A couple of weeks ago magician Lon Milo DuQuette posted an anti-Christmas and anti-Christian song on YouTube. There is nothing new in this; a few magicians have been pissed off and protesting against exoteric Christianity for millennia. Ho hum. What I did find comforting was that several commentators thought he’s d gone too far in his vitriol and condemned his approach. This to me is a sign of maturity in the magical community and it was great to see.
Others, like Morgan Drake Eckstein, blogged how they could see where both Mr DuQuette and his critics were coming from. The same here, really. As much as I am excited, touched, loved and held by the inner aspect of Christianity, I am as repulsed by some of its outer forms. So there is nothing wrong in criticising the immature, damaging aspects of Christianity (or any religion) but everything wrong with slagging off the entire Christian religion. Isn’t there an oath somewhere about this? Like, right at the start of our unfoldment (Golden Dawn tradition).
One of the things I find ironic is that most of the people within Neo-paganism and the ‘occult’ who attack Christianity are actually in many ways reliant upon the Latin Christian worldview and tradition. There are Christian based roots at the base of most magical and pagan traditions. This is obvious in traditions such as Gardnerian Wicca, based as it is on western magical and Grimoire traditions that were written by and for Christians (even if they were heterodox Christians – see Wicca and the Christian heritage by Joanne Pearson). The same with the Golden Dawn.
Even those modern traditions that actively reject the Christian revelation, such as Thelema are by the very act of rejection linking themselves to Christianity. It is so easy to see Crowley’s personal and infantile hatred of Christianity and all it represented to him threaded throughout his systems. This does not remove us from the Christian tradition, but actually binds us within it; whatever we attack we are connected to. This is a moral of the tar baby story.
Another thing I think is important to consider is this: the Judeo-Christian tradition is the only extant tradition in the west. There are no surviving pagan traditions. Because of this we have, pretty much all of us, been raised in a Christian or Jewish based milieu, whether we went to Church or not. It is our culture, our language our reality. Christianity is on the Simpsons and everyone gets it. We may not like this situation, but it is what is.
Christianity’s success was in part due to its terrorising, belittling and removing of indigenous religious expressions. However, the Medieval Latin Christian church learnt from and was but a pale shadow to one of the most efficient and ruthless takeover organisations ever; the Roman Empire. By the time the Romans had conquered a nation or a land, everything was different. Its culture, its religion, its worldview, its being. The later conversion to Christianity of these countries built upon the cultural genocide engendered by the Romans. Within a few hundred years of a country’s official conversion to Christianity, little remained of the original religions.
Changes in religious paradigms and thought can, when imposed by ruling authority, occur very quickly. An example of this is the current western understanding that religion is about belief and doctrine not practice and experience. This view is, historically no older than the Enlightenment with roots in the Reformation.
We forget very easily.
Ronald Hutton in his Triumph of the Moon gives an example of this phenomenon. Research revealed very mundane origins for a perceived ‘centuries old’ pagan remanent of lighting a bonfire on the Solstice (with Viking overtones) in a coastal English town. It turned out the custom was started only in the late 19th century by the Temperance Union in an effort to attract men away from their bouts of Christmas drinking.
Sadly then, contemporary Neo-Pagan re-constructionists have their work cut out for them. Philip Carr-Gomm in a lecture once described this process as akin to trying to drink an especially rich thick-shake: we keep sucking on the straw trying to get little pieces of nurturance from the base of the drink. It is much better, he suggested, to jump over the counter, go into the kitchen and make our own drinks. His approach is shown in the Order of the Bards, Ovates and Druids who are collectively, eclectic, creative, scholarly and connected to the inner sources of their tradition.
So, at best we have a few Pagan and magical reconstructions of what religion and magic might have been like outside of or before the Christian religion – but all interpreted via people raised in an essentially Christian milieu. This is great and I am sure it fulfils the religious and spiritual needs of some magicians and esoteric folk. However, for the pragmatic and those not in thrall to their childhood reactions, it just makes sense to me to embrace the Christian mysteries – after all they are here, real, extant, voluminous and their practice requires less guess work and gives less opportunities for personal preferences to spoil the broth.
It is so easy to attack Christianity and other religions. They really lay themselves wide open sometimes. However, despite the attacks and the careful pointing out of religious flaws by all the ‘new atheists’, religion and Christianity are here to stay. I’d much rather try and encourage a deeper understanding of Christianity and Christians.
And a final thing to consider. Let us suppose that representational democracy works (I’ve lost some of my readers here). Even if only to get re-elected, let us suppose our representatives listen to the populace – or at least do not go too much against them. Then, following the Copenhagen debacle, the fate of our world may rest with the Christians. After all, an overwhelming majority of the population in the US are Christians. If we can get an ecological message into mainstream Christianity we will change the world. Like the Orthodox Nativity which involves nature more than humanity. Isn’t this a better idea than dishing out more crap that, really, no one but the converted or like-minded listens to anyway?
Happy Christmas 🙂