Michael York: Being Upon the Brink of Catastrophe

Michael York: Being Upon the Brink of Catastrophe May 6, 2012

[The following is a guest opinion piece from Michael York, author of “Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion.” Michael York’s interests are in polytheism, pantheism, animism and shamanism. He taught in the Study of Religions department of Bath Spa University in England and ended up as Professor of Cultural Astronomy and Astrology before retirement. He sees paganism as a missing piece of the religion jigsaw puzzle and believes it to be central in today’s recognition of the ecological peril the planet is facing as well as a viable solution to the disenchantment seen by Max Weber as a fundamental problem for bureaucratic society.]

The recent abandonment by Peter Dybing of all titles and roles within the Pagan community to pursue ‘dirt worship’ and to focus more directly on his partner Rebekah possibly portends what I am increasingly fearing, namely, end times. The eco-system of our planet is dying. As Phoebe Wray puts it, our planet “will survive. We won’t.” If we honestly assess the planetary human community, we know that it is deeply and even dishonestly fractured. This rupturing situation extends to the Pagan community as well and to the point that our “backstabbing” appears to be much of the reason why Peter is quitting and seeking a “return to anonymity.” As he recognises, it is a disease that can infect us all.

Michael York

On the wider level, half of humanity identifies with and/or practices an Abrahamic faith that is essentially a religion of division – an orientation that reduces the human event to an ‘us and them’ scenario. Whether Judaism, Christianity or Islam, the very nature of the religious conviction is schismatic so that each of these three world religions fight between themselves and even within themselves. They are also, potentially at least, at war with the other half of the human population. Two possible Abrahamic exceptions might be seen in Baha’i and Sikhism, but even with this last the Five K’s of its adherents concretely re-create an ‘us and them’ identity division.

Thanks to both desperation and greed, the divisiveness of Abrahamic exclusivism is to be found among the rest of us as well, whether secular, dharmic or pagan. Our human community has reached seven billion, and while within that figure there may be some coalescing into nests and concordant groups or communities, there is still an irreducibly huge number of self-ish desires, demands and uncompromising thought. And now with the sham of democracy, the imminent melt-down of our economic systems, governmental deceit, depletion of resources, global pollution and disregard of others on every level – from drunken mindlessness at 4 AM as inebriants vociferously blast through sleeping residential communities to collateral damage through drone bombings, armed aggression and suicide bombing – we have reached our end times; all of us.

Being upon the brink of catastrophe, it is no wonder that someone like Peter has chosen to focus more exclusively on his beloved and the ‘dirt’ immediacy of what is local and still left to appreciate and even, however doomed, to work with and for. As our earth if not the planet dies, we Pagans in particular die with it. She is our centre and comprises the core of our spirituality of engagement regardless of its individual forms. But it is to our shame that we fight among ourselves, drench ourselves in petty jealousies and reflect our worldwide human comrades more than the mother’s sanctity itself. We are disappointingly unimaginative as a communal voice despite some exemplary individuals among us.

Drowning as we are in a sea of mediocrity and banal ridiculousness, this last is not surprising. I would wish that I am wrong in this, but Peter’s decision is one that makes perfect sense in the face of hopelessness. In the dirt, some of us can still dream and envision perhaps the magic that we ourselves, as both a Pagan community and a human community, have failed. In the time we have left, perhaps the best we can do now is individually, locally and trans-politically seek to separate our dirt from the more ubiquitous filth of collective insanity. What exactly we have lost perhaps cannot be named, but our human terrestrial quest should be so obvious that it should be our silently spoken but absolutely insistent and universal demand. How sad for the earth, how sad for us and how sad for our children that it is not.

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130 responses to “Michael York: Being Upon the Brink of Catastrophe”

  1. It would be my greatest joy to argue against this post but it seems this is correct, at least it will be if there is not a major enlightenment in our community, (or should we digress it back to the movement stage .)
     I don’t honestly know ?
     I have seriously found myself falling into the role of conformist and allowing  backstabbing and contemptuous behaviors to go on around me unchecked .
    For that I am truly ashamed.
    The only real way i see out of this  is to  stand  with the courage of my convictions and call out Bull shit . 

  2. Well, losing leadership happens all the time, and Peter Dybing is no more a loss, than a dozen others I have seen. The pattern is the same, gain a better position by offering a stronger more unified vision of the community, offer to help everywhere, get involved in local and national politics, promise the world, and then when it begins to peak and the real work begins, resign, retire or through a fit of some kind to remove themselves.  In the last 20 years of service, I have seen this pattern over and over again.

    The problem is the false beleif in the ‘End Times’ which I have found repulsive. It is a belief that is hardwired into our brain to assure that we will remain vigilant against all threats. It is not as real as it seems, but we devote a great deal of organic mental energy. The truth is we are far more abundant as a society than we have ever been, we have been solving the big problems that would have devastated us a century before. We have less hunger in the world, better food, better medicine, transportation, longer lives, and so many good things that makes this a truly golden age.

    Pagans are the answer because we do understand that the world can be cyclic, and that we can also rise. That we can see a future with man in nature, not man against nature. We have the tools and the essence of a true faith that can take us to the next level of creation on Earth. We can be a cooperative/competitive force that can act to preserve the quality of life for ourselves, and advance further to the stars. We are a people who believes in abundance, the abundance of Gaia and the unlimited resources of the Universe belongs to us all, all life, and we have been risen to the sentience to gain it, should be a core Pagan belief, and will be in generations to come.

    So Peter Dybing personal failure as a national leader, and his resignation as such, is no more than a footnote, to be forgotten along the way. New leaders are emerging, a lot of them, inspired by the future. The Pagan community is not in trouble, but it will undergo a youthful metamorphosis that will startle many of the elder community. I stand in anticipation and awe of these emerging sacred humans. 

  3. Peter Dybing has his own karma to work with, and he owes the Pagan community nothing.  Perhaps, by attending to his inner life, he is will be making a difference in the  world that he couldn’t make otherwise.  I have a feeling his recent journies were so strong, he might have to take some time to integrate what he learned, and he cannot do this while remaining in the public eye.

    I’m surprised Mr. York, as an astrologer, doesn’t acknowledge the current beginning of the Age of Aquarius, where the leaders are truly the everyday people who make changes in the way they live their lives.  Our path includes MAGICK and there are many Aquarian principles that are being put into practice now.

    As for “backstabbing,” one lives and learns.  It happens in every tightknit community.  Again, it is a matter of karma.  One can always learn from it, and move on.  Using it for an excuse to be cynical is counter-productive.

  4. Michael, you touched a nerve, with me at least. I don’t have anything deep or meaningful to add, but I do want to thank you for writing this.

  5. With all due respect to my fellow solitary Pagans and the many Pagan leaders who’ve encouraged us over the years, I think going solitary is where we went wrong. We’re free to come and go as we please, picking and choosing as associates those people who agree with our biases and make us feel better about ourselves, so we’re never forced to face our own shortcomings. We talk to the Gods, but without a community willing to help us test and confirm those experiences, our personal gnosis will always be unverified and entirely personal, unable to benefit others. When we lose touch with reality, nobody is there to help bring us back because nobody feels like they have the right to interfere. When we’re wrong, factually or morally, we’re accountable only to the Gods. 

  6. I am not sure what to think of this article I am not sure I follow. Here is the thing leaders come and go as they grow. Leaving your role as a leader to spend time with on you love and follow your own path isn’t a bad thing. I didn’t know that being a pagan leader meant that was all you were. And here is something I don’t know who this person is yes that’s my own fault. But I always focused on faith over the politics that seem to keep popping up. And to hint at the end times and all that other stuff is silly. Leadership in the pagan community is hard. We are a broad group of people with many different paths. I am still not sure what to think but I think this poster is reading why to much in someone following their own path rather than just doing what others want them to do. It’s not a sign of anything other than a once leader has grown and his path has changed and he has respected that and followed it.

  7. I really enjoyed this post. It was as if a smarter, more educated, more articulate me wrote it. Thank you for knowing what’s been in my heart for quite some time.

  8. I am not going to make many friends with this statement, but we have many a selfish individuals within our pagan community. Many times people prefer to stay in the shadows because they allow fear to run their lives. Other times people claim they lack the time needed to be an activist or work behind the scenes (most often, these same people refuse to acknowledge that they choose not to make the time). Yet all of them want to be treated on an equal plane with other religions. If you want to be treated as an equal you need to act as an equal.

    I look at the things that I do for my community as my own covenant with my deities. When I am running a food drive, clothing bank, or looking at what else I can do for my community (and that goes for my geographical community as well) I am doing all of that to say that I acknowledge my deities and unconditionally love others as my deities love me. I don’t do anything so that I get acknowledgement as “leader”. I do it because it needs to be done. And sadly I see more people who don’t want to step up and do these things because they expect them to be done by others. And the same people look to tear down “leaders” out of self imposed jealousy. 

    I don’t blame for Peter Dybing calling others out on their BS and stepping down as a recognized leader. I doubt highly that Peter isn’t doing something for our community, he is simply doing things in a way that suits his spiritual needs and keeps a low profile. If anything, he has done us a huge favor at pointing out our fallacies and encouraging others to step up. What better gift could he give us during his difficult decision?

    Maybe more people will step up and do what’s right. But the cynical part of me knows that it won’t happen.

  9. Yeah Star, I agree. It’s sad to see that “backstabbing” element is still on full display in some of the comments above. I have seen such incidents crush people, and had the misfortune of meeting a few who seem to delight in such actions. Also somewhat depressing are all those who give lip service to environmental issues, yet seem really challenged to demonstrate even token   care for the earth. 

  10. There are several pernicious myths to which the Pagan community seems prone, and the notion that “we can’t work together” is one of the most egregious. I have born witness to thousands of instances when Pagans of disparate backgrounds worked together quite well when they had a mind to do so, and I would even suggest that the examples of successful cooperative efforts in the Pagan community far outnumber the failures (even if those successes make for less juicy stories around our collective campfires).

    In fact, I tend to think that the notion that people can’t get along (assumably because we believe different things) is more true of Abrahamic traditions than it ever will be of Paganism, and we should not make the mistake of adopting such a cultural myth just because it happens to be the default assumption in our majority Abrahamic societies.

    People come to Paganism for a wide variety of reasons, but one of the more common is that conscious choice many of us made to reject (or at least question) the traditions of the majority religions. If we are so willing to question the teachings of the majority religions in this overt way, we should not then be so blithely accepting of the more subtle assumptions that also have their origin in these same majority religions.

