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Author Topic: "Religion with homework"  (Read 3276 times)

dragonfaerie

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"Religion with homework"
« on: April 28, 2013, 12:05:08 pm »
I've heard the phrase kicked about, especially with regard to reconstructionists of any sort, that their path is "religion with homework" (meaning that they do a lot of research). As someone who is blending her own path of witchcraft and druidry (of which I am currently studying the ADF Dedicant Program), I can say that applies to me, too in many ways.

At what point can "religion with homework" become "homework with religion"? At what point should we sit down our books and "just do it"? Can research become a crutch? Can it eventually interfere with practice?

And most importantly, what should the balance be between UPG and research? I know that's a subjective, personal question, but I hope amongst us we could come to some recommended guidelines.

I know we've talked about these ideas before in other threads, but I don't know that we've approached them from this angle lately. Or maybe we have... tapatalk is not the easiest thing to use for searches.

Karen

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Re: "Religion with homework"
« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2013, 02:21:58 pm »
Quote from: dragonfaerie;106972
I've heard the phrase kicked about, especially with regard to reconstructionists of any sort, that their path is "religion with homework" (meaning that they do a lot of research). As someone who is blending her own path of witchcraft and druidry (of which I am currently studying the ADF Dedicant Program), I can say that applies to me, too in many ways.

At what point can "religion with homework" become "homework with religion"? At what point should we sit down our books and "just do it"? Can research become a crutch? Can it eventually interfere with practice?


This is exactly what ended up happening to me.  I ended up focusing on the reading/intellectual learning too much and fell way behind as far as actual hands on learning and practice.

As a (generally) orthopraxic set of religions, I'd say the ideal is probably 60% doing and 40% homework.  I could be wrong that set of percentages just sounded nice to me.  They almost meet in the middle, but there is a definite emphasis of the actual practice.

Quote from: dragonfaerie;106972
And most importantly, what should the balance be between UPG and research? I know that's a subjective, personal question, but I hope amongst us we could come to some recommended guidelines.

I know we've talked about these ideas before in other threads, but I don't know that we've approached them from this angle lately. Or maybe we have... tapatalk is not the easiest thing to use for searches.

Karen


Personally, I like UPG.  To me it shows that there is a certain dynamic aspect to everything and reinforces the lesson that there is more than one way to look at everything and always more to learn.  I would say that there needs to be a healthy nod to generally approved research.  For example if Zeus showed up one day and said He was the god of monogamy, I'd hope that research would win out because we have an overwhelming amount of sources that say otherwise.

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Re: "Religion with homework"
« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2013, 04:13:41 pm »
Quote from: dragonfaerie;106972
At what point can "religion with homework" become "homework with religion"? At what point should we sit down our books and "just do it"? Can research become a crutch? Can it eventually interfere with practice?


As soon as the process of reconstructionism becomes the important thing, rather than having a functional religious practice, the "homework" has become an idol.

And this is one of the problems with "religion with homework" as a concept, and one of the reasons I've gotten less and less comfortable with it.  Sannion (a mantic Dionysian) posted recently "How committed to reconstructionism are you?" and I replied, "I don't know.  How committed to screwdrivers are you?"  It has to be a tool for me, not the goal.

And getting too hung up on "We do all this homework!" (which is often basically intended as a dick-swinging superiority comment over popular paganism, especially neo-Wicca, and sometimes comes with not recognising anything other than neo-Wicca exists out there) means that the important thing is reading these books, not feeding the ancestors, honoring the gods, living the ethics, tending the spirits, marrying the land, or whatever else actually matters.

It also means that ... well, it sets up a situation where every generation is reinventing the wheel.  Rather than teaching the children and the new converts what to do, there's teaching the children and the new converts to do research.

Quote
And most importantly, what should the balance be between UPG and research? I know that's a subjective, personal question, but I hope amongst us we could come to some recommended guidelines.

 
My favorite thing is when I'm doing some reading and all of a sudden I see something real, and then I stop reading and go chasing that around for a while, letting it settle into my space and being a thing to build on.  And it doesn't matter to me whether it's "this is an ancient belief" or "this is a modern interpretation", because that is completely irrelevant to the fundamental thing... does it work.

