Jump to content

Non-christian Experiences In Your Own Quest?


des
 Share

Recommended Posts

I'm curious as to how many others (besides myself) have either dabbled with or been involved in any non-Christian religious experiences, and if these were negative or positive.

(This would include atheist or agnostic, Buddhist, Baha'i, Judaism, or any unusual Christian type experiences).

 

Some of this is in my profile, but after leaving Christian Science, I was prob. an agnostic (I was so agnostic-- I wasn't sure if I could say I was agnostic :-)). I don't think that was a particularly good experience as it was more of a reaction, than an action.

I got interested in eastern thought thru doing karate. I particularly liked doing katas (forms), which when done alone and repeatedly are kind of mediative. I did read things by the Dalai Lama and other things but never actually became seriously involved in Buddhism. The involvement I had was positive in helping me calm my thoughts. The katas actually helped me control epilepsy which was not under control.

 

I did considerable reading and the wildest thing I was ever involved with was Christian Encounter, which I don't think exists anymore. It was sort of like encounter groups with a Christian focus. I wouldn't say they were particularly positive. There was a lot of energy, like encounter groups, that didn't think anything of tearing someone apart.

 

Actually the weirdest experience was going to what I thought was a UU church. Well it was but it was a UU pagan branch. I should have known when I said to someone that my allergies were bad, the gal said that there was a lot of "negative energies" around. Hmm.

ANd here I thought it was leaf mold. Then they cast the circle. I was too wierded out to actually leave or anything but I never went back. I wonder what the church that rented the space woulda thought? :-)

 

 

--des

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, I guess I'm the resident Zennie... actually have been practicing some form of buddhism on and off for more than 20 years and still practice zen on a regular basis.

 

I have recently come to Christianity (it's all been rather surprising to me) but don't feel it invalidates or requires a disengagement from the other path... I strongly feel that they both point to the same reality, but they use radically different language, metaphors, methods and parables to point with.

 

My previous experience with Christianity was almost non-existent... I was born into a household where agnosticism was the prevailing mindset, and was discouraged from seeking any sort of spirituality. I became a buddhist in my early twenties. In my mid thirties, after a disillusionment with the buddhist sect I had been with, I briefly flirted with the Jehovah's Witnesses for a time, but that was short lived. I realize now that I was-- primarily-- lonely at that time and I was highly attracted to the security their society presented to me.

 

Oddly, I came to Christianity in all sincerity after finding myself at a few services with a friend's family. Listening to the service and the gospel I realized that I could relate to it completely; it all made perfect sense to me. I kept coming back, and it kept making sense. I felt that I finally understood what it was to be in the presence of God-- in Christian terms. So... I talked to the rector and was baptized.

 

Like you, I am not big on the "New Age" stuff, and never have been. Crystals and pyramids and the like I have just never had any interest in.

Edited by Lolly
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, the only non-Christian religion I ever visted was the UU Church. I visted 2 of them off and on for like 2 years. Alot of things in it I like. Infact, i even ordered 3 UU books that i still have. But I have collected alot of different religions books which i also still have. I have '2' small Bahia books and a collection of Waldo Emersons' writtings. I have a Unity Christianity book. I have a rastafari book, the Kebra Nagast. I have a New age book called LightShift 2000 and I have the Marcus Borg book "Jesus & Buddha- Cmparitive sayings. I also have The Book of the Hopi and a sunBear book. There are elements in all of these that i find agreeable to my own beliefs.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I briefly flirted with the Jehovah's Witnesses for a time

 

:o You did?! :o

 

 

The only other spiritual path that captured my mind and soul was eclectic witchcraft. ;)

 

It's only as "new agey" as you want it to be. I never used crystals or pyramids in any of the work I would do, but I also don't have a problem with them. In the craft they are only symbols, tools for focus and such.

 

I was a serious "witch" with a sincere desire to draw close to God. Unfortunately, in Utah, there don't seem to be many serious groups. I practiced solitary, but I admit that it's a lonely path sometimes. Still, I often miss it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was a serious "witch" with a sincere desire to draw close to God. Unfortunately, in Utah, there don't seem to be many serious groups. I practiced solitary, but I admit that it's a lonely path sometimes. Still, I often miss it.

