Everyone has a belief system, even if it’s shunning what they identify as belief systems.
Shall we discuss syncretism?
Syncretism is an ancient term. It originally referred to a political organization around the kingdom of Crete which gives an early clue as to it’s meaning. If you take an inclusive view of diverse schools of thought, if you entertain the notion that otherwise discrete belief systems can be held together mutually, that they correspond to each other in any way, that is syncretic thought.
In China, they have a long standing cultural tradition of syncretism. They even formally refer to it as the three teachings; Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. Those three shaped a great deal of Chinese history and likely still do though less in an official manner than they used to.
Would that be like how the idea of balance is held? Like in a zen garden? Thoughts flow better in a space that flows? Feng shui? That is called Taoism. In general, feng shui could be considered a practical application of Taoism.
In Japan, Buddhism and Shintoism also developed a syncretic relationship. Many Japanese Buddhists engage in what were originally Shinto practices, frequent Shinto shrines and observe Shinto holy days and rituals.
Couldn’t it be argued that any new belief system comes about as a result of syncretism? Indeed, it could.
So Shintoism would be wound in the government when they create laws and such? It was. In fact, concepts like the emperor being the son of heaven were Shinto in origin. Their model of the unity of the land and human society was sort of a philosophy of holistic interrelationship. Many syncretic belief systems arose from cultural integration. Some over time losing any trace of their original roots.
Christianity has many syncretic elements, and many members of the clergy were generally educated individuals often originating in noble families. But even if not, a general education was quite common in men of the cloth, and skill sets beyond simple training in the cult and creed were not unheard of. Medicine being an example, but yes, the bigger the clergy got, the more diverse clerical thinking became, and many clerical authorities chose to integrate elements of Greek philosophy into their religious views.
Is that why we still use all that Latin and think it makes us sound smart? Indeed. Actually, much of the early scientific community consisted of clergymen. Natural philosophy (what we now call science) was quite common, even unofficially endorsed. They liked having arguments of “evidence” they could point at to back up their theological arguments. They were not the only students of natural philosophy though. Many members of the so called secular nobility also pursued that study and they began to find fault in the clerical theories and conclusions. Many modern thinkers speak of those early scientists as if they were Joe Everyman, but this is very far from the case. Early secularism emerged among the budding merchant class, which was a conversion of the older nobility, which lost much of their authority as the social scene began to change. They couldn’t just stand on tradition to justify their role in their communities.
I argue that human beings are naturally syncretic thinkers, instinctively so. Insistence of exclusivity in doctrine and purity of practice seemed confined only to those cultures with some measure of xenophobia or cultural prejudice. Perhaps as well with those holding ambitions of empire.
I like syncretism as it makes ideas into living things that can adapt to better serve. Yes. It occurs even in antagonistic situations. There originally was very little or no separation between church and state. So as a matter of political policy, if you would voluntarily remain a citizen of your city or nation, you would officially convert, though many groups would then continue to study and practice their native faiths, even drawing parallels between their national faith and their traditional faith.
Your thoughts are welcome. Be well friends.