“Post-Paganism”

I am a label junkie.  If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you probably have realized that.  I am obsessed with drawing distinctions, circumscribing every social phenomena, and labeling it with an -ism.  Anyway, I’ve discovered a great new label: Post-Pagan.

Glen “Fishbowl” Gordon maintains the PostPagan blog and recently guest posted at HumanisticPaganism.com about process theology, religious naturalism, and transpersonal psychology — everything I love.  But Gordon’s contribution to HP is just a taste of what he is developing over at his own site, PostPagan.com, where he writes about Unitarian Universalism, Religious Naturalism, and what he calls “Bioregional Animism”.  And he calls this Postpaganry, (formerly PostpaganismGordon doesn’t like -isms).  I noted that although Gordon says Postpaganry doesn’t belong to anybody, he has trademarked the name, and I can’t blame him.  It’s a great name! Is the double entendre intentional? (post = after; post = write on a blog)

I wish I had come across PostPagan before I wrote my series on American Neopaganism.  Gordon rejects the Neopagan label for all the same reasons I struggle with it: anthropomorphism, supernaturalism, dualistic thinking (matter and spirit), magic as a projection of the human will, romanticizing nature, and neglecting the very places where we stand.  He distinguishes Neopaganism (heavily influenced by esotericism and Wicca) from Eco-Paganism (which he relates to Deep Ecology and animism).  While I still hope to rescue the term “Neopagan” from the esoterics, I totally understand Gordon’s motivation in this regard.

I am still working my way through the prior posts, but there are a couple of areas that PostPagan explores that jump out at me as really cutting edge and critical to rescuing this this thing (whatever we’re calling it) from the esoterics.  The first is what I would call “Backyard Paganism” (which is part of what Gordon calls “Bioregional Animism“), distinguished from “the cosmic-humanism of mainstream neo-paganism”.  It is a challenge to take the “nature religion” label seriously, where “nature” means, not some romanticized capital-N “Nature”, but what is right outside your door, right under your feet, and right in the air you are breathing right now.  It is a kind of anti-cosmopolitan call to become rooted in the immediate, specific place where we dwell.

The second is an evolving, but radical notion of polytheism which combines (1) a concept of “deity”, not as a thing or a person, but as a relationship with natural phenomena, and (2) the search for “transpersonal” experience , which is the mystical experience of the “More Than Human”, but which is not supernatural.  There is a lot packed in there and I can’t wait to see how Gordon works through it!

The two areas I diverge with Gordon are (1) his disdain for Jung and (2) his suspicion of introspection.  I understand both, I think.  Regarding the first, I agree that Jung is (ab)used my many Neopagans as another way of avoiding contact with nature.  In this way, “Nature” becomes just another metaphor in an imaginary Jungian pantheon.  I think this is an abuse of Jungian theory, though, and reject the “archetype = metaphor” equation.  But that is for another post.  Suffice it to say that Jung and nature religion are not incompatible.  If you’re interested, check out The Earth Has a Soul: C.G. Jung on Nature, Technology & Modern Life.  

As to the second issue, introspection, I feel this is related to the first.  Introspection, or “navel-gazing”, as Gordon calls it, can be escapist, and often is.  However, I have come to suspect that there is a connection between seeking to relate to the inner wild landscape of our psyche and relating to the outer wild landscape of the world.  These two “natures” are connected I believe.  This connection is what I call “soul”.  This is something that Bill Plotkin explores in his book, Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche.  But that is also for another post.

Anyway, you must go to PostPagan.com and check it out!  Let me just end with this post with a quote from the site which wonderfully summarizes of what Postpaganry is.  Gordon writes:

“For me, postpagan is about being relevant to the here and now, whenever and wherever that may be. It is an expression of life after neopaganism. It is about pushing the premise of nature-based spirituality and religion to its logical conclusion. It is about relating to the land where you live with as little appropriation as possible. It is about creating religious traditions, symbols, and mythology, which reflects current (scientific) understanding of the natural living-world. It is about exploring non-dual and holistic thinking within the context of post-modernity and the western-world.

“[...] Postpaganry is the moment when you are the most alive and aware of the world around you. postpaganry is when that moment sweeps you away in to spontaneous ceremony and celebration of life within and all around you. Postpaganry is the place where you feel the most at home, where you connect to the natural living-world in deep and intimate ways. A postpagan is someone who looks for the sacred everywhere they go. A postpagan takes breath as sacrament. A postpagan can be anybody at any time. A postpagan is someone who feels with their whole being, and that scares them and elates them at the same time.”

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  • thalassa

    I’ve never been fond of the term “neopagan”–while its always sat wrong with me, I’m only slightly ashamed to admit that the real reason for it is that it gives me thoughts of trench coats, creepy dudes in suits, and Keanu Reeves. For what its worth, I just consider my self a Unitarian Universalist by creedlessness and organizational membership, a practitioner of what I’m tentatively calling soft polytheistic, loci-focused witchcraft (until I find a better name for it), and, in terms of theological belief, a pantheist. But really, the label contemporary Pagan suits me just fine…it takes a lot less time to say, and it keeps me out of The Matrix!

    I have less issues with the historical baggage of NeoPaganism as a movement (event though I despise calling it that)…which I think has to do with being a historical reenactor–there are always lingering elements in a tradition of its beginnings and its movements. Change never totally strips history away, and there will always be people and traditions that those pieces appeal to–and just as many people that forgo those pieces for new developments and ideas.

    I can’t say that I think Post-paganism is really a useful distinction for me, because I think there is a great deal in terms of existing traditions, mythology and symbolism that is quite useful, or that can be approached from a modern perspective to be quite useful. The tire of a monster truck is still based on the same principles as the wooden wheel of an 19th century wagon… But even so, I’m totally psyched after reading some of his blog posts…because they espouse ideas that I’ve been exploring from a different perspective.

