Social Media and Religious Syncretism

In the article “What Effect Has the Internet Had on Religion?,” published in The Guardian, author Aleks Krotoski argues that the importance of the internet in everyday life has become a destabilizing force on traditional religion. In order to stay relevant, it’s argued, religious organizations have moved their services online in order to reach wider audiences. This has challenged the control that religious leaders once held over their followers, resulting in a growing amount of spiritual practices that fall between the cracks of what is considered mainstream. Krotoski states “. . . the web has helped proliferate different interpretations and articulations of religions and we have witnessed the emergence of new online communities and faiths. Individuals now have a much more autonomous role in deciding whom to approach as a source” (paragraph 8). I agree with the author’s main claims and further argue that the syncretization of spiritual beliefs is occurring directly due to the rising pluralism of religious groups on social media.

In chapter 16 of You May Ask Yourself by Dalton Conley, it’s stated that some sociologists believe in a sociostructural crisis in religion caused by pluralism, which is “the presence and engaged coexistence of numerous distinct groups in one society” (Conley). This increased diversity in religious groups is argued to be detrimental to the social foundation of religion, allowing for various denominations to discredit others’ practices. However, instead of the “religious disintegration, psychological malaise, and chaos” these sociologists predicted, we are faced with the modern emergence of individualized forms of spirituality, which borrow from multiple religions and incorporate a variety of traditions. As further stated in the chapter, “These “nones”—which make up about a quarter of the population, up from only a tenth in 1980 (Smith & Cooperman, 2016)—are not necessarily atheists. In fact, only a third definitively state that they do not believe in God (Pew Research Center, 2015b).” This phenomenon of rising eclecticism is directly attributable to the increased plurality in traditional religion, which I argue is enabled by the cross-pollinating forces of social media.

According to a study from 2016, published in Sociological Perspectives Vol. 59, the rapid adoption of social media has had syncretizing effect on the religious beliefs of emerging adults. The study specifically found that “emerging adults who use SNS [social networking sites] are more likely to think it is acceptable to pick and choose their religious beliefs, and practice multiple religions independent of what their religious tradition teaches . . .” (page 818).  This occurrence is due to the cross-pollination of new ideas and beliefs through the internet, recently facilitated by social networks. One of the author’s supported hypotheses states “SNS users will be more likely than non-SNS users to report that it is acceptable for a member of their own religious tradition to practice other religions” (page 830). These trendsetters in the study are indirectly acknowledging that at least some truths exist in other religions, confirming the effect of pluralism.

Does the advent of the internet and rise of social media mark the beginning of social breakdown in religion, or the collective transcendence of divisive traditions? I believe that both are occurring. As religious organizations increasingly utilize the internet to reach wider audiences, an ever-broadening degree of pluralism is arising. This is reflected in the emergence of individualized forms of spirituality that incorporate some form of belief in a higher power, yet do not affiliate with traditional denominations. As Krotoski concludes in her article “The search for answers is part of our social narrative and so it is unsurprising that we have gone to the web to ask the questions. There, we are finding our communities, whether they are organized under a traditional doctrine with well-established rituals, or are evolutions that have been produced by people who feel they have seen the light” (paragraph 11). I agree with the author’s main claims and further argue that the syncretization of spiritual beliefs is occurring directly due to the rising pluralism of religious groups on social media.

Works Cited:

“Chapter 16: Religion.” You May Ask Yourself: an Introduction to Thinking like a Sociologist, by Dalton Conley, W.W. Norton, 2019.

Krotoski, Aleks. “What Effect Has the Internet Had on Religion?” The Guardian, 16 Apr. 2011, www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/apr/17/untangling-web-aleks-krotoski-religion.  

McClure, Paul K. “Faith and Facebook in a Pluralistic Age: The Effects of Social Networking Sites on the Religious Beliefs of Emerging Adults.” Sociological Perspectives, vol. 59, no. 4, 2016, pp. 818–834. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/26340183. Accessed 9 Nov. 2020.

2020

The title of this post. Enough said.

In actuality, there are not enough words in all the tongues of the ages to describe the complexity of our collective experience this past year. We’ve witnessed a pandemic of globally disruptive proportions, political polarization, a hastening of economic stratification, and an overall fragmentation of social cohesion. The seeds of doubt and confusion have long been sown in the dirt of our society, but this year they sprouted. I am no prophet, but I foresee a spiritual reckoning on the horizon.

