Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spirituality - Installment 4

As usual, the comments on Spirituality 3 were better than the blog itself. They ranged through the topic and anticipated part of what we had been going to say here in Installment 4. Several of you protested about our referring to fundamentalist morality. We felt compelled to mention it because we look upon it as a continuum--the same continuum that Ayn Soph pointed out. In that continuum the parental stick or slap is replaced with religious control in the form of a set of "morality" rules--a dead giveaway to the string-pulling of the dominator mindset that Riane Eisler articulated with such brilliance in "Power of Partnership" and "Chalice and the Blade".
It seems that very few people grow beyond that stage ; but those who do, including all our commentators, feel that they are responsible for their own ethical set and their own behavior, not responsible for what they have been threatened with in the name of religion or the dominator juju. For us, the thoughtful ones, the morality rules are replaced with our own innate sense of ethics. (Here we use "ethics" as that which applies to a single person, as contrasted with the more general term morality--behaving conventionally because of some religious belief and/or threat.) Thank Goddess that Plato is not dead, so that some of us are fortunate enough to live examined lives.
This brings us back to our own mind and to what is loosely termed the soul or spirit, which may indeed be a construct of the mind. Many researchers think in terms of the mind being a fragmented or extended network in which consensus is reached when all the pieces come together.
We are not very familiar with the exact Egyptian elements of spirit ; but we are quite familiar with the idea of a fragmented soul and of soul retrieval. ("Soul" here is essentially synonymous with "spirit", except that the soul still dwells within the body.) We have witnessed several quite startling soul-retrieval healings, ranging from (a) a girl in a coma who instantly woke ; to (b) mild cases of depression alleviated in, for example, widows.
We've all felt the same hollowness of our essence, as though something is missing. Our Native American friends say that sensation comes when we have given away part of our spirit--or when it has been stolen from us. "When he died, I feel as if part of me died with him." The simple explanation is : When two people are in love and one dies or departs, the one left behind needs to retrieve the piece of spirit given away in all innocence. This simple concept seems to work in practical terms. Indeed, we are not prepared to say that it's not all simply a game we play within our own minds, especially given the assumptions of the culture in which we live. If the mind can be fragmented, then surely the spirit can be as well.
So where do you get your ethical set, if not from the combination of the pieces of your spirit (or your mind) that come together to give it to you? Like much of life, though, the set can be either positive or negative. It seems to us that those epiphanies of oneness that most of us have from time to time, through deep meditation and through astral travel, pull the glimpses together and make the whole. Thus they change our worldview in a positive way.
Does that mean that the "whole" adult is spiritual? Regrettably, not necessarily so. We ourselves do not feel that a one-to-one correlation can be assumed. This leads us, in turn, back to the question : What is a spiritual person?
Some of you know that when Yvonne or I try to read aloud a particularly meaningful piece of poetry or prose, we often have to pause to fight off the tearful response--the meltdown--that the words elicit in us. Yvonne is susceptible, for example, to the work of A. E. Housman, especially "Loveliest of Trees". This is vividly true with pieces that address the pain of others. We believe that this very awareness of pain and the wish to reduce it in the world is an early symptom of becoming a spiritual person.
In ancient Celtic thought the Web of the Wyrd, the interconnectedness of every living being, was of prime importance, and was sometimes thought of as Deity. The vision of yourself at the center of a network of people where they are all trustworthy friends, no matter what their affiliation or physical attributes are, is a vision that we can aspire to. Today, though, it seems to be slipping away from us, losing ground to the throngs of self-centered people who no longer think of the general good. We feel as if the truly spiritual people are few and far between. If our lips look warty, it's because of the huge number of toads we've had to kiss.
We thank each blog responder for your responses ; your thoughtful comments encourage us to continue.
Of course the final question is : How do you judge a person to be truly spiritual? What symptoms do you perceive as meaningful? This is the last installment of the spirituality blog, except that we will review and share comments ... gratefully. Please, you who are participants in the discussion (or just reading without participating), respond to the blog itself, not through facebook. Then everyone will see the comments.
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P.S. Next time, Goddess willing, we expect to branch out into thoughts about the Ultimate Deity, evolution, and the First Cause.
P.P.S. Dawn Godess, I can't resist telling you the Unitarian-Universalist cat story.
A little girl sits weeping on the steps of the U-U fellowship building. A good Christian lady walks by. "What on earth is the matter, dear?"
The weeping girl points to the fresh smear on the street and howls, "A truck squashed my cat Timmy!"
"Well, never mind. Timmy is with Jesus now, in a better place."
"What the hell would Jesus want with a dead squashed cat?"

