“Advanced Pagan”. Gods, I have come to really dislike terminology like this. The idea that Paganism is this level-by-level building block just remains a big turn-off to me. Sort of like a set of collegiate course work on learning programming, where there’s this “101”, “102”, “201”, “301” and so on progression. You make it through one to get to the other. Linear progression.
My experience has been quite different. Sure, there are some linear progressions in working through your own Spiritual path, but for the most part – you can grab the basic basics, and then move on from there to other topics. You can bypass the “201” levels and head straight to the “301” and “401” stuff. You can grasp those topics and concepts quite easily without the “201” stuff. Which makes me wonder how and why we get to this particular place…that its this progression that *HAS* to be done.
The closest approximation I can find is that many of us have progressed through a collegiate program somewhere in our lives. This would be where we buy into the idea of linear instruction. Nine Hells, I am currently going through this with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. First there’s the Bardic grade, then the Ovate grade, and finally the Druid grade. Each is a set of progressions to the next grade until the coursework is completed. However, the linear learning format only goes through the grade progression. Within the lessons, you work at your own pace. You can even set lessons off to the side and continue forward – eventually coming back to the lessons that you had issues with later. The hope is that you can learn a little more as you go forward, so that you can come back and get the necessary lesson later on. To be honest, this is also a way of learning a programming language too. When I was learning more complicated progressions in SQL, I came across concepts – such as Virtual Tables – that made little or no sense to me. I set those off to the side, and continued on with more traditional concepts such as If-Then and For Loops. Eventually, I came back to Virtual Tables and took a longer look at how it worked, using the understanding of Looping in SQL to realize how things were being done. Even in learning SQL, I was handed labeling such as “advanced SQL” – even by my peers at the college. The only difference between us was that I searched out the knowledge of these conceptual perspectives out of necessity. They only handled SQL to a level that they could comprehend in the handling of their daily work.
So, is there really an “advanced Pagan” or are there people who learn other components of Paganism out of need and necessity? I would submit it is the need and necessity that drives people to those areas. For instance, I understand and work with ritual on a daily basis. I moved into an impromptu manner of working ritual out of personal need and necessity. This doesn’t make me a wizard when it comes to ritual. It was a need and necessity that I had to fulfill for my daily Spiritual Path. Now, come towards the topic of magick work or spell work – and my knowledge is rudimentary at best. Why? Because its an area I have no need or necessity for. I consider magick and spell work to be a last resort. Granted, that’s my perspective – there are a major ton of people who would openly and vehemently disagree with me. Why? Because magick and spell work fulfills a need and/or necessity in their daily Spiritual Path. But if you made a comparison between myself and them, in terms of ability, you might apply a label of “advanced” on them or “beginner” on me. Neither label is correct. “More experienced” and “less experienced” might be a better way of describing such avenues of ability and thought.
I have railed often against labels…and this would be another such instance. For me, a Pagan is a Pagan is a Pagan. Some people are more experienced than others. Some have been on this path for what feels like an eternity. Sometimes it feels that way to me, after thirty-plus years. but my overall time on this Path doesn’t make me any better than anyone else. I’m not an expert on anything other than my own path. I’m no “advanced” Pagan because of my years….I’m a Pagan. I’m a Druid. No extra descriptives are needed. Unless you want to add some Anglo-Saxon terminology to all of it. I’ve heard it before. And will likely hear it over and over again. But strip away the adjectives, I’m still just a Pagan. I’m still just a Druid. Advanced? No. No thanks. I’ll just take the terms of Pagan and Druid…and be content with just that. I know others will disagree – and that’s ok. Their Path is for their footsteps alone…mine is for me. We can walk alongside one another, but we still have to walk it ourselves.