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Understanding word use and how science relates to myth and religion, by Rua Lupa

February 26, 2012
Gridball, by Plasmator

“Could there be words that are not needed for a Path that melds science and myth?”

This week we have a new “challenge” piece.  Rua Lupa engages the issue of appropriate terminology.

As always with challenge posts, this is an opportunity to listen, question oneself, and develop thoughtful responses.

Remember, this is offered in the spirit of dialogue, so let’s make the most of this chance for a meaningful exchange of opinions!

- B. T. Newberg, editor

I’ll start with a quote I believe to be a strong example of Humanistic Paganism: a naturalistic marriage of science and mythology:

“The ancient myth makers knew, we are equally children of the earth and the sky.”

Carl Sagan, Cosmos, Episode 13, 7:08

Carl Sagan lived a life that could make him a poster child for combining myth and science. As a public figure who worked on building a bridge of understanding between the public and science, he often used myth to provide an understanding and the feeling of deep connection with the cosmos. Yet he never associated with Paganism to express myth with science. Is Paganism even required to have a relationship with science and myth? I understand incorporating it, but is it Required?

Paganism itself struggles with its own label regularly. What is meant by Paganism? Is it really a useful label? I’ve come across pagan elders of various traditions who casually state that this sort of debate comes up every year or two throughout the pagan community. It appears that through this routine questioning there is a growing stance where once-considered Pagan groups are now using alternative labels to convey a better understanding of who they are and what they stand for. This was even mentioned here on HP (Humanistic Paganism) in an interview with Drew Jacob, where he found a change of name was more effective for public relations and made it easier for others to find them for the right reasons.

Could there be other words that are not needed for a Path that melds science and myth?

“Spirit” and “Spiritual” are words that I have mentioned before and for the same reasons that Drew Jacob had mentioned for the use of the word Pagan. HP and a few other very new Paths have taken the label of spiritual to describe themselves who do not associate with the incorporeal. They are the first, and few who have done so as a Path. Most other incidences are still relatively recent and are attuned as individual searches and pursuits without the group dynamic of “A Path”. Even so, the majority associate with the supernatural, evidence of this are the references to living gods, soul, fairies etc. while it remains difficult to filter through these supernatural-associated spiritualities to get to non-supernatural spiritualities. Which leaves the question, ‘do these few mean something different when saying ‘spirituality’?’ Many have voiced that ‘spirituality’ can mean many different things, which comes back around to the example of Paganism being difficult to pin down, its meaning adding to the confusion. Perhaps there will be a similar response in going by more specific labels for those who had once considered themselves spiritual to convey a better understanding of who they are and what they stand for.

An interesting relation to this is when you Wikipedia “Spiritual Humanism” it redirects to “Religious Humanism”. This is because the term “spiritual” is now frequently used in contexts in which the term “religious” was formally employed because of a growing distaste with the negative associations of ‘religion’. Some may argue that ‘religion’ necessitates a belief in the supernatural. Yet this need not be the case. What religion essentially is is a philosophy with a community, which in living according to that philosophy creates a culture with traditions and customs. Religion is also interchangeable with ‘Path’ which is common to see among many Pagan Paths also calling their Path a Religion, i.e. Wicca, ADF, Asatru etc. HP also calls itself a Path, “The Fourfold Path” to be exact. It’s a community that follows the philosophy that myth and science is a valid way of enriching quality of life, yielding psychological benefits. The culture and tradition is what is currently being developed.

Carl Sagan wrote frequently about religion and the relationship between religion and science, believing that the two were meant to be together and were very complimentary in the absence of deity. The absence of deity would allow for this amalgamation because they are inherently conflicting, even if used metaphorically, as the lines tend to blur, giving way to prayers directed to a god, or having the portrayal of that god being something to emulate. The very essence of what makes a god a god is that it is super, beyond that of reality. Relating to a god would then be removing self from reality, the lines blur. It is also mentioned on HP’s post “What is Humanistic Paganism?” that “not only must we invoke no deity to solve our problems, but also we must actively acknowledge our responsibility to solve these problems.” Would it then be more successful with deities being absent altogether? As a way to actively acknowledge our responsibility to solve our problems, should our own image then be used instead in psychological activities? This criticism only applies to supernatural-related deities, such as anthropomorphic beings with superpowers, etc., that have the potential for idolatry (especially if it can be depicted as a statue) which are given traits. Other versions of deity, like that in some views of pantheism or Forces of Nature for example, would not apply to this criticism.

With HP revolving around science and myth, what then is mythology? Mythology is the stories of a culture, a tradition. The most common story in mythology is the explanation of how the world and humankind came to be in their present form. Science teaches this already, but is missing that tradition, that religion/path to make it complete. Both myth and religion function to derive morality, ethics, and lifestyle. Science can serve the same purpose as well. Thus, these are not conflicting, being quite complimentary.

It has been stated that “We are endeavoring to work out how [myth married to science] might manifest in the 21st century. That’s the whole reason why we’re here.” Much of what is referenced are the wonderful myths of old. Yet these myths speak specifically of a culture in a time not of the 21st century, where slavery, sexism, racism, displaying body parts, and more are justified which are not agreed with today. To truly make this marriage of myth to science manifest in the 21st century, there must be a culture of science where these myths may spring from within that century. In this time and age, our culture is different and these myths need to reflect that. What myths could be made to reflect the views of our culture like that of the ancient myths of Greece reflecting the views of their classical time?

A few ground rules for comments

It’s always useful to keep in mind what makes for a great debate:

  • Use “I” language, not “you” language.  Talk about what you think or feel, rather than making accusations against others.
  • Keep it civil.  Comments that stray toward rants or flames will be deleted.
  • Speak your truth.

The author

Rua Lupa

Rua Lupa is a Canadian Metis of Celtic and Anishinabek (Native peoples of the Great Lakes region) descent. By studying what is being rediscovered about the Celts, and getting involved in the spiritual practices of the Anishnabek, she hopes to find out more about herself, bring to light valuable insights from these cultures, and maybe bring about a new way of being. Rua’s strong love of Nature has led to a passion for photography and Wildlife Technician degree. She dedicates her life to conserving what is left of our unaltered wilderness, and helping humanity regain balance within Nature through Ehoah, a naturalistic path. Rua founded the Sault Community Drum Circle, the Gore Bay Drum Circle on Manitoulin Island, and has been a board member of Bike Share Algoma. She also has a background in tandem canoe tripping, winter camping, lifeguarding, advanced wilderness first aid, and a myriad of other outdoor activities.

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123 Comments
  1. February 26, 2012 7:36 am

    Personally, I think you need to turn to the current media and the film industry to see where these new myths may evolve from. Already Star Wars has created a huge religious-like following. Like Joseph Cambpell said, we must look into the arts as it is from here we will be able to see our new mythologies evolving.

    • February 26, 2012 6:46 pm

      Ah yes. They very well are the stories and myths of our time aren’t they? *facepalm* ha, as if I didn’t even think of that! How are they not telling of the virtues and beliefs of our times! I may not ever consider myself a Jedi, but it doesn’t mean their story doesn’t have anything worth emulating. *feels awfully silly for not realizing this* Excellent point Lusete, thank you for commenting :D

  2. February 26, 2012 6:50 pm

    So, is science-fiction the myths of the 21st century? Discuss!

  3. February 26, 2012 10:44 pm

    I only just discovered this website & I have yet to fully explore it, but the combination of science & myth is at the core of my ever-evolving practice. I am so pleased to have found you! I have dubbed myself a “Sciento-Pagan,” something that mostly looks like a science-oriented Animism.

    Perhaps I lean less towards the myths & more towards direct, outdoor communion & scientific exploration, but I would like to offer up the myths/stories/essays of the Church of All Worlds (CAW) as some more modern (circa 1960-1970) mythologies that might be a better reflection of our modern cultural values. Then again, they may already be outdated. Interestingly enough, most of the writing (that I have seen anyway) produced by the CAW is science fiction-esque.

    I think you are on to something with the sci-fi. Just look at the undying love-affaire with certain series like Star Wars mentioned above, Star Trek (there is a branch of Wicca called “Klingon Wicca”) & even short-lived shows like Firefly. When we look at science fiction writing from midcentury (& even earlier) we can find almost *prophetic tales.* How many times were Asimov, Wells, Huxley, Bradbury, Orwell & many lesser known names accurate in their depictions of the future? The prophesies abound. I don’t know that this was intentional, but it certainly is uncanny & thought-provoking.

    • March 1, 2012 12:32 pm

      Welcome Moma Fauna (love the name :) ) !

      Hmmm… the science fiction esque CAW mythologies might well be worth exploring. This is the first I’ve heard of “Klingon Wicca” does it do all of its sermons in Klingon then or do they do more than that? Glad you mentioned Firefly, I myself am a Browncoat :D I agree about the eerie accuracy from some of the mentioned authors. I think its less prediction and more on the inspiration side of things, which is somewhat cooler in my mind :)

      From your post I’d certainly like to see a submission from you about your approach and experience as a “Sciento-Pagan.” The science-oriented animism description has piqued my interest :D

      *Sorry for the delay of response*

      • March 3, 2012 12:36 pm

        This week I came across the most fascinating/peculiar website & it caused me to think back to this discussion. The website is the creation of a molecular biologist & the site describes itself as “dedicated to writing and discussing science, science fiction, fantasy and the shared borders between them.” (http://www.starshipnivan.com/index.html)
        She has written a book called “To Seek Out New Life: The Biology of Star Trek.” It appears to work with the mythos & landscape of Star Trek to explore science. Perhaps you have seen it? http://www.toseekoutnewlife.com/whytsonl.html

        As for theKlingon Wicca, apparently they have translated all their rituals into Klingon. Impressive.

        As for Sciento-Paganism, it is an evolving thing, much like life. I link the mysteries of the universe, our natural world, the web of life, to the great esoteric mysteries. Every new discovery leads to deeper understanding of the mysteries, yet opens more doors to further mysteries. I guess it is a process of eternal unfoldment. There’s reverence, honouring, offerings, communion, a little magick work & a great deal of talking to other beings (more often than not, other-than-human). ;) I would enjoy writing something if & when responsibilities allow. If you are curious, I submitted a piece last fall @ NUP about talking to slime moulds which might help to illustrate a little piece of it.

        • March 4, 2012 8:40 am

          I haven’t heard of the things you mention in your first paragraph, and am now eager to seek it out!

          I’d like to listen in to the Klingon rituals. That would be quite the experience in itself. :)

          I read and commented on your slime molds piece shortly after it was published and really enjoyed it!

  4. February 27, 2012 11:42 am

    Well, there’s a lot here, Rua. I appreciate your questioning, even though “pagan” as a term continues to resonate with me. Drew is still pagan in my mental categories, no matter what he wants to be called. (Sorry, Drew, that’s just how these things work.) As for our modern mythology, I do love science fiction, and a local pagan group recently sponsored a discussion on the connection between sf and paganism. But I’m not sure the ideas in science fiction function like that, for me anyhow. Labeling something as myth implies to me a certain distance, and a connotation of nonliteral truth. If you believe a story to be a true description of reality, you don’t call it a myth, right? Did ancient people actually believe in their mythology as literal truth, or was it more like poetry? The myths of old were a long time in the making, evolved over many generations. Can we realistically expect to invent myths for our day so much more quickly? So much has changed in the modern era, and our culture can’t keep up, which I think accounts for some of the interest in antiquity. It’s what Terrence McKenna called the Archaic Revival. I’m rambling egregiously here, but it seems to me very interesting to see how we revise old myths to fit our modern sensibilities. We don’t necessarily have to wait for new myths to incubate; we can re-tell the old ones along modern lines. The Persephone myth, for example, certainly has been revisited and revised in moderns times, and re-imagined as a feminist parable of empowerment. Which, ironically, is often done with an appeal to getting back to the “original” pre-patriarchal spirit of the myth.

    • February 27, 2012 3:24 pm

      Regarding your last point, I just attended a seminar at Pantheacon at which Sarah Ilse Johnston (author of *Hekate Soteira*, “Restless Dead*, and *Religions of the Ancient World* discussed a couple of women’s festivals. Johnston is not a Pagan and she was interested in discussing how Pagans take her work about goddesses and women’s rituals in a very patriarchal culture (Persephone and the Thesmophoria was one example) and use her work to create post-patriarchal rituals for themselves. It was an interesting discuss that I would have like to see go further.

    • February 27, 2012 8:51 pm

      Why does “Pagan” continue to resonate with you? What is the appeal? And how would it affect you if it somehow ceased to exist as a recognized term?

      • February 28, 2012 4:15 pm

        I’ve tried on “pantheist”, “religious naturalist”, “humanist”, “atheist” and other appellations, but they all seem to leave something out … what they seem to leave out is this: the vivid experience of ritual and myth. I once heard Unitarian minister Rev. Kendyl Gibbons say that Unitarian Universalist Pagans “are humanists with an overdeveloped sense of the aesthetic”. I feel that way about the “Pagan” appellation — take that away, and I still have a pantheistic sense of connectedness to the cosmos, a desire to connect viscerally with wild nature, and my humanistic values; but what I am missing is mythic storytelling and ecstatic dance and the beauty of pouring a libation of water onto the earth while reciting poetry from the Rig Veda … and yes, my beautiful altar covered with statues and candles and imagery that evokes a powerful emotional response for me.

