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" Live out of your imagination

not your history "

Stephen R. Covey

Should you Follow just one Spiritual Path?

February 15th, 2009

Should you choose just one spiritual path or religion and follow only that one, or can you combine paths and still reach your desired goal – of liberation, enlightenment or whatever it is you believe to be the aim of spirituality?

The purists offer the image of paths that work their way towards the summit of a mountain. Their advice is to choose just one path and keep at it! Otherwise you simply waste your time and energy switching paths and exploring false trails. Like all analogies it has its limitations. Anyone who has been trekking knows that sometimes you can deviate from a well-worn path and take a short-cut which gets you to your destination quicker, or which later joins the original path and took you on an interesting route, and that anyway enlightenment is best seen as a process rather than as a state to be achieved: a journey rather than a destination.

Another analogy offered is of sinking bore holes for water. If you are seeking water, goes the advice, you don’t sink lots of bore-holes you just sink one and focus on that. Likewise with spirituality, don’t dissipate your focus: concentrate on one path, one meditation technique, and stick to that. A Buddhist friend, who is also a Druid, told me of the problem with this analogy. He is a hydrologist and he said that apparently to get the best results when extracting water you should sink at least two bore holes.

The third analogy I’ve come across was given to me by my Druid teacher, Nuinn. He said ‘Don’t mix your drinks’, and yet he was a Universalist, who was fascinated by the common threads in all religions and was a practicing Druid, Martinist and Christian, who drew upon the inspiration of the Kabbalah, Wicca, and Jainism amongst many other influences.

Who is right? The teacher who advises you to stick to just one path/religion/practice or the teacher who advocates, or simply practices, an eclectic path?

My feeling is that it is not a question of one approach being right and the other wrong. Instead it is a question of being sensitive to what is right for you, what it is that you need, at any given point on your spiritual journey. There are times when the simplicity of following one practice, of feeding from just one stream of inspiration, is just what your soul needs. But at other times, or for other people, nourishment from a number of sources, and practices drawn from a number of traditions, may be just what the soul needs.

I have discovered that this blog has a poll facility. I would be really interested to find out how others feel about this subject, so if you could take a few moments to take this poll I’d very grateful! (NB This discussion – and a poll – with many interesting comments is also going on in ‘The Philosopher’s Roundhouse’ forum of the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids Message Board.)

30 Responses to “Should you Follow just one Spiritual Path?”

  1. Th first question that popped up in my mind was “Is there a Path?”. The concept of a Path, in ordinary speech, is a road the some distinct destination; but if you could tell your spiritual destination, would you still be on a Path? If you can formulate the spiritual state you want to reach, doesn’t that imply that you already have reached this state?

  2. Indeed Hennie! A while back I posted on the way in which if we use the term ‘Home’ as opoosed to ‘Path’ it changes our awareness. Asking ‘What is my spiritual Home’ evokes a different sense to ‘What is my path’. In the end all these thoughts and terms are simply there to help us render tangible that which is beyond words and thoughts in essence.
    If you’ve voted by the way, could you have a look again at the poll – I’ve just changed it. I asked what people believed, and then I realised it was more pertinent to ask what people actually do!

  3. I see no reason not to take a more eclectic approach to this – best of all worlds.

    I was interested to do the quiz on Beliefnet that is there to help establish which is one’s best homebase – though that wasnt the language used. From this – it seems to me that one can have one “path” as the most obvious one from the point of view of one’s thinking – but maybe another one is more applicable if approached more from an emotional point of view. We are a mixture of our thoughts and our feelings after all – so it figures. Personally – there is no one Way whereby I could say “Thats it – I agree wholeheartedly with everything about it”. For me personally – I take on board a lot of the ideas about pragmatic idealism from Quakerism on the one hand. However – temperamentally and because I’ve had some (very limited) experience of more “inexplicable” happenings in my life and I believe strongly in protecting the Planet and in taking personal responsibility in one’s life – then that brings me veering round in the direction of being a pagan. So – I’m not that keen to stick a label on myself and say “Thats it – once and for all – thats who I am” – as there is wisdom in many traditions.

