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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in philosophy

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Us vs. Them

Us: “We just want security. We want the right to believe as we see fit.”

Them: “Sorry, those things have been outlawed.”

Us: “Why?”

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Perspectives on Deity

 

Perhaps central to Neo Pagan practices is the petition of Deity. The crudest of formulas for Neo Pagan ritual would be: create a sacred space, invoke deity, pay homage and/or petition, and dismiss. Though some petitions might be spontaneous and overlook some elements of space or decorum ( i.e. Penczack’s “instant magic”), the desires and force of will are almost always necessarily in conjunction with some form of request to a higher power. Linguistically, one could simply put it as; “to petition”, a subject must have an object to call upon.  Even in the instance of petitioning the self, drawing forth some sort of believed, hidden energy from the depths of the practitioners psyche, the petitioner is calling upon an “other” to change or work with the “self”.

 

What must be maintained through all of this is the concept of petitioning an “outside” identity, but just who do we call upon when we admit there is something beyond our scope of capability? The primary idea of this outside force is that of Deity or God. Familiar attributes we assign Deity are the three “omni” qualities: Omnipresent, Omniscient, and Omnibenevolent. Abrahamic overtones aside, when one sets out to define Deity, the curious habit of assigning human characteristics also follows suit after our triformula of Deity. However, in our attempt to humanize Deity, what is often overlooked in favor of a more favorable god, is that to include human characteristics to an inherently transcendent idea is anathema to a logical definition of Deity. Put colloquially, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. This problem arises due to the limitations of human qualities; If we maintain Deity is all knowing, why do certain pagan deities have areas of expertise or realms of import? If the God in question is truly a God, would not specific realms of importance be superfluous?

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

At the end of 2012, I looked over what I had read the previous year and came up with a list of Literary Discoveries. Considering how much I have read this year -- novels, novellas, anthologies, short stories, essays, longer works of philosophy and history and spirituality -- continuing the tradition seemed like a good idea. And, just like the previous list, not all of these titles were published in 2013 (though most were); I just discovered them this past year.

So, in no particular order, here is my 2013 edition of Literary Discoveries.

1) I read Reza Aslan's No god But God several years ago, and found it to be a well-written introduction to and overview of the theology and history of Islam; this is the book I recommend to anyone looking for a basic primer on the subject. So, when Aslan released Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth I decided it was worth checking out, even though I have very little interest in the development of Christianity -- actually, let me amend that. I find some of the early Christian sects which were later deemed heretical to be interesting, and I've studied the fall of Classical Paganism even though it makes me angry. So, I was curious as to Aslan's conclusions about the carpenter from Nazareth. I won't spoil it for you. Suffice to say, the book was well-researched and engaging, and I highly recommend it to anyone at all interested in Middle Eastern history, the Age of Augustus, or the history and evolution of Judaism.

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When Bad Things Happen to Good People—A Pagan Perspective

I watch the news with my mother sometimes. For the record, probably not something I would recommend, especially when I have more leftist leanings and she is surprisingly conservative for how open-minded she is on certain topics. I digress. No matter how different our perspectives are, we usually end up saying the same thing after a particularly heart-wrenching news story about yet another murder or tragedy: “What is this world coming to?”

I was raised Episcopal, so I would assume that the whole idea of “God must have needed that person in Heaven, so He took he/she away from us here for a good purpose” filtered into me, by osmosis since I don’t remember anyone ever saying that to me directly. Since I never had to deal with personal tragedy, there was no reason for me to ever hear this statement, so I didn’t really think of it much until lately. Yet I keep saying that good ole phrase in the back of my head: “There must be a reason for this.” What if there isn’t?

Tornadoes touching down, destroying schools and children dying. Children gunned down within a school, someplace they felt safe (I can’t wrap my head around it, because I certainly never had those thoughts when I was in elementary school... I never even entertained the concept of “safety” when I was that age, so it makes me sad that kids now are aware of this!). Proudly gay, bisexual, or transgendered folks having to hide who they are in one of the known havens of NYC for queer pride because they are fearful of being attacked and killed simply for being who they are.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ms. Parry, Thanks for sharing a tarot reader's perspective on divination and fate! The Pythia and the priests (when not corrupt)

This is the conclusion of a three part essay on conservatism, liberalism, and their relationship to NeoPagan spirituality. Part I described what liberalism and conservatism have been historically and philosophically and argued there is considerable truth in both views. Part II explored their relationship to Christian and Pagan spirituality and how Pagan insights enabled us better to understand their competitive but ultimately symbiotic relationship.  Now, Part III examines why neither, but especially conservatism, resembles what they have been historically and why those Pagan insights are so critically important to everyone today.

