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Deities as role models, by Eli Effinger-Weintraub

November 20, 2011
Haze Sunset Over Moya Village, Aomori, Japan

When trying to get your act together, who better to look to than Apollo, god of light and order?

photo by B. T. Newberg

For months, I’d been trying to develop a relationship with a sun goddess. One day, I looked at the sun and thought, Why am I bothering with sun goddesses, when the sun is real and right there?

In my personal practice, I skip the intermediary and go for the thing, albeit often a highly symbolized “the thing”: the sun isn’t just a miasma of incandescent plasma; it’s a miasma of incandescent plasma with Something to Teach Me about nonjudgmental perception and honest communication.

But deity can have other resonance for me.

Deities as role models

In group ritual and practice, where deities pop up more frequently, I perceive them as über role models of whatever I need to call forth in myself. If I’m having trouble getting my life in order, who better to look to than Apollo, the freakin’ god of order? I have within me everything I need to get my act together – or, at least, I have within me the keys to getting everything I need to get my act together – but sometimes an external metaphor helps me focus.

Embodying the role model

This is how I handle aspecting, of which we do a goodly amount in the Reclaiming tradition. Aspecting, like Drawing Down the Moon, allows ritualists to bring the energy of a deity, spirit, ancestor, or concept (like “Power” or “Community”) into themselves. I’ve done it several times over the years, and, yes, even before I openly identified as a naturalist, it felt like talking to imaginary friends. Amazing sensations of presence filled me, yet I felt that that presence came from within me, rather than being a visitation by an external being.

If invoking a deity in ritual provides external focus for my goals, then aspecting calls forth those qualities within myself and makes them larger than life. It’s “fake it till you make it”: if I want to act more compassionately, wearing the infinitely compassionate face of Kwan Yin for an hour or so may go a long way toward evoking and enhancing the compassion within me.

Participating in the community

This view sometimes creates friction between myself and supernaturalistic Pagans who liken aspecting more to an old-school possession experience, or who give gods and goddesses the same weight of reality as their children and the mayor of their town. But I find the approach beneficial in my personal practice, and it allows me to participate more fully in public ritual and appreciate the diversity of practice and belief that Pagan community offers, rather than staying home, closing myself to the possibilities of deific inclusion, and saying, “Oh, god. Gods.”

The author

Eli Effinger-Weintraub

Eli Effinger-Weintraub is a naturalistic Pagan rooted in the Twin Cities Watershed. She practices a mongrel brand of Reclaiming-tradition hearthwitchery influenced by Gaia theory, naturalistic pantheism, bioregional animism, Zen Buddhism, and the writings of Carl Sagan. But she tries not to think too deeply about any of that and mostly just rides her bicycle, instead. Eli writes plays, creative nonfiction, and short speculative fiction, often inspired by the visual art of her wife, Leora Effinger-Weintraub. She is also a mercenary copyeditor. Find her online at Back Booth and at the Pagan Newswire Collective blog No Unsacred Place, where she writes the Restorying the Sacred column.

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35 Comments
  1. Jonathan Blake permalink
    November 20, 2011 8:53 am

    +1 for They Might Be Giants reference.

    This is one area of neopagan practice that I would like to know more about. If I have a problem that would be helped by a different character trait, a different persona if you will, then acting as if I had that trait can be amazingly effective for me. I seem to have hidden talents that only stay hidden because “that’s not me”.

    Aspecting seems like another way of doing the same thing, only using specific, mythological role-models.

    • November 20, 2011 10:25 am

      This is the first time I’ve come across ‘aspecting’ and find quite interesting.

      Yet I wonder, why not just embody these things you admire in its entirety in your daily life, instead of ‘wearing the mask’ of each aspect at certain times. Or just say that in that time you embodied ‘courage’ when it was needed, and not the deitic representation of courage?

      • Jonathan Blake permalink
        November 20, 2011 10:50 am

        I can only speculate that having a vivid picture of courage derived from myth may better evoke our own courage than simply meditating on the concept of courage.

      • November 20, 2011 5:06 pm

        Well, I come pre-equipped with hefty doses of both Jewish guilt and Protestant self-abnegation, so I have these “old tapes” that tell me that being that forthright – just embodying these things by and for myself – isn’t the proper thing to do. The time may come when the deific representation no longer serves me, but until then, embodying courage or leadership or other difficult characteristic via those godly masks gives me a sense of permission that I might not otherwise feel I have.

