One thing that’s important for anyone who relies, to any degree, on sources outside themselves for spirituality – or anything else – is being able to judge a good source from a bad one. So today I want to just run down a quick list of ways to vett sources of any type to decide how much weight you should give to something. Even if a source isn’t perfect it may have value – or it may be immediately tossed out. It depends on how it measures up.
- What sources does this source use? – One of the first things I do with any new source, be it written, video, in person, or what-have-you, is to try to look at what sources that source is using. Are they talking purely from personal gnosis? Are they using academic texts? Are they using other authors based in personal gnosis? Are they using well known and respected sources? Are they referencing conspiracy theorists or known white supremacists? Do they have no sources at all that they admit to? All of these things need to be taken into account. Something that’s entirely personal gnoses isn’t necessarily bad but needs to be understood in that context, while something from a deeply flawed or problematic source will be eliminated.
- Never once the Wikipedia – Okay this is bit ranty right here, but as soon as I see wikipedia listed as a source for anything I’m done with that source. There’s a very good reason that wikipedia can’t be used in college, university, or even high school classes: its notoriously unreliable and oddly biased. Anyone can and does edit wikipedia and while its true that wikipedia cites sources and includes references pretty much any print or online source can be used and there is no quality control. Let me repeat; there is no quality control. The entry on Baobhan Sithe was sourced mainly from modern vampire guides, themselves largely repeating modern urban legends, and from RPG guidebooks. No really. The entry on Finnbheara contained an assertion straight from a fiction novel (I removed it, because remember anyone can edit wikipedia). Please don’t trust anything on wikipedia or any article using wiki as a source. Just don’t.
- What is the author’s bias? – Every author or teacher has biases, that’s just human nature. Figuring out what to think of a source means understanding what that source’s biases are and …