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The Author's Corner

  

Gus DiZerega

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Pagans & Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience

Pagans and Christians:
TWPT Talks to  Gus DiZerega

2001TWPT


TWPT: What was your first experience of spirituality in your life and what kind of impact did that make on you?

GZ:  That's hard to pinpoint.  In retrospect, I had experiences while young that did not fit what I then thought of as being spiritual in nature, but which now fit how I understand it.  Perhaps the earliest of those was when I was in high school, maybe a bit earlier.  I had been wondering whether God existed or whether everything was meaningless.  I was outside, in our yard, walking towards my house.  I suddenly had the most powerful and visceral experience that everything was deeply significant.  The experience was so deep that, at some level, that issue was settled for me.  That is, while I still knew nothing much about the God issue, I did deeply believe that everything in some sense ultimately mattered.

I have always had a deep love for and sense of connection with wild nature, of the wild in all its beauty and mystery.  Again, for most of my life I would not have termed that "spiritual" in any sense - in part because I thought of Spirit in only transcendental terms.  But now I would, and that sense has been with me about as long as I can remember.

TWPT:  When was it that you decided that there was a definite spiritual component to your life and that you had to do something about it or with it?

DZ:  Well, that doesn't really have a definite date or point.  It sort of crept up on me.  Certainly a sense of the meaningfulness of life has largely been with me ever since the experience I just related.  Later, in high school, I tried for about a year to be a fundamentalist Christian,.  It seemed to me then that if the Bible was the word of God, as everyone around me seemed to think, then certainly the most literal interpretation was the clearest.  After all, who are we to try and interpret what God says? 

That didn't last.  I never really felt the presence of God, and too much fear and denial of the evidence I saw around me was required to maintain that view.  I set it aside with a feeling of both relief and dread.  But in some sense I was still seeking.  Later, in college, I was attracted to Eastern thought, largely through reading Alan Watts and experiences with psychedelics.  Taoism seemed very appealing, but Taoists were hard to find.  For a long time I remained very interested in Buddhism, but was always put off by its seeming rejection of the goodness of the world.  I had always had a profound connection to nature, and as I heard and read about Buddhism, it seemed that it didn't.  Yet it still appealed, probably n part because it was associated in my mind with the Himalayas.  Nature brought me inner peace and Buddhism talked of inner peace, and so the two became kind of joined together, so long as I didn't read too many Buddhist writings about the suffering of existence and the like. 

Later I was intrigued by Judaism.  I think both Buddhism and Judaism appealed to me at least in part because they were traditions which honored and respected learning - the opposite of my Christian experience - and I was very much into my head. 

But I became neither Buddhist nor Jew, and in time settled into a very private confidence that Spirit existed, that the fact that it existed was very important to me, and that no one seemed to know anything very reliable about the matter.

It would be many years more before I had the powerful experiences that led me to where I am today.

TWPT:  Tell me about those initial steps on this newfound spiritual path and how it made you feel?

DZ:  Well, they were explorations. But at the time they didn't seem to lead anywhere.  Sometimes I would even attend workshops, although not often.  Mostly I would read books. 

What kept me interested, I guess, was that I would have intense psychic experiences every few years, experiences which would then cease.  For example, I saw auras around a guy who I was listening to - a man named Jack Schwarz.  No one else I talked to there could see them, but he confirmed that they were as I described. (Schwarz was doing a series of talks on healing and energy.)  I didn't see them around anyone else, but throughout his series of talks I saw them around him.  It would be many years before I would begin to be able to see such phenomena again.  And I have never since seen anything as impressive as I saw around him.

Similarly, years later, for a week or so I experienced almost nightly sessions of astral projection.  So much so that it became a bother - sometimes I just wanted a peaceful night's sleep.  And then they went away - and almost never came back.  In retrospect, these experiences were kind of like getting a reminder from the universe every few years to remember that consensual academic and scientific reality wasn't the whole story.  But then I would be left alone to get my academic work done, until the next reminder.

