More thoughts on religion

Spirits, beings or ideas worshipped as gods commonly get this title based on, mainly, politics. For anyone with any knowledge on Egyptology, the contentions of Horus and Set is a classic example. The Horus devotees won out, which is why Horus has such a prominent place in the pantheon, and Set that of the chaotic trickster-antagonist. Judaism and Christianity were founded on many hundreds of years of inter-tribal political warfare. The winner of the battle wins the right to tout their religion as dominant, while the losers are resigned to the scrap heap of history. In the end, it all boils down to tribal politics, and even the personal politics of those who are invested in the transmission of sacred texts throughout the ages.

“Gods” are those spirits, beings or ideas that people choose to bend knee to. People forget that myths aren’t literal interpretations of events, that these myths are colored quite heavily by the politics of the times and, like everyone else, these spirits are still just as subject to the machinations of the greater universe/multiverse. There is no such thing as an omniscient, omnipotent being, and there are no such things as gods. Some spirits just have bigger fandoms than others. Granted, some of these greater spirits may interact with their fanbase to many varying degrees. But to relinquish freewill is to relinquish personal responsibility, and to see any entity as beyond or greater than what any other universal principle we are subject to is a dangerous thought process.

That said, I do not think theism or spirituality is ultimately destructive. The relationships one has with spirits is and can be like the relationships one has with anyone else, which is very diverse. Some good and some bad. Some healthy and some not so much. My rule of thumb is that as long as said beliefs do not promote abuse (to self or others), or the propagation of bad science (of which creationists are infamous), then it really isn’t a concern of mine. I personally feel that the tack some atheists take of aggressively belittling and slandering theists and those of a spiritual persuasion only serve to create more harm than good. Ecumenical approaches can be taken, especially if one falls in the realm of the spiritual that only theists themselves seem to navigate (in my case, minus the gods, religion, devotion and worship).

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On Being Berserk

(This is a repost from a recent LiveJournal post)


This piece is written with a theist bent, but that aside I’m finding the information in there very intriguing to my own situation. I also greatly enjoyed reading about the science behind the biology, and overall the article is very well-researched.

With regards to alcohol-induced rage, I have been known to go into this state during intoxication, but I wouldn’t say alcohol is the cause of this. Generally pain doesn’t stop me. The only thing that would stop me suddenly is if my breathing were to get obstructed, or maybe someone attempting to talk me down. Otherwise, I eventually just run out of steam.

In the end I would concur with the author here, in it being a self-induced phenomenon, or triggered by some sort of strong emotion. Neurotransmitters such as adrenaline would go strongly into play here. This can definitely be seen as a form of altered state, and as such, anyone with a strong religious inclination can definitely see it as a spiritual experience. Very similar to this would be the ordeal-frenzied shamans have been known to whip themselves into, though the means and ends may be slightly different.

My experience with it is also similar, in the sharpening of senses. My muscles will spasm. My mouth has a tendency to get real dry. I’ll pace. I’ve been told I have a habit of growling a lot. My hands will clench and unclench and, in thinking about it, they do tend to be held in an attitude suggesting claws. Paranoia and fear are also experienced, to varying degrees. Usually when I come out of this episode, I am weak, sore all over, and experiencing strong migraine symptoms. Usually I spend most of the day hibernating, but occasionally I will awaken the next morning and act as if nothing has occurred. I think it all depends on the emotions involved at the time, and the general situation. I also found some similarities with the author’s recounting of his own childhood. When describing the physical attributes of berserkers, I was surprised to read that “short and skinny” (which fits my description) was a common attribute, as well as the more commonly-known broad and hairy ones.

Overall, it was an interesting read. It also gives me something to think about, as it relates to my own personal situation.

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A brief statement on spirits and ethics

I can’t say I particularly care for Michelle Belanger or her works, but something quoted in one of her books is actually something I agree with, and something I feel more people should pay attention to.

