Spritzophrenia

humour, music, life, sociology. friendly agnostic.

Archive for the ‘personal development’ Category

Getting Off Your Face For Jesus

Posted by spritzophrenia on February 22, 2010

I wrote this about three years ago. A friend posted this Huxley quote, which has made me think a bit.

A similar conclusion will be reached by those whose philosophy is unduly “spiritual.” God, they will insist, is a spirit and is to be worshiped in spirit. Therefore an experience which is chemically conditioned cannot be an experience of the divine. But, one way or another, all our experiences are chemically conditioned, and if we imagine that some of them are purely “spiritual,” purely “intellectual,” purely “aesthetic,” it is merely because we have never troubled to investigate the internal chemical environment at the moment of their occurrence.

Mushroom Jesus

continued…

Furthermore, it is a matter of historical record that most contemplatives worked systematically to modify their body chemistry, with a view to creating the internal conditions favorable to spiritual insight. When they were not starving themselves into low blood sugar and a vitamin deficiency, or beating themselves into intoxication by histamine, adrenalin and decomposed protein, they were cultivating insomnia and praying for long periods in uncomfortable position in order to create the psycho-physical symptoms of stress. In the intervals they sang interminable psalms, thus increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the lungs and blood stream, or, if they were Orientals, they did breathing exercises to accomplish the same purpose.

Today we know how to lower the efficiency of the cerebral reducing valve by direct chemical action, and without the risk of inflicting serious damage on the psychophysical organism. … Knowing as he does (or at least as he can know, if he so desires) what are the chemical conditions of transcendental experience, the aspiring mystic should turn for technical help to the specialists-in pharmacology, in biochemistry, in physiology and neurology. And on their part, of course, the specialists (if any of them aspire to be genuine men of science and complete human beings) should turn, out of their respective pigeonholes, to the artist, the sibyl, the visionary, the mystic-all those, in a word who have had experience of the Other World and who know … what to do with the experience.

– Aldous Huxley ‘Heaven and Hell’

I am not at present sure if we have a spirit as such or where it interacts, but I agree with my friend that we are much more physical than many believe. It’s been one of my hobbyhorses for years that, if one accepts Y’shuan theology, Jesus was physically resurrected, now has some kind of body, and there will be a new earth in teh world to come.

I have only recently realised i am, by my practice, a supporter of drug-induced happy states. I must be, I drink alcohol, which is a drug. I also take caffeine, another drug, rather more than i used to. My alcohol use is sometimes with the intention of getting tipsy. (I stay away from getting really plastered, but it’s a slippery slope definition.) Which is not to say i therefore support ALL drug states.

I haven’t ever had what i consider a spiritual experience while drunk. And I am still of the opinion that drug experiences aren’t spiritual, although will ponder Huxley’s point that all our experiences are chemical-physical ones in the brain. Two of the practicing neopagans i know are adamant that drug experiences are not spiritual experiences, and i’ve already quoted a buddhist monk saying the same thing.

I am wondering if drugs could be a gateway to the spirit, but we are not equipped to handle them in a discerning way, much like we are not equipped to handle encounters with other spirits well, if they exist. (See http://www.christian-thinktank.com/sh6end.html and http://www.christian-thinktank.com/eyesopen.html for what i think are insightful discussions of this topic)

What do you think?
See also my Buddha and Drugs.

Posted in agnostic, personal development, spirituality | Tagged: , | 12 Comments »

The Spirituality of Dating

Posted by spritzophrenia on February 17, 2010

Reading the mystics can help us to understand the impermanence we sometimes experience from loving another, the insecurity, and the unfulfilled longing that accompany any relationship. But they also convince us that despite these difficulties, moments of love, however short or long they may last, are worth all the risks we take on their behalf. If we never open ourselves to the possibility of love, we will never experience the transformation possible when it walks in, and sometimes out, of our lives.

from Dating is Good for the Soul channeled via GoodMateTim. Thanks!

What do you think? Do you think human love can tell us anything about g0d or the spiritual path?