Interestingly, throughout this time I always felt most whole, most at peace, most fulfilled, when out in wild nature - but still never thought of this as spiritual.  Spirituality for me had either to be incredible transcendental experiences such as I never felt I had had, except on psychedelics, or deep philosophy.  I didn't think of auras and astral projection as spiritual either - they were psychic.  This latter view I still have.

TWPT:  Who were the people that had the most influence on you during that formative stage?

DZ:  As I said, Alan Watts was very important.  I was particularly drawn to his discussion of Taoism - because of its connection to nature.  But I didn't know where to go with that, although I ended up studying Chinese history a great deal.

In retrospect another guy was important: "T. Lobsong Rampa" if I remember his name correctly.  I understand he was in many ways a fake - or at least a great exaggerator.  But one of his books taught me to see what he called the "etheric film," the densest of the subtle energy fields around the body.  For many years - over a decade - this was basically a curiosity for me.  Not much more because I didn't know what to do with it or really what it meant except that there was more to the world that official reality would grant.  But when I first noticed something unusual about the space around Jack Schwarz, it was Rampa's technique that I used that ultimately enabled me to see his aura, and more.

In retrospect, it is amusing that I never paid attention to shamanic traditions, which I felt were primitive, or to Western occultism, let alone Witchcraft, which I suspected were either imaginary or evil. 

TWPT:  When was it that you decided on a specific spiritual path and began seriously training in it? Could you tell me how you went about seeking out those who eventually were to train you.

DZ:  Many years later, soon after receiving my Ph.D. in 1984, I was invited to a Midsummer Sabbat in the hills above Berkeley.  When the Goddess was invoked, She came.  My life has never the same.  It was the most beautiful experience I had ever had - it immersed me in beauty and love far beyond anything I could have imagined.  I began studying formally for initiation into Wicca at that point - but that was my real initiation.

My first teachers were in the Gardnerian and NROOGD (New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn) traditions.  The person who had invited me to that Sabbat became my first formal teacher.  We are still close.

TWPT:  Were there any books and/or resources that you found to be helpful as you began your studies?

DZ:  I read almost everything I could find.  Back then there wasn't nearly the variety of books on Neopaganism that exists today.  But many that did exist were quite good.  I particularly liked work by Doreen Valiente and by Stewart and Janet Farrar.  Starhawk's The Spiral Dance and Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon were also very helpful.  But if I had to pick the most important, I'd say books by Valiente and the Farrars.

TWPT:  What was your impression of the spiritual climate of the society that surrounded you at this time and how did it affect the way that you practiced your faith?

DZ:  I was living in Berkeley at the time.  Berkeley is one of the most diverse places that exists in the US.  Spiritual diversity is just one of the ways in which it spreads an incredible cornucopia before anyone open to new experiences.  It was a place where you could be Pagan and feel safe.

TWPT:  Did your study with the Brazilian shaman Antonio Costa e Silva take place before or after you had started your studies in Gardnerian Wicca and what was it that you took away from the experience?

DZ:  My studies with Antonio came later.  Basically, I had experienced some powerful possessory and kundalini experiences, and no one in the Neopagan community to whom I talked seemed able to shed much light on what was happening to me.  The energy flowing through my body in a Wiccan circle would get so strong that when I pulled my athame out, it would weave all around as I tried without success to hold my arm still.  In a small circle a wildly weaving athame made some folks nervous...

Anyway, Timothy White, who now edits Shamans Drum magazine told me that what was happening to me was good, but that I would likely find the best instruction around these things within the African spiritual community, which is very healthy in the Bay Area.

When I went, I was warmly received.  Even so, I held back from joining, primarily because of the animal sacrifice.  I do not condemn it, but it is not what I wanted to get involved with.  So I would go to rituals and enjoy myself, but not really join.  I kept waiting for something to happen, something to open up for me.

At one of those drummings I met a woman who worked with Antonio.  She invited me to come by his healing circle, which he held every week in Berkeley.  As soon as I walked in the door, I fell into trance.  Later that night, after my having had some very physical and powerful reactions to the energies with which he worked, he asked me to study with him.  I said yes.  I stayed six years.

