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Occasionally I wandered in where I was not wanted and gave truthful answers.
Sometimes I even did it deliberately. A little disruption now can prevent disaster later.
Margot Adler

In defense of Bonewits' work

Since the reddit comments on my blog entry saying that I don't think Isaac Bonewits abused Moria Greyland, this site has been labeled as "supporting abusers."

Over the years I've developed a small reputation for straight talk and honest answers about sex, particularly sex in a pagan context. My two personal carved-in-stone sex rules are consenting adults and you're off limits if you promised to be someone else's "one and only." I believe that those two rules cover most of the sexual issues in American society. I've recently added two more. "Regret does not equal rape." "Acknowledge but not celebrate." These are personal rules, they affect me. I can't impose them on anyone else. But honestly, the first two cover so much of what is wrong with American sexuality that I often use them in discussions to show how messes could have been avoided. If it's not consent, it's not right. Now I could go into the why and wherefore, but that is not really relevant here. I will say that my sex category on this blog doesn't include porn. There are essays on ethical pagan sex and how responsible sex can fit into paganism. I also point out frequently that sex is not love, nudity is not sex, and love isn't nudity.

The site gallery does include nudes. With a couple of exceptions it does not include sexual nudes. And you will not find photos of nude children anywhere on the site. Many of my vintage nudes are classical pieces of art where I point out things that the artist was trying to convey.

I discourage sexual abuse and sexual misunderstanding. I condone truth, I do not condone abuse. Before the accusations against Bonewits, no one questioned that.

I have this habit of pointing out truths, even when they are uncomfortable. Look at the motto of this site. I firmly believe that I am called for veritas.

My introduction to Isaac Bonewits was in Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon. For a seminary dropout with magickal experience but very little formal training, it was eye-opening. His ABCDEF talked about how people were treated. Bonewits didn't focus on the "correct" Deity or if the priesthood/leadership had special "rights" beyond the membership.

Of course Bonewits wasn't the first to focus on how people were treated. But it was the first that I have ever seen that didn't start with a religion-specific context. I wore out my first copy of DDTM because I used to copy that chapter for minister friends when they asked for help. There was no web addy to hand out in those days.

Real Magic wasn't my next purchase, but I did buy it within a year or two. Rural location, a lot of road trips, no real bookstore, no internet, yeah, it took a couple of years. When I started studying, I was hooked. Here were explanations that actually fit in the real world. Bonewits credits Sir James Frazer with isolating the laws, but points out that anthropologists don't acknowledge him. Still, here was a framework where I could hang my own studies. Even when I goofed up and had to backtrack, I never had to throw out Bonewits. His stuff was just too damn useful.

That should be a law. Oh wait, it is. Bonewits calls it the Law of Pragmatum.

Were the Laws of Magic as defined by Bonewits absolute? No. But he allows for that too.

To this day, I've a poster of the laws hanging near the altar in my sanctum.

So here's the question. Now that P.E.I. Bonewits has been "shown" to have questionable character, should his work be forgotten? Should his name never again be mentioned in polite pagan company? Should we conduct a cultural scrubbing and remove any influence that Bonewits might have had?

No. I don't think so.

He was a flawed man. How flawed is still open to discussion. But his contribution to neopaganism and anthropology can't be denied. We can accept the work without accepting his sexual activities. And if his work can't stand on it's own, people will find something else.

I think removing him and his work is very close to what a fundamentalist Christian would do. I don't think the world is either/or, and neither did he. I tell people that if they tell you the choice is black or white, you should go for the fuzzy. Or maybe the minty. Reducing the choice to all or nothing means you probably overlooked some things.

For ourselves, for our understanding, we should keep Bonewits' work.

Comments

Absolutely maybe sort of - updated

Now, should I reject Bonewits and all he stood for because he and I didn't agree?

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We are all part of the life cycle. Like a seed we are born, we sprout, we grow, we mature and decay, making room for future generations who, like seedlings, are reborn through us. As for the persistence of consciousness, deep down, I thought, ‘How can we know?’ Perhaps we simply return to the elements; we become earth and air and fire and water. That seemed all right to me.
     — Margot Adler
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I don’t believe in objectivity, but I do believe deeply in fairness.
     — Margot Adler
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     — Margot Adler
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☥ ✰ ❝The spiritual world is not unlike the natural world …❞ 

Margot AdlerBefore passing day

Lived 16Apr1946 to 28July2014 (68)
American author, journalist, lecturer, Wiccan priestess and radio journalist

The spiritual world is not unlike the natural world: only diversity will save it.
     — Margot Adler
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“When a person assumes that his or her revelation is the only true one, it only says that this person has had very few religious revelations and hasn't realized how many there are.”
— Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon
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☥ ✰ Adler Day

Margot Adler • Before birthday

Lived 16Apr1946 to 28July2014 (68)
American author, journalist, lecturer, Wiccan priestess and radio journalist

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Sunfell Tech Mage Rede Nine Words Serve The Tech Mage Best Keep What Works Fix What’s Broke Ditch The Rest

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