The Collective Individual

Many years ago during a discussion with a close friend we discovered that Craft philosophy was laden with paradoxes. So many in fact that we decided to refer to the Craft as a ‘Religion of Paradoxes’. However as time goes on this premise still holds true and can in fact help to illustrate the fluid nature of Wicca and the organic structure it thrives on. Once people understand that Wicca cannot be explained in terms of intellec­tual models we can move on to truly experiencing it.

In this paper I would like to discuss two major paradoxes – or in this case per­haps miscon­cep­tions. The first is that Wicca strives towards a ‘group’ feeling when it is basically a path of individual development, and secondly the fact that it is supposedly concerned with a mys­tical (read esoteric) path when many aspects seem to be becoming exoteric and public. The basic question is: can we deal with something which inherently appears to be paradoxical and yet turn it around to become a coherent pattern which can be utilised by (many) others?

Let’s begin with the first aspect of in­divid­uality versus the group.

It should be evident that not only for us as human beings, but also for the plant, animal and mineral king­doms, the concept of in­dividuality should in fact be seen in the light of everything being unique. If we accept the fact that everything has some­thing uni­que, then the idea of in­dividuali­ty can probably be seen in a wider perspective. For the last few decades we have been told that we as humans are all basically the same, both men and wom­en. In fact this concept has been pum­ped into us in an attempt to iron out the differen­ces between the sexes. In doing so however we are literally by-passing the fun­damental beauty of uni­queness and the vast num­ber of com­binations possible within a species.

The more we become aware of the differences, the less they tend to fright­en us. How often for example have we been frighten­ed of being the odd one out because our clothes were different? Or that we spoke with a dif­ferent dialect or, the Gods forbid, we were a different colour or had a dif­ferent faith?? As the world becomes smaller as a result of the elec­tronic highway, we are being forced to re-evaluate our own views and position in the world. A world which we recog­nise, a world in which we know our place and feel safe. We are contained with­in a cocoon of cultural padding – we don’t have to think too much as long as we do as we are expected and live our lives according to chairman whatever.

We only have to look at the former Eastern bloc countries to see how in­secure people have become. The old methods may not have been ideal but they worked to a certain extent. Every­one knew their place, unemployment was virtually unheard of and there was a sense of security. Now instead of the West accepting this situation and respec­ting the new citizens for their achieve­ments, we have done little more than making them feel like second rate citi­zens. As it happened, for example, the former East Germans knew a damn sight more about the importance of recycling than their Western counter­parts. The point is that as usual, might is right, and those with money will impose their system without regard for cultural differences.

Tao paradox

(The Tao Te ching is sometimes referred to as the Book of Paradoxes) 

Once we all start accepting the dif­feren­ces we have, not only in large groups of people but also in smaller groups, we may come to realise that our sense of individuality is not just a question of experiencing things for ourselves, but a way of realising our own potential. As long as we have to conform to the mas­ses, we are never really going to be able to explore our own talents and ideas!

But, you may ask, if we all end up doing our own thing aren’t we asking for trouble, creating a situation akin to may­hem? Of course if individuality is equal to egocentricity then things may become chaotic. We all have to realise that if things are to be manageable, we also need to co-operate with each other.

In the Craft we recognise both these aspects. On the one hand we advocate self-development, whilst the group ex­perience is also important. In his review of “The Forest House” by Marion Brad­ley, Walter made a few comments concerning individuality.

“People say that all the Goddesses are one Goddess and all the Gods are one God and both express oneness, the unnameable – I wonder if it isn’t the same with people. There is something which rises above culture, perhaps something which is beyond us. I don’t mean the people – the masks – but the people as individuals. Can we say that all individuals are one individual?”

Yes, I think we can. We as individuals make up, collectively, the human race. Each single one of us makes a contribu­tion to the species and in so doing we fulfil our part in an evolutio­nary sense. In other words all 6 billion individuals on planet Earth form one concept of human being-ness.

We all carry the blueprint, or fractal, HUMAN, with us whether we live in an expensive villa, the rain ­forest or an apartment. This is exactly the aspect of being a part of the human race which makes life what it is as a human. As a species we have adapted our sur­roundings to our needs in many cases – in other cases we have learnt to live alongside nature.

There is a vast dif­ference between the various cultural groups and yet no matter how diverse we are there are always similar­ities. Our basic needs are very, very similar. We all need food, shelter and TLC (tender loving care…) and it doesn’t matter who are or where we are: if we don’t get those basic things we are going to be despera­tely unhappy.

When we realise this simple truth it makes us wonder how come we’ve made such a mess of things. Some people will im­mediately say it’s because of our individual needs that people hurt each other so much. Humans have a very strong ego-sense and know all too well about having power over other people, even to the extent of using physical force.

