(Note from Daven: You may know that I’m a contributor to a publication called “The Juggler“. It’s a Pagan magazine that is a blog. There are several of us who contribute to it regularly these days. Sunfell is one of the regular contributors and this piece showed up there the other day. I asked for and received permission to repost this here. I have to add that while I was reading this the first time, I found my neck to be sore from nodding so many times.)
This post landed on my Pagan Clergy board. It is a wonderful illustration of illusions, and the shattering of those illusions. The original post is in italics. My replies are in plain text.
Community Shame ————–
Having been in the [State] Pagan community for some time, I have been witness to a disturbing trend within the state. We don’t have a real community any longer. No longer are we questing for our spirituality, the voices of unity are in no way apparent, and we have become so fractured by pretty grievances that we have no sense of self. Where is the community? Where is the honor that we should be striving for, the virtues of Paganism that we had been seeking when we all began?
They’re gone. How can we still call ourselves Pagan when the very fabric of our respective religions is ignored? Harm none? When is the last time anyone thought of that? Healing? Community spirit? In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust? They don’t exist in [State] and it’s sickening to witness.
It is rather sad, isn’t it? I am going to reply to this post on a point-by point basis, seperated by the dashes you see above. And hang on tight, kiddies, because I’ve got my Giant Hammer of Paradigm Busting right here.
There is a community spirit, but it is not obvious if you focus on the noise instead of the signal buried beneath all the dramatics and fluff. There are a whole bunch of people in this state who are quietly going about their business without any of the drama mentioned. They just don’t talk about it- because they don’t want to attract the troublemakers.
So, how to solve the problem? First thing to do is to ditch the “Perfect Love and Perfect Trust” thing. For one, it’s a Wiccan teaching, and not all of us are Wiccan, and for another, it is untenable anyplace except within a tightly knit and -closed- circle, grove, coven, holt, what have you. “PLPT” is impossible to achieve outside of ritual. Why? Because we are all human beings, that’s why. And there are people who, sad to say, use it as a cudgel to inculcate others and make them do things that they shouldn’t and who manipulate people- especially newbies- with it. Ditch that, and you are well on your way to solving a whole heap of problems that we have.
The Pagans of this state are saturated by vengeance, petty squabbling, infantile ego battles, ‘he said, she said’ wars, tangles of deception, and vicious hatred. And when we turn to the elders of the state, those who are supposed to guide us and be pillars of the community, what do we find? Do we find support and understanding? Perhaps a voice of sanity amidst the chaos? Only if we’re lucky!. Instead we find that it’s those we are supposed to turn to that are the cause.
I don’t know who the heck you’re talking about, but I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people who are infected by what is stated above. And they are not elders or leaders in any way, shape or form, no matter what they say. Our problem children target the Elders, leaders and Teachers, and accuse them of all sorts of horrid stuff, and they have just enough ‘pull’ to fool the newbies into believing them and run them off. Why? Perhaps it is because the Elders might actually point the troublemakers out for the fakers that they are, which is the last thing that they want. So the troublemakers are particularly vicious in their denouncing of the people they want to depose. The Elders and genuine Teachers are sick to death of this crap, and many have wisely retreated into private, screened and closed groups to keep out of the fray- and keep out the bad actors. The genuine Seekers will find them. They’ll just have to look a lot harder for them.
There is NO OBLIGATION for an Elder to be public or to lead or direct anything or anyone outside their own circle or purview. To believe or to expect so is a mistake, and that error underlies this problem. This does not mean that Elders and Teachers in various communities cannot get together as peers and create a Council- but again, they are not obligated to do so. However, the presence of a Council of Elders is a sign of maturity and stability in the community as a whole. We do not have that in this state…yet.
In the various Old School trads, back in the days before Llewellen and the Internet, Seekers really had to look hard and get looked at hard in return before they were permitted to study and practice in any tradition. I see the tide returning to this practice, and I am glad. There are people who understand that the practice of Magic is not for everyone, and should not be easily available. I am one of them. Magic attracts two sorts of people: those who truly wish to learn and deepen their spirituality, and those who are mentally unstable or who seek power over others. Sadly, the latter outnumbers the former. In this politically correct world, it is not the done thing to send unsuitable people away from our various practices, but in my own practice, a person with experience and insight who teaches others is obligated to do so. To not send an unsuitable person away is irresponsible and unwise and does nothing to help stabilize the community as a whole. And it is also irresponsible for a leader of a group not to shun and send away any troublemakers.
We find that the elders are so deeply embroiled in this egotism and jockeying for being ‘the best’ or ‘the wisest’ or ‘the most powerful’, that there is nothing to hang on to. Instead of being true leaders and teachers, these people are instead engaging in a dialogue of disdain that they happily pass on to their students!
“Don’t go here, HE’LL be there!”
“Don’t support this community event, SHE might be there.”
“I’m not going to do this because it supports someone/something else that I don’t like!”
“I’m not doing this because it doesn’t do anything for me!”
These are the people we are supposed to respect and look up to?
Again, the people you speak of, who are allegedly doing these things are not genuine Elders. Genuine Elders don’t have to ‘jockey’ for anything. Power-over does not interest them, only power within. And real Elders don’t go around bragging about such things, if they’re worth their salt. Real Elders are made so by those who respect and honor them, not by self-declaration. Anyone who says otherwise is a One Book Wannabe.
