Common Ground: The Kinship of Metaphysicians

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Having Our Cake and Eating It, Too - Realizing We Can't Be Christians

The following reflections are intended for those who were raised Judeo-Christian. Those fortunate ones among you who were not burdened with that experience may Go in Peace, and the Goddess Be With You. 

With apologies to the sincere and dedicated Christian ministers who provided my religious instruction, I cannot come back into your fold - not if I must accept the Bible's patriarchal abuse of women, or relinquish my belief in reincarnation, or agree that all non-Christians (i.e., Pagans and other polytheists) are going to Hell.   

And yet, these are undeniable messages of the Christian Bible, directly founded on the monotheism of the Old Testament: 1) Eve screwed the pooch for the human race, and now all her daughters share in her guilt and are inferior to men - even after Christ redeemed us on the cross! 2) We are only given one chance to get life right. 3) There is no True God but God; polytheism is wrong and false. 

We Christian-raised New Agers try to talk ourselves around these facts. We are like illegal immigrants who keep insisting they have never broken the law in all their years in this country, while ignoring the fact that their very mode of entry into the USA broke the law in the first place. 

Pagans cite the Gnostic and Catholic adoption of the Virgin Mary, and Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel depiction of Sophia supporting God in the heavens, as evidence that early Christians recognized the Divine Mother. Edgar Cayce's channeled persona quoted certain gospel statements to infer that the Jews of Jesus' day accepted reincarnation as a self-evident fact. Paramhansa Yogananda perceived in Revelation's "seven seals" a reference to the spiritual chakras of the human shushumna - glossing over the fact that in St. John's day there were seven Christian churches in Asia Minor. There are those, today, trying to prove that such an enlightened soul as Christ could not have eaten the flesh of a fellow being, but must have been a vegetarian - though to do this they have to ignore Jewish dietary laws and the gospel accounts of his eating fish with his disciples. Everyone tries to fit Jesus into their own individual preferences. 

But the Hebrew Bible does not admit of a feminine side to God. Neither does it preach reincarnation. Nor does it teach that animals have souls; it only says they should be raised humanely and killed quickly and painlessly when we need to eat them. 

Nobody loves our modern New Thought churches more than I do; but I'm afraid they have invented something which cannot be found in the Bible - a feel-good New Age universality that proceeds more from personal meditations on the character of a loving Father-Mother and benign Elder Brother, than from the Jewish rabbi who declared that he was come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, and that for all time not one jot of that Law would be subtracted or changed. 

New Thought and Gnosticism are profoundly influenced by Eastern religious philosophy. They are not purely Judeo-Christian, and their claims are rejected outright by the mainstream churches that worship Jesus Christ as God's physical body and the Bible as His direct Word - even though most of those denominations won't accept each other! 

The history of the Jews is all about upholding their faith in One God while everyone around them tried to persecute and annihilate them for it. The Old Testament (especially the Torah) declares unequivocally that all other concepts of religion are wrong - not, perhaps, that other gods don't exist, but that they are weak and therefore false. The New Testament picks up that theme, enthroning Jesus Christ as the natural continuation of the monotheistic faith - even though, in a supreme irony, Christians set about for generations to kill Jews. 

The Holy Koran continues that monotheistic teaching. In fact, if you accept the Muslim point of view, Mohammed is the natural prophetic successor to Christ, who was the Messiah fulfilling the promises of the Torah. So all three sacred texts - Old Testament, New Testament and Koran - proclaim the glory of the same One God. All three declare that other gods are false, and therefore polytheism is wrong. In their worldview, Paganism is not just another way of worshipping the Divine - it is deathly wrong! 

To the Abrahamic religions, one cannot even entertain the possibility that the Divine might manifest in multiple ways, and be among God's chosen; the two beliefs are incompatible. (The view of polytheism as sacrilege justifies Muslims' killing Hindus - though it is less clear what justifies their doing the same thing to Christians and Jews.) 

Many people who share a similar version of my background and beliefs claim to be "Christian Pagans" or "Christian Buddhists." I empathize with this valiant attempt to accurately describe where we are coming from, but it is obvious from the above history that such things cannot be; you cannot follow polytheism (or no deism at all) and be aligned with the God of the Bible. 

We can say - and sincerely believe - that we accept Him; but that is not the problem. It is almost a sure thing that He will not accept us. 