  4. It feels good to stay flexible in these things I think. The main thrust of what I believe is most definately Pagan – Druidry and Witchcraft feel like the firm foundations of my practice, but I have found some Buddhist ideas really useful and through my Yoga practice I am really drawn to some apsects of Hinduism – Tantric ideas are fascinating. My Dad is a Taoist and I feel very at home with much of its teachings. I also recognise that there are certain ideas from my Christian past that still feed me.

    Sometimes I worry that I might be skimming the surface, not really touching on the depth of some of these beliefs. I also get a little worried about cultural appropriation: am I just consuming stuff in a very dodgy Western way? People’s spirtual practices fascinate me. Did you see any of the Pete Owen Jones programmes: ‘Around the World in Eighty Faiths’? The diversity of belief in the world excites me, even though many of those beliefs would not be to my taste.

    I know that Paganism felt like a homecoming; it ticks most of the boxes for me. With other beliefs there are things that resonate but also things that jar. I guess I hope that I can stay open enough to draw wisdom and solace from all sorts of places. Ultimately, the tools are just that, tools. We shouldn’t confuse them with spirit/the Divine itself. For me the goal is a connection and relationship with the Divine; if I start over identifying with the system, then I will have narrowed the potential to find the Divine in the unexpected; in the unknown, unexplored areas of my life yet to come. I think we need to leave some unlabelled, undefined space in our lives to let some of the mystery in.

    In respone to your poll – I do mix my drinks!

    Philip, what is a Martinist?

  5. A Middle Way or balanced approach would say that the risk of following just one way is that it can foster fundamentalism and the exclusion of influences which could be beneficial, while the risk of being open to a number of influences is the problem you mention Maria of never achieving any depth. Ideally, of course, one wants breadth and depth. The ability to be inclusive and the ability to be highly focused.
    Martinism is a form of mystical and ceremonial esotericism developed by Louis Claude de St.Martin in the 19th century.

  6. I am on one path. My path. I have encountered many ideas and integrated those into my path. Some might call me eclectic. I call myself holistic. I have worked to integrate the spiritual path of what it is to be human. This is a many faceted thing, but it is not as fragmented as some would believe. It is a whole. It has “one path”; that of humanity. It has one destiny; that of the Earth.
    A pattern emerges in the evolution of humanity; Expansion, diversification, reconnection, unification. This happened countless time in local areas and has finally made it to the global scale. We are reconnecting across the globe, and in some parts there is a process of unification.
    Human ideas are not supposed to be isolated from each other, they form a network of experience from many different paths that are the inheritance of the human path. We cannot be a fragmented humanity forever, our ever tightening network of communication just won’t allow it.

  7. One of the great moments of enlightenment, for me, came when I saw a pattern within my own religious journey – something I can detect as I look back over my life. Whenever I literalize a myth I end up disenchanted. The great gust of excitement I experience as I ‘find’ a new way gives way to a feeling of being let down, when the now literalized ‘new path’ shows itself to be less than perfect.

    During the period of my training for the Christian Priesthood I met many folk from all kinds of sects and groups within Anglican Christianity, most of whom seemed to exist happily inside their own church culture and accept its mythology in a pretty literal way. For them the myths have become facts.

    This is where I get stuck. I want more, so I go through some period of confusion, disenchantment and breaking apart. Until I realize (for the umpteenth time) that what I have found is not a factual truth but a mythic truth. Joseph Campbell points out that there is the personal and the transcendent. I now look at myths as pointing beyond themselves to the transcendent. Druidry is a mythic path for me – as is Christianity. And I can hold them both together so long as I don’t literalize them – their myths meet on the other side. The cosmic Christ – the gods of place etc. My new Quest is to find a mythology for now.

    I notice there is tenseness and relaxedness when it comes to faith / beliefs. I recognize it inside myself: one comes from ego the other from Self. When I literalize the faith experience, it naturally becomes tense because I want to cling to it and possess it – it is small, threatened and personal. But when I see the belief as universal and beyond the literal I relax – I do not need to control, defend, grasp.

    All we have is symbolic language – yet to say ‘all we have’ is not to downplay it. We have a power-filled symbolic language which connects us to the mystery beyond, within and around all things… the great mystery – the great mosaic.

