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Critiquing the concept of “Mystic Reconstructionism”

March 7, 2011

As I’ve mentioned in the comments on my Mystic Reconstructionism page as well as in at least one comment thread on aediculaantinoi’s blog regarding the idea, this is a concept that I’ve only gotten through the first phase of developing, and it certainly needs refinement. The initial comments definitely left me with notions of how I wanted to revise my description, but I chose to wait to see if more feedback might be forthcoming, particularly from folks exposed to the idea on aediculaantinoi’s blog via the multiple links they posted.

I discovered last week that it turns out there has been a useful conversation on this topic over at the Pagan Mystic community on Ning. This is really the first impartial feedback I’ve gotten. I value the input from people who know me well, but they had the advantage of background information from outside the essay with which to judge my statements.

I am posting a link to this essay there; it’s worth noting that you can read the conversation there but not comment unless you go through the process of signing in to that community. Feel free to comment here, it’s my hope that folks from that conversation may come and participate. (First comments on WordPress are moderated, after first approval they are allowed immediately, though they do continue to require a bit of personal info that does not get published.)

The essay is most definitely flawed; somewhat with context, very much without it. The value of the idea is certainly not reflected by the quality and logical consistency of prose within which I’ve expressed it thus far. I wrote in a burst of passion and frustration; something of my meaning came through, but now it’s time to edit.

Rather than respond to the posts on that forum individually, I’m going to try to sum up and paraphrase what I’ve seen of the concerns raised, then make an initial pass at addressing them, albeit briefly. It’s a beginning.

–       Why a new portmanteau term? It seems to show a dislike/disregard for at least some parts of the ideas being combined. If you don’t identify with all of what reconstructionist implies, why use it at all?

–        Are you trying to find an easy short-cut to get some kind of authority you think the term reconstructionism confers? If you’re not willing to do the scholarly work most reconstructionists agree is core to their practice, isn’t it deceptive to use that term in even a modified fashion? (Self-deluding at the very least, quite possibly opportunistically misleading to others?)

–       You mention a schism in the reconstructionist community; that’s a very large and vague assertion that not everyone feels is true or has even heard about previously. What proof can you offer of the conflict existing and being worthy of note? Are you trying to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist?

–       You mention working in multiple cultures, and that being one of the reasons you identify with the new term. How is this different from eclecticism? Is the new term simply because you don’t like what “eclectic” implies?

I perform devotional practice in more than one culture, but only one culture at a time.

I am not eclectic. I do not do workings that combine material from different cultures. I agree, it’s simply not reconstruction to put together something that never existed in the past, even if you do solid historical research on the individual components.

For a very long time I tried to find a way to focus on only one or another tradition, because there are so many groups that encourage a specific, exclusive focus, even if they don’t require it. There are very good reasons for this; there’s a vast amount to learn in any one culture, and the more immersed one is in a specific worldview, language, mythos, etc., the likelier one will have profound experiences and understandings within that realm. As a general theory, it’s a good one.

That didn’t happen to work for me specifically, and I got a lot more peace, happiness and ability to be dedicated to what was in front of me when I accepted that.

The ways that could work in theory and how it does actually work for me is a very large topic; in brief, I have very sharply defined personal areas of focus in terms of location/historical period/entities, and those take “ownership” of different contexts in my life.

The directions in which I have been called and the balances I have struck between them are unequivocally a result of my mystical experiences; UPGs have presented both dilemma and solution. I cannot declare allegiance to a single pantheon/culture, but I strive to maintain the individual integrity of each one in the course of my practice. My top level of allegiance is for the practice of mysticism, rather than its use in a specific cultural context.

I am quite serious about scholarly research in my areas of focus, hence my usage of the term reconstructionist. I didn’t take that on as a self-definition quickly or without a lot of consideration. To be totally honest, from a lot of what I’ve seen, reconstructionist doesn’t connote “awesome authoritative scholar” so much as “stodgy pedantic pain in the butt”. I want to try to understand how the ancients viewed their world from as close to their perspective as we can discover, I am very passionate about the importance of details of history, and am happy to admit when I’ve made something up myself rather than claim it as based on scholastic material. In my experience, that makes me a reconstructionist.