    So thanks for this! As usually, well done and quite thought provoking!

    • http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com John Halstead

      Thanks Thalassa:

      Lately, I’ve been finding more inspiration and direction from people who do not identify as Neopagan (like yourself) or Pagan. I’m particularly interested in your kitchen witchery and how it relates to your Paganism. Can you tell me more?

  • thalassa

    I practice a distinctly location-based witchcraft–for me, that is both within the home and with regards to the ecology of the area where I live. While I am, theologically speaking, a pantheist or theopanist (I actually prefer the latter), I find a great deal of importance and meaning in mythology and in ancient religious symbolism and imagery, and, to some extent, even in the modern progression of those ideas. While, in my head, I’m pantheistic/theopanist, in terms of practice, I approach deity in a polytheistic (though admittedly metaphorical) way.
    I’m what most Pagans would consider eclectic in terms of deity since I don’t recognize them from a pantheon perspective, but I really consider myself as reorganizing deities in a way that correlates their representation in the natural world. We live in a global society, and I’m not living in my ancestral lands (as a genealogical mutt, I’m not even sure what those should be anyhow)…so I’m not really drawn to any recon or culture specific paths. I think there is room for ancient wisdom to hang out with modern discovery, and (while I would never say so in a professional capacity if I ever get the chance to work in the field that my degree is in) I think that the science behind nature is married to the history of our human experience of it (expressed in mythology), in terms of finding and experiencing meaning in the world around us.
    I live by the beach (its just a short walk), and most of what I use in magic comes from the environment, or is locally sourced, though I admit that some is not (in which case, I try to make community and/or eco-conscious decisions about what to get and where to get it). But witchcraft for me, is mostly about seeing to the practicalities of hearth and home–another way to connect myself and my family to the natural world, to one another and to humanity as a whole in an increasingly disconnected society…as is devotion to gods that I’m fairly certain do not literally exist, but that represent eternal (at least in terms of human history) concepts and forces.

    Wow–I probably could have answered your question with just that last sentance, lol! Sorry for the wall of text…

    • http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com John Halstead

      Thanks Thalassa. I’m curious about theopanism, which is a term that I’ve never come across before. Also, your talk about seeing to the practicalities of hearth and home ion a way that reinforces the connect to family in nature really resonates with me and I would like more of that kind of “magic” in my life. I imagine a kind of Buddhist mindfulness, but with something else added …

      • thalassa

        Theopanism can be defined a couple different ways–either similar to the Hindu view of deity, or as a sort of catch-all for pantheism, panentheist and pandeism. Since I tend to think that everything is of the same divine *stuff* (I jokingly call it the Divine Principle of Underlying Reality, or D-PUR), but I think the details aren’t really important (though an intellectually stimulating thing to think about and discuss)…so I prefer theopanist, though pantheist may or may not be just as accurate.

        As for the magic aspect…much of it is based in mindfulness practices, but with more of a focus on really being in your environment, in a nature-based way. Like, bare feet, hands in the dirt, wind in the hair…and anything that evokes the feeling of a really good sunset is brought back into the home.
        Where mindfulness, by my reckoning, is more about being aware and open to where you are, this is more about bringing what makes you feel like where you’d rather be and how you’d rather feel to wherever you go. There’s a Inuit word, nuanaarpoq, that means something akin to “taking extravagant pleasure in the act of living”…that’s my goal.

  • http://twitter.com/postpagan Glen Fishbowl Gordon (@postpagan)

    Hi John. Thanks for the shout out. I would like to clarify that the trademark is on postpagan.com not the word postpagan. Mostly as a protective caution against plagiarism. The term bioregional animism is from little lightning bolt (bioregionalanimism.com) and one I find myself distancing from lately. The blog on a whole is a giant brain dump for me. My thoughts and ideas shared there do and have evolved over time. In discordian fashion “it is my firm belief that it is a mistake to hold firm beliefs.”

    You observation and criticism about Jungian psychology is well taken. Mostly, I am apprehensive about its application within neopaganism. For introspection, I favor healthy introspection akin to the transcendentalists such as Emerson, Thoreau, and Wittman. Where they explored the meaning of the natural world through the experience of the self as human which is fully integrated into the natural world. I see navel gazing is a form of neurotic introspection, where the focus is entirely on the idea of the self as absolute and seeing the world as a reflection of ones self which never seems to leave the realm of ones head.

    Neither is postpagan intended to be a rejection of past traditions, but a caution in how they are implements. My personal feelings are that the mythologies and traditions of the past (particularly of European heritage) are enlightening and informative to my practice and beliefs in related to the world as one of European extraction. I feel the gods, mythology, and traditions where products of their place and time and extensions of ecology. I feel they are more accessible if I where to live in those lands, but living in North America I feel it is best to respect my European heritage by not taking the traditions and mythology out of context. In honesty, it is difficult to say what was and wasn’t genuine aspects of the many per-christian European traditions. It isn’t that they cant be useful, but I prefer working with them in different ways because my cultural influences have not been rooted in those traditions, times, and lands (and never will be). but I understand the need they fill with me today.

    • http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com John Halstead

      I didn’t mean to give you a hard time about the trademark. It was novel and I hadn’t seen it before. Interestingly, I just got an email from Johnny Rapture asking that I give attribution to him on my website when I use the term “Wiccanate”.

      • http://twitter.com/postpagan Glen Gordon (@postpagan)

        I didn’t think you where giving me a hard time. I just wanted it made clear that anyone can use the term if they like. I only know of one other person who publicly uses the label — Heather Awen at Adventures in animism: http://tidesturner.blogspot.com/


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