Certainty and the Death of Magic

Ol’ Bishop Leadbeater – he knew a thing or two.

Every so often I come across something of interest in the dark recesses of my hard drive. Yesterday it was an old letter I wrote to Communion, the magazine of the Liberal Catholic Church (LCC) concerning the ‘debate’ over ordination of women to the priesthood. For those who do not know, the LCC is an ‘esoteric’ church founded in 1915 by Theosophical folk who wanted to have their cake (Christian rituals and hymns) and eat it too (participate in the new and exciting Theosophical movement). The LCC’s reasons for excluding women from the Priesthood are therefore a little different than those of the Catholic or Orthodox churches: women’s subtle bodies are simply not up to the job of standing in persona Christi. Nice. 😦

And how does the LCC know this? Well, to quote meself:

These [reasons] ultimately stem from the clairvoyant investigations of Bishop Leadbeater. Cynics would say they originate with Leadbeater himself, his clairvoyance being a fraud at worse and a spurious self-delusion at best. Believers in the pre-eminence of Leadbeater as a great spiritual teacher either argue for his clairvoyant accuracy or simply accept it and do not bother arguing at all. In any case, no matter what position we take, the fact remains the clairvoyant data stems from Leadbeater himself.

I doubt anyone in the LCC (these days) views the late Bishop Leadbeater as infallible. Indeed, with so much of his fallibility having been presented to the pubic via the meticulous work of Fr Gregory Tillett, this would be an impossible position to hold. With all the recorded mistakes and inaccuracies in Leadbeater’s clairvoyance, it is quite conceivable that the occult reasons for excluding women, as they stem from Leadbeater, may be wrong or at least a little garbled.

However, the veracity or otherwise of the good Bish’ aside, the most interesting and most relevant aspect of the matter to what still occurs in today’s occult world is this:

By insisting that it has valid esoteric reasons for excluding women from the Priesthood the LCC has painted itself into a corner. If it were to say it excludes women on other reasons, such as following tradition, it could modify its stance at a later date, as several Churches have now done. However, to say that women’s subtle bodies are not suited to being the vehicle of Christ’s blessings, it has defined an unalterable truth, approved, we are assured by Bishop Leadbeater, by Christ himself (after a meeting on the inner planes).

Also, despite its seeming lack of dogma, such a position leads the LCC into a very dogmatic strait indeed. If it impossible for women to be Priests of Christ, then by definition the Anglicans (and others) have got it wrong (or at least are not operating on all four cylinders). If the LCC were ever to admit women to the Priesthood, it must postulate some amazing esoteric theory that the evolution of the world has reached such a level that Christ will suddenly change Himself to suit the subtle bodies of women priests (or all the women in the world have had their subtle bodies changed overnight).

As soon as ‘esoteric’ reasons, or reasons derived from inner plane activity, are used to make a decision concerning outer activity, membership or exclusion, we magic folk have to be very, very careful. We cannot make these decisions on an ultimate  basis – affecting all time, all space and all people – only on a relative basis. If we make them on a ultimate basis we are falling into the same trap as the religious fundamentalists we so dislike. And really, the magic is thereafter dead. We might as well pack up, go home and play computer games. Sure we can still do all the rituals and invocations and get some nice energy and astral buzz. But once we have closed our minds, the transformation will cease. And like the LCC, we may present a seemingly non-dogmatic front but have core, unspoken dogmas and fundamentalist ideas hidden within.

Look at the logic sequence:

CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALIST

  • Statement 1: Evolutionary theory, and all science based on it, is wrong.
  • Statement 2: Our church is one of the few that truly represents the will of Christ.
  • Proof: Personal interaction with and interpretations of words invested with authority (the Bible).
  • Supported by: Members of the churches deigned to be ‘proper’ churches.

LIBERAL CATHOLIC CHURCH

  • Statement 1: Women cannot be priests because they do not have the correct subtle bodies.
  • Statement 2: Our Church’s liturgy has the express approval of Christ himself following a personal (inner) meeting with a Bishop of the church.
  • Proof: Personal interaction with and interpretations of words invested with authority (the writings of C.W. Leadbeater).
  • Supported by: Members of the LCC and TS.

MAGICAL GROUP

  • Statement 1: Our magic is better than that of other groups (it will transform you faster!)
  • Statement 2: Unlike other groups, our group has the lineal descent of magic from the ancient world and/or Atlantis.
  • Proof: Personal interaction with and interpretations of words of someone who says inner plane beings and/or other people told him so.
  • Supported by: Members of the group and other groups deigned to ‘proper’ magical groups.

Take away the authority of scripture, and the magical group is behaving exactly like the fundamentalist church.

Order size DOES matter!

Order size DOES matter!

Unfortunately there seems to be a constant presence of groups like this, especially on the internet where one’s presence can be bloated up to make even the best puffer fish feel inadequate. To avoid making fundamentalist thought based decisions is why, traditionally, only those at the adept level could vote and influence the lodge’s course and policies. The theory being, of course, that adepts would know better and having experienced inner death (see the last post) would have more loose and open minds. Sadly however, history shows this is not always the case.

There are a number of ways around these problems, most of which can be found in any good book on group formation and leadership. Again, I recommend Starhawk’s Truth or Dare and Nick Farrell’s Gathering the Magic. However, in a nutshell the basic principles that keep me sane in all this are:

  • Do not make ultimate decisions. Ever. 🙂
  • We all have the potential to be fundamentalists.
  • Magic attracts nutters. And it may be myself.
  • Look for actual proof. Assertions and back up statements by unverified names or mottos on the internet is not proof.

And, finally, the wonderful Discordian Catma:

Convictions Cause Convicts

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7 comments

  1. Mark Donato · April 23, 2013

    This is great! I love an article that includes that magic attracts nutters, since, while I love esotericism, there is no question that it does attract nutters. I include myself as potentially falling into that circle. I use a desire for righteous tribal affiliation as the yardstick for whether someone has crossed into fundamentalist territory. It makes me me breathe easier knowing that someone acknowledges this reality.

  2. dirkt · April 23, 2013

    “The fact reveals a stern logician; for the sect is characterized by refusal to compromise; it insists on the literal interpretation of the Bible as the exact words of the Holy Ghost. (On the strength of a text in the book itself: the logic is thus of a peculiar order).”

    AC Confessions

    😉

  3. Murray Barton · April 23, 2013

    Great post, thank-you.

  4. Peregrin · April 23, 2013

    THANKS folk – and great quotation, Dirkt 🙂

  5. Mike · April 23, 2013

    This is a great one Peregrin. I do think one of the defining characteristics of those who are doing good work is a well developed sense of humor (and especially a willingness to laugh at themselves). This seems to be missing in all the fundamentalisms.

  6. MvdV · April 25, 2013

    Tapping on the fish bowl makes for saaad fishies Peregrin… ; )

  7. Rowan · April 26, 2013

    Thanks for that post, Peregrin. Some years ago when I was a member of the LCC, I identified the same inconsistencies you mentioned: that a Church that prides itself of being non-dogmatic should hold Bishop Leadbeater’s every word as Immutable Truth (the topic being women’s ordination). Likewise, his widely-known paedeophiliac activities are still today dismissed as “rumour.” Clay-footed idols die hard. Your warning about similar tendencies in other groups (and individuals, including ourselves) are well made. It goes to show how fiercely ‘sane’ people (yes, even ourselves :)) can cling onto our blinkers.

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