Tuesday, 20 December 2011


Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice, and my current intention is to  celebrate the sunrise in the morning at some hilly or nature friendly locality, unless the weather is especially bad. After all if you can't see the sun, there is driving rain, a whiteout of fog, a foot of snow (last year), the temperature is many degrees sub-zero...I have no urge to masochism.   I don't 'worship' nature or abase myself before it to propitiate it by suffering. Okay, so I lack commitment....
It seems generally accepted now that ancient peoples (though probably not the iron age culture called 'Celts' who actually had a druid priesthood) greatly celebrated the winter solistice, which was more religiously significant than the summer solstice. For at the winter solstice, in the depths of cold and darkness the sun is 're-born' and hope for the future (for those who understand their  physical dependance on the sun) is renewed. The sun is, even in  modern scientific terms, a very natural 'supreme being' the bringer and preserver of life (and sometimes death), the source of most of the earth's physical (e.g. atmospheric and marine) energy and bio-chemical energy, which gives natural processes their 'vitality' and 'creativity' (what I tend to term ' natural spirit').
I don't immediately in my modern reality sense my physical dependance upon the sun: i  live with electrical power and central heating. Emotionally though I, for one, find the 'light' to be  extremely conducive to 'good mood' and a lack of the latter (and of fresh air in general) literally depresses me. Whether there really is such a thing as 'Seasonally affected Disorder' my mood is, I am sure, affected by the seasons. If one thing attracts me to paganism above all else, it is the celebration of the 'Wheel of the  Year' and marking the change of seasons. I have found this recognition of the changing rhythms psychologically beneficial, enlightening and fun at the very least.
So what will I do tomorrow? okay, well I will go up a hill that if possible allows an interrupted view of the sunrise or at least 'lightening' in the right general direction, cloud permitting, Then I might sit quietly or do a little jigly hands raised thing (depending on whether I might have an obvious audience or not). I will probably chant some 'awens' as the sunrise develops and finish by whispering gratitude and thanksgiving to the great ruler of the sky, the sun, though I know very well the sun is not a person/mind/god. I might offer some mead to the earth, though I also doubt there are any faery folk or elementals to enjoy it.  I probably won't do much else in the OBODian pattern as I am increasingly sure you can't make those rituals fit a naturalistic mould. Anyway such 'druid' rituals are not 'ancient' and I would be surprised if they pre-date 1980.  A ritual for today has to be a ritual of  today, and I don't accept the reconstructionist nonsense that one has to show some lineage of  religious practice. If it works (for you) do it, if it doesn't, don't.
One element I would like to bring into these rituals would be to sound at the moment when the sun breaks the horizon some kind of  ancient 'horn' (like the jewish shofar made from a ram's horn). I keep meaning to buy one, and if i do it will probably be a  modern version of a shofar as I haven't seen such at druid-supermarket recently (come on you merchandisers of pagan tat!) Though I am not going to have that element in my ritual tomorrow, I can relate a slightly 'spooky' experience of  hearing such a traditional 'horn'. This was about 2005 or 1 B.K. (before kids) the mrs and I were watching the sunrise at  winter solstice at the local  hillfort ( the Gaer, in wester Newport, an open space called locally the Gollars). As the sun rose we could see for miles along the Severn Estuary and behind us, to the North  mostly open countryside, the ancient village of Bassaleg, and in the distance the imposing hills of the entrance to the Ebbw and Sirhowy Valleys: Twmbarlwm and Mynydd Machen on either side the valley mouth. Drifting on the wind we both heard the low deep sound of such a horn for a good few seconds. It wasn't coming from the immediate hill fort or at least it seemed 'far away' in space (or? time?). Of course it was probably another neo-pagan hippy type with a horn doing their own ritual, but I still have no idea who this could have been (and I know perhaps half a dozen card carrying pagans in the locality). Still natural or preternatural the sound of the horn at the 'right' moment was impressively memorable.

Saturday, 10 December 2011


If anyone was following my blog as an exemplar of naturalistic paganism, I am very sorry that I recently succumbed to an extreme bout of supernatural religiosity, which I pompously paraded on this blog. I am digusted, ashamed for the appalling drivel (more than usual) that was spouted herein, concerning 'God' and the 'divine'. For some reason I was carried away with metaphysical speculation forgetting that I was just creating imaginary notions, castles in the air. 

