armchair theology

January 18, 2009

Allow me to indulge myself with the on-goings of my brain.

Over at the Druid Journal, I’m still involved in a lively debate about the nature of magic and the nature of gods. My stance is, and has been for sometime, that magic is not real, no matter how you slice it, and that the use of it is antithetical to pagan ideals. Let’s explore this a bit. Some maxims, if you please:

1) Paganism explores the old cultures of the past for wisdom in the now.
I think it is both viable and responsible to look at past civilizations and cultures to find ways of handling today’s problems. How did the Grecians handle war? What the did Romans do about tyrants? How did Norse communities manage child-rearing and education of the young? If there are answers to be found to these questions, why not use them. I think there is much good to be done through research.

That said, should we be trying to reconstruct the ways of old? No. This world has too many things of its own that would destroy the details of older cultures. Technology is probably the biggest one of these. The Romans were cool, but they could not stand up against our technology as they stood back then. To clarify, the idea that we should live like our “ancestors” simply leaves out the questions of how to use our world today, which is a core tenet of paganism as best I can tell without having that written down. It is a common thread among pagans nonetheless. If we look to absorb the culture of the old, will we be rejecting the world we live in? Can we all go back to living in the country viably? Is it responsible to abandon the cities for hopes of a better future? Why must we all start eating only organic food or become vegetarians? Did the old cultures really do that?

Take the Celts, a civilization rooted in small communities, spread across the French and English countrysides. I have no evidence to back this up, but they are lauded for being practical people, and would not likely shun new technologies or medicines of food productions.

The same can be said of religion. Often we deny “the faith of our fathers” yet we use the faith of our ancestors to make sense of a world that no longer works under the rules of the past civilizations. This is not unequivocally true, but plausible. Why look to old gods that were used to explain the world as it was, yet never find ways to explain the world as it is?

One comment

  1. Hehe, you said “some” maxims, implying more than one.

    I would have to say that this is where emerging Paganism would need to take a look at other living religions. How did Christianity of yore adapt? Incorporation. What is one of Islams tripping points? Lack of incorporation.

    I never understood reconstructionism as implicit in the need to replace technology, but incorporate traditions of yore into your daily life – something that a life filled with the bustle of technology may lack.

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