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Author Topic: This thing, is it right? How do I tell?  (Read 2517 times)

Jenett

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This thing, is it right? How do I tell?
« on: June 12, 2013, 08:54:23 pm »
We've had several threads around here recently that got me thinking about a subject near and dear my heart: how we evaluate information. Especially information about Pagan 'stuff', where we're talking about a mix of personal experience, academic research, shared knowledge (and sometimes all three in the same sentence.)

So. How do you sort the useful from the problematic?

Do you do things differently depending on the source? (I certainly handle, say, a book from a known source differently than, say, an entirely unknown new poster on this forum.)

I have lots of ideas on this, but I want to sit on my hands and let other people get started and ask questions about stuff for a bit first.
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Rhyshadow

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Re: This thing, is it right? How do I tell?
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2013, 09:03:01 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;112057
We've had several threads around here recently that got me thinking about a subject near and dear my heart: how we evaluate information. Especially information about Pagan 'stuff', where we're talking about a mix of personal experience, academic research, shared knowledge (and sometimes all three in the same sentence.)

So. How do you sort the useful from the problematic?

Do you do things differently depending on the source? (I certainly handle, say, a book from a known source differently than, say, an entirely unknown new poster on this forum.)

I have lots of ideas on this, but I want to sit on my hands and let other people get started and ask questions about stuff for a bit first.

 
Following mainly an Irish-Celtic path, I look to the Lore as the primary source. My UPG refers back to that, so long as personal experience doesn't contradict Lore, then I work with it. If it does, I look to see why and try to get an explanation.

Same with my "twist", which is Heathen in it's base. Lore over-rides everything and UPG must not ignore that

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Re: This thing, is it right? How do I tell?
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2013, 09:08:15 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;112057
So. How do you sort the useful from the problematic?


1. Is it useful? (If someone wants to argue over Zeus's favorite potato chip flavor, they can have at it, but it doesn't affect me or my practice at all.)

2. Does it make sense? (Your god literally appeared to you, tore someone's arm off, and beat them with it? Ok then.)

3. Does it match what I already know? (Sometimes I learn things that upend everything I know! More often I come across complete BS.)

4. Do I trust the source? (Are you a white new-age shaman headquartered in Sedona? Are you a white supremacist wearing a thin gauze of Asatru? Guess how much I care about your opinion.)

5. Does it resonate? (Sometimes things just feel right, clicking into place in my brain with an almost audible 'OH.')

Quote
Do you do things differently depending on the source? (I certainly handle, say, a book from a known source differently than, say, an entirely unknown new poster on this forum.)

 
I spent too long in academia not to consider my sources. I've been called elitist for it before, too, but IMO you have to be willing to acknowledge when you're going against the historic grain. My UPG sometimes contrasts with the lore, but in general if it does, I have at least some understanding of why it's not as conflicting as it appears.
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Laveth

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Re: This thing, is it right? How do I tell?
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2013, 10:38:53 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;112057
We've had several threads around here recently that got me thinking about a subject near and dear my heart: how we evaluate information. Especially information about Pagan 'stuff', where we're talking about a mix of personal experience, academic research, shared knowledge (and sometimes all three in the same sentence.)

So. How do you sort the useful from the problematic?

Do you do things differently depending on the source? (I certainly handle, say, a book from a known source differently than, say, an entirely unknown new poster on this forum.)

I have lots of ideas on this, but I want to sit on my hands and let other people get started and ask questions about stuff for a bit first.

 
I will tend to read anything and everything I can get my hands on that even roughly relates to what my interest is in. Even if it has horrid reviews, even if the author is supposedly too fluffy for their own good. If there is anything in there that jumps out to me as potentially having some merit, I'll keep notes and assess it later. Even if it's something that doesn't seem to have any kind of credible merit that I hadn't seen in any other text so far, if it seems to speak some kind of truth for me I'll write it down somewhere just on the off chance. I've found little grains of truth in the most unexpected places.

But yes, when it comes to actual lore I will do my absolute best to find the scholarly works to base my rational understanding on.

Irrational comes down to UPG, which by and large trumps every other man-made resource available. I have very rarely had a UPG that didn't in some way sync up with lore or prior understandings though, perhaps so far I'm just lucky. If I find that I see an omen or do a reading where the interpretation I get is different than what the texts say, I will record both and either try to find a similar thread of how they connect, or I'll base future readings on instinct as to what I should be looking more closely at.

Snowdrop

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Re: This thing, is it right? How do I tell?
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2013, 10:58:24 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;112057
We've had several threads around here recently that got me thinking about a subject near and dear my heart: how we evaluate information. Especially information about Pagan 'stuff', where we're talking about a mix of personal experience, academic research, shared knowledge (and sometimes all three in the same sentence.)