I am not going to explain my understanding of the fundamental dynamics concerning recent events. A large aspect of these circumstances involves cyclical patterns of civilization and consciousness that exist far outside our sphere of personal control. There is a “wave function” to the progression of this discord that naturally rises and falls. And we are all along for the ride. But alas, I am not here to elaborate on the metaphysical nature of reality. I will save that for a later dissection. I am here now to give a simple update on my life.

I feel guilty for saying that Covid has been a blessing in some ways. While the social disruption this year has made it harder for many to carry on with their productive lifestyles, it has enabled me to resume my academic career and integrate spirituality more consistently. The availability of online classes and normalization of social distancing has been a godsend. Serial misanthropes unite! (But six feet apart, for heaven’s sake)

My hiatus from social media has also been rather therapeutic. The Facebooks, Instagrams, and Twitters of the world play a role in hastening our polarization and subsequent fragmentation. I have not been entirely cut off from the pulse of the world, however. The shift in the zeitgeist or collective mood is palpable to even the most isolated of hermits, such as myself. In fact, I find it necessary to stay clear of the opinionated chatter to see the bigger picture more clearly. There are too many narrow outlooks and unexamined sentiments being propagated. People feel the unwarranted need to defend themselves against thoughtless and oversimplified opinions condensed in 280 characters. It’s easy to get lost in the muck.

As the year finally comes to a close, I look back appreciatively on the many realizations I have been gifted by the universe. While immersed in syncretistic research on Hindu cosmology, solar cycles, and cliodynamics, I’ve rediscovered my appreciation for the smaller details of truth and wellness. Characteristics such as kindness, compassion, and detachment. My heart has ever been influenced by Buddhism and original Theosophical teachings, and I now find myself a regular practitioner. It’s the nature of depression and anxiety to be frustrated by the lack of ability to control your own emotions. But meditation helps you accept the rhythms of your feelings with grace and also, with time and persistence, to balance them.

I plan on posting a multitude of mini-essays written for class this past semester. The topics range widely, but they are all sociologically relevant. A few of the issues discussed are races I normally choose not to have a horse in, but nevertheless obliged with a loosely held opinion. I will probably share links on Twitter, despite my healthy distance from that place. I hope you find some of these topics interesting! There might also be an update on the podcast front soon. Ideas have been stirring, and plans are brewing. We shall see what that entails.

A reminder to everyone that there is never such a thing as too much love or compassion. Even a misanthrope can abide by that. The only way to reestablish unity is by first embodying a greater degree of agreeableness within your own heart. We are all just trying to do our best, and we are each still ignorant in our own way. Have mercy on all sentient beings, including those whose opinions are diametrically opposed to your own. Sit down, and drink some tea.

Destiny and True Will

Recently, I’ve had an interesting insight that I decided to formulate into a blog post. Much of this has been inspired by my foray into the study of alchemy, hermeticism, and the misunderstood works of Aleister Crowley. I recognize that I have only poked a toe down this rabbit hole, but my mind has been swimming with ideas and concepts. Amidst the chaos of the current “coronapocalypse,” I find it more necessary than ever to relieve my mind of its excess wanderings.

I have begun to discover a possible reconciliation between the existential debate of free will versus predetermined fate. Our “destiny” is ultimately our “truest Will” or the innermost desire of our spirit. However, that Will is buried in our unconscious mind and often obscured by motivations of lesser integrity.

Everything is a matter of choice. The individual decisions we make in every moment determine what our futures will hold. They weave the fabric of the ultimate outcome of our lives. But too often than not, we don’t truly know or understand what our deepest Will is. We are confused and conflicted by different paths, and we haven’t yet acquired the necessary self-knowledge to perceive it. “Know thyself” is the highest maxim to aspire to. Only then can we “will” our destiny into being.

Simply put, our destiny is what we want most in life. However, as most of us realize, that can be a difficult thing to figure out. It’s already in our hearts, but buried beneath a layer of clutter and contradictions that results in confusion. We are slaves to our mind and the conflict within it. That pure, conscious force is perpetually obscured. The root of this conflict lies in the unconscious, and it necessitates a great degree of self-work and introspection to uncover. This is ultimately the work of a lifetime. The great work, as some call it. Once we have developed awareness of our true Will, the path forward in life is revealed.

