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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Sep. 8, 2002   This Page Viewed: 28,359,882  

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Question of the Week: 105 - 4/5/2003

Are Pagans TOO Individualistic?

We hear it said all of the time: Pagans are individualistic. We hold our own personal freedoms and acts of self-determination (and perhaps, our own self-worth and esteem) to be of the utmost importance and often view events, ethical and moral issues and Pagan-related teachings through this lens.

Does the good of the one always outweigh the good of the many? Should it? Are there times and/or circumstances in which such an individualistic mindset is detrimental to a bigger picture?

Have there been times when you have put aside your personal feelings in order to support a group or project even if you were somewhat ambivalent about ‘going along’? Or have you left a group or situation because you would not -- or could not –- go along with the crowd or leadership position?

How do you reconcile your individuality with the goals or teachings or codes of your group? With other Pagans? How do you decide?

 Reponses:   There are 56 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

It All Depends On The Situation Apr 5th. at 8:48:45 pm UTC

Juniper Jupiter (Overland Park KS) Age: 28 - Email

As a solitary pagan, I believe that individuality is important for thriving spirituality. I only run into fellow pagans (or Wiccans or Witches) online, or during festivals and benefit charities, and most of those I run into believe the same. However, "Paganism" can end up like "Christianity" (I'm using quotemarks here for a reason, hear me out:) !) . There are ones that call themselves Pagan, but they tend to become "holier than thou" at times. There are the immature "Pagans" that claim they are stronger or more powerful because they are more devoted to their religion (huh?) . It's the same for Christianity. Unfortunately, I run into MANY of these poor folks that call themselves "Christian" that really get me going. They tell me I'm going to hell without so much as "heidilly ho neighbor" but they "love me anyway"...ugh!!

So in conclusion it just depends!!

My nickel, keep the change!!;)

Blessed be!!

Woops Forgot Something Apr 5th. at 8:51:03 pm UTC

Juniper Jupiter (OPKS) Age: 28 - Email

These holier than thou Christians I run into tend to act like Reps to their church. I run into a couple of members of said church members and they tend to think otherwise. Forgot to add that in.

Striking A Balance Apr 5th. at 9:41:21 pm UTC

Stormwind (Canada) Age: 25 - Email

I often take part in a group that is more "open circle" than "coven." Our group members range from eclectic Wiccans, traditional Wiccans, Celtic Pagans/reconstructionists, people learning Wicca, people curious about Paganism, and one who isn't even Pagan himself but goes with his Wiccan partner and takes part. Although our manners of conducting ritual differ depending on the tradition/faith of the leader, the system works well, and no one needs compromise their beliefs for anyone else. Those who do not wish to take part in a specific aspect of the ritual are still and respect the others who do.

I admit that this approach would not work for a coven, but for me, it's a nice balance between following my individual beliefs and also taking part in a group format on occasion.

I'm a great proponent of individualism, but I do not think that should extend to selfishness. Just like personal freedoms, the rights of one person end where the rights of another begin, so no one need impinge on another's freedom to act.

I've often left groups that were going in a direction I didn't believe in. I could not in good conscience follow along when something violated or exceeded my own thoughts of correct action on a matter. For example, I will attend protests for various causes, but I leave if/when there are confrontations with police or damage of property. I do not believe that fighting police or acts of vandalism help in getting a message across; usually they are only used by the media in helping the wrong message gets across.

............. Apr 5th. at 11:31:16 pm UTC

dhk (Ontario) Age: 16 - Email

If you do not follow your own path atleast some part of your life than whose path are you following? someone elses? that doesnt sound right. If you dont follow your own path than how can anything change. There are too many cases where people get lost doing this and end up forgeting why they started. Unless you make an effort to be overly individualistic, I dont think there is such a thing as being too individual

There Certainly Needs To Be A Change Apr 6th. at 1:21:51 am UTC

Scott Burnside (New York) Age: 26 - Email - Web

Before I took serious the teachings of the Buddha I would have answered this question with a resounding NO! Now that I have studied his teachings and incorporated it's wisdoms into my own practices I believe there may be some truth to it.

