… is the rather catchy chorus line of a song on the new Omnia album entitled Noodle the Poodle. In their anti-exploitation agenda at the minute, the song parodies the anthropomorphic status used as the norm when speaking about Earth spiritualities, suggesting that a poodle perspective is just as viable as a human one (along with the obvious play on the word dogma). And who is to say they are wrong in that claim. It is and has been my experience that anthropomorphic personification is just a tool used by those other entities when they choose to interact with us. They choose to “dress” in human form so as to make information exchange possible in a context understandable to the receiver. In my opinion, far too many people get tied up with the images presented and completely neglect the information being offered, almost a kind of “sun-blindness” they are enraptured by the vision and miss the point of the exchange.
I think this type of “sun-blindness” is an indirect consequence of being brought up within a very visual Christianised religious model. The visual model is one that has been used very successfully over the ages, look at the number of “historically valuable” paintings in possession by the likes of the Vatican, for example. They give a visual perspective that both appeals and reinforces indirect assumptions around the “nature” of Christianity (such as the generalised assertion Jesus was caucasian) and that spiritual experiences are something that completely overwhelms the visual senses. Speaking personally, I have never been subject to such pyrotechnic displays, the entities I am in relationship with choose subtlety over fireworks, preferring me to work it out for myself instead of delivering the finished article.
Of course, visual content as a way of consumer marketing has developed from the earlier Abrahamic religions use (because of course, it wasn’t just Christianity that used this form of communication) and todays world is very much a visual one. Proof that if you can control the method of visual stimulus to your prospective purchasers, you chances of a “sale” are improved markedly.
I bet you end up saying Poodle-amorphic next time you mean to to say Anthropormorphic !! (I already have!)
The subject matter of this post, to some, will be challenging. It is not my intention to cause offence as such but I will be questioning some core aspects of some general Pagan frameworks. If your path is clearly defined for you and you are happy with that definition, it would probably be better to now move away from this post. Any comments directed to this site that adopt an antagonistic or personal attack will be deleted.
Ever since I embarked on this journey of what at this time, is self defined as Druidry, there have been aspects of general paganism and, indeed in some quarters, Druidry, that have created problems for me. These problems at this time, the summer solstice of 2014, now appear to be at the forefront of my thoughts and it’s time to address them.
Both myself and my partner have been recently getting involved in our local Druid group. They have local rituals with a, largely, local focus and it is a good place to meet and interact with people from our general area. The rituals themselves are ones that are mainly OBOD derived and have had the same format for a number of years. And this is where thoughts are now beginning to highlight some of the problems that have been in the background of my mind for a number of years.
It is well documented by the likes of Prof Ron Hutton, that the OBOD rituals that were devised upon OBOD’s re-emergence in the late 80’s were initially written by Wiccans. The concepts of the personification of both elements and objects was one that fitted into the pagan ethos of those times. I believe they are still a valuable tool for introduction into a general pagan spirituality and that they demonstrate the earlier methodology of using analogy to create a spark of connection.
from what I read now in a lot of areas, the analogies themselves have now almost taken on the role of dogma to some people. A somewhat ironic turn of events when you consider the stated positions of these same people in relation to their stated abhorrence of organized religious dogma. The rituals “have” to be structured in such and such a way, because that is the way people have come to “expect” them to be. So what’s the difference between that and a church service? Apart from the people running it?
Recently I have started to question some of the wording to “traditional” rituals. Following the rules of personification, it is not uncommon to read at this time of the year something like the following .. “We welcome back Father Sun as he blesses us with the bounties of his return at this time of abundance”
This has a very traditional “feel” about it. Except that when you think about it, it is reinforcing outdated preconceptions about the reality of the human within nature. “Father Sun” hasn’t gone anywhere. We are the ones who have “gone” somewhere, that being on the elliptical orbit of the Earth around the sun. I recently highlighted this elsewhere and was left somewhat bewildered at some of the responses.
Our present state of reality and the factual information available informs us that it is indeed, us, that move and not the sun. Therefore, wouldn’t the rituals now be better worded to reflect this? Something along the lines of “We greet the sun as our journeying at this time mean that we, and our home the Earth with all the life thriving in our hemisphere at present, come to fix our full gaze upon you once again at this time”?
It is a subtle change and yet one that more accurately reflects the factual position we live in without necessarily diminishing our acknowledgement of their presence. The same sort of analysis applies to the calls to the elements. The personification of, say the winds, has always left me “cold” and especially the attributed qualities traditionally associated with them. For me, it looks like placing the elements within a human centric framework, they are there to interact with “us” as opposed to them playing a far bigger role on a planetary scale. Therefore, I am inclined to be thinking more along the lines of “We welcome the qualities of the winds at these times as they choose to interact with us in ways that are suitable to them at this time”. It moves the interactions away from the human centric positioning, which was largely understandable in earlier times, but, frankly in my opinion, are now not really either particularly relevent or even, to an extent, appropriate.
