What kind of community shall we be?

Thing on Thursday #1

Today we begin the conversation with a big idea: What kind of community is Humanistic Paganism?

  • Are we a spiritual orientation, a kind of viewpoint shared by individuals of various religious traditions, aiming to keep naturalistic interpretations alive?
  • Or are we a new tradition in the bud, looking forward to developing our own unique rituals, meditations, calendars, and so forth?

What kind of a community do we want to be?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

About Thing on Thursday

 

Althing in Session, by W.G. Collingwood

Althing in Session, by W.G. Collingwood

This post is the first in a series of councils on matters vital to the future.  The name represents both the generic term for, you know, a thingie, as well as the Old Norse term for a council of elders: a Thing.

Each week until the Winter Solstice, Thing on Thursday will explore a new controversy.  Participation is open to all – the more minds that come together, the better.  Those who have been vocal in the comments are as welcome as those quiet-but-devoted readers who have yet to venture a word.  We value all constructive opinions.

There are only a few rules:

  • be constructive – this is a council, so treat it as such
  • be respectful – no rants or flames

Comments will be taken into consideration as we determine the new direction of Humanistic Paganism.  This will also greatly shape the vision that unfolds in our upcoming ebook Our Ancient Future: Visions of Humanistic Paganism.

So please make your voice heard in the comments!

52 Comments on “What kind of community shall we be?

  1. I would have to go with the first option, myself. I have found a lot of different traditions among people who consider themselves naturalistic pagans.

    I think part of the strength in what is going on here is the world-view/philosophy of Humanistic Paganism that is bringing people together rather than tradition.

    However, I can also see where the development of new traditions and practices could be beneficial to the growth of what you started here.

    Really, there probably isn’t any reason that traditions specific to Humanistic Paganism couldn’t be established but still be open to other traditions and practices that were incorporating the same root philosophy.

    I just think the first option in the poll you presented is the most important, above all else, to what makes Humanistic Paganism work for me.

    • >Really, there probably isn’t any reason that traditions specific to Humanistic Paganism couldn’t be established but still be open to other traditions and practices that were incorporating the same root philosophy.

      I would definitely want HP to be non-exclusive, i.e. open to members following other traditions simultaneously. I must say I don’t have much respect for traditions that try to monopolize their people.

      >I think part of the strength in what is going on here is the world-view/philosophy of Humanistic Paganism that is bringing people together rather than tradition.

      Agreed. Thanks for the input.

    • “I think part of the strength in what is going on here is the world-view/philosophy of Humanistic Paganism that is bringing people together rather than tradition.”

      Phrased like that makes me realize that it is more an agreed on world view/philosophy than tradition. At least that’s how it currently is. I back that.

  2. Interesting question. I actually like both options, and think both should be worked towards equally.

    As in, develop new rituals and calendars and meditations while at the same time maintain a strongly defined core of what Humanistic Paganism is (the Fourfold Path). So people could practice specific Humanistic Paganism if they’d like, but they could also just take the core and extend it as they like.

    So I honestly vote for both equally (which technically means I don’t vote).

    • You don’t think that might become confusing? Or that some might develop the perception that those who practice the unique rituals and practices are the “real” Humanistic Pagans?

      • I don’t see how that confusion or misrepresentation is avoidable either way.

        However, I do understand your concern, and I think that naming them similar but distinct things would be good.

        Something like “Basic Humanistic Paganism” and “Advanced Humanistic Paganism” (just as examples; better terms are out there but aren’t coming to my head right now).

  3. The term “Humanistic” is forward looking, the term “Paganism” looks to the past. I personally believe that all spiritual wisdom, paganistic or otherwise, has been discovered, and was discovered thousands of years ago. If your looking for spiritual wisdom, you’re best bet is to rummage through the past, and find what works for you.

    Humanism is forward looking. I think it fairly safe to say it didn’t really exist before about 500 B.C., and it still is very much a work in progress. Indeed, the growth of Humanism has corresponded to a loss of spiritual wisdom. Humanism has emphasized the individual and the particular, while spiritual wisdom tends to emphasize the “otherness” that gives rise to and supports the individual. Humanism emphasizes the post-biological (the cultural and learned), while spiritual wisdom emphasizes the natural and the mystery that lies behind the natural. Spiritual wisdom, we might say is the yin, to the yang of humanism.

