The Syncretic Bible, given as a live service on 7th June
There is a rather large book we have in front of us, and there is so much of it I would like to get through…
I present before you a tidy book, made of fine white paper with well-defined ink and colour. Within its pages are billions of words arranged by countless generations of people into stories, parables, myths, legends and histories. For our greater enjoyment are millions upon millions of illustrations, some made with oil paint and brush, some pictures many thousands of years old, some with pen on paper and, yes, even some with crayons!
On the front cover it has embossed upon it the words “Syncretic Bible” but not author is given. This however is not a holy book, we don’t treat any of these stories or pictures with reverence and each one is of as equal importance and value as the other, if there is anything 'holy' within this book then it is the artistry of the written word, of the hand that guided the movements, and, above all, the meaning that each of us can find.
I am now going to open my syncretic bible on any random page, who knows what it might contain…
We find ourselves looking at some work from the Upanishads, the ancient Indian philosophy texts, let’s see what this passage says: Isha Upanishad Verse 1 ‘The Lord is enshrined in the hearts of all. The Lord is the supreme Reality. Rejoice in him through renunciation. Covet nothing. All belongs to the Lord.’
How wonderful… and upon reading it I am reminded of another quote: "No text is self-interpreting." - Ross Shafer Landau (philosopher). So now that we have these words before us, what do you think they might mean? How do you think they might apply to you?
Well let’s have a look here… hmm… well it sounds interesting doesn’t it? It certainly sounds similar to a person’s idea of the Force, I would be tempted to consider this piece of material as being pretty significant for Jediism, but then I remember. I am reading the Syncretic Bible. I do not see these words like a Hindu might, as holy scripture that must be memorised and made a part of my core foundation, I see these words as a Jedi. And as a Jedi what do I see? I see a fascinating way of perhaps explaining my own distinct beliefs.
I wish to explore something with you for a moment.
Let me create an 'in-group' and an 'out-group', please bear with me while I explain further. We have some Hindu text, for a group of Hindus this is ‘their’ text, they, for this explanation, are the ‘in-group’. This is not my text, I am a Jedi, I am not with them so I, for this explanation, am the ‘out-group’. I took the text above and explained how I might use it to explain the nature of the Force, but I do this as a Jedi, as a member of the out-group. I empathise with the Hindus in their understanding and interpretation, but I never become a member of their ‘in-group’.
You see within my Jedi ‘out-group’ is the capacity to empathise with other ‘in-groups’ be they Hindu or Christian or Pagan and so forth. But I always remain distinct, I remain an individual empathising with that group, not an individual member of that group.
It is a Jedi’s willingness to use the works of others as inspiration that defines Jediism’s syncreticism.
Using other material, other rituals, other titles is not picking and choosing what we like to create a smorgas-religion, this is done only because of a Jedi’s ability to understand, to empathise, with the meaning that can be found in such things. THAT is what syncreticism is, and that is what the Syncretic Bible provides.
Again, it is a Jedi’s willingness to use the works of others as inspiration that defines Jediism’s syncreticism.
Let us now turn to another page of the Syncretic Bible and here we find the Peace Prayer -written in 1912- attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, and on the other side of the page we see the familiar TotJO Creed.
Remember though that we are seeing the Peace Prayer through Jedi eyes, we are not just picking it because we like the structure of it or the sound of it, but because we find it a nice piece of text to empathise with.
We can use another text for our creed, and in fact I have in the past used a different creed in my service for the sermon ‘What is a Basic Teaching?’ and that had Christian origins too, but we do not take text and glue it onto this thing of ‘Jediism’ and make it ours. As Jedi we empathise with those that created it and we interpret it in a new way.
So for this service we shall use the creed found in our doctrine. Doing so doesn’t make us Christian, it keeps us Jedi, but through a Jedi’s text-empathy we break down those in and out groups to recognise the value that can be found in all media.
And through this recognition of value we are better able to understand and help others. And thus the in/out group distinctions between all of us here on the planet can dissolve.
May the Force be with you always.