Today's Friday Five:
1. Were you raised in a particular religious faith?
I was raised as a modern "American Jew." I take this to mean that at times in my life my family's seriousness about our religion fluctuated by my mother's position in the local Jewish Social Circle. if life was neutral, we would be twice-a-year Jews. Going to synagogue only for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. At other times, when mother was trying to 'impress' the local clergy she would foist orthodoxy on us. Walking to Synagogue on a weekly basis, trying to make the house kosher, not letting us turn the lights on during Sabbath.
I think this is where I began to learn about ritual magick. Because I discovered magickal words of banishment. In mother's Kosher-Kick case, it was words like, "Lobster, Shrimp, and Oysters."
At one point I was going to special orthodoxy classes where I was being taught to wrap Tefillin. (I hated this). For a few years, during Yom Kippur I also said Mourner's Kaddish for the grandfather who has passed 2 weeks before I was born.
In general, Judaism, was what made me different from most of my school mates during the day, and got me more presents when I was younger and less presents and more disenchantment when I was older.
2. Do you still practice that faith? Why or why not?
I tend to joke that every Jewish child goes through a rite of passage at about the age of 13. Many people think I'm referring to the ritual or bar/bas mitzvah. That is merely a rite or white envelopes with checks that your parents will use to pay off the reception. The rite of passage I refer to is the discovery that Taco Bell is Kosher for Passover (if you don't put cheese on the taco)
When I went off to college in the buckle of the Bible Belt. (Marietta Ohio: The Start of the Heart of it all...) The nearest synagogue was in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Now right off I had a large problem with driving to West Virginia, Willingly, for spiritual fulfillment... That wasn't deriving from Jesus. However, I went. Having practiced my share of Orthodox, Conservative, and a touch of Kaballistic study (though at the time I wasn't aware of it) I felt, a synagogue was at heart just another synagogue.
Then they took out the tambourine. they WV Synagogue called itself, "Liberal Reformed" For some reason, I couldn't bring myself to return...much less stay through the entire service. Meanwhile at College, getting the food staff to understand the word Kosher was a trauma. So, i opted, not to practice. I figured, if God wanted me to practice my Judaism, he wouldn't have made the process so difficult. I also decided, if I was wrong, God would let me know he was angry/displeased with me.
Eventually over the next 10-12 years I would search through many religious views, "Wiccan (including a very displeasing episode with a Dianic), Satanism (which I guess makes more sense if you have a grudge against Christianity), Chaos Magick (which still leaves a soft spot for Survivor music with me), Catholicism (Hey, at least I considered it), and Thelema. (The last of which has stuck and stuck hard.)
3. What do you think happens after death?
The short form: I believe after Death comes the reward or punishment that you have programmed yourself to believe you will get.
Longer form: Life is what we make of it (or at least try to) Death is the transition and afterwards is really what we have coming to us. I think this is why so many people claim to see the tunnel of light. It's just so programmed in that people firmly believe to their soul that they have to have a tunnel. if you believe that you're going to walk down the tunnel and Aunt Fanny is going to be standing there with a tray full of those killer S'mores that she makes while your dog Barkley (who died when you were 9) gambols up panting merrily to see you again as if you were just playing catch last week.... So be it.
If you believe that you transubstantiate into that glowing white cloud of sentient micro-management that is the all omnipotent prayer-answerer... Bully for you.
if you think that that killer sin you committed with the neighborhood girl will never be forgotten or forgiven and you must scream, naked while red suited, horned, demons poke at you with pitchforks whilst you're tied down with razor wire... I'm sorry for you.. but that's just me... 'Your will be done'
Hey, haunt a locker room, go piff, cease to exist, take the universe with you... It's your after death.
When I found Thelema (because they preached what I already believed) I was stunned when I read the EGC mass for the first time. The last 'Collect' of the mass (which is adapted from a passage from the Golden Dawn Requiem) sums it up very beautifully for me. So much so, that I mouth the words whenever I hear them read in a mass. These words above all others touch me very deeply.