I’m not out to found a tradition or sell books or impress anyone; what I’m doing is trying to explore and learn to better describe my self-identity, and share that process with others, as I have been helped by reading similar efforts myself. By the very nature of my practice, I can’t be a general authority on much of anything, though I’d like to think I can someday be a subject domain expert in some very specific contexts.

My claim for the schism I have said exists in reconstructionism was not at all documented in my initial essay, and totally does deserve a “Citation needed” tag a la Wikipedia. It is not universal or even necessarily wide-spread. I have experienced it personally and heard stories from those who have experienced it. The contexts where it exists tend to split by culture and by group, and it sometimes can be the more reclusive groups where it happens. I need to pull that section of the description unless/until I have more substance there – thank you for calling me on it.

I have witnessed an attitude in some quarters where mysticism and UPG get sneered at or summarily dismissed as irrelevant, always less valuable than what in Heathenry gets called “the lore”. Genuine critical assessment is necessary, but scorn is not. The Eddas, sagas and other primary source materials (for example), while an amazing resource, were documented by generally unreliable narrators based on an oral tradition which ultimately leads back to a skald who was inspired by. . . someone’s mystic experiences.

I have heard from numerous practitioners that they are frustrated that valuable UPG insights are not being more openly discussed in reconstructionist internet venues because people fear the ridicule and hostility they may receive, which is especially devastating when sharing something so intensely personal. (Often the same people have said they honestly hesitate to share their own for the same reasons, as important as they believe the process to be.) As a spiritual movement aiming for not only survival, but also long-term growth and development, I deeply believe that reconstructionists need to collaborate in creating ways of sane discernment of how to evaluate and find a place for mystically-derived insight in our varied traditions.

aediculaantinoi commented in response to my original essay (paraphrased) that they believe that mysticism is very important, but that they couldn’t think of a case in their experience where the UPG contradicted what was known from research, and in fact often they found documented verification for ancient roots of the UPG at a later time. I’m going to be honest here – I can’t think of one in my experience either. Given that, I can’t unequivocally say I would choose UPG over lore in the case of a conflict, only that I would like to believe I might do so.

I don’t believe that mysticism and reconstructionism are opposed. (My comments in the essay went one way on that and then the other, which led to a muddled and conflicting end result.) I want to stand up for the cause of mysticism within reconstructionism, and take pride in being both. Just saying I am a mystic Pagan leaves matters way too open to incorrect interpretations (am I Wiccan? Discordian? Eclectic?), and I feel that just saying I am a reconstructionist carries the connotation “document it or drop it”.

If the purpose of my using both terms doesn’t make sense because you haven’t encountered active hostility to the responsible use of UPG to fill the gaps where we have no information, I’m happy you haven’t had that kind of negative experience. I’m glad if I’m bringing the idea that it may be an issue somewhere to your awareness, because problems that don’t get talked about don’t get solved. If you still disagree with the need for the term or my use of it, that’s your prerogative – I appreciate you taking the time to express the problems you have so I can clarify my thinking and my message.

There is one concern I haven’t gotten to in this post, but I want to note it to return to in future:

–       It’s not clear what you mean by this new term; this definition is all nebulous philosophical statements without any context. Can you please provide examples of situations in which you see a difference between how a “standard” reconstructionist would approach matters and how your approach compares?

Excellent request, but it’s another post in the future, I’m afraid.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. March 8, 2011 1:36 AM

    Thank you for further expounding your thoughts on this!

    I read the thread on the other forum, and quite honestly, I think most of the people who were commenting there don’t know enough about what reconstructionism is to have a grasp of what is involved–if they think that recon methodologies are all about “it’s either PROVABLE or it’s not authentic,” then they’re probably not recons and don’t understand the limitations of what scholarship can actually prove (which, quite frankly, as a recon as well as a professional academic, is almost nothing). Very few actual recons (outside of the hard-line, cultural purity insistent ones, who are usually poorly informed and draw their lines rather arbitrarily) understand the recon methodology in as strict a way as the respondents there seemed to.

