Does the Fourfold Path resonate with you?

2012 Thing on Thursday #12

Another key concept introduced in the original “What is Humanistic Paganism?” post was the Fourfold Path, which Humanistic Pagans ideally share in common.  The Fourfold Path is:

  • exploration of the Five +1
  • relationship with myth
  • responsible action
  • a sense of wonder

The intent was to a) distinguish our style of Paganism from others, and b) provide an affirmative, well-rounded structure for living a life in this style.

But honestly, I had no idea how others shaped their paths.  I just wrote what made the most sense to me, and hoped to find others of like mind.

Now, two years later, I’m wondering if the Fourfold Path is appropriate anymore.  It may not describe our community that well, and it may not provide the desired structure for living either.

Please rate the appeal of the Fourfold Path from 1-5, with 1 being least and 5 most.

Then please share your suggestions for alternatives in the comments.

Some alternatives to the Fourfold Path are briefly explored after the poll.

Alternatives to the Fourfold Path

If Loyal Rue is correct that religions are about melding cosmology and morality into a single unifying narrative, then an alternative to the Fourfold Path ought to include both elements.  It should a) distinguish our style of spirituality from others, and b) provide a structured life-stance incorporating both cosmology and morality.

#1.  One alternative is provided by IAO131’s book Naturalistic Occultism.  A three-part breakdown describes the essential worldview, which is:

  • naturalistic – no reliance on or reference to the supernatural
  • scientific – systematic, clear, and using the latest facts of psychology and neurology
  • pragmatic – things accepted as provisionally “true” because effective and useful

This seems quite reasonable for distinguishing our style from others, though it doesn’t fulfill the function of providing a structured life (nor was it intended to do so).  There’s a cosmology here but not much of a morality.

#2.  Another alternative is encapsulated in HP’s subtitle: “A naturalistic marriage of science and myth.”  This conveys three essential elements:

  • naturalism – no reliance on supernatural explanations or aid
  • science – evidence-based investigation through systematic, empirical observation and rigorous peer critique
  • myth – enrichment of subjective experience through engagement with symbols, narratives, and rituals rooted in the ancient Pagan world

The addition of myth provides avenues for drawing on cultural, aesthetic, and perhaps even ethical traditions of the ancient world.  There is potential here for the flowering of religion in Loyal Rue’s sense, though morality remains under-emphasized.

#3.  ?

Please suggest your alternatives in the comments.

About Thing on Thursday

Althing in Session, by W.G. CollingwoodThis post is part of a series of councils on matters vital to the future.  The name represents both the generic term for, you know, a thingie, as well as the Old Norse term for a council of elders: a Thing.

Each week from the Autumn Equinox until the Winter Solstice, Thing on Thursday explores a new controversy.  Participation is open to all – the more minds that come together, the better.  Those who have been vocal in the comments are as welcome as those quiet-but-devoted readers who have yet to venture a word.  We value all constructive opinions.

There are only a few rules:

  • be constructive – this is a council, so treat it as such
  • be respectful – no rants or flames

Comments will be taken into consideration as we determine the new direction of Humanistic Paganism.

So please make your voice heard in the comments!

12 Comments on “Does the Fourfold Path resonate with you?

  1. 93 – For what it’s worth, the underlying and implied morality of Naturalistic Occultism is “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law,” meaning that these occult endeavors are toward the end of exploring, expanding, and actualizing one’s True Nature, i.e. one’s True Will.

  2. I was one of those who felt HP would serve better as a “big tent” grouping or gathering place for those on many diverse paths — rather than a specific path. And I still kind of feel that way. Not that I object to any efforts in that direction. Indeed, I might well find them inspiring. Part of me longs for a defined path to tread. But another part of me thinks the only path I will ever have is the one I blaze for myself and by myself. I’m clearly not going to resolve this profound tension in a brief comment. Again, I welcome efforts to define a path, but I don’t know if that’s necessary or how that is best approached. I think it is sufficient for HP to serve as a publishing venue for those interested in the intersections which you have delineated. That represents great value in and of itself.

    • Good point. HP started as both publishing venue and path for self-development, without me really realizing it. Perhaps the two are better as separate projects.

  3. The Four Fold Path is made of all good and important stuff, but yet it doesn’t really resonate with me as a “grounding” for our religion. Of the two alternatives you listed I like #2 better, but to me what it is missing is Nature. Naturalism and Nature are not the same thing. Science is of tremendous importance because through its careful, systematic methods we can come to better understand and appreciate Nature. Science is a tool. It is not the focus of my religious devotion. B.T. would you say that a focus on Nature (inner and outer) is central to HP?

    • Thank you for bringing that up, M. Jay. You’re absolutely right: naturalism is not nature.

      >B.T. would you say that a focus on Nature (inner and outer) is central to HP?

      I don’t know, is it? How much overlap is there between the Naturalistic Pagan and the Eco-Pagan?

      Nature is central for me, I’ll say that much.

      • For me too. If HP is to be a “big tent”, then think I would list them as:

        1. Humanism – includes “no reliance on supernatural explanations or aid” and “responsible action”

        2. Nature – which includes the senses and a “sense of wonder”

        3. Myth *and* Ritual – “enrichment of subjective experience through engagement with symbols, narratives, and rituals rooted in the ancient Pagan world”

        • I like John’s list. For me the term Humanism implies a conscious awareness, acceptance and even celebration of our humanness. Being in right relationship with Nature means being in right relationship with our humanness.

          As far as a path, I’d like to see HP explore the topics raised in your series on Transcendence ( I see this religion (humanistic/naturalistic paganism) as being about creating right relationship with self/mind, community and nature (the outside environment) – for me these three are a nested Holon of Nature. Our path to doing this uses the fruits of science, myth and ritual.

        • I like that a lot too. Symmetry is important to popularizing ideas like this. Like these two sets of three: Reconnection to the Three Transcendents (nature, community, self/mind) through science, myth, and ritual.

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