    • November 20, 2011 5:00 pm

      Thanks for the comments, Jonathan. I like to think there’s an appropriate TMBG quote for just about every situation!

      “Acting as if” is quite useful in my personal practice. Using the specific role model (and, in fact, when we do aspeciting in Reclaiming ritual, it’s often not only a specific deity but related to a specific story or myth of that deity) helps keep me focused and on-track when I’m starting to feel overwhelmed.

  2. November 20, 2011 10:16 am

    I like your honesty and understand your approach. I was fortunate enough to have public ritual where the leaders allowed for each member to determine for themselves if they wanted to call any ‘being’ forth or none at all, and that was respected. No one was prodded for calling on a particular being or none and the atmosphere was one of mutual respect, there were a number of open atheists involved too and we all got along in ritual.

    I personally wouldn’t want to use deitic representations of things, as I feel that would lead me to ‘listen’ to those limited structures as opposed to other forms of reason when contemplating. I feel that they would be limiting in how I can perceive the world and make me blind to other things. I do like the role model aspect, but because they are essentially gods, they would have more weight and therefore more influence and control. And I don’t like the idea of letting anything have control over my thoughts or doings, even if it is acknowledged fictional structures, as using them in a deity way is a form of transferring responsibility in my view. Much like you mentioning how some pagans view that feeling being ‘possession’. Which is not to my liking. I rather avoid the whole dilemma and forgo anything related to supernaturalism, by keeping it simple and non-conflicting to how I truly feel on the matter. Which is that I don’t believe deities exist, there is no supernatural, and there is no such thing as the incorporeal. Therefore, I live my life to represent those views in a non-conflicting way. Its become quite freeing too, as I don’t have to concern myself with how I related to these things, by simply not relating to them. This is what I’ve found to work best for my needs.

    • November 20, 2011 12:36 pm

      >And I don’t like the idea of letting anything have control over my thoughts or doings, even if it is acknowledged fictional structures, as using them in a deity way is a form of transferring responsibility in my view.

      Who or what is doing the controlling in this scenario? To whom or what is responsibility transferred?

      If the claim is to be taken seriously that deities are within the mind, then aren’t they just as much “you” as you are? The only question might be whether the conscious mind, or small self, must maintain complete dominance, or whether elements of the unconscious mind are allowed to contribute to the creative process of behavior.

      But to push it further, why in the world would be an abdication of responsibility for a person to consciously intend to employ a technique to facilitate desired ethical behavior? If a basketball player emulates a superstar role model to encourage and bring out his/her own talents, is that also somehow a surrender of control or responsibility?

      • November 20, 2011 5:12 pm

        We talk a lot about “control” in aspecting situations. For the supernaturally inclined, this means that the aspector calls the shots in terms of how much control the aspectee (a.k.a. the deity) has over the physical form.

        For me, when I think about control and aspecting, I mean being absolutely clear with myself that I have ultimate responsibility for anything I do while aspecting. I can’t say later, “You wouldn’t believe what So-and-So did with my body while I was aspecting Hir.” But I *can* say, “I was aspecting such-and-such and did something totally uncharacteristic; I wonder what I was trying to tell myself with that little stunt.” Responsibility and control never move outside of myself, but perhaps I do let a different part of my consciousness call the shots for a while.

      • November 20, 2011 7:14 pm

        “Who or what is doing the controlling in this scenario? To whom or what is responsibility transferred?”

        Depends on whether or not you believe deities exist. But I assume you mean those who don’t believe in the supernatural. In how I understand, technically you are, you are just giving you inhibitions to another mental state, letting that mental state do the controlling. That would mean a psychosis. Not something entirely healthy.

        • Jonathan Blake permalink
          November 20, 2011 7:29 pm

          I’ve heard psychosis defined as losing touch with reality. It doesn’t sound like aspecting causes a healthy person to lose touch with reality, though I wonder what it would do for a borderline personality, especially someone who believes in the supernatural.

          I don’t think control is entirely healthy either. I’ve observed that a lot of my struggle for control stems from fear.A lot of my personal growth has been in losing inhibitions and fears that have held me down.

