I know a young woman who recently was approached by a member of a church group that appears to be rather like a secret society, operating in the shadows where they won't be detected. From what I've learned so far, the group seems to be a "By Invitation Only" organization. Seems that she went for a reading from the big guru of the group and was (deservedly) told wonderful things about herself and was "nailed" emotionally by him and so she decided to explore the things this man seemed to be able to offer her.
As I was writing the previous words, I realized that her experience with this new phase of her life will better equip her for the rest of her life by giving her realizations that she needs to be able to empathize with others.
She has both African American forbears and Caucasian ones. She is extremely attractive. Most importantly, for a group that does spirit communication (readings, spirit greetings) as part of its church service, she's a prize to be won because she is extremely open to spirit and has "seen" spirits without fear since she was in her teens. Recently she began to "hear" spirit. As the priest of the newfound religion realized, also, she is seriously seeking direction because she is at a crossroads in her life.
When a restless, goal-less, seeking soul whose love life has crumbled around her and whose allergies are forcing her into a new career, encounters an organized religion that promises to honor her black persona as well as her white one and let her include her ability to see and hear spirit, as well, that is powerful juju, so to speak.
I tell you this because what happened next in her new path raised for me some questions that really made me dig deep to better be able to interpret my own beliefs to others. I felt assaulted by the next developments in her experience: the "priest" then told her that she might be cursed, and that even those who seemed the kindest could inadvertently curse her, unbeknownst to her. She asked what she could do-he told her to buy a chicken and one other foodstuff and come back to him and participate in animal sacrifice to counteract any existing curse.
My friend did just that. Blessedly, (perhaps also to avoid the wrath of the SPCA), he didn't have her watch him sacrifice the animal. While she meditated, per his instruction, he was in the adjoining room with the chicken when he killed it. She did hear him praying endlessly during her lone "meditation," though. Finally the period of meditation came to an end, he opened the door between the rooms, came out, and they sat and discussed what had happened to her. She was convinced that she had at one point suddenly felt the strong presence of several spirits in the room around her. He said that had to have been at the point where the sacrifice happened. She seems to believe that.
The man then invited her to come to a church service and explained that the church is based on Catholicism and has Catholic saints to pray to, except that the sexes of those saints have been reversed, women are men and vice versa in this religion.
This young woman whom I really love dearly reminds me of friends that a friend of mine knew who were both, I believe, lawyers, were super idealistic, and who actually got caught up in the infamous James Jones sect and were nearly killed by his private stock of cyanide-laced Kool Aid. Those people escaped because they were on a ship to buy supplies for the compound when it happened. These are idealistic, trusting souls who are the natural prey of those who would use others to further their own ends. I want to avoid using the words scam, con, etc., but it's hard to avoid it, because money and power are the usual motivations for such people.
Now, here's what has gone on in my thinking since she unfolded this whole tale for me: I didn't want to just condemn the practices she laid out for me. Because she now thinks she feels more comfortable with an African religion than any other having grown up in basically a black chuch her mother attended (this is one), and because she needs someone or something to lean on right now, I don't want to upset her. So I didn't say that I think this is retrograde religion; but I do.
I also think it relies on fear, and the shock of killing any living creature, or having one killed on your behalf with mumbo jumbo said during the experience not only make a powerful and memorable experience in the person's life, but is also, as far as I'm concerned indicative through its cruelty and disregard for life of being one of the old-fashioned, bullying ones. Blood sacrifice bullies people, that's what I believe now that I've turned this around and around in my mind for many days.
I happened on something in a Spiritualist training manual that I think is pertinent. It was actually talking about the Christian notion of atonement and that Christ died for our sins so that we would not have to atone for them. We don't, according to that notion, ever have to atone for our sins. The quote is this:
"We believe that all ceremony, ritual and creed are manmade, and have been added to these basic facts of all religions by man in his search for something that would help him in the solving of his own personal problem in the era in which he lived.
It is quite evident that man has always been prone, in the vernacular of our day "to pass the buck." He has always tried to find some way of escaping the consequences of his own errors. In early animism he gave sacrifices to the gods in order to protect himself from harm-in Christianity we find the Doctrine of the "Vicarious Atonement" These are only two of the crutches that man has invented to lean upon when the day of retribution came. Man has at last learned, through years of experience, that there is no escape from the action of the law. Sooner or later he must pay regardless of the crutches that he has invented in order to gain immunity from making reparation for personal error."
"There is no Vicarious Atonement in Spiritualism. Man himself is responsible for the conditions that he creates in his own life. He alone can make reparation. Jesus understood and lived in harmony with the law.
Edgar Cayce, however, saw God's Grace as a universal law, as well. This is the law that says God wants us to be saved from our fears and concerns and if we will open up to it, it will come into us and remove negative karma from our lives without our having to do anything at all to make that happen.