As a Pagan, I do not believe in an external force of ‘evil’ in the universe. Rather I subscribe to the view of Mahatma Gandhi:
The only devils in this world are those running around inside our own hearts, and that is where all our battles should be fought.
Evil is human-made, a result of fear, ignorance, anger and frustration. When such pressures build up, it is easy to fantasise that there is some simplistic solution. The maiming and destruction of our enemies, the inquisition, ethnic cleansing, wars of religion – all feed off the same delusion – that there is a good, pure, right ideology that will make the world a better place. If people will not subscribe to it voluntarily, then they are evil and must be destroyed. Once we have labelled a group as ‘other’, the enemy, we can persuade ourselves that in order to protect what we think precious and right any action is justifiable.
Internet Book of Shadows, (Various Authors), , at sacred-texts.com
The Jesus Story
The Lord and the Lady (and the Fool, of course) looked at the Men and Women and were not pleased.
“Look at that! They saw Your Sacrifice and went and elaborated it into some kind of magic.” The Lady spoke disgustedly. “Cutting out human hearts. Sacrificial Kings. Ritual burnings. Ritual torture. Blood sacrifices. Cannibalism. Blood, killing, and more blood! What do they think they’re doing?”
“I agree it’s pretty grim,” said the Sacred King, “But it does work, though in a very limited way. So….what can We do about it?”
“I know what We can do, but it will take all of Us,” said the Fool, unsmiling. “Listen up….”
As He began to explain, the faces of all Three grew grimmer and grimmer, and sad beyond words.
The Fool incarnated as a Child within a Woman, who was the Mother and the Maiden. He was born in poverty, and laid in a straw bed. He grew up in a small village in a backwater nation on the edges of a great Empire. Some, a very few, knew Him and honored Him, seeing Him as the Child, truly the Child of Promise, but most simply went on with their lives, unknowing. When He was of age, He turned, and from Child became Transformer, and He began to teach.
As Transformer, He went out on the dusty roads of the small, conquered nation, and taught the Way of Love. Love for all, not just some. He taught of the Brotherhood of Man and of the Fatherhood of the Lord.
He taught of the Way of Salvation: to love. To love the Deity and to love your neighbor, whoever he might be.
He brought a message of hope to the poor, and a warning to the oppressor.
Around Him, He assembled a small band of men and women, and taught them His Mystery. But one was given a role to play, and the role was Betrayer.
A man asked, “Teacher, what shall we do when those that hate us strike us?”
And He answered, “Turn the other cheek, and let them strike you again. Give them love in return for hate. If you must take up the sword, then do it in great reluctance, and only after you have stepped aside time and time again. Remember that I bring you not peace, but a sword, for this Path will separate you from your families and friends, and your enemies will persecute you in their ignorance.”
“And forgive your enemies, and those who wrong you, that you may put away your anger and live in love.”
Another asked, “Sensei, what of the poor?”
And He answered, “The poor you shall always have with you, but give them the tools to lift themselves out of their poverty. Clothe and feed them, but give them the means of independence also.”
“But what of the rich, then?” said a wealthy man.
“Give what you have to the poor. give them of clothing, and food, and, more importantly, of learning, for if you feed a man, then you have only given him one meal, but if you teach him to feed himself, then he may eat for a lifetime, and move from the cycle of poverty and ignorance,” He said. “Lay not treasures up for yourself on earth, save that you give of that treasure to those in need, but rather lay up treasure in heaven, for it would be easier for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye than for an avaricious man to leave his earthly treasure for heaven.”
A Doctor asked Him, “Healer, what of the sick?”
“Verily, let them be healed by the knowledge of man, and by prayer,” He answered, “For whatsoever you ask in prayer, if you have faith even as small as the tiniest grain of mustard seed, what you need will be granted you. But be wary of what you ask for, for you will get what you need, and not always what you want.”
A woman asked, “Rabbi, what of those that follow other Teachers?”
And He answered, smiling, “There are many rooms in your Father’s house, and many fields in Heaven. And I come again, and yet again, and as there are many languages of mankind, so are there many Names for Deity. Rejoice in it, and be glad of the diversity of Deity, and do not hate those that call the Diety by other names, but rather weigh them by their deeds.”
And one asked of Him, “How should we pray?”
And He answered, saying, “Pray in your own fashion, as you will, for all prayer is good. But if you wish, pray thusly:
“Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our errors, as we forgive the errors of others. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
“And if you feel this prayer should be given to the Mother, then let it be so.”
And a Priest shouted, angrily, “Shall God be then female?”
