Not the Monthly Post

The Return of Religion

Somalian-born author and erstwhile New Atheist Ayaan Hirsi Ali caused quite a flutter in several dovecotes the other day when she published an essay announcing that she had given up atheism and converted to Christianity.  The Christian writers I’ve read who discussed her essay were of course pleased by it, while most of the others whose comments I happened to see were startled.  The atheist community doubtless wasn’t happy, but I noted mostly dead silence from that quarter. That’s not surprising. Ali was the New Atheists’ poster child, a woman of color who abandoned one of the more fundamentalist brands of Islam to embrace Western rationalist liberalism, and to have her turn her back on her former friends in the atheist scene and embrace religion again must have come as a hideous surprise and a profound disappointment.

Those reactions are inevitable, because the ideology of modern atheism is inseparable from faith in progress. That’s equally true of most of the acceptable belief systems of the modern industrial West. Belief in progress—the faith-based notion that all humanity is on a one-way trip from the caves to the stars, that new ideas are superior just because they’re new and old ideas are always inadequate just because they’re old—is the established mythology of our time, playing exactly the same role in Western industrial nations that belief in the doings of gods and heroes played in those same nations a thousand years before. Read any of the writings of the New Atheists and you’ll get a hefty serving of the progress myth:  belief in gods belongs to the discarded past, the logic goes, and atheism is the wave of the glorious future in which we will supposedly trample the stars beneath our seven-parsec boots.

Step outside that dubious mythology and things look different. That’s what Oswald Spengler did more than a century ago. Spengler, for those who aren’t familiar with him, was a German historian who set out to make sense of the rise and fall of civilizations by way of the comparative method, lining the civilizations of the past up side by side and seeing what common patterns emerged. Comparative morphology—that’s the fancy name for what Spengler was doing—was something of a German specialty in the century and a half before his time.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, that extraordinary polymath, laid the foundations for Darwin’s theory of evolution by applying it to the physical structures of plants and animals, showing (for example) that every part of a plant above ground is some adaptation of a basic leaf-pattern, and dozens of German savants had applied similar thinking to the riddles of biology and geology with excellent results.

Of course biology and geology don’t usually have important implications in the worlds of contemporary politics and culture. History does. Spengler has therefore been duly decried on various pretexts, nearly always by people who haven’t taken the time to read his work and understand what he was trying to do. His real crimes were twofold. First of all, his findings make the myth of progress much harder to uphold. He showed, among other things, that every major civilization has had its own age of reason, the rationalist philosophies deployed by each age of reason are simply that culture’s religious beliefs with the serial numbers filed off and some abstraction put in place of the former god or gods, and  ages of reason differ because civilizations differ—the seeming superiority of our age of reason is simply a reflection of the fact that it’s better at fulfilling our civilization’s idiosyncratic fantasies, while the ages of reason of other cultures fulfilled those cultures’ fantasies instead.

That’s a difficult pill to swallow, of course, but there’s worse to come. The second crime Spengler committed, the most important of the two reasons why he comes in for so much hostility from the approved thinkers of our time, is that he made predictions based on his findings—and those predictions so far have proved to be correct.  He pointed out, for example, that other societies approaching the end of their ages of reason plunged into tremendous conflicts pitting a privileged class of plutocrats manipulating the political systems of an earlier era against what he called Caesarism, the rise of insurgent populist leaders who could rally the masses against their supposed betters.  In 1918 that process was just getting under way; the history of the twentieth century was defined by it, and another round of it is now in process.

It’s another of Spengler’s predictions, though, that gives a context to Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s return to religion. Spengler noted that the waning of each civilization’s age of reason brought about a revival of its earlier religious forms—but with a difference. Religious traditions in the springtime of a culture are organic growths, drawing heavily on the folk traditions and popular culture of the time. The revival of traditional religion in the wake of an age of reason, by contrast, is an artificial growth, shaped by the concerns of the waning civilization’s intellectual classes.

The Second Religiosity, as Spengler called it, is formal, ordered, tolerant, autumnal. It can hardly be anything else, because it comes into being as a refuge from chaos. Each civilization begins in an age of faith, when vivid archetypal narratives backed by potent collective emotions define the basic structures of thought and action.  As the civilization matures, its version of rationalism—whatever that happens to be—dissolves the old religious narratives, replacing them with a set of secular narratives that claim to offer some form of salvation in the here and now in place of the otherworldly goals of religion. Inevitably, though, heaven on earth fails to arrive on schedule and the secular narratives break apart, leaving most people without any culturally provided narratives to give meaning and direction to their lives. The flight to religion follows promptly.

Yet the people who flee back to religion no longer have the mentality that made the age of faith what it was. They can make themselves believe in religious narratives by an act of will, but they cannot embrace myths and legends with the wholehearted innocence of a culture’s springtime. In 1023 AD, the world was so full of marvels and mysteries that nobody in Europe had any problem believing that a suitably holy person could be born of a virgin, rise from the dead, and soar up through the air into heaven in the sight of a crowd of witnesses. A thousand years later, most people have to make a sustained effort to reach the state of willing suspension of disbelief in which those traditional claims can be accepted. The age of reason has left its mark, and the habit of testing claims against logic and experience is hard to break, even when logic and experience have already proven themselves to be frail reeds.

There’s another difference, and it’s a crucial one. An age of faith is born out of the wreckage of a fallen civilization. In the case we’re discussing, it wasn’t merely Classical rationalism that crashed to the ground—in the eyes of a great many people who witnessed Rome’s decline, an entire civilization was refuting itself, and they embraced Christianity precisely because it was the rejection of everything that was so obviously failing around them. Centuries earlier, when Classical civilization’s age of reason imploded, the people who flocked back to the temples of the old gods did so in an attempt to prop up everything that Christians later rejected. Thus it was above all the successful and privileged classes that drove the Classical world’s Second Religiosity, and it was the silent masses of the Roman world, the ones who got few of the benefits and carried most of the costs of Classical civilization, who turned away from the traditional faiths of their societies to the first whispered rumors about a man in the province of Judea who was born of a virgin and rose from the dead.

It’s from within Spengler’s insights that Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s conversion might best be understood. Despite her origins in a nonindustrial nation, she belongs to the global intellectual class: a university-educated author, a minor celebrity among the intelligentsia, the kind of person that the corporate mass media notices and promotes. I don’t claim to know what was going on in her heart of hearts when she converted to Christianity, but her published essay on the subject scarcely mentions the spiritual dimension. It’s all about the ideological importance of Christianity as the basis for Western liberalism and as a battle flag for the cultural conflicts ahead. That is to say, she’s deftly made the transition from poster child for the New Atheists to poster child for the Western world’s Second Religiosity. It seems quite likely to me that when the historians of the future review the end of our age of reason and the return of religion to the center of the public square, they’ll use her conversion as a convenient marker for the date when it happened.

Like every social change of real importance, of course, this one isn’t happening overnight, and in fact it’s been building for some time.  That helps explain one of the odder features of modern American cultural life—the rise of public avowals of Satanism in groups that until recently rejected the thought of being connected with it. The atheist embrace of Satanism over the last few years has gotten a fair amount of media attention, not least because it’s so obviously a matter of dress-up games and make-believe—the public spokescritters of the Satanic Temple, the most mediagenic of the atheist horns-and-pitchfork brigade these days, go out of their way to insist that they don’t believe in a supernatural being called Satan.  Yet there’s another group involved in this process that gets less attention, but may be at least as important.

One of the side effects of being an author of books on occultism is that I put in quite a few years going to Neopagan conventions and festivals to give talks, sign books, meet some of my readers, and generally do in-person marketing. That gave me a ringside view of a very odd change in the Neopagan subculture. As recently as the 1990s, everybody who was anybody in the Wiccan scene bristled at the thought that Wicca had anything to do with Satanism.  Bumper stickers saying WITCHES HEAL were all the rage, and if you asked anybody about using magic to harm somebody else you could pretty much count on getting a lecture on the threefold law of return—the once-widespread Neopagan belief that whatever you do, for good or ill, circles back to you like a boomerang and gives you back three times the good or ill you sent out.

Early in this century, though, that apparently solid grasp of the practical ethics of magic began to trickle away. What started out looking like Goth roleplaying with skulls and inverted pentagrams morphed into the deliberate embrace of evil magic, and ultimately of demonolatry—the worship of evil spirits. Now of course the handful of Christians who noticed this shouted, “Ha! The truth comes out—they were worshipping devils all the time!”  I don’t think that’s correct, though. I heard an odd tone, a sort of shamefaced blustering, from many of the Neopagans I watched as they lurched and fumbled down the slippery slope I’ve just described. This also happened right when the Neopagan subculture peaked and began to lose members: some of them drifting back to the sort of bland materialist attitude that’s more apathy than atheism, but others finding their way into one or another branch of Christianity.

That’s the key that unlocks this particular riddle. Christianity has many virtues but it also has its besetting sins, and one of them is a bad habit of forgetting all about the ninth commandment—you know, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor”—when the neighbor in question happens to belong to some other faith. The same dubious attitude to mere fact that led good Christians in the Middle Ages to insist that Jews made their Passover matzoh with the blood of baptized babies is still alive and well in many churches today, and people like me who belong to alternative religious traditions are wearily familiar with it.

It’s not just any kind of false witness that gets applied to other people’s faiths, though. What happens, with monotonous predictability, is that Christians of the sort I’m discussing can’t get their minds around the possibility that other people might actually disagree with the Christian worldview. That’s what drives the insistence that everyone in the world outside the Christian fold secretly prays to Satan. From within the worldview I’m discussing, it’s unthinkable that people might believe in other deities, or in no deities at all.  They’ve got to be right up there in the bleachers cheering on Team Satan or Team Jesus.

Now of course that’s not even remotely true—Satan is a figure in Christian theology, and saying that Druids (for example) knowingly but secretly worship Satan is just as silly as saying that Christians knowingly but secretly worship Balor of the Baleful Eye, the most prominent of the evil powers in old Irish mythology. Yet for this very reason, it’s worth paying attention when a good many people who used to be aware of this point suddenly start acting the way the more dogmatic end of the Christian scene insists they were really acting all along. That’s what a great many Neopagans and atheists are doing right now as they prance and grovel before statues of Satan, and the conclusion is obvious: they’re redefining their current beliefs in Christian terms, so that they can then renounce those beliefs and become good Christians.

This isn’t even a new thing. Those of my readers who know their way around the cultural history of the late nineteenth century will remember the twilight of the extraordinary revival of magic in France. The French occult scene always liked to flirt with devil-symbols—it got such spluttering tirades out of the Catholic hierarchy of the time!—but as the century drew to its close, flirtation gave way to overt Satanism, and this in turn gave way to a flight back to the Catholic church.  William Butler Yeats, who visited Paris frequently during those years, wrote about the shift in his visionary essay “Per Amica Silentia Lunae,” and it helped shape his vision of cyclical history—a vision which, as he himself noted in A Vision, had a great deal in common with Spengler’s.

The same thing happened, for that matter, in America at the end of the 1960s. A great many young people who had turned on, tuned in, and dropped out, enjoying the abundant drugs and easy sex of the counterculture, abandoned the spirit of Woodstock for that of Altamont in the last days of the hippie scene, with occasional gestures in the direction of Satanism and the like. That made it easy for them to go on to cut their hair, start shaving again, put on the “square” clothes they claimed to despise, find a hearty welcome in the evangelical churches of the time, and settle into the ordinary American lifestyle they’d played at rejecting.

The selective use of the ninth commandment mentioned above quite often plays an outsized role in such antics. Those of my readers who were around in the late 1970s and early 1980s may remember Mike Warnke, who claimed to have been a Satanic high priest before he turned to Jesus, and parlayed that claim into quite a successful career as a Christian entertainer before a Christian news magazine looked into his bona fides and documented just how often he’d strayed from mere fact.  He was following a well-marked trail; more than a century before, to cite one other example, a young Canadian woman named Maria Monk got equally enthusiastic Christian audiences with her equally fraudulent claims that during her (supposed) time as a nun, she’d been a sex slave of the Catholic clergy.  History features a long list of similar figures, and doubtless there will be plenty more additions to that list in the years ahead.

Many of those who will flock to the Christian churches in the years immediately ahead have less mercenary motives, to be sure—but that doesn’t mean that what moves them back to religion is wholly spiritual in its nature.  It’s one thing to play at being rebellious when you can still count on getting all the usual benefits from the society against which you think you’re rebelling. It’s quite another thing to go on with the playacting when you start to see that society cracking apart, and putting the aforementioned benefits at risk. The global hegemony of the United States is breaking up, and the economic arrangements that funnel an outsized share of the world’s wealth to people in the United States and its inner circle of allies are breaking up with it. That’s going to inspire a rush of people who, in the wake of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and others, will turn to mainstream Christianity as a bulwark against a chaos that is as much within themselves as in the world around them.

I don’t think it’s wrong for them to do so, or for that matter right.  It’s a normal part of the historical cycle, and human beings are generally less original and much less individualistic than they like to think. I’d point out, though, that not everyone made that choice in past civilizations, and not everyone will make it this time around, either.  William Butler Yeats, who grew up in a Christian family, didn’t return to the church of his youth.  He and quite a few others in the occult scene of his generation watched the crowds who had dabbled in occultism go running back to their various churches, shrugged, and kept on with the work. If anything, the quality of occult teaching and practice improved once the masses headed elsewhere—and I’ve watched a similar improvement start to take shape in our own time.

The Second Religiosity has its downsides, you see. Dignified, orderly, and committed to the defense of established values, it tends toward lifelessness, and then toward fossilization.  It fills an important role in history, for it is within the rigid shell established by the return to religion that the cultural heritage of a waning civilization can be sorted, systematized, and cast in forms that can survive the difficult times to come.  As the Bible points out, though, the spirit bloweth where it listeth; it is impatient of anybody’s cultural constructs, and it’s outside the shell erected by the Second Religiosity that the first stirrings of the future age of faith will be felt.

Yeats spent much of his life watching for those stirrings, and wove that attentiveness into his poetry. Here’s one example, “The Magi”:

Now as at all times I can see in the mind’s eye
In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones
Appear and disappear in the blue depths of the sky
With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones,
And all their helms of silver hovering side by side,
And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more,
Being by Calvary’s turbulence unsatisfied,
The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.

The bestial floor is our common humanity, symbolized in the Christian mythos by the animals in the manger that witnessed the birth of Christ; the uncontrollable mystery is the spirit that comes and goes as it wills, not as we will. Most people in every age convince themselves that whatever form their culture has constructed to house the spirit has been established for all time, and never is this belief more passionately affirmed than in the opening years of a Second Religiosity. Yet right now, new revelations are stirring in impoverished corners of flyover country and battered slum communities in the never-to-be-developed world, and from one or more of these will come the forms that will give vision and direction, centuries from now, to some new age of faith.

* * * * *

In not completely unrelated news, I’m delighted to report that the second volume in my new series of occult-detective novels, The Book of Haatan, is now available for preorder. Yes, this is the sequel to The Witch of Criswell, which I know many of ny readers enjoyed, and features eighteen-year-old Ariel Moravec and her grandfather, adept occultist Dr. Bernard Moravec. This time they’re investigating the theft of a centuries-old grimoire which may offer a key to buried treasure — but they’re not the only ones involved, and their rivals are prepared to use lethal magic…

Copies can be preordered here if you’re interested; it’ll be published in March of next year.  I’ll post an announcement as updates come in.


  1. John–

    What of those (more authentic, one might argue) of the traditional faiths who have been holding on to and working to sustain their particular community and culture in the face of “the world” through the previous onslaught of the Age of Reason? The Amish, as one common example, or those folks out in Wyoming I mentioned in a prior month’s open post who are working to establish a college based on Lutheran teachings and classical education models? How do these manage in a world where their erstwhile opponents return to adopt a simulacrum of the faith they’ve labored to maintain all along? I suppose theirs will be a different kind of struggle from the previous period, resisting assimilation by the hollow re-establishment of old forms.

  2. Good post to make me think.
    I think that while I agree with 90% of what you said here, I do think that giving a genuine hunger for spiritual experience is a significant contributor to many of the “returnees” that you describe.
    I read Naomi Wolf over at substack and I do find her writings illuminate aspects of the “second religiosity”.
    Mostly, change is happening and folks are struggling to find a niche in a crumbling city. I don’t like the guy at all, but Saint Augustine when he was looking out over the Vandals besieging Hippo was probably thinking a lot about the same issues.

  3. I wonder if the new religiosity will breed a particularly nasty form of fundamentalism? No one is louder or more severe about their beliefs than those who don’t really believe it deep down or have a solid metaphysical basis guiding them.

  4. I do so muchly appreciate your essays. Thanks. This recent entry made me think about “spirituality”, and took me back to my own traditional Christianity that was, and is, so very individualistic. But then I am always reminded of one little passage about “wherever two or three are gathered, there am I”. Spirituality for me is a communal event and passion. Having just read Tom Murphy’s latest post, I am grateful that your insistence on what is spiritual goes well beyond human endeavours to include all of creation, all creatures, is finally coming to a more open consciousness for me. As well, I see the floundering among so many young people as those in need of this new consciousness, or at least some other equivalency.
    Yes, returning to the old without a more open acceptance of spirit being so much more inclusive of all of creation is not too convincing.

  5. Many of those converting from more esoteric circles over the years and most recently men like Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine cite the need for an ancient connection to worship and tradition within a community, and I think there is something to that, but I do agree that it’s more of a walking away from rather than walking towards.

  6. It’s not surprising to me at all that another New Atheist has rejoined a religion. It was evident even 10 years ago that many of them may have abandoned the religion, but they kept not only it’s prejudice but it’s fundamental way of looking at the world. My grandfather was exactly like that. They enjoyed tweaking the noses of fundamentalists (I’m not innocent here either) but I don’t think their values changed one iota. Most of them are already part of the Shapiro and Peterson crowd.

    Me? I’m going to continue whatever path of mental-illness I’m on. The values of the western society as it is don’t mean much anymore. An ailing liberal establishment, a right wing populism that scares me (and would like people like me to not exist), and a divided, dis-illusioned cadre of leftists who spend most of their time in feuds with each other.

    “The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.”

  7. I appreciate the message of this post, but I hope you won’t be too annoyed if I make a little tangential point about The Threefold Return. I tend to think that it is, in fact, a thing, because every time I have spiritually attacked someone for some perceived wrong they did to me, unexplained and out-of-the-blue bad things would inevitably happen to me. I suppose it bears pointing out that neither of these two people really did me any sort of unjustifiable harm, and the one with whom I might have been somewhat justifiably ticked off had their reasons that the Spirit would have found understandable if not supportable for doing what they did to me. IOW, their supposed maleficence towards me was mostly a product of my sophomoric ego, making my attack on them no sort of matter of justice. Perhaps it’s different when someone has truly and deliberately wronged you with malicious intent? I don’t really know, and I don’t intend to find out after having been so thoroughly taught my lessons.

  8. I hope you don’t mind the following gloss:

    Centuries later, when lndustrial civilization’s age of reason imploded, the people who flocked back to the churches of the Three-In-One God, did so in an attempt to prop up everything that the Oaklies later rejected. Thus it was above all the successful and privileged classes that drove the Industrial world’s Second Religiosity, and it was the silent masses of what remained of the United States, the ones who got few of the benefits and carried most of the costs of Classical civilization, who turned away from the strange brew of American Protestantism to the first whispered rumors about the strength, power and wisdom that flowed through the gnarled whorls of an ancient tree whose roots reached deep into the underworld, (what some in the Industrial age had called a collective unconscious), where the ancestors dwell, and whose branches reach up to the starry firmament of heavens. Those same silly Industrialists had thought to sent man to the stars, not realizing it was instead, where we came from, born on cosmic generation ships, the seedbeds of each successive wave of incarnation.

  9. Dear JMG,
    If we move in the direction of more localized communities with higher costs to travel and communicate, might we expect fragmentation in faiths? Lots of different paths or might some new pan-continental or global faith(s) emerge? What do you glean from Spengler on this? Thank you.

  10. Well, that was interesting. Ali is a far better writer than Ms. Wolf and one who actually has an interesting story to tell. She also appears to have what Ms. Wolf so conspicuously lacks, a conscience or internal moral compass if you will.

    I disagree with her about Western Civ. In my view, Western Civilization is dead. It received the mortal wound in WWI and the coup de gras in WWII. That is why us WASPies are so lame, can’t dance, socially retards, etc. etc., because we have no living cultural tradition to sustain us.

    Speaking of atheism, I was raised by a pair of judgmental atheists. The one certainty in our household was that whatever a child did, no matter what the accomplishment, would never be enough.

  11. Mr. Greer,

    I have been thinking about this subject a lot lately. Christianity seems to be fracturing along three different paths. In Eastern Europe and Asia the Russian Orthodox Church is increasing diverging from Western Christianity with fairly major schisms happening in 1996 and 2018. The recent war in Ukraine has exacerbated this trend. Meanwhile in the Americas Christianity practiced in the Heartland and Latin America has been steadily moving away from mainstream European culture to the point many traditional European Christians don’t consider some of these American Christian movements to actually be Christian because of major doctrinal differences. Mormonism is a pretty good example of this.

    In the United States you are starting to see an interesting religious split. Members of the ruling classes are increasingly likely to be Catholic. Populists and dissidents tend to be Protestant, Mormon or practice some form of Christian syncretism. For example, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Gavin Newsom, Kathy Hochul, Ron DeSantis, etc… are all Catholic. On the other end Donald Trump is a Presbyterian, Tucker Carlson is Episcopalian, Vivek Ramaswamy seems to believe in a syncretism of Hinduism and Christianity, Elon Musk was raised Anglican. Granted its not 100% as there are still Catholic populists and Protestant members of the establishment but that seems to be the way the trend is going.

  12. Very nice John Michael,

    I like this week’s post. For the benefit of your readers, here is a list of every prediction that Oswald Spengler made in Decline of the West:
    So far, it is tracking very, very well. Spengler gets an A.

    As for Christian mythology, the myth of progress, and the coming chaos, my first thought was the medieval notion of the great chain of being. Medieval Christianity (Catholicism) had a rigid hierarchy of order from God at the top to the rocks at the bottom. Everyone and everything in the cosmos was assigned a station, a place for everything and everything in its place.

    The current version embedded in the myth of progress is liberalism. It’s closer to Calvinism in that one’s virtues are revealed by one’s standing in society rather than inherited at birth, but that’s really just semantics. Celebrities, robber barons, and politicians have supplanted the aristocracy and bank CEOs have replaced the clergy, but they are still doing God’s work 😉 Nations are developing and prospering or failing and falling according to their virtues (and not because they are on the right side of the imperial wealth pump) and the perennial forces of darkness, commies, terrorists, Russians, etc. are being held in check by the one, indispensable nation.

    All of that is currently circling the drain. The Russian are winning, opinion polls continue to document the loss of trust and confidence in the government and the MSM. Objective measures, like the economy, are tanking and the ideology that underpins the super structure sounds more like a propaganda slogan and less like a truth every time Putin gets convicted of war crimes while the US MIC churns out bombs that are destined to fall on poor brown people or Epstein’s clients remain mysteriously unindicted by the FBI.

    It’s truly bizarre that the age of reason ends when the unstated assumptions are empirically falsified by going back to mere faith in those assumptions rather than questioning them. It hurts the head.

  13. JMG,
    Have you read any Rene Girard? I think he offers an interesting counter-narrative to Spengler’s that accounts for some of what you describe in the article, particularly the common violations of the Ninth Commandment. Although certainly not all of it. He’s not doing comparative morphology, so the two aren’t overlapping completely.

    As someone who falls pretty clearly in the category of folks belonging to the second religiosity, it’s hard to make out how Spengler’s system leaves room for genuine spirituality. He says in the introduction to the book that he takes as much inspiration from Goethe’s morphology as he does from Nietzsche’s perspectivalism, which implies that there really is no correct answer in the debate between Christians and New Atheists or Christians and Roman pagans.

    Spengler always makes me ask interesting questions of myself. I like to think (from my very biased point of view) that my reasons for conversion were a lot less cultural than philosophical and spiritual. But who knows how accurate that is. And when I’m thinking in purely spiritual terms I admit that Christianity is better than atheism, so regardless of the reasons one converts, It’s a good trend. But practically, no one wants to live next door to a fundamentalist or a Culture Warrior who goes to church merely because it supplements his status as a Republican.

    Final thought — it seems that the European far-right have been a lot more consistent in rejecting Christianity. They understand that the spirit if Christianity is opposed to 20th century style totalitarianism and fascism. I wonder if the American (moderate and far) right will eventually make it’s way in that direction and start to separate out the libertarian/corporate/racist strands of the right wing from a more authentic brand of Christianity. I can imagine a Christian revival in America, I find it very hard to imagine in Europe though.

  14. re: Warneke

    You have the oddest memories. The guy I remember the most from that era was Jed Smock. I wonder if he’s still around?

    IMHO, they’re not really part of Christianity, as I reckon it but Churchianity. They’re brought in to tell some stories and entertain the crowd. Later they go on to have a fellowship supper and socialize. And then everyone goes home with a belly full of fried chicken and deviled eggs.

    Not quite sure I’m ready for three bean and jello fruit salad again myself though. Ah, the memories. Do they still make those jello fruit salads, I wonder? Nah, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left undisturbed.

  15. Interestingly, just last night, my wife and I watched a movie called “The Jesus Revolution”. While I can’t recommend the movie on it’s own merits, it does address, admittedly in a superficial way, today’s topic of a Second Religiosity. The movie covers, in a sanitized “Hallmark card” way, the beginnings of the evangelical mega-church movement in Southern California. Fragile young people fled the cultures of their upbringing to embrace the Hippie movement of sex, drugs and rock and roll but sooner or later burned out. Some of them found that the “freedom” that they were supposedly enjoying wasn’t bringing them actual peace or joy, let alone a paradise on Earth. Some charismatic Christian preachers took note of these ‘lost souls’ and re-discovered the power of old time revivals, complete with energizing music, faith healing, tents, etc. Compared to their parent’s boring WASP churches this was understandably appealing and yet also familiar enough that they could embrace it. I suspect that the Jesus movement really did do some good, especially for the more fragile and broken. Of course it all went quickly sideways. (I actually expected a disclaimer at the end of the show acknowledging how far evangelical mega-churches and “prosperity gospel” have gone from the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.)

  16. Thank you so much for that essay. I started reading the Spengler works years ago, probably because of something else you wrote. I’ve taken the two huge volumes out of our local library about 4 times, and keep taking more notes, and finding more things that I start to understand. I’ts weird to read something, and say ” I know this is really important, but I can’t really take it all in right now.” But as the time has gone by, I keep seeing things that make me go back to my notes, or take the books out again. But, for sure, we are at the stage of Caesarism. Thank you again for your work.

  17. Ah, Mike Warnke. I was raised in an Evangelical household and subculture (with my parents among the Plymouth Brethren when I incarnated in ’65… I still chuckle heartily reading Crowley’s tales of the Brethren, and can vouch for the accuracy of his observations). The late 70’s and early 80s were my middle/high school years, and I found Warnke’s The Satan Seller in my church library. I devoured it, thrilled by his tales of long hair, rock and roll, satanic rites and light cannibalism (which as we know, all go together in the same satan-worshipping package, whether overt or covert). My school chums and I listened to his comedy records over and over, inspired to be better Christians by his dramatic and hilarious tales.

    I had exited the Christianity of my youth when Cornerstone magazine did their exposé and his falsity didn’t surprise me one jot, as by that time I had seen plenty of such characters. Despite their fundamentalism, I still appreciate that those folks felt compelled to make the truth known.

    My journey into esoteric and occult spiritual practice ensued not long after, and I happily left that subculture far behind to do their thing. Now, fast forward forty years, and I watch with interest as what you write about unfolds in my family circle (and hence this note of appreciation).

    My children’s mother, after years of being a practicing lesbian (we won’t tell that long tale here) and a yoga teacher, has returned to Christianity. I’ve been in turns shocked, appalled, and amused, and a tiny bit bewildered. But your observations explain much. A few years ago she experienced major chaos and trauma when she got trapped in a severely abusive relationship, and in a rare heart-to-heart about a year ago, she confessed that “I no longer trust myself.” And so I witness what you’re observing in a microcosm: chaos and trauma driving someone who I assumed knew better back into the fold of ready-built explanations and faith that it all turns out well (for Team Jesus).

    Meanwhile, my oldest son, 18 years of age, is being drawn to the likes of Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan, and John Lovell, an evangelical Army Ranger who has founded a Warrior Poet society and whose self-professed hero died at 33 years of age and rose from the dead. It’s fascinating to me to watch my son’s process and I mostly trust that he will find his way and steer clear of fundamentalism, but I confess that I am a bit terrified at the prospect of him getting drawn into this Second Religiosity.

    Ah well. Like Yeats, I will shrug and get on with the (Great) work. Appreciate your work and insight.

  18. “Yet for this very reason, it’s worth paying attention when a good many people who used to be aware of this point suddenly start acting the way the more dogmatic end of the Christian scene insists they were really acting all along. That’s what a great many Neopagans and atheists are doing right now as they prance and grovel before statues of Satan, and the conclusion is obvious: they’re redefining their current beliefs in Christian terms, so that they can then renounce those beliefs and become good Christians.”

    I’ve wondered for a while if this is also driving a lot of the weirdness on the part of Progressives of late. We’ve had a fine dividing line in our society for a while between the Conservatives and Progressives; and a lot of utterly absurd drivel has been thrown around on both sides. However, starting out around 2010, and picking up speed with 2016, I’ve seen some Progressives have started acting out some of the more lurid fantasies Conservatives had of what Progressives are like. This trend seems to have started around the time it became clear that The Great Recession was going to continue, and that things were going to get worse for a lot of people before they got any better; and 2016 saw Progress get a major blow, in the form of Trump’s victory in the presidential election on a campaign explicitly calling for a return to a past golden age (“Make America Great Again”).

  19. Having come from a Protestant background, I can’t help but notice that modern Christianity gives its followers a guilt free pass on consumerism…you know dominion over the earth and all that rot. Is this a feature of a time of scarcity to say God wants to have these shiny things? I noticed this about Paul Kingsnorth in his sub stack. He starts out mowing with a scythe and writing about French philosophers and then the Money comes in and he’s bought a lawnmower and chips at the supermarket for the kids but he’s out of French philosophy so it just stagnates and I unsubscribed.. any connection to scarcity and needing a reason to keep consuming?

  20. Thank you for this and other blog-writings. It is interesting, how Oswald Spengler is nowadays very prominent thinker for the critics of the current progressive western system. Spengler’s analysis about the Faustian civilization is very fascinating.

  21. This whole era, and its faiths, reminds me of Yeats …”and what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches toward Bethlehem to be born.” My faith, born of many hypnotic regressions, is that we have many lives to get it right, and we should try our best in every life we’ve been granted in this magical paradise in which we live….

  22. It seems like there have been several high-profile public conversions to Christianity recently. Reading this essay, I’m reminded that a couple of years ago, photos and videos surfaced of a white-robed Marilyn Manson, Justin Bieber, and Kanye West praying together at a Christian worship service organized by West. Not something I would have ever in my wildest dreams expected to happen.

    It does make sense what you say that edgy pseudo-rebellion makes less sense when the social order you say you’re rebelling against is falling apart before your eyes, and people start to seek the stability of the Second Religiosity amid the chaos of failing empire. It’s a surprising phenomenon to see, nonetheless.

  23. What do you think will happen to the people who were Christian long before the second religiosity took off, and who don’t see their faith in a very second religiosity-esqe way? As in, it is absolutely real to them and has come with a strong sense of connection to Jesus, and the occasional experience of voices, dreams or visions?

  24. “That’s what a great many Neopagans and atheists are doing right now as they prance and grovel before statues of Satan, and the conclusion is obvious: they’re redefining their current beliefs in Christian terms, so that they can then renounce those beliefs and become good Christians.” and apparently it also happens to reggaetoneros.

    I saw earlier this week that Puerto Rican reggaeton singer Daddy Yankee has converted, publicly to Christianity and says he will spend the rest of his life following and preaching the word of Jesus. He did this, in the closing of his last tour as Daddy Yankee as an army of drones painted a multicolored cross that then transformed into the text: “Christ loves you. Christ is coming” And I immediately thought of the Second Religiosity. Happy to see a full essay going into detail about it.

    Here is a picture:

  25. JMG,
    Please do not convert to Orthodox Christianity on us. I find a lot of what Paul Kingsnorth has written to be fascinating, but, ever since he converted, he spends more and more time on dreary religious topics.

  26. A random (or synchronistic) “opinion” piece in the headline scroll:

    Not a serious article, but rather a slide deck of surface-level sound-bites and pot-shots at religious life generally. Example reasons given to raise your children w/o religion: fostering critical and independent thought, developing a fact and evidence based mindset, and building emotional resilience. Heaven knows no religious follower ever forged new paths of knowledge or used experimental methods in science; and we all know how faith contributes nothing to assisting one navigate the storms of life.

    Disingenuous and vapid are words that come to mind.

    I can’t help wonder about the timing, John. Suspiciously synchronistic.

  27. David BTL, exactly. On the one hand, religious traditionalists will benefit from greatly increased funding and publicity, and a certain number of people flocking to more traditional churches will in fact end up taking their new faiths seriously even if they don’t start out that way; on the other hand, they’ll be facing the same pressure to popularize, oversimplify, and (ultimately) prostitute their traditions that occultists had to deal with during the heyday of pop Neopaganism. The Second Religiosity typically also lasts much longer than the sort of fad for the occult that’s guttering out right now, so it may be a rough road.

    Degringolade, you’re right, of course, that there’s also a genuine spiritual hunger involved. As for Augustine, good — yes, his experience is becoming a lot more common.

    Douglas, if it does, that would surprise me. The Second Religiosity of every culture tends to be relatively tolerant and inclusive.

    Justin, you’re most welcome!

    Bruce, I see your crystal ball is working. I’ve got a post in the works for two weeks from now that’s going to address some of these issues.

    Dave, no argument there. That longing for roots and a community is an important part — in many cases, the most important part — of what draws people to the Second Religiosity.

    Allie001, exactly! Most of the atheists I’ve known aren’t actually atheists at all — they’re simply rebelling against Christianity. I’ve had conversations in which atheists tried to tell me that I’m wrong, wrong, WRONG! to believe in polytheism, because if a god did exist, it would have to be the Christian one…

    Mister N, it is indeed a thing. I don’t know that I’d vouch for the exact tripling of the effect, but it seems like a good rule of thumb. That’s why I teach students of magic about the raspberry jam effect — whatever energy you invoke affects you at least as much as it does your ostensible target.

    Moose, I’ll look forward to it.

    Justin, we’ll see if that’s how it unfolds!

    Daniel, it really varies. It’s hard to find a more isolated collection of localized communities than Dark Age Europe, and yet Christianity spread steadily through the landscape.

    Mary, the problem is not that you don’t have a living cultural tradition — it’s that for the last century, the elite classes of the Western world have been doing their level best to deny, revile, and obscure the cultural traditions of the West, and it takes hard work to get through the resulting barriers and recontact the tradition. Not many people have done that yet, though I expect to see much more of it in the years ahead.

    Karl, that is to say, Christianity is following its usual trajectory — I don’t know of another religion that’s so productive of splits, schisms, and little groups heading off in their own direction!

    Tean10tim, stay tuned. The assumptions of the current system are being taken on faith these days only by the beneficiaries of the current system; the faith of those outside that bubble is increasingly oriented toward very different things.

    Bonaventure, I’ve read Girard a couple of times, and tried my best to find him plausible, but I can’t. It’s just too obviously an attempt to shore up Christianity by postulating an invented problem for which Christianity is the only solution. His focus on mimesis is very useful but his fixation on the scapegoat complex reminds me of nothing so much as Freud’s equally arbitrary fixation on the Oedipus complex. As for Spengler, I agree that he doesn’t discuss authentic spirituality; my own take is that spiritualityhas a complex relationship to culture and history — human beings generally have what we may as well call a religious instinct, but how that expresses itself is shaped (though not determined) by cultural and historical as well as personal factors.

    Other Owen, they certainly still made that kind of salad a decade ago, when I attended the occasional church supper along with other members of my Masonic lodge!

    Ken, interesting. I’m quite sure the Jesus People and the other hippie churches did a lot of good — they gave people who were having a hard time with drugs and the like the support they needed to clean themselves up and get their lives together again.

    Katherine, you’re welcome and thank you! Spengler’s worth many rereadings — I ended up buying a set because it became such a hassle to have to get them over and over again from the library!

    David, it sounds as though your life and your family are quite the microcosm of our current situation!

    Anonymous, hmm! That might explain a few things.

