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Author Topic: Does subjective experience trump academic sources?  (Read 6590 times)

HeartShadow

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Re: Does subjective experience trump academic sources?
« Reply #45 on: September 23, 2014, 04:34:16 pm »
Quote from: carillion;159954
So I'm kind of coming out of a time capsule and finding things quite different which is why I asked the question. It was not meant to be a divisive question and it certainly was a sincere question as I've been meaning to take up my studies again but now I'm not so sure.


I've been meaning to take up my studies again but now I'm not so sure.

 
That's an entirely DIFFERENT question than what you asked, though.  "Where do I start" is not remotely the same as "gods vs. UPG - which what where".

If the question is "I'm interested in X, where's a good place to start" you're going to get VERY DIFFERENT ANSWERS than one about whether UPG or lore gets the nod.

carillion

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Re: Does subjective experience trump academic sources?
« Reply #46 on: September 23, 2014, 04:38:03 pm »
Quote from: HeartShadow;159966
That's an entirely DIFFERENT question than what you asked, though.  "Where do I start" is not remotely the same as "gods vs. UPG - which what where".

If the question is "I'm interested in X, where's a good place to start" you're going to get VERY DIFFERENT ANSWERS than one about whether UPG or lore gets the nod.



No, the question stands. I was looking around at other people looking for information as well and it is that component I am interested in, not how to start. And seeing the *seeming* contradiction (s) between between the literature and between different people's experiences, it seemed best to tackle this question first. If a person just asked "where do I start", they run smack up against the problem which I'm bringing up.

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Re: Does subjective experience trump academic sources?
« Reply #47 on: September 23, 2014, 05:38:19 pm »
Quote from: carillion;159969
No, the question stands. I was looking around at other people looking for information as well and it is that component I am interested in, not how to start. And seeing the *seeming* contradiction (s) between between the literature and between different people's experiences, it seemed best to tackle this question first. If a person just asked "where do I start", they run smack up against the problem which I'm bringing up.

 
It only runs smack into that problem IF you're working in a system that privileges lore.  Which is not all paganisms.

If you're starting from a recon perspective, or a gods-unchanging perspective, then yes, it can be a thing.  But a different perspective results in the entire question not making a damn bit of sense.  The goal matters.

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Re: Does subjective experience trump academic sources?
« Reply #48 on: September 23, 2014, 05:47:33 pm »
Quote from: carillion;159954

When I came here, I was surprised to find Cunningham well spoken of . There was a time when the mention of his name caused much teeth grinding and eye-rolling. But then 'Ecclectic Wicca' was not respected at all . Indeed on some U.K. forums, people were told that only lineaged people attached to a group could 'speak' for Wicca.

Now,Eclectic Wicca is accepted and the catagory of 'British Traditional Wicca' seperates the lineaged from the eclectics ( at least in North America ).

The character of the Morrigan seems to have changed over this time as well . And perhaps that's because more people have had experiences that differed from the mythological portraits and translations and that has caused a seismic shift on how people think she *should* be perceived.


Here's an alternate explanation: as people talk about things more, they get better at talking about them.

So our conversations about the nuances of what is Wicca and what might be better served by a different term have gotten better. (There are reasons I use 'initiatory religious witchcraft', after all, even though my trad's practices are quite comfortably in the category that many people would use 'Wicca' for.)

We have developed, with the rise of ready access to the Internet for most people in the US (and elsewhere!) a much broader base of knowledge and discussion for things like interactions with deity.

(The kind of thing that would likely not be broadly published in books, for a variety of reasons, starting with the fact that until the rise of ebooks and self-publishing as an option, there were simply not that many books coming out every year that were widely known or discussed about Pagan topics - a few hundred, maybe, to cover everything from magical practice to ritual ideas to specific concepts like herbs or divination tools or what have you.)

We've also - as a broad series of interlocking and sometimes widely differing communities - gotten better at talking about experiences we don't all share (which is most of them) in ways that make people at least sometimes willing to share highly personal things (like interactions with deities.)

It's certainly not perfect yet, mind you, but I see an awful lot of reasons why there might be the changes you describe, and many of them have entirely reasonable explanations rooted in changes in communication methods, access, and experience having those conversations in general.