And He answered, “The Deity is what It will be, not what you make It into. You see the Deity in your own image; if you are vengeful, then your God is vengeful. If you are full of hate, then your God is hateful. But if you have love, then you shall know the Deity’s love. Listen, and be wise.”
A child asked, “Father, how shall we know what is right and what is wrong?”
And He replied, “Weigh it by its fruits. If it gives a bad fruit, then it is wrong, but if the fruit is good, then eat of it and be happy.”
“But Brother, what of a fruit that seems to be good, yet will poison us slowly?” asked another.
And He answered, “If a man die of it, then it is an evil fruit.”
“Look you to the past, see the mistakes therein, and learn therefrom. And
beware those who would lead you into error through their own need of power
over you; leave them to the trap of their own making.”
One of the Priests came to Him, a man enmeshed in legalism, and, thinking to trap Him said, “Teacher, What is the Law?”
And He looked at the Priest and said, “Love God. Love thy neighbor. All else is commentary and the Law of Man. Study the holy books of all faiths, weigh the good and the bad in each, and learn.”
And the Priest went away abashed.
And a person came to Him and said, “What of magic?”
“Know that your will is that of a human, and you are not omniscient. You cannot see all the results of your actions. Therefore ask ‘Not my will, but Thine be done’ and leave the ordering of the MultiVerse to Deity, not to human will,” He replied. “Order yourself, not the MultiVerse.”
And two came to Him, and asked, “O Mahatma, We are of the same sex and love each other. What shall we do?”
And He looked upon them and said, “An it harm none, do as you will. You are all the Children of the Deity, and the Deity’s Love for you is greater than you can imagine.”
A policeman asked of Him, “But what of the Laws of Man? If these Laws of Man conflict with the Law of the Deity, what shall we do then, Padre?”
And Transformer answered, “Listen and hear. Obey the Laws of Man, for these Laws have power over your body. But if there is a man-made law that is not good, then strive to change it, in peace. But if you cannot change it, then obey it. And, if you must disobey it to change it, then accept the judgments of Man’s Law in good grace until it is changed. But put not your trust in Rulers, and Kings and Princes, nor in those that would lead you, be they Priest, Priestess, or any other Office and Position, but weigh their words carefully, that their words match their deeds, and no hypocrisy enters into them, for as your leaders you have given them power over you. And always remember that Man’s Law is made for humanity, and not humanity for Man’s Law.”
And with the policeman was a woman who had violated the Law of Man and had been taken for her crime. She said, “But what of me, Lord? I am to be stoned by the crowd.”
And He picked up a stone from the ground, looked at her, and said, simply, “Let he who is without mistakes cast the first stone at you.” And He dropped His stone from His hand.
And there was a silence from the crowd, and those with stones in their hands dropped them guiltily to the ground. And He said to her, “Learn from your error, go in peace, and make error no more.”
And He said to those that had dropped their stones and who were burdened by their guilt, “Be not guilty, for guilt is but a warning from your conscience. Be you delivered from your hell. Learn from your error, put it from you, and err no more.”
“And equally, if the tree that gives a bad fruit can be taught to give a good fruit, then do so. But if it persist in giving bad fruits, then leave it.”
And He walked to a nearby hill and turned to the people, and spoke thusly:
“Blessed be those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed be those that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
“Blessed be the meek, for they shall live to inherit the earth, long after the strong, and the proud, and the warlike have killed each other in their pride.”
“Blessed be those that hunger and thirst after the Truth, for they shall know it.”
“Blessed be the merciful, for they shall have mercy shown unto them.”
“Blessed be the pure in heart, for they shall see the Deity all the days of their lives and after.”
“Blessed be those that make peace among men, for they shall be called the Children of the Deity.”
“Blessed be those that are persecuted for the sake of the Truth, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed be you, when men shall persecute you, and perjure themselves against you, and lie about you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for your reward is great indeed.”
“Let your Light so shine before all humanity, that they may know the Truth of you, and learn to live in love.”
And he placed His hand upon the head of a dog, and said, “Your Brothers and Sisters in fur are your Brothers and Sisters in truth. They are in your care and in your hands. Treat them with kindness, and that kindness will be returned to you a thousandfold. To those that give themselves to be eaten by you, offer thanks and be grateful to them for your sustenance.”
“Treat your Mother the earth likewise with kindness, and all the growing things thereon will sing your praises to the Highest, and you shall eat and drink of Her fruits, and live in joy and gladness all the days of your lives. Little children, love one another!”
In truth, there was much more that He taught, and much of it is written for our study and learning, and the study of His teachings is a good and worthy thing. But the following of His teachings is a better thing, for He was who He said He was, and that is also a Great Mystery.
