My wife and I are starting the Open Source Alexandrian project, and as part of this project, we both have been reading as much as we can about the origins of Alexandrian, Golden Dawn, and other paths. In some ways, you can view a lot of modern paganism as living in the present. We have rituals passed down from those who founded the tradition that work, even if the actual founding of the tradition is surrounded by myths and legends that, for lack of a better term, can be seen as bullshit.
Looking at it this way, lineage really doesn’t matter. Sure, learning and getting initiated into a particular tradition is one way to learn things. In some ways, it can be a shortcut to realizations that would have taken a lot more time on one’s own. But it’s not something that is completely necessary for everyone. It may take more time (well, maybe a little less with today’s technology), but you can learn to do the rituals, spells, and other work without getting initiated. From my own experience with the gods, they don’t really care if you are initiated or not. They just want to work with you.
I think, as humans, a lot of us like the prestige of saying “I learned from/was initiated by this person who was this Elder, and so I’m a real [witch, shaman, priest, etc]!” But there is a danger in this. This, I believe, leads down to the path of “My religion is the right religion” or “This path is the true path”. Pagans need to own up to the fact that they, like the Fundamentalists, do this, even to the point of lording it over newer seekers. As much as we’d like to think we aren’t like them, we do a lot of the same things.
I was reading a post the other day by someone who, after much reflection, realized that Christianity was part of her spiritual path. She had been working with a particular Wiccan-type group for quite awhile, and, understandably, was worried about how they would react to her realization of her own truth. What intrigues me and angers me about this situation, is the fact that she had to explain herself and her realization to the group, as if making this realization was a mortal affront to those involved. To admit that you’re on the wrong path, and then to follow your true path takes a lot of courage on the part of the seeker, especially since it typically comes with some sort of life and/or spiritual ordeal. If you are a teacher and your student has this realization, it takes just as much courage and compassion to let them go and be proud of them on their quest.
It is very human to want to have something as “the enemy”, and for most pagans, Christianity is just that. The Institution of Christianity has caused, and still causes great harm to people all over the world. But, even in light of that, there have been, and are Christians who practice what Jesus taught. Just the same as not all pagans worship Satan and eat babies. Unfortunately, as humans, we have a tendency to lump all followers of a particular faith in one category instead of relating to people as they are, and pagans (a group who like to think they are better than that), as mentioned previously, do it, too.
I don’t believe that there’s one path that will bring me the sum of all of my enlightenment. I practice a type of Alexandrian that brings me to places of enlightenment, and it works for me. I realize that this doesn’t work for everyone. I like to be able to teach my path and initiate people into my tradition, but I realize that I need to let my students, and myself, follow their True Will. If that means letting a student go into a different path (even if it’s Christianity), then I hope that I will let them go with joy and with pride that they have found their true calling. If it means initiating them into my tradition, then I hope that I will do so to the best of my ability, and that their initiation will be a transformative experience. If it means that I need to look towards other traditions for a time, then I hope those that I am teaching, and those that I care about, will support me in it. There is much joy and change in finding one’s path, and I wish that we, as a community, would focus on that joy instead of tearing each other apart with how the paths are different.