It used to bother me when I would read detracting articles about Wicca wherein the authors asserted that people were drawn to Wicca because it gave them the “illusion of control.” I didn’t care for the implication that Wicca was an illusion itself or that its principles and tenets were teaching lies.
As it happens, though, according to many* people, it does teach lies. We can cry out against this and beat our fists on the ground and cry out that, no, THEY* have taught the lies, or that they* are too close-minded to allow for the possibility that there are other, equally valid truths. There is no way of saying whether or not it is an illusion—that is a matter of philosophical perspective, though some things will have reliable outcomes based on the laws of physics.
*I’m not going to call out any one group, but rather the fact that there are many diverse groups who feel this way, and they are in the majority in our society.
I read a comment on a blog this morning that reminds me of just how difficult it can be to communicate concepts to each other that may seem simple on the surface. This comment was in regards in the fluidity of language. The commenter asserted that to consider language as fluid is born out of ignorance from people who are unwilling to cultivate a clear, distinctive vocabulary with concise definitions for all words. If that were in any way true of our language, we would have no poetry. There would be no misunderstandings. And I’m not sure such a “solid” language would be better–the fluidity of language allows for nuance of expression, the creation of new words, and to allow words to grow and change with the culture. “An” in middle English is very different from “an” now–and that’s just a two letter word. One could argue that middle English is a different language, and perhaps it is, but modern English still grew out of it, and it was not until the publishing of Webster’s dictionary a mere 200ish years ago that we have even attempted any kind of standardization of, oh, you know, spelling. And spelling now changes a word’s meaning greatly (love homophones). Accepting language as fluid is not laziness or ignorance–it’s wisdom. Together we decide what words mean–alone, they are meaningless.
So it’s difficult to convey to people who don’t think like you, don’t have the same vocabulary as you, exactly what you mean. As my brother and I often like to joke, “It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is.” He had taken a philosophy class that talked about how it is that we define the essence of what a thing is, and one of the German philosopher he studied taught it thus (I have no idea who that philosopher was anymore): “What is a chair? It is something that chairs.” “What is a tree? Something that trees.” What is an Ariawn? Something that Ariawns. I like my name as a verb, it has a ring to it. I’m Ariawning right now, come to think of it. Does that really tell you what a chair is? A tree? Who I am? Well, yes and no.
I like to ask my cat what she’s doing. I pretend she answers me with, “Cat stuff.”
I think they* are victims of their own language when they try to denigrate Wicca by calling it an illusion of control. I’d like to postulate that they operate in the illusion of having given up control. They are not automatons, and they certainly are not immune to the consequences of their actions. We all still have to think, to choose, and then to act. Even if it is argued that the decision came from a higher power, we were granted free will and have to choose to listen to that higher power over and over again. There is no automatic programming that comes from saying, “I give my life to (insert godform here).” Control isn’t gone, it’s surrendered over and over. Choices are informed by faith, and it is trusted that in the end the result will be for the greater good and everything will be OK. This isn’t giving up control—it’s giving up the need for foresight.
What’s so wrong with a religion that grants us the illusion of control, anyway? Religions are ways of structuring our lives—they provide a framework of meaning and purpose, which sounds an awful lot like an illusion of control. This is true of all religions. Wicca is different in that it does not merely teach personal power, which is antithetical to certain ideologies, but also personal responsibility. It does not teach that we can always reliably choose the outcomes of our choices, but it does teach us how to think, analyze, and utilize knowledge to perceive patterns, patterns that can allow us to understand the further reaching consequences of our choices—and, yes, to choose in ways that are likely to have the outcome we seek. Sometimes we analyze wrong (ever had a bad Tarot card reading?), and this is where wisdom comes into play—for we are constantly learning. In the end, no matter what the outcome was, we always remember that we are responsible, for good or ill. This inspires us to act in the face of justice, and to set aright situations in which we have wronged. We are motivated to do more, be more. What the illusion of control and personal power teaches us in Wicca is not that we are in charge but rather that we are part of this world and what we do, or don’t do, has consequences that affect more than ourselves—we affect our families, our friends, our communities, the very Earth. And we need to be conscientious stewards.
Both ways—having control and giving it up—are valid, powerful ways of engaging the world. Neither is more right than the other. Some people need to “give up” control and trust in something greater than themselves to find the courage to act, to do great deeds. Others need to seize control and to believe that their thoughts, their choices matter—and that they can do great deeds. This is part of that beautiful tapestry of our humanity. Rather than viewing these “illusions” as lies, I’d rather view them as tools. Illusion for me now has a new connotation that goes behind its denotation as “not real.” It may, or may not, be real—but it is powerful in its own right.
Oh look. There’s that language, acting like a fluid again.