Episode 1

July 11, 2023


Part 1 Alchemical Dialogues' Spirituality and Religion: Similarities, Differences, and Implications

Hosted by

Joel David Lesses
Part 1 Alchemical Dialogues' Spirituality and Religion: Similarities, Differences, and Implications
Unraveling Religion
Part 1 Alchemical Dialogues' Spirituality and Religion: Similarities, Differences, and Implications

Jul 11 2023 | 00:51:45


Show Notes

Alchemical Dialogues held a panel discussion regarding spirituality and religion.

These two practices not the same, but this can be confusing for many.

Westerners, in growing numbers, identify as 'spiritual, but not religious.'

Likewise, there are many who list their religious affiliation as 'other.'  

Atheism and agnosticism are growing, often touting the benefits of community without the perceived negatives that religion and spirituality add—or do not.

What are the implications of spirituality, of religion, or neither?

In late 2022, Henry Cretella's podcast Alchemical Dialogues brought together a panel to disucss religion and spirituality, a discussion with Aude Chesnais, Henry Cretella, Tania Day-Magallon, Margot VanEtten, and Joel David Lesses.

Listen to this panel discussion with five practitioners who are either involved or have been with both spirituality and religion, as they explore their views and experiences.

Aude Chesnais, Ph.D., has encountered various spiritual traditions before finding her family on the Sufi path since 2017. She is a political ecologist and senior researcher for the Native Lands Advocacy Project, and has been working closely with native communities in the USA for the past 10 years on issues of land sovereignty and Traditional Ecological Knowledge, particularly in support of regenerative food-systems transitions. Aude’s work reflects strongly on her positionality as a white researcher working in Indigenous settings. Although her spiritual path has led her on the quest to understand oneness, Aude’s professional path and commitment to social justice constantly reminds her of the real social impacts of human distinctions on their lives. Reconciling these two coexisting realities is Aude’s lifetime quest. Aude received her MA in social and solidarity economics from Université de Haute-Alsace, France and her Ph.D. in sociology from Colorado State University, CO, USA.

Henry Cretella, M.D., is the host of Alchemical Dialogues and co-director of Amber Light International. He is a retired psychiatrist who received his medical degree from Vanderbilt University and his post-graduate training at the University of Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY. Henry was raised Roman Catholic and later began initial studies in Shamanism and Tibetan Buddhism, as well as in the martial arts before finding a home in the Sufi lineage of Inayat Khan. Henry no longer practices an exoteric religion, but teaches and guides others in a mystically oriented spirituality that incorporates the wisdom from many traditions and disciplines. For Henry, he believes that we are in an era calling for each of us to find and follow our own unique spiritual path. He also believes that we can connect with others and a power greater than ourselves, in order to further a positive expansion and evolution of human consciousness.

Tania Day-Magallon is an artist born in Mexico City and has collaborated in various art events and exhibits in Chicago, Mexico City, and Rochester, NY. She identifies as Muslim and is a Sufi practitioner. Tania started her art education at a young age, and she attended prominent art institutions in Mexico City. Tania’s art frequently uses symbolism and imagery emphasizing her own cultural identity and spiritual views. Tania became a member of the group formerly known as Women of Color in the Arts (WOC-Art) collaborative, where she curated an art activity and installation titled “Hands of Sorority”. Tania was also commissioned to design the cover of an issue for the academic journal Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies entitled Deterritorializing Frontiers. Tania earned her BA in Visual Arts from SUNY Empire State College, where she continued her studies in visual arts and psychology. She is currently earning her MS in Mental Health Counseling at SUNY Brockport. Tania believes that mental health, spirituality, and the arts are interwoven, and her current work is focused on exploring her roots, the Divine Feminine, and decolonial mental health approaches that include the creative process as a fundamental aspect of human wellbeing.

Margot VanEtten has a wide and varied background in spirituality and meditation, interfaith study and dialogue, martial arts, and ministerial practice including as a lay minister in the Catholic Church for many years. She holds a Master’s degree in Sacred Theology from St. Bernard’s Institute in Rochester, NY. From 2000 to 2019, Margot was the campus minister and director at the Brockport Newman Center where she was involved in ecumenical and interfaith work with the local ministers, student organizations including the Muslim Student Association and Campus Ambassadors, Interfaith campus ministry organizations across the Rochester area, and with the Diocese of Rochester’s Catholic/Orthodox Commission exploring relations with Eastern Orthodox churches. After retiring, Margot began working as a pastoral minister for St. Monica’s Church and Emmanuel Church of the Deaf where she became the first woman who was not a nun to be named Pastoral Associate in the Diocese of Rochester. Prior, she was a sign language interpreter and liaison to the chaplain’s office at the Rochester Institute of Technology. This fits neatly into her early background: Margot grew up in a town on Long Island (Great Neck), which at the time, had a rather diverse religious and cultural population, and it was there that she grew to deeply appreciate the Jewish tradition, as well as her own Christian faith.

