I recently read an expression used by a fellow Pagan that really spoke to me:
'I'm crafting my spirituality from the heart outwards.'
I can't think of a better way to describe what being eclectic means to me. I have a huge interest in specific Pagan paths and respect for those who dedicate themselves to a traditional school of thought. But I no longer have the concerns I used to in the past about my 'mish-mash' religion and where it fits under the Pagan umbrella or even if it makes sense. The fact is, I'm a cherry picker and I follow my nose. I picked up a book on Bhuddist meditation at the age of nineteen because I thought it would help me deal with the remains of a heinous inherited anger problem and encourage me to work out what my focus should be. I developed an interest in chakras because my mother started reading about them and telling me what she was learning. As a romantic, a poet, a history buff, the interest in mythology doesn't require further explanation. Astral projection and lucid dreaming are interests that stem from my study of Siberian and South American shamanism. And the Tarot? I was given a pack of cards when I was thirteen and never looked back.
All of the avenues I've accepted and rejected have enriched my path. To an extent I feel that if I'd taken on a tradition at any point I'd have become engrossed only in furthering that specific area of study and other experiments would have fallen by the wayside. I doubt I'd have dedicated the time I have to Bhuddist meditation techniques and texts if I identified as a Druid, for example. I mean, pulling all of these different spiritual techniques from the shelf isn't conducive to becoming successful on one specific chosen path. It is the act of a culture vulture, pure and simple, and I've given up feeling worried that this makes my spirituality flighty or unfinished in some way.
As a terminal Pantheist I haven't developed the kind of relationships polytheists do with deities. I think this factors in a lot of freedom for me. If The All is the only divine, then all I really need to expect from myself is that I keep finding new ways to appreciate and comprehend it. Whereas dedication to a deity, as with dedication to a specific tradition, brings with it some level of necessity to hone practice to an accepted standard or worship as part of a tradition that a deity would expect or comprehend. In other words, I have no one to disappoint and no deity to whom I've dedicated myself and who might take issue with me suddenly flouncing off to a Bhuddist retreat, nursing a heavy interest in the church of the Subgenius or flippantly declaring myself an absolute nihilist after a particularly powerful mushroom trip.
I just can't pin my path down to anything specific and that's what's made it work for me personally. For many people, a wide interest in theology in general doesn't stop them from sticking to a chosen tradition. But for me it does. If I read about a theological system or belief, I often want to conduct a practical experiment. I want to attempt to place myself into the mindset of someone who's totally sure of it. I want to read the texts and see how they affect me. I'm not content to learn from the sidelines. I'm always more involved emotionally than intellectually, and this is largely because I have this unavoidably Pantheist notion that it's all one and the same anyway and that it's all interconnected. It's a house of cards. Without one, the others would fall. All paths are an attempt to reach and explain the incomprehensible and if I felt that one of them was 'right' I'd be missing my own point.
With all this talk of what using the word 'Pagan' implies, I've come face to face once again with my own past issues on the subject. And I suppose the simplest way to put it is that Paganism is my heart and Pantheism is my mind. Paganism is my love of history, tradition, ancestral inheritance, cultural identity and patriotism. Pantheism is my honest belief about the true nature of divinity. Somewhere they've met perfectly in the middle. And I'm finally ok with that.