The below is the presentation from a homily I held for the Stockholm group. Details on our rituals can be found under Our Rituals.
Why are we doing this today?
We’re nearing the spring equinox, on Wednesday. So I thought it’d be a good idea to mention a thing or two about the Syntheist calendar, as it has taken shape so far.
As many of us know the igniting spark for this movement was the TED talk Botton held at the beginning of 2012. One of his ideas was a religious calendar which we in the Syntheist movement quickly took to heart.
Quite soon after the formation of the Facebook group the general consensus was to base the calendar on the seasons, and hold festivals at equinoxes and solstices Botton’s idea was to map shared human needs to seasonal events. Needs we could benefit from working a bit extra on, or at the very least give some thought.
After some encouragement I took it upon myself to compile the ideas floating about in the Facebook forum to something concrete. It can now be found and read under Holy Festivals. I took a peak at what could be stolen from existing religions. Different religions of course have different calendars and somewhat differ emphasis. But are actually very similar in many important ways. All religions seem to think that humans have the same issues and failings we need to work on. What I did was to list these issues and then divide them out onto the Syntheistic religious festival and season it seemed to fit. The whole list can be found on our homepage under Holy Festivals.
But enough background and me explaining why we’re doing this. Now let’s just do it. To the Spring Equinox Homily:
The spring equinox we call Enthea. The word comes from the Greek word “entheos” which means divinely or religiously inspired enthusiasm. Feels like a fitting name for a season defined by buds enthusiastically bursting, bravely stretching their petals into the unknown. They leave their old constrained and limiting life to eagerly lap up all that is wonderful beyond.
In this season we focus on creativity, new life, new ideas, new skills, healing, forgiveness and new beginnings.
Alexander Bard suggested in the Facebook forum that “the will to change” should be the thought summing up the entire Enthea and Entheos. I think it fits the general theme of spring.
The theme that runs through all these concepts is to clear away emotional or practical obstacles that prevent you from embarking on a new path in life. I searched these words together with various religions sacred texts and looked for their advice on what to do or think. I could cite religious texts for weeks non-stop on this topic. Instead I’ll just pick a couple, pretty much at random. But please understand that this is universal religious ideas. All religions share these ideas. It does seem to be truly universal human needs.
In chapter six of the Bhagavad Gita we find the god Krishna explaining to the prince Arjuna about the importance of letting go of things that aren’t working any longer and obsolete ways of thinking. To not let oneself be weighed down by old and redundant duties or complicating rituals in your life. Find new possible paths to reach your goals. To get new ideas and new inspiring goals requires a mind not cluttered by the irrelevant. And then work hard on training your new way of thinking and behavior. The book talks a lot about clearing away mental barriers and things that disturb. Clear goals are emphasized as important for clear thinking and one’s creativity.
This brings us to prayer and meditation, which is a central part of all religions. To be able to ask god for things we first need to have figured out what we’re to ask god of. Have a clear goal in your mind. Repeat it to yourself regularly. Even if god doesn’t exist, this is by itself a valuable exercise which Syntheists would do good to emulate. But we can of course drop god out of it.
I wouldn’t want you to think that I’ve only based this presentation on Hinduism. Here are some quotations from stoics with the same message. The Roman and stoic philosopher Seneca the younger said, “if you don’t know to what harbour you are sailing, no wind is favourable.” If you want enduring change in your life you must have clear goals. Here’s a quote from another stoic, the Greek Epictetus. He said, “Man isn’t disturbed by things, only of the opinions he has of them”. The universal recipe of the stoics for removing mental obstacles is to simply ignore them. Don’t give them air to breathe. Focus on what is important for you. Don’t let time- and energy-thieves drain you and keep you back. This applies to both internal and external obstacles.
These themes pop up over and over in all religions.
Here’s four questions you can aks yourself in order to achieve lasting change in your life:
- What do you want?
- What awakens passion in your heart?
- What are you willing to sacrifice in order for you to reach your goals?
- If you have several goals, what is their order of priority? Which is the most important?
On the theme of clearing away mental obstacles next we come to how to relate to those who have in different ways hurt us. The solution given by all religions is the same. Simply forgive others no matter their transgressions. This is strongly emphasized in all religions and is motivated for the same reasons. Few things are as emotionally draining as bitterness. People betray our trust and hurt us of various reasons. But the important message is that other peoples behavior and thinking is beyond our control. On top of that you don’t know their thought processes behind their priorities and actions. Maybe there were great justifications that you don’t know about. But it doesn’t matter. It’s their job to work on them. You can only work on yourself.
Even the Quran, which otherwise is so fine with revenge, emphasizes over and over that even though revenge can be justified it’s still preferable simply to forgive.
The Bible typically takes a detour via God. Here’s one example. But it’s repeated many times.
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
As you can see, Christianity throws in some threats to further encourage forgiveness. But the goal is the same. To forgive those who have hurt you.
In the Buddhist holy text, the Dhammapada 1 3-4 we find these lines:
” He abused me, mistreated me, defeated me, robbed me” –
Within those who think like this, the hate does NOT die.
But within those who do NOT think like that, the hate dies.”
The focus here is that you have nothing to gain from hatred. The message in all religions is that it’s a waste of time and energy to try to change other people’s behaviours and way of thinking. Concentrate on yourself and how you can change your own thinking. You have nothing to gain from reminding yourself of other people’s transgressions against you and becoming bitter. It is only destructive… for you.
This doesn’t mean you have to become best friends again or be naive. You can with a clear conscious strike people you don’t like from your life. Just stop giving them more negative and bitter energy.
As an exercise, ask yourself who it is in your life you do best to forgive now. If it weighs to heavy on your heart, say it out loud to make it a goal to work toward.
This was a very quick summation of what ALL the world’s religions has to say on these related topics. Feel free to take some, all or none of this to heart.
Take care whoever you are
/Tom Knox, member of the Stockholm congregation
below are for references to those who are interested of further reading:
The ritual and practice described in this text is only a suggestion. There is no wrong way to do Syntheism. If you don’t like our festivals, gods, the way we use them or the names we have for them…. feel free to invent your own.