Your browser does not support script
TWV Presents...



Articles/Essays From Pagans

[Show all]


Views: 19,121,084


July 13th. 2016 ...

What Every Pagan Should Know About Curses

Magic With A Flick of my Finger

Banishments, Conjurings, and Hexes for a Modern World

An Open Mind and Heart

Finding and Caring for Your Frame Drum


June 13th. 2016 ...

Pollyanna Propaganda: The Distressing Trend of Victim-Blaming in Spirituality

My Father, My First God

Living a Magickal Life with Fibromyalgia

Life is Awesome... and the Flu


May 15th. 2016 ...

Faery Guided Journey

Wiccan Spirituality

How to Bond with the Elements through Magick

Magical Household Cleaning

Working with the Elements


April 2nd. 2016 ...

An Alternative Conception of Divine Reciprocity

Becoming Wiccan: What I Never Expected

Rebirth By Fire: A Love Letter to Mama Maui and Lady Pele

The Fear of Witchcraft

Blowing Bubbles with the Goddess

The Evolution of Thought Forms

Magic in Sentences


March 28th. 2016 ...

Still Practicing

Revisiting The Spiral

Lateral Transcendence: Toward Greater Compassion

Spring Has Sprung!


January 22nd. 2016 ...

Coming Out of the Broom Closet

Energy and Karma

Community and Perception


December 20th. 2015 ...

Introduction to Tarot For the Novice

Magia y Wicca


October 24th. 2015 ...

Facing Your Demons: The Shadow Self

Native American Spirituality Myopia

The Dream Eater--A Practical Use of Summoning Talismans

A Dream Message

Feeling the Pulse of Autumn


October 16th. 2015 ...

Sacred Lands, Sacred Hearts


September 30th. 2015 ...

The Other-Side


September 16th. 2015 ...

Nature Worship: or Seeing the Trees for the Ents

Vegan or Vegetarian? The Ethical Debate


August 6th. 2015 ...

Lost - A Pagan Parent's Tale


July 9th. 2015 ...

Love Spells: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

The Magic of Weather


June 7th. 2015 ...

A Pagan Altar

A Minority of a Minority of a Minority

The Consort: Silent Partner or Hidden in Plain Sight?

Why I Bother With Ritual: Poetry and Eikonic Atheism


May 6th. 2015 ...

Sex, Lies, and Witches: Love in a Time of Wiccans and Atheists

Gods, Myth, and Ritual in Naturalistic Paganism

I Claim Cronehood

13 Keys: The Crown of Kether


March 29th. 2015 ...

A Thread in the Tapestry of Witchcraft


March 28th. 2015 ...

On Wiccan Magick, Theurgy, Thaumaturgy and Setting Expectations


March 1st. 2015 ...

Choosing to Write a Shadow Book

Historiolae: The Spell Within the Story

My Concept Of Grey


February 1st. 2015 ...

Seeker Advice From a Coven Leader

The Three Centers of Paganism

Magick is No Illusion

The Ancient Use of God/Goddess Surnames

The Gods of My Heart


January 1st. 2015 ...

The Six Most Valuable Lessons I've Learned on My Path as a Witch

Manipulation of the Concept of Witchcraft

Publicly Other: Witchcraft in the Suburbs

Pagans All Around Us

Broomstick to the Emerald City


October 20th. 2014 ...

Thoughts on Conjuring Spirits

A Microcosmic View of Ma'at


October 5th. 2014 ...

The History of the Sacred Circle

Abandoning Expectations and Remembering Your Roots


September 28th. 2014 ...

Seeking Pagan Lands for Pagan Burials

Creating a Healing Temple


September 20th. 2014 ...

GOD AND ME (A Pagan's Personal Reply to the New Atheists)


September 7th. 2014 ...

Deer Man- A Confounding Mystery

The All


August 31st. 2014 ...

Coven vs. Solitary

A Strange Waking Dream

Faith


August 24th. 2014 ...

Thoughts on Cultural and Spiritual Appropriation

The Pagan Cleric

A Gathering of Sorcerers (A Strange Tale)


NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.