    Further, the lack of understanding and lack of use of the term “syncretism” also doesn’t make me think the respondents there are informed enough to understand what it is you’re doing. The idea that syncretism is the same as eclecticism, and that both of those are in some way incompatible with reconstructionist methodologies is, again, a flawed and partial understanding at best that is not informed about the historical realities at work in most cultural religious traditions that are being reconstructed, and the nature of the sources involved, etc.

    And, based on the general level of discourse there, I’d be hesitant to say anyone there is a mystic either, and they may not have much of an understanding of what that term fully means and implies, whether cross-culturally or particularly in relation to modern paganism. Mystics, I should hope, tend to be better behaved toward people…

    The dismissiveness and snark didn’t help my view of that discussion, either…

    You’re a very stalwart individual to be able to go into that forum and attempt engaging with the respondents at all, much less in so courteous and friendly a manner. And, not surprisingly, most of them had no response and probably turned tail and ran. Pity…

    In any case, I think your further clarifications here are good. I still think it’s a valuable term, and one that I would personally find useful and fitting for my own circumstances, as you’ve noted above.

    • March 8, 2011 9:19 AM

      I’m not sure if I was the only one whose comments you read, so can not be certain if your criticisms were geared solely towards me, but I digress.

      Since I never made the claim that “reconstructionism is only about what is provable”, I am glad to see that you added the “if they think that…”, because I do not. I provided my view on “filling in the gaps” in my response above, and am cognizant of the limitations of source material, especially in the case of the culture my reconstruction is focused on. After all if we had complete pictures, reconstructionism wouldn’t be necessary to the extent that it is.

      If you felt my demeanor was snarky, well that’s something I need to work on.

    • March 9, 2011 2:36 PM

      First, thank you for your support. :)

      Whatever the level of experience or involvement folks on the Ning group have is rather beside the point; they clearly told me “We don’t get what you’re saying,” and that is something valuable to know.

      I have certainly been snarky in my time – often, I am sure, inappropriately. It’s a bad habit. Points were made that were useful nonetheless, and it was useful feedback – input from people who *haven’t* talked to me in person for hours about spiritual matters, and so didn’t have background on me and my practices to use in interpreting my statements as I intended them rather than as I wrote them.

      So, you know, I ranted elsewhere privately and then got down to work. ;)

      Frankly, given all the gender-driven Pagan internet drama going on last week, it was nice to have something I felt it *was* my place to comment on, rather than not wanting to seem like I was trespassing because I happen to fall in the statistical majority.

  2. March 8, 2011 9:10 AM

    Your response addresses the concerns which I had raised on the forum, and so thank you for that.

    My Sticking point, and the crux of my criticism, was in that one detail about placing what is known via research ahead of UPG, which you claim you have not done (as you state that none of the UPG you have had has contradicted scholarship, but has been corroborated). My point was that if you do place the one before the other, if you take UPG ahead of what is known, or is deduced (and hence reconstructed), then you are doing exactly what the methodology was developed to counter. There is, of course, a huge difference between making a claim or basing a belief on inference vs simply having a lucid dream and deciding you liked what you saw in your dream better than what is known (or what was probable). There is nothing wrong with “filling in the gaps” with best guesses, or reconstructions based on likelihood, even if not overtly stated, and especially when it is not known. This allows for UPG to be relevant and necessary, but allows for the ability to make statements about something, which can be justified by sources.

    Personally, I think UPG is necessary in reconstructionism, and frankly in any religion, spirituality or faith. Summarily dismissing UPG, without discussion is not helpful or constructive, that is unless the claim is widely known to be a falsehood, misconception or ridiculous. If there is room to question a claim, then it should be questioned and debated, and individuals (or groups if one has that dynamic) can determine how much credence to give that particular claim or view.

    I do look forward to your response to the “final concern”.

