the Spirit Watch
The Ancient Root Of Pagan Error - Part 1 of 3
By A Former Wiccan
One thing all the false religions (be it Wicca, Hinduism, or even the pseudo-Christian groups like Unity, and Mormonism) have in common is a great and singular lie that their beliefs are based on. This falsehood has been the essential basis upon which spiritual deception has sought to ensnare the unwary with throughout history. This lie led man into rebellion against the revealed will of God in the Garden of Eden, as the Genesis account reveals. This rebellion became literally the first sinful act of mankind. And it was patterned after Satan's own presumptuous rebellion against his Creator, the first known defiance of God's will. What was this very first sin? Satan thought he could be God. This got him kicked out of heaven. What did Satan use to get Eve to eat from that tree in the garden? The same lie. He told her that she would not die, and that she would become like God:
1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
There's nothing new under the sun! Satan is still using the same lie today to ensnare spiritual seekers. All New Age religions and philosophies ultimately teach that you are a god--that you have a higher self which is the "god within." Wicca teaches not only to worship a god and a goddess, but that we are all part of the god and goddess, and we are all "divine within." Much of Hinduism's religious tradition points to the need of achieving oneness with Atman, the "God within", while the achieval of the goal of nirvana, as some schools of Buddhism teach, is entrance into the "realm of Becoming" where divinity is implicitly achieved. Mormonism continues to teach that God is an "exalted man" who became divine, claiming that the central teaching of Christianity is that "as man is God once was; as God is, man may become." As unbelievable as this may seem, many Word of Faith Christian evangelists still teach this as well (Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, and Creflo Dollar have preached this at one time or another). Whenever you hear someone speaking about the divine within (whatever terminology they use--higher self, god-self, little god, spirit self, etc.) know that Satan has fooled them with the same lie that he used on Adam and Eve, and the same arrogance which got him cast out of heaven!
Is it really surprising in a country that prides itself on the ingenuity of the self that people would fall for this lie? Think about it, from the foundation of this country, Americans have been in search of the American dream--the belief that if you work hard enough, you can become whatever you want to become. You can transcend the boundaries of the class you were born into, and achieve wealth and success beyond your wildest imagination. It comes as no surprise to me that Satan could twist the dreams of attaining a better life into the lie of achieving godhood. We have a society that worships self. Our Constitution is based on individual rights. We possess an owner mentality in this nation, rather than a steward mentality, and why not? We feel that what is mine is mine, I worked for it, I deserve it, and I deserve MORE! We live in a society where one's value is measured by how much one makes, and how much stuff one acquires.
I was listening to a talk radio show the other day where the host (a popular Libertarian talk show host) was talking about people's net worth, and how high his net worth was. He believes that only people who have achieved a high enough status of net worth (meaning monetary worth) should be allowed to vote, hold office, or even have children! I was flabbergasted at the amount of callers calling in agreeing with him! These people had raised net financial worth to the level of being the sum total of what a person is worth at all. In a society that puts so much emphasis on the achievements of self, it is hardly a wonder that so many people have fallen for the lie that we all are divine. Listening to these people talk, it was easy to see that deep down they each believed that their accumulated wealth guaranteed them the right to act as gods.
Between The Rede And A Hard Place
I find it rather interesting that one branch of paganism has come out of the Libertarian movement, specifically out of the books of Ayn Rand. This branch of paganism has everything from Wiccans, to animistic earth worshipers, to practitioners of voodoo, but they share the common belief that the rights of self are supreme. Their publication "Green Egg" is a curious mix of neo-paganism and politics. Not so curious, I guess, when one considers that the Wiccan Rede could very well be the mantra for the Libertarian party, "And it harm none, do as ye will." Libertarians are staunch supporters of moral relativism. They believe every person has to decide for him or herself what is right or wrong for them, and that each person has the right to do whatever they see fit, so long as it doesn't directly infringe on the rights of another person. Sounds pretty good until you consider that they also support legalized drugs, and abortion on demand, never considering that someone's rights will be infringed upon in either of these cases - namely, the families of the abusers, and the life of the unborn child so murdered.
