An Exploration of Eclectic Pagans
What is the Eclectic Way? No one has really written a book about it- you would need a forklift to pick it up if all its references were fully played out. Basically, it is a path of Creative Synthesis. Here, just to give you a little taste, is the Eclectic Rede:
Nine words the Eclectic Rede attest:
Use what works
Fix what's broke
Dump the rest.
Now, there are variations of this Rede in various places, and it has been applied to TechPagans like myself, but that, in essence is the Eclectic way. We take a little from Column A, Column B and Column C and synthesize something Completely Different and Definitely Interesting from the parts. We do this with the utmost respect and reverence for our source material, and many of us have been taught or raised in more traditional paths.
A Closer Look at Eclecticism
Eclectic: 1. Deriving ideas, tastes, style, etc from various sources. 2. Selecting one's beliefs, etc. from various sources; attached to no particular school of philosophy. (From Greek eklektikos- to pick out)
Orthodox: 1. (a) Holding correct or currently accepted opinions, esp. on religious doctrine, morals, etc. (b) Not independent-minded, unoriginal, unheretical. 2. Generally accepted as right or true; authoritively established, conventional.
Heretic: from Greek hairesis- choice, able to choose. (From the Concise Oxford Dictionary.)
Eclecticism is the cutting edge of magick, and creative recombinant synthesis is the innermost kernel of its living practice. I have been on this path for 28 years, and have been lucky enough to know that I cannot grow in knowledge and wisdom without looking at other practices. Witchcraft is an individual path- no matter if you find like-minded folks to work with (if you're lucky and there aren't any ego trippers to contend with) nothing is truly set in concrete, as are the Religions of the Book (Christianity and all...). If you stick to a certain sharply defined practice, and ENFORCE it, you begin the slide into orthodoxy, which is the beginning of the end for any living path. When one practice comes to dominate others, suddenly you have things like heretics and pogroms and by then, the original kernel of practice has been long buried. This was the fate of early Christianity, which was an eclectic mixture of practices and worship. When the Roman Church eventually won the 'war' for orthodoxy, it was the death knell for any non-conformists. I sincerely hope that this doesn't happen to our Craft. Eclecticism should be welcomed into the fold as happily as the original modern Witches- the Gardenerians and Alexandrians and all. If you look at it logically, our whole fold is rather Eclectic, with the germ kernel of magickal knowledge, intelligence and practice bringing us all together.
Eclectics, to my mind, anyway, are the 'early adapters' and magickal pioneers and engineers of the Craft. They are the ones scouting the horizon, scouring the old texts, reading about both science and social movements, gleaning the bits of Truth from all these sources, and recombining these ideas in whole new ways. Serendipity is a supreme blessing for an Eclectic Witch as is Synchronicity. Through these two gateways, knowledge and wisdom are gained. In practice, the Eclectic 'travels without moving'- avidly permitting Intuition and Instinct to lead them from one hyperlink to the next- and connecting passages and ideas in completely different disciplines. Long practice attunes them to that gut feeling of what is Truth, and they avidly pursue it. By necessity, an Eclectic must be a generalist rather than a specialist, and must be widely read in many subjects. My personal library includes books on science (hard and soft), anthropology, sociology, major religions, fiction (mostly science fiction, but also tech thrillers) and scholarly tomes that have to be slowly absorbed. My books bristle with little bookmarks with cryptic notes on them, breadcrumbs of the journey I have undertaken so far. I possess three library cards, and those poor people know me by sight. They keep threatening to buy a wheelbarrow and engrave my name on it! I also have a huge collection of articles gleaned from the Internet that cover all sorts of subjects that lend their threads to the warp and weft of the fabric of my practice. Even 'bad' or poorly written and researched books have their redeeming qualities- even if only to serve as a example of what not to do.
Eclectics are driven by curiosity- and burn for knowledge- life is a vast puzzle, and a day of delight is one where another major part is discovered and laid into place in their mindscape. Eclectics practice with deep reverence to the source material, but also with the deep knowledge (not belief- they KNOW) that All is One if you dig deeply enough. This inner Gnosis keeps their equilibrium and sanity when forces tempt them to be swept away into religious orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is deadly to the Eclectic soul- it forces them to abandon the Quest. And some of these Orthodox paths are very tempting- they offer shelter and comfort of routine and rote practice and like-minded community in an unpredictable world. Evangelicals are especially good at eroding defenses and undermining the confidence of the religious seeker, tearing down their worldview and replacing it with Biblically derived pabulum. With the underpinnings of certainty eaten away by the Evangelical, the unfortunate Pagan may fall into the trap, and be permanently damaged and sidelined. (But that is a whole 'nother essay, one that I am currently researching and writing.)
This continuous questing doesn't mean that the Eclectic is a flaky butterfly hopping from one path to the other. Youngsters (and this isn't chronological age, but spiritual age) may hop from one practice to the other, but their goal is to find a path that fits their lifestyles, and then step into a sharply defined practice when they find the right fit. Others are only interested in collecting degrees and accolades and egorgasms. Such things generally do not interest the genuine Eclectic, who is usually a spiritually mature person. True Eclecticism is a steady progress from one path to the next- a steady growth and recognition of the limits of some paths. If degrees are obtained, they are usually conferred, and rarely mentioned when the Eclectic begins exploring the next stage in the Quest. Knowledge is the goal, not glory.
I hope that this gives you all a little more insight into a wonderful and challenging Path. As I remember it now, my own Wiccan training was "Alexanderian" in practice, but my own Teachers were kind enough to fit my own peculiarities into their teachings. I will be forever grateful for the good foundation they created for me, and the deep respect for this planet and all its inhabitants they instilled in me.
A postscript: Every path has a symbol that consolidates their essence. I do not know if there is one for Eclectics, so I shall inaugurate one here and now: the calico cat. Her fur shows a wonderful patchwork of all the cats who created her; like Jenny Anydots tiger stripes and leopard spots- and every color on the cat fur spectrum. But in spite of her colorful coat, the calico is a unique and distinct creature herself.
All material printed here is used by permission of the author, Sunfell, copyright 2000©