Joel David Lesses, who has lived in Nepal and Israel, is a poet expressing the landscape of our existence and capturing the mystical elements of our human being. He believes world religion, poetry, spirituality, and meditation encompass the makeup of our mind and life. The crux of his own journey is the manifestation of questions and answers to his own koan “What is the matter with me?” For Joel, this reveals the individual and universal aspects of our inherent and potent creativity. Everything is flux. Everything is poetry. His other passions include the intersection of poetry, spirituality, science, and phenomenology shared and disparate in the human experience, along with the transformative power of self-inquiry and introspection through contemplative and meditative practices. Joel holds the belief that the fundamental transformation of individuals and our collective comes through barreling inward, relentlessly asking the questions, “Who am I?” or “What am I” or “What is the matter with me?” The latter, for Joel personally, shattered a false sense of self. Joel was previously voted ‘Buffalo’s Best Poet’, founded WNY’s ‘Ground and Sky Poetry Series’, and created the podcast Unraveling Religion, which explores world mysticism and spirituality. His autobiography, Odyssey of Autumn’s Breath, is in-progress, and combines much of his life’s poetry with prose.


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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:21 Welcome to a Chemical Dialogues, a special Amber Light podcast panel. Join Dr. Henry Corella with Chena Tanya de Magne, Joel Lesses and Margot Vanette for part one of their discussion on spirituality and religion, similarities, differences, and implications. The information provided on this website and these podcasts is for informational purposes only. Nothing on this website and in these podcasts is intended to be a substitute for medical health, therapeutic diagnosis or treatment. The opinions expressed by the guests in these podcasts are not necessarily the opinions of Amber Light International and anyone associated with this organization. Speaker 2 00:01:07 So welcome everyone to our podcast panel, discussion on spirituality and religion, similarities, differences, and implications. Our panelists are Tanya Delon, ode Chesney from Brittany Joel Lesses from Buffalo, and Margo Van Etten from Rochester, New York. So thank you all for agreeing to be part of this. So I just want to get it started. This has been up for me for a while, and to me there is a difference between religion and spirituality that I think is becoming more prominent, and that led me to talk to all of you and to others about what does that mean? Do you even, do people even agree with that? And what the implications are. So just for people who are listening, our hope is that we're gonna have the first podcast talk about the similarities and differences, if there are any. And then the second one would focus more on the implications of that. So we're gonna start with a brief introduction, and each person will talk for a few minutes about who they are and what they see as religion and spirituality. Are they they same, are they or are they different? So with that, I'd like to start with Ode. If you could introduce yourself and speak a little on this. Speaker 3 00:02:33 Hi everyone. My name is O Shana. I'm also known as Aziza, or, and I've been on, well, my call a spiritual path, um, although that's up to debate today, <laugh> for a while now. But, uh, pretty much for all my life, I would say, trying to understand what was beyond what, um, we could see and, and touch and the physical world, because what was beyond that was touching me and, and calling me, I guess, for a long time. So that took me, um, in, in many different directions. I'm also a researcher. I'm an anthropologist. Um, I work with, uh, native communities in the United States, and now I've also relocated to, uh, Brittany France, which is my, my homeland, and looking at traditional ecological knowledge in those territories as well. So my work is also, uh, and, and, and, and trigger, link with, um, my spiritual and personal quest and path. Speaker 3 00:03:35 And I'm trying to align both in what I do. So, uh, it's been, uh, it is a very connecting journey trying to figure out what those differences are, uh, because in my work, um, I'm confronted to the differences that matter in the social world, what makes people, um, distinguish themselves from each other, discriminate, uh, against each other, all of the, the racial injustice and, and the distinctions in the world. And my spiritual quest is towards uniting and towards, uh, what makes us, uh, the same <laugh>. So I'm trying to reconcile those differences in my everyday life and my work, and that's how I walk in the world. Welcome everyone. Speaker 2 00:04:21 So, oh, just to be clear, do you see spirituality and religion as the same or different? Speaker 3 00:04:27 I see 'em as not mutually exclusive in a sense that basically spirituality is the essence or the source of the content and as many roads, um, that leads to spiritual or that can accompany spiritual quest and spiritual awakening and religion is the number of, of norms and, and cultural and social strengthening of that quest and, and all the shapes it's taken in history in different, uh, areas, uh, of the world. And so religion has become more dogmatic, um, because of that processes, those social processes. Whereas, uh, spirituality is more of a personal quest before everything. So there's a number of distinction between the two, and they're, um, not mutually exclusive because you can have religious people who are inherently spiritual and on that quest for their per personal spiritual reasons, but you also have a number of spiritual people who can not necessarily be religious. Um, so it's, it's basically how I distinguished the two. One is more anchored in the social reality, the other one in the spiritual realm. Speaker 2 00:05:41 Okay. Thank you for clarifying that. Tanya. Can you say a few words and introduce yourself as well? Speaker 4 00:05:48 Thank you for inviting me, and yeah, my name is Tanya Day Majo, and, uh, I'm an artist. I, I am in right now starting in the mental health field, and I'm trying to connect the both because I think that it has a lot to do with, uh, art and mental health and spirituality. So I feel that when I started becoming an artist, this is when I started my personal journey into spirituality and religion. For me, I see it as, as yes, like, like wood said, is a set of norms and but is also brings tradition and people together in a more structural way, I