Partially because of my own boredom and partially because kicking dead horses is just plain rude, this will likely be just about the last post I make for a while when it comes to sorting out religion from superstition… at least until the next time I employ fire magick and begin questioning things anew.
So… last night, as part of my intentional avoidance of all school responsibilities, I found myself driving around town with my best, visiting our favorite bookstore: Half Price Books. They’re currently having a store-wide 20% off sale, and while I have no business buying more books, I simply can’t resist. I might also note, if I can do so without sounding proud, that my relationship to my best is often in a “teacher” capacity. Of course, for all teachers, the ultimate goal is that the students should themselves become teachers and last night while driving around my best definitely was a teacher. It all began when I asked him to differentiate between religion and superstition. A few times we talked in circles. A few times no sense was to be made. But in the end, using the idea of a fire and the fuel going into it, we almost sufficiently (for me) sorted out the difference between the two.
Interestingly, a big part of the fire equation hinged on hope, devotion, or bhakti. We determined that bhakti would act as the wood, the fuel. It’s essentially the foundation – without hope or devotion behind any action, that action is ultimately a dead thing. The animating force, the starting place, is hope or devotion. Without SOMETHING to ignite, there can be no fire. In that context, I find it interesting that many of the devotional poets from many different cultures have written about their devotion burning, or burning up. Fuel indeed! The fire itself, then, would be the ritual, religion, or superstition – respectively. This means the action itself. “The fire that kindles,” as my best put it. I find this in itself to be poetic. If you sit around a fire, everyone knows something is being burned to make that fire, but the fire itself is where the attention is ultimately afforded. It’s the big, showy exterior of the chemical change happening right then and there. Religion is definitely the fire. The big showy exterior that results when we set fire (action) to our hope.
Ultimately there’s a very very fine line between religion and superstition where ritual is concerned, and through chatting with another dear pal it was kind of determined that religion is superstition + validity. To go back to my best and his wisdom from last night, a big part of the validity is cultural influence, although let me be quick to say that cultural influence isn’t automatically where this so-called validity begins or ends – but it is definitely a significant factor.
So, we go back into human history. In the case of Hinduism, we can easily go back into prehistory – in fact, some of our scriptures mention a time when it was almost too cold for humanity to survive on our planet, aka the last ice age. But I digress. If you go back far enough you will no doubt encounter “religion” which today would amount to little more than superstition. People responsible for these kinds of studies will confirm as much. Our ancestors noticed that when they danced in a circle under very specific stellar arrangements, the rains necessary for good crops invariably came, which in turn ensured the survival of the community. Suddenly, puja and jyotish are born! Add about 7,000 years to that, and add humanity’s increased development in the areas of language and science, and you end up with “official” Sanatana Dharma. Through the eons, throughout the planet we inhabit, as we gained increasing dominance over nature we sought the rhyme and reason behind that dominance. As we gained that knowledge we codified and systemized it, and rightly marveled thereupon.
Why marvel? Because it’s marvelous. Duh. We’re talking about dark-n-wondrous, truly ancient stuff. This same stuff has made all the difference to us as a species. It’s THE evidence that proves our humanity – humanity being an interesting mix of the physical and nonphysical, mostly differentiated from other similar mixes according to our consciousness and awareness. We are the proof that’s in the pudding I mentioned in the last post, and our religions and superstitions are how we document our proof-ness.
Add another 4,000 years, a laptop, and a gay white Hindu in Indianapolis, and you find yourself with the current picture of yours truly and I’m telling you, finally, that it doesn’t really matter. Not really. I mean, if you want effectiveness and about all the pudding you can handle in your life (as I feel I’ve been blessed with), then you surely want to look into human knowledge that has a strong foundation. A system of thought and belief that touches the clouds, but doesn’t have its head there. Look for so-called superstition that has well-documented science behind it. There’s nothing wrong with carrying around a horse shoe, if your intention is pure and focused – indeed, if your intention is pure and focused and carrying a horse shoe seems to bring about the desired effect, then trust that your “fuel and fire” may well constitute real religion.
I’ll close by once again referencing my recent post about superstition and religion. Religiosity is a small part of my life really. Too often people see religion as the end AND the means to that end. That’s a trap. Another trap is to be found in thinking that your religion is inherently better than someone’s superstition, as both involve the same fires and woods. There might be evidence of it, but I’m not sure you’re allowed to actually think yours is better. Not really. Some would find supplication to an elephant-faced stone statue to be ridiculously superstitious. I don’t. Every single time, without fail – and I mean that as literally as I am able – that I have petitioned my conception of God for what I need, and often what I want, it has been given. From where I stand, my personal superstitions are effective in every regard. And this is where they factually transcend being mere superstitions. I’m speaking about the wood and the fire that lead me to, and provide me with, Light that enables me to see and Warmth that enables me to experience – this is Jnana. They equate my religious experience and facilitate my spirituality.
– Jay Shri Ganesha! –
Om Mahaganeshaya Namaha