It's easier for a man to be loyal to his club than to his planet; the bylaws are shorter, and he is personally acquainted with the other members.

- E.B. White

Let’s Get Together and Feel All Right

One of the main attractions of organized religion is the fact that is really improves your social life. Excommunication from the church in the middle ages was a major tragedy not because it meant you were no longer in God’s favor, but that you no longer had anywhere to go on the weekends. Throughout the centuries many people have gone to church only because the pubs were seedy and dangerous. In fact, one of the major reasons the renaissance took place in Europe was because of the rise of the coffeehouse: Not only did coffee enhance rationality and the ability to see past religious dogma, but it also allowed people an alternative and inspirational place to meet their friends.

Indeed coffeehouses have enjoyed a renaissance of their own in the last decades, owing to the fact that, more than ever, people need to rub elbows with each other in an environment conducive to thought and reflection. Many would argue that the coffeehouse is the church of modern man, and they wouldn’t be far off. Where churches and temples are losing members every day, coffeehouses are spreading over the world like outposts of a colonial army.

The Temple of Earth has no formal brick-and-mortar institutions where its adherents can meet, but we argue that the spirit of the TOE was born in coffeehouses during the renaissance. It was in the coffeehouse that the first major historical split with religion occurred, and that that every great political revolution was planned. Today coffeehouses are filled with people discussing the ideas of the day, studying textbooks and writing novels. The coffeehouse is a temple of rationality and caffeine is its holy water. Therefore we think they are excellent places to organize Temple of Earth “congregations,” affectionately known as “TOE rings.”

What is a TOE ring?

A TOE ring is a loosely-organized group of individuals who meet regularly to discuss ways in which they can collectively improve their lives. In many cases, just meeting every week and chatting can be enough to enhance their sense of purpose and community. Others may wish to embark on particular projects. Many might find that the best way to improve their lives is to try to improve the lives of others, and may organize a charitable activity. In any case, the agenda of any particular TOE ring is up to the ring itself. We offer some guidelines that may better help in the organizing of a ring, and a web board that will help you find like-minded individuals with which to create a ring!

Tips on Creating a TOE ring

How to create a TOE ring

There are three ways to create a TOE ring.

1) You can either invite friends you already have to create one together.

2) You can start from scratch by consulting our Web Board and looking for people in your area.

3) You can join our public chat room and interact with others through the web.

Each way has its benefits. Starting a group with friends you already have is the easiest. We still recommend you meet in a public place to avoid distraction and to better increase the “public nature” and visibility of TOE rings. The friendly nature of coffeehouses, for example might allow strangers to join and help spread the idea of the Temple of Earth. Plus, it’s always good to have outside opinions; groups of friends often tend be quite biased in their opinions and for the sake of rationality, it’s good to be challenged and inspired by outside influences.

Starting a group from scratch may be difficult, but it has clear long-term advantages: First of all, the adventure of meeting new and like-minded people. As a minister of TOE, one must invite intellectual adventure into their lives. To further the cause of rationality and personal growth we must embrace the unknown, even if it means awkwardness and emotional risk. Yet the rewards can be tremendous. By reaching out to one another we overcome insecurities and add dynamism into our lives. Plus, we learn more than we ever could from friends whom we already know well and have built easy relationships with. Starting a group from scratch is a step into the great unknown and opens the door wide open to possibility.

Finally, joining a TOE ring via our chat service has both advantages and disadvantages. It is certainly the easiest. All you have to do is click and type (or speak, if you have a fast connection and a webcam). But the non-tactile nature of chat rooms may be very unsatisfying to some people and the semi-unpoliced nature of chat rooms may mean that jerks can come in and mess up the whole thing. Plus, it is hard to do any collaborative work or organize any projects from a chat room, although there are ways to do so. Should this be your only option, give it a try. We’ll see how it goes.

What to do in a TOE ring

Since the TOE is primarily an organization devoted to rationality and personal development, we assume that our members will want to engage in discussions and activities of this nature.

1) Discussions:

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with just getting together and chatting. There’s nothing more stimulating than an excellent, extemporaneous conversation. And as conversation is one of the most sublime rational arts, we encourage everyone to perfect their conversational skills. Emily Post wrote a chapter in her 1922 book, Etiquette, available from our Library, which still holds a great deal of truth today. Of course, many other more modern books are available from bookstores and libraries. One of the oldest adages is that one should never discuss sex or politics in polite company, but we contend that anything can be discussed as long as people remain rational and civil. The problem with discussions of sex and politics is that they normally descend into emotionality. As long as we respect the feelings of others and remain adamantly self-critical (that is, no sacred cows – everything must be taken back to first principles) anything can be investigated and celebrated.

However, if you’d like some subjects that might be of interest, these have always proven fruitful:

What is progress?
What are the surest paths to happiness?
How does one achieve wisdom?
How do we make love last?
What is love?
What is goodness? Badness?
Is there such a thing as evil? Define it.
How does one overcome fear?
What is embarrassment?
What is generosity? What is the best way to be generous?
What are your ten favorite things in the world? Why?
How can we cultivate calmness of mind when life is so stressful?

The list goes on. Please send any good questions for discussion to us.

2) Activities – some suggestions:

a) Games

There’s nothing wrong with a little recreation, especially when the recreation is creative. Board games like scrabble are useful for building vocabulary and brain teasers are excellent for building lateral thinking. There are a few listed here. Any game that stimulates the mind and encourages group interaction is recommended. Remember – rationality is not the stodgy old ideal of dried up academics. Rather, it is first and foremost a type of play, play in which the goal is to find creative ways to the truth.

b) Arts

Any kind of collaborative project might qualify as an art activity. Working together on a short film (provided you have a videocamera or two between you and someone who knows how to edit on a computer). Or a play. Or a story. There’s no end to the possibilities when a group of creative, astute minds get together in the interest of making something meaningful.

c) Volunteer Work

Every community has an assortment of charities that freely accept volunteers. Whether it’s to help paint a school or provide tutoring or feed the homeless or build shelters, anything you do unselfishly for others will act as a positive force on both the world around you and the world within you. Look on the web for any volunteer organizations in your area that accept group participation.

d) Field Trips

Visit museums, especially when they offer docent tours. Buy a tourist guide and get to know your city in a way that only travelers ever do. Attend a music or theater performance and discuss it afterwards.

e) Exercise

Practice gnoga together! Stretch in the park or engage in a simple weightlifting session while incorporating gnogic techniques. Engage in a group meditation at someone’s house.

f) Reading Rings

Reading the same book and getting together to discuss it is a great way to plumb the depths of human thought. You might wish to consult our Suggesting Reading or Library sections for inspiration.

How to run a TOE ring

It’s always good to keep track of what goes on at a TOE ring. Often great ideas are born from these friendly, informal affairs. Everyone should bring a pen and a notebook. Writing down any interesting ideas is a good way to encourage active thinking and subsequent reflection. There’s no need to elect a secretary, although it couldn’t hurt. However, TOE rings are not intended to be so formal that you need to elect officers. While there’s great value in structuring any organization along these lines, we feel that it is the nature of the TOE ring to be malleable and primarily fun. Each minister may volunteer for some specific job or responsibility but for the purposes of the TOE ring, no fixed hierarchies are necessary. Each member should participate as an interested individual. Should the TOE ring grow to a larger size (over twenty people), it may be necessary to elect a leader in order to help organize events. That is up to you and the needs of your TOE ring.

c 1998-2005 Temple of Earth