As a Druid, Can You Believe in Evolution?

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As a Druid, Can You Believe in Evolution?

Postby Wind Horse » 24 Nov 2012, 18:48

As a newcomer to the concept of Druidry, I’m reading a lot of books on the subject to see if I really connect to it as a philosophy and/or spiritual path. Today, I started reading The Book of Druidry by Ross Nichols, the founder of OBOD. In the first paragraph of the first chapter on p. 19, he says, “At no time has Druidry agreed with the idea of evolution from the animal as the main human origin, but has always conceived of a supernal, giant or deific basis to its universal shape.” Is he saying that to seriously practice Druidry, you can’t believe in evolution? Darwin’s theory of evolution?

If this is true, I find it disconcerting as I believe in the scientific possibility of evolution, especially since there are many facts that support it. I’m not an expert on evolution or a scientist, but I always felt like it sort of upheld my spiritual belief that we’re all connected somehow with animals and nature, basically evolving from the same source. I can understand why many ancient religions and philosophies developed theories to explain “creation,” but as humans we now have more advanced science and technology to help us better understand the world around us, including our history. I know it can be harmful in that it can disconnect us further from nature, but I believe it also does some good.

I even know Christians that believe in evolution now; however, in the United States, where I live, we also have Evangelicals who don’t want evolution taught in public schools (or want science teachers to include “creationism” in their curriculum) because they still believe in a mythology, which has been revised and revised by many over the years to serve their own purposes. There isn’t anything wrong with mythology. I love mythology, especially Celtic mythology, as it can teach us many lessons, but I don’t wholeheartedly believe, word for word, that everything really happened in such a story. To me, these stories represent archetypes. Though as someone who has studied a lot of language theory, I believe that each individual extracts his or her own meaning from a text based on many factors. That’s why I’m questioning my own initial reaction to what Nichols is actually saying and completely open to other interpretations.

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Re: As a Druid, Can You Believe in Evolution?

Postby Corwen » 24 Nov 2012, 20:25

I remember trying to read that book years ago and not getting very far. You should take all of its contents as what they are, the thoughts of an occultist most active in the 1950s. His thinking is obviously heavily influenced by the occult fashions of the time, springing from theosophy, anthroposophy and a ragbag of Christian and Eastern mysticism. I don't think it has much in common at all with contemporary Druidic thinking.
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Re: As a Druid, Can You Believe in Evolution?

Postby Lily » 24 Nov 2012, 21:12

The Book of Druidry by Ross Nichols, the founder of OBOD. In the first paragraph of the first chapter on p. 19, he says, “At no time has Druidry agreed with the idea of evolution from the animal as the main human origin, but has always conceived of a supernal, giant or deific basis to its universal shape.”
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Re: As a Druid, Can You Believe in Evolution?

Postby skh » 24 Nov 2012, 21:14

The thing ist, druidry doesn't even agree on itself, so you are free to think and believe what you want, or what seems inevitably true to you. (Edited to add: which you, as a human, are anyway and irrevocably.)

To many, this is one of the best features of druidry. But see above.

Personally, I see druid writers of all times as (possible) sources of inspiration, not of truth. On the topic of evolution, and science in general, I think you're in good company with many druids, though I of course don't know the personal beliefs of every one.

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Re: As a Druid, Can You Believe in Evolution?

Postby DJ Droood » 25 Nov 2012, 04:23

I have that book too, but I don't think I've ever been able to plow through it...but as another old Druid once said "The Truth Against the World"...I think the essence of druidry is a search for truth...Darwin seemed to be on to something, and I tend to think Evolution is the most viable theory about how we came to be what we are now...all the Intelligent Design and Creationism nonsense is poppycock....I would say that you can't be a modern Druid, at least a credible one, and *not* believe in evolution.
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Re: As a Druid, Can You Believe in Evolution?

Postby treegod » 25 Nov 2012, 12:27

Druidry isn't limited to what Ross Nichols has to say about it, lol.

The image of a druid is as much scientist (or "natural philosopher") as priest, so I see no contradiction in being a druid and adopting an evolutionist stance.

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Re: As a Druid, Can You Believe in Evolution?

Postby ShadowCat » 25 Nov 2012, 13:14

The whole idea that "evolution" and "intelligent design" are not compatible and exclude eachother never stuck with me.

We are all simply biochemical machines on one level, and sentient beings with spirit/soul on another. Biological live follows it's own stream, and the spirit that resides within all biological beings does the same: There can be an all-encompasing higher wisdom that guides evolution... They are not only compatible theories, but they complete eachother fully IMHO. I don't believe in a dude on a cloud looking down on all of us here breeding and evolving away, but there's a mystical component to all live, it's the energy of life itself, that seems to have some sort of sentient qualities on its own.
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Re: As a Druid, Can You Believe in Evolution?

Postby Whitemane » 25 Nov 2012, 16:44

Intelligent design is a nonsense invented by extremely conservative Christians to circumvent the non-establishment clause in the US Constitution, attack the theory of evolution and sneak the Genesis creation myth into science teaching.

It is without merit on its theological and scientific bases. Don't waste your time or mine on it.
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Re: As a Druid, Can You Believe in Evolution?

Postby ShadowCat » 25 Nov 2012, 17:23

Intelligent design is a nonsense invented by extremely conservative Christians
Then maybe I misused the term...sorry. I'm not that familiar with the US-constitution or American conservative Christianity, and didn't realise it might be a touchy subject.

To my, the term indicates just once perception of some sort of "bigger plan/flow/system/logic" behind the seemingly random experiments of evolution. It's the "something" a lot of people sense but can't descibe, so they fall back on inadequate descriptions, deities, gods, demons, "the Force" or whatnot. To me, it's connected to the meaning of life... a feeling that it can't just be us floating in emptyness on a little piece of rubble in a random universe. And well, maybe it is, and there is no bigger plan, in which case we better just make sure we have a good time. :gulp:

Again, sorry, I don't want to waste anybody's time, it's just that apart from a few hunderd christian extremists in our tiny biblebelt (who burn Harry Potterbooks and aren't taken seriously by the rest of us), this is pretty much a non-issue in the Netherlands. Evolution is science and tought at schools, and what fiction people read at home, including the bible, is their own business. Hope this clarifies it.
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Re: As a Druid, Can You Believe in Evolution?

Postby Whitemane » 25 Nov 2012, 17:48

clarification accepted :tiphat:

The challenge in accepting evolution is scale and time. It is difficult for people to think beyond their immediate circle and their own time. Consider for example that there are seven billion people on the planet. Each and every one of us is an experiment in the interaction of heredity and environment. We are also 80-100 generations removed from the Roman conquest of Britain, and 40-50 from the Norman conquest. What sort of changes could have happened in that period as the population grew 8-10-fold? The classic example is the development of the overbite, which was unknown in Britain before 1066.

Now imagine what could happen when you have a trillion flies or grass plants and you have thousands of generations of genetic accidents accumulated.
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Re: As a Druid, Can You Believe in Evolution?

Postby treegod » 25 Nov 2012, 22:41

A model, if you'll indulge me, on a druidic view of evolution based on the Three Circles of Existence:

Annwn: the raw material of the universe. It doesn't "evolve" so much as "change", with no direction. But within this forms and patterns emerge that do evolve and find a direction, of sorts.

Abred: life itself, as it undergoes many changes in a directionless direction for survival. It evolves, forever "perfecting" its forms by which it survives. There is no direction, except to survive in whatever way possible.

Gwynvid: where directionality arises in evolution, where consciousness arises and evolves, making choices and forging its direction.

Each one emerges from the previous one, and includes the previous ones too. Once you "advance" to the next level you don't leave the previous behind, because it becomes part of a holistic evolution - i.e. there are no "worlds" to advance to, it all happens in Annwn, within which more "refined" levels of evolution emerge. Annwn becomes Abred-Annwn, and Abred-Annwn becomes Gwynvid-Abred-Annwn.

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Re: As a Druid, Can You Believe in Evolution?

Postby Wind Horse » 26 Nov 2012, 20:10

Treegod,
Thank you for providing a different explanation on evolution or "change" from a Druid perspective. It's very helpful.

And thanks to everyone else who has responded to my question or added to the discussion. I'm open to continuing to receive insight. I like this board because so far, I've received thoughtful and intelligent responses to my questions as I explore this new path.

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Re: As a Druid, Can You Believe in Evolution?

Postby firinn agus » 13 Dec 2012, 00:49

Thank you Treegod. That was a wonderful explanation. I come from a hermetic background and am new to this path, your explanation was very insightful.
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Re: As a Druid, Can You Believe in Evolution?

Postby RidgeDruid » 13 Dec 2012, 14:38

I wade into that book from time to time, but really find it lacking for me as a personal source of inspiration or as a useable guide. It is an interesting source of materials and ideas.

For me, any theory that is presented as the "one way" and is supported simply by the fact that someone wrote it down and it has been repeated for thousands of years is nothing more than dogma.

From Wikipedia - Dogmata are found in religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, where they are considered core principles that must be upheld by all followers of that religion. As a fundamental element of religion, the term "dogma" is assigned to those theological tenets which are considered to be well demonstrated, such that their proposed disputation or revision effectively means that a person no longer accepts the given religion as his or her own, or has entered into a period of personal doubt. Dogma is distinguished from theological opinion regarding those things considered less well-known. Dogmata may be clarified and elaborated but not contradicted in novel teachings (e.g., Galatians 1:6-9). Rejection of dogma may lead to expulsion from a religious group. (my emphasis)

In my opinion, evolution (as a reactive process of change to adjust to new conditions) is real, but very poorly understood. Modern science continually falls into the trap of confusing a description of something with a true understanding of something. Even though I am not a trained scientist, I try and keep up in the popular press, and it appears to me that as our understanding of the processes of genetic evolution continues to evolve, we are find more and more possible influences, such as through environment. From what I've read it seems the human organism is evolving to adapt on a genetic level to incorporate GMO crops, whether this will contribute to our "spiritual evolution" is a bit hard to discern..