Posted in personal development, spirituality | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Such A Shame: Grief

Posted by spritzophrenia on February 6, 2010

Over two months ago my girlfriend and I broke up. I’m still grieving.

Listen to Talk Talk | Such A Shame while reading. It’s today’s blog backing track.
.
I’m gutted by this change. We’d been together for about a year, not long by many standards but I really felt she was ‘the one’. I feel sad all the time, I feel the loss of the children I’ll never have; this was an important part of being with her and I’d come to want kids again. I’m really grieving. The light has gone from my life. I’m still going to work, doing stuff, but there is no joy. I miss her terribly.
.
Grief is the reaction to a loss. It needn’t be a death, the loss of a job or a divorce can trigger grief reactions. Any significant change in life can trigger a sense of loss, even moving house. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross proposed common stages of grief which many go through, which others have adapted; they won’t be the same for everyone and they won’t necessarily be in this order.

grief

The stages are
Shock

Denial

Anger and Bargaining

Guilt

Pain And Sorrow

Release And Resolution

Return To the Willingness To Love

May I have the strength to go through this.

I looked for spiritual thoughts on grief and found this Muslim article focusing mainly on death. For those who consider Islam to be reactionary, I found this a very considerate piece, talking a great deal of g0d’s love and forgiveness, which might surprise some.

“Such a shame to believe of escape
A life on every face”

What are your thoughts on grief?

Posted in personal development | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Craftsmanship

Posted by spritzophrenia on January 19, 2010

Find a calling and then deliver.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

I really liked this, so totally stole it from Seth’s blog

Posted in personal development | Tagged: , | Comments Off on Craftsmanship

My Avatar Spiritual Experience

Posted by spritzophrenia on January 3, 2010

Susan suggested I write about personal stuff. She thought you’d like to hear about practical experiences, ways to connect with g0d. Well… there’s movies?

I’m sure a billion other bloggers are writing about Avatar as we speak. There’s good reason for this: It’s a great film. By “great”, I am not so much talking about plot, acting, dialogue, direction – though I don’t think it’s too shabby here either. I say Avatar is great because it’s rejuvenated the movie experience. It’s the first of the next gen cinema experience, imo [1].

Avatar, rated SAO (Spoiler Alert OK: Only contains minor spoilers). I took my 11 year-old son to Avatar, it’s a great age for this movie and I wanted to share the experience with him. It’s been quite some time since I walked into a movie theatre. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing film on the big screen. It’s a function of my recent poverty that has restricted me. It wasn’t unusual for me to see two films in the theatre per week at one point. I still watch around 4 films per week at home. (Thankyou BitTorrent.)

I knew very little about Avatar aside from the basic premise, I wanted to surprise myself. And surprised I was. Tears fell freely down my face at some points. Tears can be a sign of a spiritual experience I think. At this point my fellow agnostics and hardened atheists will be rolling their eyes. Yes I know we can put this down to emotionalism, and psychology. But this raises a very important question:

Just what IS a spiritual experience anyway? How would I know if I had one?

You’ve probably read of the recent studies of brains having religious experiences, specifically under deep meditation or prayer. At the very least, a spiritual experience would be something that activates that part of the brain. If spiritual experiences are merely a particular kind of brain experience akin to an emotion, then atheists can sleep easily at night. But this doesn’t cover all religious experiences. For example, a miraculous healing might affect my body but not activate that part of my brain. This would be because the external ‘spirit’ would be acting on my body, rather than me experiencing the numinous through prayer. I think we’ll have to return to this question in future posts, would you agree?

Why was I feeling this way in the cinema? Some feelings were romantic feelings – I’ve recently broken up with someone I love. She was special to me, and I was a fool. It made me yearn for something I’ve lost, something I hope for. Yeah, I’ll confess I’m hoping the alien sex scene is included in the DVD. Incidentally, having only seen Zoe Saldana as her N’avi character I didn’t realise – she’s hawt! I suspect the loss of something important and profound is a theme in many religions. Certainly this is so in the churchianity I grew up in: The loss of innocence, the breaking of the world, the loss of connection with a creator. More mystical churchians could also point to the divine romance between g0d and ourselves.