Article Specs

Article ID: 10720

VoxAcct: 284828

Section: words

Age Group: Adult

Days Up: 3,717

Times Read: 4,829

RSS Views: 83,524
Spirituality, Philosophy, Religion, and Institutionalism

Author: Cael SpiritHawk
Posted: May 21st. 2006
Times Viewed: 4,829

Most people in the world wear clothing as a matter of course. Generally even people who live as nudists or naturists have worn clothing in the past, or have occasion to wear it when interacting with the more clothes-conscious public world. Leaving nudists and naturists aside, I would like to talk about the clothing that most people in Western society wear.

There are three ‘levels’ of clothing that we usually wear in the course of normal daily life. The first level, of course, is “none at all”. We take off all of our clothes when we bathe, and at certain other times as well. The second level is the clothing that we wear for our own comfort when no one is watching (like the worn-out full-of-holes sweatshirt that’s so comfortable to curl up and read in, but we’d never be caught dead wearing in public) . The third level is what we wear when we go out and are going to be seen (and possibly scrutinized) by others. I am going to refer to these as the “Levels of Vanity”.

We can have no vanity when we stand naked in front of a mirror. That birthmark shows, and any cellulite lurking below becomes evident. If we have breasts, and shouldn’t, or should but they’re the wrong shape or size for our own image of beauty, we see that. If our bottom is too big or our knees too knobby or our chest too hairy, or any other flaw we perceive in our physical selves, the mirror shows it when we stand there before it, naked. There can be no vanity. This is the first level.

When we’re alone at home, having a lazy day of reading or watching TV, we wear what makes us feel comfortable. That comfort may be of a practical nature (such as a woman who has breasts large enough that going up and down stairs without a bra on is painful) , or of a luxurious nature (such as the soft, woolly jammies someone might wear while reading on the couch) , or of a vain nature (the t-shirt and shorts that are worn to cover up the cellulite or the birthmark or what-have-you so that we don’t have to be reminded of it) . This latter type of clothing, the sort that we wear to hide the flaws we perceive in ourselves from ourselves, is the second level of vanity.

When we go out into the world, we wear clothes that say something about ourselves. The “something” that they say is the message about us that people receive, just by looking at us. We put on clothes that we think will send the message that we want, but the message that is actually received depends a lot on the mindset and prejudices of the person doing the looking. The youth who wears baggy, loose crotch-around-the-knees pants may be trying to send the message, “Look at me, I’m a gangsta, behold my suburban middle-class dangerousness, and tremble”, but when he wears it to the local mall, the elderly gentleman walking by might receive, “I need to learn how to wear pants that fit, ” and the real gangster nearby might receive, “I’m a sorry poser and I need to have my butt kicked.”

The adolescent girl who wears impractically-tight jeans and a midriff-baring top may mean to say, “Look at me, I’m cute and sexy and fun.” But the elderly gentleman may receive, “I have no moral fiber, and I’m probably a tart, ” and the gangster may receive, “I’m available to have sex with, even if I don’t know it yet.”

These clothes are the third level of vanity; they are an expression of a message that we want to send, or something we want to say about ourselves when people look at us. We need to be careful with what we let our clothing say, because the message that we want to send may not be the message that is received, and people will act on what they perceive, not on what we want them to.

There is a fourth level of vanity, and it goes beyond clothing. Clothing can only express a message when we’re there to be wearing it. The fourth level of vanity deals with the messages that we try to send when we’re not even around. For instance, a person who parks his shiny expensive car across two parking spaces at the mall may wish to send the message, “I have a really nice car and I don’t want any harm to come to it”, whereas the people looking for a place to park their own cars in the crowded lot may receive the message, “I consider myself more important than everyone else, which is why I take up two parking spaces while the rest of you only get one.” The preacher who builds an enormous stained-glass behemoth to the glory of his god may mean to say, “Look at how magnificent our god is; we love him so much we built this beautiful place to worship him in.” But the people driving past may perceive, “We had all of this money we could have used to help the poor and hungry, but we felt it was more important to knock down a bunch of trees and spend millions of dollars building an imposing eyesore so that people would know how righteous we are.”

Perception and intent. What we do is all about intent, but what other people think about what we do is all about perception.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering what relevance this all has to the people of WitchVox. This is the part where I get to the point.

We have levels of vanity in our Path as well. I refer to those levels (from lowest to highest) as: Spirituality, Philosophy, Religion, and Institutionalism.