Although it has been widely popularized in television and the movies, the technique of sending spirits into the light is not recommended. When human spirits linger by their own choice, it is presumptuous to second guess that choice and seek to take away the spirits’ free will. When a human spirit lingers due to unresolved issues, attempts to send them into the light may cause them to make the transition to the next state of existence prematurely. It is better and more respectful to help the spirits resolve issues on their own than to judge them or force them to move on against their will.

~The Ghost Hunter’s Survival Guide, by Michelle Belanger, emphasis in quotes mine.

I find this to speak very true, and have had personal experience in such dealings. I notice that there are some occultists, otherkin, newagers and multiples out there who seem to be quite willing to shirk many ethical boundaries involving sentient spirits, doing things to them or involving them that would probably present dire consequences in the physical world (such as prison time, etc.). People tend to assume that because this sort of thing happens on the “spirit-world”, there are no witnesses, and reality is all subjective anyway, so they feel confident in their ability to get away with their actions.

This is a topic I may explore more in depth at a later time as I gather my thoughts on the issue.

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Monkey Brain

If monkeys have taught us anything it’s that you’ve got to learn how to love before you learn how to live.
~Harry F. Harlow,
This Week, March 3,1961

This quote is very true, and is far more relevant to my life than I would even begin to be able to explain on a public forum such as this.

To make a long story short, I experience a great deal of daily struggle with my emotions (or lack thereof), my relations with others, and my ability to empathize, not only with other humans but with other creatures. I don’t consider the latter as much of a bad thing necessarily. I was never much of an “animal lover” or “animal person”. I am largely ambivalent about such things. But that does not seem to stop the imagery and symbology from seeping into my subconscious and into my own past history.

Most vividly what comes to mind when relating this is a repeated dream where I am walking down a long and sterile hallway, like one you would find in a medical laboratory or hospital. Ahead of me is a boy who I perceive to be my younger self. When I catch sight of this boy, I begin to chase him as he turns to walk away from me. By the time I catch up with him, he has transformed into a macaque, but that doesn’t stop me from grabbing him up in my arms. I find this last part to be alarming, as I happen to be a rather severe germophobe, and monkeys aren’t renown for their cleanliness (in fact, they actually harbor more diseases deadly to humans than rats do). As the boy-turned-monkey wraps his arms around me, he disappears into me, as if I am absorbing him. By the end of this dream I am fully cognizant of the fact that the monkey-boy and I are the same person, that I seem to be actively seeking out a part of myself and, in this particular case, succeeded in seizing hold of it.

Harry Fredrick Harlow (born Harry Isreal) of the University of Madison-Wisconsin is infamous to many, both in his treatment of monkeys and his inflammatory opinions on women. But the major thing Dr. Harlow accomplished in his career was shedding light on the mechanics of affection, the damaging effects of isolation (and how to reverse its effects), and the profound usefulness of primates in research. He was one of the first scientists to introduce the use of primates and started what would be considered the first sustainable breeding colony of Rhesus macaques in the US. Through his experiments on isolation and deprivation in juvenile rhesus macaques, he inadvertently helped give rise to the animal liberation movement.

During Harry Harlow’s time, there was still the commonly held belief that physical and emotional affection were damaging to the growth, health and behavior of the child. This created sterile environments in institutions where the physical needs of the child were addressed, but the physical and emotional needs largely ignored or discouraged. Physical contact such as cuddling by the mother were believed to cause not only poor behavior in the child, but the transference of germs and bacteria. Part of this belief was held firmly in the society’s stance on women during the late 1800s and early 1900s. John B. Watson, a psychologist, early member of the APA and author of the work, “The Dangers of Too Much Mother Love”, was quoted as saying, “When you are tempted to pet your child remember that mother love is a dangerous instrument.” Deborah Blum, in her book Love At Goon Park adds:

Nothing could be worse for a child, by this calculation, than being mothered. And being mothered meant being cradled, cuddled, cosseted. It was a recipe for softness, a strategy for undermining strong character. Doting parents, especially the female half of the partnership, endowed their children with “weaknesses, reserves, fears, cautions and inferiorities.”

