So I’ve had some good ripping on Halstead in his articles, there’s been a lot of firestorms everywhere inspired by him, and I will say, probably a bit by me as well. A lot of things have come up, and if there is one thing that conflict is good for, it’s that everyone gets what’s bothering them out into the open. And then they fight about it, and the bodies land everywhere. Hail Bellona.
One of the things that has popped up in all these debates is the question of does Paganism have to be unified and accepting of everyone, can Paganism exclude certain ideas/ideologies and if so which ones, what exactly is Paganism, and so forth.
Now I’m not going to go really in depth into any of that stuff today. Krasskova wrote a pretty good article about why it is important to put traditions over ourselves and why she (and I, and even Halstead) have all been in this recent fight. It’s a pretty good read, and while I do fall more into the “Individualist” side of things, she makes a good argument for her position. And I agree that there is a need for a strong foundation of what Is, if there is ever going To Be.
Still, as my own articles have shown, I don’t hard-line quite like she does. Which is really what I wanted to ramble about in this post. There’s been a lot of talk about what should be. There’s been a lot of discussion about, what is. Largely, even in my own posts, there is the sense that Paganism must be unified, and who gets to define that unity.
Halstead, if you look loosely at his posts, does stand for a unified, “tolerant” Paganism. Much of the issue that has been had is that he has (or is at least perceived as) judged that Hardcore Polytheists, with their emphasis on divine worship, represent a threat to this “Unified” Paganism as he views it through is Three Pillars Theory. Too much power flows to the Theistic side of things (which as an atheist he does not believe, agree with, or perhaps understand), and this jeopardizes the power of the Self and Nature pillars. The Gods then, steal effort and work from Nature, and demand that the Self sacrifice for the sake of the Gods. This, as a Self/Nature focused person, would be wrong as it (and Gods I hate to use SJ terms) Privileges the Divine over Nature and Self. And so he spoke out strongly and with much bile.
Krasskova, and others stand firmly in a Theistic Traditionalist stance. What Nature could there be, without the Gods? What humanity or civilization could there be, without the Gods? Therefore the Gods and Their traditions must be paramount above all things, especially if Paganism is to grow, flourish, and restore itself in the generations to come. To put focus on (And we’ll stick to the TPT for the moment) say Nature or Self above the Gods would be an act of heresy, for neither could exist without the Gods and in many traditions, were created to serve the Gods (I believe the Canaanites are an example of this).
Then you have me, who because of my very unique situation with Hel, (and my preference for historical factual evidence showing that Paganism was Polytheistic) take a different stance. I try to look at things from the perspectives of the Gods themselves, or at least those within the Pantheons I fall under. So while this does tend to leave me more towards the Theistic side of things, there are exceptions*
The truth is, there is no single, unified religion out there. The reason we have “Umbrellas” such as Pagan, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, etc. Heck, even Judaism has not just the primarily known tripartite split of Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox, inside each of those splits is even more splits. I spent somewhere around six years studying Judaism and if you think Pagans are bad about infighting and disagreeing over what is “Correct Practice” then, well, you ain’t seen nothing. Even Islam has its splits, though these are far fewer based on the rather violent and oppressive nature that tends to meet dissent in that religion. And everyone is fairly familiar with Christianity, but even the most “unified” branch of Christianity, the Catholic Church, has many internal splits and schisms.
So it is pretty unrealistic to ever assume that Paganism would be any different. Even with Halstead’s “Three Pillars” theory (which I think probably leaves out many focal points for many practices) attempt to “unify” Paganism falls very, very short in practice.
Ironically enough, given how much of a hard time I have given Halstead, I don’t think Paganism really needs to be “unified.” My primary reason for taking apart his posts and so forth was because at least in word, if not intention, he was attempting to kick out one group for the sake of unity, and emphasizing conformity to his definition of what unity was if people were to “Stay Pagan.” Which, frankly, from my “Deific” position is and will always be bullshit. Because it would be like claiming Orthodox Jews can no longer “be Jews” because they insist on practicing a Theistic Judaism rather than the some form of more “Atheistic” Reform Judaism (in which not all Reform Jews are Atheists, either).
It has honestly made me happy in a way to see the differentiation of different Pagan paths. It means we’re growing, and growing well enough that different Paths can be supported by themselves. It used to be that everyone had to compromise some level of their belief in order to be part of a Pagan group. A Heathen might have to tone down his voice or sacrifice an emphasis on Honor in order to practice beside a Wiccan who followed the “threefold law.” Said Wiccan might have had to engage in more “violence” than they were comfortable with in order to practice with the Heathen. And so on and so forth for all the paths.
Now though, we’re seeing more and more of each kind of path out there, especially the Theistic ones. And I can sympathize with Halstead’s “concern” over the growing “Theistic” Revolution that is taking place in Paganism. For a very long time, Paganism has been more about the Self and Nature/Ultimate/Whathaveyou, and not very much on the Gods (who were often treated very much “plug and play”). The Power lay in those “poles” but now the power shifts away as not only are more “clergy” arising, but more “laity” as well in Paganism. More people want more Gods, and More Gods. And as Paganism grows, this will only grow with it.
People, instead of asking “how can Paganism fulfill me, help me deal with my guilt” will instead ask “What is it that the Gods find pleasing, so I may live a good life?” As people stop “Growing up” in a world they feel makes them inherently bad, they will not need the Self focus that has been a part of Paganism under Halstead’s theory. Nor, do I think, will they see as much need for the Nature part as they, like most Theists, will see nature as but an extension of the Gods’ powers. It is, in a strange and happy way…the evolution of civilization all over again.
There will always be deeply devoted people like Krasskova, and this is wonderful. There will always be those who doubt and rail against what they do not like, like Halstead. There is, in a way, a need for both kinds, and many more beside. And there will always be Gods, watching mortals live and believe.
Someday, we will all hopefully still be Pagan, in the same way that both the Baptist and the Catholic are Christians, or the Orthodox and the Reform are still Jews. But we will be Asatuar, Cultus Deorum, Canaan, Wiccan, and so, so many others. This, I believe, is how the Gods look at it. Each Pantheon once again with its own people, its own customs brought to life and practice, and each person living their lives the best they can, with an eye to whichever mighty place their Gods live. With a prayer in their heart, a song on their lips, and an honest and good life in their hands.
Or at least, that is my hope. That someday I may look out upon Midgard from my seat beside Hel, holding her hand with many ages passing in our marriage, gazing past the river Gjöll. That long after my mortal flesh has passed into dust, and just the mythology of her and I remain, to look upon all the mighty deeds of Pagan children, returned at last to their Gods’ love and care.
Frankly, for my position I would love to use the term Deistic, as it is related to Theistic, but where Theistic speaks to me of religious practice and tradition based around the Gods, Deistic sounds more like it would be appropriate for the Practices of Gods Themselves. Sadly, however, the term Deistic already is in use in relation to Deism, a philosophy which believes in the existence of God or Gods without supernatural revelation (where as Theism believes in supernatural revelation). I suppose I could make the case that since I don’t believe in the supernatural, just that what most people consider as supernatural is simply natural, it wouldn’t be “supernatural revelation” but frankly that sounds like too much damn work and mental gymnastics to be worth the bother.
And given how much crap I joyfully gave Halstead over trying to make the word enchantment mean participation, I would rather not give into hypocrisy.
But I will let the readers put in their two cents about this Deistic idea.