          • November 20, 2011 8:07 pm

            “Psychosis (from the Greek ψυχή “psyche”, for mind/soul, and -ωσις “-osis”, for abnormal condition) means abnormal condition of the mind, and is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state often described as involving a “loss of contact with reality”. People suffering from psychosis are described as psychotic. Psychosis is given to the more severe forms of psychiatric disorder, during which hallucinations and delusions and impaired insight may occur.”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychosis

            I think “impaired insight” and “abnormal condition of the mind” relates to what happens during these aspect moments. As you would do things that you wouldn’t normally do.

            I just don’t think its very practical either way. Having to force yourself into a mindset that is abnormal for your regular behaviour is unnecessary work when you can simply skip that step and put in the genuine effort to get better at dealing with something through practice. It would also boast long term benefits as opposed to short term results.

            Control is healthy, so long as you don’t try to control everything, simply because you just can’t. You need to control your language and behaviour when engaging with people, otherwise you’d be a complete looney that offends everyone. You need to control how fast you drive, how much you exert yourself, how much money you spend. Otherwise you’d cause a lot of hurt. Control is healthy.

            These days, humans try to control a bit too much in our society, in my opinion, and we should learn to let go of a lot of things. i.e. bubble wrapping our kids from the dangers of the world. So like you said, much of that stems from fear and isn’t healthy as you lose out on a lot of wonderful fulfilling experiences that comes with living life. In that I agree with you.

            Conclusively, control being healthy has a range where each end is unhealthy. One end having no control, and the other trying to have complete control. Where being somewhere in the middle is the ideal.

        • November 20, 2011 9:03 pm

          “If the claim is to be taken seriously that deities are within the mind, then aren’t they just as much “you” as you are?”

          This would relate to what I had mentioned before on feeling that it would make myself blind to other things. As you are focusing on an aspect that is an ideal, which is pretty abstract. Since that becomes a focal point, you are leaving all other ways of thinking and considerations out of the equation in your behaviour. Ideologies often are the cause of atrocities because they disassociate with everyday realities. Which is what I perceive as a problem with deitic ritual – ideologies detached from reality.

          So yes, technically they are as much you as you are, just not completely you, as it is projected ideal that is a portion of you which is then given control on what you do – psychosis.

          “why in the world would be an abdication of responsibility for a person to consciously intend to employ a technique to facilitate desired ethical behavior?”
          “If a basketball player emulates a superstar role model to encourage and bring out his/her own talents, is that also somehow a surrender of control or responsibility?”

          I don’t think this technique is a good way to facilitate ethical behaviour, as I’ve mentioned before, I believe you are leaving yourself blind to other things, being detached from reality.

          There are many cases in court that “plead insanity”, also “diminished responsibility”

        • November 21, 2011 8:55 am

          Rua, do you consider theater unhealthy? Only there’s a whole school of thought in acting which holds that, for the length of the performance, the actor-self should be completely replaced by the character-self, yet most people would be loth to accuse them of psychosis.Religious ritual is, in oh so many ways, the ultimate form of theater, and Reclaiming witches in aspect could be considered the Method actors of the Pagan world.

          When I talk about an aspecting experience, I don’t mean some lone guy waking up some random Monday morning and deciding to live as Thor for the next three weeks. Aspecting usually takes place in a highly controlled framework. I won’t be so arrogant as to claim that no one’s ever gone off-script, but Reclaiming consensus holds that aspecting should only take place in sacred space; that the aspector should have at least one guardian whose only role is to ensure that nothing untoward happens; and that the aspecting should last no more than a couple hours (though I’ve never personally seen it go longer than 30 minutes). Each Reclaiming community has final authority over its exact guidelines, but we generally build frameworks on a par with those other conscientious spiritual communities might build around use of entheogens. We want to offer those who choose it a safe opportunity to explore other aspects of themselves or other ways of being in relationship with the Divine, however they define that.

          You said you wouldn’t use something like aspecting in your own practice, and I understand and respect that. Not everyone enjoys or participates in aspecting. However, unless you have first-hand experience or a verifiable second-hand account of an instance or instances in which aspecting under circumstances like the ones I’ve described ended in harm to the aspector or others, I feel you have no basis for summarily labeling it as unhealthy, and certainly not to equate it with psychosis.

          • November 21, 2011 9:53 am

            “do you consider theater unhealthy?”

            So long as you don’t actually believe you are that archetype, then its healthy.

            There are some instances of actors who are so mentally in their role that when they are off set, they behave irrational to regular people – That’s unhealthy and is psychosis.

            “Aspecting usually takes place in a highly controlled framework.”