Personally, while I know that "where do I start" can be terrifying for some people, I think it, ultimately, gives people a great deal more power, choice, and possibility than being limited to only a few sources. (And, as has been discussed in various places on this forum extensively in the past, sources that talk about *applying* that information to daily life, not just descriptions of worship that requires dozens of priests or an entire city, or architecture that someone just doesn't have in a private home.

Plus, now we've got spaces like this forum and various others where people can say "Hey, where's a good place to start with X?" (I should note that the vast number of hits I get to my Seeking site come from Tumblr, where it's linked in precisely that kind of information resource post.)

I don't recommend Cunningham as a starting place these days - precisely because he's been dead for more than two decades, and the way he uses terms can be confusing for people interacting with the community now. But there's specific things in his books that are still useful, and I don't *disrecommend* him. I just think there are other better places with recent awareness of community starting places that are a better place for someone brand new to start.
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carillion

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Re: Does subjective experience trump academic sources?
« Reply #49 on: September 23, 2014, 07:46:26 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;160022
Here's an alternate explanation: as people talk about things more, they get better at talking about them.

So our conversations about the nuances of what is Wicca and what might be better served by a different term have gotten better. (There are reasons I use 'initiatory religious witchcraft', after all, even though my trad's practices are quite comfortably in the category that many people would use 'Wicca' for.)

We have developed, with the rise of ready access to the Internet for most people in the US (and elsewhere!) a much broader base of knowledge and discussion for things like interactions with deity.

(The kind of thing that would likely not be broadly published in books, for a variety of reasons, starting with the fact that until the rise of ebooks and self-publishing as an option, there were simply not that many books coming out every year that were widely known or discussed about Pagan topics - a few hundred, maybe, to cover everything from magical practice to ritual ideas to specific concepts like herbs or divination tools or what have you.)

We've also - as a broad series of interlocking and sometimes widely differing communities - gotten better at talking about experiences we don't all share (which is most of them) in ways that make people at least sometimes willing to share highly personal things (like interactions with deities.)

It's certainly not perfect yet, mind you, but I see an awful lot of reasons why there might be the changes you describe, and many of them have entirely reasonable explanations rooted in changes in communication methods, access, and experience having those conversations in general.

Personally, while I know that "where do I start" can be terrifying for some people, I think it, ultimately, gives people a great deal more power, choice, and possibility than being limited to only a few sources. (And, as has been discussed in various places on this forum extensively in the past, sources that talk about *applying* that information to daily life, not just descriptions of worship that requires dozens of priests or an entire city, or architecture that someone just doesn't have in a private home.

Plus, now we've got spaces like this forum and various others where people can say "Hey, where's a good place to start with X?" (I should note that the vast number of hits I get to my Seeking site come from Tumblr, where it's linked in precisely that kind of information resource post.)

I don't recommend Cunningham as a starting place these days - precisely because he's been dead for more than two decades, and the way he uses terms can be confusing for people interacting with the community now. But there's specific things in his books that are still useful, and I don't *disrecommend* him. I just think there are other better places with recent awareness of community starting places that are a better place for someone brand new to start.


Thank you for that elegant summation. I daresay you are right and that the simple passage of time has put a different 'face' on many things. It's amazing to think of how much things of changed in such a short time and I believe you are right in that the speed of and access to information has wrought great changes in a short time.

I was looking at my old books and research articles and thinking that they were of little use anymore in the wider world. I have much to do to keep up with the daily changes in my own fields and have let other things slide.

Back in the day, people would caution others about too confident an approach to some classes of deity and would eschew people like Cunningham altogether. But there seems to have been a 'de-classing' of many deities since back then which I admit I found confusing when I decided to look at pagan places again.

