PaganSpeak Topics for December 2002
Topic # 1: Polytheist, Monotheist, Dualist or Other? (courtesy of Wren's Nest)
Are you a die-hard Polytheist who believes that the many Gods/Goddesses are distinct and individual entities? Are you a Pagan Monotheist? Pantheist? Do you believe that "All Gods/Goddesses are One God/Goddess"? Does the term 'Lord and Lady' represent a specific Lord and/or Lady to you or is it a term used most often to simply denote the concept of a male and/or a female deity? Do you think that all of these terms are interchangeable? Can you see where and when the need to define what YOU mean by 'Gods/Goddesses' might be necessary? What do you think about 'Choose one from column A and one from Column B' pantheon building?
My answer is "All of the above". I'll tell you what my own views are, but any other views are equally valid, and Divinity fits all the descriptions we can invent; yes, even the bad-tempered bearded old guy sitting on a cloud busily writing down every sexual thought we have. We move in the direction of what we worship and set our attention to, so we should choose wisely. Divinity being infinite and unlimited it does not make sense to say that Divinity is NOT something, any more than to say that Divinity IS something. Personally I believe some sages have experienced Divinity and believe what they say that Divinity is pure Consciousness. I have no conflict with anyone who believes differently; just let's not hurt each other nor anyone else. I believe everything is a manifestation of Divinity, and when anyone hurts anyone s/he is hurting Divinity: bad business; don't do it. By anyone I mean any living, sentient, conscious entity. Aardvarks are not conscious, you say? How do you know? You cannot know for certain that the human being next to you, even your own sister/brother, is conscious. So better assume that they are. Don't hurt anyone, including aardvarks.
Monotheism has done enormous harm to human beings and the whole earth, and I feel a ferocious distrust thereof. Some people become convinced that there is only one Deity and next thing you know they are busily torturing anyone who does not believe in exactly the same way in order lovingly to show them the error of their ways. Yes, I believe there is a Unity in this Divinity/Consciousness; the Divinity/Consciousness is the same everywhere, in all its infinite manifestations. Some sages, the Enlightened Ones, have experienced this Divinity/Consciousness, but nothing can be said or told about it: those who know don't tell, and those who tell don't know. Those who know don't tell not because they are being mysterious or keeping a secret, but - they say and I believe - there is nothing to tell; it simply cannot be told. We cannot relate to this unmanifest Divinity/Consciousness, though we will experience it when our minds become quiet and we lose whatever prevents us from experiencing it.
But Divinity/Consciousness has infinite manifestations, into some of which we CAN sink our spiritual teeth - and into some of which we can and do sink our physical teeth. Some of these manifestations of Divinity/Consciousness are am�bas, some are carrots, some are chickens, some are us, some are angels, some are gods and some are goddesses.
So, are the many gods and goddesses distinct and individual entities? Yes, and they are also, as am I, diverse manifestations of Divinity/Consciousness. Am I a pantheist? Yes, everything is a manifestation of Divinity/Consciousness, or Divinity/Consciousness is immanent - resides in - everything.
As an exercise in what I like to call thealogical affirmative action and in order to counter my own conditioning and millennia of patriarchal domination I direct my worship to Goddess in Her diverse manifestations. I believe what the world and my own spiritual growth require are the cultivation and enhancement of traits traditionally seen as feminine: cooperation as against competition, nurturing, compassion, patience, non-aggression, better communications. Goddess is a combination of all Her manifestations throughout history.
Of course I recognize the existence of Gods, including the angry old guy sitting on a cloud, I just choose to direct my worship/set my attention on Goddess. What do I think about 'Choose one from column A and one from Column B' pantheon building? Hey, whatever works. All I ask is that no one hurt anyone.
As the Bible - a good book, containing much literary beauty and a lot of truth, though also lots of nonsense, like the infamous "You shall not allow a witch to live" (Exodus 22:18) - says: "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren [AND "sistren", I'd like to add, to give the plural of "sister" a nice antique patina] to sit together in unity and harmony" (Psalms 133:1).
Topic # 2: Pot-Kettle: Do We Have Our Own Fundamentalists? (courtesy Wren's Nest)
Does religious fundamentalism exist in some Pagan and/or Heathen communities? Can a closed group or tradition be considered as fundamentalist? Are there some Pagans and/or Heathens who 'preach' one true Pagan or Heathen way? Is resistance to the 'mainstreaming' of Paganism/Heathenism a form of fundamentalism? How can we approach the preservation of Pagan and/or Heathen spiritual and/or cultural integrity and identity without falling into fundamentalism? Is fundamentalism even necessarily a 'bad' thing? You can also check out Isaac Bonewits' essay on fundamentalism at: A Call to Arms for definitions and other background material.
Alas, I would not be surprised if there were Pagan fundamentalists somewhere. Pagans being human - contrary to what some "Holy" Inquisitors believed - we are heir to all the diseases that affect that sorry species. In my opinion preaching and eagerness for converts are mostly motivated by the desire for more financial contributions and a wider political basis, and I guess some Pagans might be as ambitious as the worst of them.
That in my opinion accounts for the reluctance of many Pagans to the so-called "mainstreaming" of Paganism (besides, which form of Paganism would we "mainstream"?). We are afraid something similar might happen to us to what's happened to other religions and we might see the appearance of Pagan Swaggarts, Bakkers and ayatollahs, Goddess forbid, and other frauds.
The phrase "the preservation of Pagan and/or Heathen spiritual and/or cultural integrity and identity" fills me with dread: it sounds too much like "racial purity", "party line" or Orthodoxy. "Integrity" and "identity" are things that each Pagan person has and does with whatever s/he sees fit. Many of us have had to change our beliefs, and some have changed identities, so which "integrity" and "identity" would we be talking about preserving? Some sort of trademark or copyright on the words "Pagan" and "Heathen"? Some institution or person(s) in charge of deciding who is or ain't a "true", "real", "legitimate", "genuine", "bona fide" Pagan or Heathen?? Goddess forbid, perish the thought, chas vechalilah veshalom (for those who might not know, the latter is Hebrew for "May we be spared, may we be preserved and may we have peace". Yes, I do believe it to be more powerful in Hebrew, but you don't have to).
Some Pagan groups, like Gardnerians, or A Druid Fellowship, or several others, do have their own rules and standards of legitimacy. I don't belong to any of them but have the greatest respect for them, and they are not remotely "fundamentalist" by any definition of the term. They are also open to any seeker in good faith who wants to join them. As to "closed" groups, I am not fond of the concept - I can hardly even imagine rejecting a seeker in good faith - but they must have their reasons, and unless the criteria are unreasonable or illegal - like race - I guess the concept of individual liberties demands that they should be free to have their closed group. After all, if I marry somebody and - supposedly - reject all others I am in actuality forming a closed group. Not guilty of fundamentalism.
"Is fundamentalism even necessarily a 'bad' thing?" Well, yes, as excellently explained in A Call to Arms.
Other than that I don't have anything to add to what my beloved teacher Isaac Bonewits wrote so well in his above-mentioned essay, reading which, as well as all his other writings, I earnestly recommend.
Topic # 3: Yule/Litha
In the Northern Hemisphere Yule is upon us. In the Southern it is Litha or Summer Solstice. What are your plans?
Being thankful that the Sun stops going away from us and starts on Its way back, looking forward to Spring and Summer, being warm inside the house with my family (my spouse and my dogs) and engaging in my regular routine retirement rituals: reading, writing, resting, relaxing, reflecting, relating and roaming the web. :-)
Forgot an important plan: avoiding as much as possible the sickening flood of xmas-related sounds and images.