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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: 20,403,110  

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Question of the Week: 38 - 4/23/2001

What Are The Greatest Challenges That Pagans Face Today?

We've come a long way, babies, but we still have far to go. What do you see as the greatest EXTERNAL challenges that Pagans face today? Intolerance? Lack of exposure? (No skyclad jokes, please!) Lack of a public Voice in politics or society? That said, what do you think are the biggest INTERNAL challenges to Paganism? The search for identity? Lack of leadership or training? Interpath squabbles? Questionable or tenuous religious history? Is there a serious lack of consensus as to the definition of Pagan/Wiccan/Witch/Heathen throughout the Pagan communities which has us mired down in semantics--or is there simply a lack of tolerance amongst ourselves for the differences that we do have? Have we "met the enemy and he/she is us"?

 Reponses:   There are 35 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

I Can Only State What I've Seen As What We Pagans Face... Apr 23rd. at 10:14:28 pm EDT

Rjamdragon (Flint, Michigan US) Age: 28 - Email

I can only state what I've seen as what we Pagans face externally. Since my love and I found our path, we've been quite aware of many disturbing things. One, first and foremost is the secrecy our Pagan children have to face here and in the future. This of which may be good in some ways for traditional reasons, but I see the child-like, and very comon typical teasing, of a pagan child. I find it very distressful seeing Pagan children growing up in a christian society where everything but christian beliefs are evil and of no significance. I'm sure that I speak for many who might think that it would be for the benefit of all women, men and children to have complete religeous freedom, without persecution of another god that says that we don't belong in life. We should all feel that whatever path leads one, or many to enlightenment should be respected. Our Pagan paths are chosen and I feel as many do that we might all hold the hand of a person leading a different path of faith if we were allowed to. I say allowed because if one of us were to do so, we might "devil worshippers of satinists".

I see that we have still to be respected by our governments. Our own president does not respect the Wiccan or Pagan paths. It is sad that a man who can sell unity to the people in an election can be so vain. Could we ever be formally respected and not just recognized? Not any time soon in my opinion.

An my final opinion is this-We as Wiccans and Pagans NEED to respect the fact that this is a very self wayed path. Many covens and groups celebrate and worship in different ways. We have our own spells, ideas, magick, etc. I see that those among us need to teach others when they inquire. Some of the greatest experiences I've had were attending different coven and group sessions , there LEARNING their ways and not condeming them as the world condems us as a whole.

I Think That The Challenges That Pagans Face Today Are Really A... Apr 24th. at 12:54:21 am EDT

Angela McMullen (Montoursville, Pennsylvania US) Age: 22 - Email

I think that the challenges that Pagans face today are really a bit of everything.

Intolerance from outside groups is a big one. Especially with the usual use of the term "satan worshipper" before they know anything about it. As another post mentioned about Pagan children being teased for their religion. However if it's not one thing, children always find a way to make fun of another. Children make fun of hair color, size, how quiet a child is, etc. not just religion. But it's just one more thing. Adult Pagans face job loss, losing their children, among other things because of their spiritual preference.

Second intolerance from each other. The my spirituality is older than yours and I'm more Pagan than thou seems to popup occasionally. We need to transcend this and not become like some mainstream religions before we can expect acceptance from outside groups.

Thirdly we need to be more public. People expect what they see on television when they meet a Pagan, Wiccan or Witch. Granted, I do enjoy a couple of t.v. shows which portray witchcraft, but what people, especially the young, need to realize is that magick doesn't go up in fireworks and that it isn't all spells. That's one thing I've noticed, people ask about spells when first encountering a Witch not about environmentalism or morality or anything other mainstream religions get asked about. Spells are just a part of it just like prayer is a part of Christianity. Being Pagan is a reverence for life and Earth Mother. They need to realize that it's a religion like any other and that we're just normal people like anyone else.

That's the main thing. We are just normal everyday people with jobs and families. That's what people need to see and realize.

I'm done ranting ;)

Blessed Be
Autumn SilverFerret

From A Christian Point Of View It Sounds Like You Spend More... Apr 24th. at 5:31:02 am EDT

Ellehcar (elf name) (Houston, Texas US) Age: 26 - Email

From a Christian Point of View

It sounds like you spend more time fighting amongust your selves. A single sheet of paper is easy to tear, but a whole phone book is almost impossible to tear. The paper is the phone book is organized into different sections, and each sheet is an individual. Yet the entire book is bound together with a spine, a single thing that unites all the pages. The papers do not fight amoung them selves. Until you can accept your brothers and sisters, you CAN NOT fight the outside world and have a chanse at winning. Just think of what the world would be like if all the Christians accepted one another with out the bickering and fighting, and we are organized with strong comunity roots.

Unity is the key.

All things happen for a reason. In the end, the people who unite will have the final say. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could both get along. I know that most Christians have things incommon with the Nature Worshipers.

External: People That Immediately Become "freaked Out" When They Hear The Word... Apr 24th. at 11:46:05 am EDT

Kerry Marie McGrath (Warren, New Jersey US) Age: 33

EXTERNAL: People that immediately become "freaked out" when they hear the word, "Witch, Wiccan, Wittan, Pagan." And of course, these same people that feel that you're "dancing with the devil" and that they must SAVE you from something. Even if you're just trying to sit down and STUDY.

INTERNAL: People that are "Pagan-y than thou?" Make sense? Need I say more? I have enough of that with the rest of the world.

People, please, let's hear it for John and Yoko, and "give peace a chance."

Peace - Out

Bright Blessings - KMcG

I Agree With So Many Things I Have Read Here. Personally, The... Apr 24th. at 12:43:44 pm EDT

Éowyn Forestchilde (Western, Massachusetts US) Age: 28 - Email

I agree with so many things I have read here. Personally, the biggest challenge that we face is intolerance ... and it comes from both fronts.

The Bible teaches that belief in anything other that its representation of god is incorrect and should not be tolerated. It teaches that followers of any other god should be either taught the light and way of its god or suffer at the hands of its believers. "Thou shall not suffer a witch to live" is something that is expounded upon greatly and is at the heart of the vast majority of the intolerance from society at large. (Of course, we all know that this particular quote was misinterpreted by King James on purpose to support his own personal political agenda, but I digress) We cannot change 2000 years of propaganda in only 70 years ... but we can start. (Please notice that there is no description of the devil in early Christian teachings. They "borrowed" Pan later as a model). Tolerance can only be taught with time and patience (and an attitude that does not include "scaring the normals") ... that and the acceptance of self, which brings me to point number 2.

How can we expect the outside world to tolerate us when we can't even tolerate each other?!?!? I identify as a Solitary, Eclectic Pagan and I get more distain hurled at me because I am not a descendant of the path of So & So or the tradition of Such & Such. Give me a break! Why do we constantly play these "My Gods are better than your Gods" games? Does it matter if one person is a Shaman and another is a Santero? By definition we are all Pagan, whatever the differences. Worse yet are the "Witchier that Thou" types. What gives them that right? Experience? Training? Ego? They believe that it is their Divine Auspice to reign supreme over the clutch. I've got news for you ... we ALL put our pants on one leg at a time. Get over yourselves.

If we want to beat the challenges that we face, we have to do it together. Let's get our collective heads back on our shoulders and when we can tolerate and accept each other only then we will be strong enough to take on the rest of it.

The Biggest Challenge We Have To Face From The Outside Or Inside... Apr 24th. at 4:07:20 pm EDT

