Dunn Answers My Geeky Prayers

Anyone who spends anytime at all reading about or discussing magic with those who actually work magic will hear that magic is meant to be practiced. That study and theories mean nothing without practice. This is generally why books about magic read more like how-to guides than scholarly essays. Obviously I’m not saying that those how-to guides aren’t carefully researched and developed after years of experience, what I am saying is that I want scholarly essays! And like an answer to my geeky prayers, Patrick Dunn wrote the book “Magic Power Language Symbol”.

This book is dense and rich like some sort of triple dark fudge cake. Not a single word is wasted. I made my way carefully and deliberately through the text and can honestly say that I will benefit greatly from reading it again, and probably again. Dunn packs in so many interesting thoughts and theories, along with copious research, that I challenge you to feel like you absorbed all the information in one reading! That said, the book is not a dry read. Dunn, in my opinion, is a gifted writer. He presents complex ideas in a conversational and easy to understand manner. The book is littered with amusing examples and footnotes.

What does the book cover? Just about anything you can think of that falls under the headings of magic, power, language, or symbol! Speaking in tongues, magical alphabets, mantras, the Qabalah, Enochian, glyphs and sigils, incantations, and more!

As far as I’m concerned, just about anyone would find this book a fascinating read. Regardless of what kind of magic you practice, this book is an essential.

Some Real East Meets West

Due to the recent Beijing Olympics, for better or worse, we’ve all been learning more about China. It was in this vein that the BBC show Newsnight presented a piece about a Chinese singer named Sa Dingding. Let’s not talk politics, she didn’t in her interview. China is a wonderful place for artists, end of interview. Maybe she truly believes that, maybe the government made no secret of the fact that they knew where her family lived, all I’m saying is that it is a little creepy to see that her album was produced by ShangHai To-Wing Culture Development Co. Ltd., and not, you know, by individuals.

Enough about all of that though, the point is, I heard about her on Newsnight and instantly fell in love with her music. Her album, “Alive” came out in 2007, but thanks to the Olympics and positive feedback in Europe, I recently got a hold of the CD, now available in the United States.

What’s it like? Well, for starters, no English. Mandarin, Sanskrit, even a self created language, but no, I do not understand a single word on this album. It doesn’t matter though, the music is so cinematic that just like when watching a television show in another language, you just kind of decide what you think is going on.

What is going on? A real East meets West kind of sound. Forget Ming Tsai! This is a real cultural blend. (A personal note to Ming Tsai: Please don’t take offense and come after me with one of your beautiful Kyocera ceramic knives!) Sa Dingding blends very traditional sounding folk songs with Westernized techno and rock sounds. On my favorite song, the title track “Alive”, I swear that some sort of harp or mandolin, totally jams out in a blues/soul kind of way. The album has simple, and beautiful, vocals cutting through a dense fabric of sounds.

Check out Sa Dingding’s “Alive”!

Catching Up With Christopher

I first met Christopher Penczak back in August of 2007, so a year ago. Everything you hear is true; he is an incredibly friendly, very down to earth kind of guy. I recently got back in touch with Christopher and suggested my readers might like a little note as to what’s been going on with him. Just like the super nice guy he is, he sent me a letter to share with you.


Hi Everyone,

Things are unfolding as they should in my world, which means both joys and challenges. The challenges have been dealing with the continued side effects of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy with my mom, who is still clear of all cancer thankfully. She’s suffering from edema pretty severely, which is making life a challenge for myself and my Dad. We thank everybody who has been sending reiki, magick, prayers and kind notes. We all really and truly appreciate it. Despite the challenge, I see her recovery as such a blessing and life is good.

I’m in the midst of my final edits for The Living Temple of Witchcraft Volume I: The Descent of the Goddess. I should be wrapped up before my busy season begins, Sept- Nov, with festivals, classes, Samhain and a Midwest tour. I’m in various stages with a few other books too, but Volume One and Two are both complete and in production. I was recently initiated as a High Priest in the first tradition I ever studied, and did not have a chance to complete, the Cabot Tradition of Witchcraft, and I’m quite honored. Laurie was my first serious teacher and I’m blessed to be able to experience this with her. The daturas in my garden are blooming quite nicely, and I recently enjoyed a little vacation getaway with my partner Steve, who was working at GenCon, a role playing game convention. I got to hang out, shop and visit with his co-workers at Green Ronin who are quite fun. I’m looking forward to the fall and the season of the witch!