            Which makes me question why that is needed, is it dangerous, are you at risk of a psychotic episode? I wouldn’t be surprised, as it is a really in depth practice. I personally wouldn’t want to have my mind go through that risk.

            “aspecting should only take place in sacred space”

            What is meant by ‘sacred space’? A safe and controlled place?

            “that the aspector should have at least one guardian whose only role is to ensure that nothing untoward happens”

            How is this not psychosis?

            “Each Reclaiming community has final authority over its exact guidelines, but we generally build frameworks on a par with those other conscientious spiritual communities might build around use of entheogens.”

            Entheogen: “A psychoactive substance”

            “We want to offer those who choose it a safe opportunity to explore other aspects of themselves or other ways of being in relationship with the Divine, however they define that.”

            I am not speaking of those who believe in the ‘spiritual’/’supernatural’, I am speaking for those who don’t – naturalists/atheists/non-theistic people. If you do believe in the supernatural, all the power to you, if you don’t, you have to question these things. That is what I am doing.

            In this case, what is being done in instigating psychosis. If you think that is okay to do for whatever reason, that is fine. It still is psychosis, and my opinion is that it is unhealthy.

            “However, unless you have first-hand experience or a verifiable second-hand account of an instance or instances in which aspecting under circumstances like the ones I’ve described ended in harm to the aspector or others, I feel you have no basis for summarily labeling it as unhealthy, and certainly not to equate it with psychosis.”

            Star Foster had on her blog an instance of someone who grabbed a near-by child and held them aloft announcing to take them as some sort of offering or other, being in the mental state of the deity that was honoured in that ritual. Through talking with witches, there are some cases of abuse when the controlling factors couldn’t handle things. I have yet to come across a witch who says that these things aren’t risky. You have control measures throughout these rituals, why? Because it is risky to the safety of the aspector and participating folks. And your direct mention of entheogens removes doubt of this being psychosis.

            As I’ve said before, if you want to do this, that is fine, just call it what it is, especially if you don’t believe in the supernatural. If you do, then this is a whole different matter and what I’ve said can be ignored.

            • November 21, 2011 11:23 am

              “especially if you don’t believe in the supernatural. If you do, then this is a whole different matter and what I’ve said can be ignored.”

              I don’t follow your logic. People who believe that some external deity or spirit takes them over, absolving them of responsibility for their actions, are OK, while those who believe that they are exploring different modes of consciousness and maintain responsibility for their own actions are experiencing psychosis? I don’t buy it.

              “Which makes me question why that is needed, is it dangerous, are you at risk of a psychotic episode?”

              I emphasize the safety structures in place because you seemed to be under the impression that people are just wandering off into the world choosing to “be” a deity for a day. This is a ritual, which is what I mean by “sacred space”. I don’t feel that aspecting is any more dangerous than anything else one often does in a Pagan ritual, and I think the question of “Is ritual dangerous?” falls outside of the scope of this discussion. I haven’t read about the incident you cite, so I have to ask whether the person who grabbed the child was a naturalist or a supernaturalist. If they were a supernaturalist, then the incident doesn’t support your argument at all.

              ‘Entheogen: “A psychoactive substance”’

              There is a difference between “a psychoactive substance” and “a psychosis”. Given your fondness for denotation (often at the expense of connotation), I’m disappointed that you would choose to ignore that distinction.

              “if you want to do this, that is fine, just call it what it is”

              Rua, that is *your opinion* of “what it is”, an opinion I do not share. If I’ve missed the listing of your credentials as a trained mental health professional, or an active member of the Reclaiming tradition, I apologize, but I will not accept an armchair diagnosis that paints my entire spiritual tradition as suffering from some sort of mental abberance. I’m happy to call a spade a spade, but I won’t call a rake a spade, especially if the person trying to tell me it’s a spade has never gardened or designed a gardening tool before.

            • November 21, 2011 12:14 pm

              “I don’t follow your logic. People who believe that some external deity or spirit takes them over, absolving them of responsibility for their actions, are OK, while those who believe that they are exploring different modes of consciousness and maintain responsibility for their own actions are experiencing psychosis? I don’t buy it.”

              Those who do believe in the supernatural have their own world view that is very different from mine. I don’t think these things are okay (and I still think it is psychosis, I don’t recall saying that it wasn’t), and that is my view and opinion, hence me not living them. Freedom of religion and all that. So long as no one gets hurt, which is why these safety measures in their own communities are there. I disagree with these practices, and there is no changing their minds, and I don’t intend to. We have our rights to this.

