I wasn’t going to write about the fact that one high profile pagan has recently found himself drawn back to the church because I didn’t think I had anything useful to say and it feels wrong to comment on someone else’s personal spiritual path. However, there is an important issue he raised which I wanted to write a post about because it also coincides with a struggle I’ve been having recently in my own life – the issue is the lack of a contemplative side in modern paganism.
When it comes to the outward life – living ethically and green, doing rituals, community e.t.c, Paganism is doing well. Through the influence of organisations like ADF, there is a renewed commitment among Pagans to searching for historical reality rather than what one wishes happened in the past. But where it falls down is the inner life. Where is the inner transformation aspect that is so key to the most successful world religions? Where is the call for discipline and practices that help to make us into better human beings? Yes meditation does play a part in paganism but it seems little more than an add on – a way to help improve magical ability rather than to truly transform us within. Christianity has a strong contemplative tradition, many eastern religions are centered around the contemplative and meditation and western philosophies like Stoicism and Epicureanism also emphasise the contemplative.
Last weekend I attended a Buddhist monastery for a couple of days. It wasn’t a life changing experience but I did learn a lot and I realised the gaping whole in my own life. Someone, somewhere, needs to work out how to integrate the contemplative into Paganism. And not just as an add on, but as a clearly obvious outgrowth from the underlying philosophies. Perhaps this is a significant contribution that the Naturalistic Pagan community can make to the Pagan world. I don’t know, I’m just thinking out loud, but I do know this…for paganism to grow and continue in the long term, it needs to have the power to change us both inside as well as outside…at a very deep level that is transforming. Most religions seem to either emphasise the outer – the world as something to be celebrated while ignoring the inside. While others seem to emphasise the importance of the inner and usually treat the outer world, and nature, as useless. Does this dichotomy have to be there? Why can’t we have a religion that integrates reverence for the natural world with inner transformation? I know the Spiritual Naturalist Society is doing some brilliant work engaging with the different contemplative philosophies but how does community, ritual and reverence for the natural world fit in as vitally necessary practices there? And for those pagans who do believe in the supernatural, there needs to be some deep philosophical thought on these issues too. We needs to find the answer to the question – Why should we meditate? Is it simply for to make us feel better and therefore its not a spiritual practice but a health practice….or is it for something deeper?
I don’t know the answers to these questions but I put it out there to hear your thoughts…