Blessed be,

About Christopher Penczak
Christopher Penczak is an award-winning author, teacher and healing practitioner. Beginning his spiritual journey in the tradition of modern Witchcraft and earth based religions; he has studied extensively with Witches, mystics, shamans and healers in a variety of traditions from across the globe to synthesize his own practice of magick and healing. He is an ordained minister, herbalist, flower essence consultant and certified Reiki Master (Teacher) in the Usui-Tibetan and Shamballa traditions. Christopher has been involved with the Gifts of Grace Foundation and is a faculty member of the North Eastern Institute of Whole Health, both in New Hampshire. He is the author of many books, including Magick of Reiki, Spirit Allies, The Mystic Foundation, Instant Magick and The Inner Temple of Witchcraft.

The Living Temple of Witchcraft Volume I: The Descent of the Goddess will be available November 2008. To keep up with Christopher visit his website and/or be his My Space friend!

Letter From Oberon

For once, I find myself without anything to say. Those of you familiar with me, or the site, know that you are witnessing a rare occurrence. Last night I learned that Oberon Zell-Ravenheart has been diagnosed with colon cancer. I have confirmed this information, and now I find myself at a loss for words.

Who is Oberon Zell-Ravenheart? Someone far too important to have ever needed to acknowledge the existence of The Magical Buffet, let alone do an interview for us, and yet, he suffered this fool gladly. For those of you who missed it, or want to relive one of my moments of glory, click here.

I have this info to share:


Dear Friends and Loved Ones,

Yesterday I had a meeting yesterday with my doctor, Stephen Denigris, to discuss the results of the biopsy they did on the golfball-sized tumor (lesion) they discovered during my recent colonoscopy, just two days ago. He says it is indeed cancerous, and colon cancer is aggressive and nasty. However, it is far enough up that it can be surgically removed along with about a foot of my descending colon (left side). He said that it appears to be less than a year old, so the chances of a complete removal of all cancerous tissue are excellent.

The only concern is that some of the cancer cells may have migrated into my lymph nodes, which would be a really serious problem, requiring radiation and chemotherapy. To help determine whether or not this may be the case, they took a few vials of my blood for testing, and tomorrow at 2:45 PM PDT, I am scheduled for a CAT scan. The results of the blood work and the CAT scan will be available next Thursday (8/21), when I have an appointment with an abdominal surgeon to discuss upcoming surgery—which we’ll schedule as soon as possible.

The best things about all this so far are that we caught this early enough that it should be completely operable; and at the same time, they’ll be able to repair an abdominal hernia which has been plaguing me for many years.

However, Dr. Denigris also emphasized the importance of prayers and healing energy. Right now, to shrink and contain the tumor as much as possible, so that none of the cancer gets out into surrounding tissue or lymph nodes between now and the surgery. After I get the results of the CAT scan and blood work, I’ll let everyone know the status going into surgery. Then I’ll need all the healing energy I can get on the actual day of the surgery to ensure that everything goes perfectly.


Photo by Nemea Arborvitae

Magic users all over the world have been doing what is being called a Rolling Thunder working, which is when different magical practitioners of varying systems of magical practice all work magic for one specific goal, in this case, to help send healing energy to Oberon. Unfortunately, technically the working ended last night, but I suspect that if you want to pray, work magic, or do both in good measure, Oberon won’t object.

For those of you who would like to send cards or letters of encouragement, you can mail those to:

Oberon Zell-Ravenheart
PO Box 758
Cotati, CA 94931

I will try to keep you guys up to date with what is happening with this elder statesman of magic. Oberon hopes to be able to keep everyone up to date at his site www.oberonzell.com.

Thanks Goodness! (The Ladies of the 80’s Sound is Back)

There are Tings, which are a cheese puff-like treat that all the kids I know seem to love. There is Ting Ting, the poster girl for the card game “Shadowfist”. Despite those notable tings, today we are going to talk about the new album from The Ting Tings, that I recently purchased as part of my summer music buying madness.

Do you miss the ladies of 80’s new wave? Good news, their spirit is alive and well in The Tings Tings CD “We Started Nothing”. Their lead singer has a style that reminds me of The Waitresses (“I Know What Boys Like”). It’s not quite singing, but it’s not quite rapping, it’s like talking….with style. I’m so cool that I don’t even need to sing. If you’re looking for deep lyrical complexity, or levels of emotional resonance, skip this album. But, if you’re like me, and missed that slightly edgy pop/rock that only the way too hip ladies of the 80’s could generate, then you must buy this disc now!

