Guest Post: Drew Jacob “Temple Without a Song: a Report to the Community”

For seven years Temple of the River has been near to my heart. Most days, regardless of work or family obligations, I spent at least a little time thinking about or working for the Temple. As it grew, a lot of that time was spent working with students who stepped up to take over some of the work. It was never an easy project. But it was always worth it because we were building something that would help people.

Temple of the River began as an experiment. It was founded in 2004 as the first temple of the Old Belief Society. Like any nonprofit, the Society has a mission statement: a clear reason why the organization exists, that guides what the organization does.

But I’ve never liked the term “mission statement.” Mission always sounds a little churchy to me, like we’re going to convert kids in India. Lucky for me, there is a better word in Irish: dán.

In modern Irish dán simply means “poem.” But the history of the word is much richer. In the Dictionary of the Irish Language, the definitions for dán run across seven entire columns. In Old Irish the word can mean anything from a divine gift, to a poem or song, to a talent or skill, to a profession, to fate itself. The overarching meaning of this term is “purpose.”

In the teachings of the Old Belief, every individual has a purpose. This is not a destiny stamped on them by a god, but a purpose they choose for themselves: something that fills them with passion, that leads them forward in life.

An individual following their dán feels fulfilled and full of energy and certainty; their faces beam with an inner light. This is their purpose, their art, their poem, the song they are meant to sing. Mine is the Heroic Life. Yours might be music, or cooking. Cultivating that purpose is the highest value of the Old Belief.

In the spirit of that teaching, we did not give the Old Belief Society a “mission statement.” We gave it a dán. It reads:

To teach and promote the Old Belief by building a network of temples regulated by professional, uniformly trained draoíthe priests.

Draoíthe means “druids” and we use that word in a very traditional sense. Many organizations view druids as philosophers, and anyone who fills that role gets the title. However, in early Ireland druids had to meet a number of prerequisites to earn the title:

  • Complete an apprenticeship lasting 12 to 20 years (varies by source)
  • Memorize literally hundreds of poems and stories
  • Perform expertly in one or several specializations, which seem to have included astronomy, divination, sacrifice, magic, medicine, law, filidecht (ritual poetry), and history and genealogy
  • Exhibit a broad competence in all of the above specialties
  • Learn to live in the wild completely without luxuries, tools or food (it’s unclear whether all druids had to do this, or only a subset)
  • Master a variety of spiritual practices, including awareness meditation

It’s important to note that by this definition, literally zero of the practicing Pagans in the world today are druids. It’s a very strict definition.

We figured we could do it.

There’s a lot of talk about how no one really knows what the ancient druids did. But the sources available – for those who take the time to find and read them – give a detailed account of what druidic training was like, what practices they used, what was expected of them, and what made them so valuable to their communities. We dove into those sources, and constructed a druidic apprenticeship program.

Our dán – our purpose – was very specific. It was to train that kind of druid, so they could teach the Old Belief. And the purpose of the Old Belief? Above all else, to help people find their own dáin (that’s the plural). The temples we built had to be dedicated to that purpose. Guided by that song, we got to work.

And we impressed a lot of people.

But this week, seven years after opening its doors, I announced that Temple of the River is closing. What changed? There’s been a lot of speculation. To correct a few of the guesses I’ve heard:

  • I haven’t gotten bored. If I simply wanted to leave the Temple, I would have made sure it could continue without me.
  • We haven’t lost the Irish cottage building. The cottage is now privately owned and we were offered a very generous lease, which we chose to turn down.
  • It’s not a cash flow issue. When we were offered the lease we considered our funding in detail, and we negotiated a low monthly rent. Affording our expenses was not an issue.
  • It’s not burnout. Over the last three years my students have done a wonderful job of stepping up and taking over almost all aspects of Temple administration. We’ve also learned not to commit to more events than we can handle.

Instead, the events that led to the closing developed slowly over time. As years went by, more people reached the point in their apprenticeship where they were offered the chance to initiate into draíocht (druidic practices). But they didn’t end up initiating. There were a variety of reasons: in some cases they felt it wasn’t their dán. In other cases, they simply weren’t able to put in the time commitment to pursue initiation – jobs, school, and other obligations made it difficult.

All of these are excellent reasons not to embark on such a challenging path. I have nothing but the greatest respect for my students. But it did leave the Temple with a dawning realization: we were not, in fact, creating draoíthe.

