Wednesday, April 30, 2014

An interesting article about Khmer superstitions over in Khmer440.  Much of this stuff is old news to me, but some of it is new. 
As the writer notes in his opening, every country has these superstitions, but what is interesting about Cambodia (from a Western perspective) is how strongly these superstitions are believed in, and how adamantly defended they are.  This is partly because the line sometimes gets blurred between what we Westerners would pejoratively call superstitions, and what perhaps should more accurately be called an animist view of religion.
The article is also, as the writer notes, only scratching the surface of the many strongly held beliefs in the supernatural in Cambodia.  (See also here, here, here , here, and here).

My initial reactions to these various Cambodian superstitions was to see this as some evidence against belief in the supernatural.  Or at least evidence that the human mind was perfectly capable of erroneously perceiving the supernatural when it was not there.

This is because of my Western Christian background, where the debate between spiritualism and materialism is largely dominated by the Christian / atheist divide.  Some people in the West strongly feel the presence of God in their lives, other people strongly deny this presence--and left purely to this dualism, it is difficult to arbitrate which worldview is correct.  If someone claims to have witnessed miracles, or had a spiritual experience, or otherwise felt God in their hearts, then how can you or I say what they felt or didn't feel?

However because the Christian worldview claims exclusivity, it is incompatible with the religions in Southeast Asia.  If monotheism is correct, then animism must be wrong.  And if animism is correct, than monotheism must be wrong.  And if monotheists and animists both claim to be having experiences (or visions, or feelings) which validate their worldview, then this to me indicates the faultiness of using subjective human experiences as a way to prove a religious worldview, and has caused me to think such experiences are more indicative of the frailty of the human mind than they are indicative of any real supernatural  presence.

An interesting counterview, however, is held over at Whisky Prajer [HERE and HERE], who is taking the wide varieties of human experience with the supernatural as indication that there might really be something out there that doesn't fit into a purely materialistic or monotheistic view of the world.  I'm not sure I'm entirely ready to make that leap, but it is food for thought.

3 comments:

Darrell Reimer said...

Mm -- point of clarification: I'm not ready (not yet, at least) to suggest there's anything "out there." What seems clear to me is our species operates under multiple grammars of existence/awareness that intersect and interact at more points than we can even begin to account for. Enforcing a binary "valid/invalid" template on these grammars will inevitably impoverish the wielder.

Darrell Reimer said...

Say, have you read James' Varieties of Religious Experience? I think you'd dig it.

Wade Davis is kinda cool, too.

Joel said...

Point of clarification noted. Perhaps I was reading into you again.

I've not heard of either of those authors, but the James book in particular looks interesting. I'll keep my eyes open for it.