Romanticism of Paganism: Diluted Wrath, Truncated Emotion
With apologies to those people I lump under the “Pagan” umbrella, yet consider themselves outside it.
It is interesting how some of these things come about, these ideas and posts. I have been ruminating on this idea and, though you must forgive me for writing this at such a late hour with little (and possibly no) proof-reading, I felt drawn to writing about this topic. I touched briefly on the idea of denying the darker aspects of the Gods earlier. I wanted to bring my voice to this subject.
Other writers have written about this, probably with a great deal more weight and clarity and elegance than I feel I am capable of mustering. What is my voice in comparison to them? In reading this please remember that I, in part, look at the world through an anthropological and socially scientific context. I try to surmise the why.
There exists within mainstream Paganism a marginalization of character, as I see it. I feel that it is sort of representative of the nipping of emotional characteristics that has taken place within the western world. This is most tellingly shown, I think, in the denial of the darker, harsher aspects of divinity. Aspects of the darker sides of the deities, and even the darker deities as a whole themselves, are watered down. Marketed and commodified, and forced to fit within a paradigm that exists to fulfill a fundamental need of the adherent. That need is the idea of control. We have to find something, hack it up, package it neatly, and market it to the widest audience possible.
Westerners (especially those in the American culture) are taught that we control our lives and our futures. That we’ve left the old world behind to start anew, being able to be anything, and be anybody. The American dream made manifest. After all. We’re the masters of the atom (never mind that pesky business over a meltdown in the power plant). We’ve the uncontrolled power to feed seven billion people (never mind that we live on a razor’s edge of climactic forces and can barely feed our populations). We’re told that we are all individual, that we are all rational adults. We dam great rivers, providing water and electricity for millions. We’ve conquered diseases, and are starting to break down the greatest scourges arrayed against us as a species.
When I see a Pagan adherent, regardless of tradition, hold to the notion that Gods are either:
1. Too ‘dark’ and aren’t to be worked with.
2. Misunderstood and aren’t really like that.
I see that individual walking in steps that are representative of the larger culture.
I don’t see this sanitization as an exclusive issue with Paganism. I see it as a problem with the larger Western paradigm. Westerners exude an egotistical arrogance that robs them of their humility. They’ve spent the past four hundred years enforcing their will on the world, molding it to their desires, and acting wholly ignorant of the ebbs and flows of the balance of nature. To paraphrase Sannion’s work from earlier today, they sanitize the image of the Gods because it isn’t politically correct to do otherwise. We have to have control. We have to be safe. Someone could get hurt otherwise. Whether emotionally, mentally, or physically. And that’s what this is, in a Pagan religious context. It is a lack of humility. And, probably, a sense of smug entitlement.
We see this all the time in Western society, in mundane circles and a-religious events. People aren’t allowed to live. In a rare foray into politics: Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City is trying to enforce a law that prevents restaurants and other merchants oversized sodas. In principle this is because a great percentage of New Yorkers are overweight and sugary, diabetes-causing drinks are thought to be the culprit. Because paying fourteen dollars a pack of cigarettes has stopped lung cancer.
Emotions are likewise sanitized. We’ve copious amounts of public displays of affection. But grief? Anger? And not even abject, maddened rage, but simple anger. How many people have been chastised for overreacting? For wallowing in their pity of some distraught emotional event? For focusing on their problems, when there are other people out there that have it so much worse? When was the last time that ecstasy, pure, unadulterated ecstasy, had not been looked at in the public forum as some kind of horrendous deviation of the norm?
We are becoming an emotionally stunted, egotistically-challenged culture. Our food is prepackaged for us, out of the sight and minds of anyone except for a very small percentage of those who seek to understand it. We enforce ridiculous codes of conduct and policies that are for “our benefit”. The culture is forced to drink a cocktail of equal parts indoctrination and maleficent elitism.
Yes, I agree when I say that I believe the incessant need to “Fluffify” (This is a word now) a deity by many mainstream 101-level Pagans (And no, I’m not being a Pagan hipster here) is an attempt by that person to assert their egotistical individuality. An attempt to exert this control over a realm that they are, utterly, without any form of control of.
And I feel that it makes them feel special. There is a sense of entitlement when it comes to some Pagan philosophies. That they can call upon these “energies” without fear of being chastised. Because they chose this tradition. Without fear of danger. But there’s a significant catch that so many of them do not seem to grasp.
For, you see, the Gods are immanent. They are universal. They are the universe, as much as the are individualistic entities. Ignoring these sometimes-dangerous qualities will do you no good. Just like asking a hurricane, politely, to stop because someone might get hurt will do you no good.
But can you really blame Pagans for following in the footsteps of this ever-saturating culture of potential worry and instant gratification? I suppose, on one hand, you can blame them. After all, it is a point of pride for many Pagans at their erudite education. But on the other hand it is so very hard to go against conventional cultural norms and mores. Even if these people are already going against the religious culture of their society.
No. I don’t blame them. But I do so pity them. I pity them because their experiences with the Gods and Wights and Spirits of the world is bland. Forced. Two dimensional in comparison to what it could be. It is sanitized and colorless.
At least, that is what it feels to me. I apologize for the length of this. Any disjointed thoughts and mistakes are due to the lateness of the hour.
Thanks for reading.