           The argument is more complex than the preceding two, but I hope you will bear with me. I am happy to elaborate points that seem undeveloped in the discussion to follow. Exceptions exist to much of what I am arguing, my larger argument is that the exceptions are minor themes today.

A valid conservative criticism of liberalism

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  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    They will empower me to eliminate your nastiness and rudeness from this blog, probably Monday. Had you any integrity you would no
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    I have asked that you be banned from this blog.
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Of course you did. Liberal talking points and insults can't tolerate contradictory opinions. Its all "good" only when inside a v

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

I’m AWOL this week attending a Pagan festival/retreat here in Colorado.  This was written before I left. 

I readily admit that thinking about philosophy gives me a headache.  Literally.  Attempting to discuss it or read it makes me nauseous on top of the headache.  I suspect this physical reaction is embedded in the fear that I’m dumber than I like to think and attempting to sound intelligent during a discussion of philosophy will only prove that a 3rd grader is smarter than me.  (Oh the dreams along this line are most humbling…)

Last week I received a link to an opinion blog for the New York Times by Gary Gutting, a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, titled “Did Zeus Exist?”.  My friend and philosophy-teaching-hero, EB, summed up the article thusly: 

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Yeah, I'm a Platonist and reading a detailed summary of Proclus' take on philosophy (one of Plato's legitimate successors) can giv

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
UPG: an ugly, misguided notion

“Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis” as a term is dismissive and insulting, but worse it turns us away from the only spiritual reality…experience.

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  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    Sam, it has been a long time, glad to see you are still fighting the good fight. Thank you for the spiritual ardor yr post demonst
  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus
    P. Sufenas Virius Lupus says #
    I agree, and have written similar things in the past... It amazes me how often "That's UPG," or even just the phrase "Your person
  • Scott
    Scott says #
    PSVL, your observations suggest to me that (a) we don't fully grasp the context of the ancients in this respect - remember, they w
Making Sense of the Modernist Reconstructionist (Part 1)

Before I address the title, let me first address a fact that was illuminated in some fairly recent conversations:  I am old.  Chronologically, I'm just a bit over thirty, which isn't really anyone's idea of old --and contrary to the prevalent misconceptions of ancient longevity (which is an average) generally speaking, people who could survive past the age of 15 all through the Archaic and Classical eras could typically expect to live into their sixties, so this isn't even "old" by historical standards, but I'm old.  I'm old because I retain this stubborn identity of "Hellenic reconstructionist" even though many people my age and younger, even (sometimes especially) if they practise by the same general methods I do have long eschewed the term because of reasons.  I all get to those reasons very shortly.  I'm old because I've acquired greater measures of both patience and cynicism in my approach to dealing with others, largely because of persistent misconceptions of who and what I am and am about, and when I don't have the patience to explain it, I don't get angry, I just shrug and think oh well, this isn't news and frankly I don't think they're worth explaining it to, and then I ask the other person "Hey, let's agree to disagree?"  But the good thing about being an ageing cynic (but not really a Cynic, though I do appreciate some of their teachings --my philosophy is based largely on Kyrenaic Hedonism with equal parts Empedocles, Democritus, Kirkegaard, Sartre, Camus, Crisp, and Jarman filling in the gaps, and also a huge stress on aesthetic arts bringing joy and meaning taken from famous Dandies including, but not limited to, Beau Brummel, Oscar Wilde, and Lord Whimsy)...  [coughs]  Yes, the good thing about being an ageing cynic with a blog, is I get to make things as clear as i need to, update and revise as I need to, and point people to said blog when I don't feel like dealing with them right now.

I want to make clear what religious reconstruction is and is not, because in spite of being pretty active for about the last five years in trying to promote this method of practise as both a perfectly valid and relevant "pagan path", it seems I've been met with more gross and appalling misconceptions in this last year than the previous four combined.  Now, I have some suspicions on key players who may be a large part responsible for this, but this isn't about naming names, this is about using the position afforded me on PaganSquare to clarify, perhaps even educate.  In this, I also want to stress (though I doubt that I could ever stress enough for some people) that identifying with a reconstructionist method is not synonymous with being ultra-conservative, traditionalist, neo-luddite, or regressionist.

Religious reconstruction is a method of practise, not a religious doctrine in and of itself.

