Friday, May 31, 2013

Hold Dear and Illuminate!

There are 3 candles that illumine every darkness:
truth, nature and knowledge.
~ ancient Irish triad

What is light? Many of us think simple concepts such as "light" so mundane that no one need really to look it up in a dictionary. To suggest anyone do just that may be the most insulting request a person could imagine, but, I did it. (Me, and my damnable literalities, again!)

Light [n]: 1.a) Something that makes vision possible; b) the sensation aroused by simulation of visual receptors: brightness. 2. Daylight; dawn. 3. A source of light as: a) celestial body, b). candle. 4. archaic - sight. 5.a) Spiritual illumination b) inner light c) enlightenment d) truth. 6. A particular aspect or appearance presented to view. 7. A particular illumination. 8. Something that enlightens or informs 10. (pl) A set of principles, standards, or opinions. [verb] to ignite; animate - to start something to burn. [adj] trivial, scant, gentle, faint, frivolous, changeable, cheerful. [Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 8th edition]
Rev. Kinrei Bassis stated in the May-June 1985 Journal of Shasta Abbey "There is a widespread spiritual delusion which can be described as 'Love and Light.' It can be found throughout history and has been, at times, a problem for most religions."
The problem, my dears, is context (the parts of a verbal interchange of ideas that surround a word or passage and can [not does] throw light on its meaning). Many people can use facts to strengthen an argument. Notwithstanding, some arguments have strong possibilities, but, possibilities are not concrete fact. Case in point, "Ancient Aliens", the most widely known program whose arguments rely heavily on context and operative words (e.g. can, may, possible, perhaps) to sway general opinion, and force a modernist standard of consideration for archaeological relics (ref "Light" definition #10).
In the case of an unmonitored religion such as Wicca (or other pagan faiths), spiritual truths are subjective and purely contextual, even though they can be shared (as in Shared Personal Gnosis or SPG). Do these shared spiritual points of view constitute an exact, or concrete truth? No. They simply provide a personal truth - a personal light (ref "Light" definition #5, 6 and 7). Though historical fact may be factored into certain religious practices, they do not carry the burden of personal belief inasmuch as they justify it (ref "Light" definition #1a and possibly as a verb).

Rev. Bassis continued to state: "The mistake of 'Love and Light' can vary from being simply an error in emphasis within the teaching, to propounding and practicing extreme forms of delusion. Every teacher uses different expressions, and one cannot judge their validity on a superficial glance at the terms."
So, then, what is love?
As defined in Webster's, Love [n]: 1.a)1. a strong affection for another rising out of kinship or personal ties. 1.a)2. attraction based on sexual desire. 1.a)3. affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests. 2. warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion. 3. The object of attachment, devotion, or admiration. 4. The unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another. 5. A god or personification of love. 6. an amorous episode: love affair. 7. the sexual embrace. [verb] to hold dear: cherish; to feel a over's passion, devotion or tenderness for: caress; fondle amorously, to copulate with; to thrive in.

If you accept the principle that all of humanity are one, big, interrelated family - then definition #1.a)1. works for the "Love and Light" line. However, the remaining definitions are farthest from anything any of us feels for a person, as soon as they are met. Merrily met, or not, the deep-rooted affection OR admiration OR unselfish loyalty that goes along with "love" simply is not there.

There are 3 sparks that kindle love:
the face, the demeanor, and the way of speaking.
~ ancient Irish triad

A god or personification of love (#5) can be reasonably inserted into the context of "Love" where it is concerned, but, not every individual will immediately comprehend "love" as "god(dess)" without being reminded, first. Perhaps, the "love" is more of a command - a verb, to be more precise.
However, love is just an emotion. Emotions ebb and flow like the sea - always moving, always changing; mutable. Why is this emotion present as a standard, a basis, if it is always in flux?

"Hold Dear" and "Illuminate"

