I came across this Terry Pratchett quote last night, It’s from his book Jingo. .
“Night poured over the desert. It came suddenly in purple. In the clear air the stars drilled down out of the sky, reminding any thoughtful watcher that it is in the desert and high places that religions are generated. When men see nothing but bottomless infinity overhead, they have always had a driving and desperate urge to find someone to put in the way.”
I think Sir Terry thought the ground state of human existence was existential angst. I know my older brother, who crossed in November of 1973, did. I know my oldest sister does to this day. And I know her nihilism started when my oldest brother died.
I tried existentialism but it didn’t do anything for me. After years of agnosticism, I finally realized that it’s not about religion at all. It’s about spirituality, a word which took considerable abuse in the 19th Century. I’m strongly attracted to Celtic spirituality, as well as India’s religions and spirituality. I also have a strand of Native American spiritual tradition in me as well. There isn’t a name for my belief system, and Goddess forbid that it ever get one. For then it becomes a religion. The moment a spiritual tradition becomes a religion it begins to degrade.
The Gnostic/Essene/Judaic spiritual traditions were rounded up and labeled Christianity. From that time to now we have come from do unto others and Love is All_ to right wing evangelism and fundamentally stupid fundamentalism.
Last night my wife was watching an episode of 24, and she said “the vice president’s going crazy” to me as I walked out of the bathroom. My reply was “ ‘Did you hear the news? The vice president’s gone mad. Where? Downtown. When? Last night. Gee that’s too bad.’—Bob Dylan, Clothesline Saga.” It’s just in there. Sometimes I can access it instantaneously. Then there are times when I can’t remember what I went in the kitchen for. My wife’s gotten used to it over the course of 42 years, but she still frequently says, “How do you do that?” I can’t really answer her, beyond pointing out the obvious, that I have a good memory. It’s not the having part but the instantaneous accessing part that kind of blows her mind sometimes.
What has this to do with spirituality and religion? Not a damn thing to do with religion. Spiritual tradition would say it is a special gift, vouchsafed to me. And so it is. Not surprisingly, it served me extremely well when I was in the classroom.