Fifth Wednesday Post

The Way of Participation: A Response to Paul Kingsnorth

A fair number of my readers also follow the writings of the English writer Paul Kingsnorth, who writes from time to time (as of course I also do) on the future of industrial society.  Thus it came as no great surprise a little while back when several readers asked me to comment on his recent conversion to Orthodox Christianity and some of the things he’s written since then.  His conversion came as no great surprise either.  What Oswald Spengler calls the Second Religiosity, the flight of the cultured classes back to traditional religion once yet another Age of Reason has ended in moral and intellectual bankruptcy, is a standard feature in the historical trajectory of every civilization.  We’ve reached that point now, and Kingsnorth is part of the first major wave of dissident intellectuals following that time-honored path.

I have no quarrel with Kingsnorth’s choice.  His new religion is not mine, of course, but from the perspective of my faith that’s hardly a problem—for obvious reasons, polytheists are comfortable with religious diversity!—and I wish him all the best with his new god.  It so happens, however, that one of the pieces he posted on his subscribers-only Substack (repeated in part here by Rod Dreher) was a parting shot aimed at something that matters a great deal to me.  It’s one more restatement of a polemic that’s seen plenty of use during the last four centuries.  The polemic in question is based on a falsehood, moreover, and I’m pretty sure Kingsnorth knows this.

Conversion is a funny thing. I think most of us have seen people convert to a new religion and suddenly start repeating the standard canned rhetoric of that religion, for all the world like one of those talking teddy bears of decades past that had little tape players in their bellies.  Call them on it, and you can count on a hurt look and an irritable insistence that no, the dreary slogans they’ve been repeating by the quarter hour are their own latest, freshest, original thoughts.  It’s one of the things that makes me glad that nobody converts to my faith. (Seriously, nobody ever converts to Druidry.  People hear what Druidry is about and say, “You know, that’s what I’ve always believed anyway.”  It spares us a lot of issues.)

Maybe that’s what happened in Kingsnorth’s case.  The shopworn polemic he’s dealing out just now is a hostile definition of magic that was coined by Anglican divines in the seventeenth century for rhetorical purposes, and has been deployed by certain religious propagandists ever since.  It’s the claim that magic is wholly a matter of exercising control over the spiritual world, and thus contrasts with religion (or “true religion”), however this may be defined for the moment. Kingsnorth deploys this canned argument partly to distance himself from his previous religion—he was a Wiccan before he took up with Orthodoxy—and partly to denounce modern science by equating it with magic.

Historians of religion have been rolling their eyes at this sort of rhetorical game with the definitions of magic and religion for something like a century now, and for good reason.  It remains just as popular as it was in the days of Titus Oates, however, and there’s also ample (though by no means good) reason for this.  It so happens that one distinct and uncharacteristic subset of traditional Western magic can be characterized in that way without too much distortion.  Add a little cherrypicking and a bit of bad faith, and the entire tradition of Western magic can be (and with weary regularity is) tarred with the same brush.

That is to say, Kingsnorth’s argument is a familiar kind of cheap shot for those of us who know the history of occultism.  A response to it—and it deserves a response, not least because the misunderstanding he’s pushing is unfortunately common among the clueless—needs to begin with a meaningful definition of magic.  More than once I’ve referenced the one used by Dion Fortune, but she was very cagy when she crafted her approach to talking about magic and her definition takes some unpacking.  For the moment, I’d like to propose a definition of my own: magic is the art and science of participation in the spiritual forces of the cosmos.

Participation in, please note, not power over.  The difference is of quite some importance.

Imagine for a moment a limitless center of consciousness and power beyond space and time, blazing with the light of a billion suns, transcending personality and impersonality alike. From that immeasurable source, great streams of creative force surge outward through the planes of existence, passing through countless other subordinate centers of consciousness, divided and refracted on the way into equally innumerable individual currents.  Some of these currents reach all the way to the densest plane of existence, the one we call material reality. There they take the form of things and beings, each one created and sustained by the outpouring of divine creative force, each one capable of evolving toward life and consciousness in its own way.

This is the universe as it is experienced in the Western magical tradition Paul Kingsnorth disparages so glibly. In that vision of the Universe, dear reader, you are one expression of one tiny sub-sub-sub-subcurrent spun off from that mighty outpouring of power. You are created and sustained by it from moment to moment, and you have no existence apart from it, any more than a ripple in a stream has an existence apart from the water that forms it.  The same thing is true of me, Paul Kingsnorth, the computer screen on which you’re reading these words, and every other thing in this and every other plane and realm and world of existence.

These currents of force are not passive; they have their own dynamics and their own directions.  In human beings, they push toward self-awareness and self-knowledge. They push toward what might be called ethical consciousness—not a narrow rule-following morality, but a recognition of how one’s own actions affect other beings and the world in general, and of the importance of those stances toward the universe we may as well call “virtues.” Ultimately, they push toward conscious participation in the flow of creative power, and conscious attunement with its source and the great centers of consciousness that direct portions of its outward flow.

And magic?  Magic is among the means human beings have developed for pursuing that state of conscious participation and attunement. That’s why the basic practices of classical Western magic are what they are. The mage in training begins with meditation, which develops clarity of thought and thus fosters self-knowledge; divination, which develops intuitive attention to the movements of creative power; and ritual.  The basic rituals practiced by mages in the classic tradition, furthermore, focus explicitly on participation, not control. You don’t exert control over anything by a daily practice of the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram and the Middle Pillar exercise—the basic rituals of the Golden Dawn magical tradition, the most popular system of classic Western occultism in today’s world—or the Sphere of Protection, the basic ritual of the system I currently teach. Rather, by doing these, you learn to participate more fully and consciously in the dance of energies that creates and sustains the cosmos.

It doesn’t require extreme effort to find this out.  Kingsnorth could have learned it from the writings of the Pagan philosophers who laid the foundations of contemporary Western magic—Iamblichus of Chalcis, Proclus Diadochus, and the anonymous authors of the Corpus Hermeticum are particularly clear on the subject. He could have learned it from any number of later works, from Cornelius Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy to the writings of twentieth-century mages such as Dion Fortune. He could have learned it from my writings as well—my books on magic aren’t especially original, and draw heavily on the insights of Dion Fortune in particular. What hones the irony to an edge sharp enough to shave with is that he could also have learned it from the one significant occultist he did get around to quoting, at least in the excerpt Dreher quoted. Yes, that would be the notorious Aleister Crowley.

I’m no fan of Crowley.  I dislike his writings, not least because his personality comes through his prose with great clarity, and it’s not a personality I like to spend time with. I do feel, however, that even a world-class jerk like Crowley deserves to have his ideas presented fairly, not twisted to suit a sectarian purpose. Thus his famous dictum “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” ought to be taken in the sense he meant it.  He explained at great and even tedious length in his writings that the dictum did not mean “Do what you want shall be the whole of the law”—that he was speaking of what he called the True Will, the basic dynamic of the self, his version of the current of creative force I discussed earlier in this essay. Find your True Will, the Will that creates and sustains you, and express that and that alone:  that was what he meant.

The bit that Kingsnorth quoted, by the way, is only the first half of what he actually said—another detail that gets left out by those who like to use Crowley as a convenient whipping boy. The second half is “Love is the Law, Love under Will.” (Those of my readers who know their church fathers may recall Augustine of Hippo’s “Love, and do as you will.”) Note the distinction in verb tense: “do what thou wilt” is not the law, but someday it shall be. Here and now, love is the law.  I suppose there must be people who have read more than a page or two of Crowley and still don’t know that, but I wouldn’t have expected Paul Kingsnorth to be among them.

There are deeper waters here, and it’s worth glancing into them briefly.  Part of the mythology Crowley built around himself was the claim that by uttering that dictum—both halves of it—he was declaring himself a Magus, the penultimate level of magical attainment, and proclaiming the Word of the Aeon, the principle governing human life for the age of the world that dawned in his time. It was a typically Crowleyan bit of self-aggrandizement.  If he’d studied the old Gnostics a little more carefully he’d have learned that an aeon is not a period of time but an eternal spiritual reality. If he’d been less burdened with the emotional legacies of a miserable childhood, for that matter, he might have realized that every being in the manifested universe proclaims the Word of an Aeon:  the logos or essential pattern of the spiritual principle that sustains its existence.

Every Magus therefore proclaims the Word of an Aeon, but so does every blade of grass, every earthworm, every dust particle, and so on. What sets the higher reaches of magical attainment apart is merely that people who have reached those levels of knowledge and wisdom know what Aeon they embody and consciously participate in speaking its Word. Nor, of course, do they all speak the same Word, since every aeon—every basic principle of existence—is eternally present and eternally active.  My aeon is not Crowley’s.  Your aeon, dear reader, is probably not mine, and the Words that we speak with every breath and every action, and eventually will speak with full conscious intention as knowing and willing participants in the ongoing creation of the cosmos, are probably not the same, either. It’s a big cosmos and it has room for many Words.

Let’s circle back to the central theme of this essay, however.  Where did Kingsnorth get his idea of magic as control, magic as manipulation of the cosmos by the isolated and deracinated ego?  It’s fair to note that he didn’t make it up. Nor did the tradition of tendentious Christian polemic he’s embraced so enthusiastically make it up. That form of magic exists, and you can find books explaining how to do the various forms of it without too much difficulty. It’s the pop-culture magic of the Western world—and by this I don’t mean modern pop culture alone.

In what historians awkwardly call the early modern period, when printing presses were a hot new communications technology, one of the more reliable cash cows for unscrupulous printers was the literature of grimoires. That word, by the way, comes from the same source as “grammar;” grimoires purported to be grammars, that is, basic texts, of magical practice. What counted as magical practice, according to most of the grimoire literature, was limited to the art of conjuring spirits and demanding various goodies from them—usually cold, hard cash, though they also promised such entertainments as making women show themselves naked. (I get the impression that a lot of grimoires were sold to young men.)

It’s entertaining literature if you like the spectacle of people making fools of themselves.  As far as I know the success rate for such antics was right down there with the success rate among the people who plopped for Rhonda Byrne’s meretricious The Secret, which was basically the same thing with simpler rituals and fewer unpronounceable words of power.  The broader similarities between early modern grimoires and the recent spate of New Age “abundance” literature are hard to miss.  Both were rooted in debasements of older and more serious traditions, both catered to the clueless by seeming to promise something for nothing, and both stand apart from the older and more serious traditions just mentioned precisely because they appeal to the fantasy of control rather than offering the challenge of participation.

That fantasy is found in most cultures—maybe in all—but it’s particularly strong in the cultures we label “Western,” the ones that had their first gray dawn in the watersheds of the Thames, the Seine, and the Rhine around 1000 AD. It was one of Oswald Spengler’s many brilliant insights to label the results of that upsurge the Faustian Culture.  He had Goethe’s Faust in mind, of course—as a German intellectual in his place and time, he could hardly have based the label on anything else—but the older connotations of the name are far from irrelevant here.  The great temptation that people in Western cultures have faced all along is that of turning away from participation toward control:  in the phrasing Martin Buber made famous, refusing an I-you relationship with the cosmos in order to pursue an I-it relationship instead.

Did magic play a part in fostering that temptation?  Of course—but the magic that did so was the pop-culture stuff I’ve just discussed, the grimoire literature and the other mass-market schlock of the era that gave rise to modern science.  You’ll find the same thing affecting other branches of occultism at the same time. Serious alchemists in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, for example, rolled their eyes at the misguided antics of those they called “puffers,” who failed to grasp the profound spiritual dimensions of alchemy and pursued it purely as a means of trying to make gold and get rich. And it was these latter—the also-rans of occultism, those who failed to rise to the challenge of participation and instead pursued various grubby fantasies of power and profit through the manipulation of nature as an object—who played a role in setting the stage for the first stirrings of modern science.

Now of course it’s possible to take that  detail, as Kingsnorth has done, and flop it down on the Procrustean bed of sectarian polemics. With enough stretching and chopping, what’s left can be blamed as the source of everything that’s wrong with modern Western technology, as Kingsnorth has also done. It’s equally possible to use the same sort of dubious logic to insist that Christianity consists of nothing but inquisitions, witch burnings, and the misbehavior of clergymen with small boys.  That latter sort of argument has of course been deployed with enthusiasm by atheists, and Christians have quite rightly objected to this.  A certain comment about sauce for geese and ganders comes to mind, and so does a very wise parable about a mote in one eye and a beam in another, but we can let that pass for now.

The broader issue is that the contention between participation and control, between I-you and I-it relationships, runs through every dimension of Western culture.  Lynn White’s famous essay “On the Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis” shows that Christian theology also made a robust contribution to the habit of treating nature as an object of dominion rather than a subject that deserves respect, understanding, and dialogue. The same point can be made far more broadly, for  the long struggle between the competing visions of control and participation has structured the entire intellectual and cultural history of the Western world.  It’s a long and complex story, and doesn’t lend itself to simplistic analyses of the “me good, you bad” variety.

If Paul Kingsnorth feels he has to resort to analyses of that sort to please his new friends, on the other hand, that’s his call, not mine. My hope is simply that those who are potentially interested in magic will recognize that what he’s saying is a falsification.  Since not long after the first ancient Greek thinkers began weaving the legacies of Egypt and Mesopotamia together with the spiritual traditions of their own culture, and created the first tentative versions of Western occultism, people have been mischaracterizing the tradition those thinkers founded in various ways, for reasons not too different.  Those of us who study and practice classic Western occultism are used to such antics.  It’s just unfortunate that an otherwise thoughtful writer such as Kingsnorth should stoop to them.


Two reminders on (mostly!) unrelated issues. First, the Kickstarter for Weird of Hali: Roleplaying the Other Side of the Cthulhu Mythos is still ongoing; it’s doing well but it still needs support to pass the finish line. You can read all about it here.

Second, my latest short fiction contest, for stories making merry mock of the late and embarrassingly lame Grist cli-fi contest, has already received some first-rate submissions but there’s still room for more.  The details are here, and the anthology — tentatively titled The Flesh Of Your Future Sticks Between My Teeth: Stories from the Gristle Cli-Fi Contest — will be appearing in due time.


  1. That attitude to magic also reminds me of the claim that mystics spending decades on spiritual exercises are being presumptive. That the god (Christian in the cases I’ve seen but the logic is transferrable) will show up if and when they want and you can’t force them. Which completely ignores how the years of preparation shows consent, commitment, and will hopefully prevent the mystic from bursting into flames when the god does turn up. 🙂

  2. Beautifully written essay. I’m a Christian, but I see all spiritual practices (including occultism) as manifestations of the same ineffable truth that we humans must try so haltingly to express. Thank you for the reminder that the world does not need more condemnation of the effort to get in touch with the spiritual, in whatever form that takes.

  3. Thanks JMG,
    I too have found, in my younger days, drawn to orthodox Christianity but because it wasn’t that well established in Ireland, I let it go and after a while fell into occultism like a glove, as it were. I was surprised, therefore, to see Kingsnorth get baptised in Offaly of all places (it’s the town of my grandfather’s ancestors) after having lived on the west coast for a good while. I mean talk about old school.

    I look at his conversion like this. Playing a plastic paddy is a pretty well-known phenomena in the country. When I spent time in Clare on the West, seeing all the American’s come in in their “Paddy Wagons” usually evoked a lot of eyerolling from the locals. (The roads would be packed with these massive air-conditioned buses with this garish leprechaun emblazoned on it.)

    While I’m accusing Kingsnorth of being a plastic paddy, or a plastic orthodox Christian, fleeing to the countryside or to the church in hope of identification with a certain cause or ideal has been around since God was a child. The pressure to run with crowds is massive, and doing the opposite takes a lot of gal.
    I’m a trainee analyst so I’m pretty clued into how identification works, but it’s just sad when people jump ship and then lob firebombs soon after. To me it’s an indication that their belief is not wholly on solid ground.

    David Bently Hart, a theologian from the States, has also noticed this phenomenon particularly in ex evangelist reformed protestants converting to orthodoxy. They seem to bring their social condemnation and religious fervour with them. Which is sad, really. I’ve always understood orthodoxy of being the best current example of traditional Christianity, which was all about partaking in the divine glory of God.

    Anyway, thanks again.

  4. A couple of thoughts–

    Regarding converts, one of the things I’ve seen repeatedly is that new converts have to spend a great deal of time denouncing, first, whatever they’ve just converted from, and, second, whatever they might have converted to, but didn’t.

    When I was in college, I spent some time with members of the International Socialist Organization. To those unfamiliar, this is an old-school Marxist-Leninist organization of the sort that believes that everything really was going fine in the Soviet Union until Stalin forced Trotsky into exile. Well, one day we came upon a couple of members of the Industrial Workers of the World, passing out flyers. The IWW, for those unfamiliar, is an anarcho-syndicalist organization; anarcho-syndicalism is a failed early 20th century socialist philosophy, sort of the Gnostic heresy to Leninism’s Rome. My ISO friends dismissed the IWW people with no small contempt.

    Now, to anyone normal, the IWW and ISO are more or less identical. Both are tiny, obscure organizations populated then almost entirely by grad students, dedicated to failed early 20th century socialist philosophies. And yet the two were completely hostile to one another. Moreover, much of their speech consisted of repeating slogans about Makhno, the Spanish Civil War, Democratic Centralism and so on that have not been relevant to anyone in 100 years and that were never relevant to American college students.

    Many years later, I started spending time (mostly online) around modern American and British converts to either Eastern Orthodoxy (a la Kingsnorth) or to traditionalist Roman Catholicism. Now, Catholicism and Orthodoxy are rather different from Marxism-Leninism or Anarcho-Syndicalism. And yet, I found the same pattern of speech and behavior. Very often, Orthodox converts (or “orthobros,” as they’re affectionately known) spend a good part of their time attacking Roman Catholicism, and the converted Catholics (call them “rad trads,” or “toxic trads”) also attack Orthodoxy. And like anarchists re-fighting the Spanish Civil War that occurred a century ago in someone else’s country, the Orthodox converts rail against the “Latins” for the sack of Constantinople, a city none of them have ever been to, a full 8 centuries ago.

    What I think is happening is this. The plain fact of the matter is, there isn’t that much difference between traditionalist Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy– not from the outside anyway. No more than there is between Marxism-Leninism and Anarcho-Syndicalism. Thus the factors that lead the convert to choose one rather than the other are often small, personal, and more-or-less arbitrary– there was a lovely Greek cathedral in town, but no Latin mass; or there was an SSPX chapel, but no Antiochian church; or he simply liked the sound of Latin more than that of Greek or English.

    For reasons which are historically contingent and peculiar to the Abrahamic faiths– and the political ideologies that are descended from them– he can’t admit, either to himself or anyone else, that he might be made a different choice and been just as happy. So, as part of the process of creating a new identity, he has to spend at least some of his time attacking those identities that he might have chosen, but didn’t. And so he naturally has to be dishonest in his attacks, for the obvious reason that if he were honest the whole thing would collapse into absurdity.

    I think this, or a similar phenomenon, is what is going on with Kingsnorth. He hasn’t directed his fire at Catholicism– well, not yet anyway,. That may be coming, but I doubt it, for reasons I’ll get to. Instead, Kingsnorth chooses to attack magic. This isn’t new, either, as you note– C.S. Lewis, who he’s almost certainly drawing on, attacked magic in just the same terms and probably for just the same reason. I suspect that, like Lewis, Kingsnorth’s conversion is explained very simply– He was claimed by Christ, or by the Christ-Force that exists within his particular church. This sort of thing happens. And, like Lewis, he was claimed by a church which preserves the old rites, which **are themselves works of high magic.**

    And therein lies the problem. Because if you actually sit down and read Iamblichus– as Lewis almost certainly did and Kingsnorth may have– it becomes clear that traditional Christianity simply IS a magical system, employing the same sorts of magical technologies as its pagan rivals in late antiquity. (Thomas Taylor’s translation of On the Mysteries can be found here: Read it with a background in Catholic or Orthodox theology and tell me they’re talking about different things.) And so, for the same reason that the college Marxist has to denounce the college Anarchist that could have been him, and the less mystically-inclined Orthodox and Trad-Cath converts have to denounce one another, Kingsnorth has to denounce the Western world’s other magical traditions, as a part of creating his new identity.

    If things follow the usual pattern, after 5-10 years, he’ll be comfortable enough with his new faith that he no longer needs to prove it by attacking others. Until then, well, I’ll probably avoid his writings.

  5. “he was a Wiccan before he took up with Orthodoxy”

    JMG, that sentence explains a lot of the discussion…An ex-Wiccan converted to Orthodoxy!! It”s funny and terrific all at once.
    As un-orthodox Christian, I accept with no trouble the existence of magic and occultism on the whole.
    By the way, and related with christian orthodox, what do you think about Aleksandr Dugin?(I don’t like much him and his ideology, personally).

  6. “That is to say, Kingsnorth’s argument is a familiar kind of cheap shot for those of us who know the history of occultism. A response to it—and it deserves a response, not least because the misunderstanding he’s pushing is unfortunately common among the clueless—needs to begin with a meaningful definition of magic. More than once I’ve referenced the one used by Dion Fortune, but she was very cagy when she crafted her approach to talking about magic and her definition takes some unpacking. For the moment, I’d like to propose a definition of my own: magic is the art and science of participation in the spiritual forces of the cosmos.”

    That definition could be suitable…for Christian Mass, for instance. Participation, not control over spiritual forces. Now, we could say, about a Catholic priest, that he is a magician when he leads his religious services each Sunday…

  7. FWIW, I have to say I find this definition of magic to be far more satisfying than the Fortune one you’ve used in the past, which always struck me as too vague. Art, science, participation and spirit – it’s all there, plus the discussion of the role of the Will. Brilliant!

  8. Yorkshire, that’s a good comparison. I’ve met plenty of mystics, but I’ve never met one of them who practices austerities and devotions to try to browbeat their god into showing up. Rather, they do it in the same spirit that lovers show up at the door with roses and chocolates — because they know that these are ways to express their love and please the Beloved.

    Dana, thanks for this. From my polytheist standpoint, certainly, every relationship between humans and gods should be celebrated and encouraged, irrespective of which god is being discussed.

    Adrian, thanks for this also. The plastic paddy phenomenon — wearily familiar to a lot of us in the Druid community, who get to deal with an endless parade of wannabe Celts — is highly relevant to this discussion, because it’s a reflection of the same thing that drives the Second Religiosity. People who realize that their lives have no meaning and the mainstream culture offers them nothing of real value go looking for alternatives, but of course the only way they know to get something better is to go shopping for it, hoping to find a more valid identity off the rack in some cultural equivalent of a shopping mall. The Orthodoxy shop is getting a lot of business these days; we’ll see how long the rush lasts.

    Steve, when I was a teenager, Seattle had a couple of Marxist splinter parties — I’m thinking especially of the Revolutionary Communist Party and the Freedom Socialist Party — and their rivalries were very like what you’ve described between the ISO and the WWW. So I’ve seen the same thing at work! It hadn’t occurred to me that the same sort of distancing maneuver might be driving Christian condemnations of magic, but I think you may well be on to something.

    Chuaquin, I haven’t tackled Dugin yet — he’s going to require serious attention, and I’ve been pursuing other lines of research. He’s on the get-to list, though. As for the Mass, why, yes — Dion Fortune wrote that in her time, the Mass was the most widely performed ritual of white magic in the world. Since the Novus Ordo came in, alas, not so much.

    MIke L., thank you!

  9. I haven’t read the article in question because it’s behind a paywall, but I did read the first piece of his, “Divining the Machine” series and I found it quite well written and defines the religion of “the Machine,” i.e. of progress, quite succinctly.

    I’ve argued for years that feminism doesn’t promote women’s rights as much as it forces women into the workforce (with or without their will) and that environmentalists stopped making sense the moment they started shilling for increased immigration into developed countries and for green energy schemes which ultimately keep the price of carbon lower, and it’s nice to find an article that so nicely fits both entwines both ideologies into the body of the same, overarching ideology.

  10. John–

    How does the Second Religiosity of Spengler tend to relate to the spirituality (spiritualities) of the dark age following the period of decline? (I’m assuming here that the Second Religiosity more or less *is* the culturally dominant spirituality of the era of decline?)

  11. John Michael, this is absolutely brilliant…one of your very best! There’s a famous story about ‘contempt prior to investigation’ which has great bearing here.

    At a meeting of the Royal Society, Sir Edmund Halley launched a disparaging diatribe against astrology and Sir Isaac Newton’s involvement with it. To which, as the story goes, Newton calmly replied: “But Sir, I have studied the matter, whereas you have not.”

    I hope to comment further but feel compelled to respond immediately in singing your praises!

  12. Are you familiar with “Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism”? In Letter III, on “The Empress”, “Abritrary” or “Personal Magic” (aka “Usurpatory Magic”) is distinguished from “Sacred” or “Divine Magic”. Although our anonymous author is writing as a Roman Catholic, he is thoroughly steeped in eastern Orthodoxy as well as the occult tradition. Pages 54 – 62 are most relevant to the topic at hand. Do you think Mr. Kingsnorth might benefit from this book?

    “With respect to autonomous magic, i.e. magic without mysticism and without gnosis, it necessarily degenerates into sorcery or, at least, into a pathological, romantic aestheticism. There is no “black magic”, but rather sorcerers groping in the dark. They grope in the dark because the light of gnosis and mysticism is lacking” (MOTT 51).

  13. Dennis, most of Kingsnorth’s writing is well worth reading. That’s why the shallow sectarian polemic in the piece I’m critiquing surprised me as much as it did.

    David BTL, they’re two different things. The Second Religiosity is a flight back to older religious models on the part of the privileged classes. The rising religion of the next cycle comes into being among the poor and working classes, and usually rejects core elements of the traditional faith. In late Roman times, the revival of Paganism was central to the Second Religiosity of that time, while Christianity was the rising faith; the same distinction applies more generally.

    Jim, thanks for this. The sad thing is that if Kingsnorth was a properly trained trad Wiccan, he should have known these things. So either he’s parroting the rhetoric of his new faith, or he should send his third degree cord back and ask for a refund.

    Wayne, I’ve read Tomberg’s book but it’s been a while. That’s exactly the distinction I’m making here, however, so thanks for this.

    Paradoctor (offlist) oooh, a dictionary troll! Go look it up yourself.

  14. Well now! As a long time reader of your blog, John, and as an admirer of your work – an admirer who splutters at some of your opinions, as you do mine, but nevertheless is grateful that you’re out there – I was surprised to open your blog today and see a broadside aimed at me. Surprised and flattered, I suppose. I’ve seen you aiming rocks at various worthies and not so worthies over the years, so it is an honour to be in their company.

    I feel I ought to respond though, not least to correct a few, shall we say, misapprehensions. I may well have had a few rhetorical high-flying moments in that essay of mine, and some of what you say here may be fair enough. But of course it is laced with enough of its own Archdruidisms to make it just as straw-mannish as my own apparently ‘clueless’ effort.

    Maybe I should start off by explaining what I was not doing. Despite your suggestions, and that of some commenters, I was not engaging in ‘sectarian’ pro-Christian rhetoric, or in bashing other traditions. I have no time for that sort of thing, and will not be ‘attacking’ any other faiths any time soon. I am not an excitable new convert keen to diss other worldviews, like a newly-minted non-smoker. As it happens, my unexpected move into Christianity – though it certainly fits Spengler’s timetable like a glove – doesn’t feel like a ‘conversion’ so much as the natural destination of a journey I have long been on. That journey has taken in a few other faiths, including, as you say, Wicca, and Buddhism, all of which have taught me things, even if I don’t now believe them to have the fullness of the truth I was seeking.

    (Alas for the suggestion that I am some kind of ‘Plastic Paddy’ – which made me smile – I remain as English as a bulldog, and will never be travelling on a Paddywagon as long as I live. Happily, the covid epidemic has largely pushed them off the roads. Incidentally, Adrian, the notion that becoming a Romanian Orthodox Christian in the west of Ireland is ‘running with the crowds’ made me woder how much time you’d spent over here!)

    I’m quite familiar with the Western Mystery Tradition, though obviously not to the same degree or depth as you, John. I even have some of your books on it up on my shelves, as it happens. I’m sure you’re aware that Wiccans regularly practice the LBRP and some of the other practices you mention here, and I’ve done some of the reading you speak of too. You are right to some degree about Crowley, and perhaps right also that I misrepresented him somewhat – though it is hard to give much detail about a life like that in a fairly short essay.

    My point, in this piece, was not to condemn all magicians, or all magic – I made that point quite clearly. My point was to highlight the fact that what we call ‘magic’ and what we call ‘science’ were entwined at source. And while ‘magic’ is a word which covers a multitude of … well, you know … there’s no denying that a key strand of it, historically and still today, is about power, control and the asserting of both by the mage. Crowley operated this way all his life, and he was hugely influential in where Western magic ended up going. Plenty of mages still do today. Half the spells that the Wiccans work with are operating on this level. My point about Goetia stands too. It’s really impossible to deny this reality. I mean – what are those anti-Trump mages that you used to highlight so often on here up to if it’s not attempting to bend the universe – or at least America – to their Will?

    Your response to this claim is a hearty, and occasionally spluttering, defence of magic, but it’s fair to say that the case you make – a perfectly good one – is by no means shared by all other practitioners. Grimoires were taken very seriously by the people who taught me, for example. And there’s no doubt that many of the founders of modern Western science were serious alchemists, and saw the task of all their work, whether ‘magic’ or ‘science’ – and there was little distinction – as being the same: to discover the secrets of the universe, the better to control them.

    Obviously this is not the full picture. I did also mention that there were many strands of magic. Goetia and the various forms of natural magic that (I imagine) Druids practice are presumably poles apart. Still, I think there’s a good case to be made that the worst kinds of science and the worst kinds of magic – those which flatter and pump up the ego, and seek human control over the comos itself – are closely related and come from the same source.

    Your argument is interesting though. It seems to amount to a suggestion that the kinds of magic I have talked of here are ‘debasements of older and more serious traditions’, and should be discarded for that reason. Maybe so – though I cant help noticing that this is a very similar argument to that made by some of the more hardline Orthodox or Catholic Christians about any development since Martin Luther.

    Anyway, that was my point. Not aimed at Druids, particularly, I must say. Though I must also say that here in the Emerald Isle I have met quite a few people who have converted to Druidry recently. Maybe you’re part of the Second Religiosity after all …

    Anyway, I will look forward, now that you have got this out of the way, to what I hope will be a forthcoming essay on why all the petrol is running out.

    All the best,

  15. JMG– Well, he’s joined a religion whose central features include robed priests celebrating a yearly cycle of holy days using ancient rituals filled with chanting, incense, holy water, images of divine beings, and the occasional miracle. He has to do SOMETHING to distinguish it from Wicca.

  16. Off topic for this week, if I may: I have been expecting this.

    What this is about is that the fast fashion industry is not long for this economy and some folks, who fund the various “woke” pressure groups, are about to lose money. One reason for avoiding paid work in favor of managing a set of income streams at home is that one can avoid spending on business attire. I am waiting to hear what excuse for reasoning will be used to denounce making for yourself in your own home.

    I think Eastern Orthodoxy attracts some Anglosphere intellectuals right now because of the rising prosperity and prestige of contemporary Russia. Kingsnorth’s pre-conversion writings, I looked him up on wiki, seem quite interesting, and he gets some respect from me for delving into the past of his own island, rather than join the mostly useless tribe of posturing international intellectuals.

    It is a pity that the enthusiasm of new conversion would have led him to make pronouncements on matters he either doesn’t understand or wishes to forget. I once did some reading about wicca, and concluded it was mostly a cargo cult. There does seem to be a rising interest in the Hellenic deities among American teenagers and young adults. I’d say it remains to be seen whether the Mediterranean immortals can find a new home in North America.

    A clumsy phrase like “Benedict option” is, alas, what one would expect from a conservative who simply can’t rid himself of advertising speak. That combination of crude self assertion implied by the familiarity of first name basis with a revered figure from the past, and the limited imagination shown in using ‘option’, a word taken from business and the looking out for number one school of self help is the same tiresome pretense we have seen from “the conservative side” for decades. The self appointed guardians of the Great Western Tradition can’t even manage a basic respect for the objects of their supposed veneration. What I think, and what I doubt Dreher notices–time is limited and I haven’t any interest in reading Dreher–is that St. Benedict required work from his privileged following.. Ora et labora means in its late empire context, no more reliance on slave labor. You, son of a consul and grandson of a general, will mop floors, wash clothes, harvest crops yourself. Future monasticism will doubtless forbid reliance on advanced technology for sound practical reasons.

  17. “magic is the art and science of participation in the spiritual forces of the cosmos.” – I really like this definition better.

    “Imagine for a moment a limitless center of consciousness and power beyond space and time, …. evolving toward life and consciousness in its own way.” – It’s a beautiful image:)

    “Find your True Will, the Will that creates and sustains you, and express that and that alone: that was what he meant.”

    These 3 lines really stuck out for me. Thanks John. Den

  18. JMG,

    I read the excepts from the article in question now, and I believe he is midway on a journey toward wisdom. I recently met a professional dominatrix who also does magic, practices blood sorcery and studies under one Sorceress Cagliastro. Her goal is to “Be your own God,” doesn’t believe in karma, and believes that karma only affects those who believe in it. I wanted to argue, but bit my tongue not wanting to get on her bad side for obvious reasons. Long ago, she discarded wiccan rituals and finds she only needs to put herself in a state of mind to practice magic effectively.

    I was in a similar position when I was younger, and like most New Agers (although I hated that term at the time), I fully believed that I was my own God, could more or less get exactly what I wanted out of the universe for free by willing it, and that nothing bad could happen and that nothing “bad” existed. I also believed that karma was only for those who believed in it, and a lot of my experiences seemed to confirm all of those beliefs until I accidentally summoned a demon during a Tantric sex session (2003). Likewise, about 10 years after that, I took revenge on an enemy (2010) and suffered all sorts of karmic blowback (2011), regardless of if I believed in it.

    After these two experiences, I entered a period where I believed that trying to control the universe through magic was inherently wrong and decided to try to subserve myself to the will of the universe. I believe this is where Kingsnorth is now. I didn’t choose Orthodox Christianity, but it’s the same idea. Universe. God. Submitting to some great power, and I let signs guide all of my major life decisions.

    Then, I started to take a more active role once again since 2017 actively using magic, but in a more humble fashion trying to be an active participant in something greater than myself rather than thinking I am literally the center of the universe which is what is at the core of the various New Age religions.

    My guess is he will come around to it too after he realizes that his own will and the will of the God he is submitting to are inextricably linked. I’m not sure what I meant by that last sentence, or if it’s worded correctly.

  19. And there’s another side of it, too. Kingsnorth wrote in his conversion essay that his spiritual practice blended Wicca with Zen Buddhism. Now his spiritual director will almost certainly encourage him to discontinue zazen practice and take up the Jesus Prayer instead. And there’s nothing wrong with that– the Jesus Prayer is an excellent practice. But spend some time listening to a traditional Orthodox discuss how to do the Jesus Prayer correctly, and then listen to a talk on Buddhist meditation– especially from a Pure Land Buddhist. The similarities greatly outweigh the differences.

    Again, nothing wrong with converting. In Orthodoxy, he’s probably going to find exactly what he was looking for– unlike the Wiccans, his priests actually WILL be part of an ancient, unbroken initiatory lineage, and he won’t have to look to Japan to find a suitable meditation practice. I personally admire the Orthodox a great deal. The only issue is with what Adrian called “jumping ship and lobbing firebombs” after.

  20. I’m afraid I may be a “plastic paddy.” I’ve read novels by Flann O’brien and found them amusing. I enjoyed James Joyce’s story “The Dead.” I’ve made love to a woman who had a shamrock tatoo, and once I even attended a Van Morrison concert.

    But seriously, this was an interesting post. I’ve liked Kingsnorth’s writing in the past, and I’ll have to check out the links you posted up above.

