Paradise and the Fall

Discussion in 'Comparative Studies' started by Thomas, Sep 29, 2003.

  1. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Baud stated elsewhere that there was no story of a Fall in Neopagan philosophy. I'm treading gently here because I don't want to step on Baud's or anyone's toes, but:

    If there is no such element (of a 'fall') in neo-paganism I would suggest it is incomplete or not fully understood, or it might be expressed in a different way - if not a fall then a reference to a Golden Age, a Heavenly State or some order of Primordial Perfection, a means or method against which man is measured, and against which his development or advancement takes place.

    Not knowing the symbolism of neo-paganism, I would have to investigate, but I would start at the symbol of the tree.

    The biblical Tree in the midst of Paradise for example, has its counterpart in Yggdrasil, the World Tree of Scandinavian Mythology, and from a different perspective corresponds to the jewelled spear with which the twin dieties Izanagi-no-Mikato and Izanami-no-Mikato stirred the primordial oceans to raise the islands of Japan. In Hindu tradition the World Tree is represented by the fig, and in some accounts the Gautama Buddha achieved enlightenment after meditating beneath the branches of a fig tree. St Peter in Scripture talks of Christ hung upon a tree.

    In such traditions the tree represents the vertical axis that penetrates every level of creation, and in so doing represents the Divine Principle operative at every level.

    In Greek myth golden apples grew on a golden tree in The Garden of the Hesperides, and the flesh of a golden apples was said to grant immortality - a return to primodial perfection. This golden tree was located on a mythical isle in the west. Likewise Odyssius had to win the Golden Fleece, again hung on a tree on a mythical island.

    The notion of a 'mythical isle' - Avalon in Arthurian legend - replicates the primordial Eden which is now hidden, that is to say its location is uncharted, the seeker has to find it by himself, or one might say, within himself. The only clue, that it lies to the west, signifies the end times, as the west signifies the setting sun, and at the end of the cosmic cycle, the island will be revealed. Until then, only the courageous few will make the perilous journey. Another correspondence here is with the Pure Land of the West of Amida Buddhism.

    I would hazard a guess that it's in there somewhere.
     
  2. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    A Fall of Man from a Golden Age is certainly a familiar theme across many cultures.

    The Promotheus myth of Greece is a particularly interesting parallel, not least because it is woman who is seen to have caused the Fall of Man through disobedience - in this case, by Pandora. A notable difference is that woman is created to be evil to man in the first place - an interesting perspective from the pederastic Greeks.

    I'm sure I've seen reference to a Golden Age in Mayan culture as well, but Mesoamerica is not a strong area for myself.

    I'll try and do some further research on the issue of pan-cultural "Golden Age" references.
     
  3. Dave the Web

    Dave the Web New Member

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    The Tree of Life in Genesis is based on the Tree of Life from the Gilgamesh epic?
     
  4. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Hi Dave -

    One would have to get into historicity to decide that - as many try to do - but Moses only authorised the books of the Bible, he did not write them, so the Garden stretches back into Antiquity.

    Biblical scholarship has shown that myth and story has been accrued from other traditions, as if they're some kind of counterfeit or robbery. I rather think that no one culture has sole access to the truth, and the wise can see the truth in whatever cultural guise it manifests.

    I view it not so much as 'this' based on 'that', but rather all appeareances of the tree as a symbol of an understanding or awareness that is not the property of a single race or people.

    Man of antiquity saw the branches of a tree replicating the roots of a tree, so one might say the upper tree is a reflection of the lower tree, the ground being the reflecting plane. The tree is a natural cross.

    So this naturally symbolises 'as above, so below' in that the tree 'lives' in one domain, but its branches reach up into the one above, the roots down into the one below. So the tree 'naturally transcends' its own domain.

    Then we get into the symbolism of birds, and serpents . . .

    We all too readily assume, because we are so clever and ancient man is so stupid, that when he worshipped the sun he was praying to the orb in the sky. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that ancient man saw the sun as a sign of Divine Plenitude - so they worshipped not the physical orb in the sky, but the light in the celestial vault, which they saw as a manifestation of that 'light that is the light of all men' - they were worshipping Christ in another form.

    The point of Christianity is that in the Incarnation Christ is the most direct and explicit manifestation of the Divine, and so allows man the most direct and immediate knbowledge of God.

