Now, this is an obviously… sensitive title. But hey, if it gets folk thinking and talking about these things, then woot woot! The post reflects a few things I have been pondering for quite some time – as you would know if you have read my other posts on magic and Christian traditions. Here I am just being a bit blatant about it all 🙂
Of course, given the right motivation, I imagine I could easily pen another post, “Why Pagans Make Better Magicians”. So let me be clear on a few points before we start:
- I am talking about the Christian traditions here, not defending or ignoring the actions of any churches or individuals.
- I am not saying ANY Christian makes a better magician than ANY non-Christian.
- I am saying that certain elements of the Christian traditions, when worked esoterically, can help a magician in her practice of magic. A lot.
- These elements are generally those hidden from view and rarely understood, even by most Christians themselves.
- I do not mean Christians make better magicians in all traditions – obviously Christians would make lousy Muslim magicians, Buddhist Magicians and even Thelemic magicians. (Though apparently there ARE some Christian Thelemites around – talk about collapsing the binary!)
- I am saying that for the rest of the bunch – you know generic, western magical folk… well… here’s a light-hearted look at why Christians MAY do it better 🙂
- Please feel free to respond but without too much rancour. And I may or may not reply, depending on time and tone of the response. Ta 🙂
THROUGH DOUBLE-THINK AND OUT THE OTHER SIDE
When you’re a Christian and a magician you really need to think. Well, actually think, feel, know and realise a lot about where you stand on things. The general exoteric Christian doctrines are so limiting and many of its spokespersons so stupid, to be able to accept Christianity AND be a magician is no small feat. You are flying against the wind in both contemporary egregores and you have to be pretty clear and be able to examine, refine and explain your point of view, beliefs and practices really, really well (A humble example of this is my post on the Nicene Creed). This means the magician develops a great skill in and a conscious awareness compared to a universalist tradition where ‘all is divine’ without much thought or theology.
There can be no simple acceptance of Church doctrine as a Christian magician. You have to be conscious about where you place your will, and why. At the same time, as a Christian you have to be pretty clear about why you are doing all this magic stuff in the first place. What’s the point? There’s no easy way out and you can’t just go with the flow and feel all the nice astral energy and stuff.
MY TEAM IS BIGGER THAN YOUR TEAM
Christian magicians work with the BIG THREE. Now, of course it is only in the Christian world view that these three are supposed to be worth anything at all. However, consider a couple of examples. Firstly, the number of people I (and many others) have helped with ‘psychic’ disturbances who ‘got through’ by praying to Christ, or simply calling His name – even though they had no faith at all! This is very common. Secondly, the number of Wiccans and others who successfully use the Rose Cross ritual, a ritual which is empowered by Christ’s name.
Now Christ’s name is the name before all other names. It is supposed to make gremlins and gribblies sit up, pack up and shove off – and to consecrate ‘space’. And it does exactly that – even for folk who actively despise the outer Christian religions. I’ve seen it dozens of times. I am not saying here that Christianity is BETTER than other religions – that would be silly. But I am saying that in the West, when the chips are down, the Big Three are a cool crew to have in town 🙂
This may of course be solely because of the cultural egregore most of us grew up in – a Christian (based) one. This means we can all access the Christian based concepts of spiritual love, power and wisdom more easily than, say that of the ancient Norse cultures. For the general person, there is more ‘out there’ connected to Christ than Odin. It takes years of dedicated Odinist work to change this at the deepest level of our psyche – and even then I’d wager telling the average Jo to pray to Odin (who probably just knows him from the ‘Thor’ movies) when she’s in trouble will not help much. Sad, but true.
REBELLION IS AS THE SIN OF WITCHCRAFT
Now activist, Reclaiming, feminist witchy-poos and Pagans just love this quote from I Samuel. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. However, even Thomas Jefferson knew that only a LITTLE rebellion is needed now and then. Not a lot. And sometimes modern Paganism, and modern esoteric universalism gets all caught up in the personal need to be contra something. I explore this in my essay on Crowley, here.
This point is well summed up by Lama Ngakpa Chogyam in ‘Psychology and the Spiritual Traditions’ (p.33) where he describes the fact that in Tibet being a lama is held in deep respect, like a doctor. It is one of the most respected and revered positions in society. There is nothing rebellious or anti-society or anti-establishment about the choice to be a lama or a monk or a nun. Compare this to the motivation of many modern magicians, a fair few of who quickly reveal ‘contra’ tendencies or conspiracy-theory minds fairly easily at the end of the lodge night. And of course, there are always those witch and Pagan magicians who are really all about shocking mummy.
As a Christian there is less of that, as Christianity is the established religion and spiritual path in the west. Announcing my adult Confirmation in the Anglican church produced more boredom than shock. And from certain esoteric points of view if one is born within a Christian country one should be practicing that spiritual path – as all exoteric forms are simply paths to the same inner esoteric truth. It does not matter if we are Christian or Pagan – as really, THERE IS NONE BUT THE ONE.
Every time I attend a teaching with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, he essentially says the same thing. In fact he LAUGHS that there are people in the west who want to practice Buddhism. His first advice is to be a Christian, as being raised in a Christian (based) culture means one is more suited to Christian traditions than Buddhist. He only teaches westerners out of compassion, hoping to make some difference to people who want to learn from him.
