Sunday, May 7, 2017

Choosing Not To Mix Paganism and Christianity....Why?

Ancient of Days, by William Blake
"Thou shall have no other gods before me"
-Exodus 20:3 (King James Bible)

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a professed Pagan in terms of my identity as a magician. For me, what this means, is that the spirits I have both a reciprocal and devotional relationship with are gods that are considered Pagan deities (the Egyptian gods specifically). I worship in a Pagan style of prayer and offerings that sometimes involves petitioning the gods for some boon while at other times are merely done out of sense of joy and gratitude.

My gods aren't wholly of another kind than myself, they are more like older siblings or even parents who I honor because they are who they are. But, more than that, not only are they persons, in the sense of having individual identity, but they are also principles that allow me to exist not only in terms of having breath, but in terms of all the experiences of being alive.

For example, a very simplistic snapshot...

Ra is sovereignty and the life giving power of the Sun while also being a distinct divine person. Hathor is sexuality, joy, and aesthetic beauty, while also being a distinct divine person. Osiris is the power of resurrection and renewal while still being a distinct divine person. Sekhmet is the power of war, aggression, disease, and healing while also being a distinct divine person. Each of the gods is a principle, or set of principles, as well as a person.

Goddess Isis
There is a complex panentheistic, polytheistic, and animistic metaphysics underlying my system of sacro-magickal belief and practice that is the result of education and practice over many years.

For me, religion and magick are fundamentally inseparable insofar as I work with my spirits in nearly all acts of magickal practice. For example, the act of consulting the tarot for guidance is proceeded by an invocation to Thoth who, while being a divine person in his own right is, quite literally, the personified qualities of the insight as wisdom I seek when doing divination.

Such a way of interacting with the gods and spirits one has a relationship with has a very particular way of reorientating one to the world. This is an immediate and tangible means by which to accomplish the re-enchantment of the world.

I've always suspected that the ahistorical separation that exists in the modern mind between religion and magick is largely artificial, an artifact of an age wherein magick was seen as inherently transgressive and outside the will of God. The only acceptable supernatural aid (in the Western world) came from petitioning saints for intercession or praying for a miracle directly from Jesus or God Himself. The magician/sorcerer was one who interacted with spirits that granted power and boons outside of the direct auspices of God (and the church), and whose work was not religious in the way those of this time understood religion.

 Edward Kelly and John Dee
summoning the dead for divination.
It does seem true that nearly all cultures have a demarcation regarding acceptable and unacceptable, permitted and transgressive, magick but only in the modern world is the magician seen as fundamentally and archetypally other than priest or priestess. The archetypal magicians of the Western world, whether real or fictional, such as Merlin (seen as a druid, but very much the mage), Agrippa, Dee, Gandalf, even very modern incarnations like Raistlin Majere, are all outside the purview of priestcraft.

Even those mainstream religionists who allow for the existence of miracles (fewer and fewer with the growing influence of materialism and scienceism) will still claim that the intercession of a saint isn't magick because magick is power granted by forces other than their God. According to the party line, priests don't do magick, priests pray and hope for the best. According to this paradigm, the magician/sorcerer is transgressive, the very opposite of the priest, by nature.

Though obviously I don't share the ahistorical outlook that there is, by nature, a necessary separation between priest(ess) and magician, I have an admission to make. I too share a certain ahistorical outlook influenced by the very same paradigm that created the polarized line between priestcraft and sorcery.

My ahistorical hangup has to do with mixing Pagan and Abrahamic concepts. I don't.

I've always kept my Paganism and Abrahamism separate. Even when I sojourned into Golden Dawn based ceremonial magick for a period of about three years, I set aside my devotional Paganism completely, said farewell to the gods I had been worshiping (there was no jealousy, no anger on their part, only a peaceful allowing) and embraced my new paradigm as fully as I could. I wanted to see what it was all about, the qabalah, the angels, the Hebrew Letters, YHWH, and I both devoured knowledge and practiced with gusto.

However, despite myself, I was always fighting a sort of inner resistance and after about three years, and even after a profoundly moving experience of Christ while meditating on Tiphareth, (a story for another time perhaps) I put away my ceremonial magick books and came back to Paganism. Despite the deep intellectual satisfaction that ceremonial magick gave me, as well as the obvious spiritual power of the rites, it simply wasn't my spiritual home.

Like a Prodigal Son, I had to leave so that I could return more appreciative of my home, my relationships with the spirits, and grateful for the relationships that had somehow deepened even with my leaving. I, more than ever, felt closer to my gods in a truly Pagan animistic sense. No longer was Isis, Osiris, Anubis, Horus, Ra, Thoth, Nephthys, and the other gods  fundamentally transcendent, if approachable, they were here now, immanent and present in the world. Their reality had become tangible in a way it had never been before. Certainly they had transcendent aspects, but they were here now, with me, ever-present.