guess. Um, I do identify five things in religion, uh, which is connection because it brings people together, <inaudible>, right? Like in a way, I think those traditions bring people together in different times, is not only the present, but also the past. Also language expression, symbol, and again, uh, the traditions. And finally the ritual, which is a very important aspect of, of religion. And again, the core of all that is spirituality. So I see them as, um, both of them interacting together. And one is as important, at least for me, although I'm gonna say that spirituality is more at, at the individual level and religion is more at the collective level. Speaker 2 00:07:33 Thank you. Could you repeat those five aspects again, you think are at the core of religion? Speaker 4 00:07:38 Yeah, I, this the, the five aspects of religion that I identify. One is group connection, language, expression, symbol, traditions, and the ritual aspect I think is very important. Speaker 2 00:07:55 Thank you. Joel? Speaker 5 00:07:57 Yes. Hi. Greetings everyone. I am dialing in from Buffalo, New York. And my relationship to religion and spirituality is that I was born into a family system where I had a parent that was Irish, Catholic, Christian, and a parent that was Jewish. And I had life circumstance, like sort of deep traumas in early childhood and adolescence that created a psychic, uh, disturbance in me that led to questioning, which is what I view as a kind of, the universe gave me a, a koan if people are familiar, a koan. And it is an illogical question that cannot be solved by discursive logic. And the question was, what is the matter? With me? I'd had repressed memories. And as a part of my investigation into what is the matter with me, I came to a deep, deep, potent place within myself, uh, a place of universality. And so, uh, the reconciliation of what was the matter with me or what is the matter with me, uh, uh, kind of reconciled the understanding that spirituality, as has been said before, is the unseen realm. And religion, I think is the ways in which we try to manifest that unseen realm in our communities through, I think religion. The, the root means maybe like to bind back. So really we're reaching back into the spiritual realm, the unseen realm, and bringing that essence into that unseen essence. The love or the, the unseen element into the physical world, which I feel is from Jewish mystical perspective, the whole point of creation is to infuse the physical realm with elevated love and kindness and caring. So that's my understanding of the two. Speaker 2 00:09:50 Thank you. You mentioned your Christian, I didn't, I didn't realize that you had a Christian background in your parentage. I didn't know that. Speaker 5 00:09:59 Yeah, my mother was Irish Catholic and it lent itself as I sort of matured in my path to seeing the validity of all the world's traditions. Uh, Zen master Dogan says there are many languages, but one tongue. Speaker 2 00:10:11 Right. And you, you're heavily involved in the Buddhist tradition now, correct? Speaker 5 00:10:16 I am. My practice, uh, you know, zen Zen is known as the religion before religion because it is a practice, it can be separated from Buddhism or it can be practice. Practice is a part of Buddhism. Uh, zen is a practice. It's, it comes from Dianna Sanskrit. Dianna means meditation, travel to China, which became Chan and then to Japan, which became known as Zen, which all mean the same thing, just meditation. It's the mind only or meditation heavy school of Buddhism. Speaker 2 00:10:47 Thank you, Margot. Speaker 6 00:10:49 My name is Margot Van Etten. I have a very checkered past very winding path. I am sort of retired. I was, um, a campus minister out at SUNY Brockport for the Catholic parish there for about 20 years. I'm currently working part-time at St. Monica's, which is a very diverse Catholic parish, um, near me and also, uh, for Emmanuel Church of the Deaf. I'm also a retired martial arts instructor. My own background, uh, religiously and spiritually has gone through all kinds of branches, which to me unite. They kind of form a circle. My spiritual practice is a combination of some Catholic practice and zhan meditation. I have was exposed to zen, partly through martial arts, but partly through my own curiosity. I am very familiar with a number of, of faith traditions. I grew up in a town whose population was 90% Jewish, and that really colored my awareness very early on that good people, you know, goodness was not confined to one faith or another. Speaker 6 00:11:59 So my, I agree with what's been said so far about spirituality and religion. It seems to me that religion stems from a spiritual experience. You know, a guy goes off to meditate and try to find out how to, what are the causes of suffering? A guy goes off in a cave and is meditating. Uh, somebody is out in the desert and he sees this bush that's burning. Somebody is, uh, encounters this former carpenter who, who says amazing things and does amazing things and then rises from the dead. And so there are these encounters with the divine or with the spiritual. And then how do you share that? How do you share it with other people? How do you transmit it? How do you honor it? How do you recognize it? Many of the practices that I've encountered in various religious traditions are pretty universal. Chanting is something that occurs in most, if not all, formal religions, burning something, fragrant incense, fragrant woods. Speaker 6 00:13:03 Special herbs is very common. So the practices that help nurture the spiritual encounter and pass it on and have containers for it, and then you start having to organize it. Well, who gets to speak for this? You know, uh, is this guy over here who suddenly is got some different idea? Is that all right? So it begins to get structured. Looking at the history of Christianity, that's very much the case. If you look at the early writings in the, the epistles in the New Testament or early writings of, um, major figures in the, in the history of the faith from the get-go, there were disagreements about how to do this and what it meant and how to describe it. Uh, and then at one point the state gets involved because the emperor kind of sort of converts. And on the one hand, we're not all being thrown to the lions or have our heads cut off or being burned to the stake or crucified. Speaker 6 00:13:55 That's nice. But on the other hand, all of a sudden it becomes institutionalized. And that has a lot of dangers with it on the, it becomes standardized in a way that can be be harmful. And it also begins to involve people who are at various levels of spiritual