Syncretic Religious Practice

Among Western mystery traditions, you often hear about eclectic witchcraft, can even loop chaos magic into the scope of this topic, and those who observe esoteric practices in a way that blends different cultures and religions. Taoist religious scholars refer to this particular way of practicing religion as syncretism. I say Taoist here because Taoism, as a religion, tends to be syncretic.

In Bell Chimes In #4, I make a case for syncretic religious practice. Today very few of us stay sequestered within a homogenous framework. Not only do we travel physically to interact with different cultures, become geographical and cultural transplants ourselves, but with the Internet at our fingertips and our own curiosities to navigate that web, we have access to a diversity of religious ideas in a way our ancestors did not.

As we engage with different faces of the Holy Spirit, we’re able to discover and formulate our own unique Key of access to that Holy Spirit, or connection to Shen (I talk about this in the video), that fits our physiology, karma, life experiences, and psychic imprint. To not reach out and seize upon such opportunities is what I’d describe as rejecting authenticity. Following one fixed religious doctrine from its Point A to its Point Z that conforms to what a textbook says is historical is not “authenticity.” Authenticity, I argue, is about following what’s in your bones and in ways that maybe no one else will ever truly understand. And what’s being guided by your bones may appear to be eclectic.

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I was asked to comment on how I incorporate Buddhism into my practice, so here we go. I was raised with a heavy-handed amount of exposure to Mahayana Buddhism and the extended family on both sides of my lineage, paternal and maternal, tend to identify as Buddhist. Funeral rites within the families tend to conform to Mahayana Buddhist observances.

However, much in the way occult traditions in South America integrate Catholicism in ways that look and feel Catholic but would probably be rejected by Catholics, I was raised in occult traditions that integrate Mahayana Buddhism in ways that look and feel Buddhist but would probably be rejected by Buddhists.

The scriptures I would go to for psychic shielding, protection, what would be incorporated into rituals for exorcisms (I have a lot to say on that topic, by the way, that brings in modern psychology to begin the efforts of pulling some of what we think about exorcisms out of the realm of superstition), blessing rituals, healing practices, etc. are all scriptures and mantras from Mahayana Buddhism. So that means more Sanskrit than Pali, though in my adult years I’ve found myself connecting more to Theravada Buddhism as well, so now there’s more Pali in my craft invocations, a strong emphasis on meditation and personal cultivation through meditation, and also, the ethical framework I practice under is rooted heavily in Mahayana Buddhist tenets.

I’ve talked about this before– when it comes to deity, I feel most connected to Amitofuo (Amithaba Buddha) and the bodhisattva Kuan Yin, but I also like to acknowledge that this connection wasn’t something I found on my own, but one inherited, and I think because I am the way I am, I’ve ventured beyond to find and forge my own connections. So I incorporate Buddhism into my practice by being first anchored to two deities (they’re not actually deities but I am not going to parse semantics and get into that conversation here) from the Mahayana pantheon. But these days, I work with a pantheon that’s going to be a lot more Taoist-based, and therefore diverges significantly from those Buddhist roots I inherited.  line

“Bell Chimes In” is about discourse, or at least that is my hope and intentions for the video series. It’s about me chiming in on a topic oft talked about, with my own perspective, opinions, or hypothesis, and with that, continuing the conversation on that topic. So I hope you’ll join in.

Are you syncretic with your religious practice? Do you consider your path to be eclectic? Now it’s your turn to chime in, whether that’s as a comment, your own blog post, or a VR video response. Even if you don’t chime in publicly, chime in privately, using this video as a personal prompt to think more on the subject as it plays out in your own life.

8 thoughts on “Syncretic Religious Practice

  1. Hi Bell, you make a great case for syncretism. I think the core of the argument pro/con lies in the clarity of one’s intuition. If a tradition is really organic and *could* lead to inner transformation, then as an integrated system it will address all the facets of one’s being. To pick and choose facets is to lose something important (e.g. you are a medieval monk who doesn’t like to sing–dropping your 3-4 hours of chanting would leave a big hole in the overall system). I do recognize there are a lot of “if’s” in that thesis, since in reality every system has blind spots and thus is imperfect as a tool for transformation.

    In my experience, an organic practice will have a mix of discipline (the part that shows you your disunity, pettiness, etc.) and ecstasy (the part that brings you to unity, expansiveness, etc.) I have seen folks who turn away from one of these parts and seem to “cherry-pick” practices to stay within their comfort zone. (Who knows? Maybe I’m doing the exact same thing myself!) Of course I am not inside them and I can’t *really* say if their intuition is spot-on or in a blind spot. But if one is cobbling together a practice, some self-questioning would be wise.

    In the end I need to trust my intuition–which is what you are basically advocating–yet I need to be pretty sure it is deep, heartfelt intuition and not something else. So yeah, syncretism rocks–but read the fine print of examining your own heart pretty rigorously, so you are not just a spiritual shop-a-holic. And therein lies the difference.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why would other people’s cherry-picking be bad or unwanted? I fully agree with Benebell in the sense that ‘live and let live’ regardless of what others do. I have very little religious and cultural identity, partly due to society telling me all my life that those are bad/evil because of my genetic inheritance (and supposed historical transgressions by predecessors), which by default makes me bad/evil. So I decided to find cultural and spiritual inspiration somewhere else and cherry-picking is what I started doing. To my mind, we are all human; borne of the same connection and all the cultures and beliefs belongs to everyone – I am not going to restrict someone else from sampling/applying a few of my own cultural/spiritual inventions and I think neither should anyone else. Take what works, leave the rest.

      Balanced, varied, compassionate and non-judgemental perspectives comes from being eclectic, choosy, open-minded and receptive to constant change on physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels. Because, I realized that sometimes its not about me and that moving through life gently (in thought and in action) leads to a peaceful, happy and fulfilling life no matter the circumstance. Thus, I am guilty of cherry-picking all my life and with everything I do, because doing so leads to growth, change and flexibility – something for which I am very grateful for and would not have any other way.

      Wow! The comment is far longer than intended ๐Ÿ˜‰ LOL!

      Like

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