But of course one should always choose for themselves in the end. I will maintain my interest in witchcraft both historical and modern but not explore deity any more. I think that unless one has direct communication, it's pointless to proceed no matter how much academic information one has. One would hate to get it wrong:eek:
« Last Edit: September 23, 2014, 07:47:34 pm by carillion »

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Re: Does subjective experience trump academic sources?
« Reply #50 on: September 23, 2014, 07:57:57 pm »
Quote from: carillion;160044
One would hate to get it wrong:eek:

 
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Re: Does subjective experience trump academic sources?
« Reply #51 on: September 23, 2014, 08:07:20 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;160046
Yeah, well, welcome to religion.  We're all probably wrong. :D:

 
One of the starting principles in FlameKeeping, actually - we're all wrong somewhere on something.  If nothing else, on being wrong. :D:  Saves a lot of worrying. :)

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Re: Does subjective experience trump academic sources?
« Reply #52 on: September 23, 2014, 09:10:16 pm »
Quote from: carillion;159694
So do you think that if your experience contradicts the known mythology, you can safely disregard it and should you encourage others to do so as well?

 
Hanging this here, because I think it's an interesting and discussion-worthy topic, despite the seeming passive-aggressive agenda of the original post.

First I want to mention, for those who don't have a god-phone or are god-bothered - have you ever tried divination to try to suss out some info on your deities?  I am also in a place where I don't really intuitively feel my gods (except sometimes in powerful ritual), but I do use divination as part of a ritual to communicate with them when I have a particular question or just want to know what I could be doing to please them or further whatever work they're doing.

Now I'd like to unpack my perspective of lore vs. UPG.  First, I think it's important to consider that not all 'lore' is created equal.  Much of what we have was written or recorded through a Christian lens, which to me means it's open to questioning or a great amount of interpretation.  In the Heathen tradition, for example, there's a great deal of question in particular about the nature of Loki, and how much Snorri (a Christian) demonized Him to fit a good vs. evil worldview.  There's a lot of people who's UPG says that Loki's a pretty awesome guy; which is not generally the picture we get from the lore.  For me, who is not god-bothered, part of the 'discernment' I use when checking my divinations is if it makes sense within the lore; because, like Carillion mentions, I just don't have any other checking methods.  There are some deities I honor who just don't have much extant lore (my Patron Nerthus), and for them I must rely on my own divinations, checking them with the UPG of others.

I generally tend to incorporate gnosis that seems to be shared by many, rather than one person's contradictory gnosis; with the understanding that IMO deities are like people in that they can have very different relationships with different people and so that one contradictory person's UPG is not necessarily wrong.  I experience this myself with Hretha, an Anglo-Saxon goddess, whom we have little to no contextual information about.  Many see Her as a warrior deity, or a winter deity that succumbs to the spring not unlike the Celtic Callieach, or even as an Earth Mother; but I personally see Her as the roaring early-spring winds of the prairies.  This is how She came to me in a ritual where I asked to learn about Her nature (through divination, which can sometimes lead to an intuitive sensing), and I place it above all other opinions in my hierarchy of 'accurate UPG', which the acknowledgement that She may only be that for me.

And I think that gets to the heart of it.  For the person experiencing the UPG, it will probably trump both lore and others' UPG in their own religious lives.  But for those who haven't had that experience, or who don't sense the deities at all, the extant lore about that deity is probably going to trump that one person's UPG.  I think it's generally a hierarchy where one's own experiences are placed at the top, and UPG, SPG, and lore are placed at various steps depending on their accuracy as a source.  At least that's how it works for me.
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Re: Does subjective experience trump academic sources?
« Reply #53 on: September 23, 2014, 09:25:20 pm »
Quote from: Aiwelin;160054
Hanging this here, because I think it's an interesting and discussion-worthy topic, despite the seeming passive-aggressive agenda of the original post.

First I want to mention, for those who don't have a god-phone or are god-bothered - have you ever tried divination to try to suss out some info on your deities?  I am also in a place where I don't really intuitively feel my gods (except sometimes in powerful ritual), but I do use divination as part of a ritual to communicate with them when I have a particular question or just want to know what I could be doing to please them or further whatever work they're doing.

