Those who neglect philosophy and spend their time on ordinary pursuits are like the Suitors who desired Penelope but slept with her maids.
I want to see the top ten list of Pagans furthering devotional practice and piety. social justice work while important is *not* in fact a substitute for religious devotion and/or ritual. I’ve seen three or four great lists about change agents and activist pagans…what about the devout ones?
Had a sit down with a Christian priest and his wife over the weekend and apparently this is an issue in the interfaith community and in much of Christianity: this elision of devotion, contemplation, and ritual in favor of social activism. Apples and oranges. We need both, but they’re not synonymous. It’s another case of bringing religion down to the lowest common denominator: taking the Gods out and putting in on human footing (for the record, I think social activism is what we should be doing as engaged human beings). Part of me was glad to see it’s not just polytheism and paganism that’s mixed up on this score and part of me was dismayed.
Today a colleague posted a quote by the Dalai Lama that went something along the lines of “The purpose of religion is about controlling yourself, not other people.” um, no. While I understand that this was very likely said to encourage religious respect and discourage intolerance, in point of fact the purpose of religion at least to a polytheist is NOT to control yourself. (why do you need religion to do that? have you no character? ancient polytheists when they struggled here had philosophy). The purpose of religion is to venerate the Gods, to pay Them homage, to engage in right relationship with Them. it’s a language and protocol to do that properly. I thought “even the Dalai Lama?” how sad.
I blame this partly on the myth of progress being seen as synonymous with lack of devotion and consequently with devotion being viewed as useless and/or superstition. I could write a whole book on this and again, while it’s rather comforting to know that mainstream religions are going through this fight too, it’s also very, very sad. the poison of modernity.
(By modernity, I do not mean technology. I mean a modernity defined by this victorian myth of progress, by a hierarchy of religions, by the consequences of colonization, by the scientific revolution (and the protestant reformation before that). I could draw a straight line if I had to. Part of what I study tangentially academically is the rise and fall of cult of saints, relics, ossuaries and the like and that’s led me to read quite a bit about the counter reformation and there was a huge shift in the 1800s where this idea of being “modern” came to symbolize all that was good and just in the world. Now how one defined modern…well, in part it had to do with getting rid of religious superstition and by superstition read anything that dealt with mysticism or devotion. we have been fucked from the moment we abandoned our ancestral polytheisms).