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Tony Grist

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Test The Spirits [Feb. 4th, 2007|11:33 am]
Tony Grist
I think we need to be clear where ideas come from. 

Especially religious ideas.

If an idea can be demonstrated in some way- by logic, weight of evidence etc- it may not matter who's voicing it.

But if it's one of those ideas that comes out of a clear blue sky accompanied by angel voices- promising fulfilment, enlightenment, God's favour or whatever- I think we need to ask, "says who?"

And the follow up question- once we've ascertained the identity of the prophet- is, "what 's in it for him?"

Because the unfortunate fact is that religious prophets- of every stripe- tend to be lying, abusive, power-hungry SOBs.

I'm not saying they all are- just most of them. 

It may be true- as michaleen argues- that Carlos Castenada's spiritual system stands apart from the man who invented it. 

After all, that was my view of  Wicca.  Gerald Gardner was a mischievous old chap with a taste for  nudism and masochism who invented a religion to service his needs- but it escaped from him and became something bigger and better and more interesting than he'd envisaged. 

Knowing the history, I could make the ideas  my own. And play with them. Just as Gardner himself did.  

So, by all means develop a spirituality based upon a reading of Castaneda- but, unless you want to be flying blind,  be aware that the man was a liar, a con-man and a total shit.

Or- to use Biblical language- "test the spirits".

And really we should be doing that with the mainstream religions as well. Muhammed was a middle-eastern warlord who massacred populations and ran a harem. Jesus was- well- Jesus doesn't actually show up in the historical record and may be a fictional construct. 

Even the best of prophets is conditioned by time and place and culture.

Accept nothing on authority. Know where the teacher is coming from. Take back the power.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: saare_snowqueen
2007-02-04 01:55 pm (UTC)
"It may be true- as michaleen argues- that Carlos Castenada's spiritual system stands apart from the man who invented it."

That's like saying that Scientology can be separated from the pompous, egotistical, opportunistic, hypocrite that was L. Ron Hubbard
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-02-04 02:20 pm (UTC)
I believe Castaneda took his system from books- which means he was largely channeling other people's wisdom. I'm prepared to accept that he had the artistic skill to weave his influences into something useful and usable.

Since I've not actually read any of his books (and don't intend to) I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt.

But I don't see there's any excuse for Scientology.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2007-02-04 06:46 pm (UTC)
I suspect parts of Castaneda's material were lifted from books, while some of it may indeed have originated from exposure to authentic shamanic practices.

For the record, I feel that I've possibly failed to express myself as well as I should. Equating spirituality with religion is something I just wouldn't do - at least not sober, anyway - and, though I agree substantially with what you've said here in this post, I was more than a little surprised to find you building on what I wrote in such fashion.

Castaneda's first three books are rather good, or so I remember them. As a guide to how one stands in functional relationship to some hypothetical "spirit realm", they might indeed be as good a place to start as any. In later volumes, Castaneda appears to be turning what I took as a "spiritual practice" into something of a religion, at which point I was far less inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

I feel more than a little out of my depths, here. As an esotericist, religion is to my mind a social phenomenon, something at best tenuously related to spirituality. People believe all sorts of rubbish, it's what they do and it's difficult to imagine a religion as such entirely divorced from some system of belief. What interests me is what someone actually does and what that practice in turn does for them. The origins of some system or another is a question for scholars, historians, folks that are interested in such things. For me, the proof is in the pudding.

It doesn't really matter whether Bodhidharma came from the west or not, or whether he had some ulterior motive in doing so. It doesn't really matter whether Gardner cooked up his flavor of witchcraft on his own or in fact someone as unsavory as Aleister Crowley had a hand in it as well - as has been suggested on occasion. To those of a religious bent, such a debate matters; to those who value practice and personal results over belief, it matters not one whit.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-02-04 11:01 pm (UTC)
I can't imagine being drawn to a particular spiritual practice and not wanting to know everything about it- who devised it, what they thought they were doing, how it relates to other things that were going on at the time of its devising, what traditions and influences were being drawn on...

I like to know what company I'm keeping.

And I don't want to be fooled.

But also I'm just plain nosey. These things are cultural phenomena. And there's nothing that interests me more than the history of culture.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2007-02-05 12:52 am (UTC)
I too am a congenitally nosey bastard, possessed of the most 'satiable curiosity. In the end, I suspect it's left me more than a little cynical. After a lifetime of turning over rocks, I'm not too terribly surprised when something nasty comes slithering out. What's one more creepy bastard like Castaneda? If we weigh his sins by the number of souls led astray, he's a piker compared to L Ron Hubbard.
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[User Picture]From: saare_snowqueen
2007-02-04 07:28 pm (UTC)
Exactly!
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From: sunfell
2007-02-04 02:07 pm (UTC)
I'm putting this in my Memories. Mind if I link to your post?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-02-04 02:20 pm (UTC)
With pleasure.

I'd be honoured.
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[User Picture]From: solar_diablo
2007-02-04 02:28 pm (UTC)

The glass is half-empty approach

How sad is it that the one prophet you could think of without a black mark against his character is the one prophet whose historical existence is debated?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-02-04 02:55 pm (UTC)

Re: The glass is half-empty approach

There are no thoroughly good men, but it is- perhaps- possible to imagine one.
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[User Picture]From: kaysho
2007-02-15 06:50 pm (UTC)
It shows how much Wicca has evolved from its source that I've heard of Wicca and know a few people who practise it, but I'd never heard Gerald Gardner's name before this post. :)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-02-15 08:07 pm (UTC)
He was an interesting guy- a rogue but- unlike most founders of religions- a likeable one.
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