    So – YES – it is quite possible (in fact for me most desirable) to follow more than one path. Yes I get confused. Yes my head’s often a mess. Yes I sometimes feel disjointed and at sea – but the boat that carries me has many fellow travellors on board, and they come from many different perspectives representing a great sea of faith – yet are my spiritual brothers and sisters.

    Sure the seasickness can be upsetting – but I wouldn’t wish to be on any other journey right now, for it is an adventure on epic scale.

    Mark T

  8. Whilst I quite liked the quote “you should never mix your drinks”, one of the most popular drinks out there would be Scottish whisky – whilst under one umbrella term quite often the more accessible (i.e. cheaper) versions are actually blends of several malts.

    Much on the forums that I have visited have reflected how the “main” UK religion – Christianity – in its current form already has references and similarities to other religions and beliefs; therefore I see the idea of following a single religion or belief a very complex and difficult thing to do.

    And if you and I can describe the same things in different words are we still following the same path, or just reflecting our own perceptions?


  9. On my own journey towards being able to function freely as an integrated human being; the freedom to integrate whatever teachings I need at any stage of my journey, has felt completely natural. I can only thank those teachers, past and present, whatever their path that have been there just when I needed them; wisdom has no boundaries, no limitations.
    The mutitude of teachings and spiritual paths/faiths, can be seen simply as ‘vehicles’; something that transports us to a new way of understanding and being in the world.
    In a famous story the Buddha likens the Dharma to a raft and suggests that “the raft is for getting across – not for retaining”.

  10. What interesting ideas this has stimulated!
    When proposing his model of the Self, Jung suggested that we have one dominant function which is ‘supported’ by a secondary function. So with Emotional, Intellectual, Intuitive and Sensual functions available, you might be an Intellectual type with your Intuition as a supporting or slightly less dominant function; or you could be an Emotional/Sensual type and so on.
    What if in spirituality we can sometimes have a similar make-up? A friend today suggested that they might act in the same way as the warp and weft of cloth, each supporting the other and giving it strength. This might explain why some people feel themselves Wiccan-Druids or Christo-Pagans for example, or how someone might feel they are nourished by an Eastern and Western path – such as Buddhism and Druidism.

  11. LOVE that idea Philip.
    As an Intuitive/Feeling type (with a dominance in the Intuitive) I kinda feel that one reason why I am clinging on to the remnants of my Christian past is that I still need the Christ-as-Lover archetype.

    The magical pagan path (for an Intuitive) is really ‘where I am’ right now, yet I still need that God-as-Unconditional-Lover attribute. Of course I have to be honest and say that Unconditional love is something the Church often talks about yet fails to model [My own experience of Christianity has tended to be one of a lack of love and more emphasis on judgment etc].

    So the use of that Jungian approach to personalities – now applied to the various ‘characters’ of different religious paths is extremely helpful.

    Indeed this all makes even more sense in the context of the work of two more Jungian scholars who wrote that marvelous book KING WARRIOR MAGICIAN LOVER. Here Moore and Gillette highlight the four most dominant male archetypes (which can of course also be applied to women) and suggest that, (once more) we each have a dominant and a secondary / supporting one. Here mine are the Magician (dom) and the Lover (support). What’s fascinating is how they can also be applied to the usual four Jungian types of Intuitive, Sensing, Feeling, Thinking.

    Clearly the Magician – as symbolic of the inner creative spark or force – can correspond to the Intuitive Spark. And the Lover can correspond to the Feeling centre. I would also say that the King – as the strong, grounded and earthy energy can apply to the Sensing type and the Warrior to the Thinker.

    I might be seen as stretching it a little with regard to the last one. However it (perhaps) makes more sense when the traditional elemental (and also tarot) types (and suits) are put alongside the Jungian types. For example Jung’s Thinker applies to ‘Mind’ and the element of Air, which in tarot is Swords – i.e the intellect and the warrior energy.

    Blimy Townsend’s waffling off on one yet again. I do apologize – it just gets me all fired up and excited, this stuff!