development. There are levels to spiritual growth versus there are to personality growth. And if you are standing in a church or a synagogue or a mosque addressing people or a zendo, you are addressing people at all stages. And the more your, uh, your religion is identified with the culture, the more varied those stages are gonna be. So I agree, they overlap. I ideally, religion is the container where these things can be transmitted and where you can go to find authentic people who can transmit it. But there is always just as with if spirituality is disconnected from any structure, it can veer off into some pretty strange things. Speaker 6 00:14:54 So in the same way when religion focuses too much on structure, on power or on convention, then it can deaden the spirit, my own religious quest or my spiritual quest, cuz they were sort of co-terminus. And then they branch and reappear started with a major spiritual experience, which I had no idea at the age of 12, which I had no idea how to identify or describe or even if it was valid. And that has kind of informed all of my quest that and the desire to be of service and the call to loving kindness and compassion. Speaker 2 00:15:33 Thank you. I'm Henry Cri and most of you know me. I co-direct Amberly International with my partner Kathleen. And uh, I'm a retired psychiatrist and my specialty in psychiatry was child and adolescent. So I, I, I have to admit, I have a developmental perspective. It, it just kind of runs through. I grew up Roman Catholic and I actually went to a Roman Catholic elementary school, high school and college. And unlike many of you, I think I met three Jewish boys in my all male Catholic high school. They were forced to sit through a religion class, but their parents sent them there because it was a good high school. I met my first Protestant in college. That tells you how I was not diverse, trust me. And then I went off to med school in Vanderbilt, in in Tennessee. And then things started to open up for me. Speaker 2 00:16:34 I became dissatisfied with Catholicism in high school, even though I was teaching Sunday school, which is probably one of the reasons I got dissatisfied with it. And I always remember this experience. I was in high school and it was taught by Marist brothers and we were in a religion class and it was probably my sophomore year. And we began asking questions and the Marist brother, brother slammed his hand on the desk and said, you all asked too many questions. And that was about the end of it. So then, then I thought I would become an atheist and that didn't work. And then somehow I got interested in nature and shamanism in my later adult life. And then Tibetan Buddhism, I studied that I still was not practicing Catholicism. And then I found the Sufi path, a pretty universal Sufi path. So it's not Islamic, although it has a lot of Arabic in it, and you can feel the Islamic roots, but it's much more universal than that. Speaker 2 00:17:40 And for me, I don't see any of those as religions. To me that's all spirituality. And even that for me became too narrow. And so I kind of branched out on my own. And so now I teach and practice what I hope is what I think is spirituality, which I also think is mysticism. I think you can feel the Sufi foundation and here it, but it feels more than that. It has shamanic elements and it has Buddhist elements, it has Christian elements and actually has a lot of elements from psychology and philosophy. So when I think of it developmentally, it's interesting because I see it as the essence, the NIUs is what I call spirituality or mysticism. But early on, just like in child development early on, there's a religion. It's all of these rules. All of these dogmas, all of these, let me slap your hand if you don't do it the way that I think you're supposed to do it. Speaker 2 00:18:47 And developmentally, just like in moral development, we think you start off with very rigid rules. But if you mature cuz there's no guarantee, you wind up getting to, well, okay, we can negotiate rules then later on. The really advanced part is I know what the rules are trying to represent. The principle is what is what's important, not the overt rule. I have to find the principle behind it that's advanced and it carries a danger, which is everybody thinks they can do their own thing. Now, this is getting a little more into our next podcast about implications. Religion carries a danger, which is you don't grow up, you become blind. And I think that's what I'm feeling, that's what I believe I'm seeing in my experiences with people and just being alive in this western culture. And that has really led me to think about what am I doing and what are we all doing and how are we trying to help each other, uh, live better lives and evolve better? And I think there's a huge difference between spirituality and religion. There are overlaps, but the differences are really important. So that's my five minutes worth. So I do wanna open this up to the panelists. I wanted to ask the panelists to reflect on what they've heard and how they're putting that together in their own thinking and have a chat amongst ourselves. So please ode. Speaker 3 00:20:34 So I'm, I'm looking at it just building on what you're saying, but I'm looking at it from the anthropological perspective somehow, and not, not the spiritual here, but I think to me, the very important point here is that religion fulfills a social function as opposed to spirituality, which is more of a personal function, but also a more existential function or substantial function. Somehow religion here has been described as producing a certain number of norms that gives also a sense of identity, a sense of belonging to a community, to human communities, I guess historically. And it's been used in that way to, to provide meaning and to basically substantiate that, that existential claim to, to life, right? That's beyond just existing or being, but giving a sense and, and meaning to the everyday actions or, or the everyday acts of people. And kind of consolidating that, that, uh, performance of what we call us or what, uh, we define as us as opposed to others. Speaker 3 00:21:42 As opposed to them. And so it's, it's in that sense that religion is, is seen in sociology, at least as one of the major Asian of soc of socialization because it's really identity building and it gives that sense of, of meaning or social belonging in a way. But I think to me, beyond that, where religion becomes problematic in a way is when it leaves that realm of just refining that sense of identity or belonging, but actually, uh, serves private interest or basically serves