Damian Thompson's Holy Smoke blog had a posting regarding universities giving out degrees in aromatherapy. As a poor victim of university theology courses I got a bit carried away one day and wrote this - I'm not entirely sure what some of it means , but I'm sure it was sincerely felt at the time...
I suppose that when studying aromatherapy ; as it is theoretical and anecdotal; it would ascribe itself to being highly ordered and self-regulatingly structured - every aspect of it would be covered - every scent having a corresponding ester or allocated chemical to link with the denoted affect. Aromatherapy may not have any validity , but there would be an inherant 'nouogony' [if that's a right word to invent] - massive cause and effect structures - huge matrices intertwining illness - substance- remedial effect.
Like Galsworthy inventing the Forsyte family tree - everything has to fit.Now for comparative religion study you have to be absolutely engrossed in the symbolism, myth, philosophical anthropology, socio-cultural sentiment and vast amounts of history.
Yet again because it is all considered as superstitious nonsense deriving from human-external phenomena interaction or genetic socio-cultural psychological effects within the individual, group and community; it would all have to possess defined structure with theories fitting in every possible gaps in knowledge.But Lecturers in Theology have absolutely no desire for any such structure or order whatsoever to return to that which was once an academic meta-science.
No longer will there be a systematic structure that you would find in the old natural theology textbooks or Denziger.
They solely wish for it to remain the pragmatic chaotic mess that it is today as it suits their: a] intellectual ignorance, arrogance, laziness and reticence to further study any specific subjects they have no desire to.b] hard won laissez-faire 'I can do whatever I bloody well want' , teach/lecture/investigate/write about what interests me; and I can denote it as a theological study of contemporary relevance and academic pertinence.
This second aspect manifests itself in a wide variety of forms/endeavours/pursuits etc.
It could be a history of a specific time period of interest, or a study of the philosophy of religion since 1800, one might be a medievalist, or someone more interested in sociology or a new ideology like post-modernism, feminism, environmentalism, marxism;They might wish to resort to a theology which is utterly scriptural, or grounded in the enlightenment or the post feuerbach atheism, it could be limited to a few favourite philosophers like Kant or Hegel; or it might be phenomenological, or existential, or logically positivist, deconstructuralist, postmodern, feminist, post hegelian geist european philosophy of history......
Whatever it is - it must not be historical, or holistic, or dogmatically discursive, there must be no grand schema interlinking all aspects.
No, rather it must be ideologically based - a minimal amount of theory imposes itself and interacts with everything and thus proves the self-correcting ideology - everything must be perceived and analysed and either adopted or expunged according to its conformity with the ideology. That which does not fit is either surplus to requirement,or a mere exigence, an unnecessary complication/obfuscation, an intellectual illusion/delusion.
Notice how people rarely leave university today with masters or doctorates in theology - no it is invariably a certain 'type' of theology ; a flavour ; an ideological perspective which cannot interact or integrate itself with any other - it's a specialisation!!!In other words the theology taught today has very little to do with the academic pursuit known as theology from the pre-1930's.
The two main sources of this was Bultmann and Hegel and all who were contaminated subsequently.
It was the age of ideology and pragmatism and neither mixed well - instead of a rationally formulated 'mystery' forming aspects of dogma; aspects of reality or social interaction or the psyche or political thought were irrationally imposed upon the microcosmos /macroanthropos to form a homogenous system where the irrational dogma imposed itself to form the untenable inscrutable self-contradiction !!!
Rather than returning to kant's antinomies and incongruous self-contrary premises [i.e. acknowledging that the ideology didn't fit their system] the prevailing pragmatism allowed them to adopt a post-hegelian dialectic in a marxist struggle where the ideology becomes reactionary and all-prevailing and the ideal to be imposed upon everything.
One need only look at feminist theology, or neo-protestantising marxist 'catholic' theology, or the radically political neo-con theology, or any other pseudo-ideology branding itself as theology - e.g. the latest assortment melded into a chaotic morass in the 'Caritas social action' book to realise that this theology has virtually nothing to do with what was previously denoted as Theology.
Those days have gone: the scientific considerations , the philosophy, the reason , the metaphysically speculative cohesive congruency, the conformity with scripture and morality and natural theology and divine revelation - all that has vanished like mist in the sun.
Theology can be classified today as anything a theologian wants to call it.It's like modern art ; deconstructuralist literature, post-symbolic poetry...theology hasn't an infinitessimal part of even the false authenticity of aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy may be an utter falsehood - but at least it's a rationally coherent falsehood.
Contemporary secular schools of theology haven't possessed that intellectual integrity for nearly a century.