 

 

Oh gee, burn her at the stake! Just joshing you. :-)

Just rather recently I read a fanfic (on Harry Potter universe) that was written by a Wiccan,

I gather anyway. I thought it was pretty fasinating, and obviously a lot more real witchcraft than Harry Potter has (which is about 0).

 

I think Wiccans (and other neowitchcraft type beliefs) have captured that mystical element of the sacred that a lot of people are searching for. I gather that's why Matt Fox wanted a witch on his staff.

 

 

--des

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Witchcraft (why do I feel bad even using that word on a Christian forum?), is a lot more serious than many give it credit for. Starhawk is a perfect example.

 

It can also be as silly as you want it to be. All the books out there on how to "cast love spells" and such testify to this fact. I would be one to say that it's unfortunate that they exist because they detract from the deep spirituality that exists within the craft.

 

I wasn't Wiccan, per se, but more of a Neo-Pagan Buddhist . LOL. :P It's easier to use the term "Witch" though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The only other spiritual path that captured my mind and soul was eclectic witchcraft. 

 

It's only as "new agey" as you want it to be. I never used crystals or pyramids in any of the work I would do, but I also don't have a problem with them. In the craft they are only symbols, tools for focus and such.

 

My (limited) understanding of wicca would agree with this; I've always thought it was an interesting path.

 

I also think that any tools one needs to use for focusing are fine, as long as it is understood as such and ultimately helps one along an authentic path. The only real problem I have with "new-agey" symbols is that, for some, the symbols actually become their religion, in that the motivation seems more rooted in a need to stand apart from the crowd and less in what the path actually has to offer. It's hard to describe what I'm trying to say, but it's something along the lines of the glitz and sparkle having the potential to distract one from seeking-- or something like that.

 

But, the other side of that is that everyone starts where they are and, hopefully, moves forward from there. It's hard to say what a person needs, or what will help someone along the way.

 

And, yeah, I flirted with the Jehovah's Witnesses for a while. I had become really disappointed with some serious infighting that was going on between different sects in the buddhist tradition I was trying to follow at that time. I hadn't yet discovered Zen. I was open minded, though, and when the woman from Jehovah's Witnesses came to my door, I thought "why not see what they have to offer?"

 

So, she started coming to see me weekly, bringing books and other friends and talking to me in depth about what they believed. I went to the kingdom hall a few times with them. I remember once, when I was not feeling well, she and a few others came by with bags of groceries and helped me out around the house. They were so kind; no one had ever done anything like that for me before.

 

It was very tempting. I felt like I was being accepted as part of a loving community, and I was very alone at the time, so this felt really good. But their rigid way of "study" (which was basically parroting and memorizing lines written by the powers that be in the organization), among other things I was seeing, was too big a turn off.

 

Still, I really appreciated some of the ways in which they took care of one another. There was a sense of commmunity there, though I realize now it was community with too big a price, in that you could only partake of community if you were willing to go along with all their dogma.

 

Yet I've often thought about this. If we could build such a sense of community, but make it wholly inclusive rather than conditional and exclusive... wow! Wouldn't that be some kind of paradise world?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The only real problem I have with "new-agey" symbols is that, for some, the symbols actually become their religion

 

Oh definitely. For some "pagans" it's all about astrology or crystals or fortune telling, but I never could be bothered with that stuff.

 

glitz and sparkle having the potential to distract one from seeking

 

Many pagans are in it for the shock value for sure. We used to have this guy that shopped at the store I managed, who would come in with about 1/2 dozen pentagrams around his neck. He looked like a white, teenage pagan Mr T. :D

 

There was a sense of commmunity there, though I realize now it was community with too big a price, in that you could only partake of community if you were willing to go along with all their dogma.

 

And if you join and then decide to leave the price is very high. :( You do know I (and my husband) used to be JW's don't you?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My feeling about New Age is something about the more or less indiscriminate (or perhaps I should say personally discriminate) picking and choosing of symbols. You take a dream catcher here, a crystal there, perhaps even a cross. You might go on a Vision Quest, then maybe cast a circle, etc. IF cystals, say, are part of the practice of wicca or some form of paganism, it wouldn't be New Age, anymore than the cross would be New Age in part of the religious symbology of a Christian. I don't know enough about wicca (to say nothing of ecletic witchcraft).

