Guide lines, protocols, ground rules, or indicative ideological injunctions on talking about stuff, and things

Posted: January 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

It is a new secular calendric year, folks, and in 2014 I’d (perhaps very naively)  love to see a world in which nobody gets threatened with sexual assault or murder or “magical curses” in public comments or private messages for sharing their views on the internet, where nobody is accused of being “a nutter” (as Johnny Humanist loves to grind out at people expressing real religious experiences and ideas), where legitimately oppressed groups (such as those operating in some spectrum of psychiatric diagnosis or treatment) do not find clinical words meant to describe specific things  co-opted by ignorant masses to destructively characterize one’s “opposition”.

I would love to see a world where accusations of fundamentalism or Nazism or radical cult-leader-ism or psychosis and so on were handled only by those actually qualified to even approach those terms, after rigorous training in their use (or at least after watching an hour-long documentary on accurate depictions of those things in the really-real world of mass-suicide and world wars and shit). Because words and things? They do break bones and they do hurt, even more impressively and oppressively than sticks and stones. Because sticks can be burned and stones can be used to build a fortifying wall, or carved into spearpoints to plunge through the throats of the ignorant fuck hordes hurling them with wanton lust-for-strife in their gleaming little eyes. Words spoken are invisible and cannot be shoveled aside like sleeted snowfall, and words written can hang heavily like a guillotine gavel of judgment over those they’re lobbed at (or those who just got caught in the cross-fire or worse are dragged into a conflict just to be used as an illustration point to degrade the opposition…!) for months or years or decades or all of time, the weight of words lingers.

Wouldn’t it be super special if we used all of our innovative and advanced technology, in this era of telecommunication and electronically informed digital masturbatory revelry, of limitless opportunities for education and learning, wherein the sum-total of all human knowledge ever can potentially sit in our back-pocket powered by a small flat circle of the third element in our universe, for actually engaging like mature adults capable of self-control, self-awareness, self-reflection and fucking self-respect? Having teeth in your writing is fine, but don’t pretend you’re something you’re not. If you’re going to seek conflict, don’t try to hide behind ideas put together by somebody else: just be honest with yourself that you have a moistening desire to fuck somebody’s shit up on the internet, and then use the appropriate means to do so. And don’t pretend to be high-and-mighty about that shit, while you’re parading through somebody else’s back yard or Temple space setting shit on fire with torches you didn’t even have the skill to assemble or light yourself, so you stole it from an actual ideological movement that was fighting an actual battle worth brandishing torches for. Stop using psychology and education and social rights movements and victim’s rights language as your personal fucking surplus shopping station for arming yourself against those you really should just be calling a fucking asshole whose very existence makes you feel uncomfortable and be the fuck done with it.

What would the internet look like if we all followed some basic guidelines of how to not be a fucking douchmuffin to one another whose ideas might be counter to our own?

Of, if the social permission to continue being a douchemuffin is the only reason you pay your broadband bill every month, maybe you can do so in a way that is slightly less destructive to very important things, like mental health groups, religiously devoted theological movements, racial groups, and so forth? If you really need to be five years old and playing tug-of-war with a little matching shovel-and-pail set that you really think should just be yours-yours-yours, at least have the confidence of self to say what you really mean, which is “fuck you, individual who disagrees with my need to always feel comfortable and permitted to be as lazy and/or static as I’d like to be”, or whatever the fuck the actual function is. Stop stealing words like “Nazi” or “fundamentalist” from those who sort of still need those words to mean something in reference to the actual hate-groups and dangerous religious movements that are very much real in our world, and definitely stop picking language which should be reserved (with respect and compassion) to describe hardships of the psychiatric, medical, developmental or social-class related variety, because those are fucking human beings that you are dehumanizing in order to get your rocks off calling some infamous online blogger a “dirty word”.

Because here’s the thing: there are plenty of dirty words out there and even fields of science that study their use. But for somebody — especially somebody trying to somehow have a moral-or-intellectual high-ground, which I can only assume is the case when throwing around words like “Nazi” and “delusional” — to use words and terms like “fundamentalist” or “delusional” or “clinically unstable” or “schizophrenic” to describe authors or ideologies that they do not like, is an exercise in dehumanization and degradation of human dignity and social civility for no reason other than calling somebody a “fucking dickwad”. Just fucking call them a dickwad, you dumb fuck.

If everyone said what they meant — or just shut the fuck up — instead of trying to co-opt language from another field altogether in order to piggy-back the social cred that word carries from its actual “home field”, we’d probably all be swearing a lot more and so forth. And that might suck. Or be awesome. But it probably would lead to a whole lot less would-be bloggers and so-called “voices” of our various communities getting read, because today it seems like most anyone can get a blog just by deciding to hate on a group and call them “fundies”.