Iko. And its my birthday today! (Chicago, Illinois US) Age: 37 - Email

The biggest challenge we have to face from the outside or inside is fear. Christianity and some of the other "mainstream" religions did (and many still do) a really good job of linking the term "witch" or "pagan" with all things evil. (Oh, I know there are those who cry "quit Christian bashing" I am not bashing, I merely state the truth.) Christians and their related "mainstream" religious ilk have had 2000 years (give or take a few millennia) to spread disinformation for their own agendas (i.e. power, land, money - the sex, drugs and rock and roll of the dark and many other ages). We as Pagans have had a fraction of that time to stand up for ourselves without whatever government that might currently be in charge burning, hanging or killing us in some other rather unpleasant fashion. Gods, there are parts of this world where "witches" are still murdered and the governments turn a blind eye. There are parts of the US where I for one would not want to hold a ritual in the town square for fear of being stoned (or beer canned) to death. Will we change the public perception? Sure we will. It will take time and really good press. But it will happen. Which leads me to our biggest internal problem fear and our missed opportunities at really good press. Why is press our biggest problem? Well, if we knew how to keep it good that would mean we knew how to control ourselves and get along. Witchcraft and paganism are for now and a long time to come going to be easy targets for the press. The topics SELL. We are the ones that can either make that press good, or feed the fires that cause the age old lies to be written about us. Attempts at power grabbing are always done (and I do mean ALWAYS) by an individual with more need of a short term ego boost than common, karmic or any other type of sense. The 'witchier than thou attitude' is a great indication of the type of individual who will lead not only to internal Pagan strife, but also a person who will very likely cause us bad Pagan press, which is a very bad circle. The religions that fall under the umbrella term of "Pagan" tend to attract those who already are "marching to a different drummer." This is a great thing. And I in no way am saying this should not be celebrated. No great art, music or literature was created by those who just plod along with the rest of the herd of humanity. However, our groups often appear as wolf packs encountering other wolf packs. We revert in these instances to the Christian and other mainstream idea and ideal that there can only be one alpha male and one alpha female, and that all others must be subservient. Other "packs" are feared and the solitary Witch or Pagan is seen by many of these "established" Pagan groups as the "lone wolf" and is feared: will that "outsider" or "new comer" somehow dethrone the alpha male or female? Will she or he steal away the rest of the pack or the food? This fear inevitably leads to bad press. How do we fix this internal problem of fear of the "other?" The answer is really simple and hard to swallow at the same time, as the answer is time. I truly believe we are in our Pagan infancy, and we will evolve and grow up with the world around us. There are individuals out there (and I have met many personally) who have an "in-your-face" attitude regarding how they want the world to view their Paganism. Common sense goes a long way here - and boy I bet I am going to get mail on this one but I would say that if you are in a position of public "trust" (such as being a school teacher for grade schoolers) it would probably be best if you don't publish sky-clad photos of you and your coven on the internet. This is one example of in-your-paganism that just might be better left to the coven scrap book. Of course it is your call and your legal right but actions such as those effect all of us. The world will get more comfortable with us as the world realizes the stuff they have been fed by "mainstream" religions for all these millennia is basically bunk (and for those who think I am Christian bashing - I am pretty darn sure if he were here today Christ would agree with me). We by our very natures are the kids who were the "different" ones growing up. We may have felt things more deeply and profoundly than those around us. We likely saw the world in an entirely different way than did most of our peers. Many of us through hard learned experience found it can be better and easier to be secretive, to keep to ourselves and to jealously guard what we consider "ours." These can be hard guards to let down. My biggest suggestion to those of us who do somehow find ourselves as having a public Pagan voice is to first tell the world what we are not. Before we even begin to start on the whole "we are not devil worshipping baby killers" we need to say that we are not representing anyone but ourselves (or our coven or small organization). We need to acknowledge the vast Pagan majority, our sisters and brothers who would prefer not to have anyone speak "for" them - but are more than happy to have you give them good press. This can be a tough tight ropewalk. Truth is a wonderful thing. Slowly the outside will see that we are not to be feared and that we are not anything like what they have been told. As we grow up too, we will find our footing and hopefully the internal battles will die away and we will become as accepting of each other as we want the "outside" world to be us.

I Feel That The Only Thing That Keeps Us From Moving Up... Apr 24th. at 11:12:15 pm EDT

Shadow Walker (bronx, New York US) Age: 19 - Email

I feel that the only thing that keeps us from moving up in this grand ol' world
we live in is our total lack of unity. Witch wars run rampant, egos blow sky
high, and those of us with no intrest in those things remian in the shadows.
And yes the thought of orginized religion is out of the question, and ludicrous.
But we as a people should be orginized, nae we must be orginized. It seems the pagan community, at lest those in my area, has given up. My loves, the Goddess
needs a voice in this country, and I alone can't give it to her. I say we need
to stop the petty sqabbling, for the Gods alone can not preserve the Caft, what ever you definition of Craft may be. Envoke the Tidal Force Of Thy Soul!

Well, Externally Most Of Us Would Agree That Public Reception Of Our... Apr 25th. at 12:53:49 am EDT

Rain (Hubbard, Ohio US) Age: 38 - Email

Well, externally most of us would agree that public reception of our paths is a well as the recent political slant. I would love to see more voices more unafraid to walk proud. To do away with the phrase "in the closet".

