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Earthdragon

How To Tell If A Teaching/group Is Authentic?

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Earthdragon

We had a newcomer come to our Samhain ritual the other week. He was polite and respectful during the ceremony and in the open conversation that usually buzzes around the attendees afterwards someone asked him what he thought. He said He didnt know know because not having any experience of this sort of thing. He was reserving judgment. I said to him that I thought that this was a healthy response.

 

It got me thinking about how one goes about checking that a group/teaching is actually authentic. And what authetic actually means.

 

Visiting different groups of a similar nature and going to moots is a way to compare what is on offer. Also articles and books provide a variety of reference points. But someone offering niche Shamanic work for example will be hard assess for the non experienced. And also appealing to common opinion/views doesnt guarantee validity.

 

Then I got to thinking of the importance of outcome based judgments. That is - what does the experience/s on offer actually do for a person regardless of the concept of authenticity? And then there are the areas that lay inbetween.

 

Being a memeber if a tradituonal Druid Grove I am used views being given that an unbroken line of teaching spanning many generations is nonsense. Nowadays I tend to think "what does it matter" which isnt to say I dont hold to my oral tradition either. There are other factors such as communion with ancestors and deity which come to fore in this context as well.

 

As a related piece of food for thought I read the final letter from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, as was published in a local parish magazine, to an inspirational friend who has since passed away. It was a most elevating piece of writing and Bill and myself had a most thought provoking and memorable discussion of it. I later found that it was in fact written by someone else and had been falsely credited to Marquez. It was nice to know this and was a bit of a surprise and dissapointment but for me it has not affected the effect that the writing has had on me or the discussion afterwards. It was the writing not the credited author that was important.

 

ED

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Moonhunter

As you say, hun - what is "authentic"? I guess I'd put things in these categories:

 

- claims are genuine and can easily be proved

- claims are genuine but difficult to prove

- claims are false and everyone knows it (teachers are open)

- claims are false and only teachers know it

- claims are false and no one knows it

 

Of these, I guess the last two are the toxic ones.

 

I got caught up with a cult in the 1970s. I didn't know it was a cult until 10 or 15 years later. It doesn't really matter - it smelled wrong to me and I dropped out before the level at which the nasty stuff started. Many didn't. You're right about education being the key. But, at some level, you have to trust. Maybe the stakes get higher as you become better educated - and being let down is an experience that teachers can experience as much as trainees. Some trainees are simply seeking another "trophy" experience.

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Freydis

It's difficult. I think that most people have an inbuilt "bullshitometer" that kicks in, and which becomes more sensitively calibrated with age and experience. Sometimes though, I think that it depends on how much someone wants to believe. Human beings can be very good at self-deception when the circumstances are right.

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Moonsmith

I think that it often needs a third party to recognise that their friend is being drawn into something harmful by apparently imperceptible degrees. This whether the "teacher" is deluded, mistaken, fraudulent or malevolent.

 

On the other hand if I have made a few million selling vinyl and I feel that I benefit from giving a few hundred thousand to a wily old Maharishi in exchange for his wisdom then it's a fair trade. If I subsequently feel that it is bullshit I might say so in my autobiography but I'd laugh.

 

Overall:

 

I would find it hard to put the words "Pagan", "Authentic" and "2016" into a single positive sentence unless I was only referring to myself.

I do question myself and everything else exhaustively to try the ensure that the teacher who is deluding me is not me.

 

If there is one thing that is common to Pagans it is that we take personal responsibility for our spirituality. We stand in no need of priest, saviour or guru. Teachers may be of interest and influence but we do not need them in order to practice Paganism.

Edited by Pomona
updated last sentence as per MS request
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Moonsmith

Once again I've run out of editing time. Blame the bacon butty.

 

Could a mod be kind and add = in order to practice Paganism. to the end of my last sentence.

 

I wouldn't bother except that this is in starters orders.

 

Oh and perhaps delete this post or leave it here so that readers can assess the mental capacity of the writer :)

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Ellinas

In spiritual terms, that is "authentic" which is, or is based upon, an honest and considered opinion or experience.

 

And, like all such opinions and the effect or weight of such experiences, it cannot be immutable.

 

A group is authentic if it understands this and is not afraid of self examination, criticism and change. That is rare in a group - one reason I steer clear.

 

Authenticity can only be judged by one's own appreciation of honesty and consideration. That takes an element of intelligence, of common sense and of experience.

 

Oh - Moonsmith - personally, I blame the bacon butty.

Edited by Ellinas

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Moonsmith

Oh - Moonsmith - personally, I blame the bacon butty.

 

Yay - I'm influential! On the other hand I lay absolutely no claim to external authenticity. I have just given an overtone flute to a Witch friend who looked at its construction and said - "This sums you up Pat, you're a stainless steel and nylon Druid!"

 

On the other hand while I will be delighted for anyone to challenge my internal authenticity, they would do so based upon my statements. If I am shown not to be consistent then I shall be pleased to acknowledge a flaw in my own authenticity. I can learn.

 

You say that such introspection is rare in a group Ellinas - I doubt it is possible. I have looked out over the congregation in Chester Cathedral at Easter and realised that every one of more than two thousand members of the congregation believe something different.

 

Bugger - does that challenge the authenticity of Christianity? Perhaps it doesn't. Consistency of learning used to be a standard measure of "teaching validity" but inconsistent learning might still be authentic in origin! Bugger bugger bugger - I need to think!

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Moonsmith

Way hay - yet another Moonsmith double post!

 

I've been thinking.

 

It's your fault Ellinas! On this occasion the bacon butty is innocent!

 

In spiritual terms, that is "authentic" which is, or is based upon, an honest and considered opinion or experience.

 

Nope! That's Honest or even [i find] Integrous!

 

Unless authentic spirituality is a special case of authenticity then:

 

Oxford English Dictionary:

1. Of undisputed origin and not a copy, genuine.

..... made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original.

 

And

2. Based upon facts; accurate or reliable.

I suggest that we don't pursue #2 regarding spirituality otherwise we will be attempting "spiritual truth" and that might get hairy.

 

So applying this to the OP an Authentic Teaching or an Authentic Teaching Group might be expected to have have some original source, document, history, icon or recorded philosophy whose provenance is demonstrable. That each learner will create their own interpretation of such is inevitable.

 

"The greatest illusion of the teacher is the belief that what is taught is what is learned" Boots and Reynolds. I'll post the reference when I can remember where it is.

This has a significance where learning is passed from a teacher who was a learner and where the source is elusive.

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Ellinas

Right, I'll try to get my head round this, but there is a danger I'm misinterpreting you.

 

 

... I lay absolutely no claim to external authenticity. I have just given an overtone flute to a Witch friend who looked at its construction and said - "This sums you up Pat, you're a stainless steel and nylon Druid!"

 

On the other hand while I will be delighted for anyone to challenge my internal authenticity, they would do so based upon my statements. If I am shown not to be consistent then I shall be pleased to acknowledge a flaw in my own authenticity. I can learn.

 

I'm not saying that authenticity is dependent on consistency - merely upon honest self appraisal. A person who is spiritually "authentic" may be shown to be inconsistent and, therefore, mistaken. His or her reaction to that revelation will indicate whether he or she is "authentic".

 

You say that such introspection is rare in a group Ellinas - I doubt it is possible. I have looked out over the congregation in Chester Cathedral at Easter and realised that every one of more than two thousand members of the congregation believe something different.

 

Bugger - does that challenge the authenticity of Christianity? Perhaps it doesn't. Consistency of learning used to be a standard measure of "teaching validity" but inconsistent learning might still be authentic in origin! Bugger bugger bugger - I need to think!

 

In my view the absence of doctrinal consistency between umpteen denominations suggests that there is, indeed, no "authentic" Christianity - or at least, none that is identifiable. That's not the same thing as saying there are no authentic Christians. Spirituality is - or should be - always personal, even within a framework that seeks some sort of orthodoxy.

 

...

 

I've been thinking.

 

It's your fault Ellinas! On this occasion the bacon butty is innocent!

 

That's right. Just blame the poor old Hellene...

 

In spiritual terms, that is "authentic" which is, or is based upon, an honest and considered opinion or experience.

 

Nope! That's Honest or even [i find] Integrous!

 

Unless authentic spirituality is a special case of authenticity then:

 

Oxford English Dictionary:

1. Of undisputed origin and not a copy, genuine.

..... made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original.

 

And

2. Based upon facts; accurate or reliable.

I suggest that we don't pursue #2 regarding spirituality otherwise we will be attempting "spiritual truth" and that might get hairy.

 

So applying this to the OP an Authentic Teaching or an Authentic Teaching Group might be expected to have have some original source, document, history, icon or recorded philosophy whose provenance is demonstrable. That each learner will create their own interpretation of such is inevitable.

 

"The greatest illusion of the teacher is the belief that what is taught is what is learned" Boots and Reynolds. I'll post the reference when I can remember where it is.

This has a significance where learning is passed from a teacher who was a learner and where the source is elusive.

 

Up to a point, but I think "authentic" can only be used as a term of art with a fairly specific meaning in this context.

 

The problem is that my spirituality is personal to me, as yours is to you. Whatever the sources and inspiration, we each establish our own "authenticity" not by following a tradition but by synthesizing the ideas and making them our own. In fact, I would say that, in spiritual terms, authenticity is the very opposite of following the tradition and the herd mentality; that results in a copy of the beliefs of others, which makes the individual the very opposite of "authentic".

 

The problem is that spirituality is, by its' nature, subjective. It is difficult, therefore, to found it upon "facts". "Made in a traditional way" works for Melton Mowbray pork pies; I'm not sure that it works for a belief system which, in terms of its' relationship to the past, can only ever be an interpretation of what has gone before, and if too restricted in the interpretation, makes the individual a a rather unimaginative copy of what has been observed in the past with no personal depth or understanding. The dictionary definition would make the "authentic" teacher the one who steadfastly refuses to think beyond the surface. If that is what it means, then I'd rather avoid the authentic.

 

So, I would return to the idea that those who are "authentic" in their spirituality are those who are constantly re-examining their beliefs, ideas, experiences etc and are prepared to act upon their ever changing conclusions.

 

I think...

Edited by Ellinas
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Moonsmith

It would appear that it is the word Authentic that is wrongly applied here then.

 

If definitive "authenticity" doesn't apply to our [agreed] very personal beliefs and belief structures then it is unlikely to apply to a spiritual teaching or teaching group.

 

If such a group feels [subjective] that it is behaving in a way that respects, acknowledges, recreates a founding behaviour then it has the right to FEEL that it is authentic with regard to that foundation. If the claim for authenticity goes beyond feeling then that group [or those who propound the teaching] must be prepared to demonstrate the provenance of their foundation but only to the satisfaction of a challenger.

Of course such a challenge will not be common among it's adherents which it a pity in some ways.

 

Pee ess. An evolving, reacting teaching group could only be authentic if such evolution was built into its foundation.

Edited by Moonsmith

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Ellinas

Authenticity is certainly a word that needs to be used very carefully in this context - I've yet to come across a group that does not consider itself to be "authentic", whilst those outside of that group may have a very different idea.

 

Off the top of my head, I would say that authentic spirituality - if you like, that which relates to the very basis of what spirituality is about - is that which nurtures the individual appreciation of his or her own psyche and its' relationship to whatever that individual might consider to be reality. The nature of that reality itself will be up for discussion but not a matter of dogmatic requirement.

 

I doubt if the idea of "authenticity" has much meaning beyond that, as a consensus of what is right or traditional will be as elusive as my bank balance.

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NorseNephilim

When it comes to groups, I'm with the old adage "Those who know aren't talking and those who talk don't know". In a nutshell, in my experience, those who use superlatives ("best", "oldest", "most authentic") to "sell" what they are doing are usually, knowingly or unknowingly, peddling crap. So, I tend to find myself drawn to people, groups and teachers who are understated or even reluctant to reveal what they know.

 

Incidentally, googling for the source of the quote revealed it was from the Tao Te Ching. I thought it worth requoting here:

 

“Those who know don’t talk. Those who talk don’t know. Close your mouth, block off your senses, blunt your sharpness, untie your knots, soften your glare, settle your dust. This is the primal identity. Be like the Tao. It can’t be approached or withdrawn from, benefited or harmed, honored or brought into disgrace. It gives itself up continually. That is why it endures.”

 

Lao Tzu

Edited by NorseNephilim
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Wolfwind

Moonsmith, i am that 'wily old Maharishi' I take bit coin (whatever the fuck that is!!) or one of the now rather looked forward to bacon butties, and any loose change, in exchange for my wisdom (tooth) :o_loony:

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Moonsmith

NN Your post seems to suggest that there is something which only such a silent group would know and others wouldn't. [Have I got that right?]

 

Can any group really lay claim to hidden wisdom any more? Most things including Freemasonry have leaked out onto the internet. The Illuminatii seem to be hanging in there!

 

edit.

Perhaps that is another thread but I have known of individuals who hold out the promise of arcane wisdom to those who would follow. I would certainly avoid those.

 

Sorry Wolfwind - I looked back and laughed! Check out my unwritten autobiography. It contains many arcane secrets to wealth and to an inexhaustible supply of bacon butties to those who offer enough money. Does a bitcoin have teethmarks in it? I've seen films of pirates. :)

Edited by Moonsmith

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Ellinas

Arcane wisdom is hidden in bacon butties - I thought we had established that several posts back. Though I find fish, chips and mushy peas brings a whole new level of initiatory appreciation as well.

