Syncretic Electric: Materialism and Narcissism

Hagar and the Angel in the Desert, Tames Tissot, 1900

Previously, I spoke of the threat of egocentrism to Modern Paganism. Now, I want to further examine the issues of spiritual materialism and spiritual narcissism.  I have been very much concerned, of late, with personal gnosis, not as a concept, but as a practice generally encouraged in the wider Pagan community. My concern is not as to whether the Gods and other spiritual beings communicate with humankind,  but how well we as a community have gone about equipping our members to receive and understand those messages. I believe that the way that we as a community handle the issue of gnosis underscores a general problem that pervades Modern Paganism.

When more and more people are claiming direct revelation from Divine Beings, and these revelations increasingly conflict, how are we to make sense of this phenomenon? It seems to me that on a very basic level, Modern Paganism has failed to provide the fundamental spiritual and religious education necessary for its practitioners to truly understand the import of religious and spiritual experiences. Nor has Modern Paganism been successful in providing a worldview or ontology capable of contextualizing such experiences.

As a culture, I suspect that Modern Paganism has encouraged a level of spiritual laziness and materialism. When someone can simply walk down to a bookstore, pick up a copy of some Wicca 101 book, and then identify as Pagan, we have reduced our spirituality to little more than a fifteen dollar impulse purchase. Of course, many of us started out in that place, and that is a fine place to start, but this becomes problematic when people are not encouraged or even required to move further on. After reading a few Scott Cunningham books, a person is hardly prepared to receive channeled messages, and yet we tend to present personal gnosis as something that will just happen if you believe enough. The Gods will speak to you and open up the storehouses of the heavens if you just believe. Kenaz Filan and Raven Kaldera (2013)  explain:

 Any religion that does not recognize and acknowledge any contemporary gnosis is a dead religion; its rituals are skeletons preserved in museums, and its priests are grave keepers. Sooner or later, any spiritual practice followed sincerely will lead to personal gnosis. (p.10)

Sincerity is the necessary measure for the emergence of gnosis, and gnosis will, guaranteed, occur. Furthermore, the experience of personal gnosis is to be taken as proof that you are doing it right. But how are you to differentiate between genuine spiritual knowing and simple narcissistic wish fulfillment? Filan and Kaldera (2013) quote Rose Alba, futher explaining, “Obviously, it’s important to draw a distinction between personal gnosis and fantasy, especially as imagination can be a channel for revelation” (p. 85). Unfortunately, we have yet to provide a basis for understanding the difference between revelation and imagination, particularly when even in the larger culture, imagination and inspiration are often spoken of as divine gifts. In this context, gnosis becomes little more than a spiritual toy, a shiny gift that validates the sincerity of someone’s spiritual practice and proves their righteousness.

Indeed, I  suggest that Modern Paganism often encourages a form of spiritual materialism. Michael Daniels (2005) lays out some of the associated risks:

Spiritual materialism, as described by Chögyam Trungpa (1973), represents an attitude of pleasure-seeking, spiritual greed and consumerism. From such a perspective the spiritual life is reduced to a demanding quest for gratifying subtle ‘experiences’ and new wonders (cf. Ferrer’s, 2002, critique of experientialism and spiritual narcissism).  Inevitably those who hold such a spiritually materialistic attitude lay themselves open to exploitation from the ever-growing and ever-regenerating bang of smiling, smooth-talking salesmen and saleswomen of the new age. (p. 76)

I think that as a community, we need to be very aware of the risk of presenting real spiritual experience as a commodity that all Pagans are entitled to. Gnosis and other spiritual experiences must be earned, and then we must have the discernment and self-knowledge to recognize them for what they are. We cannot go into the process with the expectation of reward. As Daniels (2005) comments:

 Rewards, if they come at all, do so as an internal by-product. We should bear in mind that in the traditional mythic quest, not only is the goal of the quest imperfectly understood at the outset, but the interesting part of the story happens in via — the challenges and temptations of the path and the manner in which the hero overcomes the obstacles and defeats all foes. (p. 145)

It is a terrible mistake with any spiritual practice to assume that we are guaranteed particular results, or are entitled to some direct contact with the spiritual world. The practice itself must have some value to it, any other benefits are then added bonuses. It is important to recognize that,

 Traditionally, most contemplative religions have regarded individual experiences and practices such as meditation as an important but partial element of a  larger system that also comprises communal life, strong ethical commitments, relationships with teachers, and the study of sacred scriptures. (Ferrer, 2002, p. 24)

