G no.2 – ‘Gullible’
This week I was inspired by the lovely Amanda who suggested ‘Gullible’ as my subject for this PBP post.
It relates back to a post I made just before I started on The Project, entitled ‘Asking Permission’. In that post I discussed the act of asking permission from nature or spirits without questioning the why or how. In the comments we talked a bit about how Pagan truisms sometimes seem to lack a sense of critical thinking. Sometimes we ‘do’ because we’ve heard it so many times, instead of because we understand what we are doing.
This lack of critical thinking is present in the Pagan community, as I mention in that previous post, but it is not unheard of for so-called-Pagans to seek out that gullibility in any community at large.
I volunteer at the Montreal Pagan Resource Centre, which is housed within the Magical Blend. Obviously this means I speak frequently with the staff, and I can’t help but recall all the times they’ve warned people about, or have had customers confide in them about situations where they have sunk hundreds of dollars into supposed witches, seers, Pagans, psychics and other fakes. It usually goes something like this:
Person: I’m in dire need of help! I’ve tried everything!
Fake: Oh really? Everything? Because I am aware of techniques no one else is, and so I can help you as no one else has been able to. These techniques are ancient and powerful. I. Can. Help. You.
Person: Oh thank you! I need this so badly!
Fake: -asks for a ‘reasonably’ large fee, for supplies, and performs said ancient techniques (we hope)-
Person: Well, nothing happened! It didn’t work!
Fake: Oh, I was afraid of something like this. Obviously you’ve been hexed. With my skills we can remove the hex, and try again. This time I’ll need more money to break the hex and then cast the spell again.
Fake: -performs hex breaking and spell (we hope)-
Person: It still didn’t work! I’m desperate. I need this NOW!
Fake: Well, we’ll just have to go get the big guns! I know of other people who can help me! We’ll have to pay for their services, but…
And on and on. Every new spell needs more people, more supplies, and more money. The gullible, desperate person is tricked into squandering their money by well-practiced conmen.
I suppose that is the reality of a tradition that is soaked in misinformation, shrouded in mystery, and can’t always provide tangible results; so much has to be taken on somebody else’s word.
I suppose that it must be hard to reconcile a critical mind with something as potentially illogical as ‘magic’, but it must be possible! What is it about magic that says to people ‘stop thinking’? What is it about the way our system is set up that makes people look at someone and unflinchingly commit to somebody saying “trust me!” Is it a naivete that stems from too much “love and light”? Is it a blindness caused by propagation of “harm none”?
Obviously, despite being a Pagan of some flavour for 12 years, I have no answers here (besides encouraging research, discussion, finding multiple sources, and a healthy inquisitive attitude). I can’t do much more than point out the problem and try to open up a discussion; have you caught yourself falling prey to this gullibility or lack of critical thinking? Have you profited from others in this state? Have you helped someone snap out of it? Do you think parts of the Pagan community draw gullible people, or do we breed them?
I don’t think I’ve ever been duped (in that sense of being gullible), by virtue of practicing exclusively alone and detached, as a solitary for my formative Pagan years. However, I know that my Bovine Excrement Filter™ has sometimes been less than effective, and even backed up so badly that I started excreting the stuff myself (“Wicca is the world’s oooooldest religion!!!”). I obviously worked hard and fast to fix that problem, and can’t help but think that if I ever take on a student, I will make that a huge part of what I teach them;
Trust no one. Think, long and hard!
Yes I too have seen many in the Pagan community running toward their spells, their gris gris bags and to charlatans to fix a problem. The thing about spell work is that it should be the either used as a last recourse or melded into an action plan of the supplicants own making. Running to have a spell done for you when addressing the problem face on is irresponsible, and feeds into the gullibility endemic in the wiccan culture. Remember magical thinking is a psychological disorder not a state of mind.
Besides, magic does not often supply the results that we want but the results that we need. And when magic is performed it is rarely ever done with the intent and tenacity required to make spell work effectively for you, especially when done by others. If you want to use magic as part of a goal then weave it into your plan of action, and make every conscious effort driven to getting a resolution.
To think that a spell will make your life magically better is the definition of gullible.
A Changing Altar said:
“And when magic is performed it is rarely ever done with the intent and tenacity required to make spell work effectively for you…”
I totally agree with this statement.
