image enhanced from The Calumny of Apelles, by Botticelli, 1494
– by B. T. Newberg
The last post emphasized how critical it is for those neither religious nor secular to make their voices known. Now, here is an opportunity to do that.
Humanistic Paganism is now accepting submissions.
What’s the point of having only one voice represented? The more diversity, the better. Do you have an experience to share? Some artwork to show? Or a naturalistic community to promote? Or are you critical of Humanistic Paganism, and have a challenge to offer? All these are welcome. Even those who do not identify with Humanistic Paganism, or even flat out disagree with it, are encouraged to share words in the spirit of dialogue (so long as it’s constructive and civil, of course). See the new “submissions” tab for details.
We’re kicking off our new multi-vocal direction with a post by Rhys Chisnall who’s going to talk about a fascinating subject: neurotheology. Watch for that this coming Sunday. But first, here’s the story of how I began speaking my truth.
No, it couldn’t be (not me)
I grew up in the tiny town of Hector, population 1151. In a place that small, it’s not easy for a sensitive, intellectual dreamer like me to feel accepted. Actually, I felt like a space alien.
I knew that I thought differently than those around me, but I learned early on not to voice those thoughts or risk ridicule, ostracism, or even violence. More than that, I came to assume that I was the only one like me. Finally, I grew to accept that the way I saw the world was just a fantasy, entertaining perhaps but of no social value.
I spent my youth just waiting to get out of that town, much like Luke from Star Wars, who said of his home world of Tatooine: “If there’s a bright center of the galaxy, you’re on the planet that it’s farthest from.”
When I finally got away to the city for university, and then further away for study abroad, I discovered I was not alone. There were other thinkers like me.
Yet it was not until I met a certain young atheist – we’ll call him Norton – that I ever suspected I could take responsibility for my own spirituality. He was no perfect role model – an introverted young mathematician, arrogant and condescending as anyone I’ve ever known. Yet there he was, believing in himself and actually living his truth. It gave me an inkling that maybe I could too.
I had long since known that I was both agnostic and spiritual, but never did I think I could live life openly that way. It took Norton’s encouragement before it dawned on me that I really could be who I was.
What’s more, I didn’t need to be more like him. I needed to be more like me.
That’s how it came to be that my first “spiritual teacher” was an atheist, strange as it may sound. He taught me one of the greatest spiritual maxims of all:
Speak your truth.
And they came out of the woodwork
Fast-forward to 2011. The last decade had seen me explore Buddhism, Shamanism, Wicca, Druidry, Humanism, and more. Each of those paths taught me invaluable insights, and I would not be who I am without them. Nor would I be able to say what I feel with any nuance had I not first learned from these great traditions. Yet none of them were quite right for me.
That’s when I decided to start the Humanistic Paganism blog. Surely there were others like me, I thought. Perhaps if I began putting myself out there, they would find me.
And they have.
Since launching this blog, I’ve met tons of like-minded people. Let me introduce you to just a few.
Rua Lupa – Originally intending to create a belief system for a fiction novel, she soon discovered she was developing her own real-life naturalistic tradition.
Ethan Zaghmut – When I met him at a Nature Spirituality meetup, I was shocked to find someone with monk-like calm and compassion, but no formal Buddhist training. He found mindfulness his own way.
Rhys Chisnall – His writing shows a clear depth of understanding of both Paganism and how the mind works as we call to gods and spirits.
And I’m meeting more like-minded folks every day. In fact, I’ve met enough to justify opening the blog up for submissions. I’ll still remain the primary author, but why not let other voices take the floor too?
Aletheia, the spirit of truth
Aesop has given us a wonderful story of Aletheia, the personification of truth. One day, the potter Prometheus decided to fashion Aletheia from clay, in order to guide his other creation, humanity. But his plan was confounded when he was called away by an unexpected summons from Zeus. Prometheus rushed off, leaving his workshop in the charge of Dolus, his apprentice. Now Dolus, whose name means “trickery”, undertook to copy his master’s work. The forgery was almost flawless, like the original in every way but one – he didn’t have time to make the feet. When his master returned, Dolus trembled in fear, hoping he would not notice. Prometheus beheld not one but two figures of “Truth”, and was amazed. Seeking to take credit for both, he fired them in the kiln, then breathed life into them. That’s when the fatal difference was revealed. Aletheia stepped forward in measured steps, but the false copy, lacking feet, stood stuck in its place.
That is what it is like to speak your truth. You can walk by it. The inauthentic voice, on the other hand, immobilizes you, keeps you tied to someone else’s version of “truth.” What is needed is that voice which breathes life into you, which frees you to move forward.
Of course, there are those who feel they might have a voice, but it has nothing special to say. Many need a little encouragement – just as I needed it from Norton. Yet when you look at the thought and care those same people put into a conversation, or an email list post, or an artwork, it’s plain as day that they have plenty to offer.
And I’m pretty sure you have something to offer too.
May I add as well, if it isn’t already clear, that whatever you write, it must be your truth. What you bring to the table might not look anything like the picture of Humanistic Paganism I have painted so far. And that’s just fine. As ecologists know well, diversity is the sign of a healthy population.
Don’t stop with Humanistic Paganism, either. Sure, I’d love to have you here, don’t get me wrong. But what would be really cool is for folks to be vocal in their communities. There are a number of groups and forums, online and offline, that are sympathetic to spirituality from a naturalistic point of view. See the “resources” tab for some of these. There are also lots of places in the wider community where we can add our voices to the growing diversity. The Witches’ Voice is one site in particular where you can get a lot of exposure without having to be a great writer.
So if you’ve been waiting for encouragement, here it is. If you’ve been hesitant to speak up, now’s your chance.
Learn from my friend Norton, and follow one sweet, simple maxim:
Speak your truth.