 

Astrology and fortune telling were part of many prescientific traditions. The Magi were likely Zoorastrians who were well known as astrologers. The thing is there was no difference between astronomy and astrology. (The same thing with alchemy, etc.). These were presciences. I think it is interesting how 20th century people will willingly drop science in favor of prescientific notions like this. (The same as fundamentalists believe the Earth is something like 10 thousand years old and that dinosaurs were on the Earth at the same time as humans. YIKES!) Perhaps there is a feeling that science diminishes mystery (although I would argue they don't know much science. About the strangest thing there is is quantum physics!) Anyway, one could argue that neopaganism really wouldn't be involved in these prescientific traditions, unless they had decided to drop current scientific understanding.

 

I love your story of the kid with 6 pentagrams. I saw a car that had a couple pentagrams, and some other pagan symbol, and I wondered if the driver was yanking some chains on being a Satanist. (Given that I don't really believe that there are many Satanists, have never met anyone who claimed to be one, etc.) A number of years ago there was a Northwestern student who got kicked out of a dorm for putting a pentagram on her window. In retrospect I would guess she was a pagan, and not actually a Satanist.

 

There are amazingly silly books on witchcraft. I have personally seen the bookstore's crop which includes titles like "Witchcraft for Dummies" (part of the cottage industry-- wish I had thought of it); "Love potions", etc.

 

I don't know why do you feel bad using the term witchcraft? Imo, it is a serious belief system (in some cases). I think there are a lot of myths. Christianity's answer to it was much more shameful, imo.

 

 

--des

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it is interesting how 20th century people will willingly drop science in favor of prescientific notions like this. (The same as fundamentalists believe the Earth is something like 10 thousand years old and that dinosaurs were on the Earth at the same time as humans. YIKES!) Perhaps there is a feeling that science diminishes mystery

 

Yes, I agree. I've also often wondered why so many people think that one replaces the other-- that you can't have both. I suppose it's due to a fear that science will somehow "contradict" God (as if God could be contradicted). I think the only thing that gets contradicted is our understanding of God, which is fine... this helps us to mature in faith.

 

In the home I grew up in, science was treated as though it were a religion; God and mystery were relegated to the realm of pure myth.

 

I also know many people who, like you've described, have tossed scientific observation out the window entirely in favor of religious dogma. Yet I don't find either of these approaches sufficient.

 

I think that we can observe and describe phenomena to the best of our ability, and this helps us to understand the physical universe, but our ability to perceive what really is through the senses will always be limited.

 

I'm thinking here of what it might be like to try to describe color to a person who is color blind. I suspect that we are all limited, perceptually, in much the same way, but we are unaware of this limitation. There is something beyond our senses and beyond the capacity for empirical measurement which we can "know" through prayer, through mindfulness, through opening up. Science can't touch that, though it can deepen the mystery. Science is a fine tool; it just won't bring us all the way there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

New Age is one of those terms that is kinda warm and fuzzy and encompases everything. I could put witchcraft into the new age category, but not all witches are new agey. I wasn't.

 

Some consider magick a way to "force" God to do your bidding (like that could happen). I look at magick more like meditation or prayer. Actually, it IS meditation. It's just not a quiet "sitting" meditation.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh, gosh... how much time have you got? :D

 

Seriously, there are cultural differences and methodological differences. Zen followed a path that brought it from India to China to Japan (and other parts of asia), and was infused (in my opinion, though some disagree with me) with a bit of taoist thought along the way.

 

Tibetan Buddhism I've never studied, so its history isn't as clear to me, but from what I've gathered it took on much of the flavor of the Bon religious system that existed in Tibet, which has an elaborate system of diety worship. It also has a "secret" system of teachings (tantra) which, to be frank, is a huge turn off for me and was a major deterrent to me when I was trying to decide which way to go.

 

As far as what is unique, I think for me it is that Zen strongly emphasizes stillness and mindfulness, and cautions one to not become overreliant on the written word. In zen there's a lot of emphasis on not mistaking "the finger pointing to the moon" for the moon itself. The prevailing notion is that it is only possible to "know" something fully through what one does and experiences, and teachers tend to provide broad guidance rather than detailed information, believing that it is better that the students bring themselves to insight through their own experiences.

 

Unfortunately, many people (including zen students) misinterpret this to mean that zen practitioners don't read scripture, which is not true. It is reliance on scripture ahead of experiential knowledge that is the true issue there; most zen monks and nuns I've run across are very well versed in the sutras but believe the sutras (buddhist scriptures) are there to inform their meditative/life experience, not the other way around.