The diminishing numbers of people actively engaged with religious activities within the UK is demonstrated in census figures over the years. Here in Scotland in the last census of 2011, something like 1/3rd of adults subscribed to having “no religious beliefs”. The numbers for active participants in religions have dropped generally, though Paganism seems to be the largest group to buck that particular trend, but their numbers are still statistically low in relation to the number of people living within Scotland.
I personally know of a number of people whose general attitude is one that I would consider to be actually very “pagan” but for whom the adoption of the title of pagan would be anathema because, amongst other concerns, the public viewing and content of pagan public rituals. Put simply, the personifications adopted in the rituals are as outdated as the church services they see in the churches or the services within the mosques which they then choose to not engage with. They simply are unable to relate because the context those rituals / services were written in are now not applicable to their own lives at these times. So why would they engage in what, to some, are no better than role-playing rituals?
My own identification of the processes I actively engage with have, to a large extent, moved me away from the general premise of the personification of nature. There are things that personification are absolutely the right things to do. I am thinking here specifically of interactions with Gods and spirits of place for example, because that personification is part of the active process of interacting. But the emphasis of some within the pagan community of almost dogmatically using the frameworks of analogy as the sole method of spiritual interactions, appear to me to be akin to being mesmerized by the spark ( the analogy) and missing the fireworks displays ( the resulting interactions) going on all around them. I recognize the spark, but my own gaze is very firmly fixed on the resultant interactions created by the tool that spark represents. And as such, I think I need to consider how the results reveal themselves in relation to how we are living our lives at this time.
The continuation of the use of these earlier pagan preconceptions now demand of me the reassessment of the context of them in future interactions. I simply am unable to divorce myself from the reality of our lives to the extent of continuing to place an important place for them in my spiritual activities. I do recognize however, that this position is a purely personal one and probably does not reflect the vast majority within the pagan community.
In this last part, I will discuss the other principles that I have developed through engagement with my central Druid principle. There are not many other principles. This is not some esoteric work, full of hidden meanings and symbols. I don’t wish to sound particularly dismissive of such things, it’s just that I don’t particularly think that the answer to all our woes or the potential for our religious or spiritual paths lie in some, as yet, undiscovered or even undisclosed esoteric work. I prefer to work in the “now” for the now is all we have. These are subsequent principles that were born of personal interactions and experiences and were built upon some personal and recorded demonstrable evidence.
My first consequent personal Druid principle is that the religion that I practice is inseparable from the land, it flows on and through it. The clues to this are actually present in those classical writings along with some recent archaeology. The classical writings positively identify Western Europe as being the home of the Druid class. We know, according to those sources, that Britain was hosting places of learning for Druids. Recent excavations in the Ness of Brodgar has positively revealed Britain’s, as yet, oldest identified temple complex. So the British would appear to have been engaging in some form of religious practices to at least as far back as the neolithic. This provides evidence that Britain has been hosting religious practices for at least 5000 years. It is my own personal opinion that the classical Iron age Druids were a later result, an evolution, from and of those earlier religious practices.
Now, there is a danger in this line of thought that some form of nationalistic exclusive “religious order or right” may be facilitated through that last principle. Afterall, a principle based upon a specific geographic location, by its very mention, conjours a barrier in the mind’s eye if you are not of that land. How can you relate to such a principle if you are not actually physically living there? Well, I treat the principle like this.
We know that our bodies are the products of recycling, “We are the stuff of stars” even modern-day physicists tell us. We are also the product of physical recycling through inherited genes and also through the foodstuffs we ingest which have grown through the use of further recycled materials (the soil is a recycled substance that the majority of life relies on). And if the religion I practice is subject to that further principle of being tied to the land, then everything that comes from that land must be suffused with that spirituality, that particular mix of energies which then goes on realise itself for me in religious experiences. It is inseparable from the materials of life and form and therefore it is just a question of recognizing the levels of expression forged within the self. Those levels of expression are subject to the complex mechanisms within our bodies. And as such, they will find various ways of expressions within and through different individuals.
So the expression of your religion / spirituality, using this principle, is a result of the complex interactions between the body and the other energies and materials present within a landscape. There is no universal “right”way of expression, just different levels of expression that lead to various degrees of commonality between differing numbers of individuals at any one time.
We know our bodies don’t “end” at our skin, but that the electromagnetic energies given off by the human body extend further out in subtle ways we are only just beginning to evidence. It is the case that these sort of energies are also given off by other animals and plants and we also know how minerals can interact and change these energies (the workings of mobile phones or digital watches being a common point of reference here).
