So back in my post about being Factually Wrong, I carried on insisting that the Three Pillars, which have been at the heart of at least part of the discussions Halstead has sparked across many blogs, that the Three Pillars were Deity, Ultimate/Existence, and Self. I did this, over Halstead’s many objections that it was Self, Nature, and Deity, primarily because as far as I was concerned Halstead’s credibility is pretty much shot when it comes to me taking anything at face value, and because when I first got introduced to this Three Pillars thing it was from Halstead appearing to quote Beckett, who refereed to them as Deity, Ultimate, and Self. So I was going by what Beckett seemed to be saying.
And then, in the comments of that aforementioned post, Halstead wrote this:
This was the very first article that used the three centers approach to defining Paganism. It was from May 2012. You can see for yourself what the three centers are (there’s even a graphic): earth, Self, deity. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/2012/05/23/the-three-or-more-centers-of-paganism/
John Beckett, as he will tell you himself, borrowed the model from me.
Now, my first instinct is to not exactly trust anything Halstead says at face value because he has a terrible (and documented) history of using a word to mean something it doesn’t. But the date on that url is from 2012, which makes it hard to believe that he could go back in time just set up some sort of “I’m right, you’re wrong” thing. So I clicked the link. Many of you may already be grasping at what I realized as soon as he wrote it.
That’s right. The purported first ever use of the Three Pillars of Paganism came from none other than John Halstead himself.
There is indeed a handy little picture that shows it was “Nature, Self, Deity” too:
Which means, that the Three Pillars arguments where we polytheists in good faith have insisted that the Deity Pole has as much rights to the title of Pagan as say “Nature” or “Self” or “Atheist” or whatever have you, arguments where we have taken these “Three Pillars” as honest, historical, and factual….
Are all based on something that Halstead created from his own personal thoughts about three years ago.
So when he has repeatedly tried to insist that the dictionary definition of Paganism is incorrect because it doesn’t recognize something like the “Three Pillars” variations in Paganism, we must now take into account that these self same “Three Pillars” are but the creation of Halstead himself.
Now, this is not to invalidate the realizations of individual peoples when it comes to Paganism. Indeed, even I took the Three Pillars as something true because it does mirror some things seen in the Pagan community and in recent Pagan Theology over the last several decades. It is not, in and of itself, a bad idea, though I do think Beckett’s interpretation of the three pillars as Ultimate, Deity, and Self as a bit more accurate to what I have seen and studied. It is a Theory worth some discussion, because there is evidence for it and against it.
However, as with all things regarding UPG or Theory (which I believe these Three Pillars idea would fall under, just like my own work on the metaphysics of faith), we must look to historical facts as well as Personal Gnosis (sorry if I spelled that wrong), and see how well they line up, not demand that historical facts and definitions be changed or ignored to fit our personal beliefs about Paganism, the Divine, or so forth.
My specific issue is that through repeated discussions, where in Halstead has insisted that the three pillars are “nature, self, deity” as opposed to how I initially came aware of them via Halstead quoting Beckett as saying the three pillars were “Deity, ultimate, and self,” he never once linked to his post, nor to my knowledge or recollection mentioned, about developing the “Three Centers/Pillars” idea. Indeed, it took roughly twenty, that’s 20, posts by me and a great number by other people, before he finally, finally linked to his “three centers” article. He always (appeared at least) to treat it as a pure, concrete fact of Paganism rather than a theory of his about Paganism.
No doubt Halstead will attempt to back track by pointing out that in the article he admits to drawing some inspiration from Graham Harvey’s book, What Pagans Believe so as to point to the concept being more than three or so years old, but then I would refer you to the comment he left on my blog in the above screen cap where he takes complete credit for the “Three Pillars” and their being “Nature, Self, and Deity,” and that “Beckett will admit he got the idea from Halstead.”
So there you have it, I was factually wrong. We all have been. We took these “Three Pillars” in good faith as part of our united Pagan History, but the truth is they are a modern theory created by the very man who (though he will not admit it, be it intentional or not) is doing so much to drive out Polytheists from Paganism. His three pillars as he created them give him a “winning majority” of the “pillars.” But they are just that, his creation, his theory.
Well, no more Three Pillars then, at least for me as it goes. While it is an idea with merit and perhaps I will do my own exploration of the idea, I will abide by the Dictionary and historical texts, with their historical, proven, factual nature. Because while theories are good, they must be built on facts, not in disregards of the facts or to counter the facts we do not like or that stand in opposition to us. I will still be open and accepting of all type of Pagan; animist, polytheist, spiritualist, duo-theist, eclectic, recon, etc, but from here on out the key facts in regards to defining Paganism is that the Three Pillars theory is not concrete fact to me, and that Paganism was and is: Polytheistic in origin and nature.