interests that are not the spiritual interest or the, the quest for unity or love or harmony or whatever the ideals of, of that religion might have been in the beginning, like, like, uh, other pan panelists have talked about. But when it starts serving prayer interests. And historically, religion has been used as a way to support extractivism, support colonialism, support capitalism in those ways, and basically provide a moral justification for those private interests and for this accumulation material accumulation and accumulation of power, right? Speaker 3 00:22:55 So really much in support of extractivism. Another way to say that is basically it's historically been used to support our claim to separate ourselves from nature. Because in other communities, for instance, the indigenous communities I've worked with, which usually they're very cautious at calling their spiritual spirituality a religion because they like to really mark that line. But historically with the Lakotas, for instance, their spiritual fabric is not being used to justify any type of material extractivism, right, or colonialism or, um, it's been used as providing meaning, but not never basically to substantiate claims, to colonize others or to impose other ways of being or their way of being to the rest of the world. So really historically, especially for Europeans, but for Western people. And, um, yes, arguably for the the three main monotheistic religion, it served as that moral justification to colonize, to take land, to take basically from others. And the, the risk also, and where, where it's been the most damaging is also, uh, in its capacity to become very exclusive, where you have that only one model, um, that refis that only one way of being where everything else is out of question cannot be questioned. Um, that's where it's become the, and taken the most dangerous forms historically, is when it really ies that one way of being at the exclusion of others. Speaker 2 00:24:32 Oh, do you think of the indigenous faith tradition as a religion or as spirituality? Speaker 3 00:24:38 Well, personally, it's, it's, I think it's somewhere in between because spirituality is more a of a, um, it's a concept. It's, it's a concept that tries to frame that quest of what's beyond the physical world, what's beyond, um, what's out there that we cannot necessarily touch, but that we can feel, that we can experience in some ways. And it's, it's a way to put a word, uh, with that concept, with, um, of that, that feeling basically. But, but it's not as, as other panelists have said before, you can have that spiritual quest without any form of frameworks. Uh, and so with the Lakotas, it has a framework, uh, that's why they would not call it, I think, uh, I don't want to be culturally appropriating anything, but I don't think they would call it spiritual necessarily. They will call it the Waka or the Red road, or they would give it those, those words that are, uh, endogenous words basically that have meaning for them and their culture, right? So they would not even use those separation. I think, um, from our analysis, yes, we can call it spiritual, but it's more structured than just a spirituality, a form of spirituality, yet it's not a religion because it's not, it has not served historically all these other elements of in support, in, in support of, of extractivism or, um, taking those large scale, uh, indoctrination, missionary, missionary purposes, et cetera. So, uh, I think they, they like to separate themselves from calling it a religion, but it's somewhere in between, I would say Speaker 2 00:26:20 <laugh>. Okay. Thank you. Uh, Margo, Speaker 6 00:26:23 I think we're gonna find that all of us, um, have big chunks of the truth that overlap. There's the original impulse of whatever religion is, there's the cultural appropriation of it by an outside culture or the culture that it arose within in some cases. At its most basic, I think religion is a structure. So for example, in the various indigenous communities, if somebody is looking to be taught, they don't just go walking up to any old person and grab 'em. And there is, there are people who are acknowledged by the community and each community has ways in which the spiritual path is opened up. You know, you have things in the, um, in our own tradition within this part of the country where you have things like a condolence ceremony, you have vision quests in other places, and these are, they have a structure. You don't just, you don't just grab a, a hand sandwich, go up on a mountain and sit there. Speaker 6 00:27:25 You can, but you're likely to get into trouble. So there's somebody you are aware in the community that you can go to who can guide you and can facilitate. You're having the experience that you are, I don't even wanna say seeking called for to. So at its most fundamental religion is, and it can be extremely loose, a structure where there are guides, there are ways of seeking, there are also ways of dealing with life issues. Every faith tradition of any sort has practices around birth, around death. Most of them have practices around marriage. Those both become both cultural and spiritual and they're very important for people psychologically. We also have to take a look at western religion in a different context. I think from many other religions, I'm nervous about limiting where I talk about religion because all the different indigenous religions in Africa, for example, or Native American religion, have been dismissed because they don't have buildings, they don't have a formal clergy in many cases and so forth. Speaker 6 00:28:34 So we need to be careful not to euro centralize our understanding. In the case of western religion and most specifically the varying forms of Christianity, a great deal of what Chris passes for Christianity is mingled with other things. Consumerism, which is the state religion of the United States. The whole notion of, uh, that led to capitalism, the whole very analytic nature rejecting aspect of it do not come from the original sources. If you really wanted to be violent, you would call them heresies. So I think it's really important to look at what, because also you don't correct something or decide whether you're gonna bother with it or just leave if you don't know what the original, uh, intent is. All the religions I'm familiar with have very similar ethical structures. What you don't like don't do to someone else. You know, love one another, don't murder, don't steal, don't harm other people. Speaker 6 00:29:38 Or at least people we define as people. Now there, there gets to be the problem. So there's a culture that is not necessarily