    But as always, there needs to be a marriage of yin and yang; not necessarily a perfect marriage – there will be conflict – but despite conflict, the possibility of ultimate reconciliation. So, as to whether to go with tradition, or start something new, I would quote from the old saying at weddings, “something old, something new…”

    Thomas

    • I’d have to respectfully disagree about Humanism being forward-looking and Paganism backward-looking.

      There is much about modern Paganism that is incredibly forward-looking. It embraces environmental responsibility, perhaps more so than any other religion today, sees little or no conflict between science and religion, enshrines both sexes and all genders, and generally empowers the individual in a manner appropriate for modern democratic society.

      At the same time, Humanism, while certainly forward-looking in most respects, also has extremely ancient roots. Elements of it, such as the naturalistic view of the material universe, goes back at least to the Carvaka of 7th century BCE India, and probably further back.

      But I do think you’re right on when you say that a marriage is necessary. Perhaps Humanistic Paganism aspires to a kind of alchemical union of two seemingly-opposed forces.

        • I think Janus would be a bit too focused on a particular way of thinking and emphasizes a deity rather than an idea or way of thinking.

          I think the cosmos may be a more accurate symbol. Possibly depicted in a way that shows the hidden layers and connection everything has to everything else. Perhaps even a Supernova, after all we are all made of star stuffs (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iE9dEAx5Sgw)

        • WOW, I need to make a correction: “I think Janus would be a bit too focused on a specific religion and emphasizes a deity rather than a idea or way of thinking.”

        • Janus has two faces looking in opposite directions, representing what you said about “an alchemical union of two seemingly-opposed forces.” I like the tension of a god representing a humanist perspective. But as Rua points out Janus might be too specific.

  4. Such an interesting question. I can see why you asked it. I’m really of two minds. For the reasons Ryan articulated I voted for the first option in the poll, but it is also interesting to think about what unique usages might emerge. A community of shared worldview would seem to bring more people together, and I think that could be very powerful right now.

    • Yes, an advantage of a community of shared worldview would bring many together, and so would be inherently “interdisciplinary.” That is to say, it would cross-fertilize a number of different traditions.

      The other option, that of creating a new unique tradition, might become isolated and insular as members interact mainly with each other, but on the other hand sometimes a period of inward-looking incubation is just what is needed to lay the foundations.

  5. I honestly don’t see the word “pagan” being very useful. It is a far too large an umbrella term to be able to do anything except discern from Abrahamic based beliefs, even then it gets fuzzy. There really is no completely agreed upon definition of the word, even the definitions that do get a fair amount of agreement usually have subtext. I personally have dropped that label all together.

    I’ve never really thought about humanism as I’ve always considered it more a philosophy than a belief that is religiously practiced.

    In your big news post, I liked your approach to defining this way of living and thinking as Naturalism or Naturalistic and honestly question the naming of this blog if you wish to use it to move these ideas and life styles forward. I can see how humanism can be part of it, and see how many pagans can find a place here, but what about those who don’t adhere to either of these labels and go by a different title, but are still Naturalistic and surely have a place at this table?

    In terms the question you posed. I honestly have difficulty choosing one over the other. The orientation you speak of is already defined as Naturalism. The direction this blog is certainly going in is to define it further and probing at potential activities that all can get behind, and that would likely end up creating a tradition, much like the Reformed Druids did. They had no intention of starting a tradition, as its roots were merely a buffed up form of protest, but found themselves and others starting something that got away from them into something new, Reformed Druid Traditions.

    That is exactly what I am working on, on my end. Naturalistic Traditions. People are yearning for this and want a community to do it with, that is where this blog comes in. It is bringing together that community, the traditions are what organically follows. Hence your Thursday Things (or however you phrase it) It is the community establishing what it wants to do together.

    P.S. I keep thinking of “The Thirteenth Warrior” with Antonio Banderas in the scene with the old woman giving advice – you have to see it, it just makes your Thursday Things title really funny

    • >but what about those who don’t adhere to either of these labels and go by a different title, but are still Naturalistic and surely have a place at this table?

      Not a bad point. That question may come up in future Thing on Thursday posts.

    • Rua, I certainly will respect your preference for nomenclature, but it complicates matters somewhat. To me, Ehoah looks quite pagan. I mean that in a positive way. Now if I point people to it as an example of Humanistic Paganism, I will have to add a qualifier, namely what you said about not finding “pagan” a useful label. Which is fine. But without that label I don’t think I would have found this website, or Ehoah. So for me personally I find it very useful, and I would urge you to consider the utility such terms may have for other people who are searching and learning. The essays on this site so far seem to reflect a distinctly pagan perspective, with ancient gods being mentioned on a fairly regular basis. I agree that a coherent definition is hard to come by, but I think that’s a reflection of the dynamism of the movement.