I had feelings of hope, of inspiration, feelings of injustice and pleasure at seeing justice restored. Can you “feel” spiritual experiences in a different way to emotions?

Avatar also hints at the possibility that some kind of “god” is real. Any human being with a heart not too bruised by cynicism would surely weep at that? The interesting thing in Avatar is there’s a non-supernatural explanation for the goddess. It evolves out of a kind of natural neural net covering the surface of the planet via tree roots. Once again, a ‘supernatural’ being that atheists could see as a pal. In a way it was kinda like Jung’s theory of the universal unconscious, but with a practical mechanism.

Another test: If it was a true spiritual experience, should it motivate me to social justice? This is indicated in the Christian New Testament

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

and by the Buddhist Monk I quote here

The ‘insights’ claimed by some who [allege spiritual experiences] should be tested against the difference which these experiences make to the forces of greed, aversion and delusion in their hearts and conduct.

I think Avatar reinforced my ideas around justice for minorities and native peoples, although I haven’t had that tested yet. Intriguingly, this is an area where there’s been criticism of Avatar. A New Zealand Maori academic says Avatar repeats “negative stereotypes” about indigenous people:

The head of the School of Maori and Indigenous Studies at the University of Canterbury, Rawiri Taonui, said Avatar addressed the impact of colonisation on indigenous people in an entertaining way, but relied on stereotypes.

“It was a great movie and had some progressive themes, but did it in a way that still repeated some stereotypes,” he said.

Taonui said the “rhythmic body swaying” of the indigenous people during a ceremony only appeared in “B-grade movies” and “just doesn’t happen in any indigenous population”.

There’s more at Stuff

Feminists with Disabilities makes some good points, and links to other criticisms of racism:

This is a movie which is not only racist as all getout, but also centers around a Miracle Cure! Which, of course, means that the disabled character will be played by an actor in crip drag. And, of course, this story automatically assumes that having paraplegia and being a wheelchair user is a tragedy which would make one bitter and furious at the world, and that, of course, everyone would want a cure.

Contra this, in their comments Anna says “I’m a wheelchair user and not only did I not find it offensive, I thought it was a much more accurate, positive portrayal of disability than any other film in recent times.”

I don’t think all spiritual experiences would necessarily drive one directly towards justice; I can conceive of valid experiences that are only internal. If you’re seeking a spiritual experience; perhaps a movie could be a gateway for you? I’ve already blogged a list of movies you can try. Completely off topic, but I can’t resist throwing in the very funny making of Avatar the bootleg. Anyone seen a bad, 2D version with camera shake yet?

It’s not just the liberals hating on Avatar either – Patrick Goldstein in The LA Times asks “Why do conservatives hate the most popular movie in years?”

As a host of critics have noted, the film offers a blatantly pro-environmental message; it portrays U.S. military contractors in a decidedly negative light; and it clearly evokes the can’t-we-all-get along vibe of the 1960s counterculture. These are all messages guaranteed to alienate everyday moviegoers, so say the right-wing pundits — and yet the film has been wholeheartedly embraced by audiences everywhere, from Mississippi to Manhattan.

To say that the film has evoked a storm of ire on the right would be an understatement. Big Hollywood’s John Nolte, one of my favorite outspoken right-wing film essayists, blasted the film, calling it “a sanctimonious thud of a movie so infested with one-dimensional characters and PC cliches that not a single plot turn, large or small, surprises…. Think of ‘Avatar’ as ‘Death Wish’ for leftists, a simplistic, revisionist revenge fantasy where if you freakin’ hate the bad guys (America) you’re able to forgive the by-the-numbers predictability of it all.”

There you go people, have at it. Meanwhile, I’m gonna be over here with the popcorn enjoying the movie, and possibly finding g0d.