              While not believing that there is supernatural, there is a different world view on how the world operates. There are limits to how this world functions. Thus, science is used to explain things. This particular kind of mental state is psychosis, as it cannot be otherwise explained.

              “I have to ask whether the person who grabbed the child was a naturalist or a supernaturalist. If they were a supernaturalist, then the incident doesn’t support your argument at all.”

              This reference was a direct response to, “…account of an instance or instances in which aspecting under circumstances like the ones I’ve described ended in harm to the aspector or others” Therefore, it still is valid under your description of circumstances, which did not emphasis the requirement of naturalist.

              “There is a difference between “a psychoactive substance” and “a psychosis”.”

              My point is that a psychoactive drug, causes psychosis. They completely interrelate, no distinction required as it is self explanatory.

              “Rua, that is *your opinion* of “what it is”, an opinion I do not share. If I’ve missed the listing of your credentials as a trained mental health professional, or an active member of the Reclaiming tradition, I apologize, but I will not accept an armchair diagnosis that paints my entire spiritual tradition as suffering from some sort of mental abberance. I’m happy to call a spade a spade, but I won’t call a rake a spade, especially if the person trying to tell me it’s a spade has never gardened or designed a gardening tool before.”

              From this response, stating that you follow a ‘spiritual’ tradition lends itself to say that you believe in the incorporeal, which is not naturalistic. My statements were directed to naturalistic views of the world, so that would mean that it wouldn’t include spiritual beliefs.

              As you point out, I do not claim any of these credentials, and don’t intend to. I do claim to come by these results through reason, and need not have these credentials to come to that conclusion, and have the conclusion valid. I personally deplore the suggestion that one need to obtain credentials to have a valid point.

              I did not intend to offend. My intentions were to point out a correlation that was present.

            • November 21, 2011 3:12 pm

              “From this response, stating that you follow a ‘spiritual’ tradition lends itself to say that you believe in the incorporeal, which is not naturalistic.”

              This brings us back to the conversation of a few weeks ago about what, exactly, we mean by spiritual. I recall that you feel the word to be completely incompatible with a naturalistic worldview, so I won’t belabor the point, other than to remind you that not everyone who frequents this site feels the same way. I will tell you, though, that Reclaiming is an American neo-Pagan tradition with members naturalistic and supernaturalistic.

              “I personally deplore the suggestion that one need to obtain credentials to have a valid point.”

              I never suggested that you had to have credentials to have a valid point. However, I don’t think that you have a valid point; I think that you have an opinion. You don’t need credentials for that, either, but you seem to want, as shown by phrases like “call it what it is”, others to adopt this opinion as well, and I still feel that you haven’t a leg to stand on in that regard.

              We may want to let the matter rest here.

            • November 21, 2011 3:33 pm

              “I think that you have an opinion. You don’t need credentials for that, either, but you seem to want, as shown by phrases like “call it what it is”, others to adopt this opinion as well, and I still feel that you haven’t a leg to stand on in that regard.”

              I DO prefer others to adopt this as that is what it is in a naturalistic view point. YOU DO NOT have to agree with it or adopt it. Throughout the discussions on the comment board, I have yet to be disproven in my views, so I think there is a very sturdy leg I’m standing on, and therefore a valid point.

              How then is Aspecting, not psychosis and therefore healthy?

            • Jonathan Blake permalink
              November 21, 2011 3:58 pm

              Rua, fixating on individual words (e.g. spiritual) and acting as though they have only one meaning (e.g. a belief in the supernatural) ignores the inherent fluidity of the English language and diverts the conversation toward the morass of semantics.

              Would you say psychoactive drugs like coffee, tea, and chocolate cause psychosis? From what you’ve said, you seem to have defined psychosis so broadly that any role-playing (e.g. a child drinking tea with an imaginary friend) is a dangerous psychosis.

              I grew up Mormon (as I’ve probably said before), so I heard a lot of strident ideas about alcohol: that it’s dangerous, that even a little alcohol can lead to alcoholism, that it can cause violence, etc. Those are all strictly speaking true, but they come from a place of fear. The fear caused us to overestimate the danger. It led to an absolutist conclusion that anyone who drinks must lead a dangerous, painful life and that the only logical path was complete abstinence.