Unfortunately, a good deal of Modern Paganism has stripped away the majority of the supporting requirements and techniques of spirituality. It is terribly important to recognize how spiritual experiences have been understood and contextualized throughout human history in a variety of practices and religions so that we, as modern spiritual explorers, can better understand our own experience through the experiences of our forebears. As Jorge Ferrer (2002) points out:

 … in most traditions—such as Advaita Vedanta, many Buddhist schools and some forms of Christian monasticism—a period (usually lasting several years) of rigorous study of religious scriptures and “right views” is often rewarded as a prerequisite for meditative practice and the spiritual enactment of the teachings … . The immersion in experiential practices without an appropriate understanding of the teachings is generally considered not only premature but also potentially problematic. (p. 27)

When we look to terms like gnosis, we tend to forget that this term did not arise in isolation, but was supported by a variety of beliefs and techniques that comprised a particular worldview in which this type of knowing was contextualized. Furthermore, there were particular strategies employed to go about entering and experiencing the gnostic state. Now, gnosis, and, I assert, many other spiritual experiences, have been plundered from their original contexts and presented as complete in themselves, like bleached bones scattered across a barren desert.

I firmly believe that we need to be very aware of the dangers of both spiritual materialism and spiritual narcissism that can result from weak spiritual foundations. Essentially, we are expecting doctoral level results from bachelor level work. I honestly do think that the way that we as a community tend to discuss and contextualize profound spiritual experiences trivializes them. Not every person will ever experience every spiritual gift, and we need to be aware of that when we talk about these things. Furthermore, we need to be careful that we are not simply encouraging narcissistic and self-absorbed behavior under the heading of spiritual experience. Following A. H. Almaas, Jorge Ferrer explains:

The main symptoms of spiritual narcissism are,among others, a fragile sense of empowerment and self-importance; a preoccupation with one’s comparative spiritual status; a constant repetitious chattering about one’s spiritual experiences and achievements; a strong need for being positively reinforced and praised; a preoccupation with the sense of being special, chosen for some distinguish spiritual purpose, or preferred by spiritual teachers; an extreme idealization or demonization of spiritual teachers; serious difficulties in working with authority figures; and finally, an exaggerated susceptibility and defensiveness was any sort of criticism … (2002, p. 35)

As a community, we need to wary of these symptoms as they arise and work to remedy them, as well as to provide a community structure by which people can be encouraged to move beyond their own narcissistic desires.

For Paganism to function and grow into the next century, it must have strong foundations, and it is our responsibility both as individuals and as a community to invest the time and energy in strengthening not only ourselves, but others. We must be aware of the ramifications of our words and actions, and how we represent ourselves to those new to Paganism and the Pagan spiritual experience.

 

References:

Daniels, M. (2005). Shadow, self, spirit. Charlottesville, VA: Imprint Academic Philosophy Documentation Center.

Ferrer, J. (2002). Revisioning transpersonal theory: A participatory vision of human spirituality. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Filan, K., & Kaldera, R. (2013). Talking to the spirits: Personal gnosis in pagan religion. Rochester, Vermont: Destiny Books.


Syncretic Electric is published on alternate Fridays. Subscribe via RSS or e-mail!

About Julian Betkowski

Julian Betkowski is an artist currently living in Washington State and has been a practicing Pagan for the last ten years. He is currently pursuing a graduate degree in psychology, with the intention of setting up a private counseling practice to serve the Pagan and Queer communities.

  • kenofken

    “After reading a few Scott Cunningham books, a person is hardly prepared to receive channeled messages…”

    A person is prepared, or at least liable, to receive channeled messages and gnosis from the time they first become aware of themselves and the surrounding world. The gods and our ancestors speak to us on their own time and for their own reasons.

    To say gnosis is something that must be earned at the feet of some grand master or pre-set curriculum is the epitome of arrogance, just as much as the neophyte’s insistence that they are entitled to gnosis at will and that everything they perceive is inerrant.

    Spirituality and connection to the divine is not something that is arbitrarily attained by dint of achievement or effort. It cannot be conferred one person to another nor denied. It is inherent to our existence, and available to us as soon as we get out of our own ways and open ourselves and listen for it. I would argue that few, if any, of us who stayed on a pagan path long past the first Cunningham book would not have done so if it were not for some sort of personal gnosis or calling.

    Nor is it true that inexperience equates with spiritual materialism or narcissism. It can, but “…a fragile sense of empowerment and self-importance; a preoccupation with one’s comparative spiritual status…” also describes a fair number of pagans who have the degrees and years, sometimes decades, of metaphysical study and practice under their belts.

