By Lynnea Urania Stuart
Some, after reading this article, might feel like murdering me. But I suppose if there’s a good reason to die, this would be an example.
The recognition of religious liberty to the level of the preeminent right has long been coveted by religionists. On October 6 a memorandum by Attorney General Jeff Sessions made especially broad provisions for religious liberty, enveloping not only the rights of individuals and houses of worship, but corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and even joint stock companies.1
This comes in the same month in which the Attorney General declared that Title VII protection sfor sex discrimination do not cover transpeople, effectively declaring open season upon the trans demographic except where protections have been established by existing legislation.2
The actions of the Attorney General constitute the sanctioning of meanness in the name of religion.
But the breadth of this policy should interest those of us who don’t identify with traditional American religion of any kind. The reason is simple. It has now become more difficult to sue for prosecute acts of meanness resulting the guaranteed “liberty” for any religionist or organization led by any religionist to refuse any benefit to a stigmatized minority like transpeople because “religion demands it.” Barring study of pending court cases challenging this policy now underway, we might consider that if religious liberty takes precedence over other human rights then maybe the time is ripe for us to begin a new, more inclusive religion supporting a range of ethics counter to Dominionist practices.
Within that Department of Justice memo, Principle Number 12 out of 20, the Attorney General stated the following concerning the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA):
“RFRA applies to all sincerely held religious beliefs, whether or not central to, or mandated by, a particular religious organization or tradition. Religious adherents will often be required to draw lines in the application of their religious beliefs, and government is not competent to assess the reasonableness of such lines drawn, nor would it be appropriate for government to do so.”3
This particularly has weight upon Principle Number 16:
“Employers covered by Title VII may not fail or refuse to hire, discharge, or discriminate against any individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of that individual’s religion. Such employers also may not classify their employees or applicants in a way that would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities because of the individual’s religion. This protection applies regardless of whether the individual is a member of a religious majority or minority. But the protection does not apply in the same way to religious employers, who have certain constitutional and statutory protections for religious hiring decisions.”4
So what if a person’s religion is in fact tied to gender identity?
Let’s not take such a proposition too lightly. What if gender identity has been awakened in a dream? What if dreaming practices are the fulcrum of a spirituality? In this respect the two could indeed be tied together.
But spirituality isn’t the same as religion. Religion is the codification and enforcement of a particular spiritual tradition. I emphasize the term, “tradition”.
The tyrannical nature of religious traditions is well known. Years ago a question arose in a forum on Blog Catalog, saying, “Let’s start a cult. What should we teach?” The propositions were laughable including such things as the elevation of Broadway shows. Of course, Broadway already has such a cult following, the most ridiculous idea was in suggesting a new cult for that purpose in the first place.5
Of course, cults can be dangerous. This writer wrote about cults that included not only religious cults but corporate cults and we have faced a lot of them. Cults destroy families and lives, subjugating its members in such a way that may elevate the few and manipulate the many.6
So if we need to codify a tradition that honors gender identity, we must also be careful that such a tradition cannot be designed as a set of commands per sé. If we must codify anything with respect to spiritualities, then we must codify what ethics make spiritualities happen in the first place. What happens instead of an iron-fisted religion is a religion that facilitates a flowering of spiritualities, honoring the rights of individuals who consecrate themselves to a spiritual discipline and not tied to any specific deity. After all, a deity may become manifest through a spirituality but not all spiritualities are theistic spiritualities.
Not all religions derive from a voice out of heaven. But all assert some kind of ethical system. Some operate on completely different dynamics than the worship of an anthropomorphic god and have little in common with Abrahamism. This writer has known not a few Atheists taking part in Hermetic rites. Such was not the case of Confucius. Neither is it the case for Unitarians and Universalists that have produced minds like Sir Isaac Newton. But they don’t offer much in the way of assisting in the development of spirituality today and a visit to a Unitarian-Universalist Church may land you in a discussion of newspaper articles and prying into how you vote.7
Perhaps Buddhist approaches to meditation and mindfulness aren’t far from a non-theistic religion, though divine beings do exist in Buddhism, with Kwan Yin most noted, a compassionate goddess sometimes called the “Isis of the East” who collects the tears of the world. While we may recognize the immense contributions Buddhism has made to the world, we may find that also to be insufficient for the rights of LGBT peoples because acceptance thereof has by no means been universal among Buddhists.
What this writer suggests is to go back to the very foundations of spirituality to find its identity. In this respect, there’s nothing more fundamental than the dream and quite often it’s in a dream the transitioning person finds her or his identity. This may equally apply to intersex and gender non-conforming individuals as well as those with issues regarding sexual orientation.