    • March 9, 2011 2:50 PM

      Thank you for taking the time to come over and read what I had to say, and to comment. I made at least one provocative statement and didn’t provide supporting material within that essay, so to get called to account for that intellectual sloppiness. . . well, fair enough.

      Ironically, after I wrote the essay I heard something at PantheaCon which applies to the whole “what do you do when mysticism and scholarship conflict” question. I’m sorry the person didn’t provide details, but the nutshell was this: a Hellenic reconstructionist group created a ritual based on the best research they had available at the time. It was a good ritual, it did its job, people responded to it and became attached to it. A new scholarly angle came out afterwards on the source material, which seemed to undermine their inferences and extrapolation from it. They reflected on that long and hard. . . and finally decided to keep their ritual as written, because it worked for them emotionally and spiritually, and had developed its own flavor of validity and truth. Then a few years later the challenging academic theory got shot down, so there they were, in line with the research again.

      Theories come and go. . . where should a responsible reconstructionist draw the line when things they *feel* to be relevant practices get their authenticity revoked?

  3. March 8, 2011 2:54 PM

    I sampled the conversation at Ning and found much of it mean-spirited and misinformed. Lazy? Not doing the study? They obviously know nothing of you!
    As aedicula has already noted, their comments evidence an epistemological naivete which I have found riddles so much of pagan reconstructionism (I feel a blog post of my own rising!).
    Seems to me from the beginning in Celtic reconstructionism, the motto was archaeology AND aisling.

    Maybe this does not warrant the word ‘conflict’ but I know a lot of us have had upg that a a deity that we work with would like chocolate (or coffee) and we know that this certainly was not a traditional offering of their ancient devotees who did not know what chocolate or coffee was.

    Anyway, I am amazed at your patience with some of those snarkers. They sure don’t seem to be maintaining a hospitable forum.

    • March 9, 2011 2:41 PM

      Thank you for your emotional support – I do appreciate it!

      A lot of what I said in my comment to aediculaantinoi’s reply above also seems relevant here. . . no, they don’t know me; why should they? It was as initially presented a good enough essay for my friends to get what I’m saying, but it’s very weak taken out of context. Fair enough. Time to revise. :)

  4. Blackbird permalink
    March 9, 2011 8:36 PM

    First, I will respond here with what I responded there as you are already addressing the other questions I asked.

    “aediculaantinoi commented in response to my original essay (paraphrased) that they believe that mysticism is very important, but that they couldn’t think of a case in their experience where the UPG contradicted what was known from research, and in fact often they found documented verification for ancient roots of the UPG at a later time. I’m going to be honest here – I can’t think of one in my experience either. Given that, I can’t unequivocally say I would choose UPG over lore in the case of a conflict, only that I would like to believe I might do so.”

    This has generally been my experience as well. I think UPG tends more to do in how we interact with deity or even ritual structures or things along those lines which we will never know and tend to be personal anyway. In regards to all other topics, that which has been revealed through UPG tends to become shared gnosis and eventually becomes revealed in the lore, the archaeology or other means at some point anyway, thus no longer making it UPG.

    “If the purpose of my using both terms doesn’t make sense because you haven’t encountered active hostility to the responsible use of UPG to fill the gaps where we have no information, I’m happy you haven’t had that kind of negative experience. I’m glad if I’m bringing the idea that it may be an issue somewhere to your awareness, because problems that don’t get talked about don’t get solved.”

    I have never had the issue you bring up. Perhaps it is not a “Reconstructionist” issue more than an Asatru issue (unless you have experienced it with other Recons, but I have never in the CR community)? The biggest issue I find is the conflict in the following statement with Reconstructionism as a whole –

    “I list mystic first, because if a conflict comes up between the two, I am ultimately most likely to go with what information I get from my trancework.”

    Like you have agreed with, UPG is meant to fill in the holes, but where there is information already available UPG is not warranted. If one places their UPG over the information available that really isn’t Reconstructionism.