During my long-term spiritual inquiry, I have come across two prevailing or generalized theories about the “Self.” Either it is an illusion, or it is the only true thing that exists. In my opinion, this paradox itself is an illusion. Both perspectives of the Self are merely different ways of interpreting the same universal truth. What we recognize as our Self or the conscious force of Will in our hearts is the same force as in others. It all flows from the same source. It becomes individualized within our singular human experience but is still rooted in a common origin.

I realize that for most of my life, I have never really known what I truly wanted. However, I did not connect that to the deeper conflict of the Self or Will. Finding inspiration or passion has always felt like a fruitless pursuit. I am often paralyzed by the endless possibilities and paths I can envision. Imagining myself finding happiness down any number if those paths is easy, but there is a difference between desiring the “idea” of something and desiring what it actually is. Bridging the ideal with the reality is a way to determine if it’s really something you want.

In many ways, my life’s work is oriented in the opposite direction of others. Most are born and develop a familiarity with their Self (albeit not the deep level where their true Will resides) before their greater perception of life’s interrelatedness. It takes a lifetime to see beyond their own individual experiences and witness the “whole” or the totality. But I feel as if my own development has been the opposite. For my entire life, it has been normal to feel a sense of depersonalization, because I developed my perception of the “whole” at a very young age. My sense of Self is lacking, and individualization is what I need to work toward throughout this lifetime.

Despite the tall task of looking inwards, I don’t feel as lost knowing that the answer to my destiny lies within me. At least I know which direction to look, which is something I lacked by searching for answers outside my own heart. It’s interesting to realize that so much of who I am is determined by who I want to be on a fundamental level. It’s even more interesting to realize that this deeper level can be so far out of the light of my conscious mind.

The moral of this story is that destiny isn’t something external to figure out. It is simply a matter of what we want most, however that can make it even more difficult to uncover. We can delude ourselves into thinking that we are following our hearts, while our unconscious mind really knows that we are not. We will never truly be happy in this conflicted state. Know thyself, and the path toward fulfilling your destiny will be revealed.

Musings on Acceptance

As an INFJ, I often feel trapped in life by obligations. There is a constant battle inside of me between what I want to do and what will please others. Upon verbalizing this struggle, I am often told to simply ignore what others want and start following my own heart. But the simplicity of this advice doesn’t save it from being fundamentally wrong in my case. If I hypothetically abandoned my responsibilities and took off to pursue my own spontaneous desires, I would find myself immersed in guilt and constantly worried about the expectations I was failing to meet. The paralysis of this anxiety would keep me from doing what I love.

What is the solution? Should I give in to the extreme pursuit of people-pleasing just to feel like I am worthy? Or should I abandon my obligation to others and immerse myself in purely personal endeavors? The likely answer is to find balance, which is a fleeting force in my life. This somewhat crazed over-analysis will probably lead to someone telling me that I am taking myself too seriously again. They are partly right for volleying such a criticism. I tend to overthink more than is healthy. I am driven to “think up” the perfect solutions for my plights. I understand the futility of this process, yet unhealthy mental habits can be irrational.

Ultimately, I realize that there is no easy solution for the suffering we face in life. The irrational nature of much of the pain we endure only proves this reality. In the realm of our mind, it’s easy to dwell amongst idealized constructs and solutions. It’s second-nature to imagine the clean and perfect version of a scenario. However, there is a discrepancy between the reality in our mind and the one around us. This cognitive dissonance marks the commencement of suffering. In actuality, life is messy. Imperfection and failure are inevitabilities.

All of this tells me that on some level, I will never be able to please everyone. It’s an even laughable prospect now. There will always be a small part of me that feels stretched, or pressured by outside obligations. This is life, and my grace in the face of such shortcomings influences my ability to be happy. Accepting imperfection and the promise of future suffering enables me to find the ever-elusive balance I need to be at peace. I hope that anyone who relates to this plight can find some shred of understanding in my shared insights.