  12. Keep waffling Townsend it’s good stuff! I too find this very exciting. It’s not just intellectual nit-picking or semantics – the consequences of gaining a thorough understanding of this is important at this time in history. After all, look at the problems we are facing as a result of fundamentalism.
    A professor of Religion from Canada, whom I met in Nagpur, told me of a model from Indian philosophy in which our approaches to life are pictured as the six sides of a cube. In the context of our discussion the cube itself could be seen as our path, which is very much ‘our own unique path’ and each face of the cube represents an approach: say magical/mystical/pragmatic or Christian/Buddhist/Pagan. The cube rotates every now and then so that the dominant or front surface is one particular approach, but in reality it has a number of facets or modes of approaching the Mystery.

  13. Love it!!!

    Now Mr magician here wants to take his Paul Daniels magic wand and, with a puff of smoke, turn that divine cube into a mixed up Rubik Cube, so not only are there six sides but each side has a little of all the others within it… to make a glorious mess of faith and deity.

    I love the mess and muddle of faith. Sometimes the Rubik Cube of deity seems almost mastererd, but then – aggggggh – its all muddled up again.
    But the ‘agggggggh’ is good, for it means the struggle goes on and the adventure continues. As you say – ‘the cube rotates’. Better that than the boring world of ‘domga and fixed ideas.’

    The problem with the fundementalists is they not only want a Cube that aint mixed up, they want every side to be the same colour too. And when they notice a little of a different colour within themsleves they think ‘oh hell, heresy’ and project it all outward onto others (me usually ha ha).

  14. Fundamentalists, and other purists, like many Pagan Reconstructionists, make this mistake of thinking that there is a pure tradition. For instance, European Psychology has many centuries of Christianity layered up but deep below this there is a suppressed Pagan Psychology. In fact the first converts to Christianity in Europe I view as being Pagans that had Christian beliefs. Despite the ritual of baptism apparently washing the past clean, it cannot instantly change the psychological structure of a people.
    Then there’s the reconstructionsts that are trying to ignore the centuries of Christian belief the West’s psychology has been through. I don’t believe that they can “wipe the slate clean” that easily.
    My experience of Paganism has been one of reconnection, not revival or reconstruction. I reconnected to the roots of my cultural psychology and integrated that, knowing also that Christianity is a fundamental part of my personal and cultural history and also integrating that.
    A new layer is appearing over this now, a global one where I have access to all sorts of new ideas and beliefs. Local traditions are come together in a sort of global melting pot.
    And since we live on the same Earth, which is “shrinking,” conflictive and contradictory ideas and beliefs can not be ignored but have to be resolved. We have to learn to live with our human diversity in unity.

  15. So as we are getting more and more united in this world, more interdependent, perhaps we are getting closer to “Truth” and at the same time more and more confused and thus afraid of the many aspects of “Truth”. I can see how to some people it might be a relieve just to be able to say “This is it!” (whatever that is) (for instance me after along tiring day). Couldn’t we agree that we won’t try to convince one another of the right being of whatever we know? After all “the teaching dies with the Master”.

  16. Mark: yes the ‘mess’ of faith is a wonderful image. Just as in being creative you have to allow ‘mess’ – confusion, getting lost, a certain madness, a willingness to explore the uncertain, to risk failure – so too in the spiritual journey.
    Treegod: I think you’ve hit on precisely the problem with the reconstructionist/fundamentalist approach: the belief in an ‘original’ or ‘pure’ tradition. The more one explores culture, history and religion, the more one discovers that – like a river – traditions are fed by many sources.
    And perhaps there is a movement needed now that encourages both an exploration of roots – of the past and our heritage – and also of our increasing role as members of a global family, as you say. When I think of exploring roots (and asking ‘What is my heritage?’) I imagine my grandson asking that question: he has ancestors in Europe, South America and Africa. And after all, when we explore our roots deeply enough at a genetic level we all come to Africa (if you believe that theory increasingly supported by the genetic evidence. See and further still (again if you believe it!) we find ourselves rooted simply in the Beginning of Life, in Being, in The One!

