Is Paganism an Expostmodern Tradition?

I love me some Drew Jacob, and you should totally check out his new column on Patheos, but his blog post today leaves me puzzled. He’s talking about expostmodern religion and what it takes to survive as a spiritual community today.

  • Sermons or other routine scheduled meetings will not be effective. Less people will want to commit to a physical meeting on a regular basis. Religious activities will need to be available through other media. Religions that make their services inclusive of digital participation will see a surge of new recruits while those who don’t will lose ground.
  • Members will expect more face time with the priest/pastor and expect personal contact. Clergy will be on social media and make themselves available for personal discussion (in person or by Skype). Those who don’t will fail.
  • The presentation of multiple voices and viewpoints will be valued. Clergy will be more successful if they ensure access to other teachers and leaders in their tradition (or from other religions). This can be done with guest blog posts and podcasts rather than with in-person visits.
  • Narratives that focus on self-empowerment, personal transformation, and experimentation will inspire people and speak directly to their concerns. Support structures for members who move or travel (maintaining an ongoing relationship with them while they are away) will become a valuable cornerstone of any effective religious organization.

So some of this resonates with me. Personal transformation and multiple viewpoints I get, and you should always expect to have face time with your clergy. But digital participation/events over regular meetings? I take issue with that.

My coven meets for Esbats, Sabbats, classes, work parties, shopping outings and sometimes just to hang out. We have several events a month and I think it actually strengthens our coven. That said, not everyone can make every event and we don’t have a full house on every full moon, but then, we don’t mandate that or give folks guilt trips over it. I think that’s a big difference.

People don’t like to commit to regular meetings because they feel guilty if they miss something because people make them feel guilty. Being genuinely happy to see folks without pressuring them to attend makes a big difference.

I don’t want to be part of a cyber-coven, or a loose digital confederacy. Blogging isn’t the same as religion to me. I don’t see it as an acceptable substitute for active, real-life participation and fellowship. But that’s just me. What do y’all think?

About Star Foster

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

  • http://www.facebook.com/joseph.a.moody Joseph A Moody

    I have to ask, when the written word first came about, Was there a debate like this reguarding it? Can we use that construct as a framework to look foward?
    Just my thoughts 

  • http://www.facebook.com/joseph.a.moody Joseph A Moody

    I have to ask, when the written word first came about, Was there a debate like this reguarding it? Can we use that construct as a framework to look foward?
    Just my thoughts 

  • http://twitter.com/sbjacobson Suzanne Jacobson

    I agree, it’s important to meet in person and have that tangible interconnectedness.  As a pagan, though, you meet often but not weekly; as you say, there is no guilt associated with not attending something every single Sunday.  Perhaps what Drew Jacobs meant was more that fewer people want to meet as a large group that often.  As a transreligious Progressive United Methodist who was a regularly practicing pagan for 30 years, I can make an informed comparison, I think.  The way you describe your many coven meetings throughout the month sound more like small groups might work in a church setting to me.

    I was always a solitary practitioner, but went to as many public and open gatherings as I could for interpersonal contact. I’m seeing the internet having a huge impact on how everything is done today, in a good way.  The Rethink Music project and new ways of publishing, promoting and marketing music, writing and art (see what Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer have been up to for examples) are clear illustrations of the power of electronic media. I think there will be an interplay between smaller meetings more often, large meetings less often, and contact via electronic means all the time as we enter this “expostmodern” period.

    I feel that this is the time for innovation and creativity in the spiritual arena.  I am an M.Div. student at Claremont School of Theology.  I entered seminary thinking I was called to be an ordained pastor in the UMC.  I have discovered that I cannot deny the viability of my previous spirituality.  The multivalent interplay of practices and experience inform who I have become spiritually.  My passions in the so-called “secular world” are part and parcel of my spiritual expression.  I seek ways to bring them together in service.  I am a writer, a “folk artist” and a spiritual director. I can’t think of a better time to move beyond what these things mean in a traditional context and transcend denominationalism and religious boundaries.  For me, this means using every means possible to reach out to others who seek direction but don’t find a home within traditional religious contexts.

    Today’s social media and the possibilities for digital participation will be crucial components for someone like me as well as for those who seek to work within their religious traditions.

  • http://twitter.com/sbjacobson Suzanne Jacobson

    I agree, it’s important to meet in person and have that tangible interconnectedness.  As a pagan, though, you meet often but not weekly; as you say, there is no guilt associated with not attending something every single Sunday.  Perhaps what Drew Jacobs meant was more that fewer people want to meet as a large group that often.  As a transreligious Progressive United Methodist who was a regularly practicing pagan for 30 years, I can make an informed comparison, I think.  The way you describe your many coven meetings throughout the month sound more like small groups might work in a church setting to me.

    I was always a solitary practitioner, but went to as many public and open gatherings as I could for interpersonal contact. I’m seeing the internet having a huge impact on how everything is done today, in a good way.  The Rethink Music project and new ways of publishing, promoting and marketing music, writing and art (see what Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer have been up to for examples) are clear illustrations of the power of electronic media. I think there will be an interplay between smaller meetings more often, large meetings less often, and contact via electronic means all the time as we enter this “expostmodern” period.

    I feel that this is the time for innovation and creativity in the spiritual arena.  I am an M.Div. student at Claremont School of Theology.  I entered seminary thinking I was called to be an ordained pastor in the UMC.  I have discovered that I cannot deny the viability of my previous spirituality.  The multivalent interplay of practices and experience inform who I have become spiritually.  My passions in the so-called “secular world” are part and parcel of my spiritual expression.  I seek ways to bring them together in service.  I am a writer, a “folk artist” and a spiritual director. I can’t think of a better time to move beyond what these things mean in a traditional context and transcend denominationalism and religious boundaries.  For me, this means using every means possible to reach out to others who seek direction but don’t find a home within traditional religious contexts.

    Today’s social media and the possibilities for digital participation will be crucial components for someone like me as well as for those who seek to work within their religious traditions.

  • http://profiles.google.com/skullaria Kristi Gilleland

    None of this resonates with me.  For me, the place for religion is in the family.  The only thing I’d like to see more of are pagan social get togethers -for singles and social groups for the children – to me that’s the way for paganism to survive – with rites and practices safeguarded by families and small groups. I think IF we ever ‘explode’ as a movement, it will be when larger communities such as Salem or Asheville start to gain a more powerful faction politically, and then that will draw more, and there will start to be areas where it is more widely accepted, and thus those places will grow our numbers the best, because then the supportive social structure will be in place.
    Anything else seems to be trying to fit paganism into a box of what’s already been, and it doesn’t belong in a box like that.

  • kagil

    None of this resonates with me.  For me, the place for religion is in the family.  The only thing I’d like to see more of are pagan social get togethers -for singles and social groups for the children – to me that’s the way for paganism to survive – with rites and practices safeguarded by families and small groups. I think IF we ever ‘explode’ as a movement, it will be when larger communities such as Salem or Asheville start to gain a more powerful faction politically, and then that will draw more, and there will start to be areas where it is more widely accepted, and thus those places will grow our numbers the best, because then the supportive social structure will be in place.
    Anything else seems to be trying to fit paganism into a box of what’s already been, and it doesn’t belong in a box like that.

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

    Glad to see the debate is spreading. Something worth mentioning: these are predictions for what will be successful over the next 50 years. We’re not there yet but it’s coming.

    I think it’s interesting that so many people think in-person ritual can’t be replaced by digital experiences. I remember people saying the same thing about physical books, and now ebooks are booming. People said the same thing about going to a physical art museum instead of viewing art online, but museums now expect a struggle for attendance in the next 20 years.

