The practical side of Syntheism, its rituals.
How to create Your own Syntheistic cult
Tom Knox, member* of the Stockholm Syntheist congregation
Ever wanted your own cult? A robed brethren who chant incantations within a pentagram? Dribbly candles? Funny hats? Robes? Or why not dancing naked in an ecstatic frenzy to hypnotic jungle-drums in a remote forest? How about holding hands in a field in the dead of night staring up into the vast emptiness of space contemplating our place in the universe? Now you can using the patented (it isn’t really) Syntheist Create-Your-Own-Cult system.
At the heart of any religion lie its rituals. They build a sense of community and a shared purpose. We’re social creatures. We’re drawn to the idea of being part of something greater than ourselves. But the rituals aren’t just fun and games. That’s not what makes it a religion. It becomes a religion when the rituals are tailored to suit our spiritual needs; train us to work on ourselves or develop sides that make us into better people.
The bit about creating a cult was a joke. Cults are bad. Don’t create a cult. But the creation of a supportive congregation whose members help each other to grow spiritually and become stronger is good. As is creating a congregation without hierarchy or church authorities. One of the beauties of the religion of Syntheism and from which is draws its greatest strength is its freedom. If you don’t follow the prescribed holy steps of Syntheistic orthodoxy God still isn’t going to punish you and neither will I. There is no world Syntheistic headquarters. There is no God. This church is its members. There are no rules of how to worship. Ultimately your religious experience is up to you. If you don’t like your local Syntheistic congregation… set up your own! Nobody is more Syntheistic because they follow any specific single set of rituals. The only person who can decide which type of worship is best suited for you and your group is you. You can do it in a group or all alone. You’re the boss.
Below you will find suggestions on ritual practices we’ve experimented with in our Stockholm congregation. Please feel free to pick and chose, use some, all or none of our suggestions. Treat it like a smorgasbord of Syntheistic ritual.
If your local Syntheistic congregation comes up with an idea you’re using that we haven’t thought of, please feel free to get in touch with me and I’ll add it to the list. My hope is that this will be a living document that will grow and develop over time.
We’ve come to call our worship homilies. It’s a word we’ve borrowed from the Christian world. We had to call it something. For simplicity this is what I will continue calling the Syntheistic mass.
This is what we do in the Stockholm group, in this order. We aim for the entire homily to NOT exceed 30 minutes.
- Introduction. The master of ceremonies stands up before the congregation and welcomes everybody. If there are any new members she (or he) explains briefly what Syntheism is and what it stands for and informs everybody on the schedule for the day. She (or he) is also responsible for making sure the schedule is kept, no parts are skipped and that the homily moves along smoothly. So far in the Stockholm group the master of ceremonies is not any official title and is rotated, partly out of necessity, and partly because we want to avoid the formation of church hierarchy.
- (optional) The reading of a short inspirational text or poem.
- Singing/Vocalisations. To get us into a relaxed and open mood all members of the congregation stand holding hands and sing, or make soulful sounds with their own voice. Members will play off each other’s sounds or just create a personal meditative space. Open or closed eyes. When everybody feels they’ve done enough it will naturally die down by itself. Once silence has fallen all members take their seats again.
- The presentation. This is a philosophical or scientific presentation that in some way connects to the Syntheistic idea. Can also be the reading of a text or simply powerful and significant poetry. One person talks and the rest listen silently but actively. Can also be the viewing of some sort of media.
- A moment of silence. We sit silently together. Either contemplating the presentation or whatever else enters the mind. Ends at a predetermined signal. In the Stockholm group we let the person who is selected to do the following item (in this case witnessing) chose when to break the silence.
- The witnessing. This is a personal and subjective story of how they ended up as spiritual atheists, ie why they are Syntheists. One person talks and the rest listen silently but actively.
- A soulful and spiritual piece of music. One person takes it upon them to perform or select a piece of music and play it to the rest of the congregation. For example Sanctus by Zbigniew Preisner or 1.618 by BT.
- The ringing of bells or any instrument you feel has spiritual significance.
- Hugging. Everybody stands up and give each warm hugs. Ends with eye-contact and some kind words, for example “peace be with you”. Syntheistic friends in Malmö developed the “Syntheist hug” which ends with eye-contact and placing a hand over the heart (NOT on boobies).
Only hug those you’re comfortable with hugging and stop whenever you feel you’ve done enough. Not everybody is comfortable with intimate touching of this degree with semi-strangers. Their integrity must be respected. Getting to hug a fellow member isn’t a right, but a privilege. There’s also the issue of numbers. When a congregation reaches a certain size it’ll simply be impractical for everybody to hug each other.
- The hugging is the last item on the schedule and ends the homily. Whenever you feel you’ve done enough hugging it’s all finished and you’re free to do whatever.
Below are suggestions of things we haven’t incorporated into our rituals, but which have been mentioned
- Dancing. Ecstatic and joyful dancing. Possibly or preferably to music.
Peace be with you
This concludes the journey into what is the ritual side of Syntheism. I’d like to thank all of us in the congregation who’ve helped shape the, above mentioned, ritual. This has been a group effort that has evolved over time. It has sprung from our collective desires and needs. I’ve merely written them down. And thank you for reading this far. Take care, good luck and have fun on your own journey into Syntheism.
*Yes, member. Not grand hierophant of the exalted mystical cabbage, nor pristine papal apostate of pomposity and plushness. I’m just a regular member like everybody else in our group. We have no hierarchy or titles