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Author Topic: Spiritual Shifting in America  (Read 2999 times)

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Tirya

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Spiritual Shifting in America
« on: December 16, 2010, 11:31:08 AM »

I am always intrigued by the way shelf space at bookstores ebbs and flows. A few years ago, the Wicca section at my local Barnes & Noble was like three sections wide. Now it's not quite a full section, and books about Vampires, Angels, and Spirit Communication seem to be taking its place. And it makes me wonder about the direction of American spiritual consciousness - what are we seeking that we're not finding elsewhere? I'm not thinking there's anything wrong with it, more just musing about the "why".
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Ghost Wolf

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Re: Spiritual Shifting in America
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2010, 12:39:11 PM »

Keep in mind that a book chain is a business, and the New Age so-called section simply reflects what is popular at the moment. Vampires and werewolves were given a big boost by that ridiculous Twilight series, and the plethora of ghost hunting shows on have spurred an interest in spirit communication. This trend in no way reflects true spirituality, but economic trends.

Besides, how many "Wicca 101" books can possibly be written?
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VisionFromAfar

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Re: Spiritual Shifting in America
« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2010, 04:09:25 PM »

Besides, how many "Wicca 101" books can possibly be written?

Dare we look at Amazon and find out? My guess is waaaay too many. IIRC, there's been a push lately amongst the pagan community to try and get some more advanced books out, given the plethora of beginner handbooks.
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dragonspring

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Re: Spiritual Shifting in America
« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2010, 04:32:05 PM »

I agree with GW.  I think the reason that the Wicca section was so large several years ago is because of Buffy, Charmed and The Craft.  I don't think that the shelves reflect a shift in spirituality so much as it does new sparkly stuff.
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Tirya

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Re: Spiritual Shifting in America
« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2010, 04:33:06 PM »

I know that the retailers mirror current popular interest. I guess I was wondering more about WHY (on a psychological level) things like "Twilight" sparked such a huge response and explosion of copycats. What need do they fill? Ditto for the ghost hunting stuff. Is there a growing desire to believe "we're NOT alone" or that the ones we loved haven't *really* left us? I mean, I know that Harry Potter (while not Wicca) spurred a huge interest in magic, and the messages of self-empowerment were probably responsible for the huge attraction - who DOESN'T want to "wave a magic wand and make their problems go away"? I guess I'm just wondering what psychological niche the new wave of subjects is filling.
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BronwynWolf

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Re: Spiritual Shifting in America
« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2010, 06:21:47 PM »

Only one problem with the HP anology, Tir... Harry CAN'T just wave his wand and make his problems vanish.  :whistle:  :runaway:
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Re: Spiritual Shifting in America
« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2010, 06:35:20 PM »

I know that the retailers mirror current popular interest. I guess I was wondering more about WHY (on a psychological level) things like "Twilight" sparked such a huge response and explosion of copycats. What need do they fill? Ditto for the ghost hunting stuff. Is there a growing desire to believe "we're NOT alone" or that the ones we loved haven't *really* left us? I mean, I know that Harry Potter (while not Wicca) spurred a huge interest in magic, and the messages of self-empowerment were probably responsible for the huge attraction - who DOESN'T want to "wave a magic wand and make their problems go away"? I guess I'm just wondering what psychological niche the new wave of subjects is filling.

Yes, I think there is a desire to believe we're not alone, believe in spirits, etc... Look at the TV shows Touched by an Angel, Ghost Whisperer, Medium and others along those lines. You see the same themes dealt with in dramas like Lost, House, and Bones and popular movies like Avatar.  What I wonder is if this desire is greater in recent years or if it has always been present in the general populace. Perhaps as science explains more and more of the workings of the universe, people are grasping for more magic and supernatural and deeper connection to our intuitive sides.
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Re: Spiritual Shifting in America
« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2010, 06:44:32 PM »

I think that humans have always sought to connect to the mysteries of the universe but perhaps there is a natural ebb and flow between scientific and esoteric discoveries.  I think that the continual struggle between science and spirituality is meant to help us grow as a species.  The more we know, the more we realize we don't know.
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Re: Spiritual Shifting in America
« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2010, 09:38:47 PM »

Bronwyn...  :rotflmao:

For me, I don't think so much there's a persistent need to know we're NOT alone, so much as the simple need to know. I can't speak for everyone out there buying books but if I buy a book it's because I want steps closer to truths and I want to be able to kick aside literature that sidesteps truths and brings me farther from it. The History Channel has shows on aliens, spiritual things as well as nature and varied history itself. The interest is high enough to make a show about the subject and granted sometimes you get dolts who are just out of their minds when you step into the realm of, say aliens or ghosts but you also do get the respectable researchers and what not. I see it the same way with books sometimes. I can't really just vouch entirely for books on religion or spirituality but I suppose it does go a bit with it seeing as there is, no matter what anyone claims, MUCH we don't know about ourselves, our planet, our existence, our universe (let alone other galaxies) and we are consistently learning either more truths or furthering already existing ones. Hell, a good while ago the majority of the world believed Hercules to be nothing more than a myth. Now we learn he very well existed as a person. I mean they're trying to say he "clearly wasn't the son of a god," that he probably was just a very strong person who had stories embellished about him but in MY opinion, who the hell are they to say anything like that when ya flat out said he wasn't real in the first place? Who knows?

