halloween is a shortening,if not a corruption of all hallows eve,the day or rather night of the dead.it is my view that no-one needs to be a follower of a religion or spiritual path for this to have some significance.it is said that this is the time of year when the divide between this very “concrete”,material and often banal world is at one of its narrowest or thinnest points.there may be some psychological truth to that even if it is not as expressed,or not scientific nor rational.i observe that soem at least of the most militant atheists still carry around in their consciousness or psychologies,elements of superstitions or earlier ways of looking at the world.i remain a heretical believer in a spritiual path,and would acknowledge some of this for myself.that said i don’t read or believe in astrology,but have seen miltant rationalists,atheists,secularists do exactly that.how many of us in marking deaths of people important to us or their anniversaries write RIP,without believing in what that literally means.it can of course have alternative meanings.then i observe how even in a secularised cosumer dominated culture many people mark the departure of others.there are for example the remains of flowers and cards and tokens at the place on kilburn high road where a young black woman was shot dead duing the summer just gone.we all have a culture,we give things,people and events meanings,we tell each other stories….
my own spiritual path contains a lot of paradoxes.whilst it has less of a fixation on the dead than some other more orthodox forms of christianity,it does acknowledge the psychological importance of”passing”,and indeed had a spiritual form in the past,the consolamentum,which we might claim was highjacked by the orthodox for their own purposes and which included some increased exercise of control over other humans thought.
but some kind of marking of passing originated in the early christian churches variously known as the “day of the dead”,or as “all saints”and”all souls”.those were the days when the churches would have been unlikely to have established a social hierarchy,not in their own governance but in their outlook on the world.all saints was a time of prayer,remembrance and protection of believers,and all souls was for all human kind,where effectively the only difference was that an individual was a believer or not and that no particular value went with either status-it was simply that one person might be a believer and another not.it was only later,possibly under the development of and overt catholicism that it became about saints and sinners,where the meaning of saint shifted from simple believer to special,holy person and humanity,but especially the non believers labelled as pagans,heathens or sinners-not even just refusers of god,or the right god,but cast out into the outer darkness of sin,evil wrong doing,wickedness.that in itself has a particlar western association-it is the western,catholic and indeed protestant churches which have very overdeveloped notions of original sin,laid at the feet or rather the womb of women,from which mary,mother of god,at least for the catholic tradition is to blame for everything and forms a strong part of the divison of women into the virgin/whore dichotomy,and for me is a powerful,negative element in the psychology of mysognyny.
i admit that whilst i am neither clever,nor special and would not necessarilly have expressed it when young i was clearly a heretic from being quite young as i rejected the”original sin”explanation as simply not right,and not an explanation from when i was quite young.i would have lined up with Pelagius,and early english monk who rejected said”original sin”.
i guess i went down hill all the way after that,but that is another story,except to say i remain a heretical believer today.i still reject”original sin”,and indeed much else,though sometimes for different reasons to when i was a child or youth,and i would hope with greater understanding.
i still feel ambivalent about”halloween”,and often have a”bah!humbug!”response to what might be seen as another trivialised,americanised,consumerised”even”stripped of anything except superficial meanings.this year i decided on a different approach.i have bought bags of wrapped sweets to give away and have asked the children not to scare themselves with spooks and ghosts but to think about the children who will not be able to go”trick or treating”tonight because they don’t have someone to care for them or about them,or who are homeless or too poor,or oppressed or exploited here or elsewhere in the world.i do not want or mean to be self righteous but it does seem to me as both a revolutionary socialist and as agnostic christian that we do have to share the message in the real world-to care for and about each other.i hope perhaps an adult will go away,not remembering me but a few words intended with my effort at kindness or that a child might remember that funny old bloke who asked them to think of someone else.and of course they go away with some sweets…
we are after all social beings.there is not enough love or kindness in the world,unless we try to make it so.even if prayer counts for nothing,then in some respects good intentions must.unless someone has a better idea,that,at this moment is the best i can do.