I took away a great deal from that experience.  While my primary spiritual devotion is to the Goddess, there is a world of difference between a tradition such as Neopaganism, where continuity with ancient roots has for all intent and purposes been severed for centuries, even if a little managed to hold on, and a tradition with strong unbroken lineages leading back perhaps to the Pleistocene or earlier.  In particular, both my trance and healing work developed immeasurably during the years I worked with Antonio.  My contact with the spirit world also went from infrequent to a normal daily occurrence.

TWPT:  Tell me about your progression through the Gardnerian degree system to where you are now. Do you still practice within a coven system?

GZ:  Gardnerian Wicca has a system of three degrees, culminating in recognition of one's authority to start a new coven.  I progressed through all these degrees over the years and believe that the coven structure is probably the optimal one for Wiccan practice.  However, I currently am and have long been a solitary.

Coven work requires geographical stability, and that blessing has not come my way for many years.  Certainly starting a coven requires a little more than a three year commitment on the part of the initiator, because that is the absolute minimal time it takes for a newcomer to become a third degree Gardnerian.  I have not had that kind of stability for many years.

So, while I am not currently in a coven - indeed, to my knowledge there are no covens in any traditions, open for members or otherwise, within about 50 miles of where I live - I look forward to the day when I will be again a member of one.

TWPT:  When was it that writing surfaced in your life?

GZ:  I have enjoyed writing since at least high school, when I was active on the school paper as well as in The Enterprise, a small publication a number of us put together on our own initiative.

TWPT:  Did you know at the time that you would eventually be a published author?

GZ:  Well, in a sense, I started off being published in High School!  But I never thought of myself as really being a writer, or really of having much to say, till many years later. Even when I received my Ph.D., I was worried that after I published my dissertation I would have nothing else to write about!

I don't have that worry now.

TWPT:  What were some of your initial forays into the realm of writing?

GZ:  My initial efforts were political.  Growing up in Kansas in the 50s and early 60s, it was hard not to grow up conservative.  And I was no exception.  I was among a group of conservative high school students who published our own little magazine to win converts and stir up controversy.

My politics began to change after going to college and learning more about the Vietnam War.  I became progressively more libertarian in the free market sense.  That means that while sharing some values with conservatives, I was very anti-war, anti-draft, and pro-civil liberties.  My writing changed with these changes in my understanding of the world, but I still stuck to political topics and considered myself primarily an activist.

By the end of my undergraduate years or soon afterwards I had become increasingly skeptical of any of the dominant political ideologies, right or left, and also was becoming less involved in organized political activity. I was finding out the hard way that political organizations were not the place to ask searching questions or probe the outer limits of their assumptions.

By that time I was also writing a fairly regular newspaper column for some papers in the Midwest.  But even here I was increasingly frustrated by the fact that the more I learned about social and political issues the more complex they became, and the column format didn't allow me to do them justice.  Or so it seemed at the time.

In retrospect, a well-written column can do even complex issues justice but only when the writer is very grounded as to his or her framework for making sense of the world.  At this time I was entering a period where my ideological roadmaps were all proving unreliable. I was discovering that I didn't understand the world as well as I thought I had, and so that kind of writing was becoming more difficult and less fulfilling.

So when I went to Berkeley for my Ph.D. in political theory I put less and less energy into that kind of writing, and immersed myself in academic study instead.

TWPT:  Tell me about your Ph. D in Political Theory and how that fits into the scheme of things in your life?

GZ:  That's a pretty big and complex question.  I entered graduate school because I was dissatisfied with the kinds of political analysis I was encountering. Everyone seemed to be working within their own narrow little box, largely ignoring any insights from other boxes if they were in the slightest bit politically or intellectually competitive.

