Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Neopagan Theology (2): Theology & Neopaganism

Theology is the science of Deity and of the relations between Deity and the universe. The term comes from the Greek words theos, meaning “deity,” and logos, which means “discourse.” In the narrow sense, theology has to do with the nature of Deity, but in a broader sense it covers the entire range of issues concerning man's relationship to Deity. Unfortunately, due to historical and cultural developments, the terms "theology" and "Christian Theology" are often used interchangeably in the Western world, although theology is not exclusive to Christianity, and this lack in distinction sometimes leads to the false assumption that theology is particular to Christianity, which quite often leads to the bias opinion that theology is somehow an invalid form of inquiry and spiritual expression, because it is incorrectly assumed to be in opposition to the "Neopagan way."

The aim of theology is to ascertain the nature of Deity and the relations which exist between Deity and the universe, in order to display the results of such an inquiry in a rational unity, as related parts of an organic system of truth. Theology recognizes the relations between revealed truths and the principles which unite them into a comprehensive organic system. In theology, the arrangement of these revealed truths and their relations is not optional, but is determined by the nature of the material with which it is concerned. Just as science is not constituted by facts alone–it is facts plus relations–theology is revealed truths (i.e. facts) in addition to and in conjunction with their relations.

Theology is important to us because it organizes our particular Neopagan world view into a consistent and coherent system of thought which defines our particular faith and is able to accurately express its meaning in a systematic and rational manner. Without theology we could not logically and effectively defend our faith against attack, study it, live it, or effectively share it with anyone who might inquire concerning the nature of it, because the teachings of our faith would have no real meaning beyond the incoherent interpretation of the individual. In other words, theology is important to us because it organizes and expresses the revealed truths and relations necessary to the our faith.

The Three Principles of Theology

Our theology, and indeed all theology, is grounded in the existence of Deity (know to us as God/dess), the capacity of the human mind to know Deity, and the provision of the means by which Deity reveals Deity's self to man. There are six common objections which are made against these three basic foundational principles of theology:

Objection #1: Since Deity and these relations are objects apprehended by faith alone, they are not proper objects of knowledge or subjects of science.

Response: Faith is a higher sort of knowledge than that which can be obtained by mere sense perception, it is knowledge conditioned by divine affection; and therefore, faith and only faith can provide suitable and sufficient material for scientific theology. Faith furnishes us with an understanding of realities which are inaccessible to sense perceptions alone, and thus is the highest kind of knowledge which is manifest as an operation of man's higher rational nature.

Objection #2: We cannot know Deity because we can only know phenomena.

Response: There are two types of phenomena which can be known: mental and physical. We are able to know the underlying substance of these phenomena through them, and our minds unite these phenomena not only with the knowledge of their substance, but also the knowledge of space and time, cause and right, and other such knowledge which is in no way phenomenal. The fact that Deity is not phenomenal cannot prevent us from knowing Deity anymore than we are prevented from knowing those other things which are not phenomenal.

Objection #3: We cannot know Deity because we can only know what bears analogy to our own nature and experience.

Response: Similarity between the knower and the known is not the only means of acquiring knowledge, nor is past experience. We are able to know by difference as well as by likeness, and our past experience is not a measure of our potential experience nor of our possible knowledge. Even still, if this were true we might still know Deity as we are made from Deity (creatio ex deo) and thus are very similar in our nature and our ability to experience.

Objection #4: We cannot know Deity because we can only know that which we can perceive in the sense of forming an adequate mental picture or image.

Response: We both conceive and know many things which we cannot form a mental image of, and which have no known correspondence to any other sort within reality such as: force, law and space. It is entirely possible for us to know Deity despite our inability to form an adequate mental image of Deity, just as it is possible to conceive of and know force, law and space.

Objection #5: We can only truly know that which we know in whole and not in part.

Response: We know nothing in whole, as we know no single thing in all of its relations. As creatures which are currently in a finite, and consequently, fallible condition, we are incapable of obtaining the whole of a thing; however, merely because we cannot know the whole does not negate the acquisition or importance of knowing the part. If we do not acknowledge the value of partial knowledge, then we lose all value to all knowledge. We may know Deity in part because Deity is composed of parts, and this knowledge is adequate to the purposes of science.

Objection #6: The revelation of Deity is a purely subjective experience and can furnish no objective facts that would constitute proper material for science.