    Last thought: The best measure of a Pagan leader is to ask if the group goals were accomplished – not whether or not that leader stays in power forever and ever. Even secular leaders eventually retire or move on to other things. Let’s us thank Peter for his very hard work, and not take his choice to retire (a fairly routine thing) as a sign of anything more portentous than a normal stage in leadership.

  11. I don’t see how Sikhs are “Abrahamic.”  Monotheist, yes…but “Abrahamic?”

  12. I was sorry to see Dybing go, but I don’t think his departure or the underlying reasons amount to some final harbinger of the apocalypse. Is the world dying? It is, and it is always being reborn. This world has been around a long time before us, and will persist a long time after we are gone. We will either gain the collective wisdom to avoid premature extinction, or we will not. I also do not see that our modern neopagan community is uniquely troubled by infighting or backstabbing. When, in the couple million years of human/hominid history, were any pagan cultures free of disunity and strife?

  13. It appears to me that most of the “can’t work together” assertions about pagans tend to involve the large-scale national level initiatives. It not surprising that cooperation breaks down at that level because there is no consensus at all about who and what “we” are at an umbrella level. As we have seen in various threads over the past year or two, a very high number pagans/polytheists don’t want themselves thought of as part of some “pagan” overarching identity. 

  14. It is sad that Pagans use the Children of Abraham as a benchmark to compare themselves to.  I read comments that magnify the deficiencies of the Children of Abraham, but then I read comments that magnify how Pagans have failed to create a religion like the Children of Abraham.  The gist of the original post and the subsequent comments seem to be that Pagans really are (essentially) not much different than the Children of Abraham.  This is truly sad.

  15. Maybe part of the problem is who knows who. I still don’t know who Peter Dybing, or most people spotlighted on this blog, is and what their work was. All I would be able to work off of is a surface appearance to make critical or supportive comments from, should I choose to say anything at all.

    Maybe it’s just me. But given how scattered across the world Paganism religions are, it wouldn’t surprise me that others are clueless in the who’s who game, or unable to meet with others and form their own local community. There may be pagan groups where I live, but I’m still an outsider to them because they’re Wicca or ADF groups, and I adhere to neither religion.

    So my only option is the internet, and for obvious reasons I’m not going to know most people online, nor are many going to reveal their true identity.

    I’m rambling now, but I think we still need some more patience and time to grow before we can truly say these are “end times” for us. Squabbles are normal in any group and movement, and we didn’t even start off as a single unit.

     Besides, Pagans are not the only ones involved in environmental issues. If the global ecosystem is the primary concern here, then you’re going to have to expand your focus beyond Pagans. I went into environmental studies for my Masters because of my pagan beliefs, but my professors and cohorts did not. Yet we’re all on the same page regarding the Earth with the same goals for the future.

  16. Failure? Come on,  some good was done. I drew some lines to insure my path, my faith, my relationships can continue to grow. My post was honest and direct. All those attempting to grow it into some kind of controversy missed the point. I love my community, have great hope for the future and am still a part of the community, just not in leadership roles. Get a grip people, my boundaries are not about the community or any individual, they insure my personal growth.

  17. Peter ,
    I do not see your stepping away from the public face as a failure at all,  but as a honest path to do what was best for you and your partner, in your circumstances.
     The work you did was amazing and I would never try to belittle it. your choices are just that yours .
     My post earlier is a statement that unless we can actually find ways to get past the differences and search for the commonalities this  community can not grow .Do I believe we are on the brink of death of the community? NO. but we sure as heck need a great big band aid.I have heard the call for interfaith work and I agree it is a great need . There is also a larger need to do inner-faith works also .  Well I am starting to ramble on  Love Ya my Brother Z

  18. Respectfully, I have to personally disagree about “going solitary” as where we went wrong.  These are my own view points, but perhaps they have some merit with others. 

    I think people have gone solitary in an effort to avoid power-struggles that seem so common in various Pagan groups around the world.  It seems to me that whenever there is a significant issue within a group, coven, or organization that splits opinions it invariably leads to some kind of schism.  At least, that seems to be the case looking in from the outside – that people do not want to work together to overcome personal disagreements.   It seems that whenever a personality feels that they could do the job better, or that they know better, they fracture the organization and both result in a much-diminished existence. 

    The Pagan community (especially American) as a whole is made up out of a hundred-hundred facets, in part because of actions like these.  Instead of working to form some kind of foundation to a stable community which can adapt and accept differing opinions, a hundred offshoots are created. 

    Again, just my observations.  Your mileage may vary.

  19.  Ugh, your comment is gross, mostly because of the remarks about Dybing.

    “…personal failure as a national leader…”
    /What/ failure? He stepped down from the groups he was involved in after doing great work so he could focus on his spirituality? How is that failure? 

    “New leaders are emerging, a lot of them, inspired by the future.”
    I like to think that I will have an important voice in Paganism and am interested in a leadership role and have been since I was a young teen rather than a young adult, and Peter Dybing inspired me to truly pursue my dreams.  As have many of the other Pagans in my community, as well as other Pagans online. I have dreams for the future, but I am inspired by my fellow Pagans. Including Dybing.

  20. With all due respect to Michael and his excellent scholarship, I have seen and lived on the edge of actual catastrophe, and I’m sorry, but this ain’t it, whether we’re talking about a particular Pagan leader stepping down or the state of the world in general. Let’s not go putting on the sandwich boards and wandering around proclaiming the apocalypse just yet.

    As far as the Abrahamic folks go, there are wingnut fundamentalists who are truly dangerous in a variety of ways, and there are a wealth of more moderate folks with whom we can make alliances. We need to make judgments based on what they say and how they act, not on the religious labels they adopt. I have a hard time, for instance, believing that my devout Catholic colleague who’s a brilliant naturalist and passionate teacher on environmental issues is somehow shepherding in the end times because he goes to Mass.

    The human race is going through a painfully difficult adolescence, I think, and so is the wider Pagan community. Humans are a decidedly new species, and neo-Paganism as it exists today is a very new religion (albeit with very old roots, at least on human historical timescales). Let’s cut ourselves some slack for not being full-fledged grown-ups yet and work towards *becoming* grownups who can help humanity steer through and beyond the horrendous mess we have indeed made. Pagan values are crucially important here, I think (well, shit, I wouldn’t be Pagan otherwise, would I? :)), and we need to keep on nudging the world towards where it needs to be in whatever ways we’re best able. Mixed in with all the assholes out there are an amazing number of people who are Doing Things Right–let’s work on make connections with and among them and scaling the work up to where it’s making local, regional, and global impacts.

  21. So are you saying here that Pagans need to stick together and learn to resolve (or at least cope with) conflict instead of splitting off to do their own thing? Because I completely agree with that. I’m not sure which part of what I said doesn’t sit well with you, but I feel like we’re both trying to express the same basic concept.

  22. If you check out the book “Apocalypse Not” by ArchDruid John Michael Greer, you will see the origin of the concept of “end times”.  It has infected many cultures since Zoroaster first talked about it, making it way east to China and into the west via the dominant religions and even into the “Geek apocalypse” of Kurtzweil.  One of the few essentials that I see in the Pagan world view is the alternative: cycles and ongoing movement and progress in cycles, what Yeats referenced in his poetry as “gyres”.  

    May I speculate that Dr. York has even been infected with this “thought virus” and that many of the comments below are pointing that out?  Just as the doctrine of Christian dualism has infected our culture, Pagans need to be aware of this “end time” philosophy which gets projected onto everything, most recently a simple turning over of the Mayan calendar becoming an “end time”.  Perhaps there will be a major change in the earth, but I think humans are tenacious and will continue here for some time, maybe in smaller numbers, maybe finally learning to be sustainable, perhaps “graduating” to the stars.

    There is just as much evidence to consider the current times as positive and the possibilities as endless (see the work of Kurzweil for his positive apocalypse, for instance).  Anodea Judith talks about this in her much neglated book “Waking the Global Heart: Humanity’s Rite of Passage from the Love of Power to the Power of Love”.  Astrologer Rob Brezsny also talks about this in his book “Pronoia is the antidote for Parnoia: How the Whole World is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings”.

    If we reject the doom and gloom western Christian cultural meme, I think we can find the original blessings again in the gifts of the Gods and use that attitude to work together in our communities.  The best example of that I’ve seen recently has been the wonderful flowering of Pagan Pride events across the country, certainly a contrast to the previous generations “witch wars” and a testament (excuse the pun) to all those working on that wonderful project.

  23. You said that you thought that “going solitary was where we went wrong”.  I was just offering my view point why I felt that going solitary wasn’t the issue at hand with the problems in the community.  Just a different side of the same argument, otherwise, we’re in agreement.  Just wanted to offer my thoughts.

  24. I am sorry to see the pessimism in this post.  With the growth of seminaries like Cherry Hill and the establishment of more and more Pagan chaplains, Inter-faith workers, and charitable activities, the concept of neo-Pagan social and environmental ethics will continue to grow. If we take these things as seriously as we take, say, our liturgies, our “self help” ethic (spell work) and the like, it will continue to evolve. I like both sides of us, and I refuse to believe that a faith based on practice, rather than set theology, cannot formulate it’s own shared response to planetary healing. I do not believe in end times, only spirals. I think that this is part of the pagan way.

  25. We are a rather fractious lot, we Pagans. No matter what we get from the deep past, our current inheritance includes a lot of [Abrahamic] Us/Them thinking that serves us no good. Part of this is the notion that people can just be told to be good, but 500 years of Protestant preaching shows us that exhorting people to be good on Sunday is forgotten by Monday. It simply dosen’t work.

    There is an alternative that we have been experimenting with in our Golden Dawn community. The GD is known for being deeply fractious since its first crisis about 1900. But I had the opportunity to learn important lessons about this problem from the Tibetan Buddhists, who’s practices are much like ours and who discovered similar problems amongst themselves. Their answer was to ritualize their ethics. (See Beyer’s 1980 Cult of Tara for a good description.) They wove into every practice rooting themselves into the stream of those who went before (refuge), focusing every act and aspiration for spiritual attainment to relieve the suffering of all beings (boddhichitta), and ending every practice by giving away the benefit of the work to all beings excluding none (dedication of merit).  This wise attitude, being ritualized, reinforced the cultural normativity of kindness (and deeply empowered their magic). We applied these methods to our ritual and have been successful in building a warm, kind, and caring community. I’ve written about this under the notion of “Pagan Dharma,” if you care to see more.