Guidelines, people. Grow up or be honest with your infantile impulse and just call us fucks, and be done with it. Don’t try to pretend that you’re coming from a place of reasoned or ethically informed process and platform; you’re not.

To un-generalize this a little bit:

There are people out there who are experiencing the gods in a direct way, experiencing Their agency, experiencing Their divine blessings or infernal ire in very real and immediate and consequential fashions. They are having experiences, internally and externally, which are not explainable or helpfully contextualizable in any other platform of theory or practice, anywhere, no matter how much you love to jerk-off to Jung or rub up on a fucking tree, and there are branches of polytheistic authorship and professional, clergical development which have stepped forward to begin giving voice to these experiences. We are not “the voice”, and we are not even “one voice”, and in many instances “we” are not even a “we” but a “he and she and e and them”. We don’t all agree on everything, we are not a secret conclave of theological radicals seeking to co-opt your groved circle-jerks; we are servants to our gods who have been tasked with providing practical language and communication and fucking sanctuary to the experiences of those who will not find place elsewhere. We are flooded daily with emails and messages and comments from people thanking us for writing something that “for the first time ever” truly described and contextualized their own set of experiences. You’re not attacking us when you call us Nazis — or anthropocentric schizophrenics — and though impious and disrespectful as shit, you’re also not attacking our gods. You’re attacking the fucking human people who have nobody to turn to because you’re too busy rubbing up on trees or treating the Red Book papercuts on your genitals to pay attention to the fact that there are huge amounts of people who are struggling every day to figure out a way through their “Divine Trauma” (as new voice on the scene Rhyd Wildermuth terms it), because when the gods show up “for really reals”, they often do so in an upheaving, life-changing-and-not-in-a-metaphorical-way fashion, and fuck that is hard to go through alone. How do I know?

Because I fucking went through it alone.

And so did most of the other people who you love to hate in the “polytheism camp”.

Your groups and fancies and ritual protocols and borrowed-from-another-group-who-got-it-from-a-psychologist-who-they-didn’t-really-read or whatever the fuck failed to provide context, space, intervention or protocol for what we were experiencing, and for what our gods were crafting us to be. Magickal theory and occult structures similarly will not suffice to explain, articulate, navigate or even basically fucking relate these experiences in anything other than a potentially destructive fashion. Popular conceptions of polytheism are plagued by what I call “Bulfinch-ism”, e.g. the literary fictionalization and lumping-together-of-things found in the fields of myth and legend, and similarly are infected with strains of monism or fractured dualism which just don’t accurately describe gods of agency and consequence in a way that will help those who are experiencing Them directly in this way.

The fact that mainstream paganism(s) and occult/magickal communities don’t presently provide space or context for these experiences is not a reason to disregard/disown/destroy those groups or communities, nor should they feel threatened by the fact that there are religious/theological/deity-related needs arising that they cannot resolve to meet themselves. Nobody in the polytheistic progressive party (which is not a real thing, but, alliteration is cool, like bow-ties) is actually suggesting that these groups should fuck-off-and-die, or cease to be: we are writing about devotional polytheism, about agency of spirit and about the consequences of getting it wrong because holy fuck, that is a thing, and yes Virginia, gods are real and they can rip your bloody arms off and beat you to death with them.

So, guidelines. Protocols. Ground rules. Indicative ideological injunctions (bow-ties!) on how to go about talking about stuff, and things, on the internet. Which is a sea of stuff you might not agree with. This is just a brainstorming proposal, here, and I really hope that somebody with more caffeine in their veins comes around to revise or replace it. But seriously. Stop that shit. Pretend like your brainmeat can be used for something other than stealing words that are way above your intellectual pay-grade and lazing your way through the cred those words carry from their authentic fields of deployment, because, fuck, you’re an asshole and I don’t know how this sentence should end so here is a period.

  1. Try to reserve the word “Nazi” for actual Nazis and hate-groups, and try not to borrow “fundamentalist” in order to degrade the religious systems of people who you just don’t like because they’re not just religious hobbyists. Apply this rule to any other word you want to use to paint the group or author you don’t like as a Sci-fi/Fantasy Epic Villain/Monster/Imperial Baddie, because up to and until those authors actually move up into the world of mass genocide, mass slavery, wanton geo-political slaughter or even basic institutional taxation, those are not accurate comparisons so shut the fuck up.
  2. Leave all fucking clinical and medical language the fuck alone, unless you are discussing real and compassion-oriented elements of the psychiatric, diagnostic or medical worlds. Do not fucking cross those fucking lines.
  3. Do not go around accusing people of shit you clearly haven’t actually thought about, just because they make you uncomfortable. Or, alternatively…
  4. If you absolutely must go around conflict-seeking like a five year old at people who make you uncomfortable, use five year old language and call them douchemuffins.
  5. Do not dehumanize anyone, you fuck. or, alternatively…
  6. If you absolutely must go around dehumanizing because you’re a fuck-blooded flame-troll, pick one person at a time and do not use or craft language that dehumanizes other groups, because…
  7. There is no such thing as acceptable collateral damage in this shit.
  8. So fucking stop it.
  9. And die (eventually). (Can I have your skull?)

