Eclecticism or Incompetence?

May 11, 2012

I went to a spiritual event recently that’s been troubling me. It was sortof Native American, pulling in concepts from disparate tribes, but then it included elements of Wicca, without any mention of goddesses or gods. The boundaries of witchcraft were approached but safely skirted while popularized tribal practices were incorporated out of context. I struggled with the question of whether I found the pageant more embarrassing or offensive.

I have a high tolerance for unorthodoxy, a respect for creativity and a cautious appreciation for those who can seamlessly synthesize shamanic practices across cultures, but the effect of this particular ceremony was chaotic. Nothing was meshing well, and the whole thing left me feeling rather flat.

What a lot of people call eclecticism can be called other names: appropriation, lack of cohesion, dilettantism, laziness, fear of witchcraft, disrespect, not knowing better. It’s one thing to study one or more traditions in depth and gradually incorporate other elements; it’s another to jumble things together with no understanding of context. A spiritual practice is not a shopping cart; you can’t just grab what strikes your fancy from every aisle. Or you can, but you won’t get very far with it.