Been hectic at Uni lately so I’m being only partially present online lately. A while ago I posed another question to the Pagan Perspective – a collaborative channel on YouTube. I’ve posed a number of questions to the hosts of the various days over the years and some I’m managed to link to here, sometimes not though.
This is the most recent question:
The topic, from MrAbhainn
–“I am curious what the Hosts think about Spirituality subverting or overtaking Religion/Tradition (by Traditions I mean formalized systems such as Initiatory Wicca) in the modern Pagan Movement? With Spirituality people have great personal freedoms and can take from a plethora of sources the techniques that suit themselves but they also change the forumlae that that Tradition/System has developed, they also open themselves to what I see as an endless spiral of consumerism from the more New-Agey side of Paganism. Thoughts, ideas? :)”
Once again the hosts have not disappointed with their individualistic views and relationship to the topic matter. To make this easier I’ve collected the posts into a playlist from my own YouTube channel. Cara is usually pretty good at categorising the topics herself on the PaganPerspective channel.
So, now its my turn to answer back and this may be brief, hopefully for your sakes it will be! lol Obviously, such a division between religion and spirituality is completely artifical for the purposes of this blog and conversation. There are some very spiritual i.e. conscientious and active people of faith in organisated or systematised religions. And furthermore, since Wicca is an initatory system which prioritises personal gnosis through orthopraxy it too can’t be so easily boxed into religion or spirituality. However, in a much wider sense to it all we’re very much consumers of religion and faith and this has, in my opinion, always been somewhat true. The problem isn’t with the inherent truth of the matter but in the how, how we relate and through what models or paradigms is our consumption regulated.
Lets break down the question a little further and see what we can make of the idea from there. In short Spirituality has more public affection because its not inherently or obviously esoteric in nature. By esoteric I mean secretative where meaning has to be derived by experience rather than the aphorisms of modern Mind, Body, Spirit type events and communities. If I sound jealous its because I am! But modern spiritual movement of that ilk do indeed have esoteric philosophies or paradigms running behind them. They tend not to know this but there we go. If I transplant an idea from my brain to yours via a book or website the idea is framed from my own experiences and ideas and then the medium is factored in to make conveying the idea more palatable and easier to understand and relate to. So is it what it was? This always happens but from one culture or approach to another it can morph into something completely different. Same words just different idea.
There is another facet that is worthy of consideration; while its conceivable, and I daresay likely that “truth” may be derived from the maxims, axioms and aphorisms still alive within the social fabric of a movement or tradition within a Tradition/Religion there is often a formula that one lesson, seemingly distinct can in fact develop other ideas and aspects of the Tradition. So does someone learning of “An it Harm None; Do as Thou Wilt” depriving them of the relationship to the Traditions in which we find this aphorism. It can be found in various renditions in forms of modern witchcraft and owes its origins to the Great Beast himself, Aleister Crowley and his religion of Thelema found predominantly within the magical system of the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.).
The discussion fundamentally hinges on the Saussurean argumentation of linguistics and the relationship of symbolism and semiotics. The above phrase may just have easily been discussed in some of the YouTube videos by the host on PaganPerspective (langage) or it might have been blogged about on one of their blogs (langue) and the adjacent dynamic of discussions prior to it where the principle for discussion is born, this is the parole or genesis of the ideas being conveyed.
This is the beauty of Spirituality as a movement and Tradition as it’s base since it invariable involves people’s interactions and ideas being conveyed. It happens in the most subtle of ways and if one were to be a purist concerning Tradition it might be reasonable to assume that any usurpation of principles or axioms is a deliberate attack on one’s own understandings of meaning which have been agreed upon within the unique social structure of one’s own Tradition or Religion. It’s happened in Paganism as modern groups emerge and are met with older traditions using a similar but different lexicon (codified speech unique to the subculture).
Okay, that looks at what happens from a theoretical perspective applying some ideas of linguistics, cultural studies and sociology. Here’s the crux its NOT all doom and gloom whereby we all need to keep to our own sides of the playground. Something interesting happens in these ‘culture clashes’ whereby people begin to has out the various languages and meanings and agree upon a shared understanding. This is a path of compromise and can take groups some time before its reached and to be honest compromise isn’t something that everyone sanctions in the egalitarian sense of the word, “agree”; but rather that we simply convey a limited understanding for the purposes of conversation. Occasionally, this will mean that some things can’t be conveyed due to the limited nature of this agreement. However, as I say the creativity of this meeting can mean that people develop loanwords such as when colonialism meant that West met the East, it enriched our literature, culture and understanding of ourselves beyond a limited heteronormative meter. We need the challenges to create a dynamic of movement culturally.
Now we can start to see what Tradition can learn and in short this is flexibility for survival. Such flexibility enables the Tradition to learn to relate to the enfolding world around us without the necessity to hole ourselves off from external influences. Heck, even the Amish aren’t fully cut off! But this can be flipped as I proposed in my question to the channel the idea of consuming ideologies can go unchecked if people never learn to ground their practice in the moment. So much of modern Spirituality I seem to be referring to is the New Age movement and it works as a prime example of need, want and desire creating a huge melting pot of ideas for the consumer to immerse themselves in. So, in the meeting of approaches described above Spirituality learns to contextualise itself and tether itself like a kite.
I’d love to hear other people’s ideas too!