Hubris, Disaster, the Gods and Schisms to Come

A couple of days ago I wrote a post on why disasters happen from a religious perspective. I got some really good feedback on it that made me rethink how I think of myself in relation to the Gods and the planet. Here are two examples of some of the excellent comments I received:

Cara Schulz said:

What if a god had been holding back this earthquake for hundreds of years, until now, when Japan (and the world) is more able to deal with the effects – yet didn’t wait so long that the quake would have to be even worse due to more built up pressure (that’s a scary thought)?

Drew Jacob said:

Do we really expect nature not to do her thing, just because we make offerings? Are our prayers supposed to bolster the strength of tectonic plates, shut off the flow of magma and still the entire ocean?

These comments got me to thinking about hubris and about our proper place in the cosmos. We, in the great scheme of things, don’t matter as much as we think we do. Yakko puts it better than I can:

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Given the choice between the planet and us, the Gods will choose the planet. Something to think of in light of global warming. Yet although I recognize the wisdom of my commenters, I still find the same tension within my soul.  What is the point of our devotion if  it doesn’t change the course of events?

Last night I listened to the infamous episode 86 of the Pagan Centered Podcast, recorded about 3 years ago. Taylor Elwood was the guest and the subject was pop culture magic. The discussion at times got out of hand, but overall was fascinating. I realized that one of the basic “polarities” of Paganism is those who see from a magician’s viewpoint and those who see from a religious viewpoint, and that this tension lives within me as well.

The magical view sees the Universe and the Gods as tools and colleagues. It doesn’t preclude respect, but doesn’t require devotion.

The religious view sees the Universe and the Gods as having greater will, wisdom and power over us. It means accepting that our will is in submission to theirs, regardless of our feelings on the matter.

Most of us have these two viewpoints intermingled, but generally with one or the other taking precedence. We talk a lot about our traditions, who we honor and how, the lore we live by and the labels we use. We say that being Asatru or Wiccan or Kemetic is our major difference from each other. I think in the years to come Paganism will face a schism, not by label but by worldview. The religious-centered and the magically-centered will split ways and this will affect every tradition, every Pagan religion. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think I’m not.

As a Witch, I fall more heavily on the religious side. I cast and conjure in order to make me a better person and try to improve my world, but I try to avoid magical thinking that places humanity at the center of the Universe. I learned the Kabbalistic Cross and Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, but they didn’t stick. They seemed arrogant and out of place with the love and devotion I have for my Gods. The liturgy and laws of Wicca are phrased religiously, with little of the chair and whip mentality that governs some forms of ceremonial magic.

Hubris is something I will be meditating on as we draw close to Ostara. It has no place in my religiously-inclined worldview, but I have to wonder about how to reach out and interact and work with those from magical worldviews. We use some similar language but deeply different meanings.

About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • Ridetbred

    it’s a dichotomy many of us face and constantly rebalance.
    as a ceremonial magician and a pious hellene, i’ve found a place that (mostly) works for me. rituals like the LBRP that place one in the center of the universe and then command forces to recreate it according to our vision really CAN be arrogant and hubristic (which is the reason cm calls to many folks of a certain overbearing personality type but that’s another post.) however, if one approaches it with the intention of aligning oneself with the divine and drawing the light of theoi into oneself in order be Their hands in the world and co-create through Their guidance, it becomes easier to swallow and much more satisfying to Work.
    i was pretty concerned when i first starting trying to meld my seemingly-opposing practices. i’m sure i don’t always walk the line as well i should. but i keep checking in and am constantly surprised and happy to find my gods are just fine with me finding my strength as a creator and manipulator of energy and events. sometimes if i’ve been lazy about it they give me a kick in the pants to get back to Work.
    i think it’s a good thing to keep taking stock, though, and making sure that viewing oneself as the center of universe is a Working position, not an attitude everyone else should adopt. :) khairete
    suz

    • Sunweaver

      Hullo, Suz! Fancy meeting you here.

  • Ridetbred

    it’s a dichotomy many of us face and constantly rebalance.
    as a ceremonial magician and a pious hellene, i’ve found a place that (mostly) works for me. rituals like the LBRP that place one in the center of the universe and then command forces to recreate it according to our vision really CAN be arrogant and hubristic (which is the reason cm calls to many folks of a certain overbearing personality type but that’s another post.) however, if one approaches it with the intention of aligning oneself with the divine and drawing the light of theoi into oneself in order be Their hands in the world and co-create through Their guidance, it becomes easier to swallow and much more satisfying to Work.
    i was pretty concerned when i first starting trying to meld my seemingly-opposing practices. i’m sure i don’t always walk the line as well i should. but i keep checking in and am constantly surprised and happy to find my gods are just fine with me finding my strength as a creator and manipulator of energy and events. sometimes if i’ve been lazy about it they give me a kick in the pants to get back to Work.
    i think it’s a good thing to keep taking stock, though, and making sure that viewing oneself as the center of universe is a Working position, not an attitude everyone else should adopt. :) khairete
    suz

    • Sunweaver

      Hullo, Suz! Fancy meeting you here.

