Why I’m A Pagan

[editor’s note, by its simple IF you ignore the complexity]I think exploring the basis of our faith traditions is important. I thank Roland for sharing his and hope promoting this helps make a statement in regards to Morgan’s recent diary.

It’s a funny thing. I haven’t thought seriously about the origins and underpinnings of my neopaganism in years. In the wake of my beloved wife Morgan’s post on non-Christian involvement in SP, however, I felt the need, and the reflection has been very good for my faith. I’ve spent some useful, valuable time thinking about what my spirituality means to me.

Anyway, my reason for being a neopagan. Well, I may be rather thoroughly hetero, but a common refrain from the LGBT community comes to mind: “do you think I’d put up with this much grief if this were a choice?” I certainly don’t believe that New Age faith is genetically based, but it almost seems as if our beliefs are written in our spiritual DNA at times. It’s commonly said that no one converts to paganism, you just realize one day that it’s what you’ve been all along.

Oh so much more after the flip.

The basis for my faith in this lifetime comes from the brief period when I lived in Florida with my parents. They had moved south not long before, and I had made a few friends at the local gaming shop. At the time, I was agnostic bordering on atheist, but they were essentially New Age in theory. I attended a…I guess you could call it a ritual, but it was more of a power-raising. I felt truly connected to the spiritual universe, the Essence flowing through All, for the first time in my life. It was a genuine revelation.

Unfortunately, it was not the best group to be with for those purposes. While blinded by my joy at first, I soon realized that the energy around me was…dissonant. Not to mention the marginally subtle manipulation from our would-be “leader.” People in our community who want “power over” are bad news with a capital BAD. When I moved back to Connecticut to be with my old friends, I discovered that my first ex (we’re still close friends, but yeah, lots of bittersweet emotion in that) had discovered neopaganism, and I became an occasional participant/battery in her group’s rituals. That was a lot healthier. Eventually, I met Morgan, and the rest, as they say, is history.

As I thought about my deeper reasons for why my path touches me as it does, I came to a realization. In pretty much every version of neopaganism, despite their many differences, there is a recognition of the feminine face of the Divine. It is a common theme throughout the “Earth-based” religions, and I have realized upon reflection that this is a large part of what calls to me about my spirituality. It’s based partly in the combination of my deep feminism and equally deep chivalric streak (which do occasionally butt heads, but usually get along very well — in fact, each is often the reason for the other), but I think it’s also part of my larger quest for balance. I just don’t find that balance in most other religions, and I’ve found that in spite of my enormous draw to both, I’m just not temperamentally suited towards native tribal spiritualism or classic Taoism. I raid both for ideas and energy, but one of the primary hallmarks of modern paganism is the willingness to grab anything that isn’t nailed down hard enough. (All of this is the majority of why I’m not comfortable calling myself a Taoist any more — I don’t feel like I have the right.)

More than even that wonderful feeling of communion, the all too rare sensation of feeling balanced and embraced, is the pure knowing that comes with those moments — the gnosis, if you will, of one’s part in and connection to the universe. “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter,” to steal shamelessly from Lucas/Yoda. The workaday, mundane world mutes that so easily, the moments where we reclaim that are priceless to me. I’ve found them coming less and less often, and seek them through my spirituality more as a result. To put it as simply as possible, no other path helps me reach that connection as easily or as well.

Huh. I guess that makes me a Gnostic New Age Taoist Polytheist. Um, I think I’ll stick with “pagan” so as not to make folks’ heads explode. πŸ˜‰

(/) Roland X
Fleeing the Chenon tyranny, the last Battleblog, Galactikos, leads a rag-tag fugitive web, on a lonely quest; a shining concept, known as Truth.

32 comments

Cubit Jar (4.00 / 21)

Since folks were discussing tips vs. cookies, and I have to be silly. πŸ˜‰

(In original Battlestar Galactica, the basic unit of money was the Colonial Cubit. Yes, I’m letting my geek flag fly.)

(/) Roland X
There are those who believe that life here…began out there.

by Roland X on Tue Feb 21st, 2006 at 22:43:05 PDT

You realize, of course, (3.85 / 7)

that now I’m going to be hearing Bill Cosby’s “Noah” routine in my head for the rest of the day, right?