Thanks to My Space TV you can check out their first single “Shut Up and Let Me Go”.

The Ting Tings – Shut Up And Let Me Go

Are You Reading This?

Seriously, does anybody read The Magical Buffet? I mean besides you. Again, another organization could have been spared my wrath if they had just taken two minutes to read my article about the swastika.

On August 11, 2008 TMZ ran a photo of Jamie Foxx holding a surf board with the title of “Did Jamie Foxx “Not See” the Swastika?” The surf board in question is covered with hearts, peace signs, a hexagram (Star of David, perhaps?), and yes, a swastika. They say, “It’s (the surf board) almost as offensive as his swim cap.” Guess what? The board is not offensive, the swim cap, maybe.

So, just like I did with Zara, I’d like to direct TMZ’s attention to my article “It’s OK we’re taking it back: The Swastika”. I was happy to see that some people who commented on the TMZ post knew that Foxx wasn’t a secret Nazi.

When a swastika is surrounded by hippy scribbles, it’s doubtful it’s being used as a Nazi symbol. I’m just sayin’…..

10 More Questions with Raven Digitalis

1. The last time we talked was in November 2007 a little while after your first book “Goth Craft” was released. What have you learned between then and now?
I’ve learned many things, particularly spiritually! It’s hard to quantify; I don’t entirely remember who I was then; I only know who I am in the present… I’m sure I’ll say the same thing in another year! But, I can safely say that I’ve learned what it’s like to put myself ‘out there’ on a larger scale. And I wouldn’t take it back for anything in the world. I’m so happy I’m “spreading my wings,” if I may use the pun.

2. Your new book “Shadow Magick Compendium” looks like it covers a lot of different stuff: toxic herbs, fasting, dispelling harmful behavior patterns, the Witch hunts, mysticism and more. What do all the different things you discuss in your new book have in common, if anything?
For me, I see certain things as having a strong connection to shadow or darkness as a spiritual force of nature; I compiled the book with this in mind, and have tried to stay close to that examination throughout. When I was doing my edits for the book, I realized how deep some of the material actually is. I hadn’t really considered its spiritual scope until I took a “bird’s eye view” and examined it from a reader’s perspective (editorially). I hope beyond measure that the material will help positively and progressively influence other peoples’ evolving spiritual paths. There is far too much suffering in the world; it’s all we can do—and should do—to help both ourselves and one another as brothers and sisters in this experience of reality.

3. Also, what made you decide to not write more about the Goth culture in your new book?
I’m over it. Hah! Yep, it’s true: I put my piece out there about dark subculture, and now it’s time to move on to strictly spiritual focuses. I don’t want to be known as “that Goth guy,” because there’s much more to my writing and spiritual path than that. Though dark culture is significant and beautiful, there’s no need for me to keep trippin’ on it. I’m concerned with consciousness, Awareness, and compassion, and the mediums for musing those frequencies is always changing. You will also find that my focus in writing will not always stay “dark,” though metaphysical darkness is my own familiar spiritual root, so I’ll still always pull from that area to some degree naturally.

4. Another Llewellyn author who encourages a darker look at magic is Konstantinos (author of ‘Nocturnal Witchcraft’). Are you familiar with his work, and if so, do you feel you share in the philosophy of working with darker energies is not evil?
Well… I’m familiar with his work, but personally draw no parallels between his writing and mine, save for the fact that darkness (as an energetic force) is examined. I much prefer dark occult authors like Michelle Belanger, Robin Artisson, John J. Coughlin, Michael Alexandra Davida, Corvis Nocturnum, Nathaniel J. Harris, and Leilah Wendell.

5. I know you love music, so I have to ask, what are you listening to right now?
Oh shoot… right now? Lemme think. Well, today I listened to CDs by The Mission, Sopor Aeternus, and Fiona Horne. Sitting on this pile next to me is Monica Richards, Stevie Nicks, God Module, and the Gypsy Nomads. In my car I’ve been playing Nick Warren, Aphex Twin, Collide, Tori Amos, The Congos, and of course my beloved Smashing Pumpkins.

6. I totally can’t wait for the soundtrack for “Repo! The Genetic Opera” to release. Have you heard any music from it yet? I think you would dig it.
No clue! Never heard of the film or soundtrack. I’ll keep an eye out for it, though!

7. I can’t believe I didn’t ask you this last time, but how did you come about taking the name Raven Digitalis?
Well, the Raven has always been one of my spirit animals (I also discuss spirit animals heavily in Shadow Magick Compendium). I’ve known the Raven as my primary astral guide since I first got into the Craft back when I was 16. He’s stayed with me since, and I’d imagine he always will. I’ve recently also discovered that Cricket is a new, additional spirit animal I’ve been Given. As for Digitalis, well, it’s the Latin name for the foxglove plant. Just as people have spirit animals, we also have spiritual plant allies—foxglove happens to be mine. So, the names sounded nice together—and, this was before I discovered that Digitalis is also the name of a heart medication; an extract from the foxglove plant—and I went with it. But, my birth name is Colin (shhh).

8. Any chance you could help me come up with some cool sounding alias? I’m so lame even my City of Heroes character is just named Amazing Rebecca.
Hmmm. Well, my alias is a portion of my magickal/spiritual name, so that’s one option. It’s not an easy process to find one’s spiritual name (if one was to use their spiritual name as their alias), but we are all vibrationally aligned to different forces, and can use those alignments to form our magickal names (I discuss spiritual/magickal names in Goth Craft). And thanks—I also think ‘Raven Digitalis’ sounds cool, and I’m lucky to have it as part of my spiritual name! For you? How about Mozilla Firefox? –oh wait, that’s already taken. Damn!

9. I asked last time, and I gotta ask again, what’s next?
Oh, the future is rarely predictable. As far as writing, I have a number of things in mind… a fun little spellbook, some fiction, and some other projects. I also tour in various parts the country fairly regularly—mostly the Northwest, as well as Denver and San Jose (for PantheaCon!). One can always stay tuned to my website or MySpace to hear about my updates!

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question?
Okay! Hmmm… do you think that Gerald Gardner should have created more involved codes of ethics with the founding of Wicca? And, do you think that his fabrications about the history of Witchcraft and its origins served the Neopagan revivalism well, or just put a bad taste in peoples’ mouths in terms of legitimizing earth-based spirituality?

Raven, you make me crazy, which by the way makes my husband officially your biggest fan. Let me see what I can say to all of that, and remember folks, I’m not an expert…I’m not even Wiccan!

From what I understand Gardner took a hodge podge of old traditions and managed to pull them together and present them to a more modern audience in a way that obviously resonated with them. Although many modern Wiccan practices can be traced back way past Gardner’s existence, without him I don’t know how many people would know about them today. If I could do that, I wouldn’t hide that knowledge, I would share it. I’d be like, booyah, I took a bunch of ancient practices and created this pretty cool thing that people like. Yet he felt people wouldn’t be that impressed and since many Wiccans deny the idea that maybe, just maybe, Gardner did a little fabricating, he was probably right. Personally, I think his hype served the revivalism well in the beginning but now seems to leave more of a bad taste in people’s mouths.

I’m not entirely certain what Gardner’s founding ethics were, but I’ll share a little bit on my thoughts about Wiccan ethics. I’m a total fence sitter. Yeah, I’ll admit it. I like the rule of three and harm none and all of that. I think it’s responsible and a good way to live your life, not just practice magic. That said, I know people who don’t concern themselves with those ethics, and I still find them to be wonderful, moral people. I think the flexibility in perceived ethics is one of the things that makes Wicca such a diverse faith. So many philosophies falling under the same banner. Of course that same diversity makes the faith full of schisms. Perhaps if Gardner had laid down the law more Wicca would be a more potent unified faith, but I think a lot fewer people would be involved it.

That’s it Raven, gloves off for the next interview…I’m making you jump through all kinds of hoops!

Author Bio:
Raven Digitalis (Missoula, MT) is the author of Shadow Magick Compendium: Exploring Darker Aspects of Magickal Spirituality and Goth Craft: The Magickal Side of Dark Culture, both on Llewellyn. He is a Neopagan Priest and cofounder of the “disciplined eclectic” shadow magick tradition and training coven Opus Aima Obscuræ, and is a radio and club DJ of Gothic, EBM, and industrial music. Raven holds a degree in anthropology from the University of Montana and is also an animal rights activist and black-and-white photographic artist. He has appeared on the cover of newWitch magazine, is a regular contributor to The Ninth Gate magazine, and has been featured on MTV News and the ‘X’ Zone Radio program.

