During the 90’s I went through the most extraordinary period of spiritual search and exploration, and it was a wonderfully expansive and inspiring time. I also worked very hard at a training for what became my mainstream career, but the exploration of spirituality and mysticism was truly fantastic, and I had a few good friends that I could share that with.
That came to an end in about 1998 or so, after which I started to really catch up on coming out as a gay man in the bear community, and gaining a fuller life (which I couldn’t have done without separating from traditional streams of spirituality). By 2000 I was formally identifying as a Pagan (for the first time since the 1980s), and have been so for about 15 years now.
I needed Paganism, and it allowed me to explore specific areas of practice and experience quite fully, plus it led to my meeting my husband. I also had some good friends within Paganism, especially within Heathenry. It has been genuine.
Looking back, there have been specific moments when I significantly separated from the Pagan mainstream though, starting with the realization that I was (if anything) opposed to religious recognition, rather than the promotion of secularism, as a means of protecting both freedom of religion and freedom from religion. I don’t want to be part of the privilege of religion, I want to see that privilege consigned to the past.
If I was to make a list of everything that has separated me from modern Paganism as normally conceived, it would be a long and laborious one. Ethnic obsessions, fake histories, biological gender and fertility fixations, crap ideologies, toxic individuals, superstition, indigenous pretensions, an eye on the respectable prize, it would just go on and on. Added to that, I feel better represented and stimulated by Satanism most days, though really I can only represent myself and am anything but a team joiner. But what separates me from Paganism is not spiritual, it is largely the behaviour of people in groups and pseudo-communities (which is what separates me from the mainstream gay community also).
I look back and I see good reasons for being Pagan, and feel gratitude for various things I have got from it, but I also see a bit of a slough, a miasma, a holding area. Am I still Pagan? For all intents and purposes, not for a while now. I am technically a polytheist (certainly), and my relationship with my gods is very alive for me, and dear to my heart. But I’m more poly than strictly theist in the way people generally understand; I experience and encompass a range of relationships with what might be considered gods (as I do in fact), spirits, demons, whatever. These are real to me, even if I understand that they are poetic realities to some (and delusions to others). If these are poetry, then poetry is more real to me than much we take to be material fact, and I don’t jest when I refer to them as “persons”, albeit non-human. But I do not believe in a “creator”, a “God” or “The Goddess”. In a monotheistic sense I am an atheist.
I am not a materialist, because it does not match my experience, and I can’t pretend it does. I love the virtues of reason and logic, but I am not a “rationalist”, because rationalism is not adequate for everything in life. Cook with fire, wash with water, and know what is good for what.
I don’t care what people in general think of me, so long as I secure what I need for me and my loved ones. Honesty means a great deal to me, but so does pragmatism.
Having realized that I am effectively no longer Pagan (but with all the above qualifications) I just feel immense relief, at all the stuff I no longer have to deal with, and excitement at the prospect of a world no longer stuffed in a jar. That is really sweet. But I am not giving up the term “warlock“, as that still describes me :0) It’s not that I can be especially distinguished from a hundred other people who call themselves “Pagan”, but the distinction from the collective is clear to me. I’ve been docked here for a long time, and there really has to be more.
The other day I asked my husband what he thought was the “meaning of life”? I agreed with his answer. The meaning of life is to enjoy it. And of course there are layers, subtleties and refinements to that, but basically that is it. A child might dream it, though it takes an adult to understand, and it is regretless enough to face death. Let your pleasures be deep, subtle, relational, everything you could want. The moral restrictions on it are in fact hogwash compared to the unrestricted workings of intelligent, sentient life. Thus we come to love, for if you will follow enjoyment and pleasure, you must come to love, for it leads to that place we call the soul and the heart, not out of morality, but out of desire and the capacity for fulfilment.