DeChristianizing the Ecclesiocracy of South African Politics

The chosen peoples seek their promised land and will venture a great exodus with many sacrifices to acquire their land, the people seek and follow an epiphanic leader, a prophet inspired to emancipate the chosen people, so that they may come to rest, thrive and flourish on the land promised them.  If only they knew, they weren’t the only chosen, and that there were many leaders prophetized and divinely inspired, to lead. They all came down from the same mountain with instruction from on high, their people built a great tower to meet with the high, only to fall to earth concussed with unique interpretations. Many struggled to find semblance and commonality, head full of stars and glitter, yet a rare few found salience in silence and beholding eyes – often rejected as outcasts infidels, who will listen to their wisdom, when so much glorious mundanity is at stake? And so we dance a great drama, seeking justice and judgement, and yet also, freedom to rest our feet where we are planted, as many on the ground know when the dust settles, we all just want to be at home.

Initially, I thought of titling this essay, Secularising the Ecclesiocracy of South African the Polity (it would have served a similar purpose), but I realized that I wanted to raise a theme for discussion that often gets swept under the rugs of commonplace acceptance, that there is a strange Abrahamic undertone that drives most political systems (even most socialist ideologies approach socio-economic governance from an anti-religious sentiment – as though the countermeasure is in dependence on the former “theocratic” structure). I approach this essay with a “why?” Why does the Abrahamic faith still hold such invested place in the collective mindset of the people’s? And more specifically, it seems that most political parties vehemently adopt Christian axiology as their value basis – this seems to go unchecked and generally accepted as a constitution. I find it curious that there is a secular promotion in the state but whenever it comes to a massive declaration or any pivotal event marking a stand that the rhetoric easily slips back to an “In God We Trust”, “Jesus saves its people”, “this land is blessed by God”, “we accept all people and our party are honest and adopt strong Christian family values” (I fictitiously quote these from rhetorics I have heard many times before – but I cannot place them to anyone specific).

South Africa is leading up to its national election, and many party leaders are rallying to win voter’s votes. Many of these leaders are being ‘blessed’ by the nation’s church and religious leaders, and then, I cannot help but play a scenario in my mind – “weren’t we trying to decolonize the mind not too long ago” by the way Decolonizing the Mind is so 2015/2016! I mean, why the hell don’t we take this further and dig deeper, if we want social change in this country why don’t we relinquish the religion of our fathers, the religion of the colonizers, why are African’s Christian?! why is anyone religious? why? why why why?! ask and don’t merely accept blindly… and when we defect or apostatise why adopt Islam? why why why? often it seems insincere and out of symbolic rebellion against the nationalist religion. I am not questioning the heart of the religions as such, but I do question how they are being neglectfully utilised to manipulate and govern.

I rewatched the debate between Nelson Mandela and F.W. De Klerk before the 1994 election, De Klerk mentioned that the National Party is based on Christian values, and Mandela did not retaliate that position – either he agreed that a Christian value basis is the accepted norm or that the ANC truly has a communist agenda which does foresee the value of religious axiology? Of course, this is not entirely true, I am aggrandizing the point. Truth is I am not at all challenging the religious beliefs of the people, I wish for everyone’s respective happiness but I do hold a flag up for any questionable religious activity. South Africa can be quite a strange place for such things, especially when we have such a stark and diverse range of religious institutions, a majority of which adopt ‘fantastical’ (and fanatical) evangelic methods of persuading their numbers to keep with the church – I call these “miracle churches” who rather adopt the awe of divine inspired activity over “book churches” who rely on and interpret the Bible as law and/or referential guidance.

I do giggle a bit when I see political leaders receive blessing from church leaders, the same God blessing opposition leaders, I see a similar thing in Rugby and Soccer matches, when the scoring team thank God for the well-deserved triumph, both teams were thanking the same God, so I guess when one team or political loses its race, then they were undeserving or better yet, unchosen by God (may as well find a new God who can do a better job at guaranteeing victory). Why aren’t these leaders displaying their affiliation to our most renown local witch-doctors (there are still fliers being dished out at crossroads – you know it, Prof. Dudu will make all your problems go away, even when your enemy has a bigger penis than you – some things can never be cured).