    It is true, in my experience, that the wisdom and teaching of more experienced practitioners, communal practice, various metaphysical disciplines, hard work and life experience can all enhance our abilities to perceive and interpret gnosis, and perhaps more importantly, to grow spiritually and to grapple with the mysteries of various life stages etc. None of these things, however, is a prerequisite to personal gnosis. It is also true that the gods will not speak to us at our will, or in the ways we want or expect, nor will they always tell us what we want to hear. The message may be very straightforward to the greenest neophyte, or something which takes years of work (or waiting), to fully reveal itself to the wisest sage or crone.

    Ultimately, unless someone’s gnosis pertains to us, or is proposed as a message to anyone but the receiver, it is none of our concern to verify or refute it, nor to judge whether the person has the “qualifications” to have received it. When somebody proposes their gnosis as the basis of teaching or their ability to lead others, then we can render our own judgments about whether they, and their message, rings true. In pretty short order, it’s clear who’s walking the walk and who’s talking smack. It doesn’t always correlate with experience either. To this day, I sometimes learn as much from the kid with a freshly thumbed Cunningham book as I do from the distinguished professors of the movement.

    We can also separate our own gnosis from self-justifying bullshit or imagination, if we’re reasonably honest with ourselves. One of the best ways to know one from another is by how it bears fruit, or not, in your life. The wishful thinking leads us nowhere new. The real deal challenges us, leads us to exceed ourselves. Often it rips us out of our comfort zones, and its something that pulls and pushes us and defies all attempts to ignore it or “revise” it to our tastes. Those who choose to just follow their own egos and fantasies are only hurting themselves. They usually don’t stick with the program long and find some New Age claptrap to move on to.

    We should make all of the communal and teaching tools available to seekers, and the gentle caution that gnosis has no shortcuts. I think you will find few, if any, takers, on the idea of some grand council or consensus which will presume (or succeed) at pre-qualifying people to hear from their own gods. We are not a school of Vedic philosophers or Buddhist or Christian monastics, and we don’t aspire to be.

    • Julian Betkowski

      Obviously, I disagree with you, and I would invert your argument back on itself, saying that it is a sign of great pride for some neophyte, ignorant of his own psyche to think that he is the mouthpiece of the Divine.

      If you read carefully, I am hardly saying that we need some ordaining organization to bestow upon us the right to have spiritual experiences, merely that we need to make sure that we are collectively encouraging the necessary spiritual and psychological maturity for us to properly understand and integrate our spiritual experiences.

      Nor have I anywhere said that we are not all capable of experiencing spiritual gifts. The closest that I came was saying “Not every person will ever experience every spiritual gift, and we need to be aware of that when we talk about these things.” My agenda is not to denounce gnosis and the experience of spirituality, but to call attention to the way that we as a community address these issues.

      I would never disagree with you statement that, “Spirituality and connection to the divine is not something that is arbitrarily attained by dint of achievement or effort. It cannot be conferred one person to another nor denied. It is inherent to our existence, and available to us as soon as we get out of our own ways and open ourselves and listen for it.”

      However, just because we are capable of an action, doesn’t mean that we will be skilled at it upon our first endeavor. Baring injury or congenital defect, we are all, for example, capable of playing the piano. However, it takes years of dedicated practice to become a truly good player, and many, many more years of practice and devotion to become concert pianist.

      Gnosis is not an entitlement or a reward, but a skill. We may all be capable of it, but that doesn’t mean that we all good at it. We must refine ourselves and our abilities before we can really engage in these, let us be honest, complex and subtle practices.

      Nor is it as simple as saying that any sensible person can see the line between themselves and others, because if that were the case, the world would be a much nicer and more honest place. The most reasonable people are still capable of self-delusion.

      I am really not entirely sure who you are trying to refute, because most of your arguments don’t really relate to what I have written here. I have never attacked the validity of gnosis, merely our collective understanding of it and the role that it has begun to play in a community that no longer seems interested in maintaining standards. As should be apparent, I am legitimately concerned for the fate of Paganism as a whole and what I perceive as its sliding towards the New Age movement.

      • kenofken

        The pagan community has no collective understanding of gnosis and has never had, nor will have, the ability to “maintain standards.” It’s a revisitation of the old and perpetual call to weed out the “fluffy bunnies” which began as soon as the movement began to outgrow traditional linneaged Wicca 40 years ago.

