One of the more common responses to my last blog, which you can read here, is that we are all one and so should have access to any sort of spirituality we choose. More than that, if we were to look at our DNA each of us would go back to bloodlines that are likely from Native, African, Indian, or other cultures.
While I understand the response and the level of thinking that created it, this line of thinking is a misunderstanding of oneness and the currents of energy that are present in spiritual work.
Let me explain. Yes, we are all one. But we are not all one homogenized blob. We are one… and we are separate. Oneness in new-age circles has begun to mean that we are all equal, that we all have the same knowledge and understandings, and that we should all have equal access to pretty much whatever we want. If we think about this in a non-spiritual simplistic way, consider if you would give a third grader a calculus textbook. The truth is that although we all have access to divinity we are not all equal, we do not all have the same intellect, the same understandings, and we do not all deserve to get whatever we want when we want it.
Plenty of people out of this movement really screw themselves up because they get their hands on a Calculus textbook when they should be learning addition. They feel entitled to the type of work (Tantra, Shamanism, Magick, etc) at the deepest, most powerful level they can find. This is done without the learning of basic principles and understandings, the realization that people have died and bled and gone through all sorts of horrors and initiations to learn this work before them, and an understanding that practices require depth and daily work, sometimes for decades or lifetimes, to practice appropriately.
We do not all have the same knowledge. We do not all have the same capacity to work with some things. Some of us were meant to be Shamans, some of us were meant to study Shamanism for self-help. Some of us have a natural, genetic talent towards folk practices. Some of us come from families where there were practitioners and that knowledge has been passed down to us either orally or through our DNA. We are not all equal, we are not all the same, we do not all have the same talents, abilities, intelligence, and understandings. Yes, we all are divine. But we are all separate too.
All spiritual paths, all spiritual practices have an energetic current to them. This current defines the practices and is like a wave form of energy flowing through it and giving it power. Many people when they appropriate take the techniques of whatever they are studying (I will use Shamanism as an example because it is so prevalent, but you could certainly put in Hoodoo, Tantra, etc here) without understanding the whole current. Without the current there is no power… it is just a facade, a mere shadow of what was intended. Without understanding the cultural reasoning behind the practices you are doing, the cultural narrative, the archetypes, the history of the culture, the emotions it is like you are acting in a really bad play.
Let me use an example here. Hoodoo (African-American folk magic) has become the new “flavor” of the month for spiritual sorts. People who become interested in Hoodoo do honey jars (to sweeten people and situations), vinegar jars (to sour people and situations) and other “spells” because they sound interesting. Maybe these practices work, or slightly work for them. But without understanding that this work comes from a current of slaves who were in desperate circumstances and utilized whatever would help them to not be noticed and was immediately surrounding them in their environment you do not understand the energy that empowers these practices. Until you understand the collective grief, the anger, the cultural narrative, the stories, and the history you will not understand or tap into the power of this work. Until you understand how Hoodoo actually works and how to set up your work amidst ancestors and the other forces that empower the work, you are simply mimicking and appropriating a pale shadow of what this work actually is.
Each spiritual practice is a way of life. It is not a hat to try on or techniques to do. A pipe ceremony out of Native context without an understanding of how and why such a ceremony would occur, what sort of energies would be present at such a ceremony, and the history and cultural narrative of the pipe, the particular Natives you are emulating, and the emotions of such an act is without any sort of power, context, and out of the energetic current that it should be in. It does not take into account the years, the decades, and the blood, sweat and tears that people have gone through to bring power to such a ceremony and truly learn about it in a non-beginner way. If you do not understand the history of the culture, the triumphs and the tribulations, the archetypes, the stories, and have not studied in depth the spiritual practices and energetic current of the form of spiritual practices you are mimicking, if you have not had a daily practice and fully understand the all that is going on with the culture and its ceremonies or practices you are emulating it is cultural appropriation. Beyond that, it is just rude.