  • http://twitter.com/Rogue_Priest Drew Jacob

    To me the point of devotion is to build a relationship with a great mentor.

    Let’s use a human analogy. One of my favorite authors is Paul Coelho. If I had a chance to meet him, I might ask him to sign a book, shake his hand, maybe even give him a gift as a thank-you for how inspirational he has been. I might even ask for his advice on my own writing.

    I would not ask him to endorse my book, ask him for money, request his assistance with my wounded ankle or expect him to fix my love life.

    Having mentors is a terrific reward in itself. Milking them for material gain is not the point of the relationship.

    My gods are my mentors. The relationship is valuable, like an old friend or a wise teacher. They’re not going to divert forest fires away from my house or give me a high-paying job. The gods are not vending machines. You don’t put an offering in and get a blessing out. It doesn’t work that way.

    But by spending time with them we can become more like them, and bring that wisdom to bear on our own lives, and make things happen for ourselves. Emulating the gods can make you a better person.

    And that’s good enough.

  • http://roguepriest.net/ Drew Jacob

    To me the point of devotion is to build a relationship with a great mentor.

    Let’s use a human analogy. One of my favorite authors is Paul Coelho. If I had a chance to meet him, I might ask him to sign a book, shake his hand, maybe even give him a gift as a thank-you for how inspirational he has been. I might even ask for his advice on my own writing.

    I would not ask him to endorse my book, ask him for money, request his assistance with my wounded ankle or expect him to fix my love life.

    Having mentors is a terrific reward in itself. Milking them for material gain is not the point of the relationship.

    My gods are my mentors. The relationship is valuable, like an old friend or a wise teacher. They’re not going to divert forest fires away from my house or give me a high-paying job. The gods are not vending machines. You don’t put an offering in and get a blessing out. It doesn’t work that way.

    But by spending time with them we can become more like them, and bring that wisdom to bear on our own lives, and make things happen for ourselves. Emulating the gods can make you a better person.

    And that’s good enough.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    I certainly see what you’re saying here, Star, and can agree to an extent; however, I don’t think the “religious view” is as humble and docile as you’ve explained above by definition, nor is the “magical view” as solipsistic and instrumental by necessity. In some of the worst excesses, both views can be like that, but in general, they don’t have to be.

    It is possible to have our gods be our colleagues (after all, we all inhabit the same universe!) without them being our tools; and it is possible to acknowledge that the gods do have greater power and wisdom than we do, without the requirement of being entirely submissive to them. The fact is, sometimes people’s magical will does work, and I don’t know if the metaphysics behind that mean that the person’s power is greater than the gods in those cases, or that their will is simply in line with the gods’ will on those issues…or, that whatever-it-is is entirely outside of the gods’ influence and it “just happens.”

    But whatever the case happens to be, there are things that we can pray for and do magic for that almost always work–I pray to Antinous for strength and for peace, and even if my strength to endure and deal with things increases only momentarily, and even if my peace gives a sense of calm and serenity for only a short while, it has never failed. Praying for and doing magic about anything that is not me or concerned with my inside operations, however, is another matter entirely…I’ve never had success with that. I don’t think that means, though, that the gods don’t want me to be healthy, or to make money, or to have a romantic relationship, it’s just that “moving things” in those ways isn’t something that they can necessarily accomplish, or perhaps if they can they don’t want to.

    How much more so for tectonic plates, therefore?

    I agree a great deal with Drew here: the idea of gods as mentors is a nice one to consider–a mentor can be a colleague without being a tool, and one can reverence and be in awe of a mentor’s knowledge or influence without being a slave to it.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    I certainly see what you’re saying here, Star, and can agree to an extent; however, I don’t think the “religious view” is as humble and docile as you’ve explained above by definition, nor is the “magical view” as solipsistic and instrumental by necessity. In some of the worst excesses, both views can be like that, but in general, they don’t have to be.

    It is possible to have our gods be our colleagues (after all, we all inhabit the same universe!) without them being our tools; and it is possible to acknowledge that the gods do have greater power and wisdom than we do, without the requirement of being entirely submissive to them. The fact is, sometimes people’s magical will does work, and I don’t know if the metaphysics behind that mean that the person’s power is greater than the gods in those cases, or that their will is simply in line with the gods’ will on those issues…or, that whatever-it-is is entirely outside of the gods’ influence and it “just happens.”

    But whatever the case happens to be, there are things that we can pray for and do magic for that almost always work–I pray to Antinous for strength and for peace, and even if my strength to endure and deal with things increases only momentarily, and even if my peace gives a sense of calm and serenity for only a short while, it has never failed. Praying for and doing magic about anything that is not me or concerned with my inside operations, however, is another matter entirely…I’ve never had success with that. I don’t think that means, though, that the gods don’t want me to be healthy, or to make money, or to have a romantic relationship, it’s just that “moving things” in those ways isn’t something that they can necessarily accomplish, or perhaps if they can they don’t want to.

