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Author Topic: In a state of spiritual transition  (Read 284 times)

EclecticWheel

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In a state of spiritual transition
« on: June 03, 2018, 09:37:56 pm »
I'm not really sure what kind of response I'm looking for here, although I may come up with a few questions for advice.  Mainly I'm just coming here to share my journey since I don't have any other place to share with others, at least not anyone that would remotely understand or sympathize.

I am in the middle of a depression, and when I'm depressed I tend to introspect about my religious path even more than I normally do.  I realize that when I am depressed I also often develop a skewed perspective, and I'm keeping that in mind.  But I also often become more productive and creative in regard to religion, too.

So this time around I'm just rolling with it and writing theology, revising my rituals, thinking, and creating.

For a while I was following two paths in parallel, my Episcopal faith (which I interpreted in my own non-traditional way) and another path consisting of my own rituals with a pantheistic basis.  Those rituals started out in a Christian context before they evolved into something else.

Since I generally take a non-realist stance to religion I was able to switch into different narratives and stories depending on which ritual I was engaged in.  I have known of some esoteric Christians that do the same depending on what ritual they are using.  However, this became tiresome.  I didn't feel like flipping through different theologies.  It's easy enough to transition in a ritual context, but what about day to day life?  Which one do I choose?  That's where the problem came in.

So I revised my rituals back to what they basically were before.  They don't really conflict with Christianity in that form.  The main ritual is a reenactment of a very strange spiritual encounter I had about eight years ago and which did have Christian elements and involved saints, but also could be interpreted as going beyond usual Christianity.

After doing that I began writing my own theology.  I got off to a very rough start.  Writing theology is difficult, but I have managed to produce a basic core of theology expressing and refining the basic take I've had on Christianity for years.  I'm still working on it, and it has been rewarding.

But after writing it what I knew intellectually has really hit home.  While I am basically working with the Trinity and saints of the Christian religion -- and some entities that are simply a part of my own experience and not a part of any religion or pantheon -- my theology is a reinterpretation of Christianity to such a radical extent that I am not recognizably a Christian except perhaps culturally.  I don't have any problem with Christianity in general!  I'm just not one, not by most definitions.  And functionally I am not easily distinguishable from a polytheist if at all.  Even my take on God is more compatible with a polytheistic stance as I don't subscribe to omnipotence and interpret "his" "almighiness" in a poetic sense.

I also haven't been happy with the idea of restricting the development of my rituals to Christian orthodoxy because what I am doing ritually is very much to do with self-exploration, and I don't like to be overly restricted in that regard.  So I've again revised them, drawing from another phase they had gone through years ago.  The rituals now contain elements from every phase of development they have passed through, but without some of the theological difficulties I ran into in the pantheist phase.

But now they are definitely not traditionally Christian.

I am happy with where I am in my ritual workings right now.  It took a long ass time to get here and to work out the bugs, and now I'm able to do some psychological work on myself that I've been wanting to do.  And I think it's kind of cool that there are elements from every phase the rituals have gone through -- I noticed that about Christian liturgy, too, except it took centuries for that to develop.

But now I'm left wondering what I should do with my Episcopal affiliation!  I'm more comfortable with my own rituals as my primary path because they are more directly tied to my theology and the work I'm doing on myself.  At this point all of my prayers are a part of my personal ritual system.

I'm being careful about what decisions I make right now because when I'm depressed I can be rash and isolate myself, and I usually only contemplate leaving the community if I'm depressed.  It's not that these issues don't come up with I'm not depressed, they do.  It's just this time around I've decided to take a harder look.

The good thing is that even if I decide I can no longer partake of the Christian sacraments I still have other connections to my Episcopal community through friends and a discussion group, and when I can make it, a meditation group and labyrinth walks.

The other good thing is that in the Episcopal Church there doesn't seem to be an insistence by most that anyone toe the line on orthodoxy, especially laity.  We simply follow common practices together.  Plenty of clergy and even bishops are just as heretical as I am, so I don't feel dishonest or hypocritical taking the sacraments.  My understanding is that modern day Anglicanism in the Episcopal Church has evolved to become much more open to non-traditional interpretation, and it's probably going to stay that way as long our community goes on existing.

Even in my conservative parish the deacon and other members have been very honest about their eclectic non-traditional views, and they are not given any trouble by the priests or denied sacraments or leadership positions in the parish.  They may not fit in exactly, but they are included along with everyone else.

I'm still working out what I'm going to do.  I don't feel any obligation to leave, as I've said, nor do I think I'm being dishonest by participating in the community if I wish, it's just a matter of what is going to work best for me, and I'm not sure.  It does look like I'm most comfortable with my own rituals forming my primary path and way of relating to myself and the world because they are directly born from my own experiences and beliefs.

