Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lables, Laser Focusing, Big Picture and Futile Maps PART 1.

On Easter Sunday I was hanging out in the backyard of POS and MyGal's pad when he took a call from one of the locals about the classes that I was teaching that night. Apparently the caller didnt know much about me and asked POS what my deal was. POS than told him something along the lines of "he's a Christian, Buddhist, Hoodoo-man, Magician, and Witch".  

The caller must have asked how I could possibly be all those things - a perfectly reasonable question. If someone described someone else like that I might ask the very same question. Truth be told, the answer made me cringe a bit. I don't mean that as a criticism of POS's answer; even to me, I sounded like a dilletant or a flake. If I am going to continue to grow as a semi-public figure, I really need to come up with something snappy to answer that question with. 

Part of my cringing is that he started the chain of descriptors with "Christian". It's true I consider myself a Christian after a fashion, but what that means to me is so different from what that means to 99.99999% of the world that I am not comfortable with it as a descriptor. I do not believe in the literal resurection, and even if I did, I do not believe that salvation is dependent upon faith in it. I do not accept Christ as "the only son of god". I do not even believe in God as a being outside of the universe. I do not believe in God as a personality that gets deeply involved in the lives of people the way that most Christians do. I would not even really say that I am in any way married to the idea that Christ existed as a historical person at all. So, while I find meaning in the current of Christianity, and juice in the apostolic lineage, and much sympathy with the moral teachings, I am hardly a Christian in the way that everyone would think of . 

I went through the same thing with the term "Thelemite" several years ago. It means something to me: the legend of Thelemia in the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili is what I see as the key to that understanding. Gargantua and Pantagruel expand upon the idea. Crowley's Book of the law does as well, but there is much there that I diverge from. I in no sense consider Crowley a prophet on par with Christ or Buddha or anyone that important, nor do I find him one of my most major magickal influences. Unfortunately, the term Thelemite does mean that to most people, so its not a useful descriptor for me. It was easier to just reject the descriptor than explain all the caveats every time someone introduced me as a Thelemite. I have come to the conclusion that Christian is pretty much the same. 

If people that are not asking for occult reasons ask my religion, my reply is Buddhist, cuz that is my core discipline, and my ever-evolving spiritual views are closest to the view of Dzogchen, and Tibetan Dharma is general.  For instance, my kids will be raised Buddhist, with some Christian traditions and holidays thrown in explaining Christ as a sort of Bodhisattva. 

As far as the other labels go, I think we need a second post to deal with that. 


Jow said...

I have a similar problem describing what I do as well.. "Cabbalist, Alchemist, wanna be astrologer, yogi-" and if the g/f is there she will tend to add, "Pony, Princess!" It's why I tend to go with Hermetic Neoplatonist, as it's the main lense I see things through.

Labels are fun.. I don't call myself a buddhist because I've never formally taken refuge, and I dont have a guru, but I do wear an endless knot around my neck to remember not to be a dick, as Buddhism to me is one of the best ways not to do that!

I also meet the Buddha from the lense of a Magician and a Yogi, which is why I dig Shakyamuni Buddha, but feel drawn to Padmasambhava, and Tilopa.

Which is why I also dig how Vajrayana practitioners tend to talk to the lense someone has, rather than from their own.

There was a BBC show called Around the World in 80 Faiths where an Anglican Minister litterally went around the world, to six continents and explored 80 kinds of spiritual practice. He went over Tibetan Buddhism a few times, as its a few places, but when he asked the monk he was talking with "What makes for good karma?" the monk replied, "Read the scriptures, pray to God, that makes good karma for you."

Gordon_Finn said...

I just use 'magickian'. The core following is a blend of hermeticism, judeo-christianity, folk magick (some hoodoo, poppetry, etc.), science and some eastern thoughts (a version of the 3 jewels that is more similar than to it than the actual 3- organization, precision and forethought, qigong, etc.). Eveything else, like necromancy, tarot, etc. that I know usually falls somewhere within these aspects.

The idea that I'm a magickian is something I've joked with at work, but it's never been taken seriously. However, if it ever is and I'm hounded about it, I'm planning on saying 'unless you want a lawsuit for creating a hostile work environment via religious discrimination, back the fuck off'. If asked, my response is 'it's my own personal version of judeo-christianity, just like every other follower has, now go away'.

Given the extent christianity is viewed as a legitimate religion, the threat of a lawsuit should be enough to get them to stay away because it's an act grounded in a reality they believe in.

However, the question 'what is a judeo-christian' is just as nebulous as 'what is a magickian' to mundanes, really. What few things pop into their mind on judeo-christianity is few and far between, just like magickian. JC has many variations and people know that. The idea of magickians in pop culture involves the ideas of worshipping a deity, spirits, meditation, raising some kind of energy, doing something other people can't. Some of these things show up when people think of judeo-christianity, too.

So, I personally stick with magickian, as the descriptor of my religion when the asker is not being hostile. When they are, it's lawsuit threat time. If they keep it up, it's ritual time.