    The old way of doing things will continue to be valuable to many people, but that doesn’t mean we can neglect building new structures that will address the new direction culture is heading in.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1226891346 Cara Schulz

      But Drew – reading a book and viewing art is not the same as meeting face to face with people.  That’s like saying sex will be replaced with texting.  Sure people do it and people enjoy it, but it doesn’t replace good, old-fashioned knockin’ boots.  Ritual is about more than just seeing or hearing something.  It is about touch, smell, and that connection that can only be made when you look into someone’s eyes.

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

        Let’s put it this way. When you do a ritual, what if you podcasted it. Do you think anyone would watch it? I do.

        Now imagine this. Two churches of the same sect with similar-size congregations. One podcasts all of their sermons and the other doesn’t podcast anything at all. Which one do you think will end up with a larger, more involved membership?

        Nothing I’ve said is meant to denigrate the beautiful experience that is ritual. But we need to remember there are other beautiful experiences too. Being able to be involved and accepted by a community even when you are away, or unable/unwilling to show up in person, is a meaningful experience in its own right. It’s an experience that adds something to community.

        Organizations that refuse to add that experience because “it’s not the same!” won’t meet the needs of all of their members. They will struggle.

        • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

           Right, but you’re talking about reaching out to an organization separated by distance and motivated by outreach.

          So you’re speaking to the phenomena of things such as Witch School, while most of us are actually working in small local communities built on face to face interaction.

          I do have to say though, I was moved by the ADF memorial for Isaac Bonewits that was recorded for Youtube. For those sorts of things, I agree the internet can bring us food for our soul, but nothing on the internet or via cellphone will ever replace local community.

        • http://www.facebook.com/dashifen David Dashifen Kees

          Heck, I’d love to see some rituals podcasted in some way — especially in video.  I have a minimum of experience working with others and that experience is mostly in small groups working within Wiccan ritual styles.  I’d love the chance to experience more and to experience the things that others are doing elsewhere that I don’t have access to. 

          Granted, it’s not going to replace face-to-face group work but, as Drew is saying, it will enhance it.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

            I’m not so sure digital media will “enhance” ritual, actually. Look at the phenomenon of televangelism, for instance. Certainly, you now have these huge megachurches with massive followings that were simply not possible before television became an accessible technology in the common American household. Sure, the churches are bigger now, and they make more money. But is anyone willing to argue that televangelism is actually a more sophisticated, ethically challenging, spiritually deep or nourishing way of “doing religion” than other forms of Christianity or other spiritual traditions?

            Neil Postman writes about this in his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death. Television and digital media are great at making things entertaining, but the depth and power of the spiritual life is not its entertainment value (i.e. its ability to make people feel good about themselves), but its ability to (as Postman calls it) “enchant” us, that is, make us feel as though we’re part of something larger, more meaningful and more beautiful than we are alone. I, too, was moved by the video of Isaac’s memorial…. but what moved me was my distinct sense of not being there, not being a part of it and, more importantly, wishing I had been. My experience watching the video was only a pale echo of the experience of those people who were there that night.

            Digital media can and definitely should be used to encourage people to show up and be present, to open themselves to the possibility of enchantment and connection through in-person engagement. But it can’t replace that engagement.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1226891346 Cara Schulz

          I’ve been part of podcast rituals and rituals on skype.  Not at all the same …  umph … as in person rituals.  I think it’s great to offer things *in addition to* face to face – but I don’t think it’s a good idea to offer them *in place of* or allocate too many resources.

        • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

          I think the big difference is that a podcasted or Skyped ritual would be something that is watched, not participated in.  Until they make it possible to smell the incense through the computer, share the cakes and ale, and hold hands with one’s neighbors while one dances, it’s not going to be in any way as effective.  Paganism is a religion of experience, and to turn it into a “spectator sport” like a lot of Protestant church services are (where one is there fundamentally “to learn/hear,” and nothing else) doesn’t do us any favors.

          I’m not opposed to judicious use of electronic media for religious purposes, including podcasts, blogs, and so forth.  But ritual is an entirely other matter, and until VR technologies are far more immersive than they are at present, the best that will be able to happen is a video-game-like ritual or a Second Life virtual temple…both are cool, and can set off some of the same neurons in the brain, but they’re not quite the same as actual rituals yet.

          • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

            “Paganism is a religion of experience, and to turn it into a “spectator sport” like a lot of Protestant church services are (where one is there fundamentally “to learn/hear,” and nothing else) doesn’t do us any favors.”

            That made me think of some experiences I had back in my (pre-Pagan) Jewish days and the High Holy Days services I would attend. When I was in the choir I felt like I was a part of the service and doing something. Then one year I was on a break from singing and I attended the services just as a part of the congregation. It was a completely different experience, more like watching the Rabbis and the choir putting on a choreographed show than being a part of a participatory religious observance/ celebration. I absolutely hated it. Right around the time I stopped practicing Judaism and began to explore Paganism the Temple was experimenting with broadcasting the services online, which while useful for those who, due to age or illness, cannot attend service, I could only imagine it further distancing the person watching from any authentic religious experience.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

           You’re probably right. Those who don’t broaden into the digital experience will probably have fewer people. On the other hand those who do fall for the idea that “virtual ritual” is equivalent will find that their experience is cheapened immeasurably.

           That technology can work in a number of ways to facilitate business and social meetings. As an example, I have a role-playing group that has been meeting, in one iteration or another, since the mid-1980s. Of course careers and families have scattered our little group to the winds. At any session we might have three of us around a table and two or three others playing by Skype. It DOES sorta feel like they’re almost there at the table with us.

           Ritual is qualitatively different. It’s about gathering in a particular space, ideally outdoors, casting a circle that is a real and palpable entity, at least for many of our traditions, and sharing energy and the living presence of our gods and goddesses. It is an intimate act in which virtually all of the important stuff transpires at a level much deeper than the “physical theater” of the words and costume and motions of the participants.

          Anything the best videographer can capture and podcast of our ritual is not the ritual. It is a pale audio-visual representation of the outward acts of the ritual. It may well be beautiful aesthetically in its own right. It may convey some meaning and emotion to those watching it from afar. But it is not a meaningful experience in the same way as the actual real-space ritual.

          That’s not to say it has no use in the pagan experience. It could be a wonderful way to visit our home bound elders, share the visual and audio representations of rite of passage rituals with those far away etc. But those who think that social media is an equivalent substitute for in-person participation either don’t know what paganism is all about or have never experienced it in its true richness. 

          You’re quite correct that it may, in the long run, cost us the numbers game. I can live with that, and I suspect so can a great many others on pagan paths. It’s never been about “butts in seats” or marketing for us. We don’t have high-rolling pastors or mega-church buildings or overseas missionaries to maintain and we never will, or at least I won’t be part of it.  The big seasonal sabbats aside, I find that all of my best and most powerful moon rituals involved less than 10 people in a circle. Many months, it’s just the priestess and myself, and it’s wonderful. I don’t want lots of people. I want the right people, who understand that ritual is something you make time for, not find time for. I certainly have no interest in a congregation of people who think they can “text in” their participation or be a real part of what we do by “friending” this month’s full moon podcast.

        • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

          “When you do a ritual, what if you podcasted it. Do you think anyone would watch it? I do.”

          … ermmmm… actually, I fear that would add quite a lot of complication.

          What about people who aren’t out of the broom closet?  They may feel safe in Circle, but if we’ve got a camera rolling, suddenly, they’ve got a worry in their mind about whether or not they’re recognisable. 

          Then there’s the people who become self-conscious for other reasons and act or react differently than they otherwise would do based on the fact that “someone is watching”.  Never mind the folk who might decide to grandstand a bit. 

          In either case, you have the very real possibility that people suddenly have a barrier preventing them from being as fully /present/ as they might otherwise be.

          For this very reason, we don’t take pictures during rituals at my church.  If we want pictures of a ritual, we stage them before or afterward.

          I think videos or podcasts of a ritual would be excellent teaching and demonstration tools, but I think they’d need to be approached as such.