  21. Hello JMG, I am a beginner on these topics. Is Western Magic the same tradition as the Western Mysteries that I have heard of?

  22. Well said. I love the use of “participation” here, which hearkens back to Proclus and Neoplatonic theory, as a fundamental dynamic in the cosmos.

    I am not familiar with this gent and his work, but I find it hard to believe that he’s unaware of the roots of Orthodox mysticism and its relationship to those same older forms of thought.


  23. “The sad thing is that if Kingsnorth was a properly trained trad Wiccan, he should have known these things.”

    Yes, I wondered about that. I had not known anything of Paul’s affiliation with Wicca, nor of his more recent conversion. Perhaps his religion is of secondary importance to him? As you rightfully point out, he’s always stood out as a deep, integral thinker and a fine writer. I would fully expect your essay to cross his desk promptly and I pray he can receive the critique with an open mind and heart. Perhaps he’ll even offer a thoughtful public response!

  24. For those confused about how Kingsnorth came to be in the west of Ireland, it’s because land was affordable there, Talk of “plastic paddies” is irrelevant, and unfair to the man. As for how he came to find Orthodoxy there, it was via association with a monastic community belonging to the Romanian Orthodox Church there.

  25. As a practicing Eastern Orthodox Christian for 40 years, I fear that Mr. Kingsnorth is suffering from a common and well-known disease: convertitis. There is a cure but it takes years to take effect, that and having good mature mentors (likely clergy). But one might say that this might apply to new Druids, or Wiccans, or Bddhists etc.

  26. If the methods of occultism (ex. pop culture) are intended to make one more open and ready to cope with the divine, in much the same way that I would pray, read the bible, or think very closely over a passage from the bible or the world around me, then it makes a lot more sense to me than if it is trying to trick or control a deity.

    In the case of the Christian God, whom we believe to be omnipotent and omniscient, trying to trick or control him seemed useless, potentially offensive to God, and therefore highly dangerous. Also just wrong on a gut level. You don’t treat your friends that way, why would you treat your God that way?

    Thank you, this now makes more sense.

    As you can probably tell from this, I’m not very familiar with the occult. Most of what I know comes from reading some of your blogs on the subject.

  27. Thank you for another excellent essay! I like your definition of magick better than Fortune’s, because I think it includes a lot more occult activities that should be called magick, and it doesn’t seem to limit magick solely to the mind/consciousness (though that is where magick happens). I do recognize her influence on your definition, and I hope yours becomes as popular as hers within the next 100 years or so.

    Also, I laughed out loud at more than one point today! I don’t like Crowley’s personality, either! I did like his writings on True Will (though they are so different from his other ego-saturated stuff I sometimes wonder where the idea really came from, though I suppose it’s possible to write something like that without actually achieving it yourself.) Some of his writings did seem divinely inspired and then, a few pages later, straight off the rails and into crazy town.

    And the grimoires read and written by young men! Yes, hysterical! I’m sure they were “The Secret” of their time.

    I think the urge to use control and dominion vs to participate collectively in magick is a symptom of a broader spiritual lesson for humans that permeates everything. Do I participate with my husband or do I control him? Or my pet? Or my food? Or my ecosystem? My neighbors? My community? I can’t think of an area of life where the choice does not apply, and that may be an area that all humans are destined to face. As in all things, magick is the same… garbage in, garbage out. I think magick is a great accelerator, so the more magick you do, the faster you learn some of those choices are terrible ideas.

    Marie LaVeau, the New Orleans Voodoo Queen, perportedly gave up Voodoo and renounced it as evil in her later years, in her case, turning to Catholicism. I think it’s a common choice for people who become very good at using magick for those “power over” choices but fail to recognize the opportunities for participation, cocreation, and communion that are really the most astonishing and beautiful experiences the occult has to offer.

    Jessi Thompson

  28. He reminds me of myself when I first went vegan. I was obsessed with it and honestly felt for a while that it was the only way to help anything or anyone in the world. I was extremely intolerant and often acted like a religious zealot in the first years of being vegan. I went vegan in 2010. I’m still vegan now, but I’m far more chill about it. I think he will eventually mellow out and come to his senses. Do you (JMG and the commenters) think he feels guilt about doing magic for something he wanted while he was a Wiccan? Guilt is what drove me towards vegangelism in the beginning. The first years were a reckoning.

  29. Meaningful coincidences abound. I’m reading Rod Dreher’s book on Dante (after having read The Divine Comedy twice in the last 18 months on what was more or less spur of the moment but turned out to have perfectly timed with a midlife crisis and global meltdown happening simultaneously) and also reading the Ecosophia book club book by Eliphas Levi, and as is usual in my wanderings, the readings reflect and support one another in unexpected ways, rather than undermine or contradict. This is why, although I am definitely a disciple of Jesus (in a Vajrayana kind of way), I just cannot bring myself to call myself a Christian. It’s like my studies of Buddhism and now of the occult have helped me to return to my home, albeit to find it as if for the first time. I’m trying to find my true will so that I can freely surrender it.

    For what it is worth, I think you’re correct, JMG, that it is the zeal of the newly converted, a form of virtue signaling every bit as powerful as that of the woke anti-religion. I know from my own past zealotries. Now I only have one person (or Three persons, as the formula goes, lol) to impress, and that happens via my heart (body/speech/mind) and not my signaling.

  30. I think I’ve mentioned this before, since, like defining “neoliberalism,” it’s one of my hobby-horses. The motto, “Do what you will,” coupled with descriptions of life at the “Abbey of Thelema” did not originate with Crowley. Rather it dates back at least to Rabelais and can be found in the chapters around Ch 57 of “Gargantua and Pantagruel.” (I’m using the translation by Burton Raffel, and published by Norton.) I don’t imagine that Crowley was unaware of Rabelais. I don’t know if Kingsnorth is.

  31. You’ve often used the Dion Fortune definition of magic as ‘the art of causing changes in consciousness to occur in accordance with the will’. In this essay, you used a different one: “the art and science of participation in the spiritual forces of the cosmos”.

    On the face of it these seem quite different. Is there any explanation that would make sense to this of us at the shallow end of the pool?

  32. I’m wondering how much of the polemic directed against “magic” in certain traditionally religious circles (apart from the usual straw man rhetoric) doesn’t rest upon a confusion that’s primarily semantic in nature, given that participation in the energies of the cosmos as you described it, and ego-based strategies of psychic manipulation, are both commonly defined and understood as “magic”. So maybe what we have here is more an absence of clarity than true hostility? I’m not sure. The “participation” that you describe seems to align rather closely with the general paradigm and practices of the more esoteric dimension of the traditional, institutional religions. But then the former haven’t exactly avoided ritual spankings and worse by their more conventionally orthodox brethren. So I’m not altogether sure where we stand on that front.

  33. I want you to know that your scholarship played a part in my doctoral dissertation—“Education for Re-Indigenization”—which I recently successfully defended. With references to five of your books and two articles, you hold the largest spot in my bibliography. Your ideas on deindustrialization, the Long Descent, and the salvage economy were central to my conclusion.
    If you’d like to take a peek at it, go to
    Thank you for inspiring me with your good work.
    Jon Andreas, PhD

  34. Thank you. I’ve wondered about the issues you discussed here and have simultaneously wondered why I’m unable to go along with the blanket condemnation of…what I’ve taken to calling “innerness” for some time. This helps clarify things for me.

  35. I like Kingsnorth, and I’m pleased that he’s found Orthodoxy. But there’s some standard practice/advice inside the church for converts that… before you do anything radical like get ordained or join a monastery or write a book on theology or start teaching catechumens or whatnot, you need to be Orthodox for at least ten years. You need that long to settle into the praxis, get down off the high of conversion, and start understanding some of the things that you can only understand through doing, and doing again, over and over. That’s how long it takes to start incorporating it into your bones.

    Having been a convert, and interacted with a lot of converts… it’s good advice. It’s a very exciting time, you’re learning so much, and making so many connections you’ve never made before, and it’s very heady… and also very easy to make connections that aren’t really there, and overreach your fledgling understanding. And… Kingsnorth sounds a bit like that now. If he’s still Orthodox in ten years, I’ll be very curious to read what he has to say about it. But right now when he writes about religion, I still get the urge to smile, nod, roll my eyes a little… been there, done that, don’t worry Paul, it’ll pass, you’ll sober up, and far from being dull or losing its shine, it’ll be better after. Steadier. If he sticks it out, anyway.

    Some people are perpetual searchers, and once that initial excitement wears off, they move on to the next shiny thing. We try to avoid that by encouraging people to take *all the time they need* as inquirers. But it happens anyway. We’ll see. It’s like falling in love. The infatuation wears off. After that, some people find the capacity for the day-in, day-out practice of cooperation and self-sacrifice that is domestic love. And some people are fixated on the heady feeling of infatuation, and immediately fall head over heels for someone else. Not sure what sort Mr. Kingsnorth is. Only time will tell.

    But I wouldn’t give much weight to his religious proclamations just yet. They haven’t aged enough.

  36. Hi John great stuff as usual – however can you speak more about your other definition of magic as in this blog where you say

    “Let’s start with some basics. Magic, to cite my favorite definition of the subject, is the art and science of causing change in consciousness in accordance with will.”

    Maybe this is more where his criticism lies as this sounds more like trying to control spiritual things (others’ consciousness)?


  37. JMG,

    I do very much like your definition of magic; it’s much more explicit than Fortune’s.

    Since the spiritual forces emanate from a creative Source and travel down the various planes to our material reality, would you also then go so far as to say that only those elect end up consciously participating in the spiritual forces of the cosmos, whom the spiritual forces in a sense chose for this participation as such?

    Thank you so very much for sharing your wisdom.

  38. Just to pop in again and say that, since there are a lot of people on here opining about my essay (not to mention my personality – I do love online psychoanalysis!) without having read it, I have removed it from behind the paywall, so that anyone who is interested can have a proper look.

    You can find it here:

    And while I’m here, if anyone is interested in understanding how anyone could move from Wicca to Orthodoxy, let alone why, I tried to explain it here; hopefully with a minimum of ‘convertitis’…


  39. I guess I come from a strange brew of beliefs. Control (perhaps better said as ‘illusory control) was always a dead end for me. Once you dissect your own thoughts, look around at the world we are in, people around you – control (at least for me) becomes a monumental waste of time. Too many variables to juggle, and why would one want to control the amazing world we exist in, once you become aware? Experiencing it is far more enlightening, as it is ever changing and seasonal too.

    Christianity has many rules, but each of them can be parsed differently. I avoided meditation for a large portion of my life, out of the mistaken belief that God was the answer to everything. As I got older, and read with different eyes, it became clear that meditation was mandatory for any kind of spiritual progression, and in fact urged by biblical passages. Looking within has to be a part of any faith for it to bring out our better nature.

    I hit the 1st commandment when I was much older; “…no other Gods before me.” Then ‘before me’ hit me like a truckload of bricks. So very many things have been assumed by so many…

    Untangling the ego is a lifelong task. Once you hold it at arms length and acknowledge it as the grasping, writhing thing it can be, you can learn to let go of many useless things it collects. I look around inside, and wonder where people get the time to even try using magic to control things. Managing my own convoluted interior is a daily task!

    I like your magic definition – succinct and tidy. And your OSA bits are also much appreciated from the blog next door – so very many people from so many times and places arriving at nearly the same truths.

    Good job!

  40. I think the only way to resolve this dispute is for JMG and Paul Kingsnorth to have a nude mud wrestle.

    Thoughtful essays resolve nothing.

  41. Your response to Adrian prompted a near-daily thought for me: that my work would be pretty soul-crushing if my soul didn’t have other things to do…

    Can’t tell you how much I appreciate you folks who are making a living doing something good for the world. My side career is there, but my full-time gig? No. Though I’m making in-roads.

    I stopped midway through reading your essay to quote my journal entry from yesterday to my wife. Your magic is strong, sir. Please, carry on!

  42. You have no idea, or perhaps you do, how much this blog post is much in line with what I was ruminating and thinking on hard working and at least one question I had from the last Magic Monday. I take it as a form of Yes. I apologise for the following, just kind of what’s been on my heart lately and found this to be a rather acceptable time to share what I’ve seen and experienced myself.

    You and I share the same feeling on Crowley, however where we deviate is that you read his literature and I have not. My stomach flips at the idea of the guy or things affiliated with him saying he’s bad news. Most likely not going to put him as one of my priorities to read.

    Interestingly enough I also found that I can’t stand being in the occult section of the bookstore, I can’t stand being in most of the local occult stores, I can’t stand being in many churches, and most of all I cant stand living in the concrete jungle I’ve been born and raised in any more. I’ve been craving a massive bonfire and nature for a year now. Something is up, and it’s been a regular aspect in my life. I “blame” the self proclaimed high priest of the Satanic church my mom brought into the picture when I was in 4th grade for; boy was he a fun piece of work that I loathed and eventually grew on me. Linda Goodman’s Love Signs, and The Secret Language of Birthdays were somehow massive influences as well on top of the KJV bible. Love the end of the world bit, totally didn’t have a massive impact. Joke aside, I just followed the quiet voice. Go to church it said. Don’t go to church. Here’s this song. Go to this shop there’s someone there for you. Stop. Need to learn Cabalah but time is not right. Read this and that. Stop. Read more. Remember this convo. Listen to more music. Listen to these books. Make connection. Now you’re ready. That’s roughly what I went through, like a game of pinball.

    Magic I’m learning is an experience within it self, it’s a tool that’s an extension of my being but also something with seemingly a mind of its own. Abuse it and I’ll end up having a hole in my foot or worse. That’s what I mean by it being like a gun, because ultimately that tool becomes a part of me, it IS a part of me, and I need to respect a general set of rules as well as know to use it properly in order for it to be of use in times of need. A modern day sword. It’s honestly terrifying what one is capable of doing. People mess around and get hurt by guns because theyve never been shot or know someone who has. theyve been burned by fire, cut by blades, but never shot. Magic is similar, and partially why people convert back to Christianity or have their lives crumble before their eyes when stuff goes south.

    I’m done with the constant bickering and screeching between Christians and pagans of all stripes, keep that karmic **** away from me, I got enough on my plate to worry about as is. I didnt choose for the past to happen, and certain things are not my fault or responsibility to resolve. I certainly can’t take most seriously if they cannot see or recall their own horrid treatment of others based on race and spiritual beliefs, their own proclivity or their followers proclivity to do evil. This spiritual “war” seems to have gone too long among humanity as most are possessed by the idea of their divine overlord(s), and too much resources have been wasted. The true version(s) of God or god’s have since moved on and have been trying to bridge the resulting gap, but this chasm, this abyss, keeps on growing. Why else has the world turned into a dumpsterfire?

    With that, I see allies within other pantheons, I’d like to think some may have actually helped directly and indirectly, either by guidance or protection, and we’re now facing a foe of which humanity has never faced before, at least at this scale and magnitude of which a united front of some kind needs to be in place if certain traditions and ideas need to live on Christian or not. There are times where I dont think I’m worthy of anyones help or guidance because of guilt on how I acted, thought, or spoke, of or around them, their followers, and certain beliefs before. Though I suppose that iconic Christian guilty concious is a decent indicator that I’m still human and thus can change. The more pagan side of myself has not recieved a warm welcome among Christians, I lost a valuable avenue of family info and connections, but never once did I find myself forsaking christian beliefs or God, but obtained a very strong, dislike, of many Christians when I realized they’re the same kind of blind and often times hurt idiots who like to talk a lot like many “playgans”.

    Is this what the two of swords implies? Sacrifice, trade, marriage of ideas? Peaceful Union. Kinda interesting how things I’m just covering like this shine through, though I could be wrong.

  43. On Eastern Orthodoxy: Some of the interest comes from people who got interested in Gurdjieff decades ago. That was the source of my interest. It seems that students of Gurdjieff were instrumental in getting the Philokalia translated into English. (Gurdjieff himself grew up in that faith, apparently.) I attended a couple of Eastern Orthodox services about 15 years ago. I met a woman there who’d converted from an evangelical sect. That was interesting. When I had a chance to speak to the Priest, I mentioned the Philokalia. He responded with a snarky, “so you want to go right to the good stuff, eh?” I never went back.

  44. Hi JMG and all – John, when I read your line about the I-you, and the I-it relationships to the cosmic forces it struck a chord with me, and kind of explains why I won’t get vaxxed of my free will. I value my relationship with my immune system, and I don’t want to injure it . It’s like I have a billion little friends who like living with me, and keeping me healthy. I keep going back to Walt Whitman, when he proclaimed – “I am large, I contain multitudes.” Getting vaxxed seems like an insult to all my little friends, who have done a fabulous job keeping me healthy.

  45. @Steve T

    Funny story: at my first Orthodox church, where I was chrismated, the priest was a convert from… I think he’d been a Southern Baptist, originally. Anyway, while he was in the process of becoming Orthodox, he was still deep in Protestant country, no Orthodox monasteries in reach, and trying to learn the ropes by correspondence with his (Orthodox) spiritual father. His spiritual father sent him to a Buddhist monastery to learn meditation, because it was in reach, and they clearly know a thing or two about meditation 😉 It worked out well for him, and he has a deep respect for the monks who taught him. And he went on to be ordained an Orthodox priest…

  46. What a synchronicity today!

    Recently I put in a MM question about path working and you sent me back to study it more. This morning I was still working on it, but then remembered a recent Chris Martenson interview with his daughter where they talked about a decade-long treasure hunt that he sent them on when they were kids. At some point he almost cracked and revealed the secret, but the daughter was so grateful that he made them figure it out on their own because the experience was so much more rewarding.

    Briefly I was overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude, and then almost immediately it dawned on me that I was so obsessed in my search of power and meaning with the puzzle itself that I had stopped looking for the divine. This was confirmed in divination when I asked about the appropriateness of a starting a planetary charity today and got one of the worst possible answers. It was because I was treating the gods like Santa Claus and asking them for free stuff rather than seeking to build a relationship.

    What a wonderful surprise to pop on here after I finished only to find out that you were talking about the exact same thing.

    BTW I love your new definition as it is extremely useful to me at this time, and Dion Fortune’s version will always have a special place in my heart for a different reason. The former defines the destination of applied philosophy while the latter is a road map of how to get there.

  47. Very informative column JMG!
    I wonder what Kingsnorth thinks about Horary Astrology, which quite reliably answers many questions (but not all) based on the positions of the planets and the stars…It taps into the willingness of the universe to provide such information, based upon the relationship of the astrologer to the universe when he asks the question…It’s magic any way you cut it…

  48. @ Mary Bennett, comment # 17

    The “tenured radicals” in academia are teaching that wearing second hand clothes is a form of “white privilege”?

    On one level, it sounds like a great example of how batshale crazy the Woke Left has become, as the revolution continues down the road to self-destruction like it always does in the end. But on another level, it
    sounds like a classic example of how the contemporary radical Left has become a catspaw for corporate interests. After all, The Powers That Be have to keep the insanely wasteful and ecologically destructive mass consumer culture going at all costs by browbeating students (and their parents) into buying expensive designer label clothes brand-new, something fewer and fewer of them can afford to do. Sorta like the way Obamacare was used to prop up the insurance companies and the for-profit health care system by forcing working class people to buy overpriced insurance they couldn’t afford to actually use without landing in bankruptcy court. Or the way the student loan racket has been used to turn tens of millions of people into debt slaves for life while pouring billions into the coffers of the banking and academic industries.

  49. Hi JMG,

    A while ago, there was a discussion that the elites would be clamping down on currently tolerable forms of spirituality such as meditation. But, as this post shows, many elites will also be returning to our traditional religion in Spenglerian fashion. Would you say that the crisis in belief in the cult of progress is fracturing?

    I hope this analogy works: in the recent German election, there were more political parties that gained a considerable number of votes since WWII. From the 1970s until recently, there were roughly three or four dominant parties. Then in 2005, the number of parties started to rise. One way to look at that is that the consensus of governorship has broken down and nobody knows what to do next.

    With spirituality, the same thing is happening. Some are doubling down on secularism, some are returning to their roots, and some are looking for new ways. The Catholic Church just banned the Latin Mass, which indicates a doubling down on globalism and, ironically, secularism. So maybe, for the next few decades, we’ll see a fight between secularism and old-school religion?

    If things map out the way Spengler is predicting, then somewhere in the current fracturing there are people practicing our future religion. That’s exciting.

    Does all of this make sense? Is Tamanous waving hello?

  50. It’s not obvious to me, JMG, that we both read the same essay on Kingsnorth’s substack.

    As I look at the essay, I see Kingsnorth’s discussion of magic playing a fairly modest supporting role, in service to a more general point about what Kingsnorth calls “the Machine,” and you, following Spengler, call “the Faustian worldview.”

    Since magic as such is not Kingsnorth’s primary concern here, it would seem quite fair for him to note, as he does, that “There are all kinds of magick available to the practicing mage,” to offer a long list of such things, and then to single out Goetia as the target of his critique. Perhaps he could have given a bit more emphasis to the differences between Goetia and the other forms of magic in his list, but again, the main theme of the essay was elsewhere. Magic itself didn’t even get mentioned until more than halfway through the piece.

    Moreover, shortly after the bit that Dreher quotes, Kingsnorth specifically links Crowley to Faust—much as you do in your own essay. When Kingsnorth writes that “The difference between Aleister Crowley and Richard Dawkins is that Crowley had enough self-knowledge to see where his path was leading. It’s why he called himself ‘The Great Beast 666.’ It’s why his books talk of magic as a ‘new science’, and are full of talk of ‘mastery’ over powers natural and supernatural. Crowley was Faust, and Faust is us,” it seems pretty clear that he’s talking about Crowley and a strain of Faustian thought identifiable with him, which need not be coextensive with all of “magic.”

    In conclusion, John, I would just like to ask: were you responding to Kingsnorth’s essay in its entirety, or merely to the incomplete representation of it given by Dreher, who tends quite often to quote out of context?

    (And to my fellow commentators here, I’d strongly encourage you, if you haven’t already, to click the link near the top of JMG’s post, and read Kingsnorth’s essay for yourselves.)

  51. John Michael said

    Imagine for a moment a limitless center of consciousness and power beyond space and time, blazing with the light of a billion suns, transcending personality and impersonality alike. From that immeasurable source, great streams of creative force surge outward through the planes of existence, passing through countless other subordinate centers of consciousness, divided and refracted on the way into equally innumerable individual currents. Some of these currents reach all the way to the densest plane of existence, the one we call material reality. There they take the form of things and beings, each one created and sustained by the outpouring of divine creative force, each one capable of evolving toward life and consciousness in its own way.

    This is the universe as it is experienced in the Western magical tradition Paul Kingsnorth disparages so glibly. In that vision of the Universe, dear reader, you are one expression of one tiny sub-sub-sub-subcurrent spun off from that mighty outpouring of power. You are created and sustained by it from moment to moment, and you have no existence apart from it, any more than a ripple in a stream has an existence apart from the water that forms it. The same thing is true of me, Paul Kingsnorth, the computer screen on which you’re reading these words, and every other thing in this and every other plane and realm and world of existence.

    These currents of force are not passive; they have their own dynamics and their own directions. In human beings, they push toward self-awareness and self-knowledge. They push toward what might be called ethical consciousness—not a narrow rule-following morality, but a recognition of how one’s own actions affect other beings and the world in general, and of the importance of those stances toward the universe we may as well call “virtues.” Ultimately, they push toward conscious participation in the flow of creative power, and conscious attunement with its source and the great centers of consciousness that direct portions of its outward flow.

    Like you, I am currently working my way through The Life Divine. The above passage reminds me very strongly of Sri Aurobindo’s interpretation of Vedic cosmology and theology. It would seem that East is not as far away from West as many would like to think, especially when it comes to esotericism.

  52. Hi John Michael,

    “turning away from participation toward control”, kind of explains many of the external forces bashing away at my life right now. They’re wrong to do so, and there will be blow back, but maybe they need to learn the lesson the hard way.

    I don’t know of the bloke in question in your essay, and cannot fathom his motivations, but it may very well be possible that he doesn’t exercise anywhere near as much free will as he may believe he does. That thought stuck with me through the entire journey of your essay.



  53. Greek Orthodox is still mostly Magian, I’d say, though perhaps not in the US. Faustian magic does rely a lot more on will than Magian magic, and thus feels wrong to Magians, not that Kingsnorth could be a Magian by feel. Dion Fortune’s definition of changes in accordance with will which Andy points out is in that general fashion. We Faustians do want control. You can have that through relationships that aren’t me/it, of course.

    I’ve noticed, also (and had some Catholic friends, oddly, concur) that Greek Orthodoxy is much more friendly to hardcore spirituality and mysticism than Catholicism (let alone most Protestantism.)

  54. “I think most of us have seen people convert to a new religion and suddenly start repeating the standard canned rhetoric of that religion.”

    Salvation guaranteed, or triple your money back!
    Earth has 4-corner simultaneous 4-day TIME CUBE in only 24 hour rotation
    Go! Sonichu! Go out and zap to the extreme!
    Prasangika Madhyamaka is the highest tenet system.
    Blessed is the spot, and the house, and the place…
    Through Dasein, something becomes intelligible as something.
    Where the Scriptures speak, we speak…
    All quadrants, all levels
    Infinite diversity in infinite combination
    Touched by His Noodly Appendage

    Hey, this is fun! Kind of like glossolalia.

    For one thing, we have to decide whether we mean “magic” as an emic or etic term. Rationalist understandings of magic which invoke things like consciousness or will seem very 19th / early 20th century. Modernist, but not self-conscious enough for postmodernism!

    There’s a similar discussions about “shamanism,” which in the broadest possible interpretation might include the activities of doctors, politicians, economics, and all types of clergy. The narrowest views would include only certain Siberian religious specialists (and even here there is an issue with nomenclature).

    Steve T. (no. 4), There is a novel called “A Handbook of Volapuk”

    about early conflict between proponents of the newly-minted artificial languages of Volapuk and Esperanto. The author said he got the idea from German socialist groups which, instead of fighting capitalism like they were theoretically supposed to, spent most of their energy fighting each other.

    I have some contact with Orthodoxy, although I’ve never joined. I can see why people like it, but I can also see why a lot of cradle Orthodox keep their distance from it. For one thing (and I think Orthodox people will back me up here), the politics stink to high heaven. There’s the jurisdictional issue, much pointless arguing over the calendar or whatnot, and in Orthodox countries, the church is often found allied to the most regressive political forces and/or local mafias. (This is true of a lot of religions.)

    In the USA , there are several culture clashes going on at once. Converts tend to come from conservative or even fundamentalist backgrounds, and are attracted to Orthodoxy for its conservative stances and uncompromising, self-sure attitude. The Greeks are basically an ethnic club, and don’t want a bunch of outsiders messing that up, so you get converts complaining about how the Greeks don’t want to denounce homosexuality too much because some of their kids are gay. These converts tend to gravitate to weird monks who operate outside the authority of any normal bishop, and think everybody else is going to hell. (They scream bloody murder when the bishops order standard precautions against Covid-19.) The Russians are also an ethnic club, but a little more diverse, more disciplined (at least in the government-sponsored group), and seem to operate with more diplomacy (although this is not an endorsement–did I mention that there are Russian Orthodox biker gangs?). The CIA supports the Ecumenical Patriarch–or perhaps I should say, he is their asset–against the Russians, hence the recent Ukrainian jurisdictional flap.

    So who do Orthodox converts hate? The pope, of course, but also the Ecumenical Patriarch, their own bishops (probably), and Saint Augustine, whose legalistic theology is to blame for all the sins of the West. Some of the converts are interested in white nationalism, and see Orthodoxy as a suitable vehicle for preserving Western / European civilization, even though some of their coreligionists (and saints!) are African or what have you.

    Andrew Mark Henry (of YouTube fame–his channel is “Religion for Breakfast”) did his doctoral research on ancient Christian magic. While theologians were not always happy with what the rank and file were doing, the fact is that magic was popular, and I wouldn’t hold out much hope that they conceived of it in a radically different way than patrons of pagan magical practices.

    Does Orthodoxy have magic today? My Greek friend gave some examples. For example, if you want God to do something, you might promise that if you get your wish, you’ll offer a candle as tall as yourself. (Why God would want such a thing seems never to be discussed.) Another option is to write down your prayer onto a piece of paper, and insert it into the walls of the church, so that it remains their during the liturgy. These prayers need not be pious ones–you can ask God to kill your enemies, for example. Of course the church is not entirely happy with such folk practices, but they know they go on.

  55. Paul Kingsworth, Thank you for sharing your essay! If I may comment on your reply here I think that by trying to turn the argument around back into the other side you’ve kind of agreed with it almost point by point…

    That said, your last point about condemning the new in favor of tradition and then using that to sustain your critique of your essay is a valid one but I wouldn’t say it follows on the points being made in this essay because one thing is to completely disregard tradition and go in another direction on purpose because you happen to disagree with it or want to revel against it on the quest of identity and quite another is understanding tradition in its own terms and then building up on top of it to bring up something new. One moves forward and the other moves backwards with the eyes in the wrong direction most likely missing the key points out of whim rather than substance. As you’ve noted, that makes a big chunk of today’s occult scene and it seems to be a habit based on the binary I suggest that pervades our age, not only the occult scene. You can use that bad habit if it helps to backup your argument and decisions but I would say it is inaccurate and not precisely a fair one.

  56. Steve T. (no 16): Or vice versa!

    Mary Bennet (no 17). “I think Eastern Orthodoxy attracts some Anglosphere intellectuals right now because of the rising prosperity and prestige of contemporary Russia.”

    Rising prosperity and prestige?! Among doomsters, maybe…

    I think a lot of these people are just looking for something stable (or even kind of strident) to believe in, and maybe like the aesthetics. (A century ago, Graham Greene converted to Catholicism out of similar motivation.) Some see Orthodoxy and/or Russia as a last bulwark against secularlism and/or cultural diversity. For them, Russia (or Greece) is kind of a Shangri-La, not so different from the Tibet of the theosophists and New Agers.

    But not all converts are so easily pigeonholed, not by any means. I totally get the appeal. The emphasis on patristics resonates across all of the liturgical churches, and even many of the Protestant Reformers were into this. (Not that the Church Fathers all agree with one another, or are all sane.) The monastic heritage is another big draw, to people whose ears perk up at the news that there are people who live lives devoted to prayer. Beyond that, Orthodoxy has a certain spirit–the Holy Spirit, they would say–which can perhaps be glimpsed within the best parts of “War and Peace” or “The Karamazov Brothers.” For someone with a Christian background, who considers the church of their childhood to be basically dead, and desires to return to a living Christianity, then Orthodoxy makes a lot of sense. Although, again, it does have its dark side. (An Orthodox person would say that the problem is not the Church, the problem is people in the Church.)

    Phutatorius (no. 47) “I never went back.”

    Which that priest would probably take as a sign that he was right.

    methylethyl (no. 49) Although I realize there has been a fair amount of dialogue (e.g. over the “Prayer of the Heart”, as a Tibetan-style Buddhist who has been known to hang out with the Orthodox, I have to wonder practices he was doing, and what practices his superiors thought he was doing.

  57. I’m not about anyone’s anything, but I’ve undertaken my study of western occultism largely because of what I’ve learned from your ADR and books (you still explain it better that anyone, although I love Dion Fortune’s and Gareth Knight’s work and Donald Tyson, too). For me, bringing my study of the Tree of Life into the flow of my art has been my biggest step. But by any besides, “magic is the art and science of participation in the spiritual forces of the cosmos.” is what it all is – let’s go forward with that. Oh yeah, and I’ve uncovered what I believe is an ancient truism from before the time of the pharaohs – F this guy (that translates into Forever banish this fool from your thoughts), let it be said…

  58. It’s not going to be possible to agree upon all distinctions between participation and control, because they’re interleaved in a way that will look different from different viewpoints.

    I can participate in a river by jumping into it and swimming or perhaps drowning in it. I can participate in it more, though, if I have a boat to sit in, and more still if I also use a paddle effectively. I use the paddle to control the boat, which allows me to participate in the river. I’d look pretty silly, though, if I tried to use the paddle to control the river.

    Someone looking on might interpret it otherwise, though. They might object to my using the paddle to oppose or control the currents’ intentions for where my boat should go. Or I might even, seized by a Crowleyish mood, make such a claim myself. If the river were a dangerous rapids, after descending them I might say, “Behold, wielding this paddle I forced the hostile currents against their will to bear me safely down the flow.” To which I expect someone would respond, “Most impressive; now can you force them to push you back to the top?”

    If the boat is consciousness, the paddle (more accurately, the act of paddling effectively) is magic, and the river is some portion of the vast currents of creative force surging through the planes of existence… that would appear to reconcile the two different definitions of magic under discussion, at least metaphorically.

    Or maybe I’m just up the creek without… well, you know.

  59. Before we begin, I’ve fielded attempted comments from a small flurry of Christian trolls since this went up. It’s been an entertaining change from the usual rationalist, progressivist, and conspiracy-culture trolls, as the Christian members of the species have a different set of canned arguments, trick questions, and bellicose fist-pounding tirades, but, um, it hasn’t been entertaining enough to keep me from hitting the delete button. It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes before they get lonely for their bridges again.

    In the meantime, on to the comments…

    Paul, if you’re going to talk smack about the Western magical tradition in a public setting, there’s a good chance that I’m going to take you to task for it, and if you’re going to do it by rehashing one of the standard cheap shots of Christian polemic, well, you can do the math as well as I can. Tell you what — if you do another piece riffing off Lynn White or, say, Theodore Roszak, talking about how mainstream Christianity made at least as hearty a contribution as magic to what modern science and technology have become, I’ll be glad to withdraw my suggestion that your piece was motivated by sectarian bias.

    As for the petrol, it’s not running out on this side of the pond, you know — at least not yet. I discussed the deeper story behind the current supply-chain mess here and here earlier this month. Doubtless I’ll have more to say about it later on.

    Gurjot, thank you!

    Steve, Orthodox priests, like Druids, keep their clothes on during ritual. I think that would probably be enough… 😉

    Mary, that’s a very impressive example of woke idiocy — Titania McGrath will have to work overtime to find something sillier! Thank you. As for the Benedict option, to my mind that requires a more careful analysis — I think Dreher is wrong in suggesting that it’s an option now, for people of his class and belief system, but again, it’s a complex matter.

    DenG, you’re most welcome.

    Dennis, if the Wiccan group Kingsnorth joined taught the kind of things you’re discussing here, they’re not like any trad Wiccan group I’ve ever encountered — though I suppose things may have slid that badly. As for journeys toward wisdom, well, we’re all on that route, of course.

    Steve, I confess I wince at the thought of combining Wicca and Zen, but then I tend to think that each spiritual tradition should be taken on its own terms, not stripmined for goodies that can be stuck at random into some postmodern pastiche or other.

    Phutatorius, I have it on excellent authority from trad Irish musicians that you only count as a plastic Paddy if you pretend to be more Irish than you are.

    Tony, good question. It depends on who used that latter phrase in your hearing.

    Fra’ Lupo, he’s quite a recent convert, so he may not be familiar with that yet.

    Jim, as you saw, it got a response promptly. I’ll let you be the judge of its quality.

    Jimofolym, it’s certainly something we see in Druidry, even though we don’t really have converts. I have yet to see anyone do it who was much older than 25, though.

    Pygmycory, you’re welcome and thank you. You’re quite right that it’s a really dumb idea to try to control and dominate the spiritual world, of course.

    Jessi, that’s an excellent point. Of course the question of participation vs. control can be found all through every part of life, and yes, magic is a potent amplifier for good or ill.

    Kimberly, good question. Since I have Aspergers syndrome I avoid trying to guess why other people think the way they do!

    Monster, glad to hear of the synchronicities. I certainly hope it’s just a passing phase with him.

