Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact. – Emerson
Most modern religions have doctrine: holy books, sacred scripture, lists of quoted dogma from sainted heads, annals of kings and battles adjudicated by the eternal powers, recipes for weddings and births and deaths, and so on. Beliefs to be memorized.
I’ve written at length about doctrine and dogma before, and I think it’s dangerous stuff. Instead of opening the mind and allowing spiritual growth and development, doctrine shuts everything down. It can be valuable to have blind faith in some things, for a while, at least; but to keep yourself open to the world and to Spirit, it’s essential to keep your mind alert to new experiences that might contradict your faith. You have to believe in something, but hold your beliefs lightly.
Pagans generally avoid doctrine. Instead of big books of instructions, we rely on two currents: tradition and nature.
In my last post, I suggested that philanthropism — giving away goods, services, and knowledge, rather than selling them — was a more ethical choice, and one which could be viable even in the modern capitalist world economy. Many thriving organizations — charities, non-profits, and open-source organizations — give away their work for free, subsisting only on donations of money and labor. And plenty of small, tribe-sized economies have existed without money or trade in the past. But could the whole modern world really run this way?
In my last post on this topic (Selling Salvation III: Property and Prostitution) I talked about the ethics of trade — the free market exchange — and suggested that buying and selling anything is inherently, at the deepest level, an act of disrespect.
Why? In brief, when you buy or sell something, you’re saying, “You’re worth $X to me.” This demeans it. You’ve bleached out its essential uniqueness and inherent absolute worth, and given it a value on a dollar scale. In unfettered capitalism, everything is placed on a dollar scale, everthing becomes a commodity, and everything — including sex, work, life, and salvation — is valued only in the marketplace.
But the other extreme — living without trade — presents problems for daily living, because the exchange of goods is the foundation of the modern economy. While capitalism is far from perfect, it has some serious moral and practical advantages over other economic systems used in the past (all of which relied heavily on the use of overt physical violence). What alternative is there?
Suppose you know the Meaning of Life. Would it be moral sell that information to the highest bidder?
A year ago, in “Selling Salvation: How Much is it Worth?”, I pointed out that the great religious leaders of the past — Jesus, the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Mohammed — had given Salvation away for free, to anyone who would listen. Shouldn’t we follow their example?
A few months ago, I mentioned off-handedly that my feelings about violence were close to that of Gandhi and Tolstoy. Kate Gladstone asked me about this in the comments, mentioning a book called THE RING by Piers Anthony, in which he describes a society in which some people wear a special ring that prevents them from committing any violence at all. She notes:
“…his conclusions on non-violence in THE RING include, *but* go fascinatingly beyond, the common sentiment that a rule of absolute non-violence makes its followers the inevitable victims of those who haven’t adopted such a rule.
A glance at the comments on the previous post shows what a complex topic this is; it easily merits a follow-up. For this article, I’m going to focus on the conundrum facing the individual who is trying to set a price for mediumship/life-coaching/therapy/etc. The economics are much more interesting than selling physical commodities, or even regular services like lawn-mowing or waiting tables.
Warning! I’m not an economist; I’m just a thoughtful guy who’s interested in economics, and has read and thought a lot about this problem. If you want to try out my advice here, I suggest doing it first in a small inconspicuous area where a permanent stain won’t show…
No, really, I’m serious. How much would you pay? And I’m not just addressing those Christians and others who believe in literal salvation; I’m talking about ultimate spiritual fulfillment in whatever belief system you follow.
And I’m talking about hard cold cash here. Imagine you’ve got a dollar bill: you can put it towards a loaf of bread, you can put it towards college, and now you can put it towards Nirvana. Your choice. How many dollars would you be willing to pay?
Have you ever wondered whether someone has been stealing your ideas?Maybe you’ve come up with a brand-new way of doing something, a new way of approaching a problem, an idea for an article or resolving some issue at work, or a personal gift you can give someone — and before you get a chance to put your plan into action, you find in someone else has already done it.What gives?!A week ago, a month ago, this idea was your own special unique treasure, and before you know it, everybody seems to be doing it.
This happened to me three times in just the past week.It’s not something that happens often to me, actually, because I’m not a very, um, normal person, and I usually don’t have any trouble thinking outside the box.Quite the opposite, in fact — frequently I don’t realize the box is there, and I end up tripping over it in my enthusiasm… Continue reading “Where Do Ideas Come From?”→
A few nights ago I decided to take a walk just after sunset, as part of my plan to enjoy more exercise during my physical manifestation overhaul. There was still plenty of light, and I planned on only being gone about half an hour, so I didn’t need a flashlight or anything like that. I also didn’t plan on meditating or trying to contact Spirit in any way at all, so I was completely taken off guard by what happened…