lateral connections

In my first post, I stated that “Immanential Devotions” held to a “lateral” orientation rather than a “vertical’ one.  I have since been asked to clarify that idea.

Again, it’s easier to think about this in comparison. Transcendental meditation, like prayer, is directed upward (by definition: beyond the immediate environment), the “sender” is an individual in an individual mode of spiritual communication, concerned with emptying the mind, in the case of the former and with personal connection with Deity in case of the latter.  But a shared assumption is that if enough people meditate or pray, the effect of a significant aggregate would make the world a better place because the world would be inhabited by more people who had been transformed through this personal experience of transcending connection. With no disrespect intended, the image that comes to mind is one of bottles in a box, separated by cardboard dividers.

In contrast, “lateral” not only indicates a different direction, it also indicates a difference in the number of directions – suggesting a wide-ranging sense of connection within the world.  While it might seem that the word “horizontal” could substitute for “lateral”, not quite so. “Lateral” is preferable because it implies  mutuality and this mutuality  is characteristic of a religious sensibility that has re-oriented itself from the transcendent to the immanent in responsive recognition that the world is filled with manifold expressions of the sacred.

The study of “Immanential Devotions” is a new way of exploring how people both experience the sacred in the world around them – and how they respond to those experiences.  As a new field, it is still building vocabulary and it is important to try to get the words right so that meanings become available as a conceptual commons.


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