Spirituality is the equivalent of the naked self; it is the connection (or lack thereof) we have with the Divine (and at this level, Names are irrelevant) . Either we have a connection to something Divine, or we do not. If we have one, either it is strong, or it is not. Either it is supportive, or it is adversarial. But above all, it is what it is. There is no vanity here; there is no lying or prevarication, no temporizing or digging in the dirt with our toe while we come up with an excuse. Our connection with the Divine is a certain way, and there’s no getting around it. It might not be as strong as we’d like, and it might not be as positive as we’d like. But it is what it is, and when we stand naked before the Divine, there’s no hiding the truth.

Philosophy is the next level of vanity; it is what we do with our spirituality when no one else is looking. Do we feel, spiritually, a connection to all creatures of Nature, but still kill spiders out of irrational fear? This is philosophy. This is the way we live our lives, and it is based upon our spirituality. A person with Size 12 feet cannot put on Size 11 shoes without discomfort. The (level 1) naked body cannot support a non-fitting shoe (level 2) . Likewise, if our philosophy is at odds with our spirituality, there is stress. Perhaps we feel guilty for killing spiders, because we know in our hearts that it’s wrong…but we did it anyway. This is the part of ourselves that we see, and the part that defines who we are in truth, but (ironically) we might never show it to anyone else.

Religion is the third level of vanity; this is built upon our philosophy and our spirituality. This is the level where we do things for other people to see, so that they can understand more about who we are. Interestingly enough, sometimes religion can keep us in line, behaviorally, with our spirituality better than our philosophy can. If you’re ashamed of killing a spider, you wouldn’t do it in front of someone else. That’s religion. That’s sending a message about what you know is right, even if it runs counter to your desires (your philosophy) .

Institutionalism is the fourth level of vanity. It is the act of establishing a monument to religion, philosophy, or spirituality (or any combination of the three) that will persist even when we are not there. Whether we have passed from this world, or simply moved to another part of it, institutionalism allows us to feel like we have left a part of ourselves behind, that we be not forgotten. Many Christian groups exhibit institutionalism as I described above, by building enormous churches to the glory of their god. Modern Pagans, as a rule, tend not to build large monuments to their beliefs (although historically this is not so; consider the Pyramids of Egypt or Central and South America) . I believe this is in part because Pagan beliefs are not “mainstream” enough in modern society to support such monuments; every time a Pagan group tries to make any such thing, some group or other gets in the way out of ignorance, fear, or sheer bloody-mindedness. But Pagans do practice institutionalism in the sense that we pass oral and written learning down through our generations. Knowledge that was learned from a wise teacher recalls the teacher to mind whenever the student uses the knowledge. The teacher may have passed from this world, but he or she lives on in the heart and mind of the student. Institution.

Why is all of this important? It is important because there is a constant debate raging in the Pagan community. In a community that is supposed to be about acceptance of another’s beliefs, as long as they do not impinge on others, we have people who feel the need to tell others, “you’re doing it wrong; here’s how you’re supposed to be doing it.”

I am referring to the ongoing debate between those who believe that broad-based solitary eclecticism is the right path, and those who believe that single-pantheon traditionalism is the right path.

Solitary eclecticism may be the wrong path for some, and it may not offer the same avenues for fellowship that Coven-centered Wicca does. Strict Wicca may be the wrong path for others, and it may not offer the freedom to combine pantheons to connect with the Divine in a personally-customized way. But there is no need for Wiccans to be sniping at the Solitary Eclectics for creating their own Path. And there’s no need for Solitary Eclectics to bellyache about the Wiccans being too orthodox. I imagine that the debate is tired enough that sooner or later the Ásatrú are going to begin having thoughts about how they might use their hammers to stop it, once and for all.

Part of the impetus for this infighting, I believe, comes from the fact that people often do not understand the relationship among, and the distinctions between, the levels of vanity. Christians, in my experience, usually have no understanding of the difference between spirituality, philosophy, and religion. If they accept Jesus as their personal Savior (philosophy) , then they’re assured of God’s forgiveness and will have a good afterlife (spirituality) . If they (Catholics, anyway) confess their sins to a priest (religion) and perform their penance (philosophy) , then their sins are washed away and their soul is clean (spirituality) . What they don’t understand that it’s the intent behind actions, not the actions themselves, that make a difference. Saying 20 Hail Marys and 10 Lord’s Prayers does nothing to enhance one’s spiritual connection to the divine, if one is repeating it out of rote memory while watching wrestling on TV. If it’s done with intent and true focus on strengthening the connection to the Divine, then it will have an effect. But then, so will performing Chakra vocalizations, if the intent is there.

