Beyond transcendence: The reconciliation of individualist and communalist values and its implications for hope and action in English Eco-Paganism
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So-called new spiritualities have been conceptualized as primarily self-focused in anthropological literature (e.g. Heelas, 2008). This study, employing a micropolitical analysis, expanded on this notion by looking at a loose Pagan group as a new spirituality with explicit communal and environmentalist values next to individualism. Using Robbins’ (2007) ideas, it is argued that the apparent paradox of simultaneous individualism and communalism-environmentalism is reconciled by relegating the former to environmentalist methods, the latter to ends. Four Pagan spiritual beliefs reflect this reconciliation: the beliefs of fundamental human potential to live harmoniously with the planet and community; the beliefs of work on the self leading to wider change, and vice versa; the beliefs of insights beyond the ordinary self, used to question one’s methods and ends; and the beliefs in magic as dealing with unstoppable processes, including the planet’s self-healing. All these beliefs increase possibilities of environmentalist action and foster hope in practitioners. It is argued that this happens spiritually through a Pagan kind of enchantment, which is extended beyond the individual towards communalism-environmentalism, challenging the status quo intentionally. This hope further motivates environmentalist action, which is informed by the described beliefs and value reconciliation. Here, small-scale action and idealism are frequently employed. Idealism can foster hope in others while small-scale actions generally do not need “audiences” in Pagan beliefs, as they may influence others by magical means. The study expands the notion of new spiritualities by showcasing a new spirituality with intentional communalism-environmentalism, as well as explaining its coexistence with individualism.