        You write we must refine ourselves and our abilities “before”.. we can really engage in these, let us be honest, complex and subtle practices.”

        What do you propose as the minimum age? How many credit hours of what curriculum or what title shall constitute enough spiritual refinement and maturity to be considered qualified for gnosis? Who will be the certifying body? How do you propose to find agreement on how gnosis works among Wiccans of a thousand disparate traditions, Heathens, Voodoo and Santeria, Hellenic reconstructionists, Druids, Romuva etc.? You won’t, of course, because they all have radically different and incompatible notions of who and what gods are, how they interact with humanity, how people are called to priesthood or seership or even their own personal visions.

        We are less monolithic and united in vision as a demographic than, say, “red haired people of the world”, and you’re proposing that we craft some sort of orthodoxy around that. You’re proposing that we take on something that not even the “Christian community”, with at least one very broad conceptual agreement, can do. Nothing stops neophytes or fools or even crooks from hanging out their shingle as preachers or prophets.

        Even if we look at the Catholic Church, which has a rigid and highly defined theology and highly formal authority structure, we find that IT cannot really police the orthodoxy of its own. There are sizeable movements which don’t recognize Vatican II (or the pope), movements which fervently believe in officially refuted miracles. Probably at least two-thirds of its members in the West don’t hew the line on major points of doctrine, yet they call themselves Catholic and get away with it.

        On what basis do we as a community get to define “New Age” as a line too far or a disqualifying feature of what it means to be “pagan.”? Many, if not the majority of our modern groups, have practices, histories, and symbolism that are New Age to the core.

        Why is it that you suppose so many of those who believe in the truth of their own gnosis are guilty of presuming that they they are the “mouthpiece of the Divine.” ? Most pagans I have ever spoken with on the subject consider most of their contacts with gods to be deeply personal and not some grand prophecy we all must acknowledge.

        All we can do is to make training and mentoring resources available. Beyond that, it’s a marketplace of ideas. Size up other’s gnosis as you will if it impacts upon you. I just don’t see the pagan community ever becoming an ecclesiastically “tidy” movement and the impulse to keep out the riffraff and “lightweights” has never led us to a positive place.

        • Julian Betkowski

          You seem to like to read my analogies literally. The comparison to scholasticism was hardly meant to be taken literally. And, again, you are reading things into my words that simply aren’t there. I am not suggesting that we set up certifying bodies. I am suggesting, as I have from the beginning, that we encourage a more balanced and in depth approach to spirituality, rather than telling people that sincerity is the only necessary measure.

          Furthermore, I am hardly suggesting here that we impose an orthodoxy, merely that we embrace some procedural standards. If anything, what I am suggesting is more like orthopraxy, but even that is a bit strong. Again, not once have I described or prescribed a procedure for achieving spiritual experiences like gnosis. Every tradition will provide its own means to those ends. What I am saying, and have said from the beginning, is that we need to be aware of how we speak of experiences like gnosis and that we make sure the we properly contextualize them within their spiritual traditions.

          We simply must be aware that the way that we present concepts like gnosis can lead to spiritual materialism and narcissism. When we present these things as entitlements or rewards for sincerity, then they can be interpreted as reinforcing certain behaviors or beliefs to which they are otherwise unattached.

          And, again, I am using gnosis as an example, as I stated in my writing above, but you seem to have decided that I am attacking gnosis in general. I hardly am, and my writing should demonstrate that. I am commenting on the way we present and discuss gnosis, and the potential ramifications of that dialogue.

          And, you yourself used the New Age community pejoratively in your first comment: “They usually don’t stick with the program long and find some New Age claptrap to move on to.” It seems odd that you would then pick at me for making a similar move.

          • kenofken

            I guess I’m not grasping how this is a “pan-pagan” issue or subject to even being addressed at that level. If anything, it has to devolve down to the tradition level, really even more so to the individual group level. I don’t think we accept everyone’s assertions about gnosis at face value so much as we acknowledge vast possibilities and mystery within deity-human communication.

            A fair amount of what individual pagans assert about their gnosis might strike you, or I, or even a majority of us, as self-serving bunk or outlandish. At the same time, we have no way of proving it, and we know even our most ancient and hallowed accounts of the gods show that they often speak on their own terms and choose their own vessels and mouthpieces, for reasons totally counterintuitive to us. If all that’s being said is “not every voice in your head is divine, and real spiritual development and attainment take time and work”, we have no fundamental disagreement. What’s sticking in my craw is rather vague suggestion that the pagan community has to “set a standard” for who is to be considered a “real pagan” on some level or who seems fit for the gods to deign to speak to.