Sorry, ranted a bit.  :whistle:
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VisionFromAfar

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Re: Spiritual Shifting in America
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2010, 09:49:07 AM »

I read an interesting article on Patheos the other day that was talking about the rise of the PostModern mindset. Basically, religions (the big ones, anyhow) have had years to counter and explain the major scientific discoveries of the last century (evolution, size of the universe, Big Bang, etc.), but relativley little time to address the PostModern mindset, the new wave of "Why are we here?/What is our place in this world?" philosophies. For the longest time, it didn't matter if you asked these questions, because if you did, either you wrote it down and other intellectuals/philosophers would discuss it, and that was the sum total of your impact (in your current time, typically) or whatever religion you belonged to just "explained" it away. But now those quesitons have filtered down to the common person, and for the most part, we're not letting religions say, "Just becuase" anymore.

Because humans (generally speaking) seek meaning in their lives, we need to know if there's a point to our existance, and the wave of popular media relating to "other-worldly"-type creatures, re: vampires, wizards, werewolves, etc., I think is a direct reflection of this need. We can use this mythological/metaphysical creature/person to hold up a mirror to our own questions, while at the same time showing us a being who, in some cases, is fully aware of their purpose (a goal we all seek). By their very nature (or un-nature? I dunno), they are not quite human, and that allows us to distance ourselves from them mentally. That distance is very important because we then identify with the human traits we find in them, because we're looking harder for them. If these beings were Joe Schmoe down the street, or some serial killer on the news, we would shrug it off because we've seen it all before. But who has seen a vampire from Twilight? Who has seen the wizards from HP? Because of that, the fiction of it all, we are able to look closer into the looking glass...

Prime examples include the Cullen family (not including sparklemotion boy), who are fully aware of what they are, where they exist in the world, and what they should do. Despite the upheval wrought by Empty-Shell-of-a-Human-Girl, they are aware of what external forces influence their lives and are able to address them. There is also the Volturi (yes, I've read all the books and seen all the movies...I had to watch lots of violent movies to get my man-card back) are a very good example of certainty in a changing world. We see them in the books and movies as sort of a looming threat, but if you take it a step deeper, they are simply doing the most basic of human behaviors. They secure a safe place for themselves, and they seek to keep it. They probably go overboard, what with the, "let loose the psycho in Seattle so we can get some more powerful people with us" plan, but that's also part of it (more on that in a sec).

In the HP universe, we have characters like Dumbledore and Voldemort, two opposing forces, that while mortal (or mostly), fully acknowledge that they have power over their world, and exercise it as they see fit. The genius of Rowling's stories is that we can then, vicariously thru Harry, see that we, too, have the power to influence our world, and find our own place in it.

I think it curious that the ones who are typically so sure of themselves, their place, their desires, and their goals are often the villains of the story. The hero in these tales, who we are obviously supposed to identify with, is always uncertain, questioning, and searching for something like the surety displayed by their nemeses. So is the result of the tale that we, like the hero (even upon defeat of their enemy and all their certainty), are doomed to still question if we did the right thing, if we were right to declare, "This is what I will do, and to hell with the questions.", even if we still have them? Or is it that by gaining a surety in our lives, by knowing what we want, who we are, or even our place in the world, we in some level become a villain?

 / rant

Sorry, Wolfie, I think I out-ranted you. That ran on a little long.  :whiteflage: :loco:

Edit: It would help if I finished all my sentences. :P
« Last Edit: December 17, 2010, 11:18:45 AM by VisionFromAfar »
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Tirya

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Re: Spiritual Shifting in America
« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2010, 10:10:22 AM »

Rant away - I just love hearing folks' opinions and thoughts on stuff!!
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Re: Spiritual Shifting in America
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2010, 10:59:35 AM »

Vision, I couldn't help but nod my head in agreement while reading what you wrote, even the "long" part.  :D
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bluefire

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Re: Spiritual Shifting in America
« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2010, 12:14:52 PM »

Yep.  Interesting. 

My point of view, for what it is worth, for Americans anyway:  I think we impact society and society impacts us.  It's a growing snowball.  Right now we are coming out of a phase of wild material growth.  And I'm not just talking about in the last decade.  Given some ups and down, we've been an economically successful people since the end of WWII.  Expectations that we will each live longer and better than those before us have been with us for three generations now.  It is just in the past few years that the evidence screams loud enough that we can hear.  Basic infrastructures of "better" are being questioned.  Education is not that great.  Medical care is not that great.  The economy is folding in on itself.  That new awareness opens the crack for much questioning of the "Is that all there is?" sort.

There are always seekers.  There's just a lot more now.  It's not just the Theologians, Poets, and Philosophers.  That seeking pokes through in the popular culture now the way contentment reflected in the past.
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