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P.S. it is not my intent to dehumanize or degrade those who find value in the works of Carl Jung (as I myself find his works to be inspirational and groundbreaking) nor in those who find religious and/or spiritual importance in ecological connection, consideration and communion, whether conceived of as theistic or not (I fucking love trees and animals). I am totally being a dick and using these expressions of engagement in a perhaps hypocritical — but honest to myself and my audience — fashion.

Comments
  1. Absolutely bloody brilliant. Thank you for this.

  2. Your reason is oppressing me. Oppressing me!!!

  3. Yes, I am Virginia. And yes, the Gods can rip your fucking arms off and serve you up for sushi. I too have gone through/am going through the “Divine Trauma” complete with brain injury… I am so glad that someone finally called people on the words that they bandied about. I don’t mind a rousing discussion on religious beliefs, in fact I think it helps me to think more about my own. However, I do dislike language designed to cut me off and define me. Thanks for writing this, and thanks for Galina for introducing me to your well-written blog.

    • Ha, an actual Virginia! Thanks for reading and for your reply.

      As somebody who also has brain injury, this is something I always try to be mindful of. I am not fucking okay with any language whose sole intent is to slam one group (not event acknowledged in the use of the language relating to them) to the ground in order to subdue, oppress, put-down or as you say “cut off and define” another group, which may even be the same group. Fuck anyone who does that shit willfully with a godsdamned torch.

  4. Rose says:

    Ditto what Galina said. I haven’t been writing anymore, mostly due to constant arguing about what is “real” and what isn’t; the seemingly constant debates regarding “doing things ‘right'” and if you’re not, well then, you’re a nutcase and/or a fraud, etc, ad nauseum. Frankly, what I’ve been personally experiencing is fucking frightening to perceive, but these experiences (as well as these posts) are shifting my perception of Self and my relationship with the Gods/Goddesses which have been (and continue to become) a part of my Life and continuously evolving spirituality. I like this.

    I especially enjoy the fact I’ve stumbled across this blog and these past couple of posts because, prior to doing so, I felt so ostracized and antagonized from my own personal practice simply by what I read that I lost faith; in my Self, my gifts, my experiences, my perception… my Gods.

    I struggle with PTSD and this struggle, though it improved for quite awhile, has been made worse due to all the ‘mental health’ language tossed about so freely within posts I’ve read; as if the authors have no idea those of us who have endured trauma don’t already question ourselves on some level (at least I do, mostly because many within my sphere of influence continue to question my sanity which is why my sphere continues to shrink as I cleanse those toxins).

    Sure, I could simply not read the posts in question. The problem is that it seems as though the question of whether or not the Gods are real is a question upon the lips of so many and if I wish to avoid this topic, I should avoid the vast majority of blogs to which I subscribe… which might not be a bad idea now that I think of it. I have a pile of unread books by my side and an unwritten book of my own which keeps poking at me….

    The point I’m getting at is that, due to your honest and direct posts (honesty and directness are so under-rated), I no longer feel so lost an alone within my experiences. Perhaps I’ll begin posting within my own blog again, as well as play with the posts already there as I had originally planned to do this year. I wrote my story beginning in 2008 and the bulk of that chapter is finished for that woman is long dead… literally and figuratively. As a polytheistic Chaote, I wanted to play with what I had written; experiment with it; create magic with it…

    Per the request of the Gods/Goddesses which have come knocking at the doors of my perception.

    Thank you for this. Sincerely… Thank you.

  5. Have I told you lately, you’re a bum?!? 😉

    Not surprisingly, I agree…and I’m getting sick of having to make posts like this one (though nowhere near as blood-sauna-esque!) to try and convey some of these things, and obviously failing.

    I’m also intrigued that even though I’m getting some rather hostile discussion on my blog on some of these points, I don’t seem to be getting the heat (at least that I’m aware of) that some are…though I have no idea what sorts of things are going on over on Bumblr, and have never really looked at it. What is that lack of being called unsavory names about? Hmm…

  6. bearfairie says:

    Amen and halle-fucking-lujah.

  7. agriakosos says:

    Who cares if it’s real or not? (Hear me out before starting up the rage.)
    Okay, so you (hypothetical you here) find out gods are real.
    Or They aren’t.
    Or They’re actually Jung-worshipping trees.
    What exactly does that change in your experience besides giving you the useless and empty satisfaction of “knowing something” that someone else doesn’t?
    Does it change the nature of the gods, not gods, and/or Jung-worshipping trees?

