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Thread: What constitutes authentic spiritual expression?

  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sundragon View Post
    Using this standard, folks can claim to be followers of the Transformers, the Cult of Dragonball Z, or the Indomitable Faith of Justin Beiber. Seriously, this is where this line of thinking can lead.

    Ah...well therein lies the difficulty you are having with this.

    You believe that all deities are psychological constructs and therefore one psychological construct is as good as another. If you are correct, which I don't for one minute believe to be the case, then I would have to say that you would be right.

    In that case, I would imagine a fictional character such as Gandalf would make as acceptable God of Magick as Isis for example. Maybe even moreso because he is far more relevant to our culture, broadly speaking, than Isis.

    I don't however see them as psychological constructs, not in the way you do anyway. I see the deities of mankind's religions as the place where man's spiritual needs and the creativity of Deity intersect. Mankind's beliefs and yearnings summoned forth, out of the Infinite Mystery, beings which mankind could relate to. They reflect our cultures because, in a very real sense, our yearnings as a species summoned them from the eternal unity of the Divine Mind.

    Because we are human the gods are, microcosmically speaking, within us. What they represent exists naturally within the human condition. Macrocosmically they exist both as independant beings and as shadowy reflections of the Divine reality out of which they arose.

    The difference is that those involved in Cullen worship either know or can learn from the author that they are a complete fiction. They may choose not to acknowledge this, but the truth is available to them. In regards to other mythology, well pedigree is part of it of course. The weight of a few milennia will do that for better or worse.

    It's important to note that some of the greek philosophers knew that the myths were metaphors for transpersonal realities that were far greater than the literal stories. Esoteric Christians know, generally, that the resurrection of Jesus was a metaphor for a spiritual reality. Most sophisticated believers in many traditions know that the stories of their gods represent mysteries to be plumbed and experienced and not literal events.

    There are no Cullen mysteries because the author had no intention of relating spiritual truths in regards to writing these novels.

    The Twilight Saga isn't a myth it is clearly pop literary fiction. The stories reflect certain psychological realities of the human condition (exaggerated for a tween/teen audience) because the author is a human being, but Twilight has no transpersonal dimension because that is not its purpose.

    To be fair to Twilight, there is a whole dicipline of magickal practice caled Chaos Magick in which fictional characters such Luke Skywalker and Mickey Mouse are evoked and used toward practical ends. However such magick is known to work superficially at best in regards to spiritual transformation as it only engages superficial levels of the psyche...the place where Mickey Mouse dwells. Having said that, most Chaos Magick is higly practical and has pretty much no thought toward things like enlightenment or self-realization. Many chaos magicians don't even believe such things exist.

    Jedi is watered down Buddhism. If one wants the jedi code but with depth one should go to the real thing. Real Buddhism has a track record of 2,500 years of creating spiritual masters. Jedi has a track record of keeping male practitioners virginal for the rest of their lives....LOL...I kid of course....but only a little.

    For the reasons expressed above. Unfortunately, because you are working fully from a psychological perspective...which is ultimately entirely materialistic...you will not be able to see the difference. From your perspective, those differences simply do not exist.

    Some things are funny because they are so patently ridiculous that laughter is initially the only option. After the giggles subside, I am concerned that something like the Twilight Path will take someone so far off the path of authentic spirituality that they may never make it back or that after fandom loses its hold on them they will think that all of spirituality is nonsense just because their prior path was.

    I don't believe anyone should be mocked and no matter what path someone chooses that they should be treated with respect and compassion.


    )o( Blessed Be,

    Sundragon
    But here's one problem with your argument. The assumptions you hold about spirituality is what you claim affords you the ability to distinguish between authentic spirituality and non-authentic ones.

    One might argue that Christianity is a watered down version of Judaism where people threw out some things and kept some others. The same goes for the Jedi movement.

    My believes that deities are psychological constructs does not change the fact that I afford some religions more moral and ethical importance than others.
    If the foundation of authentic belief is about personal connection to a deity, for example, then many young people today might find it difficult to put the fact of Thor to their representation of masculine divinity than they do with more recent fictional work.