    End-times come. This is good, the past must pass and the new must emerge. Our species is at its adulthood crisis and the actions of those alive today will determine if we will survive. There is no technological impediment to our survival, only childish values that will eat us out of house and home. Therefore if we do not change our definition of what is Good, not in thought or word but in living acts, we will fail. Practice kindness, anyone?

  26. It has always struck me as monstrously unfair to lump Judaism in with Christianity and Islam.

    In the first place, ancient Pagans recognized that Judaism is an ancient faith that deserves respect alongside all of the other “ancestral traditions coeval with time”. Celsus and Julian, in the course of their critiques of Christianity, both made a point to draw a clear bright line between the ancient religion that Jesus belonged to, and the new religion created by some some of those who claimed to worship him. I think modern Pagans should follow that example.

    In the second place, Judaism lived alongside the myriad Pagan faiths of the ancient world. Despite the wide theological chasm separating them from their neighbors, they found a way to live in peace, or at least as peacefully as anyone else. If Christians and Muslims followed that example we wouldn’t be discussing this right now.

    In the third place I think we need to place the emphasis on actions rather than words and theories. I would not care one bit about the theology of the Christians and Muslims were it not for the bloody path of smoking ruin and destruction that they have left in their historical wakes, and their continued efforts to eradicate all other religions.

  27. “If we reject the doom and gloom western Christian cultural meme, I think
    we can find the original blessings again in the gifts of the Gods and
    use that attitude to work together in our communities.”

    It is essential for us to root out the self-loathing that permeates the Christian mental-world, as well as for us to reject the linear concept of time that is also central to the Christianity. At the same time there is plenty to be pessimistic about, and we should not be shy about self-criticism.

  28. While I agree with the sentiment about the benefits of community, I believe a large proportion of the “solitaries” are working solo because they are geographically or socially isolated & have little or no access to Pagan communities. I could be wrong about that, of course, but this is the impression I get across the internet. I am most certainly one of those people who would love access to a regular Pagan community, but have never had that luxury. 

  29. I don’t see anything particularly inaccurate or depressing about something written that is so close to fact. Many leaders and would-be leaders on a local level who aren’t big name Pagans just don’t want to deal with lazy unimaginative people. And quite frankly I’m happy someone who isn’t sharing the ‘native card’ is saying this–that for the most part abrahamic faiths are a cancer to us all.

    Just because you come to Paganism doesn’t mean you can leave the faith and bring the mentality. So many of the things Neo-Pagans deplore about the abrahamic faiths they are guilty of because they’ve brought the mentality with them; ie. Not paying or supporting Priestesses/Priests/Experts/Professionals/Businesses (wanting something for nothing), Flapping your mouth about your accomplishments and magnanimous behavior for no reason (doing visible good for the praise not the purpose), Nay-saying projects or organizations but never helping beyond talk (do as I say not as I do), over-burdening local leaders (acting as though anyone can be trashed & replaced) I mean this list could go on and on. I applaud Michael York for saying what should be blindingly obvious if anyone took the time to examine the source of their actions.

  30. I have long believed, as Michael does, that we live in the end times, if not the immediate end times. I don’t blame the Abrahamic faiths so much as a human egotism that is pretty universal, indeed universal to mammalian life; it is more our fatal ingenuity that has cured some problems and caused others it cannot cure. Louis Pasteur is to blame! or Francis Bacon and the beginnings of the experimental scientific outlook! Well, whoever. But since I am old and childless, perhaps it is self-indulgent and childish of me to believe (as I do believe) that we are trapped, that human ingenuity that has conquered so many problems, will find no proper answers for the array that confront us now. I am wary of mentioning my pessimism to those of my friends who have kids, who MUST hope for a better world for them — and indeed, my friends’ kids do give me some hope. (Their taste in music aside.) 

    And the earth itself — yes, it’s a fecund planet. I think life will survive upon it, even if we bring on pollution and nuclear disaster (anybody read the news from Fukushima lately?). I don’t believe in alien civilized life that will swoop down and rescue us, because we’ve only been capable of such communication for a hundred years or so, and we’ve just about shot our bolt. How long would it take life on other worlds, even if they do chance to produce something intelligent? (WE didn’t, for five billion happy years.) Nor do I think we’ll find some refuge to escape TO within hailing distance. 

    So it is all in the hands of the immortal gods. Who show no sign of a desire to interfere, to rescue us from our own follies. After all (my personal theology), they are the gods of all other life on the planet, too. They have other claims upon their attention. Why should they care if we off ourselves? It’ll be good news for the numbats and the plankton and whatever else manages to survive us. And the gods are on their side too. 

  31. I have always believed that if modern Western Paganism offers anything to the future it is hope. The hope that through our decisions and actions -and, yes, through our magic- we can build the better world we hope to see.  Not just a better future in the afterlife, but a better future in the world right now and in succeeding generations.  
    I am horrified by this article, because it is the antithesis of all that. With all of the powers of Spirit and Magic, how can anyone be so utterly hopeless about the future? And how bankrupt is the philosophy that leaves one with so little hope for the future? What purpose do spirituality, philosophy, and magic serve if not to make the future better? If we believe that there is no future, these would be wasted pursuits. I believe that Armaggedonism has no place in modern Paganism. Whether as the idea that “God will punish us for being bad” or that whatever natural disaster is fashionable at the moment will kill us all in twenty years (and I have seen a number of these come and go in the last forty odd years). I believe that it is our spiritual duty to embrace the future -because after all, in the end we are each responsible for it. Doomsday-ism is a cancer upon humanity, not least in that it stops people from trying to solve their problems or make their world better -why make the world better when it is all going to end soon? Doomsday-ism also justifies all kinds of ways of making the future worse, because we all know the world as we know it will end in just a few years, so why worry about the future? We are a people who claim to believe in Deity and in magic -the ability to change conditions for the better. How CAN we believe in Armaggedonism? It SHOULD be anathema to everything we believe and teach -it runs directly counter to our philosophy and theology. We need to be the healers of this cancer, not its purveyors.

    However this is a very important article none-the-less. It reminds us that only people who believe in a future can build one. Armaggedonists don’t build the future -because they do not believe there will be one. Whatever else may be uncertain about the future, it should be clear that ideas that have failed in the past cannot be expected to suddenly become successful in the future. If we want to see a better future for our community, then we need some new ideas and strategies to heal old problems. But only those who who embrace the idea of a future can be expected to provide them. 

  32. Paganism can’t hold itself out as a mature, diverse body of paths if it lacks room for the occasional internal Jeremiad.

  33. Peter inspired a lot of young people, especially my own. They sat with him in silence, they supported their ideas. I listened to them as they came forward at Peter’s straight forward resignation and asked me why. His resignation came a week after a death of one who respected him. While he has every right to do as he pleases, as do we all, I think his resignation speaks louder than anything else he ever did.

    But truly his resignation does not mean the End Times. None of us is that important to such a silly notion.

  34. I am somewhat surprised,
    Michael, that such a scholar and erudite person as yourself could commit the
    grave error of using inductive logic to prove a point.  This simple (and false) argumentative rubric is
    the very same that fundamentalist thinkers, especially in the religious arena,
    have been using to scare children and horses for centuries.  Peter’s motives aside, one person’s actions,
    regardless of the reasons, do not reflect upon the general Pagan attitude.  You speak as though Paganism is, or started
    out as some homogenous practice, but we have never been. Rather, we are heterogeneous
    and were from our beginnings, and that is something we have always been proud
    of. We are probably more centrist now than at any time in our past. Further, as
    a personal friend of Peter’s I know that he is not such a coward as to turn his
    back upon community for the sake of denying an “impending catastrophe”. He is,
    in my opinion, a remarkably steadfast and valiant person both in his beliefs and
    in the vocation that he has chosen in service to our Mother Earth and all
    persons who reside upon her.


    I am equally surprised to
    hear you writing in what amounts to Christian fundamentalist “Armageddon” rhetoric.   If Pagans,
    and here I refer to the larger community of practitioners who are not of the Levantine
    religions, believed that the Earth was doomed we would not be continuing to
    work toward unity and redress (and I can personally attest to the fact that we
    are).  In fact, Humanity has never been
    in better shape, nor in a better position technologically to repair the damage
    that we as humans have collectively done. Interfaith work in the area of ecological
    education, damage control and repair has never been more active nor powerful
    than it is today, Ecologists and Religious leaders joining hands in this work. 


    The inertia of living
    practices in a world’s population, coupled with the economic avarice and
    lopsided, patriarchal propaganda pumped out by political leaders unwilling to
    help humanity for fear of losing power, and shock jock idiots like Rush
    Limbaugh create massive and almost impossible barriers to overcome.  Add to that the dumbing down of the public due
    to failing educational systems and the task would seem to be insurmountable.  But we are making headway and this is not the
    brink of catastrophe but rather the moment of change.  Not surprisingly the fundamentalists, both social
    and religious are terrified as they begin to realize that their entire world
    view is under threat; and so we are witness to the entrenchment of this
    population as they become less and less flexible and draw in their few lines of
    communication.  This is not an indication
    of impending catastrophe, but rather the natural outcome of change upon an inflexible
    world view.


    I am amazed that you should
    even suggest that Pagans are choosing to hide in the “dirt”.  As more and more of us and our Levantine
    brothers and sisters join together in this work.  As the world begins the process of self-re-education,
    the future looks continually brighter.  We are not sinking to the lowest levels but
    rising to the challenges that will face the next generation head on. 


    There will always be those
    among us who lack vision or the desire to see beyond their own creature
    comforts, but we are hardly “Drowning … in a sea of mediocrity and banal
    ridiculousness”.  This old world is
    definitely in for some serious change and if humanity is to continue it will
    have to prepare to make some sacrifices. No doubt we will see some lean times
    ahead, but change like anything else is inevitable if we are to restore a point
    of balance.


    Whether humanity survives or
    not is not yet clear, however the Earth will abide. If she can find equanimity
    within a new symbiotic relationship or shake humans off like a bad virus, there
    is no tragedy or sadness from a purely Pagan point of view, only Change and a
    turn of the Wheel.  That said, if you
    have given up, ours is still the quest that is “our silently spoken
    [shouted] but  [and] absolutely
    insistent and universal demand” that change happens, and we Pagans are not

    R. Watcher

  35. I don’t know the particulars of all the reasons that went into your decision, and it’s not really any of my business, but in my own “read between the lines” I sensed that you made this shift not only due to the frustrations of leadership, but because even the good parts can be very wearing. Volunteering at the depth and position you did will simply consume anyone sooner or later, and there’s a great wisdom in knowing when to walk away and re-balance things.  No one can provide healthy leadership if they allow themselves to become unwell in the process. Leadership should not be about keeping one’s own “power” or profile as long as possible. It should be about making the best contribution you can for the time period you’re able to do so. It takes a pair, and some wisdom to know when to walk away and take things in a different direction. Rather than speculating and supposing it is a “defeat” of some sort, we ought to hold it up as an example for future leaders. 