  • http://roguepriest.net/ Drew Jacob

    Glad to see the debate is spreading. Something worth mentioning: these are predictions for what will be successful over the next 50 years. We’re not there yet but it’s coming.

    I think it’s interesting that so many people think in-person ritual can’t be replaced by digital experiences. I remember people saying the same thing about physical books, and now ebooks are booming. People said the same thing about going to a physical art museum instead of viewing art online, but museums now expect a struggle for attendance in the next 20 years.

    The old way of doing things will continue to be valuable to many people, but that doesn’t mean we can neglect building new structures that will address the new direction culture is heading in.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1226891346 Cara Schulz

      But Drew – reading a book and viewing art is not the same as meeting face to face with people.  That’s like saying sex will be replaced with texting.  Sure people do it and people enjoy it, but it doesn’t replace good, old-fashioned knockin’ boots.  Ritual is about more than just seeing or hearing something.  It is about touch, smell, and that connection that can only be made when you look into someone’s eyes.

      • http://roguepriest.net/ Drew Jacob

        Let’s put it this way. When you do a ritual, what if you podcasted it. Do you think anyone would watch it? I do.

        Now imagine this. Two churches of the same sect with similar-size congregations. One podcasts all of their sermons and the other doesn’t podcast anything at all. Which one do you think will end up with a larger, more involved membership?

        Nothing I’ve said is meant to denigrate the beautiful experience that is ritual. But we need to remember there are other beautiful experiences too. Being able to be involved and accepted by a community even when you are away, or unable/unwilling to show up in person, is a meaningful experience in its own right. It’s an experience that adds something to community.

        Organizations that refuse to add that experience because “it’s not the same!” won’t meet the needs of all of their members. They will struggle.

        • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

           Right, but you’re talking about reaching out to an organization separated by distance and motivated by outreach.

          So you’re speaking to the phenomena of things such as Witch School, while most of us are actually working in small local communities built on face to face interaction.

          I do have to say though, I was moved by the ADF memorial for Isaac Bonewits that was recorded for Youtube. For those sorts of things, I agree the internet can bring us food for our soul, but nothing on the internet or via cellphone will ever replace local community.

        • fffh_moderator

          Heck, I’d love to see some rituals podcasted in some way — especially in video.  I have a minimum of experience working with others and that experience is mostly in small groups working within Wiccan ritual styles.  I’d love the chance to experience more and to experience the things that others are doing elsewhere that I don’t have access to. 

          Granted, it’s not going to replace face-to-face group work but, as Drew is saying, it will enhance it.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

            I’m not so sure digital media will “enhance” ritual, actually. Look at the phenomenon of televangelism, for instance. Certainly, you now have these huge megachurches with massive followings that were simply not possible before television became an accessible technology in the common American household. Sure, the churches are bigger now, and they make more money. But is anyone willing to argue that televangelism is actually a more sophisticated, ethically challenging, spiritually deep or nourishing way of “doing religion” than other forms of Christianity or other spiritual traditions?

            Neil Postman writes about this in his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death. Television and digital media are great at making things entertaining, but the depth and power of the spiritual life is not its entertainment value (i.e. its ability to make people feel good about themselves), but its ability to (as Postman calls it) “enchant” us, that is, make us feel as though we’re part of something larger, more meaningful and more beautiful than we are alone. I, too, was moved by the video of Isaac’s memorial…. but what moved me was my distinct sense of not being there, not being a part of it and, more importantly, wishing I had been. My experience watching the video was only a pale echo of the experience of those people who were there that night.

            Digital media can and definitely should be used to encourage people to show up and be present, to open themselves to the possibility of enchantment and connection through in-person engagement. But it can’t replace that engagement.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1226891346 Cara Schulz

          I’ve been part of podcast rituals and rituals on skype.  Not at all the same …  umph … as in person rituals.  I think it’s great to offer things *in addition to* face to face – but I don’t think it’s a good idea to offer them *in place of* or allocate too many resources.

        • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

          I think the big difference is that a podcasted or Skyped ritual would be something that is watched, not participated in.  Until they make it possible to smell the incense through the computer, share the cakes and ale, and hold hands with one’s neighbors while one dances, it’s not going to be in any way as effective.  Paganism is a religion of experience, and to turn it into a “spectator sport” like a lot of Protestant church services are (where one is there fundamentally “to learn/hear,” and nothing else) doesn’t do us any favors.

          I’m not opposed to judicious use of electronic media for religious purposes, including podcasts, blogs, and so forth.  But ritual is an entirely other matter, and until VR technologies are far more immersive than they are at present, the best that will be able to happen is a video-game-like ritual or a Second Life virtual temple…both are cool, and can set off some of the same neurons in the brain, but they’re not quite the same as actual rituals yet.

          • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

            “Paganism is a religion of experience, and to turn it into a “spectator sport” like a lot of Protestant church services are (where one is there fundamentally “to learn/hear,” and nothing else) doesn’t do us any favors.”

            That made me think of some experiences I had back in my (pre-Pagan) Jewish days and the High Holy Days services I would attend. When I was in the choir I felt like I was a part of the service and doing something. Then one year I was on a break from singing and I attended the services just as a part of the congregation. It was a completely different experience, more like watching the Rabbis and the choir putting on a choreographed show than being a part of a participatory religious observance/ celebration. I absolutely hated it. Right around the time I stopped practicing Judaism and began to explore Paganism the Temple was experimenting with broadcasting the services online, which while useful for those who, due to age or illness, cannot attend service, I could only imagine it further distancing the person watching from any authentic religious experience.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

           You’re probably right. Those who don’t broaden into the digital experience will probably have fewer people. On the other hand those who do fall for the idea that “virtual ritual” is equivalent will find that their experience is cheapened immeasurably.

           That technology can work in a number of ways to facilitate business and social meetings. As an example, I have a role-playing group that has been meeting, in one iteration or another, since the mid-1980s. Of course careers and families have scattered our little group to the winds. At any session we might have three of us around a table and two or three others playing by Skype. It DOES sorta feel like they’re almost there at the table with us.

           Ritual is qualitatively different. It’s about gathering in a particular space, ideally outdoors, casting a circle that is a real and palpable entity, at least for many of our traditions, and sharing energy and the living presence of our gods and goddesses. It is an intimate act in which virtually all of the important stuff transpires at a level much deeper than the “physical theater” of the words and costume and motions of the participants.

          Anything the best videographer can capture and podcast of our ritual is not the ritual. It is a pale audio-visual representation of the outward acts of the ritual. It may well be beautiful aesthetically in its own right. It may convey some meaning and emotion to those watching it from afar. But it is not a meaningful experience in the same way as the actual real-space ritual.

          That’s not to say it has no use in the pagan experience. It could be a wonderful way to visit our home bound elders, share the visual and audio representations of rite of passage rituals with those far away etc. But those who think that social media is an equivalent substitute for in-person participation either don’t know what paganism is all about or have never experienced it in its true richness. 

          You’re quite correct that it may, in the long run, cost us the numbers game. I can live with that, and I suspect so can a great many others on pagan paths. It’s never been about “butts in seats” or marketing for us. We don’t have high-rolling pastors or mega-church buildings or overseas missionaries to maintain and we never will, or at least I won’t be part of it.  The big seasonal sabbats aside, I find that all of my best and most powerful moon rituals involved less than 10 people in a circle. Many months, it’s just the priestess and myself, and it’s wonderful. I don’t want lots of people. I want the right people, who understand that ritual is something you make time for, not find time for. I certainly have no interest in a congregation of people who think they can “text in” their participation or be a real part of what we do by “friending” this month’s full moon podcast.

        • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

          “When you do a ritual, what if you podcasted it. Do you think anyone would watch it? I do.”

          … ermmmm… actually, I fear that would add quite a lot of complication.

