The answer to the notion of whether Pagans, Druids, and Wiccans along with practitioners of the Craft have reached a real point in time where we are legitimately seeking enlightenment or if we are merely partaking of a current trend or fad depends who you ask. In fact, the answer to the question can prove quite complex and all the possibilities can occur simultaneously.
You might encounter some individuals who are pursuing enlightenment, while others are merely on the bandwagon of what currently seems unique. Some people are sincere in the pursuit of their faith, spirituality, and desire to expand their intellectual and spiritual knowledge. Others are more interested in participating in the current trend that is seemingly acceptable by members of society or their community of peers. Then there are others who may hold a mere fascination for whatever strikes them as being on the fringe of societal acceptance.
Questions Leading to More Questions
- And just what is it that we all seek; most of us on the Pagan spiritual paths (mind you, not all Witches work within the confines of a religious system and are instead more along the lines of occult practitioners only) as all of us are approaching the path in different ways.?
- We often say the end goal is enlightenment, but what the heck does that mean really?
- Does the term enlightenment really hold meaning for modern day pagans or is it simply a catchall phrase for saying they seek heightened knowledge and understanding?
- And are we, as Pagans, really on the road to enlightenment through what we call a spiritual journey, or is this attempt at achieving enlightenment merely a passing fad or fancy?
- Is our question for enlightenment somehow driven by peer pressure, our desire to conform or defy conformity as we see fit, to rebel, to stand out, or is our desire for what we call enlightenment somehow media or commercially driven as we are bombarded with advertisements and other sources telling us who we should be, could be, and how we ought to behave?
- Finally, if we are ever moving forward to achieve this enlightenment we speak of, then what of our roots?
- Do we retain our traditions and assimilate new intellectual understandings, or do we shed the old and embrace only what is new?
WHEW? All those questions will leave your head spinning so, let’s break out the cauldron of wisdom and boil it all down to make it more palatable!
Attempting to define a word like enlightenment is like trying to nail down a wet noodle … it’s a difficult endeavor and you’ll only draw close to success. Why? Because enlightenment is subjective and different people from different cultures, traditions, religious systems and walks of life will define enlightenment a bit differently. In 1865, the word enlightenment was used to describe “the spirit of independent thought as well as the rationalistic system” used by the continental philosophers of the time. In a figurative sense the term points to “spiritual enlightenment.” So, what exactly is this enlightened but elusive thing it is we all seek? A look at the word enlighten gets on the track of starting to understand when used in a figurative sense, “enlighten” references a person’s heart or eyes and the “removal of blindness or darkness.” In the 1580s, the word meant to “shed a source of light upon something in order to light it up, but by the 1660s the word then starts to refer to intellectual light or understanding. In looking at the etymology of “enlighten,” we come to understand that there is something we claim we are blind too, something we want to shed light on and that something we seek might be intellectual light or understanding … but what?
Kant and His Take on Enlightenment
In “What is Enlightenment,” Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher, suggests that enlightenment “is man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage. Nonage is a reference to a person who requires the guidance of another rather than the reliance on one’s own knowledge, particularly because the person is indecisive and cowardly or frightened to depend on his own wisdom without the acceptance or guidance of someone else. Kant also suggests that “the motto of enlightenment is …Sapare aude, Dare to know! or to ‘Have the courage to use your own understanding.’”
If we consider Kant’s argument about enlightenment, it would then suggest that today’s pagans, Druids, Wiccans, and Witches achieve enlightenment if they are brave enough to declare and recognize their own wisdom without reliance on another. That means we need to be courageous enough to embrace what is taught to us, but that we also need to trust our own critical thought processes. We also need to pass on accepting the minor role in our lives as we take the lead and responsibility for our wisdom and its application. Moreover, the acceptance of mediocrity, immaturity, and a lack of any kind of resolution to become autonomous (having the freedom to act independently or actually acting on one’s own) is what helps a person achieve an enlightened state of being.
Kant also suggests that if we willingly accept “spoon-fed dogma” we fail to cultivate the mind. How do we break free from the dogma … Kant says “reason” is what this philosopher says separates the enlightened from the “unthinking masses.”
When it comes to religion in particular, however, Kant explains that when any religion takes on an “unalterable set of doctrines,” this hinders the ability for the followers to gain any kind of enlightenment beyond what is already taught. He calls this kind of thinking wrong and immoral for the teachings of one age should not place a limitation on the thinking of another, especially if such knowledge can improve upon the former.
Buddha and Enlightenment
When Buddha speaks of enlightenment his teachings step things up a notch by suggesting enlightenment is not only wisdom or perfect knowledge but it is something coupled with “infinite compassion.” Knowledge, to Buddha, is not the mere accumulation of facts, but an understanding of the way things appear and the true nature of what it is that appears to us. This enlightenment, including knowledge of the self, is what puts an end to human suffering and ignorance, with the latter meaning a skewed understanding of reality. According to Buddha ignorance is the rival of inward peace and it is self-perpetuating; and, finally, Buddha made one more thing very apparent – to all those seeking enlightenment, there are only a few questions one should seek to answer when looking to become enlightened wherein other questions become superfluous. It is best to focus on attaining enlightenment only and limiting one’s personal quest to that aim.
