creative tension (part 1)

I’ve been putting this post off for a few weeks, but since this seems to be the week for introspective “state-of-the-journey” posts (at least in the corner of the pagan blogosphere that I inhabit), I figured I might as well finish it and join the crowd. :) Initially inspired to begin this post by Mam Adar’s October post about Neos Alexandria and Druidry, I am now inspired to finish by her (and everyone else’s) posts about where things stand today.

I’ve been fascinated with comparative religion since about the age of 10, when I first read Huston Smith’s “The Religions of Man”, and I continue to find most religions intensely interesting to learn about, even the ones that I will likely never practice or become involved with. This fascination has led me into and through a number of religious experiences and practices over the last few decades. While most of them have not “stuck” in the sense that I don’t practice them any more, all of them have shaped, in some fashion, the ways that I see and respond to the world.

I think of my religious worldview as lower-case pagan; I see such wonderful variety in the natural and spiritual worlds, and I know that our human perspective is so limited, that I can’t believe one religion, one dogma, has all the answers.

My primary religious expression is upper-case Pagan. I honor the Theoi, the spirit(s) of Nature and of my ancestors as I experience them – because I experience them – without worrying about the finer details of spiritual taxonomy that everybody seems to want to fight over, and that I frankly see as somewhat hubristic.

So far, pretty straightforward – as Carl McColman and others have said about their journeys both into and out of paganism, I trust my experience and it has led me here. Mostly. I still feel pagan, I still think pagan – both upper- and lower-case – but there is another Voice that still whispers in the back of my mind, another Power that  I don’t feel is through with me yet… Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Of all the traditions I have passed through, other than the one that I am actually practicing, Judaism is the one that had and has the most powerful hold on my mind and heart. I have a great affection for my Jewish community – the people, their worship, their music, their food, and yes, even their God – and after more than ten years, it’s clearly more than just infatuation. I know there are shadows – there are prayers in the liturgy, particularly at the High Holy Days, that make me cringe (even in Hebrew), and the current news out of Gaza breaks my heart – but I know that many of my Jewish friends also cringe at those prayers, and also weep to watch the news.

In 2005 we moved a good bit farther away from “my” synagogue; I stayed with the choir for a while, but as the time came for High Holy Day choir practices to kick off, I felt (for a number of reasons, most very personal) that I needed to make a choice once and for all between paganism and Judaism, and that this need –  in combination with both the longer commute to the synagogue and to work cutting into my family time – made continuing there untenable. So, regretfully, I quit the choir and (for the second time since we first started going there) stopped trying to go to services at all.

But, of course, it (or He) wouldn’t leave me alone.

[On to part 2]


11 thoughts on “creative tension (part 1)

  1. R.D. Hammond

    Having passed through the Southern Baptist (!) and Catholic churches on my way to paganism, I can relate. The depth I feel of and devotion I show to the Theoi comes largely from weeks upon weeks as a senior Server at our cathedral. Making sure everything runs smoothly during Catholic mass really taught me a deep respect for ritual.

    With that being said, among the many things that drove me away from Catholicism was a lack of feminine divine and a hardheaded insistence that “our way is the only way.” That’s inherent to most religions of Abraham, I’m afraid; it’s my opinion that “Thou shalt not have other Gods before me” is one of the biggest spiritual handicaps on the planet. (Athena is, as far as my supremely limited mortal knowledge goes, not going to be upset if I recognize and honor Bast as well.) As for the feminine divine, there’s the virgin Mary and… that’s about it. Not only that, but while the Jewish traditions state Yahweh is neutral (I think?), in Christian religions, it’s always He, Father, Lord.

    There is certainly something to be said for the community and traditions of Christianity and Judaism. There are even many spiritual innovations; I firmly believe religion was a much harsher place before Jesus took the world by storm, and that the current form of Paganism being practiced still has subtle imprints from the largely Christian culture base it arose from.

    Still, I know what I like, and the Theoi are home. :)

  2. executivepagan Post author

    weeks upon weeks as a senior Server at our cathedral

    I was a Lutheran preacher’s kid in a very old, established church in a big city (the original building was burned during Sherman’s march); I was an acolyte, crucifer, chorister, you name it. That’s where I get my enduring love of liturgy, I have no doubt.

    There were a lot of things that drove/led me away from Christianity, most of which I have discussed here at some point; my complete lack of faith was the biggest. I’m pretty sure that if Jesus is a god, that He just ignored me until I went away… which leads me to wonder if the Jews and Christians are actually worshiping the same god (and if so, why he seems willing to talk to me in synagogue but never in a church!).

    the Theoi are home


  3. R.D. Hammond

    I think it boils down to a universal truth: People are goofy when it comes to dogma. When you spend most of your life fumbling around in the dark, you have a tendency to think the first light source you find is the only one in the room.

    Anyway, I apologize for using your comments section as a chat room, but I really enjoy your blog and talking to you. There’s not many Hellenismos in my area that are available for discourse. :)

  4. executivepagan Post author

    Hi Yvonne,
    Yes, I have – I’ve been following Rabbi Hammer’s work with a great deal of interest. I also want to read Catherine Madsen’s book In Media Res: Liturgy for the Estranged, that Rachel recommended to me a while back; it sounds intriguing.

  5. executivepagan Post author

    That’s what the comment section is there for… I always appreciate your comments; please make more of them! :)

  6. mahud

    I have an affinity for things Jewish. My dad spent some time working as a caretaker at a conservative Jewish Community Centre and helped him set up the synagogue a couple of times. Sadly I never participated in any other the services those, although I would love to listen to the hymns.

  7. executivepagan Post author

    It’s surprising to me how many people in the pagan community seem to have some sort of connection, however tangential, to the Jewish world…

  8. mahud

    I think a lot of the rituals and observances share affinities with Pagan rituals.

    A video I watched as part of a Study on World Religions, documented a family of Yemani Jews performing the Passover Seder Meal. Fascinating stuff and very beautiful. It had quite an emotional affect on me.

    It was basically a ritual re-enactment where the family were transported back into sacred-time (and the threshold between death and life), participating in the historical passover through symbol and liturgy.

    I’m not a big lover of musicals, but one definite exception has to be Fiddler on the Roof :)

  9. mahud

    This slipped my mind, but have you ever read The Source by James A. Michener?

    Unfortunately I left my copy back in the UK so I’ll have to try and get hold of another one as I never finished reading it.

  10. executivepagan Post author

    Yes, I read The Source some years ago. It should be pretty readily available used, Michener was enormously popular in the 70s and millions of his books were printed here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s