I was left dumbstruck when one of my Facebook friends recently posted a link to an interview with Rae Darabont warning against yoga as it ‘can lead to demonic possession’.
Demonic possession? Huh? They had to be confusing ‘possession’ for ‘position’, as in downward-facing dog position. Was there a ‘demon’ position I haven’t heard about? Or maybe they meant something else. I mean, for those of us who carry a few extra pounds yoga outfits are downright evil.
I’m afraid I couldn’t watch the full video – it was just too ludicrous to spend an hour on – but the gist of her argument is that because yoga is rooted in Hindu tradition, practicing it puts one at risk of inadvertently following Hindu teachings and falling prey to unchristian beliefs and demons.
[Apologies for the break in transmission – I fell off my chair laughing]
I would argue that, if they are so worried that participating in an activity loosely based on ancient religious ritual will turn them to the dark side, then their conviction in their own faith is not nearly as strong as they think it is and yoga is not the problem. I am confident that wearing a headscarf will not turn me into a Muslim any more than hanging a pentagram on my wall will make me a Wiccan.
In all seriousness though, it is this kind of attitude that concerns me. It’s dangerous. It’s exactly this kind of narrow-minded blinkered thinking that breeds intolerance and leads to some misguided and impressionable person running into a mosque with a machine gun and opening fire on a roomful of good people.
Warring over an ink blot
I’m no expert. I do not have a degree in theology, I haven’t written a thesis on ancient cultures. However I have ‘done my research’. While I do avoid YouTube crackpots like the plague, I do read books on the subject, and have read excerpts from the Bible, Quran and Mahabharata. I’m also an avid watcher of science, history and religious documentaries, such as The Story of God with Morgan Freeman (brilliant – highly recommend) and Ancient Aliens.
Okay, I’m not convinced our ancient ancestors came from outer space, but there is no denying that there were ancient civilizations that existed long before ours who possessed advanced knowledge and technology that was lost to modern man. The ancient alien theory does also provide a convincing explanation for the unexplained jump in human evolution and the presence of ‘junk’ DNA in our genome. But, all that aside, the show is just simply cool. It’s introduced me to obscure world religions and myths, and the mind-blowing construction of ancient sites I didn’t even know existed. I mean, PUMA PUNKU?!
Jokes aside, from all I’ve learned about world religions and traditions, I have been struck by the prolific similarities in all of them: common parables such as the great flood, recurring themes of good triumphing over evil, resurrection and rebirth, shared symbology, and similar sets of moral principles. Even the legend of King Arthur struck me as echoing these same themes: he was betrayed by someone close to him, he had twelve loyal followers and legend says he will rise again. Out of all the stories and origin myths I know, I think if I had to choose a deity to worship, I’d choose King Arthur. I’ve always loved the stories of Camelot, they’re so romantic and full of honour and chivalry – something I don’t see a lot of in mainstream religion.
You might think I’m atheist, but I’m not. I do believe in a higher power, but one undefined by religion. Like Vir Das puts it in his comedy routines, I don’t follow a religion because I believe in God.
My earliest memory is of watching Cosmos with my parents when I was around five or six years old. I remember Carl Sagan’s words that we are all star stuff. They stuck with me and formed the basis of my personal beliefs.
Later when we learnt in school that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, only transformed from one form to another, I became convinced that this explained the soul and the afterlife. I felt that the soul had to be a kind of energy, and when we die that energy had to go somewhere. Drawing back on Carl Sagan’s words, I like to believe that the soul returns to the universe. Strangely, whenever I see images of space, stars and galaxies in the midst of colorful clouds of swirling dust I get an overpowering feeling of homesickness, as if that’s where I belong, that’s home.
Modern research into the nature of reality, quantum theory and noetic science is starting to show that consciousness is indeed a kind of energy field and is able to operate on the quantum level, separate from the body and may continue after death in a dimension we have yet to discover, so perhaps my idea of returning to the universe is not that far off after all.
So when my Christian friend speaks about God and my Muslim friend talks about Allah, and I refer to the Universe we are in fact all taking about the same thing.
This is why I am baffled by religious dogma and intolerance. I don’t get it. Every religion and spiritual belief is simply a different interpretation of the same divinity and origins. I mean if God/The Divine were an ink blot then it’s as if people are warring over whose interpretation is the right one. They’re all right. The interpretation is personal and different for everyone. The ink blot is not affected by our interpretation of it. The ink blot remains constant and unchanged.
You also don’t need to have an interpretation to see the ink blot and know that it exists.