Leaving and returning had been so important to my relationship with my gods that I sense it is entirely possible that they pushed me out of the nest so that I could experience what I needed to experience so as to enter into deeper relationship with them upon my return.

The gods, they work in mysterious ways.

Even since my reunion with my gods, I'll be the first to admit a deeper than ever aversion to mixing my Paganism and its spirits with Christianity and its spirits. Even the idea of continuing my devotion to my gods while keeping Abrahamic based practices (such as traditional grimoiric evocations) entirely separate feels off. I know that there are some Pagans, Christians, and even Buddhists who are dual practitioners but, for me, that seems awkward, clumsy, and internally contradictory.

Because my Pagan magickal practice is a manifestation not of a Will to Power, but instead a manifestation of a religious impulse directing me to an ever deepening relationship with the Numinous as manifest in my relationship with the gods, dual practice seems, for lack of a better word, wrong. It seems like a bastardization of both my Pagan spiritual path and the Abrahamic path embedded in much of the Western Esoteric tradition.

And because I am self-aware, I recognize that my aversion to all things Abrahamic is ahistorical, especially in terms of late Pagan magick as clearly demonstrated in The Greek Magickal Papyri, but the aversion is there and it's visceral. My aversion to all things Abrahamic isn't animus toward Christianity, Judaism, or Islam per se (especially in their mystical manifestations) or practitioners of these faiths. It's a paradigmatic aversion that rejects the cosmology and metaphysical assumptions of these faiths.

Christian Mystic Thomas Merton

I share a lot of common values with, and have a great deal of respect for, Christians who are good and compassionate people, Christian mystics, and Christian magicians. Christian devotional mystics like Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, and Richard Rohr have made me a better Pagan by clarifying the nature of kenotic meditation practices I still use (it's good tech). Understanding the means by which a piece of magickal/spiritual tech works then stripping it down to its core components (ie. the parts that do the work) is smart, historically sound, sorcery. 

Unlike many who profess modern Paganism, I was never Christianized. My mother is a non-Wiccan Witch and my father was nominally Christian, but no longer. I was raised with complete freedom to seek for myself without any pressure to accept the spiritual beliefs of either my father or my mother. My mother did manage to keep me away from her Witchcraft books until I was twelve years old, for safety reasons. And, to be fair to her, though I didn't appreciate it at the time, I believe her decision, in retrospect, was the right one. No telling what sort of trouble a magickally inclined nine year old could have gotten into.

However, despite never formally being part of Christianity and never having been baptized, I did go to Catholic school for eight years (which started me on the path to being a Christian theology geek) and, like anyone born into Western culture Christianity is part of the background noise of life. The culture-wide holidays such as Christmas and Easter, the turns of phrase we use to express ourselves (often from the KJV), those who usually surround us as family and friends, even the way we swear when we're angry or stub our toes reflect Christianity as deep, unavoidable cultural substrate, to a greater or lesser extent.

It isn't lost on me that my aversion, may be, quite ironically, an artifact of being part of a Christian culture wherein the idea of mixing pantheons is not merely verboten, it is unthinkable. The other team is the enemy and one just doesn't pick and choose aspects of each team based on one's preference. You are on Yahweh's team or you aren't.
Oil and Water

"And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth."
-Exodus 20:3 (King James Bible)

Christianity is, at least historically, a path of orthodoxy even more than it is a path of orthopraxy. In other words, Christianity is about belief (a profession of faith) primarily and secondarily about practice (works). Though there is extreme, even historically murderous, divisions between Catholicism and Protestantism regarding the exact means by which divine grace and and one's works converge so as to produce the state of being saved, there is no division regarding the fact that faith is of preeminent importance in a way not seen in orthopraxic faiths like nearly all of modern Paganism or other practice heavy faiths like Theraveda Buddhism.

Personally, I grapple with the idea of using Christian spirits, or indeed any spirit, in a purely utilitarian fashion utterly divorced from the theology  and context (ie. underpinning beliefs and metaphysical assumptions) that makes them in any way coherent. That kind of "use them because they work" approach reminds me too closely of the lists of gods one would find in old Wicca 101 books (for your love spell, just choose "Ishtar, Isis, Hathor, or Aphrodite"). No cosmology, no metaphysics, no relationship, just tools in a toolbox to use and set aside when finished. This is fine if the gods and spirits are merely personifications of one's personal unconscious, but strikes me as wildly disrespectful if they are, as I believe, extant beings with agency and personality. 

Curiously enough, this manner of practice was the very kind of wild magickal/spiritual eclecticism that was decried and mocked by countless Pagans and magicians throughout the 80s and 90s for it's mix and match, gods and spirits as tools, with no concern for incompatible theologies or metaphysical assumptions. I'm not surprised to see that what was old is new again, because everything in occulture is cyclic, but I'd suggest that a lot of baby Pagans who were mocked for their eclectic practices during the 1990s by those "in the know" are owed an apology.