Some Pagans, it would seem, are having difficulty with the same distinctions. The Paths we walk are supposed to be about spirituality; about our own personal connection with the Divine. We can strengthen (or weaken) that connection by what we do, just as we can strengthen or weaken our bodies by exercising or being lazy. In general, for the lower three levels of vanity, each level can only strengthen or weaken the levels adjacent to it; religion cannot affect spirituality directly, and vice versa. Strong religious beliefs can affect philosophy over time, and solid philosophy can affect one’s spiritual connection to the Divine. Likewise, a neglected sense of spirituality can lead to philosophical aimlessness, and thus eventually to religious apathy. So in a community that is supposed to be about spirituality, we're missing the mark and having debates about religion, two things that are only tenuously connected, through the medium of personal philosophy. It's meaningless to try to “correct” someone's religion, because their religion is based upon their philosophy, which is grounded in their spiritualism. If they're actually truly wrong, and their spirituality is a shambles, then all you've done is put paint over termite-infested wood; it's still rotten to the core. And if they're not wrong, and their spirituality is sound even though you disagree with their religion, all you have done is insult their intelligence and made yourself look boorish.

Lots of people want to take shortcuts. “If the candles are the right color on the altar (religion) , then the gods will be happy with us (spirituality) .” “If I feel a really strong connection to the Goddess (spirituality) I have everything it takes to be Priestess of a Coven (religion) , or a teacher (institutionalism) .” But it doesn’t work that way. It cannot work that way, because the gods are not children; they see our naked selves, just as the mirror does, and they don’t care what metaphorical clothes we put on to impress other people. The gods (or the All, or the Great Spirit, by whatever name) are interested in our true selves. They care about what we do when we think no one is looking. Thus our philosophical behavior can affect our spiritual connection. And if our philosophy and our religion are not in line with one another, that’s philosophically and intellectually dishonest. And they take note of that as well.

Institutionalism, by contrast, affects religion, but not so much our own; rather, it affects other people’s. When we teach (institutionalism) we offer knowledge of how we believe the student should interact with the world (religion) . This can only affect the outward knowledge of the student (religion) . Whether that knowledge in turn changes the way they actually do things (philosophy) is up to the student.

The debate of Traditionalist versus Solitary Eclectic, or Vehemently-non-Wiccan-Witch versus Wiccan, or whatever sect versus whatever other sect, is a debate of religions, and a disagreement about which one is “best”. This is ironic, for a community of people who have (theoretically) discarded the idea of mainstream religious orthodoxy in order to pursue a path to spirituality that made more sense.

Arguing over whose level-three vanity (religion) is “best” is as meaningless and juvenile as a herd of counter-culture kids throwing someone out of their clique for not wearing the “right” sort of counter-culture clothing. It’s like saying, “to be a true individual, you must go against the mainstream in the same way that I am.”

It’s time for that debate to end, because it’s pointless, divisive, and counterproductive. Eclectics, it’s time to leave the Traditionalists alone; their religion is the way they’ve chosen to shape their philosophy in order to strengthen their spirituality. Traditionalists, it’s time to leave the Eclectics alone. Their religion is the way they’ve chosen to shape their philosophy in order to strengthen their spirituality.

If you disagree with a particular Pagan author, don’t buy his or her books. If you think that multi-pantheism is scatterbrained and a silly thing to do, don’t do it. If you think that Gardnerian Wicca is as stifling as a Southern Baptist church, don’t join a Gardnerian Coven. If you don’t like what’s on TV, change the channel or shut it off. Make your choices based upon your own philosophy, and recognize that other people have a different philosophy, which leads them to make different choices. If you’re right and they’re wrong, they may eventually learn by your example. If you’re wrong and they’re right, perhaps their example will teach you. Realize that just because something is not right for you, it does not mean that it cannot be right for someone else.

When someone tells someone else they have to practice in a particular way, there are generally two reasons why they do it. The first is that they feel self-conscious about the fact that they do it that way, and convincing others to do it the same way will make them feel less weird. The second is that they’re not actually sure they believe in what they’re professing, and they’re trying to convince themselves by way of convincing others. (This is the same phenomenon as the new martial artist walking into a bar and picking a fight to prove how much of a tough guy he is. And it usually ends just as badly) .