      • Then how did you find Ehoah, since it doesn’t mention the word pagan? Was it strictly through Humanistic Paganism?

        Ehoah uses Naturalism and Naturalistic as its core description, and obviously has proven sufficient enough for people to find it (with 80+ people on facebook). Drew Jacob, and his Heroic Path is not described as Pagan and still gets enough recognition to not need that kind of label. Is there really a need for a pagan label? Not in my experience.

        To help people find you, you can always create more awareness. This has worked for many many different beliefs and practices globally, why not here?

        From getting involved in the Anishinabek practices (Native peoples of the Great Lakes region) I was told how they had a very hard time struggling with the label that for a long time people only knew them by, “Indians”. In Canada, all the native groups have agreed that they’d be called First Nations, Native Americans (only applies if you are including the USA), or Indigenous. It is now considered the norm here in Canada, and no one thinks the word “Indian” is appropriate anymore, unless you are talking about people indigenous to India. Although, from hanging out with them, you hear their regional names more often, and is a difficult crash course to navigate. But from listening and asking questions, I now have a better understanding on which peoples reside where and what their similarities and differences are. Most of the time, it just takes time for people to get to know these names better. If you are interested in their teachings and practices, you will find out the right names for them.

        When most people who are new to minority beliefs hear the word Druid, they usually think of the ancient Celts. If you look into it, you’ll find the various names each modern group goes by and their differences and similarities. Naturalism need be no different. It is already in Wikipedia, while Humanistic Paganism is not currently available there, yet it still can be a specific subgroup to the umbrella of Naturalism. And we can always add information on other groups under the Wiki page for Naturalism to spread that awareness. In time it will become more well known like the examples I’ve already given. (I have not yet put Ehoah on Wikipedia as I’d like to finish the site first).

        When people unfamiliar to minority groups hear the word “pagan”, the usual associations are often ‘heathen’, ‘non-believer’, often times just understood as ‘not Christian’. Hence the need for Pagan Pride Days around the world to teach the new definition of the word, which are still often too broad to educate on the many paths that go by the pagan label. These pagan paths often have nothing else similar to eachother other than the word pagan. Using Naturalism would ensure that all resulting paths would have that in common in the least.

        But if it is a concern, you can always have that as a tag for people searching. Or mention its relation to paganism in the introduction or about page.

        • “Naturalism need be no different. It is already in Wikipedia, while Humanistic Paganism is not currently available there, yet it still can be a specific subgroup to the umbrella of Naturalism. And we can always add information on other groups under the Wiki page for Naturalism to spread that awareness.”

          Or forgo Humanistic Paganism and just say Naturalism. It really isn’t any different. The point of “relationship with mythology” can easily fit into psychology causing no conflict with Naturalism.

        • Possible Alternative Blog Names: “The Naturalistic Way”, “Naturalistic Thoughts”, “The Naturalistic Path”, “Naturalism and Beyond”, “Living the Naturalism Life” etc.

          No? Why not?

        • On the topic of names and monikers, but without replying directly, here’s something I’ve been mulling over.

          What I would really love to see is a name that is not so much a description as a role or model. That’s what really seems to appeal to people. For example: “Druid”, “Witch”, “Magician”, “Shaman”, etc. Each of these seems to conjure up an image of a certain kind of person into whose shoes the aspirant may slip. I have not yet been able to think of any such role that would fit for naturalistic spirituality – at least not one that isn’t already used to denote another tradition. “Sage” is the best I can think of, as in a Stoic sage or a Confucian sage. But that just sounds too intellectual and stuffy. I don’t care for it.

        • Hmm…I see your point. Although most of the names you mention are (at least historically) titles earned through training and are of elite status, not based of on having a set of beliefs. But I agree that would a good thing to have.

        • Cosmosapien? Because we are beings of the Cosmos and are in awe of this and want to celebrate it? *Shrugs* I know I am going out on a limb on this one.

        • I think “naturalism” is rather generic. Also, I have found a lot of sites that claim to be “naturalism” really are a form of scientism.

          “Pagan” is kind of an odd term, but at least it stands out. I originally had problems with the term “humanism,” because I identify my life more with Nature as a whole, than that small, but fascinating, part that is human. But I think in the post-modern world, the concept of humanism has evolved to the point where humanist recognize that the proper study of humans is both nature and culture, and that if we care about the fate of humanity, we better care about the fate of our planet and the rest of the biosphere..