Aaron found that out when he let the Hebrews fashion a golden calf to stand in for God while his brother Moses was lost on Mount Sinai with no guarantee of ever coming back. I'm sure Aaron thought, as a practical man of the world, that it would be a harmless and acceptable diversion to keep such a huge throng of people happy and under control. He learned otherwise. 

God's concession to Moses - instead of killing all of the Israelites outright - was to have half of them slaughtered by their relatives, to teach the rest a lesson. And just to make sure that the point had not been missed, He made the survivors drink the ground-up gold from the melted-down idol - and then visited them all with a plague. This Deity does not mess around. He is not likely to listen with bemused detachment to our Pagan sophistry. 

I'm not saying that we shouldn't be Pagan, any more than I would suggest that illegal immigrants who have lived here for two generations and contributed to building our neighborhoods should be thrown into crates and airlifted across the border. I am offended to my very core by the idea that I should be coerced into basing my spiritual choices on fear, rather than on natural affinity and instinctive love. But I AM saying that we need to grow up and take responsibility for our decisions by honestly admitting our initial act of lawlessness. Especially if we believe in Karma, we should not expect our actions to be overlooked and forgiven as though we had never made them - nor pretend that we can hide behind the fiction that we didn't have any idea of what we were doing. "The devil made me do it?" I don't think that will excuse us - even if it turns out to be true! 

Some Pagans think to side-step the issue by glibly stating, "We reject a belief in the God of the Bible." But wouldn't that be ridiculous hypocrisy, coming from people who admit the existence of countless Divine pantheons? We're not atheists, after all; we DO believe in Gods. 

If we trust the love and protection of our chosen Deities, wouldn't it be prudent to at least consider the wrath of the one we may have offended? 

We had better hope that our Gods and Goddesses are more equal siblings to Him than the Bible would have us believe.

 

 

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A student of esoteric traditions since the age of 16, Ted Czukor (Theo the Green) taught Yoga for 37 years until retiring in 2013. For 26 years he was adjunct faculty for the Maricopa, AZ Community Colleges, teaching Gentle Yoga and Meditation & Wellness. Raised in the Methodist Church but drawn to Rosicrucianism, Hinduism and Buddhist philosophy, he is a devotee of the Goddess in all Her forms. Ted has been a Shakespearean actor, a Masonic ritualist and an Interfaith wedding officiant. He is the author of several books, none of which made any money and two of which are available as .pdf files. He lives with his wife Ravyn-Morgayne in Sun City, Arizona. Their shared dream is to someday relocate to Glastonbury, England. theoczukor@cox.net.

Comments

  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Saturday, 11 January 2014

    I agree with most of what you say. The Hebrew and Christian texts were written and then re-edited to enhance politcal power of monotheist Preiests. They were not divinely written and while they contain some historical events they record events from a very biased perspective. Many of the stories in the Hebrew texts were rewritten for political reasons by the Levite Priests in the 2nd century BCE.

    Aaron was a Priest of Ba'al, the great Bull, the Fertility God, and worship of Ba'al was an important part of life for many of their tribes. Creating a "Golden Calf" was an important part of celebrating Ba'al and promoting (practicing) fertility. It was horribly lascivious and immoral to the new monotheistic asceticism. The Levite re-edit still describes several generations of conflict between monotheistic asceticism and polytheistic pleasures.

    Mt. Sinai was the place where a Sumerian Priests of Sin, the Moon God, had gone to observe the Full Moons for a very long time. Why Moses chose the House of Sin for his meeting with his God is one of the mysteries they won't talk about. Could it be that the origin of the Hebrew monotheistic God was originally a twisted version of Sin the Sumerian Moon God? That would make sense.

    Aaron did not "let" the followers of Ba'al fashion a Golden Calf but led them in worship of their fertility rites. Reading the re-edited Levite texts has to be done with an understanding that much of historical truth is between the remaining words and not in the words. Wars were fought between monotheists and followers of the old Gods. In Israel the monotheists killed many who would not accept their authority and dogma. They blamed their violence on their God. Killing for God (Power of the Priests) was an important part of monotheism, and still is.

    In my practice I celebrate Ba'al, Sin, and other Gods and Goddesses, as did many Hebrews in those days. Blessings.

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Saturday, 11 January 2014

    This is great stuff, Greybeard! Thank you so much.

  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward Saturday, 11 January 2014

    I appreciate your dissection of the "reject a belief in the God of the Bible" idea; my one and only direct experience of Jesus was his way of telling me it's okay to be Pagan and not worship him.

