Pagan Studies


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Studies Blogs

Advanced and/or academic Pagan subjects such as history, ethics, sociology, etc.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Lessons From Work

 

I have been involved in occult and spiritual pursuits  since I was a child, performed rituals as a teenager, but my first attendance at a Pagan event was in 1978 so I count that as my start in the community. Next year will be my 40th year as a member of this community. In that time I have learned from peers, elders, students, spirits and God/des/es, and from close observation and contemplation of my experiences. I’ve owned and run a metaphysical shop twice in my time as a Pagan. The first time for 6 years and the second time for 10 years. Some of my most important lessons came to me from my role as a shop keeper.

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  • Mister Tea
    Mister Tea says #
    I enjoyed reading this article. Very interesting insights. Would like to read more about your experiences as a magical shopkeeper.

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Kobolds: Household Tricksters

Household spirits fascinate me. Not too surprising, given the subject of this blog. Modern popular paganism tends to focus so much on the greater deities and the wild spirits of the forests, bodies of water, mountains, etc., that spirits of the home tend to be overlooked or shrugged off. Perhaps house spirits seem less interesting because they occupy the same spaces we live in day after day; perhaps they seem too domestic, too banal. Or perhaps, like many, many other spirits known to our ancestors, we have just forgotten about them. Whatever the reason, I can say that household spirits are just as mysterious, rich with character and personality, and even dangerous as other types of spirits. They offer just as much spiritual value and the potential for material reward. They are just as vital to our lives as they were to those who came before us.

One of these spirits is the kobold, a German spirit of the home as well as mines and ships. It is a helpful trickster, one that can come into a family in a number of ways – including choosing the family itself – and promises a fruitful (if complicated) relationship that can last a lifetime.

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Dangerous Fairy Women

Anyone acquainted with the long history of fairy encounters from the most ancient to Thomas of Erceldoune to now knows, as Graham Joyce would tell you, to be wary of the EDFF (extremely dangerous fairy folk). You wouldn't call them fairies either, if you had any sense. Be polite to the Gentry.

Yet in the past there were many men foolish enough to try to summon them as lovers.

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  • Thesseli
    Thesseli says #
    "This mix of misogyny and lechery" -- doesn't that phrase exactly describe most modern men's attitudes towards women? Which is wh

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Protecting the Threshold

Just as a field has a fence or hedge, and every forest an edge, so does every household have a boundary, a liminal space in which, for perhaps no more than a split second, one is neither in nor out. One is in between.

Power lies in these in-between, or liminal, spaces – power that can be benign or malign. Scholar Claude Lecouteux describes the house as a "protective cocoon, one that is sacred and magical" (48). As ancient homes tended to be passed down from generation to generation, it was common for a man (as women often joined the homes of their spouses when they married) to be born in the house in which they lived and to die there. This means that inherited homes were also the places in which one's parents, grandparents, and so on had been born, lived, and died.

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  • J'Karrah
    J'Karrah says #
    We have two Foo lions who guard our front door (male and female) and an iron dragon who watches the back. We also painted protect
  • The Cunning Wife
    The Cunning Wife says #
    Very nice! I also have a bindrune written beneath our threshold that I created for protection. Love your guardian figures as well.
  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    Informative and interesting, Thanks!
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    My parents kept a wreath on the door most of the year. Theirs was just decoration I'm sure but the habit probably grew out of ear
  • The Cunning Wife
    The Cunning Wife says #
    Thanks for sharing! Very cool that your parents carried on that tradition with their wreath. I'm not very familiar with Jewish or

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b2ap3_thumbnail_fallow-deer-dama-dama-wikimedia-commons.jpg"You are taught to believe that faith can move mountains, yet many of you will find it extremely difficult to accept your own relationship with the environment." (8)

I.    Ecopsychology

Development of themes of polarized forces and separation of the physical and the spiritual laid a foundation for western civilization which developed into religions featuring absolute values, contests of good and evil, and disdain for the human body and natural world.  Thinkers and teachers from Newton to Enlightenment philosophers reinforced these ideas in the name of science and rational thought.  The Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, and the rise of capitalism and consumerism, further resolved our attenuation from wholeness.  In our time, the scientific model has taught us that if there was ever a divine being, he or she was a clockmaker who set the time and walked away.