Someone else took his 11 year-old son to the movies and came out with a Buddhist perspective on Avatar. “My 11 year old son … watched the movie with me and we both talked and talked about the movie. ‘Little Anthony’ said, “Dad this movie was just like Buddhism”. Not surprising, considering Mr Elmore is Buddhist. Everyone wants a piece of Avatar. (It seems appropriate to plug my article on the dark side of Buddhism here.)

Avatar also raises the question of the consciousness surviving death, and of soul transfer. The same day I saw Avatar I found out a high-school friend is dying of leukaemia. Coincidentally, he’s my own age, a born-again christian and a pastor. I visited him the day after, I hope to report back soon.

What do you think? Criticisms? Has there ever been a movie that spiritually moved you?

Here’s my follow up post.
.

.

.

listening to The Electric Six | Antisocial Sex Boy Hit Machine, Pitch Black (The New Zealand One!) | Ape to Angel (Blutech remix), Apoptygma Bezerk | Soultaker, Arch Enemy | God Dethroned
tful [2] A fun and funny way to help the planet
reading Appignanesi & Garratt | Introducing Postmodernism

.

.

[1] Yeah yeah, I know we can all point to similar films plot and genre-wise, and earlier 3D efforts. It’s because Avatar has done it so well, that I suggest it’s the first of the new generation cinema experience. The archetype, perhaps.

[2] Today’s Fun Unrelated Link

Posted in agnostic, atheism, Buddhism, Christianity, New Age, personal development | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments »

I Believe In Pain, Cruelty and Infidelity

Posted by spritzophrenia on December 31, 2009

That was a more interesting title than “Why Spritzophrenia?”, wasn’t it? As evidenced by this comment, it’s probably about time I clarified the theme of this blog.

Yes, it’s a bastardisation of schizophrenic. I was going to call it SpiritoPhrenic, but that just sounded like a stupid CCM title. So spritzophrenic kinda evolved from there. After all, if I’m an open agnostic there might not even be any spiritual world to connect with. But I’m sure having fun exploring unreality.

I don’t fit. I don’t like boxes. As you know, I’m an ex-evangelical. I’m probably beyond post-evangelical in that I’m totally uninterested in churchianity at all. At least from the point of view of practicing it; observation, c’est très amusant. I suspect this is a frequent outcome of post-evangelicalism. By way of boast, I bought and read The Post-Evangelical when it came out in 1995 and was relatively unknown outside of the UK. I’m that cool.

Sometimes in my mind I go beyond mere atheism and become a nihilist or a satanist. In my conception, reading and practice, there’s not a lot of difference. That’s where the title quote came from [1]. If I become a nihilist, I’m not a nice guy. At all.

Rarely I’m a fluffy all-is-one new age buddhisto-hindu. It goes really well with many types of trance music, which is fantastic for getting me to a worship-state. But it’s just so damn hippy, and has all the intellectual credibility of a limp paper tissue. Yes, I know about Fritjov Capra and the new physics.

I love ideas, I love intellectualism, I love novelty. I’m probably a rationalist, ‘tho I find most card-carrying rationalists crashing bores. Edit: See Am I A Rationalist?. I read Dawkins and the rest of that pack of miserable gripes. As a philosopher, Dawkins is a great biologist. If you take my meaning. Would he rate a plumber’s book on evolution? – I think not. But I digress.

I have a friend who is multiple personality disorder, or “multiple” as they prefer. She/he/they are sane. Sane by many definitions, anyway. Likewise it depends on who’s “fronting” for me today as to which hat I wear. But they’re all me. I hope to integrate – a dirty word for multiple people – one day. I may be closer than I think.

Oh, I nearly forgot: 21st Century Schizoid Man is a song by progressive rock outfit King Crimson.

I apologise to schizophrenics for perpetuating the “split personality” idea. But hey, we lost that battle a long time ago. Language changes because it’s appropriated by the ignorant masses. eg, “evangelical” used to mean “of the Bible message” when it was used by certain christians to self-define. Now in popular culture it means “ill-educated right-wing fundie bigot”. Or have you noticed how people under 30 now use “gay” to mean “stupid, effeminate, bad taste”, much like the word “homo” was used when I was a teenager? That battle is over too, my dear queer friends.

