erynn: Gaelic merman image (Default)
[ profile] dmiley tagged me with a lemming. I don't usually respond to them unless I think they're interesting. This one seemed pretty interesting. Here's the gist:

What religions do you find most interesting apart from your own? Would you pick one of the major world religions? Say Islam, or Buddhism, or Hinduism or Judaism? Or would you pick something more obscure, like Wicca or Taosim or Rastafarianism or Gnosticism? Would you pick irreligion, say Atheism or Agnosticism? Or if you're not Christian, would you say Christianity?

As most of you who have followed me for any amount of time probably know, I'm primarily a practitioner of CR filidecht. I'm also a member of the local Shinto shrine, and a mystes and luperca of the Ekklesía Antínoou. I've always been interested in world religions, large or obscure.

I do find both Taoism and some of the more Zen-leaning Buddhist paths quite interesting. I read a lot about both of them and find them very inspiring, particularly when I'm trying to work out knotty problems from a non-Western angle. They've both taught me a lot about patience and going with the flow of things. I do think that both of them influence me to some degree.

Shamanism is also a deep interest of mine, though I wouldn't say I practice it; I'm an animist but not all animism is automatically shamanism. I've studied it and worked with some of the techniques, of course. I think it offers a really good set of technologies for working in the Otherworlds. Along similar lines, I have always enjoyed reading about and seeing different aspects of the Afro-Diasporic religions. They're valuable models of survival by syncretism and adapting to some really horrifying conditions while maintaining a strong spiritual core.

Hinduism fascinates me. I find the iconography beautiful and dynamic, the rituals interesting, and the depth of polytheist culture profound. While I have something of a relationship with Sarasvati, this doesn't in any way make me a practicing Hindu. That said, Hinduism produces some great music, is the source of some extraordinary poetry, and has inspired some fabulous Bollywood media, as well as providing the world with a kick-ass cuisine. It's hard to go wrong with a combination like that!

While I read Christian theology, I'm not that interested in Christianity itself, per se. I find monotheism far too problematic on a number of levels to ever want to be a Christian again. The obsessive insistence on one-true-way in monotheism leaves no real room for organic growth and exploration of other paths; it's very hard to accept that other things can be valid if you're that deeply enmeshed in a religion that insists it has the whole and only truth. In the same category for me is Sufism which, while being a part of Islam and monotheistic, really does have some appealing aspects and has produced some profoundly beautiful mystical poetry. Dancing with Sufis is cool but having to deal with much of the rest of Islam and its baggage is difficult.

That said, I'd love to learn more about pretty much every religion I've ever heard of, with the exception of Scientology and Mormonism. I have too many ex-Mormon friends to want to get anywhere near it, and the Mormon church's deep involvement in current anti-queer politics makes them pretty much radioactive as far as I'm concerned. I have some very deep problems with any religion that wants to make or keep me a second-class citizen in my own country. Scientology is just plain too fucked up to poke with a ten meter cattle prod.
erynn: Gaelic merman image (Default)
I finished up reading Working Emptiness: Toward a Third Reading of Emptiness in Buddhism and Postmodern Thought by Newman Robert Glass, Scholars Press, Atlanta 1995. [ profile] alfrecht loaned it to me a few months ago when we were talking about nondualism, Marguerite Porete, and Zen. As so often happens, reading about Buddhist stuff gives me insights into all kinds of things, including CR practice, the Pagan community, and approaches to defining my own philosophies in regard to my personal CR practice and its interfaces with the larger movement.

Today's gem was this:

As noted in Chapter One, working with Chan/Zen texts is an activity that oscillates between "objectivity" and "imagination." Acceptable readings of a text might be seen to exist on a continuum within these two limits: in the narrowest (and perhaps most "objective") sense, a reading is acceptable only if it can be consistently supported through direct reference to the text; in the broadest (and most "imaginative") sense, a reading is acceptable, and can be very creative, as long as it does not in any way contradict the text. Within these limits all readings must meet certain standards of consistency, comprehensiveness, and explanatory power. (p. 83)

I see this as an expression of the tensions of the CR community. Some insist that we can't do anything that doesn't have a textual, archaeological, or folkloric precedent. Some insist that as long as the historical texts, archaeology, and folklore are not contradicted, innovation and creativity is necessary. I think that both of these points have their uses and that it is possible to walk a middle road that works within the knowable historical tradition and that looks to the future, growing from the seed of what has gone before. The key is that best practices in all camps "must meet certain standards of consistency, comprehensiveness, and explanatory power."

