Kirby—Alternate Worlds

Alternate Worlds: Metaphysical questing and virtual community amongst the Otherkin

by Danielle Kirby

[Kirby, Danielle. 2008. “Alternative Worlds: Metaphysical Questioning and Virtual Community Amongst the Otherkin.” In Through a Glass Darkly: Reflections on the Sacred: Sydney Studies in Religion, 275–87. Sydney University Press.]

  • The Otherkin community functions as a Segmented Polycentric Integrated Network (SPIN)
  • discusses Otaku-kin and soulbonding as examples of Otherkin experience
  • architecture of the WWW is perfect for non-hierarchical groups such as this—flexible interactions, etc.
  • doesn’t argue much, but provides an academic introduction Otherkin community as a nascent religious movement: “new religions in their initial stages often appear to be ‘expressions of marginal subcultures”

Annotation Summary for: Kirby – Alternate Worlds, Metaphysical questing and virtual community amongst the Otherkin

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The advent and subsequent popularisation of the Internet and the World Wide Web has given rise to significant transformations within the sometimes religious structural world, effecting changes that communicative have been and variously embraced by both mainstream and alternative forms ofreligiosity.1 ”

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “On the fringe of this religious expansion into the worlds of cyberspace, however, are groups that situate themselves well outside the frameworks of religiosity as are commonly accepted as valid.6”

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “These groups are not only innovative in the content of their beliefs, but are also unique in that they have apparently developed as communities almost”

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “entirely on the internet.”

Page 1, Underline (Red): Content: “E Larsen, ‘Cyberfaith: How Americans Pursue Religion Online,’ in Religion Online: Finding Faith on the Internet, L L Dawson and D E Cowan, editors, New York, 2004, 17.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The Otherkin7”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The Otherkin are a loosely affiliated group of likemindedindividuals who have formed a virtual online community. Theirshared belief is that some people are, either partially orcompletely, non-human.”

Page 2, Underline (Magenta): Content: “The Otherkin are a loosely affiliated group of likemindedindividuals who have formed a virtual online community. Theirshared belief is that some people are, either partially orcompletely, non-human.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: ” In practice, there are a variety oftypes of self-knowledge supported within the community,including such constructions of the individual as: a human bodywith a non-human soul; multiple souls within the one body, ahuman who is a reincarnated non-human and even, occasionally,those who claim physical status as non-human. ”

Page 2, Underline (Magenta): Content: “such constructions of the individual as: a human body with a non-human soul; multiple souls within the one body, a human who is a reincarnated non-human and even, occasionally, those who claim physical status as non-human.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “dragons; elves; vampires; lycanthropes; fairies, fae and angels, as well as”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “a plethora of specific creatures sourced from ancient mythologies through to media creations from popular culture.”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Beyond the premise of the group, there seems little in common across the community,”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Thereexists a shared body of knowledge common to paganism andwestern esotericism in so far as participants utilise concepts thatare broadly accepted within these areas: ideas such as astraltravel; dream interpretation; alternative realities; magic,reincarnation and the like.13 There are further parallels betweenOtherkin and pagan beliefs in their willingness to consider fiction(that is acknowledged as such) as a valid evocative spiritual tool.”

Page 4, Underline (Magenta): Content: “As a community, the Otherkin function largely without formalised authority structures, and, with regards to their online presence, focus largely upon support and information sharing within the community.16″

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: ” As a community, the Otherkinfunction largely without formalised authority structures, and, withregards to their online presence, focus largely upon support andinformation sharing within the community.16 ”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Otherkin.net”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Otherkin.net is a focal point for the Otherkin community online. Ithas 79817 listed members, although as it is not necessary to signup to access Otherkin information there are likely to be manymore casual browsers. This constituency is thinly spread acrossthe world, with Asian, American and European countries mostheavily represented.18 Judging from the members’ names, thereis no particularly obvious gender inequity, although it isimpossible to be sure, given the overt identity construction thatoccurs online. ”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “There are a number of cosmological assumptions that underpin the community that diverge from more traditional constructions of a religious or spiritual milieu. Primary amongst these is the largely tacit postulation of multiple and/or parallel universes; alternative worlds separate to our own but not entirely unrelated.”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The Otherkinconstruction of the cosmos, ”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “is”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “densely populated with alternative spaces, and also”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “seemingly devoid of absolute value judgements”