          What about people who aren’t out of the broom closet?  They may feel safe in Circle, but if we’ve got a camera rolling, suddenly, they’ve got a worry in their mind about whether or not they’re recognisable. 

          Then there’s the people who become self-conscious for other reasons and act or react differently than they otherwise would do based on the fact that “someone is watching”.  Never mind the folk who might decide to grandstand a bit. 

          In either case, you have the very real possibility that people suddenly have a barrier preventing them from being as fully /present/ as they might otherwise be.

          For this very reason, we don’t take pictures during rituals at my church.  If we want pictures of a ritual, we stage them before or afterward.

          I think videos or podcasts of a ritual would be excellent teaching and demonstration tools, but I think they’d need to be approached as such.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

     What struck me about Drew’s post was how he managed to take some very old ideas (ideas that have been dominant in modern Western society for a couple centuries now, like individualism as a predominant ethos) and write about them as though they were new. I didn’t see much that he said that actually distinguished “expostmodernism” from postmodernism… except for his assumption that postmodernism is “inherently cynical.” Expostmodernism sounds a bit like putting a glossy, Law-of-Attraction-optimism sheen on postmodern philosophy and hopping on board the digital bandwagon. (Let’s set aside for now the question of whether these technologies, which rely heavily on invasive mining and the exploitation of natural resources we’re rapidly running out of, will even still be around and available to the average person in 2100.)

    I’m with you on that one, Star. I can’t imagine how blogging and other forms of digital interaction could honestly replace real, in-person community engagement. And it certainly can’t replace engagement with the natural world in all its complexity, which is right at the heart of my spiritual life. I can get a lot of things from the time I spend online, but one thing I rarely feel is awe (nor, through my own fault, gratitude). There’s a lot of noise, but not always very much depth.

    Plus, considering the studies that continue to come out about how important to mental and physical health engagement with the natural world really is, along with new research being done into how bots can be used on Twitter and Facebook to artificially create “popular” movements through targeted viral marketing…. the online world is increasingly seeming to me like a place where I need to spend less time, not more. It’s too easy to be manipulated, fooled or distracted.

    If cultivating authenticity and integrity are to play any role in the spiritual life (beyond marketing religion as a way to make people feel good), I think it takes the hard work of real-life, in-person engagement.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

      Which is not to say Drew’s predictions are wrong…. But if they are right, I think that’s more something to regret than to celebrate.

      In any case, I’ll be out in the woods and the fields and the garden (and, sometimes, the pub). Drew can keep his digital revolution. ;)

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

      Here’s a question for everyone, but especially Alison and Star.

      Why are we talking about anything “replacing” in-person community engagement?

      One of the points of the article is that communities will need to offer the digital side too, to be successful. That’s *in addition* to sermons or rituals.

      But everyone is talking as if the digital age is threatening to swoop in and break up your next moot.

      What gives?

      • http://www.facebook.com/joseph.a.moody Joseph A Moody

         I would say its fear, people are alwase afraid to lose what they value….or lose the value of what they have.

      • Henry

        tWhy are we talking about anything “replacing” in-person community engagement?probably because you suggested it:

        “I think it’s interesting that so many people think in-person ritual can’t be replaced by digital experiences. I remember people saying the same thing about physical books, and now ebooks are booming. People said the same thing about going to a physical art museum instead of viewing art online, but museums now expect a struggle for attendance in the next 20 years.”

        Sure they can replace them but at a loss of the experiences, touch, smell, the immanence of the physical object. They aren’t the same experiences. One might decorate ones table with a bowl of life like artifical fruit , but the smell, the texture, the feel isn’t there.
        Can they be learning tools? sure, as well as they can be an augment to the physical experience,but there’s nothing like the real thing baby lol being there.
        Is the measure of a successful spiritual community measured in numbers, in membership?
        Seems you’re talking more about marketability and convienience, how does that tie into heroic living?
         

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

          Excellent point Henry. 

          Right now I communicate about the Heroic Life almost exclusively through digital media. It allows me to reach the most people with similar interests and not pester other people.

          You can view it as marketing but it is also a matter of common sense. If you wanted to inspire people in 300 BCE you needed the guts to stand up in the forum and preach. If you wanted to do it in 1800 you needed a printing press. In 2011 you need digital media.

          I believe the way digital media figures into any given religious organization is a delicate question that will need to be discussed by the leaders/members. I doubt any will try to replace ritual with it, but those who completely reject it will see a long-term decline because they are not addressing the lifestyle or preferences of a 21st century audience.

      • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

        I’m with Henry, what I got from what you wrote was, as I said to Mrs. B down there a ways ~waves down the screen~ the notion that digital interaction would become /preferred/ to meatspace and needed to be /embraced/ for that reason.

        That may be a misinterpretation of what you wrote, but it is my initial reaction and hence, my comment.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

         My response.

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

      By the way Alison, expostmodernism is defined (with a pretty clear difference between the earlier ideas of the past couple centuries) here:

      http://mipitr.com/expomod/

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

        I am in the process of drafting a longer reply to your earlier question (though follow-up comments by others quoting your own direct statements should probably suffice)… but I do want to point out that I had read that article on mipitr.com and that’s what I was referring to in my original comment. The “postmodernism” you describe in that article is really little more than an American pop culture trend, not the far more nuanced, complex philosophical/aesthetic movement. Your spin on “expostmodernism” is more like a selective approach to that more complex philosophy, emphasizing ideas that are somewhat shallower versions of things like “deep play” and “creative self- and community- identity formation” (which are incredibly important aspects of actual postmodern theory). In general, it seems like you’re just unfamiliar with postmodernism, and equate it instead to mere cynicism/nihilism. But that’s where I take issue with a lot of your post. You seem to have this tendency to conflate things on a superficial level (in-person engagement with digital engagement, for instance) as though they were no different and therefore interchangeable… when actually there is a world of difference.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

     What struck me about Drew’s post was how he managed to take some very old ideas (ideas that have been dominant in modern Western society for a couple centuries now, like individualism as a predominant ethos) and write about them as though they were new. I didn’t see much that he said that actually distinguished “expostmodernism” from postmodernism… except for his assumption that postmodernism is “inherently cynical.” Expostmodernism sounds a bit like putting a glossy, Law-of-Attraction-optimism sheen on postmodern philosophy and hopping on board the digital bandwagon. (Let’s set aside for now the question of whether these technologies, which rely heavily on invasive mining and the exploitation of natural resources we’re rapidly running out of, will even still be around and available to the average person in 2100.)

    I’m with you on that one, Star. I can’t imagine how blogging and other forms of digital interaction could honestly replace real, in-person community engagement. And it certainly can’t replace engagement with the natural world in all its complexity, which is right at the heart of my spiritual life. I can get a lot of things from the time I spend online, but one thing I rarely feel is awe (nor, through my own fault, gratitude). There’s a lot of noise, but not always very much depth.

    Plus, considering the studies that continue to come out about how important to mental and physical health engagement with the natural world really is, along with new research being done into how bots can be used on Twitter and Facebook to artificially create “popular” movements through targeted viral marketing…. the online world is increasingly seeming to me like a place where I need to spend less time, not more. It’s too easy to be manipulated, fooled or distracted.

    If cultivating authenticity and integrity are to play any role in the spiritual life (beyond marketing religion as a way to make people feel good), I think it takes the hard work of real-life, in-person engagement.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

      Which is not to say Drew’s predictions are wrong…. But if they are right, I think that’s more something to regret than to celebrate.

      In any case, I’ll be out in the woods and the fields and the garden (and, sometimes, the pub). Drew can keep his digital revolution. ;)

    • http://roguepriest.net/ Drew Jacob

      Here’s a question for everyone, but especially Alison and Star.

      Why are we talking about anything “replacing” in-person community engagement?

