Religious Eclecticism

I recently met a wandering Mystic Jew who teaches Qigong, Tai Chi, and mathematics. My preschool teacher was Jewish, my kindergarten teacher was Catholic, I had friends whose parents identified with various Christian denominations, Paganism, Unitarian Universalism, etc. I grew up in a very religiously diverse community, and as a result my own religious experience is very eclectic.

Religious eclecticism basically means taking ideas or traditions from a lot of different religions and implementing them into one’s own beliefs and practices. There are so many religions and spiritual philosophies in the world and they each have features that people find interesting or useful without the demand of adopting one completely. For example, I could have a Wiccan-style altar, meditate with a Tibetan singing bowl, pray to a Hindu god, and dance to Rastafari-inspired music. Many neopagans honor gods from multiple pantheons – Greek, Norse, Celtic, Hindu, etc. Many Christians, Muslims, and Jews recognize the validity of the other two, and some even incorporate indigenous pagan traditions into their practices. Some specific religious teachings do exclude even the possibility of integration with others, but most religions have a lot of overlap, both in their origins and in their modern manifestations.

Personally, I like to bounce around in between. I often converse with people from the perspective of their own religious faiths. I occasionally attend a church service, meditation circle, or holiday celebration of any denomination. I love reading texts of any faith or philosophy, and I still hold dear many of the religious stories, songs, and traditions that I grew up with. I celebrate Yule, chant the Hare Krishna mantra, pray to Artemis and Freja, take Communion, gaze lovingly at the Milky Way… yet I do not identify exclusively with one single religious faith. I’ve been continuously developing my own personal cosmology based on the ideas and feelings that resonate with me. Enter: science.

I am a strong supporter of science, and the more I learn about it the more I advocate for it. I do also believe in the compatibility of science and mysticism within the human experience. I harken to the enchantment of the cosmic mystery as seen through the lenses of cultural mythology and metaphysical philosophy. I find psychological solace in religious rituals. I believe in the possibility of other dimensions and the beings or spirits that may reside there. I follow the solar and lunar phases (these are actual events within the physical cosmos as seen from the perspective of Earth). I think in metaphors and find meaning and truth in stories and art. I live in constant awe of all the vast and powerful phenomena in the universe. I strive to connect with and relate to the forces of nature, sometimes literally and sometimes though their anthropomorphic and animistic representations (gods, creatures, spirits).

The cool thing about being eclectic is that it isn’t about knowing what is objectively true for everyone in the world, it’s just about discovering what works for you individually. What gives you that spiritual feeling? How do you define divinity? What is the best way for you to connect with it? How do you want to express yourself? There is no one correct answer for all people.

Whatever cosmic force fuels existence may or may not someday be comprehendible by humans with science, but as humans we not only have the ability to advance our scientific understanding of the universe, we also have the ability to comprehend abstract concepts, to use symbols and metaphors to explain the unexplainable, to tap into deep emotions and continually exercise our thought processes. This is what eclecticism allows us to do, not just in terms of religion, but with anything – literature, art, even science – to expand, to create, to make connections, and to explore limitless potential.

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