Those who are secure and comfortable in who they are and what they do generally do not feel the need to try to force others to be the same way. So if you do feel the need to convince others that their religious practices or beliefs, on their own personal Path, are wrong, perhaps it’s time to ask yourself: what are you trying to prove, and to whom?



Copyright: Copyright 2006 - Paladin Sage



ABOUT...

Cael SpiritHawk


Location: Manassas, Virginia

Website: http://www.shadowgrove.com/

Author's Profile: To learn more about Cael SpiritHawk - Click HERE




Other Articles: Cael SpiritHawk has posted 4 additional articles- View them?

Other Listings: To view ALL of my listings: Click HERE




Email Cael SpiritHawk... (No, I have NOT opted to receive Pagan Invites! Please do NOT send me anonymous invites to groups, sales and events.)

To send a private message to Cael SpiritHawk ...



Pagan Essays
1996-2016





Pagan Web
8,000 Links





Pagan Groups
Local Covens etc.





Pagan/Witch
80,000 Profiles














Home - TWV Logos - Email US - Privacy
News and Information

Chapters: Pagan/Heathen Basics - Pagan BOOKS - Traditions, Paths & Religions - Popular Pagan Holidays - TV & Movies - Cats of the Craft - Festival Reviews - Festival Tips - White Pages (Resources) - Issues/Concerns - West Memphis 3 - Witch Hunts - Pagan Protection Tips - Healing Planet Earth

Your Voices: Adult Essays - Young Pagan Essays - Pagan Perspectives (On Hold) - WitchWars: Fire in the Craft - Gay Pagan - Pagan Parenting - Military - Pagan Passages

Pagan Music: Pagan Musicians - Bardic Circle at WitchVox - Free Music from TWV

Vox Central: About TWV - Wren: Words, Wrants and Wramblings - Guest Rants - Past Surveys - A Quest for Unity

Weekly Updates: Click HERE for an index of our weekly updates for the past 6 years

W.O.T.W. - World-Wide Networking

Your Town: A Link to YOUR Area Page (The largest listing of Witches, Pagans, Heathens and Wiccans on the Planet)

VoxLinks: The Pagan Web: 8,000 Listings

Your Witchvox Account: Log in Now - Create New Account - Request New Password - Log in Problems

Personal Listings: Pagan Clergy in Your Town - Adult Pagans - Young Pagans - Military Pagans

Events: Circles, Gatherings, Workshops & Festivals

Covens/Groups/Orgs: Local Groups Main Page

Other LOCAL Resources: Local Shops - Regional Sites - Local Notices - Global/National Notices - Local Skills & Services - Local Egroups - Political Freedom Fighters

Pagan Shopping: Online Shops Index - Original Crafters Sites - Auction Sites - Pagan Wholesalers - Pagan Local Shops



Web Site Content (including: text - graphics - html - look & feel)
Copyright 1997-2016 The Witches' Voice Inc. All rights reserved
Note: Authors & Artists retain the copyright for their work(s) on this website.
Unauthorized reproduction without prior permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Website structure, evolution and php coding by Fritz Jung on a Macintosh G5.

Any and all personal political opinions expressed in the public listing sections (including, but not restricted to, personals, events, groups, shops, Wren’s Nest, etc.) are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinion of The Witches’ Voice, Inc. TWV is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization.

Sponsorship: Visit the Witches' Voice Sponsor Page for info on how you
can help support this Community Resource. Donations ARE Tax Deductible.
The Witches' Voice carries a 501(c)(3) certificate and a Federal Tax ID.

Mail Us: The Witches' Voice Inc., P.O. Box 341018, Tampa, Florida 33694-1018 U.S.A.
Witches, Pagans
of The World




Search Articles
1996-2016










 Current Topic
 Editorial Guide


NOTE: The essay on this page contains the writings and opinions of the listed author(s) and is not necessarily shared or endorsed by the Witches' Voice inc.

The Witches' Voice does not verify or attest to the historical accuracy contained in the content of this essay.

All WitchVox essays contain a valid email address, feel free to send your comments, thoughts or concerns directly to the listed author(s).