So… I’m not done talking about Pantheacon. I thought maybe I would have exorcised that particular monster out of my system with the last Pagan Blog Project post. Apparently not. I tried to work on some other topics for this week’s post, but my thoughts kept wandering back to the subject.
I suppose that I should begin with a disclaimer first… I wasn’t at the event. I am not personally acquainted with nor do I follow any of the major players. I am not transgendered. My practice is not Dianic nor Wiccan. I rarely attend public pagan events. I am, in short, unaffiliated.
And furthermore… this is the most important part of the disclaimer… what follows are just my meandering thoughts on the matter, as it relates to spiritual leadership, growth and development. I’m not going to go down the route of hate-for-hate that’s been prevalent in some of the blog posts on the matter. If you’re looking for blood, you aren’t going to find it here.
So if you’re still with me, let us proceed…
To be honest, Z had been nothing more than a faint blip on my spiritual radar until the last couple of years. Her particular brand of spiritual belief is so far from my own that we might as well be on separate planets. I’m pretty sure that if men are from Mars, Z and her followers are from Venus, then I’m solidly a native of Earth – and Middle Earth at that.
There is no denying that Z is an elder in the community and that she has been around the pagan block longer than most of us have been practicing, longer than some of us have been alive. One cannot deny that she’s been an influential force in certain spheres of pagandom. As an elder and a leader, she has a large following who hang on her every word. Therein lies the problem…. her words are filled with disrespect, disdain, and discrimination for those who don’t conform to her ideal of womanhood.
Moving beyond my initial reaction of anger to Z’s attitude and antics, I began looking at this thing through the lens of my own spiritual beliefs. I believe that every thing in this universe has a divine spirit within it (not a surprise, as I’m an animist). For humans, I think the ultimate expression of our divine selves is our capacity to love ourselves and others, to be able to recognize that divine beautiful soul in another person, and to be willing to move beyond our own prejudices to a place of understanding.
When someone is unable to or refuses to recognize the divine nature of others, it says to me that there is a certain level of disconnect or fracture in their spiritual selves. In my own worldview, someone who engages in hate speech and intentionally marginalizes others is out of touch with their own divine soul. I’ll go even further to say that I think that being able to recognize our own prejudices, acknowledge them, and attempt to move beyond them is a sign of spiritual growth.
In my ideal universe, elders in any and every spiritual community would embrace a sense of respect and responsibility toward the entire community that they claim to be a part of, without separatism and exclusion based on personal prejudice. Ideally, a spiritual leader not only works to become aware of their own points of spiritual disconnection, but strives to heal those breaks within themselves. In a perfect universe, someone who has spent a lifetime in pursuit of their spiritual selves would be able to recognize the divine beauty of other people, even in those with whom they do not agree.
I don’t think I need to remind anyone, but this isn’t a perfect world (and yes, I do recognize that my idea of perfect does not necessarily coincide with anyone else’s). There’s much to be done as a community to work through this issue in a way that is respectful to all sides. There is, I believe, also work to be done by many of us on an individual level to process our own thoughts, feelings, and biases. We can only hope that this journey bring us all to a better understanding of ourselves, our thoughts, our community, and our world.