Posted in Food for thought

“Is the glass half full or half empty?” – Perspectives –

Please note: this is a very breif overview of these subjects, merely skimming the surface of information to present the three together and contrast them. I wrote this 2 years ago and have recently gone through it to shorten it, and edit bits and pieces 

People caught in a negative cycle or pattern of thinking and expressing themselves can cause a pessimistic perspective. To avoid this, its vital to find a way to naturally look for ways to lift your mood to give yourself an improved attitude. This may be a quick fix or a participation in deep spiritual ritual. No one person is the same, every person has a unique way of thinking; therefore every person responds differently.Religion, New Age Spirituality and Humanism all focus on concepts such as philosophy, ritual, symbols, values, ideology, beliefs, and world views.

I made a survey to find out the general and most popular norms of society, 100 people from all different ages, statuses, genders and belief systems completed. I also conducted qualitative research by interviewing a strongly religious man; Michael, a follower of astrology and tarot card reader woman; Terri and a humanist; Matthew to get cross-cultural comparison of their perspectives and beliefs.

There is a change of adherents to religion through different generations; in the past being much more popular than now, compared to what it may be in the near future.

Perspective

Perspectives – “a particular attitude towards or way of regarding something; a point of view”.

A negative perspective can drain you of energy and changes ones attitude towards all situations. When people feel down we naturally look for ways to make ourselves feel better.

It is a popular idea in society to want to act better, feel better, and look better which comes from improving our perspective and having a positive outlook on life, (could link in with a neoliberal ideology).

Society as a whole looks for ways to quick fix things, by rapid weight loss, cosmetic surgeries and medicine as people seem to think they can apply these technologies in order to give their perspective a ‘quick fix’ also. Different environments, cultures and persons deal with these technologies differently, therefore giving different outcomes.

 Humanists

The top answers in the survey reflect that human contact and certain environments are a practice in the majority of my respondent’s micro worlds. These sorts of activities are quite general in society today and could relate to a humanist idea of how one gains positive perspective in everyday life.

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Humanist – “a rationalist outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters.”

An interview I conducted with Matt; a 37 year old, Anglo-Saxon Australian man who refers to himself as a humanist by his philosophy;

“I am a person that believes in what I can see and in that I have never seen anything that would make me believe that there is a higher being of any sort.”

A humanist perspective states all people have similar needs within society. Emphasising human relationships and interactions having importantance to ones well-being. When a strong bond is formed between people it gives each person a sense of belonging and community which betters their perspective.

Within Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the third stage is ‘Social’ which includes “belongingness, affection and love, – from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships”.

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Matt’s ideology of improving perspectives is to sit with his wife over a coffee and discuss issues. This practice of reflecting on the problem and getting advice from a loved one is a social norm; within society today it is promoted to seek advice from loved ones. Matt stated

“I value true friendship and have a clear line between friend and acquaintance. This means that I have a strong trust in my friends and this allows me to be truly honest in even the worst of times.”

Self-Actualisation is having self-fulfilment and realising your personal potential, reaching the fifth stage of self-actualisation does better ones perspective.When Matthew was asked in the interview, “Do your beliefs help you be a positive person, and better your perspective?” he replied with

“My positiveness comes from a solid belief in my own ability and an understanding of my personality including its strong and weak points.”

This shows that Matthew has an holistic understanding of himself and his values, therefore reaching towards self- actualisation.

“One who reaches self-actualisation betters their own perspective through the choices you make day to day. Having the power to pursue your own happiness and having faith in yourself, not any higher being; improves your outlook on the situation in your life.” (Lewis, 2014)

Through the modernisation of Australia there are more persons that identify themselves as non-religious. In 2011, 4.8 million Australians chose this option which brings the percentage to 22.3% of the population.

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Because of the modernisation and Globalisation of society, persons within are increasing their knowledge and understanding of the world around them; therefore relying less on God-like or spiritual ideas for decision making.

The institution of a church is a symbol of community to share their beliefs and rituals. This is contrasted by New Age spirituality as New Age is being aware of ones inner consciousness and focuses on oneself for bettering perspectives. As Terri states:

“When I am feeling negative and need to have a better perspective I prefer to spend time thinking or meditating”

New Age Spirituality

New age spirituality includes alternative styles of prosperity sources; it is also a spiritual movement that aims for each human to reach their highest potential. New Age focuses on an individual way of attaining truth/enlightening perspective by a large variety of beliefs like: astrology, psychics, horoscopes, crystals and tarot card readings.