“What’s a cubit?”

On the other hand, that may make sitting through the exit interview with this candidate this afternoon a little more bearable…

Michael

by musing85 on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 07:06:26 PDT

LOL! (4.00 / 7)

I made a similar comment while Roland was writing this diary :-).

“Voo-bah, voo-bah, voo-bah…”

Once upon a time, back in grade school, I had that whole routine memorized. I still have the album (real old-fashioned vinyl ^_^).

by Morgan on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 13:09:23 PDT

Was that from (4.00 / 6)

“Why is There Air?”

Now I’m showing my age!

To God belong the east and the west: Whereso ever you turn, there is the face of God. For God is all-Embracing, all-Knowing.

by dervish on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 13:55:25 PDT

I think it was called… (4.00 / 6)

“Bill Cosby is a Very Funny Fellow. Β Right!” Β (The emphatic “Right” in the title is part of the call & response between Noah & God)

And now I’m remembering Noah chastising God for not letting him know the female elephant was pregnant: Β “BROMMM!!! Right on top of good ol’ Noah!”

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle. -Philo of Alexandria

by vansterdam on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 14:34:32 PDT

My sister (none / 1)

got the vinyl of the Cosby albums. But I have “Noah” on CD–and therefore on my iPod as well.

I still think the neighbor’s reaction sequence is the best part of that routine.

“What is this thing?”

“It’s an ark.”

“Uh-huh. You wanna get it out of my driveway? I’ve gotta get to work.”

“What’s this thing for, anyway?”

“I can’t tell you. Ha ha ha ha ha.”

“Not even a little hint?”

“You want a hint?”

“Yes, please.”

“How long can you tread water? Ha ha ha ha ha ha.”

Michael

by musing85 on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 16:57:17 PDT

My path (4.00 / 6)

I started calling myself a Witch when I was 10 or 11. My inspiration came from the Oz books, and from fairy tales and mythology. I had a few direct experiences of the Divine through my teens, without a framework to understand them, which led to my reading everything I could get my hands on about spirituality and religion. I was in my late teens before I found out there were other Witches. I performed a self-initiation when I was 19, but it was several years before I found compatible people and went through a formal initiation.

Most Witches and Pagans I know describe the process as more of a “coming home” or “coming out” than a conversion experience. We have felt and believed this way for a long time, and found other people who share our feelings, beliefs, practices. We don’t change our beliefs as in a conversion experience; rather we change or join our community, to join with others who share our beliefs.

by MagentaMN on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 07:47:22 PDT

Coming Home (4.00 / 6)

Most Witches and Pagans I know describe the process as more of a “coming home”

That was the feeling I had when I began to delve into Joseph Campbell’s writings in earnest.While my spiritual path is primarily influenced by Buddhism, there is a very eclectic mix within.Paganism is a significant part of it.

I’ve never been able to swallow the entirety of a religion lock, stock, and barrel.Some traditions within Buddhism hold that there are 84,000 paths–figuratively speaking, of course.In the end we can only share our wisdom, each seeker’s path is uniquely there own.

As a mother with her own life guards the life of her child, have all-embracing thoughts for all that lives. -Metta Sutta [-8.38,-6.15]

by Jeff G on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 11:49:56 PDT

Same here… (4.00 / 3)

I have never been able to accept one religion either. So my path has been a singular one, and sometimes frustrating because I wanted to be able to say I was something. The unifying factor is I will adopt any practice that helps me slice through and discard illusion. The original motivation for that was large amounts of emotional pain.

Studying to become a healer was a good place to start, because in order to become an effective healer, you need to let go of your own baggage in order to be a channel for healing others. So the study and practice of learning different healing modalities, was therapeutic. In the end, it was Buddhist practice that really brought me to a place where I could experience the peace and joy of equanimity. It helped me to understand changeability and expectations…it helped me to become an emotional adult. Sorry I am rambling, it is nice to meet you Jeff G.