Sorry, DG - Gavin

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spirituality 3a

The concluding part of our long blog on spirituality is delayed. We would very much like those who have been following the blog to read the comments of Ayn Soph on Spirituality 3, because s/he summarizes a lot of what we were going to say in Spirituality 4. Thus we are going to rewrite Installment 4; but in order to understand it, you really will need to read Installment 3 and the comments thereto. Give us a couple of days.
Meantime tremendous gratitude to Ayn Soph. Yvonne says,
The words may be simple, but it's heavy s**t.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Spirituality - Installment 3

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Interesting, especially Amber, Brian, and Ayn Soph. Your feedback means a lot.
First let's say we are getting closer to scientifically investigating spirits. Ghost hunters regularly use magnetometers in their detection, and those same magnetometers detect our healing emanations; e.g. ch'i or prana. Apparently both are a similar form of energy.
If every living thing has a spirit, then is our spirit an agglomeration of the spirits of all our selves?

If causal determinism is correct, then we have only limited free will. When you have one of those what we call "oneness" epiphanies, where for a few moments everything makes absolute sense, does that make you become more spiritual, or must there be a more traumatic event? Such little epiphanies and events in your life change you; but in your nurturing and in your genes you are trained to a repertory of responses beyond which it is difficult for you to act. Acculturation may be stronger than we realize, so that what we assume is natural ("Doesn't everybody?") could be simply a matter of training. Perhaps these are the "root causes"of your being.
Fundamentalists tell us forcibly that we cannot be spiritual unless we accept Jesus, or Allah, or Manu the Law-Giver; or go on pilgrimage or do something else to demonstrate that we have bought into their paradigm. Yet if I am resentfully following the list of rules posted on someone else's clipboard, how can I be spiritual? Remember Hegel from the other day. If I run my life by somebody else's rules that are not spiritual, can I be spiritual? Was le bon sauvage (mis- translated as the noble savage) more spiritual than we "civilized" individuals are?
The question then is:
What do you have to give up in the way of rules to be spiritual?
We can't get away from it : Spirituality is obviously denied by the monster of fundamentalist middle-class "morality". We start from the premise that fundamentalism is inherently a threat system. For instance, they don't teach sexual love as a beautiful sacrament; they teach : Just say 'no' or go to hell. (Of course the weary mother of eight or ten cannot use protection against a husband infected with AIDS; there is no abortion and little divorce allowed).
Is there any connection between (a) sexual freedom between consenting adults and (b) fundamentalist-style morality? Yvonne and I think we are very moral people, yet we have an open marriage. When consenting adults enjoy a sexual experience with a non-spousal partner, that's what is called a victimless crime--a pure invention of the self-appointed moral police, who wouldn't know good sex if it hit 'em between the eyes (so to speak).
Here's a little mind game to entertain you. What if Tiger and Elin Woods were to announce that they were pagan and had an open marriage? Would there have been all the wasted gasping and salacious headlines that have gone on ad nauseam for lo, these past months? How would matters have played out differently? If they had announced such a thing some months or years ago, way early in his career, would he ever have been allowed to show his face on camera? to set foot on a golf course? let alone to endorse commercial products or events? He'd have been a non-person from Day One.
Fundamentalism always uses the big three : guilt, shame, fear, to keep the sheep in line. As Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) wrote,
The essence of the concept of righteousness and morality is to afford an outlet
for sadism by cloaking cruelty as justice.
An American reporter asked Pope John Paul whether he wouldn't like to make people happier by allowing divorce and contraception. The Pope replied, "The object of morality is not happiness. It is to prevent people going to hell."
Our Wiccan morality relies on "If it harm none." That specific Rede comes to us from the French:
S'il ne nuis pas, faitez ce que vous voulez.
Indeed, that was the motto, taken from Rabelais, used by the Hell Fire Club (of which Ben Franklin was a member).
Thomas Paine (1737-1809) said, "People should be endowed ... with all those rights acting as an individual for his own comfort and happiness which are not injurious to the natural rights of others."
This seems to be a basic human value that has been with us throughout recorded history.
Today's question is easy and obvious : What do you base your morality on?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spirituality 2