When I was a pagan, I had a hard time dealing with the Rede. I took it very seriously, as I did the belief in the interconnectedness of all existence, which says we are all part of the cosmic "One" (God if you will), and as such whatever we do will affect everyone else in the interconnected web of being. These two beliefs stood in direct opposition to one another as I saw it. For if everyone and everything are interconnected, how can you do anything you want without that affecting someone? I figured based on these premises, even flushing a toilet causes harm. There is nothing you do that does not adversely affect the cosmic machine. Because of this I became a vegetarian, until one day I realized that according to my understanding of the interconnected web of life, plants were just as much a vital part of the web as animals or humans, so to eat ANYTHING was the same as cannibalism! If we cannot eat animals because they have souls and are equal to humans, what can we eat? Since according to the same pagan beliefs, plants, rocks, etc., also have souls, all of nature is connected in this web of existence!
Very few pagans take their beliefs as far as I did. Most never get past the "Do as ye will" part of the rede. They simply ignore the first part, and practice a form of hedonism that says, "If it feels good do it." Isn't that what Satan was telling Eve in the Garden? Some do set out to foster a personal morality that is as conservative as that of the mainstream society, but these are the exceptions and not the generally the all-too-relativizing norm.
What you see in the pagan and New Age movements belies the hype behind it all. People who have been frustrated with gaining wealth and stuff, are seeking for something else to fill the void within that cannot be filled by success and money. They seek out gurus and priestesses for answers, and are told the answers lie within them, that they are not connected to their god within, their higher self, their "spirit" as Oprah Winfrey would call it. For such paganizing mavens as Oprah, Marianne Williams, and Silverhawk (and the movements in general), the popular wisdom claims that this cosmic disconnection causes these frustrated people to be "out of balance", and this is why they cannot be truly happy, having no spiritual harmony such a connection should bring . All they need to do is perform some rituals, meditate using guided imagery, develop a pantheon (for pagans) of gods and goddesses based on their needs, background, ethnic group, etc., and they will find the divine within and all the emptiness will go away!
No more futile a hope is heard in such an expression of hope. First of all, it's an expensive thing to be a pagan or follower of the new age. Books cost a fortune, as do sessions with psychic healers, etc. The New Age business is BIG BUSINESS (over three billion dollars a year)! Secondly, you cannot just go join a pagan church, and learn what you want. To join a coven, you have to study under the tutelage of the high priest or priestess. This costs BIG TIME bucks, in most cases. They will recommend books to read (more money), rituals to perform (more money), etc. After all, the search for the "higher wisdom" of your "higher self" is supposed to be worth any expense you can afford. So many people I knew in paganism complained about Christianity that it was all about money, how TV evangelists beg for money, how the churches they grew up in were only concerned with money. Well, it may well be true, but I will tell you, money makes the pagan world go round as well. New Age workshops, healing arts, etc., are highly expensive. New Age books are very expensive, and each one usually points you in the direction of more books - many which can be most contradictory. The things needed to conduct rituals are expensive (herbs, crystals, statues of gods and goddesses, candles, essential oils, etc.) Each ritual requires different elements, all of which cost money. Pagans are to have an altar in their home, with chalices, candles, statues, a boline (a special knife for cutting herbs for spells) and a magic wand, or another ceremonial knife for the casting of the circle.
I was involved in paganism actively for 5 years, and I would guess that I probably spent a thousand dollars over that time, on pagan materials, and I still did not have a wand, or many of the statues, drums, etc., that I thought I needed. I was also self-taught, because I did not have the money to study under the tutelage of a coven. I was looked down upon by many as not being a "REAL" Wiccan because I was self-taught. In fact, many Wiccans look down on the Wiccan book business, seeing it as selling out. They still believe that in order to be a real witch you must be accepted by a teacher (he/she must spot that you have certain inborn magical abilities), then you must be taught the rituals, beliefs, and magic by a trained priest or priestess, someone hand-chosen by the gods and goddesses they worship. Some teachers said they look for someone who obviously comes from a genetic line where the talents of witchcraft have been genetically encoded, and handed down through the DNA for ages (or others look for some grand witch who has been reincarnated). Funny thing was, out of all the witches I knew, I never met a single one who didn't claim to come from a strong lineage of witches, or one who didn't claim to have been a priestess in a past life.