The more stuff I do, the more I wind up in a place where I want to be able to cite where stuff comes from and if other people see what I see too, that's great, but I don't actually care if they do.  I can build for my clan, or nome, or village, or whatever, and we can do it this way, and other people can build for their localised situation.
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

Darkhawk

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Re: "Religion with homework"
« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2013, 04:14:43 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;106980
And it doesn't matter to me whether it's "this is an ancient belief" or "this is a modern interpretation", because that is completely irrelevant to the fundamental thing... does it work.

 
Also, whenever this subject comes up, I miss Chavi.
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Juni

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Re: "Religion with homework"
« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2013, 04:29:17 pm »
Quote from: dragonfaerie;106972
And most importantly, what should the balance be between UPG and research? I know that's a subjective, personal question, but I hope amongst us we could come to some recommended guidelines.

 
I think there's very little that I can add that Kiya hasn't already said, with regard to the tool interfering with the work.

As far as balancing UPG and research, I really don't think that can be answered. There's a line where, as Kiya was saying, the research impedes the work; I think there's a line where the UPG ...I'm not sure how to parse this properly. I guess, where the UPG impedes the reality. UPG is a vital part of modern practices- I can't say all because I've been here too long not to know better- but a significant majority, I'd say. But I think we've seen enough people come and go here that were definitely past that threshold of usefulness; their UPG had moved them into a place where their practice, their belief, no longer allowed for meaningful connection to anyone else, and I think reflected a lack of connection to reality.

That said, there's no way to quantify it; there is no measurable standard to which a set of UPG can be held against and declared to be universally acceptable. I think the most we can do is be smart about our sources- cite our inspiration, write down the web of connections that led to a particular leap of thought. If we can chart our train of thought, the better we can explain it to others, the better we can judge for ourselves whether someone else's idea is relevant for us or not.
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Jack

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"Religion with homework"
« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2013, 05:52:26 pm »
Quote from: Breeze;106978
As a (generally) orthopraxic set of religions, I'd say the ideal is probably 60% doing and 40% homework.  I could be wrong that set of percentages just sounded nice to me.  They almost meet in the middle, but there is a definite emphasis of the actual practice.

I think it's important to note there are at least two dichotomies here - research vs UPG, and doing vs armchair. You can absolutely be 100% UPG and not really doing anything with your practice, and I've known plenty of heathens who were at least 95% homework but really live their religion actively.

I myself am a huge nerd with a degree in religion; I would read pretty much forever if my gods let me get away with it. It's a bad habit, and one I'm constantly working on.
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Re: "Religion with homework"
« Reply #6 on: April 28, 2013, 06:34:21 pm »
Quote from: Jack;106986
I think it's important to note there are at least two dichotomies here - research vs UPG, and doing vs armchair. You can absolutely be 100% UPG and not really doing anything with your practice, and I've known plenty of heathens who were at least 95% homework but really live their religion actively.

I myself am a huge nerd with a degree in religion; I would read pretty much forever if my gods let me get away with it. It's a bad habit, and one I'm constantly working on.


The 60/40 split that I mentioned is only in reference to doing v. armchair.  I should've worded it better, sometimes I have a hard time getting my brain and my keyboard to agree :p .

I definitely see what you're saying and I do agree as fair as it being possible to be 95% research yet still actively involved.  Obviously each separate path is going to come with its own needs/requirements just as every individual will have their own.

To echo some of Darkhawk's sentiments I think that as long is a person is learning, participating, and it is working then a good balance has been found.

Snowdrop

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Re: "Religion with homework"
« Reply #7 on: April 28, 2013, 07:26:28 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;106980
And getting too hung up on "We do all this homework!" (which is often basically intended as a dick-swinging superiority comment over popular paganism, especially neo-Wicca, and sometimes comes with not recognising anything other than neo-Wicca exists out there) means that the important thing is reading these books, not feeding the ancestors, honoring the gods, living the ethics, tending the spirits, marrying the land, or whatever else actually matters.

It also means that ... well, it sets up a situation where every generation is reinventing the wheel.  Rather than teaching the children and the new converts what to do, there's teaching the children and the new converts to do research.

 
There's a review of one of Diana Paxson's books on Amazon that criticizes her for the terrible terrible bad naughty crime of associating gods with colors.  Gods!  With!  Colors!  Your homework has become a goal in and of itself, I think, when you're losing sight of the forest for the trees like that.  Associating gods with colors makes actual religion a lot more practicable for people now, since things are more brightly colored than they were in 10th century Scandinavia.  It's genuinely relevant to people now to be able to say, "I want to buy a candle to light for this god and candles come in twenty different colors; which one should I choose?"  