    Thomas, that’s a disease that got into Protestantism by way of the Calvinists, with their doctrine of divine election — it was the belief of many Calvinists, and for all I know may still be, that you can tell if you’re one of the elect because God blesses you with worldly goodies. I’m really sorry to hear that about Kingsnorth, but that kind of selling out is embarrassingly common, of course.

    Roger, he’s the best antidote I know of for misplaced faith in progress.

    Pyrrhus, and of course Yeats had the same faith — as do I.

    Troy, I expected it, but then I had Spengler giving me advance warning!

    Pygmycory, I think they’ll keep being Christians, and a certain number of the people who embrace Christianity for other reasons will learn from their example.

    Augusto, no surprises there! If you want to post a picture, btw, you need to send me a url link to it — I can post that, but readers can’t.

    Dennis, not to worry. I can’t affirm any of the historic creeds of Christendom because I don’t believe that the historical person Jesus of Nazareth was the only child of the only god there is, that he was born of a biological virgin, that he returned to physical life after being dead for three days, and that he will show up again someday to prove that his followers are right and everyone else is wrong. I know too many of the mythologies from which those narratives were borrowed, and (having read When Prophecy Fails long ago) I also understand too well the reasons why believers construct and defend such narratives.

    David BTL, that sort of pushback is predictable. It’s when it becomes shrill and frantic that we’ll know that the Second Religiosity is hitting its stride.

  28. >I wonder if the new religiosity will breed a particularly nasty form of fundamentalism?

    What do you think the Screaming Bluehairs are?

  29. First: you may wish to check this out
    It is a good overview of various religious efforts since the Neolithic

    I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s on a leased 200 acre ranch that raised the family cattle (about 10) a wonderful milk cow i had the privilege of milking every morning. Also 4 horses two dogs and several cats. In that sense it was fun. Lots of physical work too. Branding, dehorning and castration. It touched me to the core. I didn’t protest as at that time in must be the only way. If there was a better way humanity would have found it. I became a lact-ova vegetarian in the 70s. It is not simple to be a vege. You need to know a great deal about vitamins, minerals and nutrition. Preferably growing your own food.

    I was quite surprised that the comments told only about of those who got caught up in the fashionable aspects of the counter culture (think mod squad) and had little to no experience participating in the environmental movement. Then gave us the EPA so corporations can hijack the Environmental movement and tell us we are responsible for climate change. Funny how pollution is dropped from the corporate narrative and the everyday phenomena of climate change is give a front row seat. With a name like Ecosophia I expected better.

    Caring for the Environment is exemplified by the Amish who avoided the ways of the English. Nearly 300 years of agriculture has not destroy Lancaster County. On the contrary it thrives. Their model in the context of environmental harmony is worth a deep study. Our actions, the Bible advises us to harmonize our thought, word and deed. Ecosophia as a path embeds our thought, word and deed, that allows us to take instruction from our Earth and body.

  30. There is a taped interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali (I can´t find it right now), in which she actually says that Richard Dawkins is a Christian, since he listens to coral music! I think Hirsi Ali is very self-consciously thinking of Christianity in purely political and cultural terms, and therefore feels affinity for Dawkins, who actually struck me as “pro-Anglican” for quite some time now, despite his atheism. So yes, something is definitely stirring, and it will be interesting to see how long it takes before it becomes a tsunami. 2023 seems to be a “mental” turning point in many ways!

    The atheists I checked at various forums are genuinely baffled by Hirsi Ali´s conversion, since she never tries to defend her conversion in “apologetics” format. They say this proves that religion is always a sham (“something you do, not something that´s true”), but they didn´t except anyone to reveal it so openly. That is, they expected Hirsi Ali to try out some “apologetics”, which they could then proceed to dismantle. Instead, she dropped the mask from day one and came out as a purely political-cultural Christian…

    The nerds who dominate atheist discourse on YouTube and elsewhere are probably ill-equipped to handle this form of religion, which only formally make theological truth-claims (and even that only barely). But if so, atheism is in for a lot of trouble, since a religion that is predominantly about community, identity and culture is probably difficult to intellectually argue with, let alone fight.

    In general, I find it almost baffling that so many YouTube atheists are still “cornucopians” or at least believe in political progress, including the future waning of religion. It´s like they haven´t noticed what transpired in the real world the past three years or so…

  31. Sadly, I’ve noticed this increasingly rigid form of Christianity in my own father. He was never not a Christian, but in recent years he’s become particularly hardcore about it. For example, he now refuses to eat pork (Coca-Cola is okay, though), and this past Samhain he clutched his figurative pearls over the sight of my — to use his word — “evil” jack-o-lantern. I strongly suspect that he believes that I, as a pagan, am with “Team Satan.”

    I only hope the Second Religiosity of industrial society doesn’t descend back into witch hunting.

  32. I think it is understandable that some people go “back” to a Second Religiosity. But what about the rest of us that still feel the emptiness of a civilization in decay, but are lost? Because re-enchantment (with a living world) is not something one can conjure up rationally.

    More than asking for myself, I wonder what can we do to help educate children in a way they feel the least amount possible of the dryness of a world in spiritual decay.

    Sadly I believe it is almost impossible to be really creative and alive when the society around us is crumbling as ours his. I would love to be proven wrong, by the way…

  33. No surprise at all, but certainly amusing. I saw a clip, and the cheers were louder than the ones at the end of his greatest hit. He is now doing evangelical music apparently, after using, mmm, slang language to refer to women, his next song is gonna be called: “Bonita”. Which is hilarious.

    Gotcha, here is the url:

  34. What struck me about Ali’s article is that she presents her turn towards Christianity as something very un-spiritual. It’s all about how ‘the West’ (i. e., Faustian civilization) now needs Christianity to defend itself against Islam and the woke and what have you. Sure, she says that you can’t make such a defence without some spiritual core to draw on, but she still equates Christianity with the essence of Faustian culture, and it’s clear that she cares about the former only as far as it’s connected with the latter. (But she says she has still much to learn about her new faith, so maybe she’s in for some surprises!)

    Such an equation is often made by friend and foe, but it seems parochial to me. In Spengler’s terms, Christianity first arose where the dying Apollonian and the young Magian culture met; since then it has taken many different forms, a number of them outside Faustian culture and quite unrelated to it. I expect that many more forms will come up after Faustian culture has long been dead. In particular, both Tamanous and Sobornost, as envisioned by our host, seem to harmonize well with both the message and the person of Christ, maybe better so than Faustian culture ever did. ‘I am with you always, even unto the end of the world’, says Christ, and (to Peter, concerning the Beloved Disciple): ‘If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?’

    JMG, what would you recommend to a young-ish Christian living in Western Europe right now? My own instinct is to ‘let the dead bury their dead’, follow Christ into whatever strange realms He may lead me, and look out where the wind listeth to blow. I have to say that I have found the image of the animals in the stable (mentioned in your blog post) fascinating for quite some time. Do you see any interesting stirrings of a not-quite-so-anthropocentric Christianity?

  35. Then there is Santisima Muerte who’s following is expanding into the United States and attracting an incredibly diverse fellowship. Do you think she represents the beginning of the next great north American religion?

  36. Hi John Michael,

    Congrats on the new book.

    As a thought experiment I lined up the word: “new”, alongside another word which is often used in the same context to describe outcomes, and that word is: “better”. Oh, they’re not the same at all. Who’d have thunk it? It takes an audacious disregard of the evidence to make that particular leap of faith.

    And speaking of faith. You always get our minds working… So, I lined up the word: “atheist” next to the words: “religious dogmatic”, and there are a remarkable number of similarities. It’s uncanny! 🙂

    As to the ninth commandment, well that’s just awkward and can’t possibly count. Nuff said.

    I shall now retire from the field of play, and enjoy my attempts at humour.



  37. Jonathan M Katz of The Atlantic recently declared that because some Nazis sometime somewhere liked Oswald Spengler, to appreciate Oswald Spengler makes you a Nazi, in an article about Substack’s “Nazi” problem, Substack being where a lot of alt-right writers talk about a restoration of Christianity. Katz was arguing (in the usual way) that Substack needs to go the way of Google and Meta and work with the Feds to silence critics of the liberal project. In a sign of the collapse of such elite, Katz also declared Vivek Ramaswamy and RFK Jr, fascists.

    Many of those writers discussing in earnest the restoration of Christianity who are also withering in their criticism of liberalism, are seeing some impressive growth in subscribers, and significant engagement compared to Katz, who also writes there. In fact, for a guy who has 13,000 subscribers, his engagement is so anemic it seems hardly anyone takes him seriously, being subscribed more like an identity badge apparently.

    Coming from the perspective of the Western magical tradition, despite the obvious trends toward a second religiosity, has not necessarily been a recipe for subscriber growth or engagement. Which could have many causes of course.

  38. Another great post John, thanks.

    In the return to religion that Spengler predicts I expect the ruling classes to present a sanitized Christianity that suits their need for public order. On the other hand, among the working classes, I expect a lot of religious experimentation. The Pentecostals are interesting, they provide an avenue for ecstatic spirituality that the more sedate churches can’t match. The snake handlers are particularly interesting and worth keeping an eye on.

    For me, I am helping a Presbyterian Church stay open, it could die before I do but I think the struggle worthwhile.

  39. JMG: If yu feel this is inappropriate, please do not publish. No questions asked.

    One of the things that bothers me about the comment section of your posts is the sneering and nasty comments concerning traditional American faith. I do realize that particular religio/political complex has many warts, but the commentariat here tends to speak of the old faiths in the same way that the old faiths speak of them. It is as though the commentariat feels as though the old faiths do not provide people with authentic spiritual/religious experiences. Though that faith didn’t provide for me, I know too many people that it provided genuine spiritual comfort and experience. To diminish or dismiss this just makes a person “one of those people”.

    While I agree with Spengler that the second religiosity is essentially a desire to return to the beliefs of a period that worked better than the one we are undertaking now, I think that perhaps some of the commentariat might want to consider that trying on something that worked before is one of our gracious host’s most compelling arguments.

    In my mind, and maybe this isn’t at all what our host was trying to convey, but the heresy of technological choice has many similarities to the heresy of religio/spiritual regression.

  40. Gainesville, FL, has at least one of every church that ever existed, it seems, and the old-fashioned religion is very much with us down here. Black churches are going strong, and the obituaries show a stunning variety of those, with the deceased coming from all walks of life.

  41. For your consideration:
    Soul-Image And Life-Feeling (II)
    We are now at last in a position to approach the phenomenon of Morale, the intellectual interpretation of Life by itself, to ascend the height from which it is possible to survey the widest and gravest of all the fields of human thought. At the same time, we shall need for this survey an objectivity such as no one has as yet set himself seriously to gain. Whatever we may take Morale to be, it is no part of Morale to provide its own analysis; and we shall get to grips with the problem, not by considering what should be our acts and aims and standards, but only by diagnosing the Western feeling in the very form of the enunciation.
    In this matter of morale, Western mankind, without exception, is under the influence of an immense optical illusion. Everyone demands something of the rest. We say “thou shalt” in the conviction that so-and-so in fact will, can and must be changed or fashioned or arranged conformably to the order, and our belief both in the efficacy of, and in our title to give, such orders is unshakable. That, and nothing short of it, is, for us, morale. In the ethics of the West everything is direction, claim to power, will to affect the distant. Here Luther is completely at one with Nietzsche, Popes with Darwinians, Socialists with Jesuits; for one and all, the beginning of morale is a claim to general and permanent validity. It is a necessity of the Faustian soul that this should be so. He who thinks or teaches “otherwise” is sinful, a backslider, a foe, and he is fought down without mercy. You “shall,” the State “shall,” society “shall” — this form of morale is to us self-evident; it represents the only real meaning that we can attach to the word. But it was not so either in the Classical, or in India, or in China. Buddha, for instance, gives a pattern to take or to leave, and Epicurus offers counsel. Both undeniably are forms of high morale, and neither contains the will-element.
    What we have entirely failed to observe is the peculiarity of moral dynamic. If we allow that Socialism (in the ethical, not the economic, sense) is that world-feeling which seeks to carry out its own views on behalf of all, then we are all without exception, willingly or no, wittingly or no, Socialists. Even Nietzsche, that most passionate opponent of “herd morale,” was perfectly incapable of limiting his zeal to himself in the Classical way. He thought only of “mankind” and he attacked everyone who differed from himself. Epicurus, on the contrary, was heartily indifferent to others’ opinions and acts and never wasted one thought on the “transformation” of mankind. He and his friends were content that they were as they were and not otherwise. The Classical ideal was indifference (ἀπάθεια) to the course of the world — the very thing which it is the whole business of Faustian mankind to master — and an important element both of Stoic and of Epicurean philosophy was the recognition of a category of things neither preferred nor rejected592 (ἀδιάφορα). In Hellas there was a pantheon of morales as there was of deities, as the peaceful coexistence of Epicureans, Cynics and Stoics shows, but the Nietzschean Zarathustra — though professedly standing beyond good and evil — breathes from end to end the pain of seeing men to be other than as he would have them be, and the deep and utterly un-Classical desire to devote a life to their reformation — his own sense of the word, naturally, being the only one. It is just this, the general transvaluation, that makes ethical monotheism and — using the word in a novel and deep sense — socialism. All world-improvers are Socialists. And consequently there are no Classical world-improvers

  42. JMG,
    What do you make of the recent hullabaloo over young gen Z ( boomers etc) tik tockers and such expressing the desire to convert to Islam due to recent events in the Middle East?
    To me this reinforces your thesis that people seek a new spirituality in a religion that is the opposite of the failing society around them. The though of young “woke” women wanting to convert to Islam horrifies both the Woked up elite and the Conservative elite. They can’t comprehend why someone would want to scrap their hard-won liberation or right to choose their gender and join a religion that forbids such things.
    But they don’t seem to see that this is a reaction to a transactional, commodity based society that is failing to deliver on its promise of a utopian future. They feel they live in a world without solid moral or spiritual values and any kind of purpose beyond getting the latest I-phone.
    Like them or not, Hamas has turned out to be ( in my mind) the greatest salesman for Islam in modern times. They have almost single handedly flipped upside down the image of islam as the religion of terrorists, oil shieks and keepers of harems. Either they are the worlds greatest propagandists or they have shown the world an image of courage, loyalty, and perseverance that is completely lacking in the corrupt, self-dealing world of western industrial civilization. The Hostage exchange was a tour-d-force for them as they popped up from the rubble of a month of bombing, unbowed, and sent forth hostages that seemed genuinely grateful for their kind treatment. While the Israeli’s offered up a group of bedraggled inmates that looked as though they had just been released from the Tower of London in 1525.
    I think that whatever religion ( or religion) comes to replace the religion of progress, it will have a strong dash of Bushido ( or Stoicism ) in it as a reaction to the weak gruel of values, and lack of discipline and meaning in Western Society.

  43. Other Owen, nah, they’re not disciplined enough to be fundamentalists. They’re the woke equivalent of snake handling Holy Rollers.

    Wilnav, I knew a lot of people who participated in the environmental movement. Most of them cashed in their ideals right alongside the Mod Squadders as soon as the grant money got cut off by Reagan in 1981. If the same thing happened to global warming activism now, how many people who now talk soulfully about the tragedy of global warming do you think would stick to their ideals?

    Tidlösa, that’s fascinating. It doesn’t surprise me for a moment that so many atheists are cornucopians, though, for the reason I mentioned in the post — nearly every atheist I’ve ever met was a true believer in the religion of progress, and they’re still holding tight to their hope for the glorious future of reason and technology triumphant that their faith promises them.

    Samuel, that’s not the usual way a Second Religiosity evolves, but we’ll see. Sorry to hear about your father.

    Cold Soup, you can go back to the Second Religiosity, forward to the first stirrings of the age of faith to come, or sideways into any number of alternative options. (That latter is my approach — occultism is always at a right angle to the standard religion or irreligion of the age.) It’s quite possible to be as creative and alive as you wish, by the way, so long as you’re willing to step aside from the collective consciousness and enchant your own life — but it does take work.

    Tidlösa, yes, I saw that. I suspect that a lot of women are getting ready to convert to Christianity and start opposing abortion, and this is one of the preparatory steps.

    Augusto, okay, let’s give it a try:

    (ed.: Okay, I guess that hosting company won’t come through on this site! People can certainly click through to it, though.)

    Robert, if that’s the path that calls to you, I’d encourage you to follow it with all your heart. It’s clear from the history of religions that it’s quite possible for a given faith to pass from one great culture to another, undergoing whatever formal reworking is necessary to fit; the rise of Faustian Christianity pairs nicely with the rise of Chinese Buddhism, and I suspect that African offshoots of Christianity and Islam will go their own way over time, too. I haven’t been a close enough watcher of current Christianity to have any sense of whether something less anthropomorphic might be in process, but I certainly hope so…

    Misty, I’d say rather that she’s at the cutting edge of the revival of the old Mexican religious consciousness, which will reclaim much of western North America as it finishes shaking off the Spanish pseudomorphosis.

    Chris, I shall also enjoy your attempts at humor. 😉

    William, I wonder if Katz has ever heard the phrase “guilt by association,” or for that matter the phrase “logical fallacy”…

    For what it’s worth, Spengler despised the Nazis. He met Hitler once and afterwards said, “What Germany needs is a hero (ein Held), not a heroic tenor (ein Heldentenor)…”

    Raymond, I think you’re quite correct — and by all means keep that church going, if that’s the work that calls to you.

    Degringolade, fair enough!

    Patricia M, thank you for the data point.

    Clay, Islam is likely to get quite a few people from the far left, for the reasons you’ve sketched out, and also because it’s shocking and antinomian in terms of today’s officially approved value. It’s not accidental that Wicca flourished when it was genuinely shocking, and went into its present decline once the rest of society embraced much the same values Wicca pioneered.

  44. It’s funny this atheist/radical to born again conversion has happened so many times and is so common, and I think it’s what a lot of atheists don’t realise is that it’s not that converted Christian’s are atheists at heart; it’s that they were all Faustian Christians at heart. That’s why it’s so easy to go back to Faustian Christianity, they never left it, rather just intellectualised it and got rid of the bits they found a bit woo. Any historical analysis shows it’s the same current.

    When people like Dawkins say ‘I’m culturally Christian’ they are giving the game away because that is precisely the point. Evolution which he so espouses only comes about through Faustian religious conceptions of time and development. It’s so bleeding obvious that it just shows the level of European Intellectual’s saturation within their own culture.

  45. >What do you make of the recent hullabaloo over young gen Z ( boomers etc) tik tockers and such expressing the desire to convert to Islam

    Tik Tokers. There’s your clue right there.

    They’re doing what they have to, to get your to click on their video and watch it and comment on it. I think the kids call that engagement? I dunno. So they get better ratings. So they can make some money off of what they said.

    In the movie Margin Call, near the end he outlined an old Wall Street saying, I don’t know if it’s actually real or not but it went “Be first, be smarter or cheat”, in terms of how you succeed. I’d say amongst the video-performer crowd, there’s something very analogous, “Demonstrate talent, say something shocking or do porn”. And of the three of those it’s easiest to say something shocking, I’d claim. Maybe some people would argue it’s doing porn. I dunno.

    In any case, because all they really care about is shocking people so they can get attention so they can make a little money, it’ll all fizzle out. Especially when they at some point have to start reading the book of rules they must now follow. And it is a big book. Maybe as big as Das Kapital even. I’m anxious to see how it all plays out.

  46. On the Islam thing with young people. Islam as understood by young non-Muslims in Western countries offers quite a lot: By becoming a Muslim, you get to be a conformist rebel who is simultaneously oppressed and yet in possession of ultimate revealed truth and simultaneously part of an oppressed minority and ascendant majority. And the whole bit about how one doesn’t convert to Islam, you revert kind of mirrors the faith in Science – after all, one doesn’t convert to faith in Science, one becomes educated and adopts it as a matter of course. Additionally, given that Western science and mathematics were born in Islamic societies (or transmitted from India via the latter, but the new Muslims will deny that), the jump from the progress religion to Islam makes sense.

    I mean no offence to Muslims, whether born or recent converts, but have no time for people who pretend that their religion is The Great Revealed Truth rather than their Revealed Truth.

    That being said, those videos of Hamas fighters placing explosives directly on Israeli tanks were quite something. Certainly a lot more interesting than going to college to try and get a job that doesn’t exist so you can pay for a lifestyle that isn’t really possible anymore.

  47. I’d note that Christianity and Islam both have a history of being incorporated into polytheistic practices. Vodou and Lukumi are a synthesis of folk Catholicism and African traditional religions. The Santa Muerte cult and similar practices throughout Central and South America have baptized various indigenous spirits and deities into Catholic-inspired practices. Throw Evangelical missionaries into the heart of Africa and you wind up with African Pentecostalism. And in Islamic Africa you find possession traditions like Zar and Gnawa.

    These practices are admittedly frowned upon by the orthodoxy. But when the Archbishop of Mexico City tried to crack down on Santa Muerte practices, he was told by many parish priests that they would lose 30%+ of their worshippers if they went too hard on it. (What the journalist missed, if my experience with Haitians in Brooklyn is any indication, is that the 30% of Santa Muerte worshippers in that Church may be among the most dedicated and involved members. It’s much easier for a believer in Santa Muerte to accept Cristo and Nuestro Señora than it is for a secular skeptic to accept Santa Muerte).

    My guess would be that the religions of post-technological America will incorporate a great deal of Christian ideology, philosophy, and aesthetics. I’m not sure that a 21st Century Christian would recognize 27th Century worshippers as Christians, but I’m also not sure that a 10th Century Christian would recognize 16th Century Christianity. We’re also going to see a fair bit of Islam throw into the mix, but that’s hardly anything new: we’ve spent more time trading goods and ideas with each other than we ever spent at war.

    William Hunter Duncan #40: I’m preparing a response to Katz and the Hall Monitors on my Substack. The big thing that jumps out at me regarding all this “Nazi-hunting” is that it’s a huge waste of time. The Nazi LARPers have as much chance of gaining any kind of real political power as a Civil War re-enactment group has of retaking Dixie.

    While these Nazifinders General are chasing shadows, they’re ignoring a genuine trend toward authoritarianism and violent anti-Semitism from their erstwhile allies. It never occurred to them that their comrades in anti-oppression might take the side of the poor brown natives against the rich white colonists. Or that the people who cheered while “racist” cities burned might cheer when “Zionist” synagogues and community centers start burning.

  48. Mr. Greer,

    Also, speaking of mimesis and the religion of progress I have also noticed a couple of interesting developments over the last decade being a guy in his mid 30s on the right politically. East Asian culture, and Japanese culture in particular, is increasingly becoming more influential among young men.

    The American comic book industry is on its last legs and Japanese comic books, manga, have replaced them; something obvious on any trip to Barnes and Noble or Books-A-Million. Japanese, and increasingly Chinese, animation has also displaced a lot of Western animated movies and series and that trend is also starting with live action movies and TV shows. Japanese and Chinese video games have also been generally outselling American and European games. There also seems to be an increasing admiration by some pretty big names on the right of the way Asian countries like Japan and Singapore are run along with an expressed desire to restructure American laws and politics along the lines of those two nations. Japanese Shinto folklore is also starting to show up on the right; a lot of younger guys on the right are increasingly talking about things like kami and yokai.

    Considering how you were talking earlier about mass migration from Asian countries to North America, a process that already seems to be starting if the videos of large numbers of Chinese nationals crossing the southern border are any indicator, what effects do you think the influx of East Asian immigrants and the increasingly influence Japan and China will play in the West’s Second Religiosity?

  49. On one hand, the tide still seems to be flowing out as the number of areligious aspiritual “Nones” is growing by leaps and bounds and most Christian denominations are losing members in every poll done on the subject. However, every low tide is followed by a high tide. Christianity, whether by design or simple synchronicity, has always offered pacifying comfort to the poor and dispossessed (while simultaneously giving the wealthy and privileged a pass) and that will likely give a great number of people a refuge as they tumble off of the unraveling edges of Late Stage Capitalism.

    A sort of desultory, proforma, civilized tea-time Episcopalianism would not necessarily be a bad thing, if it were not for the fact that the bulk of rational Christians forms the “blade” for the razor sharp edge of Evangelical hate, judgement, and oppression. The unipolar(?) nature of Christian belief makes it extremely difficult for anyone to stand up and say, “Being a Christian is a good thing and the Will of God is absolute, but you are being far too Christian and taking the Bible far too seriously.” Casual believers will stand idly by while a 21st century Savonarola lights a new Bonfire of the Vanities and not object until it is far too late.

    Few other religions in human history have been as absolutely dictatorial as the Abrahamic ones, and I suspect few Second Religiosities have been as as much in opposition with their existing culture as Protestant Christianity is with Enlightenment Western Civilization. I suppose that this will be yet another aspect of the rough ride down that we are on.

    Sometime in the future, I would really like to hear your thoughts on how Christianity has been so successful despite the huge gaps in the basic logic of it’s foundational narrative and the rather Olympic leaps of cognitive dissonance necessary to maintain even a superficial level of belief. When I left the Christian Church 40 years ago, I said, “I’m not turning my back on Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount or the Golden Rule. I’m turning my back on a Church that can’t explain itself to me,” but it seems most Christians are comfortable with the idea that god loved the world so much that he cursed humankind with original sin and created Hell in which to torture them for all of eternity.

  50. For those with the two visions ‘an dà shealladh’ it’s the other way around. There is no religious faith for them, as it’s self-evident. So they can never be a part of this age..

  51. Ten plus years ago, when i went looking for an explanation about what I saw happening in the Left, the people I found talking about what when now call wokeness were all atheists, the evangelical variety though no doubt they would’ve hated that comparison. At the time, they seemed to maintain their anti faith and discussed it alongside the politics. Now I’ve long since moved on from that crowd, but Youtube keeps them on the fringe of my radar, and I have noticed quite the change in how they speak about Christianity (and only Christianity). Where once it was a cancer on the face of humanity and responsible for all the world’s ills, now they feel much more warmly toward it – if only as a social tool, a vital component without which the Enlightenment never would’ve happened and so it can not be discarded. If I hadn’t found your writings, this would’ve confused me more than it did.

    It’ll be interesting to see if the prediction about the NeoPagans pans out the same. The few places I can peek in on it without having to join one of the big social media sites, I’m always surprised by how far demon worship seems to have spread, and the lectures you find now are why Satanism is perfectly compatible and you can’t discriminate. It all seems like such a disorganized mess, but then again maybe it always was and I didn’t see it as clearly before. I washed my hands of that movement long ago because of the encroaching politics and the endless interpersonal drama, I had every intention of continuing practice on my own but instead a massive spiritual crisis that was brewing under the surface for several years broke onto center stage with nothing else distracting from it. The foundation my time with NeoPagans built was so brittle and static that it just collapsed when I needed it. Your writings helped make some sense of things going through what happened, I think many of the people I met there were play acting and assumed everyone else was too, so there was no structure, no instruction, no discernment and no need for any of it. I’d had a powerful spiritual experience that I probably really needed put into a proper context so it could be built up, but I found very little real advice and what I did find set me up for failure. It’s easy for me to understand why people would leave.

    All that said, I’m not converting to Christianity. If any part of Christianity appealed to me in the slightest I would’ve chosen it to begin with (it certainly would’ve made things easier), but it doesn’t and older polytheist mythologies, worldviews and spiritual goals do. Yet the gods I interact with underwent a very unexpected change, I find myself here reading about old fashioned occultism, and am seriously considering membership in AODA and the GCC (the NeoPagan org I spend time in way back in the day was ADF, does this make me a heretic then :)), so maybe that’s my own version of settling down with something that has a stronger foundation under it.

  52. Perhaps Ayaan Hirsi Ali had a spiritual experience, meeting a living god (for me the Living God), but she saying simply, as I would , that I am a Christian because I encountered the Living God she felt was something she couldn’t lead with to her audience and went with social reasonings instead.. Most likely a mixture of both were the cause of her conversion as having mixed motives is endemic to the human condition.

  53. @Other Owen
    I don’t think I’ve had that sort of salad. I think it’s probably before my time or was less of a thing in Canada, perhaps? It sounds fairly bad.

  54. Yep, another month, another instance of Spengler being prescient.

    To team10tim at #14- Thank you very much for the link. I always love me some good commentary.
    Anyone interested in memes, you might enjoy the Political Compass of Oswald Spengler:

    As to the main post: thank you for noticing the sheer lack of spirituality in Ali’s decision-making. The few “official” reactions I read didn’t seem find that important, but when I searched for discussion in subreddits– and I could find it discussed in atheist, ex-Muslim, and Christian forums– it was constantly discussed. For the average person the only valid reason for joining a religion is because you honestly believe in it.

    It reminded me of a quote from Spengler, or at least from my abridged copy: Materialism is shallow and honest, mock-religion shallow and dishonest.

    I believe you once put up a despair-porn quotation from Bertrand Russell to the effect that everything we are is the undirected accidental result of interacting atoms, ending in infinite oblivion, and no belief-system that denies it can hope to stand. I can’t help but think that as being the more manly way (for lack of a better word as I type) to face these problems.

    Even with my head knowledge of the Second Religiousness, and my more general declinist belief that the masses are almost fated to follow this path, I still can’t help but think of less of Ali, and I was never exactly a fan of the New Atheists.

  55. JMG and Commentariat,

    Moving toward Satanism from a neopagan belief system, for the purpose of bridging oneself back into the Christian paradigm, is strangely a concise concrete explanation of a most abstracted phenomenon of human behavior. At least abstract in the sense of our subconscious going through a ‘permitting ritual’ of sorts so we can join back into a belief system we formerly abandoned/ denounced without feeling the hypocrisy so acutely. I guess if we are talking belief systems -that is another feather in the Hat of Revival Druidry so to speak in that the permitting process is built in. You don’t need to abandon one set of beliefs for another, but can integrate the Abrahamic, or any other systems, back in your life if you so desire without breaking any ‘rules’ or ruining your reputation with the true believers. But no, no I am not meaning to convert anyone lol.

    The whole changing paradigms thing is becoming fashionable again and I feel this is another massive failure of education; we are not given the opportunity to discover that we can setup ourselves up inside of belief systems in different ways, at different periods of time, for different reasons etc. This essay and related teachings is really a must for anyone calling themselves progressive, sociologist, psychologist, humanist, etc.

    Maybe toxic cults would be a little further down on attendance if this was a standard teaching. Embrace transition and the richness of all traditions, explore them as you will with serious effort, Lets make philosophy a mandatory subject with this piece as end term study in high school or whatever. Just don’t make a flag of fifty symbols and argue about who owns the flag. But then this is Utopian I guess.

    I work with young people and I can see how attractive it might be to try on Islam right now, especially for young north American men. I don’t know how far a society has to go into absurdity until young men start to realize they just have to take up a belief system with 1.8 billion followers and they get to re-establish themselves. New opportunities would arise immediately in your local community including joining an actual community with chance at marrying a woman that identifies as such. I can feel the respect of others setting in right now, the self worth setting in, the meaning and purpose of something greater then videogames and tik tok burning in my veins.

    Well that was a nice fantasy. Time to get back to work 😉

  56. How do you think it will shake out, the rising Christianity of the second religiosity, vs the bluehairs embracing Islam? It seems like Islam could do some of these people the same sort of good the Jesus Movement did burnt out hippies back in the day, so I do expect those conversions to pick up steam. They don’t fit the Spenglarian pattern, being representative of a Magian faith. (Can you have psudomorphisis, in winter?) Do they stick with Islam and stay a small minority that doesn’t upset the Faustian applecart, or do their conversions last as long as the daddy-issues-neopagan types– that is, might they fade away from Islam when nobody is reacting anymore?

    Also, do you care to make any predictions what sort of Christianity will prevail? Online spaces are pretty heavily populated by Tradcaths and Orthobros, and that reversion-to-traditional-forms seems like it would work very well in the Second Religiosity, but Eastern Orthodoxy isn’t really Faustian and Catholicism just seems too toxic as a brand to become the Universal Church of our coming winter, so I just don’t see it. I am wondering if Christianity’s well-known propensity for splintering going to keep us from having an officially-unified Universal Church. I could see future scholars begrudgingly admitting that a bunch of different Christian denominations that all disagree on doctrine but worship the same god and begrudgingly admit “Yeah, I guess those guys don’t automatically go to hell… maybe…” ought to count.

  57. One of the advantages Islam has is its established system of laws. I read that people in Malaysia have a choice between western English based law or Islamic law, more often than not, choose Islam, especially for family matters, because nobody can afford western lawyers. I’m sure I’m not the only one in your commentariat that has gone through the wringer of the western legal system, with its endless, hearings, pleadings, motions, appeals, briefs, discovery, that mainly serves to enrich lawyers.

  58. You wonder why Christianity took root in the Roman Empire. Maybe it was the story of Jesus’ origins and life that people identified with, that is, his illegitimate birth to an impoverished girl in a dusty corner of the empire (who narrowly escaped death by stoning through the compassion of an old carpenter), who as an adult took on the hypocrisies and deficiencies of an existing religious order and who got lynched as a result and died worse than a dog.

    Maybe the miracles of virgin birth and loaves and fishes and resurrection and all that had some pull on people. But maybe they listened to the stories and looked at their own miseries and thought that this god wasn’t born into wealth but rather was born, lived and died just like them.

    I saw a painting a long time ago. It was a depiction of an industrial hellscape with a row of ramshackle houses. And through one of the windows you could see a sitting woman holding a baby and three men reverently paying respect.

    They say that the Jesus story has more than a passing resemblance to prior accounts of deities’ birth, death and resurrection. Maybe a future efflorescence of religion borrows from the Jesus story but instead of a manger in the middle east it will be a trailer park in a destitute Nowheresville USA.

  59. hank you John,

    I know a bit about Regan. For example I was hoping Occupy the Farm would actually have legs. The Farm in question was the Gill Tract. One of the conditions the Gill Family had on the Tract (UC Berkeley was a land grant college) was to keep the tract for agriculture science studies. There is a bit of history there.

    However Gill Tract only had a few acres left. Why? Governor Regan authorize UC Berkeley to sell off the Gill Tract as it saw fit. When I saw that fact I realize that occupying the farm was just noise. A Sprouts store and parking lot occupies a chunk of the few acres left. Sprouts is up town. A lot of the local residents of Albany may find the store a bit pricey.

    I don’t blame Regan. My parents were strange, they gave us a one sentence economics lesson. If you can’t pay cash for whatever, you don’t need it. 4 Children lived by those words and we remain economically independent. Wealthy only in the sense of being extremely frugal.

    It wasn’t Regan, it was creating the EPA. Just like the USDA Organic. It worked well in the beginning. Not now. Large corporations bought out (you could say greedy owners and small organic farms and dairies) the companies and farms and now control the group within USDA Organic that sets policy and defines what is organic. Needless to say the original standards are being watered down. Solution, grow your own or know a farmer or small dairy you can trust.

    People have to live Ecosophia. That is being made harder every day. Climate change you say???

  60. This writing reminds me of a clip I saw many years ago on the Late Show with Colbert (no idea why or how I saw it)– his guest at the time was the comedian Ricky Gervais. Both are different aspects of what you described. Colbert, a Catholic, seems to really believe in the myth of progress (vote Democrat!). Gervais is an atheist, but a “non-woke” one, who while being a rationalist, pokes fun at certain ideas of progress.

    An way, they debated the existence of God. One of the points I remember that Ricky made, was that everything discovered by science is true. Even if we lost all knowledge, it would be rediscovered again, because, well science is an observation of something factual from his point of view. Things like gravity are true in ways that religion aren’t. If we lost all knowledge of the bible, it wouldn’t be recreated. I’m curious how you would have responded to that point.

    Thank you! Always enjoy the writing!

  61. Here’s what my friend Jean L. said when I forwarded the link to our ex-Muslim-ex-Atheist’s post:
    “Yes, while bringing up every vile caricature of Islam possible. Granted, she was exposed to the worst of it.
    “She smacks of the kind of Christian who is in it for the hate of Islam and anyone who isn’t her particular brand than of the words of Jesus. We don’t need a theocracy and her hatred of atheists shows through as well. She sounds like Tom Kratman, and trust me, that’s not a good thing.
    Backing away slowly from her….She’s really apocalyptic in her way. ”

    About the Mexicanisation of the West: The people of the mountains of Northern New Mexico brought with them the Catholicism of the 16th Century, plus practices like the Penitentes, and a sacred, healing clay in the church in Chimayo, to which people make pilgrimages at Easter and visits at other times. They also have a lot of close connections with the Pueblo tribes among them – independent villages with Spanish names who are now renaming their pueblo in their tribal languages. Their Spanish differs greatly from the modern Mexican Spanish spoken in Southern New Mexico, so much so that UNM teaches a course called “Spanish for heritage speakers.” Suggestions for reading: “Bless Me, Ultima,” and just about anything by Rudolfo Anaya.