      • February 28, 2012 7:20 pm

        Most of all I like the fact that there is this broad term that refers to a large group of people, who just maybe have something in common. I think lumping is better than splitting at this moment. Some argue that the term “pagan” is fraught with ambiguity, but that’s precisely why it works so well. It can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. Personally I get a charge out of folklore, folk practices, folk traditions, and so forth. The term “pagan” evokes some of that. If the term ceased to exist, somehow? It would make discussion very difficult, but I suppose any placeholder would do. How about “nagap”?

        A more interesting question, perhaps, is why you, Rua, seem drawn to a community established under a label you apparently don’t like. I don’t mean this as some sort of weird ad hominem or any kind of attack; I genuinely think it’s an interesting question, and I hope you do as well.

        • February 29, 2012 7:42 am

          I agree with John and Editor B concerning the term paganism. The term paganism has been used for some time by scholars in a non-derogatory way to designate the pre-Christian/non-Abrahamic religions of Europe and North Africa, and to a lesser extent indigenous religions of other regions. Paganism (or Neo-paganism if you like) seems like a perfectly good term to describe modern traditions which draw their inspiration (either real or imagined, directly or indirectly) from pre-Christian European religions or similar polytheistic/animistic traditions from other regions.

          Paganism is a big-tent, umbrella term. It is kind of like the term Protestant or Christian for that matter. These terms tell you that the group/individual is not a Roman Catholic (or Greek Orthodox) and is a follower of Jesus, but it doesn’t tell you what a person believes or how a person practices, the way terms like Methodist, Southern Baptist, Episcopal, Quaker and Unitarian do. I think paganism is a useful and descriptive term, but it only tells you the category of religion not the specific religion practiced.

          It saddens me that the term pagan seems to be going out of fashion in some circles, particularly among “conservative” pagans (recons and hard polytheists). Many recons believe the term is insulting since apparently it was originally used in a derogatory way by the Romans and Christians. (Recons apparently don’t believe words can evolve).

          Obviously the term paganism is not required, but I think some term like it is. All these new religions/spiritualities commonly called paganism really are branches from the same tree, and I think that should be acknowledged even though in some situations it is more useful to emphasize our differences than our similarities. Since paganism is already in use and has gained some recognition in our wider culture, I think we should stick with it.

        • February 29, 2012 9:05 am

          By all means, that is a very good question Editor B, and one well worth contemplating. Before I answer that I would like to say that both you and John’s responses are very insightful as to why many find appeal toward “pagan” but without it whats missing appears to be the mystic/divine and emotional release. Which appears to be what HP is striving to establish for its own practice.

          Back to your question,
          why you, Rua, seem drawn to a community established under a label you apparently don’t like

          What draws me to subgroups of those who associate with “pagan” is that those subgroups are a) Earth based, and b) Are Liberal in perspective.

          I’m drawn to the Earth based practices because I’m a naturalist and it can be difficult to find others of like mind.

          And Liberal groups because freedom to live as you wish, and to push the status quo without punishment, is something I feel is important for development and growth.

          There are groups that have all three, which happen to be associated with paganism, there are also groups who have all three that are not which I associate with too. These things are not exclusive to “pagan”, we just have things in common.

          As to my distaste for “pagan” (not the people – the word)
          I am a naturalist at heart, and have always found emotional release and personal growth through Nature. I personally don’t need any mysticism or divinity to find that satisfaction or fulfillment. The writings of science have always put me in awe of the Cosmos and Nature, which makes most other writings that say how the world is and should be, without value to me. Science has only recently began to understand the mind and morals, which could be argued to be the last bastion of religion. Science and secular culture has fulfilled most every other historical role religion has had. It has been argued that secularism is its own religion, like that of ethnic religions – they don’t consider it religious because it is just a way of life, but from the outside all the signs are there. There are secular customs abound that are otherwise considered religious. It seems odd to have secular activities be the exception to the rule, because it doesn’t possess mysticism/divinity. The only thing that separates pagan from everything else is essentially the mysticism/divinity – Abrahamic practices are and have been embraced into the pagan fold so they are no longer a real separation. I don’t mind those who care for mysticism/divinity, I just find it perplexing for those who don’t associate with the supernatural/incorporeal to want it, because mysticism/divinity is defined as being associated with the supernatural/incorporeal.

          Why I am here in particular, is that there is an active search to understand and harness emotional release via science, and in particular through psychology. Which is important for personal healing and development. I’ve found that for myself and would like to understand it more and learn about different ways of doing it that could be beneficial to me and others.

          • February 29, 2012 9:09 am

            *I had three points and combined the last two into one (that why its says “There are groups that have all three, which happen to be associated with paganism, there are also groups who have all three that are not which I associate with too.”)

          • February 29, 2012 3:30 pm

            Ah “mysticism” — there’s another loaded term.

            You wrote: “I just find it perplexing for those who don’t associate with the supernatural/incorporeal to want it, because mysticism/divinity is defined as being associated with the supernatural/incorporeal.”

            I believe there is such a thing as a “incarnational mysticism” (to borrow a term from Alan Watts) — a practice seeks to find “the beyond in the midst of life” (Bonhoeffer), not separate from it.

            It’s interesting that you believe secular culture has supplanted religion. I know millions of religious people who would strongly disagree. Many, including myself, feel that secular culture has descralized the world, and while this may have paved the way for scientific exploration, it has alienated us from that sense of what D.H. Lawrence calls a “vivid relatedness” and Emerson calls “an original relation” to the cosmos which is at the heart of “mystical” religion.

            • February 29, 2012 7:15 pm

              I find the notion that secularity has alienated people from “that sense of vivid relatedness” almost humorous. If it were not for the secular approach to governing our society, the voices of many minorities would be squashed and their practices hindered if not destroyed by the majority. Secularity provides a space for people of all walks to practice what they wish freely. If anything secularity protects the search for “that sense of vivid relatedness”

              All I had intended on saying was that secular roles are filling the same roles that religion has done, to the point that it can be considered difficult to separate secular roles from religious ones.

            • February 29, 2012 9:44 pm

              You are using “secularism” in the way I understand “liberalism”. Liberalism and secularism grew up together but are not the same thing. I understand secularism as the descralization of the world. I understand the project of secularism in the same terms Mircea Eliade used:

              “Man makes himself, and he only makes himself completely in proportion as he desacralizes himself and the world. The sacred is the prime obstacle to his freedom. He will become himself only when he is totally demysticized. He will not be truly free until he has killed the last god.”

              Two different definitions of “secularism” I guess.

            • March 1, 2012 7:02 am

              Secularity/Secular is different from Secularism. I have yet to speak of secularism.

              Secularity is not being exclusively allied to any particular religion.

              Secularism is an assertion or belief that religious issues should not be the basis of politics, and it is a movement that promotes those ideas (or an ideology) which hold that religion has no place in public life.

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secular

              I thought the mention of millions not approving meant “the middle east” and areas of State religions.

              Outside of these States the role for government, military, education, police and legal aspects in society have covered by a secular role. Otherwise considered religious organizations have filled those roles in a private setting in areas that are not State religions.

            • March 1, 2012 9:40 am

              All I had intended on saying was that secular roles are filling the same roles that religion has done, to the point that it can be considered difficult to separate secular roles from religious ones.

              I need to phrase this better to express my point.

              Secular Roles are providing the same Roles of Religion. Therefore secular roles are religious roles in a way that does not put one specific religion above the other.

          • March 1, 2012 10:28 am

            Typo *It has been argued that secularity is its own religion

  5. February 27, 2012 11:43 am

    Actually, now that I think about it, I think perhaps the quintessential myth for the 21st century is Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis. This has been simmering in the back of my mind for months. Thanks, Rua, for bringing some clarity.

    • February 27, 2012 8:44 pm

      I had thought of the Gaia hypothesis as well, I’m glad you mentioned that. But you were also right to point out that the myths of old have usually evolved to fit in our modern times. Which today seems to be something that is frowned upon, and I think that may require rethinking. The original tellings are really helpful for archeologists and anthropologists who wish to understand those times better, so preserving them have a purpose too.

      Often though, the myths usually referred to are of the classical time period and the acknowledged myths of a younger time are often missed, i.e. Robin Hood, William Tell, and even more recent like Paul Bunion and Tarzan.

      Some could be argued to be modern myths in the making like Davy Crockett and Geronimo – legends verging onto myth in some tellings.

      But going back to the specific question of “science married to myth” the Gaia hypothesis is most relevant, and sci-fi that led to the inspiration to creat the real thing. Here is a quote from Technovelgy.com

      “Paul Krugman was fascinated by Isaac Asimov’s ideas about psychohistory, and became an (Nobel prize-winning) economist. Yuri Gagarin, first man in space, was inspired by Verne’s tale of a voyage from Earth to the Moon. Admiral Richard Byrd said on the eve of his polar voyage “Jules Verne guides me.” Dr. Peter Diamandis, Founder and Chairman of the X PRIZE Foundation, was inspired by Robert Heinlein’s books about private development of space flight and the moon.

      Specific inventions include the cell phone, invented by Martin Cooper who says that he was inspired by Star Trek’s communicator. William Beebe invented the bathysphere; he was inspired by Jules Verne’s 20K Leagues Under the Sea. Dr. Cynthia Breazea, MIT’s Personal Robots Group, loved to play with Star Wars robots as a child, and now develops social robots like C3P0. Captain Cal Lanning, US Navy, has stated that ‘Doc’ Smith’s Directorix from Gray Lensman directly inspired the Navy’s Combat Information Centers in warships. Will Wright, creator of The Sims, credits Stanislaw Lem’s “kingdom in a box” as a major inspiration for his program. Physicist Leo Szilard was inspired to solve the problem of atomic chain reactions by H.G. Wells. Electronics engineering professor Yukiharu Uraoka, was inspired by science-fictional detective Manga Detective Conan to create ultrathin computer memory. MIT Engineering PRof. David Miller showed Star Wars to his class, and asked that they create the training remotes for the space station. They’ve been successfully tested on the IST. A rotopod robot created by Damian Lyon and Frank Hsu was directly inspired by Clarke’s tripod robots from Rendezvous with Rama.”

    • March 1, 2012 9:42 am

      I should have cited Lynn Margulis as well as Lovelock. May she rest in peace.

      Also, it occurs to me that Darwin’s theory of evolution is even more prominent in our mythology. Sometimes something becomes so pervasive we can’t even notice it.

      Also the Big Bang.

      Science, not science fiction, provides our modern mythology.

      • March 1, 2012 9:48 am

        Ooo… Well said! :D

      • March 1, 2012 10:06 am

        Wait, I have to write this before I forget.

        So, science is the mythology?

        I’ve been saying secularity is a religion (because it fills the role of religion – at least the role that religion traditional has had) that levels all religions. (I can’t help but think of the futurama and its First Amalgamated Church now ;P)

        So, science is the mythology of secular religion?

        Does that make sense?

  6. February 27, 2012 3:26 pm

    I’ve been interested in religions in science fiction for a while. I just read Octavia Butler’s *Parable of the Sower*, which was a good read. In it, 18 year old girls starts a religion call Earthseed, the first premise of which is: God is Change.

  7. February 27, 2012 3:38 pm

    I think a lot of Rua’s questions are similar to those raised by Jake Diebolt earlier. As I read her post, Rua is asking “Why bother with gods and myth?” Jake was asking “Why bother with ritual?” I wrote a lengthy response on my own blog here: http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/poetry/

    My response to Rua is pretty much the same: “Why do we create art?” I engage in art, and ritual, and myth, in order to try to express and engage that “surplus of meaning” (Ricouer) which is present in my experience of the world. I find that something is lost when the world is reduced to its component parts. That “something” is what I try to express in non-representational language (poetry, myth, song etc.) and action (ritual, dance, etc.).

    • February 27, 2012 8:25 pm

      I understand your point, but I think I may have misrepresented what my intended question was on myth and gods if understood in the way you phrased it. I am not saying Why bother with gods and myth? But saying Why not bother with myth differently and that if gods don’t exist, why not ensure we don’t act like they do? Have your stories and art with the representations you desire – even if they are personified or deitic (its art, the point is to express things how you want to express them), but working with those images in a way that treats them as real is where I begin questioning.

      • February 28, 2012 4:04 pm

        You wrote: “This criticism only applies to supernatural-related deities, such as anthropomorphic beings with superpowers, etc., that have the potential for idolatry (especially if it can be depicted as a statue) which are given traits. Other versions of deity, like that in some views of pantheism or Forces of Nature for example, would not apply to this criticism.”

        Is your concern with (1) the idea that the gods are supernatural, (2) the idea that we can petition the gods to solve our problems (3) the idea that the gods are separate from us, or (4) the anthropomorphizing of gods (i.e., in statuary)? If it is #1 or #2 above, I can’t speak to that because I don’t understand the gods in that way (and it seems most people who hang around this blog don’t either).

        If your issue is #3, then I would ask: if you don’t think the gods are separate from you and me, what do you mean by “you” and “me”? When I say the gods are separate from “me”, I mean from my ego-consciousness. There is a “me” that is more encompassing than that though, in which I would include the gods. As D.H. Lawrence wrote:

        “This is what I believe: [...]
        “That my soul is a dark forest.
        “That my known self will never be more than a little clearing in the forest.
        “That gods, strange gods, come forth from the forest into the clearing of my known self, and then go back.
        “That I must have the courage to let them come and go.”