Now I'd like to unpack my perspective of lore vs. UPG.  First, I think it's important to consider that not all 'lore' is created equal.  Much of what we have was written or recorded through a Christian lens, which to me means it's open to questioning or a great amount of interpretation.  In the Heathen tradition, for example, there's a great deal of question in particular about the nature of Loki, and how much Snorri (a Christian) demonized Him to fit a good vs. evil worldview.  There's a lot of people who's UPG says that Loki's a pretty awesome guy; which is not generally the picture we get from the lore.  For me, who is not god-bothered, part of the 'discernment' I use when checking my divinations is if it makes sense within the lore; because, like Carillion mentions, I just don't have any other checking methods.  There are some deities I honor who just don't have much extant lore (my Patron Nerthus), and for them I must rely on my own divinations, checking them with the UPG of others.

I generally tend to incorporate gnosis that seems to be shared by many, rather than one person's contradictory gnosis; with the understanding that IMO deities are like people in that they can have very different relationships with different people and so that one contradictory person's UPG is not necessarily wrong.  I experience this myself with Hretha, an Anglo-Saxon goddess, whom we have little to no contextual information about.  Many see Her as a warrior deity, or a winter deity that succumbs to the spring not unlike the Celtic Callieach, or even as an Earth Mother; but I personally see Her as the roaring early-spring winds of the prairies.  This is how She came to me in a ritual where I asked to learn about Her nature (through divination, which can sometimes lead to an intuitive sensing), and I place it above all other opinions in my hierarchy of 'accurate UPG', which the acknowledgement that She may only be that for me.

And I think that gets to the heart of it.  For the person experiencing the UPG, it will probably trump both lore and others' UPG in their own religious lives.  But for those who haven't had that experience, or who don't sense the deities at all, the extant lore about that deity is probably going to trump that one person's UPG.  I think it's generally a hierarchy where one's own experiences are placed at the top, and UPG, SPG, and lore are placed at various steps depending on their accuracy as a source.  At least that's how it works for me.
That's kind of my thoughts on it, but you said it way better than I did. +1 and all that
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Re: Does subjective experience trump academic sources?
« Reply #54 on: January 19, 2017, 01:37:10 pm »
Quote from: carillion;159694
Does subjective experience trump academic sources?

This is an excellent question.  It is a shame your topic was met with such hostility.  

I think, theists would do well to understand the subjectivity of their own experiences with gods.  

That said, when reaching out into ancient religions and mythologies to strengthen my own spiritual-religious system, I find sacred scripture and myths from the original cultures to be far more useful to me than the subjective recollections of people today who describe to me how they have (subjectively) perceived and experienced those same gods and goddesses... but I understand that those ancient cultures were also (individually and collectively) subjectively experiencing those deities themselves.  

The descriptions and portrayals of gods within their sacred scriptures, their archetypes and religious motifs within the mythology and culture, as well as the underlying esoteric mysteries and symbolism, are all of far more use to my spiritual-religious system than what people on the internet have to say about their personal, subjective spiritual-religious experiences with gods and goddesses.  

I mean them no offense by that.  The act of researching information about the role of gods and goddesses in the lives and myths of past cultures is one thing... the act of researching information about the role of gods and goddesses in the lives and myths of people alive today is a completely different thing; both are areas I find to be incredibly fascinating.  One just tends to be far more useful to the development of my own spiritual-religious system.  


Quote from: carillion;159694
I was thinking of this while reading another thread wherein one person felt obligated to apologise for misconstruing the true character of a goddess based on what appeared to be that other person's subjective *experience* of that goddess.


Drama

Quote

So how much should someone who is limited to reading about a deity throw overboard when corrected by someone who has a subjective experience of this deity which disagrees with the literature?


People may believe what they Will, and develop and evolve myths and archetypes (and the depictions of their gods) as they Will, in a way that complements their Weltanschauung and strengthens their own spiritual-religious systems, and I encourage that.  I do that myself.  However, when discussing the portrayal of deities within their original myths and cultures, I do think it is important to try and be as accurate as possible.  

So to answer your question, I would not suggest you dismiss any of the ancient myths of the gods that interest you, merely because some random person on the Internet or wherever perceives some deity differently within their own subjective universe.

Quote

So do you think that if your experience contradicts the known mythology, you can safely disregard it and should you encourage others to do so as well?.