      One of the points of the article is that communities will need to offer the digital side too, to be successful. That’s *in addition* to sermons or rituals.

      But everyone is talking as if the digital age is threatening to swoop in and break up your next moot.

      What gives?

      • http://www.facebook.com/joseph.a.moody Joseph A Moody

         I would say its fear, people are alwase afraid to lose what they value….or lose the value of what they have.

      • Henry

        tWhy are we talking about anything “replacing” in-person community engagement?probably because you suggested it:

        “I think it’s interesting that so many people think in-person ritual can’t be replaced by digital experiences. I remember people saying the same thing about physical books, and now ebooks are booming. People said the same thing about going to a physical art museum instead of viewing art online, but museums now expect a struggle for attendance in the next 20 years.”

        Sure they can replace them but at a loss of the experiences, touch, smell, the immanence of the physical object. They aren’t the same experiences. One might decorate ones table with a bowl of life like artifical fruit , but the smell, the texture, the feel isn’t there.
        Can they be learning tools? sure, as well as they can be an augment to the physical experience,but there’s nothing like the real thing baby lol being there.
        Is the measure of a successful spiritual community measured in numbers, in membership?
        Seems you’re talking more about marketability and convienience, how does that tie into heroic living?
         

        • http://roguepriest.net/ Drew Jacob

          Excellent point Henry. 

          Right now I communicate about the Heroic Life almost exclusively through digital media. It allows me to reach the most people with similar interests and not pester other people.

          You can view it as marketing but it is also a matter of common sense. If you wanted to inspire people in 300 BCE you needed the guts to stand up in the forum and preach. If you wanted to do it in 1800 you needed a printing press. In 2011 you need digital media.

          I believe the way digital media figures into any given religious organization is a delicate question that will need to be discussed by the leaders/members. I doubt any will try to replace ritual with it, but those who completely reject it will see a long-term decline because they are not addressing the lifestyle or preferences of a 21st century audience.

      • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

        I’m with Henry, what I got from what you wrote was, as I said to Mrs. B down there a ways ~waves down the screen~ the notion that digital interaction would become /preferred/ to meatspace and needed to be /embraced/ for that reason.

        That may be a misinterpretation of what you wrote, but it is my initial reaction and hence, my comment.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

         My response.

    • http://roguepriest.net/ Drew Jacob

      By the way Alison, expostmodernism is defined (with a pretty clear difference between the earlier ideas of the past couple centuries) here:

      http://mipitr.com/expomod/

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

        I am in the process of drafting a longer reply to your earlier question (though follow-up comments by others quoting your own direct statements should probably suffice)… but I do want to point out that I had read that article on mipitr.com and that’s what I was referring to in my original comment. The “postmodernism” you describe in that article is really little more than an American pop culture trend, not the far more nuanced, complex philosophical/aesthetic movement. Your spin on “expostmodernism” is more like a selective approach to that more complex philosophy, emphasizing ideas that are somewhat shallower versions of things like “deep play” and “creative self- and community- identity formation” (which are incredibly important aspects of actual postmodern theory). In general, it seems like you’re just unfamiliar with postmodernism, and equate it instead to mere cynicism/nihilism. But that’s where I take issue with a lot of your post. You seem to have this tendency to conflate things on a superficial level (in-person engagement with digital engagement, for instance) as though they were no different and therefore interchangeable… when actually there is a world of difference.

  • http://twitter.com/MrsBsConfession MrsB

     I’m a bit split on this.  On the one hand, nothing can take the place for me of activities done with my own coven.  Though it’s fairly small, we’ve managed to build a very drama-free environment.

    On the other hand, I talk with people almost daily that have no access to being physically in a coven.  Either they can’t find anyone nearby that practices (or practices anything close to the same thing) or the coven nearby no longer accepts members.  For people like that, I think cyber-coven membership could be a wonderful thing.

    • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

      I quite agree, but it strikes me as “making do” and being “better than nothing”, rather than being “preferrable”, which is how I’m reading Drew’s piece.  I may be missing his point, though.

  • http://twitter.com/MrsBsConfession MrsB

     I’m a bit split on this.  On the one hand, nothing can take the place for me of activities done with my own coven.  Though it’s fairly small, we’ve managed to build a very drama-free environment.

    On the other hand, I talk with people almost daily that have no access to being physically in a coven.  Either they can’t find anyone nearby that practices (or practices anything close to the same thing) or the coven nearby no longer accepts members.  For people like that, I think cyber-coven membership could be a wonderful thing.

    • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

      I quite agree, but it strikes me as “making do” and being “better than nothing”, rather than being “preferrable”, which is how I’m reading Drew’s piece.  I may be missing his point, though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joseph.a.moody Joseph A Moody

     New Media on the internet is picking up alot of isolatted stragglers, Unless i had friends to twist my arm, I would never goto a pagan pride day, I tend to avoid most wiccans due to personal reasons. I enjoy my solitary practice and try as best as i can to be viewed as someone who is jumping onto the “next big thing” So in my case with new media and such it was a potent social primer much more so then a spirtual one.
    Now with this being said. It is difficult to replace a social group. Look at the armed forces, With social pressures being what they are they are accomadateing the spirtual needs of our boys. Reguardless of your opinions on the war’s (and please keep them to your self, this is nether the time or place to go into that) The armed forces accomadatted the needs of the wiccans, asatru and such out of need. I am sure some activist groups may of put a fether in there cap and called it a win. But it was out of need.
    Now this point being made. The same spirtual needs felt by our boys there are felt by people world over, And these people are feeling them with out a “big brother father figure” to accomadate there needs. So people being the natural problem solvers they are, will find a soultion to there problem. In ages past it was going to worship in person (and in some cases this could of very well been a once in a life time event) to books, takeing consult with what wisemen they could find. And now in our day I have to ask. IS it simply more options. or diffrent.

    what is the diffrence between finding an ascetic monk, or downloading a podcast?
    There are diffrences to be sure….But both of them is a means to attempt to add anothers wisdom to your own.

    Personaly I wish that every one who put forth the effort could find a coven or blot or pylon, But that is a perfect world, In the real world we make due best we can, take risks for our soultions, and sometimes pick of avalible soultions, rather then the best soultions.

    but if you can offer a better soultion, feel free.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joseph.a.moody Joseph A Moody

     New Media on the internet is picking up alot of isolatted stragglers, Unless i had friends to twist my arm, I would never goto a pagan pride day, I tend to avoid most wiccans due to personal reasons. I enjoy my solitary practice and try as best as i can to be viewed as someone who is jumping onto the “next big thing” So in my case with new media and such it was a potent social primer much more so then a spirtual one.
    Now with this being said. It is difficult to replace a social group. Look at the armed forces, With social pressures being what they are they are accomadateing the spirtual needs of our boys. Reguardless of your opinions on the war’s (and please keep them to your self, this is nether the time or place to go into that) The armed forces accomadatted the needs of the wiccans, asatru and such out of need. I am sure some activist groups may of put a fether in there cap and called it a win. But it was out of need.
    Now this point being made. The same spirtual needs felt by our boys there are felt by people world over, And these people are feeling them with out a “big brother father figure” to accomadate there needs. So people being the natural problem solvers they are, will find a soultion to there problem. In ages past it was going to worship in person (and in some cases this could of very well been a once in a life time event) to books, takeing consult with what wisemen they could find. And now in our day I have to ask. IS it simply more options. or diffrent.

    what is the diffrence between finding an ascetic monk, or downloading a podcast?
    There are diffrences to be sure….But both of them is a means to attempt to add anothers wisdom to your own.