            It’s also not clear on what basis you assert that the pagan movement as a whole is unserious or uncommitted to rigor of any sort. We’re an open-source movement by nature, and an experiential (and experimental) one. That allows for a lot of mistakes and even carelessness. At the same time, I can’t think of any time in the modern movement in which serious pagans had so many resources available to them. We have a wealth of scholarship, nascent institutions and a palpable hunger to move beyond “101″ texts. I can’t quantify this, but it seems to me that we’re seeing a real emergence of traditions which value orthopraxy over eclecticism. At a minimum, they’re gaining a higher profile.

            I guess both of us have demonstrated that “New Age” is a perjorative term. Unfortunately it tends to be a catch-all term within paganism to label anything that we consider “too flaky” and less substantive than whatever we are doing. I don’t see how that will be productive, and I certainly can’t envision any consensus on where “real paganism” transitions into “New Age.”

            • Julian Betkowski

              Well, seeing as I never said anything about “real pagans” I guess I have been getting frustrated because it doesn’t really seem like you have been arguing with me, but with something that you have read into my writing.

              I have been interested in exploring the history of Paganism, and of trying to figure out the boundaries of Paganism. However, I don’t think that trying to understand and derive definitions should draw quite as much ire as I seem to occasionally attract here.

              And, even a cursory exploration of Pagan blogs will reveal people with gnosis that is highly idiosyncratic and self-serving that they will fight tooth and nail to defend. That kind of thing is disturbing. Of course, I also admit that it can be difficult to look at internet communities and figure out how much real world impact they have.

              Furthermore, while portions of the Pagan community are interested in scholarship, that is hardly true for all of it. The number of Pagans who continue to perpetuate the now well debunked theories of Margaret Murray show that many Pagans are less interested in research and history than they are in preserving their own beliefs.

              Hell, my experience at PantheaCon and the rather sloppy level of research that seemed to pervade their was equally disturbing.

              • kenofken

                When you suggest that a one-book newcomer cannot even call themselves a pagan, I don’t know how else to read that other than an opening into the “real pagan” debate. It’s certainly reasonable to say someone one book in should not consider themselves deeply accomplished pagans, but

                • Julian Betkowski

                  I said no such thing, and you are reading into my words more than I put there. All I said was that it takes more than reading a few intro books for someone to be capable of understanding the full ramifications of gnosis, et. al.. Indeed, all that I said was that it takes a good deal of personal work before we can really trust that we are receiving true gnosis and not deluding ourselves.

                  Furthermore, all I did was suggest that we as a community be more responsible with our rhetoric and encourage community members to move beyond introductory work and challenge themselves in their spiritual growth.

                  I never once said that anyone wasn’t a “real Pagan.” You brought those assumptions with you.

                  In some of my prior articles I have questioned why some people choose to identify as Pagan, but I have not addressed any of that here.

  • http://www.patheos.com/Pagan Christine Kraemer

    > I think that as a community, we need to be very aware of the risk of presenting real spiritual experience as a commodity that all Pagans are entitled to.

    I also think a lot about the way spiritual experience can be treated as a commodity, and detached from a broader narrative of spiritual development and maturity. I see a number of people in my own community pursuing dramatic spiritual experiences in a way that doesn’t seem to end up affecting the rest of their lives for the better. I’m all for ecstatic experiences — and I *would* say that ecstasy can be an end in itself — but still there is a way in which spiritual experiences can be pursued compulsively, as in an addiction. When I see friends talking avidly about the amazing experiences they have in ritual or in their practice, yet year after year they struggle with exactly the same personal problems without significant change, it seems to me that something has gone wrong — that spiritual experience has been transformed into a product that is consumed as a part of Pagan identity, not something that transforms or makes change.

    Not sure how entitlement fits in there, but if there’s a perception that every Pagan deserves and can get particular kinds of spiritual experiences, it might contribute to a tendency to try to “skip ahead” to the most dramatic manifestations of such experiences and then try to have as many of them as possible — whereas spiritual development, in my mind, tends to result in a variety of experiences, many of which are not dramatic in the least, as well as necessary dry periods. There needs to be context and progression in order for the more dramatic experiences to have meaning and long-term impact.

    I’m reminded of a Buddhist story where a young monk, having had a vision of the Buddha during his meditation, runs excitedly to tell his master about the experience. His master nodded and said, “Don’t worry; the visions will go away in time.”

