Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Can Paganism Ever Be Post-Personal?

Jay's Creative Spirituality pod at Zaadz has an interesting discussion about whether or not pagan practices can ever be transpersonal, especially when one considers that most pagan traditions stem from the Purple and Red meme periods of human evolution. Even now, most pagan traditions are regressive in that they try to revive Purple meme magic and animism. Jay suggests, and I agree, that this need not be so.

What follows is my attempt to suggest that there is way to determine where such practices might fall on prepersona/personal/postpersonal spectrum. It was posted to the pod this morning.
Before becoming a mostly full-time Buddhist, I was heavily involved in shamanic studies, Wicca's twin brother, so to speak. I think of both areas of study as essentially pagan (pagan mostly meaning non-Christian to many folks).

Regarding this: Thats pretty much a litmus test for a pre/trans theory of wicca - was it created, or was it 'passed down'?

I would argue that the real test is different:

1) Does the belief system rely on a pre-rational belief that spells and incantations can change manifest reality? Does the system worship gods and goddesses as individual entities existing in time and space? If so, prerational or prepersonal.

2) Does the belief system see “magic” and other forms of devotional acitivies as methods of affecting interior change, i.e., reprogramming the psyche in some way? Does the system view gods and goddesses as manifestations of interior states, of human traits writ large? If so, rational or personal.

3) Does the belief system see ritual and other forms of devotional activities as methods of accessing archetypal energies, what Wilber might view as involutionary forms? Does the system view worship of archetypal forms (gods or goddesses) as ways to transcend ego consciousness and experience transpersonal states beyond the confines of ego and personal concerns. If so, post-rational or post-personal.

4) Does the belief system allow for the experience of all three? If so, then integral.

That's my first-pass take on this issue. Is this worth refining into a more coherent statement?

Any thoughts on this would be appreciated, either here or at Zaadz (if you are not a member, yet, why not?).

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The Zero Boss said...

My take (crossposted on nthe Zaadz pod):

Good take, Bill. Here are my thoughts.

Keep in mind that "magic" in Pagan magical systems isn't necessarily different from positive thinking, affirmations, creative visualization, etc. It's about contacting a deeper level of reality (the astral plane) in order to manifest changes on the physical plane. Reality is, in reality, more pliable than our conventional belief systems lead us to believe.

Here's what I think the deciding factor is in determining prepersonal vs. transpersonal: Is the practice guided by communion with one's higher Self?

If the practice is meely an attempt to manipulate physical reality, then I consider it prepersonal and "tribal". If it's accompanied by an emphasis on mind training, meditation, and a desire to align all one's mundane and spiritual actions with this deeper understanding of one's true nature, then we're in Integral territory.

william harryman said...

Hi Jay,

Oaksong made a similar distinction in the prepersonal area as you are making. I tend to be a little dismissive of that area. My rational brain struggles with reality being pliable much beyond thought and emotion impacting health.

I agree with the higher self aspect. It seems to me that that is crucial to any self-development.


The Zero Boss said...


I think we have a deeper question to pursue here. What do you believe emptiness is? What does "form is emptiness, emptiness is form" mean to you, if not that the fundamental nature of things is without essential nature?

The Zero Boss said...

BTW, I don't believe this is prepersonal in any sense. I believe it's a transrational truth that some prerational practices tap into.

Thanks for helping explore these boundaries and contours. :)

william harryman said...


The Heart Sutra is something I can get intuitively, but if I try to think about it rationally, it gets pretty messy. I generally don't buy the New Age stuff about physics revealing the Ground of Being in the quantum realm. In this area, Wilber's arguments are convincing.

Still, I have had meditative experiences that allow me to "get" that "form is emptiness, emptiness is form".

So in answer to your question, to me that quote has no literal meaning that I can talk about (transrational?), but is something I can know in my heart to be true.

How's that for a bad answer?! :)