So I beleive that most of what yu have said externally I totally agree with...but to me the big one is just secureing our freedom to be.

As far as internal...well that is a bit like the above one...being silent. Although I understand all the reasons and respect them...silence does not always get change. And the misinfo and petty squabbling. I also think soem of the frivoulous lawsuits that occur and grab the media attention hurt us too. There are not alot but by virtue of mentioning wicca or the craft or anything alternative it gets attention. I also would like a better groundwork laid for people, youths especially, to learn and grow with this choice. There is alot out there that is crap.

And I do thin kat times we are our own enemies. But that could be true of any path or race or sex....

I Think Sectarianism Is One Of The Biggest Challenges. We Get All... Apr 25th. at 2:43:59 am EDT

Nathan (Wichita, Kansas US) Age: 20 - Email

I think sectarianism is one of the biggest challenges. We get all hung up on traditions or lack of. Take the main Yahoo chat room (the one not created by users). For a long time it was very harmonious, the only people one had to worry about trying to stir up conflict were the fundimentalist Christians, which is easy just to ignore them. Now it is practically a fight room for pagans. Traditionalists argue with the eclectics, thelemites argue with Wiccans, the necronomicon types argue about how powerful they are, the newbies are simply regarded as fluffy bunnies and rejected. And it really cheeses me off. What happened to all the love and tolerance and all that. We sit there and worry about the radical religious right when if they ever took over with thier theocracy or what have you, all we have to do is fake it (like most of them do anyway) for a while and make sure they don't get back in office at election time. They're so weak now any way that they couldn't mount a succesful campaign to order a pizza. like the question said, "We have met the enemy and he/she is us."

The Greatest External And Internal Threats To Paganism Are Ignorance. Externally, Outsiders... Apr 25th. at 1:47:16 pm EDT

John (New Naumkeag) Age: 33 - Email

The greatest external and internal threats to paganism are ignorance. Externally, outsiders still think we are satanists or evil magicians or befuddled idolaters. Or, they think we are a bunch of nuts who prance in a vapid fantasy world of pseudo-religion. And that latter perception seems to flow directly from the greatest internal threat to paganism, namely...

Internally, we are ignorant about our Truest nature as religion.

* * *

The issue thus is not one of diversity. A religion which knows its Truest nature can have tremendous diversity --even bickering or worse diversity-- and thrive.

For examples, consider the pagan religions of the east, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, etc. They each have great diversity and great dissension, but they also each thrive.

For a specific example, consider the pagan religion of Hinduism. Theologically, Hinduism encompasses animism, polytheism, henotheism, duotheism, monotheism, pantheism, agnosticism and atheism; also, many Hindus regard the God(s) as real; others regard Them as symbolic; and others regard Them as mere myth. Yet, in all their diverse theologies, they are all Hindus. Furthermore, Hinduism encompasses diverse practices: some Hindus practice through ritual worship, some through loving-devotion, some through work, some through knowledge, some through meditation and magic, and so on. Yet, in all their diverse religious practices, they are all Hindus. And, Hinduism has a great variety of traditions, some ancient, some brand new, some ethnically or regionally based, and some universal. Yet, in all their diverse traditions, they are Hindus. And over all these things, they bicker and quarrel and sometimes even commit violence; yet they are all Hindu. Et cetera.

Hinduism and the other pagan religions of the east have diversity (and dissension), yet they are each unified and functional. And the key, in my opinion, is that each has a clear, underlying idea of itself as religion. Usually, that idea is supplemented by a sacred scripture. But, as Buddhism clearly shows, first there comes the idea, then comes the scripture to discuss that idea.

Hence, the key for pagan religions to thrive despite (and often because) of their diversity seems to be whether the religion possess a clear, underlying, unifying idea of itself. And that, in turn, depends upon whether the religion knows its Truest nature as religion.

Now, consider our paganism.

The paganism of the west (western civilization) consists of several religions (Asatru, Druidism, Wicca, Witchcraft, etc.), each of which have little unity within their respective religions. Moreover, our paganism as a whole has even less unity. This is even more telling since, in my opinion, we have much more in common than in our differences. And we have little unity, in my opinion, because we have no clear, underlying idea of ourselves as religion. We have many ideas *about* paganism, but we have no idea *of* paganism.