New Age doesn’t have a set scripture or rules to follow nor does it have a founder. It is simply a spiritual movement that has developed over time and people with similar beliefs have practiced. Please note: ‘New Age’ doesn’t mean it’s new, it’s merely a label used, some of these practices are ancient.

Ideologies of New Age spirituality that are quite common today include; psychic readings, tarot card readings and the use of crystals. It is also a norm for daily horoscopes to be in high selling newspapers and magazines in Australia, as people look to their horoscopes to give themselves hope and reflect on what positive aspects they see coming their way.( this could be seen as just someone being reflexive, regardless of what the horoscope says)

In my survey the minority identified with aspects of this New Age spirituality. Half respondents stated they don’t believe that crystals give off positive energies, 27% said they don’t know, which leaves the minority of respondents in the 21% stating they believe that crystals do. (keep in mind the respondents were all middle class Australians, limiting the diversity of the survey)

Interviewing Terri; a 46 year old Anglo-Saxon, Australian woman who studies Astrology and conducts Tarot Card readings, gave me a detailed account of New Age Spirituality discussing certain worldviews and values.

Terri defines New Age Spirituality as “…a belief in inner consciousness, and the use of alternate methods to encourage positivity in life; such as astrology, Tarot and crystals.”

The Oxford Dictionary (2010) defines ‘New Age Spirituality as “A broad movement characterized by alternative approaches to traditional Western culture, with an interest in spirituality, mysticism, holism, and environmentalism”

I think New Age Spirituality is a way of enlightening ones perspective by giving oneself hope and positivity. Terri sees her spirituality as a way to better her perspective which she feels is very different from religion;

“Spirituality is more flexible and more personal; it is about finding guidance or inner peace.”

Astrology can be read through horoscopes which are charts drawn to map the heavens at a specific time such as birth or a special event and are interpreted by relating the effect of the planetary positions to people or places which can then help them find guidance.

Terri defines Astrology to be “…system of defining individual personality traits based on influence of planetary positions in our solar system.”

Each star sign has a different set of traits in which one can relate to, and within horoscope charts there are specific names and symbols which have been continued on from the 3rdmillennium BC.

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Tarot card readings are a traditional ritual; they are a way of enlightening people to their situations and for giving the individual guidance. When faced with certain cards they allow you to reflect on how they may relate to your current situation and guide you to how you could over-come the particular issue or situation. For an example of what they look like, these are my Oracle cards, (another form):

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It is not that these cards have magic powers, the belief is in the meanings of each card and much depends on how the respondent recognises and applies the meaning to their own personal situations.

Terri states “I use Tarot card reading for guidance when I am uncertain of what action or direction to take.”

Tarot/Oracle card reading is a practice one may undertake to seek inner guidance, peace and allow one to define their thoughts and centre oneself.

In my survey it became apparent that only 9% of people stated they have a crystal or stone kept near them to help them be positive, obviously being the minority.

Terri believes “Crystals have their own energies and can positively influence our personal energies when they are placed near us and in certain positions.”

Some may argue with this statement, like Michael, a 31 year old Catholic. He states

“I view crystals as a quick fix…based on consumerism more than anything else.” He believes “…crystals are more of a Placebo effect…”

Terri uses crystals to

“…balance my energies and ward off negativity.”

Different spiritualties support different beliefs, but it comes down to the individual in New Age Spirituality and their individual beliefs, values, world views, ideologies and traditions.

Religion

Within the interview performed with Michael, a strong Catholicism follower, it became apparent that he defines religion to be

“…a community of people with common beliefs and spiritualities. Within religion there are guidelines given by people who have a deeper understanding of their spirituality and religion.”

Emile Durkheim, a theorist and the founder of functionalism, spent much of his academic career studying religions. Durkheim viewed religion within the context of the entire society and acknowledged its place in influencing the thinking and behaviour of the members of society.

