“Although in many primitive cultures there is a recognized division of function between priests and shamans, in the more highly developed cultures in which cults have become strongly organized churches, the priesthood fights an unrelenting war against shamans. . . .
“Priests work in a rigorously structured hierarchy fixed in a firm set of traditions. Their power comes from and is vested in the organization itself. They constitute a religious bureaucracy.
“Shamans, on the other hand, are arrant individualists. Each is on his own, undisciplined by bureaucratic control,- hence a shaman is always a threat to the order of the organized church. In the view of the priests they are presumptive pretenders.
“Joan of Arc was a shaman for she communed directly with the angels of God. She steadfastly refused to recant and admit delusion and her martyrdom was ordained by the functionaries of the Church.
“The struggle between shaman and priest may well be a death struggle.”
– E.A. Hoebel, anthropologist (as cited in Robert Pirsig’s “Lila”)
Whether it’s from the side of organized religion followers who think my beliefs to be blasphemous, or from the side of scientific empiricists who think me irrational for believing in things that cannot be verified by instrumentation or the five senses, it seems that some days that I can’t catch a break, or that I must justify myself to one or the other.
This gets complicated, because when you’re not an institutionalist, when you do follow your own path, your beliefs tend to be constantly evolving from one year, one month, even one day to the next, based on whatever new experiences or ideas you run into.
That’s why I love the quote above from E.A. Hoebel. I no longer consider myself bound to one system of thought and spirit over all others. Instead, I’m finding things out for myself.
When I really sit down to plot this out on paper, these are the basic principles behind my beliefs:
1. Personal Growth and Happiness. We’re either growing or dying, like all forms of life. The past two years, and 2012 in particular since I started coaching with mentors, have been the greatest I’ve seen yet because I’ve been aspiring to bigger and better things. I’m at my best when I’m working towards something: even on days when I take some downtime, I wake up and take a small delight knowing that I’ve got something big on the horizon that I’m building.
I believe in growing as an individual and filling myself up with as much happiness as possible, then sharing that happiness with those around me.
Adding joy is neither a platitude nor merely a mission statement of certain corporations: it’s really one thing that we are here to do in life. It’s easy to do, it’s fun, and everyone wins: why not do it when you’re able to?
2. Eliminate false dichotomies. You can earn lots of money in the arts and still have integrity. You can be famous and still be humble at heart. You can indulge yourself and still be generous with others. You can live in the real world of the five senses and still believe in forces that science has not yet verified. You can be intelligent and take joy in simplicity. You can earn a living doing what you love. You have a right to thrive even when others aren’t doing so well. You can indulge in what many institutions consider heretical behaviour and still be considered a being with integrity, since today’s heresies tend to turn into tomorrow’s conventional wisdom.
3. You’re only ever responsible for your half of every interaction with another person. You cannot change people against their will: they will or won’t change themselves as they require. Your rights end at the point when they start infringing on the rights of someone else. That point is never the same for everyone.
4. Take what works for you, ignore the rest: I am free to sample from whatever schools of thought I feel resonate with me. This includes cherry-picking elements of physics, Western and Eastern philosophies, biology and health, psychology, religion, and mysticism. And it includes a crapton of non-intellectual labels of just being, what we’d call meditation and creativity.
5. Mind, Body, and Spirit are a three-in-one deal in the human experience. Though ideal balance is usually not reality, it is always something to aspire to, because it means we’re living fully. Where either mind or body or spirit dominates, it is almost always at the expense of the other two, and we experience the imbalance in our daily living, even if we can’t always identify it as such.
In particular, I’ve had to learn to silence my mind because overthinking caused me unhappiness: I could never just be with an idea or experience it, I always had to be picking it apart. My overall experience of life drastically improved when I learned to muzzle that left brain voice whenever it started making me unhappy.
6. Everything is, or will eventually be proven to be, scientific in nature. I believe in what is real: it’s just that my definition of “real” is more expansive than most. At every point along the evolution of scientific inquiry, everything we now accept to be self-evident was once subject to scrutiny, even ridicule. Methodologies do not currently exist to demonstrate the mechanisms behind certain phenomena like the Law of Attraction, but just as the sun didn’t wait for us to understand nuclear fusion to shine, it is not unreasonable to say that forces may yet exist, outside our current scientific understanding, that we may yet eventually come to accept as real with empirical evidence.
Western history has shown that for every person willing to take the leap of faith in something unseen that turned out later to be real, there were a hundred people ready to ridicule and criticize the believer at the time. I believe that my belief in some of the things currently considered “pseudoscience” will be vindicated as the technology emerges that can detect what current instruments cannot. That may not be in my lifetime, and so I’m not waiting around for someone else to validate what I’ve already experienced to be true for myself.
I choose possibility over skepticism, because I’m the only one who has to live with the consequences of the manifest truth or falsehood of my faith in the unseen.
These are my basic principles for my own belief system, the backbone of Jodyism as it exists effective January 21st, 2013.
If you’re interested in seeing how I apply it to particular topics or situations, leave a comment below and I’ll address it in a future blog entry.