However: Elders do have a right to express disgust and disdain at anything or anyone they choose. They do not lose this right when people start respecting and honoring them. They lead by example, and the task of pointing out idiocy and incompetence, trolls and bad examples are as much a part of that teaching as are the Mysteries of the Multiverse. If they don’t, they’re doing their people a disservice. Done correctly, such bad example indicating does not sow dissent, it ends it by having people avoid and reject problem children.
Paganism shouldn’t be about politics! It’s not about back-stabbing, arguing and ‘holier than thou’ attitudes. It’s not about taking sides, it’s not about whining about how someone did this or that , and it’s not about power plays. It’s about balance, unity, love and respect for others. We’re supposed to be spiritual, to look past the mundane to our higher selves, are we not? No one, degree or no degree is better than the other; neither the Goddess nor the God see it that way and we all know it.
Pardon me while I make my point clear: That is utter BULLSHIT. Paganism is just as political as any other endeavor that human beings engage in. It is not immune to this, and if you want to succeed in it, or any other endeavor, you have to dive in and learn about politics. Otherwise you will be a bitter battered loser on the fringes whining about it. Spirituality does not grant any sort of immunity to politics. Churches are a wonderful example of this.
Properly and insightfully done, politics is enlivening and enhancing. Only incompetent, ignorant or uneducated people engage in the backstabbing, gossiping or ‘holier than thou’ crap spoken of above. Real seekers understand that we must learn the give-and-take of political discourse in all its variation in order to do anything anywhere. It’s the expansion of manners. It isn’t about power, it’s about people. Power naturally comes with people- with their respect and honor. Such power can also be taken away by the same mechanism. Politics is the mechanism for this.
The spiritual side of the religion practiced is the responsibility of the individual Seeker and their Teachers. It is a part of a whole life, not apart from it. No one can or should tell another how to seek that part of their Path- the Seeker should be already competent or under the care of a trusted Teacher. The individual Teachers in the individual groups in private settings are responsible for teaching and modeling the balance, harmony (not unity- we are all individuals), love and respect. Some groups use a degree system to honor advancement. Others do not. This is not and should not be any part of the greater community. Degrees should never be mentioned in polite company or outside a closed Circle. Like IQ, it is bad manners to do otherwise. Those who use a degree- real or imagined- to foist themselves politically upon the community should get the drubbing and razzing they heartily deserve.
I for one am wholeheartedly sick of the behavior displayed by our leaders. It’s more than disgusting. It’s shameful. When our own elders and leaders cannot look past ‘Me’ thinking and instead use ‘Us’ thinking and look past their own personal differences to unify the community as a whole, then they are no longer elders. They don’t deserve the right to be called such. If they can’t set a good example for the young amongst them and show that their spirituality and religion isn’t more than just pretty words, then what good are they?
Setting a ‘good example’ sometimes means engaging in unpleasant or “politically incorrect” things. A proper Path is a balance of Light and Darkness, not just a one-sided fluff-fest (and I am addressing the “dark” people too- fluffiness is not confined to “light” Paths). Anyone who pretends otherwise needs to take a long sabbatical from their practice and reconsider this. “Unity” is another delusion that should be thrown out with PLPT. We are happily individual, with our individual Circles and practices. Anyone who seeks to unify the community is doomed to fail. The Pagan community is an “Us”, but we are also a large collection of “Us”. The Big US can come together from time to time for festivals, holidays, and to rally for a cause, but it’s been demonstrated over and over again that we get along better as individual groups without one overriding leadership. Each individual and individual group should be responsible for their own doings. Period.
This does not rule out the responsibility of the individual leaders of those groups to point out and reject troublemakers. If they do not, they risk shattering that group. There is nothing that says that leaders and Elders can’t point out bad players within the community and warn their people away.
How can we trust them to counsel us in our paths? How can we rely on them to teach us to honor the God and the Goddess and to cherish the beauty of another’s soul as we have been bid, when they can’t do the same? The simple truth of the matter is that we can’t and that fact alone is a painful one.
The elders and leaders of the [State] community should be ashamed of themselves. Ashamed of their actions, ashamed of what they have made this community into and ashamed of the example they represent.
Oh, waaah. Again, the Pagan groups in this state- and everywhere else- are autonomous. It is up to their own collective members to trust their leaders and Elders and to solicit their counsel and teachings on any matter- political or spiritual. If they must warn or shun or refuse to participate, that is their prerogative. To NOT do so would be irresponsible.
Consider this: there are many more Pagan groups of various sorts in this state than meet the eye. Most of them are quietly doing quite well, and teaching what is stated above, and do not participate in the nonsense stated above. They don’t advertise. They are not online, or if they are, they are hidden. It is the dramatic, unstable and immature people who are making all the trouble. The genuine Elders and leaders of this state are quietly going about their business, dipping into politics as needed, balancing their spiritual and mundane lives, teaching and leading their groups and caring for them in their own autonomous manner. You do not hear about them because they are busy doing these things. Consider this, and go in peace to care for your own community.
Pax et Lux (Peace and Light)