    I could care less whether people believe/think/know the gods are “real” or not.
    I want to know what they’re doing about it, and for Them (or not), and how I can help or get the hell out of the way. That’s all I care about. I am tired of wasting time explaining myself and my practice. I want to spend some time doing something that means something other than words on a page, hits on a blog, or ideas in my skull.

  8. I hear what you are saying, but I disagree tremendously. (Which, I think, is completely okay.)

    I do not believe that we (as priests, leaders, and practitioners) have the luxury of stepping out of the way of this one and giving it the “I don’t care, it doesn’t change things” pass. Let’s face it: fictional realities are more popular today than they were a hundred years ago, or a thousand years ago. Fiction as it “not real”. (And no, I’m not looking to start THAT debate again, so I’ll clarify with the “intentionally fictitious” by-line, wherein fiction authors write things that they intend to be taken as patently “not real”, whether inspired by (or from) some outside source (whether spiritual or merely mundane in nature) or not.) We have more fictions and fantasies today than we did in the past; from books to comics to movies across a hundred genres, to fanfic to table-top roleplaying games and video games and live-action-role-playing games and so forth. Way back when, you had some literary fiction (but not terribly much of it) and you had theater (thankfully we still have that…) but these other things are new. Given that we know rather solidly the impact that literature can (and should and will and does) have on society, it can be posited that any and all fictions carry some influential impact. Right? That changes the nature of “reality” pretty significantly, if only by offering more people a complimentary alternative to it.

    Relevance: Our relationships to fictions as a culture is complicated (escapist reality television? sensationalist pro-right-wing anti-terrorist interrogation-torture-friendly action espionage? a sentient sponge who sets camp fires under the sea?) and these complicate other areas of our lives, because our lives are bombarded with, and measured constantly against, fictions. We measure our technological advancement by a lack of jet-packs and phasers in our cell-phones (but our progress by the fact that we really do look like Star Trek characters now, as we putter around our cities and towns with eyes on a touch-screen) and we invent new directions of technology in ways astoundingly similar to our fictions (cars that drive themselves!) and so forth. This is not remotely a stance *against* fiction, but rather an indication that the nature of what is “real” versus “not real” has become a blurred line (queue awkward Miley Cyrus VMA grind-twerk) at best. This a a very real issue that I don’t think ethically be skirted, but nor should it be answered in an absolutist black-and-white way (ignorant of the interrelations between things). Fiction authors, game-designers, film-makers and so forth are tasked with drawing very clear distinctions between intentional fictions and reality, without compromising the interest-base in their media-platforms, because otherwise people today can and will cross lines in potentially dangerous ways. (This is not a statement against fandom, so please don’t read it that way.) I am reminded of an episode of NewsRadio wherein Phil Hartman’s character, Bill McNeal, was involved a controversial studio lawsuit because fans of his broadcast show were taking idioms that he spoke on air literally, and enacting them. Idioms like “remember, everyone, listen to your heart” — which led to one listener ripping his own heart out and holding it up to his ear.

    Getting there…, I promise!: Our gods and our religions and our ritual practices need, in my firm estimation, to be separate from our intentional fictions (which themselves are permeating pretty much every level of our society’s consciousness in some way or another!) in some significant way. They need to not be LARPs or (non-sacred) theater. They need to not be out-loud fanfic, they need to not be interest groups or fans-of-the-gods gatherings. This is a very real thing that needs to be addressed, not because fandom or interest groups are wrong or bad, but because religions are not the same thing, and cannot be safely treated or regarded as such. In my estimation the easiest way to do this is to stick to the party-line of “one of these things is real, and the other is an intentional fiction”. My gods are *real*. My fondness for a Battlestar Galactica character *is also real*, but is not remotely comparable to my devotion to (or interest in) my gods and religious practices, and nor does my interest in a fictional character (or admission of an impact said character or stories might have in a very real and measurable way in my life or self-reflection) make that character (or their stories) “real”. Fictions and fictional characters can (and should) have very real impacts upon our lives, but what becomes real in that process is that which the character symbolizes within us, not the character themselves; whereas gods (who are also great impacts on lives, one would hope…) are real independent of that internal symbolism (which also exists, as it does with mundane human acquaintances).