The problem with being extremely individualistic is it supposes that we arise of an independent origination. It's a spiritual hissy fit... "I'm my own person which means I can do whatever I want, and I don't need anyone else"

This could not be more incorrect. Not a one of us can exist without others. I will not get into this in depth, but just think of how many people are involved in your daily life and making simple things possible (people who make your clothes, prepare your food, etc.) . The next step is to realize that there is a link between you and them and all people that belies your feelings of deep individualism.

Feelings of self worth and esteem are great when applied in this framework as it promotes positive feelings about others as well. I think this embodies what is lacking most in the Pagan community today.

We need to concentrate less on the individual, but still respecting the individual as an intricate and essential part of the whole. Efforts then naturally focus on promoting peace, compassion, and justice. This will ultimately lead to being taken more seriously by those outside the Pagan tradition.

Learning To Be Part And Apart Apr 6th. at 5:27:22 am UTC

Gunshythirdeye (Anchorage, Alaska) Age: 49 - Email

Having to agree with the general concensus against your will then you are giving in. And for me when I give in I feel like I'm not being truthful, and like one man's art is another man's trash what is good for the greater population can be a matter of opinion. I don't do the blind obedient thing very well. I find when I am pushed into that then I feel drained and unsatisfied, I have to make my own choices, or I am not happy. And one of the things that I believe that we're all here for is to learn how to have fun and be happy, and of course to learn how to love. And for me if I choose to do something that I don't enjoy or feel comfortable doing that I feel that I have let myself down. I don't like going along with what the popular way of thinking or what ever. I know that that makes some people just frustrated but sorry to thy own self be true. I don't expect others to go along with what every I think is right and I loose patience with those who try to manipulate me, and I especially get anoid when if two of my friends or family members get into a disagreement and if one demands that I choose their side and I am trying to stay out of it then often they made my choice for me. Manipulation is very harmful.

I Wouldn´t Say That Individualism Is The Problem... Apr 6th. at 1:18:19 pm UTC

Freya (Lisbon, Portugal) Age: 22 - Email

Individualism is what makes us who we are. We can all work together and still be individuals. Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, ego is our biggest downfall. We´re still at the stage where we are competing with each other.

´Hey guys listen to me, I´ve got the 99th degree of the Coven of the blah blah blah, I´ve been doing this for longer than you have so listen to me´

´No no no, don´t listen to her, listen to me! 99th degree? I´ve got the 1000th degree and as for the coven of the blah blah blah, well my coven is better than hers!!! She says she´s been doing this longer than me, well I was doing this in all 5 of my previous lives´

A little story about ego messing up a Pagan group.
Last year, I tried to start a Pagan society at my University. Well, not just me, but two other Witches that I lived with because on arriving at the university, we all lamented the lack of a Pagan society and so we made our posters and saw the union officer for permission to put them up. It was granted and we put them up. A few were graffittied with rubbish like ´Goths´ and ´satanists´ but we began to get members and eventually the university newspaper wanted to speak to us. We did the interview and it was very positive on behalf of the pagan community. Good job they didn´t see the infighting. From the beginning, we had made it clear that everything would be voted on and that I was not a ´president´ as such. However, there was one young Witch, you know the kind, fresh from a book, with a new shiny pentacle and wearing stereotypical ´Hollywood Witch´ clothes. I´ve never been that kind of girl. Skater clothes are my thing and I haven´t worn a pentacle in years. I guess I wasn´t the kind of person she thought a Witch could be and I think she was very insecure. However, more and more she began disrupting the meetings, to the point where we couldn´t get a quiet drink in the union organised, let alone a trip to the Edinburgh Beltaine festival. Several times, I asked her in private if she had a problem and she´d just turn bright red and deny it. From the beginning, I´d made it clear that someone else would have to ´chair´the meetings and do the organisation in the following year as I would be studying abroad. When the time came, despite my best efforts to organise a vote, nobody voted, instead complaining about me deserting them.
Ok, so it´s not only ego that plays a part here, I think laziness and a certain unwillingness to stand up for your beliefs comes into it too.

