Cyberspirituality the Lingji Virtual Temple Project

By:
Dr. Alison Marshall
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Cyberspace offers many opportunities to be religious and to learn about religions. One can visit on-line temples, join cyber-sanghas, and ask cyber-monks for advice. This paper discusses a Taiwanese new age religion with mediums called lingji (diviners of the spirit), and a project to create a virtual temple (lingji.brandonu.ca) to stimulate individuals in cyberspace to have religious experiences.

Lingji enter trance when they are moved by a spirit. This experience is a kind of semi-possession in which individuals are directed by spirits to move in different ways. We attempt to stimulate individuals to have religious experiences in cyberspace by placing television screens in the virtual temple that play clips of lingji in trance. In theory, when individuals see and hear the clips, they will see and hear the ling (spiritual essence) embedded in those clips that initially caused lingji to enter trance. This theory is supported by lingji beliefs.

On Taiwan, mediums often describe the possession experience using words that emphasize the flow of media like "energy", "electricity", and "magnetic field". Moreover, when mediums or their assistants explain what mediums do they often refer to them as functioning like television sets or stations that transmit spiritual messages. Summarizing the debates about the possibility of religious experiences in cyberspace, the paper concludes that the biggest obstacle to cyber-spirituality is transforming ordinary cyberspace into something sacred. According to lingji beliefs, cyberspace can be sacred because ling can exist and cause one to be moved or possessed by it anywhere — in a park, in a temple, in an ice cream parlour, and as one Taiwanese medium remarked, "why not through the Internet."


Keywords: Cyberspace, Taiwan, Religion, Lingji, Mediumship, Virtual temple
Stream: Human Technologies and Useability
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Cyberspirituality the Lingji Virtual Temple Project


Dr. Alison Marshall

Associate Professor, Department of Religion, Brandon University
Canada


Ref: T05P0039