One of the best films I saw at South By Southwest (SXSW) this year was Vikram Gandhi’s documentary Kumaré, in which New Jersey-born and raised Gandhi decides to pass himself off as an Indian guru (he is of Indian descent) to see if people will buy into his fake persona as a spiritually enlightened teacher. He succeeds all too well and faces a dilemma when it’s time to reveal the fraud.
Essentially Gandhi’s point is that spiritual gurus are frauds and anyone can be a guru if he can (so long as they are prepared to dress up, grow long beards, make up strange chants, etc.). With that in mind, I found a course on how to start your own religion, offered by 3rd Ward. I’m not sure if I’ll take it yet, but they do say the fastest way to make a million dollars is to become a millionaire. (If Kumaré succeeds at the box office, maybe it will be proof of that too). Here’s the class description for anyone interested:
While some perceive it as a pathetically static monoculture of oppression, religion in its most exciting form is actually an environment—a happening—of ever-evolving ideas, practices, and visual and sensual pleasures. Spiritual paths based on everything from chaos to love, to dada, to eroticism, and to eco-radicalism have found their way into the hearts and minds of seekers the world over. By looking at examples of some of these traditions, and by using them as a springboard for developing our own religions, students will come away with a better appreciation for what it means to “be religious,” and maybe even have a radical mystical epiphany or two.
In this class students will each write, design and craft a new spiritual path (as far out or traditional as desired), to be summed up and presented at the end of the course through presentations, handouts and booklets. Over the four weeks students will create hymns that can be used to exalt their beatitudes, define the tenets of their path so others will know what it’s all about, produce propaganda in order to call the willing to the Light, as well as explore the role of (read: draw/mold/create) deities in their new spiritual path. Using published examples from occult as well as mainstream traditions, we will look for inspiration from a variety of unusual sources. Students will be expected to play with what it means to even “be religious,” and should be prepared and willing to engage in a variety of mediums, including text, song and iconography. Some experience with making ‘zines or other DIY publications a plus, but not required.
Please come to this class willing to crack open all you believe a religion should be.