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Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Nov. 17, 2002   This Page Viewed: 5,574,264  

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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 


Yes, Thankfully Apr 9th. at 11:22:27 am UTC

Thomas D. Jones (Las Vegas NV) Age: 26 - Email


" A mob is a creature with a million legs and one brain cell "- Robert Heinlein.
Why not? At the core of my heart there are a handful of people whom I prize above all others. I love people as much as possible; but these ( perhaps twenty or so ) I would do and have done anything for.
I have done rituals and raisings with only a few of them. I have made the brave and often vain attempt to be with covens, mostly by drifting in with them. It never gets much further than that. On my side I must say that the God is very much with me, I am inquisitive, open with my feelings and opinions, and I don't shy away from challenges, perceived or real. I know that those qualities, and the negatives that come with them, rub decent peaceful folk the wrong way.
I have terrified people before with my emotions, though I never intend it. Friends have said before that they have seen my eyes glow red, or have lightning flashing in them when I am angered or displeased. I play this to the hilt and no matter what I do or where I am in a ritual I am whatever I am called upon to embody. I am rewarded for this, the deities love me and prove it every day I live.
I gave up on Christianity when I was seven. I wasn't really raised Christian but my parents were at the time. We were allowed to make a conscious choice. I drifted for a few years but got an interest in mythology and philosophy - so, at the age of ten I reasoned that the gods worshiped by the ancient civilizations were as real to them as God and Jesus were to people now. I wondered if they were still alive, and I got the answer immediately: a powerful prsence entered my mind and said, " YES, we all still live."
Well.
So I went on for another eight years testing my spiritual limits and mental limits, always being guided by my patrons
( at the time, Apollo and Artemis ) , consuming as much as was available to me of theology, and philosophy. Classical, Eastern, African Animism, Hinduism, Cherokee and Sioux beliefs ( I have a bit of both tribes but it is largely drowned out by the Irish in me ) , even Christian and Jewish and Muslim thought. In retrospect, I shoulda spent more time paying attention to Calculus and Biology. But no, it was not to be, when I wans't poring over scriptures I was reading Heinlein and Herbert and Zelazny and Moor*** and all the Conan ( Mr Howard and Mr. DeCamp ) I could get my grubby hands on. I lifted weights, I studied aiki-jitsu and moo doo kwan.
So, you see, I am a product of an environment that I created for myself. A lot of Pagans became that way as a result of a conscious choice. I am one of them. A lot of Pagans were introduced to the concepts of magic and self-mastery and wisdom by fantasy and science fiction writers. I am one of them. Many pagans are either part of the hippie generation or the children and grandchildren of that generation. I am one of them.
The issue lies at the feet of those facts. It is in the nature of our religions. We arrived at these conclusions because we sought the truth, both inside and outside ourselves. In organization we are not allowed to act on our personal beliefs and desires; we may not seize hold of the organization's power to use as we see fit. Those covens that are organized, and those churches that are organized are most likely filled with people who need something to belong to. People like that are simply begging to be misused and abused.
I haven't seen many covens. I've investigated a handful of them. There always seems to be someone in the group who has a desire that he or she believes can be fulfilled by the coven or group. Most times, it's something positive. But I steer well clear ( and you all would do well to do the same ) from groups that make themselves public, or who insist on the fulfilment of childish sexual desires, or who use mind-alterants, or who make a living off of their position.
As a group, we are nothing but malleable by the will of those we have placed in authority over us. Systems and rules ensure that only those most capable of manipulating the system will rise to the top.

As individuals, acting to the same end, we are unstoppable.


Plea. Apr 9th. at 11:14:54 am UTC

Drewsilla (Woodstock) Age: 15 - Email


My parents would freaksoi so I mostly keep to my self. sometimes i talk with my friend about it but they think that im a little strang.
I love to write poems but you cant hear them.
Ok maybe one......

When I sleep I live

When I wake I dream

Forever to be in the daze of sleep

I am all that is

I live and dream

The way that I want to live would never be accepted where I am.

So all I do is dream.


Huh? Apr 8th. at 11:07:55 pm UTC

Lugh Branwen (Brooklyn NY) Age: 34 - Email


Individualism is one of the things that Make the Current Pagan Movement such an attractive Spiritual path to begin with. One of the things that Mucked up Paganism in the past was the fact it BECAME an organized, State-Mandated religion.
Then The Monotheists capitalised on that dissatisfaction (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) gathering converts when Our Ancestors (Wink WInk Nudge nudge) were feeling a bit too stiffled in the regimented old religion.
Now the Monotheist religions are having the backlash and Many of Us are leaving the Stiffling shackles to pursue a faith that allows people to decide for themselves what they believe and why.
I think at this point, we should remember where we Mucked up and avoid those mistakes.