co-terminus with the religion that can co-opt it. Um, and we always have to be aware of that. Even if you are just focusing on spirituality, how do you do it? You find some way, you read stuff, you go to somebody, how do you know you're not going to a nutcase? So there is a need for structure and ideally, ideally there's someplace that you can get that structure that is a religion if it's not contaminated, which most of them are. Anyway, Speaker 2 00:30:11 Again, this is starting to merge into the next section about implications, but I'll put in my 5 cents, which is, I haven't heard anything that the panelists are saying. Religion offers that I think can't be offered without religion. Community knowledge, finding a mentor, Margot, there are nut cases who are religious. It's easy to find that. And as you were talking, I was thinking what, what what I do agree with is that religions might be good libraries, the equivalent of, oh, historically we've collected these things here. So you can go in, check it out, go do it for a while, and then come back and leave it, and then you let it percolate and you learn. So maybe for me, I am being provocative on purpose. Religion is like a library, no worse and no better. You know, I went to a library when I was in, uh, elementary school and high school cause we, of course we didn't have computers back in those days. Speaker 2 00:31:14 I'm aging myself, but the library didn't own me. I didn't go to just the one library in my hometown. I knew there were other libraries that had more knowledge that I could find in a book that I would have to get. I didn't get owned by. The library was just there cuz it was convenient. So maybe what I'm hearing is religion is a convenient way to get started about learning about different things that are collected in one place. But that sense of ownership and even culture, like, because I grew up in my hometown, that was the library that I had to go to. Well no, I only had to go, that's the one I went to cause I could walk there. But for me again, and hopefully we'll talk about it in the next podcast, I haven't heard anything their religion offers that can't be offered by a family. Uh, by Amberly International, I mean, we're here, we're supporting each other. We talk to each other, not just on a podcast. I know I can call you and share ideas with you. You can do that with me. Is that a religion? God, I hope not, cuz that's not what I want to do. So Tanya and then Joel, Tanya. Speaker 4 00:32:29 So I agree what you guys have said about religion, especially when we think about the origins of religion, uh, that it serves a very practical purpose, right? I mean, we had it as a, even as a marker. I mean, I I'm thinking about the indigenous, indigenous peoples who can really show us how more or less is, uh, religion. Now the word religion is, is very new, right? Relatively, uh, is it comes from the Latin, right? Is, um, but everybody in every cultural group, they follow a set of rules and all, um, to unite people to offer guidance, um, to find collective identity. But, and, and lately I've been honoring my own indigenous roots as indigenous Navajo. And what I found is that indigenous people, they do follow a religion, but the religion of our ancestors is more associated with, with that, uh, collectivist idea of bringing people together, of bringing, uh, values together. Speaker 4 00:33:39 And like, uh, Marco said, like, you know, things that we find in every, in the core of every religion, like, like, don't kill, you know, like, just keep the peace with your neighbor. Uh, don't steal just basic guidance, uh, that are more or less universal, uh, with some differences in every culture. And, uh, that's another thing that religion provides, uh, like old said, uh, cultural identity, right? Like, and also like Henry said there, like libraries, religion is, is kind of like a library. I mean, we, for example, in indigenous in the, in the, um, for the nael people, for the Nael people. And I think many really, in many cultures, they have a storytelling, right? That's how we know about the ancestors. But storytelling for them is very, is spiritual in a way. Like, is is a tradition that is follow generation to generation. And everybody has to engage in that duty In Arabic, that's called dean. Speaker 4 00:34:39 And if we translate that is, that's religion is a d the dean, right? In Arabic. And it is, is just a way of life. Something that you transmit generation to generation. So I guess in that way, religion is important. And I don't wanna say religion as just to think like Marco said, just don't always think about this patriarchal religions that we know of that is Islam, Christianity, uh, and Judaism is more to it. There's there, you know, because just because religion, we always associated with those, with those institutions, right? But religion, there is, there's more to it there. Uh, originally, like I said, you know, I uh, um, it has other purposes, right? It has the purpose of transmitting the stories, uh, the purpose of connecting people, not only with present people in the present, but with ancestors, with people, uh, in next generations. And also that connection, of course with, with everything, with the source of everything. Call it God the great spirit or however you wanna call it. Yeah, I guess that's what I wanted to say. Speaker 2 00:35:54 Thank you Joel. Speaker 5 00:35:56 Well, I, I agree so much with what Tanya said, that if we look at sort of the contributions, I guess not even contributions, but what does religion offer offer and what does spirituality offer? I think that the continuity of teachings as they evolve over time are preserved, as you said, Henry, as a library, the traditions, you know, you could take the example of Judaism where the history and the, the traditions are intermingled in the books of the Torah and, and Talmud and these things. Without these things, we wouldn't have access to the wisdom from so long ago as it's evolved over time. And I, I, you know, it's funny, I think in touching on, I was thinking about this as everyone was speaking, that, you know, there's this, I have it here, that there's this poem by Iku. Iku is a zen teacher, Zen student. Speaker 5 00:36:52 And, uh, when he received transmission of the dharma, he burned it. He didn't want people to attach to it. But what he says here is that every day priests minutely examine the law and endlessly chant complicated sutras before doing that, though, they should learn how to read the love letters sent by the wind and rain, the snow and moon. And so I think you have the blending of like the religious aspect and the sutra and, and