    Some young people might find it easier to have a personal attachment to the image of Luke Skywalker, for example, than Zeuz, who was a bit of a misogynistic pig and a rapist, unless I am mistaken. As morality changes, shouldn't we expect people to find new representation for their idea of Divinity?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanya View Post
    I'm thinking authenitic is something internal that becomes part of a person's personal 'story of self' , but.... on the whole 'made up religions' issues... a thought or two.

    1. all religions are MADE UP... and even defining WHAT a religion is is fraught with danger... for instance... do you have to believe in god(s) to be 'religious' (Does this then make Buddhism a philopsophy and NOTa religion?) For my purpose... I define religion as a "set of moral/ethically based rules and practices that are designed to lead to higher spiritual development, the belief in supernatural entities may or may not be a part of this")

    that definaition taken on board.....

    While the Jedi are fictional characters, they subscribe to a set and fixed moral/ethical codicies... to take on such a code could become a real and authentic 'practice' of a religious (ethical) belief system. The same I suppose could be said for practitioners then of Bene Gesserit Witchcraft.

    The Twilight novels on the other had offers not particular moral or spiritual practice, and so, IMHO.. FAILS as even remotely approaching a religious practice and is simpy an expression of appriciation for a (dubious) literary series with supernatural entities.
    Oh, believe me. I have nothing but contempt for the Twilight series, but if people can extract moral lessons such as fighting the inner violence and becoming a better person because of it out of it and chose to model their spirituality around that, I don't know that such a spirituality is any less valid than that based on faery traditions, for example.

    Now... a lot of the older religions didn't have clear moral guidelines or ethic codes of conduct, and if they did, their gods broke them all of the time.

    Spirituality and religion, for me, is not the same thing. Now... a religion based on Jedi, Twilight or anything of the sort is not something I agree with. But then again I am opposed most religious constructs over all. I agree with spirituality and philosophy from an individual standpoint, though, and in that sense I can't see how some paths can be considered more valid than others since a lot of the more accepted paths seem to work on the basis of seniority more than anything else.

    -------------

    I don't necessarily say that we should put them on equal footing. But if there's been so much arguing that ones personal believes are not supposed to be mocked or challenged in that sense that I get completely turned around when people bring out the same attitudes they refuse to be subjected by atheists, and use them against other peoples spiritual paths just because they weren't meant as spiritual stories.

    I guess what I am saying is that either personal spirituality is authentic for anyone and everyone and shouldn't be criticized, or it's all subject to criticism and dispute.
    Previously known as Njorun Alma


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  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Njorun Alma View Post

    I guess what I am saying is that either personal spirituality is authentic for anyone and everyone and shouldn't be criticized, or it's all subject to criticism and dispute.
    Agreed, but the question then becomes is there any authentic spirituality in those who follow a Jedi or Twilight inspired religion? That's what I was trying to get at. If so, then yes, I agree. But it's hard to see that there is any because of the source material and it's hard to believe that a mature, serious-minded person would base their beliefs on a teenage fiction novel. Of course, considering what you're saying, you could take moral lessons from anywhere and use that to inform your spirituality or religion - that in itself, to me, doesn't make that source material spiritual.

    All spirituality and religious expression should be respected equally. But do I rationalise a 14 year old girl worshipping Edward Cullen as spirituality? No.
    Last edited by Aruinn; December 7th, 2010 at 09:08 PM.

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aruinn View Post
    Agreed, but the question then becomes is there any authentic spirituality in those who follow a Jedi or Twilight inspired religion? That's what I was trying to get at. If so, then yes, I agree. But it's hard to see that there is any because of the source material and it's hard to believe that a mature, serious-minded person would base their beliefs on a teenage fiction novel. Of course, considering what you're saying, you could take moral lessons from anywhere and use that to inform your spirituality or religion - that in itself, to me, doesn't make that source material spiritual.

