Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A theophany

Christian theologians (especially Orthodox ones) love to point out that Pagans are worshipping the creation, whereas they are worshipping the creator.

It is one of the first rules of interfaith dialogue to listen carefully to what others say they believe, rather than telling them what they believe.

This creator and creation thing is a bit of an old chestnut and not really true (it may be so in terms of some Christian theological systems, but it doesn't translate into ours).

In other words, Mu. (A Japanase word meaning, "your question is irrelevant in my paradigm"; kind of like "meh".)

Most Pagans see the Divine as immanent in the Universe, not necessarily as identical with it (and yes, don't tend to pay much attention to the unknowable, or believe in the transcendent aspect) so the categories of creator and creature are a bit meaningless, really... in fact I personally find the idea of an external supernatural creator offensive, because to me the Universe was born, not made. It is a theophany: a manifestation of the Divine.

As Sam Webster wrote in his 2007 article, How Close the Gods? Transcendence, Immanence and Immediacy in Pagan Religion (given at Pantheacon 2007):
Immediacy is a more modern term for wrestling with this problem, although one can find the idea discussed in the deep past. It is a subtle idea but its implications are vast. Here we would say, "the Goddess made the Tree and is present AS the Tree (not just IN the Tree)." To touch the Tree is to touch the Goddess. She is immediately present. Nothing is between us and Her. The whole World IS Her, made BY Her and OF Her, and by implication, there is Nothing BUT Her.
In this way of looking at it, it is not that we are focussed on the creation instead of the creator / creatrix: the two are identical, and so making a distinction between them is meaningless.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


The UK National Secular Society has produced a de-baptism certificate for atheists - however it's not really suitable for Pagans or other liberal religious traditions, as it denounces "superstition" (under which heading they would probably include Pagan beliefs).
I ________ having been subjected to the Rite of Christian Baptism in infancy (before reaching an age of consent), hereby publicly revoke any implications of that Rite and renounce the Church that carried it out. In the name of human reason, I reject all its Creeds and all other such superstition in particular, the perfidious belief that any baby needs to be cleansed by Baptism of alleged ORIGINAL SIN, and the evil power of supposed demons. I wish to be excluded henceforth from enhanced claims of church membership numbers based on past baptismal statistics used, for example, for the purpose of securing legislative privilege.
The main reason for doing this, as far as I can see, is that the number of bishops in the House of Lords is based on the number of adherents to the Church of England, and that number is apparently based on the number of people baptised in a Church of England church.

So here's my suggested wording for Pagans and Unitarians:
I ________ having been subjected to the rite of Christian baptism in infancy (before reaching an age of consent), hereby publicly revoke any implications of that Rite and renounce the Church that carried it out. By all that I hold sacred, I reject all its Creeds, in particular, the erroneous belief that any baby needs to be cleansed by baptism of alleged original sin. I wish to be excluded henceforth from enhanced claims of church membership numbers based on past baptismal statistics used, for example, for the purpose of securing legislative privilege.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A new tradition

A new tradition has arisen in deepest, darkest Bedfordshire: The Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley. Who knew that you could mix Taize prayer with Beaker spirituality and tea-lights? They also have a festival of the nativity of Thomas Hardy, and one for Morrissey (which should both be adopted immediately by all Pagans).

They have a website and a blog. And articles of faith:
The Articles of the Beaker Faith

1. Anything that can be reasonably conjectured when it comes to the original Beaker Folk, and not disproved, can be assumed to be true and therefore a genuine Beaker tradition.
2. Anything we don’t understand about previous generations was probably concerned with fertility rituals. Any object we don’t understand had symbolic meaning. Even if it could just have been a ritual back-scratcher.
3. The more inclusive you are, the less you have to worry.
4. There’s no spiritual power in the universe greater than wishful thinking.
5. All contributions to the Community are strictly optional. But don’t think that means you can get away without paying them.
6. Don’t jump and down on Thin Places in steel toe-capped boots. They’re liable to break.
7. Tea lights are nice.
8. Don’t ask the Archdruid about what she puts in her pipe, or why she needs such regular deliveries of hydroponic supplies. Or why the snow never settles on the roof of the Great House.
9. If it feels good, it’s probably fine.
10. Hi-viz is good for your physical safety and your eternal soul. We don’t just wear it because the Archdruid bought a job-lot of personal protective equipment in her old job as a Health and Safety advisor.
11. Whenever referring to "Celtic" Christianity or the "Celtic" tradition, we will always put the word "Celtic" in inverted commas, to indicate that it is no such thing. We’re still considering putting the word "tradition" in inverted commas also.
12. Never attempt astral projection without a safety belt and hard hat.
13. Avoid ever trying to understand what Beaker People mean by "the divine". Once we start to try and understand "the divine" it might in return make some demands on us. Keep your tea lights alight and your theology vague.
14. All religions contain at least grains of truth. But some religions are more profitable than others.

