I don’t see a lot of people use the term “eclectic” to describe their Wiccan spiritual practices anymore. I think this is because of the bad rap eclecticism got in the 90s, when hordes of new practitioners – me included – wandered into the neopagan movement and picked up the term to describe ourselves. I think most of us did this because “eclectic” seemed like the best way to handle our fears of commitment. As those around me became “serious” or dropped out in favor of another spirituality or absence thereof, the use of the term “eclectic” faded. Most of those individuals I knew who identified as eclectic back-when now uphold specific traditions or styles of magic. Teaching covens I encountered did seem to push this approach: pick a tradition. Stick with it. Be serious if you’re going to be taken seriously.
I think that this insistence on “getting serious” did serve a greater purpose. I encountered fellows in eclecticism whose approach I liked, and others with a perspective that upset me. It seemed there were two schools of thoughts on eclecticism:
School 1: Use what works.
School 2: Do whatever the hell you want, and call it spirituality.
Use what works
The first approach (mine, for full disclosure) assumes a certain set of rules to magic and spirituality. Those rules have a certain flexibility, and can be broken on rare occasions for one very right reason not within our power to determine, but for the most part if we want our ritual or energy work to have any results, we must for the most part adhere to those rules. The divine is infinite, but within magic and life we’re given the laws of physics so most of the time we don’t just go flying off the earth. Different spiritual systems all manage these rules in different ways, and over the years I’ve come to distinguish what aspects of a spiritual system are spiritual, and what aspects of a spiritual system are humans trying to impose human and frequently petty agendas. A good spiritual system opens and frees, protects those unable to protect themselves and releases from judgment the things where some people might be offended but absolutely no one gets hurt. ((There is pretty much no ambiguity in these moral situations. If there is, assume a human and manipulating hand.))
I acknowledge that this means at some point I must discuss what I consider those rules of magic to be.
This means that if I use prayer beads, or adopt elements of Buddhism into my ritual work, that’s fine – as long as it works. It can’t just be that I like it. Whatever I work in must actually have some impact on my practice, some result in my spellwork or assist me in a visualization. If I try it and it fails, as a committed eclectic I must set it aside – because it does not work.
Yes, I have tried things and they have failed. I’ll flip through my old BOS notes – I’ve been spelunking old files rather a lot lately – and I’ve turned up some incidents of major fail, especially during my Saturn return. This is not to be blamed upon Saturn, but upon the blindness that comes from being desperate and in the middle of a Saturn return. I think the core lesson of that time for me is that all my love lessons in this life are karmic, and while I can use magic for short-term gratification, I personally don’t get to monkey with love in any other way because I’ve got some karmic pre-sets.
Do whatever the hell you want and call it spirituality
I do think there are lines to draw here – for example, if your “spirituality” requires something from someone besides yourself and your divinity, it’s generally a good sign that a)it’s not spiritual and b)you’re playing God. Yes, there is a whole woven ball of consent and ethics that provide fine distinctions but when you strip it away if you need a second or third person to cotton or conform to it, FAIL. I also believe that “Thou art God” is not intended to be interpreted as “Thou gets to PLAY God with the others who haven’t figured out that they’re divine too!” ((This is a completely separate issue from my tendency to screw with the willfully stupid or bigoted.))
Rather than analyze and define, I’m just going to give a list of things I’ve encountered that bug me:
- “Oh, I just make up my own gods.”
Gods and archetypes reveal themselves. A deity-level thoughtform requires energy from thousands, if not millions of minds. This is very different from creating a servitor.
- “I know that the pantheons don’t really fit together, but I like them.”
If you’re Wiccan and you’re invoking deities, you’re doing so on the supposition you’re dealing with real beings – and that “mythology” is like meeting someone you’ve heard about who is legen….dary. To mix it all up takes the attitude that you are handling fictions, and supposing all sorts of things that are convenient for you to believe. The gods may not be telepathic, they don’t all like each other and sometimes you’re just being rude. I do mix, on occasion – and when I do, I research the parties and try to set up some pre-ritual where they can share a coffee and get to know each other. Mostly, I don’t mix – I just work with the Hellenic divinities, or with the cultures that bumped into each other that formed the basis of Classical mythology.
- “I chose Wicca because it supports my alternative lifestyle.”
Yes and no. Pagans are turning out to hold some universal values, but don’t assume that just because you’re polyamorous that the Wiccan next to you in circle is, too. Don’t assume that your furry thing is great conversation over cakes and ale. Don’t assume because you’re straight that your entire coven shares your heteronormative views. Be who you are, but realize that while the gods may or may not be accepting about your modern choices, the individuals standing in circle with you have evolution to do, and have agreed to share that spiritual perspective – to explore sexuality or other aspects of your being, you are obligated to obtain consent first, and there’s a good chance if that troubles you that you yourself still have some evolving to do.
- “I just want it to be like the old times.”
This is popular among Renn Fest fans, science fiction conventioneers and other people who get off on harking back to some non-existent good old days. This is bullshit. No matter how torn up the world is, no matter what’s wrong, no matter how much the earth suffers – Right now is the best the world has ever been. No matter when right now is. With progress comes problems, with problems comes progress. I for one like the right to vote, flushing toilets and contraception. I do not think giving up these modern devices brings me closer to Eros.