Thank you for the pointer in the comments yesterday, I realise this would be a very good topic to run with. It’s hard to talk about what to do in order to be a Druid, because there’s so much diversity. It’s equally tricky to discuss belief for all the same reasons. When there are atheist, Christian, animist and polytheist Druids out there, pinning down what to believe in order to call yourself a Druid makes no sense at all. Like many writers poking around issues of modern Druidry, I’ve struggled to see what I can do that really makes the essence of Druidry available and coherent to potential seekers. Contemplating this overnight, I realise that talking about how to think might indeed be the key. So, let’s try it and see what happens…
Belief and action are, after all, consequences of thinking. If the thinking that underpins Druidry can be pinned down, the diversity of belief and action might turn out to make sense. One of the most obvious problems here is that I am one Druid, with one way of thinking about things, but, I spend a lot of time listening to and reading the thoughts of other Druids, exploring varieties of practice and hopefully I have enough to draw on.
The most important thing, I think, is that we are thinking. We’re not going through life on autopilot, doing what we’ve always done, jumping through other people’s hoops, doing what we’re told and otherwise killing time with whatever mind numbing options come to hand. To be a Druid is to be a thinking person.
Some people talk about Druidry as being a philosophy. I’m not sure this is quite it. I think at heart all Druids are philosophers. Now, I know that’s a large and loaded word full of connotations about a whole history of philosophical thinking, but that’s not what I mean, so forget Aristotle and Kant and everyone else Monty Python mentioned in that lovely song. Anyone can be a philosopher. In my experience, the best and most capable philosophers are children. They go around asking why things are as they are, and how, and who did that, and why again? What’s it for? Could it be different? What does it mean? Why? Children land with no assumptions and see the world with clearer eyes. They notice that the Emperor has no clothes on and that easily half of everything adults do is bloody stupid, but we teach them that what we have in the only way, and eventually they turn into grownups too, mores the pity. To be a Druid is to rediscover the questing, questioning nature of the child, and to start asking again. Who am I? What do I want? What is true? What matters? What is real? What is life for? How should I live? There are always more questions than answers.
While many religions exist to try and answer those questions, the whole point of Druidry is to find your own answers. It’s the active quest that makes us Druids. We seek knowledge and skills, wisdom, experience, and we keep asking who am I, and what do I want, and where is the meaning? We keep asking what can I do that would be better? Where can I help? What do I need? It’s in the thinking and the posing of questions that we shape our ability to step away from convention, tradition, and all the traps and soul-sucking features of a ‘normal’ life. As soon as you ask ‘is there some better way than this?’ you have stepped onto a path that can lead you to Druidry.
At no point have we figured it all out. There is never a day when you’ve done all the work, and, become a Druid. Imagine that you’ve ‘got there’ and the one thing you can be sure of is that you haven’t. My feeling is that a degree of uncertainty, doubt and questioning is intrinsic to following the Druid path. It’s that precisely which precludes dogma, and stops us getting too comfortable and smug. We’re never going to know, and we always have to keep asking. This is also why its very hard to teach someone how to be a Druid, because the habit of questioning requires you to go into things that cannot readily be answered and to actively seek for your own meanings and understanding. No one can give you that.
What we can do is share the journey, exchange ideas, bounce things off each other. And possibly what I can do is talk more about the thinking skills that I believe underpin what it means to be a Druid. Please do feed back, I’m pushing beyond my own comfort zone a bit here so need to know if this is working. I’ve spent a lot of years saying that the essence of Druidry is inherently unteachable, just to wake up this morning and realise I may have been wrong – which is rather exciting, and what you get when you never stop thinking and asking questions.