What Is the Self? Part 1

A common interpretation of many spiritual practices is the transcendence of Self, or rising above one’s identity. This is reflected most prominently in eastern religious traditions, and to a lesser extent, in those of the west. Throughout the ages, much about this subject has been watered down or misinterpreted. The modern pseudo-spiritual approach has taken the concept of No-Self and warped it into a method for simultaneous depersonalization and innocuous egoism. Getting back to the root and original intent of these ancient teachings can help dispel this benign confusion.

Buddha taught that the Self is an aggregate of five skandhas, or the particular mental factors that give rise to one’s cravings and attachments. They include form, sensation, perception, mental formations, and consciousness. Together these factors comprise the foundation of one’s personality. In Theravada Buddhism, suffering is shown to arise when one clings or becomes attached to these aggregates. In Mahayana tradition, the nature of the skandhas is entirely empty of independent existence. A side note: In Blavatskian Theosophy, there are some parallels to this teaching in the “Sevenfold Nature” of Man.

The first skandha pertains to our body or physical form. The second, sensation, is primarily made up of physical and emotional feelings. The third skandha, perception, is what can be most accurately defined as cognition or the ability to think. It’s the part of ourselves that recognizes and identifies. The fourth, mental formations, includes our behavioral patterns, conditioned prejudices, and both negative and positive mental states. It manifests as cyclical karma, or the causes and effects of our actions. The fifth and last skandha, consciousness, is pure awareness without conceptualization. It is the bedrock of the Self that knits together our experience of reality.

Something to keep in mind is that, because they are empty, the skandhas are not characteristics that an individual possesses. Beneath the emergent identity of these aggregates, there is only No-Self, which is the True Self. Simply put, the ego, or the individual and autonomous “you,” is a manifested illusion. This doctrine is referred to as Anatta or Anatman in Buddhism. Stripped of greater context, this teaching can be dangerous and easily misconstrued as nihilistic. While our Self is inherently empty, this does not mean we are “soulless.” In my opinion, it simply necessitates a reinvention of the idea of a soul. I will attempt to further develop this idea in Part 2.

Coffee & Contemplation: The Importance of Friendship

Note: Publishing work from my past is quickly becoming a series of sorts. There are so many pieces I’ve written that haven’t seen the light of day since Writer’s Workshop back in high school. Sharing them here seems like a cheat way to keep up with regular posts, but it’s also a little cathartic. I get to look back on how I’ve changed over the years, for better or worse. I get to reacquaint myself with an optimism and hopefulness I might have lost. This next piece highlights an appreciation for camaraderie I wish I could still embody. I also express my hedonistic and everlasting love for coffee, which thankfully has not changed. Let’s do this!

I have always been fond the coffeeshop atmosphere. A proud addict of the caffeinated drink myself, I am often found lingering in these havens of ripe conversation and artsy individuals. Today I am a part of this greater experience once again, with a double-shot espresso in hand and an ear toward the people around me. Listening in on various conversations but never truly committing is my speciality, for I am an observer. Today I bear witness to the remarkable manifestation of friendship among a group of fellow students who I am lucky enough to call my friends. These individuals have inspired me with their kindness and unwavering sincerity.

I believe that one never truly appreciates something they hold dear until it is gone. This is the most troubling form of ignorance, and we all suffer from it. In turn, one of the great aspirations of life must be to learn to incorporate gratitude in our perspective and appreciate the blessings we take for granted. Such blessings include our friends, or the people in our lives we trust with our uninhibited selves.

I’ve begun to realize the inherent nature of friendship. Making friends is not merely a search for another individual you can relate to, but the spontaneous “coming together” of two souls, each walking the path of existence. I don’t think we can control who befriends us. It merely happens. Increasingly I find myself drawn to the metaphor of leaves dancing in the wind to describe life. A leaf has no navigational capabilities, and so it is propelled into the great oblivion, careening throughout space and time and bumping into its brethren along the way. Many friends are made, and some are even lost.

The ultimate lessons come from our friends, for they are the very pinnacle of teachers. They gift us with love and kindness. They nurture our hearts and cultivate our spirits. They shed light when darkness falls and the path before us becomes murky. These are our true friends, the ones we never lose. A true friend is one who imprints a piece of their heart in another’s soul. Life throws us all into a mess of blessings and curses. It is our job to disentangle and learn from each. Our friends are here to teach us the way.