    * * * * *

    The Patristic Fathers, for example, said that certain wise Greeks, who had knowledge from Christ, and thus were unknowing Christians. The usual response is to damn Christians for claiming anything good as their own, but this misses the point.

    They saw Christ not simply as a man, but as the Incarnation of Divine Principle which was there before the start of time, the 'Logos' by which the Cosmos is ordered and maintained. Therefore they can rightly say that anything that is true has its source in the Divine, and the Divine and Christ are one, so it has its source in Christ.

    The trouble begins when people take this exoterically - looking purely at the outward without understanding the inward - which leads some Christians to say 'we're right and everyone else is wrong' - which is simply not the case, as well as being unchristian.
     
  5. Baud

    Baud Seeker of Knowledge

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    Interesting argument. I will further speak from a Wiccan point of view only such as not to over-generalize to other neo-pagans. The concept of the fall is expressly rejected in Wicca (from what I understand of it). The divine is in everything, and everything is the divine (pantheism). The primordial perfection would be to live in harmony with oneself and with the world, not to escape from it. You cannot go back to the embrace of god, because everyone and everything is already in the embrace of god. I haven't polled anyone, but I think a majority of Wiccans consider that the cycle of reincarnation has no end, because there would not be any reason for it. Humans are not judged or measured against any standard.

    I certainly do not want to put the beliefs of other religions in question, but I certainly don't see any conept of "fall" in Wicca. I don't think that its world view is therefore incomplete... And as it is, despite some of its founder's claims, a recent religion, it is doubtful that it has been misinterpreted. ;)

    Baud
     
  6. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Hi Baud -

    How is Wicca a recent religion (or, how recent is 'recent'?) I had always thought Wiccans believed themselves to be one of the oldest - although I do accept that 'neo-' whatever often indicates no real connection to the source, or at least a substantial alteration to its first principle.

    On another post you spoke of 'initiation' with regard to Wicca - may I enquire what (not specifically in detail). I only ask from the point that an initiation suggests a journey/awakening/revealing - and this, to my mind, corresponds to a return to that primordial perfection, although I agree that the notion of 'return' implies a return to one's true and natural state.

    In Christian terms, human nature is 'wounded', in that it is no different from its perfection in essence, but has become limited by falling under its own spell, as it were.

    Thomas
     
  7. Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine

    Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine Junior Moderator, Intro

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    Thomas,

    I may not be Baud, but I think I have one of the answers you're looking for. :D

    Gerald Gardner, the founder of what is called Wicca, announced the founding of the religion either in 1949 or 1952 (perhaps 1947, but I don't have my notes from my Wicca and Neopaganism class in front of me.) I would be thrilled if someone with more knowledge would correct me if I'm wrong. :)

    Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine
     
  8. Baud

    Baud Seeker of Knowledge

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    Hi, Phyllis, glad to see you here!

    As Phyllis just said, Wicca was actually created by Gerald Gardner at the end of the 40ies and beginning of the 50ies. However, he presented it as a resurgence of the old religion of the witches. It is generally thought that he based his works on:

    - Margaret Murray's theories of witches being the practicioners of an old religion (and the witch hunt being Christianity's attempt to suppress it);
    - Sir James Frazer's theories of folklore being the current expression of old religious practices about a dying god being resurrected every year, representing the rythm of the seasons;
    - The information presented by Charles Leland about the secret assemblies of Italian witches;
    - Some of the works of authors like Robert Graves and Dion Fortune / Violet Firth;
    - The "goddess theory" of some archeologists according to which, in paleolithic/neolithic Europe, societies were generally matriarcal and reverring one single mother goddess;
    - The organisation and rituals of the secret societies, like the Freemasons (he was a member of a few of these societies);
    - The works of occultists like Aleister Crowley.

    A big number of these sources were actually considered as very reliable at that time, so it was a pretty good construct. However, Murray's and Frazer's theories have been largely disproven, the "goddess theory" has not really been disproven, but it seem there are many more possible explanations for the archeoligical finds, and the works of Graves and Leland are now more considered as fiction than anything else (Graves certainly admitted so himself). There are currently less and less Wiccans who pretend that Wicca is the oldest religion of all. Although a lot would agree that its principles are very old, the religion itself is most likely a recent construct.

