Posts filed under ‘Psychology’

Left/Right is a False Divide for Polytheists

Melas the Hellene’s Polemical Topics in Polytheism # 9 Politics

First view: Polytheism ought to follow Liberalism on the left, because religious monotheists tend to take the right.

Second view: Polytheism ought to follow Conservativism on the right, because Liberalism is often antithetical to tradition, religion and culture.

Third view: Polytheism needs both right and left, and at the same time, must move beyond this often stifling dualism.

Despite being staunchly left-wing most of my life, I agree with the third view. To begin with, many will ask why should politics & religion be intertwined, and indeed that they shouldn’t be by citing separation of church and state or freedom of religion as it exists in their given country. But they are confusing government with politics, and how also do we define politics? Many people define it more narrowly than I do, but then I have a bachelor’s in political science and I also enjoy studying sociology.

The division between the so-called left and right is a cultural division, with politics really being a symptom of a deeper divide. Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has done some great work in explaining the moral foundations that divide us in the United States and to some degree, Canada and other Western countries. Studying his research is something I’ve found very helpful at better understanding how people who are more conservative than me thin. Which is good, because that is most of my country- particularly most of the people who vaguely resemble me both physically and culturally. Conservatives tend to have stronger feelings in several areas that Haidt measures that liberal & classical libertarians are often simply lacking which leads to a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding between these factions. Conservatives often to some degree get it more than liberals do. Here’s a shorter piece about the politics of disgust, which is one of the aspects that started him down the path of this research.

My boyfriend shared an article about this with me years ago, and over time particularly while reading Galina Krasskova’s blog, I noticed the increasing importance of the purity/sanctity vs. disgust dimension in her writing. Part of it was that I recognized it more, but it also seem to grow in importance as she deepened particular aspects of her practice, like emphasis on modesty, purity and piety. Disagreements about these issues with other polytheists became larger leading to a split among factions of bloggers, though I think as time goes on hopefully there will be more of a range of views and dimensions represented. My own views while aligning somewhat with one faction have also grown more nuanced, especially as I’ve deepened my cultural and religious studies. For one thing, many of the fault lines that have formed & the assumptions behind them, don’t fit very well with Irish/Scottish diasporan polytheism or Celtic polytheism more generally I might add, at least as I interpret them.

To be clear about my own biases, I am online friends with several of the writers on the Gods & Radicals staff, though I have only met one of them in person. Several of them are fellow members of Clann Bhride. I’ll admit I’m pretty lousy at being both a practicing democratic socialist and a polytheist, mostly an armchair theorist with both.

Anyhow I’m interesting in getting other polytheists of various political stripes together to compare our scores on Jonathan Haidt’s moral foundations research. The questions he has about religion are unsurprisingly, not very relevant to us, but perhaps we could contact him and see if he has any students that are doing psychology of religion research. Let me know if you are interested. Here’s the section of the Righteous Mind website for religious communities. I wonder if it would be more accurate if we had different cohorts or something. Color me rusty on methodology…

Then I’d like to further explore the moral foundations and how they fit with our various religions & cultures.

Note: For my fellow anti-capitalists, for simplicity’s sake I’m just using liberals to include us, even if yes, classical libertarians that word by rights originally belongs to you. But being an anti-capitalist in American politics is rather like being well, a polytheist in the Western religious landscape, most of the time you aren’t really acknowledged to exist in public, and you have a zillion little sects & disagreements that are really important to you, but nobody else knows the difference between your beliefs and another ideology that you consider completely different, thank you very much! Marxists though are generally far more dogmatic and stuck in the past, in my experience…though they could probably compete with online heathens in the macho department!

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June 28, 2018 at 4:17 am 1 comment

What’s a Protestant Worldview?

I read Galina Krasskova’s latest post on Polytheist.com about Resacralizing Our World. As with anything she writes, there’s a lot to take in and think about. I don’t always agree with her, but she does challenge us to think critically about our beliefs and practices. This is probably one of the reasons people have such a strong reaction to her views! Danger! Heathen woman with opinions! Anyhow- this was not really the main topic of her post, but it came up, and I’ve seen her and others discuss it before, the idea than American culture has a dominant Protestant worldview, which frequently gets in the way of spiritual development for polytheists. So I asked her- how does this different from a Catholic worldview?

Do Pagans from Catholic backgrounds have different spiritual approaches than those from Protestant, Jewish or secular backgrounds? I’ve known Pagans who came from the same religious upbringing to develop very different paths, in terms of cultural focus, theology, type of practice etc.

I guess growing up, I just saw Catholicism as being another type of Christianity (which I guess is very Protestant of me- it was “a church” not “The Church”) I grew up in a time when the idea of a Catholic President was once controversial was rather inconceivable, and Jewish people, while not always truly understood, were definitely white*.  I was baffled by Catholic feminists and pro-GLBT activist that dutifully kept going to mass. They couldn’t do anything to reform it after all- they could keep writing letters to bishops, patiently waiting and praying for their minds to change, but unlike the Methodist church, they couldn’t vote to send delegates to national conference to make decisions about stuff. Why didn’t they just join the Episcopalians? Indeed some of them do. But it wouldn’t be “The Church”, now would it?

Protestantism also includes a hugely diverse range of sects and denominations. I believe the Protestant worldview she is discussing is a more hard-nosed Biblical sort. The theology of continuous revelation that we find in Unitarian Universalism, our congregationalist cousins, the United Church of Christ (God is Still Speaking) and the Society of Friends is very different. To have a meaningful discussion, we really need to specify *which* Protestant worldview. I plugged it into Google, and mostly have found discussion of “sola scriptura” a la Martin Luther.

