A Map of the Forest

A Map of the Forest August 5, 2015

Have you ever heard of Symphony of Science? It’s an online music and video series using clips from prominent scientists and scientific thinkers to create philosophical and powerful songs about the nature of the cosmos. Yes, it is amazing!cosmos with lightning

The first time I heard of SoS was a song called Our Place in the Cosmos and in that song, this line appears:

Matter flows from place to place
And momentarily comes together to be you
Some people find that thought disturbing
I find the reality thrilling

I loved that line! Considering the unlikelihood of our existence is inspiring to me.

Then there was this one, from The Poetry of Reality:

Science replaces private prejudice
With publicly verifiable evidence

I love that too! I am very attracted to the idea that there is a physical reality that is beyond opinion. The laws of nature.

A couple months back, I had the privilege of sitting on a panel with some truly amazing women, and having a conversation about ‘demystifying polytheism’. There was one question asked by the audience that I didn’t have a chance to answer and that was: What do you think is the biggest problem facing polytheists today and how do you think we can tackle that problem?

The answer I wish I’d had time to give was this: we believe in invisible people. It’s the same problem facing every religious/spiritual person/organization. We believe in things that can’t be seen or measured, and between the factions, there is disagreement on what those things are, how they work, if they are ‘real’, and, if so, what they want.

It turned out that my two favorite bits from Symphony of Science were quotes from Richard Dawkins. At the time, I’d not heard of him, but decided to read his book The God Gene to see if he had any other cool things to say.

He didn’t.

Or more to the point, he was just incredibly angry over how religion had ruined the world, how it kept people ignorant, how inappropriate it was that there were religious exemptions for all sorts of things, from taxes to holidays and so on. Some of these things I agree with, except I’m not so full of ire.

I also didn’t feel attacked by this argument, because my practice has nothing to do with willful ignorance or being a blind follower. My practice rests on personal experience and physical reality and grows up from there.

I do have a lot of questions about religions, including Paganisms, including my own: is it ever really possible for us to know that we are right? Do we automatically discount what contradicts our (invisible) interactions? What if my Brigid says something to me that goes against everything your Brigid has told you? And what role does Christianity have in this world? Other religions in general?

Does it have to do with how many gather in Hir name? How solid an organization one maintains? Can we offer our “personal prejudice” as an objective Truth? And if so, what happens to those who go a different way?  How much respect do we owe to those who very sincerely believe in different gods or different ‘versions’ of the same gods?

Are everyone’s gods real?

path-434296_1280It feels to me like a map of a forest. Imagine that the forest can’t be seen with human sight. And that there are actually hundreds, thousands, millions of maps. What are the landmarks? How do they change through the seasons, and especially over a long time? Is what was happening 50 or 100 years ago still happening? 2000 years ago?

Are the maps from back then reliable at all? How long does even the best map last?

I honestly don’t know what is true, except baa-ing goats when I’m late to milk. I suspect that’s it’s Everything. I’m nervous about institutions that are in the business of making maps for others to follow. I know priests who uphold the ideals that I agree with: Curiosity, Compassion, Creativity, Personal Responsibility. Some of those priests are Pagan. Some aren’t. I’m more concerned with the spirit than the letter.

I think maybe my own best hope is to learn to track, to recognize clear water and poisonous berries, to be very still and aware, so that I can walk safely wherever I go, forest or field.

Blessed be the journey~

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