I have not lived an upright and respectable life AS a Pagan (although I was solitary and few knew) for most of the years of my life, accepting various accusations from others who were ill informed and misguided, at best, to wind up associated with a bunch of Pagans who appear to have no moral or ethical compass! I will, therefore, not allow my hard-won reputation or my example to others on the outside to be sullied or even destroyed by association with those who seem to believe that they can do anything they wish to do just because they call themselves Pagan.
I have held my life to a certain rational and ethical standard and I will not lower that standard just to associate with certain groups or so-called “friends”. If I were to do so then those on the outside (the non-Pagans) would have perfect justification for insinuating that I and all other Pagans lack moral and ethical foundation.
There are many in the Pagan universe who are obviously still seeking, and that is a good thing. In fact, I submit that a person should always continue to seek no matter how much they have already learned. However, there are many seekers who also claim to have already come to certain Knowledge and set themselves up as authorities who can teach others. I have found that some of these people simply have not fully developed their moral and/or ethical standards, not to mention the fact that they have really not yet arrived at the level of Knowledge that would allow them to be an effective teacher or leader.
This is exactly the same dilemma, by the way, that the Christian apostle, Paul, faced when he went about interacting with those of the new faith as an evangelist. This was especially acute with reference to the Korinthian church, whom he termed as still “babes” needing milk rather than meat. They thought of themselves as having already arrived at Knowledge, but he saw that they were in error. Because of the dichotomy between what they thought they were and what they truly were, their example to others both within and without the faith was poor. Frankly, I actually used to feel somewhat sorry for the Korinthian church, believing that Paul had been a bit too hard on them. But now, having experienced a similar situation among some groups of Pagans as well as some individual Pagans, I see more clearly what Paul had to face and I have actually developed a newly found respect for for what Paul was trying to do among them. No, Paul was not always right, but he was right in this.
In life, it really doesn’t get any easier to take a moral and ethical stand no matter how many times one has had to do so in the past, in the face of temptations presented by others. It is especially difficult to take such a stance in opposition to some whom one calls “friends” and whom one actually cares about. But one has to also remember that, for the sake of one’s own soul, one MUST take such a stand. The few who do not do so in any given group can cause the whole to degenerate. The longer those who infect the whole remain within any group, the more they tend to become representative of said group, especially to those on the outside looking in. So, if they leave said group, it is more likely than not a good thing rather than a bad thing. In the same way, those who uphold high standards must leave any group that does not adhere to those standards. Otherwise, one loses credibility.
Paul was trying to create some level of consistency within Christianity and that is something that, I submit, we Pagans also need – something that actually existed in ancient times, but something that we lack today. This idea that anyone’s experience is just as valid as that of anyone else is simply not rational. The idea that one thinks one can teach others based solely on one’s own personal experience does not really fly. Too many seem to want to assert themselves over good and consistent teaching. This is not a plea, as it might seem, for orthodoxy. It is rather a plea for consistency.
One of the first faults of Christianity was that they set certain people up as authorities so that it became understood that whatever they said, no matter how bizarre it might have been and no matter how it may have conflicted with the teaching of another, it was accepted as authoritative. And we are often presently engaging in the very same sin.
Many years ago when I was still a Christian, mentored by my local preacher, I would fill in at various churches in the region when asked by them to do so. I felt as if I was doing a service to my church and these local congregations. But, to my sadness, the church hierarchy at a certain point forbade me to continue doing any preaching in their churches until I received further college education. In the end I had little choice since they threatened to take my mentor’s credentials away from him if he continued to support my work. I really had little choice in the matter and any choice I might have made contrary to their decision would have been wrong.
Yes, I said it would have been wrong. I later came to understand, with proper education, that these authorities were RIGHT and I had been wrong. It was really that simple. It would have been unacceptable for them to have proceeded otherwise, accepting just any rogue preacher without proper training and education and the credentials to prove it spouting any sort of teaching to their congregations. They required consistency and they were right to require it.
Contrary to what some apparently believe, our deities also do not espouse inconsistency and/or chaos. Their precepts are well-known among us – things such as moderation, reason, logic, etc. We do well if we follow these precepts at all times and also teach others to do the same. To do otherwise is to oppose the deities and to invite chaos as our standard. There are standards that MUST be adhered to in any group or organization. Effective leadership requires adherence to said standards.