        The gods are a part of me and they are separate from me, in much the same way that I am part of the world around me and I am separate from the world around me.

        If your issue is #4, I would ask if your concern with anthropomorphizing is born out of a concern of literalism. I have a statue on my altar of a human female figure, with a face and hands and so on. Do I think the gods have faces and hands? Of course not. Why do I sometimes represent them as human then? Because, I find, that when I want to enter into a *personal* relationship with something, it is useful to visualize it as a *person*. At the same time, it is also important to be reminded that it is not a person. And for that I engage in other practices to try to connect with the non-human world. I don’t think one excludes the other though.

        • February 29, 2012 9:43 am

          My personal honest opinion – There are no gods. Therefore I cannot associate with them in anyway.

          That exception was because there are those who personally redefine deity as something else. Which by current definitions are not deity (which may or may not change in the future, who knows, language is susceptible). So my critique was essentially for current definitions of deity. I am not opposed to your description of deity – even though I honestly don’t find any interest or reason for it – I respect it as not conflicting. Hence my attempt to emphasis that in my article. Which for future reference, what would be a better way of putting it John?

          As for the anthropomorphizing (I hadn’t realized how big that word was before) I love symbolism and all. But when an entity (i.e. earth) is put in a form of something that it is not in order for you to relate to it, well it becomes easy to lie to yourself about its form – like I said “lines blur” you can still do it and all, but its kind of a slippery slope. It is easy to fall into believing it is in that form. Its not a person, and to think of it as one is misleading. It sentimentalizes which distorts reality.

          Here is an excerpt of an interview with David Attenborough on God and documenting reality that relates (supports my point but not necessary for it) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gfa88SeNohY&list=PL5D2445CCB881D3F2&index=66&feature=plpp_video

          • February 29, 2012 4:08 pm

            I think our point of departure is your use of the term “exist”, as in “if gods don’t exist, why not ensure we don’t act like they do” — if by “exist” you mean *are they objects in space*, then no, I don’t believe that. In my mind, the gods are not things — they are events. Consider how process theology conceives of deity. “God is Change” as Octavia Butler writes, or as someone else wrote: “God is a Verb”. The gods are experiences, and necessarily subjective.

            You can reduce the experience of deity, like all human experiences (love, awe, terror), to biochemical reactions. The question is whether you have lost something in the process though. The artist would say “yes”. The mystic would say “yes”. And the “pagan” (as I understand the term) would also say “yes”. That is why the god-language is useful — it resists reduction.

            Your use of the term “reality” suggests to me that we are really coming at this from two different paradigms. That discussion is probably too long for a reply post, but I think it may go to the heart of why you don’t see the the point of “paganism”. You said above that scientific writings “makes most other writings that say how the world is and should be without value to me”. I think the idea we should look to religious writings to tell us about “objective reality” is very misguided. Religious and mystical writings are not about the world, but about our *experience* of the world. It’s a critical distinction. The Book of Genesis is not about the creation of planet Earth; it’s about the creation of our experience of the world which begins for each of us at birth. It’s no wonder you think that religion is a shrinking domain that is slowly being encroached upon by scientific discovery. I don’t think science has not even begun to scratch the surface of what religion is all about — the subjective human experience. Mystics, poets, and, yes, pagans can tell you much more about this than any science, I think.

            By the way, I don’t know whose “current definitions” of “deity” you are referring to — but people like Jung, D.H. Lawrence, and many Neopagans have used the term “gods”, in the way I have, to mean something other than anthropomorphized objects in space.

            As for the anthropomorphizing issue — we create all kinds of representations in art all the time. Does anyone mistake an impressionist painting of a tree for an actual tree? No. The painting is meant to express the subjective experience of the tree. I’m with you about anthropomorphizing deities in general. I cannot get down with the hard polytheism which seems to be growing in the Pagan community. But I don’t think it’s growing because people made statues of the gods and then god confused. That argument sounds a lot like Christian iconoclasm and it doesn’t give people enough credit. I think people anthropomorphize their gods because they want to connect to them in the same way the connect with other people — they want to have the same kind of certain experience of connection and relatedness.

            • February 29, 2012 6:55 pm

              That honestly makes my head hurt and think warrants its own post on HP. I believe we are definitely coming from VERY different perspectives. Being an artist and knowing many other artists (and know a lot of pagans), I don’t think that either of our perspectives is across the board for either pagans or artists.

              The book of Genesis, and in extent most every other sacred book, can and has been interpreted in sooo many different ways and each claiming it is the right interpretation that I have little confidence in any of them. Let alone think that they have any authority.

              Religious and mystical writings are not about the world, but about our *experience* of the world

              It can just as easily be argued that all writings are really about our experience of the world, and therefore about the world.

              religion is all about — the subjective human experience

              This appears to reduce religion to feelings and opinion. Which science would have no use for because science requires empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.

              I don’t think [hard polytheism] is growing because people made statues of the gods and then god confused. That argument sounds a lot like Christian iconoclasm and it doesn’t give people enough credit.

              It may not “give people enough credit” but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Lets remember that there are warning labels on the most ridiculous things these days because people didn’t think enough to avoid harm and took the time to force the companies that made the product to put warning labels on them. That said, I don’t know why hard polytheism is growing, and don’t intend to suggest that I know.

              By the way, I don’t know whose “current definitions” of “deity” you are referring to

              deity

              de·i·ty [d itee]
              n
              1. god or goddess: a god, goddess, or other divine being
              2. somebody or something like god: somebody or something that is treated like a god
              3. divine state: the condition or status of a god or goddess

              [14th century. Via French déité from ecclesiastical Latin deitas “divine nature,” from Latin deus “god.”]
              Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003. © 1993-2002 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

              god [god]
              n (plural gods)
              1. supernatural being: one of a group of supernatural male beings in some religions, each of which is worshiped as the personification or controller of some aspect of the universe
              Thor, the Norse god of thunder

              2. figure or image: a representation of a god, used as an object of worship
              the little bronze god standing in a niche above the altar

              3. something that dominates somebody’s life: something that is so important that it takes over somebody’s life (informal)
              worshiping the false god of fame

              4. somebody admired and imitated: a man who is widely admired or imitated (informal)
              He was one of the rock music gods of the early Seventies.

              npl or gods
              fate: the entire group of supernatural beings viewed as deciding human fate

              [Old English . Ultimately from an Indo-European word, meaning “that which is invoked,” which is also the ancestor of German Gott“god.”]
              Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003. © 1993-2002 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

              people like Jung, D.H. Lawrence, and many Neopagans have used the term “gods”, in the way I have, to mean something other than anthropomorphized objects in space.

              Yes, I acknowledged that. Hence me noting it in my article.

              I think people anthropomorphize their gods because they want to connect to them in the same way the connect with other people — they want to have the same kind of certain experience of connection and relatedness.

              I think that is the case, yet it need not be. Can we not achieve a sense of connection and relatedness with our own pets without projecting an image of them in human form? Therefore, could it then be done with any other living thing? I think keeping something in its natural form is respecting it for what it is, and to change that form into something else to be able to better relate with it makes me question the purpose of trying to related to it in the first place.

              “if gods don’t exist, why not ensure we don’t act like they do”

              Let it be known that when I say gods, or deity, I mean supernatural. Like when you say god or deity, I know you mean (correct me if I’m wrong) a pantheistic view of deity or natural force. So it may be better phrased, “if the supernatural doesn’t exist, why not ensure we don’t act like it does.”

            • February 29, 2012 10:15 pm

              First, let me apologize for writing so much.

              You wrote: “Being an artist and knowing many other artists (and know a lot of pagans), I don’t think that either of our perspectives is across the board for either pagans or artists.”

              I agree. But when I read what you write about gods, I hear the scientist, not the artist. Am I wrong?

              You wrote: “The book of Genesis, and in extent most every other sacred book, can and has been interpreted in sooo many different ways and each claiming it is the right interpretation that I have little confidence in any of them. Let alone think that they have any authority.”

              I think the problem is reading sacred scripture as “authoritative”. It’s a story — literature, not a science textbook. Of course other people read it as authoritative, but there’s no reason to let the literalists ruin such a great story for everyone.

              You wrote: “This appears to reduce religion to feelings and opinion.”

              Feelings are not a reduction to me. They are not *less than” rational thought.

              You wrote: “Lets remember that there are warning labels on the most ridiculous things …”

              No doubt. But I am suspicious of any account of the world that assumes that everyone else is so much [less intelligent, less observant, less fill-in-the-blank]. I am prone to intellectual elitism and have to be constantly on guard against it. I try to prefer explanations that do not reduce the mass of humanity to idiots. I’m not trying to defend the entire human race, individually or collectively, but neither am I willing to dismiss all that human experience.

              You wrote: “de·i·ty [d itee]
              n
              1. god or goddess: a god, goddess, or other divine being …”

              Again with the authorities? I call myself pagan, but the dictionary most likely does not include my meaning.

              You wrote: “Can we not achieve a sense of connection and relatedness with our own pets without projecting an image of them in human form?”

              Do you talk to your cat in English? Do you kiss your dog like you would a human? We do relate to our pets like they are human — because we are human and that is how we relate.

              You wrote: “Like when you say god or deity, I know you mean (correct me if I’m wrong) a pantheistic view of deity or natural force …”

              Since you asked, no. I do include a a pan(en)theistic deity and natural forces in my conception of god, but that’s not what I am talking about here. I am talking about god as a human experience. I apologize for not expressing myself well — all I can say is that to me it is an event, not a thing. Science operates largely in the realm of things, but our lives are made up of events/experiences.

              You wrote: “if the supernatural doesn’t exist, why not ensure we don’t act like it does.”

              I don’t know that anybody who identifies as a humanistic/naturalistic pagan does “act like” supernatural gods exist. I appreciate that is how you are interpreting what you see or read described, but I don’t think invoking deities in ritual means we are “playing pretend”. When I invoke deity, I am preparing a space for an experience. It’s not about acting as if supernatural beings exist — it’s about bracketing such questions of “reality” momentarily and making room in our minds and our hearts for a *poetic* experience.

            • March 1, 2012 8:49 am

              “when I read what you write about gods, I hear the scientist, not the artist. Am I wrong?”

              Am I not both? For me science is what inspires my art. The more I know the more I see beauty and wonder. The intricate patterns of branches in rivers, trees and our own arteries. The sphere of the sun, moon, earth and river stone. They can all be explained by science and all are beautiful. No need to separate them. When I write about gods, I am writing about something non-existent – the supernatural. Art can only go so far to express what is not tangible.

              “Do you talk to your cat in English? Do you kiss your dog like you would a human? We do relate to our pets like they are human — because we are human and that is how we relate.”

              Yes, humans treat other things in a human way. Other species treat other things in their own way. A dog licks a face as a way of expressing care or affection. A human kisses or hugs for the same reason. I don’t expect a dog to perk its lips to give a human kiss, or hug the way a human does.

              That *poetic* experience sounds exactly like an act of worshiping the supernatural, therefore treating it as real. Anyone that happens to see these acts without a long convoluted explanation before hand would automatically perceive that as worshiping a deity (supernatural). If it is not worshiping a deity, how is it not playing pretend for a psychological exercise? If it is not playing pretend, it looks as if they are in denial.

              If that experience instead was directed toward the coming thunderstorm and calling it a thunderstorm (not Thor for example), it looks like worshiping that event – a tangible thing, not supernatural.

              Science operates largely in the realm of things, but our lives are made up of events/experiences

              All experiences and events are things that science can describe. Things and events/experiences cannot be separated. If they are that makes it supernatural.

            • March 1, 2012 12:30 pm

              You wrote: “When I write about gods, I am writing about something non-existent – the supernatural. Art can only go so far to express what is not tangible.”

              Is not an impressionist painting more a painting of the intangible experience of a lily pad than a representation of the lily pad itself? I would argue that expressing the intangible is what art is really about.

              You wrote: “That *poetic* experience sounds exactly like an act of worshiping the supernatural, therefore treating it as real.”

              *Poetic* is not a euphemism for *supernatural*. A poetic act is one that approaches the world with humility, that recognizes that there are experiences that withdraw when we point directly at them (with representational language) or look directly at them — the Heisenberg principle applied to human experience perhaps. And so poetry instead tries to draw alongside that experience, to create a “clearing” and draw it out into the open. This is what ritual and myths are for me. For more on this, check out my blog post about why poetry matters. http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/poetry/

              You wrote: “Anyone that happens to see these acts without a long convoluted explanation before hand would automatically perceive that as worshiping a deity (supernatural).”

              Anyone who jumped to that conclusion would be guilty of mistaking appearances for substance and would make a poor anthropologist.

              You wrote: “If it is not worshiping a deity, how is it not playing pretend for a psychological exercise? If it is not playing pretend, it looks as if they are in denial.”

              To paraphrase Z. Budapest: There are parts of us that do not speak English and do not respond to reason. But they do understand candlelight and colors. They do understand nature. — It’s not pretend to try to talk to those parts of us in a language they understand, i.e., a personal language.

              You wrote: “All experiences and events are things that science can describe. Things and events/experiences cannot be separated. If they are that makes it supernatural.”