So the exclusivity initially suggested by the principle, is only imaginary. The interactions we may experience at any one place, be that geographical or human derived, may have an individual effect upon us. But it doesn’t follow that an individual’s experience is necessarily subject to any supposed hierarchy. As with most things, it’s just a matter of degrees and how the individual understands and interprets their experiences in common with others.
The last of my Druid principles (yes, there are only three in total) is that this thing we call life is not tied exclusively to the material form as we experience it. Again, modern science has influenced this principle for me. Consider the fact that physics now informs us that 95% of the universe is made up of stuff we can’t see, feel or touch. Dark matter. Therefore, there is now no such thing as nothing. Now consider how life on Earth has evolved.
Life as we know it has evolved in just 5% of the universe (if the physics are to be believed). Our own existence is so tied to our environment that the actual percentage of that 5% of the universe used to facilitate us, represents a figure so small as to be statistically insignificant. And almost statistically impossible. And yet we consider our physical forms to be the “norm”. We are told that if we “see” other things in our environment, through the 0.0000000001% of the light spectrum we can actually see, we are imagining them or are even delusional.
My own answer to that statement is – is it therefore logical and rational to consider that life is exclusively restricted to our own statistically insignificant percentage of that 5% of the universe? This is without even bringing up the statistical odds of life existing within the other 95% of the universe we can’t currently definitively evidence!
The first law of thermodynamics states “that energy can be neither created or destroyed”. It appears to be a universal constant. Therefore, it would appear to me that life represents a process for the potential expression of that energy. Further, to assert that energy must always assume the same physical forms for it to be valid is neither rational or logical. To then further assert that life is exclusively tied to the physical forms we see on Earth is akin to wearing a blindfold that lets through the occasional photon of light and then the blindfold wearer asserting that the one photon being let through is the only photon to exist in the universe.
Therefore, my own experiences as revealed through my application of my third Druid principle, have confirmed to me these points. It is illogical and, therefore in my opinion, irrational to confine the properties of life strictly to the physical forms we observe on Earth. The odds for life existing outside our own immediate environment (the other 95% of the universe) have to be statistically overwhelming.
So there you have it. My own personal three Druid principles that I now live my life by. I have developed these principles in co-operation with the other than human communities I interact with and in (sometimes involuntarily so) co-operation with a few choice individuals (who hopefully know who they are and should know I am forever in their debt).
The point of these three posts was not to “tread on the toes” of other Druid organizations or individuals out there. It is not about challenging the roadmaps of their own spiritualities or the methodologies they may have used to arrive there. If you find things of value in other methods, I do not wish to somehow “downgrade” them for you through the expression of my own journey. These posts are offered as an explanation as to my own dynamic Druidry at this time.
It is lacking in prose. It is lacking in references and applications with and through the various classical writings surrounding traditional Druidry. It does not conform to the traditional Druid structure. But it is a dynamic process built up over many years and entirely based in the “now”. And as such, it is now a framework that actively guides and works for me.
The “actual” history of the Druids may lead one to conclude that there isn’t an awful lot with which to build any sort of religious framework. Certainly, for a number of years, I considered this to be the case. In those times, I decided to join with some others to study what was actually out there as revealed by different scientific disciplines and to attempt to (re)create something out of it, based on the ideology that it is better to build something with things we can be relatively sure have some basis in demonstrable evidence. This was as opposed to building something on the personal interpretations of certain individuals, gifted as some of those may or still have been (without being critical of any of these individuals).
This was born from my inability to divorce myself from the reality that modern science is demonstrating, as appears to be the case for some people who work with and through the classical sources (no implied criticsm intended). My time there was good, I enjoyed the company and the experiences and I am proud to have contributed to the body of work left there. But the limited evidence was relatively quickly assimilated and interpreted and the lack of evidence thereafter has resulted in the group disappearing (to all intents and purposes) though the forum is still available and technically active and is monitored by a few of us, with occasional contributions by passing contributors. My work there however, has equipped me with a process of thinking that I didn’t possess before. And those processes are now fueling my current activity levels (the awen is strong at the minute!).
So my personal Druid principles have been forged using these acquired processes and it is time to commit to media what they are, in the hope they may be of some interest and possible use by others.
The central principle, from which all my other principles are built upon, is that the Earth is a living entity.
We start from the Oxford dictionary’s definiton of life – “The condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death “. The more evidence science now provides us with regards to the likes of the workings of eco-systems, climate change, the nature of our physical reality, the movements of the Earth’s tectonic plates etc, the more this criteria is being challenged in regards to that apparent definition.
The Earth, as well as displaying animated organic matter is also now being seen to use inorganic matter to create self sustaining processes. For example, the movements of the tectonic plates could be viewed as a process similar to the creation of skin, just over a far longer period of time. The evidence, when taken into context therefore, has lead me to an unavoidable conclusion. The Earth is a living entity. As such, this places upon me, the obligation to consider any and all evidence, both externally and experientially within this context. It is my own central Druidic principle.