*By the way, I am pitching a great comical sitcom idea for any producers out there, we need a show about our most beloved Drs and Profs (so-called traditional healers and thaumaturgists) who, in each episode, deal with one of those “concerns” they are so good at fixing, and throw in a bit of political power fair and vanity games for good measure… think about it and let me know if you are keen on it.*

Ok, back to politics and religion. I know it is not the norm to casually reevaluate one’s entire religious belief system, but surely it should be open for questioning and critical reasoning? Because, when your political leader says that he/she adopts Christian values are you sure what those values are or are you merely agreeing on the normative basis that because you are Christian that all Christian values should be accepted? I am sure you don’t entirely agree with me on this, simply because you know that different denominations have different views on Christian doctrine. Now, what if you say, “well, at least it is Christian.”, what about your Muslim, Hindu, African Tradition brothers and sisters, do their value systems not count?

It is one thing to approach the world with your own value system, but let us reconsider when that value system is instilled in communities, institutions, nationally, and even globally. The world is clearly not at peace with each other, somewhere along the line we lost track of the essence of the value system and narrated difference as meaning a threat or categorical separation.

If you read up to here and am asking “I wonder what religious category he falls into?” then I will assertively announce that you are missing the point. And if you are now asking “but what is the point? then let me state it in question format here away from the grey zones of rhetoric. What is the essence of your religious belief, beyond and through your political orientation, your religious institution, and a long line of hearsay narrative? I ask this in the same way I am asking you whether your neighbour can be Christ-like or loved even though he/she is not Christian? can your neighbour be a brother or sister of peace even though he/she is not Muslim? If we allow ourselves to look beyond the institutionalized and even nationalized religious orientation and ecclesiocracy, we may actually recollect that the religious basis has a contemplative dimension that initially inspires a sense of wisdom to see others as they are – with hearts of love (in there somewhere – which doesn’t mean we should all hold hands and sing songs of universal praise, look at Michael Jackson, he liked to hold hands, little hands…). But wisdom is essential, and one of the first steps in cultivating wisdom is listening before we rattle our mouths off, listening with a vast discerning horizon so that we can acknowledge religious (and political) uniqueness yet see through the narrative and find the essential golden thread that binds us.

Anyway, this became preachy. My intention is actually to criticize the underlying religious institution of colonized Africa, and I ended up discussing finding a golden mean as an axiological common ground before chasing after theatrical political and religious leaders. Yes, find the essence of your religious (non-religious, gnostic, agnostic, etc) value system and try not to invest in an identity of segregating difference – I mean, that is pretty much a socio-cultural and psycho-religious Apartheid, and rather find a wisdom-centred secular Gesaamdheid (Ubuntu), right?

Having our leaders make a public display of their church favour does not make them special in the least, even when they receive honorary pastorship or prophetic vision of their true calling as the return of the Messiah or that the Volk should rally in their millions to pray for God’s grace to change the socio-political landscape and bring its people back together (and for them to remember that they are once a chosen people). It is fine to pray, your faith is okay, but it does not make a difference to what is happening on the ground, in our interactions, in our service delivery, in our infrastructure, in our corruption (heck, they might even justify divine corruption one day “I took the money because it is holy money from the church, and I was chosen by God to liberate the people, and and and…). Almost every ethnic group in South Africa is trying to lay favour with God to help them out, and praying for the nation may have some metaphysical significance (better safe than sorry I reckon), but it is a bit sad that we resort to that alone when the shit seems to hit the fan, as though we become desperate for divine intervention – no wonder these “miracle churches” make so much money, the people are craving for so-called tangible results. The political leaders see this and many of them find a ripe avenue for persuasion.