              Science does not describe human experience without being reductive. By the very nature of the enterprise, it has to be.

            • March 2, 2012 8:39 pm

              Impressionist painting cannot exist outside of reality. The colours, shapes, strokes, etc. are real enough. They are less detailed, and use simple methods that trigger associations we already have to other things so that we can see the image clearly (i.e. blue shifty surface for water). You see a painting of the lily and recognize it as that, not thinking that is the live plant in front of you. The memory/association of a live plant gives you the sense of experience. To be able to visually take it in to begin with makes it tangible. An artist may say that “This here painting is of the intangible”, but without such a label, we would not suspect so as we ourselves can very well see it and therefore is tangible. Making the art piece more akin to satire as to convince people they are seeing what cannot be seen. The expression of the intangible can only be made in the description plate, as it is only conceivable as a concept in the mind. Art is often a strange parody.

              ******************************************

              I don’t think invoking deities in ritual means we are “playing pretend”. When I invoke deity, I am preparing a space for an experience. It’s not about acting as if supernatural beings exist — it’s about bracketing such questions of “reality” momentarily

              – John

              Anyone that happens to see these acts without a long convoluted explanation before hand would automatically perceive that as worshiping a deity (supernatural). If it is not worshiping a deity, how is it not playing pretend for a psychological exercise? If it is not playing pretend, it looks as if they are in denial.

              – Rua Lupa

              Anyone who jumped to that conclusion would be guilty of mistaking appearances for substance and would make a poor anthropologist.

              – John

              Say a public ritual was done by those who believe this deity being invoked does exist, and someone who didn’t believe in the existence of that deity partook too in the exact same way. After the ritual how would those that are publicly known to believe in this deity and those who study these practices from the outside be able to tell the difference? As the sayings go, “actions speak louder than words”, “if it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck.”

              ************************************

              My mention of *poetic* was in reference to the specific description given that was labelled “a *poetic* experience”. That being,

              it’s about bracketing such questions of “reality”

              Was not referring to general poetry, which I should of made clear to begin with. This way of setting up a “poetic experience” suspends reality, making a distinct separation from what is real, therefore supernatural – beyond real. This “poetic experience” is a “supernatural experience”.

              ********************************

              “All experiences and events are things that science can describe. Things and events/experiences cannot be separated. If they are that makes it supernatural.”

              – Rua Lupa

              Science does not describe human experience without being reductive. By the very nature of the enterprise, it has to be.

              – John

              Even if it is reductive, the separation of experiences and things cannot be done, lest it be supernatural. Isn’t this so?

            • March 4, 2012 7:23 am

              >To paraphrase Z. Budapest: There are parts of us that do not speak English and do not respond to reason. But they do understand candlelight and colors. They do understand nature. — It’s not pretend to try to talk to those parts of us in a language they understand, i.e., a personal language.

              Yes! Thank you!

            • March 1, 2012 9:30 am

              I missed one point. The following kind of combines two threads of discussion we’re having.

              “religion is all about — the subjective human experience” – John

              “This appears to reduce religion to feelings and opinion.” – Rua Lupa

              “Feelings are not a reduction to me. They are not *less than” rational thought.” – John

              My saying that it appears to reduce religion to feelings and opinion was to say that religions have filled more than the role of providing for emotional needs. Religion has done everything that we mostly see as secular roles now. Essentially saying that instead one religion filling that role all religions are respected, without one over the other, in filling that role. Because secularity is not exclusively allied to any particular religion.

          • March 2, 2012 9:40 am

            In many ways the earth is our mother. We humans were born from the earth, we are earth, and it is Earth that sustains us. But the earth isn’t a person. The earth is not a mother; it is only like a mother. The earth is not that which can care or know us personally, the way a human mother knows, loves and cares for her children. In many ways the earth is like a machine. It has parts which react in predictable ways if you understand the physical dynamics involved. But the earth is not a machine. Sometimes it is helpful to think of the earth as a machine, but sometimes it is useful to think of the earth as a mother.

            When we acknowledge the earth as our mother, the mother of our species, it helps us to feel emotionally connected to earth, which may bring up feelings of love and gratitude, as well as respect and obligation. This myth of earth as mother is useful; it tells people a lot about what should be the proper relationship/attitude to earth at least within a religious content. (Even if we don’t and can’t always relate to earth as mother, it is good to set time apart to remember and appreciate this aspect of our experience of earth). Is this supernaturalism? What if we created an altar and set upon it an image of a well-endowed woman? What if we sang hymns, pored libations, dancedand feasted in celebratory acknowledgement of our mother the earth? Well, what I would call it is paganism.

            Rua, you bring up a lot of good points. Does the use of symbol and metaphor, especially when these are personified, lead to idolatry (worshiping false, non-existent gods)? This certainly can, did and does happen. I do believe (and I think there is good evidence to support this belief) that the original gods and myths, which were rooted in an oral not literate culture, were about the real world, the human experience of nature, not unlike my earth mother. But it is also true from my experience that the gods most modern western polytheists are interested in worshiping are supernatural people that live in nature but are not nature. Some modern polytheists even believe that the ancient myths could reflect historical events (not metaphorically but literally) as in there may have been a time (the golden age) when people literally had gods over for dinner!?!?!

            I am not sure if gods can take us where we want to go (the re-sacralization of the world), but I am not ready to concede them to the supernaturalists. The gods and myths are very powerful and useful symbols and metaphors. It may turn out that the supernaturalist baggage is too much and that we are better off inventing a new language to describe what we mean (as in the Brendan Myers’ Immensities), but regardless of what we call them, I think we need something like gods to encapsulate our values, emotions, and experiences of this “mysterium tremendum” that is Nature.

            • March 2, 2012 9:57 am

              MJL, Your second paragraph pretty much describes what I’d like my religious practice to be. So thanks for that.

            • March 2, 2012 9:19 pm

              Excellent Post! :D

              One of my favorite things about it is that it doesn’t hurt my head to understand it! *Made in good fun with John* (I appreciate poetry, I just need breaks between yours :) )

              M. Jay Lee, you’ve pretty much nailed what I wanted to discuss. You make great points that I agree with (1st paragraph).

              I enjoy metaphor, and don’t want to discourage it. I just worry about that threshold between metaphor and believing it as real. Which make me wonder, “why not just say what it really is and use ritual to emphasis the associations we want to make with it.” Like instead of saying mother (even though it is a good descriptor) keep it to ‘earth’ and do ritual that helps us to feel emotionally connected to earth, that bring up feelings of love and gratitude, as well as respect and obligation. This is something that I think is at least worth exploring. Like when doing meditations, you train your mind to associate certain positions, words, or breathing with a certain mind set. Could we not train our minds through ritual to associate these feelings with ‘earth’ without invoking images that are not what earth is?

              What if we created an altar and set upon it an image of a well-endowed woman? What if we sang hymns, pored libations, danced and feasted in celebratory acknowledgement of our mother the earth?

              The land where I stand is an alter, my reverence being directed to all I appreciate around me. Sing songs, pour libations acknowledging our appreciation of the source of it and how it must always return. Dance and feast in celebration!

              What I just wrote is only slightly different from your quote. My argument being that you don’t have to lose much if anything by changing your words or perceptions a little, you may even gain more.

            • March 4, 2012 2:39 am

              Well said, Rua.

              >“why not just say what it really is and use ritual to emphasis the associations we want to make with it.” Like instead of saying mother (even though it is a good descriptor) keep it to ‘earth’ and do ritual that helps us to feel emotionally connected to earth, that bring up feelings of love and gratitude, as well as respect and obligation. This is something that I think is at least worth exploring.

              Definitely worth exploring. Connecting directly to the earth, without the use of anthropomorphic metaphor, can be a powerful method for those inclined to it.

              >Like when doing meditations, you train your mind to associate certain positions, words, or breathing with a certain mind set. Could we not train our minds through ritual to associate these feelings with ‘earth’ without invoking images that are not what earth is?

              Yes, I think we can. The question is, how? By what means? Not every means is going to work for every person, and some might work better than others. Some people will have the right kind of personality to connect directly to the earth, and feel such emotions as love and gratitude for it. Others will have a personality that finds this too impersonal, and says, how can I feel love and gratitude for something non-human? They may do better with an anthropmorphic metaphor as a means.

              I believe that anthropomorphism should not be ruled out as a means, because it has particular advantages for many people. Love and gratitude are a particularly social and thus human-associated emotions. Love especially is particularly associated with family, and most intensely with mothers. Thus, the image of a “mother” becomes an expedient means to pair the feeling of love with the earth, via the metaphor of “mother” earth. Since almost all of us have mothers (some may not have known theirs), it stands a good chance of working for many people, but not for everyone or every personality style. If there is some mental obstruction blocking the association, such as a traumatic experience with one’s mother, or simply a personality or disinclination that recoils from blending the human category with the non-human category of earth, then the association will not work very well, and another means must be employed.

              I think we may need to establish a model of alternate paths, like Hinduism has, in order to suit different personalities and proclivities. Hinduism recognizes three different ways to achieve liberation. First is Jnana Yoga, the intellectual way that identifies the self with Brahman. Second is Dharma Yoga, which seeks liberation through excellently performing one’s social role as a householder, spouse, parent, leader, servant, or whatever. The third is Bhakti Yoga, which is the devotional path. This is the one where one concentrates on ritual devotionals to a deity, and cultivates a loving personality by loving the deity through everything and everyone. These are very different paths, but they are recognized as leading to the same ultimate goal of liberation. I think we need something similar to provide for the different personalities and inclinations within HP.

              We keep going round and round with “Why not use deities?” and “Why not connect directly without deities?” The conversation has seemed to treat these as mutually exclusive questions, but I don’t think they are. Instead, I want to ask “Why not use the most expedient means that leads you to a loving, grateful, and responsible relationship with the earth, regardless of how others do it?”

            • March 4, 2012 9:30 am

              I like the idea of a variety of ritual for different ways of expression that work better for that person.

              I like the use of metaphor in myth to get ideas and points across, as it is understood as a story. To have it in ritual is the slippery slope that depends on how it is approached. To say earth is the mother vs the earth is like our mother, can make all the difference.

              The relations between humans and the rest of the world is part of what I volunteer doing. I’ve done educational workshops to help people relate to creatures that they otherwise find no value in, or repulsive for one reason or another. Most of the time it is because they just don’t know much about them.

              The hardest is when educating on a species that people are determined to annihilate – usually ranchers or farmers vs wolves and other predators, because their investment in stock is threatened.

              To learn that these creatures have families and life concerns, just go about it a little differently, helps us relate and bridges that gap. They begin to learn and respect these creatures and even become inspired by the way they do things. Relationships develop with respect to who they are, and learn to work with the creatures different way of doing things can help us live in co-existence.

              Anthropomorphizing is anthropocentric. There is so much lost when doing that, people begin to think of these creatures as human instead of respecting them as their true form. There grows an expectation for them to relate back to us as human, and that is a problem. Too many people come to harm when thinking powerful creatures are able to relate to us on a human level. And likewise, too many vulnerable creatures get hurt because they can’t relate to us on a human level.

              This way of relating to other lifeforms is one of the hurdles I have to face when educating people that doing so causes more harm than good. Another hurdle is symbolisms – ‘trickster’ ‘death bringer’ ‘bad luck’ and so on. They are not these things and to portray them as such gives them a bad name and a reputation they don’t deserve. The same for positive symbolisms, because that means we relate to them for only that reason and ignore the other things they require acknowledgement of for their well being. Or just because you only associate them with good luck, you can try to bring that creature in to your home to that creatures detriment. Either being habituated, or becoming ill, or both. Example: people giving humming birds Splenda because we think that because it is better for us, it should be better for them. Humming birds began to die because of lack of what they require for nutrition.

              In my experience it is better to relate to earth and other lifeforms as they are so they receive the proper treatment on the level that they require. Vets and other professionals whose work involves proper care of life share the same message.

              The best way that leads you to a loving, grateful, and responsible relationship with the earth may not be the easiest or exciting way. But it works.

            • March 4, 2012 7:57 pm

              I agree Rua — my head was hurting reading my own posts too. I think from your response to M. Jay I finally understand what your question is and how you answer now. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

            • March 5, 2012 9:25 am

              I’ve always appreciated striving with others to better understand each other – not necessarily agree, but come to an understanding. So I am glad we’ve been able to do that :D

            • March 4, 2012 5:12 pm

              M. Jay, thanks for articulating so well and so clearly what I was clearly struggling to say above.

  8. February 29, 2012 7:48 am

    Shoot! – just lost my grand thesis reply. Well, here’s a brief summary.

    I think scifi can be deeply enriching and inspiring, but it is still too young to compare with traditional myths. First, traditional myths can connect you with a sense of cultural identity, a sense of sharing in a community of meaning going back thousands of years. Scifi can’t offer that. Second, traditional myths say something about how to live and be in the world, in a way that is timeless. Scifi is very good at this kind of ethical relevance, but it is often tied closely to a given era’s views and challenges. Third and finally, traditional myths are also gateways to sacred importance, able to evoke a sense of what Otto called the mysterium tremendum et fascinans. Scifi can do this too, but it may be more difficult. It’s pop culture right now, and does not readily command the kind of respect, veneration, and awe that traditional myths do. Among certain people it may, like among some of the more extreme Trekkies, but generally our culture is not set up so that we can easily access the mysterium tremendum through scifi. Perhaps in time, over centuries, the process of cultural evolution will select the most timeless and universally meaningful bits of scifi and transform them into full, proper myths. Until then, traditional myths still enjoy certain advantages over scifi, in my opinion.

