Monday, June 28, 2010

Spirit Addict and God Genes

Check this out. The God Gene

Isn't the idea of a "God gene" interesting? And horrifying? If such a thing exists, then I must for sure have it and it is troubling to me. Problematic. Concerning. I'm not supposed to be so spiritual. I'm supposed to know better. Except when I'm supposed to know better than to buy into the idea that just because something "makes sense" it equals Truth. Except when I'm supposed to know better than to attribute that which exceeds human knowledge to some divine sky buddy. Except when I'm supposed to know better than to buy into simplistic jackass dismissals of profound religious experience. *sigh*

I can imagine Yoda right now, "The God gene is strong in this one, it is." (The fact that I use Star Wars to illustrate my spirituality is, I imagine, yet another of my problems).

In uncomfortable honesty I say that I've been struggling mightily with my spirituality. I carry it around like a mental illness and I try to laugh it off. There are times when I envy the orthodox because they do not seem rationalize their experiences, but as a member of a liberal community (spiritual liberals and intellectual liberals), I find that my form of religious experience is suspect even to myself. I treat my spirituality as one might treat an addiction. I cannot stop myself from it, and yet I am ashamed of the attraction. I crave spiritual writing,tarot, meditation, contemplation, prayer, sacred texts, holy images...and believe none of it.

The relief I experience when other Friends actually admit that they have an emotional, body-centered experience in meeting rather than just a vague sense of liberal satisfaction in the goodness of the universe or the potential of humanity or whatever is a profound relief to me. If I am mentally ill, at least I'd like some company.

Damn God genes. Blessed God genes.


Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

As another body-centered Quaker, I share your sense of relief when I hear other Friends talk about the fact that worship is so immediate, physical, visceral. I was recently at a retreat on Quaker ministry where (as is my norm) I felt horribly inadequate and self-conscious about even presuming to be there--until I heard others speaking about their physical experiences around worship and ministry, and then I so deeply recognized what was being said as true for me, too, that I couldn't pretend any longer I didn't belong there.

But it was hard staying there long enough to hear how out-of-place I wasn't!

Last week, at meeting for worship, I gave vocal ministry on how God and the sense of smell (of all things) are associated for me--how the way rich and nameless smells just are, indescribable and sometimes overwhelming. And how, in a way, that's my experience of Spirit... it's not a thing that I can put logic to so much as a thing I breathe in in a deep, non-verbal part of myself. It's real and powerful and physical and utterly elusive when I try to reduce the experience to something that makes sense in language.

I know. Weird ministry. But a fair number of people told me afterwards that it was meaningful and important to them.

Maybe all of us God gene people, us God addicts, God cravers, or whatever we are, are lonely for affirmation that, crazy or not, others see (smell?) the world the way we do.

I can't help but think that my non-God-addicted friends must find all of this very bizarre. You can't take me (us?) anywhere; it's like having a friend who is liable to fits--anything and everything can suddenly interest me in talking about, thinking about, or even directly interacting with Spirit! Talk about addict behavior...

Hystery said...

Funny you should mention fits. I also was long ago diagnosed with these wee little seizures-not the kind anyone notices, but the kind that are associated with spiritual experience. I have always had such vivid spiritual dreams and (I guess I would call them) revelations in which I suddenly understand something that I never asked at all to understand. These are very random, intense, physical experiences that often necessitate a change in my path. I understand most of what I understand intuitively which embarrasses me within the context of who I'm supposed to be as a teacher/scholar. On the other hand, how I understand the world fits in much better with feminist thealogy which I've rather neglected lately under pressures to establish myself as an historian. Also, I haven't been myself since I spoke at an atheist conference about three years ago. I stopped trusting myself and I began to participate in a rather sexist evaluation of my experiences and knowledge base. I don't like to admit that but it seems to be the case.

As for smells-- I often speak of smells using the language of sound and colors and of colors using the language of scent and taste and so forth. And I know what sounds look like and how to ride them (you have to turn notes on their side to ride them). I do wonder if others understand things that way.

So how's that for crazy?

Morgaine said...

May I ask why you struggle so? I understand the Socratic pull being present, like gravity, as it should be. But without the resistance and opposition there is no balance struck.

In the Light,

Hystery said...

I guess there isn't much balance in me. Always been a problem. I have gendering issues. Not gender issues, gendering issues. And my education messed me up something fierce.

Lone Star Ma said...

I'm right there with you. I don't struggle as much with it inside, I don't think, but I do...hide it a lot. Not a very integrity-ish thing to do...