So people, think about it please, whether it makes a difference to your vote or not, what does this colonialising God mean to the way you make your decisions? The same God that US president Trump was being blessed by, is the same God that is helping Venezuela into the maelstrom that it now is in, the same God inspired Julius Malema to envision the EFF as the second coming of Christ, just as the same God is backing the ANC in its *inevitable?* victory, and the same God is calling the Afrikaaner people to speak up and fight for their right to exist… and, taking a few steps back, the same God (under a different tongue) inspires a wide variety of Muslims across the globe (whether peace-loving or fanatical), I cannot say that the same God inspires capitalist-communist China in their activities, YWYH does not live in that country… (sorry, a snarky joke, God does live there, but he is heavily persecuted).

Really, all I am saying is that we should reconsider the role of the institutionalized religion as it is in the institute, state and nation, and look back to the “heavenly” homes in our hearts (the contemplative wisdom mind in our being) and how does that project into the world around us and among each other.

Okay, that is all I have in this pre-election essay… whatever it is, come what may.

Hey, so last insert, here is a meme circulating the digi-sphere (not political, but certainly religious, make of it what you will):

Four fundamental truths about faith:

  1. Muslims do not recognize Jews as God’s chosen nation.
  2. Jews do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
  3. Protestants do not recognize the Pope as the leader of Christianity.
  4. NG Kerk members do not recognize one another in Teazers.

It is a silly joke, but hey, how about we recognize each other a bit more, whatever our differences, open eyes and ears may better see and hear our similarities and the core commonality (be it this precious earth, this precious life, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the love we feel). 😉 Happy voting, whatever your decision may be – just don’t vote for those fucking dagga hippies, their eyes are bloodshot and they eat too much!

“Meditation is the Mediating Majik of the Middle-Hand Path”

Again, as with my previous post, I simply hop into a stream of thought, this time a clarity arose during a formal and focused meditation that specifically aimed to cut through distractions and reveal a natural quietude of mind. A very specific idea arose (which may also be considered a distraction, but, only if it draws my attention away from a focus on truth / truthfulness / salience / Dharma), that in my dealings with the academic field, the professional field, and the religious, spiritual, occult & magickal fields, if a contemplative practice is lacking, there tends to be a greater perpetuation toward distraction and consequently a toiling disconnected distantiation (vis a vis in excess of estrangement and/or ignorance). I am not positing a dire negative, the phenomenon elucidated here is simply the experiential disposition of confusion (and distortion), a confusion of miscommunication with the Other (i.e. that which is presented outside one’s Self – which may be other people, foreign notions, and even tangible objects; which may be either an overwhelming identification with everything, or an underwhelming identification with nothing).

Earlier, in seated meditation, I bore witness to the stream of my distractions that I have been building up throughout the day, and spilling over from the last few months. Having practiced meditation for about 13 years now, I found it fairly easy to rest into a meditative cool, meaning that the mind-of-awareness could discriminate through the surface chatter and passing thoughts, watching and delving into an open horizon of awareness. A deep warm sensation arose from my hara (where my hands were resting in the dhyana/meditation mudra/gesture) and gradually ascended up into my  heart-area (anahata chakra). As I sit listening to the focussed space in and around me, an echoing reassurance seemingly called from the chambers of my heart, saying “sit strong in your majik, this is it”. [Note, I am deliberately using figurative language to express a narrative, not detract the reader’s attention into a mystical ineffability – it is merely a means, not a frolicking folly].

I let the feeling marinade and simmer for a bit, unexcited, undeterred, still holding to the seated meditation. Upon completion I thanked and dedicated the meditation to the wellbeing of all and took to this idea; as it became apparent as a key feature of my kinetic pending PhD research project. The echo gestated (as it has been coming a while) into this statement, that “meditation is the mediating majik of the middle-hand path”. I ask forgiveness that I have not yet discussed majik nor the middle-hand path, but again, begging your patience, it will all add up eventually, so entertain me your fizzy ears for a moment please.