I think it is wise to research and familiarize yourself with the base of a Tree before creating a branch of your own.  It would not hurt to study the other branches as well... just understand that your branch may grow in a vastly different direction than someone else's, even if you both grow from the same Tree.  Islam and Christianity evolving from Judaism is a powerful example of this.  In many ways they are alike, and in many ways they are different... from each other, as well as from the base of their Tree.  Islam, Christianity, and Judaism all remain strong nonetheless.


______


I understand that my use of the word "subjective" might upset some people.  Various people in the past have accused me of declaring that their gods are "all in their head"; I think this is a very ignorant and reductive way of interpreting what I am saying.  I feel that every human being on earth cannot help but underestimate the power of their own mind and imagination, and the things we can potentially achieve and experience when we strengthen and explore that power... especially in regards to religion and spirituality.
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Re: Does subjective experience trump academic sources?
« Reply #55 on: January 20, 2017, 07:52:05 pm »
Quote from: Goddess_Ashtara;201620
This is an excellent question.  It is a shame your topic was met with such hostility.

Quote from: carillion;159694
I was thinking of this while reading another thread wherein one person felt obligated to apologise for misconstruing the true character of a goddess based on what appeared to be that other person's subjective *experience* of that goddess.


Drama

 
A Reminder:
Hi, Goddess_Ashtara,

While we don't have a problem with reviving old threads here, we do have some guidelines for best practices when doing so.

The bit I quoted is illustrative of some of the pitfalls that can come up. The incident Carillion was referring to wasn't 'drama' until she used it (and misrepresented it!) as her reason for starting this thread, which is why many of the responses are hostile. The posts in this thread, if read carefully, do explicate that, which is one of the reasons why we strongly suggest that people read, not just skim or skip, the whole thread they're considering reviving.

You're correct that the hostile responses to Carillion's stated motivation overshadowed what could have been an excellent discussion - unfortunately, Carillion, instead of just presenting the discussion topic, made a point of including that motivation, thus making it a part of the discussion. And because she so grossly misrepresented ('lied about' is not too strong a phrase) what had taken place in the thread that inspired her, that was what people responded to.

So, as the guidelines for thread-reviving say, it's a really good idea to read the whole thread you're considering reviving.

This isn't a formal warning, just a reminder.  No  reply is necessary, but if you have questions or need clarification,  please feel free to contact a member of staff privately.

Thanks!
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Re: Does subjective experience trump academic sources?
« Reply #56 on: January 21, 2017, 03:37:17 am »
Quote from: SunflowerP;201671
A Reminder:
Hi, Goddess_Ashtara,

The bit I quoted is illustrative of some of the pitfalls that can come up. The incident Carillion was referring to wasn't 'drama' until she used it (and misrepresented it!) as her reason for starting this thread, which is why many of the responses are hostile. The posts in this thread, if read carefully, do explicate that, which is one of the reasons why we strongly suggest that people read, not just skim or skip, the whole thread they're considering reviving.

You're correct that the hostile responses to Carillion's stated motivation overshadowed what could have been an excellent discussion - unfortunately, Carillion, instead of just presenting the discussion topic, made a point of including that motivation, thus making it a part of the discussion. And because she so grossly misrepresented ('lied about' is not too strong a phrase) what had taken place in the thread that inspired her, that was what people responded to.

So, as the guidelines for thread-reviving say, it's a really good idea to read the whole thread you're considering reviving.


I can assure you, I did read the entire topic before posting in it; it was quite enlightening, and revealing.  Nevertheless, I was inclined to explore the questions mentioned in the original post rather than the motivation behind why the topic creator was asking them.  I just felt that particular "motivation" had incited enough dispute already, and I did not wish to perpetuate that "drama" any further... hence why I directed my focus towards the questions themselves.
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Re: Does subjective experience trump academic sources?
« Reply #57 on: January 22, 2017, 05:39:31 am »
Quote from: Goddess_Ashtara;201682


 
A Reminder:
Goddess_Ashtara,

Just a reminder that our rules state, 'DO NOT argue with, comment on, complain about, criticize, or otherwise discuss staff decisions on rules issues in public in Cauldron community areas.' While the 'best practices' post to which I directed you contains guidelines, not rules, I expressed it as an official reminder, which means it's not up for public discussion. (Your PM to me was the proper way to handle it; I'll be responding to it shortly.)

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by Darkhawk
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