  62. This second religiosity idea hits home with me. I was brought up Catholic, and considered myself devout. But in my college years in the late 70’s, I came to revile the Church’s stance condemning the Liberation Theology movement in Latin America and it’s emphasis on the “Preferential Option for the Poor”, or the notion that to agitate for political and economic reforms that address the interests of the poor (the bulk of the population) was somehow evil. Pope John Paul II, now sainted, shut the movement down. I loathed the man, and still do. So that, along with pulpit exhortations on the explicit “unquestioning obedience” of the Virgin Mary as an ideal of spiritual practice, and the never-ending scandal of priestly sexual abuse of children AND Church cover-up and support of pedophile priests, I figured Jesus had long vamoosed the Church. I joined Him.

    Personally, I could never sense any divine presence in Protestant forms of worship; it just feels like religiously-themed ideology. Sorry, can’t do it. Orthodox Christianity was not on my radar. So I became non-Christian at age 22.

    I was long attracted to Judaism, but only converted at age 42 right after marrying a Jewish woman. We have 2 daughters and brought them up Jewish.

    Fast forward 20-something years: My synagogue mandated the C-19 shots; you present your vax card or you can’t enter! Even Israel coercively mandated these d****d shots for its own public, obtaining ~90% compliance. When my 12 y.o. daughter wanted to attend Jewish summer camp, the C-19 shots were mandated. The non-Orthodox Jewish world turned its collective back on the post-Holocaust Jewish ethics of forbidding coercing others to submit to experimental medical procedures. Even of children. I walked away from Judaism.

    I’ve had experiences and attachment to at least one deity, Hermes of the ancient Greek pantheon, but there is no religious community, and solitary secret devotion is not sufficient.

    I believe there are deities who desire communal devotion, and that existing religious communities more or less reflect the will of the deities thy worship. The question was: which one is for me?

    I now sense divine presence in Orthodox Christianity, and members I’ve met generally share my ethics, including over experimental medical procedures. After several years of on-again-off-again attendance, I’ve engaged myself with the liturgy, prayers, some of the saints, and icon practice, and feel accepted by G-d and the congregation. I declared to the priest my desire to convert. This is an ongoing process. I don’t disclose to any church members that I study symbolic/mythical interpretations of the Gospels, or that I don’t attend much to interpreting the Gospel as a narrative of historical events. That would raise eyebrows…

    I don’t declare that I’m a Freemason, and will not admit it if asked. I’ve encountered some virulently anti-Masonic attitudes, but AFAIK the Antiochian Orthodox Church does not forbid Freemasonry, unlike the Greek or the Russian Orthodox (outside-of-Russia only) churches.

    My engagement with Orthodox Christianity is definitely a compromise, and is nothing like the “embrace [of] myths and legends with the wholehearted innocence of a culture’s springtime”, as you say JMG. And yes, my mind is a keen product of this age-of-reason that is now fading. My rational mind sharply limits what I can accept and how I will accept it. I can’t help it. I have a strong religious inclination and I can’t do religion alone. I don’t see a better option. I wish there was.

    —Lunar Apprentice

  63. In general, I find it almost baffling that so many YouTube atheists are still “cornucopians” or at least believe in political progress, including the future waning of religion. It´s like they haven´t noticed what transpired in the real world the past three years or so…

    Well, I found it telling that YouTuber TJ Kirk, AKA “The Amazing Atheist” and supposed hardcore libertarian-leftist (according to the Political Compass), went full-bore totalitarian Branch-Covidian back in 2021. I suspect this retreat into the “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength” mindset of the Twentieth Century’s most infamous secularists was a response to seeing Progress Everlasting dash itself on the shoals of his precious reality over the course of the new century.

  64. JMG,

    This might be an upcoming post, but if Christianity is filling the role of the returned religion of the second religiousity, do you have any speculations as to what faith will play the role of the new religion? in other words what faith will play the role that Christianity played during the collapse of Rome?
    I thought you had once metioned that according to astrology that a new religious leader (ala Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed) is due to be born sometime around now. If so, I guess that we are a couple of generations from the new faith.
    Am I bouncing around the right area?


  65. @JMG:
    coincidently in Austria today was a report about an interview with a dutch astrophysicist who said that godless physics is an absurdity of our time. It’s in German only and I could not track down the interview itself, but his CV:

    That is the guy who showed the first photo of a black hole….

  66. I started to notice, around 2015 plus or minus a few years, that several names I knew of online had made the unexpected leap to Christianity.

    This included at least two “Pickup Artists” who renounced their ways and became not only Christians, but hard-line Orthodox Christians. It’s like they exchanged one form of bombastic fanatical belief for another. Part of me said, “good for them”. The other part of me was confused. This was long before I knew much of anything about Spengler.

    Ever since the Trump Years, I’ve seen more and more of this sort of leap. It isn’t only Christianity. I’m seeing conversions to Islam, various pagan faiths (worship of Odin and other Norse gods seems a common form), and what I can only describe as a puritanical form of “traditionalism”, which is some ill-defined nostalgia for historical realities that likely never existed. The connection to Caesarism seems rather on the nose.

    All of these Second Religions check the boxes you mentioned above. They’re doctrinaire, inflexible, and often extreme in both their adherence to strict rules and rejection of anything that smells remotely modern.

    It helps to explain a lot.

  67. In Alcoholics Anonymous, it was a common “in joke” for speakers telling their story to refer to themselves as “recovering Catholics,” which implied that, their religion, like alcohol, had been traumatizing for them, and they were on the wagon, forsaking it a day at a time. It was also fashionable, not just in AA, to say that you were not “religious” but “spiritual’. Certainly a revolt against the bureaucracy of religion, but also forfeiting the rituals and traditions. I wonder how many of these folks have found their way back to the flock.

    I would classify myself as a lapsed Catholic–I never formally renounced my membership, but I’ve ignored and neglected it for most of my adult life. At one point not long ago I briefly pondered a return as a way to give my “spiritual quest” more structure and support. But instead I am now on the 3rd Lesson of the Universal Gnostic Church. Would the UGC be considered part of the Second Religiosity? It’s certainly not formal or autumnal, but it is tolerant. And I imagine many of those practicing it, like myself, may previously have belonged to a Christian denomination.

    As part of my UGC studies, I’ve also read Practical Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill, and I’m a third of the way through The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James. Although not on the reading list, still somewhat apropos is The Secret of the Five Rites–In Search of a Lost Western Tradition of Inner Alchemy, by JMG, which arrived several weeks earlier than anticipated. I’m on stage 1, and up to 9 repetitions of each rite. Not only is it a worthwhile regimen for body, mind, and spirit, it’s an interesting and entertaining read. I’ll try to comment more on the other site if an opportunity presents itself.

    I guess I was ready to take this more committed approach, because, even in a short amount of time, practicing the Rites and pursuing the orders in UGC has wrought changes in my life. Maybe not on the level of some of the conversion experiences documented in Varieties of Religious Experience, but of significance to my experience in the world. Thank you.

  68. > But it was not so either in the Classical, or in India, or in China. Buddha, for instance, gives a pattern to take or to leave,

    Not sure how to understand the above. I supply the following as a starting point for my understanding

    Pyrrho’s Encounter with Early Buddhism
    in Central Asia

    “Whoever wants to be happy must consider these three [questions]: first, how are pragmata ‘(ethical) matters, affairs, topics’ by nature? Secondly, what attitude should we adopt towards them? Thirdly, what will be the outcome for those who have this attitude?” 3 Then Timon quotes 4 Pyrrho’s own revelation of the three negative characteristics of all pragmata ‘matters, affairs, questions, topics’. The ethical meaning of the word pragmata is absolutely clear because other testimonies 5 show that it meant for Pyrrho exclusively ethical ‘matters, affairs, topics’. Accordingly, the word will be so translated below, or given in Greek as pragmata (singular pragma).

    Following these prefatory remarks, Timon says, “Pyrrho himself declares that”

    As for pragmata ‘matters, questions, topics’, they are all adiaphora ‘undifferentiated by a logical differentia’ and astathmēta ‘unstable, unbalanced, not measurable’ and anepikrita ‘unjudged, unfixed, undecidable’.

    Therefore, neither our sense-perceptions nor our ‘views, theories, beliefs’ (doxai) tell us the truth or lie [about pragmata]; so we certainly should not rely on them [to do it]. Rather, we should be adoxastous ‘without views’, aklineis ‘uninclined [toward this side or that]’, and akradantous ‘unwavering [in our refusal to choose]’, saying about every single one that it no more is than it is not or it both is and is not or it neither is nor is not.

    To paraphrase, Pyrrho says that ethical matters or questions are not
    logically differentiated, they are unstable (or ‘unassessed and unassessable by any measure’), and they are unjudged, not fixed (or, undecidable). Therefore, our inductive and deductive reasoning cannot tell us whether any ethical question is true or false, so we should not count on them to tell us. Instead, we should have no views on ethical matters, we should not incline toward any choice with respect to ethical questions, and we should not waver in our avoidance of attempts to decide such matters, reciting the tetralemma formula— “It no more is than it is not or it both is and is not or it neither is nor is not”— in response to every single one of such ethical questions.

    The Aristocles passage is crucially important, highly condensed, and
    not easy to understand, as attested to by the fact that its basic meaning has been disputed by scholars of Classical philosophy for the past century. It thus requires additional explanation.

    To begin with, as the subject of Pyrrho’s entire declaration, the
    meaning of pragmata is crucially important, so it needs a little further clarification.

    The Greek word pragma (singular) ~ pragmata (plural) is largely
    abstract. In other words, it means ‘something, things’, but in the ab-
    stract logical sense of ‘an object of our cogitation or disputation’, so translating pragmata as ‘things’— in the same general abstract logical sense— is not wrong, but things in English are by default largely physical or metaphysical objects. As a result, scholars have let themselves be misled by that default meaning into misinterpreting Pyrrho’s entire message. When helpful below, pragmata will be translated as “ethical things, matters (etc.)”.

    Moreover, it must be emphasized that Pyrrho sees pragmata as dis-
    puted matters. 12 If people agreed on pragmata or did not argue about
    them, they would not be characterizable as Pyrrho says. They would
    already be decided and no problem. Arguments about opposing or dis-
    puted “matters, topics” are ubiquitous in Greek philosophy, as for ex-
    ample in Plutarch, “They quarrel about whether the matter (pragma) is
    good or evil or white or not white.”

    Based evidently on the general scholarly unclarity about pragmata,
    some have argued that the Aristocles passage represents a “dogmatic”
    metaphysical position, on account of which they conclude that
    Pyrrho could not be the founder of Pyrrhonism. This idea has been much
    criticized, mainly because the ancient testimonies overwhelmingly
    say that the concern of Pyrrho is purely with ethics, and many modern
    scholars agree. The very first significant word in his declaration is adiaphora, a logical term, which is followed by inference after inference. Pyrrho’s way of skewering ethical issues is to use logic.

    Ending it here. The book is worth a read. You don’t have to agree with it. For me it loosened my sense of reality as did the Embodied Mind by Fransisco Varela, Evan Thompson and Eleanor Roach

  69. Thomas, “dominion” also encompasses responsible custodianship. Maybe the fundamentalists don’t realize that (yet?).

    Princess Cutekitten

  70. JMG, sorry for the stream of posts, but this one is about a different topic this time.
    What are your opinions on the “Dead Gods”? By that, I mean gods that aren’t worshipped anymore. Ra, Zeus, Odin etc? You previously said you were a polytheist and believed in the existence of multiple gods, so what about these ones? On that note, what about Christ, if he becomes forgotten?

  71. I read her essay, and it boggles my mind that anyone can convert to a religion without any concern to whether or not the precepts of that religion are (I hate to use an old fashioned term here) true.

    I know and respect some Christians of deep faith–but people who believe without actual belief? Blech.

  72. JMG, regarding Islam being shocking and antinomian to today’s western values:

    To parallel the case of Ayaan Ali, there is a fellow called Andrew Tate who converted to Islam.

    Tate was very active on social media before being cancelled, and made a fortune through a combination of digital pimping and a semi-MLM scheme. He was outspoken in his atheism for years before converting to Islam just last year.

    His reasons are that Islam “works” basically. It has a strong masculine element, it’s patriarchal, and he found that developed Muslim societies like the UAE were well run in comparison with the West, which he calls a “failed society”.

    What I find interesting is how in his case, just as for Ayaan Ali, he barely mentions any spiritual element to his conversion. The closest thing approaching spirituality in his conversion are statements about God blesses certain people and how “Satanists” in the global media want to take him down, put in secret messages in their ads and so on.

    I would have called this kind of conversion self-interested and cynical, but given what you wrote about the flight to certainty, maybe calling it cynical is a bit uncharitable — these people have their reasons for converting, even if spirituality and spiritual experiences are not at the forefront.

    That said, I just personally find a lot of these right-ish figures’ proclamations of faith hollow and shrill.

    Spengler mentions the “fellahin’s” deep spirituality as a society settles down. I think I see that quality in different cultures today from deeply religious Muslims raised in Muslim societies, to Buddhist monks from Tibet. There is something to their faith that seems more “solid” than that of the online figures.

    Degringolade, I respect many traditional forms of spirituality and hope their adherents experience benefits from their practice. That said, as a religious minority, I still do feel a bit threatened if the newly converted classify other religions as “Satanist” and attack us. Perhaps this is what some of the other commenters feel as well.

  73. There are many things in which I do not believe, including fairies, unicorns, and deities. I don’t think this makes me superior, or even special; I simply have never found the hypothetical existence of a god as either necessary or sufficient to explain anything at all.
    It always annoys me to have someone accuse me of having a religion called “Atheism.” My atheism has no capital letter, because it isn’t a thing, but only the absence of a thing. I am not “An Atheist. I am simply atheist. One could also say that I am an A-unicornist, but why bother?
    If there are people who consider themselves New Atheists, accept that label, and the premise that it is a belief system, then they and I have little in common. I just wish they would call themselves something different.

  74. I feel like many of the societal trends you name here – especially the need for order in chaos – induced me to examine my own spirituality and led me to the church. For the first time in my life I truly considered spirituality and although I am not an especially spiritual person I came to the belief through it in the validity of Christianity. I attend a Church of England church in the vague hope of somehow keeping the beautiful Anglican traditions alive in a sea of wokeness (which has thoroughly penetrated the CofE), materialism utter godlessness and evil religious ideologies like Nazi paganism and Islamism.

    I find myself in the uncomfortable situation of trying to balance in my own mind an established Church whose traditional style of worship I adore with the fact that the establishment has totally undermined everything that the established Church once did and still should stand for.

  75. I’ll be 69 years old in 2069. By that year, it’ll be the hundredth anniversary of the moon landing, and I am willing to bet that by that point we will be no closer to travelling the stars than we were when the first ‘small step for man’ was taken. On that day I’ll remember you, John.

    A question. Do you think that new religious movements begin to take off during the decline of the industrial age, or will old faiths make a resurgence? Right now I’ve noticed that the crisis of faith in the west is leading some people to take refuge in Islam and more extreme versions of Christianity. Are we just going to see these old religions rehashed, or will new players enter the game?

  76. PumpkinScone, exactly. Faustian atheism is Faustian Christianity with the serial numbers filed off and Man the Conqueror of Nature put in place of the Christian God.

    Justin, as long as the young people in question don’t decide to start planting explosives of their own…

    Kenaz, it’s quite possible that some such syncretism will become very widespread in the centuries to come.

    Karl, no argument there — though I grew up with a Japanese stepmother so had some advance exposure to east Asian cultures! The thing to keep in mind is that every society goes through peaks and troughs in its creative life. The US had one of its great peaks of creativity in the late 19th and the first half of the 20th century, when (for example) Disney animated movies delighted audiences worldwide and people all over the planet listened to jazz. Now we’re in a trough, and east Asia is climbing toward a peak. It’s not the Second Religiosity that the Asian influence will shape, though — it’s the folk religions, folk arts, and emerging culture of America as European influence wanes. It would not especially surprise me if the core religious teachings of the future age of faith in North America were to come from some Japanese new religion, for example.

    Bruce, I’m no more impressed by the logic of eternal damnation than you are, but the Enlightenment was the natural product of the Protestant Reformation, not its antithesis; accept the idea that each believer can judge the meaning of scripture for himself or herself — the core issue of the Reformation — and the values of the Enlightenment are not so far off. More generally, I expect the Second Religiosity to take a form very different from the kind of thing you’re talking about.

    Tengu, they are never part of any age. Some people walk what Manly P. Hall called the Way of the Lonely Ones.

    Boogaloo, it was always a steaming mess. It’s just the rhetoric that’s changed.

    Moose, I hope so, but I can only judge by her published writing. Unfortunately, to borrow a line from TS Eliot, some people do the right thing (or what you would consider the right thing) for the wrong reason…

    Joshua, that’s the thing that’s made me stop and shake my head: most of the people I’ve heard of who’ve loudly proclaimed their conversion to Christianity rarely mention issues of, you know, the truth of Christian doctrine. That’s the thing that keeps me from Christianity, as noted above: I honestly can’t see any reason to believe the literal truth of Christianity’s central claims, and no amount of ancient roots and welcoming community can make up for believing something that isn’t true.

    Ian, utopian indeed! But I understand the attraction of the idea.

    Tyler, my guess is that bluehair Islam will be a passing phase, culturally and in many cases individually. As for Christianity, that’s still an open question. Any of the old mainstream Protestant sects could rise to the challenge if it ditched the obsession with liberal politics and went back to talking about such dowdy concerns as God and salvation; when I pass a Protestant church, though, it’s a safe bet that the reader board announcing next Sunday’s sermon will spew the usual mindless blather about treating people nicely or what have you. Another possibility is that the upcoming schism in the Catholic church may spawn something independent of Rome that can discard the problematic features of the brand and provide something that works.

    Dashui, that’s a very good point!

    Smith, the Jesus story copied details from nearly every one of the popular savior cults of the eastern Mediterranean in its day, so it was instantly understandable by the Roman underclass. That combined with the claim that it really happened to a child of poverty in a province that was basically the rural Arkansas of the Roman world gave it enormous appeal to the poor, as you’ve suggested. That is to say, your prediction could very well turn out to be correct. (I’m suddenly reminded of Edgar Pangborn’s SF future history, in his novel Davy and other stories, in which a lot of the Christian mythos was loaded onto a figure of the post-nuclear war era…)

    Wilnav, the institutionalization of environmentalism was part of its death. The abandonment of the movement’s ideals by most of those who claimed to care about it was the other part.

    Chris J, I’ve already addressed that point in this blog post:

    Patricia M, two useful data points — thank you.

    Lunar, I know quite a few people who have been launched on religious quests by the Covid hysteria. I hope yours brings you to a good place.

    Mister N, it’s a source of baffled fascination to me that so many people who claimed to be all about defending civil rights went full-on totalitarian under the influence of the Covid hysteria. You may well be right about the reason, but it was still astonishing to watch, and not in a good way.

    AV, we don’t know yet. We really don’t. There was a theory quite a while ago that the next World Teacher was due to be born early in 1962, but if so, he or she doesn’t seem to have made much of a splash. The same sort of logic would make 2020, the date of the most recent Grand Mutation —

    — the appropriate birthdate of a messiah. But we’ll have to wait and see!

    Pamouna, fascinating.

    Matt P, I’ve been watching the same thing, of course. Yes, this is very much what Spengler had in mind.

    Markorolo, the Second Religiosity isn’t the only option, it’s just the most popular one. Another is a movement toward a more experiential and personal spirituality — that’s what gave rise to the Gnostics in the latter part of the Classical era, and also the Hermetic and Neoplatonic schools of practical mystical philosophy. I see the UGC as one example of the same thing in our time. That’s certainly the direction that works for me; I’m glad to hear it’s also working for you.

    Augusto, nah, the links just crash my cheap outdated browser program!

    Jeffrey, I know people who worship all three of the gods you’ve just named. Just because they’re minority faiths doesn’t mean they’ve vanished entirely! (As for your other comments, please reread the text above the comment box, especially the bit that mentions “relevant to the current post.” I give a week to each topic and then it’s on to the next one.)

    Zachary, it doesn’t make sense to me, either, but some people have needs that differ from mine. Obviously.

    Alvin, I ain’t arguing. Not all such conversions are motivated by good reasons.

    Howard, you should talk to some Christians sometime; they’re just as annoyed by being lumped together with people who share one basic opinion with them, but differ in every other way. Many of them, as you do, wish that the others would choose a different label.

    Sam, that’s got to be a very difficult road to walk! I wish you the best of success, though — it’s a quest worth following.

    Enjoyer, I thought I made that clear in the post. I expect new religious movements to take the lead as things proceed, though they may borrow some details from the older faiths.

  77. JMG, I’m trying to place whether something is Spengler’s Second Religiosity, or maybe it’s what comes before Second Religiosity erupts. Where in this model do you place the sci-fi version of God & spirituality as super-science, we merely don’t happen to have those equations just yet? (But we will any day now, we’re told, along with our flying cars!)

    I think of Gene Roddenberry, fascinated by a UFO channeling group. A few years later in Star Trek, Gene loved the theme that our crew, bold examples of humanity’s best, discover God’s a big nuisance of an alien. Gene’s Gods were more psionic and magical than people, but only because of a random head start on evolution.

    Meanwhile the Egyptian-gods-as-aliens channelers were big in Esalen behind the scenes for a time. Alien enlightenment ideas were tucked into the Human Potential sandwich eaten up by hippies, techies, intellectuals, spies, musicians, free-thinkers from the Bay Area and beyond.
    Related ideas are in 2001 and Clarke’s Law, Stranger in a Strange Land, etc. They’re tied in with Silicon Valley techo-futurism of personal computing as gateway to liberating utopia. Desktop computer freed from the mainframe, the creative soul technologically freed from The Man, man! With a faith that drug driven shamanism is all True (even if Castenada was in the UCLA library at the time, not the sagebrush desert), and traditional religion is all False.

    As I grew up, these ideas swirled around Southern California universities. S.F. fandom. Engineers with military role playing games, whose kids were into D&D. Mimeographed technology-and-philosophy discussion groups by mail.
    Thanks to my older siblings, all of this was part of the local vibe I was marinated in, as I started high school.
    You’re a few years older than I am, but my impression is this was also part of the Seattle area scene when you were growing up there. Or maybe those suburbs were more square about this big tangle of far-out ideas.

    Is this all an early start of the Second Religiosity you describe?
    Or is it part of the turning away from traditional faith, that in turn is now rejected by Second Religiosity’s return to traditional, formal religion?

    @MattP, I know of Roosh V, now devout Eastern Orthodox apologist. Who’s the other ex Pick-Up Artist who now preaches a traditional Christian view?

    @Zachary Braverman, looks like her view is that religion’s a placebo. She says she wants to feel legacy, tradition, doctrine, solace. Any pill will do, as long as it guides what to think because God said so. And as long as it isn’t Islam. Like any sugar pill it’s better than no treatment at all. It’s just that the last sugar pill was too bitter for her.

  78. Re John: I read the entire post but I couldn’t tell whether you were saying that people would just return to old faiths or create new ones. I just reread the post. Like always, you took the middle road between the two extremes, where new faiths are created which have continuity with the old ones. Makes a lot of sense. I apologize for misunderstanding.

  79. As a revealed religion and as one which also is historical. I think comparatively speaking. Christianity is very grounded. And quite sophisticated Philosophically too.

    The history of Israel happened. All the Nations prophesied to be subjugated or destroyed were. As Tyre was when Alexander conquered the Island Kingdom.

    Real Nations that existed that were mocked as fanciful myth got proven via Archaeology.

    And the sequence of Kingdoms accurately predicted in the Book of Daniel occurred. With the Roman Empire being that Kingdom of Iron.

    Likewise Pilate and all that occurred in the New Testament is Real History.

    And then there is the notion of the Arche Logos. Or First Logic which is God. Jesus Christ the Son of God as John 1 identifies.

    Which is quite a profound Philosophical claim which is also Mythical. Likewise also the Book of Exodus 3 which has God naming himself “I AM” or the “Existing One” or “I am the one who is”
    in the Septuagint. Or simply “I AM EXISTENCE”

    This does make sense if said God who is called the “Most High” which elevates him above every God in existence identifies himself as “Being” itself. Refusing all names like Zeus or Jupiter or any of the lesser Angelic Powers.

    I think how Christians regard other religions is derived from that understanding.

  80. It happens often enough it does seem to be a general feature of human behavior, but why exactly is transforming into one’s future in-group’s most lurid fantasies of their out-group a part of the process of changing groups in so many cases? It’s bizarre to me that it happens; especially when there are other sane ways to get to the same outcome. To provide an example path I saw someone take: a friend of mine is now an Eastern Orthodox Christian, having made the transition from a Neopagan. She started out by accepting Jesus was a deity, alongside the ones she worships; then she decided to start showing him some respect, because she reasoned she didn’t need supernatural enemies; and from there, the next step was to start seeing the Bible as inspired by a god, and worth study. From there, she started dabbling in the occasional church event when invited; then she started attending more regularly; and then a few years ago decided Christianity made sense to her; once this leap was made, the question became which denomination to try to join; and for various reasons which have to do with finer points of Christian theology I won’t pretend to understand, she wound up deciding it was the Eastern Orthodox Church.

    This process seems much more sane to me than going through a demonolatry phase, because the lurid fantasies of some of the fundamentalists says that that is what Neopagans do. So, why exactly do so many people have to go through this insane process of redefining themselves in such ridiculous fashion?

  81. My own sympathies are with the forms of Christianities that emphasize the inner tangible presence of the Holy Spirit in the ordinary individual and in a gathered group of ordinary people.. An example would be early Quakerism which by present standards would come across as quite Evangelical and tinged with Pentecostal phenomena. Note George Fox’s “I found Jesus testimony” in his own words down a bit in this Wikipedia article, in the first section entitled “First Travels” He spent much of his time as an itinerant preacher/teacher performing many healing miracles along the way. Many modern Quakers would find him an alien person who abundantly quotes the Bible. Another example would the early Pentecostals of the beginning of the 20th century. I also met that Presence in the 1970’s in Charismatic prayer groups and since then in different gatherings and in my own person.
    I am a close reader of the New Testament and see a strong contrast between is recorded as the gentile Christian early church experience and what it developed into, essentially a recreation of temple based Judaism with a carefully transmitted through the years priestly elite hierarchy, a round of holy days, a repeated sacrificial system in how communion was handled, strong emphasis on written scriptures, systematic theologies, a learned caste, pilgrimages to holy sites, high priests in popes and patriarchs and bishops, rites and ceremonies, priestly vestments, a tithing system, large flows of money, an overlap with political power, physical punishment of heretics, great beautiful buildings with reserved holy places and what amounts to sacred theatrical performances. These tendencies in differing degrees persist in all the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant varieties.
    The expectation and experience found in the New Testament of the overt presence, and even miraculous presence of the Spirit as a gift in ordinary people as individuals and group settings became the reserve of a special few unlike the expectation also found in early Quakerism, and the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements of it being more widespread. Of course this is never a pure process as even seen in the New Testament, after all this happens in what called earthen vessels in the NT. A common theme of church history is attempts to manifest and return to this reality and it does happen, and I have seen it in action.
    I haven’t really grasped the Spenglerian system and vocabulary of Magian, Faustian, and Second Religiosity, so don’t know how or if what I just shared fits into it.

  82. In the online dissident right, there is a very modern argument espoused for Christianity. According to modern statistics, the religious tend to be less depressed, have bigger and more unified families, they’re less lonely, and naturally they find more meaning in life. Some stats show they’re better educated and more prosperous. Since Christianity is the religion of the west, it makes sense to be Christian! What’s to argue with?

    In reality, Christianity does not inherently offer happiness, prosperity, or a good family life. It doesn’t even necessarily offer meaning, purpose, or identity. These are accidental, or at best auxiliary, qualities. Christianity offers Christ and the Church. Ancients Christians being slaughtered by Romans, Manichaeans, Muslims, and Japanese Buddhists may have considered themselves prosperous in the afterlife, but surely not in this one. The idea that someone would be Christian because it made for a better, more content way of living might seem strange when you were being crucified; the idea it made for better families when your own loved ones were torturing you for abandoning their religion for the Church would be laughable. Christianity didn’t exist for this world, but to shatter this world for the next.

    It goes to show how broken we are as a culture in the West. Both rationalists and religionists are scratching their heads and trading notes. Christians are using metrics to weigh the pros/cons of their faith, something medieval peasants never saw a need to do (“Who cares about the benefits? The Church is the correct choice in all cases!”). Meanwhile, atheists are considering whether they should be religious just to keep their wits and sense of belonging, something 20th century professionals never saw a need to do (“Who cares about our traditions? We’ll be on Mars in a few decades in any case!”).

  83. JMG,
    To add on to my earlier questions, in a recent post, you mentioned that:” We’re going down now, and east and south Asia will go down a little later — say, a century or so further down the road.” referring to India and China, and that ” we get to take the hit now, and avoid the bigger impact later on.”, which i Kind of agree with, but in a more recent post you stated :”India is rising toward great power status and will become one of the richest nations of the world in another century or so — just as it was before the European conquest. ”
    So now I am confused. You mentioned that in a century, South Asia, which India is in, would “go down”, so to speak, but then you talk about its ascension to a great global power in exactly the same timeframe. Am I missing something?

    As an unrelated question, what are your thoughts on trans- continental trade in, say, the later parts of this century? Will there still be trade between Asia, Europe, and America for things such as spices, albeit much slower and more controlled, through the merchant ships of old?

    Lastly, do you think China, if it falls, will be able to rise again as an empire due to its abundant natural resources and land area?

  84. Morning John,
    That was an excellent post and somewhat timely, as it raises a relevant point I’ve been intending to post on your other blog. The other day on my you tube feed (I know you prefer not to watch videos), there was a video that popped up where someone was recounting their near-death experience. I clicked on the channel and found it had 140 videos, almost half a million subscribers, and some of the videos were getting over a million views. Although some of the videos feature people with a religious background many or perhaps most do not. Without exception the people featured find their experiences life changing, and I note the common features referred to in the afterlife experiences which are so compelling (vibrancy of experience, it’s a collective/everyone is ‘at one’, life review, reincarnation etc). The videos are posted without an obvious intention to get people to convert to religion, as far as I can tell. Seems to me, people are looking for spirit answers to make sense of the world around them crumbling, and you tube offers such a service, leaving it up to watchers to decide what flavour of beliefs they prefer. Some of these viewers may wish to rejoin conventional religious establishments, but many may prefer to take an ‘a la carte’ approach to their beliefs and I can envisage new religions emerging on the back of that over time.
    Kind regards Averagejoe

  85. To JNG and all who comment-
    the initial reports of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s conversion, as she stated in Unheard, sounded very instrumental, she was converting for ‘political reasons in the face of increasing Islamic penetration into western society and the takeover of all institutions in the west by the regressive left.
    in later interviews she fleshed out her conversion narrative- she had been in despair (as so many are as western culture slowly dies and becomes increasingly demonic) and drinking heavily and was seeing a therapist for this. the therapist noting her distain for religion asked her to what if there was a god, – a god she would actually want to worship, and the god she imagined – had the qualities of love, mercy, and forgiveness.
    her “as if” God corresponded exactly to the true god, the god-man lord Jesus Christ. she then read the scriptures, prayed and started her conversion process.
    no doubt there were other motives as well, but there are with all such things- but her conversion started the old-fashioned way, in personal crisis and suffering. the enlightenment narrative failed her- as it is proving false to so many of us who have eyes to see and she came to believe in the religion that most directly addresses the suffering of the human condition, the religion at which the center is a god who suffers and dies and is reborn.
    the next time I am at one of the OCA churches I attend I will light several candles and place them at the altar stand for all who read this- and pray that the hard times ahead will lead to your transformation and not to your destruction- may all be well.

  86. @JMG,

    Good post, so many things to say. Apologies for polluting your comments section with the following.
    Another Dutch conservative icon and Fox News guest, Eva Vlaardingerbroek, recently converted to Catholicism. As a Catholic, I am glad we are making new converts. On the other hand, her stated goal is to use religion in her fight against the WEF and multiculturalism. Frankly, I do not think that that is what Christianity was meant for.
    The recent spectacle of thousands of islamic protesters rejoicing on the streets of Europe at the mass-murder of Jews is, I believe, what caused the unexpected electoral victory of the islomophobic Geert Wilders in the Netherlands. Wilders’ should thank Greta Thunberg for openly supporting Palestinians. As the war drags on, more such victories will follow in other countries.
    I also expect that churches will be more crowded than usual this coming Christmas. So this factoid seems to agree with your interpretation.
    However, my timeline for Second Religiosity is slightly different from yours. I think that Second Religiosity is already on its way out, at least in Europe. It triumphed in the post-war years when Christanity was used as an antidote to Communism, and Christian-Democratic parties were ruling most Western European countries.
    That post-war religiosity was insincere is what caused it to evaporate as soon as the USSR went out of business. The fake posturing about “Judeo-Christian” roots that accompanied the War on Terror surely did not help.
    Today, only some 5% of Western Europeans can properly call themselves Christians. The average age of Christians is high. We are, for all practical purposes, already extinct.
    I am trying to teach some spirituality to my children, which is difficult since my parents were not in any way devout themselves. It does not have to be Christian spirituality necessarily: all kinds of spirituality are better than consumerism or scientism.
    They seem to like books about Druidism (of the New Order of Druids); one of my children also takes yoga classes at school. I make sure to leave my theology books laying around, not so much so that my children might read them, but so that they are aware that certain topics do exist and are worthy of one’s time and attention. I try to explain things in biblical metaphores.
    But again, I am not trying to prop up Christianity: it is way too late for that. Most churches around here are getting converted into apartment buildings, libraries, conference centers, etc… My town has three Christian churches of different denominations, and twelve mosques. You do the math.
    The “Julian the Apostate” moment in Western Europe was the Second Vatican Council in 1962. Now it is time to clean up and turn off the lights.
    However, there seem to be Jeovah’s Witnesses around every corner downtown, so who knows, maybe at least some Christian denominations are resisting.
    I read a biography of Saint Martin, who went through the classical Second Religiosity in the 4th century. I think his approach is what could allow Christianity to survive: a communal spirit of life in poverty, communion with Nature (he was something of a Druid himself), leading by example, no pressure on potential converts, but high expectations on those who do convert; strict separation of Church and State.
    After all, Christianity is simply going back to what it was at the beginning: isolated groups of marginalized misfits. Perhaps not such a bad thing after all.

  87. Timely. While some are turning back to some form of ill understood Christianity I believe others are creating new gods to fill the void that humans seem to need. This is the rush to AI; gods whom the creators can dump all responsiblity to.
    A small niggle as well. Mary was not a virgin. Jesus may be described as having been conceived without all the wet and slippery parts common to that act but Mary would have fulfilled her obligations to her husband.

  88. @JMG, AV

    As per your comment I took the date of December 21, 2020, 12:37 PM Chicago Time(the moment of most exact conjunction) as a birthdate, and did up the chart:

    And hopefully with no insult to the future grand leader of world religion, it seems fairly unremarkable. I’ve been doing birth charts for a while, and with the exception of the Grand Mutation itself there don’t seem to be any spectacular aspects to this chart. Granted, I just picked Chicago because I live here- they could have been born anywhere, so we don’t know of any aspects to Ascendant, etc.

    If anyone here happens to also practice Natal Astrology, I’d be happy to know if I missed anything.

    Anyway, this was a fun exercise. Hope the HTML worked!

  89. Hello JMG,

    Thank you for this great Essay.

    A practical question: Do you read Spengler in German or in English? I seriously wonder about some sentences and how one could translate them into English; it seems to me to be a colossal challenge.

    And another second question:

    You mentioned in the Archdruid Report that you are considering writing a response to Spengler and Toynbee. Have you realized this project, or are you still contemplating doing so?

  90. John,

    In the same way that you have commented that jazz was the first flowering of some as yet unknown form of unique American music that will come further down the road, I have been thinking that the 12 step movement, with its emphasis on a personal understanding of G_d (“God as we understood Him”) and a Higher Power, may be the first flowering of a future religious movement where the emphasis isn’t placed on sharing the same belief as much as experience.

    Similarly, there has been a small movement called “Ambient Church” where ambient musicians are invited to cathedrals and beautiful traditional church spaces to give concerts, where the contemplative aspect of the music is given explicit attention, along with incense and light. Even though these are held in Christian spaces (from what I gather) the organizers are just opening it up to spiritual seekers to have whatever kind of experience they will have, without belief.

    Druidry of course comes to mind with its removal of the emphasis on specific beliefs.

    Universalist Quakerism also comes to mind with the emphasis on silent worship.

    I couldn’t help but think of the Church of the Starry Wisdom also, as I walked my dog this early morning, in regards to all this.

    These are possibilities interesting to me, but there is a lot of other stuff going on out there in the world too.

