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The Neopagan Network

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.pagan,talk.religion.misc,alt.religion.wicca,talk.religion.newage,talk.politics.theory
From: (lorax)
Subject: The Neopagan Network (LONG)
Date: 14 Mar 1997 13:04:52 -0800


by Lorax of the Evul Wikkunz

One of the benefits Neopaganism has inherited, in having had an adversarial
role with the Christian establishment, is the development of a healthy, 
effective social structure.  It can most accurately be described as a 

There are ten qualities we may isolate in order to assess the health of
the Neopagan network.  These qualities are: being segmented, layered,
decentralized, polyvisual, facilitated, relational, amorphous,
participatory, transpersonal, and ethical. ^1

The Neopagan community is SEGMENTED in that it is composed of self-
sufficient individuals, interconnected through common workings.  If
we can value individuality and respect each part of the network while
it contributes to the community, then neither parts nor whole are
placed above one another.

Being LAYERED, or composed of organizational levels, is sometimes
mistaken for the quality of being "patriarchal" by sincere feminists.
Yet this quality can be separated from hierarchy in that it need not
be power-based.  Being layered eases organization and functions as a
tool which aids one's understanding of an individual's or group's 
'degrees' of involvement.

As implied above, some Neopagans manifest this layering through the
masonic 'Degree System', which describes one's involvement within the
social culture of the network.  This may be correlated with awareness
or 'attainment', but not necessarily so.  The solitary may be no less
adept than the fully-initiated witch, for example.  Conversely, one
who is 'fully-initiated' may be no more expert than a novice.

The extent to which Neopagans maintain these layers, especially when
distinct from the focus of political power, the easier will be the
entrance of the newcomer.  One can come to understand the nature of
the social layers in whatever form and be directed toward those whose
experience within the network is most extensive -- toward those people
or groups most involved in the Art.

What distinguishes Neopaganism from a hierarchy is that it is
DECENTRALIZED.  Cooperative parts work together to maintain the
function of the entire network.  There is no central authority
which coorinates all Neopagan activities.  Often referred to as a
political weakness, decentralization is actually a political
strength within a society dominated by hierarchic government.  The 
'democratic republic' is a more cooperative process than a totali-
tarian dictatorship, so that, as Gaia's agents, we can become
conspirators working for Her health.

Decentralization allows an amoeba-like restructuring whenever elements
of the societal framework dissolve or are removed (through death,
attrition, conversion, etc.).  As long as Neopaganism is decentralized
then no organized assault can eliminate its spirit or its strength.
There is more flexibility and durability in a decentralized social web.
No piece is key to the cohesiveness, the health, of the whole.  The
health of the Neopagan community may be maintained by making sure that
the web has no hub around which all else flows.  Each person is the
center of their circle.  Recognizing the creativity in each person as
well as that of the community will secure the integrity of Neopaganism.

Another quality found in healthy networks is that of being POLIVISUAL
or 'many-sighted'.  Members of networks may have different perspectives
about the Cosmos.  An acceptance of many views can create a 'unity in
diversity'.  The ability to assimilate a variety of opinions while
reaching common goals is a major advantage Neopagans seem to enjoy.
This makes for a changing social milieu and a variable locus of
authority.  If we accept the idea that there is no One True Path and
that all points of view are valid for those who may hold them, then
dissension is bound to result.  Yet if there is no standard against
which this dissent is to be judged, then it must be absorbed into a
social voice, emphasizing the variation in view based on position.
This is precisely what can go on in healthy covens, for example, and
the community as a whole, as long as there is no 'standard view'
portrayed by authoritarian sources.

Neopagans are bound together by certain shared values.  No one viewpoint
prescribing how to act on these values is accepted by all as 'correct'.
The future of society itself will be determined by our effective
cultivation and protection of many differing opinions within the
collective expression.

It has been said that Neopaganism is a religion of (sometimes WITHOUT)
Priestesses and Priests.  The value of this sentiment cannot be over-
stated.  Leadership has its place, but when it seeks to control, then
the integrity of the social network is endangered.  Cooperation and
control are antithetical relations.  Individualism and personal
strength cannot be maintained within a bureaucratic pyramid-structure
of dominance.  Thus, FACILITATION, the participation and coordination
of shared power, is imperative to Neopaganism.  Leaders coordinate
group activities rather than controlling the group will.  Groups often
need focus in order work efficiently, and Neopagans are no exception.

Yet the health network includes these roles while it fosters the
individual's ability to lead.  If every member can lead magical
or religious workings, then true cooperation can take place.  Power
and responsibility are distributed evenly over time.  This dissolves
any potential threat that charismatic leaders pose to the community.
Their charisma translates to power only when those who follow them
feel powerless and are unable to assume the leadership roles themselves.
The leverage that traditional power-moguls have held over their subjects
can be eliminated.  Priests and Priestesses become facilitators, not
static intermediaries between immanent deity and the worshipper.