Our modern culture has, to a large degree, isolated us from the reality of this because our actions and the consequences of our actions are not always immediately obvious and the cynic in me suggests that this isolation can lead to the opportunity for statistical manipulation by “interested parties”. Urban living can also reinforce this sense of isolation. I read with regularity how some people lose their sense of connection with nature when in large cities and the like. Having now experienced living within a city for myself, I can sympathise with the sentiment but I tend to think that it isn’t actually the physical city that is the problem, more the amount of energies present created by the vast numbers of humans now inhabiting the urban areas.
Urban wildlife can be surprising in both its numbers, its variety and in the characteristics it displays. It is proof that even in what we may consider to be an inhospitable environment, that inorganic matter spoken about previously, the Earth still provides the conditions for life. Life creates life and if life is present, then life must have created it by providing both materials for form and environment. For me, that is an inescapable conclusion. It is all about that definition of life and whether we are content to use that as a working model or whether we prefer to use our own experiences, building upon the fresh information now being disclosed.
Some other religions go down the reductionist route in the full and expectant hope of finding the “source” of all life through an inverted hierarchy and therefore the supreme creator of life. Personally speaking, I have no inclination or need to try to align myself with such thinking. If there is a “supreme being” who creates all of life, the fact that I am living proves consent for my own life. The fact that I consider that supreme being to be the Earth itself is based upon observations around the nature of life itself. The other inconvenient fact that has led me way from considering any external singular powerful creator “being in charge” is that I have never seen an example of life that has started and stopped at one example of that particular life form, as the reality of an external singular creator would surely represent.
This fact is what led me to accepting the concepts and principles of polytheism as opposed to monotheism. In my experience, monotheism goes against the principles of life as we experience it. It places life (in this case the singular being in charge) outside of nature. I cannot conceive of anything outside of nature, therefore to place a being outside of nature, goes against all that I have witnessed and experienced. For me, life and nature are interchangable terms, their meanings so closely alligned as to be almost indistinguishable and this understanding has been enhanced recently through the writings of some scientific types, specifically this one, which places life as the central principle of the comos.
Therefore any entities I encounter, be them physical or non physical, must exist within nature, within life. This also applies to the Gods, they are Gods within and of nature, not apart or beyond it. This fundamental concept is behind my central principle of Druidry. I cannot conceive that it would not have been one, if not the, central principle of the classical Druids because their experiences would have confirmed it through their greater potential for the experiential with nature. Their experiences would have been more accessible through living closer to nature in a way that the majority of us, certainly in the west, now don’t do.
In part three, I will show how this central principle has led to the formation of other principles. Principles that can also align themselves with what little we do actually know about the classical Druids and also concur with current scientific thinking.
The historical accusation that has been levelled (and to a degree quite rightly) surrounding the lack of apparent structure within some of modern Druidry, has lead to some views being aired that Druidry equates to a meaningless religion / spirituality. This, to an extent, could also be linked to some other pagan, or more especially, new age practices. As far as I can see, the biggest factor in this “structureless” accusation being raised has been the almost zealous pursuit of the mantra of “rejecting dogma” by some proponents.
I can state here that my own opinion is that wholesale rejection of dogma is akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water. I have witnessed some reactions online whereas the person, when being faced by what they consider to be dogma of any sort, react in almost hysteria before leaving the discussion in a fashion fit for the BAFTA’s. It has also been my experience that to some people, any sort of structure simply equates to dogma. And in an effort to be as “inclusive” as possible, some pagan organizations have consequently backed away from committing to any form of structure.
An example of this would be the “Three principles” within the Pagan Federation. Here in Scotland, the three principles are intrinsic in any application for membership of the Scottish Pagan Federation (SPF). It is a requirement of such membership. Now, it used to be the case in England and Wales also, but various discussions and debates have resulted in the three principles actually being dropped by that particular organization. I am not, for one minute, proposing that this structureless situation is necessarily bad for everyone. I have come across examples where it works very well for the individuals concerned. But I have also noted that it also doesn’t lend itself to communal working very well, because a structureless form is almost exclusively tied to an individualist experience. There are no common points of reference, because a shared common experience could be construed as “imposing” upon the individual.
So there comes a time when one must make the decision as to whether your religious / spiritual activities remain tied to the individual or whether you want to engage with others in pursuit of shared experiences. If the answer is the latter of these two options, then I would suggest that a common framework has to be established. My own decision was also the latter, though it wasn’t a difficult choice. In fact, it was almost a subconscious one because my own personal ethos involve service to the community (both human and non human).