              Your reaction to aspecting reminds me of how we felt about drinking, so perhaps I’m projecting my own experience onto you, but it appears to me that you’re reacting from fear of some kind. From what little I’ve interacted with you, you seem to be a pretty black-and-white kind of person, so it would make sense that you would feel more comfortable keeping your religious practice completely free of any aspect of supernaturalism.

              However, because of your desire for a clearly delineated world, you seem to expect everyone who calls themselves naturalistic to believe exactly like you. You also seem to be overestimating the risk involved with aspecting because you feel it’s not something a naturalistic person would do. Perhaps responsible, naturalistic adults can usefully and safely take on the aspect of a mythological figure without a significant danger of psychosis or losing their membership in the Naturalist Club, just like they can enjoy a drink now and then without becoming alcoholics.

              If I have misunderstood you, please help me understand.

            • November 22, 2011 12:13 pm

              (had made a response some time ago that is still awaiting moderation, and I had tipped my hat to some of your points in the response)

  3. November 21, 2011 10:49 am

    Eli:

    It sounds like you are choosing those aspects that primarily have positive social value, i.e., self-assertiveness is valued in our culture, even though de-valued in women for example. But do you ever choose to manifest those aspects that are generally considered not to have positive social value, those that really don’t qualify as “role models”? And if not, why?

    • November 21, 2011 11:45 am

      Excellent question, John! I’ve never done this personally; I’ve never had the chance. However, I have been at rituals in which people have both accepted and declined the opportunity to manifest “unacceptable” values.

      In Reclaiming, it is a commonly held belief that understanding, accepting, and embracing our shadow selves is an important part of personal and community growth and health. Life ain’t a Disney movie; we all experience emotions and instincts that people wouldn’t consider appropriate for role models (bearing in mind, of course, that this assessment can be very subjective; for instance, some would consider homosexuality or gender nonconformity undesirable traits for role models, while others would embrace them wholeheartedly). We often find that folks who have faced their “inner demons”, perhaps through aspeciting these “shadow” characteristics, have an easier time integrating in community and empathizing with others than do those who shy away from confronting these facets of themselves. That is one of the main reasons that someone would choose to do so.

      But the tradition also emphasizes that each individual, rather than a coven, priestess, or deity, is their own ultimate spiritual authority, so we always have the option of saying no, for any reason or none. If a person has suffered a trauma that feels too close to the “negative” trait to be aspected, they might decline, either for a time or permanently. They may have other rituals for engaging their shadow selves and don’t want to interfere with that regimen, the way an athelete might choose not to engage in other sports during the season. Or they might just plain not see the point. While it’s easy to see the reason to embody self-discipline or compassion, folks might not see how embodying avarice, gluttony, or fratricidal tendencies would have application in their lives.

  4. November 22, 2011 12:16 am

    Okay, I think it’s time for the moderator to step in here and ask if this is still a safe space for people to explore ideas of Spiritual Naturalism.

    Over the past several weeks, we’ve seen the discussions increasingly dominated by questions of the appropriateness of certain words like “spirit”, “spiritual”, “deity”, and so forth. This is a very healthy and welcomed activity in and of itself, but these discussions have included forceful assertions of extremely narrow definitions, and once those definitions were asserted, and alternatives proposed, it did not stop there. It has kept coming up again and again, dominating the discussions.

    It has reached the point that I now worry there are those who would like to comment but hold back for fear of being drawn into one of these debates that go round and round. I worry there are those who have intelligent questions to ask on other aspects of the articles, who are patiently waiting for the flurry to die down so they can get a word in edge-wise. Finally, I worry especially that new authors will be reluctant to put themselves out there for fear of the accusations that may follow in the comments.

    HP is indeed a place for rigorous debate, which can and should include questioning each other’s logic, but it is also meant to be a safe space. In particular, it is specifically designed as a safe space for those who wish to explore the intersections of spirit and nature, myth and science.

    At this point, it seems germaine to revisit the basic concept of this blog.

    It has never been claimed that Humanistic Paganism is a form of Naturalism, but rather that it is specifically a form of *Spiritual* Naturalism. If Naturalism is to be defined as narrowly as it has been recently by some, then HP is not Naturalism, and it begs the question of why Naturalism should be repeatedly brought into these discussions. This is Spiritual Naturalism.

