Where Are the Pagan Fundamentalists?
Christians could return to mythic understanding, and some did. The Quakers offered another way out of this dilemma, but their path was a demanding one. Others argued that faith could trump all other evidence and faith was maintained by a will-to-believe. Logos could be taken as far as it could, and when it faltered, faith could take over. Mythos and logos were both subordinated to faith-as-will-to-believe. Soren Kierkegaard called this move the "leap to faith." W. W. Bartley describes this fascinating transformation from reason to its rejection n his Retreat to Commitment.
When my will trumps reason in all its forms truth ceases to be securely distinct from my desires. For many human will now became the determinant of what counted as religious truth. With this step, I would argue, religion's connecting human beings with the more-than-human weakened. The more religion became a matter of willed faith rather than reason whether as mythos or logos, the greater this disconnect.
Fundamentalists took this Protestant leap to faith a crucial step farther. Mainstream Protestantism made its leap to Jesus, Fundamentalism made its leap to scripture. In doing so it unavoidably exalted human interpretations of scripture, claiming them to reflect the Will of God. Fundamentalism is therefore a kind of ultimate spiritual narcissism. A good and kind person reads into scripture with that bias, and finds these qualities. A harsh and angry person reads into it with their very different bias and finds very different qualities. I would argue the first is in some genuine harmony with Spirit, but not due to scripture, but rather due to their kindness. The second is not in harmony at all. That so many fundamentalist leaders generally emphasize God's wrath, power, and willingness to punish "rebellion" says a great deal about what they initially brought to the table. But now their anger, fear, and willingness to punish have "divine" sanction. Their distance from Spirit is strengthened by their belief their personal attributes are in fact divine commandments.
Small wonder the fruits of so much Fundamentalism are so bitter.
Dominionism grows from those folks whose version of Biblical literalism leads them to believe they have divine sanction to rule others, a truly cosmic ego trip. They exhibit a Sauronic "spirituality" that ultimately worships power and domination.
Spiritual experience is not logocentric. Among spiritual traditions I think it is universally true that when people relate their encounter with the sacred, they say it is beyond the power of their words to describe. That has certainly been my experience as well as of those I know. For those who try to communicate anyway, stories, metaphors and poetry give a better sense of their experience to others than does a logical syllogism. Poetry, stories, and metaphor can take us beyond the literal meaning to something more because they point beyond themselves. Mythos is the primary language of spirituality.
Pagans may or may not grant there is a transcendent dimension to Spirit. (I do.) But I think we all emphasize Spirit's immanent dimension. The sacred is in the earth, the sky, it is in everything (although sometimes very well hidden).
Gus diZerega is a Gardnerian Elder with over 25 years practice, including six years close study with a Brazilian shaman. He has been active in interfaith work off and on for most of those 25 years as well. He has conducted workshops and given presentations on healing, shamanism, ecology and politics at Pagan gatherings in the United States and Canada. Follow Gus on Facebook.
Gus blogs at Pointedly Pagan.