    All spirituality and religious expression should be respected equally. But do I rationalise a 14 year old girl worshipping Edward Cullen as spirituality? No.
    Source material isn't always the be-all and end-all of person spirituality, though. This is what I am getting at. There are plenty of Christians who don't even adhere to a lot of the source material, the same can be said for most of the recons out there.

    If I have a spirituality and I take moral lessons from the world and people around me, and the imagery I use is borrowed from a fictional text, it doesn't mean that my spirituality is any less spiritual.

    I'm an atheist who is quite spiritual, in my own interpretation of the word. Not all my spiritual concepts are out of books that are meant to be religious or spiritual references. Some are from works of fiction that express clear ideas and imagery.

    Now... I don't think that it's rational to worship Edward Cullen... just as I don't think it's rational to worship any other God or Goddess. Well.. maybe I think it's even less rational to worship Edward Cullen.

    Most spiritual paths use various moral and ethical codes from different places, and use different faces to represent the different aspects of your own being.
    Just as the images of Jesus in art, and the image so many Christians hold today is a construct of humans and completely fictional (The well-groomed beard, the white skin, the sometimes blond hair and blue eyes) so can the independent spiritual imagery of a person be taken from a fictional construct.

    Some people find it hard to believe that any serious minded and mature person would actually believe in Gods and Goddesses. From a theists or believers point of view this might be extremely rude, but when looking at it in this concept, maybe it can shed some light on the fact that a lot of Atheists aren't being rude. They just disagree and can't quite fathom why a person would turn to fictional constructs to explain the world rather than the natural laws and amazing cosmos around us. Just like a lot of spiritual theists would disagree with and not be able to understand how you can build a spirituality around a work of bad fiction.

    (and as a personal side note, I don't think the Twilight Saga is anything but genuinely bad, bad, horrid fiction)
    Previously known as Njorun Alma


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    Quote Originally Posted by Njorun Alma View Post
    But here's one problem with your argument. The assumptions you hold about spirituality is what you claim affords you the ability to distinguish between authentic spirituality and non-authentic ones.
    My spirituality allows for me to make certain assumptions because of a couple decades of practice (several traditions) and study. It's not merely a position of ego that cause me to feel this way. Ultimately we all have to judge according to the light we possess nothing more, nothing less.

    I assume theism (to a degree...it's complicated) and you assume atheism. Both of our positions are born of our own very personal life experiences. We don't really choose our beliefs, they choose us.

    One might argue that Christianity is a watered down version of Judaism where people threw out some things and kept some others. The same goes for the Jedi movement.
    Hardly. The Christian religion may have begun as a heretical Jewish splinter group but has long since developed its own philosophies so different from its root faith that only its Judaic roots remain. In watered down I mean, thin, weak and superficial. I may not be a Christian, but that religion is not superficial so one might call it mistaken, but certainly not watered down(generally speaking, though things like prosperity gospel protestantism certainly are).

    Jedi is watered down because Lucas borrowed bits and pieces of authentic Buddhist teachings and added perhaps a bit of Bushido. Because he lifted superficial elements of an infinitely deeper path, Jedi is, by definition, watered down.

    My believes that deities are psychological constructs does not change the fact that I afford some religions more moral and ethical importance than others.
    Of course, but for you religion is ultimately a fabrication. No matter the goodness of the principles, morals and teachings offered it is still a fraud. Perhaps a fraud that is personally and socially useful, but a fraud nonetheless.

    If the foundation of authentic belief is about personal connection to a deity, for example, then many young people today might find it difficult to put the fact of Thor to their representation of masculine divinity than they do with more recent fictional work.
    Of course it is and you are correct if the gods are nothing more than psychological constructs. In that case, as I wrote in my last post, a pop-culture icon, might be more useful than an ancient deity. However, this only works if you are correct. If you are incorrect, then there is a profound difference between a Cullen and Thor for example.

