Some thoughtful responses


I just wanted to highlight a couple of interesting comments friends have made about the blog:

tricky word that ‘belief’. also, consider magic a psychological technology and spirituality a practice not an ideological position… i’ve taken to saying “i entertain the notion that…”. i dropped ‘i believe’ years ago as nonsense.

I think of this stuff more as a practice than as anything having to do with belief. Like, if you practice mindfulness meditation a lot, certain things will happen (according to scientists you’re likely to get less stressed out, reduce inflammation, etc). Or if you practice other kinds of meditation you might have an ecstatic experience. And some people mash belief into that, but it doesn’t have to be so (see: “buddhism without beliefs,” bokononism, the agnostic experience of the numinous). I see the obsession with belief as the primary agent of spirituality as something we inherit from dime-store Christianity.

So, right away, this blog’s (and my journey’s) focus on belief is called into question, to my great delight.

Also, this:

Your attachment to “truth” seems to be the same as monotheism to me!

Drawing-Down-the-Moon-Adler-Margot-9780143038191A few days’s after reading that last comment, I started Margot Adler’s history of Neo-Paganism in America, Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshipers, and Other Pagans in America, in which she writes:

… [David Leroy] Miller had come to believe that the much talked of “death of God” was really the death of the one-dimensional “monotheistic” thinking that had dominated Western culture from top to bottom, influencing not only its religion but its psychology and politics as well…. “Polytheism is not only a social reality; it is also a philosophical condition. It is the reality experienced by men and women when Truth with a capital “T” cannot be articulated reflectively according to a single grammar, a single logic, or a single symbol system.” Far from being merely a religious belief, polytheism, for Miller, is an attitude that allows one to affirm “the radical plurality of the self.”

(Adler is talking about Miller’s book, The New Polytheism: Rebirth of the Gods and Goddesses, 1974).



Echoing the view that belief may not be the central issue with regard to spirituality, Adler writes (of her own involvement with Neo-Pagan groups):

[B]elief has never seemed very relevant to the Neo-Pagan movement. In my fifteen years of contact with these groups I was never asked to believe in anything.

Adler presents many Neo-Pagans’ relationship with belief as far more fluid and flexible than a singular (monotheist) view of truth would allow:

Who are those who can embrace polytheism, accepting a bit of chaos in their spiritual perspective without denying rational modes of thinking? Who are those who are able to suspend belief and disbelief at will and are equally comfortable with scientific discourse and magical ritual?

Which, I suppose, is just the sort of question I’m interested in exploring here.

Thanks, everyone, for your feedback and comments (here, on social media, and offline). This is turning into a very interesting conversation!

druids1In other news, I attended a Unitarian Church service on Sunday (it was lovely! and I’ll report on it soon) and have ordered an introductory information pack from the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (the full training pack is a little pricey at this stage, but who knows?). I missed Kiwiburn, but am looking for other events to attend (feel free to suggest anything).


One thought on “Some thoughtful responses

  1. Quite a few monotheists also question the importance placed on belief. Within the United Church of Canada (which I grew up in) there are many who are more concerned with social justice than belief, the (in)famous example being moderator Bill Phipps when he questioned the divinity of Jesus Christ and the literal truth of scriptures. It’s not a universally agreed upon view of the United Church (some churches passed resolutions of their faith in the divinity of Christ and the truth of the resurrection), but for me, the affirmation by some made it a shorter step from ‘believer’ to atheist. I left the church I was at less because of what was being preached (always a practical interpretation of scripture) than because of the uselessness of the ritual of the rest of the service, and a community that I was never terrifically close to, in spite of being there for a few years.

    Which raises the interesting subject of the importance of ritual, tied very tightly to belief, (and community too), because you have to believe that the recitation and repetition of ritual words and songs and actions is doing something. I’m curious to know more about what Adler means by ‘belief’ when she writes “[B]elief has never seemed very relevant to the Neo-Pagan movement. In my fifteen years of contact with these groups I was never asked to believe in anything.” Does she really mean “I was never asked to believe in a fixed, institutional dogma”? Because from my (admittedly limited) acquaintance with neo-paganism, ritual seems to be very important. And belief underpins ritual, otherwise, whatever is the point of going through those motions?

    All of these thoughts were tipped off by this article on the CBC this morning:

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