Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The girl who kicked the hornets nest (again), part 3

In the (at least for now) last installment of this short series of posts--part one here, part two here--I want to respond to the last response to John Halstead's posts that has caught my attention. It was written by Dave, whom I do not know, but vehemently agree with.

"I would argue that no matter how much autonomy may be given up, if you are actively relinquishing it as a free choice then you are nevertheless in complete authority over your own self. You would have, in fact, given up nothing. Indeed the very act of choosing (and the implications of being happy with said choice) to relinquish one’s authority to their god(s) speaks to a carefully considered choice. This would seem to imply that should the motivations for the choice change so too would the choice. This seems, to me, no less co-equal than choosing to “work with” gods and goddesses or archetypes or what have you. The relationship would be hugely asymmetrical of course but it would, in my opinion, no more constitute a true transfer of power (in the sense of a permanent loss of free choice) than consensual non-consent.

I think that what truly makes practitioners like Ms. Temperance so satisfied with their choice is the fact that it is a choice. The practical transfer of power may make it seem substantially different from other ways of relating to the divine but in my opinion it represents a difference of degree not a difference of kind. Now, if the argument was to be taken against one’s will, that is a whole different story. In my mind that would represent a moral failure on the part of the deity to which the only correct moral response would be to refuse that deity worship. Probably a large part of why I thought Christianity so inherently idiotic and repugnant when I first encountered it. The can’t opt out nature of the system, no matter how liberal the interpretation, begs to be challenged.

That opinion relies upon an understanding of authority as requiring justification, never being justified in and of itself, and it being incumbent upon the would be authority in question to prove why their authority is justified. Not everyone shares that view and I can respect that but frankly, for myself, I can’t imagine a worse hell. When it comes to voluntarily relinquishing one’s authority? I’m sure Ms. Temperance has valid reasons for that action within her own moral framework and I wish her the best. For my own personal standards it would be a failure of moral character – for me – to pursue a similar relationship and to her credit she does not advocate her model for all, to the best of my knowledge."

'A difference of degree, not a difference of kind'. This, exactly, is what I've been trying to put into words but have failed to do in a to-the-point way. Dave's views upon my path are correct: it is a choice I have made, and with the proper steps, I would be able to step away from it, should I want to. I am not enslaved, nor forced into anything, even though I may not like some of the God-bothering that goes on in my life at times. This is what I--consciously, knowingly, willingly--signed on for when I became a Neo-Pagan, then an Eclectic Witch, and then when I progressed into Hellenismos. All came with a set of vows and requirements that I felt comfortable with at the time. I have made the choice to increase the asymmetricallity of the relationship between the Gods and myself, but there are many who have not done so, and I applaud them for making that conscious decision.

When it comes to religion, I feel there is no 'right way'. You either believe, or don't believe, on the scale, at a point of your choosing. This is good, it makes us different, unique, and it helps us to keep thinking and evolving. We come closer to our own needs through our relation (or lack of same) with supernatural forces. I applaud anyone willing to take this struggle on.

Opting out of Hellenismos--or any religion--should (in my opinion) be done with absolute care and respect. There is nothing binding you to a religion in the strictest sense, and especially the Theoi are not vengeful Gods, but there is something to waving a fond farewell, and respectfully ending a relationship. Like you would with a friend or love interest, issues and feelings need to be resolved. Otherwise, the lingering relationship becomes unhealthy.

When I worked in mental healthcare, ending a relationship with a client was as important--if not more important--than starting one. I feel the same way about ending a relationship with the Gods, and I did so with the God and Goddess of Neo-Wicca and Eclectic Witchcraft when I adopted Hellenismos. I made vows to the Lord and Lady that needed to be lifted from me, or transfered into my new practice. It was a process I got through with a lot of hurt and heartache, but without it, I would never have been able to fall into Hellenismos as completely as I have.

Dave, again, is someone who can not imagine relinquishing control over their life to a power they can not prove exists, and I respect that. I understand that. I wish him all the best in his current path. Again, I can't and would never force my religious views upon anyone. Those who come here and to PaganSquare to read my words, do so of their own accord. No one is (hopefully) forcing them, least of all myself.


Elani Temperance said...

Dave says:
December 26, 2012 at 10:52 pm

I cannot reply directly to your site due to the comment system. Feel free to cross post this reply to your own post if you so desire.

To clarify my own position, I have a preexisting obligation to my people to adhere to our ways as dutifully as possible. I am from a nomadic culture which sees freedom and personal responsibility as values to live by. We interpret this as it being incumbent upon each individual person to live as well and as ably as they can, for the sake of the well being of the group as a whole.

While I’m am the last living representative of my culture and therefore it technically “doesn’t matter” how I live, I feel I owe the memory of my people the respect enough to carry on our ways. Therefore, it would be inappropriate for me to pursue a relationship where I abdicated my personal authority without -exceptional- justification.

My original reply was actually written assuming the reality of a literal interpretation of classical theism, despite my own personal theological opinion.

Additionally, my original reply was not meant to disparage people who voluntarily enter into relationships with an asymmetrical balance of power, whether religious or sexual or whatever kind of power. Only to assert my opinion that, for myself, it would be inappropriate. While I think that it is an undertaking open to a high degree of abuse on the part of the person or god or whomever receiving the greater share of power in the relationship I do not feel it is inherently immoral to be in such a relationship if entered into as an informed, considered free choice.

I do also recognize the validity of the experiences of spirit workers and shamanic practitioners who are taken up against their will. This is a complex issue, morally speaking, and I stand by my assertion that it would be hell for me. I do want to clarify that when I said the only appropriate moral response would be to refuse the divinity in question worship I meant that for myself.

I cast no judgment upon those people who continue in relationships of that nature rather than suffer painful consequences. Had I not come from a culture that so valued freedom I would likely not have the motivation to potentially withstand those consequences. Further, I cannot assert, even in the face of that obligation, that I would have the ability to withstand those consequences.

Finally, I want to commend you for your commitment to open and honest dialogue. You are a credit to the worthiness of worship of the Theoi that their practitioners should adhere to tolerance and pluralism. Thank you for this discussion. It has been most enlightening.

May the wind be at your back.


Elani Temperance said...

Thank you, too, for your candor and your willingness to share details of your personal life. This discussion has been very enlightening, and I have--in no way--been offended, either by you or anyone else. I fully understand your reasoning when it comes to my practice. If I had your background, I might feel the same. I do not, however, so making this choice is logical to me.

Again, thank you, I appreciate the respect you have shown in the face of something so alien to you.

May the Theoi grant you blessing.