As an example, I have friends who created their own Asatru group, in part, because they were sickened by other said groups that seemed to espouse some level of racism. My friends could not accept this.
If any given group or organization relaxes or negates its standards for anyone then they have done a disservice to the whole. If I negate my personal standards for any reason in favor of anyone else then I have done a disservice to myself, not to mention that other person, for no favor was really done toward that person.
At this point I have made the decision to leave certain groups that I have found questionable at best. But I will still remain a part of United Hellenismos Association because it is striving toward some level of consistency with reasonable standards. But I will NOT be seen as espousing the types of things that some of these other groups apparently espouse. Nor will I contribute to it. I will not sacrifice my hard-won integrity for these groups.
See, my integrity has been hard-won, sometimes at the price of standing firmly against those who have accused me of deeds that they could not, and often did not even try to, prove in any way. I have already sacrificed much in so doing. Why would I do otherwise now? That would negate the value or all that I have already done and all that I have sacrificed in so doing all along the way. One can readily see that many politicians at this time are sacrificing their own very integrity to support one candidate or another. It is very sad to watch. This in and of itself demonstrates how much their own integrity means to them – not very much.
I cannot and will not condone, directly or tacitly, the calling up of “evil” forces for any purpose whatsoever. Not by way of Ouija boards or by any other means, as some apparently have recently done. Those who participate in such think that they should be allowed to do just anything they want and it should be OK with the gods and with nature. That is highly hubristic and the deities will take them down for this sin!
Ancient Greece and Roma were not quagmires of superstition so it is wrong for us to create organizations based on superstition and conjecture and claim that we are following a Greco-Roman path. Such is bringing into being something that would have been unacceptable to the ancients. So, I say, some of us need to do a bit of soul-searching asking ourselves if we are really about Greco-Roman ideals or not. If not, then why are we in such an organization in the first place? There is a standard that we should all adhere to. That is the ancient standard. One finds it in writings such as that of the philosophers as well as the oracular statements that are still extant. One can also find it in the myths and other writings as well as the histories. All of these must be properly read and interpreted so that they will be properly understood. Scholarly writings of modern times are helpful toward this goal.
So, one simply cannot claim to have been “god-taught” and expect to properly teach and lead others to proper understanding of things. How many discussions have I had with others about any given subject and their response was “well, that’s your interpretation” (or worse)? Yes, indeed, it IS my interpretation based on my education AND my many years of experience. But I dare not respond this way anymore for fear of giving someone a coronary! Some simply cannot let a given issue go, wishing to argue and debate almost into infinity! This ought not to be because I can promise that such was not very much tolerated in the schools of philosophy, etc., in the ancient world. But many people today wish to argue for argument’s sake.
So what says that my interpretation of things may be correct while someone else’s may be wrong? My education – much of which I have literally forgotten over the years but leaving me still with more Knowledge than most who propose to argue with me! If that sounds arrogant at least it does not descend to the level of interpretation based on few or no actual facts or evidence and/or argument based on emotion rather than reason and logic.
So, to the detractor or the argumentative person I say that I did not become a Pagan because of you and I will remain a Pagan despite you. And, yes, it IS my place to help guide those who are open to it because I am uniquely qualified to do so. But I will not argue or debate with anyone who will not utilize sound reason and logic on any subject. In fact, I prefer not to argue or debate at all based on my own personal experience, which shows me that it is unproductive and harmful to both parties. Instead, it is much better to reason together without engaging in argument or debate. In this way we CAN achieve some level of unity and espouse a reasonable, effective standard suitable to all.
Let me leave you with the fact that, when I was working to go back into the military late in life I had more than one reason for having considered it, but only one reason that ultimately mattered. That final reason was that I did not want to sit at home and comment about the war when I actually knew nothing about it. I wanted to take part in it so that I would really know what it had been all about. I didn’t want it to be said that I ran my mouth but was not willing to take part in it myself. THAT is integrity. We all need to strive for integrity in all that we say and do. To do otherwisde is an affront to the gods.