The Jigsaw Faith

Without doubt the most frequent question I receive concerns ‘fusing of pantheons’ and questions like, “can I incorporate spirit/god/demon X in the eclectic system I created”? In other words it is about eclecticism and it is about treading one’s path and making one’s life unique. While a pragmatic outlook often serves the seeker well – I have great reservations with eclecticism due to its power to mix the planes and invite confusion in all possible directions. 

In the process of discovering ones uniqueness many engage in the pursuit of ‘making one’s own system’ and we see odd eclectic hybrids take shape, what I call ‘jigsaw faiths’.  There is nothing wrong in eclecticism per se, if we are mindful about how and why we elect our choices. The problem with eclecticism surfaces when we elect on basis of self-reference and engage in mindless syncretism with the only goal being to give a religious or magical support to our self-construct. I would say that modern theosophy and the New Age movement are clear portents of this ‘jigsaw faith’ where doctrines and techniques are elected in order to give support to a personal paradigm where the greatest tool is syncretism. This leads to the most rudimentary of phenomena being given a distorted importance because syncretism is something we actively engage in to make the jigsaw puzzle to fit. In this process, if we need to cut some corners or darken parts of the puzzle doesn’t matter, because we are building our own reality, our own magic and is setting down our own truths.

Let me take an example; I have discovered that Kali is a deity that I feel an affinity with. This affinity is of course mediated by how I understand my identity and Self. This is good, all relationships starts in the same way, with a feeling of affinity. But as we all know from all forms of relationships, our understanding of an affinity is just a part of what makes this bond attractive or repulsive. And it is perhaps here the error enters. We react to phenomena in a way that includes some things and excludes other things. It is our categorical Self-reference that is in charge of this election of what belongs and what not belongs. I believe this psychological automatic lower reasoning is what many uses in order to build their own magic, their own religion. Consequently it is not reason that mediates how we elect but the passions. 

Let us return to the example of feeling affinity with Kali. Her icon reveals a bloodthirsty devi, skulls around her neck and multiple arms – we speak of dominion and control – we see the female powers in all her glory. This perception opens avenues in the soul for syncretism where we see this form replicated in our history and the myths we create in order to understand our past and future. In this work of making sense of Self we engage in syncretism and tie in deities, doctrines and principles with a subjective understanding of Kali. We are building our psychological universe and we are erecting an esoteric myth that speaks about our identity and aspirations. These constructions often disregard the perennial and cosmic implications kali holds – implications that could provide ten thousand lanterns of light upon our own life... 

This is a good thing – if it is located to the field of psychology and self understanding. But it is still first and foremost a mirror of Self-reference with spiritual potential depending on how it is applied and understood.  

Now, if we approach Kali from a purely traditional point of view we will recognize the affinity but we will see the cosmic dimensions. We will see her as mother of the ten wisdoms, as source of maya and the field of possibility. We simply look out and see the landscape widen as we realize our fated station in the cosmic web of possibility. This approach calls upon an interest to understand and not pass judgments based on what belongs or not with our identity. Rather we open our mind and heart and as we walk on synthesis will occur natural and take the form of eureka’s. We approach the mysteries as an adventure and we seek to understand the doctrine that makes this adventure possible. It is no longer about defining identity but realizing who we are – and in this journey there is no other way than let go of the anchor that lodges us in temporal definitions of who we are. The appraisal of the adventure is what constitutes the creative element and the mindful reasoning upon the tenants of tradition and doctrine makes the field of experience also a search for truth. 

A traditional approach to the mysteries is marked by interest and respect. The journey into mysteries is also the journey within Self – because this is a discovery we make as the journey goes on. All our realizations about who we are along this journey are but sojourns. We can chose to stop and stay at whatever dwelling or we can walk on and become as gods...

In this work respect is important. Respect for tradition and respect for living cults and faiths. All living faiths are fluid because they mirror the human journey – but they are also anchored in truths perennial and not temporal. The social and cultural mask is simply a vestment for truth, a passing meaningful symbol that can be shed for another as the world and its stars turn around the eternal stable axis of the world. 

I am a traditionalist, but I am also creative in my approach and also very pragmatic, so for me to incorporate a foreign spirit in my theosophical system of Self reverence, can give me a better idea about where I am in the walk of life – but I would never make this subject for cult. I prefer to approach a given spirit in its own domain and engage in the effort it takes to understand this spiritual being in a more cosmic sense and thus use this as a mirror than incorporating it into my own theosophical construct. 

I hold that it is by threading the world gracefully in the path of interest and respect we can actually realize who we are – and in this journey it will always be helpful to be rooted in some traditional faith, because this lays down the compass of the worlds – and not an eclectic compass for self reference.

So, in response to the many questions concerning ‘incorporating spirits into whatever self created system’ I would say, it is an error. It is a witness of lack of understanding, lack of interest and affirms a bounty of hubris. I believe we are all unique and we all have our station in life that will provide fulfillment of any kind. The human journey is about discovering and accepting this fundamental principle. When we build a personal cult rooted in affinities we invite a dualism into our life where we define who we are based upon what we are not, what we don’t like and what has no appeal. Much of modern syncretism and eclecticism is motivated by this same tendency – and often it leads to an illusion of truth where we catch just the shadows of Self – and thus we build unrelated torches in darkness and impose a connection upon them that makes our identity seem more understandable – but do we?