    I’m curious as to how the flavor of the Age of Aquarius, with its backlit emphasis on Leo, will shape things here on our continent. Independence, Individuality, and Idea-listic Intellectuals on fire with creative Will all come to Mind.

  91. >I don’t think I’ve had that sort of salad. I think it’s probably before my time or was less of a thing in Canada, perhaps? It sounds fairly bad.

    Just type in “Jello fruit salad” into your favorite video site and watch. At one point in time, they were very popular. I wouldn’t exactly call them bad but more the culinary equivalent of tackiness and kitsch.

  92. What do you make of Ariel Toaff’s work that attempted to document that a subset of ashkenazi traditionally regarded Christian blood as having powerful magical properties and considered it a very valuable component of certain important rituals?
    He was professor of Jewish Renaissance and Medieval Studies at Bar-Ilan University, and published his research in in 2007.

  93. >I am willing to bet that by that point we will be no closer to travelling the stars than we were when the first ‘small step for man’ was taken

    Me too. At least 15. I encourage you to watch the entire video. Something tells me he isn’t going to be invited back again to give any more speeches.

  94. Hi JMC, long time reader first time poster.
    I struggle to see the Christianity in Ali’s statement, and fail to understand how she can be considered a Christian. Surely adoption of a faith requires belief in it’s tenets of which she makes no mention.
    I know the internet algorithms put us all in silos we need to work hard to break from, but I think your assessment of Atheists having faith in progress is wide of the mark. To my mind, atheism is a position on one question and they (Atheists ) are a mixed bunch with wildly different views on any other topic, although I agree with you (or one of the commentators) that the stance on the belief or not in the existence of a god is often one of reaction against upbringing or locally dominant culture, rather than one of reasoning.
    I myself fall in the rationalist/sceptic camp and see reason and scientific methods as the most reliable route to truth. I don’t limit my enquiry to those methods though.
    I love your blog, even if I find the astrology and magic completely bizarre, your take on history and the writers you introduce me to are really interesting and I thank you and your commentators for all your work here.

  95. @John Michael Greer

    “Christians of the sort I’m discussing can’t get their minds around the possibility that other people might actually disagree with the Christian worldview. That’s what drives the insistence that everyone in the world outside the Christian fold secretly prays to Satan”.

    Well, Christians, if they’re worth their salt, don’t consider their religion a mere “worldview”, but the one true religion. In fact not even a religion , even though non-reflectively they might use the term. Just the truth about the world.

    So, it’s not so much that they think that “everyone in the world outside the Christian fold secretly prays to Satan” but that there’s no multiple choices on the matter, it’s either God or Satan.

    So, even if you don’t workship Satan explicitly, by adhering to a false faith, you’re still doing Satan’s work (from that aspect, of course. You might be mighty fine perspn otherwise, pay your taxes, help elderly ladies, whatever, but believing in another religion doesn’t help save people in the way that actually matters, in their relationship to God).

  96. @ JMG – reading through this week’s essay, I couldn’t help but draw the comparison with Christian nationalism. I’m a bit late to recognizing that trend, but it appears to me that a strain of Christianity that is inextricably bound to the fate of the political entity of the United States, would be a prime example of Second Religiosity. Do you think this fits the bill of what Spengler was writing about?

  97. JMG,
    You responded to Cold Soup that people who feel unmoored can pursue three options of the Second Religiosity, the faith to come, or other alternatives such as occultism. I think the path I’m taking combines all three. I am re-engaging the Christian faith I was raised and active in (which includes being part of a faith community), while engaging in esoteric work, and adopting a open-minded versus defensive posture to what is emerging. For me, this translates into a Christian Hermetic approach informed by ecological wisdom. I think to a certain extent the Second Religiosity translates to maturity. People cannot stay stuck in childhood or adolescence. They need to test and refine what they know and pass it on. And there’s a difference between being “old” and being an elder.

  98. Patricia Matthews @ 64, I thought Ali was describing her own lived experience, not promoting “vile caricatures”. No, I am not a fan girl; I had just barely heard of Ali prior to reading JMG’s latest post. I was frankly expecting yet another shallow, self-congratulating screed like the offering from Wolf, and was pleasantly surprised. Mind, I saw no evidence that Ali is in any way a deep or original thinker or even better educated than the rest of her “global intellectual class”.

    Speaking of “vile caricatures”, would mentioning the fact that capital punishment is legal and frequently applied in at least some Islamic countries be a vile caricature? What about the fact of the peculiar institution of slavery being legal in at least some Islamic countries and practiced in others? Or are those matters that polite people just don’t mention? BTW, the word ‘vile’ seems to be the latest buzz adjective snarl word. Oh, and I understand that the ruling party of Afghanistan has recently barred women from attending university. Their country, their laws; I get that, but is the ban also not to be known about because someone might, horrors, gain a bad impression of Islam?

  99. Wow… I feel like I could ask a dozen questions about this post, but I will focus on one theme for now. You have said in your response to multiple questions above that you cannot accept the Christian faith both because its basic tenets do not make sense to you, and that most of the Christians you have interacted with don’t defend these kinds of claims. With that said I was wondering if you have read any of the Evangelical apologists. Evangelical Christians like to do exactly what their name suggests. Yes, this typically means preaching. However, they have also produced an interesting subset of apologetics designed to defend the tennets of the faith. The best all around author/book on the subject is probably William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith. I would look to Josh Mcdowell for historical arguments about the Bible itself (I read the New Evidence that demands a verdict years ago but he has more updated work now). You might also be interested in Norman Geisler’s The Big Book of Bible Difficulties, which is literally a commentary on every possible contradiction in the Bible by a man who believes all the contradictions have rational explanations. Or if you really want to ignore some shameless self promotion you could always ready my novel “Who is God?” ;).
    Either way, Evangelicalism strikes me as interesting because its hard to tell whether it counts as historic western culture and thus material for the second religiosity, or the fringes where the next version of religion could grow from. Its been making rationalist arguments for years that are flatly ignored by the mainstream with the same disdain that someone who argues for the paranormal is accustomed to, but most of its theology is historic Christianity minus strong institutional connections. Thus its sort of a brackish water in-between the 2nd version of the old faith and the prototype of the new one.

  100. Obviously only time will tell if Christianity regains its foothold among the masses, but from what I can see, it is disintegrating. Christianity did itself in, I think, when televangelism and megachurches became a thing. For example, in the 80s, Jim Bakker was caught with his pants down in an ocean of grift. The escapades of the leaders of the Hillsong Church, an Australian pyramid scheme disguised as a faith-based organization, are de facto Satanism through and through. Almost all of the Protestant churches here in Chicagoland have adopted the megachurch luxury worship-band schtick that imitates the 1980s televangelist model. Bakker/Hillsong style Christianity is extremely common. This is to say Christian churches are often centers of astral sepsis — they are worshipping fraud, not God.

    I think Ali and Peterson have run back to Christianity because it is the Wizard of Oz: it cries and puts up a good show about how powerful it is until you peek behind the curtain, and as recent ex-atheist/agnostics, they are still naive to the hollowness that plagues most Christians and modern Christianity.

    The coup de grace was when Christians everywhere insisted on masks and vaccines, with notable exceptions among Trad Catholics and Orthodox Christians. I have the misfortune of hanging out on TikTok because I have a (neglected) channel there. One of the biggest hashtags is the “ex-Evangelical”. There is an enormous rejection of Christianity and the Christian Bible among young people right now, and not all of the people rejecting it are turning to atheism.

  101. Dear Mr. Druid
    I listened to your latest discussion with Mr. James Kunstler and I always find the two of you are very interesting and entertaining.

    Concerning religiosity can we say the current religion of the collective west is progress and that woke is the most extreme sect in the religion of progress? This seems to explain why the PMC reacts so violently to someone saying they don’t believe in say climate change. This is like someone in the Middle ages saying they don’t believe in Christ. Burn the apostates at the stake!

    Great article and comments, I always learn lots but can I say I really get tired of this notion of bombing brown people nonsense. Lots of bombing of brown people is done by other brown people. In my opinion Gaza is a case in point. If the IDF and Hamas put on street clothes and they were in a mall in California they would be interchangeable. Cousins even. If by brown you mean third world or poor then say it, but please don’t make this into a race war.

  102. Combined with the backdrop of the war in Gaza this might be the most depressing piece you have written.

    If religion comes back in force is there any reason to expect the blood baths to not recur?

    Leviticus 20 has an extensive list of those who must (of course) be filled.

    Leviticus 25 states that Jews may enslave as many non-Jews as they wish.

    Numbers 25 states that anyone polluting the race with other blood must be killed and will be praised for it.

    Numbers 31 and 32 are an order for genocide, the only ones to be spared are the young women suitable for sex slaves, BUT they must be apportioned out fairly to the other tribes.

    And the recently invoked 1 Samuel 15 is another call for genocide, this time even including the livestock.

    Even if people agree on the God there are wars about which prophet to follow. If they agree on the prophet then they war over which grandson of the prophet (Sunni and Shia). If there are no offspring then there are plenty of other reasons for religious war. See the Thirty Years war, and the recently settled (barely) war in Northern Ireland.

    Nor is this limited to Europe and the Mideast. Despite being the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints the Mormons literally had to run for their lives after Joseph Smith was murdered. Nowhere in the New Testament did I find clear instructions attributed to Jesus to kill anyone in His name.

    Not that the lack of clear instructions from “the Lamb of Peace” stopped the Pope (who can not be wrong) from ordering the genocide of the Cathars (Albigensian Crusade), and launching multiple Crusades into the Baltics, (Wendish, Livonia, Prussian among others.)

    There there are plenty of other religion-based murders, Ann Askew, Bruno, The Salem “Witches”, the Inquisition in general.

    I am not at all optimistic about the return of religion being a good thing.

  103. Yes, I remember reading Mike Warnke “The Satan Seller” with fear and trembling as a teenager, only to discover later that the guy was just a comedian who made most of it up to gather attention to himself. I hope/feel that the experience gave me a good inoculation against people who invent sensational stories, preying on the deeply held beliefs (or prurient interests sometimes) of others. There was some time later a sort of child-sex-ring (witch trial) mania which smelled much the same to me.

  104. I forget who mentioned him, but I also am familiar with “Brother Jed” Smock by way of his campus-preacher associate Sister Pat in Madison, Wisconsin. If they’re still around, they must be well into their senior years, as they started doing their campus-quad-preaching schtick in the early nineteen-eighties.

  105. JMG,

    You can tell folks that “religion has an emergent quality to it” but… that means waiting for something to happen and folks deeply dislike the idea of waiting.

    I think the first problem new converts will have is that religion will “work” too slowly for their liking.

  106. Book alert: The Woman They Wanted: Shattering the Illusion of the Good Christian Wife by Shannon Harris

    ” As the soon-to-be wife of youth pastor Joshua Harris, Shannon Harris found that nothing in her secular upbringing had prepared her to enter the world of conservative Christianity. When Joshua wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye, it became a bestseller and helped inspire a national purity movement. Now Shannon’s identity became ‘pastor’s wife.’ Asked to live within a narrow definition of womanhood for almost two decades, she found her worldview was narrowed, her motivations questioned, her behavior examined, until she had been whittled down to an idealized version of femininity envisioned as an extension of her husband and the church. This decidedly patriarchal world, perpetuated even by the other women, began to feel like a slow death. When Sovereign Grace Ministries fell apart due to leadership conflicts, Shannon began to shake off the fog of depression and confusion, and she found her truest self.”

    I remember when the book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” was out, not because I read it, I was already shacked up out of wedlock at the time (and now happily married) -but it circulated quite a bit, as I noted when I used to work in the sorting room for the circulation department. That book moved through the system.

    These crash-and-burn type of evangelicals are one thing I don’t miss about my lapsed-World Wide Church of God-ism, and my lapsed half-Catholicism (I joke that I’m half-Catholic sometimes because a little more than half my family was Catholic and I got 6 years of Catholic school indoctrination -the latter probably saved me from dropping out of school though).

    The evangelicals get the same kind of energy worked up as a rock and roll star does, only unlike the rock star, they often denounce the body. That energy has to go somewhere, and snake handling isn’t even an option for some.

    The purity movements and denunciations are one of the reasons I can’t go back to the fold except appreciating some of the esoteric and mystical things I find in the Bible. Too much water under the failed prophecy bridge.

  107. JMG and forum,
    Along these lines I would like to share my Sanskrit to English ‘As It Rhymes’ translation of the Hindu epic Mahabharata as a substack. Here is a link to some pdf drops.
    JMG I shared a preliminary version of the Gita with you sometime back and I have been working away since with other parvas. Someone close to me and a native Hindu told me they had a religious experience reading my chapter 11 of the Gita and encouraged me to keep going. So thanks! I felt my activity and this subject speaks a lot to the point of this post and wanted to maybe represent what may be the stirrings of social phenomena I think you outline here. It’s interesting in a way to feel like I am watching the historical processes you describe play out in my life/activity. Foremost in mind to one of the themes in your post is my intent is to craft a contemporary, relatable translation for western (American) audiences. Yeah so to the 9th commandment – for Americans remember you have a Constitutional Amendment to protect religious practice to pair with the 9th commandment!


  108. Anonymous (#20), JMG,

    Didn’t someone post something on a Magic Monday about a working aimed to bring the image the Right had of the Left into alignment with the Left, and speculate that this could have been done by bringing the Left into alignment with the fantasies the Right had of the Left? If so, perhaps the working merely amplified the trend that was already going to happen; it is, after all, easier to give a nudge in a direction things are already likely to go than to set something completely new in motion….

  109. You mentioned that occultism never goes mainstream. Why is that? Or more to the point, is that just a western phenomenon? I would think that Hinduism is pretty close to western occultism in a number of critical areas like reincarnation, the emphasis on mediation, the acceptance of magic, and so, and it is as mainstream as it can get in the most populated country on earth.

  110. Christopher, I see that as the bargaining phase of the rationalists; they’re saying, “Okay, there’s a god, but it’s our kind of god!” They’ll get to depression and acceptance in due time.

    Big Mike, thank you!

    Enjoyer, no problem — thank you for taking the time to reread it.

    Info, well, of course you do. Every devout believer in every religion feels the same way about their faith. Nor am I telling you or any believer that you ought to do something else.

    Anonymous, I know — it seems bizarre to me, too. All I know is that it happens.

    Moose, many years ago I read an essay — I’ve long since forgotten the title and author — that used the metaphor of waves on the seashore. Each religious revelation and each life of every holy person is a wave that comes rushing in, and every religious tradition and institution is an attempt to hold onto some of the water from that wave as it goes back out to sea. The Quakers are a great example; their wave came rushing in with George Fox and others of his generation, and has been slipping away ever since; at this point, a lot of Quaker meetings are very, very dry. You’re interested in the water, rather than the forms created to hold onto it; that seems reasonable enough to me.

    Hiram, and that also shows just how miserable a mess the modern world’s age of reason has created, that what passed for ordinary mental health a couple of hundred years ago would be something people would look up to and convert to a religion in the hope of getting!

    Jeffrey, if you’ll reread the text above the comment box, you’ll find that it specifies “comments relevant to the topic of the current post.” This comment isn’t relevant to this week’s post — it’s also enough for a post by itself, if not a book of decent size. So I’ll pass.

    Averagejoe, people have religious experiences — that’s why people have religions! Near-death experiences have been common since very ancient times — Plato includes an account of one in his dialogue The Republic — and they’re one of the important sources for religious belief. In a time like this, while the educated class is circling the wagons around traditional religion while the rest of the population is feeling less and less commitment to the culture that exploits them, new religious movements sparked by vivid religious experiences tend to blossom like flowers after a desert rainstorm. One or more of them may be world religious a few centuries down the road.

    Stephen, it intrigues me that she didn’t say that early on. I’ve seen more than one convert get prompted on what sort of thing you ought to say when you become a Christian, and gradually change their story to suit — but of course I don’t know Ali, and have no way of knowing whether or not that process was involved in this case. I trust you won’t mind if I pray for you as well.

    Disc_writes, it’s not pollution at all. My guess is that the historic denominations of Christianity in Europe are as dead as doornails, not least because so many of them became state churches — it astonishes me that so many people don’t notice that the separation of church and state that we have over here in the US benefits the churches far more than the state! The question is whether Europe’s Second Religiosity takes the form of some other form of Christianity, or whether it takes the form of Islam.

    Bakerpete, there are many, many Christians who would denounce you as a heretic for your opinion about Mary. As for AI, I see the worship of imaginary AI-deities as a transitional phase; when the current round of AI hype gives way to a recognition that LLMs are no more intelligent than any other machine, I expect to see a lot of people who spent time blathering about that to convert to a more firmly based religion.

    Matthew, interesting. If you included the chart my software screened it out — that’s one of the oddities of WordPress. If you can post it somewhere and include a URL, I’d be interested to look at it. Maybe the great religion of the future will have a plain, ordinary, unspectacular person for its prophet!

    Executed, I read him in English — my German is nothing like good enough — and no, I haven’t taken the couple of years of intensive study and writing I’d need to frame a response to them.

    Justin, I certainly hope so! Of course those are my own ideals as well, and so I’m prejudiced. 😉

    Raab, one of the oddities of Ashkenazi Jewish culture is that it tends to produce a steady supply of people who will say literally anything, the more outrageous the better, to thumb their nose at Daddy, however conceived. (Take a look at 20th century Jewish American fiction for some great examples — Portnoy’s Complaint, anyone?) I’d want to see Toaff’s work examined and replicated by critical scholars before I’d take him more seriously than, say, Otto Weininger.

  111. JMG, I learned a few days back that Kissinger was a big fan of Spengler and even wrote his college thesis on Spengler’s ideas. Is that well-known and I am the last one to find out?

    I found a copy of his thesis online in case you or others are interested in taking a look.

  112. Religion is utilitarian. It serves the society the accepts it, even if it serves only a portion of that society. Fundamentalists of every religion present their teachings as universal truth, when it is nothing of the sort. This plays into the ultimate refutation of Pascal’s Wager: the perils of religious pluralism, which is to say even if you choose to believe in God to avoid damnation, which religion or conception of God do you believe in? You can’t believe in all of them without contravening the teachings of some of them. You can’t resort to belief in a generic God without also contravening the teachings of some of them.
    Believing in a religion because it is true is a conceit. One believes in a religion because it offers benefits of some sort: societal benefits, mental benefits, maybe even spiritual benefits if it helps you connect with the transcendent. You then buy into the corpus of teachings because you now identify with the religion because of what it does for you.
    The outworking of religion, then, focuses primarily on a defense of those benefits rather than a defense of the teaching (apologetics). The practice of apologetics, IMO, is less a defense of religious teaching then a recontextualizing of religious teaching to overcome objections. But as my life has shown, apologetics only works for a person who is both 1) troubled at attacks on the teaching and 2) currently receiving the benefits of the religion. If your religion isn’t working for you, apologetics means nothing. That’s where I am at with Christianity, the religion I grew up with. To me, Christian apologetics is just so much retconning. It only works if you need it to.
    We know how religions defend their teaching through apologetics, but what do I mean when I say a religion defends its benefits? On a societal level, this involves the shenangians JMG outlined in this post. It explains the antics of the Christian/evangelical right. Again, we see apologetics, or defense of teaching, as merely a part of the bigger defense that includes attacks on other groups, attempts to manipulate government, etc.
    It all sounds bad but this is how any group operates. You fight or you submit to whoever wins the fight. Dog eat dog.
    If you are using apologetics to keep someone in the faith or bring someone in you have already lost the battle. You are vying for their mind when you need their heart. You start by empowering them through religion or using religion to meet a need. Once they start sailing your way you use apologetics – only if you need to – to clean up any intellectual blocks. Any modern flight to religion is meeting a need, not a wholesale acceptance of teaching.
    All of this explains why LGBTQ individuals reject the American church so forcefully, as it actively disempowers them. It explains huge conversions from Islam to Christianity or Atheism to Christianity, for example.
    I get the impulse to go back to the order afforded by Christianity; however, I’ve been to enough churches to know you ALWAYS get forced into a box of some sort. And even if I pretend to fit in the box I am on the spectrum and don’t really fit in anywhere anyway. So the social benefits of religion don’t entice me.
    Autism and religion don’t really fit together, and given the massive increases in autism current and projected, I don’t see how any current religion can survive.

  113. @other owen,
    okay some of those look vaguely familiar and I might have tried them as a kid, though if so they weren’t very memorable. I haven’t seen any of them in many years though.

  114. @Kimberley Steele,
    I’ve run into the Hillsong and Bethel music and I’m not a fan. When watching a youtube video of theirs, I was struck with the sense that it was all about the people prancing around on the stage, and not about God. It just felt wrong. I got so upset I burst into tears. I was a bit over-emotional that day, but it really made a bad impression on me.

    The reason I was watching was that I had to learn a few of their songs for a joint service with another church, where we basically adopted the other church’s music for the day. When playing their music it is less obnoxious than the youtube version by Hillsong – I’d describe it as the elevator muzak of Christianity under those circumstances.

    When I started running the church worship team, all the people involved agreed we liked the older stuff better. And when lists of songs we wanted to sing/hear were collected, lo and behold! not a single Hillsong or Bethel song featured. So we didn’t sing them.

    At the current church I’m at, we never sing them either. Too busy singing traditional hymns, latin masses and motets and the like to bother with elevator muzak.

    I don’t understand why Hillsong’s music is so popular. I can understand one big reason that the music of my current church isn’t done everywhere anymore, though… resources. Singing Palestrina or Mozart or Pergolesi and the like, every week in four part harmony requires you have singers who can read music competently, and hold down their part reliably. And that you have singers for all four parts. And an organist, who must also be good, and whom the church will likely have to pay. Section leaders may need paying too, if you want the choir able to sightsing difficult music in four parts, and have someone able to sing solos well. And all your singers must all be willing to spend hours every week meeting to rehearse.

    It’s also difficult to find men willing to sing in a choir, and skilled enough to do so in this context. And no matter how much I’d like to, I’m never going to be able to sing bass or tenor. So some choirs fall apart for lack of male volunteers, and if they don’t it restricts what they can sing.

    You need significant resources to run a church choir like my current one and keep it going long-term. Hence why my current church is a destination for people who like good church music, and it seems like every third person I meet of the congregation is into music to one extent or another.

    You can run a smaller simpler group to sing hymns on a shoestring and a lower time commitment, that’s pretty much what I was doing at my previous church, but you’re not going to be able to do what my current church is doing. Also, if you don’t pay the person running the thing, they burn out pretty fast because there’s a substantial time commitment for the director/accompanist/organist/worship team lead even when the load is light for everyone else.

  115. >The question is whether Europe’s Second Religiosity takes the form of some other form of Christianity, or whether it takes the form of Islam.

    I invite you to take a longish train journey from one major european city to another. During this trip, look outside the window. Count all the mosques you see. Count all the churches you see.

    Compare those two numbers.

  116. @DT,
    I am pretty sure I’m on the autism spectrum too, and I find deep meaning in my religion (Christianity). I understand JMG is also on the spectrum, and he’s a druid. I don’t think being on the spectrum blocks one off from the sacred. As for the social stuff… ups and downs. It means I actually do get some social interaction, which is useful since I’m not getting much elsewhere and human relationships are important even when they’re hard. I’ll admit that interaction sometimes makes me want to tear my hair out, though.

  117. I read Ali’s essay with some interest. What strikes me most is that as you note “she scarcely mentions the spiritual dimension”. Now one can wonder whether that is a tactical move to prevent alienating too many of her readers. On the other hand one could put it more bluntly: She seems to see Christianity as a tool. It’s a tool, it’s THE tool to save our (western) way of living. That’s the go-to reason and on top you get some spiritual ding-dong. I won’t and can’t judge this as good or bad – but I guess if there’s not more to her conversion than that, it won’t help much to fulfill Ali her wishes. After all it’s probably right that you can’t solve a problem with the same mindset that created it.


  118. @JMG and The Other Owen,

    >The question is whether Europe’s Second Religiosity takes the form of some other form of Christianity, or whether it takes the form of Islam.

    The mosques in Europe are, as far as I am aware, for the most part not being built and used by “native” Europeans, but by moslem immigrants (or people whose very recent ancestors were moslem immigrants).

    On the other hand, I see a lot of people (especially young people with children) flocking towards Christian “free churches”, i.e. away from organised mainstream Catholicism and Protestantism, and towards Christian churches which are less institutionalised (although sometimes by far not less conservative!).

    I.e. the answer to JMG’s question depends on one’s understanding of “Europe”…


  119. Keith, thank you for this. I can only judge by my personal experience of atheists; the ones I’ve known personally or encountered online have generally displayed the usual faith in progress. If that’s less common than it appeared to me, I’m delighted to hear it — the more people break the grip of the progress delusion on their minds, the more chance we have of dealing with the mess we’re in.

    European Reader, you seem to have misunderstood my point. Let me put it this way. These people who you believe are doing Satan’s work — do you think they all know they’re serving the Devil, or do you think a significant number of them are honest but mistaken? My point is that many Christians insist on the first alternative in the teeth of the evidence.

    Ben, yes, that can be one form of Second Religiosity, though it’s not likely to be the most common.

    MJ, that’s a valid point — the three options I’ve suggested are not mutually exclusive.

    Stephen, no, you’ve misunderstood what I said. The people I mentioned who don’t discuss the fact claims of Christianity are the people who’ve publicly announced their conversion recently, such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Trust me, I’ve encountered vast numbers of Christian proselytizers who were quite forthright about insisting that the narratives of the Bible are literally true, and a film camera at the Ascension would have tracked Jesus soaring up into the sky to broadcast on the evening news. I’ve also read Josh McDowell — I had the original Evidence That Demands A Verdict shoved at me when I was in my teens. I found it unconvincing then — McDowell does a better job of question-begging than anyone I’ve ever encountered outside of doctrinaire Marxism — and with a few decades worth of additional knowledge about the history of religions I find it even less convincing now. To my mind the Evangelical Church could nonetheless become a major player in the Second Religiosity, precisely because its publicists are earnest, enthusiastic, and have their story down pat. That counts for a lot in times of social chaos.

    Kimberly, Christianity’s been through such scandals before — you might look up Aimee Semple McPherson sometime, or for that matter Friar Tetzel. Normally what happens is that denominations less tarred by the brush of scandal take up the slack. That’s one of the reasons, for example, why the Orthodox Church is doing so well in the US these days. It’ll be interesting to see where the young ex-Evangelicals go!

    John, I figure the Christians deserve to celebrate a little. They’ve had the short end of the stick in popular culture for quite a few years now. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if we ended up with something like the colonial Great Awakening, with mass conversions and all sorts of hoopla; down the road a bit, it’ll trickle away again as it always does, but that’s for later.

    A1, glad you enjoyed my talk with Jim! Yes, it is very much my opinion that faith in progress is the established religion of the Western world, and wokesterism is one of its most radical sects — I think you also have to make room on the oozing edge for the tech-bro Singularity fans, and there are a few other radical progressivist cults out there as well. As for brown people bombing brown people, of course; I wonder how the mainstream’s going to react if the current crisis between Venezuela and Guyana turns into open war, since once again both sides have brown skin…

    Siliconguy, the bloodbaths never stopped, and the two most murderous regimes in the 20th century — Stalinist Russia and Maoist China — were militantly atheist. I would point out, though, that neither Spengler nor I said that the return of religion would be a good thing; it’s simply a thing that happens, since after all the universe does not care what you or I or Oswald Spengler want…

    Davie, there was indeed. Wikipedia has a decent article on it:

    Mister N, hmm! I remember a Brother Judd and Sister Cindy who were doing the same schtick, but I think they were a different pair.

    GlassHammer, that depends. If what the converts want out of religion is a set of officially approved answers to all the difficult questions that the failing myth of progress no longer addresses, they may be quite satisfied, at least for a while.

    Justin, interesting. I talk about some of that in my forthcoming book about polarity magic, for what it’s worth.

    Jstn, delighted to hear this — I’ll definitely take a look.

    Anonymous, hmm. Yes, that might also be involved.

    Stephen, in India, traditional China, and most other Asian countries, the local equivalent of occultism was brought under the wing of religion a long time ago. In Japan, for example, there’s a specific sect of Buddhism (the Shingon sect) that has a lot of parallels with Western occultism, and you also have a lot of individual practitioners, gyoja and yamabushi, whose occult practices are guided and structured by the local religious institutions and traditions. If Christianity had gone that way you’d have had Christian tertiary orders, societies, and individual hermits and practitioners who practiced occultism without being rejected by the churches. It still wouldn’t be mainstream — it never is — but it would have been an acceptable and useful eccentricity. As for why occultism isn’t mainstream, why, that’s simple enough: it takes work. Serious work. Most people have enough to do in their lives that devoting an hour or more day to occult practice isn’t going to appeal to them.

    A Reader, I didn’t know that, certainly. Yes, I’d be interested in taking a look.

    Kimberly, I first read Spengler in 2009 en route to a peak oil conference! I’d encountered references to his work, and picked up a copy of volume 1 of The Decline of the West from the local library as reading material for the trip.

    DT, that’s a very reductionistic and, to my mind, arbitrary way of thinking about religion. As for religion and autism, er, did you forget that I have Aspergers syndrome? Occultism and alternative religions, if my experience is anything to go by, have even more autistic people in them than their numbers in the broader society.

    Justin, funny! Thanks for this.

    Other Owen, Islam could be at the crest of its wave while some other form of Christianity could just be beginning to pick up. One of the great lessons of history is that it’s usually a mistake to draw sweeping conclusions from conditions at one moment in time.

    Nachtgurke, yes, I was thinking similar thoughts.

    Milkyway, thanks for the data point!

  120. This essay is bound to provoke a lot of discussion, and it is to the credit of your moderation and the quality of the commentariat that the discussion has so far stayed within reasonable bounds of respectfulness.

    Many thoughts I had have already been expressed here. In near harmony with Robert K.’s comment, I would like to point out that at the time of the demise of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th and the near-demise of the Eastern Roman Empire in the 7th century, Christianity was strongly associated with the dying urban, literate, trans-regional culture. And yet it was not cast off in favour of some religion derived from Hunnish, Slavic, Saxon, Nordic or Celtic traditions, but rather thrived and expanded, before and after and outside the new “Faustian” culture that emerged.

    However, that is partly beside the point for us as individuals. I feel as baffled as others by the reasons Ayaan Hirsi Ali stated for her conversion. In fact, it always bewilders me when people defend Christianity, the free market and economic growth practically in the same sentence, or democracy and American hegemony, for that matter.

    It really is each person’s own decision, and as for me, when I once tried to not believe in the basic articles of Christian faith, I simply felt ridiculous and as if I was play-acting. So I will continue on this path no matter if others around me convert or de-convert.

  121. JMG,

    I’d be delighted! I’ll post it here and on the Dreamwidth as a comment on the latest post. Hopefully it gets through!

    Incidentally I played around with various locations to see what happened with the Ascendant, houses, etc- and so far Mogadishu is in the running to pop out the most likely-to-prophesize person! Seems very much in line with “From the Roman equivalent of Rural Arkansas”, on a global scale.

    Hopefully this isn’t too messy:

  122. @Bruce Tidwell (#52): Why has Christianity been so successful, despite everything…? We may perhaps have to consider the (uncomfortable, for some) possibility that it’s because Jesus Christ actually is the Incarnate Logos of the Most High, the Lord of Hosts.

    @Anonymous (#85): Christianity is largely the story of…conversion. That insane process of redefining oneself is , on some level, integral to the story.

    @disc_writes (#91): Once a mystery religion, and still a mystery religion…

    @European Reader (#100): Agreed that people may be unknowingly doing infernal work (indeed, are we not all guilty…?). That’s the best trick in the demonic arsenal, of course. But from a perhaps esoteric perspective, there’s no unified “Team Satan,” as that would ascribe a unity to the fallen spirits that does not exist. In The One there is unity, but in the many there is dis-unity, as it were…the prideful exaltation of invididuals beyond all constraint.

    In general: Personally, I’m not big on the “defend the embers of the West” motif, but in my view there’s an assumption, perhaps foisted on us by the atheist-ification process undertaken by modernity, that there persists some “neutral” historical tradition in “the West” untouched by Christianity. There ain’t. Truth be told, everything we have retained over the course of our history here has come to us through the filter of the Church, and therefore has been Christianized to some degree or another…for better or worse. So, reversion to the mean…

  123. My return, not to spirituality, but to the Christian Bible, was emphasized in the understanding of what I had been in opposition to was not the Bible, or Jesus, but the story interpreted to me by those I distrusted; ie the institution of Christianity, and the state. And s****y people who called themselves Christians doing gods good works.
    I came across some of Tolstoys books, in my 40’s, all about the Bible and specifically the teachings of Jesus Christ.
    So I was inspired to take a look for myself for the first time in my life.
    I was blown away. It was just what I expected and so much I wouldn’t of imagined. It’s master work of philosophy and wisdom. Another holy guide, among others, to the journey out of our muck, and onward toward gods presence.

  124. Unless I’m mistaken, Ali’s conversion was first brought to my attention a few weeks back by a Rod Dreher article. Does this mean you read Dreher now? 😉

  125. @The Other Owen #96: It was the shredded carrots embedded in jello along with some grapes that made it so awful. Just my opinion. Don’t want to stray off topic here, tho…..

  126. I was recently in a hospital called Mt Sinai for a CT scan that confirmed that the intermittent excruciating pain I had was from a kidney stone. Two actually.

    Anyway, while I was waiting for my turn I was thinking about Mt Sinai and isn’t it funny that, for a place where God allegedly revealed himself, its location is in dispute. IOW nobody knows where the events in the Old Testament took place. I’m sure that many others wondered the same thing over the past few thousand years.

    Maybe that’s because, while there may be some kernels of historical fact, everything got blown way out of proportion. Maybe at the time nobody of any importance attached any particular significance to what happened as it actually happened.

    So, imagine Moses as an apocalyptic visionary (something never in short supply in the Middle East) with a band of followers, mainly a disputatious gang of misfits and malcontents who not only tested the patience of Moses but also that of Egyptian officialdom, a place where they managed to make themselves unwelcome.

    Imagine that they didn’t escape Egypt but were chased out. Imagine after long days of trudging in an arid wilderness the dirty few dozen came to a rivulet for a drink and an overnight stop.

    Imagine Moses, having had quite enough of all the bitching and complaining he had to listen to, going up a hill for some peace and quiet. Imagine that he chewed on some fragrant leaves. Imagine he had a bad reaction and started hallucinating and shouting, his face and arms upraised, Charlton Heston style.

    His lieutenants, as fed up with Moses as he was with them, nonetheless got worried and asked him what’s up. And Moses babbles about a burning bush and a list of ten commandments they would all commit to memory, no, never mind dammit, scratch them out on a flat rock, assuming anybody present has that facility. And then he storms off to his tent and shouts at his wife. And all present look at each other and shake their heads. “Moses is crazy’ sez one. Sez another, ‘He got us this far.’

    Imagine then, a witness to all this, a studious boy of religious bent who looked up to Moses, who actually did what Moses asked, that is, found a slab and scratched out ten two-word commandments using some variant of the alphabet devised by local Semites not long before.

    So, there you have it. So where were they? Somewhere in the desert at the base of a hill. And in later retellings the hill became a mountain and there was thunder and lightning and the rock was inscribed by the finger of God. Etc.

    This story in the Old Testament has amazing staying power. To many it has the ring of truth. I would expect it to get recycled over time to suit local preferences.

    Imagine that a boy in the Andes has an encounter with something unearthly. He sees a blinding figure. He hears a voice. It says ‘fear not’.

  127. “That’s what a great many Neopagans and atheists are doing right now as they prance and grovel before statues of Satan, and the conclusion is obvious: they’re redefining their current beliefs in Christian terms, so that they can then renounce those beliefs and become good Christians.”

    How odd. Why bother to go through that process? I guess by “turning your paganism bad”, it creates the justification for leaving paganism?

  128. JMG, it has always puzzled me how people with no knowledge of history or the particulars of religions and belief systems somehow imagine that they are all ultimately teaching the same thing. Yet I have also run into fairly learned people who do have intimate knowledge of at least one belief system who think precisely that as well. All those “Coexist” bumper stickers seem to me to be pasted on cars with the same mindset. Lacunae in logic can be found almost anywhere, among almost any group. I’m certainly guilty of my own.

    Yet value systems and spiritualities are often (though not always) wildly different from one another, and the “great” religions are rife with diverse practices, attitudes and beliefs that often contradict the core tenets they emerged from, where core tenets exist, that is. Some of them look alien and evil indeed, unlivable by any ordinary standard (anyone willing to live in 13th century Tenochtitlan, please catch your ride now). Others look idyllic (but are they, really?). Rousseau, please call home!