 

The Illuminati are sufficiently hidden to lead me to question their existence. I've seen Rosicrucian adverts in the dim and distant past, and something more recently about the teaching of the hidden masters - who, presumably, are therefore trying to be a touch less hidden.

 

Generally, I default to applying the acronym "IAB" when I see such things.

 

"It's All B*ll*cks".

 

NorseNephilim's point is interesting, however. On the one hand, I know what he means. On the other, it does tend to the conclusion that the only wise people are those who never say anything...

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NorseNephilim

NN Your post seems to suggest that there is something which only such a silent group would know and others wouldn't. [Have I got that right?]

 

 

I wouldn't really put it that way. I would rather say there is a confidence, born of wisdom and experience, that causes people/pagans/teachers to feel less need to crow about what they are doing. Does that make more sense?

 

Edited to continue the train of thought:

 

I don't think there is hidden wisdom, as such. In fact, I agree that everything is now out in the open. However, that obscures as much as it illuminates. "Seekers" (ooh, I dislike that word) have to wade through all the crap to find the nuggets of truth. But how are we to know the pearls from the dross?

 

Martial arts are a very similar field in this respect. Lots and lots of teachers, styles and 'truths' that are all out in the open. However, a very large portion of them aren't really offering anything of value. I am lucky to have found one of the 'pearls' in the class I currently attend (at least, IMHO).

Edited by NorseNephilim
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Ellinas

I suppose you are saying something similar to the old adage that "still waters run deep".

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Moonsmith

 

On 11/9/2016 at 12:37 PM, Earthdragon said:

It was the writing not the credited author that was important. 

Totally agree ED

......but.....

Desiderata was originally marketed as being of the seventeenth century but in fact written in 1927.  Would it have been so popular originally published under its authentic attribution?  Why not?  How widely are his other poems known?

What about this guy?  He had a huge following. Would anyone have listened to Archibald Stansfield Belaney of Hastings?

Are they any more authentic because we now know who these people are?  Any less so? How has their credibility been affected? What about the effect of their writing; has that changed?

Shall the Writings of Moonsmith lose all their value once my true identity is known?

 

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Earthdragon
15 hours ago, Moonsmith said:

Would it have been so popular originally published under its authentic attribution?  Why not?  How widely are his other poems known?

Indeed people, myself included at times, judge books by their covers 😉 and popularity doesn't guarantee authenticity just as obscurity doesnt equate with being unimportant or inauthentic for those who derive inspiration from it. 

The Coen Bros film Inside Llwyn Davis Davis is a good study on fame and obscurity...

15 hours ago, Moonsmith said:

Are they any more authentic because we now know who these people are?  Any less so? How has their credibility been affected? What about the effect of their writing; has that changed?

We all answer these questions in our own way. I think  that people in general have failings and are in some ways  compromised. Most spiritual teachings are likely compromised in places and accepting these things means that I don't need the author of a piece of writing or the origin of a teaching to have some sort of ultimate purity to be relevant to me or my spiritual work. 

 

15 hours ago, Moonsmith said:

Shall the Writings of Moonsmith lose all their value once my true identity is known?

 

Let's wait and see hehe.

A couple of examples:

Heidegger is acknowledged as one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century and yet dipped into social nationalism in Germany.

One may have a well supported view that an ex-con should never be employed in role which exercises responsibility over prison inmates. However there are many examples of trained rehabilitated offenders being most effective in counselling and mentoring inmates  ,and also post release, with a dramatic reduction in re-offending rates.

See I don't think things are all black and white. (Aside: in Druidism we say we aren't aiming to be in the pure white light but rather a lighter shade of grey).

I try not to judge somebody by the nature of their known associates. Its just not logical to go down that route even if it appeals to our emotions at times. "Don't listen to her because she is friends with so-and-so -so"  - it just doesn't ring  true does it...?

Likewise while a person's reputation may be coloured by any misdemeanours or errors that they have made, to me the worth of their other actions is not completely compromised by those errors. Showing responsibility for the implications of the errors is the important thing.

On 11/13/2016 at 5:43 PM, Ellinas said:

Off the top of my head, I would say that authentic spirituality - if you like, that which relates to the very basis of what spirituality is about - is that which nurtures the individual appreciation of his or her own psyche and its' relationship to whatever that individual might consider to be reality. The nature of that reality itself will be up for discussion but not a matter of dogmatic requirement.

