A Quest for Unity ( 2)
Article ID: 2006
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 7,764
Times Read: 7,301
Posted: July 13th. 1997
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The Quest for Unity in the Pagan Community
Is it even possible?
(Part 2 of 3)
Click HERE for part One of this series
In the first part of this series of essays, we talked about the initiatory experience and the potential that this gained knowledge may hold for the Pagan community. All who have come to walk this Path share a common experience...We will never view the world in quite the same way as when we first set out on our quest.
And it is not the world that has changed: it is we who are now different.
What IS this difference? What does it mean to us as individuals and as members of the community? Who are our gifts meant to serve?
The nature of the culture or tradition from which we spring determines the initial core experience of our personal quest. The shamanic vision quest experience of Native Peoples is a much different experience than the search for the Arthurian Grail. Yet when we talk to those who have followed another version of the spiritual search, we still can find many common "universal themes". Indeed, the 'sameness" of the result far exceeds the differences in the method.
What we come away with is the idea that all initiates-regardless of background - have developed the ability to see beyond the mere physical realm...to see the underlying essence within...to look upon the reality that shapes the universe. While this has been a tremendous expansion of the senses, it has caused a great deal of psychic discomfort as well.
The discomfort comes from the very same basis as does the wonder and empowerment. We ARE different...and what we fell into very well in the 'old days", now seems inadequate and limiting somehow. We no longer quite fit in with the old world we once knew...and we are as equally unsure of our true function in the new. The end of the quest has turned out to not to be so much a "resolution", as a "revolution."
by Wren Walker
The Tribal Consciousness- "I Am Valued As A Gifted Individual..."
In the beginnings of what was to become the resurgence of Witchcraft and Paganism, the initiates brought their gifts back to their tribe or clan much as it had always been done throughout the ages. The groups were still small and insular in nature. If you were even aware that were other groups in your area-and since secrecy was still a big factor in those early days, chances are that you did not-what they did in their own group was of little or no concern to you. You did your thing and they did theirs. This is how tribal and clan societies work. And they worked well for many centuries.
The tribe depended on the individual. Each person brought to or was trained in a particular skill which would benefit the tribe. The benefit was determined by the needs of the tribe. A clan that depended on hunters for food would naturally value those who could successfully put the bison on the table. In times of sickness, those who knew the ways of healing herbs would take the forefront in "importance." When the tribe needed guidance in spiritual matters, they called on the "wise people" to show them the way.
Tribal groups reflect mutual habits-ways of doing things- that become customs that build, rituals that are formed and reflections of a common understanding. That is what makes small groups so strong and comfortable. When we look at a member of our tribe, we see ourselves reflected back. We feel validated because we are accepted and valued as a member. Diversity of gifts is not threatening; in fact it is essential in such a community. My gift is needed as is yours-but since we are so alike, since we both want the good of "our" tribe- we are not engaged in competition, but we are developing a consensus of opinion which includes each valued individual thought.
Unfortunately, we in the modern world, do not live in a tribal oriented society.
The Bureaucratic System... "I Am Just A Number."
In a bureaucracy system, the individual is encouraged, if not in actuality expected, to surrender that individuality to the "machine." Rather than an honoring of the individual as a person with unique gifts, the individual is coerced into surrendering his or her uniqueness IF IT DOES NOT REFLECT THE GOOD OF THE MACHINE.
This difference between the incorporation of the unique gift into the tribal community vs. the rejection of anything unique in a bureaucracy is the situation that we face today.
We are told to "leave our personal life at the door of the company" each day as we report to work or school. This is imperative to the bureaucratic system because it seeks to eliminate differences by making everyone "the same". It can only accomplish this by keeping the "individual" out of the system as much as possible. We are expected to work or attend school during the same hours (whether that be beneficial or not to our families plans), adhere to the company policies (which often means wearing the same kind of clothing, jewelry or shoes to project the "right image") and abstain from anything that may interfere with the smooth operation of the company objectives. Discussions of personal matters such as religion or spirituality are often discouraged completely.
The corporations are sometimes so large and complicated that we cannot see how our contributions fit into the whole system. We are expected to fill a limited role, do it on time, leave our personal power at the door and then pick it up again at the end of the day(which ends when the company tells us it does).. We often feel fragmented, frustrated and unappreciated. Many of what we consider our most precious gifts are not only considered unimportant in this system-they are often considered a nuisance!
The Resulting Mindset: Division is Normal, Isn't It?
This perceived "spilt" of the individual has had a deep effect on the Pagan community. Like it or not, we must often go out into the world to make our living. To do this, many of us leave our spiritual gifts-along with our pentacles- at home. We may experience various degrees of unhappiness with the situation but, well, this is the sort of world that we live in, is it not? What may not be so obvious though is how this "split" has forced us into a very peculiar mindset-one that directly affects our views on what it means to be a community.
Part of this peculiar viewpoint is the fact that the "bureaucracy world" is made up of "either/or" sets of values. In this system, we seem always to be faced with decisions that require some sort of measurement: Either you are in, or you are out: either you are right or you are wrong; either you belong or you don't. Inherent in this "outer view" is, of course, the use of some measurement standard. And to the painful experience of us all it seems that the standard measurement of the either/or system is- the "other."
When you even begin to look closely at this system, some things become apparent. In order for the system to work, there must be a division-a split into an either and a or. That is how a measurement style defines itself. That is what it insists on. That is what it must have.
If my company is to have bigger profits, then we must take away some of your companies market share. The competition must be fought, the market must be split and our function is always to try to make that happen. We are rewarded (hopefully) for participating in this process with bigger paychecks, more prestigious titles and executive "perks." To get ahead, to be on top and to do better than the next guy insures your place in the bureaucratic system. Another problem often realized is that the "ethics" of the company may very well not reflect your personal moral values and codes.