I am That, you are That, all of this is That, and That is all there is.

by shakti on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 16:11:36 PDT

…and you as well.:) (none / 1)

Feel free to ramble any time.I enjoyed reading it.

As a mother with her own life guards the life of her child, have all-embracing thoughts for all that lives. -Metta Sutta [-8.38,-6.15]

by Jeff G on Thu Feb 23rd, 2006 at 03:44:36 PDT

Thank you. (4.00 / 2)

In my incoherence last night I neglected to mention that I think the practice of becoming a healer is analagous to Buddhist practice…like playing with the same yo-yo, only using a different string.

I am That, you are That, all of this is That, and That is all there is.

by shakti on Thu Feb 23rd, 2006 at 04:09:38 PDT

I agree (none / 1)

It reminds me of something Thich Nhat Hanh said regarding listening.Listening, really hearing, giving someone your complete and total attention, is an act of healing.I think its reasonable to say that you have to be mindful and attentive to the present moment to be a healer.Compassion (in)action.

Have you ever experimented with or tried Tonglen?

As a mother with her own life guards the life of her child, have all-embracing thoughts for all that lives. -Metta Sutta [-8.38,-6.15]

by Jeff G on Thu Feb 23rd, 2006 at 06:24:27 PDT

Yes, as a matter of fact, (none / 1)

a while ago I did a series of diaries on Lojong, one of them was about Tonglen. Sorry for no link, I am a bit of a luddite.

In fact, I have used Tonglen as a healing modality. I know it is said that Tonglen is really for the practitioner, but I have found it to be effective for more than my own personal benefit.

How about you? Do you have experience of working with Tonglen?

I am That, you are That, all of this is That, and That is all there is.

by shakti on Thu Feb 23rd, 2006 at 06:41:26 PDT

Some (4.00 / 2)

I’ve worked with it some.Normally I use it in the traditional way, in conjunction with shamatha and vipassana meditation.While my grounding is in the Theravada tradition, I’ve expanded with exposure to my local meditation group where we have a mix of traditions.I’ve received both formal and informal instruction in Tonglen and I find the practice very beneficial.

As a mother with her own life guards the life of her child, have all-embracing thoughts for all that lives. -Metta Sutta [-8.38,-6.15]

by Jeff G on Thu Feb 23rd, 2006 at 07:08:04 PDT

Oddly enough I have trouble with.. (4.00 / 2)

meditation that relies on watching breath. As soon as I focus on my breath…I can’t breath. I suspect I may have a bit of asthma from working in a paint shop for 12 years and breathing all kinds of stuff…it couldn’t have anything to do with me smoking all those years ago. πŸ˜‰ This breathing anomaly is something I keep saying I am going to work on, and yet I keep putting it off.

I am That, you are That, all of this is That, and That is all there is.

by shakti on Thu Feb 23rd, 2006 at 07:55:27 PDT

Thanks (4.00 / 6)

I think it’s so useful to periodically put our beliefs and how we came to them down on virtual paper, both for ourselves and for other wanderers on the journey.
It can raise new questions for us, guide others who walk on similar paths, enlighten still others who diverge with us, and solidify our beliefs in our own hearts/minds/soul, disgarding traditional labels and coming up with new ones. (I’m Catholic, but could call myself a feminst, goddess-worshiping, Cristo-pagan)
So thanks for taking the time to dig around a little and share it with us.

by valleycat on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 07:49:31 PDT

Pagan-licious! (4.00 / 7)

I raid both for ideas and energy, but one of the primary hallmarks of modern paganism is the willingness to grab anything that isn’t nailed down hard enough.

That’s one of the things I like about modern paganism. It seems to me to be a very positive trait. Then again, I’m also very much anti-one-true-way. I believe that finding the path that you think is right for you is very important, which makes taking things that you feel are good for you from wherever is vital.

Drove some fundamentalist friends of mine nuts, though. They had trouble understanding how I could accept parts of a religion; to them, religions were indivisible units. Breaking one up, or viewing some parts as right and others as wrong, was simply Not Possible.

I don’t have many moments of gnosis; those few that I have had are very valuable to me. I do sometimes wish that a God would come up and thwap me, but that mostly seems to happen to people in big trouble or those wanted for a priesthood of some kind.