I'm not making any fast decisions for a number of reasons, number one being that I am DEPRESSED, and my perspectives get skewed, and I get really confused spiritually sometimes when that happens.  Now, I have my own liturgical year, and we're almost to the Summer Solstice which I observe, so I've decided to go on committed to my own path from the Summer Solstice to the Autumnal Equinox and put the questions related to my Episcopal affiliation on the back burner and not worry about it nor leave the community yet.

Then at the Autumnal Equinox I'll evaluate where I'm at, and go from there, and maybe decide to go on doing the same until the Winter Solstice.

One thing I'm not going to do is abandon my ritual system.  I've been practicing and working on that for eight years since my spiritual encounter, and I'm not going back.  I've just got to decide where and if my Episcopal background can still be a part of what I do.

Again, I'm not sure what response I'm looking for here, and I'm just getting some things off my chest in the open, but I could ask a few questions.

Do you have any advice for me about transitioning from a communal faith to a self-created personal one?

Just how elastic can an Abrahamic faith, in this case, the Episcopal one, be?  Does it matter that the modern church is so inclusive of heretics and in some cases even neo-pagans?  I'm not sure what to make of that right now.

I can't think of any more questions at present.  If you read this -- even if you don't have anything to respond with -- thank you for letting me share with you!
Love wisely, and do what thou wilt.

Demophon

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Re: In a state of spiritual transition
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2018, 10:33:01 pm »
I can't think of any more questions at present.  If you read this -- even if you don't have anything to respond with -- thank you for letting me share with you!

I don't have any real advice to offer, but I can sympathize. I think it's fine to continue participating in an Episcopalian/Anglican context, even if it's just for community and cultural tradition. Those reasons are as good as any for being involved in a religious tradition, even if you have other practices at home in private. I'm finding myself that I don't really believe in many orthodox Christian teachings, but I still enjoy going to church for the music, liturgy, and community support. Just do what makes you comfortable, as I'm sure Episcopalian churches welcome anyone regardless of their personal theological stances. As long as you aren't proclaiming heresy from the pulpit, your personal views are not really anyone's business.

EclecticWheel

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Re: In a state of spiritual transition
« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2018, 01:24:09 pm »
I'm not really sure what kind of response I'm looking for here, although I may come up with a few questions for advice.  Mainly I'm just coming here to share my journey since I don't have any other place to share with others, at least not anyone that would remotely understand or sympathize.

I am in the middle of a depression, and when I'm depressed I tend to introspect about my religious path even more than I normally do.  I realize that when I am depressed I also often develop a skewed perspective, and I'm keeping that in mind.  But I also often become more productive and creative in regard to religion, too.

So this time around I'm just rolling with it and writing theology, revising my rituals, thinking, and creating.

For a while I was following two paths in parallel, my Episcopal faith (which I interpreted in my own non-traditional way) and another path consisting of my own rituals with a pantheistic basis.  Those rituals started out in a Christian context before they evolved into something else.

Since I generally take a non-realist stance to religion I was able to switch into different narratives and stories depending on which ritual I was engaged in.  I have known of some esoteric Christians that do the same depending on what ritual they are using.  However, this became tiresome.  I didn't feel like flipping through different theologies.  It's easy enough to transition in a ritual context, but what about day to day life?  Which one do I choose?  That's where the problem came in.

So I revised my rituals back to what they basically were before.  They don't really conflict with Christianity in that form.  The main ritual is a reenactment of a very strange spiritual encounter I had about eight years ago and which did have Christian elements and involved saints, but also could be interpreted as going beyond usual Christianity.

After doing that I began writing my own theology.  I got off to a very rough start.  Writing theology is difficult, but I have managed to produce a basic core of theology expressing and refining the basic take I've had on Christianity for years.  I'm still working on it, and it has been rewarding.

But after writing it what I knew intellectually has really hit home.  While I am basically working with the Trinity and saints of the Christian religion -- and some entities that are simply a part of my own experience and not a part of any religion or pantheon -- my theology is a reinterpretation of Christianity to such a radical extent that I am not recognizably a Christian except perhaps culturally.  I don't have any problem with Christianity in general!  I'm just not one, not by most definitions.  And functionally I am not easily distinguishable from a polytheist if at all.  Even my take on God is more compatible with a polytheistic stance as I don't subscribe to omnipotence and interpret "his" "almighiness" in a poetic sense.

I also haven't been happy with the idea of restricting the development of my rituals to Christian orthodoxy because what I am doing ritually is very much to do with self-exploration, and I don't like to be overly restricted in that regard.  So I've again revised them, drawing from another phase they had gone through years ago.  The rituals now contain elements from every phase of development they have passed through, but without some of the theological difficulties I ran into in the pantheist phase.

But now they are definitely not traditionally Christian.

I am happy with where I am in my ritual workings right now.  It took a long ass time to get here and to work out the bugs, and now I'm able to do some psychological work on myself that I've been wanting to do.  And I think it's kind of cool that there are elements from every phase the rituals have gone through -- I noticed that about Christian liturgy, too, except it took centuries for that to develop.