The wild west of the occult scene of the 80s and 90s, and its anything goes eclecticism, does bear a greater similarity to the manner in which magick was practiced in late antiquity than it does to more recent efforts at striving towards internal consistency and coherence within broader modern cultic or personal practice. Despite that, I do prefer coherence, as well as internal and aesthetic consistency tending as I do to prefer systematic syncretism to wild eclecticism.

So, like all of us, I've been impacted by Christianity but not in the manner in which I've suspected for a long time. I suspected, for a long time that my aversion was rooted in the adverse effects Christianity has had on culture (for example):

  • The religious imperialism that annihilated Paganism from Europe including the various mystery schools...absorbing and co-opting ideas isn't merely preservation when it extinguishes the original source.

  • The religious imperialism that destroyed indigenous cultures, often enslaved adults, and forced indigenous children to live away from their families and forget their spirits, traditions, and cultures.

  • Forcing my ancestors on my father's side to be Christian via the lash.

  • The misogyny as demonstrated by the pro-life movement and "traditional values" cults like the Quiverfull movement.

  • Attempting to force anti-science creationism into school science classes.

  • Legislating demonstrably useless abstinence only sex education in schools.

  • The Christian religious litmus test that does exist in terms of anyone seeking the office of president. No non-Christian has any hope of being elected president in the United States.

  • The soulless and useless Christianity defanged of its fierce compassion that allows millions and millions of professing Christians to unashamedly support legislators that would vote to remove vital health services from millions of their countrymen and women.

  • The soulless and useless Christianity that attacks homosexuals while ignoring the grievous sins of those whose asses warm the pews...the liars, cheats, adulterers, thieves, the covetous, etc. 

  • The twisted transcendentalism of millions of American Protestants who feel that protecting the environment is unnecessary because Christ is coming back to fix it...all while we are in the midst of a man-made great extinction. 

  • The Christianity that wraps itself up in the American Flag while ignoring the plight of refugees from war-torn nations, edifies the rich and demonizes the poor. 

  • And so on and so on...

Though many of my European friends will not be able to relate to the kind of Christianity I'm describing, it assuredly does exist and it is, in the United States, no mere outlier. In fact, it is the twisted heart and soul of the Conservative Evangelical Christian movement that in played a large part in getting Trump and his cronies elected.

I know there are many who will be thinking, "but that's not real Christianity!"

G.K. Chesterson's,"
Christianity has not been tried and found wanting
 it has been found difficult and not tried," notwithstanding, the "No True Scotsman Fallacy" is piss poor apologetics. This sort of apologetics is nearly utopian in its clinging to an ahistorical version of Christianity that has only, if ever, existed in the heart of Christian mystical adepts.

Christianity, like all faiths, is, for good and ill, as it is practiced, not as it is on paper or in the hearts of those that are sometimes better than the tradition they profess. There is good and there is bad in Christianity and BOTH of those things are Christianity as magickal egregore, spiritual tradition, and mystical path. Any argument to the contrary ignores both history and current reality. 

Getting back to my point, the inner aversion that causes me to reject the idea that Christianity and Paganism are like chocolate and peanut butter (ie. great together) is rooted in the fact I take theology, metaphysics and cosmology rather seriously (I want my personal theology/cosmology to be coherent) and believe these things represent the heart and soul of a given spiritual path much more so that do the smells, bells, outer regalia, spells, icons, and accouterments that many occultists find appealing. Those things are the icing on the cake perhaps, but the beating heart goes deeper than that. The beating heart is the narrative metaphors that introduce us to, and define the roles of, the spirits and gods of a given path whether ancient or modern.

Myth is spiritual metaphor, and some metaphors can, in my opinion, make poor bedfellows 
even if they share a common ancient roots due in no small part to thousands of years of cultural accretions that influence how we understand a given spiritual tradition, in this case Christianity. Thousands of years of history and impact do not magically disappear because, according to speculative history, 50,000 years ago all extant religions came from the same Lurasian root source myths. Using the Lurasian theory as argument to justify simply choosing mythic motifs in a utilitarian fashion is an interesting perspective but one that points in a direction I suspect that very few people would appreciate if taken to its logical conclusion.

That's a conversation for another time.

So, is my choice to avoid mixing Paganism or my reluctance to engage in dual Pagan and Christian practice ahistorical?

For the Paganism of late antiquity, at least in some cases, yes.

However, I've never made claim that my practice was meant to be a mirror match for either early Paganism or the Pagan magickal or spiritual practices of Late Antiquity. My practice is that of a 21st Century Pagan Magician, based as much as possible on lore, but rooted primarily in my relationships with the gods as both devotee and sorcerer. My path is a results orientated magickal and spiritual path/practice (theory must support results, not the other way around), and is inspired by many, yet beholden to no other, spiritual or magickal traditions.