  36. You are right it speaks to healthy priorities and a focus on my relationship with the Goddess.

  37. If you can’t find a good local pagan community, make one! I did just that after a few unhealthy years in a first coven and unsatisfactory searching for the right group after that. Best decision I ever made. 

  38. I agree with Aine’s assessment that suggesting that makes you a “failure” was grotesque.
    I think it also speaks of a sense of entitlement they don’t have, where someone else who has no reason to do so thinks you owe them your time and support, when clearly they aren’t going to give any back or even respect your efforts. 
    I don’t know you, nor know what you’d been facing, but if it was a lot like that, I don’t blame you for putting on your walking-boots.

  39.  There’s nothing wrong with going solitary, or quiet, or anonymous, it’s actually suggested in some magical traditions.
    At least temporarily. 🙂

  40. I don’t recall all the history just now, and I’d agree with some of your points to a degree, such as Judaism being a cultural as well a religious tradition (and I appreciate that they do not proselytize), but weren’t the people of Judea less imposing on others because they themselves were dis-empowered and occupied by Romans?  I seem to recall their Hebrew tribal ancestors making war on their neighbor tribes because their tribal god told them to, because those other tribes weren’t worshiping their tribal god.  That doesn’t strike me as a model of neighborliness.  There’s a bloody trail there, too…

  41.  I like your words here:  “You speak as though Paganism is, or started
    out as some homogenous practice, but we have never been. Rather, we are heterogeneous and were from our beginnings, and that is something we have always been proud of.”

    I think this is important to keep in mind, and to remember that “us and them” is as much a part of Wiccan covens as it is Catholic churches.  But also, “us and them” doesn’t -have- to carry and negative baggage, and we don’t have to all practice any -singular- religious tradition in order to respect one another and one another’s choices to practice as one chooses.  I can speak of  “us and them” in terms of who is or is not a part of my household, but that does not mean I disrespect all those who are not a part of my household.  Theologically, I would also not look down upon all those -not- in my flametending group for not so being; that would be silly.  But “us and them” are still useful markers to denote who is, or is not, a member of those groups. 

    Singularity isn’t any solution either; as life in earth is not homogenous (and not all pagans refer to earth as ‘the mother’), neither will be the cultural and religious lives of its people.  Singularity doesn’t happen, as life flourishes on diversity.  Not everything gets to a be  a flower or a bird; a bear can’t strive to be like a bird, no matter how hard it tried, and it would be silly of a bear to try to.  Yet, we will continue to place bears and birds and flowers into different categories, without creating any strife among them in so doing.  “Different” does -not- have to equal “conflict.” 

  42. Judaism as we know it today began during the Babylonian Exile, roughly 2600 years ago.  It is a religion designed to help a displaced people hold on to their identity under difficult circumstances, and as such it has been remarkably effective.

    Judaism does not share the aggressive proselytizing emphasis of Christianity and Islam.  While it is correct to speak of the three as “Abrahamic religions” as they all trace their lineage to Abraham, in practice – and for our purposes as Pagans – they are very very different.

  43. Version:1.0

    Who is talking about Armaggedonism? The ‘end times’ that I
    am increasingly seeing on the horizon is not one brought about by a punishing
    ‘God’ or even a natural disaster but one in which the responsibility lies
    *fully* with us and us alone. And in my original post, I was speaking about the
    full human community and not just the pagan one which is and should be a part
    of all ‘earthlings’ and not something separate or apart. But we pagans like the
    rest of the human population can slip into a blind arrogance just as easily in
    defence of some erroneous facts such as Ed Hubbard’s blithe assertions that “we
    are far more abundant as a society” (which society?) and that we have “less
    hunger in the world.” This last I find astonishing. Perhaps there are more
    decently fed people in the world today than in the past, but with a world now
    moving beyond 7 billion, that means that there is also a much greater number of
    hungry people probably than ever before. In fact, according to the “The
    World Health Organization … one-third of the world is well-fed, one-third is
    under-fed, one-third is starving – Since you’ve entered this site at least 200
    people have died of starvation. Over 4 million will die this year” (http://library.thinkquest.org/C002291/high/present/stats.htm).


    Of course we pagans understand the ‘cyclicity’ of things and
    can envision a humanity that is not against nature, but when some of us
    maintain that “We are a people who believes in abundance, the
    abundance of Gaia and the unlimited resources of the Universe belongs to us
    all, all life, and we have been risen to the sentience to gain it, should be a
    core Pagan belief, and will be in generations to come,” this sounds frighteningly like the Old
    Testament injunction to subdue the earth and have dominion over her (Genesis
    1.26-28) that renders the “abundance of Gaia” as an unlimited resource for us
    to plunder. Perhaps, and only perhaps, the “Pagan community is not in trouble,”
    but the human community is – whether we wish to acknowledge that fact and work
    to change it, or whether we wish to insist on a golden future that will simply
    “startle” those of us who have more to remember and is somehow to happen
    magically and without us owning up to the real – and, yes, often depressing –
    obstacles in the way.


    Like Peter, I too love our community and respect anyone’s
    effort for personal growth. I also have respect for more traditional pagan
    and/or indigenous communities who respect their elders and would never openly
    declare them as ‘personal failures’. As for pinning our hopes and faith
    position on an alleged current beginning of the Age of Aquarius, I would
    recommend the work of Nicholas Campion who has assembled a huge range of dates
    that have been attributed as the start of the ‘New Age’. The Age of Pisces
    would correspond to the month of February-March and, with the precession of the
    equinoxes, we have a long, long way before we might emerge from the ‘winter’
    and the next Age of Capricorn into a pre-winter Golden Age.


    Peter’s relinquishing a claim to pagan leadership was only
    the catalyst for the expression of my opinion. His mention of backstabbing
    within our community as infectious is disappointing but merely underscores the
    work that lies before all of us if we are to forestall let alone eliminate any
    impending catastrophe. I too want a brighter future for my children and the
    rest of us, but we are not going to have one if we play ostrich and do not face
    the realities that we need to face. For me, Peter’s decision triggered the wish
    to express what I am seeing on the more global stage. Much of that is ugly and
    counter-productive to anything progressive and equable. But it behooves us to
    look at the warts and blemishes as much as we might our dreams and visions in
    order to square the one with the other. Fortunately, and as Nicole asserts,
    there are moderate allies ‘out there’ with whom we could and even should work,
    and hopefully the “apocalypse” is not as imminent as it sometimes seems to be.
    But every day lost makes the uphill climb even more difficult, and in that
    climb I believe that the pagan community has perhaps the pivotal role to play.
    We may be at an adolescent stage, but in crisis situations such as we find today through much of our world, a premature maturity often becomes a necessity. I
    think through our gods and the pagan ethos, we pagans have what it will take
    not only to survive but to implement the kind of growing consciousness that
    could foster a collective shift before it is too late. But it is not going to
    be all sugar and light. We will often be called upon to swallow the bitter in
    the process and fathom the darknesses if we are to make “local, regional, and
    global impacts.” This also means that we cannot afford to sugar-coat realities.
    Every religion merits respect and the opportunity to mature. But we do a
    disservice if we paint our histories dishonestly and pretend things to be
    differently than they were. Judaism, as the ‘parent’ of the Abrahamic
    traditions, was at best forced “to live in peace.” Before that we had the
    destruction of the Canaanite and Philistine groves, temples, idols and shrines.
    Let’s be clear and honest with what things have been if we are to secure growth
    and positive change.


    The Great Cycle of the Mayan calendar is
    supposed to end with the winter solstice of this year. An end is of course also
    a beginning. But we have before us at this point a metaphor that we could
    possibly harness to achieve something that has not previously existed. Let us
    work as hard as we can for the new to be something truly positive. Even if the
    world might end – and it will end for each and everyone of us at some point, it
    does not mean that we should not dance as if there were no tomorrow. But let
    that dance be for us a pagan dance that is both pragmatic and effectively magical.

  44. Here I thought it was the end times because Joss Whedon has the number 1 opening movie of ALL TIME, thereby rendering all that hullaballo about how us geeks are worthless…obsolete.  HAIL KING WHEDON.

    In all seriousness though I don’t see Mr. Dybing’s stepping down from active service as a signal that the End Is Nigh, I thought it was because a man wanted to you know, be a private citizen again. I don’t see how that’s a bad thing.

    Do we need more leaders? Possibly. Do we all need to stop being catty? Probably. Does the lack of both of these things signal that the world is ending? Nah.

  45. We can also learn from the example of the Tibetan Rime movement, which is made up of members of all of the different Buddhist schools as well as followers of the ancient Bon religion. The Rime movement does not advocate merging or blending these together, but rather advocates the mutual respect and interaction between all of these schools, while maintaining the independent existence (and, in particular, the teaching lineages) of the different schools. But even Tibetans who don’t formally follow Rime nevertheless feel free to study and practice with more than once school (in fact, this is generally true of Buddhists everywhere despite the outward appearance of sectarian divisions).

  46. Yes. Many lineage Lamas encourage mutual respect and interaction among the schools while preserving individual identity, and  have themselves taken empowerment and teachings from more than one school and source.  They’re usually especially encouraging of getting their students to meet those Lamas of other schools they know are good sorts. There perhaps was a time things were more bitter and sectarian.
     I think most teachers today who discourage going out and learning from many sources are afraid you’ll run off once you see what’s better out there – It’s a big red flag. “Buddhas are not jealous.”

  47.  As a daughter of the Tribe of Israel, I deeply appreciate the comments of Apuleius, Eireann, and John.

    Michael York, being British, can be forgiven for not knowing this, but American Jews have been a mainstay of all the movements to improve ordinary people’s lot and dignity, to defend freedom of worship and expression for everybody, and to make the U. S. more multicultural.  We have given of our time, money, organizing expertise, and put ourselves at physical risk in the labor and Civil Rights movements for people of all races and religions. Our religious tradition demands basic human dignity for all, including outsiders. We are not sentimental or hostile toward the poor; we want them to have opportunities.