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  • Conor O'Bryan Warren
    Conor O'Bryan Warren says #
    What a *fabulous* post. I was very confused when I saw certain people calling it Hellenic Orthodoxy. I scratched my head and sneez
  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy says #
    I've concluded that the "Hellenic orthodoxy" thing is one of those made-up terms from people who want to feel superior about follo
  • Conor O'Bryan Warren
    Conor O'Bryan Warren says #
    I know, I think they were trying to invoke the image of 'Orthodox Christianity' and all the negative connotations that has in the

This post started as a discussion of whether some Pagan traditions are more “privileged” than others.  It rapidly became deeper than this.

When I first became a Pagan and began thinking about the deeper implications of my spiritual path, my first major insight was that since Spirit is everywhere, every spiritual tradition, including those made up from whole cloth, have the potential of carrying someone closer to harmony with the Sacred. For example, even if Gerald Gardner simply made up Gardnerian Wicca (which I do NOT believe), that the Gods come in our workings is all the proof I need that it is a valid path – at least for me.

Several major insights grew from this realization.

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  • D. R. Bartlette
    D. R. Bartlette says #
    Thanks. I try to tread very carefully, because I do NOT want to add fuel to the "culture wars" that seem to be brewing between ecc
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    Thank you D.R. We all carry what we once were with us when we change on anything, and many either try to stuff what is new into o
  • D. R. Bartlette
    D. R. Bartlette says #
    Lovely post, as usual. As one who has learned and lived an ecclectic path for almost 30 years, it has always been my experience (n

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

• Laguz •

Old English Rune Poem
Lagu (Sea) is by folk thought wide indeed,
If they should dare to go in a ship unsteady,
And the waves terribly frighten them,
And the sea-stallion heed not its bridle.

Old Icelandic Rune Poem
Logr (Sea) is a welling water
And a wide kettle
And a fish?s field

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  • Beth Lynch
    Beth Lynch says #
    This is brilliant, and all the more so because so many Heathens shy away from concepts such as grace. It underscores quite nicely
  • Steven
    Steven says #
    The Well of Memory is deep. You evoke some deep memories, "The trick seems to be revisioning oneself as being part of the water,
  • Henry Lauer
    Henry Lauer says #
    Thanks for your kind words, Steven. Yes...Laguz seems to be bottomless. Every new perspective just raises more questions.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Evil, Ethics and Freedom

Theodicy, the theological study of evil, is one of the stumbling blocks of religion. I have a few thoughts on the subject, which I doubt will end the matter, but perhaps shed a certain Pagan light on it. In general theodicy is trying to answer the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” “Because God wills it,” to test or to strengthen the adherent, or “Karma,” the result of past actions, are two of the more popular answers. As a Thelemite, I am not so interested in what happened but in what to do, so I tend to look at this from the other side: “How do I avoid doing evil?” This leads me to a systems-analysis approach to evil that shows how hard it is to avoid doing Evil, but there is some hope in that too.

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  • Tom Terrific
    Tom Terrific says #
    Coincidentally, this subject came up a few days ago on a Pagan board I frequent. I offered my view and was excoriated by one parti

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

A couple of weeks ago—which partially explains my absence from this hallowed place—Mother Grove Goddess Temple ordained a group of women as temple clergy. The women—and in this case they were all women—were already priestesses but they went through a long process of study and practicum to make them clergy.  They can perform all the rites of passage (including the legal one of marriage), can teach and speak on behalf of the Temple and its programs and philosophy.

It was a powerful ritual at a local herb school, because the Temple is small. There were candles and simple black robes. There were special guests and people making speeches. There was a choir and a reception. There was an audible gasp in the congregation when the women’s stoles were placed on their shoulders and they turned to face out. At that point, they were introduced one-by-one as “Reverend.”

Formal, legal.  Just like other religions do.

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  • Betty
    Betty says #
    I wish I could become clergy, but I don't know how. I'm self employed so I can't afford to go to seminary, but I do take classes h
  • Theresa Wymer
    Theresa Wymer says #
    Good for them. Congratulations to all the new clergy members!
  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan says #
    Congratulations to all the new Reverends!

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

A cross-post this week, if I may - between here at my first blog 'home', and the wonderfully eclectic 'Witches & Pagans' site (because if you can't 'moonlight' as a Pagan, then who can?).

I am very aware that I haven't written anything at either location for a couple of weeks. I could give excuses - ultimately, the days have flown past and life has been more important. I'm sure we all know how that goes. Instead, take a wander with me, if you will.