    How much more so for tectonic plates, therefore?

    I agree a great deal with Drew here: the idea of gods as mentors is a nice one to consider–a mentor can be a colleague without being a tool, and one can reverence and be in awe of a mentor’s knowledge or influence without being a slave to it.

  • Jack Tyler

    “The magical view sees the Universe and the Gods as tools and colleagues. It doesn’t preclude respect, but doesn’t require devotion.

    The religious view sees the Universe and the Gods as having greater will, wisdom and power over us. It means accepting that our will is in submission to theirs, regardless of our feelings on the matter.”

    I’ve never placed myself in the “magical view camp” before but to be honest this makes me wonder. If my introduction to religious Paganism had consisted of the Gods as having power over us or accepting our will in submission to theirs “regardless of our feelings on the matter” I would have stayed irreligious.

    I say this not as an act of rebellion per say but because I cannot fathom relating to a God on that basis. Of course for me how the “beings” are classified has always run together. I worship my Ancestors in particular and the Dead in general as fervently as any of my Gods. The same goes for the Spirits as well.

    In my view and in my experience the Spirits, Dead, and Gods all sort of blend together. That having been said for me worship isn’t about groveling or kneeling down and licking boot (not that there’s anything wrong with that if you’re into it). Worship is about reverence and respect, the Gods are Superior beings to the rest of us and that’s what makes them Gods.

    But that doesn’t mean that the rest of us don’t have a place in the cosmos or that the Gods are ultimately our masters. The Gods are the most ancient and wise of our ancestors, They became mighty in being and in action because they upheld the order of the worlds.

    I don’t know if the Gods need us exactly, definitely not like we need Them, but I do know that They (a lot of them, maybe even most, but not all of Them) at least are interested in us. The icing on the cake for me is that a greater number of Them actually like us. They have Their reasons and I don’t pretend to understand why but I know that They like us.

    Just because They’re superior in position and power doesn’t mean They’re aloof, standoffish jerks! (If there’s any hubris going on it’s attributing all too human qualities like those to the Gods). To clarify I don’t think that’s what you’re saying here Star, but I do know what you mean about it seeming kind of lonely down here on the ground level. Like maybe we are just dust in the wind, but hey at least we’re star dust!

    On a more personal level, I don’t understand the concept of separating magic from religion. For me I don’t do magic without the Gods, in fact I don’t do it at all, They do it on my behalf. Why would They take time out of their busy day to help little old me? Because I don’t ask Them for help finding the remote or winning the lotto, I ask Them to take a brief moment to be with me, to draw near to me and remember that They love me and that I love Them. I ask Them to do what They do best and uphold the order of the worlds and help me strive learn to do the same. I ask Them to be as They are, I knew Who They were when I fell in love with Them, it would be silly to ask Them to change that.

    So yes “bad” things happen to “good Pagans and people in general. I seem to remember the Gods having problems of Their own though which leads me to believe that maybe it’s just part of Being that we should struggle every once in a while. When you’re down in the trenches life seems messy and dirty but it’s also fun and amazing and just when you think you can’t take anymore there They are to bail you out again. To be honest I’d be bored if things were perfectly orderly and pristine. I’m a proud Son of Eris all the way!

  • Jack Tyler

    “The magical view sees the Universe and the Gods as tools and colleagues. It doesn’t preclude respect, but doesn’t require devotion.

    The religious view sees the Universe and the Gods as having greater will, wisdom and power over us. It means accepting that our will is in submission to theirs, regardless of our feelings on the matter.”

    I’ve never placed myself in the “magical view camp” before but to be honest this makes me wonder. If my introduction to religious Paganism had consisted of the Gods as having power over us or accepting our will in submission to theirs “regardless of our feelings on the matter” I would have stayed irreligious.

    I say this not as an act of rebellion per say but because I cannot fathom relating to a God on that basis. Of course for me how the “beings” are classified has always run together. I worship my Ancestors in particular and the Dead in general as fervently as any of my Gods. The same goes for the Spirits as well.

    In my view and in my experience the Spirits, Dead, and Gods all sort of blend together. That having been said for me worship isn’t about groveling or kneeling down and licking boot (not that there’s anything wrong with that if you’re into it). Worship is about reverence and respect, the Gods are Superior beings to the rest of us and that’s what makes them Gods.

    But that doesn’t mean that the rest of us don’t have a place in the cosmos or that the Gods are ultimately our masters. The Gods are the most ancient and wise of our ancestors, They became mighty in being and in action because they upheld the order of the worlds.

    I don’t know if the Gods need us exactly, definitely not like we need Them, but I do know that They (a lot of them, maybe even most, but not all of Them) at least are interested in us. The icing on the cake for me is that a greater number of Them actually like us. They have Their reasons and I don’t pretend to understand why but I know that They like us.

