Review: Toward a Pagan Mysticism

I was recently gifted with a copy of Ian Corrigan’s Toward a Pagan Mysticism, a slender booklet written by the author of ADF’s dedicant program.

In short, Corrigan’s system — which he terms “meditative theurgy” — involves a series of words, brief meditations and gestures to align the practitioner with the Druidic cosmos. Performed — preferably daily, at least in part — before the practitioner’s regular altar, it involves a purification with fire and water, drawing the “two powers” of Earth and Sky into the body, opening to the three realms of Land, Sea and Sky and the four winds and their qualities, and mystically identifying the body with the elements of the natural world. It ends with the worship of the God of the Self.

As a system, I think it works, although I’m a little loathe to worship the God of Self, being of a more devotional bent myself. You need a certain degree of humility before you can approach the inner-spark because, out of balance, it can too easy serve as the justification for desires, egotism or general bad behavior. Perhaps I err too much on the side of self-abnegation in this, but … well, the “God of my own soul” doesn’t call me to worship it. Honor it through right action and right living, yes. And, well, the concept seems much more related to ceremonial magic than I’m comfortable with.

I also have a problem with his language. I have, I admit, been out of the ADF loop for some years and wasn’t precisely familiar with all the terms used; they seem to have entered into ADF parlance after my departure. One particular issue: the constant use of the word “loins.” In that regard, the book could be used for a fine drinking game; every time you read the word “loins,” take a shot!

I’m not sure about anyone else, but “loins” usually conjures up two images. The first is pork medallions. I’ll leave the other to your imagination. Quite frankly, as a woman, I’m having a really hard time with loins-speak; it’s a pretty masculine word. (Interestingly enough, I also had an issue with the language in ADF’s dedicants program, which considers “fertility” one of the Nine Noble Virtues. Ack! No! get that kid away from me!)

He concludes with a lengthy essay on Druidic mysticism that’s interesting to read, exploring both Western and Eastern (yoga again!) models. I find it interesting, but at the heart, mysticism cannot be scripted or plotted in accordance with models or even cosmology. Mysticism by its very nature is organic, fluid. It arises out of spontaneous experience, vision, revelation. It’s profoundly individual and requires no religious organization or even structure for its fulfillment.

And maybe that’s what makes the book interesting reading. Druidry, whether you’re talking ADF or Keltria, is largely orthopraxic. (There is orthodoxy involved, I hate to say, in some manifestations, too.) Mysticism, by its nature, goes against ortho-anything. It’s transgressive wisdom.

Granted, doing personal work can foster mystical experiences, and in that I think Corrigan’s system is valuable. Do whatever deep work aligns you with the cosmos and the Kindreds. A ritual structure with words/song and action can be a help, particularly on those days when you want to connect but don’t feel particularly inspired.

So, it’s interesting. I’ll give it three and three-quarters loins.

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About whitecatgrove

The musings of a Druid priestess, singer, poet and musician in Upstate New York.
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2 Responses to Review: Toward a Pagan Mysticism

  1. Ali says:

    If this is the same person I think it is, then for a time I was subscribed to his blog, where he often posted drafts of various exercises and chapters as he was working on this manuscript… But they left me with the same impression you expressed: “I find it interesting, but at the heart, mysticism cannot be scripted or plotted in accordance with models or even cosmology.” I think this is why in many “mystic” traditions, silence and stillness play such a big part in the contemplative work that gives rise to “spontaneous experience, vision, revelation.” Daily practice helps a person attain to that silent stillness, yes, but I found myself skeptical of complicated, ornate ritual as being superior to simple work approached with discipline and sincerity.

  2. Briar says:

    ROFL “Three three and three-quarters loins”???

    I think, though – somewhat tentatively – that a mystic experience itself cannot be taught, being what it is. As you say. But an *approach* to mystic experience can be… Yoga again. 🙂 Or Art, Truth and Kinship. Or whichever set of symbols one uses. There is an interesting paradox there: mysticism moves us beyond the symbols, but we *approach* it via symbols, be they verbal, musical, visual, or whatever personal language speaks to one.

    It can be a way of silence. And it can also be a way of a poet. Or a philosopher. Or a dancer. All these things can launch one into the “beyond”, or “within”, or whatever metaphor one chooses for the Mysery.

    To be honest, to me, personally, a religious tradition that doesn’t teach that, is like a hollow shell – all pretty crust, and a puff of air inside.

    To be honest, I think part of the problem with Ian’s book (aside from “loin-speak”) is that he is too much of a ritualist, and not enough of a mystic. His approach is too mechanical. And it stems, I think, from too much “orthopraxy-think”. Mysticism can’t be ortho-anything. It has to be a living process. An emergence. A growing tree, for Godde’s sake. 🙂

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