Regular readers know that one of my favourite places for inspiration is as I walk the dog across the hilltop where I live. This evening I wandered the streets, looking out at the fierce clouds parting after an intense rain and thunder-storm just a few hours ago, the remnants of a rainbow, and the slightly 'stunned' feeling of a normal, modern, country village after a violent and unavoidable incident of Nature. The grass is rich and green, the snails appear to have made a small bypass across the path outside one particular row of houses, and the occasional early bat is swooping overhead.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

One of the key foundations of modern (and ancient) Paganism is also one of the most contentious. We find it very hard to talk about, it seems, and yet it's fairly key to many people's personal practice. When I've talked about it in the past, it almost seems like I'm breaking a taboo, with the words themselves being 'dirty' or embarrassing. And yet, learning from my passionate and heartfelt Heathen friends, that embarrassment is itself disrespectful, dishonourable and, ultimately, rather foolish.

Who are your Gods and Goddesses? What does Deity mean to you, and how does it influence and affect your Paganism? From the Platonic 'ultimate Male/Female' images (tallying with 'All Gods/Goddesses are One') to the pantheistic, international eclectic transference of pretty much any deity with any other no matter where you yourself live, talking about Deity is a tricky business. Especially because ultimately, nobody can really tell you you're wrong. Or right. Except, perhaps, those Gods themselves.

The Judgement of Paris (Classical)

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  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Cat: Like Elani, you are articulating one of the major cutting edges of contemporary Paganism -- what *do* we believe? I, for one,
  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan says #
    Wonderful post. I think about the Gods in general, and my patron/matron Gods, all the time. But too often I forget to stop, liste

Posted by on in Studies Blogs

The unexpected death of a friend this week brought into sharp relief the differences between traditions around death and grief, not only between different communities but also between different generations. How we handle the dead and our sorrow shows a lot about our culture.

For the Anglo-Saxons, much of what we know of their material culture -- apart descriptions in poems and histories -- come from discovered burials. But burial wasn't always the norm. We have a magnificent pagan shipboard funeral of a king in the opening lines of Beowulf. For a long time people dismissed it as a rather fanciful thing.

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  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    My condolences on your loss, Kate; I thank you for sharing your wisdom and reflections with our community.
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    Thanks so much, Anne. The power of community in bad times reflects the strength of its joy in good times. And the fluctuation betw
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    Thank you, my dear. It's never easy, but the weight becomes more familiar as we age, alas. It's the first time I have felt 'away'

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

I've returned today from performing a Handfasting with my partner - not unusual at this time of year. But this was our first on a beach.

Yes, this is Britain. Yes, we've just had semi-monsoon conditions for the last few months. Summer was rumoured to have been cancelled. So much could have gone wrong.

It was beautiful. Golden sands, blue sky, bright sun, lush green grasses and flowers on the path leading from the couple's home to the beach itself... everyone commented that you couldn't have wished for a better day.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Paganism is one of the most democratic of spiritualities, right? It allows each of us to maintain and explore our own relationship with deity, practice pretty much as we like, and generally find like-minded people to work with along the way.
Except that it's not that simple (of course). We like to think that it's all sweetness, light and friendship, but as with any human philosophy, there are speed-bumps on the road that we're travelling.
 
Something that I've been really coming up against in recent months is the issue of hierarchy. If Pagans can each hold their own method of worship, then why do we even need leaders? Perhaps rather naively, I used to assume that each person understood that following a spiritual path involved investigation, constant challenging of the self and their chosen Way - otherwise it'd be far simpler to just find one of those other faiths with a set doctrine and follow that (less thought and effort required all round).
 
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Last time we looked at diagnosis of symptoms in Anglo-Saxon magic: now onto materials!

Once the culprit was identified it was essential to gather the materials for the charm. In most cases this meant herbs. Potions and poultices were the central part of charm remedies. One needed to remember the properties of all the herb, the best time for harvesting them, and the extent of the their interactions. Poems like the "Nine Herbs Charm" helped people memorize the properties of the most common healing herbs. In addition to herbs, there were bodily fluids like blood and spit and—well, other less charming substances.

Breath too proved an important component in charms, representing of course the substance of life itself. The church supplied additional helpful items such as communion wafers and holy water (though some church fathers might have frowned at their use in these charms).

More homey materials like milk and honey showed up in charms as well; honey is especially important because it is the basis of mead, the favorite drink of the Anglo-Saxons. Mead itself—along with wine and ale—provided a better tasting concoction with which to drink down the herbs. Of course if the herbs were made into a poultice or salve, you would need oil or wax to bind the materials together. Naturally, you would need bowls and other utensils to mix all the items together, and sometimes bandages to apply the mixture.

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Brilliant, brilliant! It's just what I do--ah, well, with some exceptions. I'm working up my own (Appalachian) version of the Ni
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    Grand to hear that! I look forward to hearing a regional version of a classic. A living history is magic, one that will continue.

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