Guess What Today Is!

Today is my Uncle’s birthday, and he’s not feeling well, so let’s all say “Happy Birthday and feel better soon!” Now he can cringe as I go from warm birthday wishes to what this blog is about, the National Action Network’s Decency Awards, which is an extension of their Decency Initiative. For those of you who think you’re unfamiliar with the NAN, does this name ring a bell? Reverend Al Sharpton. Yes, this is his organization.

A year ago today Sharpton and the NAN organized “A Day of Outrage” which were peaceful protests targeting music companies and industry executives across the United States. Although today is special, the Decency Initiative is active all year round. They are currently celebrating that because of pressure Nas’ latest album was released as untitled as opposed to n-word, which was its original title. Stay tuned, that’s another blog all together.

This isn’t a tirade against the NAN. Their organization does a lot of good. Keep demanding answers about Sean Bell Rev. Al! My problem is the idea of the Decency Initiative. It’s the same beef I have with the Anti-Defamation League (Another organization that does a lot of good, but….). You can’t just go around trying to silence anyone that has something to say that you find offensive. Yes, in a perfect world there would be no racial or religious slurs, there would also be no anger or outrage, no need for public discourse, and finally no need to get my butt up off the couch. (Wow, did I just do a “Ripple of Evil” like on the show “Root of All Evil”?) Censorship is not the path to understanding, it’s the path to ignorance.

What follows is my open letter to the NAN about their Decency Awards and Initiative. I’d like to think that I make a passionate, thoughtful, and polite argument on behalf of rap artists everywhere, but when you touch sensitive subjects, like the use of the n-word, well, reason does not always prevail. Somehow, I’d like to think that as a white Jewish woman I’ve gotten the brunt of rap music’s bile, and it makes my point of view valid, but as my friend Max said, “You’re not black.” But since other than Nas I can’t find anyone else willing to take a stand for the rights of rap artists, I took the plunge. Okay, plunge is a strong word, I’ve dangled my feet in the water…if I’m not litigated out of existence…or fired due to pickets outside of where I work….perhaps there will be a plunge. Nas, if the NAN comes after me, will you fund my legal defense?

To Tamika Mallory, National Director of NAN’s Decency Initiative:

I see on your website that August 7, 2008 the Decency Awards “are being held to honor entertainers who carry the torch of decency and to highlight positive images in our community.” That I am encouraged to “send in my nominations of entertainers, artists, athletes, and public figures who I think should be recognized”. But I am warned that, “all nominations are welcome, but keep in mind that haters will be disregarded”.

This forces me to ask the question, then why are you hating on the rap community? I’m writing to you today to please ask you to stop. Do I like to hear myself referred to as a bitch or ho, or my friends as niggers? Absolutely not! And yet, it boogles my mind that your organization, one that focuses so much time and energy on so many worthy causes, would waste your time to endeavor to enforce your version of decency onto musicians and their distributors.

I am a better person today because of the rap music I listened to in my youth. I grew up in a mid-sized rural community in Illinois, but because of artists like the Geto Boys, Queen Latifah, NWA, and Ice-T, I was able to learn about people living lives entirely different than my own. Yes, they had horrible language, and it shocked my 13 year-old ears to hear words like bitch and nigger, but that’s what art, at its best, is supposed to do. It shocked and enlightened me. Rap music started a chain reaction in my life. I thought more about the world outside of my hometown and I grew concerned about issues like race, drugs, poverty, and censorship. I’m sorry, but how dare you try to deny that life changing experience to others?

Please stop going after the music labels. Yes, they pressure artists, but I find it hard to believe that any music executive listens to an album and goes, this is okay, but you really need to add more references to bitches and niggers if you want to go gold. Those words are there because they are the language of the artist. And as a bitch and ho, I’m telling you, I’m okay with those words. How weak do you feel women are that they can’t handle a musician using them? In this day and age those words have no power, in fact, most women wear the label of bitch like a badge of honor. Those words have nowhere near the awful legacy of the terrible word nigger. Not being African American I cannot speak first hand of the feelings that word evokes. I can tell you that trying to police language is not going to solve anything. Putting the words out there makes them less powerful, not more. There was a time when bitch was universally a highly offensive term, but about 200 million bitches later, it’s really just another word…I promise. And thanks to the rap community, the word nigger really is losing its power. I worked in music retail for 10 years and every day I would hear teenage boys refer to each other as nigger. They were obviously using it as a term of affection, friendship, and brotherhood. At no point ever did I feel they were saying it out of malice or the belief that they were speaking to their slave. Thanks to rap music the word’s meaning is evolving.