    As stated, many pagans reconstruct the beliefs and culture of former societies. Ár nDraíocht Féin is a big group that acknowledges this in their study and practice, but the majority of members don’t consider themselves Reconstructionists because of the rigidity of the Recon title. Utilizing history, legends, lore, archaeology, language, music, art, etc should be a commonplaces practice of all pagans if only in the very beginning and through random parts of their journey. That focus doesn’t necessarily make them a Reconstructionist.

    • March 9, 2011 11:23 PM

      I have seen the hostility towards UPG less with Celtic Reconstructionism than I have with the Norse Reconstructionism (where it is very overt in some quarters), but I have seen it in CR as well, and in a more subtle way in Kemetic Reconstructionism.

      Part of why personal revelation may be less controversial within Celticism is because, sadly, there are simply fewer original materials for the Celts to work with today. The Kemetics have copious records directly documented, and many Scandinavian countries have more extant materials than in various Celtic areas because they resisted Christianization until 1000 CE, and so what there is hasn’t had to last so long before interest was re-sparked (plus there was never as much suppression of ethnic identity, pride and language there as there was in Ireland, Wales and Brittany).

      I most definitely do not say that all Celtic Reconstructionists are hostile to mystical work, or that all CR communities show this tendency, but in my experience enough do to justify the inclusion of the Celtic thread as a part of a wider trend across the Pagan reconstructionism of multiple cultures.

      Incidentally, I have much familiarity with the practices of ADF (and respect and affection for many of its practitioners), but I came to see myself as a reconstructionist as I was less and less able to get behind many of the mandatory modern innovations of their practice, a couple of examples being the inclusion of an offering to the Earth Mother in every rite, and the use of the pan-Pagan eightfold year pattern for celebrations when that does not correspond to the traditional ritual calendars across the board for all IE cultures.

      I’m still wrestling with the question of whether mysticism can legitimately outweigh the materials of research in certain circumstances – only if clearly stated – without invalidating the scholarly credentials of materials/practice otherwise fully attested. Tough situations like the one I related to Gorm Sionnach upthread don’t have easy answers. I think on some level we have to look to ourselves as equally competent to make spiritual practice decisions on our own behalf as we consider our ancestors to have been in theirs, and if it is a truly living tradition, things will change. Does one have to throw the baby out with the bathwater and give up considering oneself a reconstructionist if one makes a decision in favor of personal gnosis in one point, clearly stated as such, and uses historical information to validate nine other points? My instinct is “No”, but I’m still looking for a concrete case of this to assess, rather than an abstract theory.

  5. Blackbird permalink
    March 9, 2011 8:53 PM

    Finnchuillsmast & Aediculaantinoi –

    Now I will respond to the other comments posted here. First, I don’t need to know the blogger to read an article by one that is public access (and this was linked from another post related to the Gender Issues blog) . No one directly called anyone “lazy” and what was addressed was general commentary on the blog in question. Perhaps it was blunt, but it was not meant to be mean spirited in any sense. And snarkers, really?

    No one disrespected disirdottir and as outside observers who are Reconstructionists we do have the right to our opinions and we shared them within a forum that allows for open and blunt dialog. You can feel free to respond to the posts on that site if you so wish.

    Secondly, interesting that we are claimed to be naive. Four of the responders to that thread are active Celtic Reconstructionists including myself who has been one for over a decade. I have to wonder if you got past your own offense with the way things were worded to actually read what the main issue was with the terminology. Feel free to read my above post to understand the main issue with the term and definition thereof. The use of UPG is not and has never been an issue with the CR members of the group you are so unjustly attacking.

    • March 9, 2011 11:30 PM


      I’m sorry that some friends of mine took umbrage at the tone of the conversation on the other board; both sides have been somewhat harsh, I will say, but I’m trying to take what positive I can from the conversations. It was never my intention to invite the members of the PaganMystic community here for further conversation in order to make you a target for hostility, I promise. I am seeking to advance discussion on this topic that is dear to my heart with those who find it of interest, whether I know them or not.

    • March 9, 2011 11:31 PM

      For starters, Moonsmith did use a form of the word “lazy” in the following statement on the other site:

      An the insidious thing is really that the laziness of humanity allows for this condition to persist and eventually this individual and others gain credence over time and the next thing you know, suddenly there is this new ‘religion’ or tract or whatever you want to call it, based solely on lack of information or mis-information.