    This behavior is not unique to American Jews. It was true of German Jews before Hitler, my Ukrainian Socialist great-grandparents, the Jews living under Muslim rule in Al-Andaluz, and Jews of many other places and times. Jews aren’t naturally nicer or more public-spirited than anybody else, but our culture and religion deeply support the idea that disagreements do not imply enmity, and that the welfare of individuals and communities are inextricable from each other.

    The notion of an end times in Jewish tradition is postive: a period of peace, justice and harmony after the coming of the Messiah. The end times in (at least some) Christian tradition is the Last Judgement, when the people who rejected Christ are punished. The Norse end times is a complete reboot of the universe. Some Pagan mythologies include an end times for the human race; others are cyclical.

    Finally, is the Pagan community any more given to divisiveness and backstabbing than any other community of similar size? Or are we comparing ourselves to some ideal that never existed, and feeling discouraged because we are behaving the way human beings usually behave?

  48. Thank you for this post. My thoughts run along similar lines. 

    The gloom and doom tone of this article concerns me. I do not believe for a second that  individuals and communities are best served by a negative, pessimistic “Well, it’s End Times” attitude. 

    We are going through hard times, it’s true. But responding to problems with a helpless attitude is not a healthy response. I speak as someone who has experienced severe depression and know where those thoughts can lead.

    We, as people, as practioners of whatever faith, need to shake off this End Times/Apocalypse/doomsday mentality. It’s not helping us.

  49.  People who haven’t studied Judaism in any depth often imagine either that it’s a slightly different flavor of Protestant Christianity or that you can understand the Jewish religion by reading the earlier books of the Bible through a Christian interpretive lens.

    The Hebrew Bible contains a wealth of historical information mixed in with a lot of ret-conning and special pleading. It’s not useful as a historical source unless you read it along with scholarly commentary to sort out fact from propaganda and myth.

    Mainstream opinion among archaeologists today is that the genocidal conquest of Canaan never happened. The Israelites worshipped El and his consort Asherah. They lived fairly amicably with and among their Canaanite neighbors for centuries and the collapse of Canaanite civilization was not due to warfare with the Israelites.

    As a previous poster wrote, what we think of as Judaism did not exist before the Babylonian Exile.  Judaism went through another major reconstruction after the Romans destroyed Herod’s Temple and the Talmud was written. (There are a few groups of Jews in isolated parts of Africa and elsewhere still practicing post-Exilic, pre-Talmudic Judaism.) Although there is some genetic continuity between the ancient Israelites and the Jews of today, there’s about as much similarity in viewpoint as you would expect between a Gaulish tribesman and a contemporary Parisian.

  50. I have two things to say about York’s rather apocalyptic thoughts here.

    1) It’s fascinating that he specifically talks about the Abrahamic worldviews and their “us vs. them” mentality, but fails to note the reflection of their world-end scenarios in his own words and attitudes in the very same piece.

    2) If there’s no true link to the Abrahamics in his thinking, then perhaps York has been reading that old Norse piece The Prophecy.  If so, my advice to him would simply be:  “when the wise woman asks if you’ll hear more, by all the gods, say YES!”

  51. The Mayans living today, have given interviews denying any belief in the  “Great Cycle of the Mayan calendar is supposed to end with the winter solstice of this year.”   That idea was formulated by non Mayans.

  52. I don’t really know much about either Dybing or York, but my impression is that Dybing just wants a break. What’s wrong with that? I’m sure there’s much of which I’m not aware behind York’s post–but my gut reaction is, wow, with such negativity and despair, what’s the point of even trying? All that end-times talk just reminds me of one reason why I left Christianity, and I don’t plan on taking it up again with paganism. As someone still “new” to paganism and not really connected to any community,  York doesn’t inspire me to stick around. And if the end-times are here (whatever that means), well, there isn’t much we can do anyway. On a grand scale, species come and go, and eventually, humans will be among those lost. Evolution alone should take care of that. But that doesn’t scare me; it simply is the way. I think we’re all a bit afflicted with our own self-importance, our need to be treated equally, our need to be validated as pagans and, if we’ll actually admit it, share power. Everything passes–that is the lesson of the gods and all religions. The best we can do is try to find peace and fulfillment while we are here, and my guess is that is what Dybing is attempting to do. I wish him all the best, and I wish us all a bit more perspective and a lot less self-inflicted drama.

  53. First and foremost anyone watching nature soon learns that it is a matter of ebb and flow. Nothing stays the same or is meant to. Is our civilization coming unglued, possibly, but so what, that is hardly the end of the world. Old civilizations  fall to make room for new more vibrant  new civilizations that fit the new conditions. Where would we be today if Greece and Rome had not lost power so that newer civilizations could develop? Same if mankind happens to die off. Remember more than 90% of all life on this planet has gone extinct. Earth is far from lifeless because of it. Meanwhile we have located at least six species of fish that have developed legs and rudimentary hands. So new evolution is taking place. I watched a video of a octopus that wandered out of the water and walked on land for a minute and a half before going back to the water.

    Public or private and again that does not stay the same. There is time to take charge and then is time to step back and recharge, go back and fulfill your own needs and that of family. I hardly think that just because you are not going to be standing in the spot light, that you will be doing nothing, or that the fact you take  time to recharge is in any way a failure. How many Pagan groups have dependent on a single leader, so as not to develop any new ones, and then fell apart because the old leader was no longer around.

    Having lived through the 1960s, I have seen what happens to people that gave their all to a movement and allowed their own life fell apart. No one can go full bore all the time, it is not humanly possible. Meanwhile if you keep your own life and your relationship healthy we just might see more of you sometime in the future. 

    Solitary vs public, sort of depends on what a person’s skills are. I am by nature solitary, always have been. I can come out and help for a while, but I am not a people person, I don’t have the right skills for dealing with the same people over and over. However it lets me interview people and  tell their story and get the word out for them, like when I interviewed you about your Haitian experience. So networking is my skill and showing other people as examples is my way of encouraging people. Put me in charge of a group, and frankly I would not last long.

    Meanwhile do we really want to follow the leader follower line anyway? That was part of the old patriarchal religions. If some of us find we share an interest we can come together long enough to make stuff happen as needed. I believe that is called cooperation. We can work with temporary leaders according to who has the skill needed for that project. When we do another project then someone else might lead for a bit.

    We Pagans are a new religion, so we are going to go through all the things new religions got through  as we develop and decide what we want to be. Note the mistakes other religions have made and lets be certain that we don’t recreate the same mistakes in the name of our gods. We can’t assume that we are special and in no danger of making the same mistakes. That way has led to disaster too many times. Instead lets pay full attention to what each of us is doing in our own case,and keep our individual act tother. If all of do just that, our community will be in good shape.

    Meanwhile Peter, you have done plenty and have every right and responsibility to decide what is right for you. Wouldn’t it  be nice if those that so freely criticize were willing to step and take over the work. Never happen of course.

  54.  Thanks for the book recommendations, I’d missed both of those! Greer is such a prolific writer I don’t think I’ll ever catch up with him. 🙂

  55. ” I think through our gods and the pagan ethos, we pagans have what it will takenot only to survive but to implement the kind of growing consciousness thatcould foster a collective shift before it is too late. But it is not going tobe all sugar and light. We will often be called upon to swallow the bitter inthe process and fathom the darknesses if we are to make “local, regional, andglobal impacts.” This also means that we cannot afford to sugar-coat realities.”

    So don’t sugar coat it, and get to the point of what you seem to be proposing here.

  56. Thank you for your response!  So great to hear something that makes complete sense after that fear mongering post by Michael York.  It sounds to me like he’s had too much of the ‘end times’ kool-aid given to him by an Abrahamic wing-nut.  

  57. As someone who enjoys rattling the bars myself, I am deeply impressed with the provocative post that Michael York has offered, and agree with much that he has to say in it.

    The Roman Empire collapsed within a short span of years, utterly disappearing in the space of what, three generations? I have no doubt that the empire we are pleased to call Western civilization will do likewise. We have been living in the fat times, and they are running out. As for whether the human race can survive into the distant future, the statistics are not on our side. The single thing that 99.9% of species ever to have lived on Earth have in common is that they are extinct. Our conspicuous levels of consumption are doing us no favors.

    Those like Don Lewis and others who point to hope, to young people and new ideas are perfectly right to do so – these are all real, and they do matter. However, these are happening at the ‘small picture’ level, between individuals and in groups – I suspect that the reaction of many to Michael’s post has a lot to do with confusing questions of big picture and small picture.

    It is, however, also worth pointing out that ‘end times’ narratives are not exclusively Abrahamic in origin, as anyone captivated by accounts of Ragnarok (as I was as a boy) should recall. It seems to me that people who believe that such radical upheavals are impossible do so because they are cocooned in privilege – as I would say most of us in the West are to some extent.

    Michael’s post offers a cup of despair, yes, but also a spoonful of hope. Those getting into the dirt as he calls us to do may plant seeds to outlast us.

  58. You lost me with the mention of ‘The Great Cycle of the Mayan Calendar’ ending with the Winter solstice.  Are you for real?!

    Our calendar ends every year on December 31st and is no more or no less important than the Mayan calendar every new age nut has their panties in a twist over.  You don’t need the ending of a Mayan calendar to help you understand that the power of starting over is ever present.  The whole fixation middle-class white people currently have on the Mayan calendar reminds me of the fixation victorian occultists had on the use of Hebrew in magical ritual.  Why is the ‘magic’ always somewhere else exotic?  The reason is it’s a great place to project your fantasies of meaning on to – i.e. a culture that you are not part of.  

    I’m all for calling out things exactly the way they are, but in all seriousness I think your paganism is infected with just a touch of Abrahamic end-times mania.  I don’t know a thing about Peter Dybing other than what I’ve read on Wild Hunt, and his response to your post above makes complete sense to me.  What’s the point in manufacturing some greater doom laden meaning from it and tacking on a bit of end times fear mongering.  

    Yes – thanks to a 24 hour news cycle it seems the entire world is going down the toilet.  I’d like to think however that a previous post by Nicole Youngman is on to something.  This is a message that I can resonate with: 

    “Mixed in with all the assholes out there, there are an amazing number of people who are Doing Things Right–let’s work on make connections with and among them and scaling the work up to where it’s making local, regional, and global impacts.”