So. How do you sort the useful from the problematic?

Do you do things differently depending on the source? (I certainly handle, say, a book from a known source differently than, say, an entirely unknown new poster on this forum.)

I have lots of ideas on this, but I want to sit on my hands and let other people get started and ask questions about stuff for a bit first.

 
Anything to do with people's individual experiences with Gods or spirits are the hardest for me to evaluate, because I really don't have any abilities in that area, so I can't say something like, "Well, I've been working with Hecate and that sounds totally not like Her."  

And since I'm really still floundering around to a great extent and trying to figure out what my path is even supposed to be, that causes a lot of difficulties.  Like, should I believe anything anyone says about Loki, given the reputation a lot of the Lokean community has?  

Mostly, I have been evaluating UPG and other related experiences based on the characteristics of the person saying them.  Of course, it's a far from perfect system; for instance, someone could have a delusional disorder and still be receiving genuine messages from some spirit.  But that's less likely to be the case.  Also: someone who seems to have disorganized thinking, even if they're having a real experience, may not be able to communicate it well, so I could get a mistaken impression from listening to them.  Like, if someone's unable or unwilling to type in coherent sentences, I'm not going to get the message anyway.

Night Owl

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Re: This thing, is it right? How do I tell?
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2013, 11:08:09 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;112057

I have lots of ideas on this, but I want to sit on my hands and let other people get started and ask questions about stuff for a bit first.

 
I always look for things to back it up. If it's just one source saying something and other sources don't, then I discredit that information and don't use it. I try not to go by UPG unless it's a upg that is backed up by lots of other people's upgs. And if someone basically says that they have a hotline to a god (Usually not in those words), it's a total red flag.

Sola Stone

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Re: This thing, is it right? How do I tell?
« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2013, 11:48:59 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;112057
We've had several threads around here recently that got me thinking about a subject near and dear my heart: how we evaluate information. Especially information about Pagan 'stuff', where we're talking about a mix of personal experience, academic research, shared knowledge (and sometimes all three in the same sentence.)

So. How do you sort the useful from the problematic?

Do you do things differently depending on the source? (I certainly handle, say, a book from a known source differently than, say, an entirely unknown new poster on this forum.)

I have lots of ideas on this, but I want to sit on my hands and let other people get started and ask questions about stuff for a bit first.

 
I consider anything academic to be pretty reliable (i.e. If this was written by someone with a degree in the subject, the facts are probably legit.). When it comes to other non-hard-facts things, I tend not to give much credibility to things that are too fluffy/tree huggy/etc. This is mostly because I can't stomach too much of that sort of thing. Other than that, I try to look at everything with a critical eye. (Does this make sense (is it logical/does it feel right)? Does it match up with facts/things I have seen multiple places, posted by multiple people/things that I feel are true, because I have spent a lot of time thinking about them and have deduced that they are?)

Regarding the lore, I will take it over UPG 99% of the time, but I recognize that the lore is not a complete representation of the beliefs of the people that worshiped my gods in ancient times and that it has gone through a Christianity filter. Therefore, I tend to subject it to a bit of the critical eye as well. I don't have much in the way of personal experience, to be honest. Anything I do have is checked against other sources and logic (Am I reading too much into this? Is it likely that this is what I think it is/means what I think it does? Is there any other explanation?). I try not to delude myself, is what I'm saying.

Quote
an entirely unknown new poster on this forum


*eyes post count* ...:whis:

Does it help that I have absolutely no problem with admitting when I don't know/am not sure about something? :D:
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Sola Stone

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Re: This thing, is it right? How do I tell?
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2013, 12:24:40 am »
Quote from: Snowdrop;112084
Anything to do with people's individual experiences with Gods or spirits are the hardest for me to evaluate, because I really don't have any abilities in that area, so I can't say something like, "Well, I've been working with Hecate and that sounds totally not like Her."  

And since I'm really still floundering around to a great extent and trying to figure out what my path is even supposed to be, that causes a lot of difficulties.  Like, should I believe anything anyone says about Loki, given the reputation a lot of the Lokean community has?  

Mostly, I have been evaluating UPG and other related experiences based on the characteristics of the person saying them.  Of course, it's a far from perfect system; for instance, someone could have a delusional disorder and still be receiving genuine messages from some spirit.  But that's less likely to be the case.  Also: someone who seems to have disorganized thinking, even if they're having a real experience, may not be able to communicate it well, so I could get a mistaken impression from listening to them.  Like, if someone's unable or unwilling to type in coherent sentences, I'm not going to get the message anyway.

 
This. All of it.

