Humanistic Paganism

Upcoming work

This 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 30th, on Humanistic Paganism.

Thing on Thursday

Althing in Session, by W. G. Collingwood

This week we’ll dive into spiritual experience itself: what is involved in the experience of wonder?

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

The conversation continues this Thursday, November 3rd, on Humanistic Paganism.

Next Sunday

Jake Diebolt

We have something new coming up: a “challenge” piece.  Jake airs many concerns common among those who question naturalistic ritual.

Ritual – why bother? by Jake Diebolt

Appearing Sunday, November 6th, on Humanistic Paganism.

Recent Work

Encounters with the Goddess? by Thomas Schenk

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

Symbols in the sky, by B. T. Newberg

What does responsible action mean to you?

Thing on Thursday #5

Recently, a commenter posted:

“I would like to see responsible action more defined, but could see that as something that would be refined over time by further posts from the community.”

So let’s take that issue up today.  It’s such a huge topic that we can only hope to scratch the surface, but we can begin the dialogue nevertheless.

As always, this is not meant to decree how others should believe or act; it’s about discovering values.  Answer only for what’s true for you.

Responsible Action was one of the original elements of the Fourfold Path.  It affirmed that humanity has both the capability and the responsibility to meet our challenges without recourse to supernatural aid.  Essentially, we’re talking about ethics within a naturalistic worldview.  The lack of some supernatural father figure telling us what to do is not license to go nuts; rather, we reap what we sow.  Our behavior causes many if not most of our challenges and it can meet those challenges as well.  If we hope to prosper, it’s up to us.

There are two parts to responsible action: responsibility and action.  Action suggests it is not enough to theorize or speculate or hope; we must actually get off our behinds and do something.  This is not an armchair path.  Responsibility suggests we choose acts that are somehow beneficial or harmonious within a larger context.

The question for today is: within what larger contexts ought we be responsible?  To whom or what are you responsible?

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!

Encounters with the Goddess? by Thomas Schenk

Constellation 2, by Steven Kenny

Constellation 2, by Steven Kenny

image by Steven Kenny, used with permission

When Thomas shared this story in the comments section of Halstead’s article Re-godding the archetypes, it was intended to portray one man’s experience of an archetype in action.  Yet it was also larger than that.  It was also a personal story of private struggle, and deserved to be more than a footnote to someone else’s work.  Just as archetypes demand to be experienced as numinous in their own right, so this story demands to be read on its own.  So, here it is.  Thank you, Thomas, for sharing this with us.

From the dream world

When I was thirteen, I had a wonderful dream. The dream was quite complex and involved, but here are the main elements. I was in a huge arena, which I came to understand was the “arena of the world.” There was a large crowd of people walking up stairs into the arena, but I was walking down a set of stairs away from the arena. I walked down many flights of stairs, and came to an underground passageway. I entered the passageway and I saw a door ajar with a golden light coming from it. I opened the door, and inside was a beautiful woman, giving off a radiant golden light. We exchanged no words, but I felt a great joy in her presence.

The dream was so beautiful and powerful, that I wrote it down when I woke up, so I was able to remember many of the details. I had never heard of Jung at the time, but years later, when I read Jung, I immediately recognized the woman as the Jungian anima. While I know a Freudian would quickly read such a dream in a youngster at the age of puberty in sexual terms, there was absolutely nothing sexual about the dream.

Many years later, at the age of twenty-two, I had a dream that contained the following. I was on the North Shore of Lake Superior at a place like Gooseberry Falls. There was a gas station built out on the rocks by the water, a Mobil station. I stopped in the station and went into the bathroom. There was a stairs leading down into a lower level, and men were walking up the stairs. I walked down. When I got to the bottom of the stairs there was a woman there lying naked in a pile of rags. Semen was dripping out of her vagina. I looked at her and I knew she was the same woman I had visited in that earlier dream.

Into the waking world

A few years before this second dream, I set about living the hedonistic life style. I wanted to explore every avenue of pleasure and maximize the amount of pleasure I could have. Being the early seventies, there was a great opportunity. I lived the sex, drugs, and rock and roll scene to the maximum. I had a great time, but after a few years, I felt like ashes.

It was at this time that I had the second dream. It had a very powerful effect on me. I understood immediately the connection between the two dreams. The first dream was a calling, and the second told me I was failing in my calling. Recognizing this, I put an end to my pursuit of hedonism, and went back to my Zen Buddhist practice that I had abandoned. (The Mobil station and the North Shore are personal elements of the dream — my earliest sexual encounter is associated with a Mobil Station, and the North Shore has always been for me a sacred, holy place.)

The encounters with the Anima, the Goddess, did not end there. The most recent was a few years ago on an October night at Gooseberry Falls on the rocks by the Lake. I was meditating in the moonlight. During the meditation, I had made a commitment towards a certain course of action in my life. But as I was getting up to leave, a female voice said to me, “No, that is not the way it is to be,” and then told me the way it was to be. From the distance of a few years, I can now see that the course of action I was told to take was both wise and also aligned with that original calling.

Toward awakening

Now, I understand if at this point the reader thinks I’m simply crazy. It is very un-modern to hear voices and heed them. I write all this only to give a concrete example of how the archetypes can operate. I do not believe that the Goddess I have so wonderfully met exists as an entity out in the world, but nor is she something solely in “my” mind. I do not think she belongs to the supernatural, or is in violation of the dictates of naturalism, but I do think she challenges any simplistic understanding of dreams or the nature of the unconscious.

While I’m not sure what level of reality all this occurs on, I do know that through these dreams and in this calling, I feel deeply blessed, and I wouldn’t trade that blessing for anything.

The author

Thomas Schek

Thomas Schenk: “If asked, I’d call myself a Space-age Taoist, Black Sheep Catholic, Perennial Philosophy Pantheist, Dharma Bum.   In other words I am a kind of spiritual and philosophical mutt.  I’m not out to change the world, for I believe the world has a much better sense of what it is supposed to be than I ever could. But I do try to promote the value of the contemplative life in these most un-contemplative of times.  I don’t know if the piece presented here has any value, but I feel blessed that I can spend my time thinking about such things.  My version of the American dream is that here, as the child of a line of farmers and peasants going back through the ages, I have the privilege to live with my head in such clouds.”

Check out Thomas’ other articles:

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!

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