In the absence of a growing body of druids, the other programs we offered had limited impact. Since 2008 the Temple has been dedicated to a strong series of holiday festivals, but that was the limit on what we could effectively offer to the general public. Holiday events are often social occasions; they’re terrific fun, but they don’t help people grapple with their spiritual questions, and they don’t teach practices like meditation or trance. In the Irish tradition, the holidays are a time for craic (pleasant conversation), music, dancing and customs like carving turnips or playing games.

Thus, Temple of the River reached a place where it did not help people find their purpose in life, discover who they are, pursue their passions, or change their lives. I remember when one of my most senior students came to me and said, “The events we’re doing are really nice, but I don’t think we’re doing enough spiritually.” She was right.

We attempted to launch a free meditation program, but we don’t have the person power to sustain it. Adding more programs would overwork the students and leave them burned out. And with no other priests initiating, the Temple would have to run as a “solo project” of mine forever—hardly a sustainable model. After a series of internal conversations, including one where we discussed the option of alternate Temple structures, there was only one conclusion:

We weren’t fulfilling our dán, and we couldn’t make the changes needed to fix that.

Closing the Temple was a momentous decision for all of us involved in its leadership – and one we didn’t take lightly. It was not a decision I could make myself; I talked with all of my students and each of them agreed. Rather than running an organization that could not fulfill its mission, we chose to shut down.

Many people have told me how sorry they are or said how hard it must be. I deeply appreciate that, but in my heart I feel we’re making a positive choice. Running a temple takes a great deal of funding and many volunteer hours, and it’s unfair to ask those things of people if we’re not delivering on our mission. It is far better to close the organization.

We have done many wonderful things in the last seven years, and for nearly two years we’ve been able to celebrate in a traditional Irish cottage. I know that we’ve touched many lives, and I hope the teachings we’ve given will live on with those who received them. Those accomplishments mean something, and they can be remembered as they were, as shining moments, long after the Temple is closed.

Even after the Old Belief separated from the Pagan umbrella, many Pagans continued to look at Temple of the River as a symbol of what a community can accomplish. That is deeply moving to me. But with ten years of nonprofit management behind me, I hope that our closing is just as much of an example as our opening. Frequently, organizations continue on after they have outlived their purpose. No nonprofit, including churches and temples, should exist if it is not fulfilling its mission. When a nonprofit reaches this point its responsible options are to realign or close.

I wouldn’t dream of telling Pagans how to run their own organizations, but I do hope that by sharing this inside view it can be a learning moment for others. It’s possible to develop great attendance, strong funding, and wonderful community relations. I hope to write about how we did those things. But it’s also vital to have a clear sense of purpose that everyone understands, and to build all of your programs around that purpose. All the work that an organization does should support its mission in some way.

Equally important is communicating that vision to others. I’ve heard a lot of people say that we shouldn’t close our doors, but I haven’t heard that at all from within our own Temple community. The people who attend the Temple have been supportive and understanding (and many thanks to all of you for that). I can’t speak for every person in our community, but the message I’ve gotten from them so far is that they understand.

If you run an organization – or plan to – these two things are perhaps the most important to focus on. Your mission statement is a summary not only of your purpose, but of your values. Are you a community gathering space? A hub for mystical practice? A center of academic learning? Choose your focus carefully and make sure everyone in your community is in agreement with it. Communicate it constantly to others, and regularly review your organization’s programs and activities to make sure they are on-mission. Remember religions are apps, and they work best when purpose-built.

I wish many good things for everyone out there who runs or hopes to run a temple. Your temple may have a very different focus than ours has, and serve a very different purpose. No matter what that purpose is, keep it firmly in mind and make your decisions based on it. If you do that you will always act with integrity.

Drew Jacob
RoguePriest.net

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

    Drew, your closing may be just what you say it is, but it fits the model of Pagan groups who think they have to be “X” in order to be successful and then fold when they don’t meet that goal. I’ve seen it in Pentecostal churches and Baptist churches too. It’s a sad thing, because sometimes people don’t need tools to transform their lives, but to sustain them. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with being human.

    I take issue with the idea that religions are apps. I’ve long fought the idea that “we make it all up” and that is what you are advocating.

    Out of everything written since you announced the closing, this post makes me the saddest, because it seems to make clear that you reject what most of us hold dear.

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

      I’m sad that you’re sad, Star. I respect you greatly. I would like to think I haven’t rejected what you and your community believe – I certainly don’t think humankind simply made up everything religious. There is a divine spark there. But the institutions we build around it – the religions we build to service our spirituality – those I do believe are human inventions, made for practical purposes.