About Loki; one of the reasons I don't go around using the term "Lokean" in reference to myself, even though I do honor Him, is because of the Lokean community. People tend to make certain assumptions about you when you lump yourself in with them... (Just for the record, I have nothing against the Lokean community. I'm sure most of them are nice people. I would just rather not have the baggage associated with the label, is all.)

Different people say vastly different things about Loki. I'd recommend that you read the lore and opinions from different people on both sides of the argument, and just sit down and have a good think about it. What seems right to you? Only you can decide what to believe.
Discovering North: Where I fumble around in the dark about spiritual stuff.

Snowdrop

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Re: This thing, is it right? How do I tell?
« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2013, 01:00:18 am »
Quote from: Sola Stone;112102
About Loki; one of the reasons I don't go around using the term "Lokean" in reference to myself, even though I do honor Him, is because of the Lokean community. People tend to make certain assumptions about you when you lump yourself in with them... (Just for the record, I have nothing against the Lokean community. I'm sure most of them are nice people. I would just rather not have the baggage associated with the label, is all.)

 
Pretty much.  (Well, and: so much of the Lokean community seems to have a hard-polytheist-spirit-worker slant to it that's influenced by the Northern Tradition, and since I don't fall into that grouping, I feel like I would sort of be the odd man out if I did describe myself as Lokean.)

Jack

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Re: This thing, is it right? How do I tell?
« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2013, 01:25:27 am »
Quote from: Snowdrop;112107
Pretty much.  (Well, and: so much of the Lokean community seems to have a hard-polytheist-spirit-worker slant to it that's influenced by the Northern Tradition, and since I don't fall into that grouping, I feel like I would sort of be the odd man out if I did describe myself as Lokean.)

 
I use the term because the alternative is to say Heathen-who-btw-worships-Loki-just-fyi, because if you don't specify you work with Loki people tend to assume you don't, at least in my experience.
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Sophia C

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This thing, is it right? How do I tell?
« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2013, 06:07:25 am »
Quote from: Jenett;112057
We've had several threads around here recently that got me thinking about a subject near and dear my heart: how we evaluate information. Especially information about Pagan 'stuff', where we're talking about a mix of personal experience, academic research, shared knowledge (and sometimes all three in the same sentence.)

So. How do you sort the useful from the problematic?

Do you do things differently depending on the source? (I certainly handle, say, a book from a known source differently than, say, an entirely unknown new poster on this forum.)

I have lots of ideas on this, but I want to sit on my hands and let other people get started and ask questions about stuff for a bit first.

I think this will vary for different Pagan paths, and depend on what you are trying to achieve. For reconstructionists*, the lore will probably be paramount. However, I am not one (though I'm very influenced by recon approaches). So, what am I aiming for, in my research? Am I trying to find out about ancient views of a particular deity, or the religious practices of a particular ancient culture? Recon methods it is - but not exclusively 'the lore' there either, because ultimately folk beliefs trump that for me - particularly in relation to certain deities that Gaelic recon has little to say about, but who are important to me. So even *before* we get to 'lore', we need to understand what we want from it, and what we believe about it in relation to the ancient cultures we're researching (e.g. do we think the pre-Christian Gaelic tribes worshipped the deities exactly as represented in the myths we have now, or do we think we need to go to archeology, place names, local folk belief etc, to get closer to that? Some recons, at least recently, seem to forget this step.)

So. Key questions for me: what do I believe about 'lore'? What do I believe about the gods, and about religion - ancient and modern? Where do I want to draw these beliefs from, principally - academia, or the modern Pagan community...? (Lore can't tell me much about modern neo-Pagan revival or post-revival Druidry, for example, but there are good sources for that - mainly people who are respected in the community - but we will all have different standards for that.)

Essentially, I'm not trying to revive an ancient religion here. I'm trying to create a religious-spiritual path inspired by what we (think we) know about one ancient culture while working within modern frameworks in other areas of my spiritual practice, with the aim of creating a whole practice that works for me. (I know modern practice from ancient, though I'm often accused of not knowing - but my approach is just different from that of recons, for lots of well-considered reasons). This requires really careful research and understanding of the difference between modern Pagan paths, academia, and what recons call 'lore'. (Even academic sources need to be very well evaluated, as publication in an academic journal dies not always mean you're the final authority on something, and academia involves bias, politics and various influences.) This is a BIG task. I have my places and people I trust on modern Pagan practice, like ADF and certain British practitioners of modern druidry. The nuances of how I come to trust these sources are complex and involve careful evaluating of everything from a writer/organization's political opinions and practices, to their (collective) experience and where they got it.

This post would have been more coherent if I hadn't been travelling, but I wanted to weigh in!

