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So Halstead responded to my three posts about “disenchanting the world.” And you know what that means. We’re responding to the response of our response.

I know you liked the memes John, don't lie.

I know you liked the memes John, don’t lie.

Now, Halstead responded with three posts to my three posts, but I’m going to try and fit his three posts into one post. Mostly because I don’t have to address everything in these. Partially because Halstead skipped over a lot. Sorry, it’s still pretty long though. I probably should have split it up, but I think this needs to be all in one piece.

Part 1

Admittedly, Helsen’s description of archetypalists is an accurate description of a lot of Neo-Paganism. However, if Helsen read what I have written on this very blog, he would know that I am critical of the Neo-Pagan over-simplification of Jungianism which he describes. According to Jung, we do not interact with archetypes, per se, but with archetypal images.  So, while we might speak of an archetype of the “God of War”, on an individual level, we do not interact with that archetype. Rather, we interact with “Ares” or “Tyr” or whatever — each of which have their own unique cultural identities.  So, Helsen’s concern about homogenizing the gods is misplaced.

Honestly, not surprised to find Halstead critical of more people. Apparently there are Jungian purists when it comes to archetypes. I’m not sure my “concern about homogenizing the gods is misplaced” since I a) accurately described many if not all “archetypalists” according to Halstead and b) how the Hel is “unique cultural identities” for archetypes functionally different from had polytheists honoring the unique identities of the Gods?

Apparently, we do need to go deeper.

He then goes on about Jungian archetypes, so feel free to read it and learn something.

Helsen then takes issue with my argument that both atheism and theism fall into the same trap which leads to the disenchantment of theworld.  Helsen responds that “the ancient Pagans fell into the ”staunchly polytheistic’ category” and therefore following in their footsteps must necessarily leads to the enchanted world that they lived in.  There is a compelling simplicity to this argument, but it assumes that contemporary polytheism is equivalent to the polytheism of ancient peoples.  I don’t think we can assume this to be true.  Much of contemporary polytheism — especially the kind that insists that the gods are “real”, “literal”, and “separate” — employs ontological categories that were not known to ancient peoples.  Contemporary polytheism is a form of post-Enlightenment theism, and therefore it is shaped by that cultural legacy, as much as contemporary atheism is.

“Ontological categories that were not known to ancient peoples.”

I mean, Ontology existed since before Plato, so I don’t know how far back we have to go here. Heck, Plato’s “true forms” is really the best idea about archetypes, so the fact that these two branches of thought were side by side in time kinda tells me that ancient polytheists had as much access to “ontological” reasoning about their Gods as we do today. Or at least the option of looking at it that way, and if you ever study Greek or especially Roman polytheism they were very “ontological” about it. The Romans had an individual god for everything down to the hinges on cabinets. And if you look at magic grimoires and such from before the Enlightenment, you will find them very ontological in regards to everything from Gods to Spirits to magical ingredients.

But just to clarify these “newfangled ontologies” He’s saying us neo-polytheists are using, here you go:

Principal questions of ontology include:

 

Yep.

I’m going to jump ahead because he gets into the “enchantment” thing again, but here in we run into a fundamental issue that needs to be address first before we get into the discussion.

Helsen’s next point reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of what “enchantment” means.  He writes:

“And is the world, Helheim, death, or anything else made less enchanting for her being her own person rather than just part of a larger….being/archetype/somethingorother? Or is it made more enchanting? When we read a story, for example, is the story made better when the characters are individuals, or when they are baseline tropes/archetypes?”

Here, Helsen seems to be using the term “enchantment” in an emotional sense.  For example, one can be “enchanted” with a person, or one cannot find a story to be “enchanting”.

But that is not the sense is which I and many other Pagans are using the term.  The re-enchantment of the world refers to the return of a sense of our essential participation in the world.

I’m gonna let that sink in to my readers here. According to Halstead, I fundamentally misunderstand what “enchantment” means. So I’m going to post what enchantment means.

Noun

enchantment ‎(countable and uncountable, plural enchantments)

  1. The act of enchanting or the feeling of being enchanted.
  2. Something that enchants; a magical spell.

So in reality, I was (and am) using the word enchantment in its most literal definition. To Make the World Magical, and to give to it a feeling of magic.

If anyone has a fundamental misunderstanding of the word, it’s Halstead. Enchantment doesn’t mean “participation.” It has never meant participation or being a part of the world. Enchantment means To Make Magical!

 

And yes, I know my spelling and grammar are often terrible, but dear gods, I do not go around changing the meanings of words to fit my own wishes! The Heck are we in 1984’s Newspeak?

And really, I could talk about the rest of his Part 1, but really, that is the fundamental thing. Based on the different definitions of enchantment and disenchantment here, he says I’m completely wrong because Individualism separates us from being “connected” to each other. So in the end, we’re both right. For me, where in enchantment brings magic to the world, indivudalist views of the Gods as spereate beings creates enchantment. And for Halstead, where being an individual separates you, such a thing is disenchanting.