Modern Druidry has come a long way in the last ten years. There are now greater numbers of both active Druids and people engaging with Druidry. The internet has largely fueled activity through its ease of access and it negating the need for a physical presence that may have otherwise have restricted a sizable part of the population who have mobility issues. There has also been progress with defining what and how modern Druidry can now be expressed. People are now wanting their Druidry to be taken more seriously and this has resulted in some pagan organizations achieving limited recognized status with official bodies. Of course, The Druid Network has at this time, now achieved legal status to promote Druidry as a religion by the Charity Commission of England and Wales, the first for any Druid organization. I can now also reveal that TDN has been working with others in regards to the qualifying criteria used within the Interfaith Network as this link clarifies. Another significant step in getting the practice of Druidry, and the other wider pagan practices, recognized as acceptable religious activities.
So for any religious activity to be freely available to anyone, my own opinion is that there has to be a framework which can set the initial parameters. Again much work has been done in this area and again, the Druid Network has been proactive with this. To a degree, it’s CC application forced a definition which was needed for legal purposes. That framework is specified in the Foreword to TDN’s constitution and is one that I can confirm I am happy and comfortable in working with and within. But as I mentioned previously, this is actually just setting the initial framework. There are still aspects of Druidry that, to some, need some better definitions. And if for nothing else, to give a practical example of creating a framework based upon working within Druidic concepts.
There are, of course, various Druid organizations that offer such courses, both free and otherwise. OBOD is probably the biggest and best known, with a structure that has come to be almost universally accepted as the face of modern Druidry. There has been a lot of work done to both create, then to further administrate, these courses. This is all well and good and I have nothing negative to state about either the courses, the organization or the individuals engaged in both learning and administrating. A lot of people appear to have benefited from the materials.
But OBOD Druidry has not been the path to my own Druidry. To some people within Druidry, especially those from the OBOD path, this statement can be challenging. There are some people who consider only OBOD trained Druids to be “true” Druids. But it is my contention that for something to hold relevance in todays modern culture, if the outcome (Druidry) has been reached by different routes, then that outcome has more, not less, relevance. If the end of our own differing paths converge into a mutually recognizable outcome (Druidry), then surely that outcome is more relevent, inclusive and, to an extent, more of a universal truth.
So these posts will convey a Druidry born from a different path to the “norm”. One built from the considerations and applications of the growing body of scientific information surrounding the changing nature of our existence, along with the application of both the experiential and historical aspects of Druidry.
Some of my earlier posts on this blog have highlighted some of the issues surrounding how modern Druidry has had to deal with its historical legacy. Historical Validation was one and Druid History another. For myself, I have now found a place whereas I am “comfortable” with that history and this position has further integrated itself into my Druidry.
In part two, I will go into how I have managed to create my own “working” Druid framework, created from personal Druid principles born of these combinations.
This weekend (24/05/14) saw my partner deliver a talk to the Scottish Pagan Federation’s conference in Edinburgh, some of which disclosed and discussed the actual history of Druids. The actual history, as revealed by the likes of Prof Ron Hutton, is, at best sparse and at worst, almost non-existent.
This has led to some further discussions between us about that thorny topic of defining Druids and Druidry. And we think we have come up with an important definition that we can work within and hopefully, will make sense to other Druids and other people. I think that any clearly defined statement about Druids and Druidry has the potential to be an extremely helpful thing, especially if it is relevent (which hopefully this is!).
So with this in mind, I am going to disclose our thinking and our conclusions. The only actual material written by a person who may actually have physically met a Druid was Julius Caesar. All the other material cited as references to the Druids were written by people either well after the events they disclose or were repeating information, at best, second-hand but more likely further down the line than that. Caesar as we know, was a good politician in so much as he knew how to paint personally favourable pictures for the people back in Rome reading about his exploits. It’s always good to paint a picture of an impressive foe who falls to the might of Rome so most of us bear this in mind when reading the material.
About the only thing that is consistent in all the accounts is the title of Druid. It appears to be geographically a West European occupation. So the only thing we can state in relation to the Druids is that there was a section of West European cultures that held the title of Druid. If the information is to be believed, their occupations were multifaceted, but part of those duties appeared to involve religious duties. Now, we know the title of Druid was applicable but the mistake a lot of us make, is assuming that they thus practised Druidry. And that is somewhat illogical.
The reality is that they practiced an indigenous form of religion but we do not and cannot know that they themselves referred to that religious practice as Druidry. It is an assumption that Druids therefore, practiced Druidry. This is a somewhat understandable assumption because it has been known as Druidry in our culture, but the reality is that the actual practice itself has not been specifically identified as Druidry anywhere in the classical writings. The Druids practiced an indigenous religion but it has not (at this time) been positively identified as Druidry.