In a couple of senses my dissertation was the culmination of my effort to re-think modern political theory, and to gain a better understanding of political democracy, of s strengths and its weaknesses. My dissertation brought together what I had learned from both right and left wing perspectives in a way that fit neither framework in any very orthodox way, but which seemed far more adequate than the traditional approaches.  My first book, Persuasion, Power and Polity is a reworking of that argument.

At the same time my Ph.D. was a different kind of culmination.  It was only a matter of a few months after receiving my degree that I had the spiritual experiences which led me to the Craft, to study with Antonio, and to the kind of work I do now.

When I completed my Ph.D. my life plans were to get a decent teaching job and settle down into a quiet academic life.  Discovering the reality of the spirit world, and particularly of the Goddess threw a rather large wrench into those plans.  After spending many years mastering the modern world-view, I discovered that in certain pretty fundamental ways, a pre-modern, even "Pleistocene", conception of the world was more accurate.

My intellectual work since then has been in large part trying to find a harmonious understanding between modernity and the reality of an inspirited world.  Yet there is also a continuity.  From the time I first turned against the Vietnam War I have periodically been faced with the challenge of finding an old view of things to be inadequate in important respects, but not obviously wrong in everything.  Over and over again I have sought to keep hold of what I still found true in my older understanding while trying to integrate it with the larger and deeper context that now surrounded it. It is just that as time passed the kinds of integration I attempted became progressively more challenging.

TWPT:  What brought about your interest in finding the common ground between Paganism and Christianity?

GZ:  That grew out of my initial book idea.  At first I was interested in using Christianity as a kind of foil to develop some insights I believe are contained within Pagan spirituality - and at the same time to provide lots of good "ammunition" for Pagans when they encountered Evangelical Christians.  And those parts of my plan have certainly been carried out. But my initial project was more along the lines of a big pamphlet than a book.

But as I wrote the manuscript I found my views of Christianity becoming more nuanced, and in important respects more sympathetic.  The culmination of that process was a mystical experience in the Colorado Rockies that I relate in the book.  The result was not that I became Christian.  I am still entirely Pagan in my perspective.  But I could see for myself what some of the spiritual truth that others found so transformative in Christianity really was.

And so I gained a deeper appreciation of interfaith work and interfaith perspectives.  I had already been involved in such work for a long time - but had initially seen it as simply wise politics for a misunderstood minority religion, such as Wicca, to cultivate a network of connections and friendly relations with people of other faiths.  I still think that is wise politics.

But I now have a deeper appreciation of the genuine spiritual insights that can come from interfaith work and in that sense my book ended up emphasizing common ground far more than I had initially thought it would. The tone became less a debate - although there are certainly parts where that is the case - and more inviting a joint exploration of the world of Spirit, where that world is far vaster than any human understanding can grasp.

TWPT:  When was it that this interest led you to write your current book Pagans and Christians?

GZ:  As you see, the causal relation is the other way around.  It was through writing the book that my focus on finding common ground strengthened.

TWPT:  What kinds of attitudes exist on the Christian side of this equation towards finding common ground? How many are actually seeking common ground and how many are so set in their "one way" mentality that they could care less about finding common ground?

GZ:  Christianity is even more complex that the Neopagan community - in part because so many people are Christians and because they've had so long to find diverging interpretations of their scriptures.  Just because there is a monolithic scripture doesn't mean there is a monolithic interpretation. (And of course, the scriptures aren't monolithic.  There are differences between Catholic and Protestant Bibles.)

Well, there are Christians who want everyone to become like them.  Some hold these views for mostly neurotic psychological reasons.  A book like mine will not interest them.  But others of these will be drawn to this book if for no other reason than so they can better combat Pagan errors.  Hopefully they will find something more challenging than they imagine. At the very least, they will discover that the stereotypes prevalent among the most anti-Pagan Christian groups are completely off base.

Some Christians are very interested in other faith communities, and this book would be useful for them.  Perhaps they have friends or family members who are Pagan.  Perhaps they are simply interested in the various ways people seek to come into a better relationship with the Sacred.  Many liberal Christians have a deep interest in and appreciation for other spiritual paths.  I hope they will all find my book worth reading.  I have received "fan mail" from such folks, and it is really gratifying to do so. I wanted to write a frank and reasonably searching book about our two paths, but not one that could be construed as anti-Christian.  Just pro-Pagan. This mail convinced me that some Christians see this and appreciate it.