    That doesn't invalidate the principles on which it is based, though.

    As far as initiation is concerned, it is supposed to be e big secret! ;) However, I will write a little on the subject when I have more time. I am actually not initiated myself (I don't feel the need for it).

    I hope this helps!

    Baud
     
  9. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    This for me poses a problem:

    It would seem that Wicca is a construct, based based on theory and speculation.

    What is missing is the 'inner content' - the being of a belief that is passed on, not simply the knowledge, and without the being, the knowledge is effectively little more thn information.

    I had assumed Wicca to be witches, the same who can trace their line back into Antiquity.

    Likewise with initiation, only an initiated master can initiate another, and if the chain is broken then that suggests the initiatic line has ceased. If anybody can initiate anybody, then the thing is rendered meaningless.

    This brings back my initial point - I do not believe that any religion of old was deficient of a full metaphysical exegesis, nor that they lacked an element of returning humanity to its rightful and primordial state, but I do believe that many 'neo-' constructs are little more than empty shells, in that regard, more a reaction to the de-humanising effects of modernism than any intrinsic value in themselves.

    Thomas
     
  10. Baud

    Baud Seeker of Knowledge

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    Thomas, I think you should not criticize without knowledge. There is an inner content in Wicca (I will go on this subject later when I have time... my working days are currently very long). It is not because it has been construed around non-religious works that it doesn't have a deep spiritual content. I can only advise you to read some of the better books on the subject (if you want some references, feel free to ask).

    The problem as I see it is that it seems to me that you start from the point of view that religions and beliefs should necessarily be old and be based on the re-making of a link that was lost between humanity and God. This is certainly true of a number of religions, but not necessarily of all. I personally do not believe in that, but I certainly see the spiritual value of that point of view, and how it pushes humans to become better. Every religion has been "new" at some point in time. In a way, I think every religion is a "construct", because the divine is so overwhelming in itself that any human attempt to grasp it can only be an artificial approximation.

    Baud
     
  11. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Staff Member

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    My personal understanding was that Wicca was more a methodology, rather than a philosophy.
     
  12. Baud

    Baud Seeker of Knowledge

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    I, Brian, you're right in some way. It is true that Wicca is very much based on ritual and methods. In my opinion, sometimes too much. There is an important underlying philosoph, though, although it is considerably less developped than for instance Christian and Hebraic philosophy, because much younger. Some authors endeavour to develop it. Again, time permitting, I will expand on the subject. Even my new secretaries are asking me these questions now, so I really need to get my thoughts together. ;)

    Baud
     
  13. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Not necessarily. Islam is quite young.

    Absolutely. That is what a religion is.

    The construct of religion is founded on the illumination of the soul from above and is thus an organic or subjective embodiment of that which is received. In this way it cannot be 'artificial' when founded in and on what is real, even when that reality reaches back into depths beyond all human comprehension.

    Construct, perhaps, but 'artificial' can only be applied in the absence of a Divine Content. Man cannot illuminate what lies beyond his ken, which is limited to the psychic domain.

    My initial inquiry into Wicca was how it handles the concept of fall, or rather if and how it holds an ideal of primordial or perfect being
    - if it does why is man not perfect now (and initiation would suggest he is not)
    - and if not what renders it other than a romantic form of ethical humanism?
     
  14. bananabrain

    bananabrain awkward squadnik

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    primordiality

    the only primordial perfection we consider in judaism is the Infinite Light of EIN-SOF. obviously we cannot comprehend the essence of the Divine Mind, any more than we can experience another human's inner experience. this essence/experience can only be "transferred" by means of communication, which performs a mediating function. by extension, this means that a comprehension of something is by definition a "veiled" form of the thing itself. in this way, the sages say of the primordial state that "the Torah was written with black fire on white fire", the white fire being the unknowable "mind" of G!D. for the Torah to be transmitted, the black fire of the writing was needed, but this black fire necessarily obscured some of the white fire. the further you get from the Infinite Light, the more comprehensible things are to the human mind. in the same way, the humanity we have now is as separated from the unmediated Divine Mind insofar as it can be comprehended. now, whether all of this represents a "fall" from that state is a matter of opinion. the mystics believe that the universe is in a state of "disrepair" - but it is this very disrepair that allows the universe to exist in the form we know now. it is quite arguable that a "repaired" universe would be qualitatively different - this is what is meant by "the world to come" and why this is sometimes conflated with gan 'eden.

    the best known tree symbol in judaism is of course the kabbalistic "tree of life" - the tree that stood next to the tree of knowledge. however, it contains three horizontal axes, as well as the three vertical, five oppositions and three triangular structures. in short, it is not a matter of a simple up-down duality.

