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konarheim _ eggshells

I’ve decided to close the comments at Bishop in the Grove.

It’s something I’ve considered for some time, but in recent days it’s become clear that this would be a good decision to make for my own well being. Let me explain a bit of why this seems like the right choice.

I blog about very personal things. That’s been my modus operandi since day 1. My writing is a means of processing through my ideas and my experiences, and for a long time that processing has been wide open to community discussion and involvement. By and large I’ve cherished the dialogues that have taken place here on the blog. It’s been affirmed time and time again that my own spiritual exploration mirrors that of many in the Pagan, polytheist, and even Christian communities.

Not every comment has been supportive. Some have been condescending. Other chiding. What I’m coming to discover, though, is that it doesn’t really matter whether or not the comments are positive or negative, for every comment that exists as an addendum to the writing I’ve done on the blog changes the context of the subject I’m writing about. The feedback re-contextualizes the original writing, and sometimes I find myself feeling the need to be in dialogue with this new, altered perspective rather than the experience that brought me to write in the first place (which may explain why, as some of you have pointed out, it seems that I’m unnecessarily focussed on what other people might think about my spiritual or religious life).

I’m not beyond having my opinion challenged or my perspective changed. But after three years of blogging I’ve come to understand that there is value in having the content of the blog posts I write stand alone as pieces of writing. There are other forums for conversation and dialogue, like Facebook or Twitter, and many times my posts will receive ten, twenty, or even more comments on one of those services. I think it will be better for me to have the social interaction take place on a social network and to allow the blog to simply be a publishing platform.

I’m at the beginning of something new. I’m at the start of my OBOD studies and I’m finding myself simultaneously pulled toward some kind of Christian practice (which feels both foreign and completely familiar). These new endeavors are delicate. Fragile.

Or, maybe it’s that I feel delicate and fragile, and I’m not going to pretend otherwise anymore.

My spiritual growth (as with yours) need not — or rather, cannot — be done by others. It’s my own to sort through and figure out.

And I love doing it.

That’s reason enough to write.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to offer your words here. You’ve been an undeniable part of my journey.

 

Photo by konarheim

Since I began working through the Dedicant Path this second time, I’ve run across a number of people who are also starting their studies with ADF. They’re showing up in the comment section on Bishop In The Grove, on Facebook, and I’m wondering if there’s some deeper meaning behind it.

A friend of mine suggested that we should distrust the Volkswagen Bug syndrome. You know — the one where you buy a VW bug, and then all you see around you are VW bugs. They start popping up everywhere — in parking lots, next to you while driving on the freeway, trailing you home from your knitting class…

…that last one isn’t part of the lore. It just came to me.

You know what I’m talking about, though. You make some change to your life, and then you see that change reflected in the world around you.

If I was an adherent to a popular New Age theory like The Secret (which my husband calls “The Trick”), I might say that this is the Universe providing me what I asked for. Although, it would seem a bit more like the Universe on overdrive, wouldn’t it? How many VW bugs does one guy need?

Photo by Marty Desilets

This search for the source of the repeating VW — or the new wave of ADF Dedicants — may be fruitless. If it’s the Universe, there’s no good way to trace that. Same goes for the gods.

Right?

In the comment section of my last post people went to town explaining their relationship to Pagan and metaphysical stuff. It was eye-opening.

I’m reminded of one comment now.

“On the one hand, I fully agree with the idea that Pagans collect too much stuff….On the other hand, what if it’s what the gods demand of us?”

How do we know (he asks with no clear answer) if the gods are encouraging us to buy that fancy wand or that new “mysterious” crystal skull? How do we discern the meaning behind the multiplying VW’s and Druids?

Perhaps that word — discernment — is a key to unlocking some of this.

Photo by Jef Safi

A quick search for the meaning of discernment reveals this (the secondary definition):

(in Christian contexts) Perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual direction and understanding

  • – without providing for a time of healing and discernment, there will be no hope of living through this present moment without a shattering of our common life

Why, I wonder, is this labeled as “in Christian contexts”?

The Christian context for discernment assumes that you’re listing to the One True God, but if he isn’t your Mr. Right you’re going to be listening for something, or someone else.

Many a Pagan turns to divination for answers, and perhaps for them divination is the Pagan version of discernment. But, for those who divine as a way of listening to the gods (or the dead, or the spirits of place), isn’t there a teensy-weensy bit of discernment involved in that process? Don’t you have to suspend your judgement — or, at least your immediate, knee-jerk, influenced-by-your-cultural-conditioning-and-prejudices judgement in order to tap into the knowledge of something other than yourself — something non-human?

In my ADF studies, I’m doing a lot of book work. I’m also being called to do a lot of personal reflection. In reflection, an act of seeing inward, there is an auditory component. There is inner-listening.

I think “inner-listening” might be another way to think of discernment.

The question is, listening for what?

Your personal truth? The voice of Demeter? The advice of your dead great-grandmother?