I really like this take on things, Ellinas. Nurturance implying growth with a lack of dogma and therein a respect for honestly held perspectives.

Edited by Earthdragon
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Jon

the talk of authentic can also take a different turn, are they teaching something religous or spiritual or is it something else, is it an extension of politics or nationalism dressed up. that is a good question to ask. as is the question what is the focus of the group, is it focussed on justification of something otherwise reprehensible? is it focussed on justifying nationalism, racial purity and blood, is it focussed on specific individuals or specific interpretations of material that fit within a narrow viewpoint. anyone care for a wee jaunt into american folkish white supremacist nationalism for instance? thats one example that turns up daily in northern quarters.

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Moonsmith

I've just been re-reading this thread and this caught my eye:

On 11/13/2016 at 4:59 PM, Ellinas said:

So, I would return to the idea that those who are "authentic" in their spirituality are those who are constantly re-examining their beliefs, ideas, experiences etc and are prepared to act upon their ever changing conclusions.

 

[My weekly comic causes me to undertake this kind of review on an uncomfortably frequent basis.]

So:

Where the founding thoughts of a faith are aged or ancient; to what extent should its followers allow it to evolve?  Might it be possible to derive a formula for evolution from its tenets?

or/and

Does it always need a controlling body to reinterpret the original thinking into modern times?  Judaism has Shul and Islam has its madrassas where elders discuss these things but it must be very difficult to control the promulgation of agreed thinking.

Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism are only just catching up with environmental issues and have for a long time struggled with the development of society in Britain.  I can only surmise that the solely bible based versions of Christianity find their planetary conscience outside of their founding reference.

These re-thinks and add-ons tend to a natural diversity of thinking and often [historically] to schisms. 

Is it inevitable that the founding thinking becomes increasingly diluted or stretched? Where does the authenticity of a long established faith lie in such circumstances?

 

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Earthdragon
On 11/23/2018 at 1:50 PM, Moonsmith said:

My weekly comic causes me to undertake this kind of review on an uncomfortably frequent basis.]

So:

Hi Moonsmith, it occurred to me on rereading your comment above to ask why such reviewing and potential re-jigging is an uncomfortable process for you? - for me there is a slight uneasiness if new conclusions about my spiritual practice might lead to a seeming lack of authenticity of any of my previous practice or experiences. Usually I am quite happy to delve into such things though - it feels a bit like being an explorer - it's interesting and it feels like I'm getting somewhere. 

On 11/23/2018 at 1:50 PM, Moonsmith said:

Where the founding thoughts of a faith are aged or ancient; to what extent should its followers allow it to evolve?  Might it be possible to derive a formula for evolution from its tenets?

Interesting question - firstly Ellinas framed his statement around beliefs ideas and experiences and I think it's important to encompass the diversity of the content of spirituality when talking about authenticity. In Buddhism for example, one would not generally think of oneself as having faith. In Druidism I can relate to having beliefs somewhat though ideas, pracrices and experiences are what I personally relate to most. My own take on spirituality is that it doesn't need to remain as an imprint of some previous generation's version. In terms of duality - for there to be a continuity of a spiritual system there has to be an ongoing connection to, for example,  certain themes, deities, principles, locations, ideas, language, stories. These.connections have a discernable structure and a coherence which hearkens back to the original practice. But contrasting with this the is that for the spirituality to be authentic to the current practitioners, there has to be a liveliness and freedom in the way individual interpretation and experience is encouraged to feed into the whole thing. One way that this can happen is for space to be given  within set rituals can be devoted to personal dedications. Hence there is chance for individuals to develop the theme of the ritual or add a different but compatible theme.

As for developing a formula for the evolution of its tenets , I think that it may be possible though I personally see spirituality as a living experiential process rather than theoretical.

On 11/23/2018 at 1:50 PM, Moonsmith said:

Does it always need a controlling body to reinterpret the original thinking into modern times? 

No. One could argue the opposite - that forming a constitutional body which controls things may very well lead to a stymied development of individual spirituality which, informed though it is via the collective consciousness of this awesome world and it's inhabitants, relies on freedom rather than hierarchy and control to be creative and evolutionary.

On 11/23/2018 at 1:50 PM, Moonsmith said:

Is it inevitable that the founding thinking becomes increasingly diluted or stretched? Where does the authenticity of a long established faith lie in such circumstances?

I think it boils down to how you define the essence of that system... one for another time maybe 🤣

Edited by Earthdragon
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