I have schitzo aquaintances; my cousin is a loony too. I do understand, support, and sympathise with you. I’m thinking of making a paypal donation link from this blog to support mental illness awareness.

By spiritually schizophrenic, I mean that I am really not sure of my final resting ground. But it’s all me. Really me. This is not to say I don’t have opinions or beliefs; with a surety I do. It just means that I’m still exploring. I hate to quote saint Bono, but “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”. Or maybe I have, and I’m just taking an extended holiday.

.

.

Respond

? What do you think?

tful [2] Hahaha, Ricky Gervais sings a lullaby to Elmo
reading Appignanesi & Garratt | Introducing Postmodernism

Front Line Assembly | Bio-Mechanic

[2] Today’s Fun Unrelated Link

Posted in agnostic, atheism, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, humor, humour, meta, music, New Age, personal development | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

The Earth is Magick. And Bloody Cold.

Posted by spritzophrenia on December 22, 2009

For those who have an interest in paganism/wicca. I originally wrote this in 2007.

It’s been a few years since I did a little reading around modern paganism (also called neo-paganism), notably Margot Adlers’ sympathetic overview Drawing Down the Moon.

For those who are unfamiliar, the wikipedia article is a useful place to start, bearing in mind the dangers of relying on Wikipedia too much. (There are Wikipedia articles on other topics I’ve read which have, if not error, a misleading use of language.)
I’m not a pagan but I went to a pagan camp/festival near Levin over the Easter weekend to hang out with some friends. I’ve been thinking about the experience, partly in relation to other participants’ responses. I will divide my response in two, namely 1. my experience and 2. my reflection on the long weekend.

My experience and feelings while there
Disclaimer: I’m well aware that a non-adherent of a religion usually makes mistakes in emphasis, nuance and understanding when writing about it. My apologies for any factual errors.

There were about 70 people or so there for the whole weekend, and i imagine with visitors the numbers would have been over 100. The whole thing reminded me of a slightly tacky christian church camp of the kind I used to go to. Note, i do not identify as a christian any more, although even that simplifies things too much.

Most people camped; it was nice to be out under the stars drinking wine or cider and chatting. There was lots of free time to socialise, communal breakfast and evening meals, seminars and workshops and a sort of market where people were selling items like herbs, candles, jewelery and old-style “witchy” brooms (seriously). This was derided as Pagan ‘bling’ or ‘tack’ by one or two I was at the festival with. Pentacles abounded. (Star-like symbols, they can be six sided but the 5 sided pentagram type was more common. Not upside down tho’ – only naughty people wear those.) I went to 3 seminars that were focused on the academic or theoretical end of things which I really enjoyed. It was clearly stated several times by one seminar leader: “Modern Paganism/Witchcraft was invented by Gerald Gardner in 1954”.

Each night there was a ritual, followed by drumming and dancing around a fire. The rituals were not well received by a minority. Some had issues with the ritual elements themselves (eg, “I didn’t like it ‘cos they used four watchtowers which is from Freemasonry and they had a priest and a priestess leading it”). To be fair, the organisers were trying to do their best to make the rituals inclusive of the diversity that is neopaganism (see below.) Some people simply found the rituals tacky, contrived, unconvincing, fake or couldn’t respect those leading them. I was in this second group. Whatever its failings, one thing Episcopalian christianity has learned is how to do robed-up liturgical rituals well. The second night’s ritual was very late, and long. Fortunately I missed that as the second two nights a small number including myself chose not to go to the rituals because of our dissatisfaction.

The second and third nights were used to celebrate Samhein (pronounced “Sow-win”) two weeks early, the organisers acknowledged. The third night, the ritual was led by someone else and appeared to be much more satisfying. I liked the sitting around the fire talking, drumming and dancing and joined in that afterwards, tho’ it was much more restrained than i would have liked. For Samhein in remembrance of my Irish Celtic ancestors I painted my face and arms with woad. OK, it was acrylic paint and mud. Needs must. I thought it was cool, but no-one else did it. I must be a freak. No-one was nude (“skyclad”) at the fest by the way.