Religion can help ones mindset because it is comforting for adherents. Michael claims that people are attracted to religion because it is a

“…flight back to what is known and what is comforting for that individual”

The continuity of the rituals within religion, like going every Sunday, is what some people know as tradition. Tradition is often very comforting for some, and in a time of a risk society, everyone needs comfort and ontological security which is something one can always find within the institution of a church.

Durkheim claimed that religion never concerns only belief, but it includes regular rituals and ceremonies which then within the group of believers strengthens their sense of group solidarity. His theory supports the idea that the rituals of religion are comforting for persons, because it gives everyone in society a chance to come together, which gives them human contact, making them feel better and give lifting demeanours.

Within Christian churches everyone is welcome and this is what makes Michael feel positive about being Catholic.

“The fact that everyone is welcome, no matter if you are rich, poor or disabled is comforting. It doesn’t matter; everyone is equal in the eyes of God.” – Michael

The amount of persons identifying as non-religious has increased significantly over the years. This may be because of the advance in technology and the rising popularity of the internet. Durkheim predicted that religion’s influence would decrease as society modernizes. He believed that scientific thinking would likely replace religious thinking, with people giving only minimal attention to rituals and ceremonies.

When I asked Matthew (2014, personal communication, 7th May) why he thought less people turn to religion he first said

“Google”

When told about the statistic increasing of non-religious adherents Matthew suggested that

“In 1971 the men of the church or leaders of other movements were well known for declaring their ability to answer all questions as the bible or other scripts will explain all to those willing to truly listen.”

This has changed over time because of more modernisation and scientific research there is, the more people use other sources like Google to find their answers quickly, as the modern way is to have things as quick as possible.

The Buddhist religion has a principal teaching of how to better your perspective, which makes it evident that people do use their religion to improve their philosophy.

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Through these aspects you then have a positive livelihood, which encourages you to put effort into what you are doing, and with positive effort comes positive concentration on still making it a good day which then gives you a positive mind because you have had a good day.

I personally think how one betters their perspective is how they achieve the right view when they wake up, whether it be through prayer and the belief that God is guiding you or it be through having the belief that the crystal around your neck will keep you positive; or because you have the belief that you have positive relations and guidance from those around you to give you that initial positive view.

It is about you wanting a sense of belonging, connection and relationships with either fellow persons or higher spiritual beings. I believe there isn’t a correct or incorrect spirituality because it is a personal belief. Everyone has their own philosophy on this idea, but I don’t believe anyone to have the authority to state that any one of those are incorrect.

These three different beliefs; Humanist, New Age Spirituality and Religion are viewed in society as very different. I have learnt that there is little differentiation between them, although they do have vastly different symbols and rituals they all have a background of bettering peoples perspectives by using similar morals and values of belonging, supporting and empowering adherents to do what they might otherwise not have believed they could do.

All have a way of lifting persons mentally by giving them belief in not only their spirituality but themselves as persons within society. The amount of followers to each has certainly changed in the past and is still changing in the present so the future generations of these forever modernising societies’ world views are unpredictable.

 

Resource list

Millikan, D & Drury,N 1991, Worlds Apart?, ABC Enterprises, Crow’s Nest NSW

Williams, R 1992, New Age Healing, Reader’s Digest, Sydney

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013, Losing my Religion?, Graph, Australian Bureau of Statistics <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features30Nov+2013>

Lewis, B 2014, Glossary Of Terms A-L For Introduction to Psychology, College website, with psychology related word definitions, Psychology Class Website, North Central State College, Ohio, <http://www.ncstatecollege.edu/webpub/blewis/NewFiles/Glossary1.html>

Linda Ferguson 2011, Buddhist 8 fold path to enlightenment, Picture, Linda Ferguson, <http://managementhelp.org/blogs/spirituality/2011/02/07/working-with-a-pure-heart-the-eight-fold-path/&gt; 2011

McLeod, S. A. (2007), Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Simply Psychology, <http://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html>

Survey Monkey 2013,What do you do to give yourself better perspective/feel better?, Graph, Survey Monkey, October, <http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/H3FQGW3&gt;

Prior, Matthew 2014 Personal communication, 7th May
Scott, Terri 2014 Personal communication, 27 January
Tobin, Michael 2014 Personal communication, 17th February
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This blog aims to capture things in my life that I love and have a passion for. These include my travels and travel plans, fabulous reads, general life observations and my continuing insight into anthropological studies.

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