Spiritual Food for Thought

Care of my friend Matt on Twitter, here’s something to get you all thinking:

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You were on your way home when you died.

It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left
behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMT tried their best to
save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust
me.

And that’s when you met me.

“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”

“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.

“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”

“Yup.” I said.

“I… I died?”

Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies.” I said.

You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this
place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”

“More or less.” I said.

“Are you god?” You asked.

“Yup.” I replied. “I’m God.”

“My kids.. My wife,” you said.

“What about them?”

“Will they be all right?”

“That’s what I like to see.” I said. “You just died and your main concern is for your
family. That’s good stuff right there.”

You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like some
man. Or possibly a woman. Some vague authority figure, maybe. More of a grammar
school teacher than the almighty.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every
way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside,
but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any
consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”

“Oh,” you said. “So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?”

“Neither,” I said. “You’ll be reincarnated.”

“Ah,” you said. “So the Hindus were right.”

“All religions are right in their own way,” I said. “Walk with me.”

You followed along as we strode through the void. “Where are we going?”

“Nowhere in particular,” I said. “It’s just nice to walk while we talk.”

“So what’s the point, then?” You asked. “When I get reborn, I’ll just be a blank slate,
right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won’t matter.”

“Not so!” I said. “You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past
lives. You just don’t remember them right now.”

I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. “Your soul is more magnificent,
beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly image. A human mind can only contain a
tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s
hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back
out, you’ve gained all the experience it had.”

“You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt
the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d
start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”

“How many times have I been reincarnated, then?”

“Oh, lots. Lots and lots. And in to lots of different lives,” I said. “This time around, you’ll
be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD.”

“Wait, what?” You stammered. “You’re sending me back in time?”

“Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are
different where I came from.”

“Where you come from?” You said.

“Oh sure,” I explained. “I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are
others like me. I know you’ll want to know what it’s like there, but honestly, you wouldn’t
understand.”

“Oh,” you said, a little let down. “But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I
could have interacted with myself at some point.”

“Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan, you
don’t even know it’s happening.”

“So what’s the point of it all?”

“Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a
little stereotypical?”

“Well, it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted.

I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is
for you to mature.”

“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”

“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and
mature and become a larger and greater intellect.”

“Just me? What about everyone else?”

“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”

You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”

“All you. Different incarnations of you.”

“Wait, I’m everyone!?”

“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.

“I’m every human being who ever lived?”

“Or who will ever live, yes.”

“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”

“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.

“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.

“And you’re the millions he killed.”

“I’m Jesus?”

“And you’re everyone who followed him.”

You fell silent.

“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act
of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever
experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”

You thought for a long time.

“Why?” You asked me. “Why do you do all this?”

“Because someday, you will become like me. Because that’s what you are. You’re one
of my kind. You’re my child.”

“Whoa,” you said, incredulous. “You mean I’m a god?”

“No, not yet. You’re a fetus. You’re still growing. Once you’ve lived every human life
throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.”

“So the whole universe,” you said, “it’s just…”

“An egg.” I answered. “Now it’s time for you to move on to your next life.”

And I sent you on your way.

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This is actually quite close to my thoughts on the Afterlife and what becomes of us when we die. We all choose our lessons to be learnt in this life before we start it, and time is anything but linear (think timey-whimey Dr Who-styles). Also, if we kill ourselves, we just have to come back to the same life to learn the same lessons all over again, until we ‘pass’. Something that has saved me over and over again.

Let me know your own thoughts down in the comments below 🙂

Guest Post: Spirituality and the Sex-Positive Community

Following on from this post, my good friend Alexis has written this post on how people in the sex-positive and spiritual/religious communities perceive each other:

I’ve been following sex-positive politics for many years now; and something that i still see too frequently is open and unmitigated hostility towards all religion and spirituality.

There’s no doubt in my mind that religion and spirituality has, historically speaking, promoted sex-negativity and contributed to sexual repression and unhappiness. And mainstream, widely-socially-acceptable religions and spiritualities generally continue to do; the ongoing debates around homosexuality are but one example.

However, it’s also true that many people are finding ways of integrating sex-positive attitudes with their religious and spiritual beliefs and practices. There are reinterpretations of key texts; there are approaches which seek to extract still-relevant ideas whilst leaving behind sex-negative ones; there are beliefs being created out of whole cloth, based on people’s lived experiences. I know sex-positive, queer-friendly Christians, Jews and Wiccans, who are well aware of the sex-negative, heteronormative aspects of their traditions, and who have more than a passing familiarity with their traditions’ text and beliefs, but who have used that knowledge to continue living within a belief system that resonates strongly with them.

And I think this is wonderful!

I don’t, however, see a great deal of support for these people within the sex-positive community. On the contrary: what I frequently encounter is blanket condemnations of religion and spirituality, or, worse, of religious and spiritual people.

It feels to me that there’s a certain amount of born-again atheism involved: for people who have been raised in repressive religious atmospheres, for example, becoming a conscious atheist can be a liberating experience. It seems to me there’s often an earnest and well-meaning desire to ensure that other people don’t suffer or miss out on a variety of enjoyable life experiences due to religious or spiritual repression, whether internal or external. This is something I can certainly identify with: I myself was an atheist for many years, primarily driven by the sex-negativity I observed in various religions. And even though I’m now a panentheist, I still get irked by anti-atheism FUD (for example, that atheism necessarily results in a complete lack of morality) – I believe that misrepresentation of people’s attitudes and beliefs is not only unethical but doesn’t, in the end, benefit anyone.