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

      [quote]I’ve long fought the
      idea that “we make it all up” and that is what you are advocating [/quote]

      Interesting. To me this is not threatening at all. I do believe we sort of make our religions up (though not our experiences). I think it is amazing and uplifting we humans can do that. I am guessing a lot of Pagan’s feel the same way as you star, and I guess that might be one of reasons Drew might have for not feeling pagan himself.

      About what you, and some of the other responders are saying about the tension between the high goals of ‘the clergy’ and the needs of the wider community: Yes it is perfectly fine just to ‘sustain’ people. Drew never said their was, it just wasn’t the thing they choose to set out to do. Temples don’t have to fulfilled everybody’s needs.

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

    Drew, your closing may be just what you say it is, but it fits the model of Pagan groups who think they have to be “X” in order to be successful and then fold when they don’t meet that goal. I’ve seen it in Pentecostal churches and Baptist churches too. It’s a sad thing, because sometimes people don’t need tools to transform their lives, but to sustain them. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with being human.

    I take issue with the idea that religions are apps. I’ve long fought the idea that “we make it all up” and that is what you are advocating.

    Out of everything written since you announced the closing, this post makes me the saddest, because it seems to make clear that you reject what most of us hold dear.

    • http://roguepriest.net/ Drew Jacob

      I’m sad that you’re sad, Star. I respect you greatly. I would like to think I haven’t rejected what you and your community believe – I certainly don’t think humankind simply made up everything religious. There is a divine spark there. But the institutions we build around it – the religions we build to service our spirituality – those I do believe are human inventions, made for practical purposes.

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

      [quote]I’ve long fought the
      idea that “we make it all up” and that is what you are advocating [/quote]

      Interesting. To me this is not threatening at all. I do believe we sort of make our religions up (though not our experiences). I think it is amazing and uplifting we humans can do that. I am guessing a lot of Pagan’s feel the same way as you star, and I guess that might be one of reasons Drew might have for not feeling pagan himself.

      About what you, and some of the other responders are saying about the tension between the high goals of ‘the clergy’ and the needs of the wider community: Yes it is perfectly fine just to ‘sustain’ people. Drew never said their was, it just wasn’t the thing they choose to set out to do. Temples don’t have to fulfilled everybody’s needs.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for an excellent description of what you tried to do and what it became. It’s a pretty good example of the tension in the Pagan religious community between the temple model and the mystery religion model.

    It is interesting to consider that he old draoíthe were not doing what they were doing for their personal growth and development (how 20-21st century an idea that is!) they were doing it to fulfill a role in their community. They were the priest class, doing what they did as part of the fabric of the greater society.

    I remember when I came into the Neopagan/Pagan/polytheist/recon community in the way-back-when (before I met Isaac and before the web page had been invented) the working model was the Gardnerian or British Traditional-style coven, with the occasional magical lodge or Pagan Way temple. My first group workings were with an organization looking to present public worship for people who were not members of any of these. Our premise was that even if you were not cut out to be a priest (i.e., an initiate of a coven or temple), you still deserved the opportunity to worship the Gods. Some coven folk disagreed with us strongly. Paganism (as the word was used then) should stay living room religion, they said, a path for a dedicated few who would put in the work and become initiates. In other words, the mystery religion model.

    However, it was clear to us (first the Heartland Pagan Assn New Moon Experimental Liturgy Committee in Chicago, which became Panthea Temple which became a UU congregation back in 1990) that only a comparatively few people were cut out for the intensity of initiatory work. In my years of running covens and working circles, I’ve initiated only a handful of people. (The last time I organized a full training coven, I started with twelve students and initiated one, who did not go on to seek further elevations. That’s pretty typical.)

    When Isaac organized ADF, he had a training vision probably closer to yours than you would think. Twenty years ago, I would chuckle over the ambitions of his original draft ADF training program. What were the odds that someone would have the time and money available to finish what was in essence several master’s degrees in order to take a non-paying position in the community? The answer is obvious, and the ADF training plans have evolved since then with modern reality in mind.

    So I’m not surprised that few took initiation in your group, that few could become draoíthe in your strict, historical sense. Because this is the twenty-first century. As Isaac often explained, the draoíthe were a social class. You learned what you learned because that’s what your family did. It was part of your life, day in and day out. Here in the twenty-first century, that kind of study and training is a luxury that must be fitted around daily life. What you presented was simply not a sustainable model for this day and age. The proof is that it could not sustain itself. (This is why we are, in my not-so-humble opinion, Neopagan. We are working with the now, not the then.)