According to Raymond Buckland, he was given an outline describing the sort of high ideals of love pagan leaders should strive for. It can be found on page 54, and has been simply called "The love of the priest and priestess". In these lines, there is stress on the thought that no matter what despicable things you do to your HP/S, their love for you is unchanged; this is supposed to be that "perfect love" taught about in Wicca and implied in half of the words to "love and light".
It is extremely difficult to accept the role as leader when you are incapable of understanding what is expected of you in this role. You are expected to be unwavering and disciplined in your faith and you are expected to uphold the highest standard of "love" as defined in the oldest recorded definition of it:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (...Like it, or not, this is the context behind "perfect love" and the love of the priest and priestess.)
Yet, just because love is given out, doesn't mean it is necessarily reciprocated. If you adhere to "love and light", but are incapable of verbal or physical displays of love or enlightenment, are you "breaking rede"? Not at all. In fact, you're probably upholding it by NOT giving love; by NOT sharing your light with others. Because in doing these things, you are introducing an aspect of willful manipulation into your first meeting, and, manipulating others and their wills is against the Rede. You want to instigate an acquaintance, instead, based off of a mutual respect and character tolerance, first. The "love and light" will come much later, if at all. In consideration for all of this, and in my honest opinion, "Love and Light" should only be dished out by HP/S to their adherents.
However, "Love and Light" is a general expression that define the practitioners of Wicca (and, other paganisms) as individuals - each person having their own light (truth) and love (thing they hold dear to themselves). So, the next time someone greets or leaves you by saying "Love and Light", treat it as if they are really asking you two important questions: 

Are you capable of nurturing a mutual affection
based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests?
AND, are you spiritually illuminated?

[Ikinde Skreja Ominnsaer; May 2013 - Conversations from the Porch]

Monday, May 20, 2013

The UPG Delusion

December 2012 issue of Smithsonian Magazine includes an interview with Dr. Oliver Sacks, author of Awakenings, a biographical account of his experiments with patients in disease-induced vegetative states (later made into a movie with Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams). As impressive as Dr. Sacks’ works are, both literary and medical, it is his recent work, Hallucinations, and the interview about it that caught my attention. So, I reference my good ole Webster’s Dictionary – just to verify some definitions, because my brain is being bombarded by contemplations typical to my unique brand of offensive “left field” banter.

Hallucinate: to affect with visions.

UPG: (Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis) used to identify information gained thru meditation, “intense” flashes of intuition, visions and other spiritual experiences.

Gnosis: esoteric knowledge of a spiritual truth.

 According to Carl Jung, the human psyche desires original experience and not assumptions, to base its trust in. Unfortunately, humans make a habit of accepting assumptions from various religions and sciences in order to justify his personal gnosis. When anyone speaks of religion and science, generally, they’ve already incorporated aspects of their own gnosis into their discussion, albeit in some cases, a very limited amount; and, the more generalized the topic, the more personal gnosis is included.

Dr. Sacks, however, believes that every choice we make is predetermined by the neurophysiology of the human brain; “free will” is only an illusion. In other words, the programmed neurophysiology of homo-sapiens throughout history has created a sort of “genetic memory” which should not be confused for immediate cognizance.

UPG is one of the most acceptable excuses for an inconsistent religious practice existing in reconstructionist paganism, today. As mentioned earlier, it heavily relies on alternative neurological responses to personal spiritual experience (or, “visions” and “intuition”). Dr. Sacks writes:

“In general, people are afraid to acknowledge ‘hallucinations’ because
they immediately see them as a sign of something awful happening to the brain.”

Now, reread his statement replacing the word “hallucinations” with “visions”. Although, the implication of “visions” is not as severe, the physical process of “hallucinating” is still the same. At the point where a person undergoes a spiritual experience that leads to the formation of an UPG they have already begun to put it through the process Jung mentions (above).

Jung goes on to explain that these processes reflect attitudes and concerns within a person’s personal life, whereby if he projects his own psychology into it (which, apparently he does; above) the experience has been rendered false by way of personal bias. It can no longer be presented to any public with objectivity; there is only the pretense of truth and a deceptive fiction. Dr. Sacks mentions that “our better natures are constantly threatened by the bad things” [in our lives].

Sacks was part of the LSD research of the 60’s, and has no desire to revisit synthetic hallucinations, though he researches the neuroscience of the hallucinatory experience. He expresses no need for metaphysical, psychological experiences beyond the “daily clinical experience”. Considering his view on “free will”, it is understandable.

 “If you would know a mystic,
do not confine your search to monasteries and temples.” –Ralph M. Lewis

The point being that everyday experience can fill those voids in reconstructionist religions, where most practitioners seem to insist there is a deeper spiritual process that must be discovered by way of spiritual vision [hallucination]. But, if humans by genetics are cognizantly biased by “bad stuff”, “neurons” and “personal gnosis(es)” why should UPG be such a controversial topic? Whatever we do to fill those voids is just a genetic memory we all should have an inclination toward – whether we hallucinate it, or not.

