Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Cat over at Quaker Pagan Reflections has written a very interesting post about fame.

Whilst I wholeheartedly agree that fame and wisdom are not the same thing, I wholeheartedly disagree with the idea that there are no Pagans who do not know the difference (famous or otherwise). It's rare for me to disagree with Cat, but on this occasion I have to say I do.

I've thought a lot about the whole fame thing. Part of my reason for writing books was that I wanted something to live on after death; but I've never wanted to be famous in a Big Name Pagan sort of way. Most of the Big Name Pagans that I really respect are the ones who do not expect everyone else to agree with them and fawn over them. I have a selection of people whom I have commissioned to give me a big kick up the backside if ever I turn into one of those people surrounded by fawning neophytes. Of course there are one or two of those sort of Big Name Pagans in the UK, but apart from their small gang of neophytes, they are widely regarded as Too Big For Their Boots. Another part of my reason for writing books was that I aimed to write the sort of books I wanted to read (on the assumption that there might be others interested in the same topics as me). The other day, someone did say to me that they were very grateful for my books as they thought they were the only one interested in such things - I was very glad to have been of assistance in this way, but I can't say it inflated my ego, though I was very pleased to discover a kindred spirit. I can certainly honestly say that I don't write books in order to acquire followers or be seen as super-spiritual; I write because I enjoy writing and hope that other people will enjoy the results. I've never wanted to be famous to the extent of being recognised in the street or anything like that; I certainly don't crave the attention of tabloids and paparazzi; and I would rather someone develop their own opinions than quote mine as an "authority" (if they happen to agree with me, that's nice, but only if they have come to their views after independent thought and reflection).

The authors I respect know what they think, cultivate wisdom, are generally humble, and do not expect the biggest table or spotlight at conferences. I happen to know quite a lot of Pagan authors, and for the most part they are people of integrity. Rather than keeping a coterie of dependent neophytes, they encourage others to develop their own opinions, walk their own path with integrity, and cultivate their own wisdom. A person who keeps others in a state of spiritual or intellectual dependence (beyond the point where they might be expected to think for themselves) is certainly to be suspected of overweening ego; but fortunately such people are reasonably rare. I personally couldn't be bothered to keep a flock of neophytes dangling at my tail, because it would be too much effort looking after their neediness, and people who can't think for themselves irritate me. If anyone says to me that I am wise or special, I just feel squirmily embarrassed, quite frankly. I mean, okay, I take a fair amount of pride in my breadth of knowledge and ability to express it clearly; but I don't pretend to superior wisdom on anything.

The Hávamál implicitly make the point that fame must be earned:
Happy is he who wins for himself
fair fame and kindly words;
(Hávamál, 8)

Cattle die and kinsmen die,
thyself too soon must die,
but one thing never, I ween, will die, --
fair fame of one who has earned.
(Hávamál, 75)
Fame is not merely earned by spouting opinions; it is earned by wisdom and a life well lived.

A person with integrity walks the walk, and does not merely talk the talk.

I have discussed Pagan virtues and ethics elsewhere at length (especially compassion), and they most definitely do include humility - but a humility tempered by honour, which in the Pagan sense is an accurate assessment of one's own self-worth (naturally not flinching from being aware of one's flaws). Honour and humility together bring integrity. And Pagan virtues (ideal and actual) certainly include the cultivation of wisdom - a wisdom that includes compassion for all life (including those less "spiritually advanced" than oneself).

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