    Having been on the ground floor of more than a few organizations in my time, it’s clear that they take on a life of their own, that they may or may not evolve into something the founders envisioned. Many founders shut down what they’ve done when it strays too far. The other option is to let the organization be what it is. It becomes an organically grown app. If no one wanted to continue what you had, then yes, let it go. If it could only continue with you in charge and you no longer wanted to be in charge, then let it go. I can’t help thinking, though, that there would have been no harm in letting it evolve into whatever it wanted to be, with or without your participation. Kinda like letting the marketplace speak.

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

      Wonderful sentiment and I agree with it Phaedra. One of my senior students has stated that she would like to continue holding the holiday celebrations we’ve offered to the public and she has our full blessing on doing that. If she is able to drum up enough interest in the community then the programs that people enjoy will indeed continue on in an organic manner.

  • PhaedraHPS

    Thank you for an excellent description of what you tried to do and what it became. It’s a pretty good example of the tension in the Pagan religious community between the temple model and the mystery religion model.

    It is interesting to consider that he old draoíthe were not doing what they were doing for their personal growth and development (how 20-21st century an idea that is!) they were doing it to fulfill a role in their community. They were the priest class, doing what they did as part of the fabric of the greater society.

    I remember when I came into the Neopagan/Pagan/polytheist/recon community in the way-back-when (before I met Isaac and before the web page had been invented) the working model was the Gardnerian or British Traditional-style coven, with the occasional magical lodge or Pagan Way temple. My first group workings were with an organization looking to present public worship for people who were not members of any of these. Our premise was that even if you were not cut out to be a priest (i.e., an initiate of a coven or temple), you still deserved the opportunity to worship the Gods. Some coven folk disagreed with us strongly. Paganism (as the word was used then) should stay living room religion, they said, a path for a dedicated few who would put in the work and become initiates. In other words, the mystery religion model.

    However, it was clear to us (first the Heartland Pagan Assn New Moon Experimental Liturgy Committee in Chicago, which became Panthea Temple which became a UU congregation back in 1990) that only a comparatively few people were cut out for the intensity of initiatory work. In my years of running covens and working circles, I’ve initiated only a handful of people. (The last time I organized a full training coven, I started with twelve students and initiated one, who did not go on to seek further elevations. That’s pretty typical.)

    When Isaac organized ADF, he had a training vision probably closer to yours than you would think. Twenty years ago, I would chuckle over the ambitions of his original draft ADF training program. What were the odds that someone would have the time and money available to finish what was in essence several master’s degrees in order to take a non-paying position in the community? The answer is obvious, and the ADF training plans have evolved since then with modern reality in mind.

    So I’m not surprised that few took initiation in your group, that few could become draoíthe in your strict, historical sense. Because this is the twenty-first century. As Isaac often explained, the draoíthe were a social class. You learned what you learned because that’s what your family did. It was part of your life, day in and day out. Here in the twenty-first century, that kind of study and training is a luxury that must be fitted around daily life. What you presented was simply not a sustainable model for this day and age. The proof is that it could not sustain itself. (This is why we are, in my not-so-humble opinion, Neopagan. We are working with the now, not the then.)

    Having been on the ground floor of more than a few organizations in my time, it’s clear that they take on a life of their own, that they may or may not evolve into something the founders envisioned. Many founders shut down what they’ve done when it strays too far. The other option is to let the organization be what it is. It becomes an organically grown app. If no one wanted to continue what you had, then yes, let it go. If it could only continue with you in charge and you no longer wanted to be in charge, then let it go. I can’t help thinking, though, that there would have been no harm in letting it evolve into whatever it wanted to be, with or without your participation. Kinda like letting the marketplace speak.

    • http://roguepriest.net/ Drew Jacob

      Wonderful sentiment and I agree with it Phaedra. One of my senior students has stated that she would like to continue holding the holiday celebrations we’ve offered to the public and she has our full blessing on doing that. If she is able to drum up enough interest in the community then the programs that people enjoy will indeed continue on in an organic manner.

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

    I give them credit for having the capacity to be that honest with themselves and close down something they felt wasn’t working. On the other hand,  I think perhaps they did perhaps hold themselves too rigidly to a preconceived idea. You seem to be saying that because you failed to reincarnate, in toto, an institution from an Iron Age agrarian society, that somehow you have nothing of real value to offer the community. That’s an awfully high and realistic bar to set. Just because the old druids had a model that worked in their times is no reason to assume that’s the only true way to to things for all time. That’s the problem I have with reconstructionists in general.  The ancients did what they did because it fit who they were and what they were doing, not because it was THE immutable one way to do it for all time.

