Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The danger of living in the past

For many or perhaps the majority of Pagans living in the developed world, our heritage and history remains an important influence on our contemporary lives. However, in some cases we may perhaps be guilty of viewing the past through rose tinted glasses.

Let me explain, I am a twenty-first century Pagan. I am I hope inspired by the past but I do not want to live in it. I like having a microwave oven and I do not want to live in a wattle hut, I would miss the convenience of a flushing toilet.

We need to recognise that change, although not always for the better is part of life. We as Contemporary Pagans know full well that our practice is not the same as that of our ancestors but that does not actually matter. By being inspired by our past we can develop new ways of expressing ourselves.

If we attempt to reconstruct an exact historical practice, instead of creating a living breathing spirituality. We run the risk of creating a museum piece, a spirituality and a spiritual practice that is in danger of stagnating.

There is a tendency in some circles to focus on writings of the past, as fixed and beyond further interpretation. Just because Moses, Jesus, Mohamed, Crowley, Gardner or Cochrane said or wrote something, does not automatically mean it was right then or necessarily appropriate now. To accept without question risks this stagnation.

Times change and while being inspired by the past, we should not give up our ability to think for ourselves. I do not seek to recreate a spirituality, I am already living one.

First published 2008

1 comment:

  1. Very astute! It's very likely that most of what we think was written by a known personality such as Moses was in fact written by some unknown amateur who needed more credibility so he or she took the name "Moses". Actually even "Moses" was an error in the past when we changed his name to sound less Egyptian. Like when they changed Yeshua to Jeezus. Spirituality is consistent throughout time, I think, but the trappings and rituals can evolve around local events and symbol sets. I use a lighter to light the incense on my altar to the Great Mother, but if it's a Holy Day, like solstice, I would use something like a fire starter to light a small brazier and then transfer the flame via a twig. This allows me to reflect on the number of years since we developed the skill of creating and moving fire. I can think about the frail flame and how I need to protect it. Then you can reflect on how like a flame we all are and how the Mother protects us, transferring our own "light" from body to body thru the years. These thoughts are undoubtedly similar to those of some pagan in the 7th century preparing the fire for solstice and the rituals and celebrations which accompany it. I'm an old fashioned boy, and my faith is evolved but not away from the past - just along the lines of my own evolution thru multiple lives an many long years. Things which are alive indicate this by changing throughout time.