Pagans and technological resistance

While I write this article about SmartPhone programs with magical applications, I can already hear the rumbling of the chorus in the background. I know very few Pagans who take a middle ground on technology: when people talk to me about it, it’s all good, or it’s all bad. I allow one caveat for those who say, “All I can afford is dial-up.” That’s our middle ground.

I know I’ve mentioned this in the past, but I want to bring it up again:
Magic is technology. No, this isn’t the “look – electricity – magic!” argument. This goes into the mental attitude required to produce magic. It lives in our brain right next to the space that allows for abstraction, and thus math, and science. Magic just takes its pathways through the right brain hemisphere instead of the left. So while mathematicians evolved their way into physics: “If I use this stick at this angle, it will project this annoying squirrel ten feet into the air,” magicians evolved their way into imagination: “If I draw this picture of this buffalo on the wall and really get involved with the idea of killing it thoroughly, tomorrow’s hunt will succeed.” Both approaches have ultimately satisfying outcomes.

Those magicians were using what they had on hand to encourage bringing what they imagined to life. The tools have changed a lot – the Iron Age and the Industrial Revolution left no one untouched – but the absolute core activity remains the same. Magicians imagine. The props they use to assist their imagination were things that they – and scientists, and artists – imagined in the first place, and brought into being. ((Which leaves me wondering why Hephaestus doesn’t get more play, as he’s ultimately a god of invention, which defines all aspects of a civilization. What other inventor gods are out there? There’s got to be one per pantheon at the very least.)) Imagination continues to this day.

But even so, fear of change rears its head in lots of repetitive conversations online and off.

Among the anti-technological arguments I hear:
1)I can’t feel close to nature in the city
I’m writing a book to answer this one. The short answer is “You find what you seek.”

2)But I could never give up my books! This is a common response to digitization.
This also applies to animal hoarding, the neopagan equivalent of refusing to use birth control. Replace “stuff” with “children” and insert appropriate emotional connotations from there. Obviously, at some point the metaphor will fall off.

I am certainly not anti-materialist. Stuff is not bad. It’s just stuff. Stuff is bad when it gets in the way of you having the mobility you need to move, pay your rent, take care of yourself or take care of the people and creatures that rely on you. I include books in that. If I do not re-read or refer to a book ever again, my only reason for keeping it is because of a status message it relays to another person. This is unhealthy. Also, if I refer to a book so much I have to keep buying copies because it falls apart, a digital copy is a very good thing. For instance, I need yet another copy of John Lust’s The Herb Book: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to More Than 500 Herbs At this point, I’d advocate it as a catch-all gift. I will always need new copies, just like I always eventually run out of candles, incense and groceries.

What would be awesome for me is if that Herb Book came in a searchable digital copy. I refer to it all the time, and doing so electronically would be faster, save me a little shelf space, and be easily backed up. I might even check it from my Droid when working with herbs or when someone asks me an herbal health question. In fact, the books I actually use would be preferable digitized, with the obvious exception of the graphic heavy books.

3)But they call it the Old Ways!
That’s one interpretation in a plethora of traditions. Also, those who were living in the Old Ways probably loved running water, and I can bet central heat would be a huge hit. I know a lot of people have fantasies about how good past eras were. They definitely had good stuff, and there’s nothing stopping us from at least trying out their entertainments and positive aspects now. But time moves only forward, and I like to think that the reason is to encourage us to do so as well. Those looking to cop an attitude might see modern life as a hell pit. But I really do think that the people of the past would ultimately delight in the wonders and luxuries of our day. Despite historical fiction representing time traveling guests from the past otherwise, I think that most people are built to adjust to the new. Personally, I find knowing history an absolute necessity but wanting to live in the past a sign of pathology.

Personally, I’m not pretending I’m an 18th century wise woman when I cast. In fact, the only time I’ve felt so stupid I actually couldn’t perform magic was when I was wearing the silly robes. Wicca is a modern religion with values designed to adjust as humanity gathers more knowledge and understanding about itself.

And that includes values about using technology as a ritual tool. Someone had to come up with the Iron Age to give us the athame, and now the Digital Age has given us computers and phones. Just like the Old School witches, some mythical, some not, those of us who adapt the technology are simply using the tools we have onhand.