    Just because They’re superior in position and power doesn’t mean They’re aloof, standoffish jerks! (If there’s any hubris going on it’s attributing all too human qualities like those to the Gods). To clarify I don’t think that’s what you’re saying here Star, but I do know what you mean about it seeming kind of lonely down here on the ground level. Like maybe we are just dust in the wind, but hey at least we’re star dust!

    On a more personal level, I don’t understand the concept of separating magic from religion. For me I don’t do magic without the Gods, in fact I don’t do it at all, They do it on my behalf. Why would They take time out of their busy day to help little old me? Because I don’t ask Them for help finding the remote or winning the lotto, I ask Them to take a brief moment to be with me, to draw near to me and remember that They love me and that I love Them. I ask Them to do what They do best and uphold the order of the worlds and help me strive learn to do the same. I ask Them to be as They are, I knew Who They were when I fell in love with Them, it would be silly to ask Them to change that.

    So yes “bad” things happen to “good Pagans and people in general. I seem to remember the Gods having problems of Their own though which leads me to believe that maybe it’s just part of Being that we should struggle every once in a while. When you’re down in the trenches life seems messy and dirty but it’s also fun and amazing and just when you think you can’t take anymore there They are to bail you out again. To be honest I’d be bored if things were perfectly orderly and pristine. I’m a proud Son of Eris all the way!

  • Sunweaver

    I find these big theological questions extremely fascinating and the balance between being a practitioner of magic and a religious practitioner is a difficult one to find not only in the community, but also within one’s self. I consider myself to be deeply religious and the sheer power of the gods fills me with awe and makes me feel very small indeed. I am humbled by it and, like Yakko Warner, feel like a tiny little speck about the size of Mickey Rooney (A favorite song of mine, by the way). On the other hand, the gods have seen fit to give me two hands, a good mind, and a strong will. These are all the tools necessary for magic, which I use as I see fit.

    I look at it this way: I’m a knitter. As a knitter I know that certain yarns are suited to certain patterns and unsuited to others. I tend to anthropomorphize the yarn a bit and on the occasions when I’ve tried to knit a yarn into something it was ill-suited for, I assume that the yarn didn’t want to be what I thought I wanted it to be and try again with a different pattern. We are the materials that the Fates are working with and to some degree we can choose the pattern into which we are woven.

    I use magic sparingly, mindful that it is hubris to try to go against the natural pattern of things. However, if it is that I am working with all humility and respect to the Theoi and doing so with the intention of moving toward beauty, there is no reason to not use the tools they have given me. If the gods gave me knitting needles, I’d knit with them, wouldn’t I?

  • Sunweaver

    I find these big theological questions extremely fascinating and the balance between being a practitioner of magic and a religious practitioner is a difficult one to find not only in the community, but also within one’s self. I consider myself to be deeply religious and the sheer power of the gods fills me with awe and makes me feel very small indeed. I am humbled by it and, like Yakko Warner, feel like a tiny little speck about the size of Mickey Rooney (A favorite song of mine, by the way). On the other hand, the gods have seen fit to give me two hands, a good mind, and a strong will. These are all the tools necessary for magic, which I use as I see fit.

    I look at it this way: I’m a knitter. As a knitter I know that certain yarns are suited to certain patterns and unsuited to others. I tend to anthropomorphize the yarn a bit and on the occasions when I’ve tried to knit a yarn into something it was ill-suited for, I assume that the yarn didn’t want to be what I thought I wanted it to be and try again with a different pattern. We are the materials that the Fates are working with and to some degree we can choose the pattern into which we are woven.

    I use magic sparingly, mindful that it is hubris to try to go against the natural pattern of things. However, if it is that I am working with all humility and respect to the Theoi and doing so with the intention of moving toward beauty, there is no reason to not use the tools they have given me. If the gods gave me knitting needles, I’d knit with them, wouldn’t I?

  • http://www.facebook.com/dan.morelli Dan Morelli

    Whats the point of the belief then?? Why believe in something if it provides absolutely no advantage to the believer and there isn’t any clear evidence that its true?? Mainstream religion provides life with a “purpose”, answers the hard “why” questions and guarentees a awesome “afterlife”. so I can see why someone would (although completely misguided) believe. What doesn’t make sense to me is believing in a god or gods that have their own agenda and don’t take into account human desires? Whats the difference between this and believing that there are purely scientific, explainable reasons for why a natural disaster happen?

    • Jack Tyler

      I wouldn’t know what the point of belief is as I don’t believe I know. No one here said anything about “absolutely no advantage”. We’ve all spoken at length about how our Gods do all sorts of things for us. Just because They can’t/won’t do everything for us doesn’t mean They should be discarded.

