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Taking Paganism to the Next Level

This article was written by Joyce & River Higginbotham
posted under Pagan

Has your spirituality evolved over the years? Have your values, worldview, perception of authority, and the nature of the Divine varied throughout your life? Have you ever considered how a person’s level of development and growth affects their understanding and experience of spirituality? Perhaps you have noticed wide-ranging differences in philosophy, values and spiritual practice even among people who share a faith tradition, and may have wondered how factors such as their age, worldview, maturity, or life experience have influenced them. These questions, and how they apply to Pagans in particular, are the focus of Pagan Spirituality.

We became aware of these issues in a concrete way while teaching classes on Paganism. We began to recognize patterns in the types of needs the students brought to class with them and we noticed that what fed one set of needs did not necessarily feed another. In order to understand what we were observing we began to study human growth and development. We discovered that growth—including spiritual growth—involves an expansion of capacities, and that capacities unfold in a recognizable pattern as skills build one upon the other. We realized that what modern Pagans think magick is, how it works, and what they view as ethical is based on a combination of their beliefs, both conscious and unconscious, and developmental capacity.

We also began to wonder whether the experience of Pagans differs from people of other faith traditions. It is our belief that neo-Paganism is arising as a post-modern spiritual movement in a post-industrial world. As such, it has the advantage of forming itself within a worldview that is capable of holding multiple perspectives at once, and of testing beliefs in the light of reason and direct experience. As obvious as this statement may seem, many of the world’s established religions arose—and their scriptures were written—from within pre-rational cultures in a mindset known as mythic or mythic-literal, which did not allow for attitudes toward beliefs that we might take for granted today. If indeed the Pagan movement is taking shape in a post-rational culture, how does this fact affect the experiences of individual Pagans? And, further, to what extent do the developmental capacities of individual Pagans affect the development of the Pagan movement as a whole?

The focus of Pagan Spirituality is spiritual growth and development as experienced by Pagans. We believe this issue is important, especially since many new Pagans have no real idea of where they are headed spiritually or why, and most books on Paganism do not discuss development directly. If you have ever wondered where you are going spiritually as a Pagan, then learning about development, how it applies to Paganism in general, and to you in particular, will be time well spent. Not only is this topic of interest to you individually, but it is important to the entire Pagan movement, as neo-Paganism may be only as powerful and effective as the people who practice it. Paganism’s ability to endure the test of time as a spiritual movement may be linked to whether it can serve as fertile ground for individual growth. Every Pagan is born at the most basic level of human capacity and grows through each developmental space in sequence. Not everyone makes every transition, but it seems to us that the more Pagans are able to expand their individual developmental capacities, then the greater will be the capacities of the movement as a whole.

Our exploration of these important issues begins with a discussion of models of personal and cultural development. Learning about such models can help you see patterns in yourself and this culture, where now you see only disorder. Next we ask how spiritual development affects the practice of magick, which we believe comprises much of modern Pagan spiritual practice. The goal of magick as we see it is to support openness to development generally and encourage individuals and societies to move freely through the developmental spaces. We call this maximum expansion and maximum healthiness. We review the basic principles of magick as we interpret them and examine the practices of Communing, Energy Work, Divination, and Conscious Creation. We also explore how each of the types of magick might be experienced from within different developmental spaces. Exercises are provided to help you develop your magickal skills and move forward in your growth, including discussion questions, journaling, visualizations, and other activities. Pagan Spirituality is filled with stimulating ideas, activities and questions. It can be studied individually or with a group, and it works well in a class setting. It is our genuine hope that discussion of these subjects opens doors for you, and helps you gain clarity and understanding regarding your own spiritual path.


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