    Personaly I wish that every one who put forth the effort could find a coven or blot or pylon, But that is a perfect world, In the real world we make due best we can, take risks for our soultions, and sometimes pick of avalible soultions, rather then the best soultions.

    but if you can offer a better soultion, feel free.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jannekebrouwers Janneke Brouwers

    I don’t have access to physical interpersonal religious engagement locally. If the internet wasn’t there, there wouldn’t be anyone to converse with. I know of some pagans in the Netherlands, but those are mainly wiccans and witches with whom I have little in common, plus there are no organised groups in my area. So for my it does work as a some (albeit poor) substitute.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jannekebrouwers Janneke Brouwers

    I don’t have access to physical interpersonal religious engagement locally. If the internet wasn’t there, there wouldn’t be anyone to converse with. I know of some pagans in the Netherlands, but those are mainly wiccans and witches with whom I have little in common, plus there are no organised groups in my area. So for my it does work as a some (albeit poor) substitute.

  • Glenn

    Well I just read your article and all the comments, and did not hear the word God or Goddess mentioned once. The Gods and Goddesses, in my opinion, do not care how we honor them ritually, as long as we honor them with the respect they deserve. Whether through ” media ” or in person it is the ritual that is the thing. The getting together is more for us humans. 

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

      Great insight Glenn. Part of the reason they were not mentioned is because the original article wasn’t about Paganism. It was about trends in religion in general and applies just as much to Islam or Seventh Day Adventism.

      But I agree with that point. The purpose of religious organization must be to support the personal spirituality of the individual members. Without that, it’s just a self-serving machine. 

  • Glenn

    Well I just read your article and all the comments, and did not hear the word God or Goddess mentioned once. The Gods and Goddesses, in my opinion, do not care how we honor them ritually, as long as we honor them with the respect they deserve. Whether through ” media ” or in person it is the ritual that is the thing. The getting together is more for us humans. 

    • http://roguepriest.net/ Drew Jacob

      Great insight Glenn. Part of the reason they were not mentioned is because the original article wasn’t about Paganism. It was about trends in religion in general and applies just as much to Islam or Seventh Day Adventism.

      But I agree with that point. The purpose of religious organization must be to support the personal spirituality of the individual members. Without that, it’s just a self-serving machine. 

  • Anonymous

     Wow; fascinating discussion.  

    I’ll throw in that, for my coven, very regular attendance has always been a great big huge “MUST.”  To do the kind of personal and political magic that we do, we feel that we have to regularly be together, know each other deeply, have a “feel” for each other during magic workings. We’re a small, closed, circle of Dianic Witches and maybe what we do is v different from what others do.  

    Over time, our emphasis on regular, repeated, face-to-face meetings & magic workings has meant that we’ve let go some interested women we’d love to have had join us and have said “good-bye” to some cool women who’d gotten too busy w/ other things in their lives.  (Esp. vis-a-vis Paganism; we all pretty much celebrate the same 8 holidays and the same Moons.  So you can only be involved in so many different groups; at least, that’s how it seems to us.)

    Def. not saying that the way we do it is the only way to do it, but it’s the only way for us.  Quite interested to read about others’ experiences.

  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

     Wow; fascinating discussion.  

    I’ll throw in that, for my coven, very regular attendance has always been a great big huge “MUST.”  To do the kind of personal and political magic that we do, we feel that we have to regularly be together, know each other deeply, have a “feel” for each other during magic workings. We’re a small, closed, circle of Dianic Witches and maybe what we do is v different from what others do.  

    Over time, our emphasis on regular, repeated, face-to-face meetings & magic workings has meant that we’ve let go some interested women we’d love to have had join us and have said “good-bye” to some cool women who’d gotten too busy w/ other things in their lives.  (Esp. vis-a-vis Paganism; we all pretty much celebrate the same 8 holidays and the same Moons.  So you can only be involved in so many different groups; at least, that’s how it seems to us.)

    Def. not saying that the way we do it is the only way to do it, but it’s the only way for us.  Quite interested to read about others’ experiences.

  • Illiezeulette

    I’m working toward an M.Div, and in the future I hope to make myself available to people for spiritual advice over the intarwebs.  That said, I won’t do circles or have a coven or do energy work over the internet because I don’t think the energy required to have a circle or a deep connection works that way.  

  • Illiezeulette

    I’m working toward an M.Div, and in the future I hope to make myself available to people for spiritual advice over the intarwebs.  That said, I won’t do circles or have a coven or do energy work over the internet because I don’t think the energy required to have a circle or a deep connection works that way.  

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

     By the way, for anyone wondering what the heck expostmodernism is, you can see the essay that started it all: http://mipitr.com/expomod/

    And Phaedra Bonewits just weighed in with her own article on ExPoMod Paganism: http://neopagan.net/blog/2011/05/19/the-expostmodern-question/

    • Henry

       yep, read the essay on expost modernism. Thing is it’s not a paradigm shift. It’s the same pattern as the historical ‘movements’ you referenced. The only difference is different tech is its underpinning.

  • http://roguepriest.net/ Drew Jacob

     By the way, for anyone wondering what the heck expostmodernism is, you can see the essay that started it all: http://mipitr.com/expomod/

    And Phaedra Bonewits just weighed in with her own article on ExPoMod Paganism: http://neopagan.net/blog/2011/05/19/the-expostmodern-question/

    • Henry

       yep, read the essay on expost modernism. Thing is it’s not a paradigm shift. It’s the same pattern as the historical ‘movements’ you referenced. The only difference is different tech is its underpinning.

  • http://erynn999.livejournal.com/ Erynn

     We have a pretty much solely face-to-face group in Seattle. We don’t expect to become huge, by any means, but we have gained a number of members recently because we’re doing a focused discussion group. We have enough people attending quarterly rituals that we’re looking at having to rent space instead of using members’ homes. For us, it isn’t about numbers, it’s about community.

    Would we ever podcast our rituals? Not likely, given that a huge part of them consists of feasting, or lengthy periods of what seems like “not a lot going on” during the Samhain overnight vigil. Who’s going to want to watch a roomful of people on the other side of the country (or the planet) reading traditional tales and telling stories about their family ancestors and getting silly and more than a little drunk at 3am? I doubt that too many would want to stick with it for the dusk-to-dawn vigil online, but being together and telling those stories is the point. It’s different when it’s your friends and the people that you’re getting together with and breaking bread with every month face to face. 

    Some rituals will never be podcastable. Our warrior sending ritual and warrior homecoming ritual can’t be put into that format because it requires particular physical things to happen to the person having the vigil. Sure, you can have a 45 minute circle with your casting and drawing down and whatnot and maybe a lot of people will be interested. I’ve done text rituals in IRC with people a few times over the years and it can work. Some things can’t be duplicated electronically and they can’t be done solitary.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

      The revolution will not be televised. ;) 

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

        That’s a beautiful quote and it’s beautifully postmodern in its sentiment.

        Thing is, the most recent revolution WAS televised, and that fact was almost a nonissue. On the other hand, the use of digital media by individual people on the ground was a vital organizing tool in Egypt.
        Welcome to ExPoMod. Where moms, dads and other non-rebels can change the world. 

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

          Drew, So am I to understand that “postmodern” to you just means cynically anti-establishment? This poem/song is a classic piece of satire (and satire has been around forever – just look at the ancient Celtic bards), but it’s not actually postmodern – not according to any aesthetic/philosophical definition of postmodernism I’ve heard. (See my earlier comment.)(For an excellent example of actual postmodernism, check out Tim O’Brien’s “How to Tell a True War Story.”

          Also, it’s probably important to note that social media functions in drastically different ways in WEIRD (Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic) countries than non-WEIRD countries. The Egyptians’ nonviolent revolution demonstrates this very well. One notable difference: the Egyptians showed up to protest. In the end, it was Americans and other Westerners (ie. those not involved in the revolution) who watched it on TV – and then, just barely. Those actually participating were on the streets. Social media helped ferment this by allowing an oppressed people to communicate and organize when they had few other options. That’s what digital media is good for. In the same way a crutch and a cast can help to heal a broken bone… But you don’t aspire to that kind of brokenness.

          But that is actually the whole point of the song, after all. Those most deeply involved in revolution are not those watching it on the 11 o’clock news. In part because revolution, whether political or spiritual, is not something that only takes place outside of oneself in the public sphere that can be captured on audio-video. Revolution is something that brings you beyond yourself from the inside out. Yet it is not only a “personal journey,” it is also an engagement with community. And I just disagree with you on a profound level that community is somehow reducible to the bits and pieces capable of being captured and transmitted through digital (or, heck, for that matter print) media.

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

            To answer your question, no, I am well aware of what postmodern means. My post on MIPitR, which you read, outlines a number of the factors at play in pomo besides cynicism. A cynical streak in media/literature is more like a byproduct of pomo than its main point. But I didn’t go into any of that in detail, because it’s beside the point. 

  • http://erynn999.livejournal.com/ Erynn

     We have a pretty much solely face-to-face group in Seattle. We don’t expect to become huge, by any means, but we have gained a number of members recently because we’re doing a focused discussion group. We have enough people attending quarterly rituals that we’re looking at having to rent space instead of using members’ homes. For us, it isn’t about numbers, it’s about community.

    Would we ever podcast our rituals? Not likely, given that a huge part of them consists of feasting, or lengthy periods of what seems like “not a lot going on” during the Samhain overnight vigil. Who’s going to want to watch a roomful of people on the other side of the country (or the planet) reading traditional tales and telling stories about their family ancestors and getting silly and more than a little drunk at 3am? I doubt that too many would want to stick with it for the dusk-to-dawn vigil online, but being together and telling those stories is the point. It’s different when it’s your friends and the people that you’re getting together with and breaking bread with every month face to face. 

    Some rituals will never be podcastable. Our warrior sending ritual and warrior homecoming ritual can’t be put into that format because it requires particular physical things to happen to the person having the vigil. Sure, you can have a 45 minute circle with your casting and drawing down and whatnot and maybe a lot of people will be interested. I’ve done text rituals in IRC with people a few times over the years and it can work. Some things can’t be duplicated electronically and they can’t be done solitary.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

      The revolution will not be televised. ;) 

      • http://roguepriest.net/ Drew Jacob

        That’s a beautiful quote and it’s beautifully postmodern in its sentiment.

        Thing is, the most recent revolution WAS televised, and that fact was almost a nonissue. On the other hand, the use of digital media by individual people on the ground was a vital organizing tool in Egypt.
        Welcome to ExPoMod. Where moms, dads and other non-rebels can change the world. 

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

          Drew, So am I to understand that “postmodern” to you just means cynically anti-establishment? This poem/song is a classic piece of satire (and satire has been around forever – just look at the ancient Celtic bards), but it’s not actually postmodern – not according to any aesthetic/philosophical definition of postmodernism I’ve heard. (See my earlier comment.)(For an excellent example of actual postmodernism, check out Tim O’Brien’s “How to Tell a True War Story.”

          Also, it’s probably important to note that social media functions in drastically different ways in WEIRD (Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic) countries than non-WEIRD countries. The Egyptians’ nonviolent revolution demonstrates this very well. One notable difference: the Egyptians showed up to protest. In the end, it was Americans and other Westerners (ie. those not involved in the revolution) who watched it on TV – and then, just barely. Those actually participating were on the streets. Social media helped ferment this by allowing an oppressed people to communicate and organize when they had few other options. That’s what digital media is good for. In the same way a crutch and a cast can help to heal a broken bone… But you don’t aspire to that kind of brokenness.

          But that is actually the whole point of the song, after all. Those most deeply involved in revolution are not those watching it on the 11 o’clock news. In part because revolution, whether political or spiritual, is not something that only takes place outside of oneself in the public sphere that can be captured on audio-video. Revolution is something that brings you beyond yourself from the inside out. Yet it is not only a “personal journey,” it is also an engagement with community. And I just disagree with you on a profound level that community is somehow reducible to the bits and pieces capable of being captured and transmitted through digital (or, heck, for that matter print) media.

          • http://roguepriest.net/ Drew Jacob

            To answer your question, no, I am well aware of what postmodern means. My post on MIPitR, which you read, outlines a number of the factors at play in pomo besides cynicism. A cynical streak in media/literature is more like a byproduct of pomo than its main point. But I didn’t go into any of that in detail, because it’s beside the point. 

  • Anufa

    Just one more three cents ;)

    This is a topic quite often discussed theses days and it is not just discussed in pagan groups but in whatever group one can imagine… I just recently had a discussion about a TV documentary about the death of somebody. He was filmed during his death. This, considering most of the viewers not having any experience with people´s death, – for ME – is like never having (and having no experience!!) with sex and watching porn. The same as watching ritual without ever having been in the ritual context shown on youtube or whereever else.
    I am NOT saying those options are “bad” they just can lead to personal tragedy, as peopel not being “grown into” a thing always have prejudices not being related to reality. An hour in front of a screen or the computer does not help them to get rid of those ideas… on contrary!

    Sticking to this example: those watching porn will be influenced in their perception of sex; event with watching “lovestories” will not level that out!! Those watching films about people´s death do not have the same “door open” somebody has, who does terminal care. One who watches rituals having been in circles befor will be able to understand, what is happening there – probably…

    500 friends on facebook do not save you from being lonely and most likely will not go to the shops for you (not being able to move with your broken leg).
    But maybe you come into contact with those three or four people who will do!

     

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

      I think these are great points Anufa. 

      What’s funny is that most of the buzz here is about using digital media – but I already think neopagans lead the way in the use of digital media for religious organizations. My original statement was, “Neopaganism will stumble [in the coming decades] unless it can more consistently offer support structures and guidance for this kind of “personal journey” approach.”

      That’s what pagans should really be evaluating, not whether Skyping into a ritual will be valuable (just offer the option and see what people think – problem solved). The bigger question is how Neopaganism groups can help members pursue a path of self-development through individual spiritual practice and exploration. 

      That is, to me, the defining feature of ExPoMod spirituality. The technology can assist that, but all the Facebook in the world won’t matter if it that kind of path isn’t available. 

      • Anufa

         Well met, Drew ;)

        For me it starts with the question, what the … “Neopaganism” is anyway ;) Is it enough to just not be Christian/Moslem/Buddhist/whatever?? Is it enough to say “I´m witch/Druid/Wicca/whatever?? What effects has Neopaganism on society? What effects should it have? And – coming back to your statement

        >The bigger question is how Neopaganism groups can help members pursue a
        path of self-development through individual spiritual practice and
        exploration.

        Therefor there would be the need for really living those paths. At the moment for the majority it seems to be more about how to “do ritual”, “do magic”, “find/ be in a group” and so on.
        These things can be written about, theses things, people love to read about and around these themes all those romantic ideas what it means to be neopagan are woven.

        Cyberworld simply is a place of “everything goes” reality definitely is not ;)
        Sometimes the path is crocked, sometimes it´s more than boring or exhausting beyond imagination – but (as you say) imho the path is not really existant on first sight. People honestly calling themselves Katholic do have an agenda (which is put in words through the Bible, the Pope and the priests of ones parish), Moslems, Buddhists, Hindus – they all have an agenda. What is the agenda of a witch? AND what does that mean in daily life??

        Me thinks that these questions are first to be answered and THEN those being able to answer this question with their lives are hopefully able to be trailblazers for those who are looking for a valuable path…

  • Anufa

    Just one more three cents ;)

    This is a topic quite often discussed theses days and it is not just discussed in pagan groups but in whatever group one can imagine… I just recently had a discussion about a TV documentary about the death of somebody. He was filmed during his death. This, considering most of the viewers not having any experience with people´s death, – for ME – is like never having (and having no experience!!) with sex and watching porn. The same as watching ritual without ever having been in the ritual context shown on youtube or whereever else.
    I am NOT saying those options are “bad” they just can lead to personal tragedy, as peopel not being “grown into” a thing always have prejudices not being related to reality. An hour in front of a screen or the computer does not help them to get rid of those ideas… on contrary!

