Wednesday, May 22, 2013

More on "Pagan Fundamentalism"

By now, everyone has heard about Sabina Magliocco's keynote address to the 2013 Conference on Current Pagan Studies: "The Rise of Pagan Fundamentalism." But despite all the ensuing discussion, clarifications, criticisms, and accusations, no one, including most especially Magliocco herself, has been willing (or perhaps able?) to say just who these "fundamentalists" are.

Magliocco has given us some hints, though. In particular she has (very vaguely) defined two specific issues in Pagandom that have given "rise" to this supposed "fundamentalism". Here is how she puts it in her own words (source):
"there have been some discussions, mainly on Pagan Internet blogs and responses to them, which show some of the characteristics of fundamentalism, particularly an insistence on a single correct form of belief, and the demonization of those who hold different beliefs and opinions. These have centered around two hot-button topics: the historicity of Wiccan foundational narratives, and the nature of the gods"
Alas, we are not told where to find these mythical "Internet blogs" in which we can witness for ourselves (that is, instead of just taking Magliocco's word for it) "the demonization of those who hold different beliefs and opinions." Magliocco has repeatedly referred to these "blogs" without ever specifying a single url or naming a single blog or blogger in any other way. On top of that, Magliocco has made sweeping accusations against "a few detractors" (again, unnamed) whom she accuses of waging a campaign of "malicious and untrue rumors", impugning her integrity, and accusing her of being an "infiltrator".

A major problem with Magliocco's fanciful tale of "fundamentalists" who are out to get her, is that she assumes that there exist such things as "Wiccan foundational narratives." But, like her Internet "detractors," these "narratives" are never properly identified. This is, in fact, a very common phenomenon among Pagans, especially that tiny band of "Pagan scholars" who have appointed themselves to be the reformers of modern Paganism. The assumption by these academics and their loyal fans is that, in the words of Ronald Hutton, "Modern pagan witchcraft had, after all, appeared as a movement with a very specific historical claim."

So Magliocco's claim is, in essence, that certain "fundamentalist" Pagans are clinging stubbornly to what Hutton has described as a "very specific historical claim," and what Magliocco describes as "Wiccan foundational narratives." Magliocco claims further, as she must in order to make the label of "fundamentalist" stick, that these Pagans not only believe personally in the "factuality of foundational narratives", but in addition they evince an "insistence on a single correct form of belief," while engaging in "the demonization of those who hold different beliefs and opinions."

Therefore we have a grand total of four unanswered question:
  1. What are the "foundational narratives" of Wicca?
  2. Who today is proposing that these narratives are to be interpreted literally in a way that is inconsistent with historical facts?
  3. Who is insisting that such a literal, ahistorical interpretation is the only legitimate version of the history of Wicca?
  4. Who is demonizing those who disagree with this literal, ahistorical interpretation?
In a follow-up posts I will look more closely at these questions. In the meantime it is essential to emphasize that neither Magliocco nor anyone else has even come close to properly posing these questions, much less made any serious attempt to answer them. The clear implication is that those who are promoting the "Pagan fundamentalism" meme have made no real effort to carefully think through the serious questions they are raising.


Imperator David Griffin said...
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Joseph Bloch said...

I find it interesting that an actual belief in the existence of the Gods is itself somehow a critereon of fundamentalism. It's just such a condescending attitude, it's hard to take it seriously, and yet many do.

Imperator David Griffin said...
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Apuleius Platonicus said...

Hi Joseph. The whole thing with equating actual polytheism with fundamentalism is just so crazy that one hardly knows where to start. I say that even though I generally disagree with the "hard" polytheist stance, because I think it is a crude over-reaction to the admittedly monotheizing vagaries of a lot of Wiccans and Goddess-centric types. But my personal opinion is that most while most modern Pagans are guilty of very sloppy theology, very few, if any, come anywhere close to anything that would actually count at "fundamentalism", if that term is to continue to have any meaning.

Anonymous said...

My major concern with "Academic Pagan orthodoxy", as I've expressed elsewhere (and been deleted for the privilege), is the damage that will be done to the Pagan community in the process of attempting to hitch it to the oxcart of contemporary cultural Marxism.

What passes for the "Left", and the "Right", each have potentially valuable insights to contribute in the 21st century. Most people with whom you disagree are not lesser beings...their spiritual and political beliefs are simply not yours.

I've seen this phenomenon before, in the mainline Protestant churches of my youth in the 1970s and 1980s. Genuine theological discourse and the promotion of spiritual traditions took a back seat to collectivist slogans and Leftist political activism.

Those hollowed-out churches died lingering deaths, and I'm not sorry for that. But if we indulge these latter-day Pagan academics with the authority they may believe that they deserve, they will cheerfully hijack our faiths and repeat the process.

Attacking the 'problematic' ideological outliers in the Goddess community was the beginning. Perhaps next it will be the 'Neo' Platonist Pagans.


Imperator David Griffin said...
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Imperator David Griffin said...
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Imperator David Griffin said...

In the interest of transparency, I must state clearly that I am not unbiased in this discussion. As Imperator of the Golden Dawn's pro-Pagan "Alpha Omega" order, I have been attacked and lambasted for two decades on the Internet, only to learn in 2012 that many of the individuals flaming the A.O. have secretly been members of a "Christian's only" Rosicrucian Society.

In all of my debates, for example, on Pagan topics with Peregrin Wildoak, never once did he mention his conversion to Anglican Christianity. Still today, Peregrin claims in writing he is not Christian and has written in a Pagan voice in a Crytpo-Christian manner. Hiis book, "By Names and Images" bears Isis on the cover and gives the impression it is written by a Pagan.

After 20 years of attacks on the Internet, I have learned to recognize the rhetorical and propaganda tactics used by Crypto-Christian activists.

Let me be clear that I am not accusing Sabina Magliocco, in particular, of pursuing a hidden agenada.

What bothers me about her conjuring up "Pagan Fundamentalists" thopugh, is it so resembles fear-mongering tactics used by Crypto-Christian activists in the Golden Dawn community.

Whereas this may not be the case in this instance, the Pagans should nonetheless be wary of co-opt attempts by Crypto-Christian acvitists. Such attempts have already occured and have been exposed in the Golden Dawn.

Golden Dawn Imperator
David Griffin

gunk wretch said...

I think the thing about Wiccan origins is that some Wiccans hate the idea that Gardner got ideas from the Golden Dawn or Aleister Crowley. Also, the historicity of ancient witchcraft lineages that have continued to this day unbroken is an idea that is not believed by some and strongly defended by others.
Some people also have trouble with sex magick, which could obviously bring up some issues but since it was part of the original Wicca, yet not so common for many modern Wiccans this could be an issue of division as to what is required practice.

I have myself also received pretty offensive responses and been kick off of forums for talking about entheogen use, even though it is clearly part of Pagan tradition. Some people hate the idea of "drug" spirituality and get very authoritarian about it, even though all plants are sacred.

I have noticed some ex Christians who become Pagans bring some of their hang ups with them and can be kind of assholish. I wouldnt go so far as to say this is Pagan fundamentalism, more just being a jerk, but it is clear that the brain washing of Christianity has gone in to "secular" areas of life and has made it hard for some modern people to accept some ancient traditions.

Some people insist in a literal physical interpretation of the gods, others have a more psychological view (Hard Vs Soft Polytheism) and so some people like to go around saying who is or who isnt a Pagan based on these kinds of minor differences.