Of course, he had to completely butcher the meaning of a word and turn it into something it never was, but hey, he’s right.

Part 2

Helsen argues that the gods are “objective, discrete, and separate beings”.  I’ve explained in Part 1 and in my original post about “The Disenchantment of Hard Polytheism”, why the “separate and distinct” language is problematic.  More recently, I’ve written about how we confuse the question of the objective existence of the gods and the question of their subjective meaning — as if something must objectively exist for it to have subjective meaning. If you want to read more on those issues, follow the links above.

Is there any word more troubling to read than “problematic?” At this point, I don’t think so. Every time I hear the word “problematic” I instantly know what kind of person is talking and what they’re wanting to do.

But let’s stop and think of how this sounds. Halstead finds it problematic to discuss a group of beings as existing as individuals. Now, he finds it perfectly okay to discuss this group of beings as series of archetypal images, or superconnected existence that isn’t separated from each other, but the instant they start becoming individuals, it’s “problematic.”

And believe me, I want to get into that second post of his about objective vs subjective. It was actually going to be the next one written until he posted his responses.

Helsen then sarcastically refers the apparently incomprehensible idea that one could be Pagan and not believe in his gods.  Here he makes a common mistake of identifying the whole of Paganism with the particular kind of Paganism that he identifies with.  The problem with this is that Paganism has multiple centers: Nature, Deity, and Self.  These three centers are like tent poles that hold up the Big Tent of Paganism.  People may congregate around one of the poles or between two of them or in the center of all three.  I fall mostly between the Nature and Self centers.  Helsen apparently stands near the Deity pole.  But we are all Pagan.

Yeah, the problem isn’t with him not believing in my Gods. The problem is that he seems to have an issue with there being Gods, and yet still insisting he’s a Pagan, but that I need to get out of the big tent because my views are “problematic.”

Helsen takes issue with my statement that polytheists are trying to “prove” their gods are real.  I did not mean to imply that anyone was trying to “scientifically” prove the existence of the gods.  What I was referring to was how polytheists often react strongly to archetypalists by insisting on the “real”-ness of their gods.  It seems to me that this reaction is borne of the (mis-)perception that archetypes are somehow less “real” than the gods they experience.

Actually no, that’s not my problem. My problem with it is best explained by this analogy. I have a friend, he is black, and you’re basically saying “all black people are like X.” My problem with archetypalists and specifically you, is that you are insisting that me stating over and over that my friend is a person is problematic because it separates him from “all black people.”

Can you  kinda see why we polytheists do not enjoy that?

Finally, Helsen responds to my point about how we don’t really see people when we first meet them, and tend instead to project our own complexes onto them: “Actually, Halstead, I’m pretty sure that’s you and those like you. I always see everyone as a unique individual.”  I did not intend to make this response personal, but given the tone of all of Helsen’s posts and his sarcastic little memes, I really have to challenge him on this point.  I’m pretty sure he is not seeing me at all, and there is definitely some projection going on there.

Actually John, I am seeing you. I am seeing what you say, I am listening to your words, and I am drawing them to their logical conclusion. Heck, most the things I’ve said about you have been direct quotes from your own mouth.

And given the ones in the anti-capitalist and interstellar one…dark man. But then, I suppose you’re really not going to be happy about those. Not as many memes though.

Also, those sarcastic little memes, I really don’t see you refuting my arguments that I made with them. But hey, half of those were funny because of what you said. That whole “lost the game” was because of you, Halstead.

Part 3

I think I’m getting to him at this point in the responses.

We’ll just skip over the stupid memes and the mud slinging and get the substance of a Helsen’s post.

It’s called a flashback man. Hit the high points of the episode. I’m still really proud of that monkeys and gorillas one. But hey, you’re the one who put up the concept that gods can’t be individuals because humans can be.

He implies that I am exceptional in in that I need to be “forced to care” about something that I don’t feel a connection to.  But I think this is the nature of modern humanity.  Genocide, war, rape, racism, sexism, environmental desecration, etc. etc. — all of these are evidence that we human beings need to be forced to treat others well, unless we first feel a connection to them.  (In fact, the sheer nastiness of Helsen’s post is also evidence of this.)

To tell the truth, I wasn’t implying that you were exceptional because you had to be forced into caring. I was implying that you were an asshole who didn’t give a shit unless there was something in it for himself. Hence this whole interconnected business of yours. If it’s a part of you, you’re clearly gaining from it, rather than being selfless because it’s someone else who is benefiting instead of you.

And this whole “human beings need to be forced to treat others well” thing is really, really Orwellian. Geez man, have some faith in humanity, or at least acknowledge the right of personal liberty. I mean, I’m getting the impression your a collectivist, authoritarian ass, but you don’t see me standing around demanding you have to be nice to people. I might call you out on some of this bullshit, but I’m not saying you can’t believe it or say it.

