PHAs, MDGs, & CMS
. . . because Pagan/Heathen/Alternative Spirituality takes too long to type, and Mysterious Dead Grandmother and Cleopatra Morrison Syndromes are a threat to the very polyester blend of reality
I started using a couple of acronyms (that are ones I came up with) awhile back, because 1) I'm lazy and 2) I needed shorthand to refer to the ideas behind them.
The first one, PHA, is short for "Pagan/Heathen/alternative spirituality", which I started using as a catch-all for anything not considered an Abrahamic faith or a largely recognized Eastern belief system. And to shut up the portion of Heathens/Wiccans/Witches/Vodouisants/Santerians/Asatru/whatever that get their knickers in an indignant wad if you use the term "Pagan" in connection with them. It's hopefully open enough to include eclectic DIYers.
The second one, MDG, is short for Mysterious Dead Grandmother syndrome. There is a variant that includes grandfathers, but 98% of the time it's the grandmother strain. This is a horrible condition where a person will have a fairly (radically) divergent set of beliefs, with variations that don't really belong to the system (s)he claims. When asked (busted) about this, the MDG infectee will insist that they were born into an ancient (or at least centuries old) family Tradition that has been handed down secretly over the years, and that they were trained as an ___ th degree priest-type thinger by their grandmother.
This is often accompanied by an insistence that their family trad is a more true or pure form, and therefore more valid, than the more established versions of the belief system it's being presented as but fails to really jive with. When asked to show some form of proof of the existence of this fam trad, the grandmother (and usually anyone else) is always conveniently deceased, and cannot be spoken with.
There is often an added symptom that they have "sworn not to reveal the mysteries/their brothers/the sacred writings", and therefore can't furnish any samples of the tenets, age, or origins. Also, anyone who asks is disrespectful of The Way, or sadly not spiritual enough to Sense The Truth (cue dramatically enlightened music), or an outright judgmental hater, so there, nyyahh. Pointing out to them that if it's a secret, they probably shouldn't be talking about it doesn't produce productive results.
|The rare, elusive Nopetopus|
Some MDGs are eclectic DIYers that are afraid of the derision and dislike exhibited by a portion of the established trad people for eclecticism, and are trying for validation by imaginary lineage and pseudo-history. Some are overgrown gamer wannabees who are way too into fantasy genre and want an excuse to wear a cape and walk around looking mysteriously superior. Some of them are fruitcakes or rotten bastards who are using Paganism as a cover for scams or predatory behavior. All three categories make the PHA community look bad, but I'd much rather have the first two than the third.
For an MDG that smells like it may fall into that third category and seems to be successfully infecting other people, please refer to Bonewits' Cult Evaluation Frame:
That page is recommended reading anyway.
That leaves CMS, or Cleopatra Morrison Syndrome. It shares some of the same vectors and indications as MDG, but usually manifests as one of two separate strains. You hope. If you get one who's got BOTH strains of the virus, you may as well go ahead and find a closet with a nice, sturdy locking door.
CMS victims will exhibit claims of exclusive or accelerated education and/or training by spirit guides, or of past life incarnations, whose identities will all be major, famous historical celebrities, documentable or otherwise. If they are to be believed, Jim Morrison, Marilyn Monroe, and Jimi Hendrix are all communicating with approximately 836.4 people at any given point in a 24 hour period. The past life strain is probably the more tragic - you cannot truly appreciate the damaging effects of the disease until you've seen two (alleged) adults get in a shrieking hair pulling contest over which one of them was Cleopatra, Genghis Khan, or the "highest" High Priest(ess) of Atlantis/Lemuria/Ys/all three in a past life. It's been eight years since the "Elevator Incident" and I still get this muscle twitch around my right eye . . .
The only known treatment for MDG or CMS is as follows:
1. An immediate cessation of low quality, poorly researched, pop culture television and movies, and of expensive New Age/self-improvement seminars with the word "secret" in the title
2. Prolonged exposure to archaeological, anthropological, and other ological publications and presentations
3. Participation in more than one metaphysical interest group comprised mainly of people who have already done #1 and #2.
Warning: 97% of infected people will not accept treatment willingly. Studies show that a gradual introduction of curative elements has a higher long-term success rate than, say, tying them to a chair in a room with "The Power Of Myth" audiobook in surround sound for a week. Even if that is more fun.
4/2/09* edited 7/18/10 to add CMS MSDS.