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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Humans are Animals

The title of this post should be an obvious statement to most of you. Humans are mammals, members of the Animal Kingdom. Our cells are animal cells and our DNA is very similar to the DNA of other primates, which are also mammals and animals. There is, however, this notion that humans are distinct from other animals because we have morality, abstract cognition, and the ability to use arbitrary symbols in place of objects or meanings. Yes, these things are true. Yes, these things may set us apart from other animals…

But all species have features that set them apart from other animals. Octopuses don’t have skeletons or shells, sponges don’t have tissues or organs, bats are mammals that fly, echidnas are mammals that lay eggs. All of these are interesting features that set these animals apart from most other animals. Perhaps one could argue that the human features mentioned above set us apart from ALL other animals, even more distinctly than they are from each other, but this has not been definitively proven, since there is still a lot of ongoing research into the behavior and intelligence of primates (monkeys, apes) and cetaceans (whales, dolphins) in particular.

Even if it is true that morality, abstract cognition, and the ability to use symbols are unique among humans, these are still just biological, neurological features of our species. That doesn’t mean we can’t be proud of it. Admitting that at the end of the day we are just animals doesn’t mean we should revert back to the “animalistic” instincts of eat, sleep, and reproduce devoid of these complex thoughts and abstract emotions — we can eat, sleep, and reproduce while constantly analyzing how and why, and when to make exceptions based on our moral compass. It doesn’t mean we’re not special. We are special. We are also animals. It’s okay to admit it.

Everything is Connected

Many people have told me that I should write a blog. I think most of the people who suggested this assumed I would write a travel blog specifically about my experiences while traveling around the United States and Europe, but I didn’t really want to do this for a couple of reasons. First of all, most of my experiences while traveling either involve other people’s personal stories or have more to do with what is going on internally rather than externally. I feel like posting photos on Instagram gives people an idea of the kinds of things I have been doing. Secondly, although I love traveling and will do it as much as possible, I knew that at some point I would be more settled for a while, so I wanted a blog that I could continue writing even when I am not traveling regularly.

I kept thinking I had to narrow it down: should I write about Animals? Witchcraft? Books? Food? I couldn’t decide! Then I realized: it’s hard enough trying to decide what to focus on as a career or an academic major, but a blog should be for fun. It should be what you’re interested in, what you’re good at. And what I’m interested in is everything, and what I’m good at is writing. So I decided that I didn’t have to decide. I could write about everything, and how it all connects.

In order to keep things somewhat cohesive, I will write specifically from the perspective of a modern, spiritually eclectic woman searching for meaning in the world, striving for a greater understanding of humanity and a stronger connection with nature.

This blog will be a public and interactive journal of sorts. Many of my posts will be related to my own personal spirituality, lifestyle, thoughts, and opinions. Several may take an anthropological approach, discussing culture, mythology, and religion. Some will focus more on science, philosophy, or even politics. I may even include stories, poems, drawings, and photographs. Basically anything I am interested in or like doing. The blog as a whole will attempt to make connections between various topics and fields, because one of the things I truly believe is that everything is connected.

Thanks for reading.

About

This site is designed to be the intellectual expression of my personal spiritual practice, which is to gain a greater understanding of the world and develop a stronger connection with nature. Here l will examine various topics of interest and their relatedness to science, anthropology, philosophy, history, literature, and mythology. Some posts will be based on research and others will be based on my own personal experiences. I may also include art and photography, stories and poems, political opinions, travel experiences, and thoughts about life, humanity, and the universe. This site is not meant to preach or convert, only to inform and inspire. I hope it will be educational as well as entertaining. Please feel free to ask questions.