A Spiritual History of Korea
February 10, 2004 6:43 AM   Subscribe

Queen of Suffering: A Spiritual History of Korea, by Ham Sok Hon
posted by hama7 (4 comments total)
hama7 - I expected something with an overtly ideological thrust, but this is a subtle and beautifully written work.

"....Established religions are as if embedded in the geologic layers of history. The articles of faith they uphold are lifeless and petrified their interpretation of canons mechanistic. These religions can no longer be life-enhancing but only a noose to stifle life. Petrified, they cannot accommodate life experience; mechanistic, they do not allow any total growing perception of history.

This view will be rejected out of hand as heresy. Religious canons originally contained principles to enhance life, not a columnar list of commands. Such masters of religion as Gautama Buddha and Jesus were without exception revolutionaries out to overturn the institutions of their times. For them to have written a fixed book of commands was out of the question, for to do so would have been flying in the face of their spirit. Such books were not their own work but the work of their followers, who preferred to idolize their masters, stripping them of dynamic personality.

The vitality of a canon being its underlying spirit, the canon needs to be repeatedly reinterpreted."

I do not agree with Ham Sok Hon completely, but I think his writing deserves greater attention from Christians and from those of other faiths as well for being - while overtly about Korean history - far more than that :

"A new Protestant, another Reformation, is necessary. Not just a religion or a sect--religion itself needs renewal. What served earlier has done its job. When it lingers on past its time, it is a thief, a burglar. Such thieves ought to be ejected and a new Word called forth. For this a new understanding of history is needed. The mission lies in bringing truth to life in the present era, for truth is about to suffocate in anachronistic institutions" - A deeply perceptive and wise man, Mr. Hon, and courageous as well.

A new Word must be called forth.
posted by troutfishing at 8:15 AM on February 10, 2004

I love the spirit of Christianity's New Testament, but find the nominal expressions of Christianity I am familiar with largely revolting or at least distasteful or infertile. I suspect this is true of Ham Sok Hon as well.

In Christianity as practiced United States, there are many cleavages and lines of demarcation in institutions and practice, but I am aware of two broad patterns above all else : In the Northern US, the Christianity of the head, or the intellect. In the South, the Christianity of the heart, and the soul. Both are incomplete, both are wanting, and both are frozen, hidebound. The divine genius inhabiting Jesus, Gautama, and others - and the all-too rare contemporary incarnations of this perennial visitation - will not suffer mere habit, mere tradition, mere ideology.

This is a deep point of Hon's - of how religious tradition tends to exclude the truly divine.

I have read this as expressed, recently, in a work written by the disciple of a Sufi saint - a man whose behavior could never be predicted and who seemed to lack any habits whatsoever. Explaining this, he remarked (to paraphrase) - "Any habits do a violence to the human spirit insofar as it is an expression and a vehicle of the divine spirit, which is boundless, which cannot be contained or restricted. The divine spirit cannot fully inhabit humans for their habits - which blind their hearts to it's commands."

This is one of the central doctrines of the deeper mystical traditions.
posted by troutfishing at 8:57 AM on February 10, 2004

Joseph Campbell makes this point about spiritual renewal a couple of different times in The Hero With A Thousand Faces. At his most succinct he says something like: "The God one has outgrown becomes a life-destroying demon." (I can't find the exact quote at the moment.) I remember reading that and thinking immediately of several friends of mine who have done battle with the demon that once was the faith of their childhood.
posted by wobh at 9:01 AM on February 10, 2004

Joe Campbell - a fine scholar, the myth man.

One more thought - Ham Sok Hon, meet Martin Luther
posted by troutfishing at 9:32 AM on February 10, 2004

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