There are sound reasons for the choices experienced magicians make even if those choices run counter to the zeitgeist of the moment. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

An Intention to Guide Meditation Practice

Today, as I stand at the axis of the 2Three Worlds, and center of the Seven Sacred Directions3,
     I am grateful for the opportunities granted me by the gift of incarnation4,
     supported by the blessings of the gods and spirits whose unseen hands
     guide my steps. May I continue to be be shepherded by the adepts, mystics,
     and masters of old, those upon whose shoulders I stand5 so that I, in turn, may
     one day be found fit to shepherd others on the path of the Mysteries6.

Let me not squander this precious opportunity to free myself of delusion, fear,
    suffering, ignorance and all things that occlude the vigorous and vital flow of
    energy through my channels. May my energy body be healed, healthy, and whole
    that it may serve the highest purposes of fate, will, and Ma'at7.

May I practice this day and every day with discipline, determination, effortlessness,
    and equanimity. May I encounter all mind-states without attachment or aversion8.
    May I be steadfast in the face of all obstacles and difficulty, allowing
    all discomfort to be a means of insight, self-knowledge, and illumination.

May I enter without effort and clarity of mind into the Sacred Flame9 at my center,
    the inner gateway of Emptiness, the silent doorway to all worlds.
    Let me be ever-guided by its illumination and warmth and the blessings of
    my Akh10 who beckons me ever-forward so I may one day be worthy to be called
    Justified11 among the Ancient and Shining Ones12.

*Notes: Included to demonstrate that each turn of phrase has a purpose. Where certain concepts are open to interpretation, the interpretations are my own, guided my by own knowledge and experience.

1. This Meditation Intention is based both upon the intention I've been using to guide my meditation practice for a few years, but has been adapted to more clearly align itself to the Quareia curriculum.
2. Land, Sea, and Sky...Celestial World, Mortal World, Underworld...or any other tripartite conception of the Universe.
3. North, East, South, West, Above, Below, and Center
4. Acknowledgement that incarnation is truly a gift for which we should be grateful.
5. Acknowledgement and showing gratitude for the unseen assistance we receive from those beings that are, essentially, our spiritual ancestors who may or may not be our blood ancestors.
6. A pledge of willingness to be of service to those who come after us on the path.

7. Recognizing that Self-Realization/Enlightenment isn't merely a change of heart and mind, but instead rests on the cleaning, aligning, and strengthening of our energy body so that it is reflective of its own natural perfection...without blockages and pollution and dedicating our enlightenment to the principles of Ma'at.
8. One of the keys to fruitful meditation practice....being ok with what is and rejecting nothing that arises within consciousness.
9. Your inner, sacred Flame, doorway to the Void.
10. The highest aspect of the multiple soul, the Higher or Divine Self
11. He or she who, upon being judged worthy, is able to "go to their Ka." (ie. reunite with their Divine Self.
12. The gods and great powers

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Witch, an Authentic Look at Witchcraft From the Recesses of the Neurotic Puritan Mind

Here are some of my thoughts on The Witch, the incredibly popular occult thriller that has captured the imaginations of so many lately. 

(warning  spoilers)

In my opinion, the movie was a top notch psychological thriller and a "must see" if you prefer that type of film.

The film is grey and dark both in imagery and in atmosphere. The subject matter being what it is, I found the director's choices in regards to cinematography and color palette to be flawless. Naturally, with nearly everything on screen being capable of carrying a symbolic meaning, it seems quite clear that the bleakness and darkness of the film is rooted in the oppressive, soul-crushing, joyless nature of Puritanism that practically oozes from screen from its very beginning.

Having said that, allow me to state that this movie is not, despite the fanfare it is receiving among many Witches and Pagans, a Pro-Witchcraft movie.

"The Witch" is not an Anti-Witchcraft movie either.

In regards to Witchcraft, "The Witch" is neither an apologetic nor a polemic film.

Instead, the story underlying The Witch it is a tale told both through the lens of the Christian Puritan mindset and extant Witchcraft folklore. It is a story that hews closely to its source material which is exactly what makes it very much worth seeing. 
Therefore it is important to keep in mind that "The Witch" is a story told from the perspective of those who would have believed in Witchcraft at the time. 

If one wants to see what Puritans thought of Witches and Witchcraft, the "The Witch" is the movie to watch.

Witchcraft in, "The Witch" is dark and terrible and by "dark and terrible," I mean unremittingly evil by any rational definition of the term. 

The first encounter the puritan family, around whom the tale is built, has with a witch involves the theft of their infant son who is, in turn, slaughtered and used as an ingredient for a flying ointment (again, true to the folklore of using baby-fat in flying ointments). This first unflinchingly brutal act on the part of the witches in the film is symbolic of their nature. These witches are horrifically dark and, one could argue, barely human any least not in any way the viewer could understand. What they do, they do for their own inscrutable motivations. 