And herein lies the paradox. Individuality allows us to explore new avenues and realise our own potential, but at the expense of the collective well-being. If however we view ourselves, as Walter suggests, as a ‘collective in­dividual’ then perhaps we can integrate personal needs with those of the group.

It is all summed up in the Wiccan Rede ‘an it harm none – do what thou wilt’. If whatever we do is tested against this tenet we will very quickly know if our decision is based purely on egocentric desire, or on taking the group, family or friends into account.

Sometimes we may have to make a compromise – some people may even feel they have to make sacrifices – to achieve a balanced result, but I think ultimately we know deep down that giving up a portion of per­sonal desire is often a small price to pay for true democracy and social justice.

If we are able to act as free-thinking individuals and are able to act on that knowledge, we are able to make deci­sions based on the highest form of what I would call ‘human intelligence’. The general problem though is that usually other people are far more interested in keeping people chained to their own ideals and systems of law enforcement.

In other words, to be truly free as in­dividuals, we all need to be somewhat more enlightened than we are now. And how can we become enlightened? By taking responsibility for our own ac­tions. It’s fine to say it would be great if we could really take control and organise ourselves, but most people would shudder at the thought. There is nothing easier than to let a central government or boss organise everything for you!

Many people are simply not used to managing their own lives – we need models from which we can work, models which can inspire people; not models enforced by a political party. We need models which can help us to decide what we want and how we can go about making those ideals come true.


In the Craft we have already seen that individual rights are most important. We can provide models too, although even in the Craft we have to be careful be­cause before you know where you are, you are branded as being dogmatic or authoritarian, or both! We only have to look at the ongoing discussion about the roles of men and women in the Craft to realise that it can become a very heated topic, especially when men or women feel attacked personal­ly.

I think we have to remind oursel­ves (constantly if neces­sary) that we are many things, but the thing that counts is that we are humans and have a role to play in the Evolution of Planet Earth. We are a part of Mother Earth and our destiny is the destiny of the Earth. We all have a place on this Earth and should be totally aware of our influence, how­ever small.

In the past we have been presented with various models which have moulded us, sometimes in a positive way, sometimes negatively. For the past two millennia we have seen the influen­ce of pa­triarchy and intellectualism. Many of us now feel that the time is right for a wider acceptance of the cultural and sexual differences we have, and the role in­tuition can play.

In the Craft there is a general tendency to emphasise the fe­male or Goddess side as a reaction to the male bias. I think however that this a temporary trend. I personally feel that we should be mov­ing towards a model whereby both male and female influences are equally impor­tant. I should add straight away that I believe that both men and women can ex­perience male/female polarity. The model ‘polarity’ itself is only a means to illustrate the potential of a particular dynamic force.

In a recent discussion I said that it is possible to see male and female forces at work together and being used very effectively, for example in the judicial system. A set of laws are drawn up by using a series of ’thou shalt’s and ’thou shalt not’s’ in a similar way to the Judaic patriar­chal system. And yet we know that it is the jurisprudence which deter­mines how the law is interpreted. Sud­denly the black and white letter of the law becomes the domain of the ‘grey’ fuzzy area of logic – ‘given the circumstances’ etc. It is a wonderful example of how two different ways of looking at a problem can go hand in hand to arrive at the most just solution. And when we think about it, there are other examples of how these two forces work together. Perhaps this could be the subject of another paper?

In answer to the above, Bran suggested that the use of the words male and female may be misleading and perhaps too emotionally volatile. I’m inclined to agree and perhaps we shouldn’t get too bogged down with these terms. He suggested that words such as wisdom and self-development may be less emo­tional­ly taxed and help us to realise in which direction we need to look for personal expansion. He did suggest though that there may be certain things which came ‘naturally’ to women and men, not just as individuals.

“If you want to think in terms of ‘male/­female’ then you could say that the woman, within the coven concentrate more on the process-aims of the in­dividual members and the group as a whole (the group spirit, the climate of the group) and that the man is more inclined to concentrate on product-aims. The HPS (High Priestess) would concentrate on the well-being of the group members and the stability of the coven, the safety within the group whilst keeping an eye on the process of personal development of each member. The HP (High Priest) is more concerned with the organisational problems, that nothing should be forgotten and that a programme should actually be worked out and implemented.”

Here we see the ‘natural’ strong points of each individual being integrated. Of course some woman are fantastic or­ganisers and some men are fantastic at keeping an eye on the development of individuals, but a lot of women hold the group together like a mother without even realising it and a lot of men organise things without even noticing that they have ‘done the job’.