    Phutatorius, it’s worth remembering. Crowley was among other things much less original than he liked people to think.

    Andy, I included a reference to that in the post, in case you missed it. The two tricky words in Fortune’s definition are “consciousness” and “will.” Whose consciousness? Whose will? Those were questions she meant students to ask, meditate on, brood over, and eventually answer.

    Ronald, one of the oddities of Christianity is the way that so many of its practitioners insist on seeing non-Christians in the worst possible light, despite all the efforts their founder made to teach them otherwise. “Judge not, lest ye be judged” somehow gets thrown out the window when it comes to other people’s faiths — instead, it’s a matter of cherrypicking the worst examples and insisting that they’re typical. It’s really quite embarrassing.

    Jon, I’m delighted to hear this. I’ve just downloaded a copy and will read it as soon as time permits.

    Clarke, glad to hear it.

    Methylethyl, thanks for this. That seems like sensible advice to me! Curiously enough, it was almost exactly ten years between the time I was initiated as a Druid and the time that I started speaking for the Druid tradition in public. 😉

    David, as I commented in my post, Fortune’s definition is cagier than it looks. Whose consciousness is she talking about, and whose will? It sounds as though you may have fallen into one of the booby traps she left in her seemingly simple sentence.

    Mobi, you’d have to ask the source of those spiritual forces, of course. I don’t have inside information on the subject — or, more to the point, you have just as much access to that source as I do.

    Jim, thanks for this.

    Paul, thank you for this. I’ll take a look when time permits.

    Oilman2, thank you. Everyone I’ve known who struck me as being serious about spirituality has a strange brew of beliefs, for what it’s worth.

    Phil K, neither does mud wrestling.

    Grover, I know the feeling — it took me years to get to the point where I didn’t have to have a day job, and during that time I benefited hugely from books that fed my spirit. I’m glad to be able to pay it forward.

    Copper, thanks for this. I think many of us these days are following a long strange path, and yes, the balance displayed by the figure in the Two of Swords is crucial in that.

    Phutatorius, interesting. I haven’t had a lot of exposure to the Fourth Way scene — not my path — but if they helped get some useful spiritual literature translated, that’s good to hear.

    Danaone, that seems very sensible to me!

    Aloysius, seems to me you’re doing a great job on that treasure hunt…

    Pyrrhus, since he’s apparently reading this thread, we can see what he says.

    Jon, exactly. The Second Religiosity isn’t my path, but it’s a valid path, and the fact that it’s picking up speed shows that Faustian civilization’s Age of Reason is in its twilight phase and the secular religion of progress is on its way out.

    Barefootwisdom, as I noted in my post, Kingsnorth’s essay was available to subscribers only and I’m not one. (He’s now opened it to everyone, I’m glad to say, and I’ll be reading it when I have time.)

    Galen, yes, I thought of Sri Aurobindo when I wrote that, but the image is mostly shaped by Plotinus and Proclus. Between the Neoplatonist vision that underlies Western occultism and the Hindu vision that underlies Aurobindo’s, there a vast amount of common ground.

    Chris, maybe so.

    Ian, interesting. The ends of Christianity I brush up against most often in my research and reading are those corners of Protestantism that are up to their eyeballs in mysticism and hardcore spirituality, so no doubt that gives me a distorted image of things.

    Bei Dawei, funny! I imagine that being repeated by a talking teddy bear at about 1.5 normal speed. As for emic and etic descriptions, I think it was Richard De Mille who pointed out that when you talk about them too much they fuse into something emetic…

    Coboarts, magic is also sometimes the art and science of putting up with certain kinds of folly.

    Walt, a fine start to a meditation on the subject.

  60. A couple of random thoughts…

    As a few have pointed out, new converts and those who are baal teshuvah (raised secular or lived all their adult life secular who then “get religious”) do tend to be over-enthusiastic at best and totally obnoxious at worst. As a one-time baal teshuvah myself, I can say you do get over it eventually, lol.

    My own experience and my later experiences teaching them has led me to believe that although it is possible for one’s winding path to simply bring them around/back full circle (personally or ancestorally), there is usually some thing that causes the final leap. Most people don’t just wake up one morning and decide to turn their lives upside down. In broad terms, either 1) some scares the [undruidly word] out of them, or 2) that leap of faith is not so much off an escarpment as it is out of a pit of hopelessness or despair because their current path is empty and pointless and *not working* as advertised.

    As a well educated and experienced practitioner, he would be hard put to say mysticism in whatever form *doesn’t* work, or *invariably* leads to being an egotistical powermonger, because that just isn’t so. Yet he seems to imply those things. To paraphrase, doeth he protest too much?

    The other thing that jumped out to me is in his essay on the Machine, I actually agree with a lot of what he said, but I have to wonder if he’s taking a “trees but not the forest” view. Science self immolated on the altar of Capitalism, especially corporate predatory capitalism. Yes, the want for power is part of that, but I feel that the biggest portion of any science-sellout is money, and the reason corporations buy scientific findings is to make money. Power is something you buy with money, but not everyone is interested in power. Only a rarified few. Most probably just want money – financial security and the freedom to wallow in spending money. As they say, you are powerfully unmotivated to reach conclusions that get your grant or your contract revoked.

    You’re painting with a pretty broad brush to say either mysticism or science must predominantly lead to evil ends and intentions. Take away capitalism and you have a lot less bad science and a lot fewer Joel Osteens. (If you don’t know who he is, he’s the living definition of a swarmy con artist religious leader living high on gullible people’s tax exempt donations.)

    Which brings us to the last point- joining any religious or mystical order and expecting all your problems and fears to be solved is, ummm, a bit unrealistic. Not saying he expected that, but there does seem to be a “grass is greener” thread in his reasoning. The grass is pretty much the same on every path, and they all have the same weeds.

    Peace, Leah

  61. Unfortunately, and I haven’t read PN’s piece because I can vividly imagine what is in it, the orthodox Christian take is precisely, at root, just what he likely said along these lines – “Magic is the kind of anti-religion that people take up when they cease to have real faith”. There is truth to that, in abuses, however, it gives me both pause and hope that, for a small but growing number of Christians, this old line simply isn’t enough. It doesn’t fit the plenum of reality. It may have been necessary and even proper for a certain phase, and over turning it has dangers, but its in the Good Book, implicitly. If rewriting this unfortunate bias is all that comes out of the modern era, it might almost be worth it. They need to read more Steiner, or failing that, the Bible. What does judging angels mean, if not participation with higher forces, in self consciousness? It’ll be awhile before we get a T. Aquinas to cement this development into theology, but it’s likely coming sooner rather than later. Thank your, JMG, for working amicably with Christians towards this end. It would be lovely to see you circle round to the Christian fold, but its also lovely to see you lay down the Druid common sense. As lovely as a Tree. – Celadon

  62. “Martin Buber made famous, refusing an I-you relationship with the cosmos in order to pursue an I-it relationship instead.” I – you, how do you make the two one, Empathy.

    Thank you Paul for the links in #42.

    My God John you guys are awesome. I don’t deserve this. Thank you. Den

  63. JMG —-strange brews?

    In my case, it started out Reformation Protestant, occult explorations, examining Christian occultism and then eastern things like Buddhism. I did a lot of reading about Hindu history and cultures as well. What always interested me was the many paths to the examination and understanding of self that are contained in nearly every religion.Even history is verified across religions from a historical standpoint, albeit it is difficult for people to grasp that, as most simply lack the curiosity or are hidebound not to stray from doctrine.

    You are perhaps more well read than I, but what makes this a most interesting blog for me is that you treat things fairly, no matter the screeching – which I appreciate. Each of us has a place, a path and our lives to experience things before we go. Your place here, I believe, reflects a rare does of logical truths absent from other venues. Acceptance is a critical tool that many do not even know of, but watching you for these years it is gratifying to watch you put it into practice here.

    I see the melting down of current religious bastions for various reasons…Catholicism under the weight of it’s secrecy and corruption of clergy, evangelicals under the weight of lies and bad doctrine with a dose of corruption as well. It appears to me that corruption has taken over much that was once good, the primary driver being materialism. I say that and then it expands from religions to politics and business and so many things that could be edifying or good, but cannot be when ethics and morals are relative. Hopefully the Second Religiosity will help sort that out soon. I know many people would love to help others, but in every way possible, middlemen skim until at the end of the line it is just a pittance.

    We need to all get grounded well and look inward as we go forward.. You provide that for people willing to see it.

  64. @JMG, Steve T, if I may: Kingsnorth’s argument also immediately reminded me of Lewis, I think in Abolition of Man. However, if I remember correctly, Lewis explicitly only characterized a certain group of Renaissance would-be mages, including Bacon, as power seekers who considered magic and science as analogous tools for control. In That Hideous Strength, for all its other defects, Merlin’s participatory magic is given a (to my mind) fair treatment. Kingsnorth’s original argument was much more open to an interpretation that he was accusing all mages of being power-hungry, though his comment here says that was not his intent.

  65. Hey hey JMG,

    Does joining the Golden Dawn of any other hermetic school of thought count as the second religiosity? If not is that because magic is different from religion or because it was never as popular as the mainstream religions.


  66. If a Christian wishes to Honor his God. He must avoid strawmen or falsehood. No one is flawless but everyone especially themselves are accountable to God.

    Also Virtue Signallers themselves are very likely morally compromised and reliably so. I find those who like to make themselves look religious in public as very suspicious and suspect. Like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day.

    “The ends of Christianity I brush up against most often in my research and reading are those corners of Protestantism that are up to their eyeballs in mysticism and hardcore spirituality, so no doubt that gives me a distorted image of things.”

    I will comment on the fact that I don’t think Pentecostalism with their “Tongues” and their shaking in religious esctasy has anything to do with Christianity at least in regards to Spirituality that I see in the New Testament.

    Which is meant to be orderly and the speaking in “Tongues” is very often just speaking in a foreign language. Losing lucidity isn’t a good sign. Neither is the use of drugs to enhance the experience.

    But I am interested about the corners of Protestantism that is very mystical and hardcore spiritual. I think they may end up bearing similarity to Eastern Orthodox spirituality and its emphasis on “Theosis”.

    I believe that Christianity in General has its own notion of Human Nature becoming joined in Divine Nature.

    1 Peter 1:3-4
    “3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

    4Through these He has given us His precious and magnificent promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, now that you have escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

    “God Became Man that Man Might Become God” -St. Athanasius

    In other words the human will become as close to God as a result of Theosis as an asymptote approaches infinity. But the created cannot ever be the uncreated “Ground of all Being”. Infinitely Perfect Goodness, Truth and Beauty.

  67. As others have noted, is converting to orthodox a return to the Magian world feeling? Back to The Cavern now that the infinite expansion is over? I’m not sure. I remember Spengler saying that Russian Orthodoxy was pregnant with something new that would be shaped by their separate great culture. Is there a seed within orthodox Christianity then that doesn’t exist within the others, particularly in the far eastern forms?

  68. Paul (if you’re still reading!),

    I found your writing a couple of years ago through the essays you read for the Emergence Magazine podcast. They were brilliant and original, and pushed intellectual boundaries in exciting ways. Most of them I’ve listened to at least 3 or 4 times.

    I certainly don’t begrudge you the spiritual peace you’ve found, but I have to say that as a fan, I have been disappointed in the way you’ve written about the experience. The First Things article fit so dreadfully perfectly into the “coming home” genre of Christian conversion literature, that it felt as if you’ve already sacrificed a good deal of your art in the name of belonging. Please don’t try to be an Orthodox Chesterton–it won’t work, and I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I’d be pleased to read an Orthodox Kingsnorth if he were to continue to share his gift for the world rather than hiding it under a First Things bushel, shall we say.

    For what it’s worth: I converted to Orthodoxy myself in my twenties. After a theologically rather dull childhood in Evangelicalism, I became infatuated with the thought of Lossky and Schmemann and Zizioulas (and even a little Hart, of course). If only the church they describe existed, I might still be there. Alas, Orthodox theology was invented in a salon in Paris in the 1920s, as I once heard Fr. Thomas Hopko say…

    All the best,
    Ryan M.

  69. “The art of conjuration, or the summoning and commanding of spirits, has been an important part of magical practice since the oldest times from which records come down to us, and there is every reason to think that the ancient Druids practiced it.”

    So writes somebody called John Michael Greer, anyway, in a book called ‘The Celtic Golden Dawn’, which I just picked off my shelf. There’s a whole section in there about how to conure spirits and get them to do your bidding. Sounds awfully like an ancient tradition of magic-as-control being promoted by a modern mage to me, but then what do I know? Maybe he’s just ‘talking smack’ 😉

    I thought it best to quote you directly, John, as I made a number of points in my response, and offered a few challenges of my own, and you you didn’t respond to any of them. I’ve noticed that when you disagree with people – or when you find it hard to respond – you tend to just insult them. It’s a shame.

    It’s interesting that you talk about deleting comments from ‘Christian trolls.’ Were they trolls – or were they others who simply disagreed with you or were able to explain why you were wrong? I did notice that virtually all the comments you do run are from people who share your perspective – many of them without bothering to read my essay before commenting on it.

    I noticed also that a couple of your commenters here spotted – as did I – that you used a different definition of magic here from the one you have commonly used in the past. This one doesn’t refer at all to ‘changing consciousness in according with the will.’ I suppose this is because it would rather torpedo your argument.

    I’m sticking with mine, which for the record was this: the Western magical tradition is long, diverse and varied, but a good strand of it is about controlling the forces of the universe and bending them to the human will. This is a measurable and evidenced claim, however much some Druids may want to disagree. This is also the aim of modern ‘science’, which was largely indistinguishable from what we now call ‘magic’ before the modern age. Again, the evidence for that is all out there to be found. What most of us know as ‘magic’ is not simply about ‘participation’, it is about control. The anti-Trump mages know it, the Goetians know it, the witches doing their binding spells know it and the author of the Celtic Golden Dawn knows it too.

    Anyway, as another of your readers noted above, we seem to be reading different essays. Mine was about the idol of science, and it brought in magic as point of illustration, about a third of the way in. You seem to think you were reading a’ sectarian polemic’ in which a Christian attacks magic due to his ignorance, bitterness or whatever. You weren’t. I imagine you are filtering my words through your own defensive occultist bias. Certainly your understanding of the Orthodox faith is just as shaky as you suggest my understanding of magic is.

    If you want to talk about Christianity though, it is, like the other old faiths which worship the creator and the creator only – Islam, Sikhism, Judaism, a few others – cored around the notion of submission to His will. Magic is not practiced because firstly magic often involves working with entities who are hostile to God (whether the mage knows it or not); magic embroils the mage in his or her passions rather than allowing focus on God; and magic is, whether you like it or not, about extending the control of the mage’s will rather than submitting to the will of the creator – what C S Lewis usefully called the ‘Dao’, the way of Great Nature. Submission is hard and none of us likes it. We prefer fighting. This is the world we built.

    Anyway, I suppose I thought that you might be interested in a conversation, but it seems that you just wanted a platform to attack from. My mistake! Take care.

  70. OK, this will be my last post – assuming it is not canned, which I guess it will be. But I only just saw that in your latest response, John, you explained that you hadn’t actually read the essay you have just written a post on, because you’re not a subscriber!

    Am I missing something here? Did you just write a long critique of a piece of my work based on someone else’s internet summary of it? Did you just publicly attack a writer for something you haven’t actually read?

    I hope I have misunderstood. If I haven’t – well I’d be happy to give you a complimentary subscription to my substack, so you’re able to find out what you’re talking about before you go off half-cocked again.

  71. Morning John,
    That was an excellent post. I thought this description was particularly impressive;
    “ Imagine for a moment a limitless center of consciousness and power beyond space and time, blazing with the light of a billion suns, transcending personality and impersonality alike. From that immeasurable source, great streams of creative force surge outward through the planes of existence, passing through countless other subordinate centers of consciousness, divided and refracted on the way into equally innumerable individual currents. Some of these currents reach all the way to the densest plane of existence, the one we call material reality. There they take the form of things and beings, each one created and sustained by the outpouring of divine creative force, each one capable of evolving toward life and consciousness in its own way.”
    Your ability to describe occult concepts with such clarity is amazing. I can hope that one day you get round to writing your own Cosmic Doctrine, because it will become a classic.

  72. HI John thanks for the response “David, as I commented in my post, Fortune’s definition is cagier than it looks. Whose consciousness is she talking about, and whose will? It sounds as though you may have fallen into one of the booby traps she left in her seemingly simple sentence.”

    So yes I hadn’t thought that this could be thought of as changing ones own consciousness to the divine will. Isn’t this the definition of “Muslim” – submission (to Gods will)?

    But why should she (Fortune) be cagey about this, why not be more clear? Because won’ t the ambiguity attract some serious egomanics to magic rather than those who wish to defeat their own ego? and isn’t that dangerous?

    but on this topic broadly I thought I would post this from Xenophon on Socrates and his balance between his own will and the divine will for your and readers interest:-

    “I have often wondered by what arguments those who drew up the indictment against Socrates could persuade the Athenians that his life was forfeit to the state. The indictment against him was to this effect: Socrates is guilty of rejecting the gods acknowledged by the state and of bringing in strange deities: he is also guilty of corrupting the youth. [2]

    First then, that he rejected the gods acknowledged by the state — what evidence did they produce of that? He offered sacrifices constantly, and made no secret of it, now in his home, now at the altars of the state temples, and he made use of divination with as little secrecy. Indeed it had become notorious that Socrates claimed to be guided by ‘the deity:’1 it was out of this claim, I think, that the charge of bringing in strange deities arose. [3] He was no more bringing in anything strange than are other believers in divination, who rely on augury, oracles, coincidences and sacrifices. For these men’s belief is not that the birds or the folk met by accident know what profits the inquirer, but that they are the instruments by which the gods make this known; and that was Socrates’ belief too. [4] Only, whereas most men say that the birds or the folk they meet dissuade or encourage them, Socrates said what he meant: for he said that the deity gave him a sign. Many of his companions were counselled by him to do this or not to do that in accordance with the warnings of the deity: and those who followed his advice prospered, and those who rejected it had cause for regret. [5] And yet who would not admit that he wished to appear neither a knave nor a fool to his companions? but he would have been thought both, had he proved to be mistaken when he alleged that his counsel was in accordance with divine revelation. Obviously, then, he would not have given the counsel if he had not been confident that what he said would come true. And who could have inspired him with that confidence but a god? And since he had confidence in the gods, how can he have disbelieved in the existence of the gods? [6] Another way he had of dealing with intimate friends was this: if there was no room for doubt, he advised them to act as they thought best; but if the consequences could not be foreseen, he sent them to the oracle to inquire whether the thing ought to be done. [7] Those who intended to control a house or a city, he said, needed the help of divination. For the craft of carpenter, smith, farmer or ruler, and the theory of such crafts, and arithmetic and economics and generalship might be learned and mastered by the application of human powers; [8] but the deepest secrets of these matters the gods reserved to themselves; they were dark to men. You may plant a field well; but you know not who shall gather the fruits: you may build a house well; but you know not who shall dwell in it: able to command, you cannot know whether it is profitable to command: versed in statecraft, you know not whether it is profitable to guide the state: though, for your delight, you marry a pretty woman, you cannot tell whether she will bring you sorrow: though you form a party among men mighty in the state, you know not whether they will cause you to be driven from the state. [9] If any man thinks that these matters are wholly within the grasp of the human mind and nothing in them is beyond our reason, that man, he said, is irrational. But it is no less irrational to seek the guidance of heaven in matters which men are permitted by the gods to decide for themselves by study: to ask, for instance, Is it better to get an experienced coachman to drive my carriage or a man without experience?2 Is it better to get an experienced seaman to steer my ship or a man without experience? So too with what we may know by reckoning, measurement or weighing. To put such questions to the gods seemed to his mind profane. In short, what the gods have granted us to do by help of learning, we must learn; what is hidden from mortals we should try to find out from the gods by divination: for to him that is in their grace the gods grant a sign.

  73. So, magic is sailing the immaterial currents, with the will as a beacon.
    In this metaphore, rowing is pop-magic? Putting a lot of effort trying to go somewhere, wasting energies, when it is so much easier to just read the winds and set the sails. It only takes a few years to become a skilled sailor!
    Indifferent people are in a drifting boat looking at their navels, then?

  74. Mr. Archdruid,

    I believe that you give too much credit to Christians when you assume that they got the idea of magic as control from a certain part of occultist lore. That would require some interest and knowledge of the subject which I suspect is lacking. I think that it is more properly explained as a simple psychological projection – unconsciously taking unwanted emotions or traits you don’t like about yourself and attributing them to someone else. In practice, historically, Christianity was mostly after power and riches – i.e. control, albeit not so much control over spiritual world as control over material world. In theory, Christianity, unlike Druidry, found no value and had no love for nature, for other living beings, plants and animals (a separation which then translated into the body of humanity, making all those who didn’t conform to a narrow requirements “unhuman”). For Christianity it was always, as you say, an I-it relationship. They believe that humans are separate from and superior to nature and that the Earth is a real-estate that God made for humans to use as they see fit. It’s all in the Bible. For detailed insight and analysis of this terrible myths that shaped the western civilization see the “Ishmael” trilogy by Daniel Quinn.

    Yes, ok, there’s a speck of light in the deepest darkness, as per yin-yang symbol. Hitler liked cats so he wasn’t all bad. But a speck of light cannot be a reason to disregard the overwhelming darkness that surrounds it; liking cats cannot be a justification to turn the blind eye to the holocaust. Things must be discerned, distinguished, white from black and good from evil, otherwise you end up a blind nihilist.
    So yes, ok, there’s some good things that Christianity said and did, by all means lets be fair and recognize it. But that doesn’t mean that we should so easily dismiss the horrendous evils it committed. (Especially when they pretend to a high moral ground.) I will highlight just one which I think is of special interest here: religious persecution. If I am not mistaken, that particular activity of Christians, which lasted for many centuries, caused a great amount of occult knoledge to be destroyed. It also caused most other religions to be eradicated, which is why druidry didn’t last through the ages but had to be revived. The tools of this eradication were arson and murder. And the reason why these practices were discontinued is not that Christians saw the ligth and embraced the love but rather it is that they lost the power, i.e. control. So it would be too naive to expect that these practices would not be resumed if they got in power again. Which they might, if civilization crumbles, a new dark age comes and people return to old religions.

    You say that “polytheists are comfortable with religious diversity”. I applaud that. But monotheists aren’t. “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” is one of the Ten Commandments. In practice, “have no” translates to “tolerate not”. So when, as a polytheist, you accept a monotheist to your company, you are receiving someone who has persecuted you in the past, and who will probably do that again in the future, given chance. In a way, it’s very Cristian of you – Jesus said “Love your enemies” – but you should pay attention to the difference between what Cristians say and do.

    So it seems that if, in a hundred years or so, the last known occultist gets burned at the stake by Christians along with the last druid, one of them might say “Forgive them father, for they know not what they’re doing” and another “Fool me once – shame on you; fool me twice – shame on me”.

  75. This essay sings to me in many voices, like a choir or an orchestra – a rich tapestry of participation. Your “revised” definition of magic “resonates” with me personally in places that Dion Fortune’s hadn’t quite got to. Thank you.

    Here: “The great temptation that people in Western cultures have faced all along is that of turning away from participation toward control: in the phrasing Martin Buber made famous, refusing an I-you relationship with the cosmos in order to pursue an I-it relationship instead” you clarify for me, the central pattern of what seems to poison everything in our technocratic age.

    When it comes to the topical world of viruses, just for example, to meditate on the theme of “participation with” the viral world rather than “control of” the viral world (as I intend to do), it may be that we can discover keys to help us “flip this script”.

  76. The dominant form of contemporary magic is the one that tries to achieve “the change in the consciousness” of the masses. It uses electronic media (TV and Internet) to influence and form opinions of the masses. No doubt that the dominant form of contemporary magic is malevolent. Bolsvik propaganda of the Lenin era was form of malevolent magic, as is the contemporary media and net in the USA and Europe. Malevolent magi know that it is impossible to change the material world in any other way except by the change in the consciousness of the masses. When you achieve that, than the masses change the material world in the way malevolent magi intend it to be changed. In that sense Mr. Kingsnorth was right. Of course, the dominant form of contemporary magic is not the only magic . There are other forms which are not malevolent. The use of electronic media amplifies the malevolence of malevolent magic. That’s why it is so dangerous.

    Before I say what I think about Mr. Kingsnorth’s conversion to Orthodox Christianity let me remind you that, although I live in Serbia, which is mostly Orthodox, I am not Orthodox Christian. My grandfather was devoted follower of Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich’s movement. I wish that I could be Orthodox Christian but I am not, my mind is so deeply imbued with Paganism that no monotheism satisfies me. But of all traditional monotheistic religions, Orthodox Christianity is by far the most distanced from contemporary malevolent magic. In that sense his choice was right. If Mr. Kingsnorth, or any other reader of this blog wants to know something about Orthodox Christianity, I recommend the book by Archiman. Hierotheos Vlachos, The Illness and Cure of the Soul in the Orthodox Tradition, 1994.
    Because the central place of the orthodox tradition is the fact that a man’s world is sick and needs therapy.

  77. @PumpkinScone

    I think the reason orthodoxy is as popular as it is is because it gives a pretty reliable impression of being the most traditional living form of christianity. Hence it would make sense that it would be chosen as the nucleus for the Christian-themed second religiosity.

    @Archdruid JMG – I think it is indeed rather obvious that the return to traditional christianity has many features of second religiosity, However, to slightly challenge this assessment, I would like to point out it is unclear if orthodoxy and tradtional christianity will fit this archetype exactly – while it is true it might go down and be replaced by a new religion of the common people (ZenSunni Druidism, anyone?), I think it is also possible it might itself become the religion of the future for parts of the west.

    To point out one historical example to support this, the decline and breakdown of the first phase of Islamic civilization, culminating with the devastating Mongol invasions, ended up being the final nail in the coffin to the more liberal strands of islam, which were supplanted by more fundamentalist and conservative variants. In this scenario, islam was maintained, but the variant of islam in vogue among the elites was replaced. While this does not mean the exact same procedure must happen in the West, it does present a possible alternative historical scenario.

    To argue for this slightly more, I think the case could be made that the elite form of second religiosity will simply be a rehash and pastiche of the secular religions of modernity (i.e. a rehash of mainstream environmentalism, liberalism, socialism, materialist atheism, capitalism et al.). I think these could take on the attributes of religion well enough to provide the elite with meaning – after all you can deify abstract concepts i.e. “LGBT rights”, “free market”, “social justice” et al.

    If that is the case, one could see overtly deistic and mystic religions becoming the maligned religion of the underclass. It is certainly easy to see how that could happen given the current cultural attitudes – the elites can just castigate the religious poor as a mass of superstitious retrogrades and fascists in disguise. This would serve the purpose of the elites, who could then set themselves up as the defenders of society from the poor and superstitious masses, who are conspiring in their ignorance to take down the greatest and most rational civilization of the ages. As society declines, the rationalism of the elites would then become more and more rigid and overtly religious, until it would pop like a bubble and fade away at the crescendo of the decline.

  78. Regarding “Plastic Paddies” or “Wannabe Celts”–

    In the 3rd Century B.C., a tribe of Gauls invaded Anatolia and settled in the middle of what is now Turkey. 300 years later, when St. Paul wrote his famous letter to their church, their descendants were still known as “Galatai” or “Graecogalatai”– that is, “Gauls” or “Greek Gauls.” In the same way, starting about 300 years ago, Celts from Scotland and Northern Ireland began invading America and settling in the Appalachian mountains. Today their descendants are still often referred to as “Scots,” “Scots-Irish,” “Irish,” or “Irish-Americans.” (The latter is the exact equivalent of Graecogalatai.) Words change their meanings from time to time and place to place, and that’s part of what’s happening here. A thousand years ago, the word “Scot” referred to any person of Gaelic origin, regardless of which side of the Irish Sea he happened to have been born on; today it only refers to the ones born north of England.

    My own ancestors include Ulster Scots, Irish Catholics, and a few Welshmen. As the earliest among them arrived in Appalachia about 2 generations before the ancestors of Lakota conquered the Black Hills from the Cheyenne, I feel justified in thinking of myself as being indigenous to Appalachia– in particular, to the part that straddles Pennsylvania and Maryland. The Celts in my part of the world hybridized with Germans, as people from all over the world inevitably mix with one another, but they produced a culture that is still recognizably Celtic, if you know what to look for. See Appalachian folk music, for example, and the intense clannishness that still characterizes the region. It’s my view that Appalachia as a whole ought to be seen as a Celtic land every bit as much as Scotland, or Brittany– or ancient Galatia.

    Part of the American National Myth and the American Civil Religion, in which American Celts participate as much as anyone else, includes a focus on our European countries of origin. What people living in Ireland see as “plastic paddies” can just as easily be seen– and probably will be seen by future historians and archaeologists– as religious pilgrims participating in a form of ancestor worship. This is particularly the case as these sorts of trips nearly always include visits to ancestral graves. I would like to make my own Plastic Paddy Pilgrimage one day– though preferably not in a leprechaun tour bus, or a bus of any kind– to visit sites in counties Sligo, Down and elsewhere from which my ancestors departed to our current homeland. I promise to be polite, and not to pretend to be anything but what I am. If locals roll their eyes anyway, well, that’s okay; I’m sure they’ll also take my sweet American dollars. And in any case, I won’t really be there to talk to them, but to the dead.

  79. @ Paul Kingsnorth.
    Thank you for taking part in this discussion with grace, as I am sure that all criticism, in some sense, cannot help but nip at one’s heels.

    Also, thank you for removing the paywall from your essay. I have always found you an inspiring writer and a deep and original thinker, and thank you for sharing your own steps in the journey we are all taking here on this earth. I shall read it with great interest.

    And I hope you will not find it out of place for me to say one more thank you for saying whatever it was that you said that set this particular bee fluttering in JMG’s bonnet. The reason is that, criticism of your good self aside, this essay has allowed JMG to put certain concepts into words in ways that I have a very deep appreciation for. In particular, the new “participatory” definition of magic, also his stunning passages describing the flow of currents through the universe from the highest and mightiest centre to the lowest and most peripheral mote. If your bee is what made these thoughts start humming off his page, then I can only express the deepest gratitude to you for it.

    Be well, and may your journey continue to be blessed!

  80. @ Bei Dawei #60

    I never had the chance to talk to him in depth about it– given his age, it was probably back in the 70s, so… who knows? But he’s not the only Christian I’ve known to transfer skills learned as a Buddhist/from Buddhists into a Christian practice of prayer. I don’t know enough about Buddhism and its various flavors to have even an educated guess on how that works.

  81. Any of the wiccans I knew -and they may not have been trad wiccans, but the pop culture variety liable to be found gloomily reading in a Barnes & Noble and having meetups at the food court in the local mall- didn’t know squat about Aleister Crowley or Thelema. They thought Crowley had stolen “Do What Thou Wilt” from the Wiccan’s, and not the other way around.

    I do really like your definition of Magic (without a k:) JMG. That has been much more my experience of it, and a healthier way to approach it IMO.

    I think it may have even been Starhawk who distinguished “power with” and “power within” from “power over” (and I’m no Starhawk groupie)!

    I do think when some people come into magic, especially if they get to it young, there may be a desire for power and control. They want love, money, fame etc. and think magic will give it to them. However, they do some workings and get a sense of how magic really affects them and the world around them, and I’d say some at that point either leave it behind, while others want to go deeper, beyond the pursuit of mere results magic. Though they may still do results magic from time to time, they no longer lust after result 😉 & they may work more With the powers they are drawn to, and who are drawn to them, in a synergetic way, bringing in gifts from the other world, reifying the astral, and also working to compost other things back to where they belong.

    There are many ways the Mage may work With the divine, and in so doing, it’s not just His or Her Will, but working in a coordinated effort the Mage becomes a conduit for energies going up and down, creating patterns and putting them into the world, or dissolving patterns, and taking them out. As they do this work, through the raspberry jam effect, it changes the world, but it also changes them. And as they go through the writhing of change, successively shedding their skin like a snake, they find themselves just one small part in a dance with many other powers and beings.

    What you said about Crowley not getting the hint that his Word was the word of his own Aeon is quite true I think, and also quite ironic -given that the pursuit of an individual True Will was what Crowley set out to proselytize. Wen a person attains adepthood they would have their own Word -as you pointed out.

    I’ve seen this at work in some of the strains of Thelema: particularly in Charles Stanfield Jones, aka Frater Achad who got in touch with the Aeon of Maat, and Nema who came later who also got in touch with the Aeon of Maat. That was their Word.

    There are other Mages who have worked in a post-Thelemic/Thelemic milieu as it were and have realized that the Aeons are co-existing in time. Most of these folks were more influenced by the side of Thelema coming out of Kenneth Grant’s work than the other O.T.O

    I think also there was the issue of the received text with Crowley. He did act as Scribe. I still find some of his “Holy Books” exceedingly beautiful as inspired verse Liber Lapis Lazuli in particular. Yet there is a danger in these texts in that they become a basis for dogma. Many other Mages have received texts -as well as mystics, etc. Nema again is a case in point, as was Grant, and others. Just because you receive a text in the course of your work as a Mage doesn’t mean it should become the basis for a new religion. It may have definite magical value, but some of these might be better just shared at a lodge level, etc. I don’t know. We in the West seem addicted to the Book of Holy Writ, the One True Word. Crowley, having set out to emancipate himself from the strictures of his childhood, seems to have fallen into the prophet trap. This was evident when he fell out with his “magical son” Charles Stanfield Jones, when he started receiving his own revelations and texts…

    …anyway, it’s fun to talk Crowley, Thelema, Magic. Thank you!

    .:. 93.:.

    Love is the law, love under will.

    Justin Patrick Moore … (… a “recovering” Thelemite..;) (If there are “recovering” Catholics, why not recovering Crowley obsessives?)

    (P.S.: I was also one of those kids at the mall, but I was trying to puzzle out Crowley’s 777 which was my first exposure to Cabala. I had also found a copy of The Book of the Law at a used bookstore which for some reason I gravitated to. That, and a copy of Colin Wilson’s book The Occult which I found at a thrift store were some of my early readings.)

  82. I am a subscriber to “First Things” where Mr. Kingsnorth wrote his essay on conversion. As a Polytheist, I have read this magazine to grasp how a Polytheist can develop understanding in our sacred myths and relationships with our Gods. Therefore, I read the essay with great interest. I was an atheist who was scooped up by Odin (Woden) and handed over to Neptune and the Roman Gods. Since then, I have relations with the Gods of Sumer (in true Polytheistic manner). I understand the religious impulse and the connection with the Divine.

    My take away from the essay was the Mr. Kingsnorth was longing for the Divine. The Wiccan group he was with sounded like every other Wiccan group out there – long on live action role playing, short on actual communion with the Gods. I can see why he decided to go to the Orthodox Church.

    Living in Bridgeport CT next to Stratford (which boasts the oldest icons in America), I was surrounded by various Orthodox churches. They were full of the Divine, and I could see why people were devout.

    I wonder if the Second Religiousity (sp) will entail people going toward the older forms of Christianity such as Orthodox and Latin Mass Catholicism. Will they leave their vague “spiritual not religious” ideas behind. How will Neopagansim fare in this?

  83. I am taking a survey course in Western European magic. The first assignment is to come with a definition of magic. Then contrast that with older definitions of magic (pre 1500s). What I have noted is of course there is no definition of magic that anyone agrees on.

    However, the second thing I have noted is how rooted the definitions are in Christian binary thought. Somehow magic is entirely separated from religion, instead of being a part of it. Rituals and devotions are magic employed. The sense of magic as separate from religion lies in “magic bad, God good.” Demons and self-will play a lot in these definitions.

    I am still formulating my own concept of magic.