        • “…and that if we care about the fate of humanity, we better care about the fate of our planet and the rest of the biosphere..”

          Here Here!! *totally agrees*

        • Hm, I was afraid you were going to ask that. I did discover the Ehoah website a month or so before you posted here, but now I can’t retrace my virtual footsteps. Looks like I may have to eat my words. I am glad you brought up Drew, though, because the Heroic Path is a perfect example of something that seems very clearly pagan to me. Celtic reconstruction? Yes, I’d call that pagan. It just goes to show how we all view these words differently based on our milieu and background and circumstance, I suppose. Ultimately whatever names we prefer, others will label and classify us as they see fit, in their own scheme of the world.

        • “Ultimately whatever names we prefer, others will label and classify us as they see fit, in their own scheme of the world.”

          Guess we should find ourselves an appropriate name then 🙂

        • Hey, I finally figured out how I found Ehoah in the first place. It was through the “Naturalist Paganism” group on Facebook. Which I found because of the connection with paganism. For what it’s worth — just wanted to tie up that dangling loose end.

        • lol. I know how it feels forgetting something and then having that nag you for the rest of your day if not longer. Glad you remembered.

          Then that is a fair point you bring up. I intentionally went to all related topics on facebook and sent out an invite to all interested because of the very reasoning you mentioned – to make it easier for people to find it. But then again, that is all it took to get the word out.

  6. I would like to see a spiritual community that is more inclusive than most, inclusive in the sense of an inclusive humanism. I, personally have a problem with the way humanism is usually defined. To me, it simply means putting huRr hY Iman values first; it says nothing about whether or not one believes in or relates to a deity or deities. Yet, in most contexts, humanism almost always seems to imply atheism, agnosticism, or nontheism of some type. For me, humanism is our best source of ethics, by which even the gods and their scriptures and mythologies may be evaluated in terms of how well they promote human and planetary well-being. I have not yeta community which is fully humanist in its values, yet inclusive of those inclined to worship, prayer, and and with whatever there might be.

    • What about Humanistic Judaism, Humanistic Buddhism, or Christian Humanism? Would those be more along the lines of the type of humanism you are envisioning?

      • Humanistic Judaism, as I have known it through reading and attending services, is Judaism without God, though a few authors have defined it more inclusively as non-Halachic Judaism or human-centered Judaism. In practice, though, I have found either Torah-based services, however liberal, or rationalism. I don’t know about Humanistic versions of other religions. Could it be that what are termed Jewish, Christian, or Pagan humanisms are more open to theisms than those varieties called Humanistic? Is there a difference?

      • I think there is a difference between secular humanism and any form of spiritual humanism. The main aspect of this difference is context — spiritual humanism views human under the aspect of eternity, to use an old phrase, whereas secular humanism has a much more difficult time establishing a larger context of human life. Kafka, for instance, found the context of the de-spiritualized world to be a giant bureaucracy. For a naturalistic spirituality, the creative and sustaining process of Nature, which includes as an emergence, human culture, provide the larger context. Non-humanistic spirituality tends toward a dissolution into the larger context — God, Tao, Nature — the humanistic spirituality finds the creation good, and takes up the creative spirit of Nature.

        • Good point. I think Spiritual Humanism is very much in sympathy with what we’re doing here, Secular Humanism not so much.

          Are you suggesting that we seek that larger context, taking up “the creative spirit of Nature”, “under the aspect of eternity”?

        • Yes. I think contemplating the context of our life is valuable. Our life is an open system interacting with other systems on both very large and very small scales. Our being does not end at our skin, but connects with these systems. In all spiritual traditions, concern with the greater context has the value of getting us out of our egotism and moving us toward that otherness from which we all share common ancestry.

          Thinking about the larger context leads us to the question of what is the largest context — which in traditional religion is often termed “God.” But in naturalism, or in current cosmology, it is the known and knowable part of the universe, plus the unknown, and possibly unknowable part universe. The anthropic principle raises the question of why we live in a universe whose fundamental parameters seem so fine tuned to bringing forth life. The answer to the question seems to be in the unknown, possibly unknowable part of the universe. It’s a mystery.