Hat-tip to Notes from Underground

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Cat over at Quaker Pagan Reflections has written a very interesting post about fame.

Whilst I wholeheartedly agree that fame and wisdom are not the same thing, I wholeheartedly disagree with the idea that there are no Pagans who do not know the difference (famous or otherwise). It's rare for me to disagree with Cat, but on this occasion I have to say I do.

I've thought a lot about the whole fame thing. Part of my reason for writing books was that I wanted something to live on after death; but I've never wanted to be famous in a Big Name Pagan sort of way. Most of the Big Name Pagans that I really respect are the ones who do not expect everyone else to agree with them and fawn over them. I have a selection of people whom I have commissioned to give me a big kick up the backside if ever I turn into one of those people surrounded by fawning neophytes. Of course there are one or two of those sort of Big Name Pagans in the UK, but apart from their small gang of neophytes, they are widely regarded as Too Big For Their Boots. Another part of my reason for writing books was that I aimed to write the sort of books I wanted to read (on the assumption that there might be others interested in the same topics as me). The other day, someone did say to me that they were very grateful for my books as they thought they were the only one interested in such things - I was very glad to have been of assistance in this way, but I can't say it inflated my ego, though I was very pleased to discover a kindred spirit. I can certainly honestly say that I don't write books in order to acquire followers or be seen as super-spiritual; I write because I enjoy writing and hope that other people will enjoy the results. I've never wanted to be famous to the extent of being recognised in the street or anything like that; I certainly don't crave the attention of tabloids and paparazzi; and I would rather someone develop their own opinions than quote mine as an "authority" (if they happen to agree with me, that's nice, but only if they have come to their views after independent thought and reflection).

The authors I respect know what they think, cultivate wisdom, are generally humble, and do not expect the biggest table or spotlight at conferences. I happen to know quite a lot of Pagan authors, and for the most part they are people of integrity. Rather than keeping a coterie of dependent neophytes, they encourage others to develop their own opinions, walk their own path with integrity, and cultivate their own wisdom. A person who keeps others in a state of spiritual or intellectual dependence (beyond the point where they might be expected to think for themselves) is certainly to be suspected of overweening ego; but fortunately such people are reasonably rare. I personally couldn't be bothered to keep a flock of neophytes dangling at my tail, because it would be too much effort looking after their neediness, and people who can't think for themselves irritate me. If anyone says to me that I am wise or special, I just feel squirmily embarrassed, quite frankly. I mean, okay, I take a fair amount of pride in my breadth of knowledge and ability to express it clearly; but I don't pretend to superior wisdom on anything.

The Hávamál implicitly make the point that fame must be earned:
Happy is he who wins for himself
fair fame and kindly words;
(Hávamál, 8)

Cattle die and kinsmen die,
thyself too soon must die,
but one thing never, I ween, will die, --
fair fame of one who has earned.
(Hávamál, 75)
Fame is not merely earned by spouting opinions; it is earned by wisdom and a life well lived.

A person with integrity walks the walk, and does not merely talk the talk.

I have discussed Pagan virtues and ethics elsewhere at length (especially compassion), and they most definitely do include humility - but a humility tempered by honour, which in the Pagan sense is an accurate assessment of one's own self-worth (naturally not flinching from being aware of one's flaws). Honour and humility together bring integrity. And Pagan virtues (ideal and actual) certainly include the cultivation of wisdom - a wisdom that includes compassion for all life (including those less "spiritually advanced" than oneself).