Today the emerging field of ecopsychology is teaching us a new way of viewing the self as an inseparable part of the larger natural environment in which we live.  The first gathering of ecopsychologists at the conference, “Psychology as if the Whole Earth Mattered,” agreed that “if the self is expanded to include the natural world, behavior leading to destruction of this world will be experienced as self-destruction.”  Ecopsychology seeks to evolve a practice of psychology that will reunite the human psyche with that of the world.

II.    Seth/Jane Roberts

b2ap3_thumbnail_Daylily-May-30-2017.jpgA collection of writings by the late Jane Roberts introduce several themes which strongly support the premises of ecopsychology.  The so-called “Seth” books have now influenced more than one generation of influential thinkers and writers.  Seth has been cited as a formative influence by such luminaries of contemporary consciousness studies as Deepak Chopra, Sanaya Roman, Shakti Gawain and Marianne Williamson. 

The Seth view of the world, read thirty and more years after publication, now bears a striking resemblance to the new quantum physics.  Field theory and the behavior of particles are clearly described in Seth’s landscape of probabilities, alternate realities and consciousness units.  Because of its widespread influence and logical exploration of ideas normally coopted by religion and mysticism, the Seth body of work now stands as a valuable bridge between the old model of a mechanical universe and an ecopsychological paradigm. 

While this short paper is far from an exhaustive survey of the Seth literature (Roberts’ collection is the second-most requested and read collection at the Yale University library), it will acquaint the reader with parallels between contemporary ecopsychology and the ideas of Seth.

III.    Seth Themes Which Support Ecopsychology

    a.    An Earth Gestalt

b2ap3_thumbnail_Khasi_Hills_Mawphlang-credit-Prida-Ariani.jpgThe Gaia hypothesis first articulated in the mid-1970s by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis has become common parlance here in the beginning of the 21st century.  Not only pagans espouse a unity of all life on earth, but Earth Day services and miscellaneous homages to God revealed in nature now abound throughout mainstream Christianity. 

In The Unknown Reality, Seth expounds at length on the continuum of consciousness out of which the human psyche rises.  Human entities in the Seth cosmos are no more separate from the world than a cloud is from the sky.

"Physically speaking, earth itself has its own kind of gestalt consciousness.  If you must, then think of that earth consciousness as grading upward in great slopes of awareness, from relatively ‘inert’ particles of dust and stone, through the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms.  Even then, remember that those kingdoms are not so separate after all.  Each one is highly related to each of the others.  Nothing happens in one such kingdom that does not affect the others." (10, p. 287)

Although life forms become individuated, there is not the separation which characterizes western thinking.  In fact, consciousness prefigures the natural world, dreamed into being by the creative power of thought.  In such a universe, irruptions of physical form could be thought of as a standing wave on the stream of energy, though one with every detail and subtlety of a human personality forever remembered at some not-yet-understood subatomic level.

"You grant soulhood only to your own species, as if souls had sizes that fit your own natures only.  You preserve these ideas by thinking of animals as beneath you . . . But all things have consciousness, and in those terms possess a soul-nature.  There are no gradations as to soul.  Soul is the life within everything that is." (10, p. 287)

b2ap3_thumbnail_astronomy-5.jpgA number of contemporary scientists have proposed the hologram as a model for understanding existence, the story told in Michael Talbot’s landmark 1991 book, The Holographic Universe.  A hologram is produced through a specific process using reflected and split laser light which records a wave interference pattern on film.  Bouncing laser light off the film produces a three-dimensional image, a famous example being Princess Leia’s plea for help in the movie Star Wars.  But when one cuts up a piece of hologram film, the image is not destroyed, but rather each fragment of the film still possesses and can project the original image.  This astonishing phenomena would seem to illustrate the way that all of life, including human, are a seamless, unified whole.

Stanford University neurophysiologist Karl Pribram first published his theories of the holographic nature of the brain in 1966, three years after Jane Roberts began speaking in trance as Seth, about the intricacies of consciousness.  Ironically, Roberts and her students were exploring the same ideas about existence as scientists like Pribram, during the same time period.  This common phenomenon is itself an illustration of the holistic nature of existence.