First, what I have noticed, is that meditation is often lacking as a core integrative mediation between knowledge and experience, between holding a view and applying that view, between theory and practice. Initially  I am astounded that most forms of educational processes do not include a contemplative practice & platform as part of a curriculum, be this pedagogical (practice of teaching and learning), androgogical (teaching and learning mostly adult centred), pedandrogogical (combination of pedagogy and androgogy), heautogogical (self-determined learning), and so forth. I am not including the shedras, ashrams, madrasas, monasteries etc. in this reasoning, but rather in reflection on our academic and vocational institutions, as well as in the hidden curriculums inside and outside the institute, and generally from the microsystems to macrosystems of our bio-ecology.

Secondly, meditation offers a unprovoked means to transmute knowledge into wisdom, just as vocational practice transmutes knowledge into experience; the difference here is that the transmutation integrates depth, weight, and insightful girth into one’s existential experience. I offer an example here: through the use of meditation I learned to adopt, among other virtues, a sense of patience, equanimity, and patience; these helped me adapt to fluctuations of frustration, hype, confusion, and anxiety. Further simplifying this example into more practical terms: I know that if I get into a conversation about recent politics I may respond without insight and only perpetuate more confused thinking, or I avoid to make the bed in the morning, skip a face-wash, and ignore the toothbrush because it is already 8am and the day is moving along only to find that I have become a slob with a messy room, bad breath (and possible tooth decay), and a dishevelled face; much later to learn that I have become lazy, uninspired, and trackless. Haha, this sounds dark,,, again, only an example, and even if things get dark, these things are also meditative reminders that beside all the dramas of up-and-down, there is still space to smile. Anyway, to the point, meditation reminds you of the little things (like brushing your teeth is a healthy habit but not the end-all) and the big thing (that you are already awake to the awe of existence).

This leads me to a third point I wish to make, touching on the notion of majik, majik is meditation, but not necessarily as we think of it, majik is an intuitive sense of meditation in our current presence that influences and affects the world at play. [Note: I will discuss the actual use of the word majik, and why I am moving away from the word magic and magick, in an up coming post].

To explain and discuss this point, I return myself to an early narrative of my involvement with the Grey School of Wizardry and the general magickal community. Back in 2011, I had just discovered that the role and place of the wizard resonated with me, it gave me a sense of completion I could not entirely find in any other avenue of exploration I tried before (essentially and ironically as it encompassed all avenues that appealed to me); but one thing struck me about the magickal community in general, there was plenty of emphasis on ideas, practices, and even certain ethics, but the wisdom of wizardry was often lost to tales of lore, and impressions of magickal laws, and meditation as a magickal practice was kind of lacking in insightful depth. I saw the same thing in the academic field, plenty of theory, ideologies, how-tos, but very little in terms of developing engaged insight and depth in the learned experience. Majik, here, is an intuitive creativity, and spontaneous insight, that is tapped into through unprovoked, easing and effortless meditation.

I have been and am still involved in Religious Studies, and as you have glimpsed in my previous post on stepping away from brandishing a Theological Biblical Worldview, and calling forth the wizard or religiosophologist, I truly believe there is plenty of space and scope to develop and evolve the conventional tradition of Religious Studies as either having a descriptive phenomenological standard or a paradigmatic agenda (be it queer, political, feminist, postmodern, etc.); I ask, where are the experiential narratives of those who pose as Religious scholars? Is there wisdom in the practices that you preach?  and do you have a contemplative practice to integrate not only wisdom, but to critically discriminate and creatively assess whether there is wisdom at all to be had, and whether you hypothetically have it? I read many articles that analyse case studies of meditation, or speak of religious-spiritual-magickal phenomenologies; but I do not hear the authors themselves,,, not enough that is (bearing that some narratives and auto-ethnographies are taking shape).

