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Author Topic: Technology, Civilization, and Paganism  (Read 1484 times)

Donal2018

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Technology, Civilization, and Paganism
« on: July 06, 2019, 04:12:17 pm »
I did a cursory search for Technopaganism but did not turn anything up that was recent. I am interested to know how one reconciles Technology, Science, Civilization and the Built Environment with Paganisms. The Neo-Pagan focus on Nature as Sacred seems to be a prime characteristic of most Paganisms. How do we add Technology and Built Civilization to that schema?

I bring the subject up because even though I consider myself a type of Pagan, I am not that big a Nature buff. I do not camp much, and don't hunt or fish. I do view Nature as Sacred and as the Source of Life, but I am much more of a City Man than a Nature Person. There are aspects of Nature that are particularly important to me, but the City is my first focus usually.

I love Museums, Libraries, Concert Halls, Theatres, Restaurants, Sports Arenas, Gymnasia, Colleges and Universities. I love the type of Life that revolves around all of these things. I will visit the City Park or go down to the River if I feel a need to connect with Nature, which I sometimes do, but my default mode is City Mode.

So, for this Urban and Tech/Built World focus, I have had a long association with Athena, who seems to me to be the best Deity to represent this sort of City Life. I also like to invoke Dionysus when indulging in food, drink, or enjoying arts and festivals. I am part of the Celtic Diaspora, and Celtic Mythology is a big component of my spirituality, but I consider myself a Celt in the City. I do think that I want to study and learn more about Hellenic Paganism, especially because of how the Ancient Greeks focused on the Polis, City Life, and associated Culture.

Anyway, I would be interested in what anybody might think of Technopaganism and Urban approaches to various Paganisms. To me, a City is a Jewel set in Nature, the center of much Human Life, and so is Sacred to me.

[edits for spelling and readability]
« Last Edit: July 06, 2019, 04:17:56 pm by Donal2018 »

EclecticWheel

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Re: Technology, Civilization, and Paganism
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2019, 04:55:52 pm »
I did a cursory search for Technopaganism but did not turn anything up that was recent. I am interested to know how one reconciles Technology, Science, Civilization and the Built Environment with Paganisms. The Neo-Pagan focus on Nature as Sacred seems to be a prime characteristic of most Paganisms. How do we add Technology and Built Civilization to that schema?

I bring the subject up because even though I consider myself a type of Pagan, I am not that big a Nature buff. I do not camp much, and don't hunt or fish. I do view Nature as Sacred and as the Source of Life, but I am much more of a City Man than a Nature Person. There are aspects of Nature that are particularly important to me, but the City is my first focus usually.

I love Museums, Libraries, Concert Halls, Theatres, Restaurants, Sports Arenas, Gymnasia, Colleges and Universities. I love the type of Life that revolves around all of these things. I will visit the City Park or go down to the River if I feel a need to connect with Nature, which I sometimes do, but my default mode is City Mode.

So, for this Urban and Tech/Built World focus, I have had a long association with Athena, who seems to me to be the best Deity to represent this sort of City Life. I also like to invoke Dionysus when indulging in food, drink, or enjoying arts and festivals. I am part of the Celtic Diaspora, and Celtic Mythology is a big component of my spirituality, but I consider myself a Celt in the City. I do think that I want to study and learn more about Hellenic Paganism, especially because of how the Ancient Greeks focused on the Polis, City Life, and associated Culture.

Anyway, I would be interested in what anybody might think of Technopaganism and Urban approaches to various Paganisms. To me, a City is a Jewel set in Nature, the center of much Human Life, and so is Sacred to me.

[edits for spelling and readability]

I don't have much to say except that since humans are part of nature and it is our nature to create, cities and human inventions are extensions or at least products of nature, depending on how broadly we define the term, which is ambiguous.

For me, sacred things, which include certain buildings, point beyond themselves to the numinous.  In another sense, every individual thing points to the transcendent or at least the mysterious Whole, which is itself arguably sacred, and so is holy by way of participation.

As center pieces of human life, activity, and creativity, cities may very well be argued to have a sacred character.  Life in all its ugliness and beauty, joy and pain, is unfolding there, a great drama.

But what do you understand the sacred to entail or mean? Some, such as Christians, believe there must be a transcendent dimension for anything to be holy, whereas some pantheists do not.  Your understanding of the sacred will shape the answer you arrive at.

So will your understanding of nature.  What does nature encompass for you?  Arguably since nature in the sense of plants, forests, and so on, is an extension of the universe, and the universe is the natural realm rather than a supernatural one -- whatever the supernatural means -- the whole universe is what nature is.

