Chung Pyung Lake Workshops

Westerners - Chung Pyung Lake

The points I wish to raise is the disadvantage Westerners face when following an Eastern religion. Time and again, and perhaps at ever deeper levels, we get Charlie Browned into a (more than likely sub-conscious) assumption that we are experiencing a novel form of spirituality, when in fact we are experiencing an every day, old as the hills, Joe Schmoe spirituality that people in the East have had around them forever.

I'm not saying the spirituality is any more or less "true" as a result, it is just that our approach is "a-contextual"; lacks insight into the context or nature of that in which we involve ourselves. In this area there are brothers and sisters who have tons more expertise than I. (I am just a hobbyist in this area).

The work of Korean Shaman's to drive out evil spirits and cure disease is the religion of uneducated, rural Koreans, and (if I am not mistaken) animistic Japanese. It's what Koreans do all the time. In the modern age folks look down on it as primitive and superstitious, but probably still have a nostalgia for it, or a secret belief in it (you can take the boy out of the country. But you can't. . . .)

(It might be compared to how Western members have related to Father as the Messiah. What if you grew up in a country where it was hard to find a man over 40 who did not think of himself as the Messiah?)

In short, while we go into all sorts of sophisticated theological contortions, the idea of going to some medicine man in the mountains whose place (and medicines) are dirty, and who tells you your ills are due to spiritual possession, is the most common thing in the world for millions of people; not only in Korea, but in Africa, Polynesia, Latin America etc.

It's just what people do. It's just where people go. (I'm not sure, but I could imagine an inverse to our Chung Pyung Lake thread) in which two rural Koreans get into a big debate over whether Western doctors are legit, because they know someone who went for a cold, seemed cured for a couple of weeks, but then their cold came back.

Shamanism is one of the most universal, and most primitive forms of religion on earth. It is everywhere, and it is virtually "un-uprootable." In every culture the "higher" religion is always "appropriated" and "contaminated" by the "pagan" "heathen" elements of the "indigenous" peoples.

North America has its version of this too. The Christian healers in the backwoods. If they weren't "Christian" they'd be casting spells an using potions. . . but they'd be the very same people, with the same beliefs, same practices, and same unexamined theories of spiritual reality.

Again, let me pause half way here to reiterate that I am not suggesting that these "primitive" and "superstitious" forms of religion-cum-medicine are not "true," I'm just saying they're old, and for a lot of people it's "just their religion," even if they do "go to church." (Oh, and just an aside. . . if the Shamans "kill" a few, or a few commit suicide. . . yeah. . . odds. . . you're always gonna loose a few, just like the western shrinks, and just like the surgeons at Bethesda Naval Hospital.)

The second and related matter is that if you can get a sense of how Korea is culturally split between the modernists (pro-education, pro-western learning), and the traditionalists (pro-shaman, pro-"Korean"-tradition, anti-western), you will come to know a great deal about the internal dynamic which drives forward the history and evolution of the Unification Church. Just to get an idea of the impulses, and how the split feels, we can turn to the US. Think of a young, snitty, arrogant little piece of crap, just out of Yale, clawing his way up the New York Times editorial pool, drinking in the right spots, ordering the right coffee drink in the right Soho cafe, and think of his attitudes toward Jerry Falwell. (If you've got that, now realize that there are a bunch of "Christians" way to the primitive "right" of Falwell!)

Well, maybe it's better that we get sent to Korea to get ahnsooed, than to the Ozarks. If it were in the Ozarks we'd have a little too much familiarity with what we dealing with, and it might be harder for us. With a sparkly-eyed spright like Miss Kim who glides as if on air over the rocky mountain paths, the whole thing takes on a much more mystical, and perhaps thereby more efficacious force in our pursuit of the Divine.

I think, once we have a better cultural and historical context for "placing" the various spiritual practices into which we are invited, we would have a better chance of engaging the practice with a less "dear-in-the-headlights" expectations, and strained analyses, and more of a chance of gaining from it what its adherents have long known it is likely to produce (more or less within on standard deviation from the mean).

(By the way, I hope I have not offended or upset anyone. I have not expressed any opinion on the work of Hyo Nam Kim. I only suggested the cultural and historical context in which her type of activity occurs).

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