    • February 29, 2012 10:06 am

      It is easy to forget that all myths started at some point, meaning that they didn’t have thousands of years to draw on. Just because its aged doesn’t make it any more valuable or important. Its the content that has value.

      Traditional myths are tied closely to a given era’s views and challenges. How are they not? If the myths evolve, then they are constantly being fitted into the current views and challenges of their era. Look at Robin Hood for example, originally had nothing to do with archery until it became something the common people did and valued. So naturally their folk hero became associated with that.

      “traditional myths are also gateways to sacred importance”

      Please elaborate?

      “does not readily command the kind of respect, veneration, and awe that traditional myths do”

      I don’t think traditional myths did that for everybody either. Like the Trekkie example. It works for them, but not for you. The traditional myths work for you, but not for them. A myth is a myth regardless if the majority support it or not. Are the wiccan mythologies any less myths because others don’t feel like they command respect, veneration, and awe? They are a minority though, just like the Trekkies.

      • March 4, 2012 7:20 am

        >It is easy to forget that all myths started at some point, meaning that they didn’t have thousands of years to draw on. Just because its aged doesn’t make it any more valuable or important. Its the content that has value. … Traditional myths are tied closely to a given era’s views and challenges. How are they not?

        They are always being tied to the current era, while the basic motifs of the myth maintain relatively constant. Over time, this produces a kind of natural selection (cultural selection, to be precise) by which only the most broadly appealing and interpretable myths come down to us. Therefore, any ancient myth tends to be an extremely hardy “species” of stories. Comparing it to a newly invented science fiction story of today is like comparing wild-growing corn to genetically engineered corn – the latter does what we want it to do at present (maybe), but it is not necessarily as viable in a wide variety of environments and under a variety of different pressures. So, I do think there *is* something special about an ancient myth. It is a time-proven hardy cultural meme. Plus, entirely apart from that, people *do* tend to attach more importance to ancient traditions than newly invented ones. Don’t ask me why it makes logical sense, but it’s plain to see that they do. Maybe it gives a sense of connection to the past, or of cultural heritage, or identity. A sociologist or anthropologist could come up with better reasons than I can.

        > “traditional myths are also gateways to sacred importance” … Please elaborate?

        I struggle to describe what I mean here, but it’s that feeling when you walk into a temple or church or ancient ruins or stone circle (even if it is not your tradition or culture), or when an elder of great respect enters the room, or when a wild deer draws near to you in the woods and looks you in the eye. You just get that sense that you should slow down, quiet down, be aware, have a little more care and respect, and take the experience seriously. There might even be some awe and wonder. That is an attempt at an empirical description of the feeling I’m referencing with “sacred importance.” It is a meaningful experience in and of itself, and it’s also beneficial for cultivating in yourself care, respect, awareness, and a certain kind of positive humility. For many people, myths are able to help them access that feeling, if they open themselves to it.

        • March 4, 2012 10:08 am

          Your point on ‘traditional’ myth being hardy makes sense, and relates to what Editor B said about myths evolving. Which is some of what you see with today’s superheroes. They’re the evolution of the mythical god. Myths of the 21st Century that people today relate to and readily know. The stories, that are well known to the public, of Thor are no longer told in their original traditional form, they are now told in their evolutionary form like the 2011 film Thor.

          The goal here is the science to myth relation, which Editor B suggests that the stories of science today are modern myths (explanations of our world). Others suggest that science-fiction maybe that science and myth relationship. I am not sure which. Perhaps both.

          The example of churches, stone henge etc. are explained by their design. They play on natural mathematics which gives us that reaction and feeling. The architects really knew what they were doing.

          The wild deer seeing us (another animal) and you seeing it, triggers instincts. Often flight, or fight, but can also be predatory or simply curiosity – a reaction that can help us learn and better survive our world.

          The elder example speaks of social pressure (not necessarily good or bad) we are social creatures that evolved with hierarchy. So that compelling feeling makes sense.

          All of these examples speak of how our world functions on a biological level – the level we are most able to relate to. That “sacred importance” seems to be a relish in our biological instincts.

          • March 5, 2012 5:52 am

            >All of these examples speak of how our world functions on a biological level – the level we are most able to relate to. That “sacred importance” seems to be a relish in our biological instincts.

            Yes! Exactly. They are all cultural phenomena that exploit our biological proclivities to a certain effect. Do you think that myths are capable of doing the same?

            • March 5, 2012 8:19 am

              Yes, that is why I am here :D

              We can use images that we would instinctively react to. That is why I had no objection to the Z. Budapest paraphrase. It was speaking of the subconscious reacting to visual cues as a way to harness certain psychological responses. They can be used for positive change, but they can also be used as a way to control or manipulate for selfish gain by a hierarchical leader or even to stroke your own ego.

              Different myths can be used to bring about different results, like how different meditations are used for different results. Myths can inspire action and creativity. They can warn about consequences in a way that is better received than most true stories. It is important to note that myths shouldn’t replace true tellings for messages and lessons – like the holocaust. But be told along side each other to compliment one another and to back eachother up. Over time the true tellings may evolve to be myths as the bits that people find motivating are retold more often than “the boring bits”. Historically speaking, the original happenings should be preserved for reference of possible future lessons. As what may be considered unvaluable in one generation may be crucial for the betterment of another. Like the craft skills for making basic necessities in a depression, or herbal medicine when you have no access to prescribed medication. Many traditional Anishinabek stories express the use of certain plants that heal the hero of the tale. Which reinforces the memory of which plant and what it does. Myths can be very important to our well being in more ways than one.

        • March 4, 2012 11:51 am

          Plus, entirely apart from that, people *do* tend to attach more importance to ancient traditions than newly invented ones. Don’t ask me why it makes logical sense, but it’s plain to see that they do. Maybe it gives a sense of connection to the past, or of cultural heritage, or identity.

          I’ve noticed that too. My question has always been why? It seems illogical. Like ancestor worship, the relations you had back then were not much different to relations you have now (in terms of how you relate to them, we all don’t completely get along), but they also likely had a world view that you may very will not agree with. Like racial segregation, slavery, female roles etc. The ancient myths are no different in that.

          There are people today that see great importance to new traditions though. Some as simple as a Christmas tree or as complex as Wicca. There are new family traditions that happen all the time that have great importance to them.

          So I don’t know about attaching “more” importance, but people certainly do attach importance to how old things are. Yet, again, just because something is old, doesn’t mean that it is important. Like the “traditional family”, its been done for so long that people think it is important and worth protecting, but it isn’t. I think that whenever the argument is made that it is important because it has been done this way for so long, is ancient, or tradition, it’s value has to be questioned if that is all that makes it valuable.

  9. March 1, 2012 9:54 am

    Just thinking out loud here.

    Could it be that when the word pagan is said, we just mean religion?

    • March 2, 2012 10:04 am

      Yes for me the word pagan does mean religion, although it specifies a particular flavor of religion. In addition to calling myself a naturalistic/humanistic pagan, I also at times refer to myself as a religious pantheist, by which I mean I am interested in the practice of pantheism as a religion with shared festivals, rituals, symbols, shrines, stories, songs etc (all that stuff other religions have). I have found that many (but not all) pantheists are very uncomfortable and even hostile to the practice of religion as a shared activity. This is one reason I align with the term paganism. I’m curious, what do you think of pantheism? A lot of the views you express about a science based religion remind me of naturalistic/scientific pantheism.

      • March 2, 2012 10:51 pm

        I’m curious, what do you think of pantheism? A lot of the views you express about a science based religion remind me of naturalistic/scientific pantheism.

        *I love questions like these! :D *

        I’ve been called a pantheist and pagan. That doesn’t bother me, I have a lot in common and can see how others can easily make those associations. Pagan seems to be another way of saying “folk religion” that wants to be more. I love folk religions, and like to volunteer and join in the celebrations so long as I am not forced to worship a deity – I am an ally. Naturalistic Pantheism more accurately describes me, though I fail to see why ‘Pantheism’ is even in the descriptor as it seems to contradict itself (Naturalistic = No Supernatural, Pantheistic = All God). I really am both and want both. This place seems to be doing the same thing (or at least similar), and seems more willing to explore outside the box while maintaining a naturalistic approach. Most other places I’ve seen use a lot of invoking and supernatural elements to the point that you can’t tell they’re supposed to be naturalistic. Here it is a lot easier to tell its naturalistic, and are more willing to debate :)

      • March 4, 2012 11:00 am

        Oops, I just remembered that Pantheistic views of “god” vary. I seriously think there needs to be a new word for that i.e. Immensity or something to be able to distinguish the difference. It really is hard to remember that and think the vast majority of people/the public understand only one interpretation of god.

        In terms of the view “All God” when god means natural forces or how everything can have an impact on everything else. I don’t understand the purpose of relating to the word ‘god’ when you can say ‘interconnections’ or ‘earthquake’. So that is why I don’t consider myself pantheistic.

  10. March 3, 2012 5:06 pm

    HP and a few other very new Paths have taken the label of spiritual to describe themselves who do not associate with the incorporeal. They are the first, and few who have done so as a Path.

    While that is, in a sense, revolutionary, I don’t believe it’s a step forward.

    By taking a stand that there is nothing incorporeal, HP remains in the camp of religious paths that make unprovable statements.

    I think that maintaining a neutral position – true skepticism – and accepting theistic and atheistic individuals equally, would ultimately provide a stronger basis for humanistic paganism (or any revolutionary path) to cultivate something “spiritual.”

    This is not only because of the greater intellectual honesty in such a position, but because uniting people of differing beliefs (believers, doubtersm and neutrals) under one banner implies something much more transformational and valuable is happening, than mere tribalism.

    • March 4, 2012 2:55 am

      Drew, you make a good point about the philosophical indefensibility of dogmatically denying supernatural realities. Personally, I hope that HP will not be a path that somehow requires the dogmatic denial of any kind of supernatural (that’s how I read “incorporeal” – correct me if I’m wrong, Rua) reality. Rather, I hope it will be a path that adopts the method of concentrating on the natural (i.e. non-supernatural) reality, without saying that everyone else is wrong. That is, I hope it will be a path that says “This is what we’re trying out”, not “this is what’s true, so all you schmucks are just wrong.” Theists of various stripes are welcome here, but our concentration is on exploring naturalism.

      P.S. For the record, HP is *not* the first to take the label of “spiritual” to describe a non-supernatural path. But that is for another conversation. I want to write a history of naturalism in religions to lay this to rest, but it’s a long-term project that have to wait for another day.

      • March 4, 2012 10:42 am

        I am philosophically agnostic – there is no proof for or against. To be practicing in a naturalistic way, then there shouldn’t be elements of the supernatural involved then, because it’s not naturalistic anymore.

        I don’t require dogmatic denial and am sorry if I came off that way. If someone says they don’t believe the supernatural exists yet act like there is the supernatural, I’ll question that. If they do believe there is the supernatural and act like there is supernatural, then that makes sense and don’t question that. If you say you are agnostic, then I’ll understand exploring ritual acts that incorporate the supernatural.

        I push and prob here because HP says it is naturalistic, if it says its agnostic, then that means a whole different thing. Here it appears to be saying that the approach is what is naturalistic and everything else is fair game. So I will keep my prodding directed toward the practices, which I think I’ve been doing so far?

        I am speaking for myself when I say, “the gods/supernatural don’t exist” because I believe they don’t, and would be lying if I said otherwise. As it has been pointed out, “speak your truth”

        To others who believe the supernatural exist, I bare no grudge. Just say so, and I’ll respect that. Otherwise I’m likely to assume you don’t. Sorry if that made others reading uncomfortable and not comment.

        An example is John and I debating, we acknowledge that we each view the term “god” or “deity” differently and respect that (I admit difficulty remembering). The debate is on our mutual views of there being no supernatural, and if practicing a certain way conveys a belief in the supernatural. If you are a hard agnostic or believe in the supernatural – By all means, ignore the debate, it shouldn’t apply to you.

        Also, I am not suggesting that HP is the first to take on “spirituality” in an non-incorporeal way. I should of said, “some of the first and few”. And when I say first or recent I mean the last few hundred years as far back as around 1700 CE.

        My criticism is the use of the word spiritual in reference to naturalistic practices, not whether or not it has been used historically.

  11. March 4, 2012 9:35 am

    I am interested in religious naturalism, not because I know there are no incorporeal beings or incorporeal psychic forces, but because I think that these things if they exist are relatively unimportant. When compared with the undeniable power and majesty of the shared, physical world, incorporeal gods and ghosts come off looking pathetic. It is because I believe in the ancient gods, that the gods are real, important, and meaningful, that I do not believe they are conscious supernatural-like beings. If there are immortal, conscious, personal gods who live in some parallel plain of existence, they are not the gods I wish to honor. I love the idea of all us pagan-like types, hard, soft and symbolic theists and non-theists, being able to come together to do religion, and maybe this is possible in some situations, but by and large I have found these things are incompatible.