    Why people can’t see that spiritual ecologies are as diverse as natural ones fairly boggles the mind. Not to mention that it appears to me they may well be far MORE diverse, and the Chthulhu and similar pantheons written about by Lovecraft and his generation might be relatively tame in comparison with what is quite possibly out there, though they were interesting for their originality in the times they emerged in.

    Is it just me, or is the issue of the resurgence of so-called traditional religion way more complicated and fraught than is easily imagined?

    I can envision a renewed “mainstream” persecution of spiritual religious minorities (e.g., esotericists of the Golden Dawn lineages) occurring alongside complete indifference to the massive illogic and hypocrisy in their own ranks, eventually developing into a focus on purifying their ranks and starting actual religious wars. And that is only one among any number of streams of activity that seem likely, since they have happened in the past.

    Seems like the wistful longing for Shangri-La in the book “Lost Horizon” was not so far off the mark, with its radical and severe critique of the future of Western Civilization (oh-so gently expressed) leading to a cult of preservationists allied to another cult of operative magicians trying to save something from the ashes of our future. Then there are the interesting social experiments as found in in novels like “The Glass Bead Game” that might begin precipitating out of the solution of culture before too long…

    And, of course, religion never left, so it doesn’t have to return. But the PMC might take a different view of that topic, wouldn’t they? Lots of food for thought here, to judge by the comments. It would be tiresome of me to point out that there is no such thing as “Christianity” or “Islam” as monolithic simple realities, but I feel I must. Same with Judaism. There are Christianities and Islams and Judaisms of many sorts. Which ones, if any, “history” will pick as winners in the near future, well, the future is notoriously difficult to predict, ain’t it?

  129. Do you think a more earth-centered or earth-based spiritual perspective could emerge in the United States as part of the second religiosity?

    I know that none of us knows what the gods exactly are or want, but do you think gods care or have conflicts over whose ways become more prevalent among humans?

  130. Would it be worth making a distinction between the Second Religiosity being religiously tolerant and it being morally tolerant? Because I can’t see how the latter could be the case: a wide swath of the Right believes, and not without reason, that the current sorry state of affairs is because we have too tolerant: of crime, of corruption, of laziness, and of course of various kinds of self-destructive hedonism.

    What seems most likely to me once the Second Religiosity really get going is that there will be a major crackdown on moral license, but that doctrinal differences will be of little concern as long as your faith and practice are otherwise compatible with the official values of your community. (For one thing, by definition once the Second Religiosity is well on its way those who don’t subscribe to the dominant religion will be a tiny minority again, too small to be worth the chaos of a campaign of persecution.)

    On the other hand, one thing that strikes me as prime to be jettisoned sooner rather than later is the concept of “freedom from religion,” with its insistence that communities not celebrate broadly shared cultural and religious traditions because it might make somebody somewhere feel left out. As a non-Christian living in the Bible Belt, let me just say: good riddance to that idea. Give me nativity scenes and “Silent Night” over cutesy neon reindeer and Mariah Carey any solstice!

  131. “The Second Religiosity has its downsides, you see. Dignified, orderly, and committed to the defense of established values, it tends toward lifelessness, and then toward fossilization.”

    Would that not make the Second Religiousity doomed? If the established values of our civilisation are what led us to the mess we are in now there is a fine line between the concept that:
    – the values themselves don’t work as what came from them was the inexorable end point of that (a bit like when you wrote about how the failure of capitilism is hard wired into the very fabric of the construct) and so you are just extending a known-to-be-futile process
    – the values are fine but human beings took them too far and *that* is the problem so we just have to encase those values in a proper mitigating construct to stop people doing it again (because patently the first time there were no safeguards and we have learned from our history and it could never happen again while we are on the watch /sarc)
    – the values are fine but it was people who turned their back on the values that ruined everything

    Is the second religiousity similar to folks mythologising the 1950’s (without realising what made it possible) or more of a retreat to a ‘who we are’ / ‘what made us great’ core while shucking off the excesses of the standard end-of-civiliationary behaviours and it’s function as a cradle / inspirer of the next upward trend simply a consequence?

  132. JMG – Since we’re veering into a review of the rise of early Christianity, I’d like to hear what you think of this (cynical) perspective. As much as the “kindly Messiah of humble, miraculous origin” story resonated with the poor, there are a couple of other aspects of the story that I think appealed to the rich and powerful.

    First: If you run around claiming that a new King has been born, you’re going to get all the baby boys in the whole neighborhood killed. (Herod’s slaughter of the innocents, after the departure of the magi. Matthew, 2:16) So, don’t do that, and don’t let your neighbors do it, either.

    Second: if you claim to be a king, or let other people claim you as a king, your own people will get you crucified to prevent the ruling authority from coming down hard on the community. (“It is better than one man should die for the people, rather than the whole people perish.” John 11:52) So, don’t do that, and don’t let your neighbors do it, either.

    Embed these stories within a set of other teachings about promoting social stability (“Blessed are the peacemakers…”, “turn the other cheek”), and even the non-believers have a reason to let the story spread.

  133. JMG, the commentariat here is evidence for the multiverse, each of us in the middle of our own universe overlapping to various degrees with other realities.
    According to Paul Christianity is an inherently low class religion for ordinary folk. 1 Corinthians 1:26-28. Yet these same ordinary Corinthian Christians with their foibles and imperfections had the power of the Spirit moving among them. Jesus was disparagingly called the “friend of sinners” by the Pharisees for his habit of hanging out with lowlifes. It’s been my observation that the Spirit of Jesus still hangs out with the same low company nowadays in a very experiential real way. Thank you, God for your low standards and open door policy and accessibility that gives inner strength and life and help as gift to raise us up. Paraphrasing something Abraham Lincoln said, “ God sure loves ordinary people for he made a whole lot of them”. I like and love my living god, “living god” all lowercase respecting polytheistic sensibilities.

  134. “Dennis, not to worry. I can’t affirm any of the historic creeds of Christendom because I don’t believe that the historical person Jesus of Nazareth was the only child of the only god there is, that he was born of a biological virgin, that he returned to physical life after being dead for three days, and that he will show up again someday to prove that his followers are right and everyone else is wrong. I know too many of the mythologies from which those narratives were borrowed, and (having read When Prophecy Fails long ago) I also understand too well the reasons why believers construct and defend such narratives.”

    Based on that you could have a very successful career as an Anglican Bishop! In fact believing any of those things would be a negative to your progression and potentially doom you to (gasp) congregational work! I am sure they will be happy to accept you already have your Apostolic Succession credentials covered (which they don’t really believe in anyway)

  135. Aldarion, if Spengler’s right, I’m sorry to say you’re going to have to get used to that sort of thing.

    Matthew, thanks for this! I’ve downloaded the charts.

    Reader, thank you! If you can’t find my email, put through a comment marked NOT FOR POSTING with your email, and I’ll contact you.

    Travis, I read the Bible for the first time when I was nine. I was curious and wanted to know what all the fuss was about. My reaction wasn’t yours, obviously.

    Blue Sun, nope. I heard about it via a reader who follows UnHerd, where her essay was posted.

    Smith, that’s usually the way these things work out. In retrospect it’s made to look like Charlton Heston and the entire Bolivian army, but at the time it was a little ragtag group gathered around a scruffy but charismatic leader. It may well be happening in the Andes, or in Mogadishu, or in Passaic, NJ right now.

    Blue Sun, oh, it has its advantages. If you want lots of enthusiastic attention and pats on the head from a Christian audience, saying that you were a devil worshipper until you turned to Christ will get it.

    Clarke, oh dear gods, yes. Religions really are different from one another, and you’re probably right that Great Cthulhu et al. are on the tame side of what’s actually out there. I think there’s good reason to hope that violent persecution will be fairly rare, but we’ll see.

    Edward, not the Second Religiosity, no, because that’s always a return to established forms, and earth-centered spirituality has been way out on the fringe for centuries. It may well be one of the forms that emerges in the new age of faith, though. As for the gods, remember that they’re eternal beings, so they experience all time at once — this makes them very calm when it comes to changes on the scale of mere millennia.

    Slithy Toves, excellent. Yes, exactly. There’s an interesting rhythm in the history of the English-speaking world, in which centuries alternate between prudish and bawdy. The sixteenth century was bawdy — think of Elizabethan humor — and the seventeenth was prudish — that’s when Puritanism was invented; the eighteenth century was bawdy, and the nineteenth was prudish; the twentieth was bawdy, and now the twenty-first is going prudish in a big way. Expect major moves toward moral purity, the removal of sex from public entertainment, and the like, and — yes, a shift back toward public expressions of religion. You’re right, too, that anything that gets rid of Mariah Carey’s holiday caterwauling is welcome!

    Dreamer, of course it’s doomed. How many people kept on worshipping Jupiter and Minerva after the first few centuries of the classical Second Religiosity? No, it doesn’t even inspire the next upward trend — if anything, it’s hostile to the rising religious sensibility. It’s a shell within which the legacy of a dying civilization can be sorted out, and within which the privileged classes of that civilization can shelter for a while.

    Lathechuck, any successful religion has to have features that appeal to the masses and other features that appeal to the holders of power. Lose either of those and down you go.

    Moose, glad to hear it. As a polytheist, of course, I recognize the divinity of your god as I do of mine.

    Dreamer, yeah, but I’d have to have a much higher tolerance for hypocrisy than I do. I have this awkward notion that if you claim to represent a religion that makes very specific claims of fact, you really do have to believe in those claims, or in all decency you should resign and find an honest job.

  136. Pygmycory — oddly I had the same reaction to atonal music played on organ and piano when I was sixteen and made the mistake of tagging along to my boyfriend’s parents’ Unitarian church. It was 1988. The horror of it made me weep, and it was even sadder that nobody else understood how awful it was. A few years later, I was studying the construction of tone rows in musical college. I understood them perfectly; I aced that class just as I had aced prior units on four-part chorale and sonata form, but the second I knew the rules for composing 12 tone music, I had an epiphany: it is for stupid people who think they are smart. Basically atonal music is the scrupulous avoidance of the Muse. It is a deliberate attempt to create the aural equivalent of a gas station bathroom where a blind man just had a White Castle episode. My cats play piano better than Schoenberg in his later years. Beauty? Not allowed. Singable melody? Not allowed. Sounds that are reminiscent of insane-asylum screaming or flatware falling down stair steps? An emphatic YES!

    JMG, if there is any reason Protestant Christianity will fail as the New Religiosity takes shape, it may actually be kind of funny: like pygmycory mentioned, their music sucks. The best of worship bands cannot hold a candle to what Bach practically wrote in his sleep. Aside from that, most Christianity is the religion of Progress for people who never went full atheist. Meanwhile, keep in mind these places are mostly pyramid schemes despite enjoying loads of tax-free resources. That’s why every church has placards and signs that beg you to become part of their congregation. They’re all hemorrhaging members these days, often to competing churches but also to people who merely want their Sunday mornings back. What happens when the average Christian is poor again and it becomes clear the Prosperity Gospel and all its variants were lying? All the Christians I know are well into the upper middle class. They are not ready for any kind of future where they are lower middle class or (gasps/clutches pearls) poor.

  137. @JMG: I think that was actually the same Brother Jed, because I recall that Sister Cindy was Jed Smock’s wife.

  138. It’s quite humourous to take this Spenglerian analysis and turn it around on yourself, or even itself, which Spengler comments on in Decline of the West. The fact we are even discussing history and the future in this manner singles us out as those embedded within Faustian culture because only we care about it enough to discuss it. Imagine being a Roman where even just two generations back the past is quite irrelevant and you could start inserting Gods and Heros as your ancestors. The past is more of a fun background and not of any importance compared to the present.

    This extends to what we mean when we say ‘Christianity’. The West frames ideas as things that a more unchanging than people and has no issue with saying ‘Christianity’ has been the same thing for 2000 years. Spengler points out how silly this is and is based on a religious thought from the Gothic times, namely the idea that God’s presence is shown through ideas staying the same while men change. You can start unpacking this until the whole way we speak about the past is riddled with these religious assumptions that are so intrinsic we never question them.

  139. After reading some of your commentators I actually read Ms. Ali’s essay. If other people are thinking like her it suggests that people are more likely now than maybe a decade ago to identify Faustian civilization as something that exists at all (in the sense that they have conceptualized and given some name or other to a category of times and places that roughly matches it) and to worry about its future, and that noticing that category of times and places for the first time is causing a renewed sense of personal identity with the origins of Faustian civilization, and hence Christianity. So, in a way, more people agree with your message, except in terms of goals, strategies, and expected possible outcomes–“just try rebooting the modem one more time; it will work again.” (Sometimes it does; right?)

  140. Perhaps I’m being a tad literal with Spengler, but I do recall him saying that the second century BC in the Apollonian Civilisation corresponded to the twentieth century AD in the Faustian Civilisation. That makes the twenty-first century into the century of Caesar and the Fall of the Republic.

    I might be misremembering, but I thought the Second Religiosity was scheduled a bit later in the cycle – perhaps a couple of hundred years from now. After all, the Classical World in Caesar’s time was still dominated by elites who only ever paid lip service to religion – sincere religion was something for the lower classes. The elites did not regain their religious devotion until the third century AD, just in time to clash with Christianity. And even then, Diocletian had a political agenda behind his embrace of traditional religion.

    Are you envisaging the Faustian Civilisation (via resource limits) essentially skipping their equivalent to the first and second century AD ‘glory days’ of Imperial Rome, and rushing from the equivalent of post-Punic War domination (third/second century BC) into the more overt Decline stage of the third century AD onwards?

  141. I have a document signed by the Bishop of Bloemfontein stating that I am a confirmed Anglican. But one day, standing in church and reciting the Apostles’ Creed “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth…” I thought to myself, I don’t actually believe this, I’m a fraud if I go to church, and I never went to church again.

    Since then I have adopted a sort of wishy-washy spirituality, but it’s not something that overly concerns me.

    I guess what I really did believe in was the scientific method and peer-reviewed research, but after learning how research is manipulated for profit by the pharmaceutical industry I have become cynical and no longer believe in the integrity and good intentions of the intelligentsia and professional managerial class.

  142. @JMG and Milkyway – In #127 you wrote “On the other hand, I see a lot of people (especially young people with children) flocking towards Christian “free churches”, i.e. away from organised mainstream Catholicism and Protestantism, and towards Christian churches which are less institutionalised (although sometimes by far not less conservative!).”

    I planned on posting the same. Free churches seem to be popping up and growing here and there in Germany and I know a few (mostly younger people with children) who are members of such churches. Interestingly, there is a high degree of sincerity and also a strong tendency to include religiosity in everyday life. Most people I know hold regular prayer and bible circles, for example, and from what I know they derive a high value from their practice and from the community. At the same time, despite showing a high degree of internal activity, these communities seem to be very quiet and hardly noticeable on the outside.

    It’s a fascinating development and one I see, despite not being a Christian, in a very positive light. Certainly starkly different to the approach Ali describes in her essay.


  143. @A Nony Moose #144: Of the many different flavors of Jesus (or Jesi as the case may very well be), I like the one I hear coming out of the mouth of Johnny Cash, the Man in Black, the best. This is a redemptive figure who hangs out in jails and underneath bridges with drug addicts and prostitutes and people society has cast off or locked away and offered them a vision and a path to restoration.

    The one I see on the new billboard near my house telling me to accept Jesus or burn in hell is a completely different one, that I don’t feel any connection to, and brings up past painful memories. There seems to be a wide gap between these different ones.

    I like to remember Christ as a Master Healer.

  144. I’m so appreciative of this post, JMG, as I have been aware of the emergence of the Second Religiosity over the past couple of years – but since I have read Spangler only once I have not absorbed some of the important fine details of his theory. Your post has generated a few random thoughts.

    Altamont – I had to google that one (fortunately I didn’t have to google ‘Woodstock’, so I guess that I am not too detached from popular culture!). Wow – what a shale show! I am almost tempted to think that it was a setup by CIA agent provocateurs in order to destroy the hippie counterculture. But often enough movements destroy themselves without the need of shadowy organizations that bump off their own nation’s presidents…

    So far, I have not noticed any public figure declaring to have ‘found Jesus’ among the ruling elite or celebrities up in the Great White North, but I await it with gleeful anticipation. This is because our parasitic overlords have become so jaw-droppingly, virulently anti-Christian in recent years. It has become verboten to refer to the holidays during the cusp of the old and new years as ‘Christmas’: oh, no, it is ‘the holidays.’ Municipalities no longer erect Christmas trees; they are ‘holiday’ trees. In 2021, when rumours of hundreds of unmarked indigenous children’s graves being found in the yards of numerous residential schools and all Canadian flags flew at half-mast for five months (it was only because of our war vets screaming at the top of their lungs that the flag cannot be lowered to half-mast on Remembrance day if it is already at half-mast that the government rescinded its half-mast diktat a few days before Remembrance day – just another reason to thank our vets!), 80 Christian churches were burned to the ground; no arrests, no investigations, no media coverage – guess it must have been spontaneous combustion or something. In October 2023, the Canadian Human Rights Commission described Christmas as an obvious example of religious discrimination linked to Canada’s history of colonialism. We have a 17-year old who has been banished from a Catholic (!) school for two years because he stated his Christian view, during a classroom discussion of gender, that he believes that there are only two genders and steadfastly refused to prostrate himself before the Holy Rainbow; he has become a folk-hero of sorts under the banner of ‘Save Canada’ that inspired several large protests over the summer followed by two consecutive million-person cross-country protests this autumn. Our tormentors loathe anything that has to do with Christianity and ‘Christian values’ and go out of their way to offend and oppress Christians. So, I will rejoice when the day comes when a prominent Canadian socialist (Liberal or NDP) proudly declares him/herself to be a Christian.

    Your comment on elite atheists becoming demon-worshippers only to later declare themselves to be reformed Christians struck me. Sounds like cynical surfers of the zeitgeist. But are they able to see the coming rise of the Second Religiosity? I always figured that they are simply flotsam on the sea of the egregore that they belong to and which is controlled by forces which transcend the consciousness of the individual. Or maybe I am missing something.

    Lastly, a clause in your final sentence, “new revelations are stirring in impoverished corners of flyover country and battered slum communities in the never-to-be-developed world” has whetted my appetite. A teaser for the next posting on the subject, perhaps? If not, maybe some examples? I have my own intel on ‘new revelations’ and truly believe that we are living in a time of ‘miracles and wonders’ (though not exclusively Christian in nature) even while the juggernaut of our present dystopia lurches and heaves and crumbles as it makes its fatal journey down the road of time.

  145. >It was the shredded carrots embedded in jello along with some grapes that made it so awful.

    That is as close as you can get to a culinary sin IMHO. Some people have no business preparing food.

  146. >One of the great lessons of history is that it’s usually a mistake to draw sweeping conclusions from conditions at one moment in time.

    But in this era of lies, all you have is what you can see with your own eyes. Here’s another observational exercise. While riding a tram in europe, look at all the young girls you see. Count all the ones that have a hijab on. Count all the ones that do not.

    Compare those numbers as well.

  147. John, et al, you might be interested, and may already be quite aware of it, but Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart were related, double first cousins. One took the path of the pulpit, the other of the piano and the microphone. Both had a similar effect on the audience, with a whole lotta shakin’ going on.

    According to historian Mark Groubert “Jimmy and Jerry Lee both are tortured, and I mean tortured, by the pull of the secular world and the pull of the evangelical church.” Jerry was religious as Swaggart and was torn up about whether or not to get involved in the world of secular music, and grew up, along with his cousin, in the pentecostal movement, where their relatives were speaking in tongues. When they were growing up, became involved in petty crime. Their other cousin Mickey Gilley was in on the game too.

    What is interesting to me, is how the Pentecostal movement is a particularly American strain of religion, and Rock and Roll, one of America’s great gifts to the world (even if it is in many ways, over). Both call up this intense energy. What is that about and where does it come from? And if one is to handle it, how do you do it without all the problems that can come along with it?

    I recommend listening to this episode for anyone who wants to hear the Swaggart story.

    John, I will look forward to your book on polarity magic.

  148. Great post John.
    I can’t say I have seen any evidence among the yoush(ish) circles I largely mix with that there has been any shift to organised traditional religions to date although where I live remains largely insulated (although that is starting to change) from the cutting edge of the growing crisis facing us.

    I do expect that to change in the decades to come and we will see a modest but meaningful return to religion among some of the population.

    The young, who are largely secular, seem to be spiritually and morally lost and suffering from cultural anomie. I don’t know if organised traditional religions will appeal to them or not or whether something else will appeal to the young.

    A difficult question to answer.

    A very interesting article was published recently in our local paper by a leading former politician who remains well connected among the well to do and the financial services and law industries that dominate the local economy.

    You might be interested to know that even in one of the wealthiest bits of Europe most insulated historically from recessions, growing signs of a economic and real estate crisis are growing as globalisation starts to sink…

  149. A speculative thought of mine. This may be common. Someone forsakes Christianity for another religion, Buddhism, a form of polytheism, paganism, or new age thought, Hinduism, Taoism. An unconscious assumption I think commonly held by people of that ilk, a left over from monotheism, is that the Christian deity or deities (thinking of the Trinity here, the three Persons are quite distinguishable in my experience) are therefore nonexistent, not real. It could be an unpleasant shock to find out that Christian god is not just a head trip and a social construct but a real accessible knowable living god with effects in the here and now. In fact it could result in a return to being a Christian. This could also happen to someone who started out in another religion and in fact does, called conversion. In recent decades there has been numbers of Muslims becoming Christians because of dream and visionary encounters with Jesus. There is a complicated mysterious spiritual ecosystem out there which humanity tries to simplify down into various frameworks. I just stick with Father/Son/Holy Spirit God to wend my way through this world.

  150. @Fra’ Lupo #131: As a Christian, I am not very comfortable with the argument from (numeric) success… Islam was successful in converting most Christians in Syria, Mesopotamia, Egypt and (northern) Africa – does that mean it is “truer”?

  151. William Douglas Horden has a book, Shapeshifters Almanac: A Perennial Kairotic Calendar. It has a daily reading and I found Dec 7 relevant to this conversation. Perhaps you will to. He starts off with a sentence that he interprets symbolically. This is the format of the entire book. The original text has italics that I don’t know how to write in this format:

    A ghost town collapsing into the sands.

    Ghost town symbolizes a once-thriving community, deserted and fallen into oblivion; it represents the present civilization of the present historical era. Collapsing into the sands signifies that which is already fading from memory; that which arose out of nature sinking back into nature, forgotten by human nature. This aspect is a sign of humanity entering the next step of evolution as one, abandoning their obsolete lifeway for another more fulfilling; the community of humanity moving forward to the next site of meaningful communion and collaborative creative activity.

    EXOTERIC. Traits necessary for survival must be discarded once they have outlived their purpose: sleepwalkers become devoted to strategies that prove successful – once they accomplish their purpose, they are used over and over again, even when repeatedly demonstrating their ineffectiveness. Such devotion is in actuality a kind of self-conditioning, the fashioning of a habit out of the unconscious memory of personal gain; people seldom consciously recall the origin of such habits, most of which were acquired early in life. Shapeshifters continually experiment with new responses to circumstances, even when they appear stable over a long period of time – what else could a creative lifeway look like?

    ESOTERIC. The world’s benevolence embodies the World Soul’s lovingkindness: the lower soul overflowing with happiness embodies the higher soul’s outpouring of ecstatic communion. Savants create joyous memories in the present moment: they are a well of light. Savants divine themselves: delving deep beneath the surface, reaching the core, entering the heart of the core, being with that single living being animating the heart of the core – in this presence, there is no known and no unknown, nothing revealed and nothing hidden; it is all at-one-ment with the One and the Many, without questions or misconceptions. Their own presence is the savants’ doorway to the universal presence of the Holy of Holies.

  152. About jello salads – try “Cottage cheese in black cherry cola.” When I brought it up in a discussion of 1950s food, it won first place for “Yuck!”

  153. @ Kimberley Steele
    I get it on the atonal music. I dislike it too, both to listen to and to play, though I can’t claim to have studied the theory behind it. The comment about your cats and Schoenburg made me laugh.

    I have actually met plenty of poor Christians. My previous church was full of them, and I’m one myself. Unfortunately, the housing crisis and to a lesser extent the opioid epidemic is currently ripping the poorer section of my city’s community to shreds, scattering people to the four winds, the rest of the province, other provinces, and the streets.

    I think the combination of that and the pandemic is what has pretty much destroyed that church. What happens is that someone gets evicted, has to move away, and you don’t see them again. Or they wind up on the street for a while, or shacking up with relatives they don’t get along with, or… people disappear as their lives fall apart. Some of them come back, others you never see again and you don’t know if they’re even still alive.

    It’s really hard to keep a functioning church community going under those circumstances. Even if I did see a lot of real faith and people relying on God in a way that richer folk often don’t need to.

  154. I think this has been going on for some time. The first noticeable sign for me was the changed character of Christianity in the early 21st century, during the presidency of George W. Bush. The Evangelical Christians are usually viewed as a continuation of the Moral Majority/Religious Right of the Reagan era, and there’s some truth to this, but it became a lot more eschatological with the arrival of the millennium and things like 9/11. The Faustian world has always had bouts of millenarian hysteria, and this is definitely one of them, the belief that the Second Coming is nigh, all the faithful will be called back to Jerusalem, a climactic battle will take place between good and evil, and so on. All of this is strange to me, and suggests that at least for this small part of the Western world, the age of reason has long since flown. I get a much stronger “age of reason” vibe from the written works of 100 years ago than I do from contemporary works in most cases. One might be tempted to blow off Evangelical Christians as an oddball group, except that they number in the millions and are among the few sects of religious people successfully breeding in a time when birthrates are otherwise pretty solidly headed down (others include the Mormons, the Amish and so on).

    The “age of reason receding into the distance in the rearview mirror” feeling has only gotten stronger in the past 10 years I would say, as both a return to organized religion and to mystery schools and cults has picked up momentum. The spiritual awakening is still very under the radar to our soi dissant masters of the media, academy and government, but outside of those cloistered circles it’s becoming harder and harder to miss. Since 2020 or so, I’ve seen a lot more open discussion of it on social media as well.

  155. @Ron M
    Elizabeth May, the co-leader of the Green party, is a practicing Christian. I’ve met her a few times, and she doesn’t hide what she is, and has talked about her faith in public. I’ve heard her.

    But yeah, among the NDP and Liberals I can’t think of any, and I don’t pay much attention to the Bloq.

    I haven’t seen much in the way of a sudden bump in church attendance where I am. Things have still only partly recovered from the pandemic and restrictions. I don’t think the second religiosity has hit Canada yet. Maybe we’re going to be late adopters?

    I have seen Christians angry and alienated from society at large about the pandemic restrictions, abuses and the church burnings – I feel a bit that way myself. Not least because the church burnings are that-which-must-not-be-mentioned while much must be said about residential schools, unmarked graves or at minimum land aknowledgements . Something is said about one of those subjects every single week at my current church, whereas the church burnings have never been mentioned in my hearing there, and the pandemic restrictions effects on the church discussed in some detail once in a private conversation.

  156. @JMG,
    I haven’t seen any evidence of a second religiosity in Canada thus far. No bump in church attendance even to pre-pandemic levels. I have seen anger at some of the stuff that happened during the pandemic among Christians I know, though that’s mostly rank-and-file, not the people running things. Actually the people in charge seem to prefer to ignore things like a) effects of pandemic restrictions on their churches
    2) ethics of pandemic restrictions and their own part in going beyond legal requirements in shutting down their churches
    3) the church burnings and the silence around them.

  157. The Other Owen #98
    I watched the video. At the bottom of the last slide there was a small notation: Psalm 111.2
    So of course I looked it up and here it is in several versions.
    So is that the reason you say he won’t be invited back?
    An aside – reading those different translations really made me aware of how different ways of wording change the way I feel about it.

  158. @Kimberely Steele, Pygmycory, and anyone else who may care:

    I know I probably won’t win any “converts” but I do like some good old-fashioned twelve tone music (not all of it is “atonal” strictly speaking). Not so much Schoenberg as, Milton Babbit -whose works exhibited a mathematical brilliance, and were often full of puns. Also, the mysticism within the sound worlds of Olivier Messiaen and Karlheinz Stockhausen -who took the techniques of 12 tone and moved them into the splendid world of “total serialism” and bent them to their whims.

    I understand I am in a minority, taste wise, with this kind of music.

    One of the things that interests me is the way this kind of dodecaphonic music relates to sacred geometry, among other things.

    Joseph Hauer actually invented his own twelve tone technique just before or concurrent to Schoenberg. There is a good chance that Hesse was well aware of Hauer’s experiments using I Ching to create chance / aleatoric music and may have inspired his character Joculator Basiliensis in the Glass Bead Game. Hauer would use these little Zwölftonspiele compositions as objects of meditation. He wrote a bunch of them, but not many have survived.

    This one is especially beautiful.

    But perhaps I am just part of a small wave of the Second Religiosity of western avantgardism ; )

  159. Further on Hauer’s Zwolftonspiele:

    “After 1940, Hauer wrote exclusively Zwölftonspiele, designated sometimes by number, sometimes by date. He wrote about one thousand such pieces, most of which are lost. These pieces were all built on an ordered twelve-tone row, with the actual order often determined by chance. These pieces were not so much concert pieces as much as systematic and controlled meditations on the twelve tones—more a means than an end. Hauer believed that the twelve tempered tones provided access to the realm of the spiritual; meditating on the twelve tones was thus a prayerful act and not a public display of personal emotion or expression. In many ways Hauer’s use of chance elements, and especially his deep interest in the I Ching, are parallel to those of American composer John Cage.” –Wikipedia

    I do see this kind of art myself as a spiritual pursuit.

  160. Hello JMG! I have been waiting for this post for exactly two weeks, and as always, it is a very nice and high-quality article! To be frank, I was fully expecting the Return of Religion; I never felt like I belonged to this era, the stories of ancient times were always more attractive, it was like that in my middle school life too; I used to watch the TV series Merlin, I read/am reading medieval novels and I love it! I felt more real and full of life than our age, and I began to loathe it; I always love movies, cartoons and anime where there are wandering magicians/priests and witches and the coming of this world feels so good and I agree with what you said about the 9th Commandment, the coming of this age feels so good, when I imagine myself in a cloak or monk’s robe I get feelings I can’t explain and I love it; Welcome, Age of Faith. I have been waiting for you. Finally, the world to which I belong/feel is coming back, and I can predict that there will be minor frictions as the sacramental consciousness will just begin to awaken. These events feel like the slave imprisoned in darkness trying to get used to the sun when he reaches the sunlight. I feel like everything will fall into place. I’m so happy, I’m starting to feel very lucky to be born at this time! Anyway, sorry if it’s too long. Here I must ask for help from devout Orthodox Christians; Can you please suggest resources/works where I can learn about Orthodox spirituality and spiritual practice and put them into practice? Since I am seriously determined to stay on this path and I know that I need to gain depth in practical applications as a belief can co-exist with practice, can I get a resource suggestion from you? It may also be available on the Internet in PDF or website format. Thank you from now !

  161. Kimberly, thank you for one of the best descriptions of atonal music I’ve yet encountered. I’d be willing to bet, in fact, that your cats in full caterwaul are more musical than Schoenberg in his later years. As for Protestant music, gods, I know. There was a book quite some years ago in Christian circles titled Why Does The Devil Have All The Good Music?, talking about the hideous state of religious music in America; to judge by the Christian music I’ve heard since then, it’s gotten more polished but more plastic. When we start seeing a serious move back to traditional plainchant as liturgical music I’ll know that the Second Religiosity is really hitting its stride.

    Mister N, so noted! I thought it was “Judd,” but I may well be misremembering.

    PumpkinScone, of course! Spengler himself described his thinking as a wholly Faustian philosophy of history, and I’m a product of America’s Faustian pseudomorphosis through and through — a thousand years from now, when America’s future great culture is busy making sense of the world in its own terms, any scraps of my writing that survive — if any do — will baffle everyone. You’re right, too, that reflecting on those culturally dependent assumptions is essential; even knowing that we can never really get outside them, the effort is hugely useful.

    Chicory, yes, I noticed that as well. The reidentification of Western privileged classes with their own culture is likely to have tectonic effects as we proceed; the equivalent process usually does. Even the attempt to reboot might clear away some of the useless clutter…

    Strda221, I don’t take Spengler’s timelines quite as literally as he did, not least because he really has to stretch and chop in some places to make things fit. I’d point out, though, that Augustus put a lot of time and effort into encouraging a revival of traditional Roman religion.

    Martin, that’s why I don’t belong to a Christian church; spirituality is too important to me to pretend to believe in a set of claims that I can only see as radically false.

    Nachtgurke, fascinating. That may well be a vehicle for the Second Religiosity in central Europe.

    Ron, Canada is far more of a cultural dependency of Europe than we are down here in the US, so that doesn’t surprise me; the nasty anti-Christianism does surprise me a bit, but then “Canadian nice” was never much more than a sales pitch anyway, was it? As for new revelations, I don’t especially have my ear to the ground where that’s concerned, but I know that when winter’s winding down, I can expect snowdrops to blossom, and I know that when an age of reason is doing the same thing, new revelations and religious visions begin popping up like the snowdrops.

    Other Owen, again, that’s why a knowledge of history helps, by giving you a source of perspective that allows you to see past the illusions of the present moment. Where I live, by the way, it’s a very rare day when you see anybody in a hijab.

    Justin, yes, I was aware of it, but I hadn’t drawn the obvious conclusion and identified Pentecostalism as the rock’n’roll of Christianity. Maybe one of the issues is that we haven’t yet started to see rap Christianity (which is of course not the same thing as Christian rap…)

    Paul, many thanks for the data points. For what it’s worth, I don’t think anybody’s going to be spared the economic tumult that’s on its way.

    Moose, that could very well be a significant factor.

    Clark, hmm! Interesting. Thanks for this.

    Deneb, of course — these changes take time. My sense, though, is that we’re at an inflection point of some importance just now.

    Pygmycory, Canada’s still much too European for that. The US is closer to the fringes, in effect. We’ll see what happens a few years further down the road.

    Justin, one of the major tasks of the Winter phase of a civilization is precisely sorting through the ventures of the older, more creative eras, to find anything of value. So you’re on the cutting edge, in a sense!

    Yigit, I’ll let my Orthodox readers respond.

  162. @Yigit #171, the book “The Orthodox Way” by bishop Kallistos Ware, you may find a useful overview – has a splendidly beautiful explanation of the Triune God. Orthodox practices are fasting, communion, being baptized, chrismation – being anointed with oil for the reception of the Holy Spirit, regular participation in church services and the local congregational fellowship, activities and life, practice of the Jesus prayer and the written prayers of the church, prostrations, standing prayer, prayer beads, monasticism for some individuals, confession of the Nicene Creed and other creeds, celibacy outside of male/female monogamous marriage, confession to a priest, veneration of Mary, saints and icons, and when available guidance from a saintly elder, the study of the Bible and Orthodox Church teachings and theology, good works and charity. Too much for this Pentecostal evangelical Protestant , but I am broadly read and have had some contact with some excellent and worthy Orthodox Christians

  163. @Justin Patrick Moore,
    thanks for the recommendation. I went and listened to it. Still not really my thing, but less objectionable than a lot of atonal music I’ve heard. It sounds a little too random, and the dissonances not meaningful enough for me to truly enjoy it. I’m sure there’s a method behind why the dissonances are where they are, but this piece doesn’t come across as beautiful to me, though parts of it almost do.

    Each to their own, I guess.

  164. @JMG #117,
    >the historic denominations of Christianity in Europe are as dead […] because so many of them became state churches

    Hm… I do not know if I can agree with that. There have been no state churches in Europe since 1848. All countries have separation of Church and State. Even in countries like Italy, Greece or Ireland you can setup whatever church you want as long as you inform the local authorities. The CoE in the UK is of course a state church, but more in a ceremonial way.

    The Netherlands were established after the Napoleonic wars precisely to keep the state from interfering with people’s faith. But 200 years later, there are hardly any Christians left to interfere with.

    You can find true state churches in Eastern Europe, and it is precisely those (Orthodox) Churches that do not seem to have any problems finding new converts.

    >people don’t notice that the separation of church and state that we have over here in the US benefits the churches far more than the state!

    Again, I do not really share that view. Christianity and religion play a much bigger role in US politics than in any European country. The “Christian Nation”, “In God We (you) Trust”, “under God”, and so on. Nowhere in Western Europe do politicians try to cater to a large denomination like they do in the US with, for example, the Evangelicals. (Christian) religion has disappeared from public discourse.

    You might not have a state church in the US, but the state manipulates religiosity for its own purposes more than in Europe.

  165. @Pygmycory @Jmg

    Country is heavily split i think between rural and urban areas. At least in ontario. Freedom convoy consisted of majority rural folks From all provinces west to east. There were christian prayer groups on parliament hill during the occupation.
    I Wonder if a second religiosity would be to Islam in the big cities and Christianity in the countrysides. Gotta wait for the ideology substituting religion to fade away.