And the Betrayer spoke to Him, and said, “Renounce this Path. It only leads to destruction. Give over to me, and I will give you rulership of all the kingdoms of Earth.”
And He gazed upon the Betrayer, and spoke, and said, “Get thee hence, foolish one, for I have no need of earthly treasure, nor earthly power, for all such is false, and an illusion.”
And on the night that He was betrayed, during a Festival that celebrated the conquered people’s deliverance from tyranny, (and to choose such a time and place is also a Great Mystery and a great lesson) He took of the Sacred King, the Bread of Life, blessed and broke it, and gave it to His followers, and said, “This is My body. Do this in remembrance of Me.”
And then He took wine, fruit of the Mother, and blessed it, and gave it to them also, and said, “This is My blood. Do this in remembrance of Me.”
And Transformer was betrayed by the Betrayer, betrayed to the legalists and the soldiers of the occupying army, accused of sedition and taken by the Law of Man, and sentenced to die.
And they fastened Him to an instrument of torture, to kill Him like a common criminal, with cruel jokes. And He was hung from a Tree.
And, watching, was the Mother, and the Maiden, and the Crone, and They all three mourned Him.
He turned, and was the Sacred King, and simultaneously the Fool (and that is a Great Mystery indeed) and, as He died, he said, “It is finished.” And His Blood ran out upon the Earth, and worked a great magic.
His body was buried in a tomb of rock, and the soldiers of the occupying army guarded it.
But after three days and three nights, a greater magic was done, and He took His body again, sitting with the Lord and the Lady, and showed Himself to His followers, to show them that Death is not to be feared.
And He said, “You have been bought, and redeemed, and nevermore shall you make sacrifice of blood, for this is the Final Sacrifice for all time, for all places, and for all those there are and were, and will be.”
“And fear not Death, for it it but a change in a MultiVerse of changes; another turning of the wheel on a road all must travel.”
And He shall come again, as He has throughout all history, teaching the Great Truth: that we shall love the Deity, and love our neighbor, for Love is the heart of the Law, and that Law is Love. For He is always with us and in us all.
“I don’t -ever- want to go through that again!” The Fool spoke vehemently, through tears.
“I don’t think you’ll have to go quite -that- far the next time,” said the Lady. They’ll still play their stupid games with blood, but not for very much longer.”
“I hope not,” said the Sacred King, “But do We have to put up with that Paul fella? He’s a bit of a nut-case.”
“If you want it to work out right, yes,” said the Lady. “He may be a nut-case, but he’ll spread the Word quickly, and, after a time, they’ll get the idea. And from that will come the seed of My future believers.”
“Sorry about that,” said the Fool. “I did my best, but in such a patriarchal society as that one was, I just couldn’t make much headway about You.”
“No problem,” She said. “They can deny Me all they want to, but I’m still here.”
Thus it was, and so it is, and evermore shall be so!
from Internet Book of Shadows, (Various Authors), , at sacred-texts.com
The primary meaning of “pantheism” is “the belief that the Divine is identifiable with the forces of nature and with natural substances,” and it is this meaning of pantheism which is properly contrasted with “panentheism” (the belief that the Divine is within the natural world but not limited to it). This pantheism *denies* all Gods and Goddesses, at least to the extent that They are understood as anything more than natural forces. Thus if you believe that the Goddess is something more than the physical planet Earth, you are NOT a pantheist; you are a panentheist.
A secondary meaning of “pantheism” is “worship that admits or tolerates all gods.” As this meaning directly contradicts the primary meaning, persons using the term should be careful to specify which meaning they intend. (Under this meaning, if there is any god whose existance you do not acknowledge — Satan, for example — you are NOT a pantheist.)
Within the pagan community, the term pantheism is used even more sloppily as a synonym for polytheism and/or animism. This had led many people who don’t meet either of the above definitions to mistakenly call themselves pantheists.
By that, I mean that I believe the Christian God exists, but don’t necessarily worship that particular deity. If all gods and goddesses exist, you can worship one of them (Monotheism), without excluding the existence of the rest of them.
That’s not monotheism, that’s henotheism. Monotheism is the belief that only one “God” exists. Note, however, that monotheism does not deny the existance of lesser beings (saints, angels, etc.) who might also be called “gods” in a polytheistic system. Note also that Christianity is not truely monotheistic, as it has the top job shared three ways.