 

In terms of liturgy, zen is very pared down, which appeals to me because I'm not a "props" sort of person, lol. In zen, the main practice is to go into a sparsely furnished room and sit still. Ceremonies tend to be brief.

 

Tibetan buddhism, on the other hand, is very colorful with lots of elaborate ceremony and a very detailed teaching path. There is more emphasis on a variety of meditation techniques including visualization, and Tibetans also tend to be far more literal when it comes to scripture and things like dieties.

 

Tibetan teachers offer what they call the "gradual path", which means they believe they can bring a student to insight through a very detailed and elaborate system of teachings. Tibetan students meditate, but there is much more emphasis on the literal words of the teachers than in zen.

 

Each system seems to appeal to different personality types. As far as which system is "better" than the other, I wouldn't really venture to say. Things that turm me off might be the very things that another person needs, so I guess it's all fair game in that sense. Both systems seem to help people gain insight, as far as I've been able to tell :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wanted to add here also something else... many people don't realize that Tibetan Buddhism is actually a theocratic system. The Dalai Lama is essentially a priest-king in exile. The theocracy is held together by the lama system which includes a number of "Tulkus" who are believed to be the reincarnations of past masters.

 

For this reason (in my opinion) you won't find many Tibetans who are very tolerant of a metaphorical interpretation of the doctrine of reincarnation/rebirth, though you will find a wide variety of beliefs among zen students.

Edited by Lolly
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't consider Wicca or neopaganism to be New Age, per se. I think it is only treated that way sometimes. There are rather more serious followers who kind of take it as one of several traditions that the mix together. (Along with Native American, etc.) (BTW, I don't think that NA is wrong per se either. I don't agree with a lot of the ideas, but do with others.

I accept the more or less deep ecumenicalism that Matt Fox and others have talked about, in that I feel there are things to be learned from other beliefs.)

 

It's just I don't think that Wicca is NA. I think that it is only NA in the sense that the original Celtics and other followers of magick were so utterly demolished by Christianity that there really isn't any old tradition to follow any more. Various people have, from what I understand, tried to recapture the old beliefs. (This is true of Druidism as well.) I suppose some beliefs were driven underground, and never really lost entirely. But to say that it is in anyway identical to that practiced by the folks at Stongehenge, well that would be quite a stretch. It's a fascinating hx, but I can't claim to know too much about it.

 

As for the differences between Zen and, say, Tibetan Buddhism, I think Lolly pretty much nailed it. If you want to learn about Tibetan Buddhism the most fun way is a movie called "Little Buddha" that you would find in a arts or community type video place. It is about a little boy in Seattle that is supposedly a reincarnated (and yes they take this quiet literally) lama. He ends up going to India with his family. There is a side story that I found at times annoying, of the life story of the Buddha. (There are other stories like "Seven Years in Tibet"-- to which a good friend of mine answered, I wouldn't mind spending 7 years with Brad Pitt :-)).

 

There are several different schools of Buddhism and you couldn't find two more different than Zen and Tibetan. How much of Tibetan Buddhism is purely cultural is anyone's guess.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm adding this as a new post as it is totally unrelated to my last one.

 

Lolly said (I think)

I'm thinking here of what it might be like to try to describe color to a person who is color blind.  I suspect that we are all limited, perceptually, in much the same way, but we are unaware of this limitation.  There is something beyond our senses and beyond the capacity for empirical measurement which we can "know" through prayer, through mindfulness, through opening up.  Science can't touch that, though it can deepen the mystery.  Science is a fine tool; it just won't bring us all the way there. 

 

I agree that there are limits to science. But what I was commenting on was a sort of abandonment of modern scientific thought, as if you can't be spiritually minded if you include modern scientific ideas. It's why Newton, et al, where so feared.

I think it is utter nonsense. (Not what you said, but this generally idea). In fact, my first real experience with the feeling of God's presence, as an adult, came from science. I took classes at the Planetarium and read everything I could about cosmology. It is so awesome. In some ways, many people's idea of God is teeny by comparison. And then there are the "coincidences" that make the universe what it is. If the universe had been 1 degree hotter, it would have expanded to the point of not collecting into anything, and if it had been 1 degree cooler, it would have not expanded at all. (I think I got that right.) I find it much harder to believe this is coincidence than there isn't some kind of order to the whole thing and that we weren't made be right from the start. I don't have to make this the "10 thousand year old universe" to make it make sense from a spiritual standpoint. The billions of year old universe isn't LESS than the 10 thousand year old one, it is MUCH MORE awe inspiring.