  166. First off, I don’t think I’d have read or even heard of Spengler without your writing, so thank you for that. And I’ve been thinking about the Second Religiosity lately due to Kingsnorth’s conversion in particular. Spengler’s model helps make some sense of that event, which would otherwise strike me as kind of baffling.

    I suppose I’m at least “Second Religiosity-adjacent” myself, after drifting from atheism and a moderate faith in progress to a worldview where I’m willing to approach polytheism, the occult and Revival Druidry with an open mind. That’s in no small part due to your influence. 🙂

    How do you see the reconstructionist Pagan religions in terms of the Second Religiosity? In one sense they’re new creations out on the fringes, but they also aim to reconstruct indigenous Indo-European religious forms and hold up the past as an ideal, so in that sense they’re an example of intellectuals and the middle class returning to older structures. Especially in their ancestral European homelands, but as a Scandinavian I find it interesting that Norse Heathenry seems to be much stronger in North American than here. Sometimes I get a feeling that the Heathen gods have moved their focus and adopted a new people and spiritual homeland, to put it that way. And it does make sense, in that American culture seems like a much better fit for those who want to emulate Norse culture and values than modern-day, thoroughly domesticated and bureaucratic/state collectivist Scandinavia.

  167. @ JMG- drawing on some previous comments and the content of the essay got me thinking; what kind of story would be instantly recognizable to the underclasses of the American Empire, that would then inspire a new religion? Going with the theme of an Asian psuedomorphosis, before the emergence of a North American culture, I’m thinking the works of a director like Miyazaki would provide fertile ground for some Shinto-esq religion. Combine than with the Tamanous bent the new culture would have, I get a picture of a new religion that worships places and the spirits that animate them. Down to the truly local level. Each stream, hollow and hill, every surviving species and people, each animated by a spirit unique to them, yet part of a broader pantheon. Gives one a lot to chew on…

  168. >Psalm 111.2
    >So is that the reason you say he won’t be invited back?

    No, it was further on up, when he started pasting all those extra fuel tanks that would need to be thrown up into orbit for refueling. And then he asked if anyone had even tested refueling in orbit yet. Or even if it’s on the schedule to test. Yeah, that’s when I started saying to myself “He’s not going to get invited back again”. I doubt anyone even noticed that bible verse and looking it up, it’s innocuous.

    In any case, when a real life space mission is proposing something much sillier than anything you would attempt in Kerbal Space Program, the probability it’s going to fail is almost 1. It’s one thing when you’re doing silly stuff with pretend cartoon astronauts in a video game because you’re bored.

    It’s quite another to do it in real life with real people. What I took away from it, is that program is radioactive – do not touch it.

  169. @Aldarion (#161): What’s true is what’s effective, and by that measure, the cult of Christ has been effective indeed. A (heterodox) Catholic myself, so mine might not be the most representative answer, but I suspect that, but for the most dogmatic among the brethren on both sides, there’s less friction between Christianity and Islam than the sectarians would have use belief (I mean, Christ is regarded as the Messiah (albeit with different understandings) in both, no?)

  170. Hi JMG and friends,

    I’m interested in how this idea of a return to religion translates when looking at Islamic civilization as opposed to Western civilization. It’s been more than 40 years now since 1979, the year which saw the Grand Mosque Seizure in Mecca and the Iranian Revolution in Iran. These events saw the re-emergence of fundamentalist thought as a central tenet of Islamic political action in both the Shia and Sunni branches of Islam. I would like to focus on trends in the Sunni tradition for this post.

    The Salafi (also pejoratively known as Wahabi) school of thought, a fundamentalist school of Sunni Islam championed by Saudi Arabia, was propagated throughout the Islamic world thanks to Saudi funding. Many of the extremist Islamic movements the world has dealt with since (al-Qaeda, ISIS, etc.) have been rooted in the jihadist branch of this ideology (although I should note that most Salafis are quietists, and generally take the approach of avoiding politics entirely). Salafi thought in general revolves around an austere, literalist interpretation of Islamic texts and the goal of following the examples set by the Salaf, the first three generations of Muslims. It’s the sort of thing which would seem perfectly in line with The Second Religiosity.

    The curious thing is that Salafi ideology is on the backfoot these days. The headline-making Sunni Islamic groups (the Afghan Taliban, Hamas) these days all have a virulent anti-Salafi bent to them. (Shia groups like Iran, Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen oppose Salafism for obvious reasons). The Taliban in Afghanistan are Deobandis, while Hamas follows a form of nationalism rooted in Islamism. These schools of thought are both younger than Salafism, both in terms of historical age and in terms of philosophy. While the Salafis have been around since the 1700s, the Deobandis emerged as an anti-British Islamic group in 19th/20th century colonial India and Palestinian nationalism is a 20th century concept. The overarching conflict is whereas these newer groups have nationalist aims, the Salafis aim to recreate the historical caliphate, a polity that would unite and govern all Muslims. This conflict has led to violent confrontations, with Hamas purging all Salafis from Gaza a few years ago and the Taliban currently engaged in a counter-insurgency operation against ISIS-K, the Afghan branch of ISIS.

    But most important of all, Saudi Arabia, the heart of Salafism, is moving away from the ideology. The royal family has purged many Salafis (along with other Islamists) as part of a greater scheme to move away from Salafism and towards some sort of modern interpretation of Islam more conducive to globalized, multicultural economics. Another motivation is in clamping down on anti-monarchy sentiment; Salafi movements have been among the fiercest anti-royal voices in the kingdom, and groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS state that the destruction of the House of Saud is one of their most important goals. The uneasy alliance between the royals and the clerics in Saudi Arabia is crumbling and it seems to me that the royals are winning. Salafi movements worldwide are weakened for it.

    To bring this all back to your post, I wonder what we can take away from this in terms of civilizational change. The line between “West” and “Islamic” has been blurring ever since the Ottoman Empire broke up (granted, the Ottomans themselves were an Islamic Rome, perhaps the most perfect blend of the West and Islam that ever was). Western technology and business has influenced the trajectory of the Middle East, and the Western hegemon achieved its status in large part because it was the staunch ally of Saudi Arabia. Cities like Dubai are key parts of Islamic civilization, modern day versions of Abbasid Baghdad, while also being blended with Western civilization to the point that young people in Dubai speak more English than Arabic. So this trend of the West returning to religion in a more regimented, ossified way while the Islamic world recontextualizing its religion in a modern lenses is a very interesting development. We are bound at the hip but we are moving in opposite directions.

    PS. I will note that I am not a Muslim and so if any Muslim reader sees an issue with my understanding, please correct me.

  171. I don’t notice much of the second religiosity yet, here in Western Canada, but you can see it in media reports from time to time.
    For Ali, she seems to be in search of spiritual reality, and I think we all know by now that there are realities out there who will be glad to move her along! Perhaps she will seek the spiritual realities in Christianity, or she may declare herself a Druid in 3 years. Some God or other could take an interest in her, you never know.
    For Ali and the rest of us, it will be interesting to see how a Second Religiousity interacts with the Tamanous character of Spirituality in North America; In Europe, 2nd religiosity may be expressed by returning to one’s tribe or ethnic group. But here in NA I would expect to see formation of new groups or people finding individual refuge.

  172. Yigit (#172)-
    as i write this it is Friday evening, on Saturday evening- tomorrow night there will be, throughout the orthodox world in all the jurisdictions (Greek, Russian, Slavic, Antiochian (Syrian) etc.) a service known as Great Vespers- evening prayers. turn off the computer and enter into an orthodox church and listen, look and smell. Return to that church in the morning and experience the divine liturgy. and if it feels right and good, do it again, and again.
    forgive me if i assume incorrectly that you are a coming to the faith in a completely or predominantly mediated manner (via the internet) if not forgive me. but you sound like it- again forgive me if not.
    this is advice i would give (in a fashion) if I was a Muslim, Buddhist or for that matter a pagan to an eager would be adherent- orthopraxis is the most important thing- you don’t need a PDF to put spiritual practice in to practice- you need to be there and be there often. this is even more important in the 21st century when so much of our experience is lived in a disembodied virtual pixel landscape- you need to worship and experience this as in an embodied flesh and blood being- smelling the incense and hearing the chanting and viewing the icons not on a screen but in reality.
    i wish you well…. Christ is in our midst.

  173. @pygmycory: Fair enough! I am happy this is a place we can practice dissensus with respect for each other.

    I appreciate your willingness to give the piece a listen. I hope you & yours are doing well, and wish you continued success in your various musical efforts.

  174. DiscWrites, you’re using the term “state churches” in a much narrower sense than I am. Consider the Church of England as a good example. Its clergy are government employees; the head of the church is King Charles III; every word that comes out of every priest at every sermon can be treated quite reliably as a statement of official sentiment, if not official policy. From an American perspective, that’s a state church. Christianity in America is as vital and active as it is precisely because it’s independent of the political structure — US politicians have to cater to the Evangelical lobby, the Catholic lobby, the Jewish lobby, etc. precisely because they function as independent voting blocs that can easily swing a close election. The Church of England isn’t an independent bloc because it’s owned lock stock and barrel by the government.

    Ian, thanks for the data point.

    Kim, reconstructionist Paganism is a collection of new religions which, like most new religions, claim ancient roots. While the Neopagan scene is collapsing, more traditionalist polytheist faiths seem to be doing pretty well — the Heathen scene especially, at least here in the US. One of Spengler’s other concepts — cultural pseudomorphosis, the process by which a great culture overlays other cultural regions with a veneer of its own ideas and practices — helps explain that; in North America we’ve got a European pseudomorphosis over the top of something very different, something ultimately hostile to the European/Faustian drive for a monoculture of the mind and the imagination. Right now, the old polytheisms are among the ways in which that’s expressing itself; it will likely take newer and stranger forms as we proceed.

    Ben, if such a religion were to show up I’d be right out there making offerings to its spirits and powers! Even beyond that, it would be intriguing to see a Shinto-descended American animism of the sort you’ve described.

    Hobbyist, Islam belongs to a different civilization on a different timescale. One of the crucial points of Spengler’s vision is that each great culture has to be taken as an independent force. The great culture of Arabic Islam, as I see it, was already in a period of decline when the West showed up with guns blazing, but that period of decline appears to be ending; the quietist, backwards-looking approach that works well in an era of decline is giving way to more expansive, more future-oriented views — I’ve read, for example, that Frank Herbert’s novel Dune has been hugely popular in Arabic translation and has a lot of young people thinking about a future very different from the one projected by the Western media. Meanwhile the West is shifting toward a more quietist, backward-looking vision as it tips over into an era of decline. How that plays out — especially if large parts of Europe end up dominated by Muslim immigrants (and/or invaders) over the next century — is a fascinating question.

    Emmanuel, I expect her to remain Christian, simply because she’s part of the global intelligentsia. It’s among the grassroots that the future Tamanous culture will be stirring.

  175. Perhaps Ali converted because she met the devil. A Russian author, Mikhial Bulgakov, in the novel The Master and Margarita, has plenty to say about if you deny the existence god or Jesus then you also have to deny the existence of the devil and that’s not a wise choice as it tends to bite you in the ass. Check it out.

  176. @Justin Patrick Moore 169; well, I listened to the link. I’d say there’s more music in that than in Ravel’s “Bolero,” at least. I don’t quite understand why the 12-tone composers stuck with the tempered scale. Was it simply for convenience (most pianos being tuned that way)? There is much to be explored in the microtonal realm, tho I’m no expert. I enjoyed that gamelin album that Nonesuch put out in the sixtes (and it was very popular) called “Music from the Morning of the World.” I also liked Harry Partch, especially his “Daphne of the Dunes.” He manufactured his own instruments (or modified existing instruments) which must’ve been pretty inconvenient.

  177. @pygmycory, thank you for the observations regarding the relative statis of your Christian community and glad to hear that Elizabeth May is not embarrassed to openly state that she is a Christian. As a non-Christian who has no church-going family members, I mostly have had to look through the prism of others’ experiences regarding signs of the second religiosity in our country. And what I can say is this: within Canada’s ‘freedom community’ I have seen an explosion of atheists, agnostics and lapsed Christians wholeheartedly embracing the Christian faith. They seem to have primarily flocked to the Evangelical and Baptist sects. Many have been inspired by pastors who bravely faced arrest when defying the mandates to not hold service or to have a maximum of 25 congregants while Costco could have 300 customers. Pastor Pawlowski alone has undoubtedly inspired thousands to get baptised or return to church on account of his example of adamantine religious conviction, determination to speaking the truth to tyranny under all circumstances and serving the destitute no matter what the personal cost. Then there is the testimony of several ‘men of the cloth’ at the National Citizens Inquiry who all stated, under oath, that their congregations have more than doubled since the pre-Covid era. I fondly recall late Sunday mornings in May and June 2020 breaking the law by tending my community garden plots and faintly hearing hymns being sung in a nearby Baptist church when doing so was illegal – and I said to myself, “Faith over fear; way to go!” But I admit that mine is a small sample size and is very biased towards the ‘working class’; from what I can see, the elite and laptop class are still clinging desperately to their atheist-materialist-socialist world view while the Christian underclass become more vociferous and rebellious, openly and unashamedly declaring their faith in public (a thing which I have not seen before in Canada).

  178. “There was a theory quite a while ago that the next World Teacher was due to be born early in 1962, but if so, he or she doesn’t seem to have made much of a splash…”

    Ahem, weren’t YOU born in 1962, JMG? I could picture you as a World Teacher. 🙂

  179. Greetings all!
    @ Writing Hobbyist
    As a muslim, I found your piece to be both very interesting and thoughtful. My only issue is that it is too short! LOL!!!
    Please keep up your writings and publish them too, if possible!

  180. Ayaan is a well known liar and grifter who was chased out of the Netherlands for falsifying her entire refuge application and caused a scandal that collapsed the Dutch government indirectly. She never lived in Somalia except as a young child, was from a very well known secular liberal family, and went to a very expensive catholic boarding school in Kenya (hardly somewhere a islamic fundamentalist father would send his daughter!).

    It’s like John Kerry’s daughter moving to Europe and claiming her father was a crazy trump supporting evangelical hillbilly.

    She probably sees the chance to get her name back in the spotlight and sell her badly-written books

  181. simone #187, I read Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita” many years ago. I so enjoyed it that as soon as I finished the last page, I turned to the first page and read the whole book over again. The only book I have ever done that with.

    Some years after that I was browsing the shelves looking for something to read when I saw “The Master and Margarita” and, remembering how much I’d enjoyed it, read for the third time. But this time I thought, what on earth did I see in it? It left me cold.

    It just goes to show, books stay the same, but people change.

  182. @JMG

    Since this is a post on religion, I’d like to share some religious music. Here’s the link: I know you don’t do video, but I think it’s the audio that’s important – the video can be safely ignored. It’s a Sanskrit hymn dedicated to the great God Shiva. Hope you like it:)

    Also, I have two questions:

    1) As you’ve said before, you’re a polytheist. So, my question is – which traditional pantheon are your deities of choice drawn from? Or do you worship different deities from different pantheons? If the latter is a yes, is the great god Ganesha among your deities of choice (or ishta devata) as Hindus would say? I asked because Ganesha is associated with cultural and intellectual pursuits, and thus given your work, it would not be surprising if you are His devotee. Apologies if this is too personal a question.

    2) What do you think of Alain Danielou’s work Gods of Love and Ecstasy: The Traditions of Shiva and Dionysus? I find some of Danielou’s opinions somewhat of an attempt to project modern Western ways of thinking onto ancient Hindu society (don’t know much about Hellas to make an informed comment), especially as regards sexuality; but nevertheless, I find the analogies he drew linking Shiva and Dionysus interesting. I personally think that if Danielou is right, then this pair could be expanded to form a triad with the addition of the Celtic deity Cernunnos, but I may be wrong; hence, I’d like to know your views on this.

  183. Hi John Michael,

    Sometimes my humour leans towards the dry sort of wry style of pointing out the obvious whilst making fun of it. 🙂 Just between you and I, I have given up this week with the comments and will quietly read away in the background. One of the interesting downsides of my first name is that it is also the initial spelling of the word ‘Christianity’. And with 336 matches to the much shorter word ‘Chris’ so far this week, well let’s just say that I’m getting something of a headache here.

    Hey, the name wasn’t my idea. 🙂

    On an entirely different note. It rained again here today and was miserably cold at 59’F. Yes, yes, relativism and stuff, but it is meant to be summer here. The rainfall gauge is suggesting another inch fell today. Perhaps the word ‘bonkers’ no longer suggests the depths of the general climate weirdness in my little corner of the planet?



  184. Is Ms. Ali’s Christianity a new flavor of the sort of white nationalist Christianity that sociologists like Sam Perry and Damon Berrty are writing about? Do you know anything about that?

  185. @Justin Patrick Moore,
    thanks. I’m in the Conservatory’s all-students-in-the-voice-department-who-want-to concert today, tomorrow’s church so I’m singing, monday is basically a rehearsal for the recorder recital I’ll be participating in on tuesday. And then my big spate of performances will be over till Christmas eve. Probably. Things have been coming up at the last minute recently.

    I’m glad to be able to have interesting conversations with people of different opinions here too. It’s how one learns.

  186. It’s interesting that Hamas is a sunni group rather than shia, given the strong links they have to Iran.

  187. @Ian Duncombe,
    good point. My own experience comes from Victoria, BC, so coastal city with a strong government presence. I hope you’re right about the countryside. With reference to Islam, what I’m seeing here is a lot of immigrants over the past 8 years or so, with an accompanying jump in headscarves from rare to not uncommon. I pick this as the most obvious sign. I haven’t heard of conversions locally, and there aren’t many mosques.

  188. Hi John Michael,

    I always love reading your essays.

    However, I want to disagree this time. I think we are seeing the second religiousness of the Magian Civilization. I think the Faustian Civilization is entering into a phase of brute fact. I see it as a time of domination by the person or group who can cut through the miasma of convention, myth and custom. In my view, our age belongs to the people or person who can percieve actual events, power centres and not be persuaded that his eyes lie.

    So I think that the second religiousness, is not happening to Faustian man, yet. For what it’s worth I see it going in tandem with a lack of literacy and a return to pre-Vatican 2 Roman Catholicism, that is the forgetting of the bible in favour of the Church. I think in our age, Someone sees the throne vacant and will not be held back by platitudes.

    That’s my view.

  189. Mr. Greer,

    In your response to Kim’s point that “the old polytheisms are among the ways in which that’s expressing itself” I have noticed a couple of other ways that it might be starting to express itself. One is in pop culture. You are starting to see the theme of an advanced secular liberal society collapsing and a militaristic theocratic society rising from the ashes becoming more common in pop culture. Probably the most prominent example of this is how Warhammer 40,000 has increasingly surpassed Star Trek and Star Wars in popularity among young men. Interestingly, the main religion of the state, the Imperium of Man, that arose from the ashes of the collapse of a Star Trek like Federation in Warhammer 40,000 is a mixture of Roman Catholicism and Japanese Shintoism.

    Also showing up in pop culture a lot more recently – especially a lot of the real popular Japanese books, movies, shows and games – is the idea of deification; that men can become gods. And it is not just pop culture, you are starting to see that creep into American religious movements; the Mormon doctrine of Exaltation being one of the more prominent examples.

    Another is that Fredrich Nietzsche’s works and the concepts of Will to Power, Perspectivism and Eternal Recurrence have become increasingly popular among the right the last few years. Which is kind of interesting as both Spengler was inspired by Nietzsche and drew heavily upon his work and that the concept of Will to Power is showing up on the political fringe in America while at the same time the concept of deification is starting to become more common in pop culture.

  190. Kimberly and pygmycory, you were discussing old vs. new church music. When I was in high school and had started to play double bass, I was once invited at the last minute to an amateur concert organized by an ex-student. The programme was entirely 17th century – I remember particularly Freue dich, du Tochter Zion by Andreas Hammerschmidt, which I still love.

    I came to hear at bit more about the organizer. He was singlemindedly focused on the 17th century. He was building an organ of his own in his room in his parents’ house by visiting each organ renovation around the region and scrounging old pipes. He composed music in 17th century style. At one Christmas midnight service, my father was invited to give the sermon, and this young man played the organ. My father asked him to improvise using certain dissonances and he refused categorically, affirming that the harmonies used in the 17th century were entirely sufficient to express all human emotions. He was selected to study at a conservatorium in Berlin, but returned home after two days because somebody said something he didn’t like. I have no idea what he has done since then.

    Myself, I enjoy Advent and Christmas above all because it is the only time of the year to sing the 17th century hymns like Spee’s O Heiland, reiss die Himmel auf, Hammerschmidt’s Freuet euch, ihr Christen alle and Paul Gerhardt/Johann Crüger’s Fröhlich soll mein Herze springen (also older ones like Es kommt ein Schiff geladen and Es ist ein Ros entsprungen). Unfortunately, they are basically unknown outside Germany! And I know that those younger people who still go to church in Germany, especially in the free churches Nachtgurke mentioned (I grew up in one myself) mostly don’t enjoy the older music – at least for now.

  191. @Ron M,
    I think think the differences in what we are seeing may be partly location-based. I’m not sure where you are in Canada – I’m in Victoria, so very coastal BC with lots of government in the area. There has been some trucker stuff in Victoria in 2022 – I went to a couple of sympathy protests, and there does seem to be a bit of an ongoing movement I’ve run into the edges of a couple of times, but it’s small and a long way below the radar.

    The two churches I’ve been part of in the past year are pretty different from each other. One poor, tiny salvation army church that has really been through the woodchipper by dint of the housing crisis rendering substantial portions of the congregation evicted or otherwise deciding to move. That church basically fell apart instead of recovering from the pandemic, and a well-to-do anglican church that has been much less badly hit and had the population and resources to handle the pandemic’s ill effects without falling apart and still feels like a thriving community. And of course, I don’t think people there have been hit by the housing crisis the same way. I loved that Salvation Army church and poured so much love into it for over a decade, but when only 5 or 8 people apart from the pastors’ family are showing up at a service and you feel the loss of your friends like a missing limb every time you go and the music you got going just died due to lack of singers… I just couldn’t deal with all that any more, so I resigned from running the music and left for somewhere I felt I could contribute and make friends without having to carry far too much on my back or feeling this constant sense of loss.

    I also visited a couple of others. One seemed to be doing okay, but it didn’t feel right for me, the other was the anglican cathedral, which is gorgeous and has wonderful choirs but it seemed rather empty for its size and didn’t feel like a community the way a church should. There was also a church I crossed off the list without visiting, because their website suggested a devotion more to the latest in thing than to God. Squeeing about masks in 2023, seriously? Declaring proudly how progressive they are, in as many words? Rainbow alter cloth? I don’t care how good their choir is, I want to worship God, not progress….

    Anyway, that’s what I’ve seen here. There’s clearly quite a bit of variation across the country, and I’m really glad to hear from people in other areas of it.

  192. Simone, I’ve read it. It’s not impossible that that’s what happened; evil spirits exist, whether or not you choose to interpret them in terms of Christian theology, and people encounter them from time to time.

    Robert, thanks for this. I’ve noticed that problem — works by some occult authors that have gone out of copyright show up in their search function very unevenly.

    Ecosophian, ahem. Please wash your mouth out with soap. World teachers are born surrounded by wonders, they perform miracles, they go through a major transformative experience in early adulthood (think Buddha’s enlightenment or the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist) after which they begin their teaching work, and they attract vast crowds by the sheer radiant holiness of their characters. I fail on all counts. I’d like to have some modest influence on the future, but I ain’t no World Teacher.

    (It occurs to me that I might actually be the Boring Prophet from Monty Python’s Life of Brian: “There shall, in that time, be rumors of things going astray, erm, and there shall be a great confusion as to where things really are, and nobody will really know where lieth those little things wi– with the sort of raffia work base that has an attachment. At this time, a friend shall lose his friend’s hammer and the young shall not know where lieth the things possessed by their fathers that their fathers put there only just the night before, about eight o’clock.” That could be somewhere in one of my books… )

    Thomas, interesting. Thank you for the one link; do you have links to back up your other allegations?

    Viduraawakened, the deities I worship are those revered in the Druid Revival teachings I follow, and come from the old Welsh and Brythonic pantheons. I don’t worship Hindu deities in my personal religious practice, though I’ve done so on the couple of occasions when I’ve had the chance to visit Hindu temples here in the US — basic courtesy among polytheists! — just as I’ve made offerings to Shinto kami, Norse and Greek deities, etc. As for Danielou’s book, I haven’t read it. Cernunnos is closer to Pan than to Dionysus, for whatever that’s worth; my knowledge of Hindu theology isn’t good enough to let me guess what Hindu god would best correspond to him.

    Chris, 59°F and raining is a miserable summer day pretty much everywhere — even in Greenland, summer days are usually warmer than that! You’re right, “bonkers” probably needs to be retired. How about “nucking futs”?

    Sobopla, I’m familiar with the concept; as for whether Ali is embracing that kind of Christianity, she didn’t mention what church she’s attending so I have no idea.

    Steve, so noted. You’ve made your prediction, I’ve made mine, now we get to see who’s right.

    Karl, fascinating. I know next to nothing about Warhammer 40K — I basically hadn’t even heard of it until the Kek worshippers on the chans started calling Trump the God-Emperor (or GEOTUS), and somebody mentioned where that was from. Can you point me to some kind of readable intro to the compltely clueless? As for deification, with or without a Nietzschean topping, yes, I’d noticed that, with very mixed feelings.

  193. Well, John, I have decided to throw your cat into the middle of some pigeons. I make comments on three different Substacks each hosted by an Orthodox Christian. I did it already with one. I am recommending the reading of your A World Full of Gods along with a sharing of one of your arguments that Christian experiences of the Trinity aren’t sufficient evidence for the Trinity’s supremacy and uniqueness as God but can be seen as just a gnat encountering a being that happens to be far bigger and better than the gnat, a god not God. That’s the argument that placed me in an ongoing Pascal’s Wager position. Yes, the Trinity is the One (sure feels like it to me) or maybe a big nice one. Either way I am in a good place.
    A gnat parable to go with your cat parable.
    On the coast of Namibia in Africa elephants swim in the ocean. One day three gnats were blown out to sea, one landed on a whale, another on a basking shark, the third on an elephant. The wind reversed and the three gnats were blown back to land reported their encounters with ultimate living reality. They all stated what they encountered was wet, beyond huge in a size and ALIVE. They did note some differences for instance, two made sacred sounds (breathing) and the third did not. And the sacred noises as described had differences. The Yah Whale gnat insisted his was the greatest (that’s me). Many gnat theologians decided that all three gnats had landed on the same ultimate reality deciding the reported differences were immaterial as after all the three gnats said the ultimate was huge, wet and alive. A fourth gnat developed a system wherein you mediated on a philosophical system describing the true nature of reality, followed 8 practices, did hours and hours of mental and at times physical actions and you would end by constructing a state of consciousness that enabled you to see things as they truly are without any need for a wet ultimate reality (God or gods).
    15 second comparative religions class- Abrahamic religions say it’s a sin to think you are God, Hinduism says it’s a sin to think you are Not God, and Buddhism says it’s a sin to think you are anything at all! . I am having fun.

  194. @Phutatorius: I agree with you, about the comparison of Hauer to Ravel. It is also interesting how much the Gamelan influenced American composers, specifically those on the West Coast like Lou Harrison. The west coast also exhibited a strong DIY tradition of new instrument building (ala Partch, but also others). Perhaps it is some of that pacific wind.

    I love a lot of the Just Intonation music and various explorations of microtonality that have occurred after exposure to world music.

    One of my favorites are Terry Rileys piano cycle The Harp of New Albion.

    Certainly a lot to explore in the world alternate tunings and microtonality. Kyle Gann wrote a book on the subject.

    With regards to Hauer, I get excited about the idea if listening to someones divination as translated into music.

    @Pygmycory: best of luck with all your upcoming performances!

  195. Mr. Greer,

    Considering how much lore Warhammer 40k has that is a pretty tall order. There is an official wiki that does have pretty good overview of the lore but it is still a fairly long read:,000_Universe#Pre-Human_History

    An extremely basic overview is that there exists another plane of existence called the Warp or the Immaterium that is kind of a psychic sea of souls that mankind learns to traverse to colonize the universe. But since the Immaterium is connected psychically to all living things the thoughts, prayers and actions of sentient beings in the physical universe, called the Materium, can give birth to beings in the Warp; basically gods, spirits and daemons. The setting is very much polytheistic. There is a pantheon of 4 gods collectively called the Chaos Gods or the Ruinous Powers: Khorne (the god of warfare), Nurgle (the god of disease, death and decay), Tzeentch (the god of change and sorcery) and Slaanesh (the god of pleasure and excess). The main conflict in the setting is a war between the followers of this pantheon and the Imperium of Man.

    As I mentioned earlier the Imperium of Man arose after the collapse of a Star Trek like secular liberal federation. The Imperium calls the time of the Federation the Dark Age of Technology and the war that brought it down as the Age of Strife. The Imperium is not as technologically advanced as the federation that proceeded it and is very suspicious unrestrained technological and scientific development. So much so the Imperium has a religious order called the Adeptus Mechanicus that worships a god of technology called the Omnissiah in charge of regulating humanity’s technological development. The main religious figure of the Imperium’s polytheistic religion is the Emperor of Mankind; once a powerful human psychic he mortally wounded in an early civil war during the Imperium’s formation called the Horus Heresy. He has been kept alive via artificial means and centuries of worship has caused the energies of the Immaterium to turn him into a god, hence God Emperor of Mankind. Their religion is very much Roman Catholicism aesthetics and organizational structure, including an Inquisition, with a Japanese Imperial Shinto theological core.

    That is a very brief overview.; the setting is pretty much the polar opposite of Star Trek and it is actually causing some political tension. As evidenced by the fact they slapped the term God-Emperor on Trump it is a very popular science fiction franchise among young men on the Right and a lot of people on the Left, especially of the Woke variety, are trying very hard to undermine that popularity without much success.

  196. @William Hunter Duncan #40:

    “Katz was arguing (in the usual way) that Substack needs to go the way of Google and Meta and work with the Feds to silence critics of the liberal project.”

    What will he do when us peons start writing unacceptable opinions on post-it notes and passing them back and forth?

  197. @pygmycory
    Watching the rise of Islam is an adjustment, though its something I am more relaxed about. There was a general consensus in the smallish Ontario town I grew up in, among working class right leaning folks, that Islam was kind of the last straw. The last straw regarding what was tolerable in terms of new families setting up in the county. There were jokes of course, but the idea was that if Islam, or Hindus (I don’t think the locals really knew the difference), came over in too many numbers they were going to load up the truck and move north until there was not a turban in sight etc. That was twenty years ago but I don’t think too much changed. Churches were everywhere and my family was the only Baháʼí family in the county that had young children. I think we were the strangest thing going but we were tolerated because were locals, ran a family business in town, were white etc.
    Living in Hamilton Ontario now with a little of half a million residents, the closest butcher at 500m away is an Arabic speaking family, the man that butchers the meat doesn’t speak English, (the closest restaurant is a curry place for that matter). This morning the butcher sliced me a few cuts of meat that were vastly underpriced compared to the commercial grocer farther down the road. I got some Madras curry powder and loose leaf tea. Later when my friend cam over we started talking about the supply chain for the butcher. I mentioned I saw the fresh cow legs brought in over the shoulder of the supplier before the meat was cut. He works the docks in the harbor and said he knew a guy that raises goats and sheep for the Muslim market so to speak. Apparently a supplier buys the animals and then Muslim workers come and slaughter the animals themselves, have the the meat blessed etc. So the butchering isn’t done by the farmer. I raised some goats in that very same county I grew up in seven, eight years ago, and had an idea I might tap into that very market I was talking to my friend about.
    So you could raise goats in the rural Christian countryside, and bring the animals live to the city for slaughtering at the Muslim market.
    As a side note – I’ve always had a hard time in Churches. The Catholic churches I saw in Eastern Europe were more works of art, but as for Canadian Churches I feel like I do not belong. Presently the rescue game is being played hard I think in some of the Canadian denominations. At work I deal constantly with the ins and outs of the rescue game and its so exhausting and I would just rather not ever spend my Sundays exposing myself to that. Though I understand not every denomination is like that, I feel like it would be easier to convert to Islam and just escape altogether the encroaching mind virus or whatever it is. Again, as I was stating earlier, If I was a young urban dwelling man and wanted to re-establish myself, pull myself out the material corporate muck culture, I would probably pick the Abrahamic Religion, or any religion, that wasn’t infected.

  198. @pygmycory, certainly location makes a difference. All the news of a resurgent Christianity that I have is from east of the Kootenays. Mostly in the prairie provinces, but not exclusively. I know of people who have passionately declared/rededicated themselves as Christians right through to Nova Scotia. Even the Eastern Canada citadels of wokedom – Ottawa and Toronto – have not been spared this phenomenon. My personal story (from earlier in this post) is based in Toronto. I forgot to mention the fairly high-profile Toronto news that is flattering to the Christian faith: the situation this summer in which the Government of Canada invited loads of refugees into the country (including a photo-op of Mr. Fancy Socks grinning goofily with new arrivals at Pearson airport) and then dumped them on the streets of downtown Toronto (including highly pregnant women, for crying out loud!!!). This was followed by the predictable theatrical shouting match (with no action) between the City of Toronto and the Government of Canada regarding who is responsible for finding accommodation for these hapless souls. While the bickering went on and on, a couple of churches said, “frack this shale” and brought buses downtown, picked up all the refugees and housed, fed and clothed them in makeshift hostels in the basement of these large churches in the ‘burbs. Donations poured in like crazy… A lot of Christians whom I have encountered have ‘taken it on the chin’ for decades but have recently decided to push back, as a community, against their tormentors. My impression is that the Jesus being worshipped by the kind of people whom I have been describing is less the ‘lamb of God’ (gentle Jesus, meek and mild) and more like the ‘ram of God’ (the Jesus who upset the tables of the money changers at the temple) – i.e., a virile, rebellious, fearless, uncompromising, almost militant deity. As for progress-oriented churches, see if you can top the self-declared Progress Church in Toronto ( Sorry to hear about your Salvation Army church closing for good: early in my adulthood I worked for the ‘Sally Ann’ – it was one of the best work experiences of my life and I have truck loads of respect for the people of that somewhat quirky sect.

  199. @JMG #186,
    Again, I have to disagree.
    The Church of England is *not* a good example: it is a state church in a religiously very liberal country. It is not that the English are forced to join the CoE and rebel against religiosity as a result: they are free to choose whatever denomination or religion suits them best. England is hardly a theocracy.

    Even if it were a good example, it would still not explain why Continental Europe, with as good as no state church, is so secularized. Or the other countries of the UK, where the CoE is not the state church.

    In this Pew study (, the UK has about the same (very low) worship attendance as France, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Russia, most of the former USSR and Warsaw pact, or Germany. A few of these countries have a state church, most don’t. If having a state church mattered at all, you would see it in the data.

    The Netherlands is the country that invented separation of church and state. Attendance seems to be in the same range as the UK. If Christians stopped going to church out of spite for the secular branch, then the Netherlands should have almost perfect attendance. Instead, we turn churches into musea.

    So, sorry, but no: whatever the cause of secularisation in Europe, it is not rebellion against a state church.

    What you maybe mean to say is that in Europe, you automatically belonged to a certain religion (cuius regio eius religio), while in the US, individuals always had a great deal more freedom to choose their affiliation. Until recently, the only choice for most Europeans was not going to church at all, which is what they did.

    And it is true that until WWII, your church was the center of the social relationships you needed in order to survive. Once people started relying less on family and friends, and more on bureaucracies (multinationals, pension funds, the welfare state), they found that they needed their personal contacts less then before, and dropped out of church.

    In that case, you are probably right that the possibility to choose among different churches helps: in an individualistic society, religion must be an individual choice. Or maybe, since the US do not really have a welfare state, faith-signalling is a survival strategy.

    As the Long Descent takes shape, Europeans will again go looking for people they can rely on. They are indeed going back to Religion already. You cannot really see it in the data yet, but younger people are slowly rediscovering spirituality, often a new one (Evangelicals are making a killing in Italy, while Catholics slowly die out).

    Immigrants of course have a head start: they need each other to survive in a new country and they come from places without a welfare state. In my church, >75% of believers and 100% of children are not of Dutch origin. But most immigrants in Europe are muslims, so they go to the mosque.

  200. Moose, the gnat parallel works very well — not least because there are many, many different things swimming off the coast of Namibia! One consequence of either parallel is that it becomes quite easy to acknowledge that your deity is real and your worship is valid without denying that same courtesy to everyone else. After all, there are a lot of huge wet living things out there!

