Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Fear not the devil (II)

The woman and I had another interesting conversation that tied to the first, but I felt I had gone on long enough on Harry Potter.  This time we were discussing yoga.  We've discussed it before and I may have posted about it once in the  past, but the idea annoys me so I feel it's worth revisiting.

She used to practice yoga, primarily as a low-impact exercise, until her Evangelical friends pointed out that the components of Eastern mysticism that are inherent to yoga had been downplayed, and therefore was inappropriate for serious practice by a Christian and contained some spiritual hazard for anyone.  This much I have no reason to debate--non-Christian mystical habits of Christians can easily scandalize others, and if you open yourself up to flatly heterodox influences, you risk being swallowed up by heterodoxy and, eventually, hell.  The physical components, as you may have deduced--the poses, the motions, the breath control--don't bother me a bit.

As I've said before, or intended to, there's wisdom in refraining from eating meat in front of vegetarians out of a desire to prevent scandal; but it would be wrong for me to lie to vegetarians and to myself by saying "Well, meat is evil after all" when I believe nothing of the sort.

But to me, see, it hinges on that "if" of opening yourself to heterodox influence--to malevolent forces.  I don't believe you can do so without willing it.  You can do so without fully recognizing the gravity of what you do, but not without your consent or fully contrary to your desire and intent.  People who worship money or power or just their jobs make conscious choices to put those things first in their lives, even if sometimes as a means to some other end, even if you showed them a church with dollar signs instead of crosses they wouldn't make the connection.

So when this woman tells that she was warned to stop doing yoga because some of the poses and movements are acts of worship to certain Hindu gods, I struggle to think of a diplomatic way to say "That is a psychotic and paranoid claim, based on an irrational definition of 'worship,' that hardly approaches the truth of what the worshipped or the worshipper do or are."  Maybe I should be blunt instead of gently suggesting that a principled willingness to discard the good and the harmless to escape evil ("If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out," not "pluck out your eye, for others have sinned with theirs") is not possibly, maybe, just a harmless metaphysical eccentricity.  But saying "I'm sorry, but that's stupid and I would be embarrassed if someone got the impression that I took such ideas seriously" just seems too...too "high school" dramatic to serve as a wake-up-call kind of shock.

No.  My contention is that it is not possible to worship something by accident.  You cannot, simply by raising your arms at a certain angle or standing with your feet with a certain spacing, offer the praise and adoration due to God alone to any other entity or object.

If it were that simple, we'd have to have someone go around cataloging all the angles to which it's morally safe to bend each joint and all the positions it's spiritually hazardous to keep our limbs in, just in case some pagan somewhere drew some arbitrary or symbolic inference between body alignment and some natural phenomenon, which convinced some terrified and ignorant Christian that such bodily alignments were inherently demonic, which I would say was so offensively stupid if I wasn't afraid that someone would look at my exasperation at such gullibility as protesting a bit too much.

It requires an act of the will.  I'm not saying it's necessarily safe to show up at a black mass and go through the motions just to make the point that it can't hurt you, because then you're deliberately initiating spiritual combat, but willfully interacting with preternatural forces, one way or the other, is not the same as doing things that to the best of your understanding may as well be nothing more than coincidence.

Honestly.  Giving the devil more power than he really has by seeing him beneath rocks he's not hiding under is closer to worship than doing isometric exercises.

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