In the past few weeks here on Witchvox, I have been extremely interested in the essays on tribalism and they got me thinking, but not only on the angle of encouraging neighbourhood friendship and helping others. If the whole of the Pagan community was to see each other as part of the same tribe or family, instead of potential competition, we´d get more done. Maybe if the general Pagan community was to look more to the Heathens for pointers on living as a community, there wouldn´t be as much squabbling. There´s something to be said for community loyalty and goodwill.

Mind you, I suspect all this will come with time. Paganism is still relatively recent reborn. If you look through early and middle Christian history, much blood was shed because one man´s Christianity was different to another´s. Let´s just be thankful that we live in societies where religious murder is not acceptable (well....) .

F, F, F, F


Who Else Is On My Path? Apr 6th. at 2:08:26 pm UTC

Wog (East Lansing, MI) Age: 47 - Email

Too individualistic? I hear folks saying I have got to follow my own path and I agree but too often they seem to assume they are the only one on that path. Wether it is a spiritual, philosophical or simple walking path in the woods, someone else has been on it (hence the path) . In my experience more often then not others are on the path the same time I am even. This doesn't make it any less my path. If I can use the walking path in the woods analogy; There are times when I want to be alone to revel in the mother as I walk. There are times when I see or "discover" something that I would love to share with someone else as I walk and there are times when I bump into others on the path and they pointout a new view or new jou that I had missed.

Sharing with others on the same path doesnot diminish what makes it mine and often expands my path. It is not even necessary to share with others that see things the same as you for in truth I learn most from those who offer something different.

I don't think it is that we are too individualistic but more often that we do not truly understand that being indiviudal is not the same as being alone or on our own.

I am not threatened by what others may bring only by what I might miss.

Everything Has Two Sides Apr 6th. at 2:31:21 pm UTC

Aireon (Pittsburgh) Age: 31 - Email

First, I'd like say ‘great question'. This is something that I've pondered over the years. To see any feedback on the subject is great.

I have read the other posts and agree in part with all of them. There are many contributing factors to an individuals actions and opinions, making everyone's response very individualistic indeed.

Where I am from, I see the want of Pagans to assemble so as long it doesn't focus on one group or organization. If it's a general Pagan night out, or discussion group, fine. If "so and so" circle is holding an open rite - forget about it.

Here I see most cringe at the "c" word - community, or any type of unity for that matter. Here, there have been many groups come and go, much infighting, and ego and opinions abound.

I feel, in part, that the modern Pagan culture has moved itself into this "individualistic" state of consciousness. Take for example Wicca. From its inception, the big 3 traditions were Gardenerian, Alexandrian, and Seax Wicca. Try to dig up info on any of these today........ good luck. Today, the most popular movement in Wicca is eclectic - take what you like, discard the rest. I'm not siding with traditional or eclectic practices, just making the point of trends in our community.

I feel, in part, the Pagan community reflects the society in which we live. Our culture today reflects the individualistic attitude. There is no need for the "group" mentality. We have been raised to rely on ourselves first and foremost.

In the study of theology, there is a idea that religion (hhuh... spirituality) has to change with the times, for the meaning (and teachings) to stay relevant to the people of that era and location. Religion has to evolve and change or it loses meaning to those who evolve past it. It may be that other religions of the world have stagnated and this "new age" movement has allowed religion to move into a more individualistic role to fit our individualistic lifestyles. Is this why there is a big push toward earth - based belief systems, for the lack of organization?

Are pagans too individualistic? Is our society? Are we not directly reflecting the society in which we live?

With the loads of great people in our community, its a shame its sooo hard to get "groups" together - at least where I'm from.