  17. Hi Hennie!
    Yes indeed! There are times when only simplicity, when only one practice, one focus, a sense of one path I am treading is what I need. At other times the rich diversity of life, the feeling of fullness, of welcoming diverse strands and elements, seems the order of the day.
    Ah to embrace both: the One and the Many, the Plenum and the Void!

  18. The most interesting thing to me about this question is that I can’t think of ONE religion that has no “outside influence” whatsoever…everyone has borrowed from everyone in some way (however small) or another. I am sure it is just the way that I am seeing it as an individual…I grew up as a Christian and clung to that for so long, until it didn’t fit anymore…I felt as if I’d stepped out of a cave and into the world when I had the thought, “Heeeey, what if we ALL have some of the real truth.” It was a complete opening for me.
    Since that time, I would call myself a Pagan, as I don’t fit into any real “mold”, but I see cross-overs and borrowing in ritual and similar language in prayers/meditations/thought/proverbs – the more I go along, the more I see a Unity – the idea is summed up best for me by Kahlil Gibran in _The Prophet_: “Say not, ‘I have found the truth,’ but rather, ‘I have found a truth.’
    Say not, ‘I have found the path of the soul.’ Say rather, ‘I have met the soul walking upon my path.’ For the soul walks upon all paths. The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
    The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.”

  19. Asking ‘What is my spiritual Home’ evokes a different sense to ‘What is my path’.

    Oh, I like that. My Home has several different rooms (most with Hellenic shrines in), and a lovely garden (that’s the Druid part 🙂 )… and it’s situated between a synagogue where I like to visit, and an Aikido dojo where I train and explore a bit of Shinto..

  20. Have just caught up on the all the interesting comments. I really like the idea about Jung’s functions that Philip suggested. I think in some ways my own dominant function has led me to Paganism; I think I am a Feeling type and there is a great deal in me that wants to dissolve those boundaries between me and nature; seeking deeper relationship or communion with it in my spiritual practice. I feel unsure about what my secondary function would be but I know that I am weakest on the grounded, earthy, practical stuff. Strangely, as well as supporting the dominant Feeling side of me, my paganism has also helped me to express the earthy side in a more positive way than previously. Perhaps the right spiritual path for us, at any one time, is the one that helps to balance out our strengths and weaknesses in the most beneficial way for us.

    Everyone’s comments ring bells for me. Fundamentalism in any belief system scares me. I think there is a great deal of fear at the root of fundamentalist thinking; fear of change, of losing control. The antidote to fear in an ever changing and unpredictable world is flexibility; staying open to the possibility of movement and change; trusting that life will take us where we need to go, to learn the stuff that is pertinent for our own personal growth. I think Treegod wrote about us learning to celebrate both our Diversity and our Unity, of holding the possibilty of both within our understanding – I drink to that!

    Today I saw a Cormorant land in a Poplar tree. I have never seen a Cormorant up a tree, and never so far in land. He looked rather ungainly, bobbing up and down precariously on spindly twigs. He was a canny bird though because beneath the Poplar trees are a series of small but abundant fishing lakes. I don’t expect for one minute the Cormorant was thinking ‘I shouldn’t be doing this, I am sea bird, miles from the ocean and I don’t sit in trees’. He was showing himself to be wonderfully adaptable and adventurous, and was probably rewarded with some yummy fish. It seems more sensible to be like that flexible, clever Cormorant, not becoming boxed in by rigid belief patterns or labelling ourselves in ways that narrow our learning and experiences.

  21. I am currently following the Ovate training and so think of myself as following a Druid way but I mix in many influences from other traditions too such as hedgewitchery, heathenism and certain eastern philosophies as I am also a Reiki master. I don’t feel that this causes any conflict any more than it would if I decided to study history and scince together. The human mind is a tremendous thing and it is very good at mixing concepts in a way that can offer each one more meaning and relevence to us than each one would seperately.
    I believe there is no ‘one right way’ and I also think that to believe there is just one way is very dangerous because that makes everyone who does not follow that way to be wrong. I believe that in the end, all spiritual paths lead to the same destination anyway, and the road we travel by should matter to no one but ourselves.