This is said (not in any belittling way) as a beacon for growth, that the so-called majik to be experienced, is an ability for the ‘practitioner’ to either step back from too much theory or too much practice into the middle of contemplative integration. A dance between extremes, a play between spoken and unspoken communications, a freedom of creativity and regality of discipline. To meditate is to formally acknowledge and actively engage in one’s presence as interconnected exponential presence beyond oneself through one’s Self as Other… 😉 I reckoning I am going all cryptogenetic on your swelling memetics! (i.e. blowing your minds) 😀 I have been accused of worst.

I will picture this in an example to conclude my thinking: in a world where there is pressure to succeed, pressure to conform, pressure to preform, there is a confined impression that space for freedom to express, to be as you are, to step out of the box, is not readily available,,, well this does not have to be so. Religious Scholars can be Shamans-Priests-Yogis-Monks-Wizards – they do not have to confine themselves to the designation of scholar alone (unless that is good enough for them). People can be magickal, if they are willing to listen and take time to quieten-down so that they can hear,,, who knows, maybe they receive a calling to wizardry (albeit becoming a moustache twirling barista, a psycho-shamanic program developer, a happening-witchy translator/interpreter, an empathic funeral director, a tantric-warrior sex/relationship coach, a polymathic mystic teacher,,, and and and). Tap into a bit of meditation (which does not have to be complex and intricate) to see what majik you already contain. 😉

Okay, that is enough for now… what dreams may come.

Be blessed, as you already are.

“FYI, I am a religiosophologist, not a Theologian, thanks…”

Even though I have been saving my first “middle-hand path” post for something a bit more seminal and descriptive; an intuitive inclination lead me to a comment on a common social-narrative I have had to deal with since my starting-days in the academic field of Religious Studies; namely to rectify a confusion of referring to me as a Theologian due to my involvement in Religious Studies.

Contextually I would not say that this is necessarily a problem all Religious Studies scholars experience, and I hint that this is more the case in countries with lesser developed academic cultures or slow-progressive world-views. Okay, I guess I am peeved that after about 10 years, the ignorance generally still runs high in South Africa… and to make matters even more curious, the assumptions of my so-called Theological nature, come from Theologians, students of Theology, and people who don’t know that Religious Studies is a stand-alone (Human Sciences) field of research and practice – more a keen to Philosophy, Sociology, Anthropology, yada yada, with its own rich modern history.

This post is firstly a complaint (simply as a means to vent), and secondly to arouse some insight into difference, and thirdly to announce what I prefer to associate with (namely the Religiosophologist – which I will explain shortly).

First, my complaint. It is not once nor twice, that a person (be she/he – mostly ‘she’s’) delightfully considered me to a Theologian just because I responded to the “what do you study?” with a “Religious Studies” on which the reply often is “fantastic, you should join our mission… who is your missionary leader or with which cell group are you?”. If I were a blatant a-religionist I would not respond kindly to such assumptions (not to mention the blatant expectation that I will start brandishing Jerusalem-Cruiser sandals, a tucked plead shirt, and arms akimbo – with the ever present phantom Bible waiting to slip into the folds of my arms – naturally, I merely kid about these stereotypes). If anything, mostly from my supposed ‘Buddhist’ comportment, I listen to the person conversing over me, and respond with critical kindness. I think my role here is mostly to inject a sense of question behind the abject blind and often righteous purpose that drives most Theological attitudes (specifically pointing to Missionary science and Abrahamic-centred socio-cognitive paradigms). I do smile with sincerity when Theology scholars approach me with the honorific “Man of God” or “Child of Jesus” and some such lifted-titles. I do not take entire offence to such honors,,, after all, these are merely incited insights albeit ignorant of the person who I am and my own religious and secular history; I rather see such assumptions as a bit of divine-pride that lacks critical thinking and a broadening perception of the world lived in (really asking, where is the essence of your contemplative life at?)

