Commenter Commonsense Bob reminds us of the evergreen formula that summarizes the distinction we are making between the form and essence of religion, or between meta-theology and theology: as above, so below. Simple as.
Herebelow we are given analogues -- we call them revelations -- that assist us in navigating within the vertical; or in other words, the vertical as such is a kind of downward projection of itSoph, such that the things below remind us of the things above. This latter (and ladder) is what we call "vertical recollection."
And now that I think about it, this vertical projection must be analogous to what time is in the horizontal. Time is horizontal prolongation, or the "moving image of eternity" (or perhaps we might just say "infinitude," which is eternity playing hide & seek with itself, forever).
Conversely, vertical space is a kind of static image of eternity. Put them together and you have yourself a cosmos, an ordered carpetography or tapestry woven of time and space, form and essence, heaven and earth, etc.
Just as we remember the past in the present, we "re-remember" the Above in the Below. I say "re-member" because re-ligion is cognate with religare, "to bind." Religion binds that which is below with that which is above. Usually this binding takes place in time, e.g., ritual or morality, but it can also do so in atemporal space, e.g., mysticism and infused contemplation. In reality it's always a complementarity between the two.
Hmm. I wonder if forms are more temporal, while the essence is more spatial? Sources say Yes. For example, Schuon suggests that "The function of the historical Christ is to awaken and actualize the inward Christ."
Thus, we may say that eternity becomes time so that time may become eternity. Which is just a more abstract way of saying that the nonlocal Logos becomes locally enfleshed. And if it doesn't happen in us, well then what's the bloody point?
Verticality also tends toward inwardness and subjectivity where horizontal tends toward outwardness and objectivity. Upper case (R)eason "can receive its contents from the outside and the inside, from below and above: from the outside it obtains them either through the senses or through Revelation; from the inside, it obtains them either through the soul or through intellection" (ibid.).
Moreover, if we follow the implications, "This means that the higher and lower, or the supernatural and natural, intervene both inwardly and outwardly" and are "combined by virtue of the metaphysical transparency of things in conformity with the Platonic principle of 'remembrance.'" Which is just a more elegant way of saying what I just said a few paragraphs ago.
Enough about Good Religion. What about Bad Religion? It seems to me that Bad Religion dismembers the organic unity of the cosmos, either reducing the above to the below or vice versa. Typically it absolutizes the relative or relativizes the absolute, which leads to all sorts of mischief. And it does so in a way that manifests Pride.
Humility is not just a prerequisite for the spiritual adventure, but a direct consequence of vertical in-sight. I mean, seeing where one sits in the vertical scheme of things makes a man humble, doesn't it? Even Jesus himself asks "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone."
It seems to me that this is a strong statement -- a metaphysical cluebat -- about vertical projection: at the top is the Abbasolute Sovereign Good in comparison to which everything below is at least a little imperfect. The further from the source, the more cosmically messed up.
Each of us, as Schuon puts it, "has limits if not defects," limits of time, space, culture, history, and development -- to say nothing of those mischievous mind parasites with anti-divine agendas all their own. At any rate, humility represents a kind of "objective and disinterested awareness" that functions to dissolve "ambition and vanity at their roots" -- roots which take root below, as it were.
It won't do -- for the Raccoon, anyway -- to merely flee from pride. Rather, the ideal -- perhaps unattainable, but whatever -- is to cultivate a profound awareness "of the nature of things," such that "there is nothing to flee" and errors do not exert their seductive influence. I mean, just because we are fallen, it doesn't mean that everyone is fallen to the same extent, nor that there is nothing we can do to remedy the situation. In a vertical world, there are degrees of wrongness.
Bad religion can take the form of an excess of humility that mirrors the excessive grandiosity of deepaking the chopra. I certainly don't mean to bag on Protestantism, but I happen to be reading a book on Luther, in whom an extraordinary level of pride operated through the vehicle of humility.
How so? Well, for starters, he felt that man was so thoroughly depraved by the fall that any effort at self-improvement was evidence of pridefulness and strictly impossible anyway. We are all at the bottom and can't get up. It seems to me that Luther engages in the ultimate humble brag, in that he personally knows there is nothing man can know, such that the only solution is the will to believe -- a will severed from its telos in truth.