Musings for the Spiritually Eclectic

Unaffiliated is the undefined umbrella in the contemporary world. It can mean anything from atheist to pagan to a Christian who doesn’t belong to a church. So, if it can mean everything, where do I fit in?

I used to ask myself that question. On various internet forums and surveys, at the religion line, I’d enter “weird”. Then, I decided eclectic would be a better word. But, what does that actually mean? It’s just as vague as weird.

Over the past few years, I have been reading about the rise of people claiming to be religiously unaffiliated – in Europe, America and Canada. Does that mean people are abandoning all spirituality or just traditional religion? The answer seems to be both. This blog is for those who don’t want to give up total belief in a soul, and have questions to be answered. (I’m not claiming I have the answers to those questions. I’m just trying to show you the direction where you may be able to find them.)

So, what is a spiritual eclectic?

Someone who blends together different ideas from various cultures along with philosophical and religious traditions and who also discards many ideas from those traditions as well. That’s a very textbook definition, and a good start. We’ve wiped clean a corner of the window, but most of it is still too murky to see through to that actual definition.

Spiritual eclecticism includes a large swath of beliefs, obviously. It can be a devout Jew who has adopted reiki into his beliefs, deciding that the power comes from God. It can be a pagan, who believes in more than one deity, but isn’t into the idea of magic.

And that’s what eclecticism is: “I’m keeping what makes sense to me, and I’m letting go of the beliefs that don’t.” It’s all about what the individual chooses to believe.

The rise of the individual is very recent in human history. Like in the last 60-100 years, arguably. It certainly coincides with the rise of the urban environment and the decline in agrarian cultures.

Throughout most of the time that people have been walking upright, we’ve mostly clung together in small, homogenized societies. People farmed in order to survive. The innumerable majority farmed even back in the ancient empires of China, Rome, Mesopotamia and Greece, even though that history tends to be ignored. We just don’t have that many great written histories, archaeological finds or even interesting stories of normal, ordinary farmers that supported the upper echelon. They didn’t get the exciting tombs.

In these communities, there wasn’t room to be an individual. Survival depended on everyone in the group working together at the same thing. Religion fell into that same homogenized, established category too.

Now, for the first time in history, most people don’t farm. We’ve spread out from those close-quartered communities. And it’s not a surprise that with the rise of the individual comes that new person’s need to explore his/her own personal beliefs.

Finding your own truth. Not what others say what you ought to believe. What you yourself choose to believe.

Your morality is derived from the larger society you live in, and its stew of history and religions (or lack thereof). No matter what, you get your understanding of right and wrong from society more than anything else. If you later choose to disagree with what you’ve learned from where you live, you’re well on the way down your path.

We also have access to mountains of information (and wrong information) that were not available throughout all of human history. We’ve popped the tiny bubble of experience. We can pick and choose from all the world and written history. Any belief can be adopted and adapted.

Here’s a perfect example I once saw at a dojo. There were three quotes painted high up on the walls, one from Mother Theresa, another from Lao Tzu, and a final one from Mohammed. All in one place!

It’s eclectic because: Dojo, Japanese. Mother Theresa, Christian. Mohammed, Islam. Lao Tzu, Chinese (Daoism). No one saw a contradiction.

Obviously, one doesn’t have to stray far from an established dogma’s path to be in the field of eclecticism. Let’s say one wants to hang on to a belief in Jesus, but wants to practice yoga as well. That’s mild eclecticism. Alternatively, one may choose to eschew all major religions and society to live with the bees, making honey. Stinging aside, he’s blazed his own trail.

I wouldn’t actually recommend the bees – those hives are hard to fit inside.

Once everything else is boiled away, it bubbles down to the individual’s choice of what to believe.

Eclecticism isn’t a road for people who don’t want to work. You have to seek out you own truth, because no one else can tell you what it is. That means hours at the library, on the internet (& verifying sources), learning how to read anthropological/archaeological texts, etc…

It’s a road for someone who has questions and wants answers.

Remember, you need not belong to a church, temple, mosque, shrine etc to be religious/spiritual. You are an individual seeking your personal truth.

Copyright Cansia 2011. All Rights Reserved.

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