There is nothing to be found in these witches that one could see as sympathetic. The film, thankfully, does not attempt to peer into their psychology because in so doing, the witches would perhaps become relatable and this would fly directly in the face of the subject matter as told from the film's Puritan perspective.

If these witches, as cruel and calculating as they are in the film, started out as innocent as Thomasin (the film's primary protagonist), which one could I believe safely assume to be the case, then they are not only dreadful, they are tragic.

There is no "romantic darkness" to be found here, no misunderstanding, no sympathetic villains. One may argue that in this bleak spiritual landscape there are no "good" and no "bad" guys. This would not be true. The innocents struck down by witches, Thomasin's entire family, for a total of six victims, are the "good guys" even if the culture from which they come, and the beliefs they hold are noxious to us. They are still victims of a fate they did nothing to deserve. This is especially true of the children, even the creepy twins, who are themselves highly unsympathetic characters.

True malevolent Darkness (pathological selfishness, cruelty, libertine freedom at the expense of the well-being of others, etc.) only seems romantic when the Light ("the good") is defined as oppressive, moralizing, repressive ugliness as it is in this film. There is no joy, no laughter, no happiness, no love in the Light in this film. There is bleakness and debasement.

Unfortunately for Thomasin she is, because she dwells in a universe wherein Puritan Christian assumptions of spiritual truth are clearly implied (as is obvious in the storytelling and events of the film), doomed. She escapes from under the boot heel of her Puritan culture and its God only to find herself forced to choose a new master if she would retain her freedom. 

This new master, who is both directly and indirectly responsible for the brutal deaths of her entire family, does not grant Thomasin freedom out of  love for her or respect for her agency, but instead grants her agency so she can in turn serve as a tool of his own rebellion. He is no more noble a figure than the oppressive and joyless taskmaster God of the he seems as such to Thomasin who, at her lowest and most vulnerable, signs his offered pact.

As any occultists knows, should one fail to approach a power of questionable character as anything but its equal or superior, and instead approach as a servant, things are bound to end badly. Thomasin is not the equal of the Devil, and so her fate is to serve him as his creature. She will become the very thing that stole away and slaughtered her infant brother in the earlier portion of the film. In a Puritan universe, this young woman can never be truly free.

Yes, the protagonist's outlook is that grim from within the Puritan paradigm from which this darksome tale is woven. 

The Devil, in this tale, is no Prometheus, no Lucifer the Lightbringer, bringing illumination even at great personal sacrifice. He is the Satan that is the Enemy of God and man, who waits as a hungry lion to pounce upon believers. This is the Devil/Satan of "The Witch," as the Puritans would have believed him to be in accordance with the truths they believed expressed in their Bible.

The Devil, in this film as he is rooted in Puritan assumptions, is a malevolent force....even if he is only a slightly less odious figure, possibly, than the conception of God the Puritans worship. That's entirely arguable. One may attempt to, wrangle something of value out of "The Witch's" Devil, to make him somehow a liberator, or, gods forbid, a representative of older Pagan sensibilities, but this seems, in my opinion, to be projecting one's own hopes/preferences/biases onto a character and story that implies no such thing. If one swaps paradigms, seeing the movie's antagonists through the lens of modern Pagan Witchcraft (Wiccan, Trad, or other) wherein the underlying Puritan belief structure if lost or invalidated, the story loses all internal consistency.

In all instances when I refer to "darkness" or "light" in reference to this film, it is from within the paradigm of a dualistic Christian moral universe as presupposed by The Witch and not as these concepts are understood from within various Pagan faiths in general or from within Witchcraft, of any kind, specifically. 

This movie is interesting, disturbing, and even fascinating (for the student of folklore) look at the manner in which 17th Century Christians saw the world outside of that which fell directly under the influence of Christendom....this of course includes the wild places of the being under the dominion of the adversary of their God.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Case against the Case for Satan or What Really Underlies the Desire to Include Satan in Wicca and Paganism?

Milton's Satan
This is a response a rebuttle, to the blog article making the rounds that suggests that Wicca needs to embrace Satan or at least not reject him outright (The Case for Inviting Satan Back into Wicca).

*Note: This is an attempt to present a logically consistent argument against the NEED to include Satan in modern Wicca and Paganism. This is not an argument against the simple operative sorcery of including Christian symbolism and spirits in one's eclectic spiritual practice.

I disagree and in this article I will explain why.

Satan, as the actual Adversary, the ultimate transgressive force, makes absolutely no sense outside of
his conflict with the dictatorial (from the Satanic point of view) creator Yahweh. A rebel without a rebellion.....just isn't. The Good vs. Evil dynamic required to allow Satan to make any theological sense is not found in Wicca.

Some theistic Satanists conflate all "dark" gods with Satan as a sort of archetype of (cue spooky music and thunder) Dark Power...a sort of LHP overgod. This form of Satanism is nominally Pagan. It could be argued, by some, that Luciferians belong to this grouping as well, but many would disagree, as would I....because many Luciferians never reference Satan.

