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Article ID: 5505
Age Group: Adult
Posted: February 17th. 2003
Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost...
I'll begin this week's column with a few words of thanks. I appreciate all of the feedback that I receive from our readers whether that comes in the form of praise or critique. It is always nice to hear that someone read a piece and something clicked. It is also gratifying to get constructive criticism. I don't mind that at all. Any thoughts that I may offer up here should never be considered the carved-in-granite absolute final words concerning any topic. They are just my current take or theories on various issues. Either way --whether you agree with my premise on a particular subject or not -- the point is that you took the time to read it -- and to hopefully think about it -- and then perhaps to respond in some way. So, thank you.
Since I devoted some previous column time to the topics of cultural integrity and the preservation of indigenous peoples and lore, I feel it only fair to use a bit of cyberspace here to address what many see as the other side of the coin: Eclectics. (Many Eclectics, in fact, wrote and asked me 'to please be fair' and so, this one is for you.)
I did receive quite a bit of mail from Pagan Eclectics of various beliefs who were alternately confused and miffed over what I wrote. Some of this correspondence indeed falls under the definition of what I would consider constructive criticism. Some of it was a bit more...er... pointed than that. If one could condense all of the things that I have been called into one phrase, I guess I could now put E.F.B. after my name. Although how exactly one can be both 'elitist' and a 'fluffy-bunny' at the same time is a new paradigm that I had not considered before. And I don't intend on considering it now or at any time in the future. I just like to think about things from many different angles and that is really all there is to that charge.
Eclectics seem to be the new bad guys in the neighborhood these days. As the Pagan communities become more and more engaged in issues of historical accuracy and cultural integrity, various factions are increasingly elbowing Eclectics in their philosophical ribs. Some of the criticism leveled at Eclectics in general may indeed be warranted. But some of it is not. Many of the self-identified Eclectics who wrote to me were actually quite intelligent and not at all the fluffy type.
For instance, they * have* indeed read Ronald Hutton's works and some of these Eclectics even have earned Ph.D.'s in various fields. They did not consider themselves to be robbers and thieves. Their personal beliefs were myriad and different from one another in all ways but one. To a person, each Eclectic who wrote to me on this topic described him or herself as a 'seeker'. And that is important.
While not very many individuals today can say that their family line or cultural heritage remains totally pure from the introduction of other nationalities or gene pools or of at least some cultural syncretism, many people -- and many Pagans -- have more or less settled on one family line or cultural heritage from which to draw their religious beliefs and customs. And that's a good thing. The preservation, reclaiming or reconstructing of cultural heritage is, as I have previously proposed, an important movement towards the further preservation of diversity in all of its forms.
But that stance also brings up an interesting conundrum. If the preservation of unique cultures is a positive element in the world of diversity, why isn't the diversity of spiritual beliefs within an individual considered in the same positive light?
Well, we've all seen the Slash-Slash Clan: These are the ones who describe themselves as Celtic-slash-Shaman-slash-Witch-slash-Taoist. And I'm sure some other folks have thought (and occasionally screeched), "Jeez, make up your minds already! Just make a choice, dammit, and go with that!" Lots of grumbling and acrimony usually follows. How can anyone not know exactly what he/she believes in? Or do they just believe in anything or the latest fad or -- perhaps as a hedge -- in everything?
From what I have heard, it is not that Eclectics do not know what they believe in. (They can articulate it quite well.) And they do not believe in just anything or everything. (They are surprisingly selective.) And what they believe does in fact very much matter to them. (They are among the most devoted of practitioners in that they do much of their spiritual work alone and absent of any group support.) The key to understanding the Eclectic is in how they describe themselves: They are Seekers.
Even where Eclectics have more or less settled on some particulars in worship or devotion, they are still very open to other forms and modes and paths to divinity. It is not that they cannot decide what to 'be'; it is that they see 'being' as an open-ended journey of exploration and discovery. Often, they are working without a safety net.
Eclectics find wisdom in many forms and from many sources. In a fashion, they are quite courageous in their steadfast insistence to remain free to explore and to question and to determine for themselves what spiritual roads to walk. There aren't many signposts on such a journey. All that they have to guide them is a thirst for knowledge and a need to discover 'what's out there'.
That is not to say -- or to dismiss the criticisms -- that all those who self-identify as Eclectics are so high-minded. There are those who really are basically lazy or unfocused or 'unwilling to do the work' and simply make up a 'belief system' drawn from this and from that with little or no regard for the sensibilities and sacred beliefs of other cultures or peoples. These --thankfully -- usually don't hang around too long although the damage that they can do is sometimes substantial. The sooner that these types get bored and disillusioned and move on to something else, the better.
But there are those who truly are the Seekers. They may be mystics. They may be aberrations of a spiritual sort. Many of them are unique and most of them are quite serious, well read and extremely intelligent. They are not Eclectics because they are incapable of making a choice. They are Eclectics because they choose not to. Or at least, not to make a choice that becomes one static way to approach what they perceive to be an ever-unfolding and often mysterious journey.
"All those who wander are not lost." Many Eclectics know exactly what it is that they are seeking...
And that it lies somewhere up that unending road they alone can see.
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
Monday, February, 17th., 2003
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