    [quot]A notable difference is that woman is created to be evil to man in the first place - an interesting perspective from the pederastic Greeks.[/quote]
    now, now, let's not get nasty. an interesting perspective on the genesis account is evident when you consider the phrase about the separation of woman normally translated as "to be a helpmeet to him" - the hebrew is actually "'EZeR KeNeGDo", which literally means "a help to oppose him". it implies a certain tension and conflict, but also that this is ultimately a positive thing.

    it is my understanding that the tree of life in gilgamesh made you immortal, so he sought it. however, the ToL in genesis is not the one that they are prohibited from eating. i think the english terminology is causing you to conflate two different things - the ToL is not subsequently mentioned, except to say that after the expulsion from eden, the way to it was barred.

    at the risk of restarting my polemic against biblical scholarship's claim that nobody ever has an original idea, i don't see why one culture's truth precludes someone elses's approach. it certainly does not prevent the Torah account being 'true'. not does it preclude the possibility that myths and stories that resonate with non-jewish cultures were included in the text precisely to show its all-inclusiveness.

    i don't think i really like this idea, because it implies that all tree symbols have a symbolic equivalence which i don't agree with. after all, not everything means the same thing in every human culture, even if a symbol crops up in all indo-european cultures. i bet trees mean something completely different in australia or china.

    my original question when i first started dialoguing with wiccans a few years ago was about whether this belief implied that wiccans should be essentially passive, because if everything is Divine then why should anything ever change. however, it became clear that the idea of "living in harmony with oneself and the world" is not at all in conflict with the jewish vision. i think where we differ is that we have a three-cornered view, in that we should live in harmony with ourselves, the world *and the Divine*, too - the blueprint of this being the revelation of how to do so; in other words, Torah.

    i think the difference is that we don't take adam and eve as the paradigms for human development, that we should become like them again. to do so would be essentially to renounce our humanity and become angelic beings and this is not the aim of judaism. our paradigms are rather figures like abraham, the paradigm of Hesed, or moses, the paradigm of Netzah.

    this is a cogent criticism, but one that could be equally well applied to more traditional religions than wicca! i don't think an aesthetic (i think to say 'romantic' is somewhat dismissive) dimension is anything to sneer at, as many do.

    b'shalom

    bananabrain
     
  15. WHKeith

    WHKeith New Member

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    With respect, Thomas, I disagree with you on this point. If religion was something created by God and given to humanity, that would be full justification, I would imagine, for the juvenile “my God is the only true God and you are an evil heretic or an infidel” nonsense that has plagued religious belief and practice since long, long before the days of the Inquisition. If religion is a HUMAN construct, whether it was based solely on human speculation or upon human response to a genuine divine presence, I submit we would see pretty much what we see in fact today: many different interpretations of how faith is best applied and practiced, many “one true faiths,” many expressions of spirituality, a scattering of aphorisms, beliefs, and moral expressions that seem to be common to many beliefs (the Golden Rule or something like it, thou shalt not kill, and so on), and a great many moral pronouncements that are purely social or cultural expressions presented as divine commandments but which are not at all universal (nudity taboos, dietary laws, proscriptions against polytheism, and what not).

    Within this context, I don’t understand your distinction between the words “construct” and “artificial,” here. In my mind, the one embraces the other. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all place a very great deal of emphasis on the express and objective reality of monotheism—not surprising, since the three faiths are closely related historically and stem from the same mythic and cultural roots.

    But monotheism does not represent a universal understanding of the Divine. Even within the Big Three, there are major differences of opinion and revelationist understanding—Christians see Judaism as incomplete without the Messiah; Islam, though recognizing Jews and Christians as “People of the Book” and therefore as spiritual kin still views Christianity both as incomplete without Muhammad as the “Seal of the Prophets” and as polytheistic (one sura has Allah scolding Jesus for making himself and his mother into gods . . . though another affirms the doctrine of the virgin birth.)