  22. I chose other, because I do combine paths and ideas, but I keep returning to one in particular and I’m still not sure why, lol 🙂

  23. Paths
    Indian philosophy is unique in embracing diversity. This follows from the concept of ‘Dharma’ to be understood as ‘a way of life’, and not as is generally understood religion. It is like an ocean wherein life of varied forms lives in harmony each following its own path. Similarly when it comes to religion, it can speak of God with form or without form. One is not bound to follow what the other prefers, teaches or preaches. He can look within himself and listen to the yearning of his heart and then set his own direction. There is a section in the religious layer of Indian society known as ‘Bramho’. The ‘Bramho- Samaj’ established by Raja Rammohan Roy was a reactionary against the caste and prejudice ridden bramhanic society of Bengal. Rabindra nath Tagore was a Bramho. They worshiped the formless Bramha .below is an excerpt from the Kathamrita( katha- words amrita necter) of Sri Sri Ramkrishna which will throw light on the question of path

    A Brahmo bhakta asked, “Sir, can we see the Lord? If so, why don’t we see Him?”

    Sri Ramakrishna — Yes surely, He can be seen. He is seen with form and He is seen without form too. How can I explain this to you!

    The Brahmo Bhakta — By which method can one see Him?

    The Brahmo bhakta — Sir, why are there so many beliefs concerning the Lord’s form? Some say that God is with form, some say that He is formless. And even among believers in God with form, we hear of so many different forms. Why such a confusion?

    Sri Ramakrishna — Whichever form of God a bhakta sees, he believes in that alone. In reality, there is no confusion. If He is attained by any means, He will Himself explain everything. If you have never been to a particular residential quarter, how can you know everything about it?

    “Listen to a story. A man went out to answer the call of nature. He saw a bird perched on a tree. On his return he said to another man, ‘See, I saw a beautiful red coloured bird on that tree.’ The other man replied, ‘When I went there to answer the call of nature, I also saw it. But it is not of red colour, it is green.’ Yet another man said, ‘No, no, I also saw it. It is yellow.’ In the same manner many others said, ‘No, it is of tobacco, brinjal, blue colour and so on.’ All this resulted in a quarrel. Then they went to the foot of the tree and saw a man sitting there. When asked he said, ‘I live under this tree. I know the bird very well. Whatever you are saying is all true. It is sometimes red, sometimes green, sometimes yellow, sometimes blue and also of many more colours. See, it has many colours. Besides, at times I find that it has no colour at all. Now it is with qualities, now without qualities.’

    “Kabir used to say, ‘The One without form is my Father, with form my Mother.’

  24. This reminds me of a saying I once heard : “We are in the strange, but blessed, situation that we ARE a body and that we HAVE a body at the same time”.

  25. This is my first post here, so I want to begin by saying that I am very impressed with the quality of the discussion.

    I suspect that any one tangible system can only carry you so far before it becomes an impediment to further understanding or personal progress.

    I sometimes call myself a “daoist”, but I use the term in a very inclusive and fuzzy fashion. No one owns “the Way”. No one invented or truly discovered it. No one can ever fully understand it or teach it without error, but most people and systems have something of value to say about it.

    If any established path lead directly to the ultimate state, it lead from where it deviser stood then, not from where I stand now, so to try to follow it faithfully could only lead me away from my own most efficient Path. A river flows to the sea via its optimal rout, by acting in perfect accord with its particular nature and circumstances, but no two rivers follow identical topologies. Equally, the river never flows directly. It turns this way and that in response to what it finds in its environment. Overall, however, its progress is inexorable.

    I think that the manifest Nature of things is the only undistorted guide, though we perceive it dimly and partially, with confused senses. For this reason I seek the Truth primarily in spontaneous, natural and “real” things, (such as that cormorant in the tree) rather than in intricate cultural artefacts. I gratefully look to many teachers and systems for inspiration, but only to action and perception for education.
    I try to grow closer to ultimate truth by improving the quality, clarity and objectivity of my actions and perceptions. I pursue this through training in practical effectiveness (specifically martial arts and dog training) and through meditation (the kind where you just sit in stillness and silence, observing your mind and being fully present without engaging in decisions, thoughts or goals). I also try not to take anything (including practice and meditation) too seriously.
    I think this approach helps me to get more out of the many traditions I come across.