    But I'm not convinced that there cannot be Christopagans. The first commandment demands first allegiance to Yahweh, even though many generations of priests have claimed that other gods don't exist at all. And while I appreciate and agree with your personal reasons for being unable to embrace Christianity, Mr Czukor, I don't know that every Pagan embraces values that are in conflict with Abrahamic teachings. There's too much diversity in our community to presume that, and I think it's assuming much to think that anyone walking such a dual path is ignoring vital tenets from one or the other. (I've even heard, but never verified, that the Hebrew name for the holy spirit is actually feminine, but that could be apocryphal.)

    All in all, a very thoughtful post, and one that I personally agree with; I'm just not convinced that all Pagans must concur.

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Saturday, 11 January 2014

    Terence, my thoughtful friend - I challenge you in a friendly way to find any statement of mine, anywhere, to the effect that all Pagans must concur with anything I have to say. A blog is a personal expression only. People who took their early religious training seriously, but then left that faith for another, will always be haunted by a psychologically conditioned sort of PTSD. I think it is healthier to address the issues squarely than to pretend they don't exist. If you will recall my lengthy (almost interminable) back and forth with the Christian apologist Anthony over my "How Christianity Became Pagan" blog, you will see that I agree with you.

  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Sunday, 12 January 2014

    I agree with you Ted. Someone trying to be both christian and pagan necessarily becomes schizophrenic and delusional. While we don't have any high authority to tell them to go away, its the sort of twisted contradictory beliefs that make for endless difficulties. I respect Terence's right to his own opinion, but I disagree with him in just about everything.

  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward Saturday, 11 January 2014

    I did apparently infer that sentiment where it was not explicitly stated. The opening line, to wit: "The following reflections are intended for those who were raised Judeo-Christian," gave me the impression that you were speaking from the experience of all Pagans, as did the paragraph, "Many people who share a similar version of my background and beliefs claim to be "Christian Pagans" or "Christian Buddhists." I empathize with this valiant attempt to accurately describe where we are coming from, but it is obvious from the above history that such things cannot be; you cannot follow polytheism (or no deism at all) and be aligned with the God of the Bible." not to mention a frequency of the word "we" which suggested to this reader that you felt comfortable speaking for all Pagans.

    As I've said, I do feel that you most eloquently spoke for me, and as you feel I misconstrued the intent of your words, I sincerely apologize.

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Saturday, 11 January 2014

    No offense taken, Terence. When I said the piece was intended for Judeo-Christians I only meant that people with a similar background to mine would understand where I was coming from, whereas others would have no interest in it. My later paragraph was merely an attempt to present an uncomfortable thesis for consideration - not to ram it down anyone's throat or walk off in a huff if they didn't agree!

  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward Sunday, 12 January 2014

    I didn't personally take any of your post as an attempt to ram anything down any throats, but I've read enough of your work that my unconscious assumptions don't go that way. (I'm certain that, as we read, we fill in the tone of voice and body language that writing lacks; therein lies the source of many online flame wars.)

    Like all of us, I am still wrestling with language. Language that speaks to people within the entire Pagan community is getting trickier to find as we diversify, not only in our beliefs, but in the experience that brought us here. Language that articulates our religious experience well enough to inspire others, but doesn't come off as proselytizing. It reminds me of my first twenty years with magic -- I was so deeply concerned about the unintended consequences that I almost never acted.

    Thank you for being willing to speak, and to for being willing to examine the language.

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Sunday, 12 January 2014

    Thank you both. I'm a guy who really just wants to get along with everyone, but is constantly frustrated in that endeavor because no two people can agree on the meaning of language. But my only 2 choices are to keep quiet as Terence did for so long, or to speak my peace to the best of my ability and let the chips fall where they may. I just want to explain that my use of "we" indicated that I myself used to self-identify as a Christian Pagan or Christian Buddhist, and only recently came to Greybeard's conclusion that such an attempt was deluded. You see, Terence, it's not that WE can't embrace the more benign and universal principles of the Master Jesus (as many followers of the Reclaiming tradition do) - it's that the established Churches will never accept US. And that decision is based on the monotheistic God of the Old Testament - or the doctrines surrounding that Deity as formulated by the Levite Priests. Thank you for understanding and being willing to clear up the miscommunications.