In the near future I may be crafting spells more often than I have in the past, simply because I feel I need to practice my spell -craft-, but in general I don’t work magic because I feel that 50 ‘ho-hum’ spells for stuff I want will diminish the emphasis and tenacity when I have to do one amazing spell for something I need.
But back to the subject of the post:
I think the gullibility that you are talking about where we run to spells or, worse still, to others to do spells, may be be a mixture of two things. Firstly it is a lack of confidence. We always hear people talking big about their Pagan skills, and so sometimes we doubt our own. But that leads into the second part of this habit, which is the lack of confidence allowing us to believe others when they say we aren’t good enough, hoping that we’ll pay them to do it for us. I think the lack of confidence is a huge part of the gullibility some people face.
loona wynd said:
I have seen people like that ask me for spells and the like online. I typically ignore them and if they really want to fix things I tell them the non magical steps and give them places to look for crafting their own spells. If you want a change badly enough to pay some one else to perform the spell then you want the change badly enough to perform the spell yourself.
A Changing Altar said:
Although these people online, are they doing it out of gullibility? Or, are they doing it out of laziness?
Some, certainly, are doing it out of desperation, or (hopefully) because they admire some part of your skills or techniques. We can’t just label every person who asks for help as “gullible”. Sometimes people really do just need some help.
If anything, those people are probably only suffering under the gullibility of believing some of the junk they see on TV and assuming that’s what we really do.
loona wynd said:
Gullible in that they believe everything they read about a spell and always ask things like “I read this and this is it true”. That’s why I don’t always help them.
A Changing Altar said:
To the credit of some of those people, at the very least they are asking “is it true?”
The true problem would lie in someone who reads that and doesn’t bother questioning it!
The comments bring up a further point on gullibility: it’s one thing to believe what so ever without processing said evers through your bovine excrement filter; and another to to believe those who show more.experience or would be quick to correct you without the same filters. It is equally as bad-people lie, aggrandize, create rhetorical fallacies, create confirmation bias, and sometimes just outright cheat you. But, how then, does one develop their BS filter if they’ve never known any better? How many get swindled without knowing any better, how many are purposefully taught untruths and vitriol and never learn what to look for? At what point do we realize gullibility, and from there, how do we correct it (assuming you actually want to!)?
A Changing Altar said:
– “But, how then, does one develop their BS filter if they’ve never known any better?”
No one knows better right from the get-go. We are all naive and trusting in the beginning, and can only learn from experience, but you don’t have to learn every single possible lesson the hard way. Here is a funny little example: Everyone is aware of the joke where you tell someone ‘gullible’ isn’t actually in the dictionary. It took a friend of mine YEARS to actually find out that wasn’t true. 1) She never questioned her source. 2) She never checked to confirm it herself. 3) No one ever educated her about the ‘joke’. She took it at face value and it became a fact in her life. She was a prime example of ‘gullible’.
Now, this experience has nothing to do with magic; but you can understand how the embarrassment of the situation would lead her to begin to question any sort of ‘trivia’ she is presented in the future. So, what I am saying is that as children we learn, through rather benign events, that we should question anything that we find important. You don’t need to be tricked by a fraudulent psychic before you start questioning them. Question them because you know it is smart to question important things.
The problem is that people seem to have this association between ‘magic’ and the cessation of their questioning reflexes. They don’t understand enough to question it logically, and so they don’t bother at all.
– “how do we correct it (assuming you actually want to!)?”
I think the only way to correct it is to learn by experience (as I said before, not always a direct parallel). The other way is to know that other people around you are always questioning things as well, and so we should discuss! Learn what other people questioned and why, and you’ll start to learn what causes you to pause and reflect, and why, and what to do with that information. But, obviously, some people will never learn.
” The other way is to know that other people around you are always questioning things as well, and so we should discuss!”
Invaluable. There are no such things.as stupid questions-always strive for more information to better your comprehension. the other side to that is yes, experience. Not just new experiences, but taking time to more fully understand your experiences, and the potential starting points (esub-1) and conclusions(esub1). Understanding your own reactions, learning to read the behaviour of others, etc…. Sure, some never learn from their experiences, but repeat a lesson (or mistake) enough…
Although, at this point I don’t think I’m adding to the conversation…
A Changing Altar said:
Not adding anything?
Haha, dude, you said esub-1 and esub1. I’m pretty sure you could smash your face into the keyboard and your smarts would still manage to make some sort of worthy contribution! I always appreciate your thoughts!