Other Christians will be having various kinds of crises of faith because they believe in a divine reality but what they experience in their church is not fulfilling to them.  Or maybe they will be in doubt because the claims of their ministers and traditions to a "objective" interpretation of Scripture are no longer satisfying. They may be feeling trapped by interpretations that ask them to set their minds aside when they get involved in religion.  I hope this book will prove useful for them no matter what they do with what they learn.

But many Christians are not particularly interested in other spiritual traditions.  I am impressed with the number of lay Christians I know who have very personal interpretations of Scripture, and who pay very little attention to others' various claims for having the best understanding. Their religion is personal to them and they are happy with it at that level. They are happy with what they do, and are also willing to let others alone. Unless family members or friends give them my book, they are unlikely to read it.

TWPT:  Do you find that there are fundamentalist mentality Pagans springing up in our movement in response to the hardline Christian elements in our society who have zero tolerance towards other paths?

GZ:  I think there are such Pagans - but they are not responding to fundamentalist Christians.  Rather, many Americans have accepted the idea that there can be perfectly objective information on matters of spirituality, and that sacred texts record such invariant truths. This literalist attitude towards sacred texts even carries over to how many see our Constitution, which is another kind of sacred American text.  Many claim to know the "original intent" behind the writing of our Constitution.

So this is a general cultural trait in our society, one that carries over into any text that is regarded as foundational. It is not surprising for some Pagans to carry these attitudes into their practice, treating their Book of Shadows, or maybe the Spiral Dance, as a kind of Bible.

For example, I am a Gardnerian.  Some Gardnerians, although far from all, have managed to extract many absolutist principles from our Book of Shadows, and perhaps our oral traditions.  They claim absolute knowledge as to what Gardnerianism really is.  They also show the same kind of picking and choosing, and arbitrary interpretation combined with absolute certainty, that characterizes Christian fundamentalists.

Interestingly, British Gardnerians do not have this attitude - belief in literal interpretations of sacred texts is not as strong in England.   So "Pagan fundamentalism" is not motivated by Christian attacks, it is motivated  by habits of thought about spirituality that these Pagans carried with them into Paganism, often from their previous Christian affiliations.

The fundamentalist error is that the message carried by printed words in scripture or Books of Shadows is confused with the words themselves.  Since the words are "objectively" there as black forms on white paper, it seems to some that their meaning must be equally objectively there as well.  But no text is ever completely objective.  Every text, Biblical or otherwise, requires the exercise of personal judgment at some level for its interpretation. 

In Pagans and Christians I discuss at some length the Christian argument that their access to Spirit is more "objective" than our own because they have a text whereas we have only our judgment.  I demonstrate they are wrong on both counts- that their text is not objective and that we face no greater problems of interpretation drawing meaning from nature's cycles than they do from Biblical stories.

I think that fundamentalist Pagans have even less warrant for their positions than do fundamentalist Christians, because of the role personal experience plays in our spirituality and because none of our texts make claims to sacred revelation binding on all.  However, it is normal for new adherents to a religion to bring with them attitudes from their former faith - as indeed Christians used to observe about their new converts from Paganism!

TWPT:  Other than taking a hardline ourselves what other approaches do we have available to us as Pagans to at least protect our rights to practice our religion without fear? 

GZ:  I'm not sure what you mean by "hard line."  I think we should be clear and firm that our tradition is a good one, that we find it sacred, and the equal of any other.  But, to me, "hard line" implies an aggressive attitude towards other spiritual traditions.  I think such an attitude misses the inner meaning of Pagan spirituality: that Spirit is immanent in all things, and so can manifest in many different ways.  There is no reason to take a hard line, but there is plenty of reason to take a firm one.