  84. Control? Kingsnorth indeed knows better than that. Those Wiccans in his coven were not attempting to “control” nature, very likely, and certainly not in the main. Quoting Crowley too is deeply disingenuous, and especially so misquoting him, relying on the boogeyman effect to disparage and really betray the entirety of the magical tradition. It certainly does not occur to me to try to control the spirit world or nature in any sense; if anything I am wary of being controlled by it.

    I am fond of Dreher actually, I read him somewhat regularly as a kind of bellwether of conservative, principled religion. With Dreher there is no dissimulation, no manipulation, he truly believes what he is saying and is allergic to dishonesty, and that is very refreshing among the chattering classes. This piece you link to however, I have to say, I was not impressed with the language he uses, considerably more reactionary and vulgar than usual.

    But I do agree with them, insofar as the quickening of the destruction of this decadence masquerading as Science. There is indeed something akin, with the idea that biology has no relation to gender, and the preening faux-scientific superiority espoused my “moderates” and liberals generally around these vaccines, that you will be censored and silenced for merely pointing out that the vaccinated can spread covid to the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike, as well as any unvaccinated. Science in this sense begins to look like a black magic spell to cancel one’s enemies with, merely.

  85. @Steve T (#4): I’m no expert on Christian rituals, but salient point IMHO on the connection to Iamblichus and De Mysteriis. My feeling is that it’s a mystery religion that, by making the right political moves, managed to endure even after others failed, yet it maintains an unbroken tradition of (I would argue) theurgic rituals. That said, could be why some of the Renaissance mages went to great length to distinguish the different types of magic and to emphasize that Jesus’s miracles were not the result of magical operations.

    @Oilman2 (#43): Speaking of truckloads of bricks, how ’bout that Exodus 22:28 (KJV): “Thou shalt not revile the gods…” 😉

    @Paul: Good fortune on your path and may the divine light shine through you.


  86. My own spiritual path has also been rather convoluted, though in many ways typically American and, until very recently, confined to the Christian sphere. I grew up in the Protestant tradition–my parents were Baptist and Nazarene by background, the latter I later understood to be an offshoot of the Methodist tradition–and my early years were generally in Baptist churches. Being in a military family, however, we moved frequently, and by late elementary school, we fell off the regular church-going habit after one move in which we didn’t find a church home right away. (Since my parents’ retirement, I see that they’ve resumed church attendance with a local Baptist congregation and I’m glad they’ve found a home again.) So I grew up with a reasonably solid Christian background, though hardly fervent. It was something that was “just there” in many ways. I was a cultural monotheist, more or less.

    In the later years of high school, I found myself attracted to the Catholic Church, largely because of the richness of its liturgy, its deep tradition, and its history. (Orthodoxy wasn’t something I had any direct experience with, though I knew of its existence.) My freshman year in college, I converted. And yes, I was looking into priesthood and/or monkhood for a period of time. (My girlfriend at the time was understandably concerned by this. I was nineteen, hardly an age known for thinking things through.) When I married my daughter’s mother, my Catholicism presented an issue, as she was not Catholic and had no intention of converting. So we compromised at one point on a Lutheran church, but after a few moves also fell away from regular attendance. My persistent questing for Truth in some ways contributed to our eventual divorce; there *had* to be an Answer, else the cosmos made no sense. (I’ve learned some things since then, I hope.)

    My primary problem was that I was very much caught in a mental framework of Advancement and Achievement. Academic, athletic, economic, spiritual…it didn’t matter. What counted was performance and excelling. (I see now how very Faustian this all was.) In order to excel, one had to understand the framework by which the assessment was being done. How does one get an A? How am I being measured? By what standard am I being judged?

    One problem with searching for Truth is that there’s an infinite number of groups wanting to sell you their version.

    I’ve also yearned for a direct encounter with the Divine. My religious experience had been by its nature quite cerebral (Summa Theologica kind of stuff) and my default—likely due to my scholastic bent—was to seek the Divine through the intellect. Some years ago now I got that encounter, but it was with a chthonic earth goddess rather than YHWH, and so this cultural monotheist became a polytheist in short order. And while I started down the “new convert” path again (trying to find and read all the books on occultism I could find and looking for orders and should I get another degree?), I’ve gradually learned to develop non-intellectual approaches, focusing more on praxis and experience. As I said earlier, hopefully I’ve learned something from my winding and often-frustrating path.

    So now I’m one more pilgrim on this journey, trying to make some small headway during the time I’ve got left in this particular incarnation.

  87. Paul, I meant to have included a “not “in my third paragraph. I’m not calling you a plastic paddy or otherwise. I’m just noting a trend, that is all. Given that I lived in the west of Ireland on and off for two years.

    That being said, I would say, as a Irish Catholic, is that you will find yourself rubbing shoulders with individuals who have notions and ideals that you might find uncomfortable. Bare in mind Christianity, IMO, is more of a map of a reality than actually reflective of it, but unfortunately there is a political dimension to it too. We’ve had first hand experience of it here. 70 odd years of church control after independence. And it wasn’t pretty for a lot of us.

    Also, take it from someone who lived through the abuse scandals in Ireland, keeping your faith when the institution is proven to be rotten is a massive undertaking. Joining the faith in times of plenty is all well and good, but there aren’t many converts in times of persecution.

    JMG, Please feel free not to post this comment if I it doesn’t meet your requirements. And next time I’ll try proof read my comments a bit better as it seems I’ve started something that is not in my personality, intention, or want. And I’m sorry about that.

  88. JMG,

    Fair enough, I suppose. My sense, having read both, is that the critique you level in this week’s post is much more applicable to Dreher’s (mis)use of Kingsnorth’s essay, than to Kingsnorth’s essay itself.

    This is quite in keeping with the general tenor in which both men write: Dreher in general is eager for the canned sectarian talking point to score one for his team, while Kingsnorth is not. Had your piece been framed as a response to Dreher, rather than Kingsnorth, I’d say that it was much closer to spot-on. But I’ll let it rest here.

    I’ll look forward to any follow-on thoughts you may have, once you’ve read the whole of Kingsnorth’s essay.


  89. Celadon (#65),

    Respectfully, when you write, “I haven’t read PN’s piece because I can vividly imagine what is in it…“, your vivid imagination has led you astray. What you go on to describe is not at all what Kingsnorth writes.

    I’d encourage you to read his words for yourself. The essay is quite short, roughly the same length as JMG’s post here.


  90. Hi JMG,
    Read the essay you linked to. Apart from the differences you picked up on, he seems to share much of the same criticism and dislike as many here with the way things are going regards official dealings with this viral intrusion. I’m guessing it’s the shared values that have really highlighted his magical misrepresentation, but don’t those values count for more right now? I get the disappointment though – his narrative could’ve still worked with (y)our broader understanding of magic.
    I’m happy if I can read the winds and currents and negotiate safe passage. 🙂

  91. @Jon Andreas #36

    Thanks for sharing this; powerfully constructed. I pray it will see much consideration in days to come.


    “magic is the art and science of participation in the spiritual forces of the cosmos”

    Thank you for this much needed and enlightening (for me anyway) definition of magic. Your writings over these many years have helped me to deepen my experience and appreciation of my own path which astonishingly, or maybe not, has much congruence with how you explain Druidry and magic.

    “…you are one expression of one tiny sub-sub-sub-subcurrent spun off from that mighty outpouring of power. You are created and sustained by it from moment to moment, and you have no existence apart from it…conscious participation in the flow of creative power, and conscious attunement with its source…”

    One of my daily prayers is to the Divine, “that mighty outpouring of power”:

    ..may Thy love shine forever on the sanctuary of my devotion and may I be able to awaken Thy love in all hearts.

    Hail and well met to this wonderful family

  92. Since I have not read PN’s post, I will only comment on this one post. Some things that come to mind are in concert with other readings and discussions I have been encountering lately.

    One podcast, The Literary Life, a group of protestant Christians that discuss literature, have a discussion about how magic is not condemned in The Bible, but divination “is specifically what is forbidden in The Bible.” They get into miracles, Moses’ magic being better than the pharaoh’s, and all kinds of other interesting things in The Bible, but from a refreshing perspective that I don’t usually hear Christians having. JMG, since there are no visuals and only a recorded conversation, perhaps you will get something out of it.

    Also, the more I get into occult/esoteric teachings, I agree that Christianity is a magical tradition with rituals that are geared to alter the consciousness of the practitioners. I may be wrong, but I believe the Christian mystics probably used many esoteric tools that are not condoned by the state approved religion.

    And some of you may remember my question the other week about the original definition and practice of worship. Recently, I have come across a definition of religion and worship that I find useful. Jordan Peterson defines religion as “what we act out” and worship as the acting out.

    Now, in regards to participation with the spiritual, I find this similar to what many Native and Eastern teachings describe as living in harmony with Nature.

    Enjoy 🙂

  93. JMG, your essay is unfair in several ways: you both criticise Kingsnorth’s understanding of the field of magic, and ascribe feelings and motives to him, on the basis of excerpt taken by a manifest polemicist. You also introduce an new definition of magic which (despite its obvious value) you have never before presented, and then use it to justify said critique. It seems to me that Fortune’s definition of magic, which you have been promoting for decades, despite its manifest ambiguity, does indeed include within it the idea of control by humans, which rather weakens your critique of Kingsnorth. You recently brought up in a different venue Cromwell’s advice to Parliament; I submit that you should consider it in this instance.

  94. Darkest Yorkshire @ 95. The stone dwelling is indeed charming; I would like to reside there myself, though as a dyed in the wool hobbyist, I am afraid I need a lot more space, but have you considered?

    The dwelling itself was either recently built or expensively restored.

    The garden and potted plants were doubtless bought at a nursery, as were the pots. I see no sign of homemade or recycled pots. OK, maybe there is a greenhouse out of sight, also a significant expense, where plants can be propagated.

    The wood bench might have been made by a local craftsperson, but I doubt it was paid for in cheeses or pies.

    I see no sign, such as nests or bowls of seeds put out, that small wild creatures are welcome or even tolerated.

    Maybe a vegetable garden is also out of sight, though one would expect at least some herbs growing near the door.

    I can’t say about England, but here in the States, I would think that assemblage set someone back anywhere from the high 5 to the low 6 figures, and I don’t want to even guess what insurance and property taxes would be.

  95. Addendum:

    How is it that many who dismiss Crowley and Thelema seem to quite often forget that the corollary to “Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be the Whole of the Law” is “Love is the Law, Love Under Will”

    This latter part is important. Crowley showed by gematria that the words Will and Love in Greek, Thelema and Agape, have the same numerical value = 93. This means that Will and Love are united. If you find your true Will and do that you will be doing what you Love. This to me, is similar to what Christians would describe as finding the calling God has given. In that respect doing the theurgic work to know what your True Will is and then doing it in Love is in a way similar to “Thy Will Be Done”.

    Because “Every man and every woman is a star” we were each created, in the Thelemic view, with a unique role to play in this world (similar to how Christians think God has given each person a specific role to play in this world, a purpose in life).

    Also, Thelema hardly wilted on the vine. It seems to be doing well as a minor alternative religion/philosophy. Who knows how it will yet change and what may come of it in further decades. There are minor poets as well as great poets. The minor ones are also worth studying and learning from -and some of them are even better than those most consider the great poets.

    So yeah, having read through the Kingsnorth essay, I think he got the Crowley bit wrong. What I found in reading Crowley was not “mastery over” but “Attunement To” and “Knowledge Of”.

    Most of Crowley’s works were more concerned with Theurgy than Thaumaturgy -with finding the True Will/Love and not so much about commanding spirits to do his bidding.

    Now, as a person I understand Crowley was rather reprehensible. Yet, by today’s standards he was probably a lot nicer than your average Hollywood actor or rock star. Hey, that may not be saying much. But the scandalous nature of his behavior back then would raise less eyebrows now. Having said that, he was bad news for a lot of people who came into contact with him. Yet for all his flaws, he had some flashes, and some worthy things have come out of what he left behind.

    Unfortunately there was a lot of puffery about him, and the fact that he called himself the Great Beast in his extreme swing away from the religion he was raised in (his swing away from that also has some things to say) seems to cause denunciation before deeper reading and investigation.

    Justin Patrick Moore

    …from recovering Thelemite to Thelemic apologist in just a few hours 😉

    I suppose those passions of youth aren’t easily gotten rid of even if Thelemic magic isn’t a main interest of mine anymore. My pursuit of it did lead to meeting many wonderful people, amazing experiences and gateways to other pursuits, readings and listenings that have truly enriched my life.

    So again .:. 93 .::

  96. A final response from me to some of the responses here, if I may.

    First, a genuine thanks to everyone who has engaged with what I wrote. I won’t be responding to anyone who engaged what they *think* I wrote. I’ll only say again that my essay is now free to read, and contains no ‘Christian polemic’. I dislike religious intolerance – and that goes for some of the ignorant and intolerant neo-pagan sectarianism appearing on this thread. When I was a Wiccan I used to be infuriated by some of the mindless anti-Christian opinions I would sometimes hear. It just goes to show that religious sectarianism is not the preserve of the ‘monotheists’.

    I agree with some who have said that JMG and I are not nearly so far apart on most key perspectives as he seems to think we are. In fact, we are probably closer on most things than 99% of the internet. I think in this case the problem has been, as others have pointed out, that he was actually responding to Rod Dreher’s interpretation of my words, rather than the ones I wrote. There is/was a good conversation to be had about all this, perhaps, but not here.

    @RyanM, what can I say? I write what I write, which is what I see and feel, for whoever asks me. I’m not ‘trying’ to be anything or anyone. I have gone through many phases in my life as a writer. I’m like David Bowie without the charm. I understand if you don’t like the current iteration, but this is what has claimed me. We shall see where it leads. But truth matters more than art to me, and always has. I’d be happy to never write another word if I could find that ‘spiritual peace’ you mention. My last book, Savage Gods, was about just that question.

    (As for Orthodox theology being invented in the 1920s: the desert fathers beg to differ…)

    @Sam, I think your perspective on the future is very smart. I have been thinking along the same lines; a similar agument was made by the Orthodox monk Fr Seraphim Rose in his book ‘Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future’ back in the seventies. Maybe you’ve read it. The Orthodox version of the Christian faith is fundamentally different from those of the West, which is why the churches split a thousand years back. Certainly the American protestant versions of the faith are almost unrecognisable from an eastern perspective. The fastest growing forms of Christianity in the West now, I believe, are Orthodoxy and ‘trad’ Catholicism, along with distinct strains like Mormonism and the Amish in the states. What they all have in common is a strongly maintained tradition, and a refusal to bow down to ‘the world’, in the way that both the liberal and conservative strains of Christianity (esp in your country) have done. Those who seek both eternal truth and the rootstock of their culture are more likely to look here. (Of course, those two things may not be related …)

    You’re right that Christianity is now the faith of the backward ‘deplorables’, and that the elites hate it with increasingly open venom. They are much happier with a New Age mush of vaguely witchy, Buddhisty, naturey, ‘spiritual’ wokeness, in which the nice, easy bits from other traditions are patched into a left-bourgeois pseudo-religion which requires no sacrifice from anyone but keeps the unwashed at bay. My suspicion these days is that the whole woke phenomenon is a manifestation of a subconscious anti-Christian rage. It would explain much of the ancestor-hatred.

    @Adrian, no apology required by me at least. I’m sorry if my response in turn was harsh. I’m not a Catholic, but a lot of my neighbours are in the place you describe. Though also there are still many good, practicing, quiet Catholic faithful out here in the sticks, mainly the older folk now. Not that you will read much about that in the Irish Times …

  97. “It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes before they get lonely for their bridges again.”
    They don’t have to leave the underside of the bridge, they have wifi!

    I was raised Methodist, it didn’t take. The religious trappings not the belief in a higher power. On the ADR, I related an incident that showed the power and interest of a higher power in my life. What I did not talk about was what occurred before that. From a place of pain and anguish, I made a cry for help. The being who answered that plea did so to guide me through that pain.

    It seems to me that Ser Kingsnorth may be trapped in the binary of religious trappings. Magic, by whatever definition you choose, is the way of many paths.

  98. Reading Kingsnorth’s original piece, it does seem like he is taking one strand of Western esotericism (and I can buy that the occultists of Reformation Europe were interested in the control of nature, as that seems to be a strong current within Christianity in general) and using it to stand for the whole of occultism. And he does seem to be using a flawed understanding of Crowley’s statement.

    I wonder if part of the disagreement is this: Every human has to use their will to accomplish the simple act of living. We will ourselves to get up, to eat, to go to work, to find shelter, to build the Pyramids, to translate the Bible into Latin, and so on.

    The sin cannot be the mere use of will, or else we’d be damned by the very requirements of our existence.

    The sin, if it exists, is in the attempt to cause our will to override the rest of all Creation. Some are guilty of this, but not all.

  99. It still remains: we each possess a sphere of what falls within our control (or “participation”, if that term is preferable). This is, for each of us, our power. Perhaps we expand our sphere through the practices of the Western esoteric tradition, perhaps not. Either way, we face the constant, dogged responsibility of deciding what to do with our power.

    I understand the yearning that Kingsworth is expressing–a desire to be free of those difficult choices, by sublimating one’s choices under the “divine will” of a god (or “God”). To hammer down the ambiguities and complexities we face into a simplified yes/no (“is this God’s Will, or is it not?”) dichotomy offers an intoxicating sense of freedom from the responsibility our power entails.

  100. “Imagine for a moment a limitless center of consciousness and power beyond space and time, blazing with the light of a billion suns, transcending personality and impersonality alike. From that immeasurable source, great streams of creative force surge outward through the planes of existence, passing through countless other subordinate centers of consciousness, divided and refracted on the way into equally innumerable individual currents. Some of these currents reach all the way to the densest plane of existence, the one we call material reality. There they take the form of things and beings, each one created and sustained by the outpouring of divine creative force, each one capable of evolving toward life and consciousness in its own way.”

    In one final comment, I will just note that this is startlingly similar to the way that God The Father is conceived in the Orthodox Christian tradition, right down to the image of the divine as a burning fire. It would not seem out of place in the mouth of an Athonite monk. Similar beards too 😉

    All the best,

  101. Leah, thanks for this. I’d broaden your point about capitalism even further, because science was abused just as enthusiastically in the Soviet bloc, where it wasn’t a question of money but of power pure and simple. Our Faustian civilization — or in the case of Russia, their Faustian pseudomorphosis — has a deep and pervasive craving for power as one of its driving forces, and science is one of many things that has been corrupted by it.

    Celadon, thanks for this. I’m not a potential convert to Christianity because I can’t honestly affirm the literal truth of far too much of its creed, but I have no objection to those who think differently — and I know of, and honor, the very rich tradition of Christian occultism of which Rudolf Steiner and Dion Fortune were both important exponents.

    Oilman2, I think you’ve put your finger on a crucial point here. Organized religion is another form of intermediation, in which people insert themselves into a relationship — in this case spiritual rather than (primarily) economic — in order to extract their cut. In many religious settings, as in today’s economy, that cut has expanded to the point that the entire system is breaking down. Just as plenty of people these days have to pursue business under the table, because the demands of governments, banks, and all the other parasitic intermediaries make it impossible even to break even, plenty of people are turning to do-it-yourself religion because the big institutional churches are so full of the yelling of priests and ministers that it’s impossible to hear the still small voice of the Divine.

    Bei, funny.

    Matthias, one of the reasons I respect Lewis as much as I do is precisely because he was scrupulous about such things. He believed, as a relatively mainstream Christian, that magic was no longer lawful for Christians to practice, but the scene in That Hideous Strength where Ransom and Merlin call down the oyarses of the planets is a fine example of magic as participation — one of the best in print — and a solid counterargument to those who can only interpret interaction with spiritual beings as a matter of control and domination.

    Tim, the Second Religiosity historically involves a flight back to the traditional religion of the culture. The Golden Dawn is a precise modern equivalent of the Gnostic sects of the late classical world, which weren’t part of their Second Religiosity but recognized themselves as a movement away from the past toward the energies of the dawning era.

    Info, good heavens, I wasn’t thinking of the Pentacostalists when I made that comment! I see them, along with Wicca and African diaspora religions such as Vodoun, as progenitors and prefigurings of the new religious consciousness that will shape deindustrial and post-Christian North America, but they have a long road ahead of them first. No, I was speaking of the Rosicrucian movement, the more magical offshoots of Anglicanism, and Rudolf Steiner’s work, among other things of the same kind.

    PumpkinScone, that’s a fascinating question to which I don’t pretend to have the answer.

    Paul, a fine thumping tirade! You’d have been more convincing, though, if you hadn’t followed up that bit of cherrypicked prose with a denunciation of me for pulling your words out of context. Again, something about a mote in one eye and a beam in another comes to mind! Still, anyone who wants to know what that sentence means in its actual context can read The Celtic Golden Dawn themselves, just as anyone who wants to know what you meant with your denunciation of magic can, thanks to your generosity, read your whole essay. I’m quite content with that. As for a conversation, well, I’m like most people with Aspergers syndrome — conversation is not my strong suit — and so I’ll pass.

    Averagejoe, thanks for this. If I do write such a thing it won’t be especially original, but we’ll see.

    David, Fortune didn’t publicize that definition — it’s found only in a few places in her writing and that of her students — and she relied on detailed explanations and context to keep people from misunderstanding it. Unfortunately it’s vulnerable to polemic abuse.

    Abraham, excellent! Yes, very much so.

    Goran, not so. A significant number of Christian writers — Arthur E. Waite foremost among them in modern times — have in fact read extensively in the grubbier end of magical literature, and drew their conclusions from that source. As for the anti-ecological aspects of traditional Christian thought, that’s a case that was made well before Quinn’s time; the essay by Lynn White I cited (you can download a copy here is a good place to start, and White is somewhat less over-the-top than Quinn et al. As for monotheists, er, you’re painting things with far too broad a brush, you know.

    Scotlyn, approaching the viral and microbial worlds with that attitude is revolutionary stuff on several levels, as I’m sure you’re aware. I’ll look forward to the results!

    Ivan, that’s a valid point. One of the reasons I refer to advertising as cheap sorcery and as a debased offshoot of magic is precisely that it takes the control fixation of pop-culture magic to an extreme level.

    Sam, the breakdown of the first phase of Islamic civilization wasn’t the twilight of an entire civilization, it was a typical crisis period in the middle of the trajectory, exactly equivalent to the Reformation era in the Faustian West — and in both cases, yes, what happened was that more flexible and liberal versions of the dominant religion were shoved aside in favor of more literalist versions. So you’re comparing apples and orangutans here. The Faustian Age of Reason is busy cracking around us — nobody shrieks “trust the science!” in an era when science can actually be trusted — and I think you’ll find, should you live that long, that fifty years from now scientific atheism is the preoccupation of a fringe community and some form of Christianity has become the default option among the comfortable classes.

    Steve, if you stay away from the leprechaun-bedecked tour buses and don’t go around insisting that you’re more Celtic than the locals, I sincerely doubt that anyone will think of you as a plastic paddy. I have Druid friends who’ve visited Ireland and had a grand time hanging out with the people there.

    Justin, I was one of those kids back before shopping malls had food courts, so I can confirm this! As for Frater Achad and Nema, they were among the people who got me thinking about the nature of the aeons, before I did the smart thing and spent a lot of time studying the old Gnostics. Crowley — oy. You can tell that he grew up in the Christian sect that invented modern dispensationalist fundamentalism, because he never managed to shake himself out of that mindset.

    Neptunesdolphins, I expect Neopaganism to implode the way Theosophy and Spiritualism did in their time, and a great many people to look back twenty years from now and say, “Yeah, I was into that for a while back in the day.” My guess, though it’s only a guess, is that here in the US, at least, the Orthodox Church is about to get the same kind of rush of new members and public enthusiasm that Buddhism got in the 1960s and 1970s. I hope they can handle having a lot of those new members proceed to try to wrench the traditions around to suit their preferences, as of course happened to Buddhism.

    William, oh, I have no disagreement at all with their characterization of the fetid mess that institutionalized science has turned into. My issue was purely with the cheap shot at magic they dragged into the discussion.

    Yorkshire, I don’t know of one. Anyone else?

    Barefootwisdom, so noted.

    Jay, I don’t disagree with his broader argument. That’s why I didn’t take issue with it.

    JeffinWA, thanks for this! That’s a very moving prayer.

    Clark, interesting. The traditions of Christian occultism go back a very long time — if Morton Smith is correct, all the way to Jesus himself — and it’s good to see some Christians noticing this.

    Kulibali, I used a different definition of magic because Fortune’s definition is vulnerable to polemic abuse; as I said, it needs to be unpacked. I’ve also practiced magic long enough, and intensively enough, to know that when Kingsnorth claims that it’s solely a matter of exercising power over the universe, he’s wrong.

    Justin, it’s essential to the use of Crowley as a whipping boy that the second half of his utterance be erased. Imagine the difficulties Kingsnorth would have had in trying to make his case if he’d mentioned it!

    Clarence, no doubt. 😉

    Cliff, and you’ll find that serious occult writers reject the notion that the individual will should override the other wills, just as forcefully as Kingsnorth’s tradition does. It’s his attempt to insist that this isn’t true of magic that I find irritating.

    Balowulf, that’s an intriguing analysis.

    Paul, of course it’s similar. Your (new) tradition got it from the same place mine did — Orthodox theology was just as powerfully shaped by the Pagan Neoplatonists as Western magic has been. If you’d acknowledged that, and not tried to cram all of magic into a boogeyman-image supplied you by your new religion, this quarrel would not have happened.

  102. So it seems that the debate is about the sinfulness of mages(of a host of varieties) attempting to bend the Universe to their will, which probably would be evil, and also IMO could not possibly work, because the Universe (God) is infinitely more powerful than humanity….vs those of us who use techniques like tarot and astrology to gather information that the Universe is willing to give us, which IMO is never going to be information that causes spiritual harm to our World or fellow humans…

  103. John–

    Why is it that seekers for the Divine spend so much energy on arguing over fine details of a model that’s at best an approximation, and a crude one at that? (What!? You heathen, the coefficient of Divine Will is 0.932, not 1.023!) As you’ve pointed out repeatedly, we’re not terribly smart…

  104. @JMG – I will not claim to have made much progress as yet. But I will say that I have considered that a viral illness may be a form of an initiation. I believe that I treated my last viral illness (which I suffered around three years ago, so before the topic became the central obsession of all politics), in this way, and, I hope, received an initiation into a better way of “participating” in my personal “expansive biome”.

  105. JMG– In other words, it’s not that the Irish dislike American tourists as much as they dislike American jerks. Well, who can blame them?

  106. I am afraid Mr. Kingsnorth has inadvertently gotten himself entangled in American political intrigues through no fault or intention of his own.

    The “money quote” or “tell” in Dreher’s article comes near the end:

    “There are already people — military veterans — disgusted by what they’ve seen of the US military’s leadership, who are saying they will discourage their children from serving the Imperium of the Machine. I know this because they write to me”

    Liberals and lefties who read Dreher so they can congratulate themselves on their open mindedness probably don’t read to the end.

    It would appear that Wall Street and it’s neo-con attack dog pack have noticed that their favorite tool, the US military, might not be willing to do their bidding much longer. So, polemicists like Dreher have received orders. You can see for yourself how Dreher runs through a list of liberal outrages intended to anger his particular audience, which is conservative Christians, winding up with things have gotten so bad, because of those liberal antichrists and their nasty propaganda, that even the hallowed U.S. military is affected. And his reader, Mrs. Jane Country Club, knows perfectly well that her comforts and prosperity are provided by what JMG calls the wealth pump, which is kept in place by the threat of an American invasion. And, Mrs. CC’s housekeeper relies on the remittances that her son in the Marines sends home. So Mrs. CC calls her congressperson and then mentions to the housekeeper that it would really be for the best if the people elected in the next municipal election were not tooo liberal.

    Now, JMG recently published a book, King in Orange, on the use of magic to influence the 2016 election and help Trump get elected. No, I have not read it because new books are not in my budget. Sorry, JMG. The only reason I have internet is because my daughter provides it for me. King in Orange has gotten a fair amount of attention, to judge by the very interesting podcasts JMG has been doing. I like to listen while I am making quilt blocks. Not NYT best seller type of attention, but enough to worry some folks. Now, Dreher’s paymasters have nothing against magic itself, they just don’t want anyone but their own side using it. So. as I see it, Dreher, being a bit of what is called an “influencer” was also told to be discouraging magic in his column. Or columns, I don’t know if this particular theme will persist. And that is where poor Mr. Kingsnorth comes in. Because Kingsnorth is, for, Dreher, the perfect poster child. Recently converted to the path of righteousness after a youth misspent among those pinko, commie, greenie, feminazi wiccans, what could better than his new testimony, bearing witness to his former errors. Mrs. CC just knew, has always just known that those leftie greenies were up to all sorts of dastardly wickedness, and now she has proof from a well known and respected writer.

    These two themes may not have much to do with one another, but illogic and incoherence have never before stopped Dreher from publishing.

  107. John, you are such a master at avoiding awkward questions! I am tempted to admire your your sidestepping abilities. Then I remember what those silly Christians have to say about pride.

    I would have thought it would at least behove you to aknowledge the fact that you publicly attacked me for writing something which you hadn’t actually *read*. I’m hardly the only one here to have noticed. And I can’t say, as a longtime reader, that it gives me a great deal of faith in the research that lies behind your other posts.

    Anyway, I hope that when you do finally find the time to have a look at the essay you attacked *before* reading it, you will see that claims that I’m trying to ‘cram all of magic into a boogeyman-image supplied by [my] new religion’, or suggesting that magic is ‘solely a matter of exercising power over the universe’ have nothing to do with what I actually wrote.

    I must say, I’ve been a bit bemused by how irrational and aggressive you’ve been about all this, and how unwilling to engage with any points of criticism. But now I’m beginning to suspect that sectarianism was indeed the problem all along. I appreciate that American occultists and neo-pagans often come out in hives at the very notion of Christianity, or what they think it is. I used to myself. Maybe this is what allows you to read ‘sectarian polemics’ where they don’t exist. There are still Christians under your bed!

    Perhaps that’s what also gives you the idea that Christianity might be the elite’s religion of future choice, when it’s crystal clear that everything is going in the opposite direction. It seems strange to read someone who is so supportive of the ‘deplorables’ who can’t accept that their faith is one of the reasons they are deplored by a haute bourgeoisie who would have much more time for Fortune or Crowley than Lewis or Tolkein. I quite agree that atheism will die a death. Woolly, woke pseudo-paganism is the religion of the future for our ruling classes. They’re virtually there already.

    Neoplatonism had very little influence on Orthodox theology, by the way; that was one of the reasons for the schism between east and west.

    Anyway, ho hum. Sorry to have wasted my time with this. I had hoped it might go beyond ‘thumping tirades’, but that was obviously over-optimistic. I enjoyed interacting with some of your readers, anyway.


  108. @JMG

    That scenario certainly sounds plausible as well.

    Out of curiosity, would you say that any form of liberal christianity will contribute to the second religiosity, alongside the more traditionalist christianity of Paul Kingsnorth/Rod Dreher?

  109. Your response to Jon prompted this:

    I have so many friends who are still heavily invested in Progress, and I want to see them come to their senses so bad, but I always check myself when the idea comes into my head because I just don’t feel like lighting fires most of the time. And I’m a Leo Trismegistus!

    I remember what it was like for me, coming out of my Progressive stupor, all of a sudden like, and my world was turned upside down. I fear for them, so I leave them alone.

    Biting my tongue in N. Georgia

  110. @ JMG re: middlemen…

    I have been seeking a church home for several years, as worship with others is something that I enjoy. I have been to campuses that rival the local colleges that are church owned. I look around, agog at the money and cash flows required, and then wonder WWJD walking next to me? I went to one a week ago with the bride, and the entire sermon was about missionary work overseas, with the same ten or so people in and out of the Powerpoint show amongst the more heavily pigmented locals. They never even mentioned WHERE this missionary work was supposed to have taken place. Then there was a brief prayer for the “missions”, the passing of the collection plate, and a raucous metal band pounding out something unintelligible which was so loud I had to stuff tissue in my ears. Nobody greeted us, nobody spoke to us, nobody engaged us at all. There was a table with pamphlets on it near the door – I guess that is what “fellowship” has become.

    Disheartening? It may be taxed as a church, but it certainly was not like any I have ever experienced – and so my hunt will continue. But based on this a a few others, if the congregation is so large that visitors cannot even be noticed, I expect there to be no chewy center to that church. So we have reduced our search to churches that have very small parking lots for starters.

    I suspect the religious middlemen will be a casualty of the coming depression, along with many people actually seeking spiritual growth leaving for more soothing and friendly pastures.

    I am glad you got my point about the middlemen. Every organization is rife with them, pick your own category and go have a look. Churches have several types within each, some high and many lower. But the tell is usually their footprint from my last few years of playing visitor…

  111. Re the Soviet Bloc, I would argue that many party officials and science-officer sellouts were “more equal than others” and certainly got material rewards for any scientific achievements that furthered the cause! And failure got real world punishments, too.

  112. @ Fra’ Lupo RE: …gods…

    It doesn’t matter which religious text you pick, there are many inconsistencies. That most often doesn’t negate the message. Also, your mindset and personal experiences will always color your own interpretation, as will the history of the authors, their times and their issues at the time they wrote. You can find lots more good than bad in most religions. I seek the good, and let the bad or the overly cryptic go – as if I cannot grasp it then it likely wasn’t meant for me in the first place.

    But yes – also bear in mind that there was quite a lot of going back to the other ‘gods’ in the old testament – hence the many tales of woe for those who did so…

  113. Pyrrhus, exactly. That is to say, it’s the difference between what some hostile arguments claim mages do, and what mages actually do.

    David BTL, thank you! Yes, exactly; our species simply isn’t that smart.

    Steve T, exactly. The context in which I’ve mostly encountered this is in trad Irish music, since my wife plays the fiddle and loves Irish tunes. The Irish musicians she knows and interacts with (mostly online) have zero problem with people who aren’t Irish playing Irish music, quite the contrary, but they object to people behaving like jerks.

    Mary, I hope that’s not what’s going on!

    Paul, I’ve already said I don’t see any point in mud-wrestling. As for your latest claim, fair enough; you’ve made your prediction of which way the comfortable classes will go as rationalist atheism implodes beneath them, and I’ve made mine. We’ll see who turns out to be right.

    Sam, I don’t see much chance that any form of liberal Christianity will pull out of its current death spiral anywhere in the Western world; it sold out most of a century ago to the civil religion of progress and jettisoned everything authentically spiritual in the process. Again, that’s typical at this stage of things.

    Grover, a lot of times that really is the best approach.

    Oilman2, I’ve heard similar stories from a lot of people. Thank you for bringing this up, though — it’s helped me refine the theme of disintermediation, which is central to an upcoming post.

    Leah, okay, that’s fair.

  114. Thanks, John. Kingsnorth had fallen off my radar a while ago and I can’t say I’m surprised to hear this. When I stumbled upon his Dark Mountain Project back in 2014 or so, I was initially excited by his work and the fact that it had some crossover into “normie” world but it wasn’t long after that I found his angry streak troubling. I pray that the dynamic we are witnessing here need not be a prelude of what’s to come.

    The present collapse in the credibility of Science!, along with its corporate and academic sponsors will inevitably draw out those, like Kingsnorth, who harbor a personal grudge against Faustian Man and his works. The temptation is understandable, to be sure, but the combination of resentment, need for self-aggrandizement, and widespread male dissatisfaction is a recipe for a whole lot of unpleasantness.

  115. @JMC like the two ways presented in Matthew 7 and Luke 6. Interestingly enough those are also the chapters you’ll find refering to the mote and the beam. Highly recommend anyone to read those, great pieces to meditate on imo. I’d say something to Goran but I’m keeping my mouth shut because thats exactly one of the things I was talking about in my first comment.

