Christianity – ’tis all around us

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 won.

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 🙂

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18 comments

  1. Pingback: Christianity – 'tis all around us « Magic of the Ordinary | workoutforgod
  2. Michael Gorsuch · December 23, 2009

    Excellent and thought provoking, Peregrin. Thanks for writing this – this is about the point I am at in my own life, and needed someone else to prod me a little.

  3. padmarosa · December 23, 2009

    The irony of a Thelemite being anti-Christian is that Thelema is a religion precisely based on the Christian model: A master teacher with all the answers (who is of course male) hands down his teachings in a body of sacred texts which then become a definitive canon of revelation and are incorporated into all his followers’ subsequent liturgy and practice. He institutes teachers and clergy, a Mass and other sacraments, all of which derive their validity solely from contact with Him. It’s just that Crowley’s ego replaced Jesus with himself as the great teacher, and the Virgin Mary with his latest bedpartner.

    (Of course that’s a parodistic view of what Christianity is and how it was formed, but it’s not so far, I think, from the Protestant consensus of Crowley’s time. And I really dislike how Crowley *and* Thelema treat women.)

  4. Mike · December 23, 2009

    Merry Christmas Peregrin !!!
    A great piece and a delight to read.
    I have been reading some books from Margaret Barker that you might find interesting.
    I also included a link to a blog showing that their is hope out their in the land of Fundamentalism.
    And last something I’d like to put in a Christmas card and send to Lon !!! 🙂
    May the New Year Forever Bless You …. Mike

    http://www.margaretbarker.com/

    http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com/

    “In true religion there is no sect, therefore take heed that thou blaspheme not the name by which another knoweth his God.”
    -Crowley
    Liber Librae

  5. Suecae · December 24, 2009

    A great post Peregrin. I followed the debacle and I thought Duquette’s song was very shallow. His intention was probably just a way of poking fun at Christiany though, but I fear that rather it would further polarize esotericism from those who hold a more mainstream interpretation of scripture. Esotericists often come forward with a ‘holier then thou’ attitude.

    By the way: I wrote a blog-post about the Winter Solstice and Christmas at my blog. It is not often I promote myself, but this might be of interest to you. It is about Christmas and the Winter Solstice.

    Merry Christmas!

  6. dario · December 28, 2009

    Crowley was anti-ignorance and superstition, he was not anti-Christian to the extent of what it encapsulated, (although perhaps for what it excluded), even though I agree that many, if not most Thelemites would say so. Crowley quotes the words of Jesus throughout his writings, showing that he was in agreement with at least those particular teachings. Furthermore, Thelema is not, or should not be considered anti-Christian either. In fact, the fundamental teaching of Crowley is the union (yoga) of the lower self with HGA, or Holy Guardian Angel, which is the formula of the Shin or Spirit descending into the four elements of the Tetragrammaton, forming the name Yod He Shin Vau He, i.e., of Jesus. This is also the mystical teaching of Judaism, showing, that the core teachings of Judaism and Christianity (and Thelema) are one and the same.

    Either the person of the Gospel narratives or the author of them was truly a great Rabbi, initiate and Magi, whoever he was.

    I am a Thelemite, and a Christian, and I worship the deities of the Hebrews (the Angelic hierarchy) as well as several other Pagan pantheons.

    There is only one religion, one truth. Crowley wrote to this effect, and anyone who says this religion is good and that one bad does not Know the Truth.

  7. Peregrin · December 30, 2009

    Hello Mike,

    thanks for the comments and the links. I have now had time to check them out. Any other MOTO readers reading this should also do so; they are very good.

    The Crowley quote you supply is, 🙂 lifted straight from a GD text. Very cute of him. Thanks.

  8. Peregrin · December 30, 2009

    Hello Suecae,

    thanks for the reference to your blog, which is very enjoyable, especially the images. The Solstice post was great, ta 🙂

  9. Peregrin · December 30, 2009

    Hello Dario,

    thank you for these comments. I must admit this to me is a novel view of Mr Crowley. Certainly it jars with pretty much most of the academic and lay studies of him and his work. I will have to look further into what you say. I remember Israel Regardie writing somewhere that in his later years Crowley would become physically repulsed or sick when Christianity was discussed. Just yesterday when reading an academic paper on Wicca, Crowley’s antipathy to Christianity was again highlighted. Thanks for your contrary views 🙂

  10. ac2012 · January 7, 2010

    Your idea of the relationship of Thelema to Christianity is frankly shallow. Consider the views expressed in the following blog for example:

    http://christianityisdead.wordpress.com/

    As you can see from the explanations on that blog, it is far more complex than something so ridiculously simple as saying that Thelema rejects Christianity and is therefore tied to it. Thelema transcends and includes Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Taoism, and more; while simultaneously is the blasphemy against all gods of men.

  11. Peregrin · January 7, 2010

    Hi ac2012, or should I just call you Al? 🙂

    thanks for this view and link to the blog. I have now taken the time to read the posts on the blog and some of the links. Nothing on the blog changes my opinion based on reading pretty much everything Mr Crowley wrote, many studies on him and his work and dozens of Thelemites I have met. In fact it just confirms it. The title of the blog alone is indicative of what I mean. The images included on the Facebook page which are satirical or anti Christianity alone, not any of the other ‘slave’ religions you mention, also speak volumes. I will leave it up to readers of MOTO and others who can be bothered to make their own mind up on this issue.

