Why alternative methods of spirituality should be respected
Imagine you're in math class, innocently chatting with your friends as you try to complete yet another insipid worksheet aimed at helping you "hone your skills." The teacher is at her desk, the classroom's filled with chatter and the subject turns to psychic phenomena. One of your friends believes in the supernatural and the other does not.
"There's no solid evidence anywhere that psychic phenomena exist! It's just some ladies with crystal balls!" says friend two.
"Well there doesn't have to be evidence to make it real!" friend one shoots back.
It's a conversation that drags on longer than it needs to, mostly because there's no conclusive answer that will make either party acquiesce. There's a reason why religion is among the things people say is impolite to discuss in normal conversation; the politics of spirituality and the ways that people choose to express their beliefs are fairly contentious.
Many of the spiritual practices popularized by the New Age movement have been continuously criticized for their lack of supporting scientific evidence. For those who deal mainly in the tangible, only believing in the things that they can see and feel, this criticism of occult mystical energy is understandable. But for others, especially those who proclaim themselves religious, this criticism is bordering on hypocritical.
The thing about faith and spirituality is that there doesn't have to be proof or evidence--it's called faith for a reason. Even if it's a spiritual practice that doesn't fit what we traditionally think of when we think of connection with a higher being (i.e. going to a holy building or engaging in prayer), it has merit. We live in a country with the largest population of people who believe in angels, and where studies have shown that almost half of adults believe in some sort of extrasensory perception (ESP). Usually those are statistics that people giggle at, and mostly that's because to the "logical mind" a belief in the intangible is unfathomable. But it really shouldn't be so hard to accept spirituality that falls outside of the common spiritual tropes that people are used to.
In my experience and in that of some fellow Blazers, New Age spirituality can be both fun and serious. As someone who was raised Catholic, I see New Age as a less severe alternative to the religion of my childhood. It can be fun to read books about how to make predictions for the future and to think about how to channel the universe's energy in order to promote success. But I also like to know what's coming next in life and astrology, palmistry and psychic reading are just a few ways that I can get information about my future to help me plan. A lot of other believers in the supernatural agree with me. For junior Osman Vural, astrology is something that helps him feel grounded and connected to the world. "Astrology makes me feel like I can rely on things, like I am at one with the world,” Vural said.
For many, alternative outlets for expressing spirituality are a means of fulfilling their natural human impulse to have control over their environments. Visiting psychics and reading astrological profiles have been proven to boost the user's sense of control over their environment and their futures. In that way, alternative methods of spirituality can be a lot more about finding comfort in the occult to combat the unknowable than it is about the freaky lady with a crystal ball.
Neida Mbuia Joao. Welcome to SCO! I'm Neida (pronounced Neigh-duh) and I'm the online opinion editor for the site. My favorite pass-times include snacking, reading super dense novels and watching lots of television. Clearly I'm on track to become a vegetable. If so I'd like to be a ... More »