Contemplation of Continuance

My ADF membership is up next month.  I’m going on eight years of membership with the organization known as Ár nDraíocht Féin, but I’m not a joiner by nature and when confronted with the request to update my membership I pause and reflect.

Me (gray shirt)+ the Grove Organizer of EDPG @ ADF/Grove info booth PPD 2009

Have I grown as a religious person because of membership?

The short answer is yes.  I have been challenged by the organization and I think I may have challenged it along the way.  My practice is more focused and deeper because of my stay with the ‘Druid’ organization.  I am more pious, more devoted, and more fruitful in my practice.

Is ADF an organization that does good?

If I’m a member of something I damn well feel that the org should be good.  And I mean that in every aspect…It must be good for the membership as a whole and it must be good for the person.  More importantly it must be good for the religious community and not just the ‘Pagan’ one.

I have found ADF to be overall good.  There are always those who rock the boat, who place self above  the whole, and who may seek ambition in spite of the general good…but overall my experience with ADF has been positive, and I do believe that its members seek the highest good and progress for others.

Have I learned?

Yes.  I completed the Dedicant Program a few years into my membership.  In my mind the DP is one of the best learning programs in the ‘Pagan’ sphere of education.  ADF does not seek to bolster it’s own hypothesis of  what ‘Paganism” should be, instead it presents courses that require academic and scholarly brashness.  Certainly there is a bit of ADF attitude involved in the programs – it’s liturgy is somewhat specialized, but it is also an example of the academic evolution one sees in the organization.  The honesty of the training and the work involved in accomplishing ADF’s offered courses is stellar and comparable in my mind to college level research and course work.

My plan was and still is to continue my studies with ADF – moving toward clergy or initiate status when time permits.

Is ADF fun?Copy of adf-roots-enc

ADF holds the ideal of openness in ritual and grove conduct.  This allows for gatherings of friends and strangers alike.  Like our ‘Pagan’ ancestors ritual is open and calls the people of a community to worship and renew bonds between people, the land, their gods, and ancestors.  In this case ADF excels in bringing people together and also therefore in respecting the fellowship and differences that can be highlighted by such ventures.

The rites I first led were ADF inspired within a small grove, in fact some of the largest rites I’ve attended were ADF rites under a blue sky in the light of mid-day.  I was proud to be a ‘Pagan’ in those rites, and I still am because of ADF’s need to serve the community in the open, not arrogantly displaying their faith but honorably devoted to ancient truths and wisdom once again explored and acknowledged.

Yes or No?

In the end I will rejoin.  Though I don’t call myself a Druid, ADF is more about honestly looking toward the Indo-European mindset and practice.  It is not beholden to it however, and the organization does allow for the wisdom that modernity has given to humanity.  I think it does good, and I think there is more to learn within the organization that perhaps I would not learn outside of it.

Positive is up

Over at the Hidden Experience blog, Mike Clelland has written a piece called Ignoring.

To sum up the post:  Mike attended a UFO conference where he was involved in a group event where the participants shared ‘contact’ experiences.  Mikes Blog delves into the multitude of odd events that float around  ‘Contactee’, UFO phenomena,  and the Visitor experience.  This particular post finds Mike in a group led by a woman who only wants to focus on positive experiences and seems to go out of her way to ignore anyone who may have lived through something a bit more frightening.

Positive is up

This post was incredibly interesting to me because it picked at one of the faulty premises an explorer of the mysterious finds along the way.

There are several pitfalls that impede such an explorer, but the big one is fear.  This fear can take many shapes and one of them is confronted when left without clear definitions in which to hold mysterious occurrences that give way to a rising need to force one upon them.  Some choose to assign labels like good and bad to them, or list them like a check list of positives and negatives, or to simply ignore the fact that Mystery sometimes plays the villain.

I have had extremely frightening experiences, I’ll put that out fairly bluntly. I don’t think fear or fright is a bad thing, it can motivate us toward full realization and enhances our awareness.  And when we are confronted with something that is wholly outside of ourselves and the strict realities we have constructed we experience a break down.  That break down begins with fear – fear that everything is not as true as we thought – and that fear forces us to expand our world view and our mind view.

As a Pagan, and one who is involved in his community, I find the personal experiences of others very interesting.  And I have to admit that I don’t always believe what people share.  I find people quick to share what should be deeply personal experiences suspect.  And even more, I find those who experience only bright and sunny interactions with gods, spirits, ‘visitors’, ancestors or any other non-human physical or psychological phenomena to be even less believable.

I think there’s an absolute shit your pants fright that comes from sharing space with things not usually in our reality tunnel (as Robert Wilson would put it).

One of the faulty premises of Paganism is that it attracts fantasists.  I think this is true to a certain degree.  I think it’s true because many come to Paganism not understanding that it is a faith and a religion of foundation and reality and not of anarchy and imaginative self delusion.  Pagans are responsible for the creation of society as we know it, they were the builders of the first civilizations, they were the level-headed originators of law, order, and community.  I wish more Pagans today would embrace that fact, instead of living in and moving toward a false paradigm lost in the pages of whimsy.  Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a place for irrational thinking in religion, but that irrationality needs to be filtered through a foundation of Now and Presence, Foundation and Fact.  When we begin lieing to ourselves about the Mystery, we begin on a road that forces us into the world of precise definition and the need to convince others that the answers are this or they are that.

That said,  Mystery is sometimes found to lie outside of rationality.  Mystery doesn’t care about dualist notions and limiting definitions.  To be a Mystery explorer means to understand that I should be ready to live with truth that doesn’t hold to my preconceptions of what it is or can be.  What is perceived as bad or evil may be outside of what the Mystery, whatever that may be, understands.  Things, Vistors, gods – what have you – may not and probably do not exist in a defined world of moral right and wrong, or bad and good, or what we will understand as fright or experience as awe.

Be aware brave explorer that if you have experiences that fail to inspire or you meet gods that wield clubs of nerf you may not have entered the zone of Mystery but instead may not have left your own head.