored—that a big part of the market for Fundamentalist religion is actually the human desire for self-transcendence and -negation, for bonafide mystical experience. “Is there a non-human text that I can drink in and thereby have a psychedelic experience?”

Doing real mystical work is difficult and requires effort and training. But you can get the glow of mystical experience even if you’ve never had it by holding the object that contains it in your hands. The Bible is just such a talismanic object for Fundamentalists, and I envy them for this most wonderful illusion.

Of all the objects that an animal can secrete, in order to give you access to its unique flavor of experiencing things, a text would be the ultimate one.