    You also seem to indicate that the only worthwhile purpose of what you had was to “help people find their purpose in life.” That’s a pretty lofty and nebulous mission, and one I’m not sure the old druids were really about. I’m not a scholar in this area by any means, but my gut tells me what they were doing was something broader: to help people connect with the natural world, the gods and their ancestors and to preserve the law and culture of their people.  There’s still a lot of need for that sort of thing today, and more ways to do it than by replicating the old druid class down to the last detail.

    I also cannot agree that seasonal celebrations are just fluff and socializing. At Beltaine and Samhain, I see a lot of deep work getting done. Even at the “lighter” festivals, they’re serving a real need for reconnecting people with cycles of nature and within themselves. The group I now run with a priestess friend of mine has a mission which includes deeper initiatory work for those interested, but the biggest part of what we do for the community is public seasonal rituals. Is it exactly what we envisioned when we came up with our charter? Not exactly, not yet. But I don’t see it as a failure in any sense. We’re serving a need and people are getting something out of it.  Maybe we’ll end up getting a core of people doing the deep initiatory work. Maybe not. Maybe the time will indeed come for us to fold our tent and move on. But it won’t be because I failed to forge myself or our members into First Century Celts.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Valerie-Bobincheck/1714020397 Valerie Bobincheck

      I felt I had to post a personal observation on this situation.  My husaband and I used to follow the Byzantine Catholic Faith (Eastern Rite).  The priest was very demanding about the attendance on holy days, and using Deacons and altar servers ….during the week; most of us traveled 1 1/2 hours each way to the church (which is not in abundance in the Pacific Northwest).  Fitting this kind of village lifestyle into a modern 21st century family w/ school, work and familial obligations is extremely difficult.   As much as we would like to turn back the clock, it does not function that way.  One has to compromise.  Eventually, the much of the parish fell away due to the demands on their time.  A new priest was brought in and what happened from then I dont know as it was about 15 yrs ago, and our paths have obviously diverged.
      I think the social “fluff” is even more important, though, in this day and age, as it is the “glue” that is our community.  Altho I share little w/ the Wiccan Path, I attend their Craft Circle at our local CUUPS and enjoy the fellowship.  This may be the only way we can make things work -is to keep it a bit informal…
      I am sure this is frustrating to those who have a deeper vision, but we are in different times and many of us have spread ourselves very thin with more than 1 job just to put food on the table.  Above all, we must be realists.

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

    I give them credit for having the capacity to be that honest with themselves and close down something they felt wasn’t working. On the other hand,  I think perhaps they did perhaps hold themselves too rigidly to a preconceived idea. You seem to be saying that because you failed to reincarnate, in toto, an institution from an Iron Age agrarian society, that somehow you have nothing of real value to offer the community. That’s an awfully high and unrealistic bar to set. Just because the old druids had a model that worked in their times is no reason to assume that’s the only true way to to things for all time. That’s the problem I have with reconstructionists in general.  The ancients did what they did because it fit who they were and what they were doing, not because it was THE immutable one way to do it for all time.

    You also seem to indicate that the only worthwhile purpose of what you had was to “help people find their purpose in life.” That’s a pretty lofty and nebulous mission, and one I’m not sure the old druids were really about. I’m not a scholar in this area by any means, but my gut tells me what they were doing was something broader: to help people connect with the natural world, the gods and their ancestors and to preserve the law and culture of their people.  There’s still a lot of need for that sort of thing today, and more ways to do it than by replicating the old druid class down to the last detail.

    I also cannot agree that seasonal celebrations are just fluff and socializing. At Beltaine and Samhain, I see a lot of deep work getting done. Even at the “lighter” festivals, they’re serving a real need for reconnecting people with cycles of nature and within themselves. The group I now run with a priestess friend of mine has a mission which includes deeper initiatory work for those interested, but the biggest part of what we do for the community is public seasonal rituals. Is it exactly what we envisioned when we came up with our charter? Not exactly, not yet. But I don’t see it as a failure in any sense. We’re serving a need and people are getting something out of it.  Maybe we’ll end up getting a core of people doing the deep initiatory work. Maybe not. Maybe the time will indeed come for us to fold our tent and move on. But it won’t be because I failed to forge myself or our members into First Century Celts.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Valerie-Bobincheck/1714020397 Valerie Bobincheck

