Wednesday, December 2, 2009

An Honest to God(dess) Filter


Given the feedback from this week's Witch Vox article, and some misconceptions about how I feel we should foster this dialogue of honesty in the pagan community, I've decided to devote episode 8 of the podcast to honesty in the pagan community. I know... I know, it will be a ridiculously quick turnaround, but I hope you'll forgive that. I just felt this was a message I could not wait to share.

I have already written out my spirituality segment concerning honesty, and I would like to share it with you readers since some of you don't listen to the podcast.

I hope you better understand where I'm coming from after this.

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

By now you’ve decided whether or not this podcast is a podcast you want to listen to. The great thing about media is that you can choose for yourself what you consume, for the most part. If Fox News isn’t your cup of tea, then you choose to watch Rachel Maddow instead. (Or, at least, you do if you’re me.) There are so many topics I’d like to discuss in future episodes, topics I’ve done research over, questions I am seeking the answers to, and topics suggested by you wonderful listeners. Speaking of listeners, I find it so…overwhelming how this listenership has grown exponentially since this podcast’s inception. The outpouring of warmth and acceptance you’ve shown me is unreal, and I thank you. Before this show goes any further however, I want you all to understand something about me and about this show.

This podcast’s purpose is, as I say every episode, to light a fire under comfortable thinking. Comfortable thinking, to me, is complacency, when we get complacent in our search for knowledge; when we get to the 102 level or the 103 level, or maybe just continue to swirl around the 101 level, and decide that’s good enough. My challenge to you, the listeners, is to never accept anything blindly and to continue to learn everything you possibly can, to be captains of your own experience. Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of one of my favorite books Eat, Pray, Love, said we must “Look for God like a man with his head on fire looks for water.” She also said, “You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings.” I believe this with my whole heart and being.

To digress a moment, I am 23 years old. This might surprise some and might not others if you’ve been listening. I am young enough that a year of introspection is a very long time, long enough to evolve, if only so slightly. Over the past year I’ve learned a few things, one of which is that I am a walker on a path that has no end. I am a seeker of knowledge so deep that I will never know the profound depths of this infinite pool of knowledge. To paraphrase what a Greek philosopher once said, I know enough to know there is much I don’t know. Please, from this moment on, never assume that I am pretending to speak from a place of authority or scholarship. Yes, I have done a lot of in-depth study into the topics I present, but there is a world of knowledge out there that I encourage you to go through before you accept what I say on this show as fact. As such, I would hope that if you find better information that contradicts what I’ve said, that you would share it with me. This podcast is as much a learning experience for me as it is for you.

I began this show as more of a continuing education program for myself. I’m wanting to ask the questions nobody else really wants to ask, because these questions force us to take a long look at our personal beliefs. Also, I ask these questions in order to try and find an answer. I would never deign to come on this show and present a topic I have no prior knowledge of, have done no study or contemplation over, but proceed to give you a thirty minute opinionated diatribe anyways. My opinion means about as much as a anybody else’s, and if this podcast were going to just be another in the sea of opinions, I would save everyone else the trouble. I hope this podcast to be a place where you can hear facts, studies, history, and academic information about those tough religious and societal topics we would rather not discuss. Goodness, what are the two things one is never supposed to talk about in polite conversation? Religion and politics. Well, that’s what this show is about. I’m going to step on people’s toes at some point, but I want you to know here and now that nothing I say on this show or write on the blog is meant to be a “my way or the highway” kind of thing. I mean it to supplement and further our collective educations.

This is why, when I am discussing a topic such as the nature of the Divine or the definition of Paganism, I try and stress to you all that the information I present is simply how I’ve come to understand things to be. I know for a fact that my worldview will change several times over the course of my life, and I look forward to each change with the same fervor and invention that Siddhartha did when he was studying the divine. (I recommend you read that book. You’ll never look at a river the same way again. Or, maybe you will.)

I want you all to be captains of your education. I want you to seek out God with the same passion and need that a man on fire seeks water. I want my voice to be one of hundreds of voices you listen to that you use to help formulate your own worldview. Even, if only to know that everything I say doesn’t jive with what you believe. That’s great! As other podcasters say, it means you’re thinking for yourself. With that said, I want to talk for a quick moment about honesty.