      Mainstream religion offers a lot of explanations and makes a lot of promises but it can’t guarantee anything. You’ll find Pagans have just as much sense of purpose, answers to the “hard” questions, and awesome ideas about the afterlife (If we believe in one at all!). A few of us believe that the Gods don’t take into account humans, personally I don’t believe that, but I do know that the Gods have a duty to the world as well as to us.

      As others have suggested it could very easily be that the Gods were thinking of us and had They not been this disaster could have been far worse. You’ll also find most, if not all, of us believe both that the Gods maintain the order of the worlds and that there are purely scientific explanations for natural disasters and the like.

      Imagine that you were colorblind (if you’re not) and that you’ve got all these people who claim to see color (whatever that is) would you believe them? Would it depend on the number of people who claimed it and with what intensity they insisted upon it or would you take the word of just one trusted friend or loved one?

      The Gods are much the same way in my experience. You see, within Paganism we experience our Gods in a direct and subjective manner (for the most part). Just because science can’t prove They exist is no insult to Them or to those of us who follow Them.

      If for instance it turns out that the “gods” are nothing but some kind of manifestation of psychological illness it certainly is a very pleasant one. We’re also very lucky that it leaves us so fully functional and capable of operating in the greater society around us.

      Remember too that not all Pagans believe in Gods either in the polytheistic sense or at all. There’s also many Pagans who do in fact believe that the Gods are somehow psychological or imaginary. We generally operate under the principle that if it works for us, and doesn’t harm ourselves or others for the most part, why not tolerate it?

      I’m curious to know, what do you believe?

    • http://twitter.com/Rogue_Priest Drew Jacob

      I think we should believe things that are *true*, or seem likely to be true. Whether it’s advantageous is kind of irrelevant.

      • Sunweaver

        As a scientist, my default setting is skepticism. I like to have evidence of something before I decide if there’s any truth to it. Science can answer “how” an event such as this occurs, but often falls flat when we ask “why.” There are only certain questions that science is equipped to answer and that’s a result of our limited human experience. We are limited by our ability to measure things, image them, and we are limited by our ability to hold a concept in our brains.

        Having a relationship with a deity or deities allows us to ask those questions that science is ill-equipped to answer or to which science has provided answers that seem insufficient. We ask “who am I, really?” and biology tells us we’re cells with DNA inside that comes from our parents, we developed in uterus and our bodies continue to grow and change as a result of biochemistry and environmental factors. We have a heart that functions because of changes in sodium and calcium ion concentrations… and so on and so on, but that doesn’t really answer the question. Psychology has its own explanations, but again, for some of us, that’s not enough.

        So, what is “Truth?” Is truth simply that which you have evidence for? Because our idea of what is true based on that changes as quickly as scientific papers can be published. I expect fully that the results of my own thesis will be read by someone at some point in the future and they’ll have evidence I didn’t or a perspective I didn’t, and what I thought to be true based on the evidence I gathered will be disproved. I’m actually pretty comfortable with this. It’s the nature of scientific inquiry.

        Many of my colleagues are atheists and I don’t mind it at all except when they claim to hold the monopoly on Truth. Atheists have no more clue than Pagans do or than the Baptists down the street or the Mormons across town. We simply can’t know everything. It’s impossible.

        I continue as a scientist because there is truth and knowledge to be found in that process and I continue as a priestess because there is truth and knowledge there as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dan.morelli Dan Morelli

    Whats the point of the belief then?? Why believe in something if it provides absolutely no advantage to the believer and there isn’t any clear evidence that its true?? Mainstream religion provides life with a “purpose”, answers the hard “why” questions and guarentees a awesome “afterlife”. so I can see why someone would (although completely misguided) believe. What doesn’t make sense to me is believing in a god or gods that have their own agenda and don’t take into account human desires? Whats the difference between this and believing that there are purely scientific, explainable reasons for why a natural disaster happen?

    • Jack Tyler

      I wouldn’t know what the point of belief is as I don’t believe I know. No one here said anything about “absolutely no advantage”. We’ve all spoken at length about how our Gods do all sorts of things for us. Just because They can’t/won’t do everything for us doesn’t mean They should be discarded.

      Mainstream religion offers a lot of explanations and makes a lot of promises but it can’t guarantee anything. You’ll find Pagans have just as much sense of purpose, answers to the “hard” questions, and awesome ideas about the afterlife (If we believe in one at all!). A few of us believe that the Gods don’t take into account humans, personally I don’t believe that, but I do know that the Gods have a duty to the world as well as to us.

      As others have suggested it could very easily be that the Gods were thinking of us and had They not been this disaster could have been far worse. You’ll also find most, if not all, of us believe both that the Gods maintain the order of the worlds and that there are purely scientific explanations for natural disasters and the like.

      Imagine that you were colorblind (if you’re not) and that you’ve got all these people who claim to see color (whatever that is) would you believe them? Would it depend on the number of people who claimed it and with what intensity they insisted upon it or would you take the word of just one trusted friend or loved one?