I think we are also the fortunate heirs of the American Revolution and the Bill of Rights, which guarantees religious freedom.  In practice bigoted judges and politicians can - and have in the past - undermined those guarantees.  The Bob Barrs of the world will always be with us.  But I think the time is coming when they will have a harder time getting elected.

I think we should also make a firm demand that any rights granted to more mainstream religions - such as holding after school meetings - also be open to Pagans.  I think openness and firmness are the best guarantees for religious freedom in American society, despite the fact that there will be bigots - Christian and secular alike, by the way - who will seek to strike out at us.  I have lost a teaching position because of my beliefs, so I know that these things can happen.   But I believe this kind of thing will happen less the more public we are.

Of course, local circumstances can vary.  Sometimes it is best to stay in the broom closet.  But for those of us who have the option, I think the greatest service we can do for all Pagans is to be open and very matter of fact about who we are and what we do: open to spread awareness, matter of fact to reduce fear in others.

TWPT:  From your research and study into the interactions between our two faiths, what is the climate like for those who decide to finally step out of the closet and go public with their beliefs? What kind of reception might one receive to living out our faith in the public eye?

GZ:  I think it varies with place and region.  But where I currently live - which is in a culturally conservative part of the country - I have had no problems thus far with being quite open as to my beliefs.  I do not advertise them.  But neither do I keep quiet about them.  To be sure, I also am in a campus environment, and things might change as Pagans and Christians becomes better known around town.  Still, I see increasing acceptance by many people that Wicca, and Neopaganism generally, is simply another religious path. In this respect I think the Pagan outreach programs of organizations like Covenant of the Goddess have done enormous service to Pagans everywhere.

Of course there will always be religious people who think we are satanically deluded and secular folks who consider us irrational.  But in my experience most people are more curious than hostile. 

TWPT:  Do you see a time in the near future when Pagans will have reached significant enough numbers to be seen as more than just a cult movement in the U.S. and around the world?

GZ:  Yes I do.  In fact I think we are already largely there.  There is much about Pagan spirituality that is particularly relevant and helpful to contemporary conditions, and which speaks to many people.  As people find out about it, a certain number will continue to be attracted to what we do.  We will grow.

I understand that the growth of Neopagan publishing is significantly higher than the growth of spiritual publishing generally.  As a rule, publishers only publish books if they think they will sell.  So I think for better and for worse we are growing - and mostly it's for the better.

We need also to remember that Neopagans are part of a much wider Pagan spiritual world.  Because its focus is often on place, and practices are culturally specific, it is not as obvious to the unaided eye as Christianity or Islam.  But the populations of Pagans in the world are truly very large.  For example, the second most populous nation in the New World, Brazil, is in many ways largely Pagan.

TWPT:  Is our appearance at inter-faith conferences like the World Parliament of Religions a sign that we are moving in that direction already? 

GZ:  Yes!  I think this kind of work is extremely important.  For example, at the World Parliament many spiritual traditions were explicitly grappling with how to approach nature and the environment.  Friends of mine who were there told me that many delegates were rather spontaneously gravitating towards positions about nature quite harmonious with Pagan traditions - and very interested in hearing Pagan perspectives.

Spirit is too big to be fully grasped by any person or religion.  All of us resonate with different dimensions of the Sacred. I think we can help other religions better appreciate elements within their own traditions that they have largely ignored but which are taking on renewed importance today.  I think this is one of the best things about interfaith work - we all gain a deeper appreciation for our own traditions while simultaneously learning how Spirit works through other traditions.

Also, as people from other faiths meet us in interfaith contexts, the kinds of misunderstandings that arise from ignorance are removed.  Networks of connection, respect, and support arise.  We no longer stand so alone when the Christian Right gets a new bee in its bonnet over Witches.

TWPT:  If you were to speculate, what kind of structure is needed for the movement to continue to grow in the next decade or so?  Is structure something that we want to impose on a religion that personifies the freedom of the individual to choose how they celebrate their beliefs?