      I felt I had to post a personal observation on this situation.  My husaband and I used to follow the Byzantine Catholic Faith (Eastern Rite).  The priest was very demanding about the attendance on holy days, and using Deacons and altar servers ….during the week; most of us traveled 1 1/2 hours each way to the church (which is not in abundance in the Pacific Northwest).  Fitting this kind of village lifestyle into a modern 21st century family w/ school, work and familial obligations is extremely difficult.   As much as we would like to turn back the clock, it does not function that way.  One has to compromise.  Eventually, the much of the parish fell away due to the demands on their time.  A new priest was brought in and what happened from then I dont know as it was about 15 yrs ago, and our paths have obviously diverged.
      I think the social “fluff” is even more important, though, in this day and age, as it is the “glue” that is our community.  Altho I share little w/ the Wiccan Path, I attend their Craft Circle at our local CUUPS and enjoy the fellowship.  This may be the only way we can make things work -is to keep it a bit informal…
      I am sure this is frustrating to those who have a deeper vision, but we are in different times and many of us have spread ourselves very thin with more than 1 job just to put food on the table.  Above all, we must be realists.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Wismom4 Debbie McNulty

    I feel that you and I are in very similar places right now. It almost seems that there is something in the air, many folks going through the same types of struggles. I honor your desire to do what you feel is right for you and the group you started. Be well and Blessings!

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

       Thank you for your support Debbie :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/Wismom4 Debbie McNulty

    I feel that you and I are in very similar places right now. It almost seems that there is something in the air, many folks going through the same types of struggles. I honor your desire to do what you feel is right for you and the group you started. Be well and Blessings!

    • http://roguepriest.net/ Drew Jacob

       Thank you for your support Debbie :)

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

    I’m not a ToR member and am not part of that community, but as an outsider looking in on this event through the reporting of Patheos and the Wild Hunt, it seems like the decision to close was premature. Considering the curriculum ToR set out for its initiates and the time requirement imposed (12-20 years), I don’t know how a temple that operated for 7 years can say that they weren’t fulfilling their requirements. I mean to say, the curriculum described above sounds like it would have to be on par with a four-year college education, and even most colleges and universities only graduate 15% of their students (and often less.) As a minister who’s working to open his own temple I have had the highest respect and admiration for ToR and what Mr. Jacob has built, so it’s dismaying to me that such an ambitious project has ended.

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

    I’m not a ToR member and am not part of that community, but as an outsider looking in on this event through the reporting of Patheos and the Wild Hunt, it seems like the decision to close was premature. Considering the curriculum ToR set out for its initiates and the time requirement imposed (12-20 years), I don’t know how a temple that operated for 7 years can say that they weren’t fulfilling their requirements. I mean to say, the curriculum described above sounds like it would have to be on par with a four-year college education, and even most colleges and universities only graduate 15% of their students (and often less.) As a minister who’s working to open his own temple I have had the highest respect and admiration for ToR and what Mr. Jacob has built, so it’s dismaying to me that such an ambitious project has ended.

  • Ian Corrigan

    I must say that I agree with the sentiment that this project failed due to the imposition of artificially high standards. It is always possible to imagine higher standards than are likely to be doable, and as is often said “The perfect is the enemy of the good”.
    For instance, in the 20ish years of Druidic teaching described by Caesar, we must assume some years of childhood instruction, including letters, mathematics and familiarity with the basic literature and stories of the culture. I would guess that a modern High School graduate who has actually paid attention in school has completed what amounts to many years of the equivalent of druidic training. It remains for modern Druidic training to specialize such people in the skills of meditation, ritual, poetry and divination, etc.
    Compromise is wisdom, I think. I’ve only been able to watch from the internet sidelines, but I’m sorry to see the ToR end, and I hope some of its work can continue.

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

      Thank you for that point, Ian. Personally I don’t believe that academic training is a substitute for druidic training. The perspective that comes from 20 years of meditation can’t be attained with 10 years of school and 10 years of meditation. I think most meditative paths would agree with that – certainly the Hindus and Buddhists I know would.

      • Henry

        I don’t see Ian indicating a substitution. Nor can I see this equation of ‘years’. It doesn’t break down into 20 years of this vs 10 years of this and ten years of that. It’s a matter of proficiency and time, and the demonstration of proficiency.
        But even considering the expression you put forth, perspective from meditation only doesn’t match perspective grounded in natural science, the arts and meditation. Both are complimentary and necessary.
        Of course to yoke academic study and the contemplative process is optimum, yet academics preceding study of the eight limbs also has it’s advantages.
        As Ian also points out, such training begins at an early age, and that also is the desirable situation from a traditional Vedic and Buddhist perspective, and a 20 year requirement is realistic if one begins the training in childhood.