Response: "Objective facts" is merely a term given in reference to similar entities experiencing similar ocassions in a similar subjective manner, as all known conscious entities experience and measure (i.e. interpret) their external reality in a purely subjective manner (cogito ergo sum). What makes a fact seemingly objective and scientific is that it works; that is, its pragmatic application, and not some sort of objective truth. In other words, objective facts are merely subjective facts made to work in one's wholly subjective and presupposed frame of reference – a posteriori flows from that which is a priori. It must be remembered that it wasn't until someone was able to make rocks falling from the sky "work" within their own rational framework that science even considered such a revelation to be proper material for science. If one finds that the purely subjective experience of the revelation of Deity works (which itself is a subjective interpretation in accordance with one's very personal frame of reference), then it constitutes proper material for scientific inquiry.

The Basis of Our Theology

Our theology is primarily derived from that which is revealed in nature. Natural Theology is the summary and explanation of the content of Deity's self-revelations through nature. By nature, it is meant not only the physical realm, or truth in regard to properties, substances, laws and forces of the material universe, but also the spiritual realm, or truth in regard to intellectual and moral constitution, as well as the orderly arrangement of human society and history. The universe is a source of theology, and the systematic presentation of the truths derived from observation, history, or science constitute natural theology, or the theology of nature.

It must be remembered when dealing with natural theology that it is merely a tool used to adequately explain Deity's revelation. If a philosophical argument or scientific fact is adequately refuted, found to be false, or seemingly found to be false, it should be remembered that such a refutation does not necessarily have a bearing upon the truth of our faith or its teachings, indeed, even if all natural theology were refuted it would not necessarily have any bearing upon the truth of our faith. Man is a finite and fallible creature with limited knowledge, a tendency to error, and an ego which tends to seek out what it desires rather than what is. What man deems true today may be shown to be false tomorrow.

On Doctrine & Teaching

Although the concept of any sort of doctrine may seem alien to Neopagan thought, it is really just another way of saying, "that which is believed and taught." The word doctrine comes from the Latin doctrina, which is from docere, and means "to teach." Doctrine is properly understood as that which is taught and believed to be true by a group. In various ways many groups will sanction their own "official" teachings and doctrines.

Our doctrines are developed over time and are influenced by natural theology, spiritual enlightenment, physical and spiritual experience, scientific discovery, contemporary cultural contexts, and other specific theological factors. So understood, it should be noted that various interpretations of doctrine can be fallible, some can be false, and still others can be widely accepted until found to be inadequate or in error. A doctrine is merely an individual or group's interpreted teaching of the revealed truth. A doctrine which is later found to be inadequate is not a nullification of the revealed truth, but rather a potential nullification of the way that truth is currently interpreted or applied. The fact that different religions exist which teach varying and often conflicting doctrines is testimony to the fallibility of interpeted teachings of revealed truth, which we call doctrine.

It is our position that no doctrine can be said to be the absolute truth; therefore, in our Neopagan world view our doctrines are meant to be looked at as "guides" rather than rigid and unbending truths that must be adhered to at all costs.

Principles of Doctrinal Development

In general, there are seven principles we use in our doctrinal development. All doctrine should be analyzed through the extremely fine-tuned lense of revelation, experience, reason, utility, current human knowledge, and ethical and traditional considerations. The following principles are most often used, but are not necessarily the only criteria used in, the determination of our doctrine:

  1. Revelation. The doctrine is of both a personal and natural revelation; and the doctrine is revealed by Deity to the mind of the individual or group and confirmed to be true in nature, in accordance with its proper context and content, as a whole.
  2. Experience. The doctrine is in agreement with an individual's physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual experience; the doctrine is able to be reconciled with past experiences; the doctrine is inclusive of; that is, considerate of the experience of the whole; and the doctrine is in agreement with revelation.
  3. Reason. The doctrine is reasonable as interpreted; the doctrine is coherent and consistent in context and content; the doctrine does not conflict with common sense in an unreasonable manner; and the doctrine is in agreement with revelation and experience.
  4. Utility. The doctrine works in accordance with currently held beliefs and understanding; the doctrine is of practical use in spiritual growth and understanding; and the doctrine is in agreement with revelation, experience, and reason.
  5. Contemporary Context. The doctrine is in accord with current human knowledge and understanding; and the doctrine is in agreement with revelation, experience, reason, and utility.
  6. Ethical Consideration. The doctrine is not in conflict with an ethical consideration of the whole; and the doctrine is in agreement with revelation, experience, reason, and utility.
  7. Tradition. The doctrine is considerate of the traditional understandings of the family; the doctrine is considerate of the traditional understanding of Paganism and Neopaganism; and the doctrine is in agreement with revelation, experience, reason, and utility.


