Faith, Belief and Truth – a perspective…

Feb 13th, 2018 | By | Category: Articles

The Martyrdom of St John the Evangelist by Albrecht Durer – 1497-98 – Woodcut

‘To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.’ – Thomas Aquinas

 

Many modern day Neo-Pagan’s will have you believe in a Pagan worldview that casts our historical Ancestors as the heroic underdog and the Christian Church as the enemy, and that in order to belong you have to reject the church and all its teachings and denounce them as the enemy. Some will tell you that if you go back into history our Ancestors were forcibly converted through various techniques in the name of control, our Ancestral Deities were demonised in order to turn us to what is perceived by many as a foreign ‘invading’ God, and for themselves, they will deeply believe what it is that they claim.

Yet no matter how much the individual psyche would like to believe in some long past and forgotten Pagan idyll, some golden alternative history that casts our forebears as the noble losers whose fate was sealed by the ‘dastardly’ church and its minions, whose true legacy is still waiting to be re-claimed and to resurface resplendent in all its glory, we have to accept that this is only a personal belief, something many would like to be true, but there is much more to this tale than that.

In truth we cannot know with any certainty exactly what was done in the past, nor why our Ancestors converted from their indigenous beliefs to those of Christianity, there is some evidence of persuasion, coercion and of possible collusion between the church and state, but in fact it is possible that many of those who converted did so because they found a truer faith – perhaps for their time and circumstance – in what they were being told, that a single God, who sacrificed his only Son to save mankind from itself may have resonated with their understanding of the sacrificial King cycle and possibly that it was easier to serve one ‘God’ than it was to understand the whims and interactions of the many Gods of their own Pantheons; indeed a simpler system, perhaps streamlined for the masses, and aligned with Kingship, rather than with the more tribal system that preceded it.

Whatever the reasons, and our personal beliefs as to their reasons, we cannot ignore that our Ancestors for over a thousand years now have considered themselves to be Christian, and that they willingly took part in and gained insight, spiritual succour and comfort from their religion. No amount of wishing otherwise upon our part can change the facts, and for those who believe that ancient beliefs have come down to us untainted, hidden by those of certain ‘hidden’ and ‘ultra-secretive sects’ or ‘Family Traditions’ who risked everything to keep the pagan faiths alive, then I would caution them to look again at the evidence. As a very wise man once said, ‘If that which we believe is true, then proof will be found to support it, if no proof exists, then no matter how much we wish it, those beliefs cannot be true and must be let go’. (Robin the Dart – Crafting the Art of Tradition)

We cannot divorce ourselves from reason, from the truth of the past, from what historic fact we have, not if we wish to be rooted in the here and now as individuals who are aware awake and seeking truth; if we chose to deny fact, to ignore the evidence, then we are living a fantasy, at best self-deluded into a world view that is rosily tainted, at worst we run the risk of losing touch with reality completely. No, if we would be wise, then we have to seek wisdom, to acknowledge the absolute truth and uphold it as a fundamental part of our psyche, we have to be ready to take the words said by others (and ourselves) and to apply reason to them, are they true, can we prove it to our own (and others) satisfaction, do the words actually serve truth? If so then good, accept them, if not then chose how to proceed, either reject them as false or when required, denounce them as such. I am not saying that we should seek to pick a fight over every half-truth or incorrect notion we ever hear, as not all truths are universal, but for those who seek to serve truth as a binding first principle we have to stand up and challenge untruth when it has a chance of impacting upon us or is used by others for impure reasons, or choose to ‘agree to differ’ when it is not something that actually matters in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes there is no honour in enlightening someone of the error of their beliefs, if it works for them, then sometimes it is best to leave them be.

We cannot live other’s lives for them, indeed we cannot ‘police’ their truthfulness, they have their own Paths to walk, not everyone is destined to reach the same destination, each are individuals, each have their own abilities, their own weaknesses and motivations, some will walk their pathway to the bitter end, that is their Fate, others cannot travel so far, perhaps they only need to travel a short way along the road to find what they seek. No, in truth each one of us has to go where they are fated to be, but if we as individuals seek to go further than where we have yet journeyed to, then we have to do so with our eyes open, in full and conscious choice, understanding the consequence of our actions, all of them. We can only do this by being absolutely and brutally truthful with ourselves, yet if we act in the same way to others we could easily cause upset and enmity, especially as others perhaps do not – or cannot – understand the motivation that drives us further forwards.

In seeking truth we have to acknowledge that those we seek to name as Ancestors – whether spiritual or blood relative – were for at least the last thousand years Christian, yes, there were folk beliefs that survived, mainly within the church, there were magical techniques that survived, but there is no real evidence available that the current ‘Pagan’ beliefs are of Ancient origin. We can acknowledge that our inspiration comes from ancient times, and that there is Ancient Lore that has reached us, but it has been passed through the filters of interpretation of all those who have come into contact with it. Indeed, we can only prove with any certainty that the Pagan revival stems from the 1950’s, although some evidence does exist that points to Lore and praxis predating this. We have to acknowledge that what we do is a modern interpretation of what was, perhaps rooted in the wisdom of the past – as we perceive it – but ultimately based on belief and reconstruction through the study of historic fact, gnosis (both verified and personal) and experience, only by trying things can we tell if they work and whether they have relevance for our modern times, only by doing can we put techniques and Lore to the test, embracing that which works and putting aside that which does not. The further back in history we look to for our inspiration, the leaner becomes the hard evidence and the more we have to recover and the less absolute truth that we can point to with any certainty.

I would therefore caution all practitioners who consider themselves Pagan to take a step back and re-evaluate their own beliefs, to question their assumptions and understanding of what is truth, to look at their relationships with others and with their Gods and Ancestors, are you doing them honour, or are you merely appropriating them for your own ends? What is your justification for doing so, how are you serving truth? It is not my place, nor anyone else’s, to judge you, for only you can truly decide what is truth for yourself and make your own steps forth on your individual Path, which is as it should be.

I do not wish to cause offence, but instead to engender and foster thought in those who are seekers after truth in their own way. For myself the more I learn, the deeper I go, the more I understand that the Craft that I follow transcends Paganism, it transcends any one religion, it is beyond religion, a personal journey of discovery, of knowledge of the self, of the Divine, of Truth, of Fate, of beauty and the world that surrounds us, of the true nature of reality and of my place within it. You may find it different, your footsteps may outpace my own, or take a path that diverges from mine, what matters is not the destination, but the journey itself, that we are all seekers after truth.

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Thorn o’ the Woods

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2 Comments to “Faith, Belief and Truth – a perspective…”

  1. Thea says:

    A very well reasoned perspective, on an interesting subject. Congratulations on your first blog post!

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