Some Witches, though usually not Wiccan Witches, see Satan as a form of the Horned God, the Master, the Lord of the Wild Hunt, Odin, Lucifer, etc. This is the folkloric Devil more than it is the Satan of Milton's Paradise Lost.

Devl at the Mississippi Crossroads
Colloquially Satan and the Devil are seen as the same being. However, in practice, the Devil is form of initiator/trickster god/spirit (an amalgamation of several) whose only relationship to the Biblical Satan is that, in European folklore, this being was transformed into the Lord of Darkness via the Catholic Church's relentless campaign to demonize all remaining remnants of indigenous European Paganism. Thus, to rustic folk (the storytellers and chroniclers of folklore), this being was Satan/The Devil. This is the only point of reference medieval folks had once they were successfully Christianized by the Church...while still clinging to echoes of their ancient Pagan perceptions.

It's quite apparent to me that folks who cling to the imagery of Satan, despite the fact that he is a useless accretion or add-on to any path outside of one that fails to include the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are those who are tied to an aesthetic they grew up with as part of a Christian culture.
They are, for all intents and purposes, closet Abrahamics.

LaVeyan Satanists are simply hedonist atheists (some of whom are unacknowledged Chaos Magicians) many of whom buy into Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy. Again, no Pagans here either.

The whole thing is a clusterf*ck of bad theology and unrelated, half-baked concepts that make little sense if studied objectively. There is no case for inviting Satan back into Wicca, because he was never there.

I would argue that Satan, for most, is merely a symbol of transgressive virtues. I would argue that he is a completely unnecessary symbol in terms of most modern Pagan practice. Satan, according to the author of the much shared blog post that's been doing the rounds lately isn't all that dark, he is merely selectively transgressive.

For the author whose work I'm referencing the Satan he wishes to shoehorn into Wicca is more about making a cultural statement about sexuality, gender dynamics, the oft-sighted Cis-Hetero-Patriarchy, queerdom, trans-issues, and whatnot. His other blog article about Satan/The Devil (Prying Open the Devil's Broom Closet) makes this quite clear. The author is really proposing the inclusion of Satan, not as a deep mystery of some kind, but as a kind of Social Justice Occultism. It would have been better had he been more honest in his motivation and approached the subject of social justice more directly instead of couching it in smoke and mirrors the way he has.

Satan isn't required so as to bring issues of social justice to the fore. Modern Paganism is quite capable of discussing/wrestling with these issues sans Satan and all the baggage that comes with him. We just don't need Satan as a symbol when most Pagans deal with entire pantheons of deities, many of which fit the bill for....transgressive power....quite nicely.

But, let's be honest here....

What does it even mean to be Transgressive in today's society?

The truth is that what is, and what is not, truly transgressive is entirely rooted in the current moral structure of our time and culture. So much of what was once transgressive thought and values are now pretty much an inseparable part of Progressive/PC/Post-Modern/Tolerance/Inclusion culture. What was once transgressive simply isn't so any longer...assuming of course one lives outside the Bible Belt or Mormon Utah.

Free Love....Heard of hook up culture?

Witchcraft....go to any bookstore

Homosexual activity.....depends on where you live

Magick....again, any bookstore

Gender Bending....Social media, Tumblr, and depends on where you live

Animal Sacrifice....Not exactly supported overall (outside of ATRs) but legal

BDSM....entered pop culture for the desperate housewives set, 50 Shades anyone?

Goetia....kinda hip at the moment

Grave Robbing......Frowned on even by the blackest of black magicians

Human sacrifice.....still frowned on by everyone

Cannibalism......still frowned on by everyone.

So, one may have to travel far afield to be truly transgressive in our culture. One has to do some pretty dark things to do it right nowadays. Saying the Lord's Prayer backwards just isn't going to do it for most folks anymore.

Because we are, in many ways a divided culture, what is transgressive to the values of New York sensibilities is very different than what it might be in rural Mississippi.

We are not, like the Puritans of old, a society of monochrome virtues/taboos. And for blasphemy to have any liberating effect, one has to violate taboos that, deep down, one holds or fears breaking. If one is doing otherwise, one is merely cosplaying at being transgressive.

And if one isn't willing to bite the bullet, so to speak, and be truly transgressive, what's the point of Satan after all beyond the nostalgic yearning for familiar symbols even if they don't make sense?

One of the arguments in favor of Satan's inclusion is that Satan/The Devil has been part of folklore
and culture for a very, very long time. This is a dangerous argument to make because even more than Satan, THE central figure for the entirety of Western culture, for nearly 2000yrs, has been the figure of Jesus Christ.
Wars have been fought, lands have been conquered and colonized, indigenous faiths in both Europe and the Americas snuffed out, millions killed and enslaved, all in the name of the necessity of belief in Christ...for the good of the souls of the conquered/colonized/killed.