And so my day at the coffeeshop comes to a close. I glance at the kind folk around me and think about how truly lucky I am to enjoy such decent company. I stand up and push my chair in, taking care not to trod on anyone’s book bag. I throw my empty paper cup into the garbage and exit the shop, surrounded by a troop of comrades who have unknowingly imprinted my life with the simple yet profound lesson of appreciation.

The Significance of Names

Note: Here is another interesting piece written back in high school. I stumbled upon it amidst my insightful yet often cringeworthy delve into lost writings. There is a chance it was never finished, so I simply confined it to my forgetful, mental to-do list. Nevertheless, it marked my discovery of “Om,” the sacred mantra of Brahman in the Hindu religion. It would be a disservice to my younger self not to share. Shall we begin?

A mere name is sometimes capable of expressing deeper meaning, implying something of greater importance, and instilling a value previously overlooked. They are symbols in their own right, tools used by the workers of language to shed light on otherwise unspoken subjects. In ancient times, names were thought to hold extraordinary power and even to act, in some ways, as a separate manifestation of a person. The power of names was also applied to deities and has endured in religious tradition for centuries.

I have always found a mantra-like power resonating from particularly powerful names. Sound currents and profound words can be used to strongly influence the mind and spirit. They have the potential of bringing a certain harmony to life and even inviting a tide of sometimes much needed optimism. Thoroughly understanding the power of names can both enrich and enlighten one’s consciousness.

A name that has particularly impacted me is Om (or Aum), a sacred utterance often found in Sanskrit mantras. With a meaning suggestive of a deity, it actually implies a primordial vibration from which the universe was originally created. Om is the eternal beauty and sustenance found in all aspects of reality. It is the order of the cosmos, and going one step further, is reality itself.

Om is comprised of three sounds, of which a distinct meaning can be super imposed upon each. The first sound “A” stands for the entire physical world we can experience. The reality we perceive through our senses is most attributed to this sound. The second sound “U” stands for the world of thought, as opposed to physical reality. This includes the imagination, dreams, and abstract thinking. The third and final sound is “M,” the unmanifest condition. According to the Vedas, what could be found before and after creation is the meaning of the sound of “M.” It is the unified state of the cosmos, the great fabric of which everything else is a part of.

In essence, Om is the composition of all there is. It is what existed before, it is what exists now, and it is what will exist later. Words may only be a conglomeration of letters, strung together in a particular order to imply a sense of meaning. But like Om, those words may harbor a message from a deeper, more inexplicable state of being.

Conversation with a Friend

Sometimes the greatest of insights arise at the most unexpected of times. Good conversation can be the perfect lubricant to get ideas flowing and those mental gears turning. With permission, I’ve shared an existential concern of one of my dear friends below. The universe has decided to use my head as a data dump again, so I’ve also shared my thoughts on the matter.

Friend: I don’t know — I just feel like I don’t know what road to take, because all I truly want to be is happy. I know it seems selfish, but I just truly want that. I want to be at peace and happy with everything that I am and everything that surrounds me, and I don’t know how to go about it. I see a few roads to take, but I feel like the road I’m taking will sooner or later kill me. I’ll reach a point of complete burn out, and I don’t want that. I just want to truly rest and find a way to do what I love — to hope that doesn’t take away all of my energy.

Me: The answer that I’ve come to, after all of my soul-searching and pondering, is that there is no right answer. There is no single path that will navigate you around all of the suffering, conflict, and confusion that life has to offer. One has to wonder if it is an almost necessary experience to doubt yourself, burn out, and question if you are doing the right thing. Sooner or later, every life path will kill you.

Look around and tell me if you see a single soul who has reached a state of true peace and happiness. If you say yes, I will tell you to delve deeper — beneath the surface — where you will undoubtedly uncover their very real and present fears and insecurities. We have a habit of portraying our successes without the context of our failures. The two go hand-in-hand.

The best advice I can give is to let go of expectations and any semblance of control you think you have over life. You are too intelligent to believe the lie that is a comprehensible order to the universe for long. It is too vast, varied, and twisted for any one of us to discern a “right” answer. Trying to find definitive clarity amidst the chaos is like trying to catch air with your bare hands. It’s all relative.