In short, we are ignorant about our Truest nature as religion.

* * *

Our self-ignorance is not surprising, for three reasons:

1. Paganism (this form) is only 50 years old, and thus it hasn’t had time to work out or discern its Truest nature yet.
2. Many pagans --maybe a large minority, maybe a majority-- are young (under 30), and as individuals they have not yet experienced the range of stages of life from which to cull different forms of wisdom about their religion.
3. Paganism starts with individual awareness of the immanence of the Divine, not with a revelation from the transcendent aspect of the Divine, and thus it is much more prone to diverse interpretation by all those individuals ... for boon or for bane ... till a clear, underlying, unifying idea is matured from that diversity.

Therefore, for paganism to dissolve its ignorance about its Truest nature as religion, paganism must mature as religion.

* * *

Hence, the issue truly is: “How shall paganism mature as religion?”

I suppose at this point I should remark that some would prefer paganism to be just a shaman-like vocation of magic-working. Others might prefer it to be just a way to empower women. Others might prefer it to be just a way to save the environment. Et cetera. Here I will limit my response to this: these things --Nature, the Female, Magic, and the like-- are by themselves good but they are not religions. Instead, they are, at most, theophanies: doors for encountering the Divine. But, the door is not the destination; the door is only the point of departure for a journey that leads to a destination. And it is the destination and the journey to get there that is the stuff of religion and what concerns me here.

* * *

The first part to addressing the issue of ‘how shall paganism mature as religion’ is time.

Normally, pagan religions mature organically. (For examples, I again proffer the pagan religions of the east, as well as the primal paganisms that arose worldwide before the spread of monotheism.) In this process, people of a religion --individually and as a whole-- go through time and the stages of life and a process of trial and error, and they thereby discern their religion.

Specifically, a religion matures when it discerns a concept of itself, namely: *how* to relate people to each other and to the Divine, by and through and because of the Divine, and thence back unto the world. And, from that discernment, there must also come mechanisms for implementing a religion’s concept of itself, through all aspects of being human and human life. That is a tall order to fill.

Over centuries, religions can fill such an order organically.

Hence, the tremendous diversity within paganism today seems to hold the promise of a kind of natural selection and survival of the fittest regarding how paganism shall mature as a religion. Over time, it would seem, the answer would sort itself out organically.

However, I don’t think our paganism has time to mature solely organically. I don’t think we have centuries to let things work out on their own. Instead, I think we have about a generation to mature as religion. Otherwise, I think that paganism shall fail as religion: in its individual members and as a whole.

In its individual members, I think paganism could fail (unless we mature quickly as religion) by increasing dissatisfaction of pagans with paganism. Specifically, I think we shall increasingly see pagans quietly leaving paganism for other religions, ones that have clear concepts of themselves as religions and mechanisms for implementing their concepts. Yes, I know there is much talk about paganism growing quickly, how its members might be up to a million in the U.S., etc. But, I have also seen (but seen no coverage of) that there are pagans who *leave* paganism. I have already seen this happen in some pagans, and they were not just “fluff-bunnies” or dabblers or kids “going through a phase.” They were serious, sincere people who left paganism to find religious depth and scope that they decided they could not find in paganism. And, I’m noticing this more and more. Hence, if paganism does not mature as religion, I predict that this trend of quiet leaving will continue and grow, especially over the next generation as the bulk of pagans (who are now in their teens, 20s or early 30s) go through the middle and later stages of life and require religious depth that they might not be able to find in paganism’s current state of development.

As a whole, I think paganism could fail (unless we mature quickly as religion) by the disappearance of the conditions which gave rise to paganism. The needs in western civilization which seem to have given rise to paganism -- a need to integrate the individual with Nature, a need to recognize the Female, and a need to acknowledge and develop the Magical and Mystical sides of life-- will be increasingly met by the monotheistic religions and the other mainstream mechanisms in western civilization. Indeed, such is already occurring: environmentalism is increasingly percolating into mainstream consciousness; women are increasingly treated with fairness and respect in mainstream life; and the monotheistic religions are beginning to dust off and revitalize their mystical (and, hence often, magical) traditions. Yes, there will always be those who, for whatever reason, do not “fit into” mainstream institutions, including monotheistic religions. Nevertheless, I predict that these trends in the larger society shall also continue and grow. Hence, absent the conditions in which paganism arose and absent any further development of paganism as religion, paganism as religion could well fail as a whole... similar to when an organism fails to adapt to a changing environment.

