on August 2, 2011
In my view this book takes what by most accounts is a "Mystery Tradition," and stolidly attempts to straightforwardly apply reason and express its "philosophy". THe end result is something that has all the zing and zest, juiciness and rich taste of cardboard. One of the paradoxes of mystery and art, of poetry and the realms of the occult, is that as soon as you haul them into the laboratory and plop their bodies across the dissecting table and start in with your scalpel, you're going to lose something. Call it juice, life, soul: I call it the essence of the Craft. YOu still have the body there, yes: but you've drained it of its blood. It looks the same in the outer form, but the life is what is missing: once you start assiduously dissecting and reducing, you've made of the Mystery Tradition a corpse.
Most of us to some extent want to systematize, organize and find some coherence in our Craft. But it's a difficult thing to do that in a way that remains faithful to the Mystery and the soul, that still conveys the juiciness of the Craft. It's true, as the author notes, that one of the gifts we're given as humans, is the ability to reason. Yet, it certainly does NOT follow from that, as the author believes, that "if we could not organize, think, analyze, dictate morality, and enforce laws and rules, we would not have codified religion, and Wicca would not exist at all." (pg 141). Such a statement reflects, in my view, the very rationalistic hubris, or excessive reason, which in the first place led to the downfall of the ancient Mother Goddess Religions, and which has kept Western philosophy in such a confining self-created small box, lo these many centuries. Wicca may be many things to many people, but to view it as primarily or essentially an organized system of dictatable morality and enforced laws and rules, is in my mind to have missed the whole point of it.
I'm also puzzled why, if an inquiry into philosophy is the author's intent, she has not made links with Philosophy as such, commencing where, in the Western world, it began with Plato & the Greeks, and extending on thru 19th century Existentialist and Romantic philsophy, up until and beyond Derrida and Deconstruction of the present day. She makes few links to the actual study of philosophy, mentioning Hegel's dialectic dynamic, but placing more emphasis on correlations to science. Some Wiccan-Pagan researchers, such as Don Frew have found solid footing for Wicca in Neoplatonic philosophy and Theurgy, for instance in Iamblichus, something the author never mentions. Then too, Derrida and Deconstructionists have demonstrated the paradoxical violence of "totalizing" systems which content themselves that with reason and language they have expressed and contained everything, but invariably have left something out, and that thing they've left out ("the Other") now turns about and stands accusing them.
One such "Other" who has been notably and apparently intentionally omitted from the author's Philosophy of Wicca, is the gay or lesbian person. In a footnote, the author offers this wormy apology: "It is with mixed emotions that I write this chapter with an obvious bias towards heterosexuality. While same-gender sexuality can certainly be sacred, it doesn't lend itself well to the overall picture I wish to paint. We do not, generally speaking, envision the GOd coupled with the God, or the GOddess with the Goddess....to the end of drawing parallels between divine creation and human sexuality I leave out the image of homosexuality." (pg 262)
Such a statement is ignorant, offensive, and philosophically and spiritually untenable. "Yeah, you folks are ok, but you just don't fit anywhere into our world at all." This is a statement Jacques Derrida would love, for it provides enormous moral authority and power precisely to the "Other" who has been so ridiculously omitted. It is also a statement which demonstrates a magnificent blindness to the paradox which in my view really lies at the heart of the Craft. The native paradox of the Craft would question the vapid literalness with which someone might regard lesbian relationships of Goddess mating with GOddess, as a situation not able to carry the mystery of opposites. Might not two beings who are similar in form, be very different in their inner souls? Then too, I question the dull and stolid application of god/goddess pairing to every situation, something the author seems to feel is essential to Wicca. She cites the importance of realizing that life comes to be through the mating of god and goddess. She may not know of the many myths where creation came to be, through a god or goddess who had no partner, but simply ecstatically made love with him or herself, an act which resulted in creation.
INdeed there are many interesting possibilities which, if they contain more paradox and mystery, have more life than the much less imaginative examples presented throughout this book.
on November 7, 2002
I've been rethinking my previous reviews, because I only went lightly through the book, and now I have read it cover to cover:
This is Amber Fishers Philosophy of... something. Something that superficially resembles Wicca. It's not much like the Wicca I've studied and read about in Gerald Gardners and Doreen Valientes books (you know, basically the FOUNDERS of Wicca). Wicca was made to be a polytheistic or, at the very least, an equally duotheistic religion. Somehow, to a lot of people, it got warped into a monotheistic mish-mash of female worship. The lame excuse of "Goddess contains God, so I think it's OK to use it in reference to the divine" is not going to cut it. She's using it because she worshipps a Goddess, and I rarely find any mention of the male divine.
She's been Wiccan for what, four years? And she thinks she knows enough about the religion to write a book on the philosophy of it? It's horrendously obvious to anyone who has read anything besides Dianic Wicca books that this IS NOT commonly accepted Wiccan thought. So please, if you're new, don't read this book. It will probably just confuse you. So, while this may be Ambers Philosophy of "Wicca", I must say that I see little of what is Wiccan here.