There are three principal means of acquiring knowledge. . . observation of nature, reflection, and experimentation. Observation collects facts; reflection combines them; experimentation verifies the result of that combination.
Denis Diderot, 18th century French philosopher
At the heart of Paganism, I think there lies the idea (whether many of us consciously acknowlege it or not) that our paths are living entities of their own…making our religion(s) a journey, rather than a destination. When it comes to spiritual knowledge, I prefer the term gnosis–I feel that it implies an active sort of learning, that of seeking and finding and growing, a kind of reinforced integrative and intuitive process, rather than the passive absorption of information. Gnosis is not unique to Pagans (duh…look at Gnosticism), but our emphasis on experience-driven gnosis being the key to validity is unique. Knowing (gnosis) is experiental, and to some extent, experimental. Generally speaking, in most of the Pagan community that ideal is respected (at least in abstract), even if it (or its outcome) is not always liked.
Much of the need for respect as a virtue/value/ideal comes from plurality, and plurality, when it is all said and done, results from the simple fact that we all grok sacredness differently. So what does this mean?
In grasping experience some of us perceive new information through experiencing the concrete, tangible, felt qualities of the world, relying on our senses and immersing ourselves in concrete reality. Others tend to perceive, grasp, or take hold of new information through symbolic representation or abstract conceptualization – thinking about, analyzing, or systematically planning, rather than using sensation as a guide. Similarly, in transforming or processing experience some of us tend to carefully watch others who are involved in the experience and reflect on what happens, while others choose to jump right in and start doing things. The watchers favor reflective observation, while the doers favor active experimentation.
It means that we shouldn’t just practice our professed faith, we should live it. Experiental gnosis requires one to go forth and experience.
So get off the damn computer and experience something divine.
…I for one, am taking the kids to the beach to play–even though it is after bedtime.
(and, yes, this has been another blog in honor of Pagan Values Blogging Month…better late than never!!!)