Painting the Background Part I: Introduction and Overview

have often found that a major challenge with this blog has to do with the background assumptions I bring to it. Of course, every blogger has these, but often they are not acknowledged or given any kind of independent justification. It is impossible, in the end, to resist having a few axioms, ideas that are considered so fundamental that to question them is to spend endless hours arguing over first principles rather than having the discussion one wishes to have.

While it may be the case that I bring certain political, philosophical, and spiritual assumptions to a given blog post, the fact that these ideas are largely fixed in my head does not, in my opinion, absolve me from providing some sort of justification for them. Or, at the very least, stating them openly so that they do not remain hidden, difficult to tease out from an isolated essay. This has kept me from posting on a number of topics, because I don’t feel comfortable just making a blanket statement of the “well, obviously” type when I know full well that there is nothing “obvious” about what I’m saying. Someone encountering such a statement from an alien or even hostile viewpoint would simply attack the assumption behind it and neither of us would leave the discussion any wiser than when we started.

So, over my next few posts, I am going to describe what I could call the fundamental background of my thinking. These axioms are subject to revision, and when I make a radical change in my approach to a given topic or area of concern, I will post such a revision.

In what may seem like a slightly backward approach, since this blog does deal primarily with spiritual issues, I will first describe my sociopolitical views, as of the date those posts appear. The reason for not beginning with the more metaphysical issues is that I think that the nature of our spirituality is profoundly influenced by the political situation we find ourselves in.

By “political” I do not intend to indicate which party is currently in power or the conflict between ideologies. What I mean is an ideologically biased description of the power relationships and economic situation of our world today. I make no pretense of being “objective,” and in fact will later go into detail about why I think “objectivity” is a fool’s errand. My intent is merely to describe my own thinking, not suggest that anyone is bound to follow it because it is “more true” than any other. Those power relations, the way in which we have agreed to deal with one another, effect how we go about doing spirituality. Do we assume, for instance, that the sociopolitical matrix in which we find ourselves is a “given,” not to be seriously questioned because such questioning is bound to leave us frustrated? Do we take for granted the access to information and resources that our class and/or ethnic privilege provide us? These are just a couple of examples of what I am talking about. What it boils down to is that the way we relate to others has a significant impact on how we deal with the Sacred. If we have grown up with all the access that being part of the privileged class of an industrial superpower, for instance, we are likely to have a very different view of life and the Sacred than if we grew up in poverty, not being sure if we would eat tonight or the next.

And, frankly, I am starting with the sociopolitical component because I think it is highly underdeveloped in the Pagan and Magical community. Where it is addressed, it tends to be through the lense of a specialized ideology rather than a more general one.

I won’t say I am looking forward to this, but I hope it proves interesting to those who read it. In any case, I have found it impossible to move forward with some of the things I have wanted to do with this blog without the exercise. For those whom this bores to tears, please forgive me this indulgence.


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