The religious curiosity of students may now be satisfied with the help of a new RSO.
The Study of Esoteric Philosophy, esoteric meaning an idea preserved by a small group, meets weekly at the Student Center and asks members to embrace the concepts and philosophies of different religions through intellectual conversations and information sharing.
“SIU used to have a religious studies department but they phased that out so we try to fill in the gap with philosophies that are more esoteric and out of the mainstream,” said John Moro, a senior from Carbondale studying philosophy.
Moro heads the organization, which has around 20 members. He said the RSO discusses material such as the Kabbalah, Tantra, ceremonial magic, mystical interpretation and more.
The discussions are led primarily by Moro, who used to run an occult bookstore in the Carbondale area in the 1980s. He said he has since built up a large collection of books about various religions and shares his knowledge with the organization.
The organization consists of Buddhists, Hindus, Thelemites and those of other religions.
“As long as you don’t try and impose your view on anybody else, we’re OK with you,” Moro said.
Moro started the organization, he said, to help expand the interest of religions and philosophies in the Carbondale area. He said he believes people have an interest in the material today because the Internet has given them access to knowledge about relatively unknown religions.
Though new to the scene, the RSO has already undergone troubles.
“This is our first semester and we haven’t really been able to get off the ground, because this is the first week that someone hasn’t torn down the posters (for the RSO),” Moro said.
Moro said he believes people do so because they find the material controversial.
He said the removal of the posters has slowed the recruitment of any would-be members and kept the organization from becoming well-known.
Joshua Shapiro, a freshman from Grayslake studying communication, is an example of those who are interested but uninformed.
“I would be interested in joining. This sounds like a good source of knowledge about a topic few people know a lot about,” Shapiro said.
He said he thinks tearing down the RSO’s posters is immature, and he was unaware of the organization.
The few members said they’ve enjoyed the material covered, though.
“It’s a really good outlet for information and sharing information about different philosophies and religions, and you don’t get that in a lot of other groups,” said Christa Bourbeau, a Carbondale resident who’ll begin classes in the fall.
Bourbeau said she has been with the RSO since the first meeting earlier this semester. She said the group always has good discussion, especially because the members are diverse.
She said everyone who comes is welcome to lead a topic or suggest one.
Brandon Hale, a graduate student in social sciences and religious studies at the University of Chicago and SIU alumnus, said the group can be a good place to network and learn about other religions.
“I think (the RSO) brings a much-needed space for students to express themselves religiously and spiritually when those beliefs may not be mainstream,” he said.
Hale said he helped convince Moro to start the RSO.
He said he believes the town and the university should work together more to talk about less well-known beliefs.
But the RSO may not be for everyone.
“I’m not going to recommend it to everybody. Whoever wants to learn about different philosophies is welcome,” said Williams Martinez, a graduate student from Carbondale in English rhetoric and composition.
He said he has been a member for four months and thinks the group opens people’s perspectives on philosophy and culture.
The RSO meets at 7:30 on Wednesdays on the second floor of the Student Center.