Monday, May 17, 2010

Eclectic Spirituality

I've been giving some thought to the idea of eclectic spirituality and the fact that I have been for decades picking and choosing from the world's various belief systems that which I personally identify with and that feed my soul. In doing so I have tailor-made a spirituality that suits me to a tee, yet is constantly shifting a tiny bit in this or that direction as who I am changes through the years. I'm a pagan, a witch, and a woman who spent a full decade of her life studying Buddhism and who incorporates many of the Buddha's teachings into her present philosophy. I am a follower of ayurveda and a practitioner of yoga. As a direct descendant of a full-blooded Native American woman, I engage in many tribal rituals and honor Mother Earth every single day. And while it's well in the back of my mind these days, I also still carry with me the biblical theories pummeled into my brain during confirmation classes, growing up as a little girl in the stuffy and unpleasantly straight-laced Lutheran Church. I believe in the God and the Goddess, I believe in Mother Earth and the four elements. I honor and live by the years, the seasons, the days, the hours. I honor the moon. I believe in magick and intuition and divination. I am a very spiritual person, which (in my opinion, at any rate) is a very different thing from a religious person. A religious person I am not and never have been.

And the funny thing is, I would have thought that this movement towards the eclectic really began in the 60s when so many people were searching for something deeper, something more mystical than everyday life (and quite a bit of drugs) provided. I'm not so naive to think that there was no dabbling into other faiths and beliefs prior to that period, but it feels like that decade is when spiritual momentum shifted into high gear. The term "new age" (which I hate, by the way) was coined in the 80s to describe that decade's movement into the eclectic and many scholars still treat the 80s as though that period was the first real movement towards something broader than a single-based faith. Unfortunately though, that tag brings with it a whole lot of mental images best left back in the 80s, never to be seen or heard from again. And even today, the term "new age" is used rather derisively by most people, both in and out of the mainstream.

But surprisingly, following an eclectic path spiritually dates back to ancient Greece. The word eclectic comes from the Greek word eklektikos which means "selective, or the act of picking out." One of the first to ever take from the world's existing religions and philosophies and blend them into a truly personal spirituality was Ammonius Saccas, a philosopher who left no writings of his own but was referred to by many other Greek philosophers in theirs, namely Plotinus and Porphyry. Ultimately, Saccas wanted to fuse all religions together into one that honored the Divine Being who made everything possible, as all faiths ultimately originate from this same source, and by returning to it one could end a lot of hatred. His studies gave rise to the term "eclectic" and although his beliefs were accepted by many, ultimately he was driven out of his homeland and silenced by the early Christians.

And despite a couple of millennia passing, life doesn't change all that much does it? And regardless of what others think of me, or my belief system, I'm going to continue on the path laid before me. It feels right in my heart and soul and ultimately, that's the only thing that truly matters. It's taken a lifetime of searching for me to feel as peaceful as I feel today and that's a beautiful thing. Happiness and sorrow are both fleeting, but being able to find peace in who you are and what you adhere to is the perfect foundation on which to build everything else. Go where your heart leads you and fear nothing.


Robur d'Amour said...

How interesting.

Joseph Campbell said - if you are following someone else's path, you are not on the adventure - and pointed to precedents in the Grail story, where knights had to enter the forest - each at a point of their own choosing.

Eclectic also seems to have the meaning of 'being chosen', and is related to latin 'lego' with a range of similar meanings - choosing, being chosen, etc, and gives rise to modern words such as elected and election.

An interesting word is 'marga', Sanskrit, but used by Campbell to mean following a path laid down by the unconscious.

Victoria said...

You've gotten me thinking even more! Thanks!

Judith said...

I was always taught, learn it all, then use it as you will.