According to Dr. Oliver Sacks, there are mysteries of religious experience. Ecstatic states play an important role in “religious presence hallucinations” (whether said states are “ecstatic” or not is still debatable, such as found in cases of epilepsy sufferers). In point of fact, the Hallucinations book is suffused with a sense of contradiction – hallucinations [visions] as horrible afflictions AND as wondrous gifts. An observation lamented by many visionaries, I’m quite sure.
Carl Jung summarizes best by saying various forms of religious knowledge cease to flow from within a person [via meditation, intense intuitive flashes, visions], they are inspired from without – those “daily clinical experiences”, instead. It appears to be a means by which recons subdue their humanist religious inclination (the genetic memory) of being spiritual creatures, in favor of inflating the ego by justifying highly subjective hallucinatory experiences (visions) as obscure, yet, valid truths. In other words, UPG is nothing more than delusion.

[Ikinde Skreja Ominnsaer, May 2013]


The Portable Jung –“The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man”, pages 461 through 466.

Smithsonian Magazine (Dec. 2012); “The Gonzo Neurologist”.

The CR FAQ, multiple authors.

Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (series 8)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Pagan Media Dilemma

We are stuck in the middle of a digital revolution, and it is breeding ignorance at an epidemic rate! Where one may see this behind topics such as the "true" origin of the American Civil War, it is far less obvious in subjects hitting more closely to home, like, what is relevant to us as pagans.
Heather Greene, of The Wild Hunt, released her article "What is Pagan Media" and a whirlwind of inquisition began: How do you know where to put your trust?  By what criteria do you have to judge the writer or the news site? How do you know if something is straight news or merely commentary?  What are the credentials of the writer?  Does the site have an agenda? (the queries go on & on.)
If there was a Pagan News Channel, who would you want to see as anchor?
In spite of many efforts by pagans, worldwide, to keep abreast of news and information pivotal to polytheists, there has never been a pagan-specific collective warranting an official title of "media" or "media sources" in/for paganism. Though efforts by websites such as The Wild Hunt, Penton Independent Pagan Media, and Pagan Newswire Collective, have presented we poor fools with a professional-grade standard of "media sources", none of them seem to personally regard themselves as sources of pagan media, worldwide. They strive to deliver pagan interest news stories to vast constituencies, and still have, yet, to realize their own importance -as- pagan media. Why?
Pagans are without the "inside scoop" of what IS newsworthy, nor have they the ability to root out "internet intellectuals" offering well-written opinion on vague subjects using a recent news bulletin as responsible journalism for the here-and-now. Let's face it, pagan (or, not) - people seek the  path of least resistance. Unfortunately, we have thwarted ourselves by taking quite an advantage of the modern digital revolution.
Although not strictly pagan, yet, concerned for the "digital-age ignorance" we humans currently live in, Lewis Lapham points out that our idyllic internet informational exchange seems to be erasing all traces of humanity's thousands of years' worth of cognitive cultural development and replacing it with sensationalized dribble. He 'laments Google' for its unbiased and effective means of piling tons and tons of nonsensical shit atop sites of true worth and value. Only the sites with the most traffic get top billing in a search engine, whether the information on that site is authentic, or not.
Pagan news stories have fallen to the uneducated, unpoliced and irresponsible "backyard pagan reporter", or, the top-notch professional ignoramus that either takes up some nameless pagan tradition for an hour's worth of intel, or, finds the most gaudily-garbed guru in the neighborhood. Facebook doesn't make it any easier, either. Nor, does it pose a hindrance - it is a double-edged sword.
So, when doing a search for pagan-worthy news (which is considered "shit" or "sensational" by mainstream media, anyhow) what, precisely, is the medium you will find it on? Where are the standards of journalistic integrity and informational purity going to come from, if the mainstream media has already written the "news" (remember: shit, or, sensationalism?) being gathered by sites pagans deem ethical? Until a vilified means of "pagan journalists" is standardized, and they collaborate to provide a serious and professional "pagan media", we will still rely on the websites that present us with pagan news.
In certain (if not a majority of) cases, it is probably best to surmise that Heather's own query may be the first eye-opener The Wild Hunt has had: "In which Pagan news sources are you instilling your trust?  Where and how do you get your news?
So, Heather, my rebuttal is: When will The Wild Hunt realize its worth -to- pagan media and what standards should Wild Hunt "bloggers" be held to in order to qualify them as "pagan media journalists"? (Because, like, TWH is already at the top of most pagans' lists, anyway; it needs to be taken ALL the way.)
[Ikinde Skreja Ominnsaer; 5/2013CFTP]