I am Pagan

JAMES-MANASA-NAGACHAKRA

 

In the western world, “Pagan” has long been a term of disrepute, suggesting someone who is uncultured, primitive, superstitious, or barbaric. Extending at times to the worst forms of idolatry and perversion. Originally the term “Pagan” referred to country-dwelling people in the Roman Empire, among whom the older pre-Christian religions survived the longest, suggesting that these religions were traditions of the “crude and illiterate”.

Yet if we look at world history carefully, we see that that the Pagan traditions have produced probably the greatest flowering of knowledge and culture throughout the world, and continue to do so to the present day. What has been called Pagan has been at the forefront of civilization, education, and the pursuit of knowledge (both spiritual and mundane).

The ancient Greek and Roman Pagans were highly sophisticated in terms of art, philosophy, and culture as opposed to many of the sexist and discriminatory customs of the Christians who converted them. Countries like India, Japan and China have very old and deep cultures that reflect the Pagan traditions of Asia. Yet if we look even at native cultures, also often derided as Pagan, we find much of depth and beauty in their cultural and artistic traditions.

If we look carefully, we see that most of the great cultural developments in humanity have their roots in traditions that have been called Pagan. This includes the realms of art, science, philosophy, mysticism, politics, and economics, from the ancient origins of civilization to the most recent scientific developments. Pagan ideas and practices are behind most of European culture, the greater portion of the cultures of Asia throughout India, China and Japan, as well as the many native cultures of the Americas, Africa, Australia and Polynesia.

Pagan traditions include older pre-Christian and pre-Islamic traditions, such as the Greeks, Romans, Celts and Skandinavians of Europe, as well as the Egyptian, Babylonian, and Persian cultures of Northern Africa and the Middle East.

There are also new and revived Pagan traditions in “New Age” thought in the West, as well as Atheists, Agnostics, Animists and Pantheists, who often have affinities with Pagan traditions.

Eastern Dharmic traditions (also called Pagan), include the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh faiths. Native Asian Pagan traditions additionally include the Taoist, Confucian, Shinto and Ancestor/Spirit worship traditions still to be found in places like Sri Lanka. Native traditions of Africa, America, Asia, Australia and Polynesia are diverse groups which share a deep connection with nature, the Earth and the “Cosmic” or “Universal Spirit”.

Many ancient cultures have been denounced as Pagan or Heathen, not because they were primitive or uneducated, but because the advanced art forms, sciences, and philosophies they followed were regarded as “threatening” to certain more modern belief-oriented traditions, namely the “Abrahamic” Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions, and their simplistic patterns of salvation and damnation.

There is an underlying affinity (if not outright unity) between European Pagan, Dharmic, and Native Traditions. Such groups share a respect for all of nature as sacred, an honouring of the presence of spirits in nature and a seeking of higher states of consciousness – of unity with the living universe. They usually promote tolerance, free thinking, and, diversity, and recognize the existence of many paths to truth. They do not have any overriding agenda to convert or conquer the world, but regard culture and spirituality like a garden, requiring different plants in order to truly flourish.

If we add together the total numbers of these broader Pagan groups today, they extend to more than two billion people globally, or greater than the total number of Christians in the world and more than one-third of all peoples. If we add to this the total number of people for whom Pagan-based ideas and practices have importance (ie: the Asian Dharmic faiths and Native Tribal traditions), it extends to most of the people on the planet.

Blessed Be and Om Shanti!

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