    To some extent I do agree with Drew. I would like to move away from classifying religion based on metaphysical claims about the nature of reality (i.e. incorporeal beings exist/do not exist), but I do think we need some way of distinguishing the type of paganism we are interested in here from the more common supernaturalistic/dualistic type. This is one reason I like the term Humanistic Paganism. When I think of the term humanism I do not think of the modern humanism movement, but ancient Greek humanism – Know Thyself, know that you are human, fallible and mortal, you are not a god. To me humanistic paganism is about humans, it is about connecting humans to each other and this world we share. It is about creating a right relationship with reality – self, community and the world, and I believe that myth and ritual are important means to accomplish this goal.

    • March 5, 2012 10:02 pm

      I’m really liking this post M. Jay. :) I particularly agree with religion not being limited to the metaphysical realm because it never really was to begin with. As religion historically covered all subjects and has only been recently strongly associated supernaturalism.

      I personally don’t relate to humanism as I see it as human centric, and find that HP doesn’t really do much on the subject on humanism even though it is part of its name. I think religious naturalism you spoke might be a better descriptor. As religion is talked about quite often here and tying it to science being the focus, which is where naturalism ties in quite well. I’d even suggest that it should be called religious naturalism instead as it really accurately describes what is going on.

      • March 6, 2012 2:00 pm

        Of course religious naturalism is an even broader category, an even bigger tent. I would recommend checking out http://www.religiousnaturalism.org if you haven’t already. I think HP has a somewhat more specific focus, while still being very broad in scope, and while still being inside that bigger tent.

        • March 6, 2012 3:10 pm

          It would be neat to see a direct visual comparison of charts or something. I think religious naturalism is a bit narrower as it excludes polytheism and other supernatural elements, unlike paganism. Humanism isn’t really a topic here so I wonder at its use. So I have difficulty seeing how religious naturalism is bigger than paganism?

          • March 6, 2012 4:38 pm

            HP is a form of RN.

          • March 6, 2012 5:16 pm

            Sorry let me expand on that.

            HP is a form of RN. HP is also a form of Paganism. HP is in fact the intersection of RN and Paganism.

            And not to get sidetracked but I believe our host B.T. has stated he intends the titular humanism as a virtual synonym for naturalism.

            • March 6, 2012 9:17 pm

              I can see how HP is a form of RN as its approach has more focus on myth, otherwise I see no difference.

              Seeing how paganism has a strong element of supernaturalism throughout it, I feel that there may be a better way to describe exactly what is wanted out of the term that excludes this element. Which may be worth exploring as there is an obvious draw to the term, but notably not the supernaturalism aspects of practice. What is really wanted from the use of “paganism”?

              Is humanism really a synonym for naturalism? Why not just say naturalism then, if that is what is meant? Over time I’ve been seeing more and more distancing from overall human to human concerns and more of a draw toward human to the rest of nature concerns.

              I think one of the biggest areas that need exploring is what is meant by myth (teachings of how the world works, moral teachings, inspiration etc.?), what is myth for the 21st century, and how to apply it to practice. And considering it is one of the biggest elements to HP, why not incorporate it into its name somehow? I think it would be fun to try to do that and make it easy for outside recognition on what is going on here, that screams “We love to work with Myths” (I realize that may be the reason why paganism is in the name, but with there being so much umbrella meaning with it, why not try to narrow it a bit?)

              I know there is an opposition to narrowing things down, and understand that it is an avoidance of making any exclusions (no one wants to be excluded); but how can you define what you are if you are not defining what your not? By not defining what you are not, what are you then? Isn’t part of the goal here to hone what is being done? Start with the blob of clay and find the sculpture underneath?

            • March 8, 2012 11:55 pm

              Wow, Rua, you bite off a lot at one time. Okay, here goes…

              First off, Editor B is spot on regarding the relationship of HP and RN. ‘Nuff said.

              As for Humanism, it is very nearly a synonym for naturalism, but not quite. I see Humanism as including 2 crucial elements: 1) naturalism, and 2) a sense of responsibility, insofar as we cause many if not most of our own problems and are capable of meeting challenges without recourse to supernatural aid. Now, you’ll notice that there is absolutely nothing in there whatsoever about concentrating on the human more than the non-human. That is not the idea at all. To my knowledge that has never been the case in any form of humanism throughout the centuries, nor is it the case in any form of modern Secular Humanism or Spiritual Humanism that I’ve come across.

              To be honest, in retrospect I would rather I had named the site Naturalistic Paganism, but I didn’t, for the following reasons: 1) there was already a yahoo group by that name, and I didn’t want to sound like I was speaking for or representing them; 2) I didn’t know yet that there was such a thing as “religious naturalism”; 3) I figured that Pagans, who revere nature, would think that “naturalistic” just meant nature-oriented (as it turns out, that may have been an unwarranted concern); and 4) I had personally just passed through a phase of Paganism, then Humanism, and wanted to synthesize the two. So that is the honest-to-goodness truth about why Humanism is up there in the site name.

              As for Paganism, I think we’ve already beat that one into the ground enough over the last year. HP draws mythology and ritual from Paganism, and Paganism is NOT (repeat NOT) necessarily supernaturalistic. Yes, a majority of Pagans are currently more supernaturalistic, but there is a millennia-old precedent for naturalism within Paganism, and there are plenty of naturalists within Paganism today, and really Paganism is not dogmatic about any one interpretation but is much more of a spectrum with a lot of ambiguity. So there is nothing in Paganism that categorically excludes naturalism. Please do not think that there is.

              Now, I’d like to separate debate about what to call the path followed here from debate about the name of the website. Debate about what is best for this site to call itself is all well and good, but please, please, please do not expect for the site name to change, for the following reasons: 1) changing the name would mean registering for (and paying for) a new web domain; 2) doing so would lose all the links, buzz, and search engine optimization that we’ve built up so far around the humanistic paganism domain name; 3) the current name functions to draw in both pagans and humanists who might be searching the keywords “humanistic” and “paganism”, thus pluggin into two large potential audiences; and finally, 3) it’s just a name!

              Apart from the website name though, I might be amenable to changing the name of the path followed here. As you know, I’ve been toying with the idea of “Sagecraft” as a new name for it. I’m not completely satisfied with it yet though, and in any case I would rather let the path evolve more before deciding. In such things, I like to follow the ADF motto: “Fast as a speeding oak!”

              So, debate away (so long as it is not just repeating old material already discussed). Just please don’t feel as though you are not being heard if the name does not change any time soon.

            • Rua Lupa permalink
              March 13, 2012 9:37 pm

              “Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns, attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters” – Humanism, Wikipedia

              Sounds human centric.

              I understand why it is the name it is and it makes sense to keep it that way for practical purposes – it also makes a great origin story for HP that I wouldn’t want to change. All you would have to do is change the subtitle to what is found to be the desired name really. By the way, the last point “3) Its just a name” has me asking how would you feel under a label that made others treat you in a way that did not represent how you see and are involved in the world? Because that is what is in a name, it is not only a form of recognition, it brings about a way of treating each other with that recognition. You wouldn’t feed a Muslim or Jew pork right? You knew that because of what the name implies. Not to mention misidentifying different beliefs which leads to cultural misunderstandings, and sometimes war. Names are important.

              HP draws mythology and ritual from Paganism

              Why not else where too? For once I think this is too narrow.

              It is much more of a spectrum with a lot of ambiguity, which makes it kind of useless frankly. All I am suggesting is to narrow it down a bit so it is more useful. Like how HP is a form of RN, HP is also a form of Paganism, of which the form is not explicit.

              I am in no hurry for name changes, just wanting discussions on the topic. I do find appeal to Sagecraft and would like to play with the idea more.

            • March 14, 2012 7:33 am

              >Sounds human centric.

              The operative phrase there is “human rather than divine or supernatural matters.” Human is being used to contrast with divine/supernatural, not with other species, plants, etc.

              >>HP draws mythology and ritual from Paganism.
              >Why not else where too?

              Well, for one, because it’s Humanistic *Paganism.* No one’s stopping anyone from having Humanistic Taoism, Humanistic Ba’hai, or Humanistic [fill in the blank]. But it starts to get very watered-down and superficial when you “concentrate” on any and every cultural tradition. Some kind of focus is needed. That said, we’ve been very inclusive as far as who is welcome to hang out here, I think. HP itself stakes out a certain focus as its centerpoint, and that’s Pagan mythology and ritual.

              >All I am suggesting is to narrow it down a bit so it is more useful. Like how HP is a form of RN, HP is also a form of Paganism, of which the form is not explicit.

              I’m confused. Do you mean narrowing Paganism down by specifying that HP is not all Paganism but only RN-compatible Paganism? I thought that was pretty clearly the case already? Maybe I’m misunderstanding you…

            • Rua Lupa permalink
              March 21, 2012 10:35 pm

              The operative phrase there is “human rather than divine or supernatural matters.” Human is being used to contrast with divine/supernatural, not with other species, plants, etc.

              Naturalism is solely defined as separation from supernatural. While Humanism solely defined as focusing on the objective human experience and values (which naturally excludes the supernatural). Therefore is not concerned with the rest of Nature.

              Well, for one, because it’s Humanistic *Paganism.* … it starts to get very watered-down and superficial when you “concentrate” on any and every cultural tradition. Some kind of focus is needed. That said, we’ve been very inclusive as far as who is welcome to hang out here, I think. HP itself stakes out a certain focus as its centerpoint, and that’s Pagan mythology and ritual.

              “Paganism” referred to “a group of religions rooted in pre-Christian European traditions”, and that “myth” meant “a set of cultural symbols drawn from Pagan tradition” was spelled out in the very first post (see “What Is Humanistic Paganism?”).

              And yet there has been other traditions outside of religions rooted in pre-Christian European traditions referenced in HP. Like East Asian traditions for meditations, and North American founded practices that other commenters have expressed in personally created rituals and practices, and so on. To ignore these is to ignore a lot of the practices upheld in HP. The centerpoint is the psychological benefits found in different traditions, every time myth is used it is in reference to this purpose.

              I’m confused. Do you mean narrowing Paganism down by specifying that HP is not all Paganism but only RN-compatible Paganism? I thought that was pretty clearly the case already? Maybe I’m misunderstanding you…

              HP is a form of Religious Naturalism, and a form of Paganism. It is inspired by pagan (non-christian. Wait, why not draw inspiration from christian and other monotheistic traditions? There could be valuable things missed. I mean, its been successful for so long there must be some psychological candy there? Would it be more accurate to say Folk Religions?) traditions, and approaches things in a Religious Naturalistic way. Its practice is focused on using myth for psychological exercise. The point on the form not being explicit is like when someone says their pagan, usually they can narrow it down and say Asatru, or Wiccan, and possibly further from there. If HP is paganism, what kind (in a way that doesn’t require the pagan adjective)?

            • March 8, 2012 11:58 pm

              You asked about mythology and what myth means. This is actually new ground for us, not discussed yet, and I think it is the perfect time to explore it – thank you for suggesting it. I was actually waiting for a moment to introduce this.

              Myth is another word that has evolved quite a number of different meanings, and conversation can great quite muddy, with people unintentionally talking past each other, if it isn’t made clear.

              As you know, generally I’ve used mythology to refer to the actual historical traditions of stories that have come down to us, and which involve pantheons of gods and sometimes other fabulous creatures and beings. For example: Greek myths of Dionysos and Persephone, Norse myths of Odin and Thor, Irish myths of the Dagda and Cerridwen, etc. I also nod to ritual when I speak of myths, because I think myth and ritual in most cases go hand in hand whenever we’re talking about a living mythical tradition that plays a big part in your life rather than a handful of quaint stories handed down to us. So, when I say mythology I sometimes let ritual be implied. If ritual is crucial, I usually try to make that explicit by spelling it out.

              Now, I’d like to turn the question back on you, Rua, because honestly I was thoroughly perplexed by your use of “myth” in this post. You start off by quoting Carl Sagan, and I followed the link to the actual episode and found where he says it, but it is not at all evident what he means. It remains very vague. I’m not sure what you mean by it, either, or what you want from the myth part of “a marriage of science of myth.” What’s your take?

            • Rua Lupa permalink
              March 13, 2012 5:22 pm

              On the Carl Sagan question, He was telling a moral story via a dream where science was a predominant backdrop. My understanding of myth has much overlap to the meaning of story. That is why I asked, “what is meant by myth?”

            • March 13, 2012 5:33 pm

              Can you elaborate? What is the meaning of the story?

            • Rua Lupa permalink
              March 13, 2012 6:21 pm

              That even intelligent creatures can make grave mistakes and the example given should be learned from to prevent ourselves from making the same mistake is one meaning that can be drawn from it.

              Most meanings of stories are more about what each person takes from it rather than saying outright what you should take from it.

            • Rua Lupa permalink
              March 13, 2012 9:57 pm

              Sorry I was thinking of a different quote. for the “The ancient myth makers knew, we are equally children of the earth and the sky.”

              We are still children of earth and sky we just tell the story differently today.

            • Rua Lupa permalink
              March 13, 2012 9:59 pm

              In that sense, science is the mythology of our times (our explanations of our world)

          • March 9, 2012 1:39 pm

            By the way, polytheism can be construed naturalistically as well. You might find this essay intriguing. http://postpaganism.com/blog/2011/10/gods-verbs-naturalistic-polytheism/ Indeed I’d recommend checking out PostPaganism.com generally (if you haven’t already) as I think the perspective articulated there may resonate.