The practice of Druidry as we know it today originated with the Druid revival. Druidry is the practice that was initially a result of the revival that informed later Druid frameworks. Druidry is based on later cultures and is actually removed from the earlier Druids because of the lack of specific information around the naming of their actual practices.
It is my opinion that we have been mistaken in our own assumptions that the classical Druids practiced Druidry (I am certainly guilty as such). And the realization of this is somewhat enlightening! It is also our opinion that this disconnect actually frees us to a degree, from the accusations frequently aimed at the Druid community about what the classical Druids actually did and did not do. If we practice Druidry, that Druidry has to be in a modern context. It cannot be the same as the practices the classical Druids engaged in because we have no information to confirm their practices were referred to as Druidry, much as many of us would hope and wish that our actions would be in keeping with the ethics of our indigenous and ancestral Druids.
To some people, this probably won’t matter. Some other people may find this disconnection uncomfortable or even untenable. As I mentioned in the beginning, this is a definition borne of our own discussions, reasoning and agreements between the two of us and is offered as food for thought to the larger Druid community without wanting to impose itself on others.
After some discussions over on The Druid Network’s member site, I just want to clarify that the purpose of this piece was to highlight how the practice of Druids (Druidry) today is taken from their title in contrast to any other religion. For example, to apply the same framework would result in Christianity being known as Priestianity or Islam as Immanity. I am happy to use the descriptor of Druidry in relation to my own religious practices in accordance with the foreword with TDN’s constitution, it was just that this aspect wasn’t one that I had fully considered until recently.
My partner is currently engaged in composing a piece she is to present to the Scottish Pagan Federation’s annual conference in Edinburgh this weekend (24/05/2014) entitled ” The Changing Landscape of Druidry”. One of the things we were trying to define was how Druidry differs from other modern Pagan religions. Using the three principles the Scottish PF use as identifiers (interestingly, I note how the three principles have been dropped by the English PF) it is proving to be a somewhat difficult task. To date, it is fair to say that we have identified a couple of things that Druidry does not do compared to other religions but to actually clearly define what aspects of Druidry that differ from the three principles of general modern pagan religions as practised in the Scottish PF, is proving to be very difficult.
A good part of this talk will deal with the “actual” historical facts regarding Druidry, from the ancient classical times through to the place and ideas Druidry finds itself being expressed in today. Without wanting to spoil the talk through elaborating what will be brought up, I can safely say that it is interesting to consider how Druidry has survived through to today.
This has got me thinking about how Druidry, which was something that for a period of time I positively moved away from, is continuing to manifest itself in modern society. The elusive nature of Druidry is something that I have come to realise is actually quite an interactive process. Interactive because it places upon the individual, the emphasis to actually engage with modern Druidic practice. When first engaging with Druidry today, there is now far more information than even ten years ago was available. The Druid Networks Foreword to its consitution is as concise a definition as I have come across, and obviously because I am both member and now trustee of that organization, is one that I personally can work within.
However, speaking from personal experience, there is also a more interactive aspect to Druidry that is difficult to clearly define. It has been said elsewhere that the only “qualification” needed to proclaim oneself to be a Druid is the will to do such a thing. There are other organizations that offer structured (and consequently paid courses, the biggest being OBOD ) and for those for whom this is both appealing and “necessary”, then all well and good. I for one, do not harbour any sort of opposition to such things and judging by the numbers of people engaging with OBOD, it clearly has a role to play for a large number of people. I have to state here though, I myself, have never engaged with OBOD coursework (or any other paid for course for that matter). For some people who may be reading this now or in the future, my own title of Druid may now appear to be tarnished because of this admission.
That is for others to consider within their own context. I offer no apology for such an admission, it is merely a statement of fact.
But the fact remains that the practice of Druidry has, and continues to, interact within me. I have come to realise over this last week or so that the interactive nature of the title of Druid may be at the heart of what actually defines the role and practice of Druid. My own experience leads me to the conclusion that it is how much effort the individual puts into to trying to create their own individual path within Druidry that will ultimately lead to the title being adopted or not. For some, an initial burst of enthusiasm fuelled by the available information, may then wane and disappear just as quickly because the “progressive pathways” other religions appear to offer do not appear to exist at first glance within Druidry.
The lack of “progression” therefore, will result in some individuals moving on to other things. I used to consider this lack of clearly defined progression to be a “weak link” within Druidry. I now consider this to actually be an interactive process. The role and title of Druid is one that for the people committing to such a thing, actually actively engages with the individual. For some, it will be no more than a passing interest, it will not engage strongly at all. For others, it may engage but then remain dormant (as was the case for myself) for a period of time as other connections are formed that, again in my own case, will in the future actually create the interactive processes that the title of Druid will need to engage with within the individual.
