A speech by Koenraad Logghe
given at the 2nd Conference of WCER,
August 11, 1999
Dear spiritual sisters and brethren,
One year after we gathered in Vilnius, we are now together in Telsiai. One year of experience, one year of searching, of comparing ideas, one year of - sometimes heavy - discussions, one year of friendship, one year of efforts to see how we could collaborate. Some persons have worked very hard to realise a dream that many of us have. Therefore I want to thank two persons in special: first of all thanks to Jonas Trink?nas for his integrity in a lot of matters and his unwearying efforts for our cause. Secondly thanks to Denis Dornoy for his practical vision and his establishing of the communication network, the spreading of the application formulae and assertiveness in hot questions. We get now sight of new missions. These missions are related with our name and our two declarations. So let’s have a closer look to the name World Congress of Ethnic Religions, because this was one of the discussion points on the Internet platform:
I read in the first declaration: "We have gathered to express our solidarity for the ethnic, indigenous, native and/or traditional religions of Europe and the other regions of the world." This is in full agreement with our name: World Congress of Ethnic Religions. The aim must be to get a congress, a so called discussion platform, for not just European or American ethnic religions, but for every ethnic and traditional form of religion from all over the world, and this in full respect for each perspective. This is clear for everyone although some persons would not accept after all the - for us so important - words ‘ethnic, indigenous, native, and/or traditional religions’. I will stress over and over again that these words imply a relation between religion and ethnicity, and/or a relation between nation and religion, and/or a relation between tradition and religion. Let say it clear, this means not that people, traditions, relations to the land are unchangeable, but on the contrary, they fluctuate and must be reintegrated over and over again in the soul of the community. It is religions that keep their link with the people, with the tradition, with the land not as fossilised aspects of the past, but as dynamic, living and centered realities.
These traditional religions came not from the imaginary, but are rooted in the consciousness, in the soul of the people, in the heart of the land. I could say it with the words of the national anthem of Lithuania: “From the past let your sons derive their strength.” Therefore our religions are to be distinguished from all New-Age fantasies, and our Universalism is totally different from the Universalism of Christian or Islamic faith. I agree with dr. Koenraad Elst to keep the word Universalism, but then it should be defined very strictly. Universalism is the experience of the Divine on the Divine or metaphysical level (let’s say “what passes the physical aspect”) and it can’t be imposed onto people of different traditions. Our Universalism must be open. It should let everybody experience for themselves, within their own cultural language, within their own tradition, without dogmatic rules, just with respect for their identity. The experience of the Divine cannot be imposed, because imposing experiences is impossible, because imposing is always done in a cultural language, with cultural related symbols, with cultural related characteristics, and this is in full contradiction with the word universalism. Imposing Universalism is a form of religious imperialism.
Everybody will surely understand that their own tradition is the best way to and it keeps the best possibilities for experiencing the Divine status. This doesn’t mean that other traditions are inferior! This doesn’t mean that our religion is made for elected people, for superior people! It just means that everybody has the right to experience the Divine status in their own way, on their own level, and following their own traditions and identity. Therefore, once again, we shouldn’t criticise other religions for their different vision and different ways of expressing.
The second aspect we have to face - and this point was very obvious on the Internet - is that criticism and negativism lead nowhere! We shouldn't convince ourselves how bad this or that monotheistic religion is or was, how many crimes this or that religion has made, how dictatorial this or that religious system was or is.... Nobody can deny that there are religious structures (call them institutions-churches-movements) and these structures preserve the continent at this moment for worse: they preserve us for anti-tradition, for nihilism and consumerism. Destroying them without ethnic religion having grown to adulthood means destroying the last aspects of culture. Instead of this kind of negativism and inconsiderate criticism, we should focus to empower the traditional religions by seeking the common links, by making constructive propositions, by stressing once more the traditional values in society. This should be our aim!
I’m very aware that my third point is a difficult and problematic one, but nevertheless - because I know the theme through experience in my own country and through what happened on the discussion platform of the Pagan Federation - I’m very worried about a tendency that causes a lot of trouble: the political reproaches within the WCER. Therefore, I would take you with me on a little spiritual trip through the religions of the North.
As in Lithuanian religion where Darna is one of the central concepts, and as it is the same for the Indian Dharma or Rita and for Persian Arta so Order is a central concept in our religion. It is symbolised by the centre or nave of a wheel. This Darna or Order is reflected in worldly life through fate, called Laga (litteraly Law), or orlög (litteraly Original Law). This law was inscribed by the Gods in the heart of the people when they where formed. It is a sort of mission that everybody gets from the Divine level. You are born in a particular family, with a particular history, in a particular culture, with a particular character, in a particular social status, in a particular ideological environment... You can do nothing about that, it’s just a fact. We call it Geworfensein. And as people are different, every mission is different; everybody has his own mission. To work in full agreement with this mission means establishing cosmic Order. So every person shall act in a different way, because of the different mission. And no one should blame another for his different vision, his way of thinking, acting, and reacting. Just do the thing to be in accordance with your mission, so that Order will not be disrupted.
When full respect and tolerance are guarded, then we could collaborate even if we have totally different ways of thinking. Discussing politics is not only useless, but also harmful. Out of our religious vision, I cannot blame a person who has lived in a disastrous situation, with hunger, unemployment... to be a socialist and to act in accordance with his way of life. I can neither blame a person who has lived in a country where his culture is suppressed, his language supplanted, his traditions swept away,... for being a nationalist. The only thing that really matters is that our two declarations are subscribed and that people live in harmony with the countenance of it. As we keep the principle in our group Traditie in Belgium not to talk or discuss politics, all things run just fine. I would like to see the same thing within the WCER. By the way, religious thoughts imply political consequences and everybody will take his full responsibility in this matter. It is not our duty to say how persons should think politically, neither in left nor in right wing ideologies. We must guarantee this freedom within the frontiers of our two declarations. If not, we are building an inquisition in full resemblance with the catholic church.
Furthermore, traditional religion is not an orthodoxy, but an orthopraxis. First of all we look onto the ethical acting, onto what makes people human. Not the words tell us about the persons, but how they act in society! That’s important to us.
To conclude, I would make some practical propositions so that the WCER could be empowered:
Set up a permanent office with Internet connection so that persons that are interested in any particular ethnical or traditional religion in some country could receive more information.
Set up a brochure-service in at least two languages for those who want to get full explanation around a particular tradition.
Set up a press-release station that is connected with press-offices from the countries where we have members.
Seeking for more members in non-European countries, and qualitatively strong groups in Europe.
Sending Press-communications or letters to the government out from the Steering Committee on hot items (religious discrimination, protest against violation of Law, claiming of respect for religious communities and sacred places,...)
Exchanging reviews with the head-office of the WCER
Organising a congress every year with election of a new Steering Committee
Support to those groups that cannot afford means to function normal
I hope we could all join in this huge project. Let me close my speech with the words of Shakespeare: "True hope is swift, and flies with swallow’s wings; Kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings."
Thanks for the attention!