A Most Perplexing Question Apr 8th. at 8:06:57 pm UTC

Copper Lion (Los Angeles, CA) Age: 51 - Email


The more I thought about it the more unsettled it made me. As many of us Pagans know, we are by nature very individualistic. That's the driving force that makes us what we are. Would you ask if the great cats (i.e. Lions Tigers, Pumas, etc.) are too carnivorous? I have often pondered the differance between our modern, congested urban, technological society and the late stone age tribal society of our ancestors. You might call those ancient societies our "spiritual roots". Today, as individuals, we are costantly bombarded by media and institutional conditioning designed to get people to confom to what ever agenda is being promoted. We can choose to either "tow the line" or question, analyze and decide for ourselves. But often either choice is made alone in a somewhat isolated void created by our technology and "me " oriented economic society. It's hard to feel a sense of belonging or responsability towards something that only exists as a concept. Our ancestors seemed to have had a much more tactile basis for their decision making, survival for one. Kinship and mutual support also probably played a prominent role in the thought process. It's a lot easier to consider the "Good of the Group" when the Group is physicaly surrounding and supporting you. To sum it up, I have no definitive answer. Only more questions.


Where The Line Is Apr 8th. at 6:52:15 pm UTC

Dragonfly (Texarkana) Age: 19 - Email


Pagans as a whole are a little to individulistic. But so are others. We are humans and as a result no two humans are the same, ever will be, or ever can be. We all have different experiences in life that shape our views, beliefs, and attitudes. The Pagan curse is knowing this. All Pagans realize this, which is good, but it also seperates us from each other.

We as a religious community will unite one day, I know this in my heart and my mind. Hopefully when we unite we will do it without any destruction to our individuality. But as a community we NEED to come together and perhaps what unites us can be our individuality. But as humans we need to know and understand the word compromise. For it is only when we give and take things ever get done.

Follow the light--Dragonfly


Inspired Thoughts On My Self Apr 8th. at 1:10:57 pm UTC

Sheisskerl (Atlanta, GA) Age: 20 - Email


I feel that I am on the more extreme end of the individualistic spectrum, but being a virgo I find myself going along with the crowd quite often. Anyways, reading everyone's entries gave me a little inspiration this morning, so I thought it fitting to share with all of you...

( yes, this is a poem, now you've been warned =P )

-----

Hark and hello, it is my Self.
Yes, I'm back once again;
But I have not found our home.

I saw the Other; she had
a most beautiful face.
I sought to see
the capacity
of her warm Embrace.

As there was room for me,
I had hope,
room too for you...
but no.

That was taken
by another
And I am left
to recover...

With you, Self--

Fill our wounds
with strands of Order.
And call the mind
to put up a defensive border.

For you, Self, I am sorry.
As for me, all I have is regret.

I ***ed up again,
Maybe next time,
That is life?

I'll get back to my feet--
to you, Self, I am forever in debt.

-----

take care!
Sheisskerl


Individualism And Responsibilty Apr 8th. at 12:32:49 pm UTC

Rev. Jeva Singh-Anand (Sioux City, IA) Age: 37 - Email - Web


To me, the relevant question here is where to draw the line between individualism and selfishness and irresponsibility. A religious movement, such as neopaganism, that values the worth of individual self-expression needs to place an equally great value on individual responsibility.

We must be responsible to model our values to nonpagans, to build and maintain our own religious communities, to take care of each other and ourselves, to reach out to people from other faiths (not to proselytize, but to fellowship) , and to proactively work to make our neighborhoods and cities better places to live in.

Unfortunately, that seems to be too much work for some characters who hope to find in Paganism a spiritual free ride.

What does it matter whether this group does the charge of the goddess differently from another, or whether the initiator pushes or pulls you into the circle? Those are all points of ritual each group or solitary must decide individually.

What is important is that we recognize the individual worth of each individual we meet.

Every man and woman is a star.
Namaste.
Love thy neighbor as thou lovest thyself.
My civilization has taught me that all men are ambassadors of God.

End of sermon. Quiz Thursday.


The Importance Of Being An Individual Apr 8th. at 11:30:41 am UTC

amy (southampton, england) Age: 22 - Email


The simple truth is that individualism is necessary to the survival of the Pagan faiths as they are. One of the greatest things about our beliefs is that they are in a process of continuous evolution. If it were not for the determination of our community to pursue their individual paths, I suspect Paganism would already be out of date.