We see this in everyday conversations- comparisons are drawn from clothing labels and body images, to the size and make of our automobiles, to the very company that we keep. The either/or, the "other', is held up before us in advertising and in the media as being "how things are." The only definition that we have to describe one thing is to speak of it in comparison to something else. The comparison of one view is hardly ever friendly toward the other, as in this system the differences must show the other to be somehow inferior to what you are hawking.
Tribal Consciousness in the Outer World
The bureaucratic mindset when carried over into the Pagan community creates a deep and painful psychological dilemma. How can I retain the integrity of myself as an individual, yet work within any sort of combined outer community? Tales of "witch wars" are plentiful and if you want to hear of one you can pretty much ask any long standing member of any Pagan group for all the gory details.
The tribal feel of any insular group perpetuates the idea that what your group is doing must be right because it works so well for your group. As long as you remain isolated within your own tribe, the chances are fair that no large scale disruption will occur as most members think and act in. a similar manner. You have formulated a 'group consciousness". Individual gifts that are meant for the tribe are described or perceived as being compatible to the group consciousness. You speak the same language, so any new idea or gift that is offered using that language is intrinsically seen as probably being compatible.
When we begin to step outside our own group however, we begin to encounter people who speak a different language-one that may use unfamiliar terms or connections that we are not so comfortable with. We see them through "other" eyes-and unfortunately, we sometimes begin using the bureaucratic mindset to deal with these differences.
If my group is to be measured as correct and you do not think as we do, then your group must be measured as wrong...or more kindly perhaps, as mistaken, uninformed or not sufficiently enlightened.
Communications under this bureaucratic-based system usually consist of debates over the rightness of our position and the wrongness of the "others'." If we feel that we are right, we do not let go of our own point of view. On the contrary, we try to reinforce it every way that we can. (Even under the gentle guise of showing them the errors of their ways, there is still the unmistakable arrogance of our belief in their "mistakeness".)
We have become so habitual in our belief in this comparison system that we are closed to any other possibility. Indeed under this type of either/or scenario, there are no other possibilities-without admitting that WE are wrong, mistaken or sufficiently unenlightened ourselves. Under this tyrannical measurement ruler, we either convert or destroy the other that is not like us. We need not look too far back in history to view the dark places this system has set up for the "solution" to the "other" problem.
That is where our psychic pain comes from. We now can see with our new eyes of discernment that the either/or of the bureaucratic system is not only destructive to the "other', it is destructive to all Life...and we are not really sure what to do about it. We are uncomfortable with this knowledge and sometimes we try to fall back into the ways that we once found so natural. We try to go back to the tribal clan way of life. We try to keep the integrity of our own group by shunning the "other" standing at our doorstep. Neither position is really an answer for very long.
Where Are We?
So here we find ourselves- in a transitional point between our private spiritual tribe and the outer bureaucratic world. The two value systems seem to be incompatible and irreconcilable. We value the individual gifts within our own group. New ideas can be accepted because they are presented in familiar terms by familiar people. We know that these initiates are "for" the group or clan as a whole. Change is incorporated smoothly and benefits everyone. The process is "fluid."
We have learned with great difficulty that the "outside" world neither understands nor values any unique gift which requires a change from the status quo which supports the bureaucratic machine. Differences are seen as disruptive to the 'good' of the company. "Special accommodations" for an individual belief are nuisances and are often discouraged. Change is incorporated in ways which may cause loss of profit or loss of position for some while increasing benefits for others. The process is 'structured."
And now, as a third element is being introduced, we can no longer wander along somewhere in the middle. Witches, Wiccans and Pagans are meeting and connecting with each other like never before. The global internet availability has opened the entire globe to instant world-wide intercommunication. We now are stepping out beyond the boundaries of our own closed groups and encountering those who declare themselves to also be Witches, Wiccans and Pagans. This is both very exciting and very unnerving. For while they say that they are like us, they speak in an unfamiliar language. Their experiences have also led them here, yet their experiences and the language used to describe those experiences are not the terms that we are used to. What will we do with these unfamiliar words and ways?
It seems that neither the tribal system nor the world outer system is adequate in this situation. We can no longer remain isolated within our own little clans, yet the outer world way of dealing with the other is not something that we wish to embrace either.
We know that we cannot go back. We are different than we once were. We have experienced the interconnectedness of all things. We have felt what true Oneness is. And now other Witches, Wiccans and Pagans are bringing their experiences, their tales of discovery to the community table as well. How can we embrace all this diversity and still retain the gift of the individual? Can we ever truly be a community- or will we remain isolated and vulnerable to the bureaucratic system that seeks to eliminate the other that resists being assimilated - or silenced?
We can build a community based on mutual trust and respect. Respect for the individual that does not require the sacrifice of uniqueness. All gifts can be accepted and honored if we can learn to speak a common language. We are all initiates into something that goes beyond our immediate circle. We have all seen something greater on the horizon. It is a Universal message that can include everyone. A tribe that makes decisions on the basis of inclusion rather than exclusion. A system that looks at how we are all the same rather than how we are different.
We can come together and form a global tribe, but only if we come to see how the bureaucratic outer world has colored our thinking. We can find an alternative to this mind set-one that fits OUR ways and OUR values. Why do I think that we can do this?
We have a unique outlook on Life. In the "old days', only a few chosen ones in each tribe had taken the "Otherworld" journey. But now, it seems, we ALL have been shown the "hidden Path" of the initiate. And we have found each other at this time and place for a specific reason. If we can work together- and develop that common language-we will have a profound impact upon the world. You see, I believe that we have A GIFT...
Next month- The Gift
(Chairperson - Witches' Voice)
(c) July 12th., 1997
Location: Tampa, Florida
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