But now I'm left wondering what I should do with my Episcopal affiliation!  I'm more comfortable with my own rituals as my primary path because they are more directly tied to my theology and the work I'm doing on myself.  At this point all of my prayers are a part of my personal ritual system.

I'm being careful about what decisions I make right now because when I'm depressed I can be rash and isolate myself, and I usually only contemplate leaving the community if I'm depressed.  It's not that these issues don't come up with I'm not depressed, they do.  It's just this time around I've decided to take a harder look.

The good thing is that even if I decide I can no longer partake of the Christian sacraments I still have other connections to my Episcopal community through friends and a discussion group, and when I can make it, a meditation group and labyrinth walks.

The other good thing is that in the Episcopal Church there doesn't seem to be an insistence by most that anyone toe the line on orthodoxy, especially laity.  We simply follow common practices together.  Plenty of clergy and even bishops are just as heretical as I am, so I don't feel dishonest or hypocritical taking the sacraments.  My understanding is that modern day Anglicanism in the Episcopal Church has evolved to become much more open to non-traditional interpretation, and it's probably going to stay that way as long our community goes on existing.

Even in my conservative parish the deacon and other members have been very honest about their eclectic non-traditional views, and they are not given any trouble by the priests or denied sacraments or leadership positions in the parish.  They may not fit in exactly, but they are included along with everyone else.

I'm still working out what I'm going to do.  I don't feel any obligation to leave, as I've said, nor do I think I'm being dishonest by participating in the community if I wish, it's just a matter of what is going to work best for me, and I'm not sure.  It does look like I'm most comfortable with my own rituals forming my primary path and way of relating to myself and the world because they are directly born from my own experiences and beliefs.

I'm not making any fast decisions for a number of reasons, number one being that I am DEPRESSED, and my perspectives get skewed, and I get really confused spiritually sometimes when that happens.  Now, I have my own liturgical year, and we're almost to the Summer Solstice which I observe, so I've decided to go on committed to my own path from the Summer Solstice to the Autumnal Equinox and put the questions related to my Episcopal affiliation on the back burner and not worry about it nor leave the community yet.

Then at the Autumnal Equinox I'll evaluate where I'm at, and go from there, and maybe decide to go on doing the same until the Winter Solstice.

One thing I'm not going to do is abandon my ritual system.  I've been practicing and working on that for eight years since my spiritual encounter, and I'm not going back.  I've just got to decide where and if my Episcopal background can still be a part of what I do.

Again, I'm not sure what response I'm looking for here, and I'm just getting some things off my chest in the open, but I could ask a few questions.

Do you have any advice for me about transitioning from a communal faith to a self-created personal one?

Just how elastic can an Abrahamic faith, in this case, the Episcopal one, be?  Does it matter that the modern church is so inclusive of heretics and in some cases even neo-pagans?  I'm not sure what to make of that right now.

I can't think of any more questions at present.  If you read this -- even if you don't have anything to respond with -- thank you for letting me share with you!

Well, I made my summer resolution not to change anything, especially since I am in the midst of a depression, and that is when I feel the most ambivalent about my religious loyalties.  The depression lifted briefly, and I did not feel any conflict at that time.

While I was not depressed and I could think more clearly I had the insight that people use the term "Christian" in different ways.  Many people in the Episcopal Church do not use that term in the same way that the mainstream does, and there are certain groups that use it differently, too.  Perhaps I could take a cue from the ecauldron website and include among a definition of Christian the point that one self-identifies as one because sometimes that's almost all Christians seem to have in common.

The analogy came to me of thinking of the Bible and the Christian tradition as like an attic that contains furniture from different time periods and styles.  This is how I feel reading the Bible or reciting it in the Office.  I come across different theologies, sometimes conflicting.  Contradictions, different viewpoints.  The orthodox pick their own narrative out of the disparate furniture, but it's not the only one.  I have my own narrative, one I have chosen, my own interpretations, my own voice to add to the tapestry that exists across space and time out of all these conflicting Christianities.

If my community wishes to accept me and include me and I find fulfillment in that, who cares if some of our laity, bishops, and clergy are using the term "Christian" in a sense that is not mainstream?  It's one of those words where you just have to ask someone what they mean by it, and that's okay.

My private rituals are arguably still on the Christian spectrum very broadly considered, and I interpret them through the same theological lens as I interpret my Episcopal tradition, so I have a reduced sense of conflict and don't really feel like I am having to pick and choose one narrative over another or switch back and forth between them.  So for this summer I have made my commitment: don't change anything, especially when depressed.

I am currently being evaluated for OCD and I do develop religious obsessions when I am depressed.  Sometimes my thoughts get stuck in a loop and they go around and around and around -- even in my sleep.  And i wake up and I am still in that loop, and it makes everything very confusing for a time.  But this, too, shall pass.
Love wisely, and do what thou wilt.

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