    And, of course, all three of the Big Three have subdivided into smaller and smaller schisms, each with its own view of what the one true faith might be. (This is more true of Christianity than the other two, but all have schismed to varying degrees.)

    So . . . was one version right and the others all in error, as fundamentalists believe? If so, which version? How do we tell objectively, and why did God make Himself so mysteriously subjective that the vast, vast majority of people trying to apprehend Him get it wrong? (Especially with so much at stake: an eternity in paradise or in hell!)

    Or, as seems more likely to me, are all faiths human constructs representing the attempts by different peoples, different cultures, and different historical backgrounds to understand and embrace the Divine and to make sense out of an otherwise apparently meaningless and chaotic existence?

    I mean no disrespect, least of all to my monotheistic friends on this board! I used to be a fundamentalist Christian myself, and I understand how things look and feel from the inside of that faith.

    I agree with Baud’s statement that Wiccans, for the most part, don’t believe in a Fall. Inherent in the doctrine of the Fall is the idea that we are separated from God and His love, that even a newborn baby minutes old is, because of Original Sin and being born human, separated from God. Some Christian traditions even emphasize the universal nature of the Fall—using Romans 5:12-14 to demonstrate that death itself entered the world because of Man’s sin. This emphasizes the idea of a transcendent God, one outside of the human realm, and that only Christ allows God to again become immanent as well as transcendent—dwelling within our hearts.

    Nailing down any one doctrine within Wiccan belief is tough; for the most part, we don’t proselytize and we don’t insist that other people all see the Divine in the same way—not even other Wiccans. Not even the Wiccan Rede and the Rule of Three are universal within the larger Wiccan community. But I would say that the majority of us see the Divine as inseparably a part of all of nature and of ourselves. We recognize a creative aspect within nature as self-evident, and see our own creativity as a reflection of that expression. The Divine could no more cast us out than could the Christian God cast Himself out. For us it doesn’t make sense.

    Nor do the Christian views of Satan and evil make sense to us. When I was Christian, we used to bandy about a popular aphorism: “Either God is Lord of all or he is not Lord at all.” Marvelous bit of all-or-nothing thinking, that. It implies that God Himself creates and is responsible for all evil that happens, that as a being both omnipotent and omniscient, He must have known all along that Satan would rebel and Adam would sin, that, in fact, He created the Fall and all it entailed . . . including a fiery hell for nonbelievers. The objection that He created us with free will either begs or avoids the question. Did He really create 99.99% of all of the humans who have ever lived just so we could misunderstand Him and be condemned to an eternity of torture? The only logical alternative is dualism, the concept that God and Satan are opposing gods of light and darkness engaged in a struggle to see who will win. That went out with the Manichees, though we still see elements of it in some fundamentalist sects.

    Yeah, I know. These are all old, old arguments. But to my mind they have not been effectively answered.

    Wiccans, when in a flip mood, sometimes say “We don’t believe in the Devil; he’s a Christian god.” Many Wiccans take this a step farther and claim there’s no such thing as evil. For my part, I’ve seen plenty of evil in the world and can’t agree with those of my co-religionists who hold that idea, but this brings us at last to your question about what we believe about the perfection of the Divine and how that could possibly square with self-evident human imperfection. Both excellent and perceptive questions! Thank you!

    For answer, I’m going to fall back on the time-honored tradition of myth. It is my perception and understanding that ALL faiths rely on myth to describe the indescribable—in particular to describe the Divine and how He/She/It/They relates to human perceptions and belief. I know many Christians accept Genesis as literal history; I would gently suggest that even the majority of Christians nowadays see Genesis as myth—divinely inspired myth, perhaps—but as a made-up story designed to tell the truth that a LITERAL truth could not reveal.

    And, I hasten to add, not all pagans and not all Wiccans will accept this myth I’m about to spin. We’re a contrary bunch who don’t like to be told what to believe.

    But to illuminate what MANY Wiccans believe—imagine the Divine, Who would be brooding over the face of the waters if there’d been any waters in existence yet. If I was forced to name aspects of this Divine, to assign it attributes comprehensible to humans, I would call it creative and say it wanted, above all else, to *know.*

    Oops! Over my allowed character count again. To be continued.
     