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

      Thank you for that point, Ian. Personally I don’t believe that academic training is a substitute for druidic training. The perspective that comes from 20 years of meditation can’t be attained with 10 years of school and 10 years of meditation. I think most meditative paths would agree with that – certainly the Hindus and Buddhists I know would.

  • Ian Corrigan

    I must say that I agree with the sentiment that this project failed due to the imposition of artificially high standards. It is always possible to imagine higher standards than are likely to be doable, and as is often said “The perfect is the enemy of the good”.
    For instance, in the 20ish years of Druidic teaching described by Caesar, we must assume some years of childhood instruction, including letters, mathematics and familiarity with the basic literature and stories of the culture. I would guess that a modern High School graduate who has actually paid attention in school has completed what amounts to many years of the equivalent of druidic training. It remains for modern Druidic training to specialize such people in the skills of meditation, ritual, poetry and divination, etc.
    Compromise is wisdom, I think. I’ve only been able to watch from the internet sidelines, but I’m sorry to see the ToR end, and I hope some of its work can continue.

    • http://roguepriest.net/ Drew Jacob

      Thank you for that point, Ian. Personally I don’t believe that academic training is a substitute for druidic training. The perspective that comes from 20 years of meditation can’t be attained with 10 years of school and 10 years of meditation. I think most meditative paths would agree with that – certainly the Hindus and Buddhists I know would.

      • Henry

        I don’t see Ian indicating a substitution. Nor can I see this equation of ‘years’. It doesn’t break down into 20 years of this vs 10 years of this and ten years of that. It’s a matter of proficiency and time, and the demonstration of proficiency.
        But even considering the expression you put forth, perspective from meditation only doesn’t match perspective grounded in natural science, the arts and meditation. Both are complimentary and necessary.
        Of course to yoke academic study and the contemplative process is optimum, yet academics preceding study of the eight limbs also has it’s advantages.
        As Ian also points out, such training begins at an early age, and that also is the desirable situation from a traditional Vedic and Buddhist perspective, and a 20 year requirement is realistic if one begins the training in childhood.

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

    As I see it, your story as written here (and other people’s responses) confirm your predictions for post modern religion. There was a lot of resistance back then. I think people didn’t understand that you were giving an analysis of the future of religion, which in no way coincides with your ideal of what you want the Old Belief to be.

    How sad as it might be, you might have proven your point more than you could have done through another essay ;)

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

      Haha, excellent point Janneke. I can’t say that didn’t occur to me ;)

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

    As I see it, your story as written here (and other people’s responses) confirm your predictions for post modern religion. There was a lot of resistance back then. I think people didn’t understand that you were giving an analysis of the future of religion, which in no way coincides with your ideal of what you want the Old Belief to be.

    How sad as it might be, you might have proven your point more than you could have done through another essay ;)

    • http://roguepriest.net/ Drew Jacob

      Haha, excellent point Janneke. I can’t say that didn’t occur to me ;)

  • Nick Ritter

    I admire your view of what is required to be a druid in actuality; I admire the high standard that this reflects. For several years, I have been piecing together sources on Germanic priesthood (scarcer than information on druids, unfortunately), and there is some similarity, particularly regarding sacrifice and poetry.

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

      Tweet or email me anytime if you want to talk more about that, Nick. Sounds fascinating!

  • Nick Ritter

    I admire your view of what is required to be a druid in actuality; I admire the high standard that this reflects. For several years, I have been piecing together sources on Germanic priesthood (scarcer than information on druids, unfortunately), and there is some similarity, particularly regarding sacrifice and poetry.

    • http://roguepriest.net/ Drew Jacob

      Tweet or email me anytime if you want to talk more about that, Nick. Sounds fascinating!

  • http://www.themonthebard.org/ Themon the Bard

    Wonderful essay, and thoughtful comments.

    I’m a member of OBOD, which is anything but “reconstructionist,” and I’ve been contemplating this issue of issue of tradition and modernity since long before I joined the order. I think it’s too big an issue for a short reply — nice topic for a speculative essay/blog. 

    A lot of people have been criticizing you here for unrealistic expectations, but you said right up front that this was an experiment. The point of an experiment is to discover something. It sounds like what you discovered was that what you wanted to do couldn’t be accomplished, so the experiment is done.

    I’m reminded of that scene in the film “Awakenings” with Robert de Niro and Robin Williams, where Williams (playing Oliver Sacks) is interviewing for the job at the research hospital. They ask him what he’d been working on, and he told them…. well, I don’t remember. Something like “flatworm regeneration.” There was a sudden silence, and one of the interviewers finally said, a little embarrassed, “But flatworms don’t regenerate.” Williams cracked his trademark grin and replied, “I know. I proved it.”

