Humanistic Paganism

Upcoming work

This Sunday

Thomas Schek
Thomas shares a personal story of private struggle, with a journey into the world of dreams.

Encounters with the Goddess? by Thomas Schenk

Appearing Sunday, October 23rd, on Humanistic Paganism.

Thing on Thursday

Althing in Session, by W. G. Collingwood

This week we’ll be debating a key element of the Fourfold Path: responsible action.

Join us for the next council on matters vital to the future of Humanistic Paganism.

The conversation continues this Thursday, October 27th, on Humanistic Paganism.

Next Sunday

Jonathan Blake

The universe can be a scary place, as terrible as it is beautiful.  So is it right to express gratitude toward it?  Jonathan Blake challenges us to rethink how we relate to the cosmos.

Do we owe gratitude to the universe? by Jonathan Blake

Appearing Sunday, October 29th, on Humanistic Paganism.

Recent Work

Of consequence and wonder: Exploring the “why’s” of Humanistic Paganism, by C Luke Mula

Symbols in the sky, by B. T. Newberg

Science vs. religion: Mythology is poetry, not prose, by Heather Wiech

How does mythology function in your life?

Thing on Thursday #4

At the top of our values poll results was relationship with mythology.  This week, let’s dig into that idea.

We are not talking about simple falsehoods here, such as the “myth” that money brings happiness.  We’re talking about something deeper.  Here are a few famous definitions:

“Myths are things that never happened but always are.”

– Sallustius, 4th cent. A.D. (quoted in Carl Sagan’s Dragons of Eden)

“Myth is a traditional tale with secondary, partial reference to something of collective importance”

– Walter Burkert, Structure and History in Greek Mythology and Ritual

“Myths are public dreams; dreams are private myths.”

– Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By

Examples of myths include the stories of Perseus slaying Medusa, Thor fishing up the world-serpent, or Inanna descending to the underworld.  They usually feature extraordinary figures, such as gods, spirits, or first people, and often describe a primordial time, or how something came to be.

Karen Armstrong notes myths are “usually inseparable from ritual”, so we may think also of the acts that may or may not accompany myths in your life: rituals, devotions, festivals, meditations, visualizations, and so on.

With this in mind, what are the top three ways mythology functions for you?

Remember, this is about myth in your life.  Myths may have served some of these functions at one time without necessarily serving them adequately today or for you.

Please choose your top three.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

About Thing on Thursday

Althing in Session, by W.G. CollingwoodThis post is part of 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!

Of consequence and wonder: Exploring the “why’s” of Humanistic Paganism, by C Luke Mula

Pine cone on Loring Park lakeshore

Exploratory practices focus on the moment, discovering wonder in the fact of being.

photo by B. T. Newberg

This week, C Luke Mula challenges us to take a deeper look at the fundamentals.  Why are we doing this?  What do we hope to get out of it?  Through a careful critique of the Fourfold Path, Luke advances our model of Humanistic Paganism.

A good deal of discussion goes on here about what Humanistic Paganism is exactly, and how we put it into practice in our lives. These are good and necessary things to talk about, but what I don’t see much talk of is why we identify with or adhere to Humanistic Paganism. In other words, what could possibly be rewarding about the types of practices that Humanistic Paganism prescribes? What is the practitioner getting out of it?

I want to look into this question today and discuss some of the implications of the answer. Before we do, though, let’s recap the Fourfold Path real quick.

First, there’s Exploration of the Five +1. This principle is about exploring the world around us with our five senses and the world within us through introspection. Through these we can construct both an empirically-testable understanding of the external world and a semi-empirical, semi-testable understanding of the internal world.

Next, there’s Relationship with Mythology. This is about identifying with the mythological, becoming intimately familiar with it, and incorporating it into our life development.

Third, there’s Responsible Action. This is about seeing what problems we as humans have caused in the world and taking the responsibility to fix those problems, while at the same time being conscious enough to prevent further problems.

Finally, there’s A Sense of Wonder. This is about never letting the majesty of nature cease to fascinate and inspire us.

Okay, that’s simple enough, but do these tell us why we’re dedicating ourselves to these principles?

I think that before we look at what we’re getting out of HP, we need to look at what we’re putting into it. That means understanding what types of actions we are taking when we put HP into practice in our lives.

Being and doing

Looking back to the Fourfold Path, we can see that there are two basic types of practices in Humanistic Paganism.

The first is simply exploring. Exploratory practices take an absolute focus on the moment, a forgetting of goals and drives, a simple act of being. These types of practices are about engaging the senses and exploring them to the fullest. They are about experiencing for the sake of the experience, for reveling in the substance of it, and for celebrating the fact that something simply is. For an excellent example of this type of practice, check out Thomas Schenk’s article on bicycle meditation.

The second type of practice is making a difference. This is the practice described by Responsible Action, and it is primarily about making consequential decisions. To fully take part in this element of the Fourfold Path, it isn’t enough to see an issue and do something insignificant about it; instead, we are called to truly make a difference in the world with our actions, to leave this earth and our fellow human beings significantly better than we found them. Here we are presented with the premise of “humans cause most of their own problems,” and we are required to respond to that premise with our very lives, an aspect of Humanistic Paganism I’d like to see talked about more often.

