I’m one of those people who can rarely accept “knowledge” at face value when it is provided to me. I’m too intellectually curious to just believe someone who either arbitrarily claims expert knowledge, or that has some authoritative body grant them some sign or papers that grant them the title of “expert”. I may defer to a person in the latter example, at least until I dig deeper into something and confirm their status, but I have an incredibly difficult time with accepting the basis for the claims of the former. They may know more than me, but I hardly think that it gives you the right to be claim expert status on a given subject. And, when much of their so-called expert knowledge is unsupported hypothesis or pure fantasy, I am quick to dismiss their self-proclaimed titles. Especially when, with a modicum of digging into their sources, it becomes clear that they didn’t really use those older sources, just referenced them to add credibility.
To give you an idea of how bothersome I can be, I argued with professors in college — questioning anything that I felt was of a suspect nature, which almost got me drummed out of my chemistry degree. Organic chemistry is a prime example of something more akin to religious faith and magic than it is to a proven subject of study. I think the only science that is hard to argue with is physics, and even that breaks down when you get super big or super small (until they find a way to unify those extremes via mathematical wizardry).
All of this makes it very difficult for me to find what I’m looking for when it comes to understanding some things, especially when they are things that are fraught with myth, fictions, and charlatans looking to make easy money.
As you have probably noticed, I’ve lately had a serious case of OCD when it comes to trying to understand what is going on in my head in a spiritual sense. I have a sense that these things I think and feel are not something that can be addressed through mere ritual and cognitive knowledge. I’ve left behind communities because I am disinterested in ritualistic performances filled with programmed phrasings that are largely reconstructed assumptions of what forebears might have done and said, but are largely creations of the past 50 years, perhaps 150 years (if you want to include the Egyptology-revivals and classical romanticism upon which most paganism is primarily based). Too much of that is opinion, rather than factual evidence.
I’m not trying to diss pagans and wiccans, I was practicing myself thirty years ago. But the more I realized that the bulk of it had no real historical evidence to support it, the more I was okay accepting that a huge chunk is fictionalized wishful thinking. That’s not bad, but let’s be honest about what it is instead of pretending it something that survived the assimilation process conducted by the Abrahamic religions. It is reconstructive based on what we think we know and based on the traditions that did survive in fragmentary forms. But… we don’t “know” for certain, in spite of all of the “expert” testimony otherwise. “Expert guesswork” is more appropriate, and may be the more correct way of thinking. But we don’t know and probably will never know for certain because nothing was written down by the people doing it — only by the conquering peoples, which is about as biased as you should expect.
When you realize that what we think we know about the Native American tribes is largely through the lens of the conquering Christian White man, and that was less that 200 years ago — how can we expect to think know anything about a clan/tribal community a thousand years ago without assuming that we are placing modern values on a community that did not share our technology or understanding if the world? That’s pretty egotistical for us to assume we know anything about what they believed without their words to support what we think.
That’s not to say we can’t glean ideas from what we think we know — I’m just trying to emphasize that we need to accept that we don’t so that we can begin to understand something deeper without looking towards fictionalized “histories” to guide us. Most of what we claim to know is based on the writings of a few Christian monks or conquering Roman historians. Or based on overlaying the habits of one culture a bit more modern onto the ancients. Think about that.
So, what this chronically verbose post is getting at is that I’m a bit miffed that I can’t find authentic information about what I feel deep inside that it is imperative for me to pursue. We go back to the whole zen/taoist mindset, then, and have to assume that there are no trustworthy sources for direct information, but that I have the information already that I just can’t see because I’m getting in my own way. So I need to step out of my shadow and look beyond that shadow, that “normal” framework.
But I don’t even have the words I feel I need, let alone the framework. So I look around and get frustrated by the lack of imagination in the people and books trying to provide guidance, as they fall into the same old habits of applying biased, untrustworthy knowledge to something that should be evolved, rather than refined.
Sometimes, I feel it is a lost cause to try to gather the threads.
Or, maybe I’m just as guilty as the purveyors of questionable knowledge, and I seek something to be handed to me instead of diving into the ice-cold ocean depths, to be shocked into waking up by the experience itself instead of being led by the nose towards understanding.
Maybe… there is only primal scream. And I am too busy whispering.