      The “laziness of humanity” is being generalized here, and then “this individual” (i.e. Disirdottir) is then being given credence due to the laziness of others. The statement about “Same great taste with half the education!” was also rather dismissive, and along the same lines…But, this is largely semantics, and not very useful…

      Here’s the thing about “the sources” in reconstructionism, though: they’re often particular, individual, or regional/local in nature. Very few sources from any ancient culture (or medieval culture, as is the case with the majority of Insular Celtic and Norse/Icelandic materials) purport to give universal answers applicable to everyone in the culture, unless read through a very myopic and distorted–and thoroughly modern and non-scholarly–lens. There is a great deal of variation in many of these sources on the same matters. I’ve seen some people attempt to argue that there are only five rivers from the Well of Wisdom in “Celtic tradition,” when in fact only one (highly allegorical) Irish text says that; others indicate there is only one stream running from it, while others indicate there are twelve, while others indicate that every river in the world draws from that well…etc.

      If one reads widely and deeply enough, there is a lot of diversity that can be encountered on any given question, and one assumes that because not everything that has been written still exists now, not everything that still exists now is edited or translated (and thus available to many scholars, much less the general public), and that even given the former things, not everything that has ever existed was ever recorded, many of these matters are not as simple as “the lore says” or “the lore doesn’t say.” So, how to choose when there are a variety of options? What apart from individual taste or guidance from the gods (UPG) can be used as a criterion?

      I suspect this is what Disirdottir is talking about in terms of her mystical experiences taking precedence over the lore.

      There are processes (which we can rightly consider mystical or at least mystagogic) that are outlined in medieval Irish sources on imbas forosnai, for example, and if those processes are followed, then what should result from them information-wise has the status of “lore” for the individual who went through with it. If someone else doesn’t agree, for whatever reason, they don’t have to, but they also have no business saying that whatever answer they have, from whatever source they derived it, is “right” in comparison, even within the same cultural reconstructionist context. This seems to me to be a good description of the position of the mystic reconstructionist–things can be culturally consonant that are derived from one’s own personal divine experiences, even when they contradict the lore. These cultures we’re dealing with were not and had never been monolithic juggernauts where every question had an answer and no variation or discussion on them was possible. The three most important words, and the most characteristic ones, that appear in Irish medieval texts are “but others say.” Many basic questions get multiple answers within a single text; many narratives (e.g. Táin Bó Cúailnge) even have variations built into the “canonical” text, as the writers of them in the forms we have them were eager to encompass as many variations on the tale as possible within their comprehensive text. We can only assume that they did as well as they could, rather than giving the only two or three options available on a particular matter.

      Even if there is “an answer” on a particular issue to be found in attested lore, there are a lot of questions remaining on the nature of the text(s) in question, their translations, and their applicability to the modern context. It is never as simple as either “the lore has it, therefore follow it” or “there is no lore on this, therefore use UPG.” Discernment and many other faculties of interpretation have to be exercised at every step of the process. No form of worthwhile praxis-based experiential religion (which most forms of polytheism have been) can afford to treat any source that is considered “the lore” in a way that suggests fundamentalism or literalism, I think.

      • March 9, 2011 11:59 PM

        Very good point about the multiple versions in the “lore”. To shift pantheons, the Egyptians had maybe 5 or 6 creation of the world stories, and per my temple teachers (my own research pending), they were all considered “true”, or none of them, or perhaps different aspects of the truth, or perhaps today one will be chosen for its poetic resonance but something else could be cited tomorrow. . . this was an example of “polyvalent logic”. I think we need more polyvalent logic in the world, to help counteract too much dualism.

