Pagan Perspective: Philosophy/Theosophy [3.19-24.12]

Okay that sounds a little more dodgy than might first appear!

Pagan Perspective on YouTube

For those not in the know I’ve been harassing the Pagan Perspective (PP) for years now with my suggestions for topics and so forth. The PP is a collaborative channel on YouTube with a variety of speakers each on a nominated topic for the week. Theres a post from each of the contributors everyday and the channel coordinator, Cara aka Cutewitch772 (who’s awesome blog can be found HERE) edits the channel to allow people like me to keep easy track of the awesome topics too! So a HUGE shout out and thank you to the gang on PP!

Philosophy/Theosophy

While “Philosophy/Theosophy” is not the first topic I suggested to the Pagan Perspective it is the first one I can link to like this. Bare in mind this is a playlist and so while Anni (from MIRTHandREVERANCE fame) is up first there are a number of other contributors take a look at all of them as they are all wonderfully insightful.

One of the reasons why I posed the question of philosophical and theosophical influences on a person’s path was because I find myself heavily influenced by subjects I covered in college. I can tell you it makes for a surreal experience to find that subjects in college have real world application! 😉 In college I had the opportunity to study Feminism, Queer theory, Existential philosophers such as Camus, Sartre and Beauvoir. Then I had a wee think – well it was a slow day – and realised that these awesome philosophers and critical thinkers weren’t just the preserve of a select few. Indeed at a new media student I was uniquely positioned to see how widely such paradigms have influenced modern pagans. Queue the Pagan Perspective! I did ask on other sites but the responses were too slow or just not in-depth enough. Perhaps this has something to do with the media being engaged as people tend to be a lot more scathing when able to hide behind a username or handle.

From my own end I tend to describe myself publicly as an Existentialist Pagan, this is largely due to the recognition in the Craft movement to self-responsibility. During my early readings of the practice of the Craft authors such as Janet and Stewart Farrar, Doreen Valiente and others emphsized the importance of ethical Craft practice. Most modern books on the subject go so far as to include the 13 Goals of a Witch and Wicca’s very own Golden Rule, The Rule of Three or the Threefold Law of Return. Marking a universal set of axioms or maxims is a difficult endeavour in modern Paganism yet Witches and Pagans are held to be all there is! The focus on environmentalism alone should help to support that complexity of modern pagan philosophy surely as aside from the rampant feminism its the most obvious influence on neopaganism.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love pondering complex concepts fot the sheer mental pleasure of doing so. However, my core philosophy and ethical code is quite simple. I think the progression from simple to complex to simple is necessary so that we can understand the simplicity of things without being simplistic”. (Christopher DeGraffenreid, Facebook, 29 November 2012)

For me identifying the philosophical [and theosophical] influences on my practices allows me to critically engage with my path and express what the Existentialists would call ‘good faith’. Well, really they’d be more preoccupied with the ‘bad faith’ which is the notion that through being overtly passive i.e. not a critical thinker and merely accepting matters at face value is an article of bad faith. The term was coined by Jean-Paul Sartre. If I’m to be responsible as a Witch is this merely with regard to magic and spell work or am I to become a better person for it?

Personally I strongly feel that the role of the Witch is to the community they serve and not to a priesthood or subculture. I know this is a stance that many Traditionalists will find hard to rectify because for them the title they earn is Witch and Priest/ess, and because of their work within Coven structures the two terms may be synonymous as many work as witches solely in private and all else is merely as a person. Indeed my own experiences of being a “witch to the community” have been through the mode of a friend and confidant. Certainly what kind of a Witch one is going to be depends on their background and for this reason magic can be very painful as a lifestyle (we all may call it a calling but lets face it we’re always presented with options to take the road well trodden) since it brings us into touch with who we are and what is likely to happen as an end result is a person being more human not less.

This PP’s topic was the starting point I went on to discuss “Ethics in the Craft” with some Facebook friends a few months back now. While Facebook is hardly indicative of the wider Wiccan or Pagan community the subject of “ethics” was a thorny one for most as Tradition as a static concept seemed to conflict with people who felt that “ethics” required people to bring in new laws. For those who know of Alexandrian and Gardnerian Wicca they have a series fo laws or precepts gathered by Gardner called the Ardanes and these Ardanes vary in number amongst the two Traditions of Wicca and possibly even between Coven-lines (if some got newer ones and others kept the older MSS, etc.). As a non-initiate I’m not even sure how many of the Ardanes are concerned with rules of conduct and whether a distinction is made between ethics and etiquette.

It may seem rather random for me to jump from philosophical perspectives to ethics and in the same breathe flow into laws. But philosophy can be internalised and assumed to be universally understood, some ethics can be held to be universal amongst the ‘human condition’ but people do vary a lot and sometimes I do wonder if we see the similarities ignoring the differences – ignoring the diversity.

As always I would love to hear from you dear readers…

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