To say that we are too individualistic would imply that we all need a set of parameters or criteria by which we define ourselves. This would threaten the inclusiveness of the Pagan umbrella. Even with the most traditional covens, you join because the nature of the coven's workings are best for you, not because it is orthodox or conventional. It's great that no tradition can lay claim to being the 'one true way', as it were, because this promotes tolerance.

Having read Kerr Cuhulain's series on Christian fundamentalists, I am aware of the dangers posed by fundamentalism of all kinds. These people are convinced that there is only one correct way to worship. I am afraid that if our community began to introduce restrictions on methods of worship, fundamentalism would increase.

With things as they are, I don't have to join a coven or group where I feel uncomfortable or where there is major disagreement. I believe everyone finds their own path to the Divine. Sometimes working with a coven can be beneficial and sometimes not, but compelling people to form into groups - or indeed to do anything - would be anathema to Paganism. Many of us, as other people here have said, have come out of restrictive and rule-driven faiths. I feel it is important for us to maintain the level of tolerance for individualism that we have in order to keep our faiths from becoming like those we have left behind.

The one thing it seems we must watch for, judging by the stories on here so far, is tolerance within a working group. Practising your individual faith does not mean imposing this onto everyone else you know, because they have their own ways as well. In groups, as in all relationships, I think the best thing to do is reach a compromise. Eventually a group finds its own way of working.

Bright Blessings,
Amy


Each To Their Own!! Apr 8th. at 6:33:59 am UTC

Silver Raven (Jo Marriott) (Nottingham, England) Age: 21 - Email - Web


I forget which author said it, but this is a quote I find appropriate in many situations - "The individual person is highly intelligent...but people as a group are stupid."
This is too true. As individuals we are unique and have the right to be so, which is one reason why I was originally attracted to the Old Religion, one is free to be oneself. But put a group of people together to make decisions about things (for want of a better example, a government) and things start going wrong. Democracy is all well and good, but a group set up to decide the right and wrongs for everyone to live by is NEVER going to please everyone and therefore things like crime will never be totally erradicated. Sad but true.
So Pagans, I feel, have the right idea with believing it's OK to do what you want, as long as your intentions are pure. But like everything in life, moderation is the key. Don't be so individual that you cut yourself off from the outside world - everyone needs someone at some point in life. Otherwise you may just become very sad and very lonely.


Individualism Apr 7th. at 10:32:34 pm UTC

Katherine ( (wish I weren't in) Canada) Age: 47 - Email


Given the vastly infinite array of the Goddess' creation, how can we not be individuals? I have found that, all too often, in any group, there is what is known as 'identity thinking' in operation: that is, individuality tends to be elided in accordance with some ideology that supposedly informs that group. Even among Pagans, it is often taken for granted that, for instance, certain political stances are ubiquitous, or at least shared by all members of a given group. It's not so, and it's important to be able to disagree without disrespect for the positions of others. Often, I think, people are unable to do so, and so what happens is that the yellers dominate or the quieter ones, fearing lest they offend, do not offer what could be valuable insights on any issue.


No Such Thing As Too Individualtistic Apr 7th. at 9:25:57 pm UTC

lilith (lost angeles) Age: 33 - Email


when it comes to spiritual concerns i think the rampant individualism in paganism is a great and powerful thing, because ultimately all spiritual paths are personal.

when it comes to groups, however, i dont think pagans are any more individual than anyone else-- i have observed its simply a matter of personality, and if yr personality is extremely social or you tend to join, then being a pagan wont make you less prone to doing so, and if yr the kind of person who is really individualistic you will always be so.

i think the points made earlier, about the fact that nearly all pagans are in a position of rejecting the society around them because of their spiritual views, makes pagans look more individualistic than they necessarily are. i think the essay topics on pagan community shows this to be true-- i for one am not at all keen in linking up with other pagans, and i dont see any need for pagan community, but others clearly feel it would be a good idea to join together in some way, for the good of all. my reasons are hinged very much upon my experience within christianity, and my observations that groups can be extremely stifling to spiritual progress and to the search for Truth. others do not have that experience [or personality quirk].

in any case, i did enjoy reading some of the earlier posts on this subject, particularly TishMaran's writing about hinduism and buddhism-- extremely informative for pagans and witches.

) O (


I Don't Think We Are TOO Individualistic. Apr 7th. at 2:55:16 pm UTC

Maleciah (Oregon) Age: 25 - Email


I think that due to the fact that most pagans have chosen their own path and not been told it gives us a broader base to create understanding.. no, I think we are just fine.


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