Like many Pagans, I don’t generally initiate conversations about faith with people outside my inner circle. Even within my family, I struggled for years to find a way to help my loved ones understand that my beliefs weren’t all that different, at the core, from their values. I wish I’d had a copy of Seeking the Mystery to share years ago; this book is accessible for people of all faiths, and it goes a long way toward demystifying the complex and diverse modern Pagan movement.
Although attempting to write one text that covers all of Pagan theology is a challenge, Christine Hoff Kraemer successfully creates an explanatory text that offers a balanced introduction to many facets of modern Paganism, from beliefs about deities and divinity to views on life and death. This easy-to-read text is filled with information, but none of it comes across as dogmatic or aggressive; rather, this is a balanced, holistic introductory text remarkably free from bias that I would recommend widely. Pagan readers will likely find themselves deepening their own understanding of their practices while reading this book, and comparative religion scholars will appreciate the range of theologies presented by Kraemer.
I particularly found the first chapter to be the most valuable, as this chapter outlines many terms and definitions of the different branches of modern Paganism. It was enriching to consider the academic and practical meanings behind soft and hard polytheism, animism, monism, and many other “isms” which describe modern Pagan practice. As a member of a faith without much dogma or instruction, sometimes the simple power of being able to articulately name your experience can be enlightening, and Kraemer provides as many varied terms and definitions as she can in this book.
While Seeking the Mystery is in no way a deep, comprehensive study of every component of modern Paganism, it offers an excellent overview that is easy to read and understand while at the same time not over-simplifying the material. Kraemer has found an ideal balance for the narration of this text, and I think this is an important book for the Pagan community to read and share with others. This title would be an excellent jumping off point for intelligent interfaith dialogue outside of the Pagan community, as well; Kraemer’s straightforward writing style, coupled with extensive research and a wide range of perspectives, creates an accessible text for anyone with an interest in modern religious practice.
Seeking the Mystery was published as an eBook in 2012, and a paperback version has just been released. For more information about this text, visit: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/sermonsfromthemound/introducing-pagan-theology/