    Now, if putting those two words together should be deemed incoherent, then HP is done and over with – pack it up and go home. But there are some of us here who are still willing to entertain the idea that there might be such a thing as Spiritual Naturalism, that myth might be married to science. We are endeavoring to work out how that might manifest in the 21st century. That’s the whole reason why we’re here. Any who are not interested in that project are merrily welcomed to live as they wish in their own way and in their own space. Meanwhile, those who are interested in that project will be here in this space.

    Any and all who wish to take part in the discussions here are welcome to do so, but it must be done with an eye to the spirit in which this blog was created.

    (hmm… wonder what I meant by “spirit” in that last sentence?)

    I think it is admirable that folks in the current discussion were willing to take seriously the suggestion that aspecting constitutes or risks psychosis, and to debate it rationally and with relative calm and patience. Personally, I would not have been so charitable.

    I’ll close this comment with a few guidelines for further discussion:

    *Ask questions, don’t assume.
    *Listen more than you talk.
    *Don’t post an inordinate amount of comments relative to others. Multiple comments per day is fine, but if it starts to look like your posts outweigh others by a ratio of 4 to 1, something funky is going on.
    *Consider who you might be crowding out, or making uncomfortable
    *Speak your truth

    Thank you,
    Your moderator

    • November 22, 2011 7:09 am

      Sorry, B.T.

      Perhaps I’ll make a challenge post and be done with those topics by that means.

      I understand not overwhelming the comment boards with your own comments, but how do I not do that when questions are asked (which I’ll only respond when there are direct questions now?)

      I apologize if people were uncomfortable to comment because of the debates.

      I meant to post one comment and leave, I admit that I did make one post response – which ended on a good note I think. Then upon receiving responses to my post that posed questions, I felt that I should respond, and kept it in that sphere.

      Sorry if I caused offense, that is the last thing I wanted. I know that I get assertive and will reign that in in further posts.

    • November 22, 2011 7:56 am

      Thanks B.T.

      I needed that. I wasn’t kidding when I first came on here telling people to let me know if I get this way. Please don’t hesitate to tell me that I am being too pushy. This is something that is a working progress for me and I need people, like the ones on this blog who are very patient and kind, to give me a waking shake to snap me out of being this way.

      And this last post was a well deserved an needed shake.

      Again Thank you. And sorry for causing strife.

    • Joakim Waern permalink
      November 25, 2011 6:28 am

      B.T, you ask ” if this is still a safe space for people to explore ideas of Spiritual Naturalism”? No, it isn’t, and I will not ask questions nor contribute any articles in a climate like this (I’ve been burned before). So thanks for stepping in the way you did.

  5. November 22, 2011 11:57 am

    “I think it is admirable that folks in the current discussion were willing to take seriously the suggestion that aspecting constitutes or risks psychosis, and to debate it rationally and with relative calm and patience. Personally, I would not have been so charitable.”

    How then is aspecting not psychosis? I realize that some people practice this and find it off-putting, but it is a legitimate question. I ask because I am concerned for the well being of the mind doing this. I feel that this question is being dismissed because it challenges the value of this practice. Shouldn’t this be challenged? I understand that when I was living a Christian life, I had dismissed many things that challenged my beliefs out of hand, and now wish that I hadn’t because those points were worth considering. I feel like the same thing is being done here.

    “It has never been claimed that Humanistic Paganism is a form of Naturalism, but rather that it is specifically a form of *Spiritual* Naturalism. If Naturalism is to be defined as narrowly as it has been recently by some, then HP is not Naturalism, and it begs the question of why Naturalism should be repeatedly brought into these discussions. This is Spiritual Naturalism. ”

    “Spiritual Naturalism is chiefly concerned with finding ways to access traditional spiritual feelings without the inclusion of supernatural elements incompatible with science and a broad naturalism.” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiritual_naturalism

    I apologize if I misinterpreted what is intended by HP, my question then is, why is there naturalism in the title if it is not naturalism? In the about page, there is no mention of spiritual naturalism, only Spiritual Humanism. The word naturalistic is often used and IS interchangeable with naturalism. So I am genuinely confused and need clarity.

    I have sent my challenge piece that covers the other points you mention. That will be the last time I will bring those topics up.

    • November 22, 2011 1:10 pm

      Sometimes in debates it is useful to take a temporary recess. I believe now is just such a time. The air has been spoiled by tensions, and needs time to clear.

      Everyone, please let the topic of psychosis lie for the time being. We’ll come back to it later, when we’re fresh.

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