This was the title of a recent discussion at St. Jame’s Piccadilly between Revd. Lucy Winkett and Malcolm Stern, Founder of Alternatives. Lucy talked of her own very uplifting ‘spiritual’ experiences within Christianity while acknowledging that a lot of religion is ‘bad’. Millions of people, at least in the West describe themselves as Spiritual but not Religious. There was no clear definition of ‘spirituality’ but at the end a woman behind me spoke of sensing the rush of wind taking a persons ‘spirit’ after death. So some of us clearly believed in other dimensions beyond an experience of joy etc.
The hypocrisy of all religions was mentioned, and for me the hierarchical nature of the structures and thinking is deeply problematic. But the celebrity culture of the New Age is kind of hierarchical too. It set me thinking about the ‘good’ aspects of religions and how these could be used in an egalitarian Equalia based religion.
1.Structure is important, but it doesn’t have to be vertical shaped. Perhaps we all need to be contained and have boundaries and ‘rules’ that everyone co-creates and can change. Anarchists from the Spanish Civil war to the Occupy movement have been exploring these complexities within anti-hierarchical ideals. Banning alcohol has been a massive issue in some alternative communities, with passionate arguments on both sides. And only yesterday my supervision group wondered why such a student centred, accepting teacher as me suggested we didn’t swear in our sessions! A long discussion ensued about containment versus domination.
2. Regular practices seem to be important too, even if they are really simple like noticing the breath and/or repeating a name like E-qua-li-a. People can choose their own rather than have them ‘enforced’ but might need support and encouragement.
3. Community also feels vital. Gatherings and feasts are as old as humanity and can be held around natural seasons and moon times etc. Nature and our bodies can be our sacred books and our own intuition and deepest core holds all (or at least most of) the wisdom we need.
The list is endless but I tried to capture the central idea of spirit and structure in my painting of the Spirit of Pan (above). I wanted to express both the music and ecstasy of the steel pan and the wildness of the god Pan in one picture. There are straight lines and boxes around and through the energy and flow of spirit. Hope you like it.
Oh, and of course ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are rather dubious binary opposites and not words I personally use too often!
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