  16. WHKeith

    WHKeith New Member

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    [The myth, continued.] It’s tough to learn and grow and *become* when You are All that Is. Ungrowing, unlearning, unmoving is stasis . . . You might as well be dead. Many human myths see the Divine dividing Itself into many facets, many separate Be-ings, beginning with a separation of male from female and ending with a vast host of intelligence, all One, but all separate manifestations of that One. The distinction may be meaningless in human terms.

    It also created within itself All that Is. And within that All arose or was created life, which was to be the universe’s way of knowing itself and, by extension, the way the Divine would ultimately know Itself. Indeed, someday, one tiny bit of that life would ultimately formulate its own myth, which it would call quantum physics, and which would declare that life itself was necessary to bring the universe into manifest reality from instant to instant . . . ah, but that’s another story.

    In order to know all that is and could be, the Divine allowed parts of itself to inhabit the physical bodies that were the expression of life within creation. Call it the soul, call it the Divine spark, call it the elemental life force . . . but whatever it was it was the Divine within us. While these bits of life force remained a part of the Divine, they were by deliberate self-intent at least partially sundered from that part of the Divine—not as punishment, but to allow those separate souls, through struggle and challenge and love to make of themselves more than they were, to evolve, to learn, to discover, to grow.

    The physical bodies would wear out and die in a cosmic instant; the souls would return to the Divine Source, wiser—hopefully—for their experience, and able to allow the Divine to experience Life. Life became a kind of school where souls were incarnate to learn specific lessons—how to love, how to learn, how to show compassion, how to confront evil . . . and there *was* evil because some souls didn’t deal with life as well as others did. Greed, lust, ignorance, a hunger for power, a hunger for being right . . . Separated from the Source, even partially, meant that these issues would arise as an aspect of competition.

    As each soul returned to the source, it might review its past lessons on earth—be shown how THIS decision could have been too hasty, how THAT one limited the soul’s own growth, how this OTHER one showed love and compassion at their most holy best. There was no sense of sin or punishment here, only lessons to be learned. The closest to any system of award and punishment that might exist as a governing framework might be called the law of karma: our actions have repercussions; what we do to and for others will be visited upon us, as surely as action generates reaction.

    The soul would be born again, again with direct memory of past lessons blocked, at least partially. Why? Because if we remembered the multitude of past lives and what happened, we would change our behavior in what amounts to an analytical way; “Ah, it’s wrong to kill someone because when I do, karma is going to come along and smack me down, and since I don’t want that to happen again, I’ll never kill again.” That’s salvation by fear, and ultimately as pointless as hell. The idea is to purify the soul in a way that transcends the analytical and the rational and the emotional, to become pure by transcending impurity, not by learning a list of thou-shalt-nots. Some souls—the occasional Tamerlane, Timujin, Caligula, Hitler, Stalin, my 7th-grade Algebra teacher—might turn out badly, be so damaged or broken or misguided they needed to be re-formed. It’s possible, though the reforming would be seen less as punishment than as an attempt to improve a tiny spark of Self. Most souls faced adversity, challenge, even horror time after time, and became stronger thereby.

    And the Source Him/Her/Its/Their Self grew and evolved and learned, and saw that it was good.

    And there was evening and there was morning, a seventh aeon.

    Like any myth, the above cannot begin to encompass what is. We’re too small, too ignorant, too limited in our understanding in this life to encompass All that Is. But for many Wiccans, it’s as valid as Genesis is for many Christians.

    I think most Wiccans don’t believe in—or at least don’t think in terms of—the Divine being perfect to begin with. Perfection implies stasis, a lack of change, and a lack of creative growth. If things are perfect, why create more? We see growth and change (and struggle) in nature, and so see these as aspects of the Divine as well.
    For these last two questions, I would say that initiation is not intended to create or demonstrate perfection. It DOES indicate growth and learning within its specific tradition.

    Religion can be seen as serving two purposes. It represents our attempt to understand and unite with the Divine, and it provides a structure within which we can relate to other humans, through moral pronouncements, ethical teachings, and community belief. If this is true, then I submit that ALL religions represent romantic forms of ethical humanism, at least in part.

