Pagan Studies

A syncretic approach to esoteric teachings - the golden threads that connect Pagans, Yogis, Rosicrucians and Masons.

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What It Means to Be a Yogi - Or a Druid

The following reflections came to me gradually over a period of forty-two years. I offer them here because of their universal spirituality, and also because our 21st century culture has turned Yoga into something quite different from its original purpose—which was, in fact, very close to Druidry. 

1971 was the year I took my first Yoga class. It was part of Actors' Training at the Stratford National Theatre of Canada. Our movement coach (Trish Arnold, http://www.teawithtrish.com/) presented yoga as a physical discipline—a means whereby performing artists could develop and maintain ultimate flexibility and endurance. 

Immediately hooked, I went out and bought the only book available at the time: "The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga" by Swami Vishnudevananda. That excellent text covered all aspects of this strange Eastern lifestyle. While showing the Swami in hundreds of pretzel-like poses, it also explained Breathing and Meditation. Vishnudevananda made it clear that the physical postures were only intended as a starting point, from which we were to dive deeper into Philosophy and Spirituality. Yoga was, in fact, an internal system designed to teach individuals how to understand the levels of Creation, the mysteries of Life and Death, and how to cope with Existence. 

No matter his country of birth or the religion of his upbringing (and regardless of whether or not he even knew the word "Yoga") a Yogi could always be recognized by the calm and balanced way in which he went through life. Extremes of success and failure had only a temporary effect on him; he would use the lessons gained from each experience to make better decisions the next time. He maintained a charitable attitude toward all he encountered, without ever sacrificing his own values. What the world valued as important might seem trivial and passing to him; yet he would not deny others whatever props or toys they might need to keep themselves going—the exception being if they came to him, sincerely asking for instruction and guidance! He respected other forms of life, and allowed other people to find their own paths. 

A soon as this was made clear to me, it was easy to recognize famous Yogis throughout history. The Hindu ones were "a gimme": Krishna, Buddha, Gandhi, Neem Karoli Baba. But there was something extremely familiar in the image of small groups of men walking about in robes and sandals and having important dialogues on the meaning of life: of course! It was the same modality employed in the Academies of ancient Greece—Socrates, Plato and Aristotle (Socrates was definitely a Yogi). 

But the tradition went even further than that—back to the prophets and holy men of the Old Testament, leading up to those elite little bands led by John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth. The greater the leader was, the more he was in touch with the natural world and the secrets of creation, the more he could rightly be called a Yogi. 

Those were not the only lands where such teachers existed. Though Celts did not preserve their history in writing the same way that Hindus, Greeks, Romans and Jews did, we know the image of the Druid seer, shaman or wizard. The only major difference is in the footwear, for Irish and British weather is more inclement than in sunnier climes.   

Sadly, we know what happened to the Druids. But the Christian version of such teachers and followers—both male and female—continued into the Middle Ages, with Yogic luminaries like Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Teresa of Avila. 

The Buddhist and Hindu branches still practice the same way today! While many Western religious orders have modernized their ritual costumes, or even done away with them altogether, our Eastern brothers and sisters have persisted in wearing the same traditional robes into the 21st century. 

This is one of the reasons why technology-weary westerners seek periodic pilgrimages to healing backwaters in India and Nepal. Except for joining a western order yourself—such as the white-turban-wearing Sikhs of Yogi Bhajan—or those times when Pagans can gather privately or enjoy the social acceptability of a Ren Faire—in Dharamsala you can dress up without people looking at you sideways! 

I've often wished that I had balls like Oberon Zell's, who would wear his full wizard regalia when shopping in Walmart. But I never felt comfortable doing that in public. (On stage, yes, when playing a character. But not in my local supermarket.)   

Of course, we know that it's not really about how we dress. But maintaining an inner image of a robed fellowship can help us to feel less alone in the world. It connects us to our ancient traditions, and reminds us that our inspiration and values are supported by generations of spiritual ancestors. 

 

 

 

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A student of esoteric traditions since the age of 16, Ted Czukor (Theo the Green) taught Yoga for 37 years until retiring in 2013. For 26 years he was adjunct faculty for the Maricopa, AZ Community Colleges, teaching Gentle Yoga and Meditation & Wellness. Raised in the Methodist Church but drawn to Rosicrucianism, Hinduism and Buddhist philosophy, he is a devotee of the Goddess in all Her forms. Ted has been a Shakespearean actor, a Masonic ritualist and an Interfaith wedding officiant. He is the author of several books, none of which made any money and two of which are available as .pdf files. He lives with his wife Ravyn-Morgayne in Sun City, Arizona. Their shared dream is to someday relocate to Glastonbury, England. theoczukor@cox.net.

Comments

  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Wednesday, 14 May 2014

    Ted, a lovely musing, thank you. I love the phrase "The greater the leader was, the more he was in touch with the natural world and the secrets of creation." I think many people were confused, back in the 80s, when I made up a Wiccan reading list with almost no Wiccan books in it. It was comprised of titles like the Tao Te Ching. My explanation was that I sought the heart of magic and the core of Spirit; I had no use for a book just bc it happened to have "Wicca" in the title. My reading today remains the same: I embrace a pagan book if it touches the core. May we both have a beautiful day, in our striving to touch Core.

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Thursday, 15 May 2014

    Dear Francesca,

    Yes, exactly! It's not what people call themselves, it's how they conduct themselves based on their inner inspiration - their "Core of Spirit" as you so excellently call it. I used to do a very similar thing with the recommended reading list for my Yoga class.

    There are all sorts of designations that people use, but as Shakespeare so wisely commented, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet."

    Thank you for reading the post.

  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Thursday, 15 May 2014

    Thank you. One thing I miss from the old pagan days (I've blogged on this but cld not find the blog to give u its link, LOL) is how nowadays many pagans spend a lot of time asserting how they are diferent from other pagans whereas, way back when, we all hung together celebrating and living in the core of magic. Perhaps we were each in a different core, but that added power. We celebrated our differences within the group we were in, bc each person could bring their unique approach to the ritual, which would make the ritual as a whole stronger for all of us. Sigh. Oh, well, I still get to do this with the diversity of students I work with. Onward! Bless you.

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Thursday, 15 May 2014

    It may be the way of things, but it's a shame. Ravyn and I had the same experience in a New Thought Center 20 years ago. When we first joined, the members were kooky New Age characters of all types - crystal wearers, aura cleansers, Tarot readers, astrologers, rebirthers, Reiki masters - and all were sweet, generous and loving. But when the minister had a conversion and decided that henceforth "A Course in Miracles" would be the Center's only focus, with no credence or acceptance given to anything else, one by one all those wonderful, fun people left. In one year the atmosphere had become gloomy and straight-laced; you were either part of "the in crowd" or you didn't come back. Eighteen months later, the whole organization imploded and ceased to exist.

  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Thursday, 15 May 2014

    It is definitely "the way of things," to use yr phrase.

    Unfortunately, it usually ends up with the organization run by small minded bean counters who make the org last decades if not centuries past its focus on any real vision. Argh!

    But then another visionary comes along, sees the Core, and gets followers. Unfortunately, within a generation, they bastardize her material and throw her out. Christianity as an institution is an excellent example. Christ's message is seen less there than in the random seeker who loves Christ. This bastardization and dilution is one of my pet peeves and many soapboxes, LOL.

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