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Tuning a Periodic Table of Religions, Epistemologies and Spirituality

Including the sciences and other belief systems (Part #1)


Introduction
Context
Periodic table -- precedents and parallels
Taxonomies of classification and self-referential dynamics
Precautionary comments regarding integrative initiatives
Dimensions of a general periodic structure?
Comparison with current situation
Possible future design considerations
Polarization and development of binary ordering
Fundamental learning distinction: Understanding vs Comprehending?
Fractal dimension: reconciling the uniqueness and sufficiency of each religion?
Adaptation of extended periodic table
Mode of dialogue
Playfully playing the periodic table
Developmental directionality?
Implications
References

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Introduction

It is obvious that religions have been a focus of numerous studies. These have included many efforts to classify religions. As usefully summarized in the Wikipedia article on major religious groups, such efforts have had different biases at different periods of time. Any such classification remains highly controversial as religions continue to compete for followers. Estimates of numbers of followers, and definitions of what is included in a particular religious group, continue to be vigorously contested. An additional dynamic arises from the fact that most religions necessarily consider themselves to be "right" and "good" in some absolute way, whilst framing others as "wrong", "misguided" or even "evil". These dynamics underlie many bloody religious conflicts -- especially in a period of increasingly faith-based governance.

As the Wikipedia article shows, tables can be produced to cluster religions in different ways. The question is whether some of the problematic dynamics could be rendered more explicable and predictable by moving beyond the simplest form of table to a periodic table -- inspired by the complexity of which it has been necessary to take account in the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements. The challenge of producing such a table is what is explored here. It should be emphasized that this is exercise is not intended to seek premature closure bur rather to look at what might (or might not) be an insightful way of organizing beliefs -- religious or otherwise -- given the nature of the dynamics between them. It should be stressed that this is not an interfaith exercise in syncretism. There is no question of seeking to amalgamate distinct religions or approaches to spirituality.

This exploration follows from a much earlier initiative by the author to produce a Functional Classification in an Integrative Matrix of Human Preoccupations (1982), partially inspired by the periodic table. This has since been used to order information on international organizations, world problems, strategies, values and human development -- for several reference publications (notably the Yearbook of International Organizations and the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential). These are now accessible online.

em>Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential). These are now accessible online.


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