Wednesday, February 6, 2013

tradition vs intuition: finding balance in pagan learning?

This is one of those posts that's going to take me a long time to write because I'm going to struggle to articulate what I mean. Eventually I'll just get fed up of rethinking what I want to say and admit that the post is imperfect but done because I won't be able to express it any better.

 So bear with me.... here I go:

Image from Amazon
I just started reading Isreal Regardie's How to Make and Use Talismans. If I haven't mentioned this before, I am part of a coven and said coven, while Wiccan, has a strong element of Hermetics included in it's teachings. Thus, I have spent quite a bit of time learning systems that are more Hermetic than Wiccan, which is fine because magic is magic and if it works and I learn from it, so be it.

But lately I find myself questioning the complicated nature of Hermetics. Oh, don't get me wrong, they work and I know they do. But I'm craving a more simple, ecstatic approach.

The thing is, since I've been taught in a system where form is used to help build a strong foundation, I have a hard time imagining how people learn without said framework. As someone who works in education, I know and see all too often how people crave structure in order to know where they're going or what they're working against. Often, when students are given all the freedom in the world to learn, they balk at the opportunity, their minds overwhelmed by the possibility. This is not to say that all students do this. Some absolutely thrive on the freedom and others can learn to thrive on the freedom when they've had enough experience with it.

What does that mean in magical learning though? We follow a path (pagan in general) that often attracts us because of its unconventionality, only then to find it either very traditional or too unstructured depending on our experiences along the path. How do we meet the needs of both types of learners on the path in order to ensure growth? I'm not saying this in a way that means that you and I are responsible for someone else's learning, just meditating on what it means to each of us as learners on the path.

How do we figure out what we need as learners when we're often floundering about for meaning and understanding when we're starting out. I've been with my group for 2.5 years and sometimes my learning seems intense and at other times it feels stagnant. Why? Partially because I as a student need to step up and take more ownership in my learning and partially because sometimes the structure of what I'm learning isn't my cup of tea.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately and what I've come up with is this: I am responsible for my own learning. I've fallen into the trap of waiting for others to lead the way and it's time for me to take more ownership in creating my own practice, even within the framework of my coven teachings. I can only expect structure so much when it comes to learning and ultimately, the best teachers are guides... if I don't eventually take up the lead then I run the risk of being trampled by tradition in my own education process.

Am I making any sense? And what on earth does Regardie and talismans have to do with this ramble? Nothing necessarily, other than this is what I'm reading right now and it strikes me as so formulaic. But it works, so it's worth learning because it will enhance my magical understanding. That said, I can't help but ponder the idea of a simpler, more intuitive magical approach, or a more intuitive, ecstatic approach to learning magic in general. I can't help but wonder about how as a student I feel the need to have someone hold my hand and show me the way, and the need to leap a little more and be freer in my own ownership of my path, my tradition, my journey.


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