Thank you for your responses to the earlier question on the subject of spirituality. It seems that most of you believe in spirits. I was particularly amused by Cindy's parental (or chaperonish?) spirit who questioned her when she got home late.
Many dictionary definitions of spirituality link it to ecclesiastical activities. We need a new definition for everyday use, because people whom we all know naturally demonstrate spiritual behavior without necessarily being part of a church hierarchy.
"Spirit" comes from the Latin "spirare", which means literally breath. It is the root of such words as inspire and aspire, as well as conspire and expire. If we think of the spirit as altruistic, and if in a specific person the spirit is more to the fore than the body is, then that person can be thought of as spiritual--or at least more spiritual than others who are more focused on temporal concerns.
Yet spirits we have dealt with can be very negative, especially possessing spirits. This can be a problem when pagans and Wiccans "call down the moon", inviting spiritual entities--of whatever nature or disposition--to inhabit their very body. In controlled situations such as those that occur in Voudun, where there are people fully trained to deal with such activities, this may present no problem since exorcising the spirit is part of the training. On the other hand ...
Remember the case from Spirituality 1 of the old smuggler and the table. Ask any army psychologist what happens when a possessing (enemy) spirit of one killed in battle tries to make the body of the possessed commit suicide.
If we use "spirit" as the root of "spirituality", we can go to the philosopher Hegel (1770 - 1831).
The nature of spirit may be understood by a glance at its direct
opposite--matter. As the essence of matter is gravity, so, on the
other hand, we may affirm that the substance, the essence, of
spirit is freedom.
Is it possible for us to follow this quote and say that the opposite of spirituality is materialism?
Can materialistic people be spiritual? Is it easier for the rich to be spiritual? What about people like Elton John? At last count he had given $157M for AIDS relief. We might think of Mohandas Gandhi as being spiritual. Then we learn, though, that he insisted his wife clean out the latrines at the ashram where they lived--but would not clean them himself.
What about Mother Theresa? If you listen to her nuns, she was a harsh bully. Can a Jew be spiritual? He does not love his neighbor, nor does he turn the other cheek. A Jewish friend told us, "Spirituality is something we keep in our back pocket. We pull it out when we're in trouble and become holier than thou." Can you be half-spiritual? Is spirituality a learned behavior?
Causal determinism argues that every act we take is the result of a set of causes, and that we have no option but to react in response to those causes.
Every event has a cause.
If every event has a cause, there is no free action.
Therefore there are no free actions.
Ipso facto, you have no free will.
We all believe we have free will--but think about buying a Razzmobile. Advertisements, friends, price, salesmen, etc etc; many factors influence your "free-will" choice. Pagan, Wiccan, and Unitarian-Universalist groups accept all seekers, or at least profess to. Most conventional groups do not. Which type is free and hence more spiritual?
So today's question is : Do you have enough free will to become spiritual?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spirituality 1