Where do you draw the line on what is natural of sacred? I'm interested in your thoughts.
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Klaw

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Re: Technology, Civilization, and Paganism
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2019, 05:51:15 pm »
I did a cursory search for Technopaganism but did not turn anything up that was recent. I am interested to know how one reconciles Technology, Science, Civilization and the Built Environment with Paganisms. The Neo-Pagan focus on Nature as Sacred seems to be a prime characteristic of most Paganisms. How do we add Technology and Built Civilization to that schema?

I live in NH and even though I live close to our largest city and its airport, it is still a small city. We live close to woods on one side and just 2-3 blocks to the turnpike on the other. I am not real fond of city life, and I try to avoid downtown. My ideal home would be out in the woods, but still within a half an hour to civilization. I am also online, but I don't have a smart phone and don't want one. I was late getting a computer and getting online. I really just see it as a library at home.

Donal2018

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Re: Technology, Civilization, and Paganism
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2019, 07:12:14 pm »
I don't have much to say except that since humans are part of nature and it is our nature to create, cities and human inventions are extensions or at least products of nature, depending on how broadly we define the term, which is ambiguous.

For me, sacred things, which include certain buildings, point beyond themselves to the numinous.  In another sense, every individual thing points to the transcendent or at least the mysterious Whole, which is itself arguably sacred, and so is holy by way of participation.

As center pieces of human life, activity, and creativity, cities may very well be argued to have a sacred character.  Life in all its ugliness and beauty, joy and pain, is unfolding there, a great drama.

But what do you understand the sacred to entail or mean? Some, such as Christians, believe there must be a transcendent dimension for anything to be holy, whereas some pantheists do not.  Your understanding of the sacred will shape the answer you arrive at.

So will your understanding of nature.  What does nature encompass for you?  Arguably since nature in the sense of plants, forests, and so on, is an extension of the universe, and the universe is the natural realm rather than a supernatural one -- whatever the supernatural means -- the whole universe is what nature is.

Where do you draw the line on what is natural of sacred? I'm interested in your thoughts.

Good post. I am a Pantheist, so the Cosmos and Everything in It is Sacred to me. Wonderful and terrible and everything in it. I define Nature as the Biosphere on Earth, and everything that supports Life.

I am also a Humanist by which I mean that I am a Human Being and my primary value is that which supports and helps Human Life is a Good. Human Life is Sacred to me in particular because of this. So also is Human Culture and the Civilization that supports it.

Nature is Sacred to me as the Source of life, especially Human Life. So also is the Great and Mysterious Cosmos out of which our Planet and Nature has arisen.

So, there is sort of a Pantheistic Great Chain of Being for me- it begins with the Cosmos out of which our Planet and Nature arose. Then out of Nature and Life our Humankind has arisen. Nature continues to support Humanity, and we have also have developed Culture, Technology, and Civilization which further supports Human Life. So this is a basic metaphysical scheme for me.

Also, this is how I determine the Good. Anything that benefits Humankind is Good. Anything that is detrimental to us is Evil, or at least "Not Good". So, Climate Change could be viewed as an Evil, as a detriment to Humankind. Another example is that Literature provides meaning and solace to people, and so is a "Good".

Anyway those are a few ideas. I will maybe come back to these topics later as there is more that could be said.

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Re: Technology, Civilization, and Paganism
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2019, 07:23:09 pm »
Also, this is how I determine the Good. Anything that benefits Humankind is Good. Anything that is detrimental to us is Evil, or at least "Not Good". So, Climate Change could be viewed as an Evil, as a detriment to Humankind. Another example is that Literature provides meaning and solace to people, and so is a "Good".

What about all of the issues that have and do arise when large populations of people who live in a city? They are generally the first to experience shortages, water quality issues, pollution and higher rates of crime and violence.

Donal2018

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Re: Technology, Civilization, and Paganism
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2019, 07:27:10 pm »
I live in NH and even though I live close to our largest city and its airport, it is still a small city. We live close to woods on one side and just 2-3 blocks to the turnpike on the other. I am not real fond of city life, and I try to avoid downtown. My ideal home would be out in the woods, but still within a half an hour to civilization. I am also online, but I don't have a smart phone and don't want one. I was late getting a computer and getting online. I really just see it as a library at home.

Thanks for the post. A lot of New Hampshire is beautiful country. I had an Uncle who used to live up there with his family.

I appreciate that you love living in and near the woods. Kind of an ideal pagan environment. Myself, I was born in Brooklyn but raised in the suburbs on Long Island. I live in Upstate New York. I have to periodically go back down to the Island to see the Ocean, and also see friends and family. It is also good to go into the City for all that it offers.

I can understand wanting a rural life. I was born in the City but raised in the Suburbs, but i also spent my Summers in the Country. My Mother's Family owned a few cabins and a campsite on a Lake Upstate, so that was my regular Summer in the Country experience.

