You know a post is serious when there are no pictures! In this post I offer an explanation of how to construct your own theology no less! If you are interested in the foundations of paganism, then read on.
We frequently get requests from people who know we write a blog. They say things like, “..but how did you know to do this, that or the other?“. These people are looking for guidance, and we are more than happy to offer our experiences up for them to consider. Yet some people want to go further. They say things like: “How do you do this, that or the other?“. These are requests for orthodox teachings. Here are my opinions on the relative merits of oxthodoxy on a seeker’s path.
Following The Rules
Orthodoxy essentially means following the rules, or taking a path that has already been trodden before. Someone whom one considers to have been a person of more spiritual value than yourself has been out into the spiritual world(s) and has come back with a description of the way in which that world operates. They have perhaps described the way it works, the way they perceived it, told you their tales and maybe even offered you the benefit of their experience. They might have come back with warnings – don’t say this to that, don’t do this in there, etc. The value of orthodoxy is generally supposed to be that the new seeker learns from the mistakes and the wrong paths of those who have gone before. Progress should be faster, easier, further, deeper. The devout and orthodox religios seeker should be the most enlightened. How does that fir with your experience of such people?
If this were the case, that strict orthodoxy reaps the best rewards, then after several thousand years of the prevailing orthodox religion wouldn’t we all be enlightened by now? Of course, we have free will, and we are entitled to ignore the prevailing wisdom and teachings. Thus, we are bound to continue to make mistakes, continue to throw impediments on to the path to our spiritual freedom. So claim the guardians of such teachings and the preservers of religious structures.
I have a different opinion to offer.
Ignoring The Rules
Unorthodoxy means knowing what the rules are, but choosing to ignore them. Few of us are permitted the freedom to grow up in a culture or society in which none of the prevailing religion’s rules affect our behaviour and sense of community. Therefore, to some extent, taking on a new ‘religion’ involves the ‘un-learning’ of many of these rules – the deliberate defiance of the orthodoxy and the prevailing winds. This takes courage.
Many of those who have adopted so-called “pagan” practises, or Nature-based spiritualities, have decided to un-learn their past indoctrination, and to instead turn to a different path. They are on the first steps towards developing into their own religious practises. This is a crucial point! At this juncture it is all too easy to search around looking for something to replace the void, the bolster the confidence in our decision to adopt a new field of vision. It is a balance point and teetering on that brink can make one sick with worry about how things will develop. Courage is the key.
Let me tell you from experience – the only decision worth taking at that point is to go back to the start completely, and to re-build your own religion from the very foundation. Throw it all away and begin again. According to my Hedge Druid philosophy each person has to come up with their own “interface” to Nature; to establish their own method; to discern the helpful from the hindering, the good intentions from the bad.
How do I do this, I hear? Through all the concepts we discuss on this blog:
- through silence, meditation, humility;
- by reaching for Nature, seeking the subtle, the energetic
Not via our methods, not via anyone’s methods. Through your own experience when in those states of consciousness. Whose voice is that you hear? How does it feel? Where does it come from? Is it harmful or helpful? Where am I placed in the scheme of things? What do I believe?
We do not present the answers to those questions here. We present our interpretations of these answers based on the relationships with energy forms which we have worked to create, to foster, to find and to preserve in the face of criticism, doubt and fear.
It seems to me that some pagans want the “easy path”. They want to be shown how to do everything so that they can “do it right” every time. It is a strong impulse of conditioning – the orthodox. There is no growth in that path. There’s no reward in achieving the destination when the way has been cleared for you and the view is unobstructed, signposted even. When Buddhists talk of eliminating struggle, I understand what they mean but I don’t agree in this context. The struggles, the failures, the wrong directions, the confusion – these are a necessary part of learning, growing, experiencing and progressing. Struggle will always be a part of that, no matter how high we achieve. The trick is to learn to live at peace with it.
To be more spiritual we must know our own minds, know our selves, our ways. Orthodoxy is a crutch. You may limp along the flat path if you choose, but I am determined to skip from side to side along the rocky path. Please, choose to ignore all of this. You always have choice. All I am saying here is that the best practices come not from learning about a new path from another person, but from seeing how others open up your options, widen your opportunities, and offer more suggestions. From there you have to be strong – take courage, throw away that stick and walk for yourself!