            • March 9, 2012 2:38 pm

              Heh. Just noticed Ehoah is linked in PostPaganism.com, file under “Eco-Pagans.” Heh.

            • Rua Lupa permalink
              March 13, 2012 6:11 pm

              ;P To the “Eco-Pagans” file, Ehoah can be that among many other things by way of design with the core of it unchanging. There have even been Muslims incorporating Ehoah too. Ehoah is quite secular in that it doesn’t favor or disfavor any practice yet all practices can use the secular ceremonies and such. In that way, the design has been successful.

  12. March 4, 2012 2:54 pm

    There are a lot of great things being discussed, yet I haven’t really seen anything thoughts on the use of the word spiritual in a naturalistic practice.

    I’ve seen it recognized that pagan is not required for a path that melds science and myth (which its self was debated that science could very well be the myth), yet most want the folk elements and appear to agree that religion is a good descriptor. I suggest that perhaps folk religion would be a more accurate description of this path as its meaning is more specific than pagan and would not imply practicing polytheism or being non-religious.

    • March 4, 2012 8:30 pm

      Problem with that is it would exclude other strains of paganism, most notably I think those interested in the esoteric traditions.

      • March 5, 2012 8:33 am

        How so?

      • March 5, 2012 8:36 am

        I mean, it being a naturalistic practice in itself would do that already wouldn’t it?

          • March 5, 2012 9:33 am

            How can something that is the occult be naturalistic? Occult is defined as being not scientific, and therefore not naturalistic. If it is naturalistic, then it inherently isn’t occult. I don’t know how much more contradictory it can get than that.

            • March 5, 2012 9:54 am

              People do have different definitions. Crowley advocated “the method of science; the aim of religion.”

              By the way, magnetism and gravity were once labeled occult concepts.

            • March 5, 2012 10:39 am

              I read that about magnetism and gravity. Which shows that the occult was non-scientific because gravity and magnetism is explainable by science. When they were thought to be an occult concept it was explained through supernatural means. They are mutually exclusive.

    • March 5, 2012 3:17 pm

      I now realize that my article wasn’t clear on the spiritual topic. I had assumed that it would be known from previous discussions that I was referring to how “Spiritual” refers to the non-incorporeal (‘spirit’) and therefore not naturalistic and conflicting with a naturalistic practice unless it no longer was to be a naturalistic practice.

      • March 5, 2012 5:04 pm

        I don’t see a conflict between the terms spirituality and naturalism. It is true that “spirit” can refer to an incorporeal being (ghost, immortal non-incarnate soul, angel etc), but it is also used in non-supernatural ways. If someone asks “Where’s your team spirit?” I don’t think they are asking, “Where is your team’s supernatural being?”

        Also the origins of the word spirit are completely naturalistic. The word spirit is derived from the Latin word spiritus, which means breath, but what it really refers to is the “breath of life”. When a body is alive it possesses breath and heat, it possesses life. When a body dies the life leaves the body. This thing, this quality which the living possess but the dead do not is something real, and it was recognized and named by the ancients. I believe in this force of life, this spirit; I simple question the idea of its immorality. Spirituality is not about incorporeal beings. It is about cultivating the force of life, the essence of life.

        • March 5, 2012 9:54 pm

          This was the best explanation I’ve ever gotten on this topic. *tips hat* I find myself without argument, only one question. What does it then mean when we say, “our/your/my spirituality?”

  13. March 6, 2012 5:29 pm

    I am not sure I understand your question about “our/your/my spirituality.” The term spiritual is popular among liberal types, as in “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” because religions tend to be more conservative with rules and traditions that members are expected to conform to. Some scholars think that the very word religion comes from the Latin religare, which means to bind. Spirituality without religion is much more free-spirited, more about one’s own personal religious mix, one’s own individual path to sacredness/wholeness etc. By all accounts I am a liberal, but I am becoming increasingly unsatisfied with spirituality without religion. Religion without spirituality is a dry, dead affair, but spirituality without religion also seems to be lacking. If you will excuse the supernaturalistic metaphor, it is as if one lacks a soul, and the other lacks a body.

    Rua, thank you for writing such a stimulating piece. I have really been enjoying this discussion. You ask a lot of good questions adding that little bit of spice needed to make an interesting and satisfying discussion.:)

    • March 6, 2012 8:50 pm

      I’m glad I can do that for you M. Jay, I’ve gotten a lot out of your comments as well and hope to see more :D

      I am very much behind your description of the relation between spirituality and religion. My phrasing was poor though, as I hadn’t intended to portray an “us vs them” perspective, but simply what does spirituality mean?

  14. March 14, 2012 7:40 am

    Rua wrote:
    >We are still children of earth and sky we just tell the story differently today.

    Okay. But what does that have to do with myth?

    >science is the mythology of our times (our explanations of our world)

    I might be starting to understand you. “Myth” is sometimes used in a specialized technical philosophical sense to mean a fundamental metaphor by which we understand our reality. Is that what you mean?

    • Rua Lupa permalink
      March 15, 2012 4:23 pm

      Thats the thing, myth could mean “story” and “literal explanation” among other things. Which is why I asked what is intended by the use of myth here?

      That we are still the children of earth and sky told differently is the myth

      • March 15, 2012 6:53 pm

        >myth could mean “story” and “literal explanation” among other things

        Literal explanation may be taking it too far. Looks like we may need an article delving into the many meanings of myth.

        >”That we are still the children of earth and sky told differently is the myth.”

        That only confuses me more. First, personally I would call that a metaphor, not a myth, but I’ll go along with it for the sake of argument.

        Second, that is a very bare-bones myth that has not been mentioned at all on HP yet. I don’t think there could have been any confusion, even from the very start, that HP meant just that by “myth.” That “Paganism” referred to “a group of religions rooted in pre-Christian European traditions”, and that “myth” meant “a set of cultural symbols drawn from Pagan tradition” was spelled out in the very first post (see “What Is Humanistic Paganism?”).

        Finally, and most importantly, this doesn’t seem to overcome your own objections. If you object to anthropomorphism, isn’t this still anthropomorphic? Only humans can have human children, so earth and sky are painted anthropomorphically here.

        Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of thinking of ourselves as children of earth and sky. But I struggle to see how it makes any sense in the context of your own arguments. (???)

        >science is the mythology of our times (our explanations of our world)

        It is starting to sound like you believe science *is* the mythology of our day, and that’s what the “myth” in “a marriage of science and myth” should mean. Is that fair to say?

        I might be able to understand that, if by myth one means the fundamental metaphors and narratives by which we understand how reality works on the most basic level.

        However, that understanding removes the discussion from the context of HP. if science *is* myth, then there cannot be a “marriage of science and myth.” Rather, it would become “identity of science and myth.” Furthermore, if science already is our myth, then there’s no need to do anything further, no need to bring science and myth together, no need to discuss any of the issues we discuss, no need for any of it – HP becomes a project without a point.

        If myth is to be understood as science, plain and simple, with nothing else added – no ancient myths or rituals and no narratives of anthropomorphic beings – then HP might as well be over and done with. There’s no point.

        HP is about bringing together science and myth, with the latter understood as the kind of mythologies that involve pantheons of anthropomorphic deities and heroes performing wondrous deeds, and the rituals & meditations that go along with a living mythology like that. These, I argue, add something valuable and enriching to our life experience. They should not be purged from our lives out of some over-zealous iconoclasm, like Oliver Cromwell knocking out the stained-glass windows in the churches.

        So far, Rua, you’ve objected to nearly everything that makes HP what it is. You’ve objected to the Humanistic part, the Paganism part, and the mythology part. What does that leave? Just science? If you just want science, then just do science. Why do you need HP for that? It’s like going into a mosque and asking to get rid of everything but the geometric designs on the walls.

        Forgive my exasperation, but frankly, I’m simply at a loss to understand why you concern yourself with HP at all.

        • Rua Lupa permalink
          March 21, 2012 9:54 pm

          that is a very bare-bones myth that has not been mentioned at all on HP yet. I don’t think there could have been any confusion, even from the very start, that HP meant just that by “myth.”

          I hope you didn’t expect me to go into details of the human origin story – that was a summary. I wasn’t suggesting that HP meant just that, it was only an example.

          “Paganism” referred to “a group of religions rooted in pre-Christian European traditions”, and that “myth” meant “a set of cultural symbols drawn from Pagan tradition” was spelled out in the very first post

          The thing is, HP hasn’t limited myth to religions rooted in pre-Christian traditions. So other than trying to have search results, if paganism was removed from the description, nothing would change.

          this doesn’t seem to overcome your own objections. If you object to anthropomorphism, isn’t this still anthropomorphic? Only humans can have human children, so earth and sky are painted anthropomorphically here.

          Over the long deep ancestry of our species we now refer to offspring as children. Our lineage goes back to the point of earth’s beginning and beyond. We are descended from the earth. That quote is simply a summary of that. The earth and sky are not in any way referred to as human.

          It is starting to sound like you believe science *is* the mythology of our day, and that’s what the “myth” in “a marriage of science and myth” should mean. Is that fair to say?

          It could be, and might be worth exploring. I don’t know yet. It at least is part of it. As I’ve stated before there are different ways of approaching myth – this is just one of them, not the only one.

          So far, Rua, you’ve objected to nearly everything that makes HP what it is. You’ve objected to the Humanistic part, the Paganism part, and the mythology part. What does that leave? Just science? If you just want science, then just do science. Why do you need HP for that? It’s like going into a mosque and asking to get rid of everything but the geometric designs on the walls.

          I object to the contradictions.

          As stated Humanism is no longer an accurate description, Naturalism is what is meant by it. I stand by naturalistic practices.

          HP draws mythical sources from more than religions of pre-Christian European traditions. Other than trying to have search results, if paganism was removed from the description, nothing would change.

          The only objection I’ve made that involving myth is how its used in relation to naturalistic practices.

          What does that leave? Psychological exercise. That is what myths are always referenced with. That is the science part. What would HP be without this psychological aspect?

          Why relate to naturalism if it is desired to pray to and have a relationship with a god, even though outside of ritual it is believed to be unreal? This sounds like a faith based practice, which may be why there is conflict.

          How is HP in any way like a mosque?

          • March 26, 2012 7:01 am

            >As stated Humanism is no longer an accurate description, Naturalism is what is meant by it.

            Wrong. That was explicitly *not* stated. Please read more closely if you are going to draw critical conclusions.

            >HP draws mythical sources from more than religions of pre-Christian European traditions.

            Wrong again. What others offer in comments is up to them. HP has been clear from the start on its focus.

            >What does that leave? Psychological exercise.

            If you want just psychological exercise, there are plenty of other places to pursue just that. How would psychological exercise alone, without myth (as I’ved defined it), still be HP?

            >How is HP in any way like a mosque?

            I’ll spell out the analogy for you:

            If you were to go into a mosque and tell the Muslims inside that nearly everything they say they’re about is wrong, and they should strip away nearly everything that makes them Muslim except the geometric designs on the wall, would that be wise or in any way helpful? Or would it just be obnoxious?

            By the same token, when you come here to the HP site and tell us that nearly every element of what we’re doing – including the humanistic part, the pagan part, and the mythology part – is wrong, and we should get rid of all of it except for science/psychological exercise, is that wise or in any way helpful? Or is it just obnoxious?

            Rua, we’ve all been extraordinarily patient, and have taken your comments seriously, engaged them with due thought, and even published them. All this in the good faith that we might be working toward a common goal in the end.

            That no longer seems to be the case.

            I am starting to think that our visions are just too different. They are working at cross purposes. If you are not willing to contribute within the bounds of the HP project as originally set out, including both science/naturalism and myth (as I’ve defined it), along with all the other essential elements set out, then there can be no synergy between us.

            That is why I continue to question why you concern yourself with HP. You do not seem to want what this project offers, and you seem hell-bent on turning it into something it isn’t. Sorry, but we’re not going to change everything just for you.

            Scientific pantheism (or pansacerdotalism, or whatever you prefer) as represented by the WPM seems perfectly aligned with your interests. I think you would be happier there and have more to contribute there than here. Another place you would fit in well would be in various Religious Naturalism groups out there. Sorry to be blunt, but I think HP is a poor fit for you.

            • Rua Lupa permalink
              March 26, 2012 1:41 pm

              As stated Humanism is no longer an accurate description, Naturalism is what is meant by it.

              Sorry, not no longer an accurate description, Naturalism is a more accurate term.

              “HP draws mythical sources from more than religions of pre-Christian European traditions.” -Rua

              Wrong again. What others offer in comments is up to them. HP has been clear from the start on its focus. B.T.

              Egyptian sources are of Mediterranean origin. The kind of meditations sourced are from East Asia. Are these not part of HP?

              How would psychological exercise alone, without myth (as I’ved defined it), still be HP?

              What I am saying is that you can’t HP without psychological exercise, as much as you can’t have HP without myth. If either of these elements were gone it wouldn’t be HP anymore would it?

              For the Muslim scenario, that kind of discussion comes up all the time and debates are always present on those subjects. Hence all the sects you see.