Others who I come into conversation with, be it at a party, or inter-disciplinarily, also often have the assumption that I am a Theologian when asking me the cliché “what do you do?” and I respond with, “I am a Religious Studies scholar”. This has consequently lead me to suffix a few conditioned responses, like the negative particle “but I am not a theologian” or a more positive particle “I specialise in Contemplative Practices,,, Buddhism,,, Mysticism,,, the Occult,,,). At this point I reckon it needed to clarify that the science of Theology is not bound to Christianity (it has its Islamic and Judaic contingency) and does investigate phenomena of religious experience par excellence – but it is often and mostly done so from a Christo-centric worldview. Where Religious Studies or Religion Studies leans more toward the Humanities Qualitative/Quantitative approaches to the study of religion (be it from a philosophical, psychological, sociological,,, perspective) and it is by no means bound to Christianity or any Theological worldview.

So a response I have been playing around with more recently is something closer to a vocation I can resonate with. A technical neologism I have recently adapted is the word Religiosophologist, roughly constructed of ‘religio-‘ (as a recollective return to,,, or a bringing back over – which I associate with the practice/ritual of repetition), and -sophology (being the study of wisdom); together this word roughly translates as the study of religious wisdom – which may also indicate a favour to the practices that generate gnostic / mystic insight. Yet, from a Buddhist standpoint, my intention is not to get lost in flowery poetics, but to be elucidate the essence beneath the romantic appeal of the mystical and gnostic, later to be naturally born in the flowery poetics (simply as a means to communicate wisdom). I could have gone with Religiosopher or Religiosophist, but both these titles create too much of a fixed elevated identity, I feel that religiosophologist calls on a vocation, it is a process, and I am merely in communion with this process. Okay this said, when people hear me refer to myself in such an otherwise abstract amalgamation of words, I am often faced with looks of confusion or laissez faire. Naturally this can spin off into a bit more explanation – a responsibility I am willing to accept – one that comes with an intention to dispel ignorance – the responsibility of an educator – not to convince, but to guide towards an enlightenment and illumination. And, it becomes fairly straight forward to explain away the assumption of being accused of Theology, when you recognise your own “calling” into a meta-sphere of vast and differing (often seemingly contradictory) realities, that I basically chose to learn, contemplate, and integrate the wisdom found in religion – which is by no means designated to a Religious Birthday Suit – the birthday suit is fantastically naked, fresh, and salient without the often confusing additional layers of religiosity.

Taking on a beacon of difference (contra Theologian – and even that of the astute traditional Religious Studies scholar), the religiosophologist is also a pseudonym for the fantasy-fiction benched “wizard” (wise one, adviser). I have used this reference several times before, and it sits quite nicely in my being, but does not often taste of seriousness in the mouths of others,,, although they quickly notice that my own absurd-seriousness of the matter seems either like madness or a concerted presence of insight into a very different reality of reality. Here I take the stand that I acknowledge the limits of the philosophical world-views we hold to or use to picture our reality,,, it is simply not enough, and creates merely another layer of ignorance – which consequently clouds the means in which we communicate (directly) with each other and our lifeworlds. The insult of being called a Theologian is contextually bound to an ignorant assumption that I limit myself to a religious belief, but its compliment comes from a co-mutual acknowledgment that I do not bind myself to a life of mundanity or superficial things alone (but respect depth and the contemplative) – this is the challenge of opening perceptions along with one’s own and not believing that one’s answer is alone the answer… I guess, this is the foundation of a good spiritual-philosophical practice, to try and test even the perceptions we feel good with, and those we feel averted to.

Maybe this post becomes a call to reconsider what a Theologian supposedly is, the underlying constructs of the vocations we identify with, and simply to question / learn / listen a bit more widely before jumping to conclusions. In fact, what is a Theological practice (and any practice for that matter – be it political, economical, or even casual lifeworld interaction) if it does not bear a sincere contemplative practice – to churn on the choices we make around who we think we are, the thought-constructs that paint our perceptions, and impressive cloaks we bear to differentiate ourselves or associate ourselves. I do not necessarily have to use any vocational title to express my mode of being, but I have come to realise that as a means to communicate insight, a superficial linguistic offers a means to filter insight forming conditions in the world around us.

Anyway,,,

That’s it… please comment if you have some cents and sense to share.

Be blessed as you already are.