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What I Am Not: A Pagan Monastic

April 22, 2010

[If you need context, please see the intro post to this series.]

I do not want to be a Pagan monastic. I’ve considered it wistfully in the past – “oh, wouldn’t it be great if this option were available” – but I find upon examination that I do not have a vocation to spend my life in such a manner. This is for a few different reasons:

– I don’t think that sort of life would be possible without a key deity or deities to Whom one’s service is devoted, and that is not a relationship I have in my spiritual life right now.

– A lot of the appeal would be in belonging to an order who support one another in their devotion, and there is no such an organization that I am aware of in existence at this time.

– I’m not sure that if any such order existed I would be trusting enough to submit my autonomy to their authority. I’ve had a few tastes of how that can go badly, and learned that I personally need to be in an environment where questioning of authority is recognized as a valid and sometimes necessary action, and as such has a place purposefully designated for it within the organizational structure. That doesn’t seem to fit a traditional monastic ethic terribly well; I don’t think “obedience” was a key trait of so many orders by happenstance.

– I get far too much joy from the pleasures of secular life – especially travel – to live contentedly in a cloister for very long. Enjoying my embodiment to the best of my abilities seems to me a Pagan virtue (and as difficult as many an ascetic challenge when my depression isn’t held in balance).

– I value my marriage highly, and it is not one of shared spiritual devotion. One can’t have a foot in two worlds and do justice to either.

– I feel on a gut level that whatever spiritual contribution I ultimately have to make it will be in the context of connection with the greater world.

I would certainly love it if a Pagan monastery were set up that I could visit on retreat for a week or two every year or so, but I couldn’t happily maintain it as a full-time lifestyle. I imagine the majority of the Pagan community likely feels similarly – very nice for sometimes, but not a forever commitment. Without some financial mechanism – such a widespread tithing system – with which to supply reliable funding, having long-term full-time Pagan monastic houses is probably generations away if possible at all.

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