“If we pursue a spiritual path in depth, then it changes who and what we are. There is no turning back. We can only move forward.” — Vivianne Crowley
In a book by Robert Norton and Richard Southern called SoulTypes: Decode Your Spiritual DNA to Create a Life of Authenticity, Joy, and Grace, the authors established four directions or forms the religious impulse could take, or as they refer to it, “our spiritual DNA.” These forms are heart-centered, soul-centered, mind-centered, and strength-centered. This essay will attempt to examine Contemporary Paganism from within this framework.
Heart-centered spirituality is expressed through gratitude. They place priority on feelings, emotions, personal renewal and transformation. They people hunger for connection and joyful experiences in religion. They find blessings in everyday living and look for the goodness in others and in the world. They find the spark of sacredness in everything around them and attempt to resacralize the world.
Many Pagans believe in the Law of Attraction — the notion that if we surround ourselves with good, we will attract positive things back to us. It’s the age-old concept of “like attracts like.” Part of that theory is that by showing gratitude, you can cultivate more good things to come your way. They believe in the generosity of the Divine and the Universe, and believe that we only have to ask to receive that which we need, want and desire.
Their gratitude drives them to not only to appreciate what they have been given but to care for those who gave it to them. It is a desire to give back, to demonstrate appreciation. As Cicero first noted: “Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others.”
Soul-centered spirituality is expressed by those that are intuitive and contemplative. They view life as a sacred journey. Their outlook tends toward the mystical and they are usually attracted to eclectic practices from other religions such as meditation, trance, divination, and chakras. Ritual is extremely important to them as means to connect to the Divine, and magick as a means to assert their will. Their religious tool box is usually full of crystals, altars and other magickal tools.
This spirituality is not necessarily exclusively internal though as ecopsychologists James Hillman writes: “an individual’s harmony with his or her ‘own deep self’ requires not merely a journey to the interior but a harmonizing with the environmental world. The deepest self cannot be confined to ‘in here’ because we can’t be sure it is not also or even entirely ‘out there’!” Carl Jung wrote in his autobiography about his increasing identification with the natural world when he said: “In fact it seems to me as if that alienation which so long separated me from the world has become transferred into my own inner world, and has revealed to me an unexpected unfamiliarity with myself.”
Mind-centered spirituality prefer orderly thought and intellectual exploration of life’s meaning. Knowledge and complex ideas nourish these types.
The Pagan community is full of free thinkers. It’s full of people who question authority, and who try to make right decisions based upon their own moral codes, rather than what may be popular or fashionable. They do not take things at face value, they ask questions, and they don’t accept what they are told just because someone tells you to or because it is written in a book.
Many Reconstructionists practice this spirituality as they emphasize the study of lore and the religious practices of the past to improve their own lives. They reject eclectic practices in favor of cultural specificity. By studying the ancient literature and the regional folklore, they try to envision what the religion might look like today if they had been uninterrupted by Christianity, remaining the same religion but changing in form with the changing times. They take great umbrage when their cultural religious practices and/or Gods are misappropriated and/or misinterpreted by Neo-pagan groups. They emphasize “hard” polytheism (many deities, each as a separate and distinct being), and have a skeptical attitude toward modern unifying theologies, such as Wiccan duotheism (“All gods are one God; all goddesses, one Goddess.”); the triple goddess paradigms (Maiden-Mother-Crone); and (3) Jungian archetypalism. Some Reconstructionist traditions include Asatru, Hellenismos, Romuva, Celtic Reconstructionists and Kemetic Revivalism.
Strength-centered spirituality see life as an opportunity to create a better society and seeks to serve others. Formal belief systems are less important to these types and direct action can be one of its expressions. Walking the talk with integrity is important for this type of spirituality to flourish. These are the social and environmental activists such as T. Thorn Coyle and Starhawk. Some of the causes promoted by pagan groups include environmental protection, gender and racial equality, LGBT rights and the preservation of sacred indigenous sites. They see the earth as alive, and as a living being they oppose those that want to destroy her. They also see human beings as embodiments of the sacred, as embodiments of the divine, and they cannot sit back and let people be oppressed, hurt, or made to suffer. As a minority religion, many Pagans are activists in preserving religious freedoms by supporting interfaith work and educating the public about their own religion in order to eliminate fears through such movements as the annual Pagan Pride Day held world-wide every year.
Think about your own path and those of others in the Pagan Community. None of these should be considered greater than another. Often there is overlap. The best part about exploring your spirituality is that it is yours. Don’t worry about what your spouse is doing or what your friend thinks, it is about what makes you happy. Discovering and enhancing your spiritual life is intensely personal, and while I encourage you to share some of your experiences with like-minded folk, make sure you’re surrounding yourself with supportive people. Be yourself and seek out whatever brings you into alignment with your own cosmic energy and inner peace.