  • Alay'nya
    Alay'nya Monday, 13 January 2014

    Thank you, Ted, for an interesting and well-thought-out blog.

    Also, thanks to Terence & Greybeard for useful and interesting comments.

    May I offer two resources that would benefit this discussion?

    W/r/t presence of Divine Feminine in the Old Testament/Torah - please have a look at "The Feminine Face of God," by Sherri Ruth Anderson & Patricia Hopkins - which grew out of their search for understanding Shekinah, lit., the "feminine face of God."

    W/r/t monotheism and exclusionary nature (in terms of belief structure) of the three major Occidental religions - agree in large part, but have a look at the deeper mystical pathway, the Kabbalah (Tree of Life) which directly addresses human experience of different realms of consciousness; this is VERY old stuff, predates any established religion, and you may find the following link fascinating:
    http://www.body-mind-unlimited.com/PDF/Origins_of_KBLH.pdf

    We are all too often taught a limited and inherently insecure (control-based) formal religion as children. As we take on deeper studies as adults, we can often go "beyond the veil" in understanding - and realize that these major religions contained within them deep mystical understanding.

    blessings - Alay'nya
    Author, "Unveiling: The Inner Journey"

    PS - and of course, for our purposes, it is totally unnecessary that these various churches accept us - as Ted pointed out in most recent comment.

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Monday, 13 January 2014

    Dear Alay'nya - I like your website, and thank you for the fascinating link to the Origins of Kabbalah! Indeed, there are deeper mystical roots to those faiths which their own followers do not understand. The more I learn about the Mother Goddess, the more I feel sorry for those who don't know Her.

  • Stephanie Vaughn
    Stephanie Vaughn Friday, 17 January 2014

    Dear Ted - It is believed that the Jews originally worshiped a God and Goddess, it was during their exile in Egypt that they started worshiping the "One" God, this practiced was started by Akhenaten in worshiping Aten the Sun God. Even though this practice only lasted during Akhenaten's rule publicly there is evidence that it continued as an underground religion. The main reason Muslims seem intent on killing Jews and Christians is because they won't convert to the most modern form of monotheism which is Islam. According to the Koran they must give an invitation to convert to non believers and after a period of time if the people they have invited do not convert then they may either do a non violent jihad or a violent jihad. Our world unfortunately is fighting the latter! Love your article, I know for me I never felt comfortable going to Church and feeling like I had sinned and God was going to strike me dead at the age of 7. Thankfully, my parents didn't see the need to raise me in church even though I did go with my friends and studied all ancient religions as a hobby. I also come from a long line of deep woods southern witches on my mom's side! The Goddesses and Gods spoke to me as a child and showed me what life should be! I'm glad I found your blog! Blessed be!!!! :D

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Friday, 17 January 2014

    Dear Stephanie - Thank you for the support. As a Rosicrucian, your version of when the Jews began worshipping One God (as beneficiaries of Akhenaten's brilliance) appeals to me, even though it totally contradicts the Biblical account from Adam to Noah to Abraham to Jacob (which is when the Egyptian exile began). Still, history is written by the winners - or at least the survivors - so anything is possible. I also thank you for the insight into what the Koran says about jihad. My limited understanding was that it says jihad is only acceptable to preserve the faith against attack, and that all "People of a Book" are to be respected as equal children of Allah. But there again we have the divergence of human opinion and interpretation. It's all pretty beside the point anyway, because things are the way they are, whatever the reasons, and we have to deal with them.

    You and your whole family sound so cool - your description reminded me of the characters Witch Boy and Conjure Woman in the play, Dark of the Moon! I would love to meet people like you someday, and discover what it's like to rub elbows with folks of your background. The Goddess spoke to me at a young age also, but the encounters were pushed to the back of my mind and given different rational interpretations for many years - kind of like buried memories of past lives and alien abductions! I finally woke up at a rather advanced age and thought, "Wait a minute! Go back and look at those moments with your mind wide open."

  • Kenny Klein
    Kenny Klein Saturday, 18 January 2014

    Your detractors are a LOT more civilized than mine!

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Saturday, 18 January 2014

    Well you know, Kenny, Renaissance men who have to speak their minds and just can't keep their mouths shut (or keyboards still) are bound to draw a lot of reactions - some good, some not. Though I don't think any of the comments on this particular post were meant to detract. I think everyone had the intent to take my ideas farther and add constructively to the conversation.

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