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Isaac Bonewits Passed Away

Isaac Bonewits passed away this morning at the age of 60, after losing the battle with a rare form of colon cancer that he was diagnosed with last autumn. For those who do not know, I’m talking about likely one of the greatest and certainly one of the most influential Neopagan scholars, though perhaps a more appropriate term would be modern Pagan scholars, as he was involved with what he called Mesopaganism as well. And that term is just one of his many contributions, as we are talking about the man who, among many other things, coined a large part of the terminology used by modern Pagans. His own description of himself was: “I am an author, teacher, speaker, singer, songwriter, curmudgeon, and all-around trouble-maker. I am not, however, a “spiritual leader,” thank you very much, as I have feet of clay going up to just under my shoulders.”
There’s little point in looking up details and posting them here, so those interested in learning a little more should check out the obituary posted on the blog he and his wife Phaedra maintained and the tribute that the obituary posted on The Witches’ Voice linked to. Those interested in learning a lot more should go through his works directly.

His was one of the first names I came into contact with when my interest, first in Wicca and then in Neopaganism as a whole, was rekindled towards the end of 2004. I appreciated the articles written by him that I read during that time, and most of those read afterwards as well, but appreciated his attitude even more. There may and certainly will be some disagreements, perhaps even some slightly suspicious activities, but his contribution, and the way in which he chose to make it, cannot be forgotten.
My only actual contact with him that I remember was when he was wondering why wasn’t an image aligning properly in a blog post and I checked the code and answered, which resulted in a little confused exchange because the faulty code wasn’t put in by him, but automatically added by WordPress, so at first he didn’t understand what I was talking about and I didn’t understand what he wasn’t understanding. But otherwise I did read his blog for a while, until last summer, and poked around some of his other projects as well, including the short-lived Real Magic School, from which I saved the first part of as many courses as I could access without paying anything and then just left them there in a folder ever since…

Having stopped reading his blog last summer, when he started writing far less often and mentioned thinking about abandoning it entirely due to the lack of comments, I was completely unaware of his problems and therefore was quite shocked yesterday, when I saw an article basically saying that he was taken out of the hospital to die at home, in accordance with his wishes. So I rushed to look through the available information, both on the blog and on their Facebook page, and then just waited for the inevitable…
It was really depressing to go through the blog posts and Facebook updates, to see how he tried to keep a brave face and stick to his usual attitude early on, but then notice that the blog was completely abandoned in February. In his last major update, he said: “That’s how modern cancer therapy works. The idea/hope is that all the cancer will die before the rest of me does.” Unfortunately, while the cancer seemed to be losing the battle against the treatment, the rest of him was losing it even faster, as you can make out from Phaedra’s Facebook posts that he started having more and more problems making it through the treatment after that point, ultimately a very honest discussion with the doctors being mentioned in May, during which they were told that medicine can’t do anything if he can’t tolerate the treatment required to cure him and that a miracle would be required past that point. It was sad to see her last moment of determination, calling to everyone to help prove that such miracles do happen and that reaching the limits of modern medicine doesn’t mean reaching the limits of what can be done, and then see the posts express more and more desperation and eventually depression hidden under a veil of resignation.

Such things do make you seriously question the existence of anything besides the physical world we see around us, because if this happened to a man with his knowledge and benefiting from the kind of support he had from so many others in similar positions… Admittedly, his condition was discovered late and at the time he was suffering from at least three other problems as well, one of which had to be solved before the doctors could even start working on the cancer and the other two causing complications for the duration of the treatment, plus that the affected area was one where surgery is usually only a last resort, so it didn’t look good from a medical point of view, but if someone like him couldn’t make the miracle the doctors said he needed happen, or in fact simply that someone like him ended up needing such a miracle, it seems quite unlikely that such things can actually happen at all.
Then again, I quite readily admit that at least a part of the reason I believe in something higher than the physical world is because I need to. More exactly, a part of it is due to searching for explanations that science is yet to provide, but another is due to searching for explanations that are less frightening and disheartening than those already provided. A part is searching for a purpose that seems to make sense, but another is the need to find some sort of purpose somewhere else when, under the current circumstances, there is none to be found here, or at least no good, worthy or in any way acceptable one. So I’m searching for something that seems to make sense to believe in, but do it because I choose to believe there is something more out there, because thinking otherwise would put me in an even worse position than I currently am in. Perhaps there would be more understanding among those of different faiths if more would admit to that… But there would probably be more sadness and far less hope as well, as becoming more aware of these motivations and also of the fact that reality contradicts the existence of the good things I try to believe in more and more is why my spirit rating plummeted from 5.8 to 2.9 in three years, as this part of my life is turning from a source of comfort and hope to quite the opposite the more I think about it…


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