Thursday, 12 September 2013

You Can Lead a Horse to Water...

For some people, this will be a clarification of my Spiritual Food posts.  I know this will make others angry and offended and that is partly my intent.  If you do happen to find yourself getting angry at what I say, ask yourself why it makes you angry?  Did it touch a nerve?  Did I strike too close to home? Did I challenge your perceptions of how it works or who you are?  Or am I genuinely wrong?

There’s a thing that happens in the Pagan Community.  Actually, there are a couple that I am going to talk about here, but we’ll start with the one that has inspired this post.  Spiritual Trends.  Because of the isolated nature of New Zealand Paganism, we don’t tend to see it often here, but with social media sites, I see it happening overseas.  For a while it was Goetia.  Now it appears to be the African Tribal Religions. 

There is one young woman that frequents several groups and I’ve seen this meme used to describe her (and it fits).  She has also inspired the coining of a term – the Google Pagan.  She flits from one path to another studying and learning (Gotta catch ‘em all!).  She can often be a good indicator of which way the trendy crowd is heading.

This is apparently a reason to point and laugh.

At no time does she put herself out there as an expert in any of these paths or traditions.  If someone says something that doesn’t make sense to her, she asks the right people if it’s correct or to clarify it for her.  Sometimes she will jump on the bandwagon and join in the general ridicule or running down of someone ‘exposed’ as a ‘fraud’ but I put that down to her youth and mob mentality.  Let’s face it, most of us get caught up in that kind of thing at some point.

For this and for the fact that she is young, I applaud her, even if she does grate on my nerves sometimes.  She is making an effort to learn what Spiritual Path best suits her before she settles in and commits to one.  I think that’s a thing worthy of respect.

Now with the trends that come and go, some of it may be the same thing and some of it may be fads and fashion.  Superficially spiritual people will always be around.  It’s not new and I can’t see it ever going away.  Some will find a deep and true connection with that stuff they only found because everyone is into it right now, and some will move on to the next one.

While I understand some of the frustration that the older, more serious practitioners feel, I don’t understand all the moaning and at times outright hostility that they express.  I will have a chuckle at the girl who chose her Deities based on how expensive their altar statues were (seriously, she did and then set herself up as a teacher).  I hear someone refer to Bast as Bastet and it sets my teeth on edge – not everyone is aware of Budge’s mistakes – but I don’t get angry about it.  I don’t see a need to denounce these people as fakes or post angry status updates.

So someone isn’t following your path in the right way, how does that affect you exactly?  You don’t accept it when they express their disapproval of what you do, why should your disapproval of their practices matter?  Does it diminish your own ability to do your thing?  Does it reduce popular opinion of your path?  If so, why does that matter to you?  Are the Gods somehow limited by it?  Is there not enough Deity to go around? Why do you behave as if it’s a threat?

Perhaps it may be that the credibility of your path is threatened?  Why does this matter?  Who is your spirituality for?  Do the opinions of the uneducated masses make that much of a difference to you?  If so, why?  Are you doing your thing for you or for an audience?  Is it to make money off those who haven’t achieved your own lofty heights? 

Are you perhaps offended on your Gods’ behalf?  Do you not think that the Gods are more than capable of taking care of Themselves?  Do you think it’s wise to presume to speak for the Gods?

So anyway, this leads to the next thing that is also part of this thing.  Gurus.  Plastic Tent Shamans.  Psychics with access to Special Secret Angels.  People who claim to be able to teach you to become A Living God.  Or have the secret information to help you Win The Jackpot. Or have The Secret Wisdom Passed Down in Secret For Hundreds Of Years that only special people can learn from them, if they can keep the secret. Or even have The Secret that will totally remake your life.  All for a fee of course.

These people are a problem.  Most are exploiting the gullible.  Some may believe the stuff they teach but I don’t really see that happening.  I see fakes and frauds with their get-rich-quick schemes.

There is obviously a call for it, there are clearly folks in society who fall for this kind of thing or it wouldn’t still be happening.  It’s like the Nigerian money scams, the email lotteries and the cryptic facebook statuses to raise awareness for whatever the cause is this time.  If people didn’t fall for it, they wouldn’t keep doing it.

These people cash in on the latest trend in Spirituality and try to convince you that they can provide you with all you need to achieve perfect happiness, wealth and pull with the opposite sex, with the added bonus of calling it something magical (or majyqual or whatever the latest silly spelling is) or spiritual.