It also has implications with respect to right and wrong. Consider these tenets from Restorative Ethics:
1. Right action is that which promotes and facilitates the highest possible innocence.
2. Innocence is the capacity to dream and to wonder as a telestatic virtue, a mean between cynicism and self-deception.
3. Ideas concerning dreams and wonderings must be evaluated by reason and subsequently so must ethical decisions.
4. Innocence is differentiated from selfish ambition as the counterfeit of innocence in terms of their respective approaches to truth: the former following “truth in essence” (a non-absolute version of objective truth) and the latter following relative truth (in which one regards truth as malleable according to will).
5. Innocence is differentiated from delusion and insanity in a similar way because these are states in which perceptions of truth and falsity become skewed beyond what can be agreed upon within a given modal reality.
6. Promotion and facilitation of the highest possible innocence demands the promotion of liberty as a categorical imperative in order to facilitate and restore moral agency: restoring after crisis, while attempting to alleviate tragedy.
7. Right action demands in its facilitation a mode of detachment lest obsession with good and evil destroy natural innocence.
This view, with a version of innocence not in the vernacular would be directly applicable to cultivation through dreaming practices. Perhaps the greatest difficulty for most people to understand this version of innocence rests in the belief that we only “have” dreams as a species. The concept of dreaming practices as an intentional art is alien to most people, though it’s well known in Telestatic and Shamanic traditions from prehistory.
Restorative Ethics arose in 2012 in response to a philosophic problem observed among those studying Ethics. The vernacular of Ethics has been taught in such a way that more could be found to condemn in humanity than commend. Sadly, many religions today do much the same, precisely because they build upon precepts that say, “Do this or go to hell.” Moral agency can too easily become damaged and destroyed out of popular censure within an organization, whether or not such censure has been judiciously enacted.
In other words, there’s a right and wrong to… well… right and wrong.
Aristotle took a different approach to Ethics than what many of us do today with human relationships. His approach was one of Virtue Ethics, in which right action is a mean between 2 vices. Exactly what that “mean” is never has clear definition. Clear definition isn’t supposed to exist. It isn’t a set of commands. Instead, it’s an art one develops.
Restorative Ethics takes much the same approach, built upon innocence as a specific virtue as its cornerstone, despite appearing as a form of Consequentialism and as such demands the same scrutiny as Consequentialism with respect to Remote Effects (what is good now may not be good far in the future). Medical Ethics are built upon Consequentialism (not the Utilitarian versions of either Jeremy Bentham or John Stuart Mill) and Remote Effects are addressed in long term scientific studies.
The right approach to right and wrong has a higher purpose through facilitating and restoring moral agency. The aim of promoting the highest innocence offers the best impetus for this.
Of course, if there must be legal precepts applicable to the facilitation of the highest innocence, we might consider certain ethical maxims or principles to “religiously” guard the safety of those who engage in dreaming practices, those who face gender identity issues, and others who love them all. Here are 22, each allowing plenty of wriggle room for further examination in practical settings, for after all, this is an art of compassion, not a set of iron-fisted rules by which to bludgeon one another:
- Honor the dreamers and those who awaken to higher paths.
- Honor the sanctity of sacred spaces, writings, covenants, altars, and telestria and offer cleansing to those that had been dedicated to unnecessary harm.
- Respect the divine names, and ennoble them that they may also ennoble.
- Take time for rest, meditation, and prayer; setting aside time for others also to give attention to their spiritual paths.
- Harm no sentient being except as necessary to sustain life.
- Desire no benefit except what contributes to the highest innocence.
- Abandon not the dependent in your charge.
- Honor the homes and circles of families, households, friends, and lovers among sentient beings, coveting none.
- Assist the laboring parents to alleviate their care.
- Honor the child above yourself as your teacher of innocence and make not the child a weapon within its family.
- Honor the claims of possession of sentient beings except claims of possession for the purpose of involuntary servitude, trafficking, or theft.
- Accept no gift tied to the rendering of a biased or harmful action.
- Honor the contract entered freely and in good faith, but let the contract exacted by fraud be void.
- Honor identities with their names, pronouns, true signatures, signets, and seals.
- Witness to the truth in its proper context.
- Show hospitality to other sentient beings.
- Set aside a portion for the relief of others.
- Honor the instructors of truth, wisdom, skill, and enablement, rendering double honor to the elders.
- Spend time with the dying and honor the dead, especially those senselessly killed.