  59. Michael, thank you for sticking around for the conversation.

  60. With regard to the previous posts and comments, it reminds
    me of one of the lines from “King Arthur”. 
    “Whom does the Grail serve”? 
    Being recognized as a leader in the community does have its rewards,
    responsibilities, and puts one in the light of praise or criticism. Ones ego
    however, should always be kept “in check”. 
    Too much ego will and does put a cap on spiritual growth. This is one of
    the fundamental teachings.  Leaders forget
    sometimes that they are servants. But, whom does the “leader” serve?

    of the word failure:

    an act or instance of failing  or proving unsuccessful; lack of

    nonperformance of something due, required, or expected

    a subnormal quantity or quality; an insufficiency

    deterioration or decay, especially of vigor, strength, etc.
    a condition of being bankrupt by reason of insolvency.

    I take offence to the usage of the word “Failure”. I really
    don’t think anyone can be or is an actual failure. We may have growth
    experiences, some not so easy to overcome. What we do have is “Free will”. And,
    as a leader, servant, each one of us has to make decisions for not only
    ourselves, but, for others as well.  A
    good leader knows when to stand aside and sit back and watch the delegation of responsibilities.  After all, don’t we instruct others to go
    above and beyond in achievements and knowledge? There comes a time to pass the
    torch, but, always keep an eye on the legacy we leave behind. 

  61.  You have valid points but don’t forget that the Jews carved there own bloody path through the Cannanits and Phillistines.

  62.  also another admirable thing about Judaism is that as far as I know there is no negative afterlife. Also that in some cases questioning the bible is accepted.

  63.  Don’t forget that it is also a self-fulfilling prophecy. The middle eastern wars are efforts for control of the so called holy land partially in an effort to usher in the apocalypes and don’t forget all the americans who believe that the president is the anti-christ.

  64. Excellent points. I watched a history show about a year and a half ago called “Gates of Hell” That went to different locations around the world thought to be physical entrances to Hell. It threw me into a terrefied existential crises that I have just barely come out of thanks to paganism. I think that that show was produced as one of a number of last ditch efforts to scare people and prove that Christian dogma is true and the only way.  Christianity has to die for humanity to live, or at least have it’s most destructive holds broken.

  65.  It is not so much an ending as the end of the calendar and the beginning of another, the end of the fourth world and the beginning of the fifth marked by the alignment on the solstice. I don’t believe there will be the end of the world, but perhaps there will be some sort of awakening (I hope).

  66. I can agreed with Michael on certain points. It is not so much buying into the doomsdayism of the Christian/muslims as it is seeing the cliff they are driving the world to coming closer and closer and no one being able to pry their foot off the gas. It is the Christians/muslims who are pushing the world to the brink in there pursuit of “Gods Kingdom on Earth” and so far no other governemnt or religion has been able to stop them. I believe that is what Michael means when he talks about “end times”, not a religious end but the real life environmental/military/terrorist armagedon that the most extreme fundementalists seem to lust after no matter who suffers in their effort to call back there god. They will leave our bones lying upon the scorched earth in there effort to pursue a paradise they can never attain and no one can stop them. That is what is causing Michaels despair 

  67.  Thanks for the history!  Interesting to know that a pre-Talmudic tradition is still extant.

    Hoatstreak12, as I don’t seem to have the option to reply to you, I wanted to add that in many traditions of Judaism it is not only an acceptance of questioning the Talmud/Old Testament, it is common!  It is a religion built on scholarship and its leaders question all the time, generating some very thought-provoking discussions.  I really appreciate this aspect of their tradition, and the kinds of questions they openly explore as a result.

  68. Hot, I too share Michael’s feeling of despair concerning global events. Maybe I’m just getting too old to see that light at the end of the tunnel and hope it isn’t an oncoming train….

  69. Mr Ed the “unlimited 
    resources of the Universe” do not belong to us (especially that we live on one planet and we don’t have the means to get out), and no it’s not a core pagan belief and shouldn’t be, it’s actually in contradiction with all what paganism stands for: that man belongs to the world and not the other way around. 
    It seems we don’t live on the same planet mate. 

  70.  Thank you for the original article and clarification that followed, but i don’t think that many will get it; when the general trend of the comments here is that “humanity is at its best” and “we’re more abundant than ever”, and that any talk about a collapse is considered “abrahamic Armageddon non-sense”,  then there’s not enough common ground to talk with each other.
    In the outer appearances, many of us look pagan, but at their core they belong to the same religion of most modern humans, “progress and technologism” (the belief that progress is inevitable and that technology will always save us).

  71. “I suspect that the reaction of many to Michael’s post has a lot to do
    with confusing questions of big picture and small picture”.
    Exactly, that’s why most commentators are discussing Dbying’s resignation while the point from the article is something completely different.

  72.  Just so Adon, and in so doing they are demonstrating exactly what it is Michael York is criticizing (in part) – the tendency to be distracted by personalities and politics in place of what is actually, immediately and urgently important.

  73. I wonder when someone will finally get around to letting the rest of us in on what is actually going on here? Who is stabbing who in the back?

    Both York and Dybing are making very serious accusations. But who is being accused of what? And what do those so accused, whoever they might be, have to say for themselves?

  74. And I think the question many have is – “How did you do that?” Simply where to start baffles a lot of folks.

  75. Cattle die and kinsmen die,thyself too soon must die, but one thing never, I ween, will die, — fair fame of one who has earned. 

    Cattle die and kinsmen die, thyself too soon must die, but one thing never, I ween, will die, — the doom on each one dead. 

    -The Havamal of Odinn.

    If you think the world will end, it shall – when you die, the world will end for you.  So stop whining about it and go DO something!

  76. “his resignation speaks louder than anything else he ever did”

    I am so sick of this kind of response to pagan leaders getting burnt out and leaving to focus on their own lives and spiritual practices. This sends the message that pagan leaders must be willing to sacrifice everything for their communities FOREVER, regardless of the reaction or response or lack of support, or else they will only be remembered for quitting. That is simply bullshit. And if the next generation of potential leaders is paying attention, you may have just killed their interest in serving, and rightly so. How about we examine why it is that so many people get burnt out, and what the communities could do differently, instead of placing the blame on people who have served well but just not indefinitely?

  77. Peter, I think you are pointing the way for Pagans to go, if we are to have a future. Very few realize how draining it is physically and financially to be a non-paid, full time volunteer Pagan clergy or “leader”. Pagans want full time clergy and leadership, just like they had growing up in a church. They fail to realize that none of us is paid and at some point the fire within starts to die simply from the lack of support. We have no salary, no pension, yet we are expected to be counselors, mediators and public spokespeople for the Pagan religion while maintaining jobs and families at the same time.
    As far as going “back to the Earth”, that is exactly what we all need to be doing. Typing comments on the internet is not going to solve the problems of the eco-system or of Paganism. We need to get back to live, face to face rituals, the hard slog of really creating community, and, yes, get our hands into the soil of the place where we live.
    Peter, you are very lucky to have a partner in life. Hopefully she supports you as much as you do her. Nurture that. I wish you every blessing.

  78. If there is no “Pagan community” in your area then step up and create one!Thats what we all did 50, 40, 30 or 20 years ago. We improvised, created ritual forms and invited people. Thats how this whole movement grew. The best way to learn is to try things out, see what works and what doesn’t. If you look closely at any local “Pagan community” you will notice that there are always one or two people doing the organizing. Most of the rest just show up afterwards.

  79. This comment strikes me as positively breathtaking in its complacency.

    I do think we have a problem, in the Pagan community, in lacking both models and support for sustainable leadership.  Sometimes this is compounded by individuals seeking to lead whose ideas are unrealistic; sometimes by a community that seems to put much more energy into personal attacks against others than into looking at our own complicity with problems among us.

    But to attribute to individual failings the pessimism expressed by two such experienced and motivated leaders as Peter Dybing and Michael York bespeaks either deep knowledge of both men, or–just perhaps–an arrogant belief in one’s own powers of observation and leadership.

    I think most of us who have done time in leadership roles in the Pagan community understand both how easy it is to “outrun our leadings” to borrow a Quaker term, and how easy it is to feel compromised rather than anchored in our Pagan communities and institutions.

    I have been asking myself the question for a long time, how we can manage to create more sustainable patterns of leadership.  I ask myself, too, how we can make sure that our leaders remain faithful to our communities and rooted in the spiritual experiences that originally inspired them to serve… and how we as communities can nurture the emergence of new gifts and the cultivation of old ones.

    I don’t have nearly as much certainty as you do, Ed.  (You may attribute that to personal failings on my part, if you wish.)

    However, I do think the questions are worth asking, and I think it will take more than optimism in the gifts of the young and they cyclical nature of life to help our emerging institutions find balance and sustainability in our relationships with one another and with our leaders and teachers.

  80. Even if I disagree, I really appreciate your willingness to reflect on what we might be doing or failing to do in a systemic way around creating sustainable leadership and becoming grounded in spiritual communities.

    I think it may not be necessary to scrap solitary work as a valid path entirely, but I agree with you that finding ways to test our gnosis, and to give and receive the support of other Pagans, is going to be important if we are to become healthier spiritual communities and individuals as we go along.

  81. You are aware, are you not, that Michael York has been on faculty for Cherry Hill Seminary?

    I’m not personally convinced we have a Pagan cultural apocalypse on our hands, nor that our backbiting tendencies have become worse as a result of deepening gloom (some of it with reason) in our culture overall.

    But to hold up the very institutions built by those who are feeling pessimism as an argument against their pessimism seems to me to miss something important.  Pagans are being urged to rethink how we deal with one another in community… for the sake of the very Pagan institutions and communities whose growth gives many of us a sense of optimism.

  82. Someone shared this book with me that points out many things in the church that strengthens the urge not to be a Christian. After reading this I saw that those who are least like Christ are Christians! Maybe the author didn’t mean for it to be used as literary suicide to his belief’s position by Paganism but glad it was shared with me. PLEASE Share with your friends! See it here: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/the-zeal-of-thine-house-has-eaten-me and http://zeal-book.com

  83.  Serious accusations? I’m still stuck on whether this is all supposed to be funny or not? Heh!

    I cannot address the larger issues here, but in my own local community I have seen, for lack of a betterdescription, some ‘backstabbing’. It seems a form of Eliminationist behavior, where  up-and-commers or those who’ve eked out a tiny niche, spring into action when they see an opening.  First the Machiavellian backstabbing, next the feeding-fest on the body as it sinks, then a vicious Darwinian competition to fill the sudden void. I guess Paganism is red in tooth and claw. In my not so humble opinion, such antics do not serve our community well. However, as I interpret his post, York seems to be saying that the Pagan community needs address the environmental situation of our plant more fully. Again, my own experience in my local Pagan community seems to confirm this. I’ve witnessed cavalier attitudes to basic stuff like recycling, and the callus disregard for the unnecessary suffering of our winged or four-footed brothers and sisters tortured on factory farms. The “nothing to see here, just move along” comments by some posters  in regards to the plight of our planet is somewhat depressing, at least for me.

