Open Source Spirituality: Part II

Spirituality in the internet age

Will the open nature of the internet age start to affect how we think about spirituality?

In the last installment of this post we talked about what open source and p2p mean and how the concepts have helped to create the democratization of media creation, news, art, and countless other areas.  There was a recent post on Open Democracy discussing how these concepts could be applied to spirituality and possibly lead to a more collective, rather than hierarchical view of how human beings experience spirituality.

One of the salient points of the article is that religion and spirituality are often products of their times as much as the times are a product of religion.  A great example of that is the structure of the early Catholic Church.  The Church came rose to prominence in the power vacuum that was left by the fall of the Roman Empire. The political and economic system that replaced the centralized imperial governance revolved around strongmen controlling small fiefdoms that were farmed by peasants who were tied to the land. These fiefdoms also supplied soldiers and waged war against their rivals all while pledging fealty to the strongman or lord.  If this sounds like the complete opposite of what Jesus preached, it’s because it is.  So why did the Catholic Church also organize itself in a similar fashion with priests pledging fealty to Bishops in powerful cities, who in turn pledged fealty to the Pope?  One of the reasons the church structured itself this way was because of the political and economic system of the time.  The church mirrored that organization not through a conscious decision, but because that was the best way to structure an organization in the low middle ages.

So what does that have to do with the democratization of spirituality? If the organizational and sociopolitical system of the middle ages imprinted itself onto the Catholic Church, doesn’t it follow that the spirit of democratization and the open source sharing of ideas and technology would imprint itself on our concept of spirituality?

The Open Democracy article argues that as free sharing and contribution continues to become the way of the world, these ideas will eventually shape how we think about spirituality. No longer will a priest be pouring ideas and spiritual validation downward, but members of the spiritual community will act as equals and share their ideas amongst one another to create a democratized spiritual experience for everyone.

This idea is a bit academic, but there is definitely something to it.  Maybe the technological concepts of open source software and p2p sharing will lead to a democratic sharing of spiritual ideas and experiences without the hierarchy that often accompanies religion.

Open Source Spirituality: Part 1

Spirituality p2p

Will p2p sharing trickle into the way we think about spirituality.

In the last ten years the landscape of the digital world has changed tremendously.  Everything from high-end photo editing software to video production equipment to the ability to easily create your own website have become readily available and non-cost prohibitive.  This has led to academics and observers to trumpet the “democratization” of almost everything. While the term has become somewhat of a platitude, it does ring true for areas of expertise that used to have a high barrier to entry.

There’s nothing stopping a 10 year old from going on Code Academy and teaching himself how to build a website at almost no cost. Musical instruction that used to require expensive private lessons is now available for free on YouTube. It’s not unrealistic in 2014 to teach yourself how to make a living being a graphic designer with a few months of internet research and dedication.

The term “open source” is one that goes hand in hand with “democratization” in many ways. Originally a term that applied only to software, open source now means something along the lines of anything that can be shared and modified by others without paying licensing fees or even permission. The operating system Linux is a pure open source OS favored by many computer programmers. Wikipedia, one of the highest trafficked sites on the internet is essentially an open source encyclopedia, allowing anyone to contribute and edit.

So how does the open source world we live in relate to spirituality and religion?  A recent Open Democracy article discusses how the concept of Peer to Peer (p2p) sharing that has changed the face of technology may also be applied to change the face of spirituality.  Check out part 2 of this blog post when we’ll discuss what this means in a little more depth.