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.