  84.  “Finally, is the Pagan community any more given to divisiveness and
    backstabbing than any other community of similar size? Or are we
    comparing ourselves to some ideal that never existed, and feeling
    discouraged because we are behaving the way human beings usually behave?”  This is exactly what I was thinking reading this post and the accompanying comments.

  85. This whole post is incredibly confusing to me.  The author flips back and forth from the macro to the micro and seems to equate one with the other in such a way…I just don’t know.  Yes, really huge things are happening now on this planet that probably are out of the hands of those who like a good sectarian squabble- and humans of any stripe squabble from time to time.  So does the fate of the planet hinge on our ability to get along with each other?  I rather doubt it.  I don’t disagree with some of York’s points but on a whole if I were a professor grading this post, I think I’d give it a C- for lack of clarity.

  86.  I also don’t see Dybing’s resignation from public service to be anything other than what it is, and not some indicator of doom within the Pagan religious movement or for the planet or what have you (I’m sort of confused on the point of what the author is saying it’s an indicator of really).  That’s simply absurd.

  87.  Advertise on WitchVox or PaganSpace.  Use resources.  Many local libraries have meeting rooms that are available to the public either for free or a very small fee, or try meeting at a local bookstore.   Organize a potluck.  Make fliers and hang them up.  It may happen that only a couple people show, but if you have patience they will come.

  88.  Yeah, but why hold readers accountable for focusing on Dybing’s resignation when York himself puts it out there first and holds it as some marker of the downfall of the Pagan community and thus the planet (or at least this is what it sounds like York is saying to me- not sure though, it’s a little murky)?

  89. That’s a lovely idea if you live in a place larger than 600 people, where 97% of  the population is LDS & the next closest town is one highway hour away & only 100 people, 100% of which are LDS. But I share your sentiments & I encourage others to look toward community building.

    I have had a taste for community & I think communities have many merits. I was part of a wonderful Pagan community in Western MA 20 years ago & some of the time, I still get to participate in an equally wonderful Pagan community in Anchorage, AK. Buy, the remainder of the time I certainly understand how it feels for the folks who do not have options other than “solitary.”

    I suppose that is where the internet has its place, much as I have my reservations about it. At least it provides for discourse like this. 

  90. Well , i have personaly taken a stand on these types of things , i live small in  a townhouse w/ a heat pump , burn no fossil fuels , use a wind powered energy supplier[am in the process of switching actualy] , recycle , compost and garden . As far as we can afford  use organic and free range foods . I’d get a electic car if i could afford one , but my current car is small , gives good gas mileage and low emmisions . These are the kind of things we as pagans can do now for our mother earth , walk the  walk and talk the talk to live as environmentaly freindly as we can.  And encourage others to do so as well , lead by example . But i must admit i was confused by this one too, my views arent as doomsday , we as a society need to change ………..but i believe we pagans can be the catylist for these changes. Even many Christians realise the human race can’t continue as we have , things need to change .Mother Earth is in trouble and we are the cause . We pagans can be the ones to make a difference , lead the way .     Kilm   

  91. I think your confusion is due to the fact that neither Dybing nor York have deigned to tell us exactly what they are all pissed off about. In fact, this conduct of theirs comes off as extremely elitist to anyone who isn’t part of the BNP in-crowd. The rest of us are just supposed to assume that these vaguely expressed accusations and dire pronouncement have some basis. What that basis is, however, is impossible to discern from what they are willing to say publicly.

    The way this is going it appears that Dybing and York are trying to establish some kind of moral authority for themselves by making these dire pronouncements. There exists a problem, and supposedly they have a solution, or at least they are not tainted by the problem (or at least not as tainted as others). All we know (and apparently all we are supposed to know) is that there are bad things being done by bad Pagans, and that Dybing and York are not among these bad Pagans. But there’s no there there, at least none that us peons are let in on.

  92. I’ve been thinking along the same lines. What if the simple truth is that the world IS a mess and things ARE getting worse — and that what is ahead is nothing nearly as glamorous as an apocalypse?  What if the only answer to what’s ahead is to roll up our sleeves and do some plain, old-fashioned hard work?

  93.  Out of curiousity….did you help any of them to direct their questions to him personally?

  94. I think York and Dybing’s concerns are quite clear, especially if you follow their careers in past years. I am certainly nowhere near a BNP, or are those I circle with, and it does not come across as elitist in any way. In fact, it comes across as a position from two men who are logical, compassionate, and experienced. Concerns about a community that exists on lies and slander is still an issue, as ever it was in decades past. Many of us young people are actually struggling to not fall into that trap, despite some of our elders trying to take us there. Leaders like Michael and Peter cautioned young leaders to take a different approach. And its worked (at least for my own community where I live). For that I am very grateful.

    There is no secret conspiracy of “hidden info” or some other such nonsense. The simple matter is that Peter worked hard for a long while, realized that the forces that drain our community was taking a toll on his personal relationships, and he decided to step back to heal those relationships. What better example of strong and compassionate leadership than that is there?

    If anyone has questions, it is from my experience that Peter would likely be willing to discuses them. He’s an honest and open man and the word “peon” doesn’t even exist in his vocabulary.

  95. There were no accusations, just a list of my reasons for making a change that helps me follow the Goddess.  There is no drama folks, just a simple Pagan wishing to move forward.  I have no connection to this piece by M. York, and frankly think any argument that attempts to embed my personal decision with a deeper meaning for the community is both illogical, and meaningless.  Come on folks: what is this need for drama where non exists?

  96. If the info is not hidden, then where is it? Who stabbed who in the back? Whose actions “saddened” and “sickened” Dybing, and drove York to sackcloth and ashes?

  97. I don’t want to quibble over semantics, but when you say something like:

    “It is with great sadness that I have witnessed dozens of prominent Pagan leaders speaking ill of
    their compatriots. While I have attempted to address this issue, I am sickened at the backstabbing that continues to occur within our community.”

    And then turn around and say

    “There were no accusations.”

    that sounds very contradictory to me.

  98. Apuleius, You want names, not going to happen. Beginining a witch war is not good for the community, not how I intend to live my life or the kind of person I am. Your call for information you don’t need is irresponsible. My comments on my blog were about “my experiences and reasons for leaving leadership posts. They were never intended to start a debate. This debate was started in response  to Mr. Yorks’ post, something I have nothing to do with.

  99. I’ll tell you exactly where to start. One other person. Find one other person whose spirit and intellect resonates with you on every level, one other person who you respect and trust so implicitly that you would share a foxhole with them, or jump off a bungee tower without looking at your feet if they told you they had taken care of your tether.  When I undertook to form my own coven, or really to find my own community several years ago, I set that as my magickal and mundane goal, to find that one other person. I vowed that if I found that one other person, and it took five years, and if we never had anything more than a “circle of two,” I would be content.
        Inside of two years, I had the great fortune to find that person, and by circling consistently with her, we have attracted people who share our vision and our values. It’s not a big concern by any means. Our “inner court” if you will, is still mostly the two of us. The outer circles of people we consider community, is in the dozens, and it is one of the richest reserves of smart, creative, decent and (mostly) balanced people I have ever associated with. I would not trade this bunch for Warren Buffet’s portfolio. 
       It really is as simple (and as hard), as being the change you want to see. As dysfunctional as many of our first covens or groups were, all that stuff about like energy attracting like they taught you in those early classes or 101 books is the real deal. You just really have to be willing to let go of a lot of pre-conceptions and timelines and undertake the quest. A “pagan community” need not be as intimate as a working group I just described. You can start something as simple as a monthly meetup at a local coffee shop on a Friday evening. Have no deeper agenda than hanging out and talking. You’ll meet the whole gamut, good and bad, and it will put you in the path of people who may turn out to be a good fit for rituals or future community projects. 

  100. seems a very dramatic statement to me, “dozens’ meaning multiples of 12, that covers a lot of prominent pagans.
    I think, Peter, if you didn’t want to create any drama, you’d have just left your reason for stepping away as “to spend more time with my beloved and my personal practice” and not elaborate any further.
    But then “prominent pagans” do tend to over state and over sensationalise just about everything.

  101. I think one reason people question what’s really going is  because when a politician announces that s/he is leaving office to spend more time with family, there’s usually much more to the story. 

  102.  It seems pretty clear to me. Michael York, as far as I can see, as saying the following:

    1. Peter Dybing’s decision to step away from pagan leadership and politics was a good one. (As someone who has worked at that coalface for years, I would call it an act of sanity.)

    2. The pagan movement as individuals and as a whole should follow Dybing’s example, and urgently reevaluate their priorities and direction.

    3. Environmental/social/political/economic collapse is beginning for all of us in the West (personally I think it will take another generation or two to really hit, but when it does come it will look a lot like the film ‘Children of Men’) and it is too late for pagans as a social movement to change that, only adapt to it – if we can.

    Apparently saying these things on the Wild Hunt is deeply controversial. I am not sure why. I wish all of the guest posts were this provocative.

  103. So far I’ve not seen mention of another reason for ‘going solitary,’ and that is personal temperament.  Overall, I feel strongly about community and building strong, healthy, sustainable communities.  Communities that not only honor each member and her/his individuality and talents, but that also provide for accountability to community.

    As someone mentioned above, one cannot assume that one’s UPG is anything more than fantasy unless one shares one’s experience with others.  That sharing has the potential to amp up the work based upon one’s UPG, to broaden it, expand it, share it.

  104. replying here since there’s no reply buttons in the lower comments.
    it’s not the first time :
    It’s pretty hard to deny no accusation if you use the term ‘indictment’.
    But Peter, I can understand your reticence to broach the subject further. Can’t agree with it but understand it. I was around back in the day of WLPA and WARD and WADL, saw the disintegration of the WLPA and the formation of Witches Voice, and took part in another offshoot of that disintegration, the short lived Pagan Awareness League.
    Much hasn’t really changed. Different leaders, different acronyms, same politics, and tactics. To be outspoken about it and to name names leads to persona non gratis. But hey, one has to be true to ones own nature.  At least you pointed out the problem even if in general terms.

  105. “You want names, not going to happen.”

    It’s not that I “want names”. It’s just that I have absolutely no idea what you are on about.

    One wonders what the point is. Has someone done something wrong? Obviously you think so. But are we just supposed to take your word for it?

    “Backstabbing” is not a small thing. It implies not just dishonesty, but dishonor on a very personal, even intimate, level. And it also implies real harm being done.

