Amid all this talk of wars on religions, usually contrived by the religion claiming to be warred upon, I thought it would be pleasant to speak of a religion that isn’t aggressively forcing itself on others, bearing false witness, engaging in acts of violence, or otherwise acting in a manner that isn’t charitable or kind.
Numenism is a small religion. Some call it a way of life – but I feel that’s an oxymoron. All religions are ways of living.
Others call it a “wiki” religion, or an “open source” religion, and that is truth. Our adherents help to update it and to keep it as close to true as is possible when faith and belief are involved. Through constant questioning and research, experimentation and peer review, Numenism stays current and in touch with its adherents.
It is not a religion for those who only show up on the Big Holy Days, although we have made some accommodation for those who are young, new, or are less able to be actively involved.
It is a religion for people who like control over their beliefs, like to question and explore, like to be actively involved.
This is perhaps why we have so few adherents. The other is that we’ve kept a very low profile while the foundation was being built. Our Founders weren’t prosyletizers, didn’t belief in advertising, and were internet averse. They believed in small recruiting of one person at a time, and their family. Which is a truly stable and – as time has shown – stagnant way to grow a belief/lifestyle.
Progress within Numenism has also been slow and steady. Again, excellent for stability, not so good for growth, especially as the Founders have aged out of life itself.
This cautious approach has given us a solid foundation to stand on. This is good news for a religion that was intentionally built as this one has been.
A little brief history. Numenism was formed in 1946 in Texas, USA. Specifically, in the DFW area, from Carswell Air Force Base. Several soldiers and their families got together because their beliefs at the time weren’t adequate to their experiences and they wanted something that could provide comfort, answers, and personal growth. At first, they were just a small study group, but when their children went off to college at UTAustin, it expanded and the focus changed from finding a religion that worked to creating one that worked.
These teens were the ones who made that difference. They were filled with the enthusiasm of the 50’s, and embraced the hippies, some of whom in turn embraced this fledgling religion. Some were lured off by Wicca and Witchcraft and Buddhism, but a few stayed and contributed to the bones of this new religion.
The mission of the religion, even before it had a name, was to become a religion of Americans for Americans by Americans, and indigenous belief system that accommodated modern ways from multiple peoples, a melting pot religion just as America was a melting pot country. That’s what we called it before the internet gave us more accurate terms like “wiki” and “open source”.
That’s what Numenism has tried to do – to be a religion created by Americans for Americans with Americans.
The few who stayed with Numenism have, as said earlier, aged out of life and our numbers have shrunk not just with the loss of those older adherents, many of the younger ones have also left for easier religions.
The number of adherents have fallen so far that I fear only a small handful of us are left.
And that’s the thing – Numenism was not an easy religion to adhere to in the firmative years. There was a lot of discussion, a lot of probing, a lot of soul-searching and research and testing. The foundation is there now, well-built, strong, and capable of bearing up under the changes and differences the future will inevitably bring. Life is full of changes, and a living religion should be as adaptable as life. Just as a baby is still a human even when it’s a teen or a young adult or a mature adult or a senior and regardless of the way the body and mind change, it remains human from birth to grave. So should a religion remain true to its core foundations even as it changes through various maturation stages.
Personally, as an adherent of Numenism since 1956 (one of the Austinites who joined with the children of the original Founders), I feel Numenism has developed a strong foundation and is adaptable.
Now, it’s time for us to ask if others would like to also join the Numenous Way, to become Celebrants. I’d like to see Celebrants who want to explore and continue to expand the boundaries of Numenism, to add to the lore and contribute to the celebrations of Numenism, to invigorate and make Numenism more vibrant and accessible.
It starts with you – a Celebrant. You learn about the history and roots of Numenism, and explore the foundation and the celebrations, integrate into the community, and make Numenism your own.
Being a Celebrant is the most basic form of being a Numenist. It can be very satisfying, providing all an average person needs or wants in a religion: community, comfort, support, traditions, joy, purpose.
Some people want more. And Numenism, being flexible like that, has more to offer.
There are two paths a person can take beyond Celebrant. One is the minister’s path and the other is the scholar’s path. Both paths eventually lead to becoming an Elder, if the person desires to progress that far.
Those on the ministerial path administer to the Celebrants, officiating over celebrations (such as births, namings, coming-of-age ceremonies, weddings, funerals, and such), advising people in Numenist spiritual matters, caring for the community as a whole and the individuals within it, arranging for assistance for adherents who need it, reminding people of helping one another out, officiating at the assemblies.
Those on the scholarly path do research and teach and explore in depth spiritual and religious and social matters. They can officiate at need in celebrations. They advise those on the ministerial path regarding information and methods of spiritual counseling but don’t usually engage in the counseling itself.
All three paths – celebrant, ministerial, scholarly – can offer suggestions and reasons for making changes in the procedures and beliefs of Numenism.
The fourth path in Numenism, the Elders, are the ones who make any final decisions on changes in orthodoxy regarding Numenism. They studied it for a minimum of 40 years and have been quizzed and had to prove capable of making such decisions soundly – and it may take a few years before the change is made and disseminated among the known Numenists. The Elders will consult with the scholars and ministers before making changes, and there may be a few Moosemasses where the decision is presented to everyone who attends.
At all levels of Numenism, everyone is a Celebrant. Some just give more service to Numenism than others, and work to know more. It’s how society works, and Numenism strives to emulate the best in society.
We do have some immutable ground rules upon which we are building the rest of the framework, and we’re pretty sure at this point that the foundation we’ve chosen is sparse but stable.
That foundation consists of these statements:
1. There is a generative, creative force that brought us and all we perceive into existence.
2. Immersing ourselves in this existence and questioning it is our purpose
3. Community, connections, family, and friends are important and to be cherished.
To elaborate a bit more:
1. That creative, generative force is not necessarily a god, a single entity, or even an entity. We call it, because we’re human and need labels and names and such and “creative, generative force” is long and unwieldy to say all the time, “Dea Nutrix” or the Good Nourisher” or the “Nourisher” or the “Great Good” or sometimes just “GG”. A few people enjoy calling it “the Force”, but it’s not really like the Force in Star Wars. There are no images, no anthropomorphization, of this, and we discourage anthropomorphizing until we know more about it. It would be kind of embarrassing, don’t you think, to assume this force looks one way (say, a bearded white guy) only to discover it’s really more like a Horta?
We do use symbols. Our favorite ones are Cookies, Moebius strips, Infinity loops, and cornucopias.
2. This universe exists. It’s full of wonders and marvels and mysteries. Denying it, transcending it, ignoring it – these all seem blasphemous to us. No, we study it, immerse ourselves in it, take joy in it, learn about it, play with it, and experiment with it. It’s amazing.
3. We aren’t in this alone. Our friends, family, neighbors, like-minded people, not-like-minded people, all of us are here. We are part of this and all of this is part of us. So immersing ourselves in other people – helping them, being helped by them, caring for them, being cared for by them, arguing, debating, testing – we do this together.
This is why we say Numenism is an open source religion – everyone who is Numenist contributes by sharing their observations, experiments, thoughts, ponderings, ideas, etc. With these three statements, we can build, rebuild, add on to and take away from, and alter, and grow Numenism to be what it needs to be. It’s a wiki religion with an editor (the elders). It’s a open source that works when things are balanced and honest. It’s a fusion of experiments, theories, and data.
If you want answers, Numenism doesn’t have them; but if you want to ask questions and explore possibilities, then Numenism might be a way to go.