Cat Chapin-Bishop, a Quaker Pagan, writes in her blog, Quaker Pagan Reflections, about the meaning of words and wishes for Peace in the context of #BlackLivesMatter and the example of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Both King and Woolman understood something that too many whites who are upset about the current wave of racial unrest fail to understand: peace is not a matter of stillness, and particularly, it is not a matter of dissent suppressed.
Rather, peace, real peace, is an active force, constantly on the lookout for quiet violence as well as the use of weapons and force. Poverty is violence. Racism is violence. Relegating women, or gays, lesbians, and the transgendered to lesser lives–that is violence. Colonialism is violence.
And at times, the very calm that would outwardly seem to those in comfort to be the essence of peace, is instead simply another form of violence.
via Bobby Sipes on the Religious Tolerance group on Facebook:
For those in the US and possibly other school systems who may have children struggling within religious biased systems. While primarily focused towards Pagan families it can perhaps offer some insights others could use to approach the school system in a rational way. I would also appreciate any thoughts others may have had when facing situations that challenge their kids within schools whether atheist, pagan, Christian, Muslim or any other faith. Looking for common ground here.
Aurora Lightbringer is an artist, author, and Pagan mom who wanted to create a series of books dedicated to young people growing up in Earth-centered faith traditions. She is a community leader who is a National Board Certified Teacher, volunteer, consultant to a non-profit and part of a leadership team of a Pagan circle. She recently published her first children’s book The Wheel of the Year (available on amazon.com) and is working with a committee to create PKIPS (Pagan Kids in Public Schools) which will be a resource for Pagan families navigating the public school system. To find out more and to read some of Aurora’s work for grown-ups, visit: www.fullcircleuuca.org.
Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate.
Hell, as the temporary or eternal destination of a soul after this life is ended, has never been a part of my personal religious beliefs — not even when I was numbered among the Christians. Whatever else awaits — or does not — the Divine of my understanding would not assign such a fate or entertain the existence of a place, state of being, or destination for maximizing suffering.
That said, I am, of course, aware of the role and lore of Hell in our culture. I have read the Revelation of John, the Inferno of Dante, and the popular media of centuries. I recognize a need and a role in religion for Judgment, for weighing the effects of a person’s actions over a lifetime for good or for ill. I do not agree that such a Judgment requires an available penalty such as eternity in Hell.
When questioned about the Hereafter, I must honestly say that I do not know what happens to the soul of an individual when this life is over, when the soul passes through the Veil between this life and whatever lies beyond. I am quite certain that no one else can speak with absolute confidence, either, because anyone here present and able to speak has not yet made that full transition. We rely on near-death experiences, dreams, stories, messages from Beyond, and beliefs in abundance — as well as firm faith in promises made and embraced.
The best we can manage is confidence that there is Something beyond the Veil — and we find comfort in knowing that Something as the Summerlands, Valhalla, Heaven, the Beyond, the Hereafter, or Paradise. Its existence is consistent with threads and themes in religions around the world and throughout humankind. I neither confirm nor deny its existence. Instead, I encourage expecting peace and oneness with the Infinite and with all who have gone before as the dying approach and finally pass the Veil. In compassion, I can do no less.
Until now, I have denied the existence of Hell.
On the one hand, in seeking to bring about the kingdom of Heaven on Earth, we recognize the goal can, at best, be approximated this side of the Veil, and we can work toward it. Hell, on the other hand, exists and is manifest in the here-and-now. Hell on Earth is far more real than any hope of Heaven on Earth — and more so, as time goes on. We have created Hell, and it shows no sign of disappearing.
And consignment of a soul to Hell does not seem to depend on the merits or actions of the individual during this lifetime. Indeed, babies and small children are among the innocents most likely to suffer Hell’s torments without hope until an early demise or, worse, a continuing lifetime of pain inflicted not by a punitive God but by their parents, caregivers, peers, teachers, and other humans — sometimes in ignorance, sometimes in neglect, and often with intent.
Until we put as much of ourselves into creating Paradise, we can at least acknowledge the experience of Hell and reach out to free the souls therein to life on Earth.
Mysticism as a word derives from the Mystery cults of Ancient Greece. Secret societies/cults promised to initiate the recruit into the ‘deeper Mysteries’ of the cosmos.
However the mystical experience itself can be traced back into the mists of time as an altered state of consciousness that somehow connects one with Ultimate Reality behind the Universe.
Mysticism is, in its essence, an experience of such a connectedness and not primarily a belief in such a possibility. Hence it is rarely found within religious or spiritual groups of ‘believers’ who take their cue from sacred scriptures or holy writings rather than personal experience.
