Unexamined Baggage

Both individual Pagans, and Pagan traditions, have unexamined baggage from their childhood. Individual Pagans have intellectual and emotional baggage from the tradition they grew up in (even if that tradition was atheism). Pagan traditions have baggage from the era in which they emerged.

Before you assume that something is just a given in your personal worldview or the worldview of your tradition, you should check to see where it came from, and whether it gets you to where you want to go.

When I first started writing about Pagan theology, I got a lot of pushback. People said “we don’t need theology, that’s a Christian concept” (wrong; the classical text De Natura Deorum, “On the Nature of the Gods” was written by Cicero, a Pagan). They said, “if we have theology, we will get orthodoxy” (I think they were thinking of dogma, not theology, which is generally discursive). Some people wondered how discussing the nature of the gods was relevant to our lives (this was before the rise of polytheism) — but theology is about ethics and praxis, not just the gods.

People who do not examine their theology are doomed to repeat other people’s theology.

We need discursive theology because otherwise we just repeat the ideas we have been taught by mainstream culture, or we repeat nineteenth century ideas of what Paganism is, or even 1950s ideas of what is radical. We need to examine our baggage, unpack it, repack it, and do our laundry.

Have a look at your ideas about gender, tradition, nature, ancestors, and the land. What are your concepts of polarity, gender, and fertility? What are ethics based on?

Are your ideas about these things based on something you got from your upbringing? Maybe on an outdated view of science? Or are they based on a Pagan book that you read? Where did the author of that book get their ideas from? Did you read the book in a critical manner, checking its assumptions and examining its baggage? What are the politics (and metapolitics) of its author?

As I said in 2015, if we do not have well-thought-out theology, then bad theology will rush in to fill the void caused by its absence. You only need to look at the unexamined baggage about polarity, gender, and fertility that some people carry around with them to figure that out. The irony there is that the difference between polarity and gender was clearly explained in The Kybalion in 1912, as Morgana Sythove pointed out. It’s right there in occult tradition from a century ago.

Having more theological discussion does not lead to orthodoxy, it leads to different schools of thought. There were many different schools of thought in ancient Pagan religions, just as there are in contemporary Hinduism. In Ancient Greek and Latin, a school of thought was a haeresis, from which we get the modern word heresy. Heresy ultimately means choosing your own path, which seems like a good thing to me.

People are often surprised that there are right-wing and intolerant Pagans, and sometimes they’re also surprised that there are left-wing and tolerant Christians — but every religion contains a spectrum of political opinions.

If you want your Pagan or Wiccan or Heathen or Druid or polytheist practice to serve your spiritual goals and not hinder them, then you need to examine your emotional, intellectual, and spiritual baggage. Unpack it and do your laundry. Don’t let the fetid socks contaminate the rest of your stuff.

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my books.

3 thoughts on “Unexamined Baggage

  1. I wonder if, in the West at least, part of the unwillingness comes from how people find their paganism. Many pagans come to it not purely from a calling towards the paganism but also from a discomfort with the Abrahamic hierarchical model that is centered in both religious and political debate in the West. So, they are more likely to completely embrace the freedom to not feel guilty/ashamed of things Abrahamic orthodoxy labels “sin” than they are to race toward ideas of other sins.

    Those paganisms that incline more toward personal gnosis than reconstructionism are potentially doubly vulnerable to this; having rejected not only the idea of an external perfect authority on ethics and morals but an inclination to tradition and prior sources, it is easier to unconsciously slip from “there is more than one right path” into “no path is wrong”, resulting in a lack of belief that one needs to examine one’s path.

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