I hold that being open minded is a wonderful thing, but one should also not be so open minded their brain falls out. Being spiritual or religious or whatever term you prefer come with a duty to think, analyze, make judgments between what is right and wrong, and also a duty to fight to the best of your ability against those paths that are wrong. What do I mean by that? Well, lets take the paths of the thugee and the inquisitor and the crusader and the jihadist and a host of similar ideologies that have and continue to exist in the world. Do you really want to call those valid? Now that does not mean you lump entire categories together. A rabid cat does not mean you should stop all cats. That is where the thinking and analyzing comes in.
There are many broad categories; Pagan, Buddhist, Christian, etc. However each of those categories break down to small categories; for example Christian breaks down into Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, and a host of others. Even then if you look at a single denomination, say Methodist, look at it closely and you will find a host of conflicting paths under that same umbrella.
So this breaks down to the specific paths of the individuals, as it always should. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water just because something is making the water murky. Some ideas are easier to make decisions about; murdering in the name of your path most can agree is not good, though obviously not all would agree. A quick look at the current world and world history shows many have found that to be a valid path for them. Does that mean we should simply accept that? I don't think so. Every religion once held that slavery was good, but even within each of those cultures there were people who followed their own path are found that wrong and fought against it clear up to today whee the official standing of every country is that it is wrong. I say official, because it does still exist. However, through thousands of years of people fighting against it, we have made progress.
You may be thinking “those are just extreme example.” Well, yes they are. I hold that extremism is bad. However, saying “all paths are valid” is an extreme view. In fact it is a view that prevents you from fighting for what is right and good in the world. By saying you can't make moral judgments about other peoples paths (though lets not micromanage the whole world please), you leave the door open for the types of extremists mentioned above. If you do not actively do your best to fight those types of thing, then you are giving them free pass to perform them. You must make decisions for yourself, especially about where you draw the line. The extremists are making those same decisions and fighting for what they believe to be a right path. You can not fail to do the same. Most of the people who would read this blog would probably agree that any path that supports murder or slavery or racism or gay conversion therapy is not a good path. However, the people on those paths have thought about it and decided it is a valid path. It is up to you to educate people and get them to think as much as possible about these things. Question everything.
The hard part are those not so good paths that are less extreme and more insidious. For instance, what about the path of religious belief and practice where one person collects millions of dollars off countless people, many of who are living in poverty? Where do you personally stand on that? What can you do to make people think? What can you do to make people question and not just blindly accept?
These debates will continue for all time, and they should. Hopefully over generations we will progress. But remember, the arguments against slavery took thousands of years and it still exists. No answers will come over night, but choosing to not fight the things you believe to be wrong is to leave those forces unopposed. The reason it is called a spiritual path is because it is a journey. One where you will have to make countless decisions and continue to learn and grow. If you are not making those decisions you are no longer on the journey.
Learn more about the depth of your path. Learn more about other paths. Realize that sometimes paths that seem very different, say Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Kali worshiper, etc; can run closely parallel each other, such as the Crusaders, Jihadists, the current Buddhist terrorists, and the Thugee. At the same time, paths that people actually associate with each other, say all Christians, include very diverse paths from the Crusader to the pacifist and from the engineer who is deeply Christian to the Amish who shun most technology. Each path is an individual one, even though we tend to join up in groups.
Never stop thinking, learning, making judgments on how the world could be better. We may not agree on what better is, but keep the thought process active.
While this conversation over all must of course be about degrees of authority, I am going to talk about more absolute basics. I've had a great many conversations of people who say this author or that is authoritarian says "this is the way things are done", but that they prefer this other author. Which is fine as far as it goes and is a surprisingly authoritarian perspective to have. Stay with me a moment.
First, an author or lecturer or teacher of any kind must start with the most basic premise; there are either rules or there are not, if not, the conversation is already finished. There is nothing more to say at that point. If there are rules, well first you have to make sure you and the person you are communicating with are talking about the same thing. There is Traditional Wicca, eclectic Wicca, NeoPaganism, Asatru, and so many, many other versions and ideas. So this is actually trickier than you would think at first. many people use the same words, but actually mean very different things. This is also a step that many people have problems with not only writing, but understanding in reading. Scholarly books more often use this technique, but are not nearly as popular with readers.
Second, something I have found fascinating about the countless conversations I have had about this, is the simple fact that what people are really saying, without realizing it is "this author is good because they say what I agree with, but this other author is authoritarian because the way they say things is not what I agree with." Why do I say that? Simple. Every Pagan author I have ever heard of has been described by one person as not authoritarian, but authoritarian by another. They all say this is the way, very few say this is the only way, unless they are saying this is the only way to do what I do, and that is entirely correct. There are individuals who DO take things to extremes, but usually they loose followers on a regular basis. That is hard to maintain over people in the long run.