    • kenofken

      I’ve spent most of this discussion defending the idea that all pagans, all humans really, are “entitled” to dramatic and direct spiritual experience, or more to the point, that the gods are entitled to speak with, to, and through who they see fit. You highlight an important dimension of this by pointing out that “spiritual experience” is not only, or even primarily, the dramatic otherwordly moments which transport us from mundane existence.

      Mundane existence, in all of its moments, IS a spiritual experience as much as any vision quest or shamanic revelry or direct manifestation of a goddess. More so than most world religions, paganism tends to emphasize immanence at least as much as transcendence. We seek to live fully IN the world and in the present rather than viewing the world as some wretched fallen illusion to be escaped at the earliest opportunity.

      I think our tendency to search for spiritual experience “out there” is a product of both our “fast food” self help culture and our conditioning in Abrahamic faiths which preach visions of spiritual scarcity rather than abundance. They offer a vision of the sacred as water in a vast desert, to be earned by confession of faith, virtue, arcane knowledge or the intercession of clergy. Paganism shows the parched man or woman that they can throw away their treasure map of the hidden oasis. They’re standing in a rainstorm. “Open your mouth, you damn fool!”

      This, I think, is where I differ with Mr. Betkowski in my understanding of the nature and scope of the problem. I don’t see it primarily as a problem of unqualified newbies or narcissists with suspect oracles or gnosis. I see it as a problem that we pagans of all levels fall into the trap of stepping over the dollars of everyday sacred to pick up the shiny pennies of exotic manifestations of the sacred.

      I don’t have a lot of trouble discerning the “OMFG, Big-G Gnosis that comes when a goddess has me by the throat in a drawing down or personal revelation or brings me to her in a dream. I don’t expect it will happen on my time or terms, I don’t go looking for it, for the most part, and honestly, it scares me a little even after all this time. I’ve found that seasoning, training, age and maturity are more critical in discerning the “little”, everyday gnosis, the business of translating belief and spellcraft and devotional work into real world action.

      I suspect many, if not all worthy traditions have some written wisdom addressing the consumerist mentality of seeking external “spiritual experience.” Part of The Charge of the Goddess conveys it as well as any:

      “And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.”

      • http://www.patheos.com/Pagan Christine Kraemer

        Nicely put, especially this.

        > Mundane existence, in all of its moments, IS a spiritual experience as much as any vision quest or shamanic revelry or direct manifestation of a goddess.

      • Julian Betkowski

        I certainly agree that spirituality and divinity are immanent and present in even the most mundane circumstances. My concern, though, is that we need to be sure that we are still allowing the mundane to be sacred, and that we remember that not every spiritual experience will lead to grand moments of enlightenment.

        I certainly agree that the issue goes beyond the those just entering Pagan faiths.

        And again, I think that using words like “entitled” is dangerous, because they can present spiritual experiences as things that we have a right to, rather than as things that we are blessed with.

        Again, I do agree that everyone has the ability to receive profound spiritual experiences, but I don’t think that everyone will. Nor do I think that sincerity and desire are sufficient. There is a great deal of work that goes into a spiritual lifestyle, and I think that it is important for us as community not to take that work for granted.

    • Julian Betkowski

      That is one of my greatest concerns, the commodification of spirituality. I do think that it is important for us to aware that not all spiritual experiences are necessarily helpful, nor do they necessarily contain any real “content” that improves our lives. I am concerned not only for the presence of spiritual thrill seekers, but also for people who feel like they must have grand spiritual experiences in order to legitimately be a member of Pagan communities.

      When you have people all talking about how the Goddess visited them this past Tuesday and how their lives are forever altered, I fear that it leads people to feel that if they aren’t having that kind of experience, then they simply aren’t doing it right. By framing this conversation in terms of sincerity and desire, then those of us who have a quieter spiritual experience may be made to feel as if they do not have an authentic Pagan spirituality.

  • http://sablearadia.webs.com/ Sable Aradia

    This is excellent! How interesting that we have chosen independently to write on a similar subject here. My article will appear in Agora on Monday the 28th; I will be referencing yours. Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Julian Betkowski

      I am so glad that to hear that we were thinking alike! I really look forward to your article!

      Given how much opposition I have encountered in the comments to my last handful of posts here, it really is refreshing to get some positive feedback.

  • http://www.thehighwayhermit.com James Bulls

    Smart commentary. I’m curious how you think things might change upon Witchschool’s release of their Common Book of Wicca?


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