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:
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.