Contemporary Paganism: The Nature of Things

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R. Eugene Laughlin
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Contemporary Paganism: The Nature of Things

Post#1 » Thu Jun 01, 2017 11:49 am

I count myself a Contemporary Pagan, a label I prefer to the more generic, Pagan, and the ill-connoted Neopagan. An ongoing problem is that just about the only things self-styled modern Pagans agree on is that there is no authority or authoritative body that all/most modern Pagans acknowledge, and no agreed upon definition of term, Pagan. Most modern academics focus on pre- and extra-Christian Europe as the primary wellspring of concepts and observances that go with the variants of the Pagan label, but we here know well enough that the community at large is far too diverse for simple academic categorization.

There are, none the less, two very common thematic approaches to 20th Century+ Paganism: Reconstructionist and Eclectic. Briefly, Reconstructionists tend to choose what might be understood as an indigenous spiritual orientation associated with a given ethnicity. Strict Reconstructionists make sincere efforts toward a faithful resurgence of a specific spiritual tradition. Eclectics, in contrast, tend to pick and choose from among the broad marketplace of ideas according to their individual sensibilities. Both approaches work against the development of a coherent large-scale Contemporary Pagan movement for different reasons.

For myself, I'm more interested in a different approach to modern Paganism, which doesn't have a name as far as I know, but has been part of the discussion all along. A good descriptive name for it might be a Derivational approach, based on something akin to a modern Natural Philosophy, rather than previous known or inferred spiritual traditions.

At the core of my thinking, Paganism is an Earth-based spiritual orientation. In contrast to modern New Agey ideas that are common in Ecclectic Paganism, I consider myself to be wholly of the Earth, as opposed to an extradimensional/terrestrial spirit temporarily inhabiting a physical body. That means that, for me, I don't adhere to the idea that matter and spirit are separate things, but rather are two complementary aspects of everything. The implications of that idea are profound, tend to raise ire among some, and could be discussed at length, but I'll just leave it that for the moment.

From a procedural perspective, I assume that the natural world encodes all of the metaphysical truths we need to develop ourselves to our utmost potential. That is, metaphysical truth is reflected in the patterns, dynamics, cycles, and rhythms of the natural world in which we live (that idea is what I believe makes my orientation inherently Pagan). Therefore, empirical examination of worldly things inherently leads to spiritual growth.

Here are a few observations following from that basic approach:

Phasic Nature. It is the nature of all things to come and go, to rise and fall, to wax and wane, to ascend and decline. Between the Early and Late phases, an Apical phase, however long or brief, marks the inevitable turn from ascension to declination.

Constructive Nature. The nature of a thing depends on the composition and nature of its base components. Anything may serve as a baser component for one or more other things.

Recombinant Nature. Base constituents tend to combine and recombine in the natural course of the coming and going of things.

Transformative Nature. The resolution of the final phase of a thing is dissolution, necessarily freeing its constituents to participate in any number of recombination events.

Cyclic Nature. Many aspects of natural phenomena are predictably recurrent.

Idiosyncratic Nature. Some aspects of natural phenomena are incidental, and therefore unexpected.

Binary Nature. Some things are necessarily known by what they are not.

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