      The Gods are much the same way in my experience. You see, within Paganism we experience our Gods in a direct and subjective manner (for the most part). Just because science can’t prove They exist is no insult to Them or to those of us who follow Them.

      If for instance it turns out that the “gods” are nothing but some kind of manifestation of psychological illness it certainly is a very pleasant one. We’re also very lucky that it leaves us so fully functional and capable of operating in the greater society around us.

      Remember too that not all Pagans believe in Gods either in the polytheistic sense or at all. There’s also many Pagans who do in fact believe that the Gods are somehow psychological or imaginary. We generally operate under the principle that if it works for us, and doesn’t harm ourselves or others for the most part, why not tolerate it?

      I’m curious to know, what do you believe?

    • http://roguepriest.net/ Drew Jacob

      I think we should believe things that are *true*, or seem likely to be true. Whether it’s advantageous is kind of irrelevant.

      • Sunweaver

        As a scientist, my default setting is skepticism. I like to have evidence of something before I decide if there’s any truth to it. Science can answer “how” an event such as this occurs, but often falls flat when we ask “why.” There are only certain questions that science is equipped to answer and that’s a result of our limited human experience. We are limited by our ability to measure things, image them, and we are limited by our ability to hold a concept in our brains.

        Having a relationship with a deity or deities allows us to ask those questions that science is ill-equipped to answer or to which science has provided answers that seem insufficient. We ask “who am I, really?” and biology tells us we’re cells with DNA inside that comes from our parents, we developed in uterus and our bodies continue to grow and change as a result of biochemistry and environmental factors. We have a heart that functions because of changes in sodium and calcium ion concentrations… and so on and so on, but that doesn’t really answer the question. Psychology has its own explanations, but again, for some of us, that’s not enough.

        So, what is “Truth?” Is truth simply that which you have evidence for? Because our idea of what is true based on that changes as quickly as scientific papers can be published. I expect fully that the results of my own thesis will be read by someone at some point in the future and they’ll have evidence I didn’t or a perspective I didn’t, and what I thought to be true based on the evidence I gathered will be disproved. I’m actually pretty comfortable with this. It’s the nature of scientific inquiry.

        Many of my colleagues are atheists and I don’t mind it at all except when they claim to hold the monopoly on Truth. Atheists have no more clue than Pagans do or than the Baptists down the street or the Mormons across town. We simply can’t know everything. It’s impossible.

        I continue as a scientist because there is truth and knowledge to be found in that process and I continue as a priestess because there is truth and knowledge there as well.

  • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ Sarenth

    In thinking about this, I keep coming back to a few questions:
    Why, if our magic affects nothing, do we both magic and divination?
    Why bother casting a circle or spiritually cleansing an area, praying, etc. if all they are, are ritual props? Sure, the human mind can use them, but if there is not something to these processes, these tools, why are we still bothering with them?
    If the Gods have no vested interest in us, why bother worshiping Them?
    If our prayers, our magic, etc. mean nothing in terms of impact on this world, then why waste our time in a ‘sacred space’ saying them or making magic?

    For me, I do magic because in some way, shape, or form, there is a positive benefit for me and sometimes for those around me or connected to my Wyrd. I divine because I have been effective in shaping my world through paying attention to the signs the Runes give me. One could say that I have primed my intuition or simply developed a keener eye for detail, or trained myself to see things where there is nothing. I don’t believe this, and I think, at the crux of all these questions, that is the point. Proving whether or not, beyond reasonable scientific inquiring, that I can divine the future is a rather pointless endeavor. The message I get from the Runes is for me in the context where I am, what I am open to, and to what situation the reading is addressing. This doesn’t lend itself to the kinds of testing, quantitative, that many scientific studies tend to like for repeatability, validity, etc. Yet for me, qualitatively, the Runes do something positive and different.

    Ultimately I look at the end result when it comes to magic. I find it effective both on myself and others, whether I am divining or casting a spell or making bindrunes. So long as I find it effective I will use it. If I no longer find it working, I may change how I use my magic, try a different approach, or if all else fails, eventually stop. Do I think magic works like a well-oiled machine? No. I don’t think it should, because in working with magic I feel I am working with the energies within and around me, and through them, affecting my Wyrd and/or others’ Wyrd. But then comes the question of whether or not the Wyrd is predetermined, to whit I feel a kind of co-creation with Wyrd toward some eventual goal or end of my life.

    In regards to the Gods, I see the Gods as relations, friends, co-workers, associates, acquaintances, and at times, beyond my reach or understanding. I don’t interact with every God/dess, and don’t understand every God/dess. The ones that I do know, work with, love, etc. have a stake in working with me, as I do with Them. Does this put us on the same level? Not to me. They’re a God/dess for a reason, and I am human for a reason. We each have different things to do, but it does not mean we cannot cultivate meaningful relationships between us. I think if we are not trying to cultivate a relationship of some kind, it is kind of a waste of time. Why pray to something that you cannot relate to, or does not care about you at all? For instance, I have respect for Wyrd, but I would not worship it. What would be the point? Wyrd will act as Wyrd will act, and it is through action, through making choices and working with consequences, not worship, that it is changed.