  116. @Paul Kingsnorth

    Indeed, I just am not sure how elites in the west could go from their current beliefs to traditionalist christianity, as it so strongly contradicts the values and motifs of their current culture. It seems to me that a change from their current completely self-centered world view proud of its secular rationalism to a religiously-informed view centered on god and the community would require centuries to accomplish.

    There’re several reasons for this, but I would say one of the main reasons is the problem of sacrifice. In the current historical moment, a major aspiration of our culture seems to be the satisfaction of desires and the expulsions of thoughts of tragedy through therapeutic hedonism, which seems to work at least somewhat well for those who are sufficiently well-off to afford such hedonism (i.e. the elite). By contrast, sacrifice in the Christian style seems to require not just an acceptance of tragedy, but a volunteering for it to the point of death, which seems to me the antithesis of the current elite attitude.

    I suppose such a massive cultural change for an elite class could be possible over the course of centuries, but I am not sure if I agree with the archdruid that it could take place over the course of a few decades. At best, I could see the elites applying some Christian-themed spray paint over a social justice style “feel your pain” ideology, but I am not sure if that is what the archdruid or historians of historical cycles (i.e. Spengler, Toynbee) mean under a second religiousness (after all examples of this I know of, like the emperor Julian, appeared to be sincerely religious).

    Regardless of the disagreement over what ends up being the “second religiousness”, I would like to point out though that there seems to be agreement between you and the archdruid with regard to the broad themes of the religiousness that comes after the fall. I do not want to speak for either of you, but it seems to me both of you would agree for instance, that the future of the religion would be a religion that promotes self-sacrifice over gratification of the self (at least moreso than is done in modern culture). Similarly, it seems both of you would agree that the central locus of meaning would shift from the inside to the the outside (either nature, god or both). In other words, whatever the religion after the fall (or the “second religiousness”) ends up being called, it seems that you two think that the post-decline religion will take a rather similar form. At least that is my impression.

    Finally, I would like to argue that the key for any religion hoping to seize the future would be the degree to which it can set itself up as the visceral rejection of the toxic aspects of mainstream culture. I think you have made some interesting points as to why it could be orthodoxy. Based on what the archdruid has written, I could however also see a nature-themed form of serious polytheism achieve the same effect. In the end, I think it will come down to a kind of competition – which religion is the most transformational and can get its message across in the most visceral, real and authentic way, especially to the people outside the elite. It will be an interesting process.

    PS: I have indeed heard of Seraphim Rose, although I have not read the book you mentioned. It seems like it could be worth a read though.


    Based on your response, it seems that you would argue the elites would thus primarily shift to a traditionalist christianity. Assuming I understood this implication correctly – would you say their conversion would thus be primarily hypocritical? Maybe it’s my cynical nature, but I just don’t see how it could be otherwise, given the immense focus that current elite culture has on hedonism and the obsessions of the self – I just think a genuine conversion would require around some centuries at least.

  117. Re models, crude and otherwise

    One of the most significant changes in my worldview in these last several years is the acceptance of the unknowable. For my previous self, that a thing was unknown was annoying but acceptable; that something might be unknowable was anathema.

  118. In The Art and Practice of Geomancy, Chapter One, JMG writes: “practitioners of modern magic spend much of their time learning how to raise power and direct it into their magical work. You won’t find a word about raising power in Renaissance magical texts, however, because Renaissance occultists relied on the currents of power that exist around us at every moment.” This sentence, more than any other in the book, got me hooked on geomancy. Having spent much of my formative years sailing, in which the speed and distance one goes is dependent upon how well one can perceive and how intelligently one can make use of the wind, waves, currents and tides, the Renaissance approach to magic (at least the divinatory side via geomancy) naturally appealed to me, while the modern version of magic as described by JMG in that book appealed to me about as much as a knuckle sandwich.

    Speaking about currents of power, I am sad to say that this week’s discussion has been an excellent demonstration of the power of retrograde Mercury (Sept 27 – Oct 17, 2021).

  119. JMG, the denizens of the upper reaches of the Republican Party are no more Burkean conservatives than their Democratic counterparts resemble St. Francis, or even Fighting Bob LaFollette.

  120. @oilman2 re #119

    I have a strong suspicion that the future is house churches, chavurot, private covens, drum circles, and other small gatherings – not due to covid, but to economics. Those mega churches often have million dollar mortgages from initial construction and/or renovations to make stages for those rock bands. I don’t think those large bldgs will survive the next crisis.

    For example, one of my day job clients is a local once-largish christian church that thought the solution to their aging, dwindling audience was to build a contemporary rock band style stage in what used to be their gymnasium. It is a half a million dollar boondoggle on top of the half million mortgage they already had. They’re in a downtown area immediately surrounded by a small enclave of wealthy families who don’t attend there. Their membership drives from the suburbs and most of the staff is held over from their old location in the next bedroom community in an adjacent county. (Yes, really.) Just north of that small nearby enclave is a wide swath of needy folks who could really use help. Instead of focusing on them, they did that pointless renovation. Long story short, if it weren’t for the fact they got a couple of six figure bequests in the last two years, they would already be bankrupt. The kicker is if they had spent those bequests and their two small legacy investments on the old mortgage, they’d be out of debt now. But they didn’t listen. And of course the rock band service only brings in a handful of donations every week, while the “classic” service in the old historic sanctuary is the only thing keeping them going for now. But it’s still aging and dwindling. And they could have used the gym and all those empty classrooms all week as part of a dayschooI that would have been profitable. (That’s how another church client of mine got out of debt!) Again, they were not interested…probaby due the nature of the local kids who would be most likely to go there. I feel like it’s just a matter of time till the handwriting is on the wall.

    Oh, the worst part? They are two blocks from the annual MLK breakfast and march around downtown. They don’t even give the staff that day off as a paid holiday – they make them work, and completely ignore the MLK day celebrations. (Fortunately I’m contract labor and my contract specifies I don’t work on any state, federal, or Jewish holidays.) It’s a total slap in the face to the majority of their neighboring north downtown residents. And it’s not because they’re clueless, either. (No, there aren’t any POC on staff, how did you know?)

    Anyway, financially, they’re a dead man walking. They just won’t admit it. And I think that’s true of a lot of big churches here in flyover country. Maybe not so much in really big cities, idk. Here, the programs that really do help people – I have great respect for our local catholic social services office – are languishing in decrepit undersized facilities and providing services by the skin of their teeth. The local protestant rescue mission is also way underfunded. And everyone sees the juxtaposition. It gives organized religion a bad name.

    Its clear to me that real ritual, real liturgy, and the real “magic” that happens in those small groups is far more likely to survive than the big guys who will never willingly downsize to weather the coming descent. That would be embarrassing, an admission of loss of power (and money).

    Peace, Leah

  121. JMG wrote:

    Imagine for a moment a limitless center of consciousness and power beyond space and time, blazing with the light of a billion suns, transcending personality and impersonality alike. From that immeasurable source, great streams of creative force surge outward through the planes of existence, passing through countless other subordinate centers of consciousness, divided and refracted on the way into equally innumerable individual currents. Some of these currents reach all the way to the densest plane of existence, the one we call material reality. There they take the form of things and beings, each one created and sustained by the outpouring of divine creative force, each one capable of evolving toward life and consciousness in its own way.

    To me, as a Christian, this is a perfectly acceptable-and indeed beautiful and poetic-description of God. From the way JMG wrote this, I don’t think it would be unfair to say (correct me if I’m wrong, JMG) that this is the thing (if “thing” is the right word here) that Mr. Greer worships. And yet, JMG has repeatedly insisted, on here and the other blog, that he doesn’t worship the Christian God, and that he considers his tradition different from, and incompatible with, Christianity.

    Thinking about this, I think we may be operating from different definitions of the word “God”. My definition of God-well, JMG’s paragraph above actually does nicely, but if I had to put it into my own words, I would say God is the ineffable transcendent source of all things, from which the universe and everything in it, including myself, JMG, the laptop I’m typing this on, and the planet we’re sitting on, flows. But to me, when JMG talks about “God”, “gods”, and “the Christian God”, he seems to mean (again, correct me if I’m misreading you, JMG), a being-or collection of beings-who are much older, wiser, and more powerful than humans, and who humans can turn to for help-but who also exist in time and space, like humans, and (JMG hasn’t addressed this, but it would logically follow) are subject to their own limitations and failings-just, again, much less limited, and more wise and powerful, than humans.

    And thus, I would like to ask a series of questions-to JMG, and also to any theologically orthodox Christians reading this. If the source of the universe is, in JMG’s words, a “limitless center of consciousness”, doesn’t it follow that it would be-well, conscious? And that humans could talk to it, and that it, in turn, could take an interest in us? And that, therefore, a spiritual path could form around interacting with this limitless center of consciousness-which, being the source and substance in which we all move and have our being, would deserve a degree of authority and deference which no other being would warrant? And would it matter if, in relating to this center of consciousness, you called it (or he, or she) God, or Allah, or Christ, or Jehovah, or chose not to assign it a name in order to emphasize its overarching transcendence?

    And would it necessarily be terrible if, in addition to the overarching Transcendent Source, you contacted beings much more advanced than humanity, much wiser spirits who could interact with us and impart wisdom? (So long, of course, as one tested what they say against the Transcendent Source-as JMG has acknowledged, not everything in the spirit world is our friend.)

    This page has seen a contentious, and sometimes fraught, conversation over the past day, but would warrant that the chief participants are closer than they think they are.

  122. Paul Kingsnorth wrote:

    Perhaps that’s what also gives you the idea that Christianity might be the elite’s religion of future choice, when it’s crystal clear that everything is going in the opposite direction. It seems strange to read someone who is so supportive of the ‘deplorables’ who can’t accept that their faith is one of the reasons they are deplored by a haute bourgeoisie who would have much more time for Fortune or Crowley than Lewis or Tolkein. I quite agree that atheism will die a death. Woolly, woke pseudo-paganism is the religion of the future for our ruling classes. They’re virtually there already.

    Mr. Kingsnorth, I think the main difference between you and JMG on this point is that you think the current elites are going to remain in power for the foreseeable future, whereas JMG has expressed the opinion that we’re in the opening stages of a series of political convulsions that will destroy the current elites-or at least the ideologies they operate on-and usher in a new set of elites with new ideologies, much more conservative (in the small c sense of the word) than what we have now. Again, either of you can correct me if I’ve misunderstood you.

    And wokeism seems, in a weird way, very Christian, or off-Christian, to me. I mean, if you took the Penitential Canon and did a word replacement of “sin” with “racism”, you’d be quite close to having something your average Grievance Studies class could sign onto. A few more word replacements and you might be all the way there.

  123. Hi JMG,

    Something perplexes me about the Second Religiosity being a phenomenon of the comfortable classes. Do those who inhabit positions of, shall we say, “comfort” in the twilight of an Age of Reason remain so comfortably situated after it crumbles? In our current example, how would representatives of the presently Woke, materialistic, atheistic, PMC crowd maintain themselves as “comfortable” when the Age of Reason falls apart and they transition to a traditional Christian framework of operation? If I imagine an atheistic Poli-Sci professor who, in thirty years, finds himself working as stoop labor in a Kentucky tobacco field in order to make ends meet–is he really a part of the “comfortable” classes anymore. If that same former-professor has “found Jesus”, isn’t his religion now one of the laboring masses?

  124. Christopher, I think there’ll be a lot of angry words and some unpleasant actions ahead, but when in history has that not been the case?

    Copper, a good point! I’m tolerably familiar with all four of the Gospels, as it happens, and you’re right — plenty of fodder for meditation there.

    Sam, I suspect the conversion of the elites to a relatively traditional Christianity will take place almost exactly the same way Kingsnorth’s conversion did. As I noted in the post, he’s part of the first wave of dissatisfied intellectuals to head that way, and it didn’t exactly take him centuries to make the transition from a self-centered Neopaganism to a traditional Christian denomination, you know. It’s precisely because hedonism and the obsessions of the surface personality don’t offer much strength or hope during a time of serious troubles that, once scientific rationalism enters its bankruptcy proceedings, we’ll see a lot of other people following the route Kingsnorth has gone.

    David BTL, that’s a massive challenge for anyone raised in a Faustian worldview.

    Ron, no doubt Mercury’s retrograde status had a lot to do with it!

    Mary, I’m well aware of that. That in itself doesn’t prove that a particular theory about their activity is true.

    Tolkienguy, er, this is what the Discordians call the Argument from Semantical Gymnastics. I’ll be interested to see how you get from what I said to the claim that this vast transcendent center of power and consciousness is also a person who engages in such activities as choosing one small Middle Eastern ethnic group as its Chosen People, having a son, and sending that son down to be crucified in order to save believers from sin and death.

    Balowulf, the changeover of personnel in the comfortable classes isn’t fast and it isn’t complete, even in times of really radical social change. I expect to see a lot of hangers-on of the elite classes (such as the professor in your example) jettisoned and sent to labor in a tobacco field as soon as they stop being useful to the well-to-do, but plenty of others will make the transition more or less smoothly…and converting to a more or less traditional Christianity will be one of the ways they do it.

  125. Some thoughts..
    -I read Kingsnorth’s essay. I think he framed magic dishonestly, at least from the perspective of probably how most people hanging around ecosophia practice it. The framing suggests to me he doesn’t understand the attitude towards magic you (JMG), Dion Fortune, and even Crowley teach. I don’t think anyone who understands magic on a level deeper than “I want all the goodies” would write what he did.
    -I see people saying Fortune’s definition of magic somehow proves Kingsnorth’s point, but I think anyone who has read Fortune knows she didn’t mean to run around causing changes in consciousness in accordance to, on one hand, the whims of an unrefined persona in the case of many modern magicians, or on the other, the promptings big money interests in the case of scientists. I imagine this is why you wrote about the Word[s].
    -The definition of magic and the explanation you put forth is inspiring.
    -I am growing disenchanted with human reasoning ability. The ability for reason to make case for literally anything was on display at points in the comment section by PK. It’s very weasel like. I have a family member who does this. It’s a combination of the inability to concede any ground whatsoever, gas lighting, and trying to make it seem like you’re the one who has a problem and not them. To debate them with content is useless.

  126. OK, I have to admit that link had me laughing. “Argument from Semantical Gymastics” is hilarious.

    Looking back I my post, I probably did kind of go in broad strokes, so let me get to the central logical claim in my series of questions:

    We both agree that the universe flows from a “vast transcendent center of power and consciousness”. Doesn’t it follow that such a vast center of consciousness-indeed, the origin of all the consciousness in the universe-would itself be conscious? And thus, if we tried to communicate with it, that it could perceive our attempts at communication and respond?

    This is basically the crux of the argument I’m trying to make. If I’m understanding your Polytheism correctly, you believe that humans cannot directly relate to the “vast transcendent center of power and consciousness” (lets say “Transcendent Source” since I think that’s a term we could both agree on), but rather that we can only relate to intermediaries who are more wise, powerful, and capable than us, but who are not the Transcendent Source.

    Am I understanding you correctly? And if so, why can’t humanity relate directly to the Transcendent Source? (Basically all the Abrahamic religions are built around the idea that we can, and to me, this seems to be the major difference between your belief system and the Abrahamic religions.)

  127. @JMG – Sorry this is off topic. Do not post if you do not want to but I figured strike while the iron is hot and it is always good to for you to get some feed back on these things.

    I believe a while back you said in your Australian Mundane astrology reading that there would be a scandal involving a high level female member of the NSW government. Today there was an announcement that NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian resigns after ICAC announces investigation into relationship with Daryl Maguire.

    You called this long time before before there were even rumors’ of this. It looks like you got a home run on this one.

  128. So would “be the Change you want to see in the world” be a form of participatory magic as well as spiritual commitment ?

  129. One of the great problems with religious types is that they are doing magic, but most think they aren’t. An example is the baptism — step one, make a hole in the child’s defenses, step 2, hook it up with a deity. I have what I consider a solid report of a Protestant church whose baptisms only manage the first step, leaving a hole in the child’s defenses. Woops. Baptisms, confirmations, mass, exorcisms, sanctification, etc… are all magical acts.

    (Consider that model of baptism, then consider Charlemagne force baptising 10K Saxons and immediately murdering them all. I’m pretty sure he knew what he was doing and if he didn’t, the priests with him did, early Christian Priests and Monks were Grade A magicians, powerful and recognized as such.)

    Pagans don’t always like monotheistic religions, or even other pagans religions, for that matter. Spengler goes to a fair bit of length explaining the types of persecutions the Classic Romans (before they became Magian) did against cults they didn’t like (he doesn’t mention it, but their eradication of historical Druids comes to mind.)

    I knew a Hindu Nath who was completely intolerant of any religion that had any hint of monotheism: not just Christianity and Islam, but also Buddhism (because he felt it claimed to be the only way to get enlightened.) He would certainly have led pogroms given the power, and, indeed, India is tending that way as we write, with one of the most important figures being a Nath (Adityanath) who has, at best, looked the other way while Muslims were lynched.)

    As for me, I am wary of monotheists. A person who thinks that everyone who doesn’t worship their God is going to Hell is very dangerous, because anything is justified in order to “save their soul.” A stake and a burning is minor compared to eternal damnation, after all.

  130. @Paul Kingsnorth and others interested in learning more about Orthodox tradition:

    John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, Fordham University Press, New York, 1974 (first edition)

  131. JMG, for what it’s worth: PK seems very shocked that you wrote this commentary on his views on magic at a time when perhaps you had not yet read his entire essay, which I suppose in some cases would be a valid point. But here, I don’t think it would have made any difference to your ultimate critique of his perspective, so I am not sure why it seems so important to him. I regularly read both your blogs, and had read the “Do What Thou Wilt” essay a few weeks ago. It struck a sour note for me at the time, in part because it evidenced an understanding of magic and its practitioners that was in almost complete opposition to mine, limited though it is (and much of it admittedly gained through reading your writing from the earliest days of the ADR and The Well of Galabes). That said, I just re-read his essay with an eye to trying to validate the points PK made in the comment section here, and I just couldn’t do so. I’ll be curious to perhaps hear your perspective, but mine is that a re-read of his essay brought me to the same conclusion: he has (or feels he now has to portray) a rather twisted understanding of magic and the intent of many of its practitioners.

    That’s actually beside the point of what brought me to the comment section. I wanted to chime in along with those others above who have thanked PK for, in his way, prompting you to write this essay. As others have quoted, the segment about the center of consciousness blazing with the light of a thousand suns, and eddies and currents that sort of “solidify” for a time into the material plane, put into words my own experience of what I call (inside my mind) the “universe life energy” that comprises us (and everything). As you can see, I don’t have the way with words you do, so I am deeply pleased to now have a few paragraphs to refer to that describe clearly what I have only seen, but could not describe so well.

    About 15 years ago, I was gifted a session with a fairly renowned “energy healer,” and accepted it gladly, if only for a chance to lie down and have nothing to do for an hour or so, because I was overworked and tired all the time back then. I was also a fairly firm atheist, with maybe a bit of a biological, Lovelockian Gaia leaning, so I had my mind fairly firm-set against any sort of “meridian-clearing” or “chakra-opening,” as I would have mockingly thought of this healer’s work.

    I don’t recall much of anything happening during the session. She never touched me physically, but I do remember that although I had been certain I would fall asleep right away, I was instead wide awake the whole time, but sort of mentally quiescent, if that makes sense. When I opened my eyes at the end of the session, everything looked kind of sparkly (for want of a better word) inside the building, but it wasn’t until I walked outside into a garden overlooking the ocean that I knew I’d been forever changed. Looking around, I both saw the “physical world” in front of my eyes – garden paths, tomato trellises, the blue sky, the kale in large flowerpots – and saw the “life energy” layer of which it was all woven. Little tendrils of golden light in the pea plants climbing the poles (and in the wooden poles too), bigger sort of standing waves in the trees. I made my way to a garden bench and just sat for a long time, watching the web and the flow of this bright golden-white energy net that was somehow also a still lake and a flowing river, and somehow also comprised everything material.

    The garden cats were especially memorable. I like cats a little too much, and as it usually happens in those cases, they’d all more or less ignored me for the several weeks I’d been staying at this little farm. Not this day, though. Within seconds of my sitting on that bench, 4 or 5 cats had gathered at various distances from me and sat facing me, each one watching me. They stayed for several minutes or more. I looked around at each of them, and each one gazed back at me, and for each cat, I could see the little wavelet of white-gold energy coming up in a peak from the pool of undifferentiated liquid light energy below them, and each little wavelet was sort of ~inside~ each cat, while at the same time, it ~was~ each cat. And as I focused on the people who passed from time to time, I saw they were the same.

    Looking back, that experience feels like it should have been mind-blowing, but it was actually sort of mundane, like I was just remembering something I’d forgotten. I felt that particular relief of being reconnected to a valuable memory I didn’t realize I’d lost. The good news is, I haven’t forgotten it again, but I really am glad you wrote it out so clearly in your essay. It’s nice to see it in words.

  132. @JMG

    “No, I was speaking of the Rosicrucian movement, the more magical offshoots of Anglicanism, and Rudolf Steiner’s work, among other things of the same kind.”

    Do you see similarities with Eastern Orthodoxy? Or has it gone in its own distinct directions?

  133. @JMG

    “Sam, I suspect the conversion of the elites to a relatively traditional Christianity will take place almost exactly the same way Kingsnorth’s conversion did. ”

    It seems that the mainstream culture has doing its best to make Christianity low status and to associate them with the Orange Man and his low status constituents will ultimately fail.

  134. My old Seventh Day buddy was visiting on Wednesday, as I was finishing reading the essay and starting to browse the comments. I got to the comment #4 by Steve T, and had a chuckle about the antics of the IWW and the ISO. I explained to my Buddy some jokes about the and the People’s Front of Judea and the Judean People’s Front, and the finer details of different radical groups tendency to splinter over disputes that from the outside seem baffling.

    While we talked that evening I smoked tobacco, drank coffee, and ate meat while he told me of his intentions to do things as against my nature as my indulgences are against his religion. I talked him into growing out some crops for me next season on his plot to prevent cross pollination with another project.

    Buddy looked at Steve T’s critique of Paul, and heard what little synopsis of the dispute on magic between you, JMG, and Paul; asked me if here was two fellow factions, suspicious of the vaccines and scientific dogmas, acting like the IWW and the People’s Front of Judea?

    I was sympathetic to the tease, from the perspective of the secularists it would look some much like that, two slight variants of communis…. er… superstition.

    Mind you, Buddy is as deeply religious as anyone in the conversation, seriously I’ve slept at the camp he has on abandoned land gardening food for market and the poor, and it is hard to sleep for the guy won’t shut his gob about the book of Daniel well after I should like to haven’t fallen asleep on my side of the fire. Not converting, he’s just lonely living out there with just a Bible, and does love those stories, and finds great joy in talking about them. Up until a certain point of sleep deprivation I enjoy hearing the joy in his voice, for I love all words that come from that special deep place of the soul. It like maybe I am hearing this old coot’s Aeon.

    Me on the other hand I am a hedge wizard, a friend to occultism, though very shabby as a practitioner. I tried at times, but other than a daily banishing ritual most of the practice as taught haven’t suited me, I’ve found my own limits I’ve chosen andd its a path of sorts. Still I’ve been in the frustrating place of defending magic from accusations of being evil or wicked, because I am just mojoish enough to get cast in that roll a couple times a month. Often defending it from the barbs of Buddy! But I was entranced by the vision of divine participation and the definition of magic from this essay as much as Buddy likes him that Daniel stuff.

    “Imagine for a moment a limitless center of consciousness and power beyond space and time, blazing with the light of a billion suns, transcending personality and impersonality alike. From that immeasurable source, great streams of creative force surge outward through the planes of existence, passing through countless other subordinate centers of consciousness, divided and refracted on the way into equally innumerable individual currents. Some of these currents reach all the way to the densest plane of existence, the one we call material reality. There they take the form of things and beings, each one created and sustained by the outpouring of divine creative force, each one capable of evolving toward life and consciousness in its own way.”

    Paul Kingsnorth’s essay, which thanks to his generous opening I read before the essay here, didn’t seem like much of an attack on magic. It didn’t mention it for two thirds of the essay, then the first paragraph mentioning it makes a detour to make clear that “The people in the coven were not dastardly devil-worshippers; they were basically good-hearted, interesting people looking for meaning in a society which offered none outside the marketplace.” which is on the whole high praise in my dialect. Listed 9 kinds of magic, to single out one of them as being the thread that had the shame of being associated with science. Establishes that some of the most accomplished minds of the western traditions are magicians, before finally getting a bit slack and lumped all of magic into the project of controlling nature, rather than just a subset. From that point on he talks as though ‘magic’ basically refers to, what in my thinking I’d call thaumaturgy.

    By my own understanding, from reading basically only you writings, is that a good distinction which could clear up some of this is between theurgy and thaumaturgy. In the former case its very much a way of participation, and well words only do so much good, but I’ll jsut say that I-Thou stuff is all up in that joint. In the later case it is well about workings, urgy, getting stuff done. Its morally neutral as far as it goes, if combined with theurgy, with good faith I might casually say, its even pretty good stuff, some times wonders need to get worked as you get the gig of being the participant working it. Thaumaturgy practiced with out theurgy has a very strong tendency to move in some rather harsh direction, for it acquires power, with out connection of address to other participants places, so that power tends to become disruptive, and seeking unreasonable forms of control, ugh.

    So In my was of figuring things, I’da just said that technology, of the scientific sort, is a bud off of thaumaturgy. As a Hedge Wizard I learn technological stuff to work wonders all the time: like seed breeding, and making dehydrators. Technology is obviously a subset of Thaumaturgy. And I figure thaumaturgy is a kinda science.

    But I have a rustic sort of theurgy too, maybe not that proper ceremonical fancy stuff. But there’s things I won’t do because well there are other participants in life that I cannot name, but I don’t want to step on their lines you might say. Sacred stuff, and an desire and effort to get more in line with my place before the sacred. But I also have megolamatic dreams sometimes, and I learn from them how if that I-thou goes away, or if nothing is sacred, then yeah the exact problem that Both Greer and Paul are objecting to, it gonna be like that.

    So yeah, that magical thing, if it looses the theurgy, or the i thou, or the sacred, it eventually makes vaccines and fires New Yorkers apparently. (cheeky) Science now knows! Having run the experiment for 400 years, the result is this mess.

    The only line I’d actually beef with Paul about as being a push too unfair for me is “Magic addles the mind. ” Heck, kinds of magic practiced with out a sense of the sacred muddles the mind. Very big difference, thank you kindly. “Thy will be Done”, is a good line, I don’t hold with Paul on the details of Christianity, but I can think of whats to translate the feel of that line into something similar in my own feeling about the sacred.

    I’d quibble that it ain’t just an excess of control that is a problem, Buddy (to go full circle) and I talked about utopian movements like the old anarchists, and some times you got messes because people though that if you just didn’t actively participate at all things would just work out. Dang hippies utopia compound, monistary fantasy, all back to Rousseau and before dream. Participating don’t mean not having no control at all, it means controlling how you play out part, but understand that you ain’t the top of the pile.

    I loved Paul’s essay, and Greer’s, and posit that we can splint splitters between the vaccinated liberation front and the liberation front of the unvaccinated. So, having picked on the hippies for I think shown the errors of going too far a field from control, I end by saying in the name of the hippies, Christ, Augustine of Hippo, Freddy Mercury, and Aleister Crowley: Why can’t we give love that one more chance?

  135. It’s been fascinating to read these exchanges. I’m a fan of both Paul Kingsnorth and John Michael Greer. Dark Mountain was part of a big reorientation for me. And JMG’s work was my way into traditional occultism, which for several years now has been my spiritual centre. So I owe a big debt of gratitude to both men.

    It’s a shame about the bad blood. I do question the wisdom of writing a critical response to something one has only read filtered through a second-hand source, especially a source written by someone with a known tendency for rabble-rousing. With that said, having myself read the Kingsnorth piece in full, along with his replies on here, despite his protests it does come across to me that he is attacking the Western magical tradition in toto rather than just goetia or Crowley.

    PK writes, “not all magical workings, or all scientific experiments, are bad, let alone the people who carry them out. A magician might want to perform a working aimed at bringing good luck to a friend… but the wider project of both [magic and science] carries hidden within it a telos: a direction of travel… the direction of the Machine that now envelops us…”

    And “magic addles the mind”.

    Now, that reads to me as a pretty flat-out condemnation of some inherent quality in this thing we call ‘magic’. Which takes us onto this interesting question of how magic is to be defined…

    I can’t help but feel, as apparently do a couple of others, that JMG’s ad hoc introduction of a new definition of magic as ‘participation’ is something of a diversionary tactic, a way to skirt around what seems to me to be the central point of contention: this little word ‘will’.

    PK sets “do what thou wilt” next to “Thy will be done”, and writes that we ought to steer towards the latter and “let the will go”. He seems to me to be advocating for a kind of total surrender to the Divine Will.

    To my taste, this is uncomfortably close to the kind of New Age spirituality that JMG has previously called ‘the magic of the privileged’. The erasure the individual ego. As somebody who has been pretty far down that rabbit hole, I find that total self-abnegation ultimately makes one soft, helpless and manipulable. In fact, one of the things that initially attracted me to magic is that it makes space for the ego and the individual will.

    Soft, helpless, manipulable. Such qualities make one an effective vehicle for the will of SOMEONE, but to my mind it is just as likely to end up being the will of a priest, a New Age guru, or some other predatory creep as it is the Divine Will.

    Of course, one can also lean too far into ego and personal will. And for sure, pop occultism is guilty of this more often than not. Personally, learning to let go and surrender has been a big part of my journey with magic as I’ve gone deeper below the surface.

    For me, it is really a simple equation, in theory if not in practice: it’s that old thing of balance. What is the middle ground between “do what thou wilt” and “thy will be done”? And I believe this is part of what JMG is getting at in highlighting the equivocation in the word ‘will’ in Fortune’s definition of magic. The occult tradition has a useful symbolism: there is a higher and a lower will, and bringing the two into harmonious contact is the Great Work of theurgy.

    I really love what balowulf wrote (#108). We cannot deny the power and responsibility that is ours. But we must learn where its proper boundaries lie. That is everyone’s individual task. And our task as a society. No doubt, the times ahead will be humbling. But concomitantly, there may be the realisation of forgotten or repressed capacities of personal power as we extricate ourselves from the ‘Machine’ that has kept us passive and controlled.

    Finally, I think it worth noting that indigenous societies lived in relative harmony with Nature and they practised magic. Much of it, indeed, with a strong goetic flavour. I wonder what PK thinks about that. But I wholly agree with whomever it was above who said this whole dichotomy of magic/religion is bogus anyway.

  136. A brief comment on Lynn White’s influential essay. My opinion about the influence of Christianity on overexploitation of nature was the same even before I knew about White’s essay. He was aware of the distinction between Latin Christianity (Catholicism) and Eastern Christianity (Orthodoxy). So, for the sake of objectivity, I shall try to explain the position of Orhodoxy.

    In the times when Christian Fathers lived there was no extreme overexploitation of nature, nor population explosion. Therefore it’s not surprising that they do not comment on that matter. The marriage of science and technology was of later date. But Fathers noticed that the man is deeply disturbed and sick. The cause of that sickness is The Original Sin. The root cause of man overexploiting nature is basically the same cause that makes man exploits other man. It’s the original sin. But what is in essence original Sin? It’s absolute dominance of rational thinking, hypertrophied reason that eclipses the mind, displaces the mind. In that state mind becomes detached from God. St. Maxim The Confessor said that “the mind detached from God becomes either Devil-like (evil-doing, destruction) or animal-like (hedonism, sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll). According the Fathers, the purpose of man in the world is neither to be the mere animal among other animals, nor to worship the Devil. The purpose of man is to return to the lost unity with God. When that task is fulfilled, overexploitation of nature and other people automatically cease to exist. I hope that the reader is able to understand that the position of orthodox theology is somewhat similar to the position of Lynn White.

    This is, of course, oversimplified explanation. Both Patrologia Latina and Graeca are so huge that some kind of guidance is required. But Catholic and Orthodox priests with sufficient knowledge are rare. Everybody is on it’s own to find the way out of the jungle of this world. We are children of extreme liberalism and individualism. We dislike the institutions. But for the Christians the way to salvation is in the Church, the community of believers. So when Mr. Kingsnorth enters the world of Orthodoxy, he is participating, nobody can deny that. The salvation is impossible in isolation, individually. What we find difficult to understand is that The Church is not institution like a court of law or a company on the market. The Church has both mystical and material aspect.

  137. I just look at an annually wandering Easter, a baby’s birth that marks the increase of Sun and a God that plays the abusive Father (pointed out a few times by JMG here) to know, personally, I’m not all in on Christianity. The roots, so obviously, go deeper and wider. That said, I do have a soft spot for my cultural religion and admire it’s urge to get to the Oneness of things.
    Bring out the mystics.

  138. @JMG RE: your reply to Sam…

    ” It’s precisely because hedonism and the obsessions of the surface personality don’t offer much strength or hope during a time of serious troubles that, once scientific rationalism enters its bankruptcy proceedings, we’ll see a lot of other people following the route Kingsnorth has gone. ”

    It’s refreshing to see the hammer strike the nail so squarely.

    Hedonism, materialism and empty platitudes are not foundations for anything spiritual. Showing up is not participation nor is it enough. I would suggest that your other blog (OSA) is a useful and appropriate use of time, especially when conjoined with attending a religious service that teaches along similar paths. The foundation built by OSA is nearly universal when trying to ‘get a handle’ on your own heart and soul.

    I find it very refreshing that OSA principles match so much that has existed in biblical scripture, so much taught in buddhism and many other places. The issues OSA addresses are common to all people who admit to having a soul and wish to be better – it always has to start within, regardless of the terminology and trappings.

    Our Ego (surface personality) is useful, but it’s tentacular nature for both good and ill is something most people haven’t a clue about.

    Kudos for your reply to Sam my friend – truth is what we all need more of.

  139. Hi John Michael,

    Things are pretty crazy down here, and I’ve had my own troubles of late, which are now in the past. I don’t usually publicly speak of such matters, but this is perhaps an exception. At my lowest ebb, I sat with an old grandmother tree of the forest here and just asked for simple assistance. From a magical context, I never sought control or power, but instead asked for the spirits of the forest to assist me. And this impacted upon my consciousness. I note that ordinarily I assist the forest here in a physical sense and all the life within it, so there are perhaps obligations and relationships there, but it would be an astounding act of hubris for me to attempt to impose a change of my own consciousness upon the forest. I doubt that I have the power to do so anyway, even if I had the will.



  140. @ Leah Kiser RE: your last paragraph

    I agree with your outlook here. Regardless of the religion, the material world has become accepted as a part of religion. It was embraced fully and corruption ensued. The larger the commitment to the material world (ensconced in western law at this point) the shorter the path to corruption. At least that is how it ‘feels’ to me.

    Brushing shoulders with people you do not know and exposing your core beliefs has never worked well for me. Sharing ritual similarly feels, well, similar. I see smaller groups in the future, meeting core needs for the soul – hence my judos to JMG for his OSA publication. Knowing ones self and being comfortable with same is where we need to go. My gut says to me that this cannot be accomplished by televangelism or within the strict containerized demesnes of a mega-church. It’s very personal and so requires trust unavailable in herds of people. Ritual works if all are aligned – otherwise it is empty and feels off-kilter.

  141. @Oilman2 (#119): Sorry to hear about your search and may you find a place where the Divine Light unfolds in its fullness. Was raised in a split Reformed (Puritan)-Catholic (lapsed) household myself. Many thorns out there to choke that which would grow, but, as the saying goes, wherever two or three are gathered together…


  142. @Christopher Williams, much as I always appreciate a good session of long-distance internet psychoanalysis, I’d recommend reading what I wrote before you fall into the same pit that our host dug for himself. My essay is really nothing to do with Christianity, and not a great deal to do with magic either. As for anger – well, I’m certainly not angry. A little irked, it’s true, to be so idly misrepresented. But I would point out that all the personal insults have come from our host, not from me.