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


A series of amusing Bible reviews (reproduced here in case Amazon remove them or something):

Lots of plot holes, but mildly interesting bit of semi-historical fiction, May 1, 2009
By Joshua N. Petersen

This book stars a weird sociopathic anti-social bipolar hermaphroditic superbeing with an intense hatred of foreskins. (He's loving one minute, killing everyone the next, loving again, then killing again, never shows his face, creates stuff apparantly for the express purpose of destroying it, and beats up constantly on his 'chosen' people... whom it never says what he chose them for, and has all these 'songs' in them where they admire his bosoms -aka breasts-) I mean, that's definitely an original character, but feels like it'd make a better villian or foil than the main character.

Also, feels like the authors needed to collaborate more. I mean, the "Matthew", "Mark", "Luke", and "John" sections repeated the same story over again, but re-ordered the same parts. In one, a group of events may take a week, and in another, it make take over a month. On top of it all, breaking everything into miniature sized 'chapters' (more like pages) and then sub-dividing further into verses, really breaks up the reading and makes it hard to get through an entire short story (called 'books) in one sitting.

Setting the book in past historical settings was interesting, but at some places the authors obviously didn't do their research. One example being that crazy Jonah story (what's with the giant fish, giant vine, and giant worm?). The mentioned king didn't rule over Ninevah, they're separated by hundreds of years!

I did like the hippy-character though. Jesus was alright, at least until the book of Revelation kind of ruined it and that Paul guy began teaching against everything Jesus taught while pretending to be on the same side.

Although the line in Titus 1:12 (supposedly made by someone writing to convey knowledge of an infallible God) "It was one of them, their very own prophet who said, `Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons.'" Okay... logical problem here. "Cretans are always liars" and a CRETAN prophet says, "Cretans are always liers" Now would could assume the Cretan was lying about ALWAYS lying, but the author follows, saying, "This testimony is true". It's a logical impossibility! The only solution is that the author himself is lying, and if you can't trust the narrator in a book, who can you trust?

For reasons of weird under-developed main characters, logical fallacies and impossibilities, historical inaccuracies in historical fiction, inconsistent and repeating timelines, and creepy forskin obsessions, I need to give this 1 star.

Although I still stand by that I like the hippy, too bad so many of the 'followers' screw up his teachings. I mean, he says the most important thing is to love people, and then his followers say the most important thing is to worship him... kinda loopy.

However, psychiatrists will probably have a hayday analyzing this thing!

Don't Leave It Lying Around the House, October 23, 2008
By Carl Wong (Van Nuys, CA USA)

This book should never be left where it could fall into the hands of children. Recurrent themes of bloody violence, murder, racism, incest and rape are dealt with extremely irresponsibly. Horrific events are presented as justified by circumstances and as solutions to petty wrongs.

Worse than the depictions in the book are actual historic examples of such depictions being used to justify the worst kind of degradation and humiliation that humans have ever been forced to endure. These acts are not just inspired by this book, but characters in the book urge its readers to follow its example. Worst of all, however, is that, despite this book's obvious lack of coherent logic or sense, it inexplicably possesses a following of people that somehow find comfort in its horror.

No doubt about it, the horrific images, and lack of intelligent discussion of those images, contained in this book makes it entirely unsuitable for children, or sensible adults.

It is very doubtful that a book that meanders so terribly, and contradicts itself so often, is truly inspired by a deity. What you will read in here can be found in other mythologies. There is nothing truly unique about it.

Upon close scrutiny, we discover that the content of Bible is a compilation of historically and archaeologically unsupportable Myths such as Noah's ark, Abraham, Joseph, David, Solomon, etc.

Had Promise, But Squandered It, February 11, 2009
By Mark Twain

The Lucifer character seemed like a nice enough guy. Refused to bow down to unjust authority, etc. Was pretty much a George Washington / King Leonidas type. For some reason they chose to focus on the Yahweh character however. He was a pretty big jerk, always commanding people to be killed and raped and whatever. Didn't really understand the part where the guy offered his daughters up to be raped. Come to think of it, way to much rape in this book. Anyways, it was cool when the bear ate the children for making fun of that guy, but the scene was not nearly long enough. Also, didn't quite understand how the author got away with so much plagiarism from Egyptian and Sumerian books, but whatevs. Liked the part where he said not to eat seafood. Its nice to see he also had a bad Red Lobster experience. Would recommend the author try Joe's Crab Shack. It's divine.

(spotted by Christina)