- Labor with your best efforts, giving due diligence.
- Test all experience with truth and virtues known.
- Plant trees, cleanse the land, and replenish the oceans for future generations.
No doubt these principles would make some people squirm. That’s understandable. I squirm too because I’ve learned many of these through my own failings and shame. I make no special claim to sainthood. Virtue’s still hard-learned for me even now. Probing with these principles opens up plenty of debate and that’s a good thing. But aside from such a set of statements, the very idea of beginning a religion upon dreaming practices and innocence can raise some serious issues in terms of organization.
Would adherence demand one not be a member of another faith? Hardly. We have no need to exclude those of other religions if we build another. Would we need an organization with a hierarchy? O please. Let elders emerge in due course and remain nothing more except perhaps an elected chairperson. If anyone feels the need for any more than a convention or conference to study issues pertaining to spirituality and ethical concerns, then certainly that person must be doing it wrong. Ethics should facilitate as an art, not tear down and the same holds true for religion. The force of good actions should surpass prejudices and attract adherents much more than dogmatic blather.
So when it comes to oppression of transpeople by employers it could conceivably become a religious liberty issue favoring the transperson. It could be addressed in a court of law with respect to the RFRA, if indeed such a religion is recognized and, true to the Attorney General’s memo, government isn’t competent to determine its reasonableness or give weight to majority status. Any demand by an employer that a person detransition runs into conflict against the 14th principle in the foregoing list and possibly others as well.
Of course, recognition doesn’t happen overnight, neither can it happen at all unless some group of people decide to develop it further. What would we call it? If anyone wants to take it up, they can decide upon a name themselves, if indeed a name is necessary in the first place. This writer considers the ethical statements themselves to have the greater importance as facilitators of natural innocence, and if held, have as much religious weight as the sayings of Confucius have to his followers.
So why 22 principles? Could there be others? Certainly. I stopped at 22 for a reason. After all, the core principles of Restorative Ethics are 7. If we take 22 and divide by 7 we approximate the value of π, the proportion that governs the circle. After all, if we are to build a new religion, the circle fits the best whether the circle be that of a family, friends, temple space, or even the azimuth through which we survey our world.
As pertaining to dreaming practices, this writer has taught many and wrote a whole book on them.8 They’re available to everyone who cares to approach that discipline and drugs do not help in this matter. But this writer isn’t about to take credit for the founding of a religion and anyone who wants to presume this upon his, her, or eir self should summarily dismiss the idea. These things should develop as the collective experience thereof unfolds.
What matters most is living well with a sense of the best for ourselves and for others including sentient beings not human. Yes, that includes animals as far as their understandings permit and that’s very likely more potent than we think. Ask Koko the Gorilla. She should be able to tell some ideas of her own through sign language like she did on video to plead with “stupid humans” to hurry and help the Earth.9 It would also apply to potential friends and frienemies from outer space. If the Vatican can accommodate such beings, why not the rest of us?10
If our ethical practices exceed that of the Dominionist, we will certainly prevail. By then the laughable proposition of a new religion might not be so laughable anymore. If indeed we prevail over the Dominionists through our Ethics and spiritualities, we might have the current Attorney General to thank, even though he might take such thanks as a left-handed compliment.
- Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty (October 6, 2017), p. 4. Memo: Office of the Attorney General: https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1001891/download, Retrieved October 13, 2017.
- Laura Jarrett. Sessions says civil rights law doesn’t protect transgender workers (October 5, 2017) Web: CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/05/politics/jeff-sessions-transgender-title-vii/index.html. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
- Ibid, p. 5.
- The writer relies upon her own recollections, having taken part in this forum from 2008 to 2011.
- Lynnea Urania Stuart. Internal Destroyers (February 24, 2017) Web: Transpire : https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2017/02/24/internal-destroyers/. Retrieved October 13, 2017. 2017.
- The author witnessed this and broke ties with the Unitarian-Universalists because of encroachment of the right of secret ballot.
- Stuart, Lynnea Urania. The Téssara (2008) Not available for publication in its full form before the death of the writer.
- (n.a.) Gorilla Tactics (January 6, 2016) Web: Snopes: http://www.snopes.com/what-does-koko-know-about-climate-change-nothing/ . Retrieved October 13, 2017.
- Adam Withnall. Pope Francis says he would baptize aliens: “Who are we to close doors?’ (May 13, 2014) Web: The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/pope-francis-says-he-would-baptise-aliens-9360632.html . Retrieved October 13, 2017.