chanting versus the spirituality of the direct connection with nature. And, um, I think so much of that, so much of successful reli application of religion and successful application of spirituality comes with moderation, comes with balance. So that in Judaism, there's the star of David, which represents the top parallel line is heaven, and the bottom parallel line is earth and is is earth and heaven move toward one another, they penetrate one another. And there's a balance. And I think that that's a really important aspect of religion and spirituality. When you get out of balance, when things are too spiritual, you get into mental turbulence and distress and confusion and can be misled by delusions and psychosis and paranoia. And if you get too much into the physical, then you lose touch with the spirit, the lifeblood of what religion is, which is, uh, it's fueled by spirituality, it's fueled by love, it's fueled the, its whole purpose exists to manifest the unseen realm of love into the physical world. Speaker 2 00:38:24 Thank you. So we have two more panelists, and then we're gonna take just a short break. So o and then Margot. Speaker 3 00:38:33 Yeah, I just wanted to reflect on, on two main points. Uh, the first one is, uh, it's something we haven't touched base on yet, but there's a major distinction that appears, um, to me very important in religion historically. And that's just again, from the anthropological perspective here, but is the distinction between monotheism and, uh, polytheism in, in the way it's played out in history. And I think this is more getting out of the social realm or the social importance of religion here from an ideological standpoint. There's a, a, a major distinction between both here, uh, which is that mo monotheism kind of has this tendency to impose, um, frameworks that are mutually exclusive. And polytheism is historically has been much more inclusive because of the ideological nature of polytheism. Because, um, when you start from the standpoint that there is one God, and, and that, and, and your way is the only way, and it's better than, than other people's ways and other ways that people have worshiped at one God, et cetera, by definition, your reference systems, uh, starts to be mutually exclusive, meaning that others cannot exist or coexist with it. Speaker 3 00:39:44 Whereas when you, uh, your, your framework, um, involves, uh, considering different gods and different divinity or different ways that we've, you know, kind of from this anthropomorphism, um, uh, considered or, or centralized nature and centralized divinity, then you're more likely to be more tolerant of other ways and belief systems and faith. And historically, that's really what's happened where, um, that's how a lot of indigenous traditions have been, have been stepped upon and stepped on and, and eventually, um, led to, uh, ethno reside and led to disappear, uh, or, or at least, uh, excruciatingly, um, uh, persecuted is, is through that process where those indigenous religions or or frameworks were accepting Christianity or accepting, uh, at least the coexistence of these other belief systems in their realm, in their physical realm, and accepting the presence of missionary, accepting the presence of priests, et cetera. Whereas as, as kind of within their, their framework, um, just the way that these, all these belief systems coexist together under the one reality, right? Speaker 3 00:40:54 The one collective reality. Whereas these frameworks, especially Christians have been, have been amazingly efficient at that as we know, is, um, to really totally exclude those systems from being, um, valid, uh, at the same time mutually valid and, and and respectfully valid, uh, at the same, on the same level with each other. And, and as a pro, as a result of that, uh, really led that mission to colonize other people's minds and, and take away, um, and destroy these other ways of being that are just not compatible with theirs, right? And so that's a fundamental historical distinction. I think that's important to draw between monotheism polism now to play the devil advocate, and I'm just gonna say this quickly, but I just wanted to, um, react on what he, what Henry was saying about he didn't see anything convincing about religion <laugh> and about the interest of religion. Speaker 3 00:41:49 Uh, I just wanted to say, I'm, I'm from France. France is a, one of the most secular country in the world. It's kind of established secularism as a religion itself, and there's a cult itself to the point of excluding other people's belief systems and discriminate on people believe, um, belief systems. And so, you know, this is Durheim, this is very Darkanian society, uh, Emil Durheim who the, the first one was, was to theorize on that and even idealize a, a society without religion where basically what he call collective conscious or collective effervescence would be this kind of like, uh, version of society that, that that still has this really social aspects of religion, but completely devoid of the dog dogma and the, the abusers that he saw in those monotheist tradi monotheistic tradition. And I have to say, and it's kind of playing the devil's advocate with what I, I just talked about before, but, uh, that the French society has been really, really unsuccessful at doing this, right? Speaker 3 00:42:49 And the result is this, uh, this society, this social contract, which yes, is completely very much about, um, you know, social collaboration and I mean in, in our, at least in our, um, social protection system, you know, and, and, um, healthcare and all of those things, right? But completely devoid of any, uh, sexualization and on, on any relationship with the sacred and to the point where we cannot even understand. And the French society as extremely tribal understanding what a relational model to nature to a sacred model can look like. So, um, just to say that, you know, throwing the baby with bathwater is not a good idea there. <laugh>, Speaker 2 00:43:32 Since you mentioned my name, I just want to say before you go to Margo, that yeah, that's socialization culture without spirituality, I'll buy that I didn't, you know, you can have, and this again segueing into our next section, I guess you can have no spirituality and no religion, okay? And what you have is what you're describing. That doesn't mean you need to have religion. It means you need to have sa ization. You need some connection to remind you there's something greater than you, greater than what, what is going on here? I'm not convinced that's religion at all, but we'll get to that. Margo. Speaker 6 00:44:15 I think we're struggling