Discernment is nuanced in the Christian world. It points to a personal relationship with deity, and when I’ve heard it used it was done so with seriousness and sensitivity. You don’t just hear God without freaking out a little, or without having to go through a process of trying to figure out — did I just hear God?

So what about discernment outside of the Christian context? I have this strong feeling (perhaps I’m discerning something) that there is a place for discernment in the religious lives of polytheists and Pagans.

So, what is that place?

What is the use of discernment in your life?

Pagans hate generalizations made about Pagans (he writes with a smirk).

That’s one generalization I feel confident in making.

In my last post I made some bold statements about the unwillingness of Pagans to accept the existence of the Christian god, knowing full well that those statements were not completely accurate (or, perhaps even close to accurate). I did so in order to get the conversation started, and I recognize that there are better ways to initiate dialogue. Many of my readers let me know as much. I’m grateful to those of you who spoke up, and I thank you for your willingness to call “bullshit.”

What I also failed to mention was that my post was informed by the current controversy around Dominionism, and its corresponding backlash from the Pagan community. If you aren’t already familiar with what’s got the Witches, Druids, and Asatru abuzz throughout the blogosphere, click here, here or here for some backstory.

All of my literary shortcomings aside, there were some interesting ideas written in response to my post, and I’d like to unpack a few of them now and gauge whether you are in agreement with them or not. Let’s see if if we can keep the dialogue going, shall we?

“It is impossible for an unreasonable person to be a reasonable person.”

Themon, an OBOD Bard and regular contributor to the comments at Bishop In The Grove, made this statement, saying that there is no way to have interfaith dialogue with an unreasonable person.

I asked my 16 year old step-kid if this was a true statement during a mind-breaking batch of geometry homework.

“Um… if it’s a given that the person is unreasonable, then yes — that’s true,” the wunderkind said with one lifted eyebrow and a shrug. Silly stepdads and their philosophical questions.

I wonder what we might consider to be “reasonable” when it comes to theology and religion. Some would argue that the whole subject is a bunch of hooey. Others, like the Dominionists, might argue that only their particular viewpoint is reasonable, and if you don’t believe them just ask their god… he’ll totally back them up.

Themon goes on to write,

“I think the only real prerequisite to interfaith dialogue is mutual respect. It’s reasonable to ask to be treated with respect. It’s reasonable for them to want to be treated with respect.”

This seems fair to me.

Mrs. B. Confesses

Mrs. B., the beloved blogger at Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom chimed in with a statement about the way that she perceives Deity:

“I work under the idea that all Gods are one God and that s/he comes to everyone in the guise that is best for that person at any given moment.  I can say that my Catholic husband feels much the same way.”

Fascinating idea, really. So relational. I find the though of divinity this fluid and accommodating, this concerned with where I am at the moment of contact, to be very comforting.

Mrs. B. isn’t the only one who’s struck a theological balance in an interfaith marriage.

Literata writes about her Catholic husband,

“My spouse’s way of understanding polytheism is to think of different deities as different metaphors for what is fundamentally the same thing. It’s rather like the idea of aspects – “All goddesses are one goddess,” in Dion Fortune’s words.”

I know that many Pagans hold a different view; that each God or Goddess possesses his or her own individual consciousness. To some, the idea of “aspects” betrays something true about the individuality of the Gods. Personally, I lean more in this direction, but I also am attracted to the idea of one god with many faces.

Perhaps somewhere in between these two polarities exists some common ground between Pagans and Christians.

Or…

“There is no midway point in beliefs between paganism and Christianity.”

Perhaps the strongest tone found in any of the comments came from Kenneth, an active contributor to the conversations at various Patheos blogs. If what he says is true, I’m not sure where that leaves me – a person who feels compelled to find a thread of continuity between the tradition of my youth (Episcopal Christianity) and the tradition that resonates with me now (Neo-Pagan Druidry).

Kenneth continues,

“We will not create a good space for dialogue by looking for commonality of beliefs. What we can do is to try to respect the depth and authenticity of each other’s beliefs.”

I appreciate this statement. Ultimately, I think that’s what I’m striving for in the dialogue created on this blog. I would like to see more Christians voicing in about the way that their perspective of Deity informs the conversations they have with Pagans. I’d like to hear how a polytheist conceives of “spiritual unity,” or if that phrase is too ambiguous or not resonant in any way. I’d like to hear from folks outside of these two categories, too. I’m interested — fascinated, really — by the spiritual experiences of human beings, and I’m seeking to synthesize what I learn from you with what I feel in my heart, in my head, in my body.

The intention I’ve set for Bishop In The Grove, a blog initially started to chart my course through the ADF Dedicant Path, is to create a space for dialogue. We each bring our unique voice to the conversation, and we are all both teacher and student for one another.

 

If any of these ideas have inspired you, or if you’d like to weigh in on what I’ve written here, please do so in the comment section. If you’d like to help me broaden the discussion even further, you can share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or by e-mailing it to a friend.