        Discussions of how the ancients made offerings in their countries versus how the land spirits in this country feel about receiving them is a classic conundrum. There’s lore on both sides to consult – how does one reconcile following the practices of one’s ancestors when one is in a new place? (No, just throwing Thor overboard to see where He washes up doesn’t always work.) ;)

        • March 10, 2011 1:12 AM

          Yes, I like the polyvalent logic approach–all of them can be true, depending on a variety of factors…and, all of the various options don’t exhaust the possibilities for “truth” in relation to any question…which is the point I’m trying to make, and some of the other respondents on it don’t seem to be getting…

  6. Blackbird permalink
    March 10, 2011 12:40 AM

    For starters, Moonsmith did use a form of the word “lazy” in the following statement on the other site:

    The “laziness of humanity” is being generalized here, and then “this individual” (i.e. Disirdottir) is then being given credence due to the laziness of others. The statement about “Same great taste with half the education!” was also rather dismissive, and along the same lines…But, this is largely semantics, and not very useful…

    — As to not bog down a long comment about not knowing the person or taking the statement out of context, as you can clearly read no one called Disirdottir lazy and “the laziness of humanity” statement is a stretch unless you want to claim he was calling you, me and everyone else on the planet lazy. The other statement made by Lala was a running joke in the forum not directly related to this one conversation.–

    So, how to choose when there are a variety of options? What apart from individual taste or guidance from the gods (UPG) can be used as a criterion?

    — Yup, that would be the “filling in the gaps” part that has now been stated ad nauseum.–

    I suspect this is what Disirdottir is talking about in terms of her mystical experiences taking precedence over the lore.

    — And if that is true that is free for her to state which hadn’t been as of yet and why it was being addressed. That would be something that needed clarification. And again, as there would be numerous options as you stated then one of those options would still be at least backed up by that which is available and wouldn’t actually be UPG as it would be verfiable…

    The rest of this just seems to be you spouting off terminology is hopes that no one reading will actually realize that you aren’t making any contradicting points to what has already been up and are simply taking up space with terms that we are already well aware of and are irrelevant as again, they don’t contradict anything that has been stated thus far.

    And yes, it is actually that simple. As the coffee reference was made – coffee would be UPG because it wouldn’t have been an option to our ancestors. That is a fact and yet, that deity may have asked for such offerings today. That is pretty simple and clear in regards to this discussion. Just because there are “options” doesn’t make the choice of one over another UPG. Options with the “lore” (as you like to refer to it) as well as options offered up by hypothesis, translations, poetry, archaeology, etc are “verifiable” thus making the choice of one over the other NOT UPG. UPG is when one person claims the Morrigan prefers coffee as an offering over blood. There would be no way to verify that thus making it unverifiable personal gnosis.

    The rest of your diatribe was smoke and mirrors.

    • March 10, 2011 1:29 AM

      Okay, let me try this again…

      Suppose there are various options on a particular issue within a given set of lore (including translations of texts, archaeology, reasoned hypothesis, comparative materials, et al.), but there is also what a particular deity, ancestor, or land spirit decides to communicate with an individual person involved in reconstruction in a direct manner, via whatever means that might occur. Doesn’t it seem more useful, and probably more appropriate, to follow what the divine-being-in-question happens to say directly, rather than what possible attested lore, or the interpretation thereof, happens to say? In other words, when there are a variety of possibilities given on any possible question by the lore itself, sometimes it isn’t just a choice amongst various options in the lore, but instead that there are further or other options not already specified, which would then fall under the category of UPG.

      Everything in the lore started as UPG at some point–and, a great deal of what we consider “the lore” might be straight-up UPG that is due to poetic license and innovation, or direct communication with the gods in question; and, because it came about within the expected parameters and via acceptable artistic and mystical procedures, and “works” within the context in question, it is not contradictory to the wider tradition, and thus got preserved or was appreciated, until it became communal, whether for people in the past, or simply for a group of people now who have decided they like what is there. Given that most people don’t see “divine revelation” within modern polytheistic religions as a closed canon, by any means, this would imply that the gods, ancestors, land spirits, etc. have a continuing voice in the tradition, and are still speaking and interacting with humans today. (If they weren’t, there’d be very little reason to do any of this…) And if such an assessment is accurate, then wherever it is available, UPG should be preferred, because it is speaking directly to our situation here and now as we live it.