"Term of all that liveth, whose name is Death and inscrutable, be thou favorable unto us in thine hour. And unto him, from whose mortal eyes the veil of physical life hath fallen, grant that there may be the accomplishment of his True Will. Should he will absorption in the Infinite, or to be united with his chosen and preferred, or to be in contemplation, or to be at peace, or to achieve the labour and heroism of incarnation on this planet or another or in any star, or aught else, unto him may there be granted the accomplishment of his true will."
For more on the EGC Gnostic Mass, please see postings at the Invisible Basilica of Sabazius. Mass text and commentary are available.
4. What is your favorite religious ritual (participating in or just observing)?
Ritual to me isn't the performance. It's the purpose and execution. For the longest time I was fully unable to do 'ritual' because it wasn't real to me. I've done theatre for as long as I can remember. It's fairly easy for me to study a ritual, go put on some sheet with some colours splashed on it, and make it look really kind of impressive. But in all honesty... for the longest time; I felt it was just cheating. I think it's partially what drove me away from Judaism, and aided in other religions not taking hold.
In theatre we refer to this as "Batteries out" The lack of emotion that a performance often may carry during rehearsal space differentiated from the buzz that a fresh performance may have with a live audience.
Through conversations with a gentleman named Paul Hume, (Who had an extensive history with theatre) I was able to begin to find certain connections in myself. Granted, even as an initiate of a ritual based order... it still wasn't cooking. About 7 months ago, I participated in an Equinox ritual in the order. I was one of the elemental supports. I commented that I would put everything I could into it. A friend told me that, in truth, that really was all anyone could do. I asked what made it any more or less real than doing it batteries in. The person commented that each person will get out of it what he or she will. It's not my job to make it real for anyone other than me. And even if I don't find a way to make it real for me...That doesn't mean that I didn't touch someone else and make it real for them.
And I remember conversations we had in college about making it real for just person in the entire audience no matter how dead you felt or how much forced tweaking you knew you were putting into it. And it learning that it was real to someone... even if it wasn't someone seeing it... It broke the block I'd suffered thru.
To actually answer the question of performance. I've taken a great liking to the Star Ruby. It's a Thelemic (and Crowleyistic) reworking of a simple Banishing known as the "Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram" or "LBRP" for short. I admit to only beginning to understand parts of the ritual but the research I go thru makes it more and more interesting each time.
5. Do you believe people are basically good?
I believe people basically are. There are good people and bad people. And not everyone who is good is good to everyone or all the time and the same for the bad people. You may be a good person who one day accidentally cuts someone off. You might not even be aware of it and be very angry at yourself if you were aware that you did it, but the one person who has only come in contact with you at this point... trying to rush home... in a bad mood. Now hates you with all the fire in their soul.
It's just the nature of things. Does this immediately give us free ticket to not care and not try... Hell no. But it also teaches us that there are limits on our own goodness and badness that sometimes we may have to walk away from the behavior that we view as good/bad because walking away or acting in the way that we may perceive as bad/good does not force us to transform permanently into a bad/good person.
It's been a hard lesson that I slough through on a daily basis. I know that I have done dumb things, bad things, sometimes downright horrible things. But these specifics make me no more an evil, horrible, bad, detestable person than all of my good deeds make me a saint. In all the writings of the divine, there is one simple truth... God knew it... Popeye knew it... I am that I am. I can try to act in a manner that is more pleasing to one person or another...but when the quarters are placed over my eyes and the box is shut... I have only two souls to answer too... what lingers of my soul (as stated in three above) and any view of that which may judge me (in a divine way) which is also as stated above.
The rest is just trying to live without (in my own view) destroying anything around me. I may hurt a few, and I may help a few... And I'm more that likely going to f&^% up along the way.
But in the end, I hope I will have learned to be the best me that I can be.
Good? Bad? Those are just value judgments by someone else. 93 = YMMV