Without these things, we either have fragmented shards of historical practice, or a completely modern invented practice that bears no resemblance to any historical roots. Given that the majority of us are not living in the Gaeltacht or in areas with substantial speakers of Brythonic languages, we are, by our nature, "exiles" from that culture. At best, we can learn languages, understand histories, and create ourselves and our practices anew for the places in which we live. We must, perforce, pick and choose what we can and what we will renew, and what we will leave as history: slavery, human sacrifice, limiting gender roles, racism, sexism, isolationism; these are historical issues with which we must struggle and that we must transcend in order for CR to move forward as a viable spiritual tradition in this century and beyond.

There are many middle ways.
erynn: Gaelic merman image (xanphibian's all your books!)
I did a lot of reading while I was on the road and I intend to do reviews of the things I read. Some of it is relevant to the materials I'm gathering for the books on filidecht and on ogam and healing, others not so much.

One of the books I read early on in the road trip was Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light )


May. 26th, 2007 06:10 pm
erynn: Gaelic merman image (The Pupulator by Kym)
Still feeling crappy. I'm checking in off and on with the online posse during the day, but mostly curled up on the couch reading. I waved a virtual hello to my gaming group over IM a few hours ago, carefully avoiding sticking anyone else with the evil virus of ickness.

My shrink loaned me a copy of When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön, an American Buddhist nun practicing in the Tibetan tradition. She'd got several copies from the VA for loan to patients and said I might resonate with some of what the book had to say. And actually, I did think it was a very interesting read. I think in some ways Chödrön is coming at some of the same material I am from a different angle. We seem to end up in the same place on a good bit of it, at least. It certainly bears more thinking about, and she talks a lot about just how to be present in whatever's happening and stopping the habitual reactions we all have to things like fear, anger, anxiety and resentment.

There was a lot as well about giving up expectations, particularly around things like being perfect in practice, which I know I tend to have a lot, even though my practice isn't Buddhist. I do a lot of work around research and writing, and trying to rediscover and develop techniques for myself and the CR community, and I have to keep reminding myself that none of it is ever going to be "perfect" but it can still be good and useful. Chödrön speaks of each moment being the perfect teacher, and I think there's some truth to that. We're in the middle of our circumstances not so much because of karma or because, as the New Age might say, we've chosen to be here. I think it's more just that the world is what it is and we're all in the middle of it. Figuring out what to do when you're in the middle of it is, I suspect, the issue for most folks. I know it tends to be for me. Accepting that we're all in this mess regardless of means or circumstance seems like the first step to finding peace with any of it, whether we stay in it or find ways to learn and move forward from it.

I think on the surface a lot of Buddhism looks like it teaches that you should just stay in/with whatever situation you're in and never try to improve things. But what really seems to be happening is that it's advocating learning how to accept and move along, wherever "along" happens to be. Sometimes you take steps that leave you feeling good, sometimes you end up in deeper crap than before, but all you really ever have is right here and now -- and that's what the acceptance thing is about.

With filidecht I talk about engaging with emotions and situation and turning whatever is in the cauldrons into the mead of poetry. I suspect in some ways we're talking about the same things, because in the end, what's there inside is what's there. We can try to influence it, but if there are deities and they have independent wills and means, it's not always up to us and we need to just accept and be in the moment, to work with what we have right here and now. There's more striving in filidecht than in Buddhism, certainly. In my limited understanding, it feels more active to me where Buddhism feels a little more passive. But if enlightenment is the goal, then we're both on the path.

Five Tibetan mantras out of five.


erynn: Gaelic merman image (Default)

September 2013



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