As long as there are differences, there will always be hate, it’s a sad fact of human nature. Where there is fear and ignorance it will always be found. However, censoring artists is wrong. You never change the discussion if you edit the dialogue.

Please, take a moment to re-evaluate your Decency Initiative. I think if you do you’ll find that there are more important things you can be doing than picketing record label’s offices.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter and for all the good that your organization does.

Rebecca Elson

How I Spent My Weekend…

I approached this past weekend with the best of intentions. My husband and I were going to get up on Saturday, go out for some breakfast, hit Target to pick up a copy of Freakazoid Season One, do some grocery shopping, come home, clean, post Kip Givens’ awesome article to the website and then, only after all that was complete would we crack the shrink wrap on Freakazoid.

However, as the weekend drew nearer our excitement over Freakazoid kept building. Let’s put it this way, our apartment is still waiting to be cleaned. Once we got home from breakfast and running errands, we collapsed into balls on our sofas and started watching Freakazoid…and didn’t stop until we’d watched all of season one!

Freakazoid is a cartoon that aired in the mid-nineties. It was done by the same folks who did Animaniacs…another great weekend waster in our household. It follows the adventures of Dexter Douglas who due to a computer bug was sucked into the internet and was spit back out with the ability to “Freak Out!” and become the teenage superhero Freakazoid. The show is a haven of geek pop culture references, and hilarious cameos. I encourage all of you who love cartoons loaded with geeky insanity to go and pick up a copy of season one, or at least rent it, but once you rent, you will want to buy!

And for those of you clever readers who are asking, why didn’t you just clean the apartment on Sunday? Here’s why….

Jet Li verses Michelle Yeoh swordfight. ‘Nuff said.

Worthless Religion

by J. Kip Givens

I don’t have a lot of patience for religion or religious people! Frankly, religion makes me ill and religious people bring out the worst in me. Religion is filled with hollow ideas that don’t seem to be followed by her hypocritical followers.

Now let me explain. I am an ordained Protestant minister. I have planted two churches in 2 different states and have pastored at another church prior to that for 8 years. I have studied at religious institutions, attended conferences, written manuals, and taught people around the world. In the midst of all that, I can’t stand religion or religious people.

Why? Because religion has it all wrong. Not necessarily in what they say, though some are missing the mark there as well, but in how they live out their religious lives. And it’s not just the Christians; it is all of these religions filled with their hypocrites and lives filled with double standards. Worldviews that are filled with doctrines and dogmas and traditions that have nothing to do with the stated main purpose of their existence or of their Supreme Being. Structures that are built, not for service of others, but rather for their own boasting and comfort. People who are card carrying members to heighten their social status and feelings of elitism and not for the worship of a Creator and Supreme Being and then fulfilling the ultimate purpose of helping others throughout the journey.

Am I opposed to faith and spirituality? Absolutely not! In fact, I think they are the most important things in life and should be the cornerstones of our existence. But let’s be clear: Religion and spirituality are two different things! Some might say that I am dealing only in semantics here, but religion and spirituality truly are two completely different things. Maybe not in everyone’s mind, but they are two completely different expressions and result in different actions and consequences.

Religion is identified by its creeds and letters of the law – all of which are dead expressions of a once life giving idea. The result is arrogance from an idea and a feeling of superiority and an “us vs. them” mentality to all who don’t agree with their said system. Spirituality on the other hand is organic and feeds off of the expressions of living out life-giving ideas and ideals at every turn. It produces compassion and the ability to identify with people and their individual nuances – whether understood or not. The result is people living their lives for a greater purpose than some organized religious system – they live their lives for the benefit of other people.

What’s The Point?

So…what’s the point here? Religion’s value is in itself. Religion exists solely to perpetuate it’s own existence and sustainability as a purveyor of “laws” and “right and wrong behaviors”. Spirituality’s value, on the other hand, is found in the ethic of reciprocity. Simply put, spiritual people are consumed with the idea of sharing their good fortunes with others. They recognize what has been imparted to them and they want to pass it on, or as the popular phrase is, “pay it forward”. They live their lives with the knowledge that everything they say and do affects someone else and they make a conscious effort to make it something worth passing on. They also know and recognize that by living their lives this way they honor their Creator and Supreme Being.