    Thanks, everyone, for again indulging me with this lengthy post! Thomas’s questions sparked a wonderful bit of creativity in a particular question I was struggling with in the current book, and this allowed me to work things out. Thanks, Thomas!
     
  17. Pamela

    Pamela New Member

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    You are basing the idea that a lack of a certain myth is a fault, while ignoring the fact that Wicca is born in a 20th century Western society. The society most of us have grown up in is hugely secular, with very little respect and/or understanding for myths of any culture, let alone its own. You can’t talk objectively about a ‘fall’ in a society which has the theory of evolution ingrained within it. You cannot treat it as if it were a fact. It isn’t. It may be a psychological truth but it is not a historical or scientific one.

    While Wicca may not have a ‘fall’ or golden age, certain pagans do. Some believe in a matriarchal golden age. Others who are Greek Reconstructionists, follow the theory of the Ages which you referred to- Chronus’ age before the overthrow by Zeus being the Golden Age. While Wicca may not have a fall, it does have a descent, where the Goddess herself goes down to question why things must die.

    Questions I would like to pose to you, Thomas, is what do you think is the role of the myth of Paradise Lost and the fall for believers in a secular society? If we don’t believe it happened factually, how can it be seen as a means of measurement for humanity? What do you think about the peoples who have no such myth- for many (but not all) aboriginal peoples don’t?
     
  18. Rev. LKKP

    Rev. LKKP New Member

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    Speaking from the standpoint of an intiated Witch, I must address that issue ;)

    Initiation is not about acheiving a state of perfection. To paraphrase another poster, perfection denotes stagnation - no where to go from there, and nothing but death once reached. And in Nature, nothing is static - if it exists it has movement if only at the atomic level. Period.
    Initiation is a rite of passage; you are being delcared a Priestess/Priest and Witch and as such are either at that time qualified to teach others of the Craft or being prepared to go to the next level where you may not only teach but may initiate others. You take on a responibility to pass on such teachings in a manner that befits what you were taught, and to keep secret that which outsiders would not understand and could misuse merely because they lack the understanding that you have obtained.

    Without going into specifics which I may not do by oath, that is the main focus of initiation. No where you do hear or see anything regarding perfection - and you won't. I know of no High Priestess or High Priest that has declared that they are more perfect than anyone else or even striving to be - for that is not the point.

    As for any type of Fall or Golden Age mythos within the Craft or Neopaganism, I would suppose that would be extremely localized and subjective. Everyone interprets things differently, but I have yet to see any group of such mind that believes in a Fall from Paradise type scenario. Even the Legend of the Descent is not about a fall but a choice to descend in to the darker realm in order to further the Godess' understanding of it; to me, that has always meant that all sides of life are to be embraced if we are to be a whole person - and that love can transcend judgements of good and evil - that what one percieves as evil (such as death) is in reality a neccessary part of life and not something to be feared but understood within it's framework.

    Do I as a Witch think there is no such thing as evil? No way - I've seen it too often in my own life to ever think that way. But have you considered the world we would be in if there wasn't any? What would we understand of ourselves if we never experienced it? All things in life need an opposite to compare to if we are to understand them. That is what comparison is - gaining knowledge by the study of opposites. And I've yet to see anything awful happen that no good came from. There is a reason for the phrase 'neccessary evil'. While it is often misused as a justification for doing something to someone for the wrong reasons, it is also a truism - to grow, one must clean away that which inhibits growth.

    And to the tree reference in common mythologies - have you thought that a tree is also a cyclical entity in and of itself? A tree's roots extend into the ground - where the leaves it sheds from it's own branches are exactly what nourishes it and encourages it's growth along with the energy of the Sun and the warmth of Spring - the cold of Winter and of dark night gives the tree it's rest and healing time. With it's roots in the Earth and it's branches in the Sky - it encompases all that is and all that will be - that is what the tree truly is, for even when the tree dies, it is reborn from it's own seed to begin again - different, yet still a tree.

    I personally believe that Life is perfect as is - our perception is what is faulty. And that there was no beginning as there is no end - it will always be and has always been. We merely choose to see it differently as a means to explain it in our narrow frame of reference.

