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Two of the major things that have been coming up lately in the Pagan community seem to be the idea that we should begin a return (or start at least) the practices of Orthopraxy and Orthodoxy.

Now there’s always been something of an emphasis on Orthopraxy in Paganism since the revivals started. Orthopraxy translates to “right practice” and the importance of doing a ritual (regardless of path) correctly lest harm, pollution, or failure result has always been acknowledged as something very important. And there’s not much to say about it except that it is good. Any task, spiritual or mundane should be done the right way lest something go wrong. Now there are many different “right ways” but that doesn’t seem to present much of a problem. Mostly because anything done a wrong way tends to explode rather spectacularly.

Of a secondary, and much contended nature, is Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy translates best as “correct thought/belief” though wiki dictionary put is more like “correct way/path.” There has been much an insistence lately on a return to Orthodoxy on all sides of the various Pagan debates I’ve seen and/or weighed in on.

One of the main issues (and why orthodoxy has generally been so contended against in Paganism) is that where as there are objective ways to tell if something is Orthopraxy (historical research, practical applications and resulting successes or failures, etc) it is not so easy to objectively say what is correct Orthodoxy. Often enough, historical research leads to different conclusions for different people. Even in the simplest and most direct sources lead to contention based on personal biases.

A good example of this in mundane terms is the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. Despite the fact that the 2nd amendment says “everyone has the right to bear arms” i.e. have weapons of their desire, there is much contention over what weapons are allowed, which are banned, and how limiting of this right we can get “for the safety of society.” All this despite the clear language that says “arms” with no exceptions and with the clear declaration that the right of these arms is for the safety of the citizenry. Indeed, even the 1st amendment, all about how all speech shall be free and protected, is treated as muddled as people try to censor words, thoughts, and speeches that they find “offensive” and “dangerous.” Again, the document is clear that no exceptions shall be made, yet people insist that their desire exceptions should be and are legally allowed.

And let us be honest, most religious documents are not so clear. There is much disagreement, and few of the documents we like. The temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus did not kindly leave us the “big book of Jupiter’s Orthodoxy.” So we must muddle along with each faith and each god as best we can. Even the only text of that sort that I know of, the Havamal of Odin, is not as clear about many questions heathens have about “Orthodoxy” since it’s mostly just wisdom for living, rather than theological practice.

Which leaves us to a point where each person often ends up deciding that “Their Way” is the “Right Way.” It was one of the driving engines in the Halsteadian War. Halstead held his “three pillars” was Orthodoxy and anything that threatened it was essentially Adikodoxy, going so far as to say that any pagan path that didn’t recognize the beliefs of his path as central was a paganism he did not recognize as pagan. Krasskova, Sarenth, and others often responded similarly. Devotional, Theistic Polytheism was the Orthodoxy and Halstead’s position became Adikodoxy (though more because he was coming across as trying to “Excommunicate” polytheists who objected to his Orthodoxy. It was a bit like the Great Schism between the Catholic and Orthodox churches).

Now, Adikodoxy is a term probably not heard of much yet. Maybe not at all, since I had to put it together myself. But it translates basically as “wrong think.”

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While I am completely in support of the idea of Orthodoxy in Paganism, I am also even more in support of the ideas of freedom of thought and freedom of speech. There is nothing wrong with having an orthodoxy to one’s path, a dogma of what is right and what is wrong, and teaching it. But it is always best when having these things to be careful not to be too harsh, too violent, or too intolerant of differing perspectives within one’s path. That’s how paths stay alive and grow.

Now it is a careful balancing act, depending on what part of the Orthodoxy we’re talking about. And orthodoxy that says “murder is evil and displeases the Gods” is not something too many people are going to complain about. Even an orthodoxy that says “the Gods are living individual beings” is not going to be overly troublesome, as long as it is made clear that that is the orthodoxy of that religion, and doesn’t have to be applied to other religions. It’s when say the latter orthodoxy is taken and then added “and any who do not believe as such shall be punished” that such an orthodoxy becomes an issue and treads into creating Adikopraxy.

There is not much problem with people believing the “wrong thing.” It happens all the time, and will be a part of humanity for as long as there is a humanity. And can sometimes be solved with education (though often enough, not). But people must always be allowed to believe the “wrong thing” even when there is a “right thing.” Because that is how we know there is a right thing. Any orthodoxy that can only continue itself via the use of adikodoxy and punishing adikodoxy shows not that it is right, but that it only survives by punishing “wrong think.”

And that generally means there was something worth while in that “wrong think.”

 

 

Hela Bless

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