I came across this chart, which comes from the book Deep Green Resistance, along with the explanation below. It captures perfectly my issues with popular Paganism, by which I mean 99% of what you find on the bookstore shelf and 95% of what you see at Pagan conventions, festivals etc.
“An alternative culture built around the project of an individualistic and interior experience, whether spiritual or psychological, cannot create a resistance movement, no matter how many societal conventions it trespasses. There is no firm moral ground under the feet of those who can only counsel withdrawal and personal comfort in the face of atrocity.”— Lierre Keith, Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet
“We’ve all encountered groups or movements that claims to seek social change, but has no strategy or true aim to get there. Instead, they reject political engagement and serious organizing, and create a cultural bubble within the dominant system. The focus is on keeping their bubble authentic, oppose norms, find emotional comfort, validation and “kicks”, identity, symbolic actions, a certain lifestyle, moral purity, and so on.”
As wrote recently here, I withdrew from popular Pagan culture because:
“I was frustrated with the self-centeredness of many Pagans, and I started to question whether Paganism really was as earth–centered as it claimed. I was disappointed with boring Pagan rituals (there were notable exceptions), the otherworldliness and pietism of polytheistic Paganism (which was on the rise), the lack of political engagement by most Pagan writers, and just the overall silliness and credulity of much of Paganism. Rather than finding a true re-enchantment of the world, I saw Pagans reproducing the disenchantment of the mainstream culture. …
“Contemporary Paganism celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017, which prompted me to look back over the history of the movement. I couldn’t help but feel that Paganism had failed in its promise. A lot of my writing between 2017 and 2018 reflected my disillusionment. I concluded that Paganism never lived up to its potential to be a significant social force for good, helping to shift human consciousness and transform our relationship to the earth.
There’s probably a lot of reasons Paganism failed. We spent a lot of time hiding the proverbial broom closet. A lot of energy was spent on fighting for equality with Christianity. And a lot of energy was wasted arguing with ourselves, playing identity politics, fighting witch wars, and other bullshit.
Pagans got distracted by occultism (infecting Paganism via British Traditional Wicca), which drew attention away from the real and present earth to an esoteric or symbolic “nature”, and away from the work of re-enchanting the world to the illusion of magical control over the world. In addition, those Pagan reconstructionisms and polytheisms which explicitly contrasted themselves with earth-centered Paganism became another distraction.
The fear of institutions and the aversion to authority have been millstones around the neck of Paganism since its beginnings. Pagans don’t want to be led anywhere, so predictably we’re not going anywhere. And those ego-Pagans who use Paganism primarily as a vehicle for self–expression, rather than connecting with something bigger than themselves, have been additional dead weight for the movement.
In the end, Paganism just never lived up to its potential as the earth religion for the new millennium.
But I think all of this writing could be summed up in the chart above.