Anyway, thanks for your comment here, Klaw.

Donal2018

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Re: Technology, Civilization, and Paganism
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2019, 07:32:10 pm »
What about all of the issues that have and do arise when large populations of people who live in a city? They are generally the first to experience shortages, water quality issues, pollution and higher rates of crime and violence.

Oh, sure, you are right, Cities are not an unmitigated Good. Cities are complex and a mixture of good and bad. When I say that I love the City, I mean the good things about it. Point taken, though.

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Re: Technology, Civilization, and Paganism
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2019, 11:42:21 pm »
Oh, sure, you are right, Cities are not an unmitigated Good. Cities are complex and a mixture of good and bad. When I say that I love the City, I mean the good things about it. Point taken, though.

I think cities were more special when there were fewer of them. Back when most of the planet was rural or outright wilderness, a city was really something special. A small island of civilization crafted completely by the whims of humankind. I do think cities are amazing, but at the same time, we have an awful lot of civilization at this point.

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Re: Technology, Civilization, and Paganism
« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2019, 04:16:27 pm »
I did a cursory search for Technopaganism but did not turn anything up that was recent.

That's because, to a fairly large extent, Technopaganism was a response to technophobia (especially nonsensical technophobia, such as assuming matches to be more 'natural'/simpler and less-advanced technology than lighters, and insisting no one should use the latter in ritual) in Pagandom. While Technopagans of the '80s and '90s gleefully used the internet to explain their position on tech, the anti-tech contingent tended to not be online at all, or to only use it because they had to (for employment purposes, f'ex) and no more than they had to.

At that time, the line of demarcartion was largely, 'Do you hate technology in all its manifestations, or do you think technology is more positive than negative? What, if anything, is the relationship between your position on this and your paganism?' So for a while, anyone who wasn't actively anti-technology was considered to be part of, or at least more aligned with, the technopagan camp.

So while 'pagans who are online' is not synonymous with 'Technopagan' in its most hardcore sense, anyone online as a pagan was effectively a technopagan in the broad sense. As a result, the prefix 'techno-' fell out of use online, except among people who really wanted to be Neo from The Matrix.

Quote
I am interested to know how one reconciles Technology, Science, Civilization and the Built Environment with Paganisms. The Neo-Pagan focus on Nature as Sacred seems to be a prime characteristic of most Paganisms. How do we add Technology and Built Civilization to that schema?

EclecticWheel already said pretty much everything I might say on this, and less grumpily than I likely would have.

There is no unsacred thing. There is no unnatural thing; if it exists, it cannot, by its very existence, be 'against nature'. There are artifactual things, 'made' things; not all are made by humans (consider the beaver dam), but they are the products of creatures of nature doing what comes naturally.

Quote
I do think that I want to study and learn more about Hellenic Paganism, especially because of how the Ancient Greeks focused on the Polis, City Life, and associated Culture.

It wasn't so much 'the Ancient Greeks' who focused on that, as the ancient Athenians. So what you actually want to look into is info about the culture/religioculture of the Athenian city-state. Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of surviving information is Athenian (leaving Hellenic recons to choose between Athenian Hellenism and having as little info to work with as the Celtic or Heathen recons), which is why 'ancient Greeks' and 'ancient Athenians' get conflated.

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Re: Technology, Civilization, and Paganism
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2019, 04:42:28 pm »
I did a cursory search for Technopaganism but did not turn anything up that was recent. I am interested to know how one reconciles Technology, Science, Civilization and the Built Environment with Paganisms.

"Reconciling" them would require there to be a perceived conflict.

Quote
The Neo-Pagan focus on Nature as Sacred seems to be a prime characteristic of most Paganisms. How do we add Technology and Built Civilization to that schema?

As a person with a strong reconstructionist thread in their practice, I reject the utility of the modern invention of "nature", which dates to roughly 1860 and is thus several thousand years postdating my relevant period.

The world is the world.  My gods are, among many other things, urban gods, and technological gods, and that was as much the case in 1250 BC as it is today.  Yes, they also have what would be considered "nature" theophanies, but the fact that they have both strikes me as proof that They consider such distinctions invalid.
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Donal2018

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Re: Technology, Civilization, and Paganism
« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2019, 10:38:14 pm »
Oh, sure, you are right, Cities are not an unmitigated Good. Cities are complex and a mixture of good and bad. When I say that I love the City, I mean the good things about it. Point taken, though.

The posts above are interesting and deserve reasonably thoughtful responses, which I hope to address when I have more time and mental energy.

Donal2018

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Re: Technology, Civilization, and Paganism
« Reply #11 on: July 07, 2019, 10:59:23 pm »
The posts above are interesting and deserve reasonably thoughtful responses, which I hope to address when I have more time and mental energy.