Nonetheless, I feel that there’s a choice for sex-positive atheists to make here: to decide which is more important for them to promote, atheism or sex-positivity. I believe either choice is valid. But I also believe promoting sex-positivity means not making totalising statements about religion and spirituality or about religious and spirituality people; it means acknowledging the possibility that atheism is not the only possible framework in which sex-positivity can exist; it means recognising that there are people creating sex-positive religious and spiritual perspectives which provide concrete alternatives to sex-negative beliefs for those who are not ready or willing to give up their overall religious or spiritual paths.

Many years ago I was part of a group organising a protest. Our organising group had several members of the Young Christian Workers. One member raised an objection to the possibility of socialist groups being able to sell their newspapers at the protest, saying something along the lines of “After all, how would you feel if we were to hand out Bibles?” My personal response was: “That sounds great! So much reactionary stuff is done in the name of Christianity; it would be good for people, including Christians, to know that it’s not a given that Christians must take reactionary positions.”

If people in the sex-positive movement promote or support the notion that sex-positivity necessarily implies atheism, it puts people who – rightly or wrongly, whether supported by evidence or not – have strong religious or spiritual beliefs in the position of feeling like they must choose between sex-positivity and religion/spirituality. Though many might choose sex-positivity, it’s also likely that, given religion and spirituality often address a greater variety of issues than simply those around sexuality, many might feel that sex-positivity is the thing that needs to take a back seat. And that, for me, wouldn’t represent progress.

Sexuality and Spirituality

A conversation with Alexis (flexibeast) today got me thinking about the connections between my own sexuality and spirituality. Some of the following is directly quoted from Alexis from our GTalk conversation and are used with her permission.

My beliefs are very eclectic. I used to practice Wicca, so I still have a little bit of that influence along with some broad Celtic/Nordic influences, particularly St Brigid and the Tree of Life. I was raised Anglican and was confirmed when I was 16. Shortly after then was when I first delved into pagan spirituality. I do believe in Jesus, but with an Islamic view that he was a prophet. I also believe in reincarnation and the belief that our own spirit chooses lessons for us to learn before this life begins. If you commit suicide, then you have to start that life all over again with the same lessons and problems. It’s this belief that has saved me from myself on several occasions. Alexis put it brilliantly with this quote:

alexis:
*nod* There’s a great quote from bash.org, where someone says “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”, and someone else says “I’m a Buddhist, i think suicide is a temporary solution to a permanent problem”. 🙂

I’m a firm believer that all religions are different perceptions of the same thing. There’s more than one path to the top of the mountain so to speak. It makes sense that if all paths lead to the same place, that you can take bits of the different paths that work best for you.

Spirituality and sexuality are so incredibly linked together, something Alexis and I both agree on. We both have had problems finding others who share this belief. While there are examples of solo sexual ritual:

In other religions, singing and dancing are considered pleasing to God. Voluntary sex and masturbation is, in Paganism, considered another natural, normal part of singing and dancing. In Paganism, the God and the Goddess are seen as wanting to see people be happy. Showing the Divine the happiness and intensity of orgasm is thought to make the Divine happy.

Generally there seems to be the idea that “sexuality and spirituality are mutually exclusive”.

alexis:
*nod* Obviously i feel the same way [that sexuality and spirituality are so incredibly linked together]. 🙂 But often when i’ve tried to talk about this with other pagans, i get the “you’re just a swinger” thing, either openly or implicitly.

Fae:
it’s hard to find people on the same wavelength sometimes, especially when the way you feel about things seems so different from the way the majority thinks

alexis:
*nod* Yep. E.g. most sex-positive peeps i’ve come across seem to be atheist, and sometimes stridently so.

Fae:
*nods* i’ve found that too

alexis:
*nod* Which is why it’s wonderful to be able to talk to you about this stuff. 🙂

Fae:
yay 😀

alexis:
😀 So if i may ask, how does sexuality appear in your spiritual practice(s)?

Fae:
honestly at the moment there isn’t a lot, if any… J considers himself an atheist [i think he’s secretly agnostic] and i haven’t found a suitable partner for the spiritual/sexual aspect yet

alexis:
😦
(Metacomment: Please let me know if any question i ask is too personal!)

Fae:
i will 🙂 i’m pretty open about everything

alexis:
But if you did have a suitable partner, what sort of stuff would you be interested in doing?

Fae:
interesting question, honestly i don’t know the answer… i haven’t really looked into which rituals would be suitable because i’ve never had a suitable partner

alexis:
Ah. Well, for myself, i’ve been doing the masturbation-as-meditation thing.
But also i’ve found it difficult to find prewritten rituals in any case, mainly due to cis- and hetero-centrism.

I suppose that’s one of the problems with not following an organised religion and being a solitary practitioner, there’s no set way of doing things.

Ideally I need to find a partner to help me honour The Spirit, The Goddess and The Horned God. Self-love and masturbation only goes so far. That’s were polyamory comes in, different partners fulfill different needs. And being pansexual, you’d think that would double, if not even triple, my odds of finding a suitable spiritual partner. But I have the feeling that the journey to find that suitable partner is going to take a long time, as all spiritual journeys tend to be. I mean, it took me long enough to find J!!