If anyone or anything has the right to be seen as central or necessary to Western culture, and by default, Western Pagan and magickal culture, it's Jesus Christ and, with him, his father Yahweh. In fact, I believe that whether or not the "pro-Satan in Paganism/magick camp" realizes it or not....

Their argument in favor of Satan is, in my opinion, really an argument for the recognition of Jesus Christ and Yahweh in Western Paganism and magick. It's an unconscious desire to be sure, but still a reactionary desire to their deeply held, even though consciously rejected, belief that Christ/Yahweh is their god and the god of Western civilization/culture.

Now, many will bridle at this idea, but consider this, one of the primary arguments for the inclusion of Satan in Paganism/magick is, "We need the transgressive in Paganism and magick!" The unspoken point of view is that "Satan is the ultimate source of transgressivism!" Beneath that expression of belief is another deeper, unspoken, belief and that belief is...

"We need Satan as the transgressive rebel against Jesus/Yahweh the lawgiver, the lightbringer, the lynchpin of Western culture and spirituality for nearly 2000yrs!"

This is what is being said, without the words being spoken. How can one so completely support the shadow of Yahweh/Christ without, albeit unconsciously, accepting the sovereignty of the very God who Satan stands in clear rebellion against?

One can't...not in any consistent manner anyway.

The reality is as follows...

Satan opposes the law of only one.

Satan's rage is against only one.

Satan steals the souls of men to pain only one.

Satan is dedicated to deceiving the servants of only one.

Satan corrupted the Creation of only one.

Satan deceived Eve to spite only one.

All that Satan does he does not in opposition to Baal, Zeus, the Great Mother, Cernunnos, Marduk, Jupiter, Shiva, Kali, etc, but opposition to one power, the singular authority figure that hides in the shadows of the Western unconscious mind.....


It doesn't matter that Satan is a prosecuting angel in the Jewish OT, Yahweh's servant, because that myth isn't what infuses the consciousness of 99% of Westerners. The Satan of the New Testament and Milton is the mythic structure that underlies the Western psyche. It doesn't matter that Satan, or the idea of Satan, may be built on even older Pagan beings. The psyche, the deep emotional/intuitive place that hums and buzzes when in the presences of myths that speak to us, cares little for scholarly nuance. That part of us resonates to that with which it has been infused over a lifetime.

This deep intuitive/emotional place in the psyche is the place that rebels when someone speaks Lord's Prayer backwards. This deep place is the reason that those who claim to reject Christianity still respond so strongly to Christian symbols.

The conscious and unconscious mind is only rarely in alignment. This is the deep place that allows Hebrew psalms to work effective magick even for those who would find the idea of bending the knee to Yahweh unthinkable. This is the deep place wherein Christ/Yahweh and Christianity is both loved and hated, embraced and rejected.

Don't expect the unconscious mind to make sense, reason isn't its strength. It is perfectly capable of holding contradictory beliefs/perceptions/worldviews at once without experience the cognitive dissonance that would cripple the conscious mind. Satan dwells in the deep places of the psyche beyond the influence of the relatively weak and ephemeral conscious mind and with him dwells Jesus/Yahweh.

Some can and will be able to caste off all unconscious remnants of our nominally Christian culture. Those that can should feel free to walk away from all Christian symbols, gods, and spirits without regret.

However, those that cannot or, deep down, would rather not, should not. These Witches and magicians should continue to use Christian symbols, gods, and spirits and can do so successfully. Sometimes it is easier to work with the contents of the unconscious than it is to attempt to change them.
No talk of Satan in Wicca, Paganism in general, or magickal culture, is complete without the equal
and opposite recognition that Christ/Yahweh is the very sovereign being honored while one is arguing for Satan's inclusion.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Balancing Personal Will and Permissive Will in Magickal Practice

That word is 'willing.' It's an attitude and spirit of cooperation that should permeate our conversations. It's like a palm tree by the ocean that endures the greatest winds because it knows how to gracefully bend. ” 
- Stephen Kendrick, The Love Dare

There's something inherently curious about the "Will." Anyone deeply involved in magick is well aware that one's will is of great importance...the will directs the intention, the energy, the spirits, etc. toward one's desired end.

Curiously though, I have found over the years that, even as a magician, one should not overvalue the personal will. What I mean to say is that there are times when our will can lead us seriously astray, times when getting what we thought we wanted would have been far worse than not. Sometimes the will can be countervened in a way that makes our magick seem as if it failed when in fact our "failure" to manifest a desired outcome leads us to something better that what we wished for.

Then there are times when magick happens without the involvement of our personal will. These times, linked to one's alliances with one's gods, spirits, HGA, Higher Self, etc., and the natural harmony with reality brought about by spiritual practices such as meditation, prayer, yoga, qigong, etc. allow what is best for us to flow to us not by will, but by "willingness" or Permissive Will....which is receptive state of non-doing, non-craving, natural flow.