Morgaine said...

May you meet balance some night and may she become your bosom friend.

In the Light,

Hystery said...

Looking again at the idea of mental illness as related to spiritual experience, I think that it is more likely that our culture is ill and that those individuals whose bodies continue to speak to them of the need for love and connection to each other and the environment are well. Sanity is merely a collectively agreed upon set of constructs.

Daniel Wilcox said...

Dear Hystery,

I've reflected on your post for a not sure I understand, though here's a few of my thoughts.

From what I've read the "God gene" is another example of media and pop scientism, not taken seriously by professional scientists or philosophers.

As for your personal situation: "spiritual addiction" and paradox (I crave spiritual writing, tarot...sacred texts...and believe none of it), I don't understand as it is different from my own journey.

In my understanding and limited experience, spirituality--as opposed to "much in religions" is in its true nature,
experiential/realization/worship of Ultimate Reality (I-Thou, to use Buber's words; to become again--to use Jesus' words--as a child, though with our adult knowledge and awareness and intellect included.

When spiritually aware, we "see" the Eternal and are cognizant of the superficiality, transitory, and bogus nature of what most of us fixate on much of our life.

For many humans, there has been a disjoint between the intellect and the experiential/spiritual, as well as the muddle of bad theological tradition, misguided secular thinking, and the pall of the idolatrous/superstitious.

May you experience the Light today:-), the integration of all that is True.

Thanks for sharing with us your personal reflections.


Hystery said...


Did you see the link I placed at the beginning of the post? It was John Cleese explaining the "God gene". Pretty funny.

Regarding tarot: We learned about divination techniques in my Jungian psychology and comparative religion classes right alongside dream analysis. Tarot works very well because it moves the thinker past the linear thinking patterns dominant in the west into intuitive, image-based, and more imaginative thinking. The tarot deck doesn't actually predict anything for you. It won't tell you anything you don't already know, but like dreams, it can tell you what your subconscious brain needs you to bring to consciousness. Because the tarot deck uses images that have such a rich cultural history here in the West, it is particularly effective but pretty much anything you want to use would work. There's no magic in the deck, the magic is in the practitioner.

Tarot has been exceedingly helpful to me these past many years. When I say, "I don't believe it", that's partially a joke. I'm almost never serious about myself (because I have such an awful tendency to take myself so seriously!) I find that when I'm over-thinking an issue and unable to move forward, I can usually bring myself toward a deeper honesty about the situation and my relationship to it if I sit down with my tarot cards or with my other well-used divination deck. I suppose it is my equivalent of prayer and bible reading. It helps me move out of the "thinking" rut and back into a more natural intuitive balance.

Relaxing into intuitive thinking is an important discipline for me since so much of my formal education demanded more linear, word-oriented, rational thinking. Since most all of my work has been in feminist theory, the great irony has been that I learned to deconstruct "phallocentric" symbol structures and theories and to distrust Cartesian methodologies as I was being trained to use them! If I hadn't spent so much time learning to deconstruct patriarchy, I wouldn't have been so consciously affected by it. Like someone who cleans up a toxic spill, I came out of my women's studies program affected by the poisons I had learned to fight. So really, I'm still in phallocentrism detox. Tarot helps me purge the extra "linear, Cartesian dualism" from my system.

Hystery said...

Not that linear, Cartesian dualism is evil. It is quite fine and healthy in appropriate doses. But just like so many nutrients, too much of that vitamin is a toxin.

Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Hystery,

I'm back from my day job:-)

No, I didn't notice the link when I read your post the first two times. I don't know how I missed it; I guess I thought the blue letters were only a title.

Yeah, I remember reading Jung (Man and His Symbols) in a psychology class and references in my comparative lit classes. I appreciated Jung more than some of the other psychologists such as Skinner. But actually was influenced more by Eric Berne (TA), cognitive psychology, and gestalt (really liked Fritz Perl's book).

You already know my views about stuff like Tarot cards,so I won't take up room on your comment site for that.

But thanks for sharing your perspective.


Hystery said...

One extra thing in Quaker lingo. I basically view Tarot cards as pictorial queries. They don't give me any answers, but they challenge me to question myself more deeply and constructively.

Norea from NTF said...

"I crave spiritual writing,tarot, meditation, contemplation, prayer, sacred texts, holy images...and believe none of it."

So you're an honest religious person. Deep down, I think most religious adherents (which institution they "adhere" to, through birth or proximity) feel the same, they're just afraid to admit it. See here. (PDF)

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