In “the unknown reality,” one meets Paul Shepard’s “self with the permeable boundaries.”  Human thought and action reveal themselves as both cause and effect when linked inextricably with the rest of this field of life.  While each detail of life manifests its own characteristics, it cannot be understood, nor can it function, in isolation from the greater gestalt of the universe.

    b.    Cooperation and Interconnection

b2ap3_thumbnail_sk-2017_04_article_main_mobilejpeg_quality20.jpgEcopsychology teaches us a healthy relationship with the natural world can only result from recognition of our interconnection, and active mutual cooperation among all species and parts of the planet.  Seth’s assertion that even the smallest parts of creation have at least an iota of consciousness supports this need.

"A great, gracious cooperation exists between those seemingly separate systems, however.  If you will remember that even atoms and molecules have consciousness, then it will be easier for you to understand that there is indeed a certain kind of awareness that unites these kingdoms." (10, p. 287)

Complete freedom of choice is asserted throughout the Seth writings as the only way to truly learn, grow and create.  By advocating the principle of free will Seth also acknowledges an acceptance of outcomes which may at times appear destructive.  Shepard says, “An ecologically harmonious sense of self and world is not the outcome of rational choices . . . it is latent in the organism. . .”

Seth continually returns to the earth to illustrate his ideas, always referring to the inherently mutual nature of existence.

"Even the trees at the highest tip of the hillside send sturdy roots into the ground, and receive from it nourishment and vitality – and there is a great give-and-take between the smallest sapling in the foothills and the most ancient pine.  No single blade of grass dies but that it affects the entire mountain.  The energy within the grass sinks into the earth, and in your terms is again reborn.  Trees, rocks, and grass constantly exchange places as energy changes form.  Water rushes down the hillside into the valley, and there is a constant give-and-take between the village below, say, or the meadows, and the mountain.  So there is the same kind of transformation, change, and cooperation between all identities." (10, 481)

Statements like this are self-evident to many in the fields of ecology and ecopsychology, but presented by Seth could as well be perceived as science or spirituality.  This kind of transitional discussion can provide the underpinning for the effort by ecopsychologists to lead individuals  to view and treat the earth as their own body and soul.

    c.    Land As Memory

b2ap3_thumbnail_serpentmound.jpgAnthropology in the 20th century helped to create a widespread awareness by the public of indigenous peoples’ attitudes towards the land on which they live.  Native American, Amazonian and Australian aboriginal spiritualities are often cited or appropriated by environmentalists to advance their cause.

Seth’s concept of mutually-cooperative and interconnected forces could explain the indigenous attachment to and reverence for the earth.  Speaking of the atoms and cells which form an organism or ocean or mountain, then break down and disperse to form other life forms, Seth reminds the reader that, “Reminiscent within each form is the consciousness of all the other combinations, all of the other alliances, and identity continually forms new creative endeavors and gestalts of relatedness.” (10, p. 483)

Because of this constant exchange of energy in the physical world, we carry chromosomally some form of the knowledge of our ancestors, according to Seth, noting that very old cultures were aware of this trait, accepting that the ancestors were an integral part of present-day life, contributing to the experience of the living.

"The animals were also accepted in this natural philosophy of selfhood as the individual plainly saw the living quality of consciousness.  The characteristics of the animals were understood to continue ‘life,’ adding their qualities to the experience of the self in a new way . . . The human body would be used in earth’s great husbandry as, from it, dying and decaying new forms would arise.  This was a give-and-take in which, for instance, a jungle neighborhood was truly home, and all was a portion of the self psychically, spiritually, and physically." (10, p. 536)

The word for body in activist Jeannette Armstrong’s native (American) Okanagan language translates “land-dreaming capacity,” In our class reading, Armstrong says, “Okanagans teach that the body is the Earth itself.  They say that our flesh, blood, and bones are Earth-body; in all cycles in which the Earth moves, so does our body.  We are everything that surrounds us, including the vast forces we only glimpse.”

The view of the Okanaga and that of Seth may go far beyond Shepard’s “permeable self” because not only are the physical elements recombined, establishing interconnection, but the cumulative experience of each life form also becomes an integral part of each new form.  This dynamic intermingling suggests that creation has never stopped, but that the world recreates itself anew in every moment.

    e.    Creation As Manifestation of Consciousness

b2ap3_thumbnail_astronomy-7.jpgSir Isaac Newton’s famous clockmaker analogy embedded in the western psyche an attitude that the earth is no more than a complex object, a vessel for the passion play between deity and humanity.  DiZerega discusses how the concept of a transcendent god, removed and separate from creation, desacralizes the world, devaluing it and setting the stage for environmental abuse.