Page 6, Highlight (Yellow): Content: “otaku kin or ota’kin.31”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “particular branch of the Otherkin network specifically refers to those participants who experience their non-human aspect through anime and manga.33”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “creatures from traditional mythology and the cannonof the fantasy genre are accepted as validly archetypal, if notoutright actual, whereas more recent additions to that particularpantheon are considered somewhat more suspect. The otaku”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “two potential explanations of themethods by which reality can be ascribed to fictional sources.The first refers to an author essentially acting as a channel orconduit, not necessarily intentionally, and relating as fiction whatis actually an alternative reality. The second possible explanationeffectively states that, by repeated attention and focus,individuals (as participants interacting with and within the specifictexts) give weight, power, and specifically energy to the thoughtforms, thus allowing them a life beyond the confines of the text. ”

Page 7, Underline (Magenta): Content: “two potential explanations of the methods by which reality can be ascribed to fictional sources.”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “soulbonding”

Page 7, Highlight (Yellow): Content: “soulbonding”

Page 8, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “refers to the relationships that may develop between aparticipant and another entity, physical or otherwise, and it isapproached as it is named: as a bond between souls. Asoulbond is ‘someone with whom you tend to reincarnate timeafter time…even to the extent of having agreed to permanentlyshare soul development’.35 ”

Page 8, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Alternatively, it is ‘the adoption into one’s mind, into personal mental space, of characters from history, video games, films, books, TV, anime, daily life’36”

Page 8, Underline (Red): Content: “Gabriel Ragland, Soulbond Sense, 2005, [cited 21/8/05]. Available from http://www.karitas.net/pavilion/library/articles.”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Virtuality”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The spaces within which these fictional characters and non-physical entities occur and exist, be it a personal soul scape, theastral, or an entirely distinct alternative reality, are (to someextent at least) related to and reinforced by the new spacesafforded by the internet. ”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “It is entirely relevant that publicdiscussions about soulbonding have apparently largely takenplace on the internet, as is the existence of the Otherkin networkas an almost entirely online phenomenon. ”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan): Content: ” the very virtual world they populatein itself reinforces the experiential reality of non-tangible worldswithin which one may make perceptible, in both the physical andthe virtual worlds, actions originating in a non-physical context.The idea that one may have meaningful communication with anunknown disembodied presence41 is no longer confined to therealms of fantasy or mysticism, but is rather a simple fact of”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “everyday life.”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan): Content: ” thishas been ever increasingly the case for a number of decades.Personal tangible interaction is no longer necessarily themainstay of human engagement, and this development is playingitself out within the sphere of religious and spiritual activity ”

Page 10, Underline (Magenta): Content: “Personal tangible interaction is no longer necessarily the”

Page 10, Underline (Magenta): Content: “mainstay of human engagement,”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “the few physicalgatherings that there are appear to be aimed more towardsspecific sub-sections of the community rather than attempting to”

Page 11, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “facilitate all.”

Page 11, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “It has been noted, and appears to be the case here, that new religious movements in their initial stages often appear to be ‘expressions of marginal subcultures’.44″

Page 12, Highlight (Cyan): Content: ” Whileits area of concern may be situated well outside the bounds ofwhat is generally considered to constitute a religion, there can belittle question that the internal focus upon super-empiricalexperience46 locates it firmly within the sphere of personal”

Page 12, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “metaphysical or spiritual inquiry.”

Page 12, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Structurally, they clearly function as a segmented polycentric integrated network (SPIN).48”

Page 12, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The specific nature of the Internet, particularly the World Wide Web, is designed precisely to be negotiated in such a non-hierarchical manner, and it follows that groups situated within such a locale would be inclined towards these types of flexible interaction.49 The internet stands as a genuinely new space, with its own unique geography, language,”

Page 12, Underline (Magenta): Content: “The internet stands as a genuinely new space, with its own unique geography, language,”

Page 12, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The term ‘self-reflexive’ is used here to denote belief systems that are constituted primarily as a result of personal experience and reflection, as opposed other currents within the western esoteric tradition that lean more”

Page 12, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “heavily upon structured knowledge.”

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “and cultural norms.”

Page 13, Underline (Magenta): Content: “and cultural norms.”

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan): Content: ” Although beliefs of this nature undoubtedly existed beforethe introduction of the Internet, this new global space hasallowed an unparalleled opportunity for the consolidation of such”

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “personalised spirituality into a larger community.”

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