In my introductory post (now the page named “Postmodern Quakerism?”), I spoke of two types or aspects of metanarrative, which I’ll call cultural metanarratives (“a global or totalizing cultural narrative schema which orders and explains knowledge and experience” — John Stephens) and self-metanarratives (“the normally-invisible, intuitive internal structure or orientation that shapes our thinking, feeling, and being in the world”). I now want to add a third: the religious. Religions provide their own metanarratives, grand stories that shape and are shaped by both the cultural and self-metanarratives which define the worldviews and identities of their adherents. With the early Buddhist tradition being the notable exception, those grand religious stories are metaphysical metanarratives: the worldview they present is legitimized by the metaphysical or supernatural myth it inhabits. Such religious metanarratives can provide legitimation for the cultural metanarrative, the two becoming ever more thoroughly interwoven and interdependent, evolving together in a sometimes tense but overall complementary relationship.
Some forms of religion, however, propagate a metanarrative that functions to critique and subvert the normal cultural story and the self-metanarrative it fosters and relies upon. In that context, Zen Buddhism and Quakerism come to mind. I’ll think in print about those two in the next post.