Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Witchcraft Works Contrary to the Western Religious Tradition

Before I can exorcise all the gook in my head that created this thesis, I have to define the Western Religious Tradition (WRT). To be simplistic, it is all of Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

But the definition actually goes more deeply than that, because these faiths occupy a dominant position in the West. They influence the greater morality of our western society in a way that is largely unseen, or at least not very obvious.

They all originated from the same concept that God made the material universe because he is a mega-powerful spirit-being. The material universe, as a creation, is separate from that which is spiritual. It is a difficult place we have to experience for a short time so that we can get the heck out of here - to a paradise - which is better than this material world here.

This kind of eschatology spread throughout the Ancient Near East. Once a part of the faiths that originated there, it became incorporated into our deeper morality and eventually our legal systems.

At its core are two ideas. The first is that something greater than this material creation, which is the spiritual being that is God, existed first. The second is that God is supremely powerful.

Extending from these ideas are deeper principles: only God has the power to create reality, creating the need for appeals to God for changes to the material world in our favor, the need for a mediator between us an God (the priesthood), that the power of God requires that we subjugate ourselves to his supremacy and lastly, that we should all be trying to get back to that spiritual thing and away from the material, because the spiritual is good and the material is bad.

For many who convert from one of the Abrahamic faiths to Witchcraft, the former principles hang on, preventing the expression of their true power. We can see this in the way Wiccan books are written. The whispers of the Western Religious Tradition infiltrates even those who claim to be pagan.

These ideas have been so pervasive in the morality of the West that most people who are non-religious agnostics will concede that most of them sound true. I have even witnessed self-proclaimed atheists operating as if these principles about the universe were true.

But what if they are not?

True witchcraft views the universe from a very different point of view. Let's take each idea one at a time and examine how witches do it.

The first is that only God has the power to create reality. The witch believes that all human beings contain within them the creative power of the gods. To put it simply, if they can do it, why can't we do it? This doesn't mean we can create planets and stars and galaxies, but we can generate influence on the events of this world so that natural cause and effect will bring about certain results in line with our desires. We can essentially create happenings that the WRT calls "mind over matter" or also "miracles." This process requires both symbolic and veridical actions. The symbolic is done in ritual (casting a spell) while the veridical is done in the material world, appearing as modified behavior. These are viewed as two necessary steps to causing the desired change. First, one casts one's desires out into the universe as a kind of energetic wave. Then, one acts as if the desire has already been attained. The energy that was released will tip the balance of cause and effect events so that the desired result actually happens.

Any witch who casts spells but is unwilling to modify behavior, and in turn act upon the real world to support one's spell, isn't casting spells. They are simply doing a complex ceremony to express their wishful thinking or longing.

As a result, witches do not need to appeal to any deity to get their reality changed. Witches believe in their own creative power; belief is important to actually having that ability. Witches will request or even make deals with forces they call gods to help with the influence. But no witch who is worth his sacred salt believes that such appeals are required to cast spells. Working with pagan gods is simply a way for witches to build relationships with the natural forces of the universe. It also creates mental focus because each deity has a correspondence. Using the right deity helps the mind to feel more invested in the working. Below, I'll discuss in more detail the power of the mind.

Because of the belief in one's own power, witches do not need a priesthood. We believe that our inner power allows us to relate to deity directly; every witch is capable of being his own priest. So why do witches have "high priests?" When several witches develop a personal bond with each other and want to do spell work together, the high priest acts as the director of the play. He ensures that any accepted traditions are observed. He keeps everyone on the same page, creating ritual consistency. Otherwise, every witch would be trying to do a very creative, but utterly chaotic ritual. The high priest is the primary chef in the ritual kitchen.

A high priest also teaches the tradition to those who are less in-the-know. However, since paganism is an orthoprax ("right action") religion, rather than an orthodox ("right belief"), every witch is allowed to believe whatever he wants about the universe and the way it works, so long as his practice permits the uniform operation of the tradition. Despite the general uniformity of belief discussed here, no high priest is correct to tell his coven what to believe or not believe, but he can tell them "how it's done."

Obviously, without the belief that only God has power, witches do not feel the need to subjugate ourselves to any deity. We do fear the unpredictable power of the universe's forces, most of which are the representations of pagan gods, but we will try to influence those forces. The idea that we must bow down to anything is repugnant to most witches. Witchcraft is a self-empowering practice.

Finally, let's address the idea that the spiritual is more important than the material. This is a common idea in the New Age movement as well as the WRT because both claim that our purpose for being on Earth is to spiritually evolve. Aside from the philosophical comfort that people derive from believing in some insoluble part of us that won't ever stop being us ("the soul"), most people experience the world on a daily basis and find it all very common and predictable. Only the spiritual seems evocatively different from all that. Surely, the goal of the enlightened must be to become free from the mundane. Or is it?

If the material is so unimportant, why do so many witches keep bothering to interact with it through spells? Why don't they all just kill themselves to hasten their transition into the spiritual world? If the material is so awful, why are we here experiencing it at all? The witch will tell you that the material is actually a dream of experiences that we are supposed to have. Being a dream doesn't mean it's unimportant or of low value. Indeed, it is incredibly valuable because it is the dream we have made to drive our own spiritual evolution. Most have been exposed to the quote, "We are not material beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a material experience." Similar is the shaman's idea that we are simply spirits, collectively dreaming this world into being in every moment. To the witch, we are experiencing exactly what is most appropriate for us to evolve. This material world is an important tool that we learn to manipulate by exercising our "god-powers."

Now let's bring this topic full circle. Above, I mentioned the power of the mind in relation to appealing to spell-appropriate deities. This kind of appeal is only a manipulative tool. Similarly, incense in ritual, repetitive action, the use of certain symbols or altar tools, even the utterance of certain sounds, all help to modify the creative power that flows from the unconscious mind to increase the success of the desired change. It's important to remember that the witch is the source of the power. All these material tools have an affect on our minds by teasing and activating our senses. Certain combinations of sensory input can greatly augment the power of the mind and its success. It can cause it to fail completely, or function contrary to what it wants (i.e. curses). The ritual drama, which is simply an act of manipulating the material plane, trains the mind to perform the creative acts increasingly better. Spell craft is nothing more than self-hypnosis and behavior modification (plus a spiritual belief).

Eventually, the tools are no longer needed to generate success. Even the ritual itself stops being necessary. It is a truly adept witch who can sit quietly in a chair and achieve the same success as someone who needs a full ritual experience.

Now you know why Witchcraft is so often misunderstood and demonized. It has fundamentally contrary beliefs from the WRT and just doesn't work well in that sandbox. But more so, it empowers the religious congregation so that there is no need for a group of elevated holy men who maintain power and freely get shelter and food at the expense of the community. There are no pagan gold cathedrals and no religious city with its own army. Paganism takes spiritual and material power away from the greedy organized religions of the WRT and places them back in the hands of the common man. What could be more threatening than that?