I hope that the message of this podcast is that we need to be honest with one another. Never should you accept what people, including myself, say as fact on face value alone. In your search for the divine, hopefully you’ll do some studying, and then you’ll do some more studying. You might very well start off in the New Age/Wicca/Paganism 101 section, and that’s ok, everyone needs a start. But, I hope that you’ll also move into philosophy, religion, psychology, history, physics and all the rest that life has to offer. Learn the mythologies of the world to find out what Gods and Goddesses speak to you. Learn the religions of the world to find out what parts of them you like and which parts you don’t. Maybe you’ll find that paganism wasn’t for you, but that you’re more Buddhist in leaning or at the very least you’ll have a healthy respect and understanding for the beliefs of the rest of the world’s population.
Once you’ve done this research, you’ll develop a filter. This filter will be comprised of your own sound research, your beliefs, your intuition, your heart and your brain working in conjunction with one another. In short, your filter will be your worldview. This filter should be applied to everything you hear, everything you read, and everything you say.
When you read a new book on paganism or magical theory, you should pass the information through your filter. What jives with your well-researched worldview can be added to your worldview, expanding it by that amount of wisdom. However, what does not fit with what you’ve come to know as truth can be discarded. One of my best friends will buy a book because it has a great section about tools or a well-written essay concerning a particular figure in occult history like Doreen Valiente. She might think the rest of the book is complete hogwash, but she wants to add that bit of good information to her worldview.

When you share your personal experiences with others, you should keep your words in good order. You need to speak without attempting to put one over on other people, especially in order to further your own ego. If you did not have a specific magical experience, or you honestly do not possess one of the many popular pagan superpowers, then please do not pretend to do so. This causes a cloud of incongruous misinformation in the pagan community; it fosters an air of confusion for newcomers to the path and frustration for members that have been on the path for years. It’s unnecessary to tell others falsehoods about something so basic and so varying as religion and spirituality. Now, you should most definitely share something if you firmly believe it to be true. If you pass your experience or belief through your well-researched filter and it comes out the other side in tact, then by all means let people know about it, should you feel called to do so.

In conjunction with this, you should pass what others say through your filter as well. If someone is telling you something that goes against what you’ve come to know as your truth, your worldview, then you shouldn’t let it through your filter. However, if what someone has to say fits and expands upon your worldview, your body of knowledge, by all means allow it to pass through your filter and expand your understanding of the world, the universe, and the divine. There are times, however, when you will come upon someone who is not trying to enhance the collective education. These individuals are simply trying to gain attention where they could not get it otherwise. These people may put themselves in false positions of authority or market their supposed information for a price, masquerading untruth with mystery. In situations where you find someone is claiming falsities or pretending to be a teacher of magical practices when they clearly go against historical fact and the laws of physics (such as being able to physically fly or claim to be an expert on the subject of the Burning Times), then you should take them aside, privately, and question them. Ask how they came to this information, why they would tell other people this information should it not be backed up by research, and perhaps try to educate them on what the facts have to say on the subject. Or, at least, how you have come to interpret the facts.

Remember, though, that many people are simply telling others what they believe to be the truth. A great article Feithline Stuart of SpiritsCast directed her blog readers to deals with folks that read only 101 texts on paganism and never go deeper into the various subjects dealing with a pagan worldview. You will meet a great many people like this, and while it is not your place to tell someone else how much education they should have, this may be an opportunity for you to act as teacher to them. However, should this person not be receptive to sound research, don’t beat a dead horse. Just smile and nod, and please don’t denigrate them to the rest of the pagan community; it’s in bad taste. Although, you may just open some eyes and expand someone else’s worldview.

This is what I hope to inspire in you, the listeners: a desire to gain this filter, and to constantly add to your body of knowledge. Your beliefs should be based on something more than instinct. You should attempt to ground your worldview in as much education as you can, but as I’ve said before there are some things that no science book or academic text could ever prove. These are where you take leaps of faith… Just, please, try and make them educated leaps of faith. I’ll say it again: Seek God like a burning man seeks water. Make it a passion. Make your well of knowledge endless, and fervently try and fill it up. I will facilitate with knowledge and beliefs and opinions gleaned from my research and worldview. However, if something I say goes completely against your truth, then by all means discard it. I am not preaching any gospel here. This is why I say paganism is a buffet religion. It is one of the few spiritual modalities that allows individuals to create their own worldview instead of being tied to one limited perspective of the divine. And, when you hit someone who is spouting grade A, high quality B.S., and they’re trying to bowl one over on a new walker to the path or yourself, take either the seeker or the supposed teacher aside, privately, and let them know the truth. Or, at least, that you know a really good book on the subject.

1 comment:

  1. Read your article on Witchvox...I had to restrain my self...a difficult proposition at best considering what I was reading. No,I was quite restrained and read it to the bitter end. Why did I need to restrain myself so? Because I kept wanting to leap up and say FRAKKING* YES!!!!!!
    Mr Lyte, you have hit the nail squarely on the head here my friend. So many of our deluded brothers and sisters seem to think that "Paganism" means worship anything you want. Hmmm, I am a die-hard Trekkie, I know, I will start a new tradition.."Trekka" LOL, Ok, seriously though, a timely and truthful rant. Keep it up and perhaps if we are lucky, and if enough of us "serious" folks rant long and loud enough, people will start to listen.

    Peace and Light (Lyte?)
    Jeff Kincaid
    Lynchburg, VA

    *- Yes I love Battlestar Galactica. Yes I know it is fiction and no I do not worship A) The Lords of Kobol, B) the Cylon One True God. Just sayin'

    ReplyDelete