Third, any time you say "this herb (or stone or what have you) does this" you are speaking from an authoritarian point of view. You are claiming that there are in fact rules and they are this particular way.
Hopefully I will revisit this topic in the future and deal with the more dangerous sort of authoritarianism that crops up with some sorts of individuals.
Morgantown Pagan Pride Day will be held Sunday July 30, 2017.
It will be held at Mason Dixon Park in Core WV.
Location info can be found at their website http://masondixonhistoricalpark.com/index.html
Vendor form can be found on the Pagan Pride Page of this site. http://manypathsoneforest.weebly.com/pagan-pride-day.html
This year we have added several ways to get rewards for supporting Morgantown Pagan Pride Day.
On our gofundme you can earn paintings, bat houses, butterfly houses, and more to come. It can be found at www.gofundme.com/WVPaganPride2017
On our zazzle page you can get t-shirts, buttons, coffee cups, more to come. It can be found at www.zazzle.com/paganpridemorgantown
We are restarting the blog and will have many posts coming soon.
A gift from the Gods (this happened just before 2000)
The universe gave me a wonderful gift a few years back. Way back while I was on my four month camping trip. I was sleeping on morning in my tent, which was WAY down the bottom of this valley, not far from the nearest road. I dreamed that the gods had stopped by to give me a gift, when suddenly there was a blast of thunder & I awoke. But there was no thunder, nor lighting, nor a cloud in the sky. Perplexed, I sat & though for a minute. Deciding that surely this strange noise must have come from the road above, though what it could have been I did not know. I hiked back up the hillside & a few minutes later I stood beside the road. I looked around, but saw nothing that could have made the noise. Curious I decided to look around, thinking perhaps someone had pulled off & hit something. I checked the near by areas where cars sometimes pull over. But saw nothing of interest. No banged trees, no sign that there had been an accident. Then I noticed that across the road there was a little place going into the woods where a car could pull into, though why one would I did not know. I went over. It became obvious that some people had over time stopped there many times. There were little piles of garbage. It made me sad. But still nothing that would have made any noise, especially one like had awoken me. I notice there is a low branch in the back. Hmm, perhaps that had scraped the car, but wait... What is that lying on a low ridge in the back. I approach. It's a small box, but wait. behind the ridge there are MORE small boxes. What are they. Oh my goodness. A Farberware pot, not one... not two... not even five
No there are FOURTEEN!!!!! All brand new, all in the box. Some marked at over a hundred dollars EACH!!!! I blinked. I looked around. How? Where?
Best I could figure is someone backed their truck in slightly past the branch & right up to the ridge & spent the night. Then when they pulled out in the morning the branch pushed them off. This was the summer of 1999, so I figure it was someone paranoid about the millenium. But hey, if the racket woke me up & I hiked all the way up the hill & spent awhile trying to figure out what had happend & nobody had noticed when they drove off. Their loss & my gain. I had after all lusted after just this quality of cookware for years. I had mainly used cheap dollar store cookware for most of my life. Had used some good stuff at work, bt could not have bought it for myself. Would not even have it now but for this twist of fate that brought them to me.
Some ask if I believe the Gods are real? Do I believe that God or Goddess or great spirit takes action in our lives. For me it is not even a question. It is a certainty. I have no doubt. I may not always understand, may question Why this? Why now? To what purpose? But doubt in the reality or that there IS a purpose? Never.
Some have argued that Pagans worship the creation and not the creator. While that may be true in a sense, I think it is more akin to looking someone in the eye when you talk to them. You may only be looking at the face, but in the back of your mind you know there is a whole person beyond just that face. There is more to the body and a mind hidden behind that which is obviously present.
So yes, we may gather in a forest glade and honor the spirit of the woods, the stream, the air and that which is within ourselves. However that local focus is also honoring distant lands, distant stars, an entire universe beyond that seen by the eye and the very spirit of the entire universe.
I was asked today to describe Paganism. So I gave them a short description. What I said was "Take a large canvas of philosophy, paint on the myths look at it with the outer eyes of anthropology and psychology and the inner eye of mysticism, frame it all with basic rituals and a reverence for nature."
I had wanted something simple and yet spoke to the different traditions without getting bogged down in those differences. That can all come out in future conversation. So I am wondering what people think of that description. Is it fair and effective for the most basic intro? I would hope that it would be sufficient for those who aren't really interested, yet also inspire questions in those who really want to know more.