Perhaps though this drift into incredulity began because I failed to distinguish between metaphysical naturalism (which is philosophically problematic) and epistemological naturalism. The latter is the metaphorical cold shower that I needed. An idea may seem  beneficial, pleasing and coherent but the most important question is 'is it true?' and necessarily this leads to the small matter of 'how do we know something is true?'. Ultimately to rely on intuition is simply to rely on 'feelings'. But why should 'feelings' be taken as 'data'?. I realise now that feelings are just that and we should enjoy the unmediated pure experience and feeling without trying to interpret it, not least trying to interpret with speculative metaphysical notions. Rational factual statements about the world must be based on logic and empirical observations of the world. Everything else is 'pure hypothesis' and 'speculation'. For instance 'deism' is 'pure hypothesis' that is no where proved, indeed it is an assertion that seems to be fundamentally unfalsifiable. We must be 'agnostic' about religious truth claims, this is the only reasonable position to take.

Sure, I've been here before and keep lapsing into religion and woo woo. This shows the power of the 'need to believe'.

Naturalistic Religion and Paganism

 I have to give up the supernatural and focus on this world, what we can truly know rather than idle speculation. I know the 'religious urge' will still carry me from time to time.Nature is so full of awesome power and magnificence and beauty. It is. We are. Why look for a supernatural 'source' of nature of which we can have no certain knowledge, when we have nature itself.

More and more people are identifying as 'naturalistic' pagans but they are derided and sidelined by traditional pagans who have their 'gods' and 'magical powers'. I wonder how  the latter people can say they believe in 'gods' as supernatural entities and yet claim they are a 'nature religion' when they inevitably focus on some magic 'otherworld'. ( In my view polytheism is no more necessarily a nature religion that monotheism).

I think a naturalistic spirituality or religious naturalism can borrow heavily from 'neo-pagan' forms of ritual with their celebration of the rhythms of nature. A naturalist spirituality that is pagan accented should focus on nature, the land, yes also the stories of the ancestors. My kind of naturalistic spirituality is also interested in the 'archetypes', the ancestral forces of the unconscious psyche that are surely the naturalistic origins of the subjectively real and powerful 'spiritual experiences' of modern pagans. As they rise up from the 'other world' unconscious into manifestation they appear as revelations, as coming from 'outside' the self, and as perfectly 'other'. But of course they are parts of ourselves, hidden creative parts desiring expression. So no doubt these 'gods' have a wisdom to teach us.


Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A collapse of 'faith'

Aha! My religious faith has collapsed again. What metaphysical castles I like to create, only to tear them down. My crisis this time is not about the coherence of some theistic claims ( I think some types of theistic claims are coherent, though not theistic claims approaching those of classical theism. The latter is incoherent i.e full of inherent contradictions or obfuscations and vagueness). My crisis this time is epistemological. I have concluded there is simply insufficient evidence to believe that even coherent theistic claims are true. One can only be an 'agnostic' who is inclined toward believing in theism...but not actually a theist in the sense that I believe there is a God. Oh yes I want there to be a God, or rather I would like to believe the world is heading for some ideal state or I have some subjective immmortality and so do my loved ones. But I have insufficient reason to believe any supernatural reality exists. The mystical experience and intutition sometimes seems to fill the evidential 'gaps' by providing some kind of 'gnosis' to believe in some kind of absolute spirit, but I can't rationally get beyond this very basic intuition to develop a 'theology' on anything like a sound footing. And the mystical experience itself cannot be shown to be more than a querk of the human brain, a state of consciousness.

This leads me back to being interested in  only a) naturalistic or humanistic paganism b) archetypal psychology c) pure mysticism, which is contentless and not noetic  d) parapsychology

c) is significant, because until a few days ago it sustained a unitarianism or perennialism, a kind of belief in an 'unknown God'. However all I can rationally say is that 'I have a certain state of mind', not that this mystical experience actually provides any factual information about the meaning of life, the universe and everything. I am intuitively inclined to sense a 'divine power' acting through creation. I have always called this the 'is-ness' of 'pure being'. And of course for me, spirit is being or essence, life or vitality and (states of) consciousness. Spirit may be metaphysical but it need not be supernatural. What I can't have is any confidence that this 'spirit' is a mind or person or that a 'person' or 'mind' as we know it is behind this sense of a 'divine power'. Or indeed that this intuition is not more than the working of my own digestion or particular firing pattern of neurons