    Sticking to this example: those watching porn will be influenced in their perception of sex; event with watching “lovestories” will not level that out!! Those watching films about people´s death do not have the same “door open” somebody has, who does terminal care. One who watches rituals having been in circles befor will be able to understand, what is happening there – probably…

    500 friends on facebook do not save you from being lonely and most likely will not go to the shops for you (not being able to move with your broken leg).
    But maybe you come into contact with those three or four people who will do!

     

    • http://roguepriest.net/ Drew Jacob

      I think these are great points Anufa. 

      What’s funny is that most of the buzz here is about using digital media – but I already think neopagans lead the way in the use of digital media for religious organizations. My original statement was, “Neopaganism will stumble [in the coming decades] unless it can more consistently offer support structures and guidance for this kind of “personal journey” approach.”

      That’s what pagans should really be evaluating, not whether Skyping into a ritual will be valuable (just offer the option and see what people think – problem solved). The bigger question is how Neopaganism groups can help members pursue a path of self-development through individual spiritual practice and exploration. 

      That is, to me, the defining feature of ExPoMod spirituality. The technology can assist that, but all the Facebook in the world won’t matter if it that kind of path isn’t available. 

      • Anufa

         Well met, Drew ;)

        For me it starts with the question, what the … “Neopaganism” is anyway ;) Is it enough to just not be Christian/Moslem/Buddhist/whatever?? Is it enough to say “I´m witch/Druid/Wicca/whatever?? What effects has Neopaganism on society? What effects should it have? And – coming back to your statement

        >The bigger question is how Neopaganism groups can help members pursue a
        path of self-development through individual spiritual practice and
        exploration.

        Therefor there would be the need for really living those paths. At the moment for the majority it seems to be more about how to “do ritual”, “do magic”, “find/ be in a group” and so on.
        These things can be written about, theses things, people love to read about and around these themes all those romantic ideas what it means to be neopagan are woven.

        Cyberworld simply is a place of “everything goes” reality definitely is not ;)
        Sometimes the path is crocked, sometimes it´s more than boring or exhausting beyond imagination – but (as you say) imho the path is not really existant on first sight. People honestly calling themselves Katholic do have an agenda (which is put in words through the Bible, the Pope and the priests of ones parish), Moslems, Buddhists, Hindus – they all have an agenda. What is the agenda of a witch? AND what does that mean in daily life??

        Me thinks that these questions are first to be answered and THEN those being able to answer this question with their lives are hopefully able to be trailblazers for those who are looking for a valuable path…

  • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

    I think that, in a lot of ways, the growth we’re seeing in Paganism of late is something of a reaction to the growing “cyber sociality” in our society.  As people are becoming more connected with other folks online and more of their interactions move online, we’ve seen an explosion in loneliness, depression and drive for face-to-face connection… just ask OK Cupid. 

    Faiths and faith practises which do *not* suppress the physical, do not deny sensory experiences and which treat the individual as a whole being, addressing spirit, body, mind and emotion become something of an antidote to the compartmentalisation and isolation of cyber culture.

    Books and ebooks, I can get.  As eInk technology has advanced, ebooks have become more immersive and now can trigger the same centres of the brain that an illuminated display simply cannot… but I still miss the smell of the paper when I’m reading an ebook.

    Rendering on a screen cannot (at least at this point), capture the full sensory experience of standing in front of a painting by one of the Masters… the smell of the oils on canvas, the hush of the museum environment… I get that they’re doing a lot with virtual reality, but I doubt they will be able to fully replicate the entire sensory experience. 

    And as for ritual… adding the abstraction layer of online interaction adds, to me, a layer of complication and separation which impedes the mystical experience.  A large part of the point of many Pagan rituals is easing the transition between states of consciousness, and I would be surprised if the technology of telepresence advances to such a degree that we can mimic sensory input *that* well.

    I agree with you (and Drew), personal transformation, empowerment and pluralism are increasingly what Seekers are drawn to… things which Neo-Paganism embraces and has done for a couple of decades at the minimum, at least in my direct experience.  (Admittedly, to varying degrees in specific cases, but I’m taking the broad brush approach here.)
     
    It is little wonder to me that Paganism is growing as fast as it is… in part, due to the (aforementioned) traits Drew enumerated which we embrace and embody… and in part, due to the degree to which we are very much *not* what Drew describes.

  • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

    I think that, in a lot of ways, the growth we’re seeing in Paganism of late is something of a reaction to the growing “cyber sociality” in our society.  As people are becoming more connected with other folks online and more of their interactions move online, we’ve seen an explosion in loneliness, depression and drive for face-to-face connection… just ask OK Cupid. 

    Faiths and faith practises which do *not* suppress the physical, do not deny sensory experiences and which treat the individual as a whole being, addressing spirit, body, mind and emotion become something of an antidote to the compartmentalisation and isolation of cyber culture.

    Books and ebooks, I can get.  As eInk technology has advanced, ebooks have become more immersive and now can trigger the same centres of the brain that an illuminated display simply cannot… but I still miss the smell of the paper when I’m reading an ebook.

    Rendering on a screen cannot (at least at this point), capture the full sensory experience of standing in front of a painting by one of the Masters… the smell of the oils on canvas, the hush of the museum environment… I get that they’re doing a lot with virtual reality, but I doubt they will be able to fully replicate the entire sensory experience. 

    And as for ritual… adding the abstraction layer of online interaction adds, to me, a layer of complication and separation which impedes the mystical experience.  A large part of the point of many Pagan rituals is easing the transition between states of consciousness, and I would be surprised if the technology of telepresence advances to such a degree that we can mimic sensory input *that* well.

    I agree with you (and Drew), personal transformation, empowerment and pluralism are increasingly what Seekers are drawn to… things which Neo-Paganism embraces and has done for a couple of decades at the minimum, at least in my direct experience.  (Admittedly, to varying degrees in specific cases, but I’m taking the broad brush approach here.)
     
    It is little wonder to me that Paganism is growing as fast as it is… in part, due to the (aforementioned) traits Drew enumerated which we embrace and embody… and in part, due to the degree to which we are very much *not* what Drew describes.

  • Kora Kaos

    I love the digital world, and I love talking about religion and ritual online, but I too could never stop going to Mass.  Indeed nothing “replaces” the smell of the incense, the feeling of the holy water and oils, the shaking of hands in offering the sign of peace, the energy spent in the walk there and back, the sound of many voices reverberating back from the giant domed ceiling, the taste of wafer and wine in my mouth, the sight of hundreds holding candles together in the dark silence, and just the magical energy of it all- so, too, do digital books not do it for me like paper books.  With paper books, a lot less light is shooting at my eyeballs and I enjoy the feeling of turning pages.

    • Kora Kaos

      Oh, I forgot my other church- theatre.  There’s a reason I go to theatre more often than the movies, too.

  • Kora Kaos

    I love the digital world, and I love talking about religion and ritual online, but I too could never stop going to Mass.  Indeed nothing “replaces” the smell of the incense, the feeling of the holy water and oils, the shaking of hands in offering the sign of peace, the energy spent in the walk there and back, the sound of many voices reverberating back from the giant domed ceiling, the taste of wafer and wine in my mouth, the sight of hundreds holding candles together in the dark silence, and just the magical energy of it all- so, too, do digital books not do it for me like paper books.  With paper books, a lot less light is shooting at my eyeballs and I enjoy the feeling of turning pages.

    • Kora Kaos

      Oh, I forgot my other church- theatre.  There’s a reason I go to theatre more often than the movies, too.


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