This sterilization principle was responsible for a very high mortality rate of children in hospitals and orphanages at the time. Some orphanages hit an annual mortality rate of 100%. It is the work of Harry Harlow, as well as some other psychologists of the time such as William Goldfarb, that helped shatter this damaging viewpoint. And Harlow would not have been successful without the macaque. Although some people to this day can’t seem to get beyond the ethics behind his experimentations, he shed some much needed light on the mechanics of affection. For this, I thank him.

This also sheds light on some of my own inner workings. If I could relate to any animal on what would be considered a totemic level, it would be the macaque (perhaps also the bear, but that is a series of posts for a later time). Its behavior, function and its usefulness to humans resonate on a profoundly deep archetypal level as it pertains to myself and my own life, something that cannot be summed up in a single post, and perhaps not as directly on a public format.

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On Animism

Everything is made up of energy, and coded within this energy is information. This can manifest itself in different forms and to varying degrees of sentience. Animism would come closest to this, though I would expand the definition to include things such as man-made and mechanical structures, computers and cybernetics.

This isn’t limited to the confines of the Earth, of course. The entire universe is alive, a vast and complex ecosystem of energy currents and entities. This belief fuels, at least in part, my interest in astronomy. You could call it a fascination with the utter vastness and power of the world above.

Or you could call it homesickness.

But to venture beyond that statement would be to lump myself in with those who refer to themselves as “Starseed” or “Starborn”, or whichever sugary bullshit term they happen to be calling themselves these days. You could call the Celestial sphere an “element”, however that would be limiting when you consider that space is the very wellspring from which all other elements come to be. I guess “element” would work in a superficial sense, if you consider that, from a terrestrial standpoint, it is a world apart from the barrier of the Earth’s atmosphere. So, assuming we are working from that viewpoint, the world above, space and the celestial sectors, are indeed my element (which I expressed in an earlier post, in describing this).

I know a few people that collect the remnants of deceased animals and other pieces from nature as a way of maintaining totemic bonds. This same mentality is applied to my hobby of collecting meteorites. Other than stargazing and research, it is my own way of maintaining these bonds, and something I intend on expanding on in further entries.

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More Sounds From Space

Space Audio, from the University of Iowa

It seems like a fair amount of the links presented in the Radio Astronomy section of the blogroll are outdated, so I went in search of new resources. This is what I came up with. I’m sincerely hoping that the old links are fixed eventually, particularly Radio Astronomy. I will at the very least keep them for archival purposes, and add new ones as I find them.

I also purchased spacesounds, available on iTunes, also featuring a wide variety of sounds from space. The website also provides clips and a variety of other interesting educational and audio features.

As I mentioned in an older post, this is an integral part of what does constitute my spirituality. This is strongly what I consider my element as well. A wolf therianthrope may listen to the sounds of howling wolves to gain inspiration or otherwise be moved internally by the experience, and this is no exception. This is tuning in to a part of who I am, on a core, elemental level.

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Dethroning the Gods

Model This, on atheism and magic, from Plutonica

This, to an extent, reflects my views on spirituality in general. As someone who was considered a hard atheist in the past, I am constantly trying to balance skepticism as I proceed within the occult sectors. My belief in spirits and nonphysical entities and beings (ranging from things akin to computer programs to wholly sentient beings) is fairly solid. As a walk-in, I cannot contest the idea of the mind and inner being existing independently of the physical flesh, which would include ideas such as reincarnation. Atheism is just as the word states, a lack of belief in gods. Sometimes it isn’t the issue of not believing in a being so much as contesting its godly status.

The delusion that one needs the assistance of gods or other beings to perform magic or navigate the otherworlds is largely a flawed one. People who hold to the view that such beings aren’t needed are commonly attacked for these beliefs. Religious and spiritual fanatics make their homes in a wide variety of settings, not just Christian ones. I would rather more depend on myself rather than the aid of someone else in doing any sort of occult work. As in the physical realm, I am largely an independent loner, and prefer to be left alone. I could care less your age, your alleged power, or which plane of existence you happen to make your home.

One can be spiritual, and engage in the occult sciences, without the aid of a deity or a selection of deities. The idea that atheists possess a complete lack or experience of the numinous is one that needs to change.

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