For both sets of trends --individual and societal-- the time-frame seems (in my opinion) to be the next 10-30 years. Thus, I think paganism in the west has about a generation to mature as religion, or it will fail as religion: as individuals quietly drift to other religions which work for them, and as the wider society’s mechanisms meet the needs which paganism arose to fill.

* * *

The second part to addressing the issue of ‘how shall paganism mature as religion’ is trying to articulate the version of the Ultimate Question that paganism seeks to answer.

An ‘Ultimate Question’ is one that gets to the gist of how a religion approaches its function --namely, relating its members to the Divine and to each other, by and through and because of the Divine, and thence back unto to the world (i.e., in all aspects of human life). And I call it an “Ultimate Question” because religion deals with Ultimate Issues arising from Ultimate Reality.

Consider then that religions can be seen as attempts to answer Ultimate Questions. Hence, for example, Judaism can be seen as an answer to the question, “How can mankind better live with each other in a Godly way?” Christianity can be seen as an answer to “How can mankind better love God?” Islam, “How can mankind better submit to God?” Taoism: “How can people live in harmony with the Way of all?” Buddhism, “How can people live so that Truth (and an absence of suffering) become self-evident?” Hinduism, “How can people realize Truth?” Etc.

Thus, what Ultimate Question does western paganism seek to answer?

Put another way, what *version* of the Ultimate Question does paganism seek to answer?

Frankly, if paganism can ever articulate its version of the Ultimate Question, it will provide the answer... not only to the question itself but also to the question of whether paganism can overcome its current threats of internal and external ignorance and thus survive as religion. And that is because a religion’s version of the Ultimate Question is the articulation of its Truest nature as religion.

* * *

Thus, the third part to addressing the issue of ‘how shall paganism mature as religion’ is the most important: discernment of our Truest nature as religion.

If we discern what we are most Truly about, we shall be able to articulate and answer our version of the Ultimate Question. That, in turn, will give us a central, underlying, unifying idea upon which we could thrive as religion. And if we do that in a timely manner (say, within the next 10-30 years), we have a chance of surviving as religion. Hence, we must dissolve our self-ignorance. And we can do that only through discerning what we are about, in the Truest sense, as religion.

How to do so? If it is granted that groups of people can tend to behave like individual people (for examples, nations or organizations can be said to have “personalities”, etc.), it would be wise for us to look at the process of discernment that individual people undergo.

The process of discernment seems to be a dynamic of activity and passivity, which is consciously directed toward discovering the truth, and which is culminated by decision. Activity (study, interaction, communication, experimentation, etc.) is the means for acquiring data. Passivity (reflection, analysis, etc.) is the means for sifting through the data. Activity and passivity, thus, act in a dynamic harmony: taking in experience and then processing it, and then taking in more and analyzing it, and so on. The conscious direction keeps the focus of the process. The culminating decision makes the process purposeful by preventing it from going on indefinitely.

Regarding paganism, then, I think that we are in the process of discernment of our Truest nature as religion BUT that we must become conscious of this. We already have much activity --both in existence of the specific pagan religions (Asatru, Druidism, Wicca, Witchcraft, etc. and their various traditions) and in interaction (physically, such as festivals and open circles and groves or covens, etc. and in communication, such as websites, etc.). And we have some reflection and analysis. But, we seem to be unconscious of the fact that we are simply going through a process of discernment as religion, which itself is simply part of a greater process of maturation as religion.

Only by becoming conscious of what we are going through --a process of discernment about the Truest nature of paganism as religion-- will we be able to undertake that process successfully within the limited time we effectively have to mature.

Thus, the third part of ‘how we shall paganism mature as religion’ is, in reality, the first step: we *must* consciously discern our Truest nature as religion. If we do so, we could then have the self-knowledge to articulate our version of the Ultimate Question. With that articulation, we would then have a clear, underlying, unifying idea that could in turn give us unity as religion and a basis for thriving.