      I don’t think anyone who is using UPG, at least in the present conversation, is attempting to make universal claims about the status of such information (e.g. your Morrígan and coffee example–maybe for one person, that claim is valid, but isn’t where other people are concerned). Insights from UPG are contextual and particular and individualized. When a number of people start coming up with the same answers, particularly independent of one another and outside of shared/group experiences, then one might get onto something that can become a shared gnosis. But, short of that, as long as one says “In my experience, this deity prefers for me to do this rather than what established tradition says,” I don’t think there’s a problem. And, a consistent commitment to go with those options when they are available would be the viewpoint of the mystic reconstructionist.

      Does that make more sense?

      • March 10, 2011 1:47 AM

        Thank you for bringing us back on topic. :) This idea of continuing contact with the beings who inspired the lore is an aspect I didn’t bring into the original essay or the sequel, more tweaking to do. . .

  7. March 10, 2011 1:41 AM

    To all,

    Please drop the metaconversation about the tone in which the matter has been discussed, both on the Ning group and here. I especially do not see the point in speculating on the intentions behind the words of people who have not chosen to come here to participate. There’s been harshness on both sides; more won’t make things better, so let’s quit while we’re behind.

    As hostess, I ask you to be gracious guests, and focus upon the matter of the conversation rather than the means.

  8. Blackbird permalink
    March 10, 2011 5:49 AM

    One who puts emphasis on UPG over scholarship is not a Reconstructionist. Exceptions here and there due to blatant slaps in the face from deity are one thing, but as was stated –

    “I list mystic first, because if a conflict comes up between the two, I am ultimately most likely to go with what information I get from my trancework.”

    This statement is placing UPG over scholarship. It is this statement that directly contradicts the significance of the Reconstructionist tradition. I will leave it at that as that is and has always been my issue with the definition. Not going to continue to beat a dead horse with that which is simple and requires no more discussion as nothing that is stated will change that contradiction.

    As it is not mine to reconcile – I will leave that as my opinion.


    • March 10, 2011 8:26 AM

      A fair enough comment; I respect your point. As I’ve mentioned in the long essay above, it was an emotional statement, and I haven’t yet found an example of when I have, or would, actually done this. I don’t know if that statement will remain or not. I haven’t had time to recompile my thoughts into a full revised essay.

      Thank you for bringing this up for discussion on PaganMystics, and continuing the conversation here. I regret that the tone of this thread became less than civil; I have done my best to focus attention on what I felt the core matter was.

      Perhaps you may still find matters of interest on this blog, even while knowing my stance doesn’t agree with yours 100%. If not, I still appreciate your having visited, as I’ve gotten a lot of food for thought from your input.

    • March 10, 2011 2:54 PM

      I still think you’re missing the distinction–it doesn’t mean that one ONLY uses UPG, it means that when there is a conflict (and, oftentimes, there isn’t!), UPG is leaned on more heavily than scholarship. “Exceptions here and there due to blatant slaps in the face from deity are one thing,” as you said, but that is really THE issue, not a general preference for UPG over scholarship. (And, it’s not often that I’ve had anything that can be described as a “slap in the face” by a deity when such things arise–they’re a lot more civil about such things than most humans are, in my experience.) It is very possible to have both, and to use both, and to do so in a balanced and prudent manner. Disirdottir’s stance on this simply emphasizes that mysticism is important, and the continuing and developing reality of the gods is just as crucial to have as a source as past realities are to have as inspiration in creating what works for the present.

  9. March 16, 2011 7:40 AM

    The nastiest “lore over all” stuff I’ve witnessed has been among Hellenics, for what it’s worth. There was even a major Hellenic organisation that was, from all I could observe as an outsider, categorically opposed to mysicism, magical use, or investigation into mysteries (whether historical or modern).

    • March 16, 2011 9:51 AM

      Thankfully I’ve only been on the sidelines for that one; each cultural reconstructionist focus seems to have its own unique way of going off the rails, which is anthropologically interesting, but a bit less fun subjectively. :/

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