I’ve always wanted to be consistent. Walk one path with loyal dedication. But it was not to be.
Born with a perverse need to be both sceptical and spiritual, I have a checkered religious history. I’ve been a Jehovah Witness, Anglican altar girl, and agnostic (a few times). Twenty years ago though, I found Paganism. Instead of dogma and moralizing, it offered me a celebration of life and a treasure trove of symbols and traditions to explore.
In my darkest hours however, I was still plagued by a nostalgia for something I’d never really had. This was a deeper consolation of the kind promised by more mainstream faiths. I secretly longed to be saved, forgiven, healed, and taken care of completely. But I could never give in to “accepting a saviour”—even the soft-eyed Jesus I remembered from childhood—because that came at too high a price: obsession with sin and guilt, denial of the “the flesh”, and the requirement of literal belief.
How to engage the reconstructionist / historical-based pagan and not get your feelings hurt:
Lesson 1: Learn to discern the differences between fact and opinion, history and UPG/experience.
You may not have realised that you were presenting a subjective statement as an objective one. Especially in the United States, the stress on this aspect of language arts in schools is often failing, but so if pop culture, to be frank.
Before I begin this, which will be my very first blogpost for Pagan Square, I wish to thank Anne Newkirk Niven for inviting me to be part of this wonderful online community. I count it as a great honour and privilege to be able to share my thoughts and experiences here and hopefully have many fruitful dialogues and discussions with those who log on. I do not see myself as a teacher, but a fellow traveller on the spiritual path who has much to learn from other pilgrims. I spent almost two decades of my life as an Anglican (Episcopal) seminarian/ priest and, through it all, never considered Christianity as ‘the’ way, but merely one spiritual path among the many thousands on offer around our enchanted globe. However, this open and eclectic attitude made me as many enemies as friends, and I did not last. I will thus begin my new monthly Blog with an introductory piece so you can see where I’m coming from.
Isaiah Berlin begins his famous essay The Fox and the Hedgehog by quoting the Greek poet Archilochus: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Berlin uses this saying to contrast two different intellectual styles: Hedgehogs “relate everything to a single central vision, one system,” while foxes “pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory ... seizing upon the essence of a vast variety of experiences and objects for what they are in themselves.” (Isaiah Berlin, The Fox and the Hedgehog: An essay on Tolstoy’s View of History, (Guernsey: Phoenix, 1992) 3)
In Pagan terms, Berlin’s approach presents an interesting way to think about what we mean by “eclectic,” what it is that we’re contrasting eclecticism with, and the benefits and potential downfalls of both approaches.
In the "real world", I buy books for a university library. Saying that I feel strongly about the ability to freely and easily gain knowledge is an understatement. Knowledge is power. We are free to read anything we want, and for me this is right up there with our freedom of speech in defining individual freedom and personal dignity. Libraries are a vitally important aspect of our "free" society. These last few years, it's hurt me to see how many libraries were the first thing to be cut in the economic crisis, and how little people have taken into account the resources that are being taken away from us. Perhaps in this digital age we take libraries for granted. We've forgotten what it's like not to have easy access to anything we want to know, and what it's like to have our information controlled by entities outside of our control. Access to new information (wherever you find it) is the only way we grow and learn.
In the world of the Craft, we are at an unprecedented point of having access to written materials. We can communicate with people all over the world to seek out the things we ache to know. It's easier than it's ever been to find teachers, and for those of us who live to far away from an actual Pagan community, there are blogs, articles and books available to us. The fear of being "discovered" or of being accused of Witchcraft is not what it was in the past, and it no longer applies in the same manner. While being public, or "outed," can still have serious consequences, it doesn't usually lead to a fiery death at the stake.