Some may say that that is how religions operate. Religion speaks of reciprocity or a concept that is commonly known as The Golden Rule. True, but when was the last time you truly identified religion with that concept.

I don’t think the people of Europe in the 11th, 12th or 13th centuries would agree that religion followed the ethic of reciprocity considering the Catholic Crusaders who were constantly raiding, harassing and killing anyone who didn’t believe like them.

Or the people of 16th century France who were embattled in a fierce conflict between the Roman Catholics and the Hugenots, commonly known as the War of Religions.

What about other religions? In Muhammad’s time, the pagans of the Arabian peninsula were asked for submission to Islam as a condition for the continuation of their lives. Jews, Christians and Sabeans were forced to become dhimmis, pay a special tax (jizya) and submit to the political authority of Islam or suffer expulsion. 1

“Mormonism teaches that violence and even murder can be justified in certain situations, so long as the violence is commanded by God. The Book of Mormon contains an example where Nephi, the narrator of that part of the book, came upon a drunken and passed-out Laban (1 Ne. 4:7-8) lying on the streets of Jerusalem. Laban had previously stolen Nephi’s family property and had refused to give Nephi an important set of brass plates he needed for his voyage to the New World in about 600 BC. Considering the circumstances, Nephi was commanded by the Holy Spirit to remove Laban’s sword and slay Laban (1 Ne. 9:18).” 2

Let’s not forget all the civil wars that have been waged in the name of religion: English, French, Lebanese, Irish, and Muslim. And what about the various religious practices of voodoo, sorcery, witchcraft and pronouncing curses, most of which are not with good intentions for our friends.
Can we ignore the violence of anti-abortion protestors, gay-bashers, and the “morality police”, most of which operate in the name of religion? Religion may talk the talk of reciprocity, but they do not practice it. The reason is because religion, by its very nature, exists soley for its own good. It looks only to perpetuate its own cause and therefore, does not see the benefit of others and thus cannot tolerate, much less help, others.

True Religion

True religion is more than nice sounding words. It is principles that are lived out everyday, regardless of what may come our way.
Christianity calls it the Golden Rule. Hindus and modern New Age religions call it karma. Other religions have described it this way:

Ancient Greek’s
. “What you wish your neighbors to be to you, such be also to them” – Sextus the Pythagorean
. “Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others.” – Isocrates
. The question was once put to Aristotle how we ought to behave to our friends. His answer was, “As we should wish them to behave to us.”

. “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama

. “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.” – Confucius
. “What you do not want others to do for you, do not do to others.” – Confucius
Parliament of the World’s Religions (1993)
. The Declaration Toward a Global Ethic proclaimed the Golden Rule as the common principle for many religions. The initial declaration was signed by 143 leaders from different faith traditions and spiritual communities.

. “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and prophets.” – Jesus of Nazereth

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, says that the Golden Rule “is arguably the most essential basis for the modern concept of human rights”. Think about that. Everything involving human rights in our world can be promoted by using the Golden Rule. Why is it so powerful? Because a key element of the golden rule is that a person or group attempting to live by this rule treats all people, not just members of his or her own group, with consideration and can identify, or at least empathize, with them.

Where the Difference Lies

What religion says and what spiritual people live is a major difference. Living life where other people are the focus can be difficult, but is nonetheless the focus and passion of spiritual people. Spiritual people can take what religion says and allow it to be a life-giving principle instead of a dead law.

Religion will put parameters on its own laws based on what is expedient. For example, a few years ago a movie came out titled The Passion of the Christ. It had a lot of controversy surrounding it but one thing stood out to me from the Chrsitian perspective. For years, Protestants have told their followers that they should not attend rated R movies because the content of such “filth and wickedness” might pervert them. They would say that there is nothing in a rated R movie that you need to see. If they can’t say it in a way that is “clean”, then you don’t need to see or hear it. But an amazing thing happened when this particular movie came out – the same people who condemned rated R movies were now renting out theatres and encouraging their members to pay money to go watch this film. Why? Because it promoted their cause, regardless of its rating. The point, religion will do what is in its best interest only, even if it conflicts with something they have said in the past. And when the expedient timeframe is over, they will go back to their rigid stance.