Theology is important to us because it provides us with a logical and coherent system of beliefs for the purpose of guiding our spiritual enlightenment so as to cultivate the quality and enjoyment of conscious experience in the individual; and indeed, all which is within existence that is capable of benefiting from such spiritual growth. This is done through the development of doctrine which is brought about by observation, reflection, and an unceasing thirst for love and truth.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Neopagan Theology (1): On Method & Inquiry

On Method & Inquiry
by Alraune

Philosophic Method

To undertake an honest inquiry into anything we must first begin by questioning what it is that we can know with the utmost certainty; that is, that in which we are most capable of holding the least amount of doubt concerning the surety of truth in regard to our knowledge. We are capable of ascertaining that this is where we must begin our inquiry for the simplicity of it, or rather, we can little doubt that if we are incapable of approaching the simplest and easiest of a thing we will most certainly fail to ascertain those things which are of greater complexity. This system of inquiry is known as methodic doubt (also known as hyperbolic doubt), and it is comprised of four steps:

  1. The acceptance only of information which can be affirmed true with certainty.
  2. The dismantling of truths into smaller units.
  3. Solving the simpler problems first.
  4. Making complete lists of further problems.

The system of methodic doubt was first used by the French philospher, mathematician, and physicist René Descartes. In brief, it was through this system Descartes deduced that, putting aside all perceived things, it would seem that there is but one thing which can be known with a higher sort of certainty than all other things, and that knowledge is: I am, I exist; I am that "I" am known by myself to be; or I think, therefore I am (cogito ergo sum). It is from this very simple and seemingly obvious; indeed, even seemingly insignificant conclusion, that two other conclusions were able to be further deduced, and what would come to be known as the Laws of Thought would be firmly established, or:

  1. The First Fact – I exist.
  2. The First Principle – Something cannot be that which it is not.
  3. The First Condition – I am capable of knowing.

The Laws of Thought state that an individual can know they exist; that therefore they are capable of knowing; and that because one can know they exist and that they are capable of knowing, it becomes apparent that something cannot be that which it is not (e.g. both existent and nonexistent). These three primary truths must be accepted at face value; that is, as they are, or all manner of reason must necessarily break down.

Subjective Truth & The Axiom of Self

Descartes' famous deduction brought one other very important revelation to light; that revelation being that, all knowledge, and therefore truth, which we are capable of knowing, is purely of an idealistic nature. That is, everything which we think we know through both deduction and perception is restricted to the mind of self. In other words, it may be that there exists an actual material realm which is divorced from the realm of ideas, but even if such is the case, we are, as conscious individuals, entirely incapable of knowing such a realm actually exists with any degree of certainty without first accepting the inescapable truth that everything we know to be true is, in all actuality, purely of the realm of the mind.

Furthermore, this realm of ideas from whence we perceive and reason all things, is of a purely subjective frame of reference. It is not necessary that all things which exist must be of some sort of subjective idealism, but that all that we know of existence, as individuals, must be from the reference of our own subjective consciousness. In other words, so far as reason is concerned there is no escaping the fact that the root of all truth which any individual is capable of ascertaining is firmly predicated on subjectivity (i.e. the "I" in the Laws of Thought) and the reality of the realm of ideas (i.e. the "thinking" that the "I" is, or is doing).

Now, certainly there has been and there still exists some considerable debate regarding dualism and the mind-body dichotomy and the philosophies of materialism (from which physicalism eventually developed) versus idealism, and in this debate is contained the underlying question as to whether or not ideas arise from purely physical properties, physical properties arise from ideas, or there are in actuality two distinct realms of the physical and ideas; however, even if one were to suppose that ideas arise from the physical realm, it would not negate the fact that any philosophical position taken is necessarily predicated on subjectivity due to the a priori truth on which all empirical knowledge rests. That is, one cannot experience one's existence but rather one who exists experiences things. The existence of self is ultimately a very personal existential revelation on which all subsequent rational thought is based (i.e. the "I" who is thinking).

That being said, it is not necessary that at this time we rationalize what constitutes the body and the mind, how they interact; or indeed, if they even exist independent of one another, but rather only that we simply recognize that the subjective self is the starting point of that certainty of truth which we are most capable of obtaining.

Nature As Reference

Once we recognize that the subjective self is the axiom on which all our future knowledge rests we are then able to begin asking the next most obvious question which arises: What am I, or what is I, and where did that which I recognize to be I come from?