In Taoism, this state of being is called "Wu Wei." Wu Wei is a state of non-doing, non-craving, effortless flow that, within the context of magickal practice, implies a deep trust in the gods, ancestors, spirits, etc. to provide for you that which is in alignment with your deepest needs.

It has been my experience that these times of effortless alignment to our own Highest Good (often a good unknown to the personal will) are times when we are granted boons far greater than those we would have received if had impressed the desires of our will upon the universe...thereby pushing for a specific, limited outcome.

It seems to me that one must balance one's active "will" with one's receptive "willingness." It seems that one's True Will is to be found more so in the latter than the former, at least until such time as one's personal will is in greater natural harmony with the will of the One Thing (who we may see manifest as God, Goddess, the Self, the gods, etc.) which is, in my understanding, naturally aligned to that which is best for all beings.

What is "best" is may or may not be what is, from our limited perspective, what is best for the individual ego-personality, but instead what is necessary for that being holistically (in regards to the entirety of the individual)....even if, from the view of the ego-personality, what is needed appears terrible, tragic, or needless. This is a different perspective, and one, at odds unfortunately with the prevailing paradigm of magickal practice which tends to confuse the True Will with the desires and predilections of the magician's ego-personality.

The axiom "As above, so below" comes to mind here. The "above" is that Will that knows more, knows better, and knows deeper than the the personal will (which is the "below") because it has a far vaster perspective. In aligning the "below" with the "above" we naturally come into alignment with experiences, awareness, knowledge, and wisdom that is more in keeping with our needs than than that which we could have manifested without that alignment by relying on the lower will alone.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Compassion and Cages

“You can do what you decide to do — but you cannot decide what you will decide to do.” 
― Sam HarrisFree Will

Gods know I'm as guilty as anyone else, so I don't excuse myself in the words that follow. This article is just as much for me as it is for anyone reading it.

We need, collectively, to be able to demonstrate compassion to those with whom we strongly disagree. That compassion is born of, among other things, understanding that, to a large extent, each of us is the product of our experiences and environment.

I do believe that there are deeper forces at play in who we are and who we eventually become, but for the sake of the discussion that follows, experience and environment are enough.

The beliefs, perspectives, and values we carry are, to a greater or lesser extent, the product of our culture and upbringing. Like a fish in a lake, our culture is the very substance wherein we live and move, to such an extent that we are often blind to its existence around, or impact on, us.

The cultural realities we have come to accept are not revealed truth, they are merely relative realities that would have been completely different had we been born and raised in a different time and place. For the most part, we are who we are because of when and where we are. That may be an uncomfortable truth, but truth it is.

If we can but realize this, we will realize that we needn't hate those with whom we disagree. We can wholly reject another's principles, values, beliefs, and ideals while still recognizing, as they say, "but for the grace of God go I." We may have been those who are the targets of our scorn, mockery, and ire, if only we had their life experience or lived within the confines of their paradigm.

This recognition does not completely lift the onus of an individual's responsibility or agency. Instead, by recognizing that we are, in many ways, the product of our time and place, we are able to be more cognizant of the limits of responsibility and agency in regards to what we believe.

Free will is only operative within the constraints of culturally prescribed boundaries. Because most of humanity is not composed of visionaries, mystics, artists, etc., those who seem to be able to see beyond the limits of culture and time, it behooves us to accept the limits of most individuals' capacities to exercise what we commonly refer to as free will.

Only those who can see the confines of the cage within which they live can exercise the choice to choose freedom. One cannot escape a prison one fails to recognize.

Culture, traditions, religions, etc. are all, in a manner of speaking, cages. At different times in our lives any of these structures are not only useful, they are necessary to provide the stability needed for healthy growth within a culture. However, it is one thing to know and accept the boundaries of a cage that are at variance comforting, helpful, and stabilizing, it is entirely something else to believe that one's preferred structure is universally valid or divinely mandated truth for all people at all times.

Recognizing that until we reach a very refined level of awareness, a level of awareness wherein a chosen structure becomes recognized for the purely aesthetic choice it is (as opposed to the vessel of certainty and truth we once accepted it to be) we are all bound to a greater or lesser extent within our personal cage. This awareness, that we too are bound, can be a source of profound understanding and compassion.

If you or I are not, yet, fully free, then we cannot expect those with whom we have strong disagreement to be fully free of blinders, limitations and boundaries (ie. their cage) either. Our political and ideological enemies are merely trapped in cage different from our own.

However, despite strenuous and valid philosophical/Ideological conflict with those with whom we share little in terms of values and vision, we needn't hate those who wish us to share their cage because, for them, that cage is the only world they know.

Reject the cage, even hate the cage, but we needn't hate those trapped within.