    So, I *do* care about whether somebody believes the gods are real or not, and I frankly have no interest in discussing the gods with somebody who doesn’t greatly separate them from things which are not real. This isn’t just about “fiction” versus “non-fiction”, to be clear, though I used that as a singularly important illustration on one major reason why I view the reality of the gods as being an immediately consequential thing. To go outside of that illustration, I’ll further state that as I have said before, gods of consequence are capable of not only free-agency but also tangible causal impact on the physical world, ala “ripping your arms off”. If one’s arm is ripped off and they know that it was a god who did it, which is a real being and not an idea or a symbol or a fiction or an archetype, that *does* radically change things from some random unexplained occurrence of spontaneous limb-loss. Or, to look at it another way, if I walk down the street and shoot a man in the face with a crossbow, versus a random crossbow arrow finding its way similarly into his face, it changes the basic reality (and all the causal implications surrounding the event) of the injurious death that follows. A random accident (maybe an arrow falls off the back of a truck, end-over-ends into a jet-stream behind a fast low-riding sports-car and goes from flopping descent to perfect spiraled trajectory) versus a malicious crime of violent nature and purposed intent. These *do* change things. They change the meaning, they change the way it plays out for anyone the man leaves behind alive in this world, and they change the lives of the police who must investigate (or come after me for my crimes!), and they change (at least in all probability) the after-life sequences and processes that the arrowed victim continues on into and through post-mortem.

    Real things *matter* in a way that is different than that which is other-than-real, for they exist outside of our heads (in complex symbol sequence, collectively or otherwise) and they are not merely ideas or flagships of thought held together by consensus to contain an otherwise ephemeral quality or blah blah blah. Intentionally-not-real, or merely “symbolically real” or “archetypally real” or “fictionally influential and impactful” things matter, as well, but in *different ways*. (Example of two things that matter, but in different ways and on different scales, so as to not suggest an either/or fallacious err: getting shot in the face with a fifty-caliber round discharged at close range from a large well-cared for firearm held by a favored enemy *matters*. Getting investigated for possible tax issues by the IRS also *matters*. These two things both suck, but they suck in different ways, and realistically, one of them matters a whole lot more than the other. Unless you’re Superman, in which case, the IRS thing would probably matter more, but as Kal-El and all of Krypton are intentionally fictional, that doesn’t really matter here…)

    Again, this isn’t about fiction-vs-non-fiction, it is about taking stock of the fact that in the 21st century, the definitions of what is “not real” has become very blurred and sometimes challenging to navigate. In an era where staggering numbers of people take their understandings of romance — often their *very first exposures to intimate exchange* — from hardcore pornography and so forth, navigating the waters of “real” versus “intentionally not real” or at least “less real in a measured way” is a thing I consider to be of epic import.

    The gods are real. Real in a way that matters. Real in a way that matters differently than Jungian-tree-things. Real in a way that is different than discussing Star Wars canon or debating whether or not Deckard was a replicant (in which release of the film..?!) or whether Highlander 2 should even be *permitted* to be sold any longer. Really real.

    You say, “I could care less whether people believe/think/know the gods are “real” or not.
    I want to know what they’re doing about it, and for Them (or not), and how I can help or get the hell out of the way”, and while I understand what you’re saying, I *do* care, because there are a lot of people who engage in practices with things which are not real, in ways and manners that are otherwise solid. Some people seek out the gods and find Superman (or Bill McNeal, or Carl Jung) instead, and fill that space in themselves that exists for devotion with something built to resemble it but which is, at the end of the day, not the same thing.

    Without caring about the reality of the gods, we forfeit a stake in what is or is not real, we forfeit a stake in mattering at all as religions deserving of legal protections and advocacy. We have to care; we don’t have the luxury of not caring, not matter how exhausting it may be.

    • agriakosos says:

      Points all well taken. For what it is worth, I agree that it is important to know whether or not our students/colleagues/people we have to work with in ritual have the same framework and foundation that we do, but I feel less interested in internet-based evangelization of same. Maybe it’s because I’ve been in the trenches so long on this one with pagans and I don’t see anything changing, maybe it’s because I favor face to face conversations over blogs, I’m not sure. But it’s super easy to get sucked into someone-is-wrong-on-the-internet territory and then just end up repeating ourselves and getting angry.

      I think perhaps my objection to the current conversations, not just here but in the entire group that’s hashing over this material, is more “can we refocus the discussion to the things that really matter outside our brains, i.e., there are Beings Who Are Not Us and it would be useful for us to figure out how we’re going to deal with Them” and less “let’s spend several months going round and round with people who have absolutely no intention of changing their minds.” We have a finite amount of time and energy. Would it not serve our deities better to limit the time we repeat ourselves to those who aren’t even listening, and instead make sure our energy is directed toward an audience that understands what we’re even talking about in the first place?

      I perceive (and I admit I may be reading this wrong, but this is what I get so far) that people who do believe in the gods have been more reactionary, more on the defense, in blogdom of late. If we have done nothing wrong, and we haven’t, we have no obligation to explain ourselves. I think we’re back to that place where I’m saying “don’t waste a javelin on the children” and you’re saying “screw them, they’re in my way.” *grin*

      • agriakosos says:

        Part the second (which I hit return before I was ready, sorry)

        As for people who are new to this, who don’t get it, who are uncertain, and given the blurred lines that I also believe are very real and very confusing, that is an issue. And it’s a serious issue, potentially. But if you’re a beginner, you’re also likely to be turned off by pages and pages of “controversy” when you’re trying to sift through that material in search of an answer. I know that was my own case – I shied away from teachers who seemed to be justifying their realities, in favor of those who were concise and didn’t concern themselves with people who weren’t doing the same things. I went to the ones whose focus was more “this is how you do it” over “this is how they are doing it wrong.”