 

 

Here's another.

In hemoglobin we have a circle of I think it is atoms (not sure of what) with an iron atom in the center. In chlorophyl we have the same circle with either magnesium or mangenese in the center. How are we so alike as living things, yet so different. I don't have to deny this aspect of science to think something is amazing and awesome. Doesn't it make it more amazing and awesome???

 

True there are aspects that are pedestrian and mundune that really have nothing to do with any kind of meaning. But not everything has to, imo.

I think science is a way of understanding the world, but I think in the end it asks more questions than it can ever answer. To give an example, (I think it is outdated to an extent, but the big bang say. Well they said that it happened, creating the universe. So why did it happen? I mean REALLY why? How come? etc. You always get back to that. Even if you take an entirely evolutionary point of view on the creation of life. (I think Darwin is a little outdated at this point.) But anyway, in the end you still have the big WHY.

 

 

--des

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Lolly. All the specific questions I had, you touched on. :D

 

I studied just enough Zen to think that ALL Buddhism was like that and so got rather confused when I'd read something from the Dalai Lama or Lama Surya Das which would kinda contradict what I thought I knew.

 

I'm definitely more attracted to Zen than Tibetan Buddhism.

 

I brought it up because I'm had some rather amazing things happen the past couple of days that have gotten me in mind to study Buddhism again, but I wasn't sure where to start.

 

We have a temple here in Utah, but I don't know what path it is.

 

Can you recommend any books, CD's, anything to help get a general overview plus maybe some meditative practices?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Aletheia - I'm not as experienced as Lolly, but I recently enjoyed The Gateless Barrier edited by Robert Aitken. It is a collection of the Wu-Men Koans... sort of short parables that can "induce" enlightenment.

 

I had a zen moment today. We just got a miniature schnauzer - he's only 9 wks old and very small. When he needs to go outside, he whines. Then when I take him outside - even if he's been intensely circling inside - he is completely overwhelmed and distracted from his needs/purpose by every leaf, stick, blow of the wind, etc. I wonder if that's how God sees us. Bumping into little twigs and fighting them fiercely while forgetting our purpose. Then back on track, only to be waylaid by a leaf. Ahhhh. A moment of enlightenment. Then I took the next breath and started over. :>

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Can you recommend any books, CD's, anything to help get a general overview plus maybe some meditative practices?

 

Since we're on a Christian board, I'd start with "Living Buddha, Living Christ" by Thich Nhat Hanh. TNH relates his practice of Buddhism to the practice of Christianity in this book, and I found it very interesting. He also gives several meditation practices that Christians can feel comfortable with. I actually read it after I had already been baptized, and it tied right in with a lot of the things I was feeling toward Jesus and his teachings.

 

For some zen proper, you might try "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" by Shunryu Suzuki. This will be a little more obtuse, but it's a classic zen text for westerners, and I love Suzuki's teachings.

 

Aitken is supposed to be very good, too, though I haven't read him. Another good book on koans was "Mountain Record of Zen Talks" by John Daido Loori.

 

Aside from this, I would also recommend almost anything else by Thich Nhat Hanh; his writing is very clear and straightforward and not so difficult to get through for those who aren't too familiar with buddhist terminology.

 

As for meditation, I don't want to go too far afield, so I'll answer that question in a private message. I'm happy to share, but I worry that I might be stepping out of bounds here.

 

And Cynthia, I love dogs, and I bet your puppy is adorable :)

Edited by Lolly
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for both of your recommendations.

 

I was coming at Zen and meditation from a Christian perspective, so I figured I was pretty safe as far as board rules go.

 

I love Thich Nhat Han. I've got a few of his books on CD, so perhaps I'll just listen to them again.

 

he is completely overwhelmed and distracted from his needs/purpose by every leaf, stick, blow of the wind, etc.

 

LOL! Actually, as I read that, all I could think of was "That puppy is totally living in the NOW, not worried about what he SHOULD be doing, but just living for the moment. How very Buddhist of him." :P

 

Perhaps if we all chased more leaves and twigs or watched more snails or sunsets the world would be a better place.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

terms of service