* * *

A possible stop-gap method of discerning our Truest nature as religion is what I addressed in an essay (“Whithersoever Our Lammas”) that was posted at this website earlier this year.

In it, I suggested that one of the most practical things would be for pagans of the west to look to pagans of the east. The eastern forms of paganism didn’t fail in the face of Christianity and Islam, as did the old forms of western paganism, and they thrive today in urban and modern environments ... similar to ones in which we live. For both reasons, pagans of the east could teach the pagans of the west a lot.

So, I suggested that we should look to pagans of the east (Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, etc.), shamelessly borrow what works, and cobble together a naked syncretism from eastern materials (especially Hinduism) and western materials (especially the Perennial Philosophy). That would give us *something* that works as mature, pagan religion till we have time (a century or two) to truly make something of our own.

* * *

In conclusion, I think that the greatest threat, internally and externally, to paganism in the west is ignorance of our Truest nature as religion. It is not our diversity. In religions which have a clear, underlying, unifying idea, the diversity becomes commentary on that idea. However, in current western paganism, there is no clear, underlying, unifying idea yet. Our youth as a religion (and in many of our members) makes this understandable. However, paganism must dissolve its self-ignorance within about a generation, lest it fail as a whole and lest individual members quietly drift away to something that does know what it is. Hence, the organic process of discernment that any new religion undergoes must be quickened in paganism by consciously seeking to discern its Truest nature as religion. With that self-knowledge, we could articulate our own version of the Ultimate Question and thereby provide ourselves with a clear, underlying, unifying idea that would also be the basis for future growth.

I’ll close by stating the obvious. It is we who must do all of this; it is we who must Craft all of this. We have no avatar, nor prophet, nor much of a past, nor guarantees of a future. Realizing that is, perhaps, the price we must pay if are to stand in the World Between the Worlds: between Form and Essence, with one foot in each but never fully in either, in the fulcrum of Free Will and Destiny. But if we are willing to pay that price, the rest can follow. What we can have, if we seek it, is Truth. What we can achieve, if we Craft it, is a doorway to Truth. But it is we who must seek it, and we who must Craft it, and it is we and our posterity who must Realize it, in this our present life.

Blessed Be.

New Naumkeag, U.S.A.
25 April 2001

The Greatest External Challenge We Face Today Is Lack Of Accurate Educaiton... Apr 25th. at 5:03:53 pm EDT

Autumn Wren (Denver, Colorado US) Age: 26 - Email

The greatest external challenge we face today is lack of accurate educaiton about Paganism/Wicca/Witchcraft. I think many people, when they hear the words "pagan, " or, "witch, " still think of a negative image. I think that stereotype is gonna take a long time to go away. It may not ever. All we can do is continue to educate those who want to learn and hope understanding will spread from there.
The greatest internal challenge we face today is perhaps a sense of direction in the political arena. I think the lack of a structure and a lack of a heirarchy are great gives us the opportunity to retain the flexibility that so many "religions" do not have. It is one of our greatest assets. However, I think that the Pagan Community as a whole could really fight for change - both political and social - if we all had one organization to rally around. How we make that happen I don't know. But I think it would give us a clear direction for all of our efforts.

I'm Fairly New To Paganism So I Can't Really Comment On Internal... Apr 26th. at 1:31:45 am EDT

Big John (South Amboy, New Jersey US) Age: 40

I'm fairly new to paganism so I can't really comment on internal challenges. But, I believe that I've seen enough to make some comments on the external challenges.

It seems obvious that the Christian Fundimentalists are a dangerous group not because they disagree with our various paths, but because of their closed minded intolerance for any ideas not their own. Fortunately, more and more people are seeing their "I'm right and anyone who doesn't agree is evil" attitude for what it is.

What concerns me more is corporate greed and the political lust for power. While there are many different pagans and different paths I feel comfortable in saying that as a group pagans tend to be liberal, free thinking, politically outspoken, and value the Earth and the environment. All things that stand in the way of big money and political power. Our history is full of cases of an outspoken minority being silenced because they stood in the way of a church, government, or corporation.

In a lot of ways it would be wonderful to have a greater voice in the political world, but it comes with a price - we would lose our anonymity. A dangerous thing in the world that we live in. Perhaps it's not time to come out of the broom closet just yet.

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