I would make a quick point that I think that sometimes Nature is so broadly defined as to be useless as a term.

My definition of Nature is that which supports life and is not built by Humankind. A forest is a natural environment. So is the sea. The vacuum of space is not a natural environment, at least not for humans. For us to venture out into space requires advanced technology.

Anyway, I do find the idea of Nature to be useful, and I think that Technological artifacts should be distinguished from Natural objects. A tree and an oil rig are fundamentally different things, in my book. Your views might differ.

Donal2018

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Re: Technology, Civilization, and Paganism
« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2019, 03:18:13 pm »
I would make a quick point that I think that sometimes Nature is so broadly defined as to be useless as a term.

My definition of Nature is that which supports life and is not built by Humankind. A forest is a natural environment. So is the sea. The vacuum of space is not a natural environment, at least not for humans. For us to venture out into space requires advanced technology.

Anyway, I do find the idea of Nature to be useful, and I think that Technological artifacts should be distinguished from Natural objects. A tree and an oil rig are fundamentally different things, in my book. Your views might differ.

So a little clarification on what is Natural and what is not. Plastics are not Natural. They are synthetic, man-made, and do not occur in Nature. The point made earlier that some animals build things is correct. Beavers make wooden dams, birds make nests, chimps some times use primitive tools to get food (a stick inserted into an ant hill to get at the ants).

Humans also build things, sometimes with natural substances like stone or wood, sometimes with artificial materials like plastics, bakelite, or vinyl. So, I think there is a continuum of built objects from more natural (using natural substances like stone or wood) to less natural (plastics, vinyl, artificial materials). Animals do not create synthetic materials like humans do with Chemistry and Material Science.

Given that some animals build things, it might be logical to surmise that building behavior is in part instinctive. While beavers build dams, human beings build many things that are much more advanced and complicated, from nuclear power plants to airplanes to orbital satellites. This is advanced technology, made out of largely man made substances or altered natural substances.

It was stated that nothing is unnatural and everything is natural. If you define nature in the broadest sense, these statements seem valid. I do not define Nature so broadly. I do believe that there are unnatural things. A good example is GMO plants, that is Genetically Modified Organisms. These are natural objects (plants) altered at a basic biological level (molecular manipulation of plant DNA by Biotechnology). These altered plants are Unnatural, in my definition. They do not occur this way in Nature, and are altered by artificial means, ie through advanced Biotechnology.

So, there are some distinctions between what is Natural and unnatural (by my definitions) and how Humankind builds things in both basic and more advanced ways.

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Re: Technology, Civilization, and Paganism
« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2019, 05:10:20 pm »
So, there are some distinctions between what is Natural and unnatural (by my definitions) and how Humankind builds things in both basic and more advanced ways.

I agree with your previous comment. I am now curious what your stance is toward selective breeding of livestock or the use of hormones and dried blood powder mixed in animal feed? We are now learning the hard way how the breeding for domestication can backfire with the rising populations of wild boar. Maybe even your thoughts on invasive species introduced by humans.

Donal2018

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Re: Technology, Civilization, and Paganism
« Reply #14 on: July 08, 2019, 05:30:34 pm »
I agree with your previous comment. I am now curious what your stance is toward selective breeding of livestock or the use of hormones and dried blood powder mixed in animal feed? We are now learning the hard way how the breeding for domestication can backfire with the rising populations of wild boar. Maybe even your thoughts on invasive species introduced by humans.

Yes, those are good points Klaw. I think that there is a continuum of practices from natural to less natural to wholly artificial. Selective breeding is less natural than not selectively breeding animals, but not nearly as unnatural as GMO practices. Using hormones artificially is not very natural, in my opinion.

I know less about agricultural practices and ecology than I do molecular biology. There is a casual thing in Biology- Biologists are either "skin in" specialists or "skin out" specialists. That is, Biologists specialize either in molecular, cellular, and physiological studies ("skin in") or macro level stuff like zoology, ecology and whole animal stuff ("skin out"). I am definitely a "skin in" person.

I know a bit about ecology (I took one undergrad course in it) but my specialization was molecular biology, genetics, and cell biology. So, as I said, my area of study was "skin in". I know less about whole animal studies, zoology, ecology, agriculture, animal husbandry. Maybe I will look into doing some reading on the use of hormones in livestock, etc. and other 'skin out" practices in animal husbandry so that I could answer your questions more effectively.

The idea of invasive species is an important topic also, but again, a bit out of my wheel house of molecular biology. When I get some time to read a bit about it, I will try to get into it a bit more so that I could discuss the topic a bit more effectively as well.

In any case, thanks for your post.

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