If you are not familiar with me personally, it may come as a surprise to you that I am a Pantheistic Druid. No, I don’t mean a character from World of Warcraft. Suffice it to say, for now, that druidry is a pagan spiritual path that holds with respecting and anchoring your life to the patterns of nature. Generally, speaking.
I am still learning a lot, as I am relatively new to the path, and so I have spent some of my time over my winter break reading one of my new books called “The Druidry Handbook” by John Michael Greer (so far, is excellent, though I would recommend the Elements of the Druid Tradition by Phillip Carr-Gomm for beginners).
But I’m not here today to recommend a book or a religious/spiritual path to you. Nor am I going to fully talk about my path. I wanted to talk about a quote that I ran across in this book, and how I find it fascinating, and telling.
On page 60, Greer begins to talk about the traditional elements that druids work with. He lists Nwyfre (NOOiv-ruh), which is the source of life and consciousness, Gwyar (GOO-yar), the source of change, motion, growth, and decay, and finally Calas (CAH-lass), which is the source of form, differentiation, manifestation, and stability.
Greer goes on to explain about these elements further and how, even if such things do not physically exist, thinking about the world in these terms can be very useful:
Take the common modern habit of thinking about the universe purely in terms of physical matter and energy. This works well when applied in certain ways, but it works very badly when applied to human beings and other living things. Time and again, well-intentioned experts using the best scientific tools have tried to tackle problems outside the laboratory and failed abjectly. Rational architecture and urban planning, scientific architecture and forestry, and logical schemes for education and social reform often cause more problems than they solve and fail to yield the results predicted by theory. Why? The theoreticians thought only of gwar and calas, change and stability, energy and matter. They left something out of the equation: nwyfre, the subtle element of life, feeling, and awareness. They forgot that any change they made would cause living things to respond creatively with changes of their own.
I am not sure whether this quote appeals to me so much because I am a libertarian, or whether I am a libertarian because quotes like this appeal to me so much.
This is, in a very different language, what many philosophers, economists, and policy makers (not to mention Dr. Ian Malcolm) around the world have been saying for centuries. You can’t stop life. You can’t control it, you can’t harness it in. Life finds a way. So it comes as no surprise to me, as a druid, or as a libertarian when all of the things that Greer mentions are tried and failed. Human beings in particular, being endowed with much nwyfre (as conscious beings) are unpredictable, unique to the individual, and they, like whales, dogs, and resurrected dinosaurs with frog DNA, are not prone to artificial systems. Nature has its own systems that we are not yet able to comprehend, and those systems work best. Our attempts to force it to go our way are generally unsuccessful, and often a waste. Many times, they are damaging to even try.
The Druid path is old. And while it is true that much of what druidry consists of today is an amalgam of old rituals, modern-period beliefs, and contemporary practices, it strikes me as telling that such an old civilization is able to grasp things like spontaneous order and the futility of government planning, yet we as a society still continue to try and make our own systems, as if we knew any better.