Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Divination discrimination?

My husband and I enjoyed one of those Jungian moments of synchronicity last night. As one of the first clues came up on Only Connect (the BBC’s answer to mindless quiz shows for people with a knowledge of the Greek alphabet), he turned to me and said ‘Is there some kind of Tarot connection?’

There wasn’t. But in the next question there was, they were all other forms of divination - astrology, numerology, palmistry and tasseography. However, this wasn’t the only link to the world of divination in last night’s programme. On a later question four of the Major Arcana from a deck of Tarot cards featured as players for spot the connection. Although nobody could actually group the four together, one contestant did ask if they might be cards from the Tarot. Victoria Coren confirmed his guess, yes they were all cards from the Tarot, and, she added, they probably all foretell death and doom like all the Tarot cards do.

Those who use the Tarot as a tool for divination or simply to explore their link to a wider spiritual story will tell you however, that even the Death card rarely actually refers to death. So why does Tarot still have this outdated image of evil, darkness and the occult? There is more death and destruction within the pages of the Bible than your average Tarot deck, and the Bible itself is often used for divination – Bibliomancy.

So what is it precisely that people like Victoria Coren are so fearful of?

Do you use divination?
What form and why?
What reaction do you get from others?

Friday, 3 October 2008

Me, myself and I..? Or something more important..?

‘What we need to understand here is
the moral force behind notions like
self-fulfilment. Once we try to explain
this simply as a kind of egoism, or a
species of moral laxism, a self-indulgence…
we are already off the track’
Charles Taylor (1992) The Ethics of Authenticity

There is a debate in the social sciences I wanted to share with you. Some might say it would be best left where it is. However, I am going to try to give it an airing here because I am interested in your thoughts.

There is much criticism, amongst social scientists, of contemporary forms of spirituality. They see it as nothing more than self-obsessed navel gazing, the product of a society of individuals obsessed with nothing but themselves. For others however this argument is missing the point. For them there is something beneath the veneer of self-obsession which is about a moral ideal we seem to have lost sight of. They would suggest there is a reason people are ‘looking within’ - and that reason is to find the moral compass that guides human actions and notions of what is right and wrong.

Alister Hardy suggested there is an innate spirituality in the human race based on a relational consciousness which has been maintained because it serves us well in terms of survival (this is a spirituality quite divorced from any cultural articulation of this into ‘religion’). So this might also suggest that we have an innate moral drive to connect beyond the immediate state of isolation we find ourselves within by virtual of being individuals. And that ‘self-spirituality’ therefore isn’t an end in itself - i.e. reflecting that we are merely self-obsessed and don’t want to look any further than what we can find within ourselves - but that self-spirituality is in fact a process which leads us back to that innate inner drive to seek out our connection with others.

All around us we see examples of people embarking on ‘personal journeys’ to ‘find the real me’, and the process itself, the ‘journey’, becomes the end in itself, rather than it being a means to an end. Or alternatively it is presented as a process to engage with in order to become a 'better person', a 'better' worker, a 'better' mother, father, lover… there is always room for improvement and always the threat that we just might not be 'good enough'.

Have we have lost sight of the purpose of being in touch with the inner self?

Is it all about the self?

Or is there something more?

Are those who follow a path to inner spirituality solely engaged in that soul-searching for the purpose of getting to know ‘themselves’, or are they engaged in that process in an attempt to get in tune with that innate essence which is in fact shared across all other individuals, and once awakened can serve to reunite and reignite some sense of transcendence or significance beyond that individual self?
I guess basically I am asking – are you in this just for the journey, or is that journey actually going somewhere more significant than yourself..?

Thursday, 10 April 2008

New name for a new age..?

Everyday I come across people who are involved in some kind of spiritual exploration, including those of you who are part of this blog. I hear stories of connecting with spirit through meditation or mediumship, I hear tales of walking with nature, I hear descriptions of crystals carried in pockets and prayers said to angels.

But when I ask anyone to label what it is they are doing for me, they struggle. Some say they are 'workers for spirit', others describe themselves as 'happy generalists' content in exploring whatever works for them.

Ten or twenty years ago, these sorts of practices would most likely have come under the heading of 'New Age'. But nowadays New Age seems to carry a distinct stench of cannabis, caravans and, dare I say it, mothballs (metaphorically speaking, of course). It was something which implied 'leaving behind' much of what contemporary society stood for.

Yet the crystal carriers and meditation practitioners I am talking to today do not tell me they have left behind the trappings of modern life in this way, indeed quite the opposite, they often bring these spiritual tools and experiences right into their everyday lives. I myself carry crystals but remain quite happy in my 1930s semi in suburban England.

So does 'New Age' still serve as a useful label for alternative spiritual practices, or is it time to find a new name?

The New Agers heralded quite literally a New Age, one where we would be spiritually enlightened and at one with the earth; they drew on many traditions including Eastern philosophies, Paganism and Gaia theories. And many New Age camps, communities and individuals continue very much in this vein. But does this adequately describe what the people I am talking to are telling me about?

New Agers were on a crusading counter-cultural drive to change the world for the better. They used techniques, practices and everyday lifestyles which seemed unfamiliar and unusual to mainstream Western capitalist society. Perhaps it is the years of very visible 'New Agers' that now makes it more ‘normal’ to do things which were once considered ‘alternative’, such as meditation, Tai Chi, or crystal healing.

The New Age pioneers were the ones who stressed self-actualisation, recycling, animal rights and green consumerism. And these are now mainstream middle of the road middle-class values... So perhaps what I am exploring has been an unintentional spin-off from the original more purposeful counter-culture.

So what is the new name for this new age..? Answers and comments most welcome...

Monday, 14 January 2008

For God's sake....?

"If there were no God, there would be no Atheists"
GK Chesterton (1874-1936)

In the UK less than a third believe in God, whilst in the US only one member of Congress has ever admitted being an Atheist. So what is our relationship with God in contemporary society?

What does 'God' mean to you?
Is there 'a' God?
Are there many, or none at all?

What purpose does 'God' fill for you ...if any?