    Karl, thanks for this! I’ve bookmarked the timeline and will make time to read it when other demands permit. Fascinating, that it includes both technological decline and justified suspicions of technology!

    Cliff (if I may), in the runup to the Iranian revolution in 1979, the standard way for information to be passed among opponents of the Shah’s regime was by way of cassette tapes. Sermons by Khomeini and others were smuggled into the country that way and spread like wildfire, and nothing SAVAK (the Shah’s notoriously brutal secret police) could do was able to stop it. In other words, Katz is doomed to disappointment…

    Disc_writes, in many other European countries, the major churches are funded by tax dollars and subject to government supervision. Again, you’re using an inappropriately rigid definition of “state church.” I’d point to the spread of Evangelical churches in Italy and the Free Church movement in Germany as evidence for my point; it’s precisely because these churches are not integrated into the political and social hierarchy that they’re able to grow so fast, because they aren’t subject to the political whims of the status quo. The same thing’s going on in Latin America, where Catholicism is losing members hand over fist while Evangelical, Pentecostal, and syncretist churches gain ground steadily.

  201. Hi John Michael,

    Thanks for the suggestion, and laughs! The boring prophet scene was very funny indeed. No doubt that things were lost!

    It’s raining here again today. Something, something, turning into rainforest, except when the weather pendulum occasionally swings in the extreme other direction. I expect that with more water vapour in the atmosphere, high tech solar and wind energies will struggle. And lo, there shall be great confusion as to where the sun and winds went. Except occasionally, they shall present themselves for general entertainment with great force, perhaps with an, err, little copper hanging decorative bits off the side. Yes. And at such a time, a baker will wonder as to the overall lack of energies to drive the oven. Dogs will mope. Then…

    🙂 Even the most dull of prophets can provide inspiration!



  202. I had a misfortune to live through the crash of the USSR. Back then the official “religion” was still atheism. And it was even a required course and exit exam called “ Scientific Atheism” before one could graduate from college. However, I clearly remember that in the decade leading to collapse, in later 1980s, everyone who was anyone rushed to demonstrate their Orthodox Christian faith. Even supposedly communist leaders. Later on, especially them.
    At the same time the press was flooded with “esoteric” writings of dubious value. Also, there was one man on TV who was claiming to heal his viewers just by waiving hands. There was another one who was “charging” water with healing powers if people put jars and containers filled with water in front of their TV screens. All kinds of sects were allowed to come out from the underground. These were really weird times.
    And since the media was still tightly controlled by the government one could not help but wonder.
    So, call me a conspiracy theorist, but I suspect that what we observe now among international intelligentsia is the symptom of the impending crash of the Western civ, deliberately organized crash. Their flight to organized faith is the only way out for those “intellectuals” who want to preserve their privileged status as the old Western world burns around them.

  203. Hey JMG and Karl

    On the subject of WH 40K, there are a lot of novels and short stories set in its universe, which are published by a department of the war hammer franchise called “The black library.” I think they would be the best way to get into the WH40K universe, unless you are willing to find a group that plays the board games.

  204. @Aldarion,
    We’re doing Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (in translation) this Christmas. It’s a glorious one, isn’t it?

    While I love 17th century music very much and hoping to do the baroque summer music intensive programme this year, I would be sad if it were the only music in the world. I also enjoy medieval, renaissance, classical, romantic era music, plus some modern music and a number of folk and some pop styles. I don’t like atonal and some of the other modern art music, plus rap and modal jazz. The Hillside and Bethel music I mentioned disliking – I don’t like it as worship music because there’s so much better out there and I didn’t the way that particular piece was performed on youtube, but it’s not horrible. It’s like the Christian version of elevator muzak to me, and if I’m going to spend hours every week on a labor of love, I want more than to play elevator muzak. It wasn’t just me who didn’t like that stuff either… literally no one asked for any of their songs when song requests were taken.

    Sometimes I wonder about the stereotype that young people don’t like old music. They said that when I was growing up, too. It’s never fit me, and it doesn’t fit quite a few of the young people I know or knew growing up, either. But then I was a pretty weird kid, and the people I knew did skew towards band geeks and science nerds.

  205. @Ron M,
    they’re technically still open and having services. Just almost no one comes. The building and pastors are still quite busy doing food bank and toy library and assorted programs of that sort now, but…

    I am glad that other areas of Canada are seeing more life than I am here. Hopefully things here will improve.

    That progress church… facepalm. Think I’ll pass on that one, thanks.

  206. A couple of local (Minnesota) data points for the weakening of contemporary Neopaganism: our nearest Barnes & Noble store has always had a sizable New Age/Magic/Wicca section. About a year ago it was renamed “Personal Development”, but even up to our last visit (probably in early fall, as I would have been looking for the Halloween issues of needlecraft magazines) the section was full. Last week we stopped in and it had been decimated–magic/Wicca was down to 2 1/2 shelves from 1 1/2 bookcases and the “Speculation” section had apparently been abducted by aliens. Astrology still had a couple of shelves, but the remaining cases, empty of books, were more decorated than stocked with assorted Tarot and oracle decks.

    The other is that The Eye, formerly Eye of Horus, an occult shop that recently celebrated 20 years in business, closed suddenly at the end of November. Jane’s death in 2021 and Thracie’s deteriorating health were partly to blame, but the store never recovered financially from the quarantine and was deeply in debt. Of course, many good businesses have gone under due to Covid, but it was interesting that a store that had been a cornerstone of the community could no longer survive.

    FWIW, I think Heathenry has an excellent chance of surviving the fading (or implosion, we’ll see) of Neopaganism. Although they have their own Woke contingent, there’s a large segment that has always held apart from the Neopagan community, which may stand them in good stead. Very important is their emphasis on family and on raising Heathen children–the AFA, for instance, has a homeschooling program, whereas the general Neopagan community argues whether children ought to be taught religion at all. Speaking of the AFA, while I disagree with them on important points, I have to admire any Polytheist organization that can operate FOUR actual, physical temples.

  207. @JMG re: Warhammer 40k

    One thing to note about the WH40k lore is that it has grown and become more systematized/canonized over the years. Warhammer fantasy began life pretty obviously as a spin off of D&D, and then WH40k began as “Warhammer … IN … SPAAACCCEEE!” It’s original iteration, called “Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader” had a much different vibe and a lot of stuff that has gone in and out of being part of the “canon” (for example, the Squats, which are Space Dwarves started out as goofy bikers chomping stoagies, went away for a while, and now are back as kinda space vikings).

    One thing that is frustrating is that I haven’t really been able to find a good history of the development of the 40k lore (you can find lots of in-universe history, but not detailed accounts of how the setting got built and fleshed out over time). I’m pretty sure the reason for this is that 40k began like most gaming settings, with the creators gleefully “borrowing” from all of their favorite sci-fi and fantasy sources, and as GW has become more and more protective of its own unique IP, it has made efforts to distance it from the original inspirations (mutant psychic space navigators and a God Emperor from Dune, power armor from Starship Troopers, Chaos gods from Moorcock and Poul Anderson, “Orks” from Tolkien, brutal space cops from Judge Dredd, scary inquisitors from the Book of the New Sun, and so forth). It’s a shame, though, because historically they’ve put enough of their own spin on things to make the result of this “throw everything we’ve got into the pot” stew really interesting, and obviously super compelling to a lot of folks.

    At any rate, happy exploring!

  208. This might be one of my favorite posts by you, JMG. And I since I usually greatly enjoy your work, that is saying something. I’m not sure where I’d fit in the Second Religiosity phenomenon. I rejected religion by the time I was 12, and spent about a decade as an atheist, though increasingly open to Christianity toward the end, and then of course became a Christian. In the 2000s, I was a gung-ho neocon, and leaving that for what is essentially a fusion of libertarianism and MAGA populism probably took longer than leaving atheism for theism. The final steps in that process were taken at about the same time that I rejected “orthodox” Christian dogma and started down a path of polytheism and occultism.

    What I don’t fully understand about my personal journey is how it has in some ways come full circle but minus the fundamentalism/extremism. For example, when I first became a polytheist a few years back, I initially tried a form of henotheist Christianity, but that fell by the wayside as I ceased to make any distinction in my worship between latria and dulia. This resulted in great relationships with two other deities, Mithras and Anat. Those relationships continue up to the present. The Christian god had stopped answering my prayers a long time ago, and I didn’t feel any guilt over ceasing any kind of Christian worship. Then, not too long ago, an old prayer that I said many times to the Christian god (but had ceased asking for, either from him or any deity) was unexpectedly answered. Quite out of the blue.

    I won’t go into details, since it involves private family matters, but the situation was resolved darned nearly overnight, and that was almost miraculous, considering the specifics. The result was a fairly quick, but very rewarding, fusion of my prior Catholicism (the orthopraxis aspect) with the Rosicrucianism of Max Heindel and supplemented by the Mayan Order lessons. I’m now this odd mix of Catholicism, polytheism, Rosicrucianism, Mayanry, and Preterism (thanks for reminding me of that latter option in your book “Apocalypse Not”). I’m not sure that I fit into any particular category very well. As far as guiding values, I think I now value toleration, freedom of thought, and allowing others to live their lives as they see fit (so long as they extend the same courtesy to others) most of all.

  209. In the Japanese Buddhist Shingon sect, and the Tendai, it is possible for Buddhism to ‘take a back seat’. This is because of the Mahayana doctrine of ‘upaya kaushalya’ skillful means (to an end). As long as a tradition maintains the core Buddhist beliefs; in the unsatisfactory nature of ordinary reality, in the transient nature of all phenomena, and in the ineffability of the so-called ‘Ultimate Nature’ (of consciousness and the cosmos) then it is considered orthodox. There also has to be a commitment to ethical conduct based on loving kindness and universal altruism. Apart from these one can pursue any kind of beneficial path that one wishes. In Shugendo this allowed tantric Buddhism to absorb traditional Shintoism, including folk shamanism and kannabi shinko (mountain worship), as well as onmyodo (Yin-Yang occultism), kiko (chi-gung) and martial arts. It was an exceptionally dynamic and powerful synthesis, which produced the wandering gyoja (ascetics) and the yamabushi. Naturally, it was viewed with grave suspicion by the state, and it was finally suppressed in 1868. Fortunately, Shugendo was able to conceal itself within the Shingon and Tendai sects, reemerging in 1946, and it is now enjoying a remarkable resurgence.

  210. Maybe this is best saved for the Open Post, but alas, it ain’t:

    Fully 33% of the people I know under 50 (and some over) are actively engaged in pen-and-paper (or a close computer analogue) dungeons and dragons campaign. Dungeons and Dragons seems to be entering its real heyday after the false one 40 years ago. Granted, my set of people I know is a little biased, but I can name DND players /GMS that I personally know that range from unemployed loser to C-level executive.

    The Second Religiosity is many things, and escapism is one of them – during the Great Depression, many Americans watched movies over and over again in theaters – Snow White was particularly popular. I wonder, in the absence of Act II of Christianity, if DND is meeting a similar need.

    Full disclosure: I am engaged in two 5e campaigns, as both player and DM. Like many people I play with, I spend about six hours a weekend doing this, not counting DM prep time. I’ll freely admit this isn’t actually a productive response to the situation we are all in, but it is a fun one.

  211. @Justin Patrick Moore: I hope this isn’t straying too far off topic. On minimalism. I wonder why the use of repeating tapes and repeating musical phrases has so dominated microtonal composing. One of the coolest concerts I ever attended was a clavichord concert (yes, clavichord) in Berkeley, CA. There were about 30 people in a smallish room listening intently to a guy playing a clavichord: Now, THAT is minimalism!

  212. Chris, dogs will certainly mope. I’ll mention, for the further discomfiture of dogs, that tomorrow here in southern New England it’s expected to drop two inches of rain, with the day’s high temperature around 60°F and an overnight low of 52°F. In December, in New England!!!

    Alifelongme, hmm! Fascinating. I heard something about that, of course, but only through the very narrow filters on the government-controlled news we have over here…

    J.L.Mc12, I’ll consider the books. I’m simply hoping to get enough of an overview to have some notion of what’s in the heads of younger people these days; knowing a certain amount about Harry Potter et al. was useful to me as an occult teacher around 2000, knowing an equal amount about WH40K may help now.

    Sister Crow, I’m very sorry to hear that Eye of Horus is gone! I taught a workshop there once and enjoyed chatting with the staff. As for Heathenry, that certainly matches what I’ve seen. The Norse/Germanic gods have a very robust presence on this continent.

    Jeff, okay, thanks for this! I thought I remembered Warhammer non-40K as a set of rules for tabletop wargaming in the usual generic fantasy setting, and having it go all Pigs-In-Space makes sense of a lot of the oddities I’ve heard of — the Aeldari (sic) and Orks (sic), for example.

    Brenainn, that kind of syncretism is also quite common in the late stages of a civilization, for whatever that’s worth!

    Tengu, trust me, I know. My Japanese-American stepfamily are Shingon Buddhists.

    Justin, are any of the people you know involved in other tabletop RPGs, besides D&D? It’s actually quite a productive response — it gives you something to do that doesn’t feed the corporate beast, builds community, and helps train your imagination, all of which are highly useful in times like these.

    Christian, I’d be happier with a transcript, but thank you for this. The way that the Left has abandoned its once-passionate dreams of a better world is one of the weirdest events in current contemporary culture.

  213. JMG, your comment that it may well be happening right now in Passaic or Mogadishu brought to mind the Asian goddess Mazu or Matsu. There’s temples to her all over the place and all kinds of stories circulating about her origins and nature.

    The story that I first heard years ago was that she was an ordinary girl in Fujian whose father was a fisherman. One day he was caught in his boat in a nasty storm. Matsu, at the time a teen named Lin Moniang according to the story that I heard, was terrified that her father would drown and so swam out in the middle of the storm and managed to find him in the water and get him to safety. Unfortunately she herself drowned, her body washing ashore shortly after.

    Her father declared that her finding him in the maelstrom was miraculous, her saving him a bigger miracle. Locals started to visit her grave and word went around that she answered their prayers.

    And so her cult spread. I don’t automatically discount such stories because if you talk to people every second person has an account of an odd happening, or a premonition or some such. The Greatly Educated refuse to give the time of day to such facts and evidence, odd given that they’re supposed to be all about facts and evidence.

    So, just going by the eyeball attestation of multitudes of people over the centuries, the reasonable conclusion is that there’s things roiling in the subsurface. And every so often something pops up.

    I guess that the main effect of higher education is to calcify the mind and make it rigid sort of like an intellectual parkinsonism. So it’s up to ordinary people or so-called mystics who still have some capacity for independent thought and observation to make sense of things, you know, the alleged ‘paranormal’, the same as we’d try to make sense of ordinary happenings in our environment.

    So then the question is which stories catch fire and coalesce into a religious movement.

  214. @JMG #227 re: Warhammer

    Hope it helps! Basically, yes, you’re right: the blokes who founded Games Workshop were very early adopters of D&D, when the lines between “miniature wargame” and “roleplaying game” were still very blurry, to the extent they existed at all. The original Warhammer tabletop miniature wargame rules were published in 1983, and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay was published in 1986. Prior to the release of both, GW’s magazine White Dwarf had been publishing a lot of D&D-related material, and for a time, GW was the authorized UK distributor of D&D. All of which is to say that the kind of “generic fantasy” that D&D shaped was baked right into the DNA of Warhammer, and then 40k borrowed it (for example, the “Aeldari” were literally the “Eldar” until GW realized they couldn’t copyright that, same with the Imperial Guard becoming the “Astra Militarum” and the Space Marines becoming, exclusively, the Adeptus Astartes, which had been an “in-universe” name for a while, but wasn’t commonly used in rules or among players until recently).

    A thought I’ve been having lately on the 40k stuff that might be relevant for your seeking to understand it for its contributions to the zeitgeist is this: the forces of Chaos say all the “right” things by our culture’s lights: reject tyranny, do your own thing, unlimited freedom. But they’re obviously the baddies – hideous mutations, literal demons, and the gods of Chaos are the gods of bloodshed, plague, depravity, and “change” (the least obviously evil of the three, but still usually depicted as sinister). On the other hand, the Imperium of Man is a literal theocratic police state, and the Space Marines are genetically engineered super human fanatical warrior monks who worship a man kept alive by a machine and the sacrifice of hundreds of psychics a day. It says all the wrong things, like intolerance, hatred, and bellicosity, and yet, it adopts the trappings of “righteousness,” especially in a faux Christian sense. There’s an Inquisition that can condemn entire planets to death due to being tainted by Chaos or alien infestation or what have you. And yet, these are the good guys in the setting. I’m not sure what the overall conclusion is, but the importance of aesthetics/references is very weighty in 40k.


  215. @JMG
    I was pulling your leg with the World Teacher comment.

    But seriously, I don’t think we’re going to see another World Teacher soon. The (astrological) age has changed. There are going to be many teachers, but they are all going to be regional, local.

  216. This is a good intro to what Warhammer 40k is all about.

    “For more than a hundred centuries the emperor has sat immobile on the golden throne.
    He is the master of mankind by the will of the gods, and the master of a million worlds by the might of his inexhaustible armies. He is a rotting carcass writhing invisibly with power from the dark age of technology.
    He is the carrion lord of the imperium for whom a thousand souls die every day, for whom blood is drunk and flesh eaten. Human blood and human flesh, the stuff of which the imperium is made. To be a man in such times is to be one amongst untold billions. It is to live in the cruelest and most bloody regime imaginable, this is a tale of those times. Forget the power of technology, science, and common humanity, forget the promise of progress and understanding for there is no peace amongst the stars, only
    an eternity of carnage and slaughter and the laughter of thirsting gods, but the universe is a big place and whatever happens you will not be missed.”

    Plenty of young men out there would rather live in a world like that, than in the one we have now.

  217. JMG, Sister Crow: I’d like to give a somewhat different view on the current state of Neopaganism, Wicca, and the polytheist/pagan scene. While I’ve seen a definite decline in Wicca—although we still have a large Wiccan coven in my area—there’s been at least an equal rise in the number of people calling themselves “witch, but not Wiccan,” which means something fairly similar to Wicca with the ethics filed off, and less formal structure, meaning most are solitary rather than joining a coven. There’s a lot of eclectic mix-and-match with Heathenry, Hellenic practice, shamanism, etc. (Darned few Druids, alas.) I don’t know of any actual Satanists in the local crowd, but there’s certainly a lot of activity involving deities like Lilith, Loki, or Medusa. No one uses the term “New Age” anymore, but there are just as many people using crystals, self-empowerment practices, etc.
    With regard to occult shops, there’s been a big increase in their number in my area. It’s astonishing. One moved to a larger location a couple years ago (in the middle of the pandemic). Some may have sidelines such as fancy coffee, tattooing, or jewelry, but they’re also selling incense, candles, crystals, and books. Some provide space for classes or sessions in divination, ritual, healing, and such. When I first moved to this area 22 years ago, there was only one little occult shop. It gave me a bad vibe right away, and I never went back. (They had a skull in their display case, and the first thing they told me is how bad the energy is in the local area!) So, bad energy or not, the scene is thriving here.

  218. Jeff,

    Something also interesting is that Warhammer 40k is very popular among soldiers on both sides of the war in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Army has a drone and artillery unit called the Khorne Group, named after the 40K Chaos god of war and whose unit insignia is ripped right from 40K and there was also a British volunteer group called the Dark Angels after the Loyalist Space Marine Chapter. On the other side the Russian military has a propaganda group called the Astra Militarum. There has been video and photographs emerging of soldiers on both sides of the war dressing up as 40k characters or riding tanks and other armored vehicles decked out in 40K iconography into battle.

    Like that podcast Christian linked to mentioned, a lot of active duty and ex-soldiers in America and Europe really love this franchise and as much as a lot of people on the college campuses loved Harry Potter you don’t see them climbing aboard a tank decked out in Gryffindor iconography to battle with a hostile army.

  219. (This is the current Prayer List post. Most recent prayer update: December 11)(A personal note: this has been a more difficult week than I am used to and I’m afraid I let the stress of it prevent me from being timely with my responses over the last few days. I also note that it is now getting extremely close to one year of these prayer lists, and I wonder if my subconscious is attempting to test me with a little bit of self sabotage. Ah well, nothing to do but to forge ahead. Onward ho!)Here are all of the requests for prayer that have recently appeared at and, as well as in the comments of the prayer list posts. A printable version of the entire prayer list current as of 12/11 may be downloaded here. Please feel free to add any or all of the requests to your own prayers.

    If I missed anybody, or if you would like to add a prayer request for yourself or anyone who has given you consent (or for whom a relevant person holds power of consent) to the list, please feel free to leave a comment below.

    ***HEAR YE HEAR YE***At the end of this year I will pruning all prayer requests which were made before July 1st, 2023 from the list entirely, with the exception of any that my own intuition tells me ought to be kept on the list. I make no claims to the infallibility of my intuition, so if your entry is older than that, and you would definitely like it to remain on the prayer list, please send a note updating your request.

    (Also, if you think you might be interested in having anyone pray in support of your own self-improvement, please have a look at the Ecosophia Prayer List Autumn Special.)* * *This week I would like to bring special attention to the following prayer requests.May tamanous2020’s mother and stepfather, who have both been diagnosed with Stage 1 melanoma, be completely healed and cured of their ailments.

    Frank Rudolf Hartman of Altadena California (picture), who is receiving chemotherapy, be completely cured of the lymphoma that is afflicting him, and may he return to full health.

    May the mass which upon which Yuccaglauca’s mother Monicais having a biopsy performed turn out to be entirely benign and safe; may she experience healing and improvement in her situation and overall health.

    May the lawsuit for partition of the family land in which Jennifer, her husband Josiah, and her father Robert are involved be resolved justly and for the greatest good of all involved, including the land and its spirits.

    May the brain surgery that Erika’s partner James underwent for his cancer on October 16th have gone successfully; and may he be blessed, healed and protected, and successfully treated for all of his cancer.

    Ma Kyle’s friend Amanda, who though in her early thirties is undergoing various difficult treatments for brain cancer, make a full recovery; and may her body and spirit heal with grace.

    May Jeff Huggin’s friends Dale and Tracy be blessed and healed; may Dale’s blood and spinal fluid infection clear up sufficiently to receive a heart valve replacement; may his medical procedures go smoothly and with success; and may Dale and Tracy successfully surmount these difficulties.

    In the case of Princess Cutekitten and the large bank who is suing her, may justice be done, with harm to none.

    Lp9’s hometown, East Palestine, Ohio, for the safety and welfare of their people, animals and all living beings in and around East Palestine, and to improve the natural environment there to the benefit of all.
    * * *Guidelines for how long prayer requests stay on the list, how to word requests, how to be added to the weekly email list, how to improve the chances of your prayer being answered, and several other common questions and issues, are now to be found at the Ecosophia Prayer List FAQ.

    If there are any among you who might wish to join me in a bit of astrological timing, I pray each week for the health of all those with health problems on the list on the astrological hour of the Sun on Sundays, bearing in mind the Sun’s rulerships of heart, brain, and vital energies. If this appeals to you, I invite you to join me.

  220. I’m not at all sure why this just clicked, but the weird way in which the Left has abandoned their former commitment to a better world actually makes perfect sense, in a twisted sort of way. The Left has always been committed to Progress; this is the narrative they use to make sense of the world. As it’s become clear that Progress is a complete disaster, rather than try to alter course, they need to come up with a way to insist this is inevitable; that Progress will happen no matter what, and therefore, no better world is possible. The story of Progress is more important to them than their ideals….

  221. Smith, yes, I’ve heard of Matsu. That’s very much the way religious beliefs arise and spread — personal experiences of answered prayers are the most potent argument for any deity. The rise of Santissima Muerte in Mexican and Mexican-American culture, and now in American culture more generally, is another good example.

    Jeff, I played Chainmail back in the day, so I know the milieu. Thanks for the data point about the worldview — in other words, this is one form of the inevitable blowback against the extreme forms of Enlightenment liberalism. Hmm…

    Ecosophian, thank you. I’ve had to fend off such things more than once already.

    Christian, thanks for this. Another testimony to just how miserable life has become in late industrial civilization.

    Another, fascinating. Where do you live?

    Quin, thanks for this as always.

    Anonymous, I wonder if another dimension of it is that the priviliged classes who give liberalism its basic direction these days have become convinced that progress is over because they’ve won — look at how wonderful the world is, from their perspective! So all they have to do is fight off threats to Utopia like global warming and Donald Trump…

  222. @JMG
    My 14 year old son plays Warhammer 40k. He plays he imperial guard and indicates he like this unit because it is closest to a real life military unit in the 40k universe. The tanks and units are, some of them, stylized after weaponry of the World war I and II and Vietnam. The other playable armies are a lot more fantasy/sci fi driven. The game does attract the neo nazi types though the greater community condemns this. When I look at the Imperial Guard units I can actually find almost exact replications of Nazi uniforms in the characters he builds.
    There are many facets to the hobby. It is a collectors game, the more complicated units being more expensive. Easily a kid could spend $1000 on forming a playable army. You have to put the models together yourself and paint them. The glue can be toxic enough you nee a filter mask. Then the actual game itself is really just a dice heavy tabletop war game. Almost purely numerical in terms of what strike hits against which armor type. There are objectives in more complicated games so you can with points even if your army is completely destroyed at the end. Then there is the highly developed Lore and associated art. Adults are right into it all as well.
    Here is a link to a piece of art associated with the Horus Heresy.
    If you scroll down on the page, click the image of The Emperor and Horus. That’s an older image but it is iconic I think. I didn’t like the game at first but my son doesn’t really play videogames which I am proud of I guess so we have allowed it the past year or so. The youth get together in board games shop backrooms and play for hours; pitting army against army.

  223. JMG,

    I don’t know what “vast numbers” might be, but you have certainly attracted me by the radiant holiness of your character. Maybe you’re not a World Leader, but you will have a more than modest influence on MY future. I thank you for that, and am grateful for your writings.

  224. “Plenty of young men out there would rather live in a world like that, than in the one we have now.”
    Christian, I have to wonder if for those young men, there isn’t much difference between the Warhammer world and the one we have, not in the felt texture of it. The main differences being that the Warhammer world is more honest and at least offers a clear role in the game, instead of being just a prop in someone else’s game.

  225. Not totally irrelevant for this post, I just read Larry Johnson’s latest writings; he seems to have just returned from a trip to Moscow: “The most surprising revelation is the rebirth of the Russian Orthodox Church. Faith is vibrant and the people of Russia have rediscovered and fully embraced their historic Christian roots. I met three Americans who have moved to Russia and are serving in various capacities as clergy/priests in Russia. I attended a service on Monday at the Sretensky Monastry. It is the oldest monastry in Moscow, founded in 1397. It stands now as a testimony against the efforts of the Communists to eradicate Christianity. The Communists are gone and the Christians are alive and free to worship.” Full text here:


  226. I see Religion as a social gathering process that is centered around the follow of resources, more than a belief based system. Faith is more a human condition than it is a structure to form a system onto, reward/punishment is what creates our own self-domestication and is therefore the foundation of social cohesion, including in religion.

    If this is the first (perhaps only) time in human history where we have reached both peak resource utilization of the planet and the centralization of human organization, then perhaps the downhill slope will look very different in its cycles, as decentralization of the old cannibalized systems takes place.

    Values will have to change with this downhill curve, people will have to become self-sufficient and place practice or trial and error over traditional learning. The core of a family unit will need to redefined once survival becomes a issue. Men and women will have to redefine their roles in a society that is rebuilding itself and needs all hands on deck.

    Here is a very random idea: A religion based on the fossilized remains of the people who died in the volcanic eruption from pompei. Perhaps it will become a new form of burial practice, with radioactive ash? If millions die, the path of least resistance to dispose the bodies usually follows suit.

  227. @Another Anonymous, no surprise that conditions are different in different regions. The area I live in is nicknamed “Paganistan” for its large population of Pagan and magical folks (it’s also the home of Llewellyn Worldwide), so it’s as possible that this is a regional phenomenon as that we are at the vanguard of big changes for the Pagan/occult community. Time will tell. I am familiar with the “witch not Wiccan” contingent–they were the ones I saw romanticizing hexing (in the wake of the publication of “Apocalyptic Witchcraft”), not long before the Magical Resistance gave large swathes of the community an excuse to chuck their ethics overboard and fling curses around.

    @JMG, it is sad. I was acquainted with the owners, took a lot of classes there, and bought my first book of yours from them–“The Druid Magic Handbook.” IDK if you know Magus Books and Herbs; it’s still in operation, but I’d heard they are looking for the next new owner. After what happened to The Eye, I’m worried.

  228. I have now taken the time to read up all the references to the Second Religiosity in Spengler. You made it clear by the choice of your examples in the essay itself that you were talking mainly about the USA (as you have explicitly stated in other essays). I hadn’t quite paid enough attention to that on first reading. It explains why you expect, farther off into the future, a new Age of Faith based on a different, new religion.

    As for Europe, my reading of Spengler would not suggest that the more distant future necessarily marks a clear break with Christianity. Spengler speaks about a more cerebral, willed return of the elites to the old forms, and a syncretism among the rest of the population, which continues indefinitely (what he terms a “Fellahin religion”). The examples he gives of Egypt after the New Empire, of Indian Buddhism and Hinduism after Ashoka, and of Judaism and Islam after the demise of the Ummayads and Abbasids, rather suggest that the religion of the preceding High Culture will be the strongest ingredient.

    It sure doesn’t look to me as if Western Europe as a whole (both elites and common population) will return in the more distant future to some form of devout, heart-felt Christianity, but it is what Spengler would suggest, barring domination by a different High Culture. I see now that that is also what you have suggested in comments.

  229. “Yet for this very reason, it’s worth paying attention when a good many people who used to be aware of this point suddenly start acting the way the more dogmatic end of the Christian scene insists they were really acting all along. That’s what a great many Neopagans and atheists are doing right now as they prance and grovel before statues of Satan, and the conclusion is obvious: they’re redefining their current beliefs in Christian terms, so that they can then renounce those beliefs and become good Christians.”

    Does this dynamic also work in other contexts? I wonder if the rise in radical feminists embracing the kinds of attitudes and rhetoric which, as recently as ten years ago, they’d have dismissed as absurd (such as the Australian feminists a few years ago who suggested making it mandatory for women to work; or the feminists who have started arguing all heterosexual sex is rape); but if they’ve looked at their lives, realized they are awful, and are subconsciously planning a conversion to the sort of traditional family model, this could explain the rise of the more aggressive and absurd feminists.

  230. “Anonymous, I wonder if another dimension of it is that the priviliged classes who give liberalism its basic direction these days have become convinced that progress is over because they’ve won — look at how wonderful the world is, from their perspective! So all they have to do is fight off threats to Utopia like global warming and Donald Trump…”

    I doubt it can be that the privileged classes think we already live in a utopia. I belonged to such a class growing up (my parents are literally in the top 1% by income). They are miserable. I’m the happiest out of my family; but I work as a cook, being intentionally seriously downwardly mobile. They are miserable, but are terrified of leaving the privileged classes.

  231. Correction, we did ‘es ist ein ros entsprungen’ in church today! It went well. Most things did, except for the Agnus dei of the mass, which had issues with entries.

  232. @Phutatorius #225:

    That’s a good question. I think it may have something to do with the return of the drone and the embrace of the pulse. While there had of course been drones in western music, maybe not in the same way these people heard it when they got to hear the drones and tunings of tamburas and otehr non-western instruments. A lot of them were turned on by Indian classical music (and a swath of them studied singing under Pandit Pran Nath). In the preliminary alap before the raga proper, the voice was often just accompanied by the drone and improvised over the themes in repetitive ways.

    Also, I think, what I call “the pulse” was something that was coming back into the music. More focus on drums, rhythms, and these beats, and the ways they could entrance when used in minimalist fashions. I think this too was a reflection of their spiritual interests in mantra and eastern mysticism.

    Either ways I think the future is minimalist, if only in terms of resources, and not necessarily aesthetics ; )

    I don’t know what your tolerance level is for progressive, psychedelic and garage rock (or on the other hand your enthusiasm). Some of those people get into some strange alternate tuning systems. I think the guitarists who get into microtonality are in general, less minimal about it.

    King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard did an album called Flying Microtonal Banana that is a bit more maximalist in their approach.

    For that matter Sonic Youth got all into strange tunings of their guitars, but it was much more in the vein of noise rock. Thurston Moore’s solo album Spirit Counsel is a real head cleaner of one depending on what your appreciation may or may not be for “out sounds” in the noise rock vein from the spiritual descendents of the Lou Reed lineage.

    I’ll be doing an all instrumental guitar based radio show on Dec. 16 focusing on ambient guitar, drone guitar, American Primitive style fingerpicking, alternate tunings, prepared guitar, and other non-standard approaches to the guitar. I’ll post the recording here when it is done, for anyone who may be curious.

    I would have liked to have heard that clavichord concert! It seems there are different ways to be minimalist.

    @Karl, Jeff, JMG:
    Speaking of music, there was a great British death metal band who was based on Warhammer from the 80s, early 90s. Their name was Bolt Thrower. They were fun! The total war imagery of their lyrics, inspired by the game, went well with the music.

    This is the kind of music I can see people rallying under a banner around as the hordes come over the hill…

  233. Ian, thanks for this. A really robust fandom!

    Slink, er, I’m glad you appreciate my character but “radiant holiness” is doing it a bit too thick, don’t you think?

    Nachtgurke, I’ve seen the same thing repeatedly in other essays. We’ll see what happens in the longer run, but right now Russian Orthodoxy seems to be thriving.

    False Eruption, quite a number of past societies have achieved concentration of power and exhaustion of resources within the only world that mattered to them — the section of the Earth’s surface that they could reach, or the inhabitants of which could reach them. Thus we can use their experience as a way to gauge what ours is likely to be.

    Sister Crow, I am indeed familiar with Magus, and it would be really sad if they were to follow the same trajectory.

    Aldarion, good. Yes, exactly — as I’ve pointed out repeatedly, I mostly discuss the American future because this is the culture and the land that I know enough about to risk predictions. As for the future religion of Europe, demographics is a major issue; it seems very possible to me that the future religion of Europe will be a mildly Europeanized form of Islam.

    Anonymous, I’ve begun to consider the possibility that the whole spectrum of absurd-extreme woke ideology is being driven by the same process. As for the utopian thing, duly noted.

    Justin, given that Warhammer imagery is already being deployed in the fighting in Ukraine, I think you may well be right!

  234. @Nachtgurke (#240):

    To me, it doesn’t look like Russian Orthodox Christianity ever went away; it just went very deeply underground during the Soviet decades, until it could return to public life.

    When I was at a conference in Moscow in the early 1990s, a few of us visitors were invited to a private party in the apartment of the curator of one of the major collections of ancient Russian manuscripts (in the State Archive of Ancient Acts). Close by her apartment building a magnificant Orthodox Church was being rebuilt on the site of its predecessor, whiuch had been razed to the ground during the Soviet years. She told us with some pride that the church’s original very large bell had been saved through all the intervening decades by one of the parishoners, who had taken it from the rubble and hidden it in one room of his nearby apartment, plastering over the door to hide it from random inspections by authorities. Moscow apartments are generally rationed by size and quite small, so this was a major sacrifice on his part. All the intervening decades the man who was hiding the bell pretended to be a good atheist Communist, to keep the bell safe for a hoped-for future.

    (Putin himself seems to be an example of this. He was secretly baptized as a child at his grandfather’s behest, and named Vladimir after the sainted ruler who had ordered Russia to convert to Christianity in the late 10th century. He pretended to be a good Communist and atheist all through the Soviet decades, as one had to do to have any sort of career [his was in an elite unit of the secret police], but he threw off his disguise at last, once it was finally safe to do so. — Millions of Russians have always done that sort of thing over the many long centuries, whenever that was what it took to survive the whims and dictates of their all-powerful rulers.)

  235. Concerning Aldarion #243:

    I’d second that about the future of Christianity in Western Europe. As Nachtgurke and others have commented, there is an upsurge of Protestant ‘Free Churches’. These attract not just young families with children, but also the kind of hip young urbanites who a few decades ago would not have touched anything Church-related with a barge pole. But that is exactly the kind of milieu we should be looking at for the Second Religiosity.

    However, I wouldn’t give up on Catholicism too easily. True, the Roman Catholic Church is very unpopular. But Catholic aesthetics, liturgy, and folk traditions remain dear even to large swathes of the intelligentsia, Protestantism being seen as bland. (Being a member of a small independent Catholic Church, I might be quite biased here; but I still think the feelings I just described are widespread, and they might shape some part of the Second Religiosity. It need not be with organizations like ours, syncretism will likely be a popular option.)

