image enhanced from original, original, and Demeter, Attic red figure, c. 480 BC
– by B. T. Newberg
It is time to put words into action. I am taking the coming week, starting tomorrow, as a seven-day Humanistic Paganism retreat. This comes at a time of great stress in my life, as well as great potential. I hope to recover a sense of calm, become centered, and put into practice the principles of Humanistic Paganism. This will serve as a trial of the validity of this new path. It will also explain the path in greater detail by way of concrete example.
- release stress and achieve wellness after an extremely demanding graduate program
- put principles of Humanistic Paganism into practice
Each day will follow the schedule below.
Dawn (5:20 am)
wake at dawn
observe sunrise on veranda at 5:53 am
Fire, Ice, and Fog meditation
exercise and time in nature – a different park each day
one good deed each day
Exploratory, reflective, or creative free time
Wednesday morning only – therapy
Dusk (9:00 pm)
Observe sunset on veranda at 8:26 pm
social time with my fiance and/or close friends
Divination for following day
Deep relaxation meditation
You’ll notice this schedule dedicates time to socialization. Some may find this peculiar. Many spiritual retreats emphasize the aloneness of the retreatent, temporarily cutting off contact from the social world. I find solitude an important element in the retreat process, and most of my day will be spent alone. However, complete solitude may be contrary to the spirit of Humanistic Paganism, which emphasizes human needs and potential. “Man is a social animal” said Aristotle. Humanistic Paganism does not aim to isolate individuals from that inherent social need. Epicurus valued socialization so much he’d rather not eat than eat alone, and Martin Buber made dialogue the centerpiece of his existential spirituality. Humanistic Paganism does not seek a journey away from the world, but toward it. The Humanistic Pagan functions within the world, including the social world. The goal is not transcendence but resonance. Thus, this experimental retreat grounds experience in socialization each evening.
image enhanced from original
Incorporation of the Four-fold Path of Humanistic Paganism
The schedule incorporates all four elements of the Humanistic Pagan path, as shown below:
- Dedication to the Five +1 – meditation, time in nature, empirical framework of interpretation
- Relationship with mythology – libation, divination
- Responsible action – one good deed per day, social time with significant other
- A sense of wonder – unplanned, spontaneous, but encouraged by time in nature and journal reflection
In addition, I’m undertaking a number of what I will call displacements. By this I mean special practices that displace the status quo, disrupting the ordinary flow of routine in daily life. Almost all mystical and initiatory religions employ such displacements, but they are typically phrased misleadingly as moral or purificatory injunctions. These function as signals to the mind that something outside the ordinary is afoot, leading to heightened awareness and openness. The displacements I will undertake are presented below.
- waking at dawn
- abstaining from junk food, sweets, coffee, and alcohol
- carrying a token, to be sought and found in nature on the first day; the token will be carried on my person at all times, then cast into the Mississippi River on the last day, signalling release from displacements and completion of the retreat
With any luck, this pattern of goals, scheduled activities, and displacements will produce a significant spiritual experience. I’ll be posting each day on my experiences and challenges along the way.