I would hope that ideally the homework should be what enables people to make informed decisions about their religion instead of blindly following others' interpretations of the historical material.  But if it's not doing that . . . .

Lokabrenna

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Re: "Religion with homework"
« Reply #8 on: April 28, 2013, 08:33:53 pm »
Quote from: dragonfaerie;106972

At what point can "religion with homework" become "homework with religion"? At what point should we sit down our books and "just do it"? Can research become a crutch? Can it eventually interfere with practice?

 
The phrase "religion with homework" just plain irritates me. "Homework" in my mind is that boring stuff my teachers made me do every day after school when I really just wanted a break from school. I don't look at learning about aspects of my tradition as a chore. I enjoy reading. even the stuffy academic stuff (although I have to be in the right mood for it).

And I've often found that it's implied that anyone who isn't some flavour of recon doesn't do homework, and that's just BS.

Er, basically what Darkhawk said.

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"Religion with homework"
« Reply #9 on: April 28, 2013, 09:52:48 pm »
Quote from: dragonfaerie;106972
At what point can "religion with homework" become "homework with religion"? At what point should we sit down our books and "just do it"? Can research become a crutch? Can it eventually interfere with practice?

And most importantly, what should the balance be between UPG and research?

For me, the research is what lays the groundwork and gives me the tools for the practice.  Once I have what I need, the research starts to get in the way.

That said, it's also true that my practice evolves over time.  Sometimes I need new tools, which means more research.

So, I guess what I'm saying is....it depends.  ;)

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Re: "Religion with homework"
« Reply #10 on: April 29, 2013, 12:41:26 am »
Quote from: dragonfaerie;106972
I've heard the phrase kicked about, especially with regard to reconstructionists of any sort, that their path is "religion with homework" (meaning that they do a lot of research). As someone who is blending her own path of witchcraft and druidry (of which I am currently studying the ADF Dedicant Program), I can say that applies to me, too in many ways.

At what point can "religion with homework" become "homework with religion"? At what point should we sit down our books and "just do it"? Can research become a crutch? Can it eventually interfere with practice?

And most importantly, what should the balance be between UPG and research? I know that's a subjective, personal question, but I hope amongst us we could come to some recommended guidelines.

I know we've talked about these ideas before in other threads, but I don't know that we've approached them from this angle lately. Or maybe we have... tapatalk is not the easiest thing to use for searches.

Karen

 With my practice I tend to get carried away with research and work, rather than enjoying my religion. I almost get obsessed with gaining knowledge about Celtic religion, that I never put it into to practice!
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dragonfaerie

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Re: "Religion with homework"
« Reply #11 on: April 29, 2013, 05:18:26 am »
Quote from: Darkhawk;106980
And getting too hung up on "We do all this homework!" (which is often basically intended as a dick-swinging superiority comment over popular paganism, especially neo-Wicca, and sometimes comes with not recognising anything other than neo-Wicca exists out there) means that the important thing is reading these books, not feeding the ancestors, honoring the gods, living the ethics, tending the spirits, marrying the land, or whatever else actually matters.

 
THIS!

You made me chuckle there, as one of my absolute knee-jerk, "I'm going to knock you a good one" reactions is when people dismiss all Wiccans as idiot fluff bunny light and lollipops folk. As I am not.

And it's also one reason why I'm not a Celtic Recon, but studing ADF Druidry. I looked at reconstructionism when I felt the Irish Gods calling me, and found a level of academic snottery that shocked even me (a life-long high achiever). Now, I know not all recons are like that, but wow... when research becomes your religion, I think that's just as bad as the ungrounded UPG folks who thing the Morrighan is a love goddess.

I was listening to a podcast a couple weeks ago, and one of the hosts was having a bit of a crisis of faith, and complaining that there didn't seem to be a book to fit her issue out of the hundreds of Pagan books she owned, and it started this idea percolating. I like books, I like reading the myths and the lore, and gods help me, I do occasionally love research.

But... I find more and more often that I'd prefer to be doing the devotionals instead of reading about them. I felt the most connected to my Gods when I was in Ireland because, well, they live there, but I didn't spend my time in the country reading. I was sightseeing and experiencing the land. And I think that's got to be the most important part of our practice if we're going to claim to have orthopraxic faiths... practice itself.