          The universe is creative and that too is of the mystery; from raw energy emerges matter, from matter emerges galaxies of stars and planets, and on at least one planet, there emerges the geological, the biological, the cultural — all the way to Bach’s Cello Concertos, mp3 players, and this blog. Many traditional forms of spirituality turn away from the creativity of the world — they become ascetic. Eros is the force of Nature’s creativity working through us

          Now there is something to be said for asceticism, and perhaps in our hedonistic world we could use more of it. But I think that a brave spirituality celebrates Nature’s creativity and celebrates human creativity. But here is the idea that I think needs to be developed: Human creativity is a continuation of Nature’s creativity. Just as the origin of life greatly expanded Nature’s creativity — the whole amazing biosphere — so the emergence of homo sapiens also greatly expanded Nature’s creativity — opening up the whole amazing world of human arts and artifacts.

          Joy in creativity, I hope, would be considered a great virtue in a humanistic paganism.

          Thomas

        • >Human creativity is a continuation of Nature’s creativity. Just as the origin of life greatly expanded Nature’s creativity — the whole amazing biosphere — so the emergence of homo sapiens also greatly expanded Nature’s creativity — opening up the whole amazing world of human arts and artifacts. Joy in creativity, I hope, would be considered a great virtue in a humanistic paganism.

          Well put!

          This reminds me of Michael Dowd’s work on Big History and Glenys Livingstone’s PaGaian Cosmology. Both have invested extraordinary effort in creating an inspiring vision of the largest context. I am starting to think it may be wise to start connecting Humanistic Paganism to some of these other major projects in naturalistic spirituality, to begin the work of synthesis.

        • “I am starting to think it may be wise to start connecting Humanistic Paganism to some of these other major projects in naturalistic spirituality, to begin the work of synthesis.”

          I like that direction. *gives full support*

        • “Human creativity is a continuation of Nature’s creativity.”

          Beautifully said. Yes, I can agree to that.

  7. I would like to see an inclusive spiritual community, inclusive in the sense of an inclusive humanism. I, personally, have a problem with the way humanism is usually defined. To me, humanism simply means putting human values first; it says nothing about belief or nonbelief in a deity or deities. In most contexts, however, humanism, more often than not, seems to imply atheism, agnosticism, or nontheism of some kind. I see humanism as our best source of ethics, by which, humbly , even the gods and their scriptures and mythologies may be judged in terms of how well they model worthy values. I have not yet found a community supportive of those who somehow seek the possibilty of a relationship with something divine through prayer and/or ritual and at the same time, see all of this through a human lens.

    • “To me, humanism simply means putting human values first”

      Does humanism put human values first? Are humans then considered more important than other life that we share a common ancestry too and the environment that we all depend on? Does that conflict with the direction of this blog and associated members then? If so, should Humanism be included?

      • I’d tweak that definition ever so slightly. Humanism to me seems to be an acknowledgment that our ethics and values — as well as our myths and traditions — flow from our humanity rather than from a supernatural source. Humanism need not imply anthropocentrism. But that’s only my considered intuition.

        • It seems that Humanism can be interpreted in many different ways and still be accurate even if those views differ or even conflict with each other. I’m not really involved with Humanism so I wonder, is that the case?

        • That’s definitely the case. Humanism has changed meanings many times over the years. Greek Humanism was different from Renaissance Humanism which is different from Spiritual Humanism which is different from Secular Humanism.

          Most of the time these days when you hear just “Humanism”, it usually means Secular Humanism.

  8. So just to some up the results of this Thing on Thursday:

    The poll came out evenly split between spiritual orientation and new tradition, but the comments seemed to lean toward spiritual orientation. That’s what I too have felt to be the better course of action at this time.

    Perhaps in time a new tradition may grow organically from what we’re doing here today. But if that’s the case, then it makes me want to fall back on an old ADF motto: “Fast as a speeding oak!” In other words, let it emerge gradually in its own time, and it will be all the stronger for it in the long run.

    Thanks everybody for your continuing input. I’m really glad to be able to rely on your advice.

    P. S. And please don’t let this stop the conversation! Good stuff going on here on numerous topics!

  9. The outlook of this blog is that it is important to explore with the five senses, plus introspection; that mythology plays a role in this (how?); that we should be responsible (in what way?); and have a sense of wonder (about the cosmos, which is everything? Or something more specific?).

    What action(s) reflects these views? What do people who agree to this do exactly? Is it something that only affects the self, or does it affect all that is around you, or both? That is what determines what any group is.

    Since the question being ask is ‘Who are we’, we first must answer if we do similar actions that give the same end result, otherwise there is no commonality. Once that is determined, then a name will come easier. And sometimes, that name has to be something that is honestly completely made up, because nothing else will be able to describe it.

  10. Pingback: What transcends you? « Humanistic Paganism

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