GZ:  I am mostly very happy with current trends.  Our decentralization, lack of large organizations claiming to represent Pagan spirituality, and mix of solitaries, covens, and various somewhat larger organizations, such as Church of All Worlds is serving us very well.  Such a spiritual network is incredibly adaptive to change and impossible to control. 

We have seen what ecclesiastical hierarchies did to the teachings of Jesus.  We do not need that.  Our hierarchies should be at retail scale, inside any coven or organization wanting to experiment with them.  But every such organization needs to be immersed within the larger Pagan world.

By the way, I am speaking critically here only of organizational hierarchies.  There are, and should be, hierarchies of knowledge.  But knowledge hierarchies should be sustained only by others' willingness to recognize particular people as possessing superior knowledge.  No organizational resources are required for that.

There is a kind of downside in the current state of affairs in that there are many more people seeking to be Pagans than there are well qualified teachers (no matter how you define qualified).  Many people have to rely on book learning, at least at first.  And this is a poor way to learn.  But these are growing pains that will work themselves out over time.  

To be sure, I suspect lack of knowledge and of qualified teachers will lead some people into acting unwisely, and getting hurt as a consequence.  But those dangers apply mostly to the more shamanic elements of our practice, and most new Pagans seem not initially to be attracted to that.  We do tend to like our Paganism "lite."  I doubt that simple celebration and devotion to the Goddess and the God carry any dangers, and they can bring great good. 

Present circumstances also enables people to set themselves up as teachers who shouldn't.  But sad as this is, it is probably an unavoidable result of our having to rediscover dimensions of knowledge that have been mostly lost in the West for many centuries.  And I'll take the occasional corrupt teacher any day over the corrupt ecclesiastical hierarchy.

Time and growing experience will change these problems for the better , but a decentralized spirituality will always have problems not shared by more organized traditions.  Happily, the reverse is also true.

TWPT:  What is ahead for Gus DiZerega in the near future? Any more books that you are thinking about or working on?

GZ:  I have no idea, really.  My training is as a scholar and teacher, but academia largely looks on these matters with a jaundiced eye.  It is gradually becoming more legitimate to study these issues, but it is still illegitimate in many eyes to actually practice them.  Even though Pagan spirituality and practices are quite separate from my more traditional academic work, they are not, as a academic colleague of mine recently observed, "career enhancers."  Certain bigots can use that as a way of keeping you from obtaining a position no matter how good your scholarship and teaching. 

So you do what you do, and hope the Gods will keep the going from getting too rough.

I have several ongoing book projects.  As time allows I am working on another book dealing with modernity, spirit, and nature.  It looks more deeply than anything I have read thus far into these issues.  I'm thinking of doing two versions, a popular one rather like Pagans and Christians in accessibility, and a more scholarly one.  The popular one would have some exercises that people could try, in order to make better connection with Spirit (and spirits) in nature.

I'm also working on some more orthodox social science projects on environmental politics and policy, especially on how modern society can be better harmonized with nature as well as on contemporary democratic theory and practice.  My web site is a good place to be able to find what I consider my most important work.  Check out www.dizerega.com

Beyond that, I have no idea at all what the near future will bring other than travel when my visiting professorship here ends next May.

TWPT:  Any final thoughts that you would like to share with the readers of The Wiccan/Pagan Times?

GZ:  Only what is probably obvious to many of us - that we have been blessed by the Gods with a path of beauty and depth, a path that can bridge the gulf between the sacred and profane by ultimately helping us experience the sacredness in all things.  I think the best test for each of us as we walk this path is to look into our hearts.  Are we kinder, more patient, more appreciative of the beauty in things than we were before?  If so, we should keep to our course.  But if we find ourselves becoming ever angrier and more judgmental towards the failings of others, we need to reassess what we are up to in the name of Spirit.

TWPT:  Thank you very much for taking the time out of your summer activities to talk to us here at The Wiccan/Pagan Times. It has been very illuminating to hear your thoughts on these areas that present challenges to many Pagans in the U.S. and around the world. Good luck and much success with whatever lies ahead for you.