Is “Eclectic” a Dirty Word?

Most of what I write, when I write about deities, is about the Hellenic pantheon. There’s nothing wrong with that part of my spirituality, but I’m watching myself stagnate. I’m not as generative as I once was, and I’m not writing or researching as much as I need to be. I’ve been through this once before, and I have an inkling of what to do to remedy it. The answer, on first blush, might be dismissed as “eclectic.” Let me explain.

As a teen, after I got out of the sparkle-cloud of my mother’s New-Agery, when I first started to go to a brick and mortar bookstore by myself, there were three things that grabbed my heart: The Irish Deities, The Greek Deities, and the occult. Hermes, Dionysos, Medb, and Hashem were the first deities to approach me. The concept of divinity seemed baffling to me, and so I wanted to start to reason and science out the structure of the universe.

Ceremonial Magic was perfect for that. I took degrees and worked with teachers. I invented and built things. And then, after a time, I just stopped. The rituals weren’t helping me to grow anymore. I’d worked to solve every problem I could think up, and then I just couldn’t think up any more problems. I searched out authors I hadn’t read before, looked into magical systems I’d never seen before, but it still wasn’t new, really. I could see where it all came from, how it had been derived. I could acquire additional trivia and minutia, but in terms of my overall spiritual path, I had gotten out of it all that it had to offer me. Some people might assume that this is just what it means to be accomplished in the path. I drew a different conclusion.

A friend of mine was telling me Filipino folk tales. She told the tale of a land spirit that sounds close when it is far away, and sounds far away when it is close. The mystery of the truth is something like that. The closer you are, the farther away it seems. And if you feel like you’re right on top of it, you’ve got a long, long way to go.

I made the decision to branch out. I decided to deepen my connection to the Hellenic pantheon, and to research the mythos along certain lines. I did not, however, leave all that I had learned as a CM behind. I had come to understand CM not as a collection of rituals, or correspondences, or symbols, but as a method of engaging with a mythos. I understood it as a sort of three dimensional, living exegesis executed in color, movement, sound, smell and symbol. Everything in a temple setting must resonate to the cosmology you are working in. Every gesture is suffused with religious meaning. The names that are chanted, the type of incense lit, it’s not just from nowhere. If you understand the method, you realize that each of these choices, from the number of branches on a candelabra to the specific scents in an anointing oil, are all, each one of them, a theological statement. I applied that method to Greek Mythology, without inserting any foreign theological statements into it, and I’m pretty pleased with the results.

I make that sound so simple. There were so many tears, so many growing pains, so much confusion. I think I am revealing nothing that isn’t widely known when I reference the trope of the candidate being blindfolded or hoodwinked to represent groping through spiritual darkness. That type of initiation always gives you to understand that they offer you light and clarity. Here’s the practical truth: If you think you have the truth, then you’ve stopped seeking it. That’s the first step away from the path of wisdom.

Branching out into Hellenic Polytheism and out of my comfort zone made me a better Ceremonial Magician. Applying the method to Greek mythology, seeing where the method had to yield to the culture in order to maintain the spiritual integrity of Hellenic mysteries offered me something new and useful. After that exploration, I could finally return to what I had studied at first, and bring something new and vital to it.

I can see that it’s happening again. It’s not that I know everything there is to know about Hellenismos. Far from it. But I’ve learned the patterns and the principles. And I can see where the religion has come up short, in terms of how it serves its deities and its people.

I’m not going to suddenly abandon the Greek pantheon. You will pry my relationships with those gods out of my cold, dead fingers. I’m not going to abandon my unfinished works with respect to that pantheon, but without a passionate curiosity to pursue, I’ve got no fire in my engine, and I can’t go anywhere. Ironically, I can’t continue my work for the Greek pantheon until I find my curiosity and wonder again. A foray into something new will breathe life into my practice, as new discoveries and realizations always do.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll find what I’m looking for by studying what’s known of the pre-Christian traditions of the British Isles.

I need to worry about respect. I have some ancestors from up that way, but I can’t just waltz in and treat it like it’s mine. It’ll take years of study before I’ll be entitled to an opinion, so I won’t be writing about what I’m learning anytime soon. I have too many commitments elsewhere, in other pantheons, to ever pursue the path of becoming clergy. That’s not necessary for what I’m looking to do, anyway.

I know that people have had terrible experiences with those gods. I know that people say these gods aren’t safe. Some clergypeople say that these deities bully people and do them injury in the name of education. I hope that’s not true. I was a school teacher, and I object to the notion of educational injury on professional grounds. I hope, instead, that they will be gods that I can respect. But if I’m wrong, I’m not obligated to continue down this road. Medb, anyway, seems nice enough.

Respecting that not everything I try is going to work for me and that there is no shame in back-tracking is important. No pursuit is worth my well being, and there are always other traditions to look into.

Where I’ll start is making the rounds with those deities in journey, and letting them know where I stand, what my non-starters are, exactly what I’m there to do, and for approximately how long. I’ll gauge their reactions, and if they seem like deities I can work with, I’ll start to hunt down sources in earnest.

I know me. Once I get started on a research binge, I’ll be researching everything all at once, and the insights I gain in one place will open my thinking in other places.

So if this is eclecticism, does it seem thoughtless? Flakey? Less than worthy of respect? Ill-considered? Unhealthy? I don’t think so. And I think “eclectic” is not a dirty word.