    Some young people might find it easier to have a personal attachment to the image of Luke Skywalker, for example, than Zeus, who was a bit of a misogynistic pig and a rapist, unless I am mistaken. As morality changes, shouldn't we expect people to find new representation for their idea of Divinity?
    As above. Your presupposition is that even if religion has a useful function, its motive forces in the eyes of the faithful, the gods, are a fabrication therefore no more or less real in any fundamental sense than any other fictional character. So of course you feel that Luke Skywalker is as valid as Zeus or any other deity.

    One has to read the myths as metaphors, as I wrote previously. Yahweh flooded the Earth. Sekhmet burned up large swaths of humanity until she was tricked into getting drunk and passed out. Set murdered his brother Osiris. The list goes on and on because the gods, at the level of a literal reading of myth are us. On a deeper level, the truth the myth is pointing at, the stories point to truths that cannot be conveyed any other way than in fanciful stories. The stories are neccesary because the truths represented transcend language to convey accurately.

    This is the difference between exoteric and esoteric spirituality. Exoteric spirituality is, for lack of a better term, the comman (wo)man's spirituality. At this level myths are seen as historical accounts and the gods as magnified representations of ourselves. With a literal reading of myth you get patently insane notions such as the 6-day creation and the global Noahic flood.

    Ironically it was the rise of reason during the Enlightenment that caused protestant Christians to begin reading the Bible as both a history book and a science book. They presumed that if reason can get us to the truth of the natural world, reason could also be used to understand spiritual truths such as those contained in their scriptures.

    I think it was Augustine that argued that Christians should not be interpreting the Bible literally and that believing in a 6-day creation made them look like fools to the wise of his era...about 1600 years ago. Too bad more protestant Christians in the United States didn't take his words to heart.

    Esoteric spirituality is gnostic in the true meaning of the word. Truth is meant to be experienced. Myths, metaphors, stories, idols, symbols, etc. point to a reality that transcends them. It is this transpersonal level of consciousness where one finds the truth of the gods. It is here that Zeus isn't a rapist and a lout and Yahweh isn't a genocidal meglomaniac.

    However, you don't accept that a greater reality exists so therefore you must see all religious expression as equally fictional even if you do grant some of them greater gravitas than others.


    )o( Blessed Be,

    Sundragon
    Last edited by Sundragon; December 7th, 2010 at 10:07 PM.
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    Source material isn't always the be-all and end-all of person spirituality, though. This is what I am getting at. There are plenty of Christians who don't even adhere to a lot of the source material, the same can be said for most of the recons out there.

    If I have a spirituality and I take moral lessons from the world and people around me, and the imagery I use is borrowed from a fictional text, it doesn't mean that my spirituality is any less spiritual.

    I'm an atheist who is quite spiritual, in my own interpretation of the word. Not all my spiritual concepts are out of books that are meant to be religious or spiritual references. Some are from works of fiction that express clear ideas and imagery.

    Now... I don't think that it's rational to worship Edward Cullen... just as I don't think it's rational to worship any other God or Goddess. Well.. maybe I think it's even less rational to worship Edward Cullen.

    Most spiritual paths use various moral and ethical codes from different places, and use different faces to represent the different aspects of your own being.
    Just as the images of Jesus in art, and the image so many Christians hold today is a construct of humans and completely fictional (The well-groomed beard, the white skin, the sometimes blond hair and blue eyes) so can the independent spiritual imagery of a person be taken from a fictional construct.

    Some people find it hard to believe that any serious minded and mature person would actually believe in Gods and Goddesses. From a theists or believers point of view this might be extremely rude, but when looking at it in this concept, maybe it can shed some light on the fact that a lot of Atheists aren't being rude. They just disagree and can't quite fathom why a person would turn to fictional constructs to explain the world rather than the natural laws and amazing cosmos around us. Just like a lot of spiritual theists would disagree with and not be able to understand how you can build a spirituality around a work of bad fiction.