    There is, in my limited experience, one interesting difference between the US and Western Europe. I have never encountered the detour through Satanism here, and it would seem very odd to European eyes. This probably has to do with a diaphanous boundary, or even overlap, between Esoteric and Christian milieus in Europe, so the mental gymnastics required in the US are unneccessary here. You don’t get to present yourself as a good Christian by saying how much you loathe the devil, or paganism, or the occult. In fact, I’ve never encountered this idea of ‘I am now a Christian, so I have to burn all my occult stuff’ over here. Islam is viewed with much more suspicion by the local Christians. (So, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has stayed true to herself in a way!) No idea about how all of this is going to develop in the long run, of course.

  236. Jessica,

    From what other fans that I talked to the attraction compared to a lot of other science fiction/fantasy franchises is that it feels like you entering another world. Most science fiction, Star Trek is a good example of this, is often our current civilization and culture a few decades in the future. There is no real escapism or imagination with Star Trek or modern Star Wars anymore. With Warhammer 40K you are entering into a very different world, a different civilization; one that has traded the Faustian pursuit of science and technology and the drive to colonize the universe for a focus on order, stability, collective solidarity and spiritual purity.

    The other main reason is Warhammer 40K has a counter-cultural appeal that is kind of hard to describe. A lot of the Imperium of Man’s iconography is a mixture of Medieval Europe and 19th/20th century militarism/nationalism. To give one prominent example the Imperium of Man’s main symbol is the double-headed eagle of the Holy Roman Empire stylized along 20th century military lines. Modern liberal society frowns very heavily on public displays of symbolism from both Europe of the Medieval Era and Europe and America of the 19th/20th century. Combine that with the fact setting takes place after the collapse of secular liberal civilization and you can get into counter-culture territory real quick.


    Thanks for the link, I’ll check the band out. I know a lot of Warhammer 40K fans, myself included, are into heavy metal. The Swedish metal band Sabaton in particular seems to be a favorite.

    Mr. Greer,

    I want to apologize as I feel like I derailed the conversation from the Second Religiosity to Warhammer 40K’s popularity and cultural impact with boys and young men.

  237. JMG, as far as I know everyone is using the 5E or Pathfinder rules, and the games I know details about are mostly following premade campaigns, including some by Wizards of the Coast. The campaign I am running is a Wizards of the Coast premade, and although I’ve taken an axe to parts of it and rebuilt them to my liking, without the premade I wouldn’t be doing it.

    On 40k, I don’t participate because of the cost of entry and the amount of plastic crud required, but I used to play a pirated version online with a friend (you moved pieces about by yourself and figured out the rules for yourself while rolling virtual dice, it was not a “computer game” in the traditional sense). It’s quite fun, and legal issues aside, the 10th edition of the rules would be quite a good base for a tabletop war game with different themes.

    As for the broad appeal of the Grim Darkness of the 41st Millennium to young and middle-aged men in North America, It isn’t too surprising to me (as one of those men, now entering middle age). Assuming you are a human in the world of 40k, you live in a grim universe where hell is at every corner (for instance, being turned into a servitor when you die, where large parts of your brain are replaced by electronics), but there is an opportunity to rise above the horror by joining various religious or martial orders if you are worthy, or at least going out fighting with your lasgun in the Astra Militarum.

    And also the Orks are inherently fun, and actually perhaps the only original creation of the 40k people – Orks are essentially a type of fungus whose reproductive form is a hominid of limited intelligence that spreads Ork Spores where they die. They also project a psychic field that makes the universe obey their head canon – for instance, captured Ork technology rarely works when used by non-Orks, because it only worked because the Orks thought it did. This goes both ways, canonically, an outgunned Astra Militarum force resorted to yelling bang and gesturing with their guns, killing many Orks in the process, until some Orks decided they were a tank and therefore immune to small arms fire.

    The 40k universe mirrors many of the absurdities of contemporary life in an over-the-top fashion that appeals to men. Thus, its popularity.

  238. Yes, I suppose you’re right. Your modesty is admirable, but don’t discount the profound influence you have over those (few) of us who look up to you.

  239. @Karl Grant #233 re: Military Fandom of 40k

    Huh, I knew that soldiers enjoyed 40k (my own interest in the game pre-dated my time in the Army, but I knew other guys who got into it through Army buddies), but I had no idea about the “cosplay,” if that’s the right word, of Ukranian and Russian soldiers. The world’s a weird place!


  240. JMG:

    I believe the banner says something like the “discipline makes you bigger and greener” – and for an Ork, being the biggest and the greenest, if you are a follower of Mork, is the most important thing – followers of Gork prioritize being the greenest and the biggest, on the other hand.

    Orks are the ultimate barbarians, linking death in battle directly with reproduction and will likely show up in all sorts of strange places for some kind to come.

  241. Regarding WH40K, I read a number of the novels and found them mildly entertaining in a pulpy way, but I don’t feel inclined to reread them. The novels are mostly military fiction set in the universe, focusing on battles, political strife, and the threats of the universe.

    One interesting thing about the lore that relates to the topic of the Second Religiosity IMO, is that the God Emperor actually started his reign as an atheist — he destroyed traditional religions across the human worlds he reunited with Terra because he saw them as possible links to the Warp. The background being that humans had already spread across the stars from Earth but had lost their technologies and contact with each other before they were reunited. The God Emperor sought to establish Rationality and Science in place of religion and chaos, but secretly, a lot of his own power was stolen from the Chaos Gods.

    Later on, after he was forced by events to take the throne to prevent the Warp from opening further, a state religion formed around him, where the faith of the billions of people across the Imperium had become essential to maintain trade and contact within the Imperium without succumbing to the Warp. It was a totalitarian religion forced upon the whole population.

    I don’t think anyone can say the WH40K vision of the future is “better” at all, but perhaps it reflects a lot of frustrations that people have better than the rosy picture of Star Trek.

  242. There’s an underlying celebration of fascism in WH40k that appeals to a lot of disenfranchised young, nerdy men in America. I don’t think it’s intentional, but the modern world sucks enough for most people that a fascist, violent, totalitarian space empire reigned over by 8 foot tall genetically engineered giants on a mission to cleanse the universe of anything not human appeals to many players.

  243. Karl, good heavens, don’t worry about it. If I’d wanted to shut down the conversation about WH 40K I’d have done so — but it’s raising some fascinating issues about the collective imagination of our time, from which (among other things) future religious expressions will unfold. One thing that strikes me forcefully in response to your comments to Jessica is that there’s another institution in American society that has the same sort of medieval/early 20th century aesthetic, and also uses the double-headed eagle as its symbol: the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry:

    It really does seem weirdly similar — to the extent that I find myself imagining an alternative version called Warhammer 2K, in which Albert Pike became the immortal Sovereign Grand Commander of a world-conquering Scottish Rite, sending legions of steampunk Freemasons and fleets of airships across the face of a bizarrely different planet. It could be fun.

    Justin, thanks for the data points. Me, I still prefer the older and much simpler rules. As for WH40K, yeah, that makes sense.

    Slink, I’m glad to hear it.

    Another, interesting! Thanks for the data point.

    Justin, funny!

    Alvin, that makes a great deal of sense; if I paid more attention to Star Dreck I’d probably be longing for something grimmer and darker, too.

    Dennis, given the way that the defenders of the status quo in the US and Western countries generally have insisted that the only alternative to what they offer is fascism, it would be astounding if fascism didn’t have that kind of appeal.

  244. Agreed. If one must have a contest of religions. Then it really must come down to the competition of Miracles in addition to the above mentioned before.

    For example the Magicians of Pharoah vs Moses. And who can do a greater range of Miracles. In addition the Staff of Moses swallowing the staffs of said mages as the story goes.

    Or Elijah calling down fire from heaven vs the Priests of Baal but without allowing for any tricks that could be done by any human to fake it.

    Of course all the predictions of any Prophet must come true. Otherwise they are charlatans which carried the death penalty in the Old Testament.

    Although I find it interesting that for those who are devout believers they are more likely to be open to Miracles and to be convinced by them. And so it actually does happen which convinces them. For example stories I read about regarding Muslims having Visions of Jesus and their own Quran validates dreams as a valid form of revelation.

    However Atheists rarely do by comparison. And I suspect they won’t believe no matter what Miracles happen so God doesn’t bother and when asked many say no evidence is good enough for them. The approach rather is to deconstruct materialism and the dilemmas posed by Consciousness for those who are more earnest seekers.

  245. Hi John Michael,

    Trust me, your weather as you described it, is almost the exact same as here today, except that it is meant to be summer.

    In the early 2000’s we travelled to Peru and visited the Amazon jungle, but frankly after 10 inches of rain during the past few weeks, and many days in a row of thick mist and fog, the Amazon was the drier place. Some otherwise hot and dry southerly parts of the continent have experienced more rain than in many long decades of records. Yet north of here, the continent is rather hot and baking. And even further north again, a tropical cyclone is moving westerly deriving from the Coral Sea and due to reach landfall by Wednesday. Completely nuts. 🙂

    Wrote about a dessert failure, tiramisu, this week. It’s a good story.



  246. I think American and European religions are going to diverge quite a bit, based on the composition of the immigrant population that will have to be accommodated, and the legends that grip popular imagination.

    Warhammer, with its baroque steampunk Norse imagery, might inspire a catholic/conquistador/miraculous/avenging/pageantry-loving type religion.

    Europe will tend more towards Islam. I can’t see Europeans praying five times a day, but maybe a synthesis of Calvinist, Orthodox, and Islamic traits that emphasis conformity and humble submission. But it won’t happen without a fight. European roots are hundreds of years deep, whereas I think Americans might be more willing to adapt.

    Any Luther 2.0 who nails his/her/their theses to a digital door will have as Thesis Number One,”No Bull****”. Because for me the most depressing thing about contemporary life, apart from the obvious like killing and crime and resource depletion, is how the leadership is so shameless about lying and manipulation of the population, and the second most depressing thing is how the population generally accepts being lied to and manipulated. But one day they will wake up and reject this. Possibly it will be the generation who are children today. I can’t see our current lifestyles continuing for another 40 years.

  247. I don’t see what what white Christian nationalism has to do with any church that Hayan Ali attends. It is a theological and an ideological belief system, and ostensibly interdenominational.
    How does her Christianity comport with John Haggee’s Christian Zionism?
    If enough people convert and Israel prevails, these fundamentalists say that Jesus will return before the Great Tribulation, according to the bible prophecy. Soon? Who even knows?
    The esotericists also named 2025 for the year of the externalization of the hierarchy.
    Is there an occult or mythic significance to the current crisis in Palestine?
    Interesting post you did this time.

  248. I’d like to maybe point out that most popular visions of Teh Future(tm) are not really visions of the future but funhouse mirrors of The Present, Only More So(tm). I do like those old 70s Doctor Who episodes, with those space stations festooned with chonky terminals and tape drives whirring in the background with blinky lights. That’s Teh Future(tm)!

    So I’ll make my only comment about WH40K – perhaps it’s not really a vision of the far future at all but a commentary on the status quo? Perhaps at some subconscious level?

  249. One completely tangential question: In The Magi, “ones” rhymes, or is supposed to rhyme, with “stones”. Is that a purely visual rhyme? Or did Yeats use an old-fashioned or Irish non-standard pronunciation to make them rhyme?

  250. Sister Crow, I agree that regional differences should be expected. If you have many pagans in the area, though, and there’s no store to serve them, are they simply shopping online, or where do they get supplies?
    On further thought, I’m guessing that we have so many stores because most of them are hybrids, not specifically dedicated to occult/pagan, often billing themselves as gift shops. But if you walk in, you see many items that would be at home on a pagan altar. We have a Barnes & Noble too. I haven’t kept track of their pagan section, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s also much reduced. The whole store has gone downhill quite a bit, with fewer offerings overall and a reduced staff.

    JMG, with regard to a World Teacher, I wonder if you might feel relieved not to be in that exalted category. Another thought–being in southern New England, are you familiar with Earthspirit Community? They’re based in western Massachusetts but have members all over the region. A very large pagan community that has been doing major events for over 40 years and is going strong. I think they also started as mostly Wiccan and are now mostly pagan-not-Wiccan.

  251. Karl has done an excellent job explaining the appeal of Warhammer 40k. I can only add that it also resonates with young men because it offers a world where the govt is on your side. It supports you in fighting against terrifying threats that threat all of humanity and it doesn’t criticize you for being white or toxically masculine.

    It is interesting that what started as a backstory to justify selling over priced miniatures has become so much more over time.

  252. Edward @260: Jane died of cancer in 2021, and afterwards Thracie reorganized the store and psychic reading business. They even expanded their space–right before the pandemic shutdown. In fall it was announced that the business had been reorganized again and the psychic salon spun off into a separate interest, while Thracie would continue to operate the store. Then in late November she announced that the store was closing, saying that among the loss of her wife, her declining mobility, and high debt, she could not continue. They have a Go Fund Me to help take care of final payroll and other obligations, but it has raised very little money. It’s the end of an era and a great loss for the community.

  253. @Justin Patrick Moore on garage rock and psychedelic rock: I do like the raw-er forms of garage rock and psychedelic rock, but don’t spend much time listening to ’em these days. “What makes that raw sound sound so raw,” I would wonder; odd tunings? Back in the day, I listened pretty regularly to a college station in the SF bay area that used its “8 watts vertical and 8 watts horizontal” to pretty much cover the entire bay area. That was 8 watts put to good use! Yet another sort of minimalism.

  254. Starting out around 2015, I noticed a lot of weird synchronicites around the Chaos Gods from Warhammer 40k. In fact, each of them appears to have a group who has been drawn into their influence. Slanesh, the god(dess) of excess and desire seems to have drawn the Woke into its influence; the obsession with sex and pleasure seems to fit, as does the fact Slanesh is explicitly a hermaphroidte.

    Tzeentch, god of change, magic, sorcery, and hope, seems to have drawn the alt-right into his influence. They are suddenly becoming drawn into intricate plots, seeing intricate plots where there may be some, or may be none; the alt-right has embraced the dream of change even as everyone else seems to have rejected it; and then there’s the not insignificant fact of the surprising overlap between the alt-right and the occult scenes, given how many occultists were leftists as recently as a decade ago.

    The Neocons seems to have started channeling Khorne. This is an obvious link; the Neocons were always aggressive and arrogant, but Khorne shows his influence in the lore when people stop caring who is fighting, stop concerning themselves with who will win, but instead become focused on the fight itself.

    Finally, Nurgle, the Plague Lord, appears to have taken over the pharmaceutical industry, and its followers. Nurgle the plague god takes souls through a sleight of hand: promising life, but giving instead of healing disease, but not fatal disease. Those who embrace Nurgle are kept alive, while their bodies rot and decay; which seems like a symbolic representation of being kept alive but severely ill. Nugrlings (Nurgle’s followers) are also notorious for a frenzied, irrational desire to share their “gifts”, whether or not other people want them.

    Not just are these groups stirring, but in many cases people suddenly embraced the role the Chaos God has for their followers sometime since 2015. I’ve wondered for a while if perhaps whoever created these tapped into something; or if the frenzied emotions people have poured into the Warhammer game over the last few decades brought them to life, but it seems to me like a lot of odd mysteries are explained if the Chaos Gods are stirring….

  255. Mr. Greer,

    Thanks. Also, I don’t know if this is significant or not but there are two other lines of iconography and symbolism running through the Imperium of Man. One, is a memento mori and danse macabre theme. Skulls show up a lot and the second most important symbol after the double headed eagle in the Imperium of Man is the Imperialis, a winged skull. I kind of find it odd that the Santa Muerte movement is increasing rapidly in popularity in Mexico while at the same time a science fiction wargaming franchise full of skull iconography is rising up to challenge the popularity of Star Wars and Star Trek in North America.

    The other is apex predator iconography, wolves and big cats in particular. You have a bunch of military units with names like the Space Wolves, Celestial Lions, Blood Tigers, Lunar Wolves, Lion Guard, etc… with the iconography to match. Not sure if that is important or not.

  256. Good evening JMG. Hope you are well.

    Enjoyed this essay as usual. I just got your ‘the occult philosophy workbook’ and am excited to get started. Occultism and magic as an incredibly real and alive practice has finally wormed its way into my brain beyond the stacks of cheesy commercial ouija boards because of your podcasts and posts, so thank you.

    Before beginning the book, however, I wanted to ask your thoughts on a resistant sticking point for me surrounding ethics/ theology etc. Would like more understanding of how magic itself stacks up against ethical frameworks of Christianity and daoism.

    I’ve seen the world through a daoist lense (and likely more Christian than I realized)– greater patterns that should be followed rather than tampered with for one’s personal ends, as doing so will create ruin elsewhere.

    For example, the classic scenario of bringing needed rain to one region ultimately depriving another. On this, Earthsea (and others) vaguely stated essentially, ‘so you have to just be really careful and wise and only do it when you really need it,’ which is a cop out.

    (Per my suppositions,) I feel that, rather than gaining the spiritual through sacrificing your will to ‘God’s’/ the dao, magic uses the spiritual for your will towards earthly gain. Such a thought strikes me as hubristic and materialistic, yet I am intrigued the practice all the same. So I am stuck.

    Something you’ve said about essentially reaping what you sow as a magician pokes at my brain as an ethical framework, but I’m just not fully there in how that fits among conceptualizing ones place in the ~cosmos~.

    Looking to expand my world view, so any and all thoughts are enjoyed should this be topical enough. Thank you and have a good night.

  257. Discussion of 40K and Europe’s second religiosity makes me wonder if we’re selling Europe short re: Islam. I mean, think of the Iberians in round one. Who here would have thought in 1000AD that all of Iberia would be Christian again in under 500 years time? Europe may come under Muslim dominance, and its Second Religiosity may still be Christian–just had the vision that this Reconquista might take on the imagery of the Imperium of Man. God Emperor Jesus, anyone? An “Imperium of Europa” under the double-headed-Parteiadler could certainly get traction in certain dark corners of the Internet today. (And honestly, who wouldn’t want to call down Exterminatus on Brussels eurocrats at this point?) I suppose it’s hard to imagine a society in its terminal winter summoning the marital energy to fight such a struggle.

    The more I think of it, the more the dark future of Warhammer 40k maps to how identitiarians see the world. Zero-sum, us-against-them, genocide-or-be-genocided… yeah. It would be real good fodder for a European Reconquista movement.

    I could see that, a catholic splinter doing well. The Tridentine mass and gothic architecture are powerful and compelling, and just the sort of fossilized form the second religiosity ought to be drawn to. On the Protestant front, I can think of exactly one parish that could serve as prototype. Did you know at least one super-High-Church Anglican priest still performs mass in the correct orientation? My in-laws are in a tiny town on the Canadian East Coast that does the ritual of Mass with the priest facing the altar, smells and bells and basically Tridentine-in-English. Queen Elizabeth would approve. I suspect if I lived there I’d attend services regularly. (I always wondered why Vatican II didn’t go that route, and just translate the ritual instead of turning everything around. I suspect the Catholic church would not be in the state it is if they had.)

    See if the people playing in your area have house rules against printed armies. If not, go to the library and 3D print an army. Have some fun. (If your local library has a printer, but many now do. Heck, you can buy a good printer for less than GW wants for an army these days).
    In ye old days before 3D printers, I participated in a basement tourney with an Imperial Guard army made up of Little Green Army Men from the dollar store. I lost, badly, but at least I hadn’t gone broke for the privilege! (Note the basement part. I certainly could not have played at the local games store with that army.)

  258. I won’t post a direct link because some might find it offensive, but coincidentally (or perhaps not) Rintrah of Rintrah dot NL has posted an essay (today is December 11, 2023 for future readers) that people interested in the 40k discussion on this week’s post might want to read.

  259. JMG, yeah, that image I posted is really quite something when you think about it. The Russians are depicting themselves as aliens wearing the symbols of two eras of their history (the Soviet helmets and older uniforms) who are nonetheless dancing to a modern tune.

    The future is certainly not evenly distributed.

  260. In regards to Atheist materialists. Even excluding all Supernatural proofs. They would have to still justify Reason itself. For if there is no Reasonable God(The Logos) ordering a Reasonable universe that could be comprehended by Reason.

    How else would it be intelligible? How should we expect Chaos to itself create a Reasonable comprehensible universe given that capacity to Reason goes far beyond mere survival but goes towards the Transcendental?

    What use is there to comprehending the beauty of the stars itself outside of mere survival prerogative?

    If the Universe is unreasonable how then goes Reason. And how do we know it isn’t all post-hoc Rationalisation rather than actually grasping at the Truth in actuality?

  261. Assuming that people don’t change unless they absolutely have to, what would be the preconditions for someone accepting a new religion?

    A priest I know said he envied the AA group who met in his church hall because the early Christian church must have been like that — small groups meeting in secret to avoid censure, and exchanging ideas and being supportive of one another.

    By analogy with AA, what would be the spiritual rock-bottom?

    One situation I have suggested is the realization that you are being lied to by those above you in the social scale. And they are lying because they couldn’t be bothered to tell the truth to you, because they frankly don’t care what you think. You mean nothing to them.

    So it might be nice to have a god who counts the hairs on your head and notices when a single sparrow falls, even if the god is somewhat capricious in delivering benefits.

    Another thing is gods tend to have fairly inflexible rules. They give you a rock of certainty to cling to or strive towards in a world where everything has become fluid, even gender. And they are unlikely to turn against you like the powers that be have turned against and demonize white christian males.

    I always thought the established churches made a big mistake when they became “trendy” and permissive in an attempt to attract young people. Gods should be like Elon Musk. No need to advertise or compromise. Do your thing, stand firm, and let the chips fall where they may. If you must die, die with honor intact.

  262. @Robert Mathiesen #249: That probably happens with everything that is dear to the humans heart. If something you can’t or don’t want to let go of is suppressed by your environment you go underground. And only if the suppression lasts long enough, the old ways will slowly fade out, as it has happened with the old pagan believes that got suppressed by Christianity. But obviously even they rebound.

    I find the story of the hidden bell absolutely fascinating, by the way. What a huge effort this must have taken… and to finally hear it sound again…. Thank you for sharing!


  263. JMG and Mr Nobody – I believe you’re referring to “The Destroyers”. I remember their visit to and livening up the mall at the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities) in June of 1981 for a few days. Brother Jed and Sister “Sinnnnnnndy” as well as a few others. I think the one guy Max seemed the most sensible. They proclaimed the school “most wicked in the country”, much to the delight of the crowd, and what I’m sure was part of the show at all the schools on the tour. Seems Brother Jed recently passed. End of an era.

    As for the return of religion, JMG wrote “…because it comes into being as a refuge from chaos.” That sums up the post nicely. I’ve noticed some of the signs of this over the last couple of decades, and especially since the Covid insanity these past few years. While this post puts much of the topic in sharper focus, I’m beginning to think now I’m too cynical to be of much help to those undergoing conversions. Our culture seems bent on satisfying the whim of the moment, which comes across to me – a lifelong agnostic – as a “roll your own religion” to make your life more comfortable or understandable. That’s not an effective approach to dealing with changes in reality, and distracts from dealing with other issues. Time to step down from my judgmental soapbox.

  264. @ Nachtgurke (#280):

    The Russian manuscript curator was obviously very moved by the story she told us. It was the main bell of the church, so it was large enough to nearly fill the entire room. To move it into that room must have been a job for several experienced workers using heavy construction equipment, and it probably had to be taken into the building through a window, not up a long stairwell. So I expect it was done in the wee hours, and also that more than just one doorway had to be repaired afterwards. But she didn’t tell us any of those details, of course: her focus was on the wonder and joy of the restored bell, not the means to that end. Theirs may not have been a faith that could move a mountain, but it was more than enough to get a very large bell moved.

  265. JMG et. al., leftist dreams of a better world died with the fall of the Soviet Union and satellite governments. Especially after the world saw the shocking extent of environmental damage which had occurred under socialism, damage like the loss of an entire inland sea. The self-styled New Left might have studied and built on the successes of the Old Left and Progressive movements. Instead, they tried to replicate the coup engineered by the Bolsheviks in Russia, forgetting that such efforts are rarely successful and then only when the revolutionary party is armed or has gained significant support among the target government’s armed forces. Furthermore, the New Left would be mandarins were unable and unwilling to conceal their disdain for ordinary middle- and working-class Americans. You don’t gain people’s support by insulting them.

  266. Thanks as ever Mr Greer for a thought-provoking read. In your book ‘After Progress’ you predicted a strong future for the Catholic Church at least during the ‘second religiosity’, and a tough time for American Evangelicalism. Judging by one or two of your comments here you seem to have reversed your view somewhat, foreseeing the Catholic Church in decline and Evangelicals in the ascendant. Would that be fair to say, and if so, what has changed your view?

  267. JMG at #236 responds, “Another testimony to just how miserable life has become in late industrial civilization.”

    My favourite statistic on that is the Amish. For those who don’t know, Amish are people who live with varying degrees of rejection of modern technology; some use some, but none use all. Certainly there are no devout Amish girls and boys on Instagram and Tinder. They’re also anabaptists, meaning that the children are not baptised as infants, but must make a conscious informed decision to become Christian (the Amish version) as adults. In the 1960s some 40-50% of Amish youth chose baptism. Since 2000 it’s steadily risen to 85%.

    Something about the modern world is making the young Amish boys and girls take one look, turn around and go back to hoeing their beans.

    Perhaps if a society is seeing a return to religion (in whatever form), before it can return, some existing religions will start retaining more members.

    I’m seeing a bit of this with other aspects of Western culture, too. If you go past a worksite you’ll hear music from the 1980s, with workers who weren’t even born then singing along. As a friend said, “I assure you, in 1983 we weren’t signing along to the Greatest Hits of the 40s.”

    Similarly, from 1988-93 there was a TV show called The Wonder Years, a coming-of-age drama about a boy and his friends in the 1968-72 period. An equivalent today would be one set in 2003-07. It’s just not really conceiveable – the early 2000s are nowhere near as culturally distinct from the 2020s as the late 1960s were from the late 1980s.

    Film-goers of course will be familiar with the fact that most studio money is going towards remakes and sequels. Just considering one character, and how his story has been “rebooted” in film:
    Batman movie (Adam West), 1966
    Batman (Michael Keaton), 1989 – 23 years
    Batman Begins (Christian Bale), 2005 – 16 years
    Batman v Superman (Ben Affleck), 2016 – 11 years
    The Batman (Robert Pattison), 2022 – 6 years
    This appears to be an asymptotic progression, where the next reboot will be in 2025, 3 years after the last, then in 2026-27, 1-2 years, and by 2100 there will be a Batman reboot every Tuesday.

    Have our lives been enhanced by this endless repetition and rebooting and remixing? When we said, “reduce, repair, reuse, recyle” and everyone focused on the “recycle” part, were movies and music meant to be part of it?

    I think that even the most devout delievers in Science! and Progress! would have to concede that modern society is not making as many people happy as earlier times did, and that there’s a significant degree of cultural stagnation going on. Some would only concede this reluctantly, and would be less concerned with talking about the depression and stagnation, and more concerned with blaming this or that person or group for it. But there it is.

  268. @Hackenschmidt (#286):

    Thank you for that Amish statistic.: the rise to 85% is simply astonishing, especially since the Amish do give their youth the opportunity and means (before facing the choice to be baptized or not) to go out into the world and experience modern technological culture at first hand — Rumspringa. I can’t think of a more damning indictment than that of the seductive, poisonous, vapid wasteland that mainstream culture has slowly become ever since the 1970s. 🤬 Much respect for the Amish elders and the centuries-long critical stance they have taken regarding “progress.”

  269. Info, that contest between Moses and the Egyptian mages was a very, very long time ago. I wonder how things would turn out now. 😉

    Chris, oof! I’ve never been to the Amazon, but I’ve been to the temperate rain forest in western Washington state, and if you’re wetter than that, I’m impressed.

    Martin, of course! The attempts by Americans to copy European habits have been a reliable source of hilarity in Europe for something like three hundred years now — one sign of the uncrossable gap marked out by the Atlantic. I hope you get your next Luther.

    Aidawedo, since nobody seems to know what church she goes to, if any, the jury’s out on that one.

    Other Owen, that makes a tolerable amount of sense. Our current American God-Emperor is practically being kept alive by tubes at this point, after all.

    Aldarion, Yeats always made his rhymes by ear, using his own Irish accent as his gauge. He also rhymes “rule” and “hole” in a poem — in some Irish dialects, those have the same vowel sound.

    Another, I’ve heard of them but haven’t been out to their place. Since I stepped down as head of AODA I haven’t had much contact with the Neopagan scene.

    Christian, thanks for this.

    Anonymous, interesting. Yes, I can see that. I’m not sure I like the idea of Imperial Space Marines showing up to deal with a Chaos infestation, though…

    Karl, hmm! Thanks for the data points.

    Hazel, it’s a real concern. I’d make three points in response. First, magic is not the whole of occultism — it’s one branch of occult practice. The system from which The Occult Philosophy Workbook derives, the Golden Section Fellowship system, doesn’t focus on magic — meditation, divination, and occult study are its basic elements. The same is true of many other occult schools. Second, the most effective way to use magic in most situations is to change yourself, not to try to change the broader patterns of the world — if you lack love in your life, for example, the most potent way to change that is to become more lovable. Third, when the world does need to be changed, divination is an effective way to determine when and how to do this in a way that benefits all.

    Tyler, oh, I expect a second Reconquista, probably beginning in eastern Europe and moving west from there. I’d expect it to begin around 2300 or 2400. As for the Anglican parish working, it would be good to see that spread — anything that gets the sacraments back in action is a step in the right direction.

    Justin, oddly enough, I was thinking of that very quote.

    Info, HP Lovecraft, who was a nearly lifelong atheist, would have agreed with you. As I noted in an earlier post, one of the things that sets him aside from most soi-disant atheists is that he really took materialism seriously, and came to see logic and reason as simply a set of arbitrary habits in the brains of a not very intelligent species of primates on the third rock from a minor star.

    Martin, that’s exactly the kind of religion that’s picking up converts here in America.

    Drhooves, for what it’s worth, I’m not especially impressed by the flight to religion as a refuge from chaos. It’s those who plunge into chaos that bring new worlds to birth.

    Patricia M, funny! Thank you.

    Mary, that’s certainly a hypothesis worth exploring.

    Stef, when I wrote that book the Catholic church hadn’t yet launched into its latest orgy of wokeness, and it also hadn’t knuckled supinely under when state governments during the Covid hysteria prohibited church attendance while leaving strip clubs open. The Evangelical churches also hadn’t started to distance themselves from the GOP quite so much. Times change — and I never claimed to be infallible, you know.

    Hackenschmidt, the endless recycling of the Baby Boomers’ childhoods is getting really dul to me, and I’m a Boomer! When my g-g-g-generation finally shuts up and stops talking about itself so incessantly, probably by way of a shovel of dirt atop its grave, more interesting things will doubtless emerge.

  270. Hackenschmidt, not to detract from your main point, but I think there does exist a phenomenon of some Gen Z and younger kids looking at the early 00’s as a source of culture. As a millennial, I notice that the majority of memes taken from movies are from movies I watched as a child. The Tobey Maguire Spider-Man series is a source of a lot of memes for example. Gen Zers like Billie Eilish also talk about enjoying and rewatching The Office. Watching The Office myself, I find that it is actually quite culturally distinct, e.g. Dunder Mifflin launching a new website was a major plot point, there were no smartphones yet. There was also a video of a normal high school in the 90s floating around in memespace where Zoomers were talking about how people seemed happier even in the 90s.

  271. >As a friend said, “I assure you, in 1983 we weren’t signing along to the Greatest Hits of the 40s.”

    I think I’m going to go ahead and say it – rock’nroll is dead. I think it died sometime in the 00s, but like everything that’s an estimate. I remember when metal died in the early 90s and that sort of reminds me of what’s going on. The music just got tired and lifeless. Yeah, I really think you can make a good argument the whole genre is now dead.


    Just maybe.

    The 21st century belongs to country music? I get a sense of vitality coming from there I don’t get from the rock genre anymore. I mean, you look at Los Angeles and it’s cratering and Nashville is almost unrecognizable from where it was a decade ago (in a sort of good way).

  272. >Our current American God-Emperor is practically being kept alive by tubes at this point, after all.

    Oh, now that’s amusing. They all wanted a God-Emperor and they got one.

    It just wasn’t exactly the God-Emperor that they thought they were going to get.

    Two great tragedies something something getting what you want something something…

  273. >In the 1960s some 40-50% of Amish youth chose baptism. Since 2000 it’s steadily risen to 85%.

    I guess even the Amish think that the future is – Amish?

  274. I don’t know if it’s still the lore, but the way that the timeline used to read was that the God-Emperor of Mankind took power; then was overthrown by a corrupt and senile oligarchy; and then took power again while in a coma following an assassination attempt. So if Trump ends up in a coma after an assassination attempt, still wins the election (since nothing technically says someone in a coma can’t run), and a group of theocrats rally around him and whoever his VP is, I’m going to want to get as far away from North America as possible.

  275. Hello JMG! In addition to your answer to Tyler, do you have any advice for reintroducing the return of the sacraments – I ask because I know you are knowledgeable in Christian occultism and mysticism.

  276. Well, that East Providence bridge closure is sure having effects.

    Bridge was getting old. They did plan to fix it, then suddenly, “critical failure,” bridge closed at 4:53 pm Monday. Good example of failure to maintain infrastructure leading to sudden problems.

    No one expected this one bridge closure to have the extreme effects it ended up having. E Prov public schools had to switch to virtual learning. No one had expected the buses to be stranded on Tuesday as long as they actually were.

    We live and work on the island so didn’t immediately notice effects, but spouse had a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday. Our bridge off the island was terribly backed up because people are detouring that far due to the closed E Prov bridge. Spouse left half an hour early and still ended up 20 minutes late (IOW just past the grace period and had to reschedule).

    Now the local roads around the island are also backed up due to people trying to detour over the island.

    Our toddler has a doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning on the mainland. They advised us to leave at least an hour earlier than normal to try to make it. I think we’ll go stay with my folks on the mainland tonight so we can get to the appointment tomorrow.

    We need to buy a few things before we go. But our local roads are backed up… Normally I’d just load up the toddler in the stroller and walk to the stores. But we’re waiting for her Auvi-Q (baby epipen) to be delivered so I need to stay home all day.

    We bought a small, well laid out for passive solar, house near our work. We didn’t expect our child to have these medical needs…

    Catabolic collapse.

  277. >And only if the suppression lasts long enough, the old ways will slowly fade out, as it has happened with the old pagan believes that got suppressed by Christianity

    May I wax cynical for a moment? Nay, the new religion doesn’t suppress – it subsumes. Before Christmas was a christian holiday it was a pagan holiday. Just like tyranny has different brands, like “Marxism” or “Fascism” or “Joe Biden”, so do religious ceremonies. You have the pagan branded Winter Solstice(tm) and then you have Christmas(sm).

    And to a good chunk of people, the only time they’re in church is at Christmas and Easter. Funny that.

    Coke, Pepsi, Big Mac, Whopper…

  278. Hazel # 274, you might like to do a search for JMG’s essays with “raspberry jam” as a key phrase.

    The idea is basically, you might say, “Woe betide my enemies! May their goals be messily waylaid, as though mired in unwelcome gallons of strawberry jam!” And maybe you’ll get that result, but don’t be surprised if your own life also soon has some inconvenient sugary pink goo and seed pits too.

    You can see this in many esoteric teachers who say, make sure your dart of intention is one you wouldn’t mind as a boomerang back to you, if your target happens to know Return To Sender magic.

    I don’t know how to apply this idea to huge evil like war criminals attacking one’s village. But it makes sense for everyday life in society. “May all be happy with their harmonious neighbors” is better than “May those jerks next door find their house burns down or something.”

  279. It occurs to me that for some the new religiosity will not be an abandonment of their occult work, particularly for those whose practice is heavily influenced by Judaism Christianity. The kabala, vibrating the names of God, archangels and angels. Rather than hippies trading in their high ideals of selflessness for “greed is good” this would be working towards balance. Realizing that as wonderful as the esoteric is the exoteric has it’s value as well. Two haves of a whole.

    It may also be a boon to the traditional religions bringing such things as discursive meditation as they read their holy books for example. Tools of the esoteric that can breathe new life into the traditional churches and avoid the facilitation that you mentioned.

  280. That arc from the Wiccan Rede to Satanism didn’t quite go where I was expecting. I thought you might mention (1) how it seems like the neopagan (esp. Wiccan) crowd seemed to slowly stop scapegoating Satanists, and realized that it’s just another minority religion being attacked (the ‘satanic panic’ era sucked for more people than just Satanists), and (2) how it seems like there’s been a growth of neopagans openly expressing their atheism and skepticism. Maybe the next ‘new religiosity’ is the age of the religious nonbeliever. Not quite the Age of Satan that LaVey might have hoped for, or the Christians were expecting, but it should be interesting, nonetheless.

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