    So my question would be, what did you prove? Or rather, since this wasn’t science, what did you learn from the experiment that would be useful to the world?

  • Themon the Bard

    Wonderful essay, and thoughtful comments.

    I’m a member of OBOD, which is anything but “reconstructionist,” and I’ve been contemplating this issue of issue of tradition and modernity since long before I joined the order. I think it’s too big an issue for a short reply — nice topic for a speculative essay/blog. 

    A lot of people have been criticizing you here for unrealistic expectations, but you said right up front that this was an experiment. The point of an experiment is to discover something. It sounds like what you discovered was that what you wanted to do couldn’t be accomplished, so the experiment is done.

    I’m reminded of that scene in the film “Awakenings” with Robert de Niro and Robin Williams, where Williams (playing Oliver Sacks) is interviewing for the job at the research hospital. They ask him what he’d been working on, and he told them…. well, I don’t remember. Something like “flatworm regeneration.” There was a sudden silence, and one of the interviewers finally said, a little embarrassed, “But flatworms don’t regenerate.” Williams cracked his trademark grin and replied, “I know. I proved it.”

    So my question would be, what did you prove? Or rather, since this wasn’t science, what did you learn from the experiment that would be useful to the world?

  • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

    Thinking about this, I find myself wondering…

    I’m not wondering–as others seem to be–whether or not it’s possible to recreate the ancient druid class in modern times.

    Rather, I find myself wondering whether or not there’s any need for a recreated druid class in modern society.  Specifically, I wonder:  Is there a need for “a network of temples regulated by professional, uniformly trained draoíthe priests”?  If the training program had succeeded, what services would the graduates have provided that would justify supporting them as professionals?

    I’ve noticed, over the last couple of decades, that when the subject of a professional pagan clergy comes up, the people advocating a professional clergy are  have always been proposing themselves as that professional.

    In ancient Celtic societies, the druids would not be “professionals” as we use the word today.  As these were simpler societies, each household–including the chieftains’–would produce most of the food and other goods needed for daily life.  They would only obtain unusual items from specialist artisans.  And specialist artisans in non-complex societies participate in ordinary economic activities as well as their specialty.  I’m fairly certain that this applied to the households of druids as well.  This isn’t to say that the druids didn’t receive gifts from their community in reciprocity for the services they provided, but rather that the gifts weren’t the basis of their subsistence.  The druids’ basic subsistence would have been sustained by the economic activities of their household–including the druids themselves.  The gifts from the community would be how the druids’ household attained a visible surplus above and beyond their subsistence needs, materially demonstrating their elite status.

    I don’t believe that there’s a need to recreate the druidic class as it was, and I don’t believe that there’s a need to copy the professional clergy of modern Christianity and Judaism.  Which leaves me wondering:  What *do* we need, and how do we get there?

  • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

    Thinking about this, I find myself wondering…

    I’m not wondering–as others seem to be–whether or not it’s possible to recreate the ancient druid class in modern times.

    Rather, I find myself wondering whether or not there’s any need for a recreated druid class in modern society.  Specifically, I wonder:  Is there a need for “a network of temples regulated by professional, uniformly trained draoíthe priests”?  If the training program had succeeded, what services would the graduates have provided that would justify supporting them as professionals?

    I’ve noticed, over the last couple of decades, that when the subject of a professional pagan clergy comes up, the people advocating a professional clergy are  have always been proposing themselves as that professional.

    In ancient Celtic societies, the druids would not be “professionals” as we use the word today.  As these were simpler societies, each household–including the chieftains’–would produce most of the food and other goods needed for daily life.  They would only obtain unusual items from specialist artisans.  And specialist artisans in non-complex societies participate in ordinary economic activities as well as their specialty.  I’m fairly certain that this applied to the households of druids as well.  This isn’t to say that the druids didn’t receive gifts from their community in reciprocity for the services they provided, but rather that the gifts weren’t the basis of their subsistence.  The druids’ basic subsistence would have been sustained by the economic activities of their household–including the druids themselves.  The gifts from the community would be how the druids’ household attained a visible surplus above and beyond their subsistence needs, materially demonstrating their elite status.

    I don’t believe that there’s a need to recreate the druidic class as it was, and I don’t believe that there’s a need to copy the professional clergy of modern Christianity and Judaism.  Which leaves me wondering:  What *do* we need, and how do we get there?


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