    Thank you for comments and opinions 🙂

  12. ac2012 · January 8, 2010

    But I’m not disagreeing with you. That you think I was trying to change your opinion is further demonstration of my point.

    I’m saying that the way you have described the relationship of Thelema to Christianity is shallow.

    To illustrate, it is one thing to say the sky is inherently blue. it is another to explain how it is blue and what this tells us about the characteristics of light and the atmosphere.

    Imagine if someone said “Oh, Christianity rejects Judiasm and is therefore tied to it,” as a way of somehow criticizing Christianity. Christians would say, uh, yeah, no kidding? With sarcasm. Because it is obvious that Christianity is tied to Judaism in the sense that it transcends and includes Judaism.

    Thus is Thelema to Christianity, but not only Christianity; also all these other religions.

  13. Peregrin · January 8, 2010

    Hi, sorry. I will have to be clearer.

    In my opinion: Thelema transcends nothing.

    Mr Crowley did not through Liber Al receive a revelation but rather gloried in his own subconscious material, much of which was anti-Christian. This is natural considering his upbringing by the Plymouth Brethren and the nature of exoteric Christianity of his day. By doing so he infected and corrupted the esoteric traditions he presents as part of Thelema with his own subconscious drives. This has been pointed out many times.

    His followers, and from the posts, the blog you refer to, are doing the same: playing out subconscious drives and hates. Many modern Thelemites seem to be working through similar subconscious material and drives that Mr Crowley imbued into his work. Therefore there is great attraction there, therefore the subconscious material is not recognized and viewed as spiritual.

    There is actually very little spirituality – something beyond the self – within that blog and most other modern Thelemite material.

    This is opinion is what I will leave readers to decide for themselves. Thanks 🙂

  14. ac2012 · January 9, 2010

    You are of course welcome to your opinion. Thanks for entertaining these comments.

  15. Asher Fryer · January 12, 2010

    I’m going to read this article later in detail Peregrin but I’d like to make a few points if I may.
    (1) Crowley, like many others, is both for and against Christianity. He is ‘for’ it when it confirms his own point of view. I think it is in “Book 4” or “Magic” or some writing that he says Christianity is essentially a Phallic religion. Some truth in that, but he was not being silly, he was referring to some deep, if pagan, understanding of that.
    (2) There is no such thing as “a” or “the” Judeo-Christian “tradition”. This is a Liberal and Jewish idea designed to undermine the exclusive claims of the Church. The reality of Church and Biblical teaching is this: Judaism is the last aspect of Israel after it split into 10 and 2 tribes, which paved the way for Christianity. The Church is the fulfillment and continuation of Israel and it’s Messianic hopes. There is a strong continuity, but no hybrid ‘tradition’. In fact, there couldn’t be two more opposed traditions when it comes down to it.
    (3) I’d like to say something about your posting of a quote by that hypocrite John Shelby Spong. He speaks of “what could be stranger than a human talking about and defining God?” Like all liberals, he is hopelessly contradictory and hypocritical. He is against absolute affirmations of humans about God, yet arrogates the right to do so himself when it is against such statements. He is against the very thing he is doing, blind to his own absurdity. He is a classic pharisee, as Christ would say “not entering into the kingdom of Heaven, and stopping all others from also. I tell you, they have their reward.” What could be stranger than someone who is a ‘bishop’ who doesn’t believe in any of the core doctrines of Christianity yet thinks he has the right and ability to stay within the Church while preaching against it? “That’s a very strange idea.”

  16. Peregrin · January 13, 2010

    Hi Asher (and anyone else following this),

    thanks for your comments. I am curious. When referring to Bishop Shelby Spong you place the ‘bishop’ in apostrophes, presumably questioning his Episcopal status. Is this because you question his ordination, consecration or believe that anyone holding his views can no longer be a Bishop in his church? Thanks.

  17. Asher Fryer · January 14, 2010

    Hi Peregrin,
    I would question the idea that anyone holding his views can be a Christian or even religious in a fundamental sense, let alone a Bishop. A Bishop is a shepherd of the Flock, an immense and sacred responsibility in its essence, and he has done nothing but lead people away from God. I know he has some good points in a relative sense, but he is still fundamentally wrong in most ways, and suffers from modernist blindness. I am most offended by his refusal to espouse his actual postion, practical atheism, while he uses his influence and position in the Church to bring it down from the inside. He writes many books about ‘the end of Christianity’ and ‘the post Church Christian’ and being a Christian without espousing anything that is fundamental, and historically Christian….while staying in the very thing he is working so hard to destroy. Hypocrite is the least of things he is in my opinion. He has no honour, no sense of true religion, and is really a parasite, for what else could he be? Using the very structure he works to deconstruct while it pays his board and bills.

  18. Peregrin · January 15, 2010

    Thanks for clarifying, Asher 🙂

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