The emphasis on the value of RELATIONSHIP is essential to the successful
network.  The relationships among members and groups are dynamic and
contribute toward the network's longevity, strengthening and vitalizing.

Strong relationships do no mean that participants are invulnerable.  On
the contrary, truly meaningful relationships only come about through
openness and vulnerability in a spirit of trust and love. ^2   As Wiccans
are fond of saying, 'in perfect love and perfect trust', is a guiding
principle that works in social as well as magical circles.  It serves to
promote the type of relationships that can transform the lives of those
who create them.

While endeavoring to reach common goals, our acceptance of failure is
paramount, even required, for the health of Neopaganism.  The strength
of relationships within the community serves as a 'safety net' for social
and magical experimentation.  Such experimentation can lead to self-
transformation and what is called the 'Great Work'.  Challenging one
another and exploring our boundaries in an atmosphere of trust can lead
to inspired growth and surprising discovery.  Cooperative strength lays
the foundation for these developments.  Networks that encourage a variety
of meaningful relations will not only endure, but create a lasting
environment of health.

It is characteristic of Neopaganism that, as a group, it is an AMORPHOUS
entity.  Without strict boundaries demarcating 'us' from 'them', 
Neopaganism shifts in form, held together by its relations.  This is also
the sign of a healthy network, which shifts and reforms according to the
needs of the participants.  Cohesiveness is not enforced through strict
codes or identification.  It arises from within participants as a result
of their shared values, visions and goals.

The lasting identity of any organization within a community results from
agreement on particular goals and/or ideas.  When such agreement is no
longer needed because 1) the community at large assimilates those goals
which gave it form, or because 2) members change their ideals, then the
identity will no longer be necessary and the form will vanish.  This is
exemplified in community Sabbats or festivals, where one group's members
may organize a rite of seasonal celebration.  Once this working is 
completed, then those who joined in creating that project with the group
may move on to other pursuits, retaining newfound connections.

The changing roles within Neopagan rite allow us to be leaders and
participants at different times.  They allow us to be students and
teachers too, listening to expression as students, then translating
our experience into expression in order to instruct.  There needn't
be strict divisions between our roles.  Teachers can be students and
students can be teachers simultaneously, in an open exchange.

As this exchange erodes the associations of specific people with
particular roles, then we may begin to appreciate the value of
PARTICIPATION in the Neopagan experience, especially amongst a
people-full of Popes.  While some favor certain roles, the quality
of role-flexibility, of full participation regardless of the role
assumed, is an important one to networks.  Just as a democratic
style of government benefits from full participation, so the Neopagan
community benefits by its members' ability both to accept the
participation of others, and to participate to the extent of their

The continued value of both individual and society is integral to
the health of a network.  The One and the Many imply different
perspectives which may be balanced within each of us through our
words and deeds.  We are each connected to the whole, and there
are advantages in moving beyond the personal, into  the TRANSPERSONAL
vision of both our community and our place within it.  To affirm
ourselves and our society is a step toward powerful transformation.

With all its personality-clashes, power-struggles and back-biting,
the Neopagan community can be an exuberant, challenging and
mysterious culture, just as capable of becoming our chrysalis as
our wrestling ring.  When we can accept the dissent and the unity
in a decentralized collective, then we can begin to realize the true
meaning of polarity.  That opposites are united aspects of a whole is
as true for societies as it is for metaphysical symbols.

Through diversity and difference, shared values shape and give meaning
to Neopaganism.  Even if the shared value is in simply loving and
venerating Mother Nature/Earth in Her various forms, this is surely
expansive enough to provide a context for acting as a network.  Once we
recognize the value of the individual, their emotions, and the ETHICS
which arise in response to these emotions, can be seen as valid
expressions of natural will.  To integrate them within a social harmony
is the function of the healthy network.  Neopagans can do well in this
regard, taking many varied expressions of ethic and giving each its
appropriate forum based on interest rather than influence, on depth
rather than popularity.

The future of Neopaganism is directly linked to its network-form.  The
network has been called "a twentieth-century version of the ancient
tribe or kinship," and "a tool for the next step in human evolution." ^3
It can be both local and global, individually intimate and socially

No controlling attitude over our mother is necessary, just as possession
by any single part of the body is unnecessary.  The brain, as an important 
organ, cooperates, coordinating within the bodily network to allow the 
entirety to function smoothly.  Cooperating with the rest of Gaia through 
our networks can inspire harmonious and transformative experience.


 1 - These qualities were inspired by and adapted from _The Networking
     Book_, by Lipnack and Stamps, 1986, especially pages 137-154;  a
     large portion of this essay was written in reflection of this work.

 2 - _The Aquarian Conspiracy_, by Marilyn Ferguson, 1980; pp. 394-5.

 3 - Ibid, p. 213.


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