Common Ground: The Kinship of Metaphysicians
A syncretic approach to esoteric teachings - the golden threads that connect Pagans, Yogis, Rosicrucians and Masons.
Foolishness Personified: Attempting to Reconcile Paganism, Christianity and New Age Philosophy
Women all over the world are tired of being treated like third class citizens. Even in cultures that traditionally worship the divine feminine, grown women are granted fewer rights than a male infant and are punished with mutilation and death if they display personal initiative or act in accordance with nature. Three world religions blame females personally and vindictively for a mistake supposedly made by the very first woman ever created! By what logic should the ancient misjudgment of Eve be held against our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters today? This is a classic example of masculine propaganda: if we men say that women are inherently flawed, we can blame them for all of our problems. We can even make the outrageous claim that we were made in the image of God—but they were not!
It is shocking how many women have bought into this mind manipulation, and actually believe that they are inferior. But this is not universally the case; these days many are seeking a different sort of religion that will give them equal, if complementary, status to their brothers.
Mother Nature has blessed us with a beautiful world. Why shouldn't women, who embody the regenerative Life Cycle itself, honor Nature and seek to preserve Her in cooperation with whatever demi-urges may exist as the guardians of trees, mountains and lakes? Early Celtic Christianity saw no contradiction between Nature veneration and the additional worship of Christ - the Son of the Sun. Sadly, the Church of Rome eventually succeeded in imposing its intolerant restrictions over a beautiful system that had been gentle, open-minded and inclusive.
Today, many Christians equate Paganism with Satanism. But while there is a cult called the "Left Hand Path" which does worship Satan, Pagans don’t believe in such a personage at all. (Frustratingly, Christians use our unbelief as proof that Satan has deceived us into worshipping him without our knowledge! How does one argue with closed minds and closed eyes?)
Further confusion stems from the pentagram, used by both groups. In Satanism the pentagram is drawn with two points up, representing horns. Satanism lures followers with the promise of worldly power over others; why else would you sell your soul to the Devil? But people of any faith may fall prey to the temptations of money, lust and politics. If this happens to you, whether you believe in Satan or not, your path has started to veer to the left!
(An interesting sidelight: The Masonic-inspired symbol of the Order of the Eastern Star happens to be a pentagram with two points up! One wonders whether the Order's designer, Dr. Rob Morris, wanted to replace the nefarious symbolism of the horned pentagram with more sacred associations…or whether he had any idea at all of what he was playing with.)
In Paganism, particularly Wicca, the pentagram is drawn with one point up. This point symbolizes Spirit, both human and Divine. The other four points symbolize the natural elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Together they depict the metaphysical relationship between the Creator and the Creation.
Obviously, there is a problem in trying to interpret a pentagram worn on a ring; which way does the wearer mean to be "up"—facing you, or facing him? Is this person a Pagan or a Satanist? No way to tell, except to ask…but nobody ever does. It's easier to make fearful assumptions.
Another Christian assumption is that the Goddess and other deities are demons. But Sophia—Divine Feminine Wisdom, painted by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel as a supporter and encourager of God, and also acknowledged in the name of Istanbul's Hagia Sophia church—has been inseparable from God since the beginning, in Kabalistic and Christian iconography. It's a shame that this fact has been ignored over the centuries, and omitted from most Christians' religious education.
It is probable that the Virgins of Guadalupe and Lourdes, and other visitations of Mother Mary, are Catholic interpretations of Nature Goddesses who are resident in certain power places of the Earth. Their names don't matter to us, for most of us believe that all manifestations of the Mother are the same.
As if these considerations were not hard enough to reconcile between the hundreds of Christian denominations and the dozens of Pagan ones, followers of Paramhansa Yogananda are given an even further mind-boggle: an eclectic mix of spiritual visions influenced by a Hindu interpretation of Christ's message. In his extensive two-volume treatise, "The Second Coming of Christ," Yogananda presents a heady blending of traditions which might best be described as New Age—in that he introduces concepts and symbolisms that were never dreamed of by either Christian theologians or Pagans! As when he declares that the true meaning of the opening of the Seven Seals in the Book of Revelation is the kundalini awakening of the seven spiritual chakras in the human shushumna, or astral spinal column. He makes a very convincing case for this, yet there is no textual evidence that Saint John himself knew anything whatsoever about Yoga or the chakras; surely he would have made some reference to it, if he had perceived his vision in those terms.
Another of Yogananda's unique contributions is the notion that Reincarnation was not God's original plan for salvation, but is actually a delaying tactic created by the Adversary—Satan himself—to lure us back into the world!
Yogananda says that Satan tempts us with lies of a perfect physical experience, but the truth is that attachment to the flesh always ends in grief. As long as we think the physical ideal is possible, we will come back just once more to get it right...then once more…and once more again. Distracting ourselves with this wild goose chase, we forget that our true nature is Spirit. But Satan's plan is destined to bring about his own defeat; for in coming back lifetime after lifetime, we spirits finally become disenchanted with the cycle. We learn our lesson and begin to work ourselves back towards the Light.
In Paganism—in which Satanism plays no part, yet Christians confuse the two because Pagans take pleasure in the body and are unashamed of its natural cycles and urges—there is quite a different attitude towards Reincarnation. It is seen as the natural and logical path to soul development. Hindus and Buddhists don't want to come back again. Pagans, on the other hand, do! This life is harsh, but it is also beautiful—and fleshly existence is the only means by which we can learn and develop. So, while Buddhists and Hindus see Reincarnation as undesirable and try to shorten the number of return trips they will have to make, Pagans embrace it. They are not afraid of Goddess Nature. The Goddess is their Mother.
Though of course not all Pagans believe exactly the same things, in general most accept that between earthly lives we are happily reunited with our loved ones in the Summerland. Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again.
There is an important difference between the Christian conception of Satan and the Hindu or Buddhist notion of Mara, the Deceiver. To Christians like Martin Luther, Satan was an unbeatable, horrible adversary over which we would have no power at all, were it not for the saving grace of Jesus Christ. In the more ancient Buddhist faith, however, the Tempter has no power over a mind that is focused and steady. Mara is just very good at convincingly advertising a false product. He allows us to fall for it and create our own karma - but we are the ones who make the choice. We can say No!
We are actually stronger than the Tempter; we just have to get our heads straight and "grow a pair," spiritually speaking. In Hinduism and Buddhism, no divine intermediary is necessary apart from our own higher mind. Buddha and Christ are important examples, but our personal salvation lies within ourselves.
Can these diverse beliefs be reconciled? Is there any way to find common ground between Christianity, Paganism, Hinduism and New Age philosophy? Many of their adherents would say No—and, furthermore, there shouldn't be! Because "their way" is wrong, and our way is right!
More relaxed folks will gladly perceive commonality in the universal yearning of the human soul for peace, love, acceptance and safety. These cravings lie at the root of all philosophies and religions. Doctrines and creeds are unruly trees, utilizing the varying vocabulary of many different languages and evolving many new branches over long periods of time. Even though men may carve them in stone, by their very living nature they conspire against the tendency to codify and solidify them.
For this reason, the solitary explorer comes to realize that words, no matter how beautiful, have to be of secondary importance at best, compared to the wordless intuitions which warm and enlighten the heart.
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