Now that I've gotten the waters pretty muddy, I'll stop trying to think so hard early in the morning and simply state that the lack of dogma is what makes OBOD Druidry so valuable to me.
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Re: As a Druid, Can You Believe in Evolution?

Postby cryptic_raven » 31 Dec 2012, 14:37

I haven't read the book to which the original poster refers to but I think that evolution can be a valid viewpoint for a Druid.

Apart from anything else, evolution demonstrates how interconnected we all are, and surely that is something integral to a nature-based belief system?

I think an image that I found on the Web via George Takei's facebook page says it all really. I've attached it as the image embedding thing didn't seem to work for me on this post.

I get that people have issues with evolution due to deistic reasons but there is overwhelming evidence, studies, work and other such measurable data that proves the scientific theory is correct. As a Druid, well, it depends on how you see life fitting in with everything else. As a Druid that is fairly atheistic about deities and the supernatural, I'm pretty ok with evolution as a thing that exists without any "mystical" or otherworldly component. I denounce intelligent design as, apart from anything else, it has so little scientific basis. However, I can understand if there are people who have a strong deity focus in their Druidic life and how this could create a conflict.

One thing that I love about paganism as a whole, that the more established "revealed" religions/philosophies lack is that we can shift and alter our structures according to new information, especially material presented by science. Religions such as Christianity are a lot of restricted with this adaptation as they are so centered around a core text and a core set of belief. I think that Druids are a lot more flexible and therefore in a far better position to take on and discard new viewpoints as and when they arise. Please feel free to correct me if I have completely misinterpreted anything. :curtsey:
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Re: As a Druid, Can You Believe in Evolution?

Postby Treeshrew » 04 Jan 2013, 11:54

To be honest, I think that nothing in the natural world (and that includes human society and psychology, as well as Druidry) makes sense except in the light of evolution. I think it's not a question of can a Druid believe in evolution, as much as it is simply a fact that everyone has to accept, the same as the laws of physics and the 'theory' of Gravity.

Personally, I found reading Darwin, Dawkins, Steve Jones etc on evolution helped me break away from the Catholic 'things may have evolved, but God directed it and stuck a soul into human beings' approach to the world and let me see nature as it really is, a supremely interwoven tapestry of life, all the more beautiful for there not being a designer behind it, just nature's laws working themselves out. I can certainly see that adding a great deal to the Druid concept of interconnectedness of life.

The ancient Druids were living in a pre-scientfic age, we are not. We should be able to take inspiration from them while still accepting the last few centuries of science as well!

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Re: As a Druid, Can You Believe in Evolution?

Postby Whitemane » 04 Jan 2013, 13:21

Treeshrew is quoting the famous geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nothing_in ... _Evolution, and I agree completely. Dobzhansky's most famous pupil was Franciscio Ayala, who had been ordained as a Catholic priest and eventually managed to get himself excommunicated for his insistence on the reality of evolution.

The real challenge in all of this is the gap between the mechanical and the magical. That is, what makes us human? What turns us from a pile of dust into something with imagination, hopes, dreams, and that can love? We may never fully understand it, and frankly, I hope that is the case. There must be room for a little magic in every life.
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Re: As a Druid, Can You Believe in Evolution?

Postby Treeshrew » 04 Jan 2013, 13:33

Thank you, Whitemane, I knew that was a dimly-remembered quote but I couldn't place where from! :tiphat:
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Re: As a Druid, Can You Believe in Evolution?

Postby Gwion » 04 Jan 2013, 14:24

The real challenge in all of this is the gap between the mechanical and the magical. That is, what makes us human? What turns us from a pile of dust into something with imagination, hopes, dreams, and that can love?
What gap? Just because we cannot relate our way of experiencing the world to the way that the non-human world of molecules may (or may not) experience does not mean that there is a gap other than in our understanding/imagination. How do we know what the rest of the material world “experiences”? With leanings towards animism, I find the idea that we are more than a pile of dust, with its implication that a rock, a fallen leaf or a living tree might be less, is too anthropocentric. :thinking:
There must be room for a little magic in every life.
- but here I totally agree! :)

I have no problem with believing in the process of evolution as the mechanism by which life-matter adapts to its environment although, in my opinion, too many still see it anthropocentrically and hierarchically as if it's heading towards somewhere in particular (and we're the nearest step to wherever it's going) rather than it just being a process of continuous adaptation. (Yes, I know there's increasing complexity but that's inevitable as each new adaptation tends to add to what went before and sideline, rather than delete, non-useful information (appendix, tail etc).
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Re: As a Druid, Can You Believe in Evolution?

Postby Whitemane » 04 Jan 2013, 18:05

I was only talking about people...

I take the strict view that the origin of life, the transition from inanimate electrochemical machine to animate, is not within the purview of the theory of evolution. The theory of evolution really doesn't care how life arose, despite the efforts of Creationists to make people think that the one is essential for the other and that if you can't explain one, you can't explain the other.

The Big Magic Thing is what turned non-living into living. We do not understand it, we may never do, and that may not matter if it takes away from us a great unknown that gave us where we are, what we are, and why we are.
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