        We need to be careful to balance all this. Maybe I will let you do the explaining and I will just do the doing. I been explaining a long time and getting nowhere with it, and I’m tired.

        • Thanks for your reply. I think that we have different reasons for reading articles online — I am less interested in discussing what you’re asking for over this platform, and far more interested hashing out exactly what you are saying we shouldn’t be hashing out. My reason for this isn’t that I am defensive or reactionary (I don’t think you were directing that at me?) and more about the fact that it is my experience that these things *aren’t hashed out*. Why it is relevant to continue discussing this is that I have found virtually no polytheist teachers who knowingly anticipated, for example, the rise of the Humanist and atheo-pagan “hatorade brigade” that surged forward in 2013 to ransack and pillage and discredit polytheist/mystic authors, leaders and laity. Nobody saw that coming because nobody was talking about some of the greater social and theological issues — yes, issues, as in broken shit that needs to be identified so work-arounds can be developed — and that is a very real problem. People got so reactionary because their spaces were invaded by enemies that they truly didn’t realize were creeping about.

          I began talking to people two years ago about the issue of overlap between fandom and polytheism, and the potential hazards therein, as well as the powder-keg of potential destruction waiting for the right spark. None of my colleagues really took this topic seriously, either because they didn’t understand fandom’s hold on (especially the younger) generations, or because they themselves had fandoms (as do I!) and were defensive and felt that my pointing out an issue was threatening their own fanbase loyalties. And then the 2013 “pop-pagan explosion” happened, which is ultimately what led to the “Rise of the Humanists”, and so forth.

          Why is it important to talk about these things? Because there really are people — people who are trying to do some kind of polytheistic religion — who don’t know that Loki from the movies isn’t Loki from the lore. For example. And it is important to note that blogs in essence aren’t supposed to be refined and polished finished pieces; they’re sounding boards for discussion and thoughts and they’re raw and so on. These conversations need to happen because they haven’t, yet, and while yeah it is rocky and exhausting, it is fucking necessary.

          I also think that you might be misconstruing my intent a little bit; I don’t care about “what people on the internet think”, the internet is just where these conversations take place. If they could take place in person at the local level, that would be awesome; but it is the very interconnectedness of the digital age that makes them topics that need to be addressed in the first place.

          The “someone-is-wrong-on-the-internet” territory is not remotely what I am discussing here. (In fact, what I was discussing he was the misuse of wrong-headed and dehumanizing language, not at all what we’re discussing now, which is fine.) I am not entirely sure where you’re reading that from what I am saying; I responding to social (and basic human rights) communication issues, here, and am advocating for change and for addressing known and identifiable issues.

          I’m not spearing children (be they in my way or otherwise), I am drawing a line around what is acceptable language to use when addressing human beings. There are perfectly good ways to express your dislike of somebody’s ideas, but calling somebody a Nazi isn’t one of them, unless they are a Nazi. Similarly, I am advocating for the right for polytheist leaders and laity to discuss their religions and their practices and their experiences without fear of being attacked for it, in their own spaces which are established as safe havens for just that.

          Like or not, the internet is where this shit is happening, at the professional level. Colleagues are meeting here, and theological discourses are happening here, and yeah it is maybe unfortunate that it is coming out in blogs and not behind closed digital doors, but that’s the rub of it. I don’t see a reason to stop. I think that it is a lazy cop-out to not address issues just because it might present and publicize the fact that there are some really big fucking issues. *Not* talking about them is a godsdamned lie, which I for one am not interested in being a part of. That lie is what led to all of the conflicts of 2013.

          Not talking about them leads to different groups not realizing that they are different groups, and that differentiation isn’t about drawing lines of exclusionary fuck-offery, but quite the opposite. Think about it like this:

          If a person really really likes me, in an amorous jump-my-Thracian-bones-right-now sort of way, and I’m just not into them or am relating to them in an altogether non-amorous fashion, this presents an issue. Why is it an issue? Because drama, because miscommunication, because misconstrued statements or actions, because hurt feelings and defensivity and boundaries. But if I never tell that person that I’m not into them, or don’t in some way communicate this, they may never know. Telling them would not be about excluding them from my life, or from any area of my life that they were to be included in the first place: it is about showing them where they *do* fit, by pointing out the boundaries of where they don’t, for whatever reason. If Humanists don’t know that polytheists really aren’t talking about archetypes (at all), and polytheists don’t realize that Humanists *are*, this is the same situation but going in both directions. It sucks that it came out in conflict rather than civility, but come out (and up and over!) it needed to, and so huzzah for that shit, because there is no way in which it couldn’t and honestly I think it was glorious the way that it played out.