Of consequence and wonder

Now, with those two types of practices in our grasp, can we finally answer the question, “Why Humanistic Paganism?” I believe we can, and I believe that the answer lies in the two different senses of meaning you get from the practices of HP.

The first type of meaningful experience you can get out of Humanistic Paganism is the real sense of consequence from making a difference in the world. Seeing tangible consequences manifest as a result of our own personal decisions is an extremely fulfilling and meaningful experience, and it is why humanism in general has been able to become such a widespread movement. Even more, by taking responsible action, we create a story with our lives and forge new mythology with our very existence.

The second type of meaning we can get out of Humanistic Paganism is what is described in the final element of the Fourfold Path: a sense of wonder. This sense of wonder is a direct result of exploratory practices, and it only comes about by focusing solely on an experience for the sake of the experience. Through exploration, we can truly feel the wonder of the world; in it, instead of just thinking, we know the universe to be wonderful. The mystery of living consumes our senses, and our life is filled to the brim with meaning, even if but for a moment.

Putting it into practice

The thing about these two types of action and meaning is that they are mutually exclusive: you cannot fully commit to exploration and in the same instance fully commit to making consequential decisions.(1) Because of this, you have three options in putting Humanistic Paganism into practice.

First, you may want to emphasize the consequential aspects of it, and focus on taking responsible action in the world, with exploration playing a supporting role. Through this, you still have more of a sense of wonder than through adhering only to consequential practices, and you can understand your life story in a more poetic form than the consequential by itself would normally allow.

On the other hand, you may want to emphasize the exploratory aspects of Humanistic Paganism. In this approach, making consequential decisions takes a backseat to simply experiencing life. If a problem comes up that needs addressing, you’ll address it, but here you don’t go out of your way to take responsible action. The sense of wonder is placed first and foremost.

Finally, you may want to fully balance exploration with making a difference. And this is the tricky one. Because exploring and making a difference are fundamentally different types of actions, it is extremely easy to get lost in one and forget about the other. That means that if you really want to balance the two types of actions, you need to develop some practices in order to do so.

And that’s what I want to discuss here. So let’s jump into it.

First how are you practicing HP? Are you emphasizing one type of practice over the other, or are you balancing them?

And second, if you are balancing the two, what are some concrete examples of how you’re doing that?

—————-

(1) For an introduction into why I make this claim, check out Daniel Kahneman’s TED talk on the riddle of memory vs. experience, or look into Ian McGilchrist’s book The Master and His Emissary.

The author

C Luke Mula

C Luke Mula is the voice of one crying out in the wilderness. Endlessly fascinated by meaningful experiences of all stripes, he is constantly experimenting with ways to make life more meaningful, a process he calls “faith design.” He co-directs The Way to Actuality, a website founded to foster the discussion and discovery of Purpose wherever it can be found, regardless of religious or secular context.

Upcoming work

This Sunday

C Luke Mula

It’s back to basics as C Luke Mula takes a fresh look at the Fourfold Path.  With insightful critique, he advances our understanding of the fundamentals.

Of consequence and wonder: Exploring the “why’s” of Humanistic Paganism, by C Luke Mula

Appearing Sunday, October 16th, on Humanistic Paganism.

Thing on Thursday

Althing in Session, by W. G. Collingwood

Join us for the next council on matters vital to the future of Humanistic Paganism.

The conversation continues this Thursday, October 20th, on Humanistic Paganism.

Next Sunday

Thomas Schek 

Thomas shares a personal story of private struggle, with a journey into the world of dreams.

Encounters with the Goddess? by Thomas Schenk

Appearing Sunday, October 22nd, on Humanistic Paganism.

Recent Work

Symbols in the Sky, by B. T. Newberg

Science vs. religion: Mythology is poetry, not prose, by Heather Wiech

Bicycle meditation, by Thomas Schenk

What does naturalism mean to you?

Thing on Thursday #3

Akk!  Sheesh.  This Thing on Thursday has become a Thing on Friday.  Sorry for the delay.  Work obligations got the better of me.  But better late than never.  Join us for this week’s belated council.

One of the top values from last week’s poll was naturalism.  But naturalism has many meanings. Wikipedia lists some fourteen disambiguations for the word.

Of those fourteen, two of the most relevant are quoted as follows:

  • Methodological naturalism, naturalism that holds that science is to be done without reference to supernatural causes; also refers to a methodological assumption in the philosophy of religion that observable events are fully explainable by natural causes without reference to the supernatural
  • Metaphysical naturalism, a form of naturalism that holds that the cosmos consists only of objects studied by the natural sciences, and does not include any immaterial or intentional realities

Which one do you mean when you say naturalism is important for us?  Do you mean it’s important as a method of discovering our world?  Or do you mean that nothing else exists besides observable nature?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

About Thing on Thursday

Althing in Session, by W.G. CollingwoodThis post is part of 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!

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