Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Religion, ritual, centering, and the perils of FB discussions.

Today, someone I don't know posted on a friend's facebook timeline:

Don't waste your time. Religion is the biggest joke played on man. A good god would've revealed itself.
I had a mixed reaction to this. On the one hand, I recognized that this person's 'Reality Tunnel' is firmly entrenched in a non-religious track. What benefit, to me or them, to contradict their tunnel?

On the other, I really WANTED to contradict their tunnel, as I find religion to be both useful and beneficial in my daily life. Meditations, prayers, and rituals all help me to organize my day to day thoughts, and find my center. When I have solid ground to start from, the rest of my life falls into place a lot easier than not. Then again, when I think of religion, I think of a very personal set of practices, surrounded by an accepting community of like minded people. I have no idea what this person thinks of when they hear the word 'religion', other than 'it's a joke'.

I'm not sure I can make that clear in a facebook comment.

So, how about you? Do you have rituals that you perform every day that give you a center, a place of firmness to start your day from? Are they religious rituals, intellectual, emotional? Keep in mind that any action you perform regularly, with a meaning other than the actual act itself, could be considered a ritual. For instance, a person who wakes up, and really can't get their day started without a cup of coffee and a few minutes to read the news and organize their thoughts, still counts as a ritual, even though it's not technically religious.


birch said...

I think there is a middle ground of 'I think that religion can be useful or detrimental, depending on the way it is used' but of course even a comment like that could just lead to a total 'thread of shame' ----

Coffee in the morning is part of my ritual. But a more spiritual ritual is acknowledging and thanking the Quarters throughout the day. Starting at East, Sunrise and all the gifts associate with the East. Throughout the day I pause also at noon, sunset and late night/midnight as well and say something similar. Sometimes accompanied by reading Thomas Merton but almost always accompanied by the lighting of incense.
Thank you for the thought provoking post.

Bruce Kroeze said...

I start every day with a 20 minute meditation, followed by a general offering to the my ancestors and patron spirits.

I've been doing this for about 18 months now, and it has made a remarkable positive difference in my life.

Anonymous said...

There's many ways to look at this, because humans are symbol making machines. In addition to that, human memory works best in an associative manner, prescribing meaning to events that occur in space, or with smells, or with prescribed symbols. This seems to occur whether the intent is mundane or spiritual. We codify and compress complex experience into patterns of behavior and action to facilitate meaning in our existence (or at least continuity).

Ritual of the mundane or theurgic quality both share common attributes. They confer a personal experience as well as an outer form that allow us to use the symbols of that form to share that personal experience with others who have done the same. The outer symbols point to the inner experience that would be uncommunicable due to the explanatory gap. How many times do we hear "Haven't had my coffee yet" at work, followed by grunts of understanding and sympathy?

The difference between the mundane versus spiritual genus of ritual therefore is intent and connection. A person with no spiritual drive or need could certainly give religion and a sacrament for a spin, but it would be disconnected - like someone using a kids driving toy that is a plastic dashboard not connected up to anything. Honk the horn, spin the wheel, and the car isn't going anywhere. More practical rituals like studying, reading the news, morning coffee, taking a shower connect with the goal of moving forward and possibly improving your life. This is not a bad thing.

Spiritual rituals, sacramental, theurgic, or prayerful can be an extra set of tools that are employed by those who see their value. Although I have no intention of discounting a higher reality, there is additionally good evidence of the psychological effects of appealing to a higher power, of optimism, of letting go, of visualization and numerous other things that occur in ritual. Like a good play, you come away from these things with a different sense than when you went in. Perhaps you have a tug to turn left when you normally turn right and something wonderful happens. For those who practice, it sometimes doesn't matter if God (gods, angels, daemons, great chiefs) exist - what matters is the universe behaves as though they do.

To be transparent, I'm biased. I believe there is something more, and am "religious". When there is that invocation of a higher order into something shared, no matter how mundane, a greater understanding is to be had if that's your thing. Like any technology (if you view practice as a form of technology, or a tool) it can be used or misused, understood or misunderstood. As birch said above, it depends on how it is used. It's not for everybody, but for me it opens up many, many, wonderful things.

* this word has negative implications I do not intend here - I just use it to label "not spiritual"