    It would be a terrible error to take up Christianity, or any spiritual path, for either intellectual or political reasons. If you choose to engage with anything I’ve produced on the subject you’ll see that that’s not what I’ve done.

    @Tolkeinguy, as I pointed out to JMG earlier, that description could have come from the mouth of an Athonite monk. Of course, if it’s anywhere near the truth it would make sense that it could be seen from more than one angle. JMG’s response is to suggest that this image is not compatible with the divine taking human form, but I disagree, and I don’t think this argument holds water coming from a magician. JMG knows well that life is fundamentally a mystery, the divine is unknowable to us on this plane, and that the magic he so stoutly defends is a process of engaging with parts of reality that materialism would pretend is invented or simply untrue. I certainly can’t see any reason why the divine manifesting in human form, or bodily resurrection come to that, is any less believable than many of the things which mages and druids and Golden Dawn adepts have believed down the years. I suspect the objection is more due to a bit of a political Christian-pagan ding-dong than anything else.

    Perhaps one key difference between the ‘occult’ worldview and that of traditional Christianity is the attitude to what you call here ‘beings much more advanced than humanity.’ Christianity, like Islam, Judaism and Sikhism, regards only the divine creator as worthy of worship. The universe is certainly full of other beings, but they are not ‘gods’, and many of them do not have our best interests at heart, which is why we are advised to stay away from them all. I believe this to be likely from experience, not just dogma. Of course, Christians also believe in the devil, and that’s a whole other story …

    Oh, and as for wokeness and Christianity: I do think that the cult of ‘social justice’ is what you get if you preach the sermon on the mount but leave out both God and forgiveness. I suppose you could describe it is a type of Christian heresy. The English historian Tom Holland has written some good things along those lines recently.

    @Sam, thanks for this. I would definitely recommend the Rose book. It’s dated now, but it predicted the future with some accuracy. He takes us on a tour of the various kinds of ‘alternative’ spirituality fashionable in the seventies, from witchcract to watered-down Zen to UFO cults, and suggests that all of this will merge into a ‘new world religion.’ His take as an Orthodox monk is that this is predicted in the book of Revelation, but be that as it may, his claim is being borne out, I suspect.

    My perspective is that the elites of our time are the products of a process of liberal capitalist globalisation over several centuries. They’re now presiding over a rotting culture, which they regularly distance themselves from. JMG has written about this process in America here of course. Those elites are hedonistic, individualistic and resolutely opposed to all limits. Their ‘religion’, as long as this system survives, is likely to be – and already is – the kind of New Age mush predicted by Rose. They are passionately anti-Christian because Christianity represents the Western heritage they are in rebellion against.

    I don’t agree with JMG’s take on Spengler. The notion that only ‘elites’ will take up the second religiosity is not quite right, I think – though it does allow our host to pigeonhole those of other faiths as simply following a prescribed pattern. It’s certainly not right in my case: I couldn’t deny being a ‘dissatisfied intellectual’, but then that’s true of JMG too, and I’m quite sure neither of us are part of any ‘elite.’ My berth in the Orthodox Church comes after nearly a decade of Buddhism and then a relatively brief foray into the neo-pagan undergrowth.

    What Orthodoxy and serious Buddhism have in common, which has much appealed to me, is an old tradition containing obvious truth, a structure to carry it onward, and an emphasis on the negation of the self. This is where I think you’re spot on, and it’s a reason why ‘trad’ religions might be becoming more popular. I think some people want truth, and they want serious practice, and they want tradition, because the liberal mush we are living in is inimical to meaning and truth and is fomenting social breakdown. I agree with JMG that ‘liberal’ Christianity will not survive for this reason. It is too worldly.

    I suppose JMG could be right that in some as yet undefined way a version of Christianity could appeal to the elites at some point, but I could only see that happening if society was radically altered. Real Christian practice is about limits, self-sacrifice, rejection of ‘the world’, love of family and church and love of enemies too. It’s inimical to the selfish impulse that global capitalism fans. Perhaps some post-collapse culture might end up with Christian elites, but I’d say they’re just as likely to be Druids.

    The really big thing though is: truth. ‘What is truth?’ asked Pilate. That’s what matters. Christianity won’t survive if its claims are not true. No path will. We can’t just choose religions like items on a supermarket shelf. If Christianity is true, it will survive and prevail – though not before a predicted persecution. If not, then the future is Druids! We’ll see, I hope.

  143. I have read and reread the post (printed it off) and the comments. I am baffled as to Mr. Kingsnorth hostility. I don’t read where the commentators here were fighting over anti-Christianity or the ideas of Neopagan sectarianism. I do see that Mr. Greer objected strongly to the definition of magic being control over the cosmos. That this definition excludes alchemy and other magics where the magic involved uniting with the Divine.

    Where does the hostility come from? Where does the misreading comes from?

    I am sensitive to this because of my brain injury and trying to understand what is being said. However, all I can glean is Mr. Greer said X and Mr. Kingsnorth read E. Then the conversation was conducted in Plutonian in Mr. Greer’s case and Martian in Mr. Kingsnorth’s case. Why the complete and total breakdown in communication?

    I think it goes beyond Mercury being Retrograde. Does it have to do with the basic difference between the newly converted Monotheist and the longtime Polytheist?

  144. I’ve just finished reading Dreher’s and Kingsnorth’s essays, and I’m more annoyed now than I was at the beginning.

    First, both writers make good points, and some bad ones.

    But Dreher cuts out a specific portion of Kingsnorth’s essay and frames it in such a way that you would think he is specifically and only attacking the practice of magic. That’s not quite true. Kingsnorth makes the point that the central project idea of modern mentality is that the world is a machine or an object which is meant to be dominated and controlled by men, especially through the tool of Science. He does make the point in the essay that certain authors (he references he Englishman Philip Sherrard) have shown how this idea grew out of certain earlier ideas in Western theology, particularly in Aquinas and Augustine. Unfortunately, he doesn’t tell us what those ideas are; I suppose I’ll have to buy Sherrard’s book. Of course, Sherrard isn’t the only one to trace modernity’s destructive way of looking at things to medieval Scholastics; Kingsnorth might have pointed to Richard Weaver or any number of other thinkers.

    And Kingsnorth is indeed making an important point here, even a crucial one. The idea that the world is dead and triumphant Man may do with it as he pleases cannot be condemned too harshly. It is false, deeply immoral, and a rebellion against God. It is not too much to see it at the root of every atrocity of our age.

    He goes wrong, in my view, in two ways.

    First, he downplays the Christian contribution to this idea.

    Here are three contemporary examples.

    “God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, ‘Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It’s yours.’”

    That’s from Ann Coulter, claiming on Hannity and Colmes some years ago to give a Christian response to the environmental movement.

    “But Coulter is an outlier.”

    Is she?

    Archbishop Fulton Sheen once hosted the most popular television show in America, a program called “Life Is Worth Living.” Every episode can be found on YouTube and the show is worth watching. (Indeed, I’d suggest that those who enjoy TV programs ought to watch shows from before they were born, for the same reason that JMG suggests reading books written by authors who died before you were born.) That said, in one episode Sheen explains that Western civilization was born from the confluence of Greek philosophy, Hebrew religion, and Roman law. Discussing philosophy, Sheen specifically ties it to modern science; he explains that without Science, we would be stuck in Eastern pantheism, and “You can’t do Science on Pantheism. You step on a bug, you’re killing God!” The implication is clearly that Science is good, and, whatever else God is, he neither is nor can be found in nature. Step on every bug in the world if you must, in order to advance knowledge; God doesn’t care.

    More recently, I was listening to a conference on Intelligent Design at which a number of scientists who were also Protestant Christians spoke. One theme at these sorts of things is just how unbelievably intricate and complex our cells are. What is that taken to mean? In every case, this: *The cell is a machine.* One researcher, a Christian geneticist who described the work of his company as “doing the work of Jesus, making the deaf hear and the blind see,” was nearly jumping up and down screaming at the microphone, “It’s a machine! A machine!” If you listen to intelligent design people (and you should, they’re fascinating) like Stephen Meyer, this is *always* the conclusion they draw from such things as cellular metabolism and the complexity of DNA. Not “Nature is alive,” but “Nature is a machine.”

    The myth of the machine and of the world-as-machine is rooted in Western consciousness and pervades its religion, its science, and its magic. To single out one or two of those is simply not correct.

    Kingsnorth goes wrong in another way in his singling out of magic. JMG is entirely right to take him to task here, and in exactly the terms he did. If you understand the Western Magical Tradition, you understand that it is rooted in Neoplatonism, as we’ve discussed. Really, it’s more than that– the Western Magical Tradition quite simply *is Platonism,” as that tradition has evolved over the centuries. In the Platonic world, nature is not dead and it is not a machine. Nature is alive. The whole cosmos is a single living being– in fact, a god. The beauty of the natural world is caused by the True Beauty of the Intellectual World. “Intellectual” is spelled “noetic” in Greek, and no one who has any familiarity with Orthodoxy can tell me that the emphasis on the nous and its understanding by Orthodox Christians is not derived from Platonism. It very clearly is. as is much Christian thought and most of the best of it.

    But Kingsnorth starts with something he calls the “Western Mystery Tradition,” a tradition which extends from Pythagoras to Dion Fortune, and specifically singles out goetia and Alesteir Crowley to exemplify it. Why these only? Why not Plotinus?

    “What can it be that has brought the souls to forget the Father, God, and though members of the Divine and entirely of that world to ignore at once themselves and It?

    The evil that has overtaken them has its source in self-will, in the entry into birth, in the desire for self-ownership.” (Enneads V,i)

    And, later:

    “God is present through all– not something of God here and something else there, nor all of God gathered at some one spot; there is an instantaneous presence everywhere, nothing containing, nothing left void, everything therefore fully held by Him.” (Enneads, V,v).

    But this is the same as the vision of the cosmos JMG describes in his post. In his various responses, Kingsnorth shows that he has not understood this. He tells us that “magic binds us to the passions.” Later, he quotes from the Celtic Golden Dawn in order to demonstrate that JMG’s own magical system “is not simply about ‘participation’, it is about control.”

    To claim this, Kingsnorth has to ignore three things. First, the instructions for spirit conjuring in the Celtic Golden Dawn come at the end of a very long and arduous (very arduous) system of training, a major part of whose purpose is, in fact, to aid the soul in the overcoming of the passions. (Overcoming the enslavement of the passions is, in fact, a central part of the Western Mystery Tradition as a whole, which is why Iamblichus introduced his students to Plato by having them read the Alcibiades.) Second, the magician has, by this point, taken a series of oaths, which include an oath to “will the healing, blessing, and unfoldment of every being whatsoever” and never to use magic for “selfish or destructive ends”– with the penalty for the violation of these oaths being, quite simply, that his magic will fail. Third, even with these safeguards in place, the spirits in question are *not,* in fact, bound to the magician’s will. They are not even summoned by the magician. The magician begins by invoking a god, under whose power the entire operation is placed. He then, with the God’s permission, summons an Intelligence– these may be thought of as a kind of angel. The Intelligence is not forced or cajoled, but, rather, *requested,* to summon a spirit under its command, whose function it is to cause physical changes in the world. The Intelligence, a sovereign entity under the rule of a God, could refuse, and then the ceremony ends, just like that.

    Again, this isn’t the sort of thing a good Orthodox Christian might do with his time, but it is a far cry from either summoning demons to get naked chicks to show up at your college dorm, or vivisecting living animals in order to “understand” how they work– or vivisecting live animals and claiming it’s okay because, after all, the Pope has told us that animals don’t have rational souls.

    Finally, Kingsnorth restates his view by claiming that “the Western magical tradition is long, diverse and varied, but a good strand of it is about controlling the forces of the universe and bending them to the human will.”

    I would agree with this statement entirely, if he would only remove one word. That word, of course, is “magical.” The Western tradition, in its science, its politics, its art and architecture, its religion and, yes, its magic, is long, diverse, and varied, but a good strand of it is about controlling the universe and bending them to the human will. And I would add that contained within the Western tradition, existing as a kind of minority report or dissident viewpoint, but found within Western magic as well as Western religion– and just beginning to awaken within Western science– is an alternative viewpoint, which could be called the way of participation. It would probably be better for people of good will, whether starting from either the magical, the scientific, the religious, or any other approach, to work together to develop that alternative viewpoint, rather than engaging in pointless squabbles like this one.

  145. “You’re right that Christianity is now the faith of the backward ‘deplorables’, and that the elites hate it with increasingly open venom. They are much happier with a New Age mush of vaguely witchy, Buddhisty, naturey, ‘spiritual’ wokeness, in which the nice, easy bits from other traditions are patched into a left-bourgeois pseudo-religion which requires no sacrifice from anyone but keeps the unwashed at bay. My suspicion these days is that the whole woke phenomenon is a manifestation of a subconscious anti-Christian rage. It would explain much of the ancestor-hatred.”

    That’s incorrect. New Age spirituality is currently under attack by the elites as being “conspiritual,” largely because, as a group, we are skeptical of the emergency Covid vaccines and we’ve been promoting various alternative treatments to Covid such as a combination of Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Quercetin and Zinc. Elites do not like this. Furthermore, the PMC (professional managerial class) is increasingly called to proffer our undying belief in “science” and denounce unscientific healing practices like Reiki. It’s annoying, and I’ve had to become increasingly careful of what I say to people in terms of recommending treatment regimens, whereas 5 years ago I felt comfortable recommending anything to anyone.

    It’s not to the point yet where I feel that I have to hide my name on sites like these yet, but it’s getting there as the calls to “trust the science” become increasingly shrill.

  146. After reading Kingsnorth’s essay:

    I can see why you’re offended. But I also think there’s an un-addressed bit floating around and sticking everybody in the eye. I remember you explaining on the other blog that mysticism and magic are separate paths, because magic deals with using descending energies to operate on the world, and mysticism being about participating in the ascending energies (apologies for the bad paraphrase. I can’t locate the original discussion). That seems relevant here.

    Your new and improved definition of magic in this essay seems to lean over toward the mystical side. Rather more than previous definitions used, which emphasized will.

    I can’t speak to the magic side of things, because I don’t know enough about it. But Orthodoxy is unquestionably a mystical path– all to do with realigning one’s own particular will, to become one with the Will of God.

    Science as it is currently practiced and used, particularly the bits that make their way into the political sphere, don’t seem terribly compatible with mysticism. But it does have certain parallels with the idea of using power to operate one’s individual will on the world. Kingsnorth doesn’t claim that all magic is like this, or that all magic is bad (and goes out of his way to say that it isn’t), but instead draws parallels between “science” that seeks to operate human wills on the world, and certain branches of magic with similar goals.

    Perhaps it’s a false equivalency. But it has a certain rhyme with previous definitions of magic you’ve used.

    FWIW, I prefer your new definition (being more inclined to mysticism), but that’s the first time I’ve seen you use it so please forgive a reader for coming away with a possibly inaccurate impression.

    All that is my fumbling and roundabout way of saying “I like you both. Please don’t fight.” 😉 You both seem earnest seekers after truth, and well worth reading.

  147. Balowulf @ # 132, JMG’s response illustrates why it is necessary that anyone involved in building and maintaining any sort of alternative institution needs to get their legal, and maybe even extra legal, protections in place now, as in right now today. Before the PMC hangers on looking for something they can be boss of show up. That includes things like documentation at hand, good relationship with the local sheriff, who is elected, remember, cordial interactions with the neighbors, and and all relevant fees paid. Demand written receipts. Attend city council or the equivalent meetings. Yes, it can be expensive and is not going to become any cheaper next year. If you need insurance, find out which companies and agents the local folks use and use extreme due diligence in selecting a company. Remember, just because you paid premiums doesn’t mean the ins. folks are working for you. If you are a non-profit, have your charter written in such a way as to discourage entryism.

    A case illustrating what can happen is provided by a You Tube video I watched about community gardens in NYC. At one time there were said to be about 7000 throughout the city on abandoned lots. At the time of filming there were less than half that total remaining because Mayor Giuliani sold the lots to his real estate friends. For those reading here who think the Republicans are your friends, good luck with that.

  148. Ian @ 138, when did the Romans “become Magian”? Are you referring to the cult of Mithra? It did spread throughout the empire, having a particular appeal to legionaries, but never supplanted the official pantheon.

  149. 1. “magic is the art and science of participation in the spiritual forces of the cosmos.”

    I’ve been trying to formulate a definition of magic like that for a couple of years, but I couldn’t make it so eloquent. I like this definition, only I’d change it a little bit, I’d say that magic is the art and science of participation in the spiritual REALITIES of the cosmos.

    That way the definition is less Nietzschean, less focused on powers, and more focused on the fact that the spiritual dimensions of the universe exist as objective realty and we all participate in it, whether we know it or not.

    2. To anyone who says that God doesn’t want people to practice magic, I want to ask: how do you know?

    3. This may be somewhat off-topic, but I just discovered there will be a total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, and its path will cut right across the United States, diving the country it two parts. I remember JMG saying that solar eclipses are bad news for the countries from which they can be seen. And this one is happening in the same year as the presidential election…I have a really bad feeling about it. I think that’s something you might want to address, JMG?

    The map:

  150. @ Neptunesdolphin #152

    Your confusion is shared. I have no brain injury and am equally
    baffled by the carping going on. Agree to disagree and be done
    with it. As time goes on and peoples’ outlooks mature, views
    will no doubt soften or alter. But for heaven’s sake let it go for now.

    @Steve T. #153

    “It’s a machine! It’s a machine!” Holy crapola, these people
    need to get out more often. I’m a lover of science but I certainly
    don’t see organisms as ‘machines’. Their aliveness is unmistakable.
    Look at a daddy-long-legs, gossamer delicate, with a body smaller
    than a rice krispie and long legs no thicker than one of my head hairs.
    Or watch a mite scurrying across a stone wall and realize that thing
    no bigger than the period at the end of a sentence is just as alive
    as you are. A machine never changes, has no purpose other than what
    you chose to put into it. There’s nothing about it which would leave you in awe
    (unless it’s awe over your cleverness).
    Living creatures are a profoundly different matter. If this ‘it’s a machine’
    business is the best the Intelligent Designers can come up with, they’re even
    more bankrupt than the scientists they criticize.

  151. @oilman2 re #149

    My own personal practice of Judaism is well outside the bounds of what the Rabbinate considers acceptable. I participate in the community services, of course, but they don’t compromise my whole set of activities or beliefs by a long shot. Lots of Jews feel this way, and have their own spiritual path that essentially moves alongside their Judaism. Rabbinic Judaism in my experience and opinion is an empty, academic experience. For that reason, four years ago I joined a program that the Rabbinate pretty well considers as heresy – a returning of Judaism to it’s agricultural earth-bound cyclical roots, incorporating the Divine Feminine as an equal to that warrior-king manifestation everybody else considers the one and only manifestation.

    Our emphasis is on ritual, not study. I will be ordained on October 29th as a Priestess, and the Rabbinate is not amused. They usurped the authority of the priesthood centuries ago, and are especially mortified at the thought a *woman* could be one. The orthodox still don’t accept female rabbis, which is a man made institution (literally and figuratively) – much less female priests and prophets who don’t accept the their patriarchal and disenfranchising interpretations of Torah and halacha.

    And monotheism…well, Jewish mysticism has always known the Divine manifests with different names, genders, and attributes along the Tree of Life. The only “real” GOD is the one *outside* of space time, the ain sof / tzimtzimai, who contracted away from a void in which that stream of energy enters to manifest and sustain all of creation. That being doesn’t have personal relationships. It’s very much as JMG described.

    My goal with Kohenet is to bring back awareness of Shekinah as the animating spirit of the physical universe, which is her “body,” and bring back a balanced view of manifestations of the Divine that includes both male and female. In other words, I’m apostate – apikorus. 😉

    And needless to say I don’t talk about that in my red state conservative evangelical dominated community. It’s too far outside the official republican party line, which peddles the same old patriarchal, predatory capitalist right to rule, exploit, oppress, enslave, and destroy the environment- because they have decided their god said they could.

    That isn’t my god, and never will be. Peace, Leah

  152. Tolkienguy (#135), there are similarities, but there’s a crucial difference: A Christian would equate this limitless center of consciousness with, say, God the Father, and other monotheists with their respective gods (YHVH, for example). A polytheistic Neoplatonist reading of this might be that this divine source is the ground for the panoply of Gods, whose interactions generate the cosmos we inhabit and participate in.

    There is a problem, also, in going from the ineffable One to a specific and particular God, and its one that some theologians have made: when we strip a particular God (let’s say The Father) of his peculiar attributes, and make an equivalence to that aforementioned ineffable “ground,” we lose the specificity of that God’s teachings, and the path we are on. The more we contemplate (likely in vain) the ineffable, the more we cannot recognize the specific path of a given God, and so become disconnected from that God’s path to the divine (in the case of Christians, for example, communion with Christ and his very specific, particular cultus (cross, blood and water, resurrection, etc.), who then allows adherents to participate in the three-person God of that faith).

    Axé and a prayer to the blessed Gods that I have done some justice to these ideas.

  153. Youngelephant, I’ve also read Kingsnorth’s full essay, and my critique remains unchanged.

    Tolkienguy, it seems to me that you’re sliding from “is it conscious?” to “is it a person?” very easily. The Neoplatonist thesis, which most trad occultism applies, is simply that we do have a relationship with what you’ve called the Transcendent Source, but it’s not a relationship between persons because the Source is not a person and cannot be related to as a person. It’s rather more like the relationship between the Sun and the plant whose life is sustained by its rays. From my perspective, the Abrahamic religions confuse their god with the Source, despite the massive problems with that claim, out of what Alfred North Whitehead called “metaphysical flattery” — the tendency to inflate the importance of one’s own object of worship beyond what the facts would merit.

    Michael, I heard about that this morning! TSW…

    Candace, exactly! You’re participating fully in the energy you hope to see expressed in the world, and through that participation, the energy flows more fully.

    Ian, good gods. If the rite of baptism is no longer doing both parts of that process, then the egregor of Christianity is fading faster than I expected. Cue the Plague of False Jesii going into overdrive in 3, 2, 1…

    Rebecca, I read his entire essay once he made it publicly available. My take on it hasn’t changed, because nothing in the broader essay modifies his falsification of what magic is about or his use of the same tired polemic that occultists have been having to shrug off for most of the last four hundred years. Thank you for your account of your experience! You’re better at words than you may think…

    Info, you’d have to ask someone who knows more about Eastern Orthodoxy than I do. As for the attempts to make Christianity low status, have you ever watched someone who railed and snarled and flung insults at a religion, or some other serious commitment, and then suddenly made the commitment? It’s a common human habit. The reason the elite classes are denouncing Christianity root and branch, and joining things like the Satanic Temple, is precisely that they feel the draw of the Second Religiosity and are reacting against it.

    Ray, as I’ve noted already rather more than once, I have no objection to the rest of Kingsnorth’s piece. I simply object to his misstatements about the nature of magic. If he hadn’t made them I would have done something completely different with this essay. If he corrects his mistakes I’ll be the first to thank him for that. The old libel that magic is nothing but seeking power over the cosmos, however, needs to be challenged — especially when it comes from someone who ought to know better.

    Triplet, I read Kingsnorth’s entire essay once he made it publicly available, and my critique remains what it was. I used a different definition here because Fortune’s definition, due to its subtlety, is vulnerable to polemic abuse. Understood correctly — with an eye toward the nature of will as this is understood in occult philosophy, where it’s not the cravings of the isolated personal ego but the essential energy that creates and sustains the self as one of its grades — it embraces both “do what thou wilt” and “thy will be done,” but that becomes clear only if you approach it with a willingness to understand what Fortune was actually saying. Given the way that Kingsnorth manhandled Crowley’s words, I didn’t think I could expect that from him.

    Ivan, thanks for this.

    Jay, definitely bring out the mystics! I’m currently rereading the basic texts I was expected to study before my ordination and consecration in the Universal Gnostic Church — William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience, Evelyn Underhill’s Mysticism, and R.M. Bucke’s Cosmic Consciousness — and it’s been a useful reminder that of all the Christian writers I’ve read, it’s the mystics who come closest to speaking my language.

    Oilman2, thank you. It’s certainly not an original comment on my part. I’m glad you’re finding the OSA work helpful — it’s one path toward certain goals, but it’s a path many people seem to find useful.

    Chris, thanks for the note of sanity!

    Neptunesdolphins, I wish I could answer you.

    Steve, many thanks for this — especially for correcting Kingsnorth’s rather blatant falsifications concerning The Celtic Golden Dawn.

    Methylethyl, I think you’re missing the central point I was trying to make. Yes, magic works with energies descending into manifestation, and those energies can have effects on the world. No, you’re not doing whatever you want with them. The training of the will that serious occultists put themselves through is there so that you can commit yourself wholly to participation in one current of power and allow that to flow through you fully and freely. That’s worlds away from the ego manipulating the cosmos.

    Ecosophian, (1) that works. The reason I referenced “forces” is that the practicing mage generally relates to the primary spiritual realities of the cosmos as centers of force, but I could see a case being made for “realities” instead. (2) Well, there’s that! Dion Fortune had as much right as Kingsnorth to call herself a Christian, and had a very different take on the matter. (3) I haven’t gotten to delineating it yet, but yeah, it’s not a good sign.

  154. Tolkeinguy
    You said: “We both agree that the universe flows from a “vast transcendent center of power and consciousness”. Doesn’t it follow that such a vast center of consciousness-indeed, the origin of all the consciousness in the universe-would itself be conscious? And thus, if we tried to communicate with it, that it could perceive our attempts at communication and respond?”

    To which I would reply with a Kabbalistic note. At the lowest of the 4 worlds, the “Kether” or godhead is perhaps such that one could send a missive in its direction and receive a missive back eventually. You underestimate the vast power of the outflow. “No man may look on the face of God and live.” There are a lot of caveats to that, but even those who have experienced some form of oneness with the divine cannot say that they were in existence as themselves (egoic consciousness) at the time. Only afterwards, as a kind of flash-burn, do they have awareness of some of what they (whatever kind of “they” was in existence) experienced. In the three higher world of emanation, I would propose that it would be more or less impossible to communicate in any meaningful sense. Does the Infinite know you have sent communications towards itself? Of course. But in kabbalah at least, the response is through intermediaries of one sort or another.

    And, let it be said, the Kether we are capable of conceiving of is NOT the infinite. It is the infinite as we are able to imagine. This is why there are further levels of emanation such as the Ain, the Ain Soph and the Ain Soph Aur, part of, in the Lurianic kabbalah, the great withdrawing. Please look all that up as it’s not my purpose to write a book.

    My point is that whatever communication we have with that vast outflow of consciousness is necessarily through intermediaries. Call them angelic (unperceived), angelic (perceived) or divinities…you are not in any position to judge the matter with your eensy teensy consciousness (nor am I).

    My now deceased partner was of the Zen persuasion and was convinced that with enough of the right kinds of effort anyone could quickly penetrate directly through to full enlightenment. Which begs a whole lot of doctrinal points in that tradition. Suffice it to say, she couldn’t understand the purpose of rituals, traditions, emanations or intermediaries either. And I knew of one individual who said that “since we all possess buddha nature already, why do we need to meditate or practice a path involving individual effort?” Ah, to be such an innocent! And that seems to me to be very like your question.

    Which is not to say that the godhead in the form of the Trinity (from a Christian perspective) doesn’t hear your prayers (attempts at communication) and respond. It happens all the time, as many will profess. It’s just that when the Vastness responds, we are in no position to say how many step-down transformers were needed to get an intelligible message to us, but tradition says “a lot.” I hope I’m making sense. To say otherwise would be to set limits on the infinite, or (to misquote Wm. F. Buckley: “to immanentize the eschaton”).

  155. @JMG

    “The training of the will that serious occultists put themselves through is there so that you can commit yourself wholly to participation in one current of power and allow that to flow through you fully and freely. ”

    You know, that sounds awfully similar to what the great ascetic saints are doing. Just replace “current of power” with “Grace of God”…

    That aside, I do feel (a bit like NeptunesDolphins) a bit lost trying to figure out what precisely the dispute is about. It is probably my ignorance of the various stripes of magic y’all are talking about, but from my naive viewpoint, it looks like you’ve pointed out that there is quite a lot of malign magic out there, in addition to the sort you endorse. And he, on his part, allows that there is quite a lot of magical practice out there that is *not* the sort he’s bundling up with bad science. I guess I am having a bit of trouble seeing where the friction is.

    Since you otherwise have so much in common, it’s perplexing to try to sort out.

  156. JMG,

    I don’t know how widespread baptism failure is. My informant isn’t the sort to go to a lot of baptisms (pagan) and not sure if the priest maybe screwed things up or that particular denomination’s rite is wrong, Still…

    As an aside, I’ve been reading “Decline of the West” and my reaction to it is much like your reaction to Crowley: I’ve never disliked a writer so much just because of how their writing makes them come across. It’s not the ideas, which I at least partially agree with. (I’ve bought and read at least 10 of your books, so, yeah, not the ideas, though “Monsters” is my fave, to be fair.)

  157. @ Clarke (if I may)

    Re your response to Tolkeinguy above

    Extra points for the invocation of step-down transformers in a theological discussion!

  158. @jmg
    My ex partner is a practitioner of Wicca and other magic, also highly vindictive and resentful.
    Recently I’ve been experiencing intense dream pattern, which “feel” to me like some form of psychic attack.
    Could you direct me to practices around self protection in this sphere pls?

  159. Dear JMG, Mr. Kingsnorth has several points: magic and science in the western tradition are two expressions of the same mindset, where men placed himself as the measure of all things. Many magicians today, as most scientists still aim to control. Chaos magicians as far as I understood, don’t care about any other scient beings in the universe. They do come from somewhere, is there other tradicion they can claim as their own?

  160. @Paul Kingsnorth

    I think for christianity to be a religion of the next culture/civilization, it is important to see if it can again fill the role it filled in the Roman world. More specifically, in that era, it seems to me that christianity was a visceral and radical (not just philosophical/theological) rejection of Roman civilization, especially of its darker and more destructive aspects – the same aspects that led to its doom. Under visceral and radical I mean the impression it must have left with its basic imagery (i.e. the focus on a poor and pacifistic holy man as opposed to militaristic gods or conquering warlords) and with the example set by its followers (selfless sacrifice in the form of martyrdom).

    I could see christianity playing the same role again, as certainly its emphasis on self-sacrifice contradicts the general theme of the modern west as effectively as it contradicted the general theme of the late decadent Roman empire. At the same time though, I am not quite as sure if traditionalist christianity effectively contradicts every theme of the modern West.

    To clarify what I mean, I think both you, the archdruid and most of the commenters here would agree that a great (or maybe the greatest) Achilles heel of the modern West is its generally unsustainable exploitation-oriented attitude towards the biosphere. It seems to me that an effective religion mimicking the counter-cultural character of early christianity would have to contradict this flaw of the modern west as viscerally as the early christians contradicted the militarism and injustice of the Roman system.

    Certainly it speaks in christianity’s favor that there are some writers which have tried to introduce ecological themes to christianity, or to point out ways they exist already. You yourself are obviously one example. Another example would be your friend Rod Dreher, who I believe explored these themes to some extent in his 2000s book about the “Crunchy Cons”. I am sure there are several other examples of other writers as well that you could name.

    On the other hand, a central focus on christianity seems to me to be the achievement of happiness in a world different from this one, which does seem to me can very easily lead to a devaluation of this world and alongside this, its ecology as well. I have seen some rather strong examples of this on the fringes in western christianity, such as one particular ultra-fundamentalist ultra-calvinist preacher (called John MacArthur), who in one of his speeches more or less said that a destruction of the environment did not matter because it was unchristian for people to be attached to a fallen world in lieu of the world after this one.

    Now I am not saying that the views of this man speak for all christians, let alone for your views. Still, I would be interested to know if you think that traditionalist christianity stands a good chance of not setting such example, and is instead more likely to develop itself into a more ecological religion. I know other than you and Mr. Dreher, there are some developments that would suggest this could happen. For instance I think it was the archdruid who briefly mentioned here once that there is great interest for ecological themes in the works of some of the higher Orthodox clergy (I believe the Patriarch of Constantinople).

    Addendum – to clarify what setting a visceral example against unsustainable ecological exploitation could look like, it could involve something along the lines of green martyrs (in the vein of the early christian martyrs). I know that that’s a rather macabre example, but I think the history of early christianity offers pretty clear proof of the force the presence of such people embodies – and transmits to the rest of the population.

  161. About the Second Religiosity – I can see it from a distance as a trend and a possibility, but an having a little trouble mapping it onto an individual experience, except in someone who is already seeking and not finding.

    As I understand it, you (and Spengler) are talking about a time when one of the educated elite find something they can neither endure nor explain, and for which blaming their long list of scapegoats (those Evul Republicans, the Wrong Democrats, those above them in the hierarchy, etc, etc, etc.. no longer answers. Are we talking the basement brigade? The 50-year-old who’s been downsized? A functioning know-it-all who has a nervous breakdown under the pressures of everyday life in these times? Or just that the sense that “everything I do and am is wrong?” hits them and hits them hard?


    P.S. I’ve been through a few changes of worldview after finding they don’t work. They’re disillusioning at the time and disappointing, and yes, one does look around for answers at those times. It did seem, looking back, like the Coyote’s Journey (Well, I think, Moon, in the example you gave) where each experience leaves a decided change behind it and you think you’re zig-zagging all over creation, but that’s your road. And looking back, “Who was that? Was that I?”

  162. Anybody read “Journey to Orthodoxy?” They feature convert (or “revert”) stories. Kingsnorth is listed under “Wiccans,” (There is a separate category for “Pagans.”)

    Paul, if you’re reading–congratulations on your baptism! Best wishes to you in your new spiritual life. Pray for me.

    At the risk of repeating canned religious rhetoric, I think “My Little Pony” had the right idea about magic: friendship is magic. One Corinthians 13 and all that. Or bodhicitta, as the Buddhists say.

  163. PS. Here are some older “Journey to Orthodoxy” blogposts that I remember finding noteworthy. (They disappear from the site after awhile, hence my reliance on the Wayback Machine.)

    Nilus Stryker, a convert from Nyingma Buddhism (some ngakpa group–possibly Aro gTer?):

    Columbina, a CIA brat and “high-ranking occultist” (I know, I know):

  164. Hi John Michael,

    Thanks. It interests me that the state gobarmint who does exercise power and control over the forests, appears to be doing a terrible job of it. At least they’re consistent over the past 160 years… It seems as if almost every decade would not be quite the same if we didn’t enjoy a massive scaled and out of control wildfire. People inevitably blame climate change (thus acting like victims and perpetrators all at once), but the biggest and baddest wildfire was in 1851, when a quarter of the state burned in a couple of days (the state has the same landmass as the entire UK). It is an impressive achievement to fail so abysmally over so many long years and not attempt a different strategy. Fortunately, such reckless stubbornness will also be their undoing and thing may then return to a saner and more realistic footing.

    Hey, not sure whether you noticed this: China expected to stop phosphate exports, food production prices set to rise. Yikes!



  165. @JMG

    “Info, you’d have to ask someone who knows more about Eastern Orthodoxy than I do. As for the attempts to make Christianity low status, have you ever watched someone who railed and snarled and flung insults at a religion, or some other serious commitment, and then suddenly made the commitment? It’s a common human habit. The reason the elite classes are denouncing Christianity root and branch, and joining things like the Satanic Temple, is precisely that they feel the draw of the Second Religiosity and are reacting against it.”

