The power of the Individual
As I walk into the comfort of the forest a deep sigh of relief escapes my lips. I find solace amongst the towering oak trees, which provides a much needed break from the din of what passes for a pagan community.
With so many folks coming from the Abrahamic belief systems onto a path that is diametrically opposed to their former comfort zone, the tenets of paganism are becoming ever so blurred.
Many of those that call themselves Neo Pagans banter about words, like acceptance, diversity, and individualism as what constitutes a pagan community. However the intent behind these words carries less weight then the gentle breeze that is now caressing my brow as I walk along a quiet wooded ridge.
For instance the concept of community is one that has been borrowed from the Abrahamic belief systems and has absolutely no chance of becoming a reality amongst those who walk the pagan path.
There are many reasons for this summation. One of the largest stumbling blocks to community is neo pagans themselves. True paganism is about individualism and yet there a couple of neo pagan groups who see their mission in life as being seen as the Pagan standard, though they represent no one but themselves. And as their concept of self importance as a group becomes broader and broader, the concept of individualism gets lost in the mix. And so the one tenet that would validate them as true pagans becomes more of a façade then reality.
Such groups make ridiculous claims that paganism has died out and they are re-creating the concept of paganism. Off in the distance a crow begins to caw, as if laughing at such a foolish declaration. The Deities which pagans ascribe to have never gone away. For it is not up to Deity to validate themselves, rather it is up to humans to empower themselves through the lessons that have always been proffered by Deity.
The universal energy that pagans manifest to enhance their personal workings has been in place long before humankind took its first breath and will be here long after humankind takes its last breath. For such energy is not beholden to the whim of humans, and to claim that it was re-discovered is at best a naïve statement.
Such neo pagan groups expend more energy trying to validate their perceived position in Paganism then they do recognizing the power of the individual.
It is such hypocrisy that leads to the constant posturing of personal points of view and to “my group is more pagan then your group” attitudes. But if one embraces individualism, then who cares?
Such groups waste so much energy trying to be validated and accepted by general society and by others who see themselves as pagans that they fail to see the hypocrisy that they are engaging in.
A prime example of this is the word “community”. Such a concept as envisioned by Neo pagans is fine for those of the Abrahamic belief systems, for many of these folks, with some slight variations; believe in pretty much the same concepts.
But in all reality it is an oxymoron as far as paganism goes for several reasons.
The most obvious reason is that “community” implies a central leadership of some sort. If pagans are truly individuals, then such a centralized leadership will never work beyond the coven setting. Even within the coven setting, each member is an individual who has come together with other individuals for a common purpose. Leadership is based upon actual experience and wisdom, not self declaring oneself as a leader as is often the case in neo-pagan groups.
Another observation is that far too often are the times I have seen a respected Elder from one group or area being ripped to shreds by members of another group who are just an hour or so away. Such a realistic and yet deplorable setting will forever doom such a divergent concept as community in regards to paganism.
But not all is lost as far as paganism if only folks are willing to put forth the effort.
Instead of mimicking the Abrahamic religious concepts, which by the way are fine for those folks that such an approach works for, why not strive to create a pagan society?
The difference between community and society as I see it is quite clear.
Instead of a central leadership as one would expect to find in a community, under a mystical society the average mindset would have to be adjusted to accepting that there are numerous divergent pagan paths, each with its own form of leadership and representatives (Elders). Of course this would knock the legs out from under the elitist groups who claim to “be the one” or who see themselves as representing all pagan paths (not a very realistic assumption really), but then if one is going to be a pagan and mouth the words diversity, acceptance and individualism, then actually embracing such concepts should be the norm rather then the exception as it is today in modern paganism.
But it doesn’t stop there.
For a pagan society to become a reality, those who would make up the membership of such a society have a responsibility as well.
Such folks, whether they are solitaire, or belong to a gathering such as a coven, teaching group, what have you, must re-learn how to be actual individuals.
With so many coming from the Abrahamic belief systems, there is a tendency to keep the same ingrained habits as before.
As a member of one of the Abrahamic belief systems, one is discouraged from being an individual, which is another tenet that is diametrically opposed to the tenets of paganism and yet is one that is often over-looked by modern pagans. Within such beliefs, folks are told when to stand, when to kneel, when to sing, and when to put their funds into the collection plate. And granted, some of the Neo pagan groups follow the same pattern in their approach to paganism, but then again, old habits are hard to break and are in fact selling themselves short as far as the experiences that the mystical path holds for them.
But again, we each choose our own cup of tea.
In order to learn how to become an individual, one must be willing to tackle the lesson of the ego, for this is a major stumbling block to the creation of a true pagan “society”. How many self described pagans I wonder actually take the time to look deep within one‘s self? As individuals we bring a unique source of energy and power to the table as a whole. Each person has latent abilities that are just waiting to have the eons of detritus dusted off so that one can begin to grow spiritually again.
We have become a community of followers and as such, these latent abilities have become buried in the layers of disuse.
Could you just imagine how creative and thriving a mystical society would be if each of its members re-learned such abilities and talents and then united in a loose way with others of such abilities?
With the albatross of ego out of the way, there would be room for common respect and thus a natural environment for learning and true spiritual growth, as paganism was meant to be and not as it is dictated today by this group or that who by their own actions have yet to learn these lessons and thus are more of a hindrance then a help.
The last hurdle that I want to touch upon is the misguided belief that paganism died out and was re-created. There are some groups out there who emphasis that we must practice paganism as it was done by our ancestors. This is yet another myth that creates a barrier to a mystical society. Paganism is about life and how it affects ones surroundings. It is about being tuned into those changes as they occur. Paganism is an ever changing concept that reflects the current situation in the world.
The Egyptians did not practice as the Incas did, The Romans did not practice as the Celts did. For each society was affected in different ways by their environment and style of living.
Folks today do not build pyramids or ride chariots, therefore there are separate and “individual” needs as far as paganism of today goes. This myth that one must practice as those of 3,000 years ago did, may serve the groups that engage in such a misguided belief, but it does little if anything in advancing real paganism amongst folks. Also, in spite of such a common misconception, there are many societies today who have never left their pagan lifestyles as such. There are the Eskimos, members of the Yoruba, Bushmen of Australia, tribes in parts of Africa and South America , Shamans of Siberia and the Native Americans and so forth who have always held on and continue to practice their traditions without all of the hoopla that some Neo pagan groups seek for themselves as far as attention and exposure. I see such groups as trying to create an elitist persona based upon their inability to control their egos. Such attempts serve as a stepping stone for those new to paganism but not much more as far as any real substance when it comes to the introduction of a pagan society. For the society and many wonderful teachers are already in place by the folks mentioned above. Neo pagans just need to realize this and move past the hype put out by those who want to just sell books or stroke their egos. Once the neo pagan part of paganism finds the maturity to move past such hurdles one will find that paganism is a wonderful world of exploration indeed.
But it will take the power of the individual to move such a concept forward.
Are you a pagan individual?