Spirituality has no parameters and no limits. It operates on what is right, regardless of what others may think or say. Jesus the Christ made it personal. He kicked religion right in the teeth and said that living a good life, a godly life, involved, no, required, living for the sake of others. Even if those others were not like you, or worse, were your enemies. Look at what he said to his followers:

“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you. If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” 3

We’re not talking about playing nice here. This is a serious paradigm shift. Most religions and religious systems have and promote some form of “an eye for an eye” mentality. Jesus is getting right up in the face of everyone who claims to be religious and, in a sense, is slapping them across the cheek and saying, “Anyone can do that. Do you think you are special for doing what everyone else does? Get real! Do you really want to live a life that is worthy of the Most High? Then live without limits, without the parameters religion puts on you. Live for others!”

Notice that he says, “Your reward from heaven will be great”. True spirituality is not concerned with what others think of you or getting accolades from other people. Truly spiritual people are satisfied with a “heavenly” reward. Do you want to know a telltale sign of truly spiritual people? They are secure in who they are and live their lives for a higher purpose and are not concerned with recognition or their “five minutes of fame”. They know their reward will come in its due time but it is not their focus. Their focus, their undying passion, is to do good to others.

Also notice what he says after that, “You will truly be acting as children of the Most High”. Where religion feeds off of its own doctrines and dogmas, spirituality is only concerned with pleasing its Supreme Being. Religion feeds off of itself; spirituality feeds off of helping others and doing what is right and good.

Why is this so important? Because Jesus says at the end that God, the Most High, is “kind to those who are unthankful and wicked”. He gives insight into who the Creator is and what His character is like. Truly spiritual people want to emulate their Creator. They want to act like, speak like and in all possible ways, be like their Creator.

Spiritual people live out of the context of humility and thankfulness. They are so grateful for all that has been bestowed upon them, that they are compelled to return that to others. They live with a higher purpose. Their passion to be like their Creator drives them. And simply put, that is what separates them from religious people and their religion.

James the Just, the brother of Jesus said this about true religion:

“If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” 4

Here, James echoes what Jesus said earlier. True religion, spirituality, is caring for those around you and living your life for the benefit of others, thus glorifying God the Father.

He closes by saying that spiritual people do not allow the world to corrupt them. How does the world corrupt us? Arguably in many ways, but in context, by causing us to live by their standards of selfishness, greed, hatred and arrogance. That corruption can sometimes seem natural and overwhelming, but spiritual people fight that urge and live for the higher purpose: Honoring their Creator and Supreme Being by helping those around them.

In conclusion, the question I ask is this, “Is religion worthless?” Depending on your definition the answer may vary, but the glaring facts are that religion and religious people seek only to serve their and their organization’s own needs. In that way, religion is worthless.

On the contrary, spirituality exists, not in a vacuum of its own viability, but for the purpose of a greater good. That being said, spiritual people live their lives with a purpose that is greater than their own well-being. They live for their Creator by honoring all of His Creation, even if they don’t always (or ever) agree or think alike. That, I believe, is worth living – and dying – for.

1 Religious War. In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Copyright © 2000,2001,2002 Free Software Foundation, Inc. 51 Franklin St, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110-1301 USA

2 Mormonism and Violence. . In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Copyright © 2000,2001,2002 Free Software Foundation, Inc. 51 Franklin St, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110-1301 USA

3 Luke 6:27-36 Holy Bible, New Living Translation Copyright © 1996,2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust

4 James 1:26-27 Holy Bible, New Living Translation Copyright © 1996,2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust

Author Bio:
Kip is an ordained minister and has been both a youth pastor and a pastor as well as being a certified counselor. He ran an unconventional church in Illinois where he hosted concerts on a weekly basis and had several discussion groups each week on the relevancy of Christianity in our culture. He also opened up that venue to underprivileged kids every Saturday for a free breakfast and a time of games, art, music and free stuff. They were also involved in huge backpack giveaways for hundreds of kids along with food and toy drives for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Kip has written several small books, written manuals, been published in newspapers and taught throughout the world. He is the author of “A New Kind Of Church and Other Writings: Taking a Fresh Look and a New Approach to a Timeless Tradition”.

Book Info:
Right now, my old website is down and I am working on getting a new one up, therefore I have no direct site for any of my materials. If anyone is interested in viewing or purchasing my book the easiest way is to go to one of the following:
Barnes and Noble online (bn.com)

Contact Information:
J. Kip Givens