    (and as a personal side note, I don't think the Twilight Saga is anything but genuinely bad, bad, horrid fiction)

    I don't think I explained myself too well because I actually agree with what you're saying. The point I was trying to make is that, yes, you can take something from Twilight for instance and that could inform your spirituality - if you're a spiritually minded person. I absolutely agree that it isn't the same thing as religion. My own spirituality is constantly informed by the things I see around me and I would never question someone's influences.

    But taking something like a passage or moral lesson from a work of fiction is not the same as basing your entire spiritual "centre" on the same work - that's probably where I misunderstood you. If someone based their entire spiritual experience and religion on a Twilight novel, I would be concerned over how genuine they were about the very concept of spirituality.

    I definitely see what you're saying now and I mostly agree. Thanks for continuing to explain, I can be a bit dense sometimes when I'm tired. Really interesting topic though.

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    If someone says "I believe that Captain America is influenced by archetypes and mythologies which span human history and that, in a sense, one can call Captain America a modern Godform" I'd nod my head thoughtfully. If the same person said they'd done meta-religious acts based on this I'd still nod my head thoughtfully.

    If someone says "Captain America is REAL. He is my GOD. I worship him. I talk to him, and he talks to me!" I'd wonder when they began having symptoms of Schizophrenia.

    From the position of the Athiest there's little difference. Maybe one person says the crazy things slightly more articulatley than another, but they're both still talking to an imaginary superhero in the sky. For us religionists, and for anyone who is vested in mythology, the distinction comes down to the basis of the mythos.

    There was a man in the Scifi/Fantasy community, he was so well known that artists even slightly associated (like myself) would get staunch warnings not to ever deal with him, just in case. We'll call him "Fred".

    Fred earned himself a sour reputation because he had a slavish devotion to two Disney characters. Initially he just "really liked" them, then "loved" them, and then it progressed to believing he was the physical, real-and-for-true offspring of two Disney characters. It was around this point where his behavior went from "odd" and "annoying" (like threatening to sock you in the face if you said you didn't like the characters) to "dangerous" (finding out where one artist lived, following her home, slipping into the back seat of her car and springing his hearwarming 'hello' on her as she drove to work). Eventually he believed that the two characters were gods, and worshipping them was the only way to stop the "Evil spell" that had transformed him human from making him hallucinate and do terrible things.

    For me, "Fred" is inexorably linked to the worship of fictional characters. So, any time I see twilight-fans attempting to turn a fictional book that they KNOW is fictional into a religion, they remind me of Fred. He liked the characters, then he loved the characters... and then they were god. The same slavish devotion, the same reactive violence if you don't like their 'thing'. IF you tell a twilight fan you dislike the book, they rail, they spazz... one girl got her arm broken at a bookstore. Fred was like that too.

    It's one thing to see the symbolism, the ideology, the mythotypal constructs within a story, and surmise that perhaps they're inspired or influenced by something older. It's another to say Edward Cullen is your god, and he talks to you.
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  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by EntwinedScylla View Post
    It's one thing to see the symbolism, the ideology, the mythotypal constructs within a story, and surmise that perhaps they're inspired or influenced by something older. It's another to say Edward Cullen is your god, and he talks to you.
    I'm going to quote one character out of a Tv-show for this one.

    "If you talk to God you're religious. If God talks to you, you're psychotic." - Gregory House

    I honestly think there's a slight difference.
    If you talk to a deity, and you interpret signs and dreams as answers... then okay. Fair enough.
    But if you talk to a deity, and they talk right back to you... it doesn't matter if your God is Edward Cullen or Thor, I'd advice an MRI and counseling.

    But yeah. I understand what you were saying in your post, and I pretty much agree, but that level of "dedication"goes for established religions as well, as far as I am concerned.
    Last edited by Aeon Flux; December 7th, 2010 at 10:24 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Njorun Alma View Post
    I'm going to quote one character out of a Tv-show for this one.

