Gus diZerega,
Pagans and Christians:
The Personal Spiritual Experience

(Llewellyn, 2001)

I was impressed by this book. Not only is Pagans and Christians a serious and tolerant approach to increased understanding between Christians and Pagans, but it contains one of the only analyses of pagan theology I've ever read. The author is a pagan -- a member of a traditional Wiccan path -- but most of his insights are applicable to a wider number of pagan paths.

Paganism is not well-understood as a religion in this country, and since it is focused more on practice than belief, its beliefs are often not easily communicated by pagans themselves. Gus diZerega puts pagan beliefs into a standard theological vocabulary, while emphasizing that belief per se does not hold the same place in paganism as in Christianity. This emphasis can, I think, help Christians understand this different focus, as well as emphasizing to us pagans how different our perspective is from Christianity's -- a great help when we try to communicate with people across the gap.

There was one area where diZerega's own tradition seemed to affect his perspective in a way irrelevant to many other pagan traditions. Traditional Wicca paths often emphasize secrecy, with information and revelations only available within the specific path and only to those of a certain rank within it. He speaks very harshly indeed of the "oathbreakers" that have published some of these secrets. While I can see his point, many pagan paths do not share this focus on secrecy; we feel that the gods are quite capable of managing their mysteries, and that secrecy is not necessary to this while it does open a potential for abuse that concerns us. Still, this was a small part of the book as a whole. I do wish he'd included a wider pagan perspective here even if he does not approve of it, as well as that of his own tradition.

As it happened, I read this book concurrently with Priestess of Avalon, a novel by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Diana Paxton that covered much the same philosophical ground. I do recommend diZerega's book over that, though, if one desires to understand pagan theology better or to open a dialogue with Christians.

I hope Pagans and Christians reaches a wide audience. I particularly recommend it to pagans who have Christians in their lives with whom they would like to increase understanding, and similarly to Christians with pagans in their lives. In addition, putting paganism into theological terms helped me to understand the things I believed in a wider and more complete context, for which I thank diZerega. His book would be a valuable addition to the libraries of most people interested in either of the spiritual paths it discusses.

[ by Amanda Fisher ]
Rambles: 4 August 2001

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