So, What is Enlightenment and Are We Heading in the Right Direction?
We often say the end goal is enlightenment, but what the heck does that mean really? Does the term enlightenment really hold meaning for modern day pagans or is it simply a catchall phrase for saying they seek heightened knowledge and understanding? If we look at Kant’s definition of enlightenment, many Pagans, the Druids, and those of the Wiccan faith are indeed enlightened as they take on the courage to pursue and learn about a religion that is very different than others. If are brave enough to trust our own knowledge, to voice our opinions, and to embrace ancestral teachings while still bravely assimilating new knowledge and adapting the teachings according to their betterment, then we are on the path of enlightenment. But does this mean every Pagan, Witch, Druid, or Wiccan is seeking enlightenment in this sense, while many are, there are certainly exceptions to the “rules.”
When Buddha speaks of enlightenment his teachings step things up a notch by suggesting enlightenment is not only wisdom or perfect knowledge but it is something coupled with “infinite compassion.” Knowledge, to Buddha, is not the mere accumulation of facts, but an understanding of the way things appear and the true nature of what it is that appears to us. This enlightenment, including knowledge of the self, is what puts an end to human suffering and ignorance, with the latter meaning a skewed understanding of reality. According to Buddha ignorance is the rival of inward peace and it is self-perpetuating; And, finally, Buddha made one more thing very apparent – to all those seeking enlightenment, there are only a few questions one should seek to answer when looking to become enlightened wherein other questions become superfluous. It is best to focus on attaining enlightenment only and limiting one’s personal quest to that aim.
If we consider the teachings of Buddha, to be enlightened you’ll need to pursue wisdom, but you’ll also need to be open to giving and receiving compassion. As Wiccans, Pagans, Druids, and Witches, it is high time to seek out the true self; the one you might call the enlightened one, and we need to be compassionate with ourselves and others upon our journey. The practitioner must cast aside the ego to achieve spiritual enlightenment and should focus his or her thoughts and questions on attaining the wisdom leading to enlightenment. Are we all meeting the suggested requirements that Buddha sets forth as the road to spiritual enlightenment? Many of us might be working toward that end, but doesn’t mean we all are.
Other Ideas about Enlightenment
One school of thought suggests a person can only be enlightened if they have dissolved the identity and eliminated the ego dependent mind. Few, if any people would or could meet this type of expectation. Other schools of thought already tell us we are all enlightened being, with some of us sleeping and the others wide awake. Moreover, these two definitions can be readily merged into a single idea suggesting that consciousness is a state that is enlightened and forever awake while we are all at various degrees of wakefulness, and that we further become enlightened once we develop an awareness of our consciousness. At the same time a distinction is always made between awakened and enlightened wherein the awakened state is movement toward the end result of enlightenment.
Is your brain on fire yet? Perhaps you’ve been Illuminated!
Following a Fad or Fulfilled: Which One Are You?
So, for Pagans, Druids, and Wiccans along with practitioners of the Craft who are practicing the old religions in the modern day … are we on the road to enlightenment and do we retain our roots while on this most interesting of spiritual journeys? Let’s do a rundown of all the possible suggestions defining enlightenment while simultaneously remember the teachings of Kant who argues we should, in the end, rely on our own knowledge and not the knowledge of dogmatic teachings. (To that end, that is to say, that the writings in this article can in no way really define if you are on the path to enlightenment or not … only you can and you will have to cast aside ego and trust your own intellect in determining the answer). Many of us are, as Buddha prescribes, compassionate and seeking knowledge as we master the concepts of the physical and individual realities and how the actual state of things differs from what we have seen and experienced on this physical plane. Many of us are aware of our consciousness and to varying degrees, so yes, we are on the path to spiritual enlightenment.
And then …
Spiritual Fulfillment and Living a Faith-Oriented Life
There are members of every religious group mentioned in which there are likely more than one less than serious practitioner, someone willing to accept mediocrity, one or more willing to lack the courage to rely on one’s own intellect; one or more who relies on stereotypical understandings, or even a few who is simply looking to try out a religious system out for size without necessarily committing to its practices. There are bound to be some pagans, Druids, and Wiccans or Craft that are practitioners who follow the rigid tenants they have been introduced to through the study of a single tradition, and some may even partake of pagan practices to be a big rebel for a period before they grow into maturity.
Some people may indeed, jump on the spiritual bandwagon because they are interested in learning about the practice of their choosing, but they don’t know where to start, and they grow an interest in the religion or practice because it seems intriguing, enticing, different, or something that can enable them to form an identity that is so very different than the norm: And yes, for some it is fad and once they’ve grown tired of participating, they withdraw from the practice entirely. The truth of the matter is each and every one of us is responsible for pursuing perfect knowledge, our awakening, our enlightenment and the means of how we achieve it. If we are serious in the pursuit it is likely a lifelong journey as more knowledge can be assimilated into existing knowledge to continuously expand one’s understandings – this is something that can happen infinitely and eternally.