The Future of Pagan Leadership, Part 3
Pagan Leadership is a dream. It is a idea that is more believed in than actually exists. After all, we see that the Pagan Community Movement is filled with independent people who have a disdain for centralized and top-down management. That leadership is based on influence and control of resources, and not from a political or governmental system. That there is no central authority, no even a central local authority that can claim control over the terms we use as Pagans. It is a community that lives for the individual freedom of rights and leadership is totally self-designated. It is not one that appears to worry much about the future as it does the eternal now. The question is, is this enough?
The first answer is yes, as it must be if we are to remain true to our roots. That yes, the leadership rooted in dealing with crisis, with politics, with resources, and influence is the fairest way as it exerts the least amount of coercion on the community. This forces cooperation, compromise, consensus, schisms and radical independent action to run in parallel routes, sometimes converging for great success or colliding to cause deep conflicts in the community. This system is the most likely to allow the core of independence of action and thought, personal relationship with deity, and to interpret the world for oneself to continue.
Leadership through education is the most embedded form of leadership in the community. In Wicca, the person you learned from has a lot to do with your position in the community. It's called lineage, and it traces who taught you to be a Witch. It is part of the concept that it takes a Witch to make a Witch. Other Traditions of Paganism hold similar positions of authority through education. This was because education and real information was rare, limited, and to be secretive. While it is relevant today, we are now awash in information, and most younger Pagans follow no lineage whatsoever.
In place of individual teachers, you have the emergence of Teaching Circles and Schools. Basically, sharing the responsibility of education with more people. This allows more skills to be shared, and a diversity of ideas. Even the eldest members have evolved to allow their own students to share in teaching the youngest and newest members. This has been the process to which we emerged out of Agricultural communities into modern society, from fringes of civilization to the attention of mainstream culture.
The fact that before Gardner in Wicca, and Zell for the modern Pagan movement, what was Witchcraft and Paganism were small hidden and secretive groups, which were deeply rooted into agricultural aspects of the practices that would be fuel for a modern movement. The way they studied was largely word of mouth, oral traditions, and only a handful of writings. Any surviving writings were mostly in the form of recipes in the low magick and academic books and grimiores for the high magicks. These were simple conveyance of knowledge, in person, and slow to transmit.
When Gardner published, he set forth a mass publishing movement, and basically dragged hidden ideas and even groups out to the light of day. He began a mass movement in the best tradition of the industrial society he was very much a member of. Within a few years, Wicca and the larger Pagan movement moved from a simpler system of education of in person and apprenticeship based training common to the middle ages to full-fledged industrial based modern education tools, not the least of which was mass published books. Magazines, Books, Newspapers, Mimeographs, Telephone communication, were unleashed to spread the seeds of these newly born or awakened faith practices. From 1960 on the Pagan community has been developing its ability to convey ideas and teach others. Today hundreds of thousands of practitioners claim Paganism in one form or another, including Wicca as their religion and faith practice. This became possible only through mass publication of materials, which increased dramatically the number of people able to learn and then turn around and teach others.
In the mid-70's, the emerging Internet and the computer age was already beginning to change society. Jimmy Carter became the first presidential candidate and then president to use email. Other technologies were brewing that would change how we do everything. By the early 90's, the Internet had begun to really communicate between people, and with the invention of the World Wide Web and Browsers, the Internet was about to change completely how we communicate and teach.
To say Paganism took to the Internet was an understatement. Paganism allowed very small populations, small as one person, to begin communicating with other small groups of people, intimately and in mass, as needed. The cost to communicate came down in price, and the ability to send an email was nearly a insignificant cost. Paganism joined the Third wave of civilization, the Digital Age, which was different than the industrial age it just caught up with, and barely attached to the Agricultural age that Paganism was part of only a few decades earlier. Pagans were late to the industrial age culture but they became frontline adopters of digital age technology.
From this creation of the Internet came faster growth, and increased educational opportunities. From just two Pagan based schools online, Cherry Hill Seminary, specializing in Advanced Clergy Training, and Witch School, specializing in basic Wiccan education, in 2001, to literally hundreds of schools and me-too schools worldwide. It has become possible in a very short period of time to establish a tradition, write it's ideas, share them with the world, and get people to practice them in their entirety, or at least at some level adopt a few practices for their own lives. Once again instead of seeing a monolithic system of a few big school dictating how people and what people should learn, you have hundreds of individuals striking out on their own, to create their school, in their image, developing their ideas. In this case leadership is developed by the quality of the teachings and the following thereof. It is based on how many people share the ideas and self-identity of any school, tradition, or philosophy, and willing to practice, support, and pass on the ideas.
In the next step, Leadership through education will come from those individuals, groups, and traditions that offer even deeper tools. Those tools which teach and prepare our children for life. While the main battle today is who has the right to teach at all, and the principle of Clergy, it is an argument and debate that basically has been decided. It is when we get into teaching the next generation will the real battle over what we will teach begin. The teaching of children is to lead the next generation in how they view the world. This is where future leadership will be developed.
Since education is foundational to any culture, and is the birthplace of a civilization, then the next few generations of leaders will be focused on creating educational system that prepares and leads children and then adults to success in life. This is essential for survival. It is not enough to teach children and adults a philosophy that helps them emotionally and mentally. Without being able to apply this to their lives and find success in terms of their quality of life and accomplishing life goals, there is little hope for a future.
So one part of the question of the future of Paganism is how will we educate our children. The answer will be the same as it always has been for at least the next generation, and that will be those individuals that will take on the tasks to create the education and collect the resources needed. They will not need to ask permission, nor be required by any particular tradition to approve their programs. The leaders of the future, will be those who focus our powerful skills sets and knowledge on developing the education needed to answer our mutual challenges, leading us to success, and help us in difficult times.
The question is where will these future educators find the resources they need. The answer goes to who can gather resources and use them well, and willing to share them with these potential leaders.
To be continued.