Let’s look upon the world with new eyes. Let’s listen to things with different ears. Let’s ask some unquestions and dig for nonanswers. We have learned that the worship of the gods is not what matters. But why did we go looking for the gods in the first place? Who were we hoping to meet? What were we hoping to learn? What treasures did we hope to find in the earth, and what mana did we hope to receive from heaven? And what offerings did we give, and what rituals did we enact, in the hope of buying such boons?
To put my question more precisely: why do so many sober and sensible people believe in magic, the gods, the afterlife, and so on? Why do such ideas continue to hold us? Well, they might hold us because they might be true. But the question is pressing because we now possess a veritable mountain of sound and solid ways to explain the world without recourse to the supernatural. In almost every historical disagreement between science and religion, science eventually won. But religion did not crawl away defeated. And that is what prompts my question.
Back in 2008 I published a book called “A Pagan Testament” which included a collection of wisdom teachings, which I gathered from an informal folklore survey that I conducted in the previous year. (And by the way, it’s still the largest collection of wisdom teachings in print, to this day.) Some of the wisdom teachings seemed to me to ‘hang together’ in a kind of extended discourse, like a ‘Charge’ in the style of the Charge of the Goddess. Here is one of them, having to do with the laws of magic:
§ 92. Knowledge is power.
§ 93. As above, so below.
§ 94. As within, so without.
§ 95. All things return to their source.
§ 96. For good or ill, all things return in threes.
§ 97. Like attracts like.
§ 98. All things entail their own opposite.
§ 99. Once connected, always connected.
§ 100. To name something is to know it, and to have power over it.
§ 101. Whatever is willed, will be.
§ 102. If it works, us it; if it works, it is true.
And here is another having to do with “The Mystery”
§ 63. Thou Art Goddess! Thou Art God!
§ 72. What a great miracle is Man!
§ 77. As man is now, so the gods once were. As the gods are now, so man may some day become.
§ 78. There is no part of you that is not of the gods
§ 84. If that which you seek, you find not within, you will never find it without.
§ 137. Goddess is alive! Magick is afoot!
§ 162. I am the Earth, and the Earth is Me.
And here’s one having to do with “The Path”:
§ 142. The path is not meant to be easy; the path is not for everyone; the path is for the few.
§ 143. Treat all experiences of hardship, frustration, and suffering as learning experiences. Learning is a form of healing.
§ 144. The path is a learning path, a healing path, and a magical path.
§ 145. The path is not a religion. It is a way of life.
§ 146. The path is the same for all, but each must walk it in her own way.
§ 147. There are many paths, but they all lead to the same destination.
§ 148. Pass on what you have learned; but always in accord with each person’s ability to understand.
§ 149. You can’t pour anything into a cup that is already full.
§ 150. Do not serve your best wine to drunkards.
§ 151. The Craft is a tough weed that will grow many strange flowers and bear strange fruits, so we must try and tolerate different ways of practicing it. Learn from what we see and if we cannot use it, let the others try, even if they eat bad fruit and go balls up! (Victor Anderson)
§ 152. The path is a style of love that demands treading very, very softly and kindly through life, because life is a precious, short, amazing gift. (Monica Becker)
The § numbers, by the way, refer to a referencing system I used in the book. I was rather hoping the system would become a kind of standard for other researchers besides myself, but the idea seems not to have caught on. Oh well.
Now what do these teachings really mean? Of course, on the surface, they mean exactly what they say they mean. Basic propositions can always be taken at face value. But to what world-view do they belong? What must one presuppose in order to find them acceptable? What more and what else might follow from those presuppositions? And does the world view they proclaim make sense? And if yes, then why? And if not, then why not?
Here’s the possibility which, this evening as I contemplate it, I find the most reasonable. In various ways, each of these teachings asserts the will to dwell in an enchanted world.
I’ll have to leave to another day a discussion of what I think it means to dwell in an enchanted world – tonight’s blog post is long enough. But I’m also curious to see whether others might reach a similar conclusion – or a different one. And I’m curious to see what the idea of an enchanted world might mean to others. Let’s start a dialogue about the things that truly matter, beyond the relativism of the pagan party line. Leave your comments in the space below, or on your own blog, or your favourite social network, and let’s talk!