THE BLOG
11/25/2015 04:51 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Holi Rollers: Religious Ecstasy in Spanish Fork/Appropriate Appropriating?

From one perspective, the undulating and gyrating masses (thousands upon thousands at any given time and throughout the weekend in March of this year) could have been observed at any number of places: a rock concert, a dance club, or a college party. But this context was rather different in comparison -- here, on March 28th, 2015, on the hallowed grounds of the Lotus Temple in the high desert of Spanish Fork, Utah. The crowd, after all, was almost entirely white teenagers who were Latter Day Saint affiliated. But what would, could, and should draw these people to a Radha-Krishna temple in the middle of the Mormon mecca?

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Conversations that I had with attendees who were LDS seem to shed light on why. One young woman explained that she was attending because it was "a spiritual experience," that she "felt unity," and that it was a way for her to experience "god." Her friends, also LDS, concurred with her. When I asked her if her experience conflicted with her LDS world she strongly denied that it would. She explained that the spiritual experience in both the LDS and the Holi Festival worlds were "identical," and, most importantly, "that there were many paths" to the same experience. Her friends all agreed with her pluralistic perspective.

Their comments were suggestive of a surprising kind of pluralism and belief that the content of an authentic religious mystical experience was the same across religions and cultures. In fact, they affirmed that there were many different paths that led to, what she believed, was the same mystical experience. Like holy rollers whose ecstatic dance expressed and led to religious fervor and religious experiences these Holi rollers believed that their experience of Holi in Spanish Fork, at an ISKCON temple, could and did lead them to universally accessible mystical experience.

But is it appropriate to appropriate? Could this offend Hindus? Should it offend Hindus? Does it matter if it does, or does not offend Hindus? Should this offend other members of LDS?

And, ere all mystical experiences the same?

What do you think?