*My phone just tried to make me spell this 'obstructionists'. Hee.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2013, 06:13:14 am by Naomi J »
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Re: This thing, is it right? How do I tell?
« Reply #11 on: June 13, 2013, 09:01:44 am »
Quote from: Jenett;112057
So. How do you sort the useful from the problematic?

 
I'd like to make reference, for a related but not identical topic, to things said in the Evaluating your Gnosis thread:

http://www.ecauldron.com/forum/showthread.php?4262-Evaluating-Your-Gnosis
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we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

Maulus

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Re: This thing, is it right? How do I tell?
« Reply #12 on: June 13, 2013, 06:06:21 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;112057
We've had several threads around here recently that got me thinking about a subject near and dear my heart: how we evaluate information. Especially information about Pagan 'stuff', where we're talking about a mix of personal experience, academic research, shared knowledge (and sometimes all three in the same sentence.)

So. How do you sort the useful from the problematic?

Do you do things differently depending on the source? (I certainly handle, say, a book from a known source differently than, say, an entirely unknown new poster on this forum.)

I have lots of ideas on this, but I want to sit on my hands and let other people get started and ask questions about stuff for a bit first.

 

For me i read as much around the subject as i can, from as many angles as i can. The classics Kindle site on Amazon is a decent starting point for this. I then read other versions and theories and see which ones make sense to me.

As for UPG, for me, when i deal with my gods, it is usually by being given a clue for me to follow to find something else. That usually ends with me trawling the interwebs for more information and the bookshops for books that may cover the subject.

I even go as far as try and learn some of the source language to help get my head around what the writer was trying to say originally.

As for other peoples UPG, i don't dismiss them out of hand, though some i do take with a pinch of salt.

Dan

Leanan Sidhe

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Re: This thing, is it right? How do I tell?
« Reply #13 on: June 13, 2013, 07:29:10 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;112057
We've had several threads around here recently that got me thinking about a subject near and dear my heart: how we evaluate information. Especially information about Pagan 'stuff', where we're talking about a mix of personal experience, academic research, shared knowledge (and sometimes all three in the same sentence.)

So. How do you sort the useful from the problematic?

Do you do things differently depending on the source? (I certainly handle, say, a book from a known source differently than, say, an entirely unknown new poster on this forum.)

I have lots of ideas on this, but I want to sit on my hands and let other people get started and ask questions about stuff for a bit first.

I usually take everyone's UPG at face value unless they set off red flags for me -- if they seem obviously spammy, trollish, or something of the kind. But that doesn't mean their their UPG and mine necessarily mesh.

On here and other pagan places on the web, I take into account people's experience, posts, what I know of them, and whether or not I believe they are who and how they say they are (here I usually believe it -- other sites, not always so much).

I take surviving myths, lore, and texts pretty seriously. I do the same thing with academic texts.

Fluff authors, some publishing companies, and some revival (as opposed to recon) stuff  I take with more of a grain of salt. That being said, I still find plenty of useful stuff in many of those sources and I try not to throw the baby out with the bath water. But there are also a few that I just trust nothing by.

I actively dislike and distrust Wikipedia. Godchecker and Encyclopedia Mythica I go to for quick and dirty, "who is this God I've never heard of?" searches, but beyond that, they worry me.

I prefer reading from actual books, though these days a lot of my research is online because a) we don't have a ton of money and b) my local library does not have a very enlightened view of paganism.

But I don't really trust the internet as much as I trust books -- probably just because I hate technology and distrust it.

I pay a good deal of attention to my own UPG and intuition, but I make it a point to do reality checks and I try to avoid forcing my UPG on other people.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2013, 07:30:49 pm by Leanan Sidhe »
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Sola Stone

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Re: This thing, is it right? How do I tell?
« Reply #14 on: June 13, 2013, 11:56:10 pm »
Quote from: Snowdrop;112107
Pretty much.  (Well, and: so much of the Lokean community seems to have a hard-polytheist-spirit-worker slant to it that's influenced by the Northern Tradition, and since I don't fall into that grouping, I feel like I would sort of be the odd man out if I did describe myself as Lokean.)


I think it's just that the Northern Trad people tend to be the loudest and most visible. The result being that it looks like their game is the only one in town. Aren't those that honor/work with Loki the odd ones out anyway? I don't know about you, but being the odd one out of the odd ones out sounds pretty fun to me. ;) (I never did like doing what everyone else was doing.) I'm temped, now, to add "Lokean" to my religion listing just to be contrary. :ange:
 
Quote from: Jack;112112
I use the term because the alternative is to say Heathen-who-btw-worships-Loki-just-fyi, because if you don't specify you work with Loki people tend to assume you don't, at least in my experience.

 
Yeah. That's a bit of a mouthful. I gather, then, that you find it more troublesome when people assume that you don't work with Loki, than when they assume that all Lokeans are the same?
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