The answer is everything; it cannot be distilled into a statement, direction, or philosophy to live by. Simply let go, and allow the tidal forces of energy to carry you toward the nonexistent destination. To be carried without resistance is to live. 🌹

Dark Night of the Soul

What follows is something I should have addressed long ago. A personal foray into the topic of mental illness is something I have refrained from discussing, partly due to my own confusion and uncertainty on the subject. However, I feel as if I have finally reached a point where my thoughts on the matter might do some good to those who are interested. My journey is never ending, and I cannot claim to be a perfect authority. But I hope I can bring some insight and wisdom to the suffering we all endure.

Being one of those unlucky individuals with probable depression, I have often wondered why I have been cursed with such a plight. The unfairness of the world weighs heavy as I contemplate the darkened state of my mind. Why do these successive patterns of negative thinking have no end? Why can I not look upon people and the world with joy and optimism? I feel that looking into my past, and my reactions to past events, is the best place to start this inquiry. There was a time when the child within me reveled in every delight. There was a time when I felt nothing but curiosity and adventure upon thinking about the world. Those bygone times have since faded into obscurity and dull memory. But why?

I can remember the day, after my parent’s divorce, when my mom told me we were moving to Kansas City. I recall the thought of leaving my family and friends behind, of switching schools and starting my life anew. At that moment, my heart was imbued with more excitement than anything else. I had yet to experience the harsh reality of my entire world being turned upside down and ripped to shreds.

My eagerness and bright-eyed wonderment lasted quite awhile. In my new environment, surrounded by new and strange people, I managed the culture-shock seemingly beautifully. It was an undercurrent of resentment, personal failure, and disenchantment with society that ultimately led to my embitterment. I feel as if I squandered the last of my energy in high school, with no future intake to supplement it. By the time college rolled around, I was running on existential fumes. It’s amazing how long I was able to deny to myself the full extent of the problem.

Life is comprised of cycles and tidal movements of energy. For a successive period of years, we can live with forward momentum, our sheer force of will and passion carrying us onward. But in a brief moment, all of this enthusiasm can change for the worse. The forward momentum gives way to spiritual friction, or resistance. This can commonly arise from some form of trauma, but in my case it also happened to be a procession of existential realizations. It may be a controversial claim, but this is the beginning of a natural process.

I suffered one of these traumatic realizations without recognizing what was happening. The act of my world turning upside down destroyed my momentum and instigated the friction. Looking back, I see how unavoidable this process was. I was indeed on the doorstep of a personal “dark night of the soul.” This was something that garnered the scorn of my subconscious. This was something that I could not accept on a truly innate level, and I therefore made it infinitely worse. I wish I could have realized my folly sooner, but alas, I could not.

One of my biggest flaws has always been misguided idealism toward the people in my life. With my cursed ability to see the potential of humanity, I unfairly hold others to unattainable standards. I see the possible greatness in everyone, but often at the expense of not accepting their imperfections. When I finally started to see that the people I loved were not living up to my idea of them, a painful and bewildering dissonance befell my soul. This comprised the gist of my existential realization. In hindsight, much of this mental shift could have arisen from simply growing up. But I believe the combination of a major life change and an evolution of my awareness created the situation.

So many of us fall into depression at some point in life without recognizing the process for what it truly is. With a healthcare industry that puts emphasis on the material and chemical, we are often left in the dark to depression’s true meaning. While we treat our symptoms in order to remain functional members of society, the underlying causes of our inner darkness are left unaddressed. According to Buddhist teachings, life itself is suffering. But the growing pandemic of mental illness highlights the singular nature of this moment in time. It is indeed a repressed spiritual nature and an ignorance of the natural cycles of the soul that are grievously dampening our wellbeing.

As younger generations become increasingly unfulfilled and lost in this materialistic society, they are taught the wrongness of depression. The dark night of the soul is a time where old concepts and attachments die. With proper guidance and understanding, it can lead to a state of renewal that is necessary for spiritual growth. The metaphor of a phoenix rising from its ashes embodies this rebirth philosophy. We all have the shadow of depression in us, but sweeping it under the rug and denying its existence lets the darkness fester and eventually consume the soul. So many of us never receive the direction we need to traverse our shadow.