    "If you talk to God you're religious. If God talks to you, you're psychotic." - Gregory House

    I honestly think there's a slight difference.
    If you talk to a deity, and you interpret signs and dreams as answers... then okay. Fair enough.
    But if you talk to a deity, and they talk right back to you... it doesn't matter if your God is Edward Cullen or Thor, I'd advice an MRI and counseling.

    But yeah. I understand what you were saying in your post, and I pretty much agree, but that level of "dedication"goes for established religions as well, as far as I am concerned.
    I know this sounds crazy to a materialist, but practicing magicians hear and see things that a materialist woudn't ever allow for in their philosophy.

    I know people who would swear to encounters with other than human intelligences and these people are as "sane" as the pope is Catholic in every aspect of their lives. I work as a counselor and the fact is that mental illness is pervasive and isn't contained within the context of rituals, meditations or other altered states of consciousness. Schizophrenic/schizoeffective phenomena doesn't wait for one to begin a meditative practice or began a rite of evocation.

    If religion doesn't afford one the potential of an encounter with the metaphysical (in whatever form one's tradition allows for) then it is nothing more than a feel-good mind game with no greater "reality" than a fairy tale. If I, for a second, believed that this were the case, I would drop all this "mumbo-jumbo" immediately and get my motivation from someone who knows his stuff like Anthony Robbins. Why not? His teachings, from a materialist's viewpoint, are far more teneble and practical than anything proposed by religion.

    I know that I am quite sane and have had a number of both transcendent experiences and "strange" paranormal type encounters that have no reasonable explanation. The point is that because mental illness is never compartmentalized there may be a reality underlying these types of events outside of our currently understood models of materialist psychology.

    Thankfully modern psychology allows for spiritual experiences within the context of religious/spiritual belief so long as such experiences, visions, vioces, etc. do not impinge upon the experiencer's life in a negative fashion. Otherwise there may be men in white coats prepping psych meds for many on this board including myself.


    )o( Blessed Be,

    Sundragon
    Last edited by Sundragon; December 7th, 2010 at 11:49 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tiberias View Post
    One consideration might be the origins of the "pantheon" in question. The Cullens, and Mace Windu for that matter, are quite clearly documented as fictional creations designed as part of a business venture. Now, we can certainly regard, say, Zeus, or Quetzalcoatl, from the standpoint of literary criticism, or regard them as fictional characters, but there is clear distinction between personalities which are now regarded as fictitious and personalities which have blatantly fictitious origins.
    I'd agree with this, except the Lovecraftian deities get a certain amount of respect. Lovecraft is just assumed to have been channeling something deeper than fiction, and the idea of worshipping The Old Ones, The Deep Ones, The Elder Gods or whoever (my Lovecraft knowledge is running out) is seen as somewhat respectable these days. So why Cthulhu and not Edward Cullen?
    Last edited by Nemyss; December 8th, 2010 at 12:17 AM. Reason: expanding on my original thought.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nemyss View Post
    I'd agree with this, except the Lovecraftian deities get a certain amount of respect. Lovecraft is just assumed to have been channeling something deeper than fiction, and the idea of worshipping The Old Ones, The Deep Ones, The Elder Gods or whoever (my Lovecraft knowledge is running out) is seen as somewhat respectable these days. So why Cthulhu and not Edward Cullen?
    You answered the question yourself. Some believe that Lovecraft was connecting to some dark and terrible spirits. I think the jury is out on this but for myself wouldn't revere such unrepentantly dark powers.

    It would be important to note that the fictional book...The Necronomicon...does seem to provide results to thost that use it for their magick. One can never discount the power of belief in one's magickal workings.


    )o( Blessed Be,

    Sundragon
    Last edited by Sundragon; December 8th, 2010 at 12:36 AM.
    Come visit my blog

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    " Wherever you are is home
    And the earth is paradise
    Wherever you set your feet is holy land . . .
    You don't live off it like a parasite.
    You live in it, and it in you,
    Or you don't survive.
    And that is the only worship of God there is."

    - Wilfred Pelletier and Ted Poole

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