This is the first in a series of posts I’m digging out of my LJ archive because I think they have relevance here…
People are all exactly alike. There’s no such thing as a race and barely such a thing as an ethnic group. If we were dogs we’d be the same breed. George Bush and an Australian aborigine have fewer differences than a lhasa apso and a toy fox terrier. A Japanese raised in Riyadh would be an Arab. A Zulu raised in New Rochelle would be an orthodontist. I wish I could say I found this out by spending arctic nights on ice floes with Inuit elders and by sitting with tribal medicine men over fires made of human bones in Madagascar. But, actually, I found it out by sleeping around. People are the same, though their circumstances differ terribly.
– P. J. O’Rourke
Most dictionary entries trace the etymology of “compassion” to the Latin word compati, “sympathy”- com “together” + pati “suffer”. But it also seems to be a “loan-translation” from the Greek word sympatheia, which means essentially the same thing… although the root pathos means “feeling” in general as much as “suffer”. “Sympathy” in English first had a magical connotation, as in “sympathetic magic”, then gradually came to also mean “fellow feeling” and the like.
This bit of word-trivia has been a guide while I’ve been trying to come to grips with the concept of “compassion”, and what it means to me. It’s one of those words that are bandied about too often, with the definition changing to suit the user; portrayed as strength or weakness, virtue or vice by turns. So I’ve felt compelled to come up with a definition that works for me:
It is not an action in and of itself, but a state from which one acts, that can inform and animate ones actions. And of course, the lack of compassion can do the same.
For me, one of the most important manifestations of compassion is the acknowledgment of the humanity of other human beings. Most if not all of the greatest crimes of human history come from the denial of humanity in others. When we demonize another person or nationality, objectify another race or culture, this is where true evil comes in- not the grandiose Luciferian sort, or the alien Lovecraftian sort, but the brutal banality of Orwell’s 1984 or the ugly hysteria of Rwanda or the Sudan.
How often do you hear “those people just aren’t human” or “anyone who would do that is just an animal” or “He was a monster!”? We use these phrases and others to distance ourselves from others’ actions when we find those actions repugnant. We don’t like to think that the people who rape and murder and commit other atrocities are just as human as we are… much less vice versa. Not a comfortable thing, not at all.
More pernicious is when the non-compassionate mindset is used for the sake of profit or convenience. When factories re-locate to third-world countries because costs are lower there, and turn a blind eye to the horrible conditions in their factories.
This isn’t a strict guideline; no important choices are ever easy. Compassion does not tie our hands; it is not a weakness. We still must judge between actions and between people. Compassion is fundamentally a form of understanding. It’s important to remember that to understand is not (necessarily) to approve; that to explain is not to excuse. We can forgive without leaving ourselves vulnerable- “trust but verify” is a fine rule of thumb, as long as its cynicism is balanced by compassion.
Compassion is not a justification for universal pacifism. It is not a crutch, or an excuse for inaction. Sometimes it may be necessary to harm another human, even kill them, for the greater good. Adding compassion to the equation will not necessarily change that. In many cases, the action taken must be instinctive and decisive.
But the justification for such acts should never be “they were Moslem/Christian/Communist/Capitalist/
Black/White/etc. and therefore aren’t really people anyway.” And if the principle of compassion is added to the decision-making process that comes before the need for harmful action, perhaps the need for harmful action itself can be reduced.
Compassion also applies to positive actions- charity, mercy, hospitality, and the like. I think it is true that an act of generosity is as much for the benefit of the giver as of the recipient. But if that act is motivated by condescension or self-importance, or even worse by schadenfreude, it harms both the subject and the object. This is not a call for altruism- that’s a different and IMHO more contentious topic. But I think that compassion can provide the enlightenment for enlightened self-interest.
Like any guiding principle, compassion should not be the only think to rule one’s life. Extreme selflessness can be as bad as extreme selfishness. I believe in a dynamic balance in this as in all things. But compassion is an important touchstone nonetheless.
Compassion is one of the higher functions, like love, or creativity, or “common sense”- something that lifts us above the brute reactive mode, the fight-or-flight instinct, the herd impulses of fear and comfort. The new era dawning demands this sort of response- an emphasis on connection to compensate for the increasing plurality and disintermediation, an emphasis on personal responsibility to replace or at least supplement the fading standards of the hierarchical era.
Of course, like so many things, this a goal to strive for, and one that we all will fail to achieve at first. No, I’m not there yet myself- as in so many other things, I’ve only taken the first few baby steps on the path. But the recognition of the need for compassion, and the striving for it- it’s a good start.
* I do not deny the possibility of compassion for animals, or at least some of them. But that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms, and one I’m not going to address here.