Ego…Where Nice Folks Come to Die
(Reposted from Patheos.com)
Out there in the world, especially in, but not limited to, the global Pagan internet community, there is a stream of viciousness that is sometimes hard to endure. There are those who thrive on it. They love to get in there all suited up in their battle gear and ready to defend the sacred honor of their beliefs, not just to zealot trolls of other religions who come into our sacred space, but also to our “own kind” who insist on creating turmoil and discord.
Among any of the religions I have studied in my life, and there are a plethora since the paths people take to connect with The Divine are a passionate subject of mine, I imagined Paganism would be the most accepting, the most gracious, and the most inclusive. We talk a good game about how there is room for everyone and that one person’s practices and beliefs are just as valid as another, but the older I get, the more I see that this is simply not the case. The back-biting, pious accusations, blow-hard academic snobbery, and exclusivism are as alive and well in Paganism as they are everywhere else.
For those who believe the anonymity of the keyboard is what fuels the rabid decimation of others in the name of ego, we need only look to the “Witch Wars” that happen within and between covens, groves, and other magical groups. This did not happen when I practiced with British Witches in England (not to be confused with British Traditionalists, and the response of British Witches to British Traditionalists is a whole other column altogether that I will likely never write) that I saw, but as soon as I became involved in the American Pagan scene in 1986, it was clearly prevalent and continues to this day. Ego is big in Paganism and it is at the heart of every single political conflict I hear. It is at the heart of every internet slap down and every non-constructive, unkind blog post comment. Ego is behind every compulsion to publicly out another person as “wrong” and yourself as “right.”
Ego itself is not a bad thing, especially when it takes the form of healthy self-esteem and self-love. It tips the scale when ego causes a person to cut down others to make themselves look better.
Why is ego such an issue for Paganism? Part of the reason is because other sacred paths push humility through guilt and unworthiness. Some teach that we come from the womb contaminated with sin and the filth of baser needs. Some teach that we are not even worthy to engage the Divine ourselves and must have a human intermediary who is holier than we are to translate and intervene on our behalf. I do not advocate these beliefs, but they do explain why we come from a perspective of entitlement. We believe everyone is a sacred and divine vessel of the God and Goddess…until we don’t. Until our ego decides that this sacred and divine vessel of the God and Goddess needs a smack down and must understand that we are smarter, cleverer, better educated, and more sacred one in the land.
In Christianity, God gave to Moses Ten Commandments to guide the behavior of a group of people who were barely past the level of Neanderthals climbing out of primordial cave soup. God said, “Here! Of all the dos and do nots I could give you, I boiled it down to ten and I want you to follow them.” When considered from a psychological perspective, the mandates are not only reasonable, but they are necessary in order to establish sovereignty and to preserve the human race. They came down to “honor sacredness” and “don’t kill one another or don’t do things that will get you killed.”
- Thou shalt have no other gods before me
Establishing sovereignty: Listen to me and obey my laws…so you do not die.
- Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image
Establishing sovereignty: Do not invest in what you see before you on earth. Invest in the spirit that is in your heart – that is me.
- Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain
Establishing sovereignty: Do not speak of me except with reverence.
- Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy
Establishing sovereignty: Set one day a week aside to explore sacredness.
- Honor thy father and thy mother
Because according to Jewish law, if you do not, they have the right to kill you, banish you, or sell you as a slave, in which case, you will likely die, so be nice to your Mama and your Daddy.
- Thou shalt not kill
Because then a person will die.
- Thou shalt not commit adultery
Because then a person has the right to kill you and the person you committed adultery with.
- Thou shalt not steal
Because then a person will likely kill you.
- Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor
Don’t lie about your neighbor or they will likely kill you.
- Thou shalt not covet (neighbor’s house)
Don’t obsess about what someone else has because in the primitive mindset you people have, you will probably end up killing them to get it.
These laws considered the historical human condition and worked to establish order that would preserve the species and keep a strong connection to Deity. As hundreds of years passed, Jesus amended the list a bit and basically said (paraphrased), “Clearly and it be said as such that you idiots cannot manage ten laws, so verily, I give you two.” Although people continued to revere (but not follow) the original ten (as is evidenced by the fact that they are included in the current version of the Bible which was compiled quite a bit later in history), they had a new framework of behavior to consider:
- Honor God
- Love your neighbor as you love yourself
This is less about preserving the species and more about good social interaction. It does not say to love your neighbor as yourself…
…if they are not gay
…if they agree with your philosophy
…if they provide appropriate citation for non-provable historical assertions that agree with your citations from someone who is trying to prove a negative
It does not say, “Love your friends as yourself.” You do not usually get to choose your neighbors, so the dictate is to “love those around you.”
If people are truly loving others as they love themselves, I am painfully saddened by their lack of self-love.
The Wiccan Rede says, “As it harms none, do what ye will.” I already wrote one post on the depths of that statement and all the ways in which you can harm a person. Of course, the Ten Commandments only apply to Christians and the Wiccan Rede only to Wiccans. Where does that leave the rest of us in the task of deciding how to treat other humans?
I am not a rock star. I am not “edgy.” I am not out to fight the good fight or to defend what is sacred to me.
I am comfortable with others believing differently than I do. I am comfortable with others extrapolating a different perspective than I do from history passed down both orally and academically. I believe there is so much out there that cannot be proven, but “feels” authentic and those things, I am comfortable accepting on faith that these things “are,” rather than needing to prove why they are.
I am somebody’s mom, somebody’s grandma, somebody’s high priestess, and somebody’s teacher. I am nobody’s daughter because everyone before me in my line died. I began mothering in 1978 and took care of my own mother’s children for six years before that. The youngest of my six children are still at home and are 16 and 18-years-old.
I have a Ph.D in Religion and I just published my thirtieth book. I started working Craft in England in the 1980s and have belonged to The Goddess ever since. I have led three different covens in the United States. I have been wife to two different military members (consecutively, not concurrently) and traveled the world for more than twenty years. I am a Tarotologist and professional life coach. I own a Botánica of magical items for sale that I make with my own hands.
I have been Maiden, Mother, Diva, and now I am Crone.
I am not on a campaign to convince anyone of anything except to be good to one another, to open their minds and their hearts and their spirits, and to maybe not take everything quite so seriously. I share what I know because there appears, based on my book royalties, to be an interest in it.
If I could give people my own two commandments, they would be:
- Don’t be an asshole
- Know when you’re done
To follow my own commandments, particularly the last one, this will be my last post for Patheos Pagan. I am done. I am so very grateful that back in February, Christine Hoff Kraemer took a chance on me and brought me on board as a regular blogger. Even though this did not turn out to be what I thought it would be, it was quite a learning experience and for that, I am grateful. This is the sixty-sixth post I have written for Patheos Pagan and I am proud of them all, some more than others. Thank you to the readers who invested their time and hearts into reading my words.
If you are interested in continuing to follow my writing, I can be found at my personal blog: www.katrinarasbold.com
…and at my Facebook: www.facebook.com/katrinarasbold where I post quite frequently
…and at my other website, www.paganfriendly.com.
As always, my books are available at Amazon.com with two more to release before the year is finished
…and it will be fun if you come visit me at Botánica de La Reina
…and in June 2016 at PanGaia Festival in Fair Oaks, California.
I also hope to be at Pantheacon in San Jose, California in February 2016.
Thank you for the honor of writing in this venue.