    Interesting food for thought. I think if people LARP long enough they actually end up believing even when they didn’t believe at first. The brain cannot tell the difference.

    “From my perspective, the Abrahamic religions confuse their god with the Source.”

    I think its because God at least the one who revealed himself to the Prophets calls himself that. To say one’s name is “I AM” is to make himself that Source. Or “Before me there is no God”. “Besides Me there is no other.”. In the stories it is recorded that the demon possessed would also call this God “The Most High God”.

    (I didn’t bother putting references in those quoted statements since all those can be found through search engines by just entering said quoted statement)

    And they ascertain if their prophet has indeed come from their God is that all the predictions come true. Or else its the Death Penalty for that false Prophet.

    Unfortunately in Christian Cosmology.

    This Most High God considers all the other Gods that others worship to be rebels who overstepped their office as being the Spiritual rulers of the various Nations perverting Justice and getting people to worship them as Gods(Psalm 82).

    I think the Book of Daniel even has the Archangel Gabriel and Michael fighting with the “Prince of Greece and Prince of Persia”(Daniel 10).

    Michael Heiser goes into more detail:

    So I think that explains Jewish and Christian history.

  166. Methylethyl, if you compare what he’s saying about magic in his essay to what I say in my response, it really shouldn’t be too hard to figure out what the issue is.

    Ian, fascinating. Well, to each their own!

    Andrew, please ask this on my weekly Magic Monday open post at — I ask people to take questions about practical magic there.

    Elodie, when you say ” magic and science in the western tradition are two expressions of the same mindset, where men placed himself as the measure of all things,” you’re wrong. So is Kingsnorth. No matter how many times he and you repeat that mantra, it’s still not true of magic. That’s my point. As for chaos magic et al., if you actually take the time to read my post, you’ll see I’ve already addressed that question.

    Patricia, it’s both subtler and more pervasive than that. In ages of reason the comfortable classes typically adopt some secular philosophy as a substitute for religion, and use that to provide themselves with a sense of meaning and purpose in life. It doesn’t work indefinitely, and when the age of reason falls apart — as it inevitably does — people in the comfortable classes lose faith in their secular philosophy. The result is the typical disorientation and dread that hits people who no longer have any basis for their vision of life, and so the majority of them turn to the obvious alternative: the traditional religions of their culture. In the present case, Christianity has a very detailed narrative of conversion waiting for them, and they — as Kingsnorth has done — can enact some form of that narrative and be accepted by the church. So I expect to see a lot of people in the comfortable classes finding Jesus, acting out one of the standard narratives in the process, over the next couple of decades.

    Chris, I think it was John Kenneth Galbraith who said, “You’ll find that goverment is the kind of thing that, while it does small things badly, does big things badly too.” As for the phosphate situation, yes, I saw that — one more reason to convert to organic methods sooner rather than later!

    Info, I knew a guy who used to sing a little ditty about that kind of logic:

    “My god’s better than your god,
    My god’s better than yours,
    My god’s better ’cause he gets veneration
    My god’s better than yours.”

    Religions that insist that their god is the One and Only have always seemed to me to be singing some variant of that.

  167. JMG (no. 175) “In ages of reason the comfortable classes typically adopt some secular philosophy as a substitute for religion, and use that to provide themselves with a sense of meaning and purpose in life.”

    This is the point in a “What If Alt-Hist” (Rudyard Lynch) YouTube video, where a photo of Jordan Peterson would appear.

    Info (no. 174) “I think if people LARP long enough they actually end up believing even when they didn’t believe at first. The brain cannot tell the difference.”

    This is the premise of Kurt Vonnegut’s “Mother Night.”

  168. I read Kingsforth’s full essay since he made it available and I don’t understand how he thinks it changes the target of the critique?

    Dreher pretty much quoted the entire portion where he mentions and discusses magic and how it stems from the same root need to control the universe as does Faustian physical science.

    JMG’s critique is addressing the fact that this view of magic is very limited and comes from selective reading of esoteric literature even within the western esoteric tradition itself.

  169. The Christianity is not mainstream spirituality of the western world for at least two centuries and is under heavy attack from globalist consumerism and fake moralism (Woke). But it’s a shame that most of the westerners are not informed about ancient mythology and Christianity, two pillars on which all European culture is based. Not knowing Christianity is like not knowing one of your parents, and it’s difficult to rebel against your parents if you don’t know them. Knowing your parents takes some time and effort, but it’s useful. Knowing your parents is somewhat discouraging because they are so big and know much more than you do!

    In my opinion this is excellent way to have a taste of Orthodox tradition, and of Christianity in general:

  170. Good Lord my head hurts in the exact same way than it did with your conversation with Hughes. A point being hammered into position with blind perseverance. I suddenly recall a phrase from a a teacher that said that no pot can be filled with soil if its upside down.

  171. So, the magic described by Mr K is the science of control, and the magic described by Mr G here seems much closer to mysticism. In essence, we have two very different aims while using the same word.
    I always thought of science as a method, a form of thought applied to a problem, which almost always refers to something rather concrete. Magic, it seems to me, is not bound by those same rules, simply because the field of magic is simply irreducible to cold, hard measurement.
    Science has quite a bit to answer for, in terms of the condition of the world. The current mania regarding ” the pandemic”, has punishing, draconian measures ostensibly supported by ‘science’, or so they who deploy them claim. Science is leading us directly into another energy crisis, and science is used like a club by land management agencies whose addiction to fire is devastating rural America. From my point of view, science is now a catch all phrase to excuse egregious behavior.
    Considering the impact of magic, vs the impact of science, it’s pretty impossible to support Mr. K.’s point of view.
    If science has proved anything, it has amply proved that the reduction of our planet to mere “resources” is a sure fire recipe for degradation, species annihilation, and heedless nihilistic avarice. Science is utterly incapable of providing any connection, or relationship with the forces that shape our existence.
    Magic, even at it’s worst, is an appeal to those very forces, an attempt to build relationships, and an effort to honour them. Very bad magic can have very ugly personal results, but to my knowledge it has never steered greater humanity to the brink of ruin.
    Religion, as in established state religion, is the evident parent to science. I don’t personally find any real conflict between science and religion, unless one wishes to rank them as one above the other, but there is a huge conflict with both and magic.
    In conclusion then, I think it is more than a stretch to equate science and magic as interchangeable. However, religion and science, now that is a different matter.

  172. For what it’s worth, my own take on this debate is that magic isn’t the issue at stake. Fundamentally, it comes down to differing perspectives regarding the individual.

    The dominant culture of the English-speaking countries is intensely individualistic. The exception would be Ireland, and it’s no surprise to me that Paul has ended up there. I also exclude the other Celtic fringes, where different cultures still hold sway. The US is the most extreme example of this, and many the past discussions on this site relate to how hyper-individualism powered by cheap energy have created a culture in which nothing whatsoever, even nature and biology, are permitted to frustrate the exercise of individual will. It is trying to export this culture globally, which is leading to conflict – but that’s for a different discussion. While our host and the commentariat don’t adhere to this belief, it nevertheless seems clear to me that ritual magic is rooted in the same focus on the individual, and on individual will. Whether or not we call it “control”, it’s very much about the individual.

    However, this cannot be the basis of a society absent the surplus energy which makes it possible. Where there is not a surplus, the necessities for material and spiritual life can only be provided by a community. For communities to operate successfully, the individual must accept limits, and must participate in the value systems etc which allow the community to cohere. This requires the individual to view themselves as subordinate to the community: to something greater than themselves. This is something that many people from the Anglo world resist fiercely; to even suggest it can provoke a furious response.

    Now that we have reached the end of our energy surplus, we see the results. On the one hand, we observe massive cognitive dissonance as the uber-individualists try to deny that the party’s over, and seek scapegoats to explain why things aren’t working as they’re supposed to. On the other hand, people who are waking up to the reality of the situation are seeking a community. Paul Kingsnorth has been quite clear about this as a factor in his conversion to Orthodoxy (in the first video I linked to above). As he’s pointed out here, Orthodoxy is a very different thing to the Christian tradition that established itself in Rome and subsequently threw off splinter groups, especially in the English-speaking world. Orthodoxy is based in quite different spiritual and cultural assumptions, which is perhaps why Americans, viewing religion through experience of the Southern Baptists etc, struggle to grasp it.

    As our societies decline, more and more people will look for spiritual communities which are capable of holding social communities together. Orthodoxy is well-placed for this – particularly as it is the only major Christian tradition to have centuries of experience in surviving under the temporal rule of non-Christians. Druidry – sadly, because I speak as a Druid – isn’t going to make it, so long as it remains dominated by culturally Anglo individualists: you can’t build an enduring, resilient community from that. My own blog project is an attempt to address that by going back to Revival Druidry’s roots, and exploring Iolo Morganwg’s original vision.

    And since I’ve mentioned my blog, I discussed these issues in a post a few months ago; I used Paul’s conversion as a topic, as well as a seeming change in the views of Druid writer Rhyd Wildermuth. I tried to discuss both individuals’ views fairly and respectfully but I don’t know either of them, so may have misunderstood. Anyway, if anyone is interested, it’s here: Thoughts from the Orthodox.

  173. For those who regard this as a mere “kerfuffle”:

    It is tempting to view the past through the lens of the present, in which people feel relatively free to voice esoteric and mystical ideas that in other eras (not long ago!) would be forbidden. A cursory survey of history should tell us this was not always the case. From “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” to the fate of Giordano Bruno and beyond, anti-magical sentiment was standard and had deadly consequences (the U.S. has had its own reckoning with anti-magical bias in the Northeast, if I remember right…) There are purely practical reasons why “the occult” remains “occult,” and it’s this prejudice (conflating all magic with the purely diabolical) that I suspect JMG is arguing against.

    (The further irony being that, from my point of view, traditional Catholic and Orthodox services employ what is in effect ceremonial magic, though of the sanctioned variety.)

    As a mentor of mine often remarked: “There are good and bad of all kinds,” and this cuts across the realms of science, magic, and even conventional religion.


  174. Like many others here, this passage has had a remarkable effect* on me:

    “Imagine for a moment a limitless center of consciousness and power beyond space and time, blazing with the light of a billion suns, transcending personality and impersonality alike. From that immeasurable source, great streams of creative force surge outward through the planes of existence, passing through countless other subordinate centers of consciousness, divided and refracted on the way into equally innumerable individual currents. Some of these currents reach all the way to the densest plane of existence, the one we call material reality. There they take the form of things and beings, each one created and sustained by the outpouring of divine creative force, each one capable of evolving toward life and consciousness in its own way.”

    I have ruminated upon this paragraph, converted into a single mental image, and combining that image with the words “participation” together with the famous Buber distinction between “I/it” and “I/you”. Here are one or two highlights, in no particular order. One is that “participation” means that every “center of consciousness and power [and will]” (at whatever scale) is a “you” (for an “it” can neither know nor care nor enter into relationship and has no agency or power of action). And an “I” for the purposes of this image, is simply the “inside perspective” that exists within every one of the “you’s” (one might call it the central core of a given “center of consciousness and power [and will]”; one might also call it a “self”) but no “it” has any perspective at all, therefore an “it” cannot be an “I” any more than an “it” can be a “you”.

    Now, touching on the sense of “machine-like wrongness” that I think few here disagree is a central fault in this time and place which we “you’s” happen to occupy, one of it’s remarkable features is the attempt to control/subdue/subordinate other “you’s” by treating them as “it’s” – by disregarding their consciousness, by dismissing their agency, and by trying to fit them, cog-like, into a machine, operated by the single will (the “you”) that assembled it.

    And, so, if I wish to participate in this world’s ecologies, biotas and theotas both, then it behooves me to take account of the “I” residing at the centre of each other “you” and work at relating to it. (which relationship *may* not necessarily be all sweetness and light. It so happens that one can play, one can fight, one can help, one can hurt, one can kill, one can give birth to others without ever turning them into an “it”). But in all those cases as soon as we disregard the will or the agency of the other, we have “it-ified” them, and sinned against both them and ourselves.

    In the final analysis, then, taking the larger view, if I were to allow myself to be “it-ified” (by negating my “self”, or by disregarding my will in craven submission to another YOU – however powerful and great) would I not be committing the same sin? And presuming there WAS such a great and powerful being who had any use for my submission, my self-negation, my self-itification, would they not also sin?

    Is the non-machine way, the way of participation, not built of “you/you” relationships (or YOU/You/you) relationships, ALL the way up and ALL the way down the scales?

    Ok, so that got long. Anyway, once again, thank you for this lovely, and somehow familiar, image!

    *if I could put words on it (I can’t) they might signal something like the feeling of coming home.

  175. “My god’s better than your god,
    My god’s better than yours,
    My god’s better ’cause he gets veneration
    My god’s better than yours.”

    Presumably sung to the tune of the old Ken-L-Ration jingle, selling dog food!😇 Younger folks here won’t know of that, of course, but the irony sure made me giggle.

  176. I was reading Gary Lachman’s latest book – The Return of Holy Russia. He makes the point that Western intellectual thought revolves around rationality and logic. It leads to the idea of dominion over the Cosmos.

    I believe that the standard definition of magic that most people glom onto is the one that presents the magician using their will to make things happen. Chaos magic from what I learned is about exploiting the probabilities of events. Start small with a small probability and work for a cascading action to occur.

    What Lachman was trying to explore in the Russian point of view was the sense of how man is a part of the Cosmos. He doesn’t quite understand the Russian point of view.

    What I gleamed is the Polytheistic point of view is the one where people are a part of the ecology of Universe. For me, magic happens when people interact (or as Mr. Greer states participates) with the other beings of the Universe.

  177. Mike K. @ 180 I think you are failing to ask one or rather two very important questions, which are Who is giving the orders? and Who is paying the bills? (Not to mention Qui bono?) For the most part, scientists do neither. Obama did appoint a Nobel prize winning physicist to be secretary of energy, I believe it was, but it is arguable how much influence he actually had.

    You stated: ” Science has quite a bit to answer for, in terms of the condition of the world.” Are you not confusing science with technology and technology with the use that is made of it? Surely I need not go into the many technologies which have been abandoned or never used because their use didn’t or would not make enough money for some financial backer. That is why, famously, most of our present high tech was developed by our deep pocketed federal gov. Now I happen to think that us citizens deserve a lot more in the way of dividend from private profiteers using technologies gifted them courtesy of us taxpayers.

    You also stated: ” science is used like a club by land management agencies whose addiction to fire is devastating rural America”. I grew up in the far West, Smokey the Bear posters in every school hallway, and I have seen forest fires. And a terrifying sight they are, even from a safe distance. The town of Paradise, CA., did not burn to the ground because of policies of BLM, or the Forest Service. While those policies may have contributed, that is another story, the initial responsibility belongs to a for profit private company named Pacific Gas and Electric which failed to do due diligence in keeping its’ power lines free from flammable debris. PG&E had already lost law suits and had to pay out compensation for similar offenses; this year the company seems to have decided it is cheaper to go ahead and admit responsibility and avoid the costs of going to court while absorbing any fines as a cost of doing business. Neither political party is willing to blame Free Enterprise (Republicans) or the immigrant crews, doubtless underpaid and unsupported–does PG&E provide snake boots for guys working in rattler infested areas?–(Democrats) who quite understandably rushed through the job. Piece work is like that. You do it as fast as possible so you can go and make more money somewhere else.

    You also stated: “science is now a catch all phrase to excuse egregious behavior.” Now that is what I think the phrase ‘free enterprise’ is, permission for worshippers of the God, Mammon, quite a few of whom call themselves Christian, or Jewish or, more recently, Muslim and Hindu, to commit any crime or atrocity in pursuit of more money than they can possibly spend in one lifetime.

  178. @ Bogatyr – I want to thank you for your thoughts both here in the comments and in your blog posts.

    I was particularly struck by a phrase you used in your blogpost, quoted below. If you do not mind, I would like to respond with an exploration of what it “bounced up” against in my own thinking.

    In your post you said: “It seems to me that a faith-based community that rejects the subordination of the individual to a greater whole, and rejects any attempt to find a common agreement on worship, is neither a community nor, in fact, a faith.”

    The specific phrasing that struck me was “the subordination of the individual to a greater whole”… and that because it seems to me that it precisely describes the Borg-like Machine nightmare that is being offered to us. That is to say, I do not think that US culture has exalted the individual, rather it has atomised every person to their lowest, most unconnected, interchangeable common denominator, so as to “subordinate” them more and more into the “greater whole” that one might call “The Capitalist Industrialist Technocratic Machine”. In this, a Self, with all of its connectedness to a whole ecology of relations, is debased to its most un-Self-like features – desires, fears, the hooks that enable this atomised (ie de-humanised) person to be more easily manipulated, dominated and subdued.

    While I agree with you that it is the people who are more solidly knit into thick networks of personal, communal, and spiritual relationships who can more easily resist the Machine, I do think that the Machine itself would very much like to subordinate us (debase us) to ITS greater whole.

    I want to ask you whether it is not more fitting to re-introduced these atomised, family-stripped, community-stripped, earth-stripped and dehumanised people whose existence you are reading as the “hedonistic individual” to what it means to be a fully human self, including how participation in a greater human ecology, comprising living land communities and living spirit communities brings a human being properly *home*, than to emphasise a need to “subordinate” ones rescued human SELF to some (ANY) abstraction – such as “a greater whole”; such as “a greater good”; such as “the community”; such as”the faith”; such as “the country”; such as any abstraction at all that lends itself to a project whereby one person can subordinate others to *that* person’s will and purpose.

  179. Scotlyn,
    Regarding that beautiful paragraph, one can review the work of the Platonists, especially Proclus and
    Iamblicus, for further study. This model of a Cosmos overflowing with itself was fundamental to the understanding of an emanated cosmos, one where it was fully possible to return to the source through the magical practices of Theurgy.
    Some of this tradition did find itself into Christianity through Master Dionysus, although the western church, through Aquinas, rejected this theology as pagan.
    Aquinas opened a huge can of worms here that can never be closed, because scholars today are forced to admit that everything in Christianity is an appropriation. There is no such thing as a native Christian religion or practice.
    Perhaps the one body of scripture that best reveals the spiritual recognition of the overflowing ,
    cosmos is found in the Gnostic Corpus. This would include the record of their descendants, who have been subject to eradication campaigns, both Manichaeans and the Druze.

  180. Bei, I see Peterson as a transitional figure, providing an explicit secular philosophy (with Jungian tie-ins to spirituality) as a replacement for the implicit secularism that pervades the culture just now. The next step from Peterson is a church of some kind.

    Alvin, thank you. Yes, that was exactly what I was saying.

    Ivan, thanks for this. Just remember that classical mythology can also lead in some directions very far removed from Christianity!

    Augusto, there’s a reason for that. Wokesterism is a Christian heresy — an extreme heresy, being derived from Marxism, which is itself out on one end of the spectrum of the Modernist heresy, but a Christian heresy nonetheless. As with all such heresies, there’s a pervasive temptation to go from “the belief system I have embraced is absolutely true and I shouldn’t let myself listen to arguments against it” to “my opinions of the moment are absolutely true and I shouldn’t let myself listen to arguments against them”.

    Mike K, that word “science” is just as slippery as “magic,” of course. When people shout “trust the science!” in defense of policies that can’t be justified on any actual scientific basis, as of course they so often do, you know that “science” has been turned into a meaningless verbal noise meaning “doubleplusgood” in the current Newspeak. One of these days I need to post an essay on participatory science — yes, there is such a thing! — and what possibilities it offers us in our current historical predicament.

    Bogatyr, good. You’re quite correct that the traditions of Western magic focus on the individual as distinct from the collective consciousness of society. You’re mistaken that a focus on individualism depends on surplus energy, but it’s an understandable mistake, because from a European perspective individualism can only express itself via the Faustian will to power — the driving force behind our current technology, as of so many things. Here in North America the land speaks a different language. It’s not accidental that so many of the native peoples here have religious traditions in which personal relationships with a unique individual guardian spirit are central, or that it’s above all the poor and working classes here that affirm the idea of individual liberty which the comfortable classes, caught up in a Faustian pseudomorphosis and its will to power, cannot tolerate.

    What will happen on your side of the pond is not something I’m prepared to assess, but on this side of the Atlantic the spirit of barn raisings and camp meetings, of communities of free individuals freely cooperating or taking their own road, is the rising current. That’s an incomprehensible concept in the Magian world and the nascent Sobornost’-culture of the future Russian great civilization, and nearly as incomprehensible in the Faustian world, which can’t conceive of an individual without at once assigning him the role of conquering everything he surveys. But then that’s an inevitable difference — there are many ways of being human, and they are not mutually comprehensible.

    Fra’ Lupo, thanks for this. I don’t often bring that up, because it was used to death by Wiccan propagandists back in the day to justify their own dubious behavior, but of course it’s always an issue.

    Scotlyn, thanks for this! The core image is straight out of classic Neoplatonism, shaped to some extent by the Rosicrucian literature I’ve been studying of late; your extrapolations from it seems spot on to me. As for a sense of homecoming, I get that.

    Jim W, bingo! That’s the one.

    Neptunesdolphins, yes, exactly. For complex historical reasons, traditional occultism has been in eclipse — especially here in the United States — and the sort of pop-culture magic I critiqued in my post has been in the ascendant for a while. I’m trying to fix that. 😉

  181. Triplet #144 said:

    Soft, helpless, manipulable. Such qualities make one an effective vehicle for the will of SOMEONE, but to my mind it is just as likely to end up being the will of a priest, a New Age guru, or some other predatory creep as it is the Divine Will.

    Of course, one can also lean too far into ego and personal will. And for sure, pop occultism is guilty of this more often than not. Personally, learning to let go and surrender has been a big part of my journey with magic as I’ve gone deeper below the surface.

    One surrenders one’s tiny will in order to gain higher perceptivity and a higher-functioning subtle body. The human species is very good at over-activity whether of the mind or the body. The Apana vayu (the various energies that discard things, release things, etc) is typically under-developed in the average non-spiritual person.

    If a religion’s practices do not lead to higher functioning perceptiveness the result is exactly as you say. Either way perceptiveness is stunted and off-balance in both cases. Either too flaccid and inactive for the circumstances or an over-abundance of incorrect assessments of ‘what needs to be done’.

    That’s what the Buddha’s sutra to the Kalamas was all about.

    But in order to do as He advised one has to continually be working at spiritual practices for increasing one’s perceptiveness and subtlety of both one’s physical and subtle-bodies. The dharma traditions divide these up into 2 primary pathways to gain that increased perceptiveness and functionality.

    One pathway uses rituals, divination, etc as a means. This is tantra. Tantra is a type of technology. Rituals are a type of skillful technology. Astrology is a type of skillful technology. It’s essentially ascending via participation in Divine Mind to ever-more subtle – and thus more powerful – levels of Divine Mind. Eventually the tantric makes the leap from Divine Mind to Divine Superconsciousness.

    The other primary pathway is yogic. It’s entirely internalized within one’s own physical body and mind. I suppose you could call it a sub-specialty of the tantric pathway because it’s a kind of technology too albeit the technology is entirely internalized to one’s own body. Only about 5-10% of humans have the necessary samskaras for this pathway to be successful as their primary way of ascending the Planes. It mostly sets Divine Mind aside a bit to make the straight shot to Divine Superconsciousness instead from the get-go. Sunya Kriya, for example is pure yoga. Everything takes place inside. You carry your ‘technology’ around inside you. No need for an alter, rituals, talismans, etc.

    Very weirdly, the 2nd pathway (yogic) is the one that Axial Age religions constantly harped on and kept peddling to the masses – Islam in particular really peddles it hardcore – why I don’t know – when only 5-10% of the human species have the right kind of samskaras for it to be a success. Without the right kind of samskaras (ie. for the other 90%) it practically guarantees the two soured scenarios you mentioned.

    I have surmised all these religions did this because the first pathway (tantric) has by far the much greater risk of being misused and abused for selfish gain and to be used to increase human suffering than the purely yogic path. If one is using the tantric means to ascend one’s level of integrity and responsibility when under duress needs to be greater too.

    Anyway, eventually both paths lead to Divine Superconsciousness.

    To the extent your own religious practices and Kingsnorth’s religious practices help do that they’re each the ‘right’ religion. 🙂

  182. Quick Note:

    Sunya Kriya has an alternate spelling – Shoonya – that upon reflection I wish I’d used since it actually indicates better how the word is pronounced.

  183. @JMG and @ Mike K – well, it seems that I have a whole new chapter of readings to get to. I really have missed out on that whole Platonic curriculum (although I have often seen it referenced here, of course). Instead I have mostly got to where I am through expanding the biological and ecological studies that I am more familiar with to include the participant ecological realm of the “theota” (for which term, h/t to your good self, JMG, in a reply to one of my long ago comments).

  184. “Bei, I see Peterson as a transitional figure, providing an explicit secular philosophy (with Jungian tie-ins to spirituality) as a replacement for the implicit secularism that pervades the culture just now. The next step from Peterson is a church of some kind.”

    There arguably already is such a “church” in the form of the Sunday Assembly movement.

  185. @JMG

    As a follow-up to your response, I must say I am still not fully convinced. However, to avoid just restating my disagreement (which would be boring), I tried to work through in more detail what exactly I disagree with about your argument. As best I can tell, your position can be divided into two components, only one of which I disagree with (the other component is plausible). The two seem to be:

    1.) That a revived christianity will be the second religiousness, with the implication that it will be later supplanted by a new religious attitude forming the nucleus of the next civilization (as Spengler’s theory says it should). On this point, I do not think it is wrong – I would rather say it is a reasonable scenario but not a certainty. I think it’s easy enough to see a plausible scenario where a coherent and sincere form of traditionalist christianity becomes popular among some sections, but fails to incorporate some key innovations to their outlook, thus leaving them out of date over the longer tem – this would especially be the case with regard to their ecological attitudes. This would thus leave them as the second religiousness, whereas a more innovative religion would replace them after the fall of the West.

    2.) That traditionalist christianity will be adopted by a large part (in one of your responses you said majority) of the elites. I think, after introspection, that this is the part I disagree with. I think the reason is that the modern relationship between christianity and the civilization seems to me to be different than the relationship between previous ancestral religions and the civilizations that they spawned.

    To take the Roman example, it is true that there was a trend of scepticism and rationalism in their civilization that was a type of rejection of their ancestral religion (e.g. Lucretius). Still, it seems to me that the separation between the sceptical attitude and traditional roman religion was not particularly violent or clearly drawn, as so many of the themes of roman civilization seem to have lasted rather intact until the end of the empire (such as its domineering militarism). The resistance to the traditional Roman mores also seems to have been rather chaotic, fleetic and disorganized, as the Romans that flaunted such values (e.g. Clodius, Caligula, Elagabalus, Ovid etc.) seem to have been dealt with rather effectively and quickly after their rebellion against the mores became unmistakable.

    By contrast, in our civilization christianity seems to have been rather unambigously and violently rejected by movements which are organized and (by now) quite long lasting. The broad trend is the same, but the lines seem to have been drawn much more sharply, as evidenced by the explicitly anti-western and anti-christian attitudes of elites in the current historical moment.

    There’s several examples that could be indicated to support this but my mind is especially drawn to the over-the-top and hysterical recent reaction of most Western elites to the Texas late-term abortion restriction, which emitted quite a lot of venom against a relatively mild and benign restriction of some types of abortion (which was of course informed by the Christian dogma on the beginning of life at conception). Similarly, there is the purging of people from elite ranks who have traditionalist Christian opinions (i.e. anti-LGBT opinions, prioritization of religious duties over vaccination), which seems to me to be the exact opposite of a sign that the elite is chomping at the bits to become Christian – after all, traditionalist Christians are being literally cast out of the elite by being fired from their administrative and corporate roles as we speak.

    Thus with the rejection being as loud as it is, it does not seem to me that a majority of the elites would convert back to traditionalist christianity. The Roman example is not valid in this case because our elites reject the traditional attitude much more violently and unmistakably than the Romans seem to have done (or so it seems to me). And even if the elites were to convert to something called “christianity” it is even less plausible that their conversion was sincere – at best they would be “Christians” in the same vein that the boozing and whoring Merovingian Frankish kings were sincere christians. It would not meet the standards of the earnest Julian/Sallust style of second religiousness.

    As an addendium though, I think that my broad view agrees with most of what I understand to be your broad view (and as far as I can tell, most of Paul Kingsnorth’s broad view). Namely, the latter stages of the West will involve a return to spirituality, which will include as its forms rehashes of old ancestral religions (the branches of Christianity), new religious forms (i.e. New Age, eastern religions and the hot upcoming Druidic-Zoroastrian religion) and a dizzying array of hybrids between all of these, alongside an equally diverse philosophical and occult tradition. From this soup, one faith or set of faiths will endure whereas the others will fade – however, the “winning” religions will themselves be hybrids that incorporate adapted practices and principles from the “losing” religions, philosophies and occult practices.

  186. JMG and all -I have been reading Paul Kingsnorth’s blog for a while – after seeing a link to one of his essays on here. I find his writing moving and beautiful, elegiac almost, about the soulless forces in the world destroying so much that is beautiful about what it is to be human in the web of life on this planet. So much of what he writes makes sense to me and his labelling of these forces as the machine was a major ah ha! moment for me. I did wonder, when he wrote about science and magic, what JMG’s thoughts would be. I should say at this point, I don’t follow any of the programmes of magical study on here, not because I don’t think they have value, but because they are demanding and I have other practices, namely Tai Chi and quietly spending time in nature. I am respectful of everything JMG writes and offers, while I mainly follow his analysis of the unfolding clusterfrack, that is the arrival of our culture at peak industrial civilisation. So I’m not commenting on the technical aspects of JMG’s critique of Paul’s points about science and magic. That is way above my pay grade. I am however, disheartened at the apparent pile on against Paul by people who haven’t read his work and are swift to judge him without making that effort. If I apply the skills in critical thinking at which, I acknowledge, I am still very much a beginner, I find ad hominems and group think; surely this most excellent commentariat can play the ball and not the man? —
    John is this your Aspergers? (I’m not being rude, my son is an aspi dear of him, and he’s not always so good at conversation). It’s cool, you have a brilliant mind and are clearly a world teacher for those lucky enough to find you. I miss Bill Pulliam and Shane, they disagreed with you in a much more confident way than I can – I’d hate to see this wonderful salon become an exercise in groupthink. Reading you has changed my life, Paul is talking to you, he’s not assaulting you.

  187. @Ian: I read Decline of the West first at age 12, and pieces of it again over the last 30 years. There are many insights in it, but I agree with you that Spengler seems to have had a very disagreeable personality. My school had an old Handbook of Style (for German literature), old enough to consider Spengler a well-known example. The author wrote several vignettes of extreme styles, and took Spengler as the paradigm of the “High Priest” because of his insufferable snobbishness. He cited one spot (I can’t find it now), where Spengler, in a single sentence, managed to disparage the entire 19th century of German literature, including Nietzsche, all to set himself in a better light…

  188. JMG said: “You’re mistaken that a focus on individualism depends on surplus energy,”

    I would like to see more support for your comments that follow the above sentence.
    In fact, North America suffered a process of depopulation (that you talked about before) which explain the individualism present here after the 15th century. Is there any support for it before the contact with the Europeans (which caused the genocide)?

    If you look at individualism in Europe, you can see the same pattern – the countries that were not too overpopulated encouraged individualism. It does not matter if the population was low due to plague or continuous wars or climate change.

    Compare European/American individualism with the communalism of densely populated Asian countries – independent of culture or history.

    I am willing to bet that a map of individualism in cultures around the globe would match perfectly with the excess food available on one hand and the extremes of climate (seasonality) on the other.

  189. John Michael, I’m sorry to quibble with your glorious description of a universe utterly overflowing with spiritual forces with which we can choose to willingly participate and cooperate. However, I do feel called to question your image of “a limitless center of consciousness and power beyond space and time, blazing with the light of a billion suns”.

    Hopefully, that “billion suns” is just there for ease of visualization, as a billion is a pretty paltry number considering all the galaxies that will exist through all the ages of time. That billion would also reflect a rather measly number of gods coming through the pipeline, given that there’s eight billion aspirants in the human race alone at the moment, here on this one dinky planet.

    Anything so dim as to be burning with the light of merely a billion suns sounds more likely to be one of the “countless other subordinate centers of consciousness, divided and refracted” within the streams of creative force surging outward from the original source. I could see Athena possibly shining like a billion suns, or Yahweh, or Quetzalcoatl, but I imagine the life force itself would be so illuminating that it would cause those gods’ brilliance to seem like flickering candle flames by comparison.

    Some day, in some time and space that we can’t even imagine, let alone comprehend, we will come to realize that we are that blaze of light… and always have been. And those gods, and stars, and rocks, and leaves as well. Some day we will come to realize that participating in the flow of the will of the universe is merely learning to cooperate with ourselves. And that futilely attempting to somehow control the spiritual realm is merely being unwilling to participate in that flow by throwing a temper tantrum instead. How foolishly mortal of us!

    To be honest, we’ve all been way too practiced at throwing tantrums down through the ages — scientists, magicians, and priests alike. Hopefully, the approaching age that we can all feel rushing down upon us with terrifying ferocity will take a keener interest in practicing participation in the flow of the universal will, instead of the booby prize of just trying to control it. Thank you for taking the time this week to eloquently and vividly describe that essential distinction, and for laying out for us all the fundamental choice we are faced with, standing at the brink between a dying age and one not yet conceived.

  190. Tlong, good heavens. I hadn’t heard of that yet. Thank you.

    Sam, fair enough. Maybe it’s that I’m currently reading The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James, which talks at length about the way conversion experiences very often involve a 180° pivot in attitudes and beliefs, but I see the violent rejection of Christianity by the comfortable classes more along the lines of people railing at something they’re going to embrace in due time. But we’ll see, of course, which of us turns out to be closer to the facts of the matter.

    Falling Tree Woman, I don’t object to your comments — I disagree with them, but as a longtime reader you know well that I’m entirely comfortable with disagreement here. With regard to Kingsnorth, I don’t think it’s my Aspergers in this case, though of course I could be wrong; he’s saying things about magic that are not true, and distorting the published words of two different writers (Aleister Crowley and me) to try to push his point. That’s what I’m objecting to in his essay.

    NomadicBeer, since no culture further north than southern Mexico had written language before Columbus arrived, how could I answer that? All we have to go by are postcontact records — though those are pretty consistent, you know.

    Christophe, er, it was a poetic image. When Burns said “My love is like a red, red rose” he didn’t mean she had green skin and thorns…

  191. “Bei, I see Peterson as a transitional figure, providing an explicit secular philosophy (with Jungian tie-ins to spirituality) as a replacement for the implicit secularism that pervades the culture just now. The next step from Peterson is a church of some kind.”

    Somewhat fitting for this conversation is that Jordan Peterson is friends with Jonathan Pageau, an orthodox artist who carves icons out of wood. Pageau has been trying to persuade Peterson to become an orthodox. Peterson, in one interview, looked as if he was about to convert. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did within a year or so.

  192. @JMG (#162)…I will have to think about that. It actually jives with some ideas in mainstream Christianity-for instance, its an Orthodox teaching that anyone who actually saw God the Father would instantly drop dead, and I once had a priest who speculated that all the dealings of the Israelites in the Old Testament with God were actually with Jesus, as God the Father is utterly impossible for humanity to relate to. This would also make Jesus’s declaration that “nobody comes to the Father except though me” make more since (if we take the Father to be the Neoplatonic One).

