Mid-Month Meditation for June

We bring our late spring theme, “Practice”, to a close with this thought by Mary Jo Weaver:

“First the appearance, then the dance, then the story.”

Pagans often claim that they have no orthodoxy (right belief), only orthopraxy (right practice), by which they mean they privilege action over belief.  Mary Jo Weaver writes in her essay, “Who is the Goddess and Where Does She Get Us?” (published in the spring 1989 volume of the Journal of Feminist Studies), that the formula, “first the appearance, then the dance, then the story”, specifies the proper relationship among theophany, ritual, and theology.  If we were to rephrase that statement in naturalistic terms, then we might say: “Experience precedes practice and practice precedes reasoning.”  But is this ordering true for Humanistic and Naturalistic Pagans?

Give this issue some thought then share how you order these three elements of spirituality: experience, practice, and reasoning.  Explain why in the comments below.

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6 Comments on “Mid-Month Meditation for June

  1. Interesting question.

    I voted for the first one, experience > practice > reasoning, but in actuality I think it’s a constant feedback loop between the three. It’s a chicken-or-the-egg question, and everything feeds back on itself so much they are really inextricable.

    There is a sense, though, in which I agree with Weaver. I’ve found that rationally designing a spiritual path or ritual format or calendar of rituals simply does not work for me. What works is letting it grow and evolve on its own, adding or subtracting elements over time in response to changing needs and feelings. In that sense, reasoning comes last (for me).

  2. I voted “experience, reasoning, practice” because that is how I do it. I have some experience, some apprehension of the spiritual; I have to make sense of it for myself and then action follows upon the rational description I have wrought.

  3. I chose “experience, reasoning, practice,” because that was the order in which I started. I had certain experiences, I thought about what they meant for a while, and then I turned to practice to try to connect with that part of myself more reliably and frequently.

    But really, I agree with you, B. T. Over time, they all feed back on each other and it’s impossible to say what comes first. Heck, you could argue that practice came first for me, because my mom taught me yoga and how to meditate when I was pretty young. But what motivated me to sit quietly and listen to my breath when I was 9 or 10? Prior experiences, maybe?

    And I mostly engage in reasoning to make sure my understanding of what I’m doing and why doesn’t include things that make me uncomfortable and distance me from the practice over time. For example, when I was young I tried to be Wiccan, but eventually the implied beliefs got to be too much for me and I couldn’t do it anymore. Now I try to head off that problem beforehand.

    But whatever I do, I do because it feels right, not because I reasoned it out somehow.

  4. My experiences lead me to do certain things, which become practice. Then I study what feels right about the practice, others who do the same or a similar practice, and cultural roots. Of course, over the years the three have become quite fluid. Sometimes my studies lead me to a new practice. Sometimes a practice leads to a new experience, and studying that experience alters my practice. Also, it isn’t always reasoning but feelings affecting things.

  5. I’m trippin’ because we read this essay (“Who Is the Goddess and Where Does She Get Us”) when I was an undergrad at Indiana University. I’m afraid it was way over my head at the time. Now I’m wishing I’d actually taken a class with Mary Jo Weaver while I was there.

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