    I love the old saying that we should rest our beliefs like a small bird in an open palm, and not crush them in a closed fist.

  26. Hi – thanks for all of these thoughts and your post, Philip.

    I am not really surprised at the poll’s results, as pluralism is a defining characteristic of contemporary ‘alternative’ spiritualities like Druidry and Paganism.

    One thing i have not seen mentioned strongly is the problem that comes about when we, from our own limited selves, choose our own paths or practices rather than adhering to tradition. Choosing and mixing traditions because of our ‘feelings’ etc may lead to subtle distortion based on hidden unconscious or subconscious needs that are not helpful at all.

    This is one of the roles of tradition – to allow the self and ego to adhere and surrender rather than be the sovereign in all things. I know this may be an unpopular opinion these days, but it may be useful to think about.

    Personally my own wise teacher told me when i was young, “spend at least 20 years on your core tradition before practicing another”. I have done just that and found it wonderful 🙂

  27. I think those are very wise and sensible words, Peregrin, especially when you are lucky enough to either grow up within or discover a ‘core tradition’ that is essentially honest, rich and spiritually open (as it is clear you were).

    However some are not so lucky and take years, traveling from one tradition to another, before they find the sense of wisdom and genuine-ness that is needed before they can totally settle and plug themselves in so to speak.

    Still others are simply eclectic in their character and personality and never fully settle in one path.

    However, you are quite right to stress the importance of standing within some sense of tradition – for when you are so rooted you can also afford to be all the more open and radical (even prophetic) from within. This is what my own ‘tradition’ sadly lacks. There are exceptions of course, like the wonderful Peter Owen Jones, who clearly lives and breathes his christianity – yet plunges into each and every experience the world of faith has to offer, and ends up both being challenged himself and throwing out challenges to his own faith community.

    Personally speaking – my own ‘tradition,’ which I have been loyal to for 25 odd years, has sadly proved itself to be less of a ‘spiritual parent’ to me than I once thought it was. I do not blame it for its leadership lives more and more in the un-spiritual and egotistic world of ‘cover your own arse’ and ‘for god’s sake don’t show any weaknesses’. Sad – because it was founded on a principle that is the exact antithesis of that.

    Now I am trying to find out where the hell my ‘core tradition’ is. Yet in some ways I do not want one – for I wonder how fair it is to put any path on such a high pedestal. I am loving my OBOD journey because it refuses to be placed on any such pedestal of perfection. It seems to be saying to me: ‘Mark, you are welcome to join this open and eclectic spirito-philosophical tradition. So come on in, but do not feel you have to change your beliefs, your ideals or your character to belong. Hopefully over time you will begin to change and transform but not because you have to – rather because of the magic you are bound to encounter here, from similar journeying souls. And you know what? You may also be such an influence of magic on others too. So, come on in – celebrate with us, learn with us, explore with us, and if you ever feel your time with us needs to come to an end – then go with our blessing.’

    My God if only my own tradition had have been so wise… but (ironically) I thank them for their lack of wisdom because that was the doorway to this new experience. Have I come home? I think I have.


  28. Thank you Peregrin – that is indeed a very important point, and it highlights the value of a tradition. Interestingly by committing to follow one ‘path’ or tradition one is not necessarily shutting oneself off from potential streams of inspiration since most traditions, when you explore their heritage, are in fact syncretic, and are already fed by an number of streams – which are sometimes perhaps underground ie not obvious to many.
    A way that some traditions reconcile their desire for Universalism, embracing all paths, while still keeping to their own way is to ‘welcome in’ all paths while maintaining core practices and teachings that are particular to them. I’m thinking of the Ramakrishna movement, which is essentially Hindu, yet which has the symbols of all the world religions incorporated in its temples and their teachings discussed in their books. The same applies to the Bahaii faith, which is an Abrahamic religion, with a ‘universalist stance’ yet with its own very particular approach.
    MacGregor Reid, who founded the Ancient Druid Order (out of which OBOD emerged) similarly was inclusive in his approach, yet the Buddhist, Islamic and Christian inspirations were contextualised within an overall approach that was Druidic.

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