My previous articles on this subject considered both the origins and applications of theology in both pre and documented history. Pre-history theology was subject to the direct revelatory aspect with documented history being subject to the agenda driven committee approach.
So what of present and future definitions? When one considers the amount of information now (largely) freely available to anyone with access to todays technology, the result is that people are now starting to take some responsibility for their own spirituality by redefining theological aspects.
Documented historical theology was subject to both committee agendas, designed to both control populations and create personal power-bases, and limited sources of information with which to define personal theological viewpoints. The 21st century sees us with more potential sources of information than any other time and with greater numbers of humans living than any other time in recorded history, that information base literally grows by the minute.
This leads to some specific problems in itself with all sorts of theories, some well meaning and others nothing but scurrilous attempts at relieving the individual of their cash reserves. This ability to be able to express viewpoints, as evidenced by my own blog for example, increase this potential. There are various conclusions one could draw from the whys and hows of this explosion of personal expression but it is not my intention to delve into this in any depth at this present minute in time. I am more interested in the direction, as viewed from my primarily pagan perspective.
My experience of Paganism came about, viewed from the perspective of hindsight, by perceived physical interactions with and through my local environment. Unlike many others this did not come about through interactions with named deities but through what I came to later understand as genius loci or spirits of place. As far as theology goes, this places my experiences outside the common ground spoke about by the Abrahamic religions. My understanding of these experiences meant that I could not perceive of these interactions being the result of an all pervading God, but was convinced by rational discourse that the source, was a distinct and separate entity capable of independent thoughts and actions.
Due to the understanding of the consequences of these interactions, paganism was best placed to represent a framework with which to better interpret these interactions. So, I came to first read about and later interact with pagans and pagan ideas. Initial forays into pagan forums produced some interesting interactions but it soon became apparent that there was no common framework with which to place my experiences. Worst, was that a lot of the people were totally wrapped up in personal interpretations that mirrored the worst excesses of the Abrahamic religions, showing a complete lack of either understanding or questioning of perspectives they held to contradict their own “special” relationship with nature.
Paganism, much like lots of other areas of life, was just as prone to personality domination. Unfortunately, this has been self-defeating as any cohesive frameworks generally to date, have been shown to be lacking when faced with rigorous examinations by motivated individuals from outside pagan spheres. It has also been my experience that a good deal of the individuals I came to think held some sort of cohesive and better than average concept of the consequences of pagan thinking, either voluntarily or through negative experiences, withdrew from the pagan “scene”, which has contributed to a lack of common framework. The freedom offered by paganism through lack of theology or the dreaded “D” word, dogma, reduces most to an entirely individualistic viewpoint.
There are examples of exceptions however and it is my belief that there may well be others for whom their own frameworks, probably when individuality gives a little to accommodate others in the cause of a common understanding, demonstrate some interesting aspects and understanding of common shared experience. One of these is representted by my friend Lee with his definition of theology and although my own experiences are not strictly in keeping with his, this is as good a definition that I have come across to date and as such, am happy to use as a workable model.
This is a good example of structured thinking and for me, demonstrates the potential for development as we progress into the future.