At Magick Earth I was trying to understand paganism, participate where I felt comfortable and simply experience, not to criticise. Sometimes that was hard as some of it seemed rather silly to me. But then much human behaviour is silly, and certainly other religions do silly stuff. What matters, is whether it is true. “True” is a loaded word, for some. More on that another time.

Robes were the fashion du jour, although mainly at night. At first I thought the robes were a bit laughable, but they’re very practical when your religion involves standing outside in the Autumnal cold for hours. Some robes were in crushed velvet. I saw one woman in a native South American traditional costume. I should also add the couple of women who were into belly dancing and dressed er… pseudo Persian at night. (There was a seminar on belly dancing too.)

It’s fascinating, i am at a unique point in history where i can watch a religion birthed and develop. Neo-paganism is a young spirituality, with the concomitant challenges baby religions face. Or rather, it’s a family of religions as Paganism is not a single unified entity.

Paganism is fairly diverse, although the Wikipedia article above does mention common threads. There are wiccans, who are pagan, but not all pagans are wiccans, and druids who can be pagan, but also can be christian or buddhist or other. Most people seemed to believe in a goddess. The goddess is often paired with a god. The exact cosmology, and how the world got here I can’t comment on. I got the impression some believe the goddess/god are like Jungian archetypes “made real” somehow. Some seem content to acknowledge their beliefs are “made up”, but it’s obviously still valid to them. I’d like to hear more of their opinion on that.

Some happily derive their beliefs and practices from a mixture of sources. Others are “reconstructionists” following mainly one type of spirituality, eg Celtic reconstructionists who are trying to reconstruct what we know of ancient Celtic religion. A small number were Christopagans and/or Christian Wiccans, trying to syncretise Christianity and Pagan beliefs. I learned New Age beliefs are not necessarily pagan, but many practices of New Age followers are also used by some Pagans, eg the tarot, astrology and the belief in the beneficial powers of crystals. No pagans are practicing satanists as such; nor do most believe in satan as they don’t believe in the christian worldview. These were generally what might be called ‘humanitarian’ pagans, although I’m interested in how a “dark” or “shadow” side might fit with this, and why it is not also practiced. There was the occasional belittling and discussion of christianity, with varying degrees of accuracy. Which might be expected if christianity is considered the dominant religious influence in New Zealand – a thesis which is arguable in my opinion.

And then there’s the sociocultural blends which are not explicitly pagan – or are they? Many festivalgoers seemed to be into tie dye or medieval clothing – 1 or 2 there were part of medieval reenactment groups. A few were in jeans and heavy metalish clothing. Plenty of tattoos and piercings, so i fit right in 😉 A few dressed pretty plainly. I couldn’t help thinking Paganism’s dress sense is remarkably similar to Boganism. Or hippiedom. Oh, and many of the pagans there at least had a sense of humour about all this.

I did think, if Magick Earth is representative of modern paganism, the people who write scaremongering books have nothing to fear.

Another thing I came away with was a renewed conviction that religion, spirituality and belief is something that should be discussed in the public domain. There is something in Kiwi culture that says it should be private in the same way most people don’t discuss their sex lives. I think open, respectful and frank discussion is vitally important both for society and to enrich/critique those who hold spiritual beliefs. Which, let’s face it, is the vast majority of people, much to many atheists’ disgust.

So much for this limited account of my experience. Overall I enjoyed myself, especially the chance to socialise and relax, and learn something new. Something I want to explore further is the concept of integrity and how it relates to pagan ethics. And perhaps a few other things.

I will save that for next time. Come back for Part Two. What’s your experience of modern paganism? Did I get it wrong?

today’s fun unrelated link Adam Sandler’s funny Channukah song (Judaism)
listening to After The Fire | Der Kommissar, DNA | Stereo Flip

Posted in agnostic, New Age, pagan, personal development, wicca | Tagged: , , , | 15 Comments »