    Nor do I think ANY religion was 'handed to us by God' however you may choose to percieve It/Her/Him - Spirituality is inherent, religion is merely our way of connecting to it and coming to terms with it. On one hand, within our own frame of reference, we are the center of the Universe. On the other, we are perpetually seeking it - the snake eating it's own tail comes to mind here (a very ancient symbol also). In knowing ourselves, we know the Universe - in knowing that, we know the Divine.

    Lin
     
  19. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Hi Rev Lin -

    I would rather say in the context of this discussion that 'perfection' denotes 'health' or 'wholeness', or 'fullness of being' and 'life' - death is an illusion, or more accurately a privation, the separation from Unity.

    Does not the training and initiatic distinctions of your craft point to hierarchy that must be, to some degree, qualitative?

    Thomas
     
  20. WHKeith

    WHKeith New Member

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    In my experience, Thomas, plenty of Wiccan and pagan traditions do embrace hierarchies--most commonly as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree levels of initiation. As Rev. LKKP put it so well, though, initiation is a rite of passage. It has nothing to do with perfection (or wholeness or fullness of being or health) and everything to do with marking the individual as having reached a certain point in her/his studies, abilities and path. It may grant her authority within the bounds of her tradition; it may generate respect among members of other traditions. But it's generally up to such individuals to demonstrate their abilities through what they do and know rather than through appeals to having any particular initiate degree.

    Solitary Wiccans self-initiate. Those ceremonies mark an important stage in the solitary's personal development, but are not, of themselves, recognized by most degree-oriented covens.

    A very dear friend of mine is high priestess of a Gardnerian coven. I can't attend her coven's inner-court rituals because only initiates in that tradition may do so. But we deeply respect one another and have worked together both in non-Gardnerian circles and in Gardnerian outer-court ritual.

    So yes, degree traditions may represent qualitative hierarchies, but those hierarchies are not universal within the Craft, rarely extend beyond the boundaries of their own traditions, and must be interpretted within the context of the individual tradition under discussion. In some cases, degrees are dispensed with entirely. My own coven originally constituted as a "coven of elders," which meant no degrees, that all were equal, that all and any could write ritual or serve as high priest/ess at need, and that decisions would be made in consensus rather than by fiat. We do have initiations into the coven, however, and other initiations for students who wish to declare themselves to be witches.

    To address another point . . . I can't agree, Thomas, on death being a separation from unity or a privation, save, possibly and in a restricted sense, for those left behind. We see it as transformation and regeneration, the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. In some traditions, the Goddess is honored for giving humankind the GIFT of death, for without it, all would be stagnation and growth would cease.

    I know that Christian traditions equate death with sin, with separation from God, and with the Fall where death entered the world through Man’s sin—a complete and absolute sundering of Man from God. I honor and respect that.

    To my current way of thinking, though, and speaking only for myself, that level of absolutism is dangerously two-edged. It demands that God is responsible for evil and death (since He ultimately is responsible both for the free will we exercise and for the punishment we suffer if we choose wrongly), that justice demands a hideous and unavoidable punishment applied universally, and that mercy is necessarily, unfairly, and sharply restricted to the context of a single dogmatic creed. For my part, that kind of all-or-nothing thinking is what led me away from Christianity in the first place.

    And so while many pagan traditions accept the myth of a past golden age, few, if any of us, see a universal fall that broke our connection with God.

    Ah. As I think about it, let me amend that. There ARE numerous traditions, especially in shamanic and Native American spiritual circles, that see a kind of fall that separated us from NATURE . . . usually in the sense that once we could communicate with the animal kingdom, but that we have somehow lost that power. Many tribes see the shaman as being a kind of representative of that lost state, able to talk with animals and with spirits, and to bring their wisdom back to the tribe. There is a tremendously powerful lesson for us in that idea, pointing out that we today, in the West, have lost our connection with nature and with our roots as we get caught up in schedules and shopping malls and cell phones and money and superhighways and jobs and all the other trappings of modern civilization. Many of us, sadly, have lost touch with our spiritual selves, and I suppose that could be viewed as a kind of fall from a former state of grace.

    However, most of us do NOT see this as a separation from Goddess, God, Great Spirit, or whatever we choose to call the Divine. The Divine remains in us and all around us. We can seek He/She/It/Them and re-establish a working connection through our own choice (rather than through a vicarious sacrifice or adherence to a formal doctrine), or we can ignore He/She/It/Them to the peril of our world.
     

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