“To make life easier and to be happy ended up being two different things.” – Arjuna’s Father, Earth Girl Arjuna.

by Egarwaen on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 09:44:28 PDT

In my experience… (4.00 / 4)

those experiences are available to everyone. It is just a matter of finding the appropriate way for each of us to gain access to them…sometimes it is a matter of silencing our chattering inner voice, sometimes a matter of learning a type of meditation that particularly suits us, sometimes it is a matter of telling our intellect to stop trying to parse every little thing so that we miss those magic moments, or perhaps as Roland has related it can be a matter of ritual as well.

Trust me, Egarwaen, those experiences are avalable to you too.

I am That, you are That, all of this is That, and That is all there is.

by shakti on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 10:46:00 PDT

Not always rituals πŸ™‚ (4.00 / 6)

The one that comes first to mind, we (Roland and I) were sitting on the bench-swing hanging from the cork-oak in the back yard, leaning back and looking up into the tree while we swung gently.

I don’t remember enough of what he told me happened to be able to do is justice, but I know it was a profound experience for him.

by Morgan on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 13:18:20 PDT

Exactly (none / 1)

They can come in anyway. Perhaps it helps if we believe it is possible, but even without that, they will come.

In my case, they came and batted me upside the head before I was ever consciously on a spiritual path. I scrambled for some time trying to find a way to explain or understand the things that were happening around me. It was frightening until I finally took the chance and confided in someone, I thought I might be “going crazy”…I suppose there are some who might say that would be a short trip -badda bum-…or how do I know I wasn’t? πŸ˜€

I am That, you are That, all of this is That, and That is all there is.

by shakti on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 15:55:01 PDT

Make me one with everything πŸ˜‰ (none / 1)

Seriously, though, the night Morgan describes was the single most gnostic/numinous moment of my life. (Not necessarily most joyous or blessed — I am happily married to a goddess, after all. πŸ˜‰

I find it hard to describe, really. We were sitting there, each in the other’s arms, and I was staring at the sky in all its beauty as the sun was setting. The stars were starting to come out. (Note: Morgan doesn’t remember it being this late. That may be true; keep reading.) And as I felt myself surrounded my love and at peace with myself for once in my life, I fell…up. There’s really no other way for me to describe it. I just sort of dropped out of my body, while still perfectly aware of it, so I wouldn’t call it astral projection. As I fell/rose, I expanded, growing and growing, becoming part of more and more of the world around me, until finally…I was infused into the universe.

The moment of Total Unity was one of those instant/eternity moments, there and gone in an impossibly short moment of time, but it seemed to last forever while I was in it. Regarding Morgan’s memory of events, I may simply have “seen” the sunlight dim and stars emerge as my soul-self moved beyond the sky’s canopy. Truth be told, I don’t feel that it matters. It…was, and it was glorious. In that moment, I understood what Master Lao Tze meant when he said the Tao cannot be described or explained in words. How do you encompass forever with language? How can you make a picture of endless love, infinity in every mote, eternity in every moment, the sheer divinity in creation that is creation? Poetry is the best I can do, and it’s a poor substitute for the real thing. Don’t look at my finger, look at the moon! πŸ˜‰

I’m equally at a loss to explain how I can have returned and still be…just me. It wasn’t satori or Enlightenment or any such revelation of Truth; it was “simply” a oneness, but that’s like saying you “just” met God rather than being taught to walk on water, y’know? At the same time, after I came back, I still had to go to work, pay bills, deal with the Naked Emperor, etc. So I don’t have any great revelations to share aside from that there is more to our existence than some amino acids that happened to bump into each other, and I’m pretty sure everyone in the thread already knew that. πŸ™‚

(/) Roland X
Fleeing the Chenon tyranny, the last Battleblog, Galactikos, leads a rag-tag fugitive web, on a lonely quest; a shining concept, known as Truth.

by Roland X on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 20:09:32 PDT

finger and moon thingy (none / 1)

Don’t look at my finger, look at the moon! πŸ˜‰

Why?What’s wrong with your finger?Sorry, I couldn’t resist.I have cats for companions and they always seem to favor the finger over what its pointing at.I can’t help but wonder if they know something I don’t.