AIN’T GOT NOTHING TO PROVE
A major thing about Christianity that some non-Christian magicians and esoteric folk don’t get is this: Christians in relationship with Christ have in some ways completed their spiritual journey. In Christian terms, we are already saved. The One, through Christ (who was fully human like us) is CONSTANTLY, no matter what we do, drawing us, wooing us, calling us into relationship and communion. Once we have opened ourselves to this truth, this awesome, powerful realization of the nature of the universe, we do not have to DO anything anymore. This is what Christians mean by the term sola fide – by faith alone.
Of course, the opening to Christ is like peeling back layers of onion – we are constantly needing, wanting, yearning to open more of ourselves. And this is not always easy, as we are born with both Original Blessing (as imago dei, an image of God) and with Original Sin (our human tendency to enthrone the personal ego). But once we have opened at all and realised that we (like everyone) are at the very centre of the infinite circle of God’s attention and love, things are forever different.
So Christian magicians are not practicing magic due to ANY sense of incompleteness, or from a need to heal, or any need to transform, to become God, to get the next grade – or whatever. We practice magic to be closer to the One, to imitate Christ, to become a more effective servant and healing agent in the worlds (inner and outer). To do the will of the One, not our own.
Now this – just look around you – is often in stark contrast to the NEEDS, so often dog-balls obvious, in the practice of non-Christian magicians. Some of these needs are healthy, many not so much. And this can become quite a problem 🙂
Christians are taught to be compassionate. Now, I know many are not. And I’ve read the various surveys with hidden cameras that show the hypocrisy of some – perhaps most – Christians. But I am interested here only in how by placing compassion and love at the core of the tradition, Christian traditions can help magicians unfold and serve the worlds easier.
The centrality of love within the Christian esoteric tradition is staggering. And as a Christian magician moves through her tradition she hopefully embodies this more and more. The central core motif of non-Christian magical traditions may be anything, sometimes compassion, sometimes not. The magician in these circumstances is not re-made as the love which turns the stars, which is the aim of the Christian magician. Obviously Christians do not have a monopoly on compassion – but having it stated out there as the aim from day one helps. That’s why many Buddhist traditions do the same thing 🙂
ONE OF THESE THINGS IS NOT LIKE THE OTHERS
Christian magicians often, not always, attend church. Sometimes for their sins they may get quite involved, sitting on Parish Councils and wot not. Now in all of these situations they are likely to be mixing with a really heterogeneous bunch – people VERY different to themselves. A young socially liberal Christian magician can easily find themselves on a Sunday morning between a middle aged woman who was brought up to believe gay folk are diseased and an elderly veteran of wars he never questioned. Ouch!
This heterogeneity is one of the most wonderful gifts I gain from attending church. My coven and lodge folk were more similar to one another than the folk in the church. So Christian magicians can learn a lot from other people – in fact, since we are taught to see the One in all, we HAVE to learn a lot from these folk. It is a most broadening experience and really helps with the magic too 🙂
CALL THAT A TRADITION? – THIS IS A TRADITION
Not to put too fine a point on it, but Christianity has oodles and oodles of tradition and rituals and prayers and metaphysics. Enough to make your mind pop! Really. And its esoteric aspects are far older, far more extensive, far deeper than any other western magical tradition (bar authentic Kabbalah). There is SO MUCH in the broader esoteric Christian traditions it is impossible to start on it all. Other traditions are newcomers. What else can they be since Christianity, through various means, some fair and many foul, overcame and absorbed or wiped out all other religions along the way?
This of course meant, as I have said before, that by and large, the western esoteric traditions grew up within a Christian religious milieu and only make sense within one. Western magic, until the turn of the 20th century was largely created by Christians for Christians. So really – and no offence here – unless we delve into the Christian mindset and way of viewing the universe, we are very, very likely to miss out on the more subtle meaning, mysteries and blessings of the texts and practices of any western tradition before, well, Crowley.
This view is more than justified by a little comment in the original pledge form (application for initiation) of the historical Golden Dawn:
Belief in a Supreme Being, or Beings, is indispensable. In addition, the Candidate, if not a Christian, should at least be prepared to take an interest in Christian Symbolism.
Modern Orders may have omitted this but I am talking of the traditional approach and the form I signed as a young lad. The reason why Christianity is singled out is because the Orders (GD and RR et AC) contain more symbols with a Christian basis or interpretation than any other religion. Mathers and Westcott (and perhaps Woodman) were clear that one needs to be ‘interested’ in these symbols to gain the most from the Golden Dawn experience. It’s the same with any tradition of the same vintage or earlier. And even many modern traditions, often implicitly anti-Christian, draw on texts created within a Christian esoteric milieu.
This is more a personal one – I have yet to come across any Pagan or magical tradition with a theology of the divinity of humanity that comes close to the Incarnation. Pagan and universalist theology is often very scant or cursory on this theme, whereas the mystery of the Incarnation is about as deep as you can get. Even approaching its import makes me tremble.
Thanks a bunch 🙂
We awaken in Christ’s body
as Christ awakens our bodies,
and my poor hand is Christ, He enters
my foot, and is infinitely me.
I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him
(for God is indivisibly
whole, seamless in His Godhood).
I move my foot, and at once
He appears like a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous? — Then
open your heart to Him
and let yourself receive the one
who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
we wake up inside Christ’s body
where all our body, all over,
every most hidden part of it,
is realized in joy as Him,
and He makes us, utterly, real,
and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed
and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in His light
he awakens as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.