Saturday, 26 February 2011

A return to the path

I've been drifting away from the 'Druid Path' for some time.This pagan approach to spirituality first interested me about 7 years ago. In the last year or so I have been in a kind of religious tumult as I started to explore the concept of the divine. This quest has 'run its course'. I found I could believe in a form of monism, a pandeism or panentheism even deism in the sense these offered mostly coherent systems of thought, though each had some element that was little bit unsatisfactory either philosophically or practically or unable to fully scratch and satisfy the religious 'itch'.
However as ever, I discovered one can invent many different theologies (or 'castles in the air') but without any solid foundation. I was still forced to say 'I'm an Agnostic' even as i found some theological idea as more or less attractive. In the end there is still is no 'evidence' for God that satisfies my intellect, and definitely nothing that enables me to say 'Ah, now I believe', notwithstanding a great desire to believe. I have even tried to believe in Christianity again, the Nicene Creed and all. My unbelief is not from lack of wanting to consign my destiny and freedom of thought to some all encompassing worldview.  But all theology is just another imaginative  theory founded on speculation and intutition, but little else.It certainly does not relate to my actual 'praxis' and my sitz im leben life conditions. Only nature and my inner conscious awareness grounds me in this way - not theology.

Even what I consider the best rational argument for the deity, the apparent 'fine tuning' of the universe to fit it for life, well, even this 'evidence' for a God can be answered by naturalists by proposing a multiverse - an almost infinity of universes. For example the currently popular 'inflation model' of the history of the universe in the seconds post the Big Bang suggests there may be an infinite number of universes with different physical properties, allowing an almost infinite number of situations where life, even if very unlikely, could arise - everything that was possible would exist somewhere. What seemed so improbable and needing divine intervention is not improbable given infinite time and/or the possibility of infinite universes.

Knowing this I couldn't quite let go of was the desire for some 'perfected or ideal state' beyond this world - this chasing the perfect, ideal is a hard habit to crack but a very frustrating habit. I've had to let it go to save my sanity. Don't get me wrong I am attracted still to the notion of an absolute, a ground of being, a neutral monism, but I cannot go beyond my intuitive, mystical sensibilites to arrive at some solid ground, let alone start thinking there is an athropomorphic God who sends his only begotten son to save us. Ultimate reality, is perhaps, as wise men have said (but which wisdom I ignored) an  'unknown'. It is beyond conception and discovery, for me, currently, at least. If only intuition, a 'feeling' inclines one to belief at all, but can we trust our feelings?. On this as in some many areas of life, feelings can be deceptive. I will accept that i'm inclined to religiosity. I seem unable not to care and unable not to have some notion of the spiritual, but the absolute is not going to be grasped, and all attempts at a theology have to be given up.  Perhaps, as I've said before 'theology' is just another form of idolatory and the absolute really is having known of it. Equally it can't blame me if I just get on my life without reference to what I really have not the foggiest idea about.

At least I recall that I've been this way before. Druidry attracted me because I had lost all faith in traditional theism but found that nature spoke to me of a 'deeper magic'; its nature mysticism salvages the bit of theism that I was in tune with - the awesome beauty and majesty of creation. I was also into ancient and early medieval history, stone circles, environmentalism, respects my ancestors including the half of my family tree that is definitely celtic!
What has repelled me away from druidry recently has been a seroes pf interactions with convinced hard polytheists, in particular their assertion that they represent 'true druidry', also an 'anti-theism' and an anti-Christianity that can be rather adolescent and even made me wonder why they 'protested too much'. Some forms of druidry seem intent on reconstructing the past or at least the religious aspect of it, but the past, particular the past of the ancient druids is irrecoverable except the tit bits thrown up by long detective work, which still need a modern 'interpretation' or supplementing with unverified personal gnosis. Druidry has insulated itself large from Science and Reason;  indeed this non rationality and 'child like' approach becomes Druidry's USP. I agree we need the 'magic' but it depends on what you mean.

However once we reject the assumption that in the past we knew better,  there seems no reason why iron age druidry, like iron age medicine and education cannot be brought up to date. As the religious-intellectual elite of their societies their view would have evolved with society over the centuries.  Modern druidry does not need to look to the past, apart perhaps for aesthetic inspiration and to  'respect' the ancestors of blood. Modern druids, had their been some unbroken lineage to today, would have adopted the 'Zeit Geist' of their period in history. Apart perhaps from a few fundamentalists, the modern druid would have I'm sure a largely naturalistic view of the world and I am sure ancient druids knowing what we know now, would embrace science.

If druidry is to mean anything to me, it must be 'my druidry'. My worldview never tends to complete scepticism or materialism, but I also  reject the credulity and part-time rejection of science and reason  by some in the druid community. But I have now realised there is enough of value in Druidry, to want it to evolve to the next level. A 21st Century Druidry. Hence my change to the title of this blog. A 21st Druid can find relevance and meaning in the ideas of  atheism, pantheism, agnosticism, pandeism, taoism and have an interest in Wicca or Hellenic Paganism or even find inspiration in Christian Theology, without converting to a different path, and  while still being able to think critically and sensibly about other truth claims.  The 21st Druid says that there is one Ground of Being or Absolute that we do know and can be sure about and that is Nature itself, from which we emerge and to which we will surely return. Nature includes all that is seen and known by science and reason, and the so far hidden stuff - perhaps what is now called 'the supernatural' - that in principle science or reason can and will discover in future (when the 'supernatural' might be proved to be natural after all). And as for what can never be known even in principle by science and reason, it would be pointless to talk about - as this is the absolutely unknowable about which never can be meaningfully said. 'God' if there is such may be in this latter category of the absolutely knowable - certainly I've given up any idea that I could rationalise a theology that I could believe in. If I still feel there is some absolute depth and power behing all reality, that feeling is what it is. It is very nice but there is nowt you can do with it. It does not signify that there is something behind the feeling to have a feeling, and the feeling might be part of my mental condition or everybody's. But I hope I have now given up on speculation about stuff that is only a feeling and intutition but that I can't make sense of. There is the whole realm of nature, and the consciousness, and what is revealed by science, that is awe inspiring, beautiful and glorious - superlatives that should not be wasted on what we don't know, feel, touch, or interact with.

1 comment:

  1. It's good to meet a fellow agnostic on the spiritual path. I've been involved in ADF Druidry and other pagan organizations, but take an agnostic and humanist stance. So, are you affiliated with the Druidic Order of Naturalists?

    Recently I started a blog called Humanistic Paganism that is starting to gain popularity. Pagans and spiritual folk of naturalistic viewpoints are coming out of the woodwork. After reading your writing, I wondered if you might like to contribute a piece to the blog. Or if not that, then you can just participate in the comments section if you want. In any case, check it out: