Meaning and Understanding

At the heart of our understanding of All That Is — the Universe around us, the Gods, the daily news — is cognition. How we think. What our minds do with what our senses offer as input and what we have already processed and stored, whether we remember it or not. And it turns out that humankind developed our current capabilities in cognition over eons — indeed, we wouldn’t expect it to be any other way, but, of course, we take it for granted.

The video below is the first in a series by Prof. John Vervaeke, of the University of Toronto Psychology Department and Cognitive Science Program, laying out the details of our human cognitive development against the history of human development.

And this brought to my mind the course in Pagan Apologetics I took at Cherry Hill Seminary, taught by Dr. David Oringderff of Sacred Well Congregation, the premise of which was that Paganism is the indigenous religion of humankind.

There is a lot of content in this video, delivered in straight lecture style in front of an almost-useless whiteboard. Conveniently, YouTube lists the books Vervaeke mentions:

  • Michael Anderson – After Phrenology: Neural Reuse and the Interactive Brain
  • Barry Boyce (Editor) – The Mindfulness Revolution: Leading Psychologists, Scientists, Artists, and Meditation Teachers on the Power of Mindfulness in Daily Life
  • Andy Clark – Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence
  • Michel Ferrari and Nic Weststrate (Editors) – The Scientific Study of Personal Wisdom: From Contemplative Traditions to Neuroscience
  • Harry Frankfurt – On Bullsh*t
  • David Lewis-Williams – The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art
  • L. A. Paul – Transformative Experience
  • Massimo Pigliucci – How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life
  • Matt Rossano – Supernatural Selection: How Religion Evolved
  • Daniel Siegel – Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation
  • Steve Taylor – Waking From Sleep: Why Awakening Experiences Occur and How to Make Them Permanent
  • John Vervaeke, Christopher Mastropietro, and Filip Miscevic – Zombies in Western Culture: A Twenty-First Century Crisis
  • Michael Winkelman – Shamanism: A Biopsychosocial Paradigm of Consciousness and Healing
  • Susan Wolf – Meaning in Life and Why It Matters

Just as we did in Pagan Apologetics, Vervaeke looks back to our primitive human ancestors, the physical traces they left, and the differences between those who came before and those who came after. He focuses in this episode on the transition from the middle- to the upper- paleolithic, about 45,000 years ago, as the Neanderthal population faded out and the human population expanded out of Africa.

What I want to do is point to a time when many people think our humanity, the kind of people we are now, came into form. Not fully like the way it is now, because of course there’s been lots of historical and cultural processes, but the kind of humanity that we would recognize as “us” and how much this was bound up with meaning making in the way that I’ve been talking about.

Episode 1

This episode is just under one hour, and it moves quickly. The second half gets into the details of the upper paleolithic transition, focusing on the work of the shaman, on ritual, and on the various ways of knowing. It is better experienced than read, but the transcripts are available.

Yule 2020

Continuing our latest Tradition, Sacred Grove will gather in cyberspace for Yule this Turning of the Wheel. On Sunday, December 20, at 8 pm EST, please join us for ritual on ZOOM. The link to join is below.

We will seal the gathering (no one further will be admitted) at 8:15 pm.

Jaime Gironés, writing at The Wild Hunt, offers The Longest and Darkest Night for our reflection.

Without regard to the name of the celebration or the phase of my life, the celebration has always had the same main meaning to me: it has always represented hope. After the darkness of the longest night of the year, the sun is reborn – and with this rebirth, light is rekindled in our hearts and spirits. After this very difficult year, I think hope is what we need the most.

Jaime Gironés

John Beckett is presenting Under the Ancient Oaks Online Winter Solstice Ritual: December 18 at 8 pm CST via YouTube, as well.

This is Pagans, polytheists, and others continuing our sacred traditions under difficult circumstances. This is using all the resources at our disposal to maintain our commitments to our Gods, ancestors, and other spiritual allies. This is us, doing what must be done.

John Beckett

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Cherry Hill Seminary – Samhain

Cherry Hill Seminary published the Samhain edition of its newletter highlighting spring course offerings and regular online events.

Cherry Hill Seminary empowers spiritual leadership, scholarship, and ethics through theological and pastoral education to nurture interfaith engagement in a diverse society.  For more information, visit www.cherryhillseminary.org , or click here to email us.

Spiritual Potluck is a weekly gathering for a virtual hour of reflection, ritual and sharing, email for link to attend.

Reclaiming Samhain Ritual 2020

Reclaiming is offering it Samhain ritual celebration online this year on October 31 at 1 pm PACIFIC time. Their announcement has links under How to Participate for anyone interested.

On October 31 — Halloween —  at 1 p.m. PST, the 41st Annual Reclaiming Spiral Dance will be streamed online at: www.reclaimingspiraldance.org

Intention: In the midst of uncertainty and the unknown, we come together to call forth the rains of justice and renewal.

[Fortunately, even with a 4 pm Eastern time start, there should be plenty of time to participate in this event AND in the Sacred Grove Samhain ritual via Zoom at 9 pm.]

John Beckett on Samhain

Is Samhain coming, or is it already here? The answer is a little bit of both.

For those of you who are new to Paganism, Samhain is one of the four ancient Celtic fire festivals, along with Imbolc (February 1), Beltane (May 1), and Lughnasadh (August 1). The word means “summer’s end” – it marks the end of summer and the beginning of winter. In modern Pagan lore it’s the third and final harvest festival. It’s a time to think about the reality of death, and to remember our loved ones who have died.

This 2014 post by Jason Mankey has all the history of the day and the season, and it describes how we got from there (i.e. – ancient Ireland) to here.

Samhain 2020

After several very quiet years, Sacred Grove Community Circle (SWC) is exploring celebrating the rites of the seasons more consistently through the use of ZOOM, beginning with a somewhat open circle on Samhain. We will invite a number of people via email and provide the instructions for joining, then be prepared to proceed with whatever number of people join us.

Anyone who would like to participate is welcome to email Webweaver@SacredGroveSWC.org to request an invitation.

We are working on adapting the traditional Bhakti-Wiccan ritual format to this new environment. We have recently updated the website SacredGroveSWC.org for easier reference, and details on the ritual format are included there in the Book of Shadows. In particular, Finding Our Way to the Grove provides a quick introduction.

For Samhain this year, our Working will be a version of Rest for the Warrior, which I’m sure will be welcome to all of us in the stress of Covid-19 and (US) election politics. As the Veil is thinning, I hope the Beloved Dead will find their way to join with us. They will be welcome.

The Lord & Lady, in Perspective

In the Bhakt-Wiccan Tradition of the Fellowship of the Sacred Grove, as in the Greencraft Tradition of Sacred Well Congregation, the Lord and Lady are familiar and beloved faces of the Divine, of Ultimate Reality. They are God and Goddess of our spirituality and religion.

But the Sacred Grove welcomes all who would join us respectfully approaching that which we all hold to be real and personal and important, despite the limitations of human language. And so we offer perspectives by which you might look through our traditional language and see the Ultimate Reality you understand. Certainly there are more and other perspectives; here are seeds for thought.

In the Abrahamic traditions, One God is central and is called by many names. The Lord may be familiar and comes associated with a male gender. The Lady had a long and often forbidden history. Would you be comfortable seeing “Lord & Lady” as another of the many names of God?

For my part, having grown to adulthood in the Christian Tradition before encountering the Goddess, I had difficulty as a chaplain speaking the language of the Trinity with Christians until i made peace in my own understanding that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit could be Infinite, Incarnate, and Indwelling aspects of the Divine.

Hard polytheists might see the Lord as a category inclusive of the gods of their understanding and the Lady as a category inclusive of the goddesses, or you may see them as particular deities of your devotion. Soft polytheists may see them as encompassing all gods and goddesses between them.

The chant

Isis, Osiris, Woden and Freya; Lord and Lady, Brigid and Lugh

https://sacred-texts.com/bos/bos593.htm

is part of our Tradition.

Atheists, agnostics, and others who are not accustomed to personifying the overarching concepts of Ultimate Reality, be reassured that we are not invoking or speaking for an omnipotent sky daddy, nor are we promulgating any absolute authority. We seek to learn through individual personal experience, and we recognized that each of us will experience our journey together differently. We value the richness that comes of our interaction, both with our human companions and with the unSeen that accompany them. Can you allow yourself, when we are between the worlds together, to understand our Lord & Lady to represent all the myriad connections, patterns, unseen entities, and richness that make up and hold All That Is together?

Out of that marvelous complexity, can you let what is real, personal, and important for you speak for itself?

Planning for Autumn Equinox Grove

Updated 10/15/2020: It didn’t happen. Maybe I can pull it together for Samhain.

It’s time for the Grove to manifest itself anew in the age of pandemic. Tools are available and being used to meet in cyberspace, and we are forging ahead. The plan is to schedule our Sabbats for the coming year, by date and time, and set up Zoom gatherings for the observance.

Invitations to participate will include the ritual structure, and attendees will be offered the opportunity to Claim the Space, while the wording is made available on screen. Host will act as Bard and Priest, at least at first.

Invitations will be distributed, at least, by email and through the Facebook Grove page. Respondents by email will be sent the link.

Priestess will establish the Zoom meeting at the specified date and time, then admit attendees, who will be welcome to chat. Once Bard begins Warnings, no others will be admitted.

Still working on the particulars of the ritual. It will be geared toward the Wheel of the Year and probably, at least at first, be of a participatory Journey format.

Watch this space — more to follow.

Sometimes it needs to be said

Cleaning house, I found a Facebook post from ‘way back with a prayer that resonates with me and which I share because so many suffer from fear of Hell, even when their theology no longer supports the concept.

If I adore You out of fear of Hell, burn me in Hell!
If I adore you out of desire for Paradise,
Lock me out of Paradise.

But if I adore you for Yourself alone,
Do not deny to me Your eternal beauty.

Everyone prays to You from fear of the Fire;
And if You do not put them in the Fire,
This is their reward.
Or they pray to You for the Garden,
Full of fruits and flowers.
And that is their prize.
But I do not pray to You like this,
For I am not afraid of the Fire,
And I do not ask You for the Garden.
But all I want is the Essence of Your Love,
And to return to be One with You,
And to become Your Face.

Rabi’a al Basri, a Sufi saint who died 814 CE