Of course it is important that we learn from each other and respect each other. Only then can we become complete people. The problem is that if we are fortunate enough to have someone in our circle who is very apt we tend to take their talents for granted and don’t even stop to think how talented they are. This is a part of the personal respon­sibility – taking note of how someone does some­thing (the model) and see if we can use it, or, improve on it or, after careful thought, even discard it. In a coven a HP and HPS will try to present a work­ing model and although there may be some flaws it’s perhaps not always wise to immediately jump in and criticise. There should however be room for comment and people should not be afraid to pose questions – no matter which stage they are at.

And this is where the second paradox comes in. On the one hand the HP and HPS want to present a model, whilst retaining the mystery of the Craft. But what is the mystery? Paul Breekveldt in his clos­ing comment on an article concerning Scientology in the magazine “Onkruid”, wrote: “I think the time for the con­cealed, the esoteric, has passed. That the strong point about this century – 21st – has been the revelation to everyone.”

My first reac­tion was ’typ­ical male, they always need to ex­plain every­thing!’ I know what he means though – that the time for ‘the hidden’ should be a thing of the past; that secrecy as a pow­erful tool in spirit­ual matters should be no longer neces­sary. We shouldn’t however con­fuse it with the esoteric wisdom, the mystery, which we should be revering as the Mystery of Life, our own personal mystery.

The fact that we can, as individuals, decide for ourselves how we ex­perience our spirit­ual being. In some res­pects we are confronting the hidden within our­sel­ves – the misty, ‘fuzzy’ area where time and space are totally different from our experiences in normal consc­ious­ness. Of course we should be open about the way in which we do things – but we should also realise that no matter how eloquent we are, we can never fully describe our feelings to­wards the myste­rious and mystical side of life.


(On the path… Bergamo – Morgana, March 2015)    
There is a growing tendency within the Craft which attests to this view. There is no real way in which the miracle of life can be imparted ‘en masse’. We can hint at the various moments and give pointers, but the actual ‘revelation’ is so personal that it would not feel appro­priate to share it with hundreds of others. At most we can share it with a few people and celebrate it as such, but even then I doubt if the most illumin­ating moments ever occur within the group situation. I don’t exclude the possibility though.

The flashes of in­spiration come when we least expect them and the most we can hope for is that we can inspire others as a result of our experiences. And that is how the group experience can be worthwhile. We can share our insights with others. And we can help others to obtain the same kind of ex­perience via certain techniques.

Which­ever way we look at it though, it re­mains a personal, in­dividual path of explora­tion. Once we realise that all the in­dividual experiences go towards the collective evolutionary memory, then we also realise that it is not necessary to organise major ‘hap­penings’ and the days of the mass meetings have really gone. Today we are all in­dividually connected via Internet – or not??

The Mara Papers; paper number 6: “The Collective In­dividual”by Morgana (1995, revised 2015)



Samenvatting: “The Collective Individual”.

De wicca bestaat eigenlijk uit para­doxen. Een heel belangrijke is het feit dat je in een groep werkt, terwijl het eigenlijk toch gaat om je individuele ontwikkeling. Kan dat samengaan? Individuele verschillen, zeker tussen man en vrouw, worden een beetje verdoezeld tegenwoordig. Maar verschillen hoeven ons geen angst aan te jagen. Aan de andere kant moeten we ook niet dermate solistisch opereren dat groepswerk on­mogelijk wordt. In laatste instantie zijn we collectief ingebed in Moeder Aarde, en ofschoon de individualiteit ons toe­staat ons eigen pad te verkennen, moet dat niet ten koste gaan van het geheel. Zoals overal in de wicca is het vinden van een evenwicht belangrijk. Het is moeilijk om je eigen weg te vinden, zonder te steunen op iemand die je precies vertelt wat je wel en niet moet doen. Om zonder patriarchaal patroon je leven vorm te geven. En om je daar­bij bewust te worden van de rollen die je als man of als vrouw onbewust vaak als ‘vanzelf’ op je neemt. Zo zijn vrou­wen vaak geneigd de nadruk te leggen op het bijeen houden van de groep, het gevoel en de atmosfeer, terwijl mannen zich vaak snel in de organisatie thuis voelen. Net zoals het evenwicht tussen individuele interesses en het belang van de groep, is ook hier de balans tussen aspecten van je eigen persoonlijkheid belangrijk. Uiteindelijk, via inzicht in de relatie tussen individu en groep, en de relatie tussen het mannelijke en vrouwe­lijke aspect in jezelf en in mensen om je heen, leer je ook ‘begrijpen’ wat het mysterie van de God en de Godin is door het jaar heen!


Over Morgana

"Morgana is Anglo/Dutch and lives in the Netherlands. She is a practising Gardnerian HPS. Over the years, she has facilitated a variety of Wiccan groups. She is co-editor of the international and bilingual "Wiccan Rede" magazine, which was launched in 1980 and is coordinator of Silver Circle, a Wiccan network in the Netherlands. As International Coordinator for PFI she travels extensively giving talks and workshops about Wicca and Paganism."
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