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The Elder in the Mirror

Not unlike Zen master Lin Chi/Rinzai, whose words were given at the beginning of this particular column, I had to eventually realize that the authorities outside of myself were not the ones who knew what was best, and I had to (symbolically) kill them in order to achieve my own liberation. I've since realized, perhaps even more importantly, that such an act of ritual murder is not a singular activity. It has to happen over and over again.

Within modern Paganism and polytheism, there has been a lot of discussion about how schisms in groups are often needless. In certain outlets, there has been some suggestion that perhaps schisms shouldn't have to happen at all if we are really as open and accepting of differences in thought as we often claim or aspire to be. While perhaps some schisms are needless, some have proven to be very productive for those involved, and I would argue that such is the case for the version of Antinous' cultus that I have founded. Sometimes, there are irreconcilable theological differences on certain matters, and where these exist, they cannot be denied or excused or explained away, especially when harm can result from them. In such situations, a schism is really the best thing that can occur. I'm sure many people who have been put in such positions over the last few years with regards to issues like trans inclusiveness know how true this can be, despite the difficulties and pain involved.

It is strange to think that I am thirty-six years old, and yet already the "elder" of a particular tradition and group. It is a role that I am still not entirely comfortable with, and thus I'm very much more likely to provide prospective students not only with teachings and information and guidance, but also the knives to eventually kill me as well. And, many of them do a very good job of that on a regular basis—and I mean that in an entirely positive fashion!

As much as I am thankful for the older generation of polytheists who have made doing any of this at all possible, my direct contact with them has been slim to none for much of the time. I am thankful for the many teachers I've had in my life, both in primary and secondary schools and at all levels of college, as well as teachers I've had for as long as a few years, or for as short as a few hours: for lectures and workshops on a huge number of topics and techniques on everything from spiritual direction, to plant spirits, to making amulets, to drama, to singing and dancing, to appreciating the ancient gods through art in museums, and much, much more. All of them have contributed in some fashion to making me the person that I am today.

And yet, the teacher whose lessons I have trusted the least, whose authority I have feared the most, whose teachings I have all too often ignored, is the one from whom I've learned the most of all. That teacher is the one who stares back at me in the mirror when I have sense and courage enough to look, face-to-face and eye-to-eye.

11/27/2012 5:00:00 AM