Thanks for sharing.It was very poetic.

As a mother with her own life guards the life of her child, have all-embracing thoughts for all that lives. -Metta Sutta [-8.38,-6.15]

by Jeff G on Thu Feb 23rd, 2006 at 03:58:33 PDT

LOL! (none / 0)

Again, someone posts what I commented to Roland while he was typing :-).

Cat person? Me? Nah πŸ˜‰

by Morgan on Thu Feb 23rd, 2006 at 11:22:54 PDT

Is that one of yours? (none / 0)

πŸ™‚

As a mother with her own life guards the life of her child, have all-embracing thoughts for all that lives. -Metta Sutta [-8.38,-6.15]

by Jeff G on Thu Feb 23rd, 2006 at 13:12:20 PDT

Yep πŸ™‚ (none / 0)

One of two, brother and sister, who were foundlings. I took several pictures of him trying to open the door to the family room, and Roland pointed out that they were might make a good animated gif, so I had to give it a try.

by Morgan on Thu Feb 23rd, 2006 at 13:57:54 PDT

Cool! (none / 0)

One of our cats when I was growing up used to do something like that! We used to have a bench beside the screen door, and he eventually worked out that he could jump up on it and push at the latch with his paw. By the time we noticed, he’d almost worked out how to get it open and escape.

“To make life easier and to be happy ended up being two different things.” – Arjuna’s Father, Earth Girl Arjuna.

by Egarwaen on Thu Feb 23rd, 2006 at 13:47:04 PDT

Voices and Thwappage (none / 1)

Oh, I know they’re available to everyone. But they seem to come most readily to people in real trouble or to those who a God wants as a priest. I’ve just never really experienced one. My inner voice and intellect just won’t shut up.

“To make life easier and to be happy ended up being two different things.” – Arjuna’s Father, Earth Girl Arjuna.

by Egarwaen on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 17:20:42 PDT

Understood. (none / 1)

I have experienced a lot of them myself, but not necessarily when I was in trouble. As far as being a priest, I don’t think that is my role.

I recently read something that said, “If you are going to teach truth, you need to be prepared to make enemies. Only a few people will listen.” I think the life of Jesus is a pretty good testament to that point. This was in a greater piece about great teachers are not usually great students, because the act of being a teacher takes great energy and committment. My preference is to be a student, I cannot claim greatness, but being a student is my focus.

I am That, you are That, all of this is That, and That is all there is.

by shakti on Thu Feb 23rd, 2006 at 04:05:42 PDT

I have experienced (4.00 / 4)

no thwaping, just…. flowing.

When needed there is a flow of energy or money or … encouragement in different forms.

Total coincidence? Perhaps. I don’t believe it.

for instance: I face up to my greatest fears and go gather some signatures. This involves expenses and heavy medicating. Β I receive unexpected money in the mail. After having acomplished all this, I get an early birthday gift from my mother. A blue long sleeve warm shirt with an orange t-shirt to wear under it… quilt colors! (and no, I did not tell her about the quilt until AFTER I got the shirt)

No thwaping.

by A Missionarys Kid on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 12:04:07 PDT

The Princes of Serendip (4.00 / 5)

have obviously been visiting.

Congratulations!

by loggersbrat on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 12:19:32 PDT

I like the way you describe your journey. (4.00 / 5)

It sounds like falling in love, which is another process in which you do some choosing, and are also chosen.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle. -Philo of Alexandria

by vansterdam on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 14:47:24 PDT

Tell me about it! πŸ™‚ (4.00 / 8)

We literally fell in love online, with our hearts and souls overriding our brains. We knew we were in love before even talking on the phone, with it taking just about a week to go from being commiserating friends to “I love you.” We were smart enough not to make any permanent plans until after we met in person, though. But it was under 24 hours after I got off the plane in New York (three weeks after realizing we were in love) that we were engaged and trying to figure out how to get him to Southern California.

Our 8th wedding anniversary was last week, BTW :-).

by Morgan on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 14:57:31 PDT

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