Monday, January 23, 2006

What do I believe?

Being a modern neo-pagan, without the convenience of a pre-packaged kit of thou shalls and thou shalt nots, I have worked hard to develop a statement of belief. It's always been more about the process than the result. I don't 'require' a mission statement for my life, but the exploration, the questioning, the searching that have gone and are still going into the process of this statement of belief have been very enlightening. Never a dull moment!

So...where am I in the quest? Right now, I have a working thesis of what I believe. I call it that because I am loathe to think of it as a static, now-we-have-the-answers kind of thing. Faith, belief, knowledge, wisdom - all have to remain fluid or they risk becoming just another set of outdated ideas, clung to out of some misplaced loyalty to what may have been truth (or not) at one time. Getting 'the answer' would mean that I might miss 'the next answer'...the better, truer, more important answer. If I get 'the answer', I might stop peeling back the layers before I reach the source. That would be tragic!

Here's where I stand today.

1. I am a neo-pagan practicing an eclectic Wiccan path. I've come to the conclusion that it is a Wiccan path, though that wasn't an easy conclusion to reach. There are so many disparate answers to the question of what is Wicca and how it differs from everything else. It seems to boil down to just a few things: Recognition of both God and Goddess, celebration of the Sabbats and Esbats, the embracing of natural magic, and acceptance of the Wiccan Rede ('An it harm none, do what thou wilt.") It seems that most else is left up to individual interpretation. There are common ritual forms and ritual etiquette, though none of them are carved in stone. All in all, Wicca fits me as well as any other description and I'm happy to bear the name.

2. I am a panentheist. I believe that God and Goddess are terms we use for a creative force that exists both in us and outside us. We are part of that force and thus, in essence, we are part of the Divine. There are times when I call on Divinity within. There are other times when I look to the larger expression of that Divinity, to the Old Ones, the All, the Creative Force of the Universe... the huge, collective mass of all that force. I do not feel separate from the Divine - I am Divine.

3. I call on Divinity both within and without through the many faces and personas they have taken (or we have given) throughout time. I call both male and female, God and Goddess. I can no longer imagine walking a spiritual path that marginalizes or eliminates one gender from the concept of Divinity.

4. I do not believe that the body is bad the spirit is good, or any other false and oversimplified categorization that tries to separate the physical parts of our existence from the emotional, psychological, intellectual, sexual, and spiritual parts. There are no parts. There is just the whole - integrated, interdependent, and sacred. My sexuality is just as divine as my spirituality...they are one and the same, expressed differently to fit the circumstances.

5. I believe in the rule of three - that what we put into the universe comes back to us threefold. Whether the "three" is literal or simply expresses that energy expended comes back to us increased - for good or for bad - is immaterial to me. I've seen the truth of the concept every day of my life. The same concept appears in other mythos, and I remember well from my Bible study days, "You reap what you sow." The famous Golden Rule: "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you," is most often interpreted as a way in which to treat others. I believe it's more about ourselves - it's telling us that the way we treat others is what we can expect in return. In fact, the Golden Rule is really a pretty lousy guide for how to treat other people. Why not treat them as they would have done unto them?

6. I believe that every one of us is ultimately responsible for his or her own behavior, decisions, ethics, morals, and actions. I cannot relinquish that responsibility. It is mine and mine alone. For that reason, I cannot grant spiritual authority to anyone else. I respect elders in the Craft and in other belief systems. I learn from them. I turn to them for guidance. Ultimately, though, the decisions are mine to make. No matter how learned, wise, or experienced the teacher, they cannot shield me from that responsibility, nor can I follow unquestioningly. They are responsible for what and how they teach. I am responsible for what and how I learn and what I do with the knowledge. It is my job to sift through the words and rhetoric and find the nuggets of truth that live there, to apply them in my life, and to pass them on when opportunity arises.

7. My path is more about now than then. I am interested in "the old religion" because there are truths to be found there that have been distorted through time. I am interested in "the old ways" because they reflect a lifestyle that was by necessity more in tune with the rhythms and cycles of Nature. The test of the validity of my path, though, is how it informs my life, here, now, today. How do I apply the knowledge? How do I make my own life more responsive to the heartbeat and breath of Nature? How do I honor the Divine in a world that has so little honor? How do I live in balance in a world of artificial daylight, year-round climate control, and unceasing productivity? That is the test of my path and the quest of my journey.

8. I believe that one of the reasons I am here is to help remove barriers to understanding and acceptance. As a step in that direction, I do not hide my path. I know that Wicca was kept secret for many years, and that "to keep silent" is part and parcel of the Craft. I also know that, as a well-respected corporate professional, I have an opportunity to put a face on paganism and Wicca that isn't always seen. I have a chance to be the well-liked team member, the trusted business partner, the ethical employee - and a practicing Wiccan. I'm not 'in your face' about my religion any more than I would want others to be in mine. But I don't hide it. I rarely name it, though. I will talk to anyone about what I believe, how I celebrate, and the ethical standards that guide my daily steps. Typically, especially among Christians, we find a surpising amount of common ground. By not naming my path immediately, I usually postpone the slamming door of the mind and leave a pathway open for understanding and acceptance. Of course, if asked, I will answer honestly, and I have been asked several times, "Are you Wiccan?" I answer truthfully and let the chips fall where they will. So far, so good.

2 comments:

  1. very well thought out and written. It really helps to see it in this form. Thanks for taking the time to put it into words.

    ReplyDelete

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