Karen

Rainfall

"Religion with homework"
« Reply #12 on: April 29, 2013, 09:34:44 am »
Quote from: dragonfaerie;106972
At what point can "religion with homework" become "homework with religion"? At what point should we sit down our books and "just do it"? Can research become a crutch? Can it eventually interfere with practice?

And most importantly, what should the balance be between UPG and research? I know that's a subjective, personal question, but I hope amongst us we could come to some recommended guidelines.

I think the best way to go about it is to enjoy religion and research alongside each other. (I totally agree with Lokabrenna about research being enjoyable.)

Having spent the last year doing research into different paths and not engaging with practice at all, I can safely say that everything started 'clicking' a lot better when I did finally start doing stuff.

While I feel it's important to get the basics down, I'm finding research is something that is being prompted further by what I'm doing. For example, being fairly new to Hellenic polytheism, I was aware that it's traditional to offer the first and last part of the libation to Hestia, but I had no clue why. So this led to further research into Hestia, and a greater understanding of my practice as a whole.

So I guess my general opinion would be 'just do it, but find the time to work out exactly why you're doing it that way'. And, of course, research can enrich practice massively, for both recons and non-recons. The 60/40 split sounds about right to me; really, I think the most important thing is to avoid stagnant periods of either research and no practice, or practice and no research. Both practice and research have their benefits.

Incidentally, I'd be curious as to whether anybody thinks there's a point at which it's alright to stop research and focus entirely on practice. I'm inclined to say that I (personally) would never want to drop research, but then again I've only been on this path for a short while. Is there a point where, after years of research and practice, you start hitting 'dead ends' with regards to the material available? And what do you do in this situation (is it a point where UPG starts to play a larger role?)

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Re: "Religion with homework"
« Reply #13 on: April 29, 2013, 10:20:01 am »
Quote from: Rainfall;107034
Incidentally, I'd be curious as to whether anybody thinks there's a point at which it's alright to stop research and focus entirely on practice. I'm inclined to say that I (personally) would never want to drop research, but then again I've only been on this path for a short while. Is there a point where, after years of research and practice, you start hitting 'dead ends' with regards to the material available? And what do you do in this situation (is it a point where UPG starts to play a larger role?)

 
When you have a system that works.

And the point of research is to get to a system that works, which means that if research is perpetual, the process is failing.  Nobody asks a Christian, a Buddhist, or another more mainline religion when it's okay for them to stop researching!

One of the reasons I really miss Chavi when this subject comes up is that she described herself as a fam-trad Celtic recon, and she had a specific person's research that their traditions were built upon.  The actual research had long since been discredited, there was more modern stuff that standard-issue CRs used rather than the (I guess) Romantic-period stuff that her family used.

But their set of practices, beliefs, festivals, and so on worked; they provided the family with what they needed religiously, they pleased the gods and spirits.  Trying to "update" them to get the most current-research model would mean that there would never be space to have a religion - it would be locked into that cycle of failure, because the current academic knowledge is constantly changing, updating, and revising.

It's just not worth it to invest that much in a process that is intrinsically a failure.
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

Rainfall

"Religion with homework"
« Reply #14 on: April 29, 2013, 12:09:53 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;107035
When you have a system that works.

And the point of research is to get to a system that works, which means that if research is perpetual, the process is failing.  Nobody asks a Christian, a Buddhist, or another more mainline religion when it's okay for them to stop researching!

One of the reasons I really miss Chavi when this subject comes up is that she described herself as a fam-trad Celtic recon, and she had a specific person's research that their traditions were built upon.  The actual research had long since been discredited, there was more modern stuff that standard-issue CRs used rather than the (I guess) Romantic-period stuff that her family used.

But their set of practices, beliefs, festivals, and so on worked; they provided the family with what they needed religiously, they pleased the gods and spirits.  Trying to "update" them to get the most current-research model would mean that there would never be space to have a religion - it would be locked into that cycle of failure, because the current academic knowledge is constantly changing, updating, and revising.

It's just not worth it to invest that much in a process that is intrinsically a failure.

That makes a lot of sense - I totally agree that it's what works for the individual that counts, even if recent research is contrary.

Perhaps I was looking at the idea of perpetual research too much from my own point of view; I still feel like I have a lot of 'seeking' to do before I reach a practice that works perfectly for me. (Your post actually leaves me with a lot of food for thought about my own path; I need to do some thinking about my end goals. I never really considered the possibility of failure in terms of finding a system.)

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