    The Rune, Gebo, gift-for-a-gift, is at the forefront of most of what I do spiritually speaking. I have learned how to read the Runes, so I read them for others or teach them to read them. Sometimes they learn by way of example, and the gift they give me from that might be sharpening my skill, or teaching me a wholly new way of reading the Runes. Sometimes I may be repaid with a reading myself, or with money, or with something else as is appropriate. If I pray to a God/dess and devote time, energy, creativity, etc. in the worship of that God, why would I continue if I received nothing in kind from that God/dess? The response I may get may not be the response I want, or it may not be anything like what I want to do in service to that God/dess . Sometimes silence is the most penetrating of answers. However, on some level, I am given a gift by the Gods with whom I work, worship, know, etc. The very acknowledgment of my presence, some days, is worth it. Others, I need a God/dess to help me through a hard time and their Words or even silence is what I need to make it through another day.

  • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ sarenth

    In thinking about this, I keep coming back to a few questions:
    Why, if our magic affects nothing, do we both magic and divination?
    Why bother casting a circle or spiritually cleansing an area, praying, etc. if all they are, are ritual props? Sure, the human mind can use them, but if there is not something to these processes, these tools, why are we still bothering with them?
    If the Gods have no vested interest in us, why bother worshiping Them?
    If our prayers, our magic, etc. mean nothing in terms of impact on this world, then why waste our time in a ‘sacred space’ saying them or making magic?

    For me, I do magic because in some way, shape, or form, there is a positive benefit for me and sometimes for those around me or connected to my Wyrd. I divine because I have been effective in shaping my world through paying attention to the signs the Runes give me. One could say that I have primed my intuition or simply developed a keener eye for detail, or trained myself to see things where there is nothing. I don’t believe this, and I think, at the crux of all these questions, that is the point. Proving whether or not, beyond reasonable scientific inquiring, that I can divine the future is a rather pointless endeavor. The message I get from the Runes is for me in the context where I am, what I am open to, and to what situation the reading is addressing. This doesn’t lend itself to the kinds of testing, quantitative, that many scientific studies tend to like for repeatability, validity, etc. Yet for me, qualitatively, the Runes do something positive and different.

    Ultimately I look at the end result when it comes to magic. I find it effective both on myself and others, whether I am divining or casting a spell or making bindrunes. So long as I find it effective I will use it. If I no longer find it working, I may change how I use my magic, try a different approach, or if all else fails, eventually stop. Do I think magic works like a well-oiled machine? No. I don’t think it should, because in working with magic I feel I am working with the energies within and around me, and through them, affecting my Wyrd and/or others’ Wyrd. But then comes the question of whether or not the Wyrd is predetermined, to whit I feel a kind of co-creation with Wyrd toward some eventual goal or end of my life.

    In regards to the Gods, I see the Gods as relations, friends, co-workers, associates, acquaintances, and at times, beyond my reach or understanding. I don’t interact with every God/dess, and don’t understand every God/dess. The ones that I do know, work with, love, etc. have a stake in working with me, as I do with Them. Does this put us on the same level? Not to me. They’re a God/dess for a reason, and I am human for a reason. We each have different things to do, but it does not mean we cannot cultivate meaningful relationships between us. I think if we are not trying to cultivate a relationship of some kind, it is kind of a waste of time. Why pray to something that you cannot relate to, or does not care about you at all? For instance, I have respect for Wyrd, but I would not worship it. What would be the point? Wyrd will act as Wyrd will act, and it is through action, through making choices and working with consequences, not worship, that it is changed.

    The Rune, Gebo, gift-for-a-gift, is at the forefront of most of what I do spiritually speaking. I have learned how to read the Runes, so I read them for others or teach them to read them. Sometimes they learn by way of example, and the gift they give me from that might be sharpening my skill, or teaching me a wholly new way of reading the Runes. Sometimes I may be repaid with a reading myself, or with money, or with something else as is appropriate. If I pray to a God/dess and devote time, energy, creativity, etc. in the worship of that God, why would I continue if I received nothing in kind from that God/dess? The response I may get may not be the response I want, or it may not be anything like what I want to do in service to that God/dess . Sometimes silence is the most penetrating of answers. However, on some level, I am given a gift by the Gods with whom I work, worship, know, etc. The very acknowledgment of my presence, some days, is worth it. Others, I need a God/dess to help me through a hard time and their Words or even silence is what I need to make it through another day.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matt-Gerlach/681395153 Matt Gerlach

    “[T]here are some philosophers, both ancient and modern, who have conceived that the Gods take not the least cognizance of human affairs. But if their doctrine be true, of what avail is piety, sanctity, or religion? for these are feelings and marks of devotion which are offered to the Gods by men with uprightness and holiness, on the ground that men are the objects of the attention of the Gods, and that many benefits are conferred by the immortal Gods on the human race. But if the Gods have neither the power nor the inclination to help us; if they take no care of us, and pay no regard to our actions; and if there is no single advantage which can possibly accrue to the life of man; then what reason can we have to pay any adoration, or any honors, or to prefer any prayers to them? Piety, like the other virtues, cannot have any connection with vain show or dissimulation; and without piety, neither sanctity nor religion can be supported; the total subversion of which must be attended with great confusion and disturbance in life.