Living The Myth
One of the first things you do when becoming a witch (either through self-initiation or initiation into a coven) is select a magical name for use in the coven, and a name that only the gods know for you). Most people I know, myself included, chose the name of a god or a goddess as their magical name. Mine was Brigid, Celtic mother goddess. She was my chosen goddess, and I named myself after her (me and thousands of others, seeing how nearly every other person I encountered in the pagan community used some spelling of Brigid as their magical name). I also knew many Morgans (Morgan La Faye), Arachnes (a mythological witch), Lunas (moon in Italian), Dianas, Athenas, etc. What better way to feel you have become a goddess than to rename yourself after one! This all gets us back to the original lie, on which all the others lies of the New Age are based upon--that we all are god!
What perplexes me is how readily this lie is accepted without question. My husband, who was a lifelong agnostic, had no problem buying the lie of paganism. This man who found the Bible completely inane, and couldn't conceive how a rational being could possibly accept ANY of it, had no problem whatsoever dispensing his rationality and believing in gods and goddesses, forces or spirits that guide all thing, nor did he have a problem accepting a universal one that we all are a part of--he had no problem accepting his own divinity! This man who taught cosmology on the university level, had no problem accepting gods and goddesses of civilizations past, even though he knew their mythological beginnings. He had no trouble believing that he could perform magic that defied the very natural laws of physics he once taught to others. This same man who denied the possibility of an all-knowing Creator who could create the universe in 6 days, part the Red Sea, speak through a burning bush, give a child to a virgin, raise His Son from the dead--had no problem accepting that he could draw down the powers of a horned god, and become one himself. He had no trouble accepting that he could raise a cone of power and perform "magic" on others. WHY? Because he bought the lie that he was god!
Paganism is full of highly educated individuals who bask in their intellects, and condemn Bible believing Christians as ignorant simpletons, but who themselves believe in fairies, spirit guides, animal guides, etc. When I was in college, I had dismissed the Bible as pure fiction, but yet at the same time, I believed that I could communicate with nature. Not only could I communicate with nature, but nature could communicate with me. You have heard of tree huggers? Well, I was a tree talker! My mind that dismissed the story of creation, the story of the Virgin Birth, had no trouble accepting that I could talk, and understand the language of trees! My case may seem a little extreme, and maybe it is, but the fact remains that there is no end to human gullibility when the ego is being tickled.
Anyone who has ever read accounts of people's past life regressions must stop and ask, "Wasn't anyone a common person in a past life?" New Age books abound with stories of people who have realized that they were Alexander the Great, The Queen of Sheba, Cleopatra, George Washington, ad nauseum, in a past life. I knew three people who all claimed to have been Cleopatra in past lives, just in my college dormitory! This does not include all of the people who have recounted their past lives as the great Egyptian queen in documented sources. My favorite story of a past life conundrum is the misfortunate soul who claimed to have been both Adam and Enoch (of the Old Testament) in his past lives. No one ever bothered to tell the man that Enoch was born while Adam was still living! Inconsistencies of this type are nothing new in the New Age or paganism from Asatru to Zoroastrianism. Wicca certainly is no exception. Yet, people still believe.
How could people hear such inconsistent testimonies, and still believe in their authenticity? It all goes back to the original lie, and the need of people to feel good about themselves. People feel a need to be connected to something older, something everlasting, they are seeking roots. In this society in which we live, we have become increasingly disconnected from our heritage, from our histories. Families are mobile, and move from city to city, state to state seeking the next higher rung on the ladder of success. The 1960s brought us the search for self, and man has been on a self-indulgent mission ever since. It is this deep seated need to be a part of something older, wiser, timeless, and ageless that has thrust the New Age and the pagan movements into the forefront of American society. People believe that they are returning to the religion of their ancestors, they are believing that they are embracing something much older and truer than the truths the Bible teach. They are absolutely convinced that they have tapped into a reality that has been suppressed by Western society and the Church, and that they are rediscovering who they are and where they came from. And they freely suspend more critical, rational thinking then they would care or dare to admit to others, let alone themselves, in this pursuit of a spirituality that they think will work for them.
In part two, I will address the historical claims of the neo-pagan movement, and will examine whether these claims are indeed historical, or if they fiction created to further the original lie, that we all can be gods.
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