  106. Version:1.0

    Sikhism is essentially a hybrid
    development of Hinduism and Islam. The Islamic element seems to be the stronger
    of the two. The ‘God’ of the Sikhs is an Abrahamic-type rather than either
    Hindu or pagan, but – as I was attempting to suggest – he is a much more
    compatible and positive figure than that of the strictly Abrahamic religions


  107. well that’s it in a nutshell the problem existing ‘In decades past’, and no one wants to break the facade. Folks would rather allow for the drain, and let things fester. I don’t think it’s hidden so much because I think folks feel it in the air as it were, and that is probably why there’s not much support behind ‘Modern Pagan’ institutions.
    It also reflects, as one person pointed out, the influence of solitary paractice, which has been ‘preached’ over the last decades through the medium of DIY books. For thirty some years it’s been preached one didn’t need clergy or any one else.
    That’s been translated to ‘Modern Pagan leadership’, that they are their own spiritual authority and don’t need to vett their personal gnosis with anyone, and by the same are beholden to no one, even to those they assume to represent, and woe to anyone who suggests the emperor is in fact wearing no clothes.
    I often hear the Anais Nin quote bandied about, yet it seems the ‘masters tools’ are being used to build a new house.

  108. John, if there is any merit to Schlomo Zand’s thesis in his *When and How Was the Jewish People Invented?*, the Jews did proselytise at some point.

  109. Deborah, I have both UK and US nationalities and grew up in a town that was one-third Jewish, one-third Catholic and one-third Protestant. I was never aware that Israelites were supposedly responsible for the ending of Canaanite culture; were they not further north for the most part? But whether “mainstream opinion among archaeologists today” is correct or not, the biblical references to the destruction of Canaanite and Philistine temples is still a part of Judaism’s mind-set. For myself, I remain unabashedly opposed to even the concept of a cosmic dictator.

  110. Version:1.0

    Perhaps my initial post sounds stronger than I would have
    wished. My intention was not to frighten anyone or cause uncertainty or
    depression. I employ terms primarily as metaphors, and ‘end times’ as well as
    the *supposed* conclusion of the current Mayan Great Cycle are precisely that,
    namely, metaphors – as are, in part, our inherited myths along with the gods
    and goddesses who inhabit them. The ‘end times’ metaphor is particularly
    appropriate, as are our deities, because it expresses a possible scenario that
    becomes all the more likely when we assess what we are doing to our seas
    through mercury contamination and plastics – all entering the food chain, what
    we are doing to our atmosphere with cholo-floro-carbon and ‘green house’ gases,
    and what we are doing to the very land itself with industrial pollutions and
    nuclear contamination. At the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions in
    Chicago, Gerald Barney, author of *The Global 2000 Report to the President* for
    Jimmy Carter on sustainable development planning in developing and
    industrialised countries, pleaded that we had to start acting now-and-then if
    the world was not to have a catastrophe when, by 2020, he predicted that our
    expanding population would exceed the land space available to produce the food to
    feed us. When I saw him five years later in Cape Town, I asked if he though any
    progress on that front had occurred since Chicago, and his answer was a frank


    Any impending world disaster as I view it is not a product
    of any subscription on my part to an Abrahamic apocalypse belief. I too
    champion the advances of technology and scientific discovery but seriously
    wonder if even these will be sufficient to clean up the mess we are making. It
    is *not* simply a question of employing technology “to repair the damage.” On
    top of this are the counter-productive and squelching powers of an economic
    system that is largely controlled by a financial-corporate-military complex
    that tolerates little to no opposition and increasingly has the surveillance
    mechanisms, a police force and an abjectly compliant press to insure that and
    override any open and honest protest or accountability. On the macro-level as
    well as often on the local, those of us who are passionate ecologists and
    would-be defenders of our planet’s sacred equilibrium have our hands tied. All
    of us, pagans and non-pagans alike, remain in a political stalemate that has us
    descending into an amoral if not immoral vortex.


    If my initial posting is alarmist, it is because I am genuinely
    alarmed. I engage in a perpetual conversation with my deities, and much of my
    writings are expressions of that exchange. Well into the autumn years of my own
    life, it pains me when I feel the pagan community despite all of its wonderful
    heterogeneity falls short of that of which I feel, hope and wish it is capable.
    The backstabbing issue is largely incidental, but it has been a constant
    feature and complaint since at least the 1980s – rendering according to some a
    situation of more ‘bitchcraft than witchcraft’. This to my own vision is
    incommensurate with who we are, what we represent and where I feel we wish to
    be going. Peter Dybing’s choice to melt into anonymity and to concentrate on
    the very *dirt* in all its sacredness – yes, dirt as something positive and
    holy – is understandable and perfectly acceptable as well as honourable. If we
    cannot applaud the freedom of self-determination, we are lost right from the
    start. But it was his statement that the contagion of backstabbing was such
    that he was becoming guilty of it himself that triggered my opening response,
    but my response is not directed to that but is an accumulative result of events
    and perceptions much more broadly in my own life and deity conversation. To
    harp continually on the backstabbing allegations and want names, etc. is
    completely to miss the point. It is merely a symptom and not the underlying


    It may strike some of you as ironic, but I more usually
    label myself a ‘militant optimist’, and I apologise that my earlier posting
    lacked any of the humour that I otherwise treasure. But when one lives as long
    as I have, the increasing inflictions to and losses of loved ones against a
    global background of deceptions, betrayals, marginalisation, abuses of power
    and even Orwell’s *1984* scenario can force one to cry out that for which the
    gods that I know are crying.  My
    intent is not to bum anyone out, to be depressive or to cause strife. I have
    myself been more than blessed in this life with freedoms, opportunities,
    adventures and the devoted love of my beloved. But it is because of all these
    blessings that I have perhaps been privileged to have had the persistent vision
    I have. It is ultimately this that I wish to share, and in the days I have
    left, it is with a community that is energised by the worship of the gods and
    the joy therein that I wish to share that vision.


    Whether we be solitaries or in covens, groves or whatever,
    all of us as pagans are the core of our host planet in trouble. If we have
    allies beyond that core, so much the better, but it is because of our very
    centrality to the fulcrum point of our times that we are being called upon to
    honour and make *the* difference for the life of the future.

  111. Ironic that modern pagans tend to be such an over-intellectual lot. So they tend to talk too damn much, perhaps as a way of keeping the actual chaos of nature at bay.
    Points to this guy for remembering what actually feeds us. Everyone else? STFU, go stand outside in the glory of the morning, and actually BE a pagan.

  112. What will you really learn if you hear about pettiness and sniping from specific, named Pagans who ought to know better, Ap?

    We do all have the right and the responsibility to become informed about how our Pagan institutions are run: finances, bylaws, offices, and non-profit status, as well as the adherence to policies on paper by people in the field.

    But I don’t know that knowing that so-and-so is a mean-spirited gossip, or that whosis makes fun of other people’s personal appearance behind their back (for instance) leaves me a whole lot more informed than I was previously.

    I will say this: my own interactions with the Covenant of the Goddess have led me to conclude that some, though not all, of its Local Councils are being administered by people who take things personally, and work hard to find ways of applying bylaws to back their personal feelings toward others within COG.  And sometimes the membership of COG as a whole or on a local level puts a check on that kind of thing, and sometimes they get sucked into the all-too-human vortex of gossip and scandal-mongering (on thin or no evidence) and they don’t ask the systemic questions they should.

    It varies.

    But the longer I’m a member of the Pagan community, the more I sense that we have perfected the art of SSDD when it comes to our institutional dysfunctions.  Change the names and the years, and the scandal d’jour comes across a lot like the scandals before it.  There have been notable exceptions–scandals rooted in criminal actions, for instance–but those tend to get followed up on, though sometimes it takes a while for a Pagan organization to find a way to address those matters.  (We’re not, after all, equipped to be a court system; nor are the ethics of the overculture always the same as our own.)

    The easiest way to learn who is mean-spirited and who is generous is to listen to the way they speak to and about others, and pay attention.  It’s not actually that hard to do: most of our BNPs keep a pretty public profile, and anyone involved in a Pagan institution beyond the most basic interaction quickly learns who is trying to speak and act in a manner consistent with the values of the organization.

    In my experience.  Of course, your mileage may vary.

  113. FWIW, Peter, what I’m getting is that mean-spirtedness, rather than scandals or ethical violations, began bringing you down.  And that, in addition to having seen your workload grow to become more than you had room for personally, led you to step down from public Pagan leadership.  Am I correct here?

    I also think there are people who like drama for drama’s sake… and that it’s safe to ignore them.  (And probably a waste of time not to!)

    But I do think that your decision does reflect deeper dissatisfactions within the Pagan community, and that we are not doing enough to nurture emerging leadership among us, nor to sustain those who are serving us now.  Part of that service might include encouragement to step down when it’s time to do that!  And part of it might include no-drama acceptance of the fact that Pagan service can be wearing–and figuring out ways to change that, for both the sake of our communities and our leaders.

  114. Well, as someone who is actually fairly knowledgeable (but not an “expert” – I’ll leave that to the Sikhs themselves) about Sikhism, and also about Hinduism, I have to disagree.  Sikhs are essentially monotheist Hindus, are considered “Hindus” by a great many Hindus, and their religion was started by Hindus, in many ways as a kind of “fighting caste” against their Muslim oppressors.  (A simplification, yes…)  While their have been conflicts between Sikhs and Hindus, the conflicts between Sikhs and Muslims have always been far greater, and I really think using the term “Abrahamic” to describe them is offensive, although I understand that you didn’t mean it to be.  They’re such a misunderstood minority in this country, and I think people (in general) should study their religion and culture, if for no other reason than to understand their “neighbors.”  There are more Sikhs on this planet than Jews…but few people in the West have any idea that they even exist, much less what their beliefs or customs are.  /soapbox

  115. Byron, it was not my intention to be offensive. Thank you for acknowledging that. The Sikhs were stunningly impressive at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Cape Town, and I have been happily keeping up with them through their regular postings ever since. My familiarity is much stronger with Hinduism, and during discussions concerning the gods and ‘God’ I’ve had in India, our consensus was that Akal Murat as the one creator of the universe was ‘too Abrahamic’ for our tastes. The far greater conflicts you refer to between Sikhs and Muslims was exactly my point concerning Abrahamic religion as divisive and negatively schismatic. From what we know of Islam alone, we would not expect it to embrace Sikhism. However, I remember once a billboard in New Delhi that proclaimed that every Hindu family should produce one Sikh.

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