    I do not even know, if we cast off piety towards the Gods, but that faith, and all the associations of human life, and that most excellent of all virtues, justice, may perish with it.”

    – Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods

    • Ridetbred

      beautifully apt, matt.
      khairete
      suz

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matt-Gerlach/681395153 Matt Gerlach

    “[T]here are some philosophers, both ancient and modern, who have conceived that the Gods take not the least cognizance of human affairs. But if their doctrine be true, of what avail is piety, sanctity, or religion? for these are feelings and marks of devotion which are offered to the Gods by men with uprightness and holiness, on the ground that men are the objects of the attention of the Gods, and that many benefits are conferred by the immortal Gods on the human race. But if the Gods have neither the power nor the inclination to help us; if they take no care of us, and pay no regard to our actions; and if there is no single advantage which can possibly accrue to the life of man; then what reason can we have to pay any adoration, or any honors, or to prefer any prayers to them? Piety, like the other virtues, cannot have any connection with vain show or dissimulation; and without piety, neither sanctity nor religion can be supported; the total subversion of which must be attended with great confusion and disturbance in life.

    I do not even know, if we cast off piety towards the Gods, but that faith, and all the associations of human life, and that most excellent of all virtues, justice, may perish with it.”

    – Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods

    • Ridetbred

      beautifully apt, matt.
      khairete
      suz

  • NorseAlchemist

    I think you’re missing a bit of the dichotomy though, at least as there is in my path. The Gods are not the only forces out there, we also have things like the Giants/Jotun and the Titans. The tsunami could have been as much of a result of the Japanese equivalent as it was the act of a God.

    I think also that those who insist things like the Tsunami, Icelandic ash cloud, or global warming are happening because the earth is angry with us are missing a key element. For the last fifteen hundred years or so, much of the world has been falling under the influence of the Abrahamic god, and I think that many of our gods, goddesses, spirits, giants, titans, etc, have either been pushed back from the playing field, or fallen asleep. We who are now rebuilding the Old Ways, calling back the Gods and spirits, Goddesses and Jotuns and Titans, are causing them to wake back up. And thus the world is awakening to. It shakes and shivers, downpours and up-swells, Warms and shifts.

    During the Viking age, the globe warmed to points beyond what we have now by several orders, getting even warmer than some projections I’ve seen for our current warming. They did not have carbon emissions, they had none of the things we do now, yet the earth warmed, and I think it was because during the Viking age, men and women prayed to their gods and goddesses and fought off the coming of the Abrahamic god, and that warming was the product, or at least the side effect, of the Norse gods, working with other gods and goddesses, to try and help their people. Perhaps we are having more natural disasters and global warming, but I don’t think it’s because we have squandered and angered the gods, I think it’s because we’ve woken them up, and they are working to change the world with us, to bring a new era. They are not angry with us, they are fighting along side us to remake this world for their children.

  • NorseAlchemist

    I think you’re missing a bit of the dichotomy though, at least as there is in my path. The Gods are not the only forces out there, we also have things like the Giants/Jotun and the Titans. The tsunami could have been as much of a result of the Japanese equivalent as it was the act of a God.

    I think also that those who insist things like the Tsunami, Icelandic ash cloud, or global warming are happening because the earth is angry with us are missing a key element. For the last fifteen hundred years or so, much of the world has been falling under the influence of the Abrahamic god, and I think that many of our gods, goddesses, spirits, giants, titans, etc, have either been pushed back from the playing field, or fallen asleep. We who are now rebuilding the Old Ways, calling back the Gods and spirits, Goddesses and Jotuns and Titans, are causing them to wake back up. And thus the world is awakening to. It shakes and shivers, downpours and up-swells, Warms and shifts.

    During the Viking age, the globe warmed to points beyond what we have now by several orders, getting even warmer than some projections I’ve seen for our current warming. They did not have carbon emissions, they had none of the things we do now, yet the earth warmed, and I think it was because during the Viking age, men and women prayed to their gods and goddesses and fought off the coming of the Abrahamic god, and that warming was the product, or at least the side effect, of the Norse gods, working with other gods and goddesses, to try and help their people. Perhaps we are having more natural disasters and global warming, but I don’t think it’s because we have squandered and angered the gods, I think it’s because we’ve woken them up, and they are working to change the world with us, to bring a new era. They are not angry with us, they are fighting along side us to remake this world for their children.


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