Depression settles on me now, and I feel the icy clutches of nihilism reaching out. How do I combat the dark insights my tainted intuition conjures up? Am I failing, or am I working through a process that is a natural part of my spiritual development? These are the questions I ask myself on the most difficult of days. The disappointment I have toward society mirrors the disappointment I have toward myself. Hate for others is rooted in a fundamental hate for oneself.

All of my introspection has led me to the simple conviction that love is the answer. The part of our soul that lies in obscurity and depression is just as worthy of love as the part we take pride in. Only by having compassion for our inner darkness can we transcend the breaking down of tired concepts and attachments. Only by recognizing and accepting our shadow can we eliminate the power we give it through denial. Only through true love for ourselves can we fulfill our spiritual destiny.

Note: Dipping my toes into the world of podcasting, I thought it wise to play around with possible formats. This simple narration was easy for me, and it provided the experience I needed to create a better workflow in the future. I have ambitious plans for Head Junk, and I can’t wait to divulge more in my official introductory episode, which is coming soon. For now you can find my episodes on Anchor, but they will soon be available on most streaming platforms (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, etc). Thank you for all of the interest and support, my dear friends.

A Newfound Compassion

As I look out upon the world, I am overcome by the strife that plagues humanity. I bear witness to the repeated acts of selfishness that are rooted in fundamental failures of communication. I see how our fallen species has lost its understanding of the most important universal truths. I gaze into the hearts of men and discern their villainous intentions. And yet, this dreary perception is not the whole story. Once your eyes have been opened to the ugliness and imperfection of this reality, it’s easy to experience a natural slide into dejection and cynicism. As one who is conscious of the rising jadedness in his heart, I am compelled to see the spiritual futility of such a perspective. There must be something I’ve missed — some greater understanding of all things — to give me hope for the future.

If a person’s behavior doesn’t make sense to you, it is because you are missing a part of their context. It’s that simple.” ~ Devon Price

The vast majority of misunderstanding in our world stems from the false perception that everyone thinks precisely like you. Familiarity with the variety of cognitive functions, and their many different ways of manifesting in the psyche, negates this perception. The morals and ethical beliefs that you keep rooted so deeply in your identity may not be applicable to another, and thinking so will merely give you false expectations of their behavior. No, we are all such beautifully multifaceted creatures. And while our fundamental similarities will always outweigh our differences, there is too much variety in the human makeup to hold everyone to a single set of standards.

“The one eye of the Godhead is blind, the one ear of the Godhead is deaf, the order of its being is crossed by chaos. So be patient with the crippledness of the world, and do not overvalue its consummate beauty.” ~ Carl Jung, Liber Novus

By staying conscious of this, you are naturally inclined to have a more open mind. By reminding yourself not to pass judgement too quickly, you can be open to the possibility that there is a valid reason why someone’s behavior doesn’t make sense to you. And this openness will only ever bring you closer to a person, fostering a much better understanding of who they are and a respect for their inherent uniqueness. Unless you’ve truly walked another’s life path, you will never know what it feels like to be them every day. You will never know all of the traumas and experiences that contribute to making them who they are. Ease up on your misinformed and rigid expectations of their behavior. You might find that this acceptance warms your heart as much as their own. This is the root of all compassion.

“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.” ~ Carl Jung

Every macro, societal, and cultural issue can be traced back to fundamental psychological causes. We are a collective consciousness. The many comprise the totality. The composition of underlying issues always manifests as a greater image of chaos and discord. From a purely macro perspective, this perceived chaos is what can engender cynicism and later nihilism in the soul. The greater, societal condition is merely a reflection of the internal, human condition. All of the world’s plights are natural consequences of spiritual and psychological failings. There is indeed a reason for the imperfection we witness in reality, and it’s from not realizing that this very same reality lives in each and every one of us. It results in a disastrous and heart wrenching lack of compassion.

“As above, so below; as within, so without.” ~ Hermes Trismegistus, Hermetic Corpus

The nature of reality and the shortcomings of humanity are both perceived and dictated by your perspective. You have the ability to make the biggest difference in the world by first making a difference in yourself. Instilling your way of looking at others with more acceptance and a broader mindset will let you better see the underlying machinations of the world at large. Open your heart to embrace the suffering of those around you, and understand that all the strife they’ve experienced made them who they are today. By truly staying conscious of the varied and multifaceted nature of the human condition, you create within yourself a newfound compassion for those whose hearts you previously judged without context.