              I don’t recall saying anywhere that mythology was wrong. I’ve come to terms with the pagan part – it is within the umbrella – and had asked what kind then on a later post. I’ve come to see that humanism has become synonymic with naturalism. Don’t worry my mind has changed :D

              This here last article, was the last time I was going to discuss a number of topics i.e. spiritual, pagan etc. I have found a lot of satisfaction with the responses. That pagan can and has been naturalistic, that spirit in essence just means life etc. These things have been settled. Being a critical article, yeah, there are going to be disagreements, that’s a part of it. Just because there is disagreements, does mean that we don’t share similar views. There are a great many Christians that disagree with the practice of Christianity. Yet they’ll still pray together and work together, even if they still hold different views on certain topics. How can it grow without disagreements? Its kind of the life blood of it.

              I’m dropping the humanistic topic, and others. No prob. I’ve gotten all the information I can from them and see where the lines are drawn.

              I’ve no interest in changing the core of HP. I do have interest in seeing how that core can develop out from that. And with the goal for organic growth, maybe the outcome might just become something different from the original vision, words and meanings may change. My prodding is an “outsider’s look” and I’ve seen elements become stronger with it, and I am liking what I’m seeing. Its like a kid at a tide pool prodding and observing whats in it. See what happens, are the things inside dead? Are they active and lively? How do they respond? Can they defend themselves, or do they flee? If there is something to learn from they will return time and again and prod around more. Or if there is nothing to learn then they will leave and not return.

              There is much to learn still. I’ve learned much from Maggie, Trent, Jonathan, and others who’ve posted. I’ve seen different ways of doing things. John and I may not agree on things, and that’s dandy. We’ve kept it civil and there seems to be more understanding. I’ve come to see the point that naturalistic practices can “suspend belief” just like other secular activities – such as movies, video games, and books. I’ve openly tipped my hat to responses and am sure to do so again.

              I’m sorry if there was an impression that I was still standing on different views – my views have changed.
              Because of HP – for that I am grateful :)

              I’ll not be so involved as I’ve been before with my prods. I’ll be mostly walking by and look in the pool and perhaps throw a pebble or two in :)

            • March 27, 2012 4:42 am

              >I’ve no interest in changing the core of HP. … My prodding is an “outsider’s look” and I’ve seen elements become stronger with it

              That’s good to hear. Yes, I think things have definitely gotten stronger because of it. Prodding is welcome, so long as it fosters synergy toward a common goal. it was starting to look like that was no longer the case, which was why I was frustrated.

              Peer review (i.e. critique) is an essential part of the scientific method, so particularly appropriate here.

              I think it’s mostly that you bite off so much at one time. It can give the impression of an all-out crusade against everything. Naturally, that can raise some hackles. I won’t speak for everyone else, but personally I can’t deny some pretty darn frustrated evenings. Sometimes I had to just step away from the laptop for a few days out of frustration.

              There are two points that I would still like to hear more about though, if you’re willing. First, I’d like to hear more of your vision of what mythology could be in HP, because I still don’t get it. Second, I think you do make a good point that superimposing myths over natural creatures/entities can distort how we see them. More details on that would be welcome.

              >Egyptian sources are of Mediterranean origin.
              (not European)

              You’ve got me there, yes. Quite right. I don’t know quite how to efficiently designate the Euro-Mediterranean culture sphere of the Classical world. Hmm… actually “Euro-Mediterranean” doesn’t sound that bad…

            • Rua Lupa permalink
              March 27, 2012 1:07 pm

              Phew! I am glad that’s over. I’ll try to not bite off too much then :D Sorry to cause such distress :( I’ve felt similar too and don’t want to do that again.

              My opinion on mythology is that is shouldn’t be limited to pre-Christian European sources. As mentioned the Egyptian sources are great too among others of the classical time and beyond. I think that even Christian mythology should be something to consider looking at too. With so much that could be gained, what’s there to lose?
              Why not expand what is and can be sourced? Other than that I’d like to see a Thing on Thursday community discussion on Myth (I kind of miss those – was great to see other views) as I am not sure what Myth for the 21st century would be.

              I might mention more the superimposing myth on creatures topic when the subject is in line with it again. Feel free to ask on it – have much experience with both domestic and wild animals on this subject.

            • March 28, 2012 6:30 pm

              >I think that even Christian mythology should be something to consider looking at too. With so much that could be gained, what’s there to lose?
              Why not expand what is and can be sourced?

              You’re right that there may be valuable things to be gained by exploring other forms of myth, but what’s lost is the ability to talk coherently about any form of myth, period. The broader you make it, the more general you have to be, and the less specific your observations. There is already such a thing as Christian Humanism, Humanistic Buddhism, and Humanistic Judaism (wikipedia has articles on all three of these). There is no corresponding movement yet specifically devoted to a Humanistic form of Paganism, so that’s where we fit in. The pre-Christian traditions of Europe and the Mediterannean are all very different, but they also have much in common. Most are linguistically related in the Indo-European language family, and the rest are related by historical incidence through the Hellenistic and Roman culture spheres. So something meaningful can be said about them without losing all coherence. But when you start opening it up to any and all mythologies of the world, that’s when you start getting really superficial readings. Some Neopagans have made that mistake by trying to conflate Native American with Yoruba with European with Tibetan Buddhist myths, and it comes out flat and just plain silly. Cultural misunderstanding and then cultural appropriation has become an issue too. These dangers still lurk even within a narrower focus like ours, but it’s a little easier to reign it in. Does that make sense?

            • Rua Lupa permalink
              March 28, 2012 8:30 pm

              Makes sense. Still would like to see bits of other myths talked about, at least a little. Maybe guest speakers perhaps?

              I am not in favor of comparing myths as being representations of one another etc. I kind of viewed it as “what impacts do the Mayan myths have on our psyche” and see what happens there and do it again with a different set of myths and find what impacts they have. Which should be easy enough to see with the associated culture. It would be kind of like a cultural psyche studies. That was what I kind of had in mind.

            • Rua Lupa permalink
              March 27, 2012 4:58 pm

              >I’d like to hear more of your vision of what mythology could be in HP, because I still don’t get it

              I am having difficulty knowing what I can do to explain better what I had meant in previous posts. Do you think you could isolate where the confusion lies?

            • March 28, 2012 8:06 am

              >I am having difficulty knowing what I can do to explain better what I had meant in previous posts. Do you think you could isolate where the confusion lies?

              Sure. Well, I’m mainly suffering from a deficiency of information. :-) So far you’ve spoken of myths perhaps meaning something like “theory/explanation”, and in another instance as “that we are children of earth and sky.” So I’m just trying to imagine how an alternative vision of HP could work under those ideas of “myth.” The former is basically not different from science, so it involves no marriage of science and myth. The latter is a one-liner using “children” as a metaphor. When I asked about it, you seemed to wonder if I was asking for you to explain our whole evolutionary history. I get that we have evolved out of this one natural cosmos (poetically summed up as “earth and sky”). What I’m having trouble with is understanding how you could get very much mileage out of either of those in a project that intends a “marriage of science and myth.” The former renders myth redundant; the latter renders it a lone, single metaphor. I’m just trying to understand your alternative vision for HP (if you have one).

            • Rua Lupa permalink
              March 28, 2012 8:51 pm

              What I, and think others, feel is missing, is the vibrant festive flair you get from most folk religions. That community bonding stuff – fulfillment. So, if looking at myth as a literal interpretation, its own story isn’t fully told yet in a way that is fulfilling. Customs and celebrations bringing people together under this beautiful vision of world is lacking. It is missing its own religion. Science being the myth (as literal interpretation) could be grand.

              The study of how myths of the past have affected past populations and vice versa. Could help build the myths for the 21st century that provide that fulfillment.

              Does that answer your question?

        • Rua Lupa permalink
          March 21, 2012 10:04 pm

          Forgive my exasperation, but frankly, I’m simply at a loss to understand why you concern yourself with HP at all. B.T.

          All of these examples speak of how our world functions on a biological level – the level we are most able to relate to. That “sacred importance” seems to be a relish in our biological instincts. Rua

          Yes! Exactly. They are all cultural phenomena that exploit our biological proclivities to a certain effect. Do you think that myths are capable of doing the same? B.T.

          Yes, that is why I am here :D

          We can use images that we would instinctively react to. That is why I had no objection to the Z. Budapest paraphrase. It was speaking of the subconscious reacting to visual cues as a way to harness certain psychological responses. They can be used for positive change, but they can also be used as a way to control or manipulate for selfish gain by a hierarchical leader or even to stroke your own ego.

          Different myths can be used to bring about different results, like how different meditations are used for different results. Myths can inspire action and creativity. They can warn about consequences in a way that is better received than most true stories. It is important to note that myths shouldn’t replace true tellings for messages and lessons – like the holocaust. But be told along side each other to compliment one another and to back eachother up. Over time the true tellings may evolve to be myths as the bits that people find motivating are retold more often than “the boring bits”. Historically speaking, the original happenings should be preserved for reference of possible future lessons. As what may be considered unvaluable in one generation may be crucial for the betterment of another. Like the craft skills for making basic necessities in a depression, or herbal medicine when you have no access to prescribed medication. Many traditional Anishinabek stories express the use of certain plants that heal the hero of the tale. Which reinforces the memory of which plant and what it does. Myths can be very important to our well being in more ways than one.

  15. Rua Lupa permalink
    March 28, 2012 9:05 pm

    I shouldn’t really say science or literal interpretation. Rather, like how you put it, theory/explanation. What science has brought to light that teaches us how our world works and our place in it. What science reveals, instead of specifically science itself.

    • March 30, 2012 4:37 am

      >What I, and think others, feel is missing, is the vibrant festive flair you get from most folk religions. That community bonding stuff – fulfillment. So, if looking at myth as a literal interpretation, its own story isn’t fully told yet in a way that is fulfilling. Customs and celebrations bringing people together under this beautiful vision of world is lacking. It is missing its own religion. Science being the myth (as literal interpretation) could be grand.
      The study of how myths of the past have affected past populations and vice versa. Could help build the myths for the 21st century that provide that fulfillment.
      Does that answer your question?

      That’s intriguing. So, let me see if I understand you right: you’re talking about a vision of a path where science provides the basic worldview but this is fleshed out and made dear to the people by festivals, practices, meditations, stories, etc. – correct?

      I do like that idea – a lot. It wouldn’t be HP, but it would be something very worthwhile.

      Let’s continue this discussion on April 8th when the review of Loyal Rue’s book comes out, because he provides some key concepts that could deepen this conversation.

      • Rua Lupa permalink
        March 30, 2012 12:51 pm

        Excellent, I look forward to it! (I have the book on my shelf and am slowly working my way through other books before I can get to it – It is difficult to be patient with it all so your review will be greatly welcomed :) )

        *I can’t help myself* Okay, just one last thing. How wouldn’t it be HP exactly? I’ve assumed that the psychological components of myth would be interwoven in this idea, so I have difficulty seeing how it couldn’t be, at least, a part of HP.

      • Rua Lupa permalink
        March 30, 2012 12:56 pm

        >you’re talking about a vision of a path where science provides the basic worldview but this is fleshed out and made dear to the people by festivals, practices, meditations, stories, etc. – correct?

        Ah, sorry. I missed answering that with my first post – yes that is essentially it. And a big part of Ehoah, i.e. The Nox Festival. It is how I interpret the meaning of “Myth for the 21st century”

        • Rua Lupa permalink
          March 30, 2012 1:01 pm

          *faceplam* (needs to wait 5 minutes after finished writing before posting to make sure I didn’t miss anything! Gotten too used to facebook capabilities)

          I meant, “science married to myth for the 21st century”

  16. May 3, 2012 7:16 pm

    Rua wrote:
    >>I think that even Christian mythology should be something to consider looking at too. With so much that could be gained, what’s there to lose?
    Why not expand what is and can be sourced?

    Thinking back about this, I may see a point of ambiguity from which our differences might be emerging. When I talk about keeping the focus of HP on Euro-Mediterranean Paganism, I’m speaking in terms of the second part of the Fourfold Path: developing a personal relationship with mythology. In that case, it’s helpful to keep the focus narrow, to concentrate on depth over breadth. But I realize now you might have been talking in terms of what we can learn from, like what might bring us to a simple aha! moment. In that case, yes, naturally insights can come from anywhere, whether it’s Greek myth, Christian theology, or the intricacies of your own shoelaces.

    I do want to keep the content of HP articles mostly focused on the Euro-Mediterranean culture zone, and when we make generalizations it’s best to have a specific cultural zone in mind (otherwise it can get too broad and verge on meaninglessness). But if, for example, a Buddhist or Taoist tradition offers a key insight which says something universal about the mind, true for everyone, there’s no reason to restrict that. Is that perhaps more like what you talking about?

Trackbacks

  1. A Shorter History of Myth « Wandering Mirages
  2. The gods as “other”: why god-talk is important | The Allergic Pagan
  3. new myth, old god (and the origin of heaven and hell on earth) « JRFibonacci's blog: partnering with reality
  4. Why do people want supernatural gods?, by M. J. Lee « Humanistic Paganism
  5. Star Foster surrenders the “Pagan” label to the naturalists | The Allergic Pagan
  6. Who are we talking to anyway?: Humanistic Paganism and the gods | The Allergic Pagan
  7. I worship the blind God | The Allergic Pagan
  8. The Sun Also Riseth: The limits of objectivity | The Allergic Pagan

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