What can you do?  You can warn people, but the ones who are going to take notice are unlikely to be the people who get sucked in.  You can educate, but same again – the ones who are genuinely interested in the education aren’t likely to fall for the hype anyway.

One of these was raised on a group I’m in.  Folks were watching the (2 hour!!) youtube clip of his presentation and pointing out the flaws, inconsistencies and downright idiocies of his teachings.  Mostly (because this is an intelligent group) people were having a laugh at it and taking the piss.  But a few others were getting really worked up about it.  When I raised the points above I heard stories of someone’s uncle who’s been rescued from two cults already and is currently missing and assumed to be in the clutches of yet another nutjob cult.

This was supposed to make me shut up, but I thought it illustrated my point.  This uncle is clearly searching for the ultimate fix, is gullible enough to believe all the hype and rescuing him is not going to make the slightest lick of difference to him – he’s proven that repeatedly.

Does that mean we should sit back and do nothing?  No, I’m not saying that at all.  But you can’t make people see reason, no matter how hard you try.  You can point out the fallacies, you can point out the dangers and warning signs but as with anything in life, the ultimate decision is with the individual.  To a particularly paranoid ‘guru’, this will be fuel.  This illustrates their points about the hidden elite subculture that is trying to keep you all down *coughcoughDavidIckecough*.  People seem to love feeling persecuted in this way.  “It’s all a conspiracy, they’re jealous, they’ll lose their power if everyone can do it so they’re trying to stop me sharing it all with you”.

Seriously though, what can we do?  I’m over all the pointless anger and ineffectual posturing about this kind of thing.  I don’t see that it achieves anything useful.  I’m all for a bit of natural selection but to know something is wrong and to do nothing makes you just as responsible.

Can anyone help?  I’m fresh out of ideas on this one.

I was going to post links to some of these ‘gurus’ websites, but realise it would give them increased traffic and that would be counterproductive.


  1. "So someone isn’t following your path in the right way, how does that affect you exactly? "

    While not attempting to detract from your excellent points... I will address this detail.

    It affects me in that it creates support for misinformation.
    Enough people supporting an idea creates a human tribal value. Whether that is a god, a thoughtform, apartheid, capitalism, or that somehow visible thong underwear is cool (it's not, fez's are cool).

    It also builds to a group identity, and people draw strength and combine around that identity. Then there become a need for group identity, culture (yes wipe it off yer boots before you enter). These cultures grow, become entrenched, become almost Jungian identity components. No longer do you have a person, a divine spirit. You have an identity, an 'I am I', a member of a group, who must identify with the group. Taking on the cloak and mask of that group. And before you know it there aren't people and humans, there's This group and That group (otherwise know as Us and Them). And heavens forbid if they should start stealing, copying or learning OUR STUFF (tm).

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    2. Excellent point.


      I look at, for example, the African Tribal Religions as they're currently known. Vodou, Santeria, Umbanda and all the other myriad variations. They have come from a blend of African Tribal tradition and Catholicism.

      To both "parents" of these traditions - the original tribal traditions and Catholicism - they'll be doing it wrong, but these (modern) traditions are meaningful and have their own validity to their followers.

      Does it create misinformation according to the Catholics? Absolutely, but is it necessarily harmful or detract from their own practices? Only to those who take the "everyone who isn't one of us is devil worshipping" stance.

      I don't think it's too much of a problem honestly. I don't have issues with new traditions forming. They'll make mistakes, that's only natural, but eventually, hopefully, something useful can and will grow from that.

      The problem is how do you define 'misinformation'. Truth is subjective. To the Jehovah's Witnesses who came door-knocking recently, the world has only existed for 6300 (and something) years. They can prove this, it's all in the Bible. Anyone who says it's been around for longer is misinformed and wrong - according to their Truth.

      According to most of Christianity (not trying to single it out but it gives the best examples) the only way is through Jesus. Divination is the work of the Devil and will lead you directly to Hell.

      We know these things not to be true. For us.

    3. Um, btw - fezs are cool - but not as cool as bowties ;)

  2. "So someone isn’t following your path in the right way, how does that affect you exactly?"

    Doesn't the fact that it's YOUR path mean that someone else can't follow it the 'right way' anyway? But I agree - who does it hurt?

    As for the cults - I've wondered what it would be like to be in a cult. No decision making, no responsibility outside of your little part of the community. Blind faith that someone else knows best :P Then I remember that I'm way too opinionated and rational and well sane to be able to exist that way. Oh yes it might be interesting for a weekend away, but anything more than that and I'd be clawing for a nice dose of reality.