Pagan Values: Relationships or Active Relationship

So earlier this year I heard about this new book God Is Not One, by Stephen Prothero…

There was a story about it on The Wild Hunt, with a follow-up article and some deeply fascinating comment stream discussions,  and a fabulous review over at Pagan Godspell.

It was Ruby Sara’s review that started me thinking about this; especially this part….

Prothero’s unifying conceit for the eight religions explicated in the book is that each has four elements – a problem that the religion perceives, a solution to the problem, techniques for implementing the solution, and exemplars to demonstrate how to effectively go about it.  Prothero admits that this formula of “problem/solution/technique/exemplar” is simplistic, but it is fairly functional…though an excellent topic of debate would be whether all religions can be said to being with a problem – do the various Pagan religions, for instance, address problems?

Not only would I say that the Pagan religions address problems, I would like to put forth that in one way or another we strive to address the SAME problem and that that is a unifying feature of our diverse theologies and practices and group cultures!

It seems to me that the central problem that our many Paganisms address is one of Disconnection.

Disconnection from one another.  Disconnection between our true selves which in turn leaves us overly open to influence of our very disconnected and dis-empowering over-culture.  Disconnection from the Natural and Spiritual World(s) around us.   Disconnection from our Ancestors and from our Ancestral Cultures and/or our Cultural Ideals.  Disconnection from the Spirits present and/or manifest in the World around us.   Disconnection from The Divine (however your form of Paganism sees it/them).

The commonly found solution for this problem is to engage in Active Relationship.

Engaging in active and participatory and respectful and reciprocal relationships with our friends and family, engaging in the holy work of sort out our personal bull****, learning about and being conscious of the physical and spiritual World around us, finding ways to relate to or honor our Ancestral spirits and the honored and beloved dead, and learning about and beginning to build relationships with the Spirits and the Gods/The Divine/The Ground of All Being.

The techniques most often used to engage in Active Relationship are “Ritual” and “Magic(k)”.

The quotation marks represent the fact that what many Pagans most often term Ritual or Magic(k) are often only a small portion of the techniques our community uses, including Ritual and Prayers and Magic and Meditation among other activities, but that these are ACTIVITIES, things we actively must be doing to honestly call ourselves Pagans.

It is not enough to think about ones Active Relationships, at some point you actually have to start DOING something, no matter what species of Paganism you practice at some point YOU are the one who has to try addressing the Big Divine Whatyamacallit(s) of your particular Paganism… even if it’s only on a private level in your household, and maybe you go to public rites and festival rites organized by others… but at some point in every form of Paganism to actually start being a Pagan you have got to use the language of ritual to begin and build and have most of your most important religious and spiritual relationships.

Our exemplars are….many.

There are as many exemplars as there are Pagan Paths.  The prophets and founders and authors and scholars living and dead who have created, recreated, inspired and informed our many Pagan paths.

Now, all religions, deal with the idea of disconnection in one way or another; but it seems to me from my study and experiences that the contemporary Pagan movement and the Ancient Paganisms (that we really know much about) have and had a focus on this actively engaging in relationship with the Divine and the Spiritual as individuals and families and communities.    That you can be in the world and of it and be wholly active and involved and holy at the same time.   That religion can involve an active life within the world, and engagement with all the challenges and difficulties in the world rather than a retreat from it, this is the Value of Relationship I find within Paganism.


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One response to “Pagan Values: Relationships or Active Relationship

  1. Orthodox, institutional religions are quite different, but their mystics have much in common. A quote from the chapter “Mystic Viewpoints” in my e-book at on comparative mysticism:

    Ritual and Symbols. The inner meanings of the scriptures, the spiritual teachings of the prophets and those personal searchings which can lead to divine union were often given lesser importance than outward rituals, symbolism and ceremony in many institutional religions. Observances, reading scriptures, prescribed acts, and following orthodox beliefs cannot replace your personal dedication, contemplation, activities, and direct experience. Preaching is too seldom teaching. For true mystics, every day is a holy day. Divine revelation is here and now, not limited to their sacred scriptures.

    Conflicts in Conventional Religion. “What’s in a Word?” outlined some primary differences between religions and within each faith. The many divisions in large religions disagreed, sometimes bitterly. The succession of authority, interpretations of scriptures, doctrines, organization, terminology, and other disputes have often caused resentment. The customs, worship, practices, and behavior within the mainstream of religions frequently conflicted. Many leaders of any religion had only united when confronted by someone outside their faith, or by agnostics or atheists. Few mystics have believed divine oneness is exclusive to their religion or is restricted to any people.

    Note: This is just a consensus to indicate some differences between the approaches of mystics and that of their institutional religion. These statements do not represent all schools of mysticism or every division of faith. Whether mystical experiences vary in their cultural context, or are similar for all true mystics, is less important than that they transform each one’s sense of being to a transpersonal outlook on all life.

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