In terms of my spirituality, I’ve been stuck at a crossroads for a long long while. I discussed this briefly in my post on panen(a)theism last year (or not so briefly), and I still feel very conflicted and ‘bleh’ about the whole thing. To alleviate my cognitive dissonance, I basically retreated from all daily pagan practices and settled into a stagnant agnosticism—a philosophical position I happen to loathe. I’m a very opinionated person (shocking, right?), so being ‘on-the-fence’ is not a happy place for me. As such, I’m finally feeling ready to pick a side. But on which side of the fence will I fall?
Panentheism is what I have most identified with over the last few years; that little “en” has helped me define my complex beliefs and quandaries on the matter of spirituality and physical matter. I believed the divine was not separate from nature (immanent), but also not without its own space beyond the physical (transcendent). Deity and spirituality could occupy and manifest in immanent and transcendent forms, in my understanding. In the last year, however, my feelings on the divine have wavered (devolved?) from panentheistic to pantheistic to atheistic. Sometimes leading into the why-the-hell-do-we-care-anyway-whatever dark territory of the soul.
It’s interesting that in his book, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins (atheist, author, and prejudicial asshole extraordinaire) claims that pantheism (sans the ‘en’) is merely “sexed-up atheism.” I can understand this sentiment, as pantheism could be interpreted as atheism with a hard-on for nature. Nature is so amazing, there’s no need to re-define it with an unrealistic deification in a separate entity that ultimately dominates and diminishes it’s spender. Nature is enough.
“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?” —Douglas Adams
But, more on that later.
To drill down to the bedrock of my issue: I’m having a problem with the very concept of the existence of the divine, as well as any of its manifestations. Whether the divine is credited to be in the form of nature, or an actual spirit-being on another plane, or in the human imagination manifesting in Jungian-like archetypes and a collective unconscious—I just can’t seem to get 100% behind these, or any other ideas regarding deity.
The closest I’ve ever come was, well, Christianity. As a child I had a primal, instinctual relationship with Life itself and felt that I knew there was something hidden both within and beyond our understanding—a secret yet available knowledge that made everything meaningful but also determinable by our actions and interactions with It (this, of course, was reinterpreted for me by my parents and community as Yahweh/Christ). Coming out of that upbringing (skipping over the painful parts), I returned to that primal Life-affirming instinct—a base-line belief in a rich tapestry of spiritual meaning and connection in the world.
This “connection” was my only guide. It served me well, as it led me (back) to paganism and inspired me to explore and study other religions and cultural understandings of the divine. But, admittedly, there was still some bitterness in me from my “break-up” with Yahweh. It seems that after the “divorce” it has become difficult (nigh impossible) for me to get on board with any theology without adequate logical support and physical proof. At first, I was okay with this dissatisfying aspect of paganism—I figured, the mysteries of the true nature and existence of deity and the divine would be discovered the more I learned. This intense learning phase (which every baby pagan goes through in the beginning), distracted me for years.
Now that I’ve grown in understanding, I find I am held back from the burning questions I have for and about deity. Whenever an opportunity comes my way to approach or reach-out to the gods, I can’t help but lapse into the same frustratingly one-sided inner dialogue: “Are you (actually) there, God? It’s me Moz.” I don’t know if this is because a part of me is still dealing with the infantile desire for a religion that explains (and is explained by) everything, or if this is the harsh reality that paganism is not the path for me after all.
Atheists would probably say that I’m just finally waking-up from an illusion which masked the arbitrary traditions of a human-made, human-imposed, ethnocentric, patriarchal cosmology and hierarchical structure based on fairy tales and whatnot. In this, they’d be correct, but also possibly missing something? I keep ending up back on the fence. I hate the damn fence.
I feel like an outsider among pagans, and I feel unsure among atheists. At this point, all I can say definitively is that I’m a ‘scientific pantheist’ (which is a term I only just discovered). Basically, a scientific pantheist is someone who believes that the physical matter of our universe (as we know it) is all that exists—and that this ‘star-stuff’ that makes-up all Life is, in and of itself, divine. That’s all I can do for now. In other words, I’m a sexed-up nature-banging atheist.