Sunday, 26 April 2009

Theoretical Model vs. Dogma

A theoretical model is a way of making order from chaos. Observations of related stuff are made, whether that’s people or economic markets or the properties of nuclei. When enough information is gathered various patterns are noted, conclusions drawn about those patterns, and that’s a model.

Psychotherapeutic models, that is, different ways of approaching the emotional problems that people experience, are based on the ways in which the authors of those models understood human nature. The Freudian way of understanding people is very different from the Rogerian approach. Freud was contentedly pessimistic, Rogers much more optimistic about human nature. Perhaps what caused these almost diametrically different perceptions were the personal experiences of Freud and Rogers: one was born in Old Europe and was personally threatened by Nazism; the other grew up and worked in middle class America.

Psychotherapy research has shown quite clearly that it doesn’t matter which model a therapist works in, what matters is the relationship between client and counsellor. Research now focuses on what makes a good therapeutic relationship, but models remain fundamental to training and functioning of therapists. Without a model of understanding, we can’t understand at all.

Too many Pagans bang on about the heresy of dogma to the point where it has become dogma itself. We fail to discuss what dogma may actually be. Simply, it is an authoritative organizational belief that is not to be diverged from. Dogmatic relgions still manage to contain wildly divergent practices, what dogma offers is a model in which to understand the world and make decisions. That say, Judaism, contains everything from ultra-Orthodoxy to Reform Liberal practice suggests that individuals still manage to make individual choices.

Different groups of Pagans certainly have ideas of what their principals may be: the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids talks about Wisdom, Creativity and Love.

and in ‘Being of value to others” suggests environmental work and personal development.

Emma Restall Orr of the Druid Network writes

As a spiritual tradition based on reverence for and connection with the powers of nature, more than anything else Druidry teaches us to honour life… Druid ethics are built upon the release of ignorance and the respectful creation of deep and sacred relationships.

Reclaiming have useful Principals of Unity that include:

Our tradition honors the wild, and calls for service to the earth and the community. We value peace and practice non-violence, in keeping with the Rede, "Harm none, and do what you will." We work for all forms of justice: environmental, social, political, racial, gender and economic. Our feminism includes a radical analysis of power, seeing all systems of oppression as interrelated, rooted in structures of domination and control.

So, within varied mainstream Pagan groups there is some consensus. The examples above demonstrate that there are models of ethical intention within influential and high membership Pagan groups. These models have developed from historical understandings and the personal experiences of the leaders within those groups. They have absolutely not been derived from purposeful consultation or even intentional discussion with membership, and the membership doesn’t seem to mind. Which demonstrates that we can, in fact, happily agree on some general principals without anyone bursting. Phew!


Within Paganism there’s an underlying general practice that people who fall ill, become frail and increasingly, are not wealthy, are marginalized. A movement is judged on how it treats its least powerful members. Paganism doesn’t do terribly well at that in general. Individual Pagans do individual things for each other but not really much more than any friend might do. In our own circles we will know of people who are having obvious problems with their children or elderly parents, with their own emotional or physical health. Our principals suggest we help them. In practice we do not, and neither do we support, as a matter of principal, the individuals who do.

If we think we might ask for help or offer it there are no guidelines within Paganism to suggest what help might be. Pagans share a model of how we should be but as yet find it impossible to work with that model in practice.

1 comment:

cern said...

Another thought provoking post. :)