          I have humanists, monists, gnostics, atheists, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, New Agers, Old Agers, Thelemites, Kemetics, polytheists, Wiccans and Catholics in my immediate circle of people who I can converse with theologically and ontologically and spiritually and theistically and about things like sex and blowjobs and beers and whiskey and bloodbaths of carnage without conflict, not because we’re the same thing, but *because* we (or somebody else before us) took the time to “hash out” what the differences between all of those different configurations are. Knowing the differences is about eliminating blindspots and misunderstood expectations.

          Blindspots suck, and I’d much prefer to be around people (individually or collectively, in person or on the damn internet) who are in some way aware of where we’re not the same (as well as where we might be!) so that misunderstanding gets curb-stomped right there at the get-go. Because whiskey, and blowjobs, and fires on the mountainside outside of ritual caves; these things work best when you can know whether or not your comrades and co-conspirator religionists are secretly worshipping Bruce Wayne as a Jungian glory-hole with god-names taped over each entrance. Because fuck, that shit’s just not something I want on my mountainside, right?

  9. silfrsmith says:

    Another great post.
    I think I find all this very intriguing, as for me the Gods, Spirits, Ancestors etc. are obviously, clearly real…but HOW they manifest and are perceived and interacted with can be so wildly different. It is all quite fascinating to me.

    • Thanks. As I indicated above, I’m pretty clearly stated on how I feel about the reality of the gods (and the importance of this acknowledgement). Similarly, HOW they manifest and present and express in our worlds and perceptions are limitless in configuration; They can express through other humans (whether through possession or simply twisting things around and arranging events and happenings!) or through the natural worlds (weather, animals, lions and tigers and bears and fucking hurricanes oh my!) or through dreams, or through finding-the-right-book-or-comic-or-film to earth-shatteringly change one’s life. (All of which are examples in which gods engage with us through a relational quality including OTHER beings, because as Morpheus recently pointed out in her latest entry, ALL THINGS EVER exist in RELATIONAL MATRICES, ecologically speaking and otherwise.)

      This brings up interesting implications about where the agency of the god ends and the agency of the relational item it is enacting its divine will through begins. In other words, if Sabazios expresses through a northern water snake in a Massachusetts wetland, does that mean that the serpent has no will of its own? No. It means that the will of that snake was in relationship with the divine will of Sabazios, and possibly in that moment overwritten altogether (e.g possession), but that doesn’t mean that the snake only existed for the purpose of delivering a message to me, as if I am somehow the center of all snake worlds. Similarly, if a post office employee is called up by their boss and told to deliver a package to a house, and they do so, the person who lives their should understand that both the postal worker AND their boss (who delivered the order…) are beings of agency and consequence, and though one used their will to cause purposed action through the other in relation to the resident recipient, that does not mean that the postal carrier is irrelevant in the exchange (and in fact, it means that that postal carrier takes on the responsibility of being the “face” of their employer’s will in that exchange, as their boss is invisibly absent from the tangible scene in that moment). But it was not the postal worker alone who delivered that package; they didn’t know about the package, or the resident recipient, and otherwise might have been jerking off into a stuffed sea-horse if not otherwise ordered to deliver said parcel.

      What I am most interested in with my above post on guidelines is not debating the reality (or non-reality) of anything, but rather, to get people to shut the fuck up with bad communication practices. I want to fucking remove a whole shit ton of commonly flung words and ideas from these discussions because it is disrespectful to fucking everyone on the planet to continue using them. I want to advocate for people to say what they fucking mean, and in some cases, that means calling somebody a big giant piece of fuck, who they think is without value or worth, or whose ideas they find to be fucking stupid. Then I’d also like to see people stop yelling at each other that way and choose to only engage in discussions that have some sort of constructive aim. But mostly I want to see a fucking cessation on the use of terms like “Nazi” and “schizophrenic” to describe ANYONE whose religious ideas are not agreed with or whose espoused stances make somebody uncomfortable. Leave those words alone to mean something VERY IMPORTANT in their own fucking fields.

      Okay, time for coffee…

  10. […] interesting discussions going on at yesterday’s post, “Guide lines, protocols, ground rules, or indicative […]

  11. Thanks for this post. I haven’t really dipped my toes into any of the big polytheistic/what’s real debates, in part because of the rabid gnashing of teeth. I just don’t have time for that, even though I’m interested in the topic. Also, thank you for introducing me to the term, douchemuffin.

