The Dangers of the One-Stop Shopping Mentality

The difficulty comes, however, in then assuming that the all-pervasiveness of one's religious viewpoint or spiritual practice then comes to replace time specifically spent on religious activities or spiritual devotion. Going to a protest for ecological awareness out of a sense of kinship with all of life gained from one's spiritual tradition is a very good thing; but mistaking such participation as "the same as" doing a ritual for the gods, or meditating on one's local land spirits, or spending a few minutes daily communing with nature in nature, is a very big error. Because one might often aspire to having one's spirituality pervade all aspects of one's life, that doesn't automatically make every one of a person's activities in life "spiritual." The desire for such is admirable, but the reality is at variance with this.

Another area in which I have encountered this more often than not is in sexual activity. If "all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals" is a foundational statement in one's spirituality, then that often means that some people simply assume that any sex is therefore "sacred sex," when it isn't. (I discussed some of the difficulties with these concepts in my last column.) As I am not a Wiccan myself, I don't necessarily hold the above to be true; but, I don't think it is automatically a "bad" or "wrong" viewpoint to hold either, I merely cite it as one example in which some have made a case for "one-stop shopping" when it comes to sex and spirituality.

This "one-stop shopping" mentality can be manifested in some things that are more benign. The assumption that the actual act of buying books on magic or the gods is a spiritual experience, and thus may replace doing ritual, prayer, or meditation for the day, would be one such example that is fairly harmless though quite flawed. It can also extend, though, to things that are actually quite horrible, including people thinking that because all of sex is "sacred" that therefore what amounts to sexual harassment, assault, or even rape is also equally "sacred," and another person's resistance to such advances is simply the other person not being "spiritual enough" to understand what is going on. I wouldn't say the latter is common, but I have encountered it on more occasions than I'm personally happy to report.

It is my opinion that it is far better to claim whatever it is one is doing as a worthy act in itself, whether that is watching television, going to a Star Trek convention, or going out with an aim to score at a bar or dance club, than to constantly try and suggest that one's spirituality pervades one's every moment and every action to the point that one need not do any practices that specifically aim to connect with the gods directly, or with one's own personal spiritual nature. To do this is an act of honesty, which is often a profound and important spiritual practice in itself-but, again, one that is worthy and worthwhile only insofar as it is recognized as something that one should do as a result of one's spiritual commitments, rather than as a replacement for actually doing them.

For polytheists, and I would suggest for Pagans more generally, there are no shortcuts. One never gets, in a metaphorical sense, to kill two birds with one stone with one's daily activities and one's spiritual life. And, I would argue, this is a very good thing. Honoring every stone and every bird that one kills and attempts to kill, and full engaging with every attempt to throw each stone is, I think, far more appropriate to our theological position than assuming every activity is a two-for-one sale at a megastore simply because one has decided to say that buying things is also "spiritual."

7/28/2011 4:00:00 AM