Once these connections and processes have been formed, it has been my experience that the practice and title of Druid then becomes entangled within the individual. Druidry becomes an interactive process within the individual, capable of self-expression through the entanglement it has formed. And because this entanglement is as individual as the person it engages with, it does not necessarily reveal itself within the typical religious frameworks as may be considered to be the norm (even with some pagan ones).
Using the framework of entanglement as offered at present by physics, my own experience suggests to me that once Druidry actively entangled within me, it assumed an interactive and self expressive form of an active physical and spiritual engagement that remains in constant communication with me either consciously or unconsciously. And that is why I have found it difficult to compare to other religious frameworks. My own experience shows it (selectively) entangles with the individual directly as opposed to connecting using externally derived frameworks. It doesn’t necessarily play by the “same rules”.
Paganism, compared to other more “formally structured” religions, would appear to be somewhat similar in appearance to the duck-billed platypus within nature. It looks like a bad example of “throwing together” a religion and that consequently it shouldn’t work. But, actually, it does. That fact that Druidry doesn’t appear to conform to conventional religious structure, even to an extent to some pagan ones, isn’t necessarily an accurate indicator as to it being “fit for purpose”. Like the platypus, first impressions can be misleading.
Biocentrism is a theory that offers a different perspective around the nature of the universe and consequently, everything within that universe. The theory has been devised by Robert Lanza in conjunction with Bob Berman and is explained in this book. There are a lot of things that are commendable in this book, with the authors applying some “common sense” to some of the conclusions that physics are trying to ask us to accept in their theories around the nature and formation of the universe.
There are a lot of discussions around alternative interpretations of quantum mechanics and, as mentioned, their interpretations make more “sense” than some physics based interpretations. At its heart, Biocentrism revolves around the idea that the universe is not “something out there that is external to us”, something that we, as lifeforms, are passive observers within. Biocentrism states that the universe is a result of the presence of life and specifically, that aspect of life we have labelled as consciousness. In other words, the universe is a product of consciousness and not the other way around.
Current physics assumes that life is a consequence of the conditions that are currently prevalent within the universe at the minute. When the actual numbers are assessed as to the odds for exactly the right conditions prevailing within the universe (a concept the authors refer to as “The Goldilocks Universe”) then the universe existing as it does is near-on statistically impossible. Less than a “hairs breath” in the relative strengths of the four major forces either individually or collectively we currently know about and none of us would be here. Yet science, and specifically physics, asks us to believe that the existence of consciousness and the lifeforms created with it as manifest within, are just “chance induced”, a fortuitous result of colliding matter forming to create just the right mechanistic conditions for consciousness to inhabit. As to how consciousness is somehow “induced” to inhabit this fortuitous collection of chance interactions is not proposed by physics, because the nature of consciousness is currently so elusive to the methods of measurement physics currently possess, that it has no answers.
The authors present seven principles of biocentrism based upon the shifted paradigm of consciousness actually creating our universe. Now, you may assume from that description that this maybe just another theory based upon creationism. But you would be wrong to make this assumption. As science professionals, the authors admirably avoid proposing any idea that the conditions of the universe were created by a “higher intelligence” separate from the consciousness we experience. They supply alternative conclusions to some of the latest empirical evidence done, especially in the field of quantum mechanics. And I have to say that as a practising animistic Druid, these explanations are mostly in keeping with my own experiential interactions.
One principle I found particularly interesting was the proposal that time and space are specific to biology. Their sixth principle states ” Time does not have a real existence outside of animal – sense perception. It is the process by which we perceive changes within the universe.” They propose to us that linear time is just a consequence of how our perceptions perceive the changes around us at any point and that it is our physiology that creates linear time as a consequence of how that physiology works. They then go on to reveal the results of a particularly interesting experiment whereas two photons of light were fired towards a detector at the same time using the famous “double slit” experiment. The evidence from the results suggested that one of the photons “knew” the other photon’s form (its collapsed function) before that other photon actually hit the detector. It knew the result of its twins collapse before the experiment was actually recorded on the detector and assumed its own form as a consequence. That is akin to knowing the result of a horse race before the race has begun!
The seventh principle states ” Space, like time, is not an object or thing. Space is another form of our animal understanding and does not have an independent reality. We carry space and time around us like turtles with shells. Thus, there is no absolute self-existing matrix in which physical events occur independent of life. ” Again, evidence is presented to support this and I find myself agreeing with a lot of these interpretations. However, that is only to a point as my own experiences, whilst not in direct contrast to some of their evidence, is not entirely in keeping with their interpretations.
Another interesting perspective presented centres around death and eternity. The authors assert that if we accept biocentrism principles, that the universe is a timeless and spaceless cosmos of consciousness, then this doesn’t allow for the concept of death in any real sense. “When a body dies, it does so not in a random billiard-ball matrix but in the all-is-still-inescapably life matrix.” Accordingly. the mathematical possibility of your consciousness ending is zero. Which is an interesting take.
Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed this book and considering it’s implications, which have clarified in my mind, some conflicting experiential experiences. It’s ultimate message is one that is mostly positive, though there is an argument that could state that these principles run the risk of making humanity central to existence because of our perceived greater capacity for consciousness. However, the authors have studiously avoiding making this anthropocentric stand, which I find to be commendable. Highly recommended.
Sometimes the hardest thing to see is the thing right in front of you.
The last 36 hours for me have been a bit different. I have had to travel back to England for the funeral of a cousin who died suddenly a few weeks ago. These things always present mixed emotions. Memories and consequences usually. The journey is a 270 mile challenge and to accommodate this, I rose at 3am and was travelling at 3.30am arriving there at around 8.30 so as to give myself some time before the funeral service at 12.30. The funeral was standard christian fare, with the presiding clergy a little too fond of his own voice for my liking along with the usual opportunity for a little “bible wisdom” being offered to the packed crematorium. I was a little surprised at this because my cousin never seemed to be fond of the christian religion, so I suspect this was more to do with the family’s wishes as opposed to his own, especially as he hadn’t arranged a will before his sudden demise.
After the hour service, everyone moved on to a local pub for the wake. This was the first time that I had been in the company of a number of my immediate genetic family for a while. It was, as is usual in these sort of things, interesting to see how each of us is aging, with the usual comments around how it is usually only at funerals or weddings that people get to see each other now-a-days.
Before moving to Scotland, I had only ever lived within a 5 mile radius of the place of my birth. I was rooted in the locality and the landscapes. I didn’t anticipate this to have any bearing on what I would experience. People knew I was now living in Scotland with a number of them asking if I was eligible to vote in the upcoming Scottish independence referendum (yes, I am) and how I saw things regarding that particular issue. I am usually more of a people watcher than an overactive participant on social events (that doesn’t mean I am withdrawn in any way) but I do like to make the effort to talk to people who I haven’t seen for a while and this was not to be an exception.
One of the first I spoke to was my great-uncle who saw action for a number of years as a rear gunner in the Lancaster bombers in the second world war. He has written his memoirs and I have a copy of them, which I hugely enjoy reading, so to see how he was and speak to him was one of the highlights of my day. There were a couple of other family members that I was keen to speak to and took the opportunity to do so.
I hadn’t really expected of myself that living in a different locality would have any bearing on how I experienced interactions with my family. But right from the start, I seemed to be aware of a different “feeling” around them. It really became apparent whilst speaking to a cousin of mine. He is what I would term as “hugely gregarious” in so much as he knows how to have a “good time”, usually involving copious amounts of alcohol and gets progressively louder as his alcohol intakes increases accordingly. We were having a good conversation around several subjects when some other relatives then joined us. I have experienced how the “ambiance” of a situation can change with the inclusion of specific people. I have always took it for granted that, to an extent, it’s usually just a personality trait or that certain personalities when around each other can sometimes “take over” a situation, usually to the exclusion of some people there. Therefore, when this started to manifest before me, it wasn’t a great surprise.
However the re-emergence of my Druidry since living in Scotland appears to have led to connections being expressed differently from previously. My previous experiences would have led me to the conclusion that I have just described, personalities. This time I was aware of something else.
There is no logical or scientific explanation for what I am about to describe, it is entirely personal to me and I make no apology for it as I am not trying to justify or rationalise it. But as these other people collected around us, I was aware of another presence and not a human one. It came from the environment, in my mind’s eye, it sort of emerged from the ground. And it didn’t emerge until these certain personalities were all together. It seemed to strengthen its presence with the collection of these personalities. In fact, it appeared that it was, to a large extent, dependant upon them, its influence on the situation creating a more energetic environment. This energetic field resulting in the unknowing participants getting increasingly more animated.
As I eluded to earlier. previously I would have just put this down to how people “spark” with each other. A personality thing. But not this time. My initial thoughts as to how or why this should be is that the disconnection from the locality of my birth has formed new connections within me that now “enable” me to experience things differently in those localities. Whatever the reason, I experienced this for the first time. I can’t honestly say that the presence was anthropomorphic as such, not something I would have said came from an individual. I’m not even sure that beyond the circumstances of certain personality traits being together, that it probably exists in its own right. It sort of appeared as a “consequence” of the situation. An energy drawn from the Earth by the collective accumulation of certain human characters with certain character traits.
Another thing to mention here, is that I didn’t experience any sort of personal threat from this energy, I sensed that wasn’t its “purpose”. I just viewed the situation unfolding before me. And as you may guess, it is giving me some material with which to ponder over in the near future.