Brightest Blessings*

Hmmm.... Apr 6th. at 4:22:13 pm UTC

Susan (Northern Arizona) Age: 37 - Email

Most people who decide to become pagan are by nature not followers. They have an inquisitive nature and do not take things at face value. Ultimately, this is part of the reason they end up following an earth based path.

That in itself is not bad. The problem arises when people cannot agree on anything large because they are so focused on the details. Robes or no robes--and what color? Clothes or no clothes--and when? We perform the Great Rite at EVERY ritual or it's not proper--or we don't, and don't feel the need to. We shouldn't mix pantheons because the Gods and Goddesses might not get along--or we invoke whatever aspect of Deity we feel we need the most at that moment in time, or only invoke the most generic Goddess and/or God. We need to have the Goddess and the God, or our lives are not balanced--or we only invoke different aspects of the Goddess.

Particularly in America, we have conversely cultivated both individualism and conformity to their extremes. We judge people solely, in many cases (go to any high school) on their dress yet these same people want to be judged "for who they are" not what they wear. What this has produced is the problem we have in the pagan community. We are a very large, diverse group who is both proud of our individualism and in many cases judgmental of any lack of conformity when it comes to differing beliefs/practices.

Another problem with this is that it produces people who seem to want the authority without any of the responsibility that goes with it. Jesus brought that up when he talked about "he who would be first must be last, and he who would rule (or something like that) must wash the feet of others." There seems to be a subculture of people who feel they have an entitlement do what they want, when they want, and how they want without being held accountable to anyone else for their actions. These are the problem people in any Pagan gathering, group, or coven. They are also the problem people in life generally whether or not they are Pagan. The mere fact that someone wants to hold them accountable to a standard of any sort is cause for outrage.

On a personal level, I would hesitate to even classify myself at this point in time. I am too new and still exploring; I became a Pagan because it makes logical sense to me on both the mental level and the gut level. I cannot conceive of placing myself into a tradition without doing the research on its history, philosophy, beliefs, and practices to be sure it is where I belong. I think that true connection with Deity is much more important than the memorizing the catechism of any religion--Pagan or otherwise. BUT--I am respectful of others' need for that same catechism, if they feel true connection by using it. That's the goal of any religion, after all.

Too Indivivualistic? Apr 6th. at 4:32:21 pm UTC

LoneGnome (Oregon) Age: 35 - Email

No, I don't think so. We're human and are individuals to begin with. Everyone has a right, and a need, to be themselves.
But as humans we're something of a social creature. With that said the good of a few (or one person) doesn't always outway the good of the many. One answer to the next two answers is the military and war.
In the military individualism is frowned upon since it doesn't foster team work. But with ther case of Pfc Jessica Lynch who was rescued (thank the Goddess for that. OOOOHHH RRRAAAHHH!!!) last week by a team of soldiers in atleast two copters, at times the good of the few can outweigh the good of the many.
As for the rest of it I'm a Solitaire and at times do not take to being in a group well. I take some things that people, in general, say or do with a grain of salt. It generally isn't worth my time to me to discuss (read argue) over them.
The main thing I try to remember is that my bottom line is that we are all human, regardless of all else. We're all in the same boat- and it's called life.

We Follow Only The Good... Apr 6th. at 7:06:31 pm UTC

Ashlings (New Jersey, USA) Age: 30 - Email

As another post had mentioned, pagans by nature tend not to be followers. However, I believe that very few of us would ever place our own gains over the needs of the many. I like to think that we will follow and join with causes that we deem worthy by our own individual standards (moral and otherwise) .

If a group or cause does not meet with my moral standards, I may bend slightly, but I would not ever compromise my standards to an extent that I felt I was betraying myself or my beliefs.

I do assist with groups and/or causes that represent the same goals that I hold for myself. I know that no two people will ever have the same standards, so slight variations are both accepted and, quite often, appreciated. Without being exposed to others' standards, how would I ever be able to judge myself? (Which is the ONLY person I should be judging in the first place.)

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