The answer to at least part of our question would appear to be readily apparent; in that, if I immediately recognize that there is something which I refer to as myself, then there must also be that which I consider not to be myself, or I; for the First Principle clearly declares that something cannot be that which it is not. What is that which differentiates that "something" which is "I" from that "something" which is not "I"? Self-awareness. The self is cognisant of what it is in contrast to what it is experiencing. Hence, we readily know that the self is present, and it is from that subjective frame of reference that self is also able to determine that something else is present which self is experiencing.

However, we know that experience is necessarily subjective, and therefore anything which the self experiences must be known through thought, and thus is deemed to be of the idealistic realm. We also know that in order to have an experience one must first exist, and thus is deemed to be of the physical realm; therefore, it must be concluded that thought is contingent upon the mind, and the mind is contingent upon thought. Now, it could be that the natural realm is merely thought eminating from the self, and thus, is not truly separate from it, but merely an action which the self takes; it could be that the idealistic realm is eminating from the physical self, and thus also not truly separate, but merely a process of the physical self; or it could be that the natural realm is entirely separate from the idealistic realm, but so far as the self is capable of knowing, the two are both necessarily separate and contingent upon one another. Thought cannot exist without first having the self, and the self cannot exist without first having thought. In other words, any sense of self requires thought, and any self-awareness requires the existence of self.

"I" am both a physical, that is existent being, and a being of ideas, and furthermore, I can know no other way in which any thing which exists can exist except both in the physical realm and the realm of ideas. Taken one step further, I cannot know with any degree of certainty the existence of any thing without also accepting the idea of that thing as a necessary contingent of its existence. Although there may be ideas without physical representations and there may be physical things without idealogical representations, I, and all logic and reason which is founded upon the First Fact and the other Laws of Thought which any individual rationing "self" uses, must accept that the most "I" am capable of knowing with the utmost degree of certainty, is that ideas and physical existence are necessarily separate realms or states which are contingent upon one another.

Thus, we may conclude that a second axiom of truth exists which is necessarily part of the axiom of the subjective self – nature. That is, nature and the subjective self are both two separate parts of the same whole.

This does not mean that a thing is both that which it is and that which it is not, which would violate the First Principle, but rather that there are two polar halves of the same whole: I and existence. Taken further, it then follows that there can be no existence without self-awareness, and that it may be that there can be no thing that exists which does not contain some sense of self – panpsychism.

In conclusion, we now have two frames of reference, which are contingent upon one another, by and from which we may obtain knowledge of a higher sort of certainty: the subjective mind of self and nature. The subjective mind of self looks to nature as a frame of reference concerning the truth of "what is".

Revelation in Nature

By using our method of inquiry and the consequential axioms which it yields, we are able to conclude with a higher sort of certainty than we have in all other things, that nature (i.e. the universe) is equipped to provide us with a reference whereby we might be guided toward an existential truth; that is, because nature is, in part, a representation of what is likely to be true, then it also likely contains, at least in and throughout the entirety of itself, part of the revelation of any truth which is.

It is because of this realization that we look to nature as a whole, and in its entirety, as a means by which to discern what is and should be and what is not or should not be. Among the many questions nature is able to aid us in answering are:

  • Questions of truth and reason – Nature shows us that truth can only be known subjectively, and that reason is written into nature, of which the self is part, and that such reason essentially consists of logical consequence, or rather the relation between propositions as "either, or" and "if, then".
  • Questions of reality and existence – Nature provides us with a reference by which we might determine what is real and what is existent, such as the necessary contingent (so far as the self is capable of knowing) of physical existence with that of consciousness.
  • Questions of purpose and meaning – Through nature we can see that purpose and meaning are found in both individual liberty and interdependence, as parts of the whole, in which our own subjective experience plays a role in conjunction with its utility and support for the whole of existence.
  • Questions of ethics, justification, and moral behavior – Nature, since we are part of it and it is part of us, clearly reveals to us that that which upholds the sustainment of the whole, to the greatest degree; that is, with the least degree of unnecessary hinderence and interference upon others, and sustains the self by means of the most positive experience possible, must be that which is justified and ethical.


It is by using this method of inquiry that we are able to develop our philosophical system from which is derived the systematic theological presentation and argument for our particular Neopagan belief system; that is, a set of logical and coherent revelations which culminate in a full blown system of faith and which underline the basis for our own subjective world view.