    Theologically/cosmologically, I tend to sit more on the pantheism/archetypism/soft polytheism side, but, I’m also really good at holding paradox. I also am an agnostic in the sense that I don’t believe that in this lifetime I’ll know, for sure, what the divine is. On the other hand, I also define myself as a seeker in that I’m always looking to know more, and a mystic in the sense that I have experienced direct divine communion, those moments that there’s no other way to explain. For me, the “face” of the divine that I experienced is a filter that my limited human brain puts onto the experience because I can’t actually encompass the scope of the All.

    That doesn’t mean I would ever disrespect someone who is coming from a hard Polytheist perspective; like I said, I’m good at holding paradox, and I’m aware that while I might get the occasional peek beyond the Veil, there’s stuff I’ll never know for sure until I die. Well–I hope I get to understand it when I die 🙂

    Generally my own writing and blogging tends to be less about theology and more about leadership, group dynamics, and facilitation. When I facilitate a ritual, it’s from that more Jungian perspective, but using ecstatic ritual techniques and making space for agnostics, pantheists, and polytheists. Whatever experience you have in my ritual is great–I’m not there to tell you what your Gods look like, I’m just there to help people get to that divine, that something larger, or to the inner divine, to their highest self. Theologically, I don’t really care what people are doing, I just want to help them find what they are looking for. Some people are polytheists and work with the deities in my rituals as Gods. Some work with them as archetypes and stories. And I think both have power.

    Some hard polytheists might not feel comfortable in my rituals, and I understand that. But I wouldn’t berate them or shame them.

  12. As to the issue of people using psychological terms and diagnosis…I’ve seen that as an issue when I teach Pagan leadership. I walk a tightrope with it myself. I don’t have a degree in psychology nor am I any kind of therapist, however, I’ve been studying human psychology for years in order to better serve my community.

    As a leader, I need to be able to discern between someone who is just being a douchemuffin (I’m still loving that word) and someone who has Aspergers, or a personality altering brain injury, or someone who might have one of the major antisocial personality disorders. Or, someone who is just an introvert and shy, or someone who has absolutely no social skills.

    The person with no social skills I can work with. The person who has Aspergers I can work with by clearly outlining what behavior is appropriate for XYZ group, and what isn’t. Someone with Bipolar I may be able to work with, depending on their willingness. It all depends on the context. My goal is to help people be part of a group, if that’s what they want, unless they continue to engage in behavior that isn’t supporting the group agreements.

    Someone who is being a jerk and won’t change, or, someone who is acting in a compulsive way with some of the red flags of Borderline, Narcissistic, or one of the other major personality disorders, it’s just a matter of time before I have to ask them to leave.

    However, so many leaders and group members out there just say, “Ugh, she’s weird,” or “Guh, he is creepy.” Then they either 1. prematurely kick someone out, usually by nonconfrontationally lying to the person, or 2. keep going on with their group as one by one people stop coming because the creepy/weird/annoying person is getting on everyone else’s nerves. But nobody actually *talks* to the odd person out and finds out why they are acting that way. Or if they do, it’s the aggressive side of passive aggressive and it becomes a big argument.

    The point is, I do talk about psychological terms with groups and I suggest any group leader out there take a psychology class or read some books on the topic to become more conversant with the various disorders out there.

    However, it’s worth pointing out that there’s kind of a liminal category, and I think it’s a bit what you are alluding to, where someone who is experiencing connection to the divine begins to go through a transformation, a transition. They aren’t who they were, they aren’t who they are becoming, and there’s a trauma to that, yes. I think from outside, someone like that could look quite insane at times. I have known a number of people (including myself, to some extent) who went through a major transition like that. So I try to be sensitive to all of that when I’m working with someone in a group.

    Granted, that’s a little bit different from people blasting each other online.

    Typically, I won’t engage in online conversations where people are being jerks to each other. It just raises my stress level too high. There’s a group that I joined on Facebook that I think has to be one of the Worst Groups Ever, called Paganism and Wicca. I haven’t seen ganging up to piranha folks and tear them to shreds with such glee since high school.

    But that’s a part of why I don’t really dip my toe into the “what is Paganism” debates and “Polytheism vs. ____” debates, because, I hold paradox. I don’t want to fight about it. I don’t want to see what kind of assholes people can be to each other. I want to go forward in this world and try to make it a better place.

    I would really, really like to see more of these conversations happen without people tearing each other to shreds. I fully agree with your sentiment on that.

  13. BlackSphinx says:

    I think I may even love your comments on this post even more than the post itself – they’ve helped me articulate why, when I hear people say things like “myths are just fanfiction that has been accepted as canon,” or “maybe thousands of years from now people will rediscover Spider Man comics and believe he was a god and his stories will move into the realm of mythology,” I have such an intense knee-jerk reaction to it.

  14. […] human’s life. What you don’t seem to know a lot about is theistic religion. Just as I encourage people who are not psychologically or clinically informed to steer clear of using diagnostic language (such […]

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