We want to thank several of you for the thoughts on spirituality that you have shared with us, especially Dr. Dark and Harp Raven.
On Sunday March 14 2010, Gavin gave a talk on Spirituality. The talk lasted a little over an hour, in a semi-workshop format where attendees responded to specific questions. We have decided to give you the gist of that talk and to ask those same questions of the facebook audience. Thus the next three or four blogs will not be about the cat's hangnail or the weather in West Virginia; they will address a topic which we think is of more importance.
After due consideration, Gavin started "I don't know what spirituality means in a modern context. Specifically I don't know how to gauge whether or not (in public opinion) a specific individual is deemed spiritual. We all know people whom we think of as spiritual. I should probably be the most likely to have a gauge in my head; but I don't.
"This next bit is kind of a 'This I Believe', and here is my resume on the subject. I lived for a couple of weeks in a monastery in Thailand, going out with the monks in the mornings with begging bowls and spending approximately six hours a day in meditation. We ate only the food that came back in our bowls. Since it is considered an honor to feed the monks, there was always plenty of food. By the way, the bowls were sections of human skulls lined with silver. As most of you know, I also spent a couple of weeks in a Tantric house in the Punjab.
"I have been a manager of International Operations for a major electronics firm.
"Also, after founding the Church of Wicca, Yvonne and I have worked and spoken with people of every nationality and every religious persuasion. We have worked on radio shows with fundamentalists such as Bob Larson, and had conversations with more conservative Christians such as the Bishop of Durham (North Carolina). Among a tour group I met and talked with Pope John Paul when he was trying to figure a way of getting pagans 'back' into the Roman Catholic Church. I know Jake Swamp, the Peace Chief of the Mohawk Nation. And I was initiated into the Seminole Nation as Red-Tailed Hawk : One Who Sees at a Distance.
"Of course through the School of Wicca and its international student body of over 60,000 students, I have learned from the students as much as I have taught them.
"Lastly, I have seen spirits and entities and actually photographed them. In St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, the film showed a ghostly lady looking at the Pieta. And once after some of us had cast an extraordinarily beautiful circle for a full-moon observance at the Whaler Inn Beach Club in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, two of us took photographs of the circle with two cameras from two different locations in the room. A seated spirit form turned up in the negatives.
"Yvonne and I attended a large conference of ghost hunters outside Pittsburgh. They showed us hundreds of photos of ghostly emanations, ranging from vague clouds to fully dressed people and even the occasional nude person. Interestingly, we found that ghost-hunting groups are now using magnetometers to detect these presences. (You need a sensitive magnetometer, more sensitive than those available through Edmund Scientific.) More thoughts on this point later.
"In ghost hunting through meditation we hvae communicated with resident entities. In one case, a little girl in Boulder, Colorado, had been told at some time in the 19th century that she could not go to heaven until she learned her 12-times tables. She had died of cholera before she had mastered the multiplication tables. We told her in a loving manner just to hold still, that someone would come and help her with her learning. By the time we meditated the next day, no spirit was perceptible in the house. By the way, the homeowner was angry with us for taking away the cachet he had enjoyed from boasting about his haunted house.
"In an entirely different instance we investigated strange events happening in a cellar in East St. Louis, a cellar with access to the Mississippi River. We received communication from a long-dead smuggler. He said he had buried money in the side wall of the brick-lined tunnel leading down to the river. We found loose bricks where he indicated; but no money behind them. When the cavity was exposed, an iron-base table with a glass top was picked up and thrown across the cellar with such force that the cast-iron base shattered. Then again the haunting stopped. It seems as though the lingering spirits have some important message to impart, and that once the message is imparted they can go on. Yvonne sums it all up under the heading 'unfinished business'.
"As many of you know, we have tested circles of various sizes, and circles made of an assortment of materials, against a very sensitive magnetometer. We have found that circles of a certain size, as long as they are electrically conducting, stopped the flow of energy to the magnetometer, but that without the circles, power-raising groups could send the magnetometer off the scale. That is, a circle cast to very precise measurements in very precise materials stops and contains the energy. When workers scrupulously follow known information, things go well.
"We know that certain people can read the impressed emotions in rooms and in objects. This leads us, then, to the question as to whether the ghosts or spirits that we are sensing are real or are heavily impressed emotions. Since the spirits are detectable, and power output from a group is detectable on mundane (real-world) equipment, are spirits real?
"In Wicca we think of a three-legged stool in balance. The three legs are
(a) body, (2) mind, (3) spirit. In my own reality, the spirit tends toward altruism and the body tends toward materialism, with the mind serving as the mediator between the two."
For the skeptics among you, all this may be rubbish. So the question for this little section is :
In your reality, are spirits real?
Another blog on the subject will be forthcoming.
Blessed be those who dare to think outside the box. Gavin and Yvonne