partly because we don't have a adequate vocabulary here. Okay? I hear three things, alright. Or there's, I, I see three spirituality and that has a lot of subsets, okay? But then when we talk about religion, we have to be able to be, we're, we're putting a whole bunch of stuff into one bag. We need another word. And I liked, I liked the one that Tanya used din was that it Tanya, for the spiritual religion, the religion which transmits this stuff. And then there is institutionalized or ideological religion, which is usually attached to the state, which is usually uses power and coercion to some degree, uh, if not all. And it's not, while the west has a lamentable history and especially western Christianity, it's not exclusive either to western religion or monotheism. Look at what is going on in India right now. Speaker 6 00:45:15 Hinduism is a pluralistic polytheistic religion, which up until about a decade and a half ago, I would've said was very tolerant. But right now they're persecuting Buddhists, they're persecuting all stripes of Christians and a whole bunch of other people, indigenous people. First of all, I think we need distinctions. There is spirituality, which is again, that direct contact to me. It's the direct contact with the heart of the universe, however you wanna vi vibe with that, through nature, through meditation, all of those things there is dim and then there is structured religion, let's use that word maybe, or formally structured religion. And the problem with that is a lot of the people who get in the po it's like, uh, you in the Eastern Orthodox Church, in order to be able to be called a theologian, you also have to be a deeply spiritual meditator. So very few people get that. Speaker 6 00:46:12 LA now in the West theology is as a discipline, totally devoid of spirituality or divorced from it. There are occasional people who are spiritual. Like, um, Hans King comes to mind. No, not Hans K um, oh, I'll think of him later. But there are people who are deeply spiritual who are also theologians, but that's not required and it's not part of the program. Uh, you don't have to be a deeply spiritual person to become a priest or a nun, or you didn't use to back the people that trained your teachers. Henry didn't require that at all. Now they're looking a little for a little more, but it's still different criteria where you need something like din okay, is several of my own experiences. The experience of that amazing transcendent thing was I go, I couldn't talk to my parents about it. They would've quietly sent me to the doctor and lamented they thought I was too religious anyway, quote unquote. Speaker 6 00:47:10 And I had, because I had not been raised within a, a tradition that had anybody you could talk to, there was nobody I could talk to. It took me a long time to decide. Uh, finally I read a couple of books written by people coming out of a religious tradition, which said, oh, that's what that was. I, I'd still have been wondering if I hadn't found somebody, and the people who had the knowledge came out of a religious tradition. I wanted to study zhan. You can read a lot of books about zhan. You can also really go off the deep end of not even going crazy, but just mistaking your ego for junction. That's something that happens in all faith. How do I find a teacher that will help me get through that and who isn't, you know, a crook or a jerk religion? So first of all, I think we need to be very careful about when we talk about religion, what are we talking about? Speaker 6 00:48:07 You know, that's like talking about education as a giant thing. What are we talking about? So I'd like to keep that distinction, and I think I'd like to keep using the word dim for the religion that is the container and the transmission source as distinct from the structure that is allied with a lot of other things and is, has made itself the end rather than the means. And there, and no matter what faith that is it, I mean, we can find screwy examples everywhere in every tradition of that, but we can also find holy people who are inspi deeply inspiring. The Dalai Lama is a very inspiring person. And let me tell you, he's definitely from a religion and a religious tradition. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, he was a Baptist minister, and all of his discussion of civil rights came right out of his faith. So I'd like, I liked having that third word. So we we're not kind of, we have more of a continuum than just black and white. Western thinking is very dualistic, and that gets us into more trouble is light a waiver, a particle? So it gets us into more trouble. So I'd like to avoid being dualistic here if we possibly can and look at those three things. I will now shut up. Speaker 2 00:49:29 I think this is a good point to just bring this part to a little bit of a close. So we'll pick up on that because I have some thoughts about that too. But it sounds like we're in terms of is there a difference between spirituality and religion? What I'm hearing is, yes, there's an overlap, there's a difference. Religion seems to be more towards institutional, dogma, cultural that binds people together around those principles. And spirituality is more of the essence. And maybe there's a third one, Tanya, and, and Margo was saying, and I'm not sure I agree with that, that might be more of a transition or another way of looking at it, but I'm hearing that there clearly is a difference. And in the next podcast we can talk about, okay, then what are the implications about that? So why don't we stop here and I want to thank you all for your input and, uh, I'm encouraging listeners to catch the next podcast. And if you're on the recording, that will be in about two minutes. Speaker 1 00:50:48 If you find yourself enjoying our podcast, please do us a favor and spread the word, tell a friend about it, give us a review on iTunes or post it on social media. If you or someone you know would like to participate in a future podcast, please connect with us through the contact us page, see our events calendar page for dates to our next live podcast recordings. We'd love for you to participate and ask questions. And be sure to check out Joel Leslie's podcast, unraveling Religion on your favorite podcast app. Our chemical dialogues are live and unscripted conversations recorded on Zoom. Brought to you by the great folks of Amber Light International, a nonprofit organization co-founded by Henry Corella, MD and Kathleen Fitzpatrick, L C S W. We choose topics from our current social and cultural climate with an emphasis on humanism and spirituality.

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