Perhaps the best person to ask would be a Catholic, or a former Catholic?

Here’s an Orthodox Christian view contrasted with Protestantism (now Orthodox, that’s even more unfamilar!)

*though Jewish people can be of any ethnic background, I’m referring to pale-skinned Jews who *weren’t* considered “white” in earlier generations.

November 20, 2014 at 5:13 am 3 comments

What Do Healthy Spiritual Communities Look Like?

(Note: this advice is coming from my experience dealing with Pagan/magical/New Age communities, however much of it is relevant to other spiritual/religious communities as well as secular ones)

Healthy Friendships

If someone is mostly a negative influence on you, remove them from your life. Cut off contact. Make friends outside the Pagan community, in secular settings who are positive and supportive. Look for friends, who while they may not have everything in life figured out, in general have fairly stable lives that they are holding together. If you have friends who constantly ask you for help, a place to sleep, store stuff, money, rides etc. but do not seem to be doing much to improve their situation *when it is within their power* and keep giving excuses, seriously re-evaluate these friendships. Make boundaries that you are comfortable with.

Personally I have a limit of having one friend at a time that I help with serious issues (mental health, looking for jobs/housing/healthcare/childcare etc) I focus on referring them to services and giving them someone to talk to (about non-professional level appropriate things), while drawing the boundary of not allowing my health or finances to be dragged down by them.

True friendship requires give and take- much like relationships with our gods and spirits. There are times when a good friend needs to give more support to a friend in need, but everyone must use their own judgment about how far that support should go.

Healthy Leaders/Elders/Clergy 

How is the status/title/power of this person determined? By the person and their claims? By a group, or a broader community? Is it based on fame and trendiness or more on hard work and learning, regardless of how glamorous or not?

What boundaries does this person have over their personal life- choices in career, relationships to family, expectations of being public with their religion, being able to take care of health? Are the expectations they have of themselves, or that the group members have of them the same, and are they realistic and sustainable?

What responsibilities do they have towards members of their group or community?

What responsibilities do the members have towards them?

What responsibilities do the members have to each other?

Do the members have stable/sustainable lives outside of the group (i.e. their basic needs are taken care of, personal difficulties they have do not drag down the rest of the group.

What is the stated purpose or mission of the group, and does it live up to that mission, or clearly seem to be working towards it in a realistic way?

This was originally titled Recovering from Toxic Pagan Communities, but the topic drifted a bit..

To be clear about what I am talking about:

*Recovering from dealing with dysfunctional individuals, groups and relationships within Pagan, Heathen, polytheist or occult/magical and New Age communities.

Not:

*Having difficulties with one’s spiritual path development- a “crisis of faith”, Dark Night of the Soul, etc. can be related to this but is a separate issue

*Recovering from mental health problems, past abuse/trauma, alcohol & drug abuse (or coming from families with such problems) This are important and need to be dealt with (and hopefully helped by healthier spiritual communities!) but if nothing else I’m drawing a line between “problems you had before you become pagan” and “problems that were mainly exacerbated or originated due to bad behavior among Pagans- i.e. abuse of drugs/alcohol in community, abusive relationships, discouraging of getting help for health/financial or other problems (or of only using spiritual/magical/alternative techniques) I will address these matters when relevant…

October 7, 2014 at 11:54 pm Leave a comment

We Need to Create Support for Disgruntled/Frustrated Pagans

I have come to realize that we really need to create support systems (lay-led) for disgruntled, disenchanted, frustrated, lapsed Pagans/polytheists/heathens, people who are considering leaving their religion, or perhaps already have.  We need to do this on a local level. I’ll bet there are *many* Pagans in the Twin Cities area who do not attend events for these sorts of reasons. Once again, though I’m not sure if I want to deal with the drama! I’m also not sure how to advertise such a group or run it. I’ve kept too much of my past bad experiences to myself, because of I’d internalized the “Must Not Make Community Look Bad to Outsiders” mentality which is very creepily cult-like when you think about it. I think the Pagan “community” makes itself look bad the most.
I have spent so much time trying to convince myself that I just need to find the right path, the right community, that I just had bad luck with the wrong people. I have wondered if I should bothering worshipping gods with such crappy followers.
I cannot join another pagan group, try to start one or even really have a healthy solitary practice without working thru these issues.
My partner wants to be supportive of me having a *healthy* spiritual life and community, but if it is mainly something that causes me worry and frustration and putting up with negative people who drag me down, he is discouraging that. Because he loves me.

October 4, 2014 at 12:57 am 1 comment

On Spiritual Emergency, Shamanism, Mental Illness, Therapy, and Anti-Psychiatry Sentiment in the General Pagan/Polytheist Community

Must-read. By the way anyone who comments on this blog insisting that people with mental or other health issues *only* use spiritual techniques or alternative treatments (and shames them for seeking other treatment) will be deleted and blocked.

Foxglove & Firmitas

Alternative Title: I’m Gonna Keep Talking About This Until It’s a Generally Accepted Thing…

It happened again. Someone posted another article on mental illness being a sign of a healer being born on the Local Pagan Facebook Group with the general overarching but not direct message being that all native and ancient cultures saw it as this. Now I don’t deny that mental illness can be the birth of a healer. I’ve known too many people who have struggled with a history of it, myself included, that haven’t found themselves called to help others dealing with similar problems.

However, these articles tend to stress how society is actually the sick one, and how we need to stop shoving pills at people to fix all their problems.

Anyone who has ever been on psychiatric medication will probably tell you that pills don’t solve all the problems and most professionals are pretty…

View original post 2,710 more words

September 23, 2014 at 10:35 pm Leave a comment


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