Conversely, Seth constantly iterates the world, indeed the universe, as the ever-evolving creation of divine thought, a creation which is indivisible from its creator, and therefore panentheistically divine, itself. 

"The rhythms of your body and of your consciousness follow the patterns of your planet.  The planet itself is composed of atoms and molecules, each with their own kind of consciousness, however; and in the gestalt and cumulative cooperative organization of their nature the physical structure is formed – out of consciousness." (10, p. 348)

Stephen Aizenstat also asserts that, “ . . . all the phenomena in the world possess intrinsic unconscious characteristics – subjective inner natures,” and notes that the rhythms of nature lie beneath civilization’s religion, economies, culture and politics.  He posits that the work of depth psychology should extend Jung’s collective unconscious to the more inclusive “world unconscious.”

Ecopsychologists strive for recognition and embrace of our oneness with and impact on the environment.  Seth does not stop with recognition, but goes on to describe a fluid and dynamic relationship.

"There is little difference between the currents of blood that flow through your veins, and the wind current, except that the one seems to be within you and the other without.  Both are manifestations of the same interrelationship and motion, however.  Your planet has a body as much as you have.  Your blood follows certain prescribed patterns and so does the wind. . . As cells within your body influence it, so does your body affect the larger body of the earth.  The weather faithfully reflects the feelings of the individuals in any given local territory.  Overall weather patterns follow deeper inner rhythms of emotions." (10, p. 349)

IV.    Summary

b2ap3_thumbnail_wikicover.jpgFor many, the Seth writings have provided a rationale for intelligent and logical discussion of subjects most often viewed as irrational mysticism.  Seth’s splendid panorama of the universe as sentient and whole rejects the mechanistic thinking of our dominant culture in favor of a joyously alive and interactive existence.

"God knows itself through the flesh.  God may know itself through a million or a thousand million other worlds, as so may I – but because this world is, and because I am alive in it, it is more than appearance, more than a shackle to be thrown aside.  It is a privilege to be here, to look out with this unique focus, with these individual eyes . . . to see this corner of reality which I form through the miraculous connections of soul and flesh." (10, p. 696)

Those miraculous connections of soul and flesh are the stuff of which our collective healing will  come, as ecopsychology continues its vital work, saving Gaia by leading us to a loving reunion with our source.

by Holli S. Emore, 2005

Bibliography

1. Aizenstate, Stephen, “Jungian Psychology and the World Unconscious,” Ecopsychology, Sierra Club Books, 1995.
2. Armstrong, Jeannette, “Keepers of the Earth,” Ecopsychology, Sierra Club Books, 1995.
3. DiZerega, Gus, Pagans & Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience, Llewellyn Publications, 2005.
4. Lazslo, Ervin, Science and the Akashic Field, Inner Traditions, 2004.
5. Popescu, Petru, Amazon Beaming, Viking, 1991.
6. Pribram, K.H. (1966). Some dimensions of remembering: Steps toward a neuropsychological model of memory. In Gaito, J. (Ed.), Macromolecules and Behaviour. Academic Press. [Excerpt in Pribram, K.H. (Ed.) (1969), Brain and Behaviour 2 - Perception and Action. Harmondsworth: Penguin.]
7. Roberts, Jane, Seth Speaks, Amber-Allen Publishing, 1972, 1994.
8. Roberts, Jane, The Nature of Personal Reality, Amber-Allen Publishing, 1974, 1994.
9. Roberts, Jane, The Unknown Reality, Volume One, Amber-Allen Publishing, 1977, 1996.
10. Roberts, Jane, The Unknown Reality, Volume Two, Amber-Allen Publishing, 1979, 1996.
11. Roszak, Theodore, “Where Psyche Meets Gaia,” Ecopsychology, eds., Roszak, Gomes, and Kanner.  Sierra Club Books: 1995.
12. Shepard, Paul, “Nature and Madness,”  Ecopsychology, Sierra Club Books, 1995.
13. Talbot, Michael, The Holographic Universe, Harper Perennial, 1991.

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