I know, I finally set up a WordPress and then I vanish from it. There are a couple of reasons for this. On a personal level, I’m going through a lot of shifts and I’m still sorting out where they’re leading me. My ability to sleep unmedicated has come back after years of absence, and with it have come flavors of my energy I thought I had lost access to permanently. And yet I am a person with several more years of other experiences, and reintegrating things is a process. Spiritually I’m in much the same process, one where layers of experience and relationship from several different periods are trying to come back together into something cohesive.
I have to tell you honestly, people of my heart, that the current climate in the community is not conducive to that kind of work.
In many ways it seems like a development of the same old conflict there’s always been. People with traditions versus people without traditions, and varying degrees of rigidity in traditions. Tradition is naturally attractive to people who prefer order and to conservative people; freedom to innovate, to progressives and artists. (Of course, nothing’s ever that simple. Artists can love tradition, people who need things just so in other contexts might lean toward more free-flowing religious experiences, and so on.) One end of the spectrum offers deep contexts and the ability to build consistent shared containers and symbols of experience; it risks inability to adapt from the ancient to modern reality. The other end offers chances to experiment and combine things in new ways, to be explorers of a world no one has mapped for a long time; it risks misunderstanding the bits and pieces it stitches together and losing its way.
All well and good. We all bickered, discussed, and then went off and did whichever thing we felt called to do. We didn’t always like or respect each other, no, we made jokes at each others’ expense and called practices and values into question, because that’s just the sort of thing that happens.
From what I’ve seen – and let me say first that I’m not an expert witness, I haven’t read every single bleeding article by everyone and I’m not going to, and if you try to take the comments there I’m just going to point you up to this sentence. But from what I’ve personally seen, this is a meaner round, and it’s being couched in terms that go beyond orthopraxy to orthodoxy – beyond practice, which used to be what we all agreed was the defining point of who was what, to what people are to believe.
I don’t like that one bit. I also think it’s nonsense. One of the reasons we were so cleverly avoiding fights about orthodoxy, besides that we all knew we represented more than one religion and that fights about orthodoxy lend themselves to the sort of thought-policey, authoritarian One True Wayism that most of us agreed we wanted to avoid like the plague, was that fights about orthodoxy cannot, by definition, be won. Because we can’t empirically prove how many gods there are and which ones deserve or don’t deserve worship. We can’t empirically prove that syncretism does or doesn’t work, or how it has to function, or what deities may or may not so mingle. We can assert, yes; we can concoct or resurrect fine philosophical arguments; and then we are left at the same point as every other philosophical argument, which is in the middle of nowhere with intellectual blue balls and, in the case of religious philosophy, ourselves and/or our opponents helplessly enraged over things invisible to most of humanity. Ready to come to physical blows over how many angels fit on the head of a pin.
Wherever I’m headed, I’m not intending to head there. I didn’t expect a world in which my answer to questions about me, Paganism, and polytheism would be I’m a heretic, but damned if there aren’t people who seem to be trying to build that option.