Only that I get to laugh when you do. Because, well, I can be an ass too. And by the way, that post wasn’t nasty. You want to see nasty, you can go read the one where I tore DraconusMajor a new one for treating me and my readers as subhuman entertainment for their pleasure. All I’ve done to you is point out the problems in your argument and say that, well, you have a problem seeing people as individuals.

Helsen refers to what he calls “spiritual capitalism” and says he might write more about this later.  I hope he does, because I don’t know what it is, but it doesn’t sound good.

You know, after all this, I probably will drag that idea out and tell people. But basically, and this got touch on in my response to Halstead’s anti-capitalism post, is that Capitalism is basically trade (using currency). Spiritual Capitalism, basically, is trade you do with the Gods and Spirits, like offerings, festivals, etc. Where you thank them for what they give you and you give something back, or alternately you offer something too them in hopes that they will provide you a service.

I’m pretty sure Halstead is still going to think that’s terrible.

He next takes issue with the idea that we should sometimes place the needs of our neighbors (human and other) before our own.  Conflct, he says, has to do with “limited resources.”  This is an interesting statement, because the “other-than-human neighbor” I was referring to is the very “resource” that Helsen is talking about.  It’s not a failure to get along with neighbors that is the problem, as much as it is the failure to even recognize who our neighbors are, to recognize that they are not just “resources” for us to use.

I didn’t take issue with that Idea. I simply put forth that sometimes, because of limited resources for example, push us to where we have to be concerned for ourselves. Also, this “other than human neighbor is our resource” is going back into that dark language man. But hey, looks like you’re trying to protest that idea, which is what I was doing, so…idk. Two broken clocks agree some times?

It’s like he’s saying “the problem is not seeing our neighbors as ourselves” and I’m saying “The problem is not seeing our neighbors as people.” but meh. We have to go deeper, or something.

Next, Helsen says that the river spirit can take care of itself.  I don’t know about the river spirit, but I’m pretty sure the river cannot take care of itself.  The biosphere as a whole can take care of itself.  The earth will survive whatever we do to it (although we will not).  But in the meantime, we are altering the shape of the landscape — including rivers — beyond recognition.  We are destroying biodiversity at the rate of about five species a day.  It does not look to me like they can take care of themselves in the face of the human onslaught.

Well, that’s why the river has the river spirit, if you believe in such things. I mean, my house cannot take care of itself without me. As for this whole “we’re altering beyond recognition” thing of Halstead’s, well…humans have always done that. Hel, nature does that. Introduce beavers to a new area and that area will quickly become unrecognizable to what it once was.

But that’s the funny thing, life goes on. The world goes on. People go on. Sure, species are going extinct today, but species have always been going extinct. And new species come about. It’s called evolution, and it’s the primary reason there’s still life on this planet. (or the secondary, if you believe the Gods created us). Thing die, and I know that’s hard to accept sometimes, but as a devotee of Hel I can tell you that death is completely natural, happens to everything and throwing a fit about it really isn’t going to stop something from dying when it is supposed to die. You want to complain about species going extinct, try going down to the terminal cancer ward. All those individual, beautiful lives coming to horrible ends. Because, sometimes, life sucks and you don’t make it.

And if you don’t think nature can evolve to deal and survive with humanity, then how much faith do you actually have in nature, as a Pagan?

Again and again, Helsen makes references to his fear of collectivism, referring to the “hive mind” and the “Borg” that i supposedly represent.  This is probably tied up in some way with his commitment to capitalism.  This appears to be just another example of what I have called “ego-Paganism”, the central tenet of which is “I am a special little snowflake and how dare you try to compare me to any other snowflake.”

Actually, it’s my commitment to individualism. The capitalism is just how I make my money. XD

Seriously though, all jokes aside, it is about the individualism. I am, amazingly enough, a liberal, in the classical sense. Individual people, individual worth, individual freedom, individual recognition. I like capitalism because it is the economic system that provides the most ease and freedom to individuals. I like my Gods as individuals because each individual has their own inherent worth. This is why I have a problem with collectivism. It erases the individual for the sake of the collective, it removes the enchantment of life for the Halstead version of enchantment. We become cogs in the machine, interconnected and interchangeable. And while a machine can be very beautiful, it’s beauty cares nothing for the parts that make it up, only what it achieves.

And you know, I was going to insist I’m not some special little snowflake, because special snowflake syndrome is a problem. But then I decided that, you know what, I am. I am. And Halstead is (terrifyingly enough, but he is), and each of you reading this post is a glorious, special snowflake with their own individual lives, and individual moments of beauty and horror, of things great and terrible. These things are not so because we are “interconnected” or “part of a whole” but because we are individuals and every individual is special.

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