    Also, just going over some of Kingsnorth’s comments, something stuck out that might not be apparent to those who aren’t familiar with Eastern Orthodoxy and its theological fault lines: he cites certain writings by Seraphim Rose. Seraphim Rose was an Orthodox monk and writer in (I think) 1970’s California who was undoubtedly very brilliant, but who ultimately came to believe in an an extremely conservative, intolerant form of Orthodoxy, to the point of condemning every other religion as Satanic (and, as Kingsnorth repeats, predicting they’d all merge into a Giant Satanic Mega-Religion of Evil, because, well, they’re all of the Devil anyway). Rose was also a major popularizer (at least in the US) of the Tollbooth Doctrine, which states that after a person dies, Jesus leads their soul past a number of demons, who will question the the person about the mortal sins they committed during life. Any sin that has been repented of and confessed to a priest, Jesus will command the demon to ignore, but if you have any unconfessed mortal sin-well, then Jesus will watch impassively as the demon drags you down into Hell. It was a very terrifying image when I learned of it as an Orthodox believer, and in the part of the South where I lived, you were basically limited to ultra-conservative Russian churches (who believed in the Tollbooths and various other pleasantness), and the Greek churches, who couldn’t decide if they really wanted to be churches or exclusive ethnic membership organizations. As a commenter above said, when you first develop an interest in Orthodoxy, and first start researching it, you’ll be told of a very wonderful church, with a wonderful, deep theology, utterly different and alien to the Bible-thumping Baptists-with their Book of Revelation in one hand and newspaper in the other-who are the most visible face of Christianity when one grows up in the South. Pity that church doesn’t actually exist.

  193. Also, one thing I was going to say to JMG but forgot (this blog doesn’t let me edit comments after I post them)-if you ever have some spare research time, you might find Seraphim Rose a rather interesting topic of study, as you seem to like reading about non-mainstream religious figures. Seraphim Rose belonged to a number of different religions before he became Orthodox-he studied Buddhism for several years, read Rene Geunon, and I’m pretty sure he joined a Martinist order at one point. He may also (depending on whose he-said/she said you choose to believe) have been gay. His writings have been very influential in portions of the Orthodoxy community-especially those outside the mainstream, and rather liberal, Greek Archdiocese. Unfortunately, as I said in my comment above, the vision he ultimately came to believe in, and passed on to thousands of faithful Orthodox Americans, was in many ways not a pleasant one.

  194. Obviously Mr. Kingsnorth conversion to Orthodox Christianity perplexes the mind of many readers. And because the distinction between Magic and Christianity is central to this post, additional explanation is required.

    Christians believe that before the Fall, Adam’s mind was able to communicate with God, to relate with God, in direct and immediate way. But Adam decided that he does not need God, that he will be able to master the world without help from God. Adam, tempted by the Devil and having being gifted with Mind, overestimated his abilities. And Adam is just a symbol of human race. Human race was from the beginning unable to communicate with God just because human race overestimates the capacity of rational thinking. Now, after losing ability to communicate with God, human race only has capacity to understand particular objects and principles, which is different from understanding the whole world. And these particular ideas, which fill the mind of humans, begin to play games in the mind, confuse the mind. That’s the reason why Pagans have many Gods, because each God represents one idea, one force of nature, one principle. These particular ideas are like fantasies that combine in the mind producing chaotic and distorted picture. Ability to understand particular ideas produces an illusion in the human mind. A man now thinks that he is the God. And that’s the beginning of colossal troubles.

    Reading the Church Fathers is both engaging and rewarding. Once a man starts, it’s impossible to dislike them.

  195. Falling Tree Woman,

    I appreciate your giving voice also to similar thoughts and feelings I had regarding not this post and it’s critique of Kingsnorth’s essay but more the shutting of the door into Paul’s attempt at a conversation to discuss what exactly the disagreement was about. I also had thought of especially Bill Pulliam at this moment, as he was the most erudite at expressing his disagreements.

    The disagreement was on the equating of science and magic, a rhetorical attack. From reading the essay of our host, I really had the impression that he was disagreeing with the essay of Paul Kingnorth in it’s entirety. From further reading in the comments, I was able to discover he had not in fact read the essay in it’s entirety and was instead only focused on a paragraph or two. I then found it ironic to have the conversation between the two put to rest with a conversation stopper such as this ” As for a conversation, well, I’m like most people with Aspergers syndrome — conversation is not my strong suit — and so I’ll pass ” from a person who has championed in some previous essays trying to find common ground to converse with others that you disagree with. I’ve always appreciated JMG for his walking the talk. Whatever happened in this instance has been confusing.

  196. Another issue that bothers non-Christians, and the reason they distrust the Church as institution, is that people see that priests can, and do have vices. Othodox priests even more so than Catholic priests, because Orthodox priests are allowed, and even stimulated to marry. Orthodox priests are allowed to marry because when they have family they are supposed to have more personal experience with the problems that ordinary people have and are supposed to be able in that way to help more to their parochians. But at the same time, because they have families, they are more prone to greed, they need more money for their own families. Catholic priests are more prone to lust, because they are forced to celibacy.

    How these human vices influence the relationship of priest and his parochians? Orthodox tradition insists that personal character of the priest does not have any relation to his ability to perform sacraments. Not one iota more than the character of the crocery seller influences the quality of apples he sells. When priest performs sacraments his vices do not became the vices of the parochians, nor his virtues became the virtues of the parochians. The source of sacraments is God, not the priest. Of course, ideally, the priests should be examples of virtue and the teaching by example is highly desirable, but it’s not necessary. That is what Martin Luther was unable to understand in 1517 and that’s what makes Protestantism so distanced from authentic Christianity. Of course, huge anomalies in the Catholic church only helped this unfortunate departure.

  197. Thanks for this! I don’t know much about magic, so I won’t speak of that. But one thing I find strange is how Kingsnorth and The Conservatives look at history and the morass we are in. It is at best a very childish view. Christianity was the glue and kept society good, then came enlightenment and the dethroning of the church. This in turn led to industrialism and all its horrors or something along those lines.

    Where to start with this simplistic **** (pardon my french)?
    With the very much christian idea of the world as profane, a simple means to an end and all the bloodshed this has entailed?
    With christianity as a political tool used in statecraft and to shape and hold early states?
    With christianity as moral compass (pietism and what have you), using brute force to subdue anything it deems a vice (hobos, homosexuals, women, people of other faiths, animals what have you)?
    I mean, Colombus didn’t sail under rainbow sails, now did he?

    I’m sure someone more well read and articulate can do a better job of this than me. I just find that this holier-than-thou crap and cognitive dissonance at display with this sort of cultural pessimist leaves a very particular (dis)taste in my mouth. Sure we have Tolstoyans and we have our Winstanleys, but Christians seriously need to take a long hard look at the beam in their own eye, before the start ranting about how cultural marxism or whatever will undo this world (the antichrist thingy is trite folks)..

    Well that is enough of a rant from me..

    And your the best John Michael Greer! I never commented on yer stuff before, but I love your writing 🙂 Stars Reach is a favourite of mine.

    Stay safe and healthy:)

    Ola Bandola

  198. @ Happy Panda #191

    Thank you for sharing your insights into the Eastern tradition, about which I am steadfastly ignorant! I’m tempted to believe it is exactly as you say – all religious/spiritual traditions, to be an effective means, have to employ technologies (nice use of the word) to work on and open up consciousness, and activate the subtle body. And this involves acts of will on the part of the aspirant. To get up each day and perform the rituals, asanas, prayers or whatever it might be. So it is literally… change in consciousness in accordance with will! This dichotomy between ‘submissive’ religion and ‘controlling’ magic is a false generalisation.

    @ Falling Tree Woman #196

    I am glad you say this. Paul Kingsnorth’s writing has a similarly powerful effect on me but I never expressed it in quite those words. It is that elegiac quality, for sure. I also found the pile-in on him sad and with most not having read the piece more than a touch disrespectful. You are not the only one to notice the groupthink. I would also maintain it was disrespectful of JMG to write his piece without reading the full essay – even if it wouldn’t have altered his conclusions, it’s the principle.

  199. Scotlyn @188 Thank you – I’m glad you find some value in the blog! As for the Borg, I haven’t followed TV for many years, so I have a hazy idea of what that involves: if I’m right, that’s a complete loss of individual agency? That would be on the other far extreme, in opposition to the emphasis contemporary Anglo culture on pure, unhindered individual agency. I’m talking about something different: the individual’s voluntary renunciation of absolute autonomy, and the willing adoption of rules and limits in order to be part of a functioning culture and community. If you haven’t read it, I absolutely recommend Neal Stephenson’s novel The Diamond Age which explores the idea really well.

    Historically, this is all based on family, clan, and tribe – and still is, in many parts of the world. We in the Anglosphere often don’t have that available as an option now, so we will need to construct new bases for community. Of course, also historically there have been oppressive societies whose rules leave little space for the individual, and perhaps these approach the Borg end of the spectrum. My own preference would be more like the Spanish anarchists of the 1920s and 1930s, who were able to run an industrial society on anarchist principles. However, there’s no one-size fits all solution; we’ll all be beginning from where we are.

    And that’s my response to your other question as well! “Is it not more fitting…?” There’s no time left for pondering ideals, unfortunately. A rapid decline in living standards, when basic services fail, goods become unavailable, and people’s mental models and expectations are smashed, is a dangerous time; the experiences of Ferfal in Argentina and Selco in Yugoslavia show us that. We don’t get to carefully design a society; we need a value system that will give hope, inspiration and organisation to the people who are living around us right now…

  200. JMG @190 You’re mistaken that a focus on individualism depends on surplus energy

    No, I don’t think I am mistaken! The rest of your answer leads me to wonder, though, whether you’re interpreting my comment in a way I hadn’t intended (easy enough to do on the internet). By energy I mean fossil fuels. The availability of cheap energy from fossil fuels over the past couple of centuries, and the last seventy years in particular, has provided individuals with the kind of resources and support systems – the bottom end of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – that were previously only available through membership of a group. As cheap energy runs out (which we’re seeing now in Europe) being fed, clothed, and sheltered will revert to the historic norm of being available only to members of a group with a shared culture which looks out for its members, and whose members work to sustain it. I’d point to the tent cities on your side of the pond as an illustration of life for individuals with neither resources, clan, nor community.

  201. @ Nomadic Beer – regarding this: “Compare European/American individualism with the communalism of densely populated Asian countries – independent of culture or history” – you may be interested in James C Scott’s work titled “The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia”.

    His basic premise is that during the course of the roughly 2000 years under study, there was a continual movement backwards and forwards of people who oriented themselves, depending on circumstances and personal inclination, either inwards towards the centralising states, where finding your place in a complex and interrelated hierarchical society was necessary, or outwards to the hill country (the uplands) where rugged independence and resistance to being under the control of others was the prevailing ethos.

    That is to say, both tendencies being always present, individual people might choose to move closer to or further from one or the other, in accordance with a complicated weighing up of circumstances and choices. Certainly Asia also has a solid history of individuals who chose to be freer and more independent, although – as JMG has also often pointed out – making such a choice often requires the relinquishment of certain material comforts, or of even the aspiration to work towards achieving such.

  202. I should probably stop at this point, but this continues to bother me– not least because I see a backlash against magic brewing in every corner of the rising right-wing counterculture, which I expect to destroy the rotting corpse of wokesterism and take over as the authoritarian hegemon over the course of the next decade.

    I can’t help but notice that on your latest interview you point out that we have records of magic going back at least to ancient Sumer– that is, 6,000 years. And we have records of magic being practiced in every corner of the world.

    And yet, the mechanistic view of the world that Kingsnorth rightly attacks in his piece appeared only 3-400 years ago, and only in Western Christian Europe. In other words, the common denominator most emphatically is *not* and cannot be magic. It’s not even black magic, as records of that go back into remotest antiquity. The Roman peasants who tossed defixiones into wells 2,000 years ago didn’t believe in a dead universe, and neither did the Egyptian priests who placed images of their enemies on the bottoms of their sandals 2,000 years before that.

    The common denominator isn’t Western Christianity either. Here are some words about the Catholic Church’s view of the role of angels in Creation, from Dom Prosper Gueringer’s The Liturgical Year, written in the 1840s:

    “It is from the lowest of the nine choirs, the nearest to ourselves, that the Guardian Angels are for the most part selected. God reserves to the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones the honor of forming his own immediate court. The Dominations, from the steps of his throne, preside over the government of the universe; the Virtues watch over the course of nature’s laws, the preservation of species, and the movements of the heavens; the Powers hold the spirits of wickedness in subjection. The human race in its entirety, as also its great social bodies, the nations and the churches, are confided to the Principalities; while the Archangels, who preside over smaller communities, seem also to have the office of transmitting to the Angels the commands of God, together with the love and light which come down even to us from the first and highest hierarchy. O the depths of the wisdom of God! Thus, then, the admirable distribution of offices among the choirs of heavenly spirits terminates in the function committed to the lowest rank, the guardianship of man, for whom the universe subsists. Such is the teaching of the School; and the Apostle, in like manner, says: Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?

    “Again, on these words of Jeremias: How long shall the land mourn? Origen, supported by the authority of his translator St. Jerome, continues. “It is through each one of us that the earth rejoices or mourns; and not only the earth, but water, fire, air, all the elements; by which name we must here understand not insensible matter, but the Angels who are set over all things on earth. There is an Angel of the land who, with his companions, mourns over our crimes. There is an Angel of the waters to whom are applied the words of the Psalm: The waters saw thee, and they were afraid, and the depths were troubled; great was the noise of the waters; the clouds sent out a sound, for thy arrows pass.”

    How grand is nature, viewed in this light! It is thus the ancients, more truthful as well as more poetical than our generation, always considered the universe. Their error lay in adoring these mysterious powers, to the detriment of the only God, under whom they stoop that bear up the world.”

    This, too, is the world of participation. Now, ask me whether I ever heard any of these growing up Catholic in the 1990s. No, of course not. I got the dead world of scientific atheism with a light dusting of Jesus flakes on top. Which is why I, like so many of my peers, turned to magic and paganism. We were looking for wonder and a living world, not power over a dead one! I have no doubt that that’s what led Kingsnorth to Wicca in the first place as well.

    But that leaves us with the question:

    With regard to the invention of the mechanistic worldview, if magic isn’t the common denominator, and Christianity isn’t the common denominator, what are we left with?

  203. Brilliant remarks and arguments, John!

    It’s a curious thing for me to observe Western Christians, especially since I’m from the area where these traditions originated from. The common “profane” is something I’m assuming we have in all traditions everywhere, but it’s especially prevalent among societies that follow the Abrahamic religions for some reason, let alone foreign nations who embraced them. It’s the ignorance of the ethnic background and history peculiar to this tradition that bypass most of its followers in the West, followed by their complete stasis in the exoteric aspect of the texts, possibly the influence of the sola scriptura doctrine of the Protestants. They’re too immersed in the theology and evangelism of the Middle Ages, forgetting and not reasoning about the roots of the tradition that revolved around the covenant between God and Israel, that’s where the whole “true religion” exceptionalism is distortedly stemming from. Israelites were actually more tolerant henotheists than most people would dare to claim, compared to their fellow Christians and Muslims. It’s a complicated narrative and field of knowledge to follow, but yeah, you’d assume someone like Kingsnorth would know better.

    There are many philosophical epistles by Muslim thinkers and religious authorities reasoning and arguing on how and when the “created” is participating with the Creator, though lots of logical gymnastics are made to draw the lines between the two. It’s interesting to mention that in Islam the created world is called “Alam al-Mulk” (Malkuth), and it’s here where the Imam (Logos) would participate. And that doesn’t go against the higher teachings of magic and hermeticism.

    With that aside, I couldn’t help but point to some stuff you mentioned on Crowley. In the other half of the dictum (Love is the law, love “under” Will) we are back again to the central role of the Will. Love in Crowley’s teachings is a blind force almost equal to hate, it doesn’t come into life and meaning until it’s “under Will”, so in actuality, it’s the True Will that is the ultimate reality. Also the concept of “aeon” Crowley seems to equate it more with archetypes than only periods of times, you could even sense a Freudian influence in his cosmology, where we are eternally cycling between Isis (Mother), Osiris (Father) and Horus (Son) in their various manifestations. I shall also quote a passage from Book of the Law that is the complete antithesis of the stereotypes around his personality:

    “Also, o scribe and prophet, though thou be of the princes, it shall not assuage thee nor absolve thee. But ecstasy be thine and joy of earth: ever To me! To me!” – Chapter 1, 53

    He knew he was an agent for a certain mission, he did that and went on with his life like any other normal person. People cannot wrap their heads around it and are too stuck in his Wickedest Man in the World persona, we’d be crazy if we took literally everything that he said in his writings, just as he himself referred to those who took the Bible literally.


  204. Triplet @ 191, about disrespectful, etc., I think the original Kingsnorth piece was behind a paywall, nor is it at all apparent that the author would have made the essay publicly available merely for the asking. I did read it, not with anything like perfect understanding, but I am not very good with theology. It did seem to me that the parts about magic were almost beside his main points. Dreher got to pick and choose what parts he wanted to quote, and pretend that those were the entire focus of the essay, a depressingly familiar kind of rhetorical trickery. If I were to fault our host, I would say that I think he does not and does not want to understand that the appealing Mr. Crunchy Conservative is himself bought and paid for and says what he is told to say. That was likely not always the case, but you simply don’t reach Dreher’s level of success in contemporary opinionating without you accepted the deal you couldn’t refuse. This is true across the board, left, right and center. On the left we are infested with a locusts’ plague of shrill, vulgar, obscenity peddling paid shills and they do harm.

    For the record, I think Dreher’s treatment of the original essay was a lot more disrespectful than that of our host. JMG actually engaged what was available at the time for him to read and politely expressed his disagreement, while Dreher merely made use of carefully selected bits to promote his own agenda, miscalled “traditionalist”.

  205. Back up at #154;

    “You’re right that Christianity is now the faith of the backward ‘deplorables’, and that the elites hate it with increasingly open venom. They are much happier with a New Age mush of vaguely witchy, Buddhisty, naturey, ‘spiritual’ wokeness, in which the nice, easy bits from other traditions are patched into a left-bourgeois pseudo-religion which requires no sacrifice from anyone but keeps the unwashed at bay. My suspicion these days is that the whole woke phenomenon is a manifestation of a subconscious anti-Christian rage. It would explain much of the ancestor-hatred.”

    That fit in unexpectedly well with this;

    The white trash trope and it’s real hidden agenda.

    And of course the famous “Berzerkly” professor,

    Being an engineer I don’t put any stock in magic. Redefining magic as propaganda, (or maybe propaganda is a branch of magic, whichever) does make for an interesting take on things.

  206. Dear JMG,

    I have read, as you say yourself “(…) the also-rans of occultism, those who failed to rise to the challenge of participation and instead pursued various grubby fantasies of power and profit through the manipulation of nature as an object—who played a role in setting the stage for the first stirrings of modern science.” So Mr Kingsnorth is partially at fault, and forgot to mention the important contribution of some branches of Christianity – the ones that claim that all Creation is for our service, to the miserable state we found ourselves. I still think that there is a crooked brunch of occultism that fits the assertions of Mr Kingsnorth, Christianity Hellas, has several crooked brunches maybe more malignant
    I have to say that this argument made magic more clear to me than anything else I have read on the subject. What a wonderful text you wrote above! Your original definition of magic will probably be the standard for centuries to come!
    I have seen many conversions to Eastern Orthodoxy, from catholics and muslims (yes muslims!!!) That Christianity is displaying a remarkable vigor, is intriguing!

  207. Reading all these comments has done at least one of two things. Give me hope that I’m not the only one having similar ideas with at least one other person. Or on the other hand, disappoint and completely destroy my faith in humanity to see a bigger picture.

    Last Magic Monday, there was someone following the CGD or Druidry Handbook, I can’t remember which, who said something along the lines of being pulled to Christianity and having some kind of connection to certain saints. It stood out to me enough to realize the same thing is happening to me, just switch the pantheons. I’ve mentioned it, rather hinted a couple times, at connections, ideas, but I was too shy and unsure at what kind of treatment I would get.

    I should say that I grew up in a more lukewarm Christian household, mostly Baptist, with a single parent and have gone to the church services of a few different denominations because of the people around us. Catholic, Lutheran, LDS, southern independent Baptist, and non-denominational…but of course because of life and personal choices we’ve all but stopped going as suddenly as we first started, which eventually lead to constant spiritual ups and downs, and it was born out of one of the downs that my journey into magic started. From there my mentor, a very solitary witch, said something along the lines of taking me under her wing before someone else decided to and use me and my gift. As for what gift she saw in me, I’ve no clue, but she put me through the wringer and kept her mouth shut till I listened. And of course life goes on, but boredom and this whole corona virus bull seriously drove me to listen to books from Jordan B Peterson, Phyllis Schlafly, Camille Paglia, Thomas Sowell, Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, and a long list of others that have been blacklisted and sounded a warning bell of some kind. I may have not agreed with many things they had to say, but they sure had a long list of things they werent wrong about.

    The same things I saw during my Christian days destroying churches from the inside out, is destroying any attempts to preserve and revive older systems of belief the same way. It’s not a Western vs. Eastern problem, it’s been around since humanity even started having some sort of connection to the higher planes of existence, everyone has a story about it, but more often than not the east has a habit of not wanting to look back on anything for fear of losing an eye. Little did these individuals even realize that they’ll be losing both eyes as a result of that choice. Any attempt by some group of people to overlap and combine two seemingly opposite beliefs either for their own survival or because it makes them understand their own beliefs, is decried as heresy and eventually they get killed or turn into a secret society of some kind. I dont need to get a degree, read 2000+ books, join this order and that, and write countless essays to see that. All our fates are intertwined and knotted beyond our limited comprehension and written in a book somewhere. It certainly helps to do one or all those things listed, not going to lie, but I’ve been seeing and experiencing otherwise more often than not now.

    That being said I’d be very wary of the flow of people turning to Orthodox Christianity or even witchcraft, to me it gives off big blue state city dwellers moving to a better off red state vibes. Some are genuine converts but most are there because it offers something they need and they have no interest in actually changing or learning anything, most of all their habits and thoughtforms.

  208. Jon, I admit that wouldn’t surprise me.

    Tolkienguy, I missed the reference to Seraphim Rose. That’s really troubling. Unfortunately one of the besetting sins of the Abrahamic monotheisms is precisely that kind of simplistic binary thinking: starting from the notion that every religion is either theirs or not-theirs, then lumping all the not-theirs together into One Big Church of Badness, on which all their own unacknowledged faults can be projected in lurid detail. Jung had a few things to say about the projection of the shadow…

    Ola Bandola, Christianity at its best teaches its believers to focus on repenting their own sins and changing their own lives, teaching by example and leaving the behavior of others in the hands of divine grace. Unfortunately, as with every other faith, we don’t always get to see Christianity at its best.

    Bogatyr, so noted — we disagree. I’ll address this issue in more detail later on.

    Steve, Spengler argues — and I think he’s right in this — that the scientific worldview is the natural flowering of something hardwired into European culture from its origins, an expression of the same attitude of extension into infinite distance that sent the Vikings across the ocean and the Crusaders to the Middle East, and made linear perspective the inevitable form of space-perception in Western art. It’s central to the entire Faustian project, and when it breaks down it will take Faustian civilization with it. (That’s one of the reasons I find the turn to Orthodoxy so interesting, since Orthodoxy is Magian rather than Faustian — the embrace of Orthodoxy is a new expression of the same Journey to the East that’s been enticing Faustian intellectuals for the last two centuries.)

    Aziz, thank you for this! I’ve read, though I’m far from expert on the subject, that there’s a very substantial school of Muslim Neoplatonism, for what that’s worth. As for Crowley, he’s an extraordinarily complex figure. Can you point me to something where he discussed aeons as archetypes? I don’t claim to be perfectly versed in his writings and managed to miss that.

    Elodie, and I said in my post that there are corrupt branches of occultism that fit Kingsnorth’s description, and if he hadn’t tried to insist that all magic belongs to that category, I’d have had no objection at all.

    Copper, I wish I could disagree with your last comment.

  209. By the way, I’ve fielded (and deleted) several attempted comments that set out to do with Christianity exactly what Kingsnorth did with magic — that is, blame it for the world’s problems, based on a simplistic and biased take on the subject. Come on, folks — the opposite of one bad idea is another bad idea…

  210. Dear Bogatyr, If I may, regarding energy and individualism: I very highly recommend reading _Black Elk Speaks_ from the perspective you write. In it a Lakota visionary remembers a very individualist and also very materially impoverished culture with hardly any fossil fuel consumption and very often the specter of starvation. There was also quite a bit of cultural mixing of many First Nations as many were simultaneously driven to the brink. The example that Black Elk speaks of, then, counters the historical tendency you write of as I understand the point you’re making, which I may not, or may not adequately. If I may be so bold, may I ask how you would factor that example into your analysis?

  211. My point is that religion is political. It is a tool. Same for me what you worship or how you worship, but be honest about the fact that it can never be more than an intermediator.( Same as how poetry doesn’t describe a feeling, it approaches it.)

    I appreciate the phenemological take on it; the object in and of it self is not interesting, but its extenension to the world is.
    And behind all the rethoric and pretty words, there usually is something more sinister at play. Whatever I tell my self to fall a sleep and to abate my conscience is really beside the point.

    So once upon a time Jesus said some things, and some of that was not half bad I guess.
    But some cunning folks saw the potential in three’s a crowd. And thats my point exactly: When more than three people agree it is time to pick up that proverbial hat. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and all that jazz.

    It is funny how eloquent dishonesty can be. How it likes to digress endlessly to discuss angles on a pinhead.

    So you are inspired by what this fellow said in a book? Good for you. I am too inspired in similar ways. But I try not to become what I read. Words are dangerous in that way. And the waters are at best muddy when we talk about religion.

  212. Several commentators have spoken of Baptisms (successful and failed). As an ordained Reader in my Orthodox parish, I have a few things to say about that subject.

    One of my occasional duties as a Reader and lead chanter, is to assist my priest in Baptisms. In the Orthodox church, infant Baptism is the norm (as it is among Roman Catholics). I have assisted in some 40+ Baptisms down through the years, and there is one thing I have consistently noticed.

    When a family presents an infant child for Baptism, my priest and I can infallibly tell which families live a church life and which ones don’t. By “a church life” I mean a way of life where morning and evening prayers are the norm, where houses get blessed regularly, and where members worship at Liturgy on Sundays (and attend Saturday evening Vespers as often as they can), come to Confession regularly and partake of Holy Communion frequently.

    When families of that type bring their children to be Baptized, the children are usually peaceful and quiet. When they are actually immersed (we practice triple immersion in the name of the Father, Son and holy Spirit), they will momentarily fuss and cry, but that quickly subsides.

    However, there are families who simply bring their children to Baptism because that is what their ancestors did. These families are of the “Baptisms, weddings and funerals” type with no consistent connection to the church and little or no daily spiritual practice.

    In those cases, the infants squall and scream throughout the ceremony. Sometimes, the screams can be disturbing in their intensity. After the Baptism, my priest usually has a brief talk with the family, emphasizing the importance of following Baptism up with a Christian upbringing.

    I should add, that the act of Baptism is preceded by several prayers of exorcism over the baptisand. The full ceremony is here:
    That may have something to do with it – I can’t say for sure.

    So, why does this happen? My theory is, that families who live a church life have surrounded their children in a spiritual atmosphere literally from conception on forward. Thus, the children experience Baptism as consistent with what they know at home, and are not alarmed by it.

    In the opposite case, the infant is suddenly confronted with spiritual realities to which he or she has never been exposed. Thus, the consternation and fright.

    So my message to all “village atheists” who think that Baptism is just an unmeaning, empty gesture is (as our host would say), that “you really need to get out more.”

  213. Tolkienguy (no. 202), the tollbooths correspond to the planets. It’s a gnostic-type system based on Ptolemaic cosmology. (Muhammad ascended through the same planets during his miraj.)

    Seraphim Rose went to the same Aurobindo-derived school that I did! Was mainly interested in literary Daoism, if memory serves. (No, we weren’t there at the same time–he was there in the early 1960s.) This was the California Institute of Integral Studies, then known as the California Institute of Asian Studies. Alan Watts was on the faculty then.

    Rose was apparently well-disposed to Orthodoxy thanks to Guénon’s Traditionalism, and was in San Francisco during the episcopacy of St. John (Maximovitch) the Wonder-Worker. But he became a monk of the St. Herman of Alaska brotherhood, an ultra-conservative group that thought there was something wrong even with the other Russians.

    Anybody remember the Holy Order of MANS in LA? (MANS stood for “Mysterion, Agape, Nous, Sophia.”) It was a New Age group whose leader converted to Orthodoxy, and rather than doing the honest thing and resigning, decided to take the whole group (and all its property) with him, without telling them that he planned to slowly change their religion from one to the other, boiling-frog style. Philip Lucas wrote a book on this back in the 1990s. Anyway, the Orthodox group that received him / them was St. Herman’s.

  214. As others have expressed, I’ve been perplexed and mystified by all the hard feelings here. I have deep love and gratitude for both you and Paul, but feel a bit sad that an opportunity has been lost. That’s life, I guess…maybe next time!

    It seems to me that MOST branches and practices of both magic and modern science are humanistic, in that humans are placed at the center. Asserting in effect that we are the rulers, owners, inheritors of dominion over all, justifiably seeking control/power in all things for gain and profit, for all manner of ‘good reasons’. But I/It all the way.

    The highest, purest magic or science (religion too for that matter) is practiced by only a very small minority of humans, adepts who have earned their grounding in the Real, illuminated by the light of trillions of suns (to modify your metaphor) and all those aspiring to that. Seeking not power and control, but connection and participation.I pray the numbers of such practitioners may increase and flourish…hope springs eternal.

    The birds of many feathers gathered here are striving for that, but the journey is long, arduous and often lonely. Most of us have a foot in both worlds. Let’s banish acrimony and certainty! May we all abide in humility, peace and goodwill.

  215. Hi John Michael,

    John Kenneth Galbraith, for an economist, tells an engaging tale. Thanks for the quote. I’m currently re-reading The Great Crash 1929, and bizarrely things haven’t changed all that much in relation to speculative bubbles. Except maybe this time the money supply is being actively expanded. All policies though have upper limits before descending into diminishing returns.

    I don’t really have any great insight into what is going on in the land of stuff – but I doubt anyone else does either. A random thought struck me pretty hard this morning. That bloke over there banging on about common prosperity, never quite got around to mentioning exactly for whom he was discussing the benefits of this concept. That could mean much, or little, but I’m betting it doesn’t mean nothing.



  216. Ivan Lukic (no. 206), everybody has vices (and myself the chief of sinners). The US Founding Fathers were right in taking it for granted that the government would not be run by angels.

    I observe a wide variety of character types among priests, monks, nuns etc., just as one sees a wide variety of types in the army. Some are saintly, some are criminals, most are just normal people who have to wear funny clothes. Now the institutional structure makes a great deal of difference. If a Catholic priest gets caught in some kind of scandal, their hierarchy takes care of it (for better or worse), unless they just run off to Mexico or something (which has happened). So what happens when an Orthodox priest gets into some kind of scandal? Well his bishop might well defrock him, but half the time the malefactor will just run off to some other jurisdiction–often one of the nuttier ones, like the Serbians or Old Calendrists, whose standards are apparently lower.

    Catholic scandals are famous, but that’s a bit like vegetarians going after McDonalds–they’re just the biggest and easiest target. Orthodox hierarchs have been involved in crimes that would make the Italian mafia blush. As for the Protestants, well, the Friendly Atheist (Hemant Mehta) regularly spotlights US televangelists and megachuch leaders. I think they get a lot of new atheists that way! Lest I seem to be hurling stones at other people’s houses, I hasten to add that Buddhist institutions have tolerated or supported pedophilia and ethnic cleansing (among other vices) in several countries. Individuals may vary a lot, but you see the same types of people everywhere.

  217. Ola Bandola, so noted, but I think you’re being overly reductionistic. Everything human has a political dimension, but it strikes me as simplistic to insist that religion is only and always political.

    Michael M., many thanks for the data points.

    Bei Dawei, I’ve known a number of people in the independent sacramental movement who got their start in the Holy Order of MANS, and it’s apparently now been revived in something like its original form.

    Jim W, I’m intrigued and wryly amused that you see hard feelings here. If so, they’re not on my side. I’d be happier if Kingsnorth didn’t characterize magic unfairly, just as I’d be happier if you didn’t do so — I’d be interested to know the basis for your claims that “most” magic is humanistic, or that only adepts have gotten past that. But if the two of you keep on saying what you’re saying, you know, that’s not going to give me sleepless nights.

    Chris, since the opposite of one bad idea is so consistently another bad idea, expanding the money supply promises to bring just as many problems as contracting it did in 1929!

  218. The more I think on it, the more this whole question of the will appears to be vexed.

    At the conclusion of Kingsnorth’s essay, he writes that “the work is to walk away from it [the motto of ‘Do what thou wilt’] a thousand times each day: to let the will go, to listen instead for the old song which, however much we might think otherwise, has never stopped being sung in the woods and the waters and the around the edges of the human heart.”

    But it takes willpower to fight the battle against one’s will. So either you end up with a scenario akin to a circular saw cutting its own power cord, or you have to posit different grades of will: A lower set of appetites for heroin and twinkies and Lamborghinis and so on, and a higher Will that drives towards the Sublime. And that takes you right back to what Crowley was trying to say in the first place.

    Also, that bit about listening to the old song being sung in the woods is as pagan a sentiment as I’ve ever seen. Hearing that song as a child is what inspired me to paganism, and magic is the only thing I’ve found as an adult that gets me close to that ancient gnosis.

    I should probably add that I’m complaining about Kingsnorth, but I find his writing quite valuable, and his views sane (apart from the present example) and I’m trying to get his books into the library I work at.

  219. Violet @220

    Again, I have a general awareness of Black Elk and his context, but not detailed knowledge. However, I think, based on your description, I think it’s quite compatible with the point I’m trying to make, which is about belief systems.

    The basic point I’m trying to make in this discussion is that humans need stories, or belief systems, in order to make sense of the world. This applies to both societies and individuals. The stories form “maps of meaning”, setting out what is and is not possible and permissible. The ‘permissible’ element governs the internal culture of a society: its rules, norms, values, taboos, and so on. The ‘possible’ element deals with the realities of the world, and covers things like economics.

    A society’s values inevitably are shaped by the environment it lives in. You’ve mentioned north American cultures as an example. It’s my understanding (I’m happy to be wrong) that in many nomadic cultures of north America, it was normal to leave the elderly behind once they became too much of a burden to the tribe. This made sense in that environment, where resources were very scarce and were needed by the younger members. In cultures elsewhere, with more resources (fixed homes, more productive agriculture), the elderly are cared for. Is one right and one wrong? Or are both appropriate cultural responses given the resources available?

    If a belief system matches external reality, and provides a way to live successfully, it may change very slowly, and endure for a very long time. However, if the external reality changes, and the belief system no longer explains it successfully, then the society either a) goes insane, finding ever-more complex justifications for why the belief system should remain unchanged, b) tries to adapt the belief system into some new version, possibly very different to the original, which can now satisfactorily explain the new reality, or c) adopt an entirely different belief system.

    This is what happened in the case of Black Elk and the north American tribes. Their traditional belief systems were appropriate for their traditional way of life, provided a satisfactory way of interacting with the world, and provided accepted ways of interacting with other people – from the same tribe, and from others.

    When you say that they were individualists, though, that’s not the sense I mean it in: before the coming of the Europeans, how easy was it for a tribal member to live exactly as they pleased, remaining in the tribe whilst rejecting its values and accepted behaviours? How easy would it have been for an individual to just strike out on their own, living without a tribe? I don’t know enough to answer those questions, but I do believe that it would have been far, far more dangerous than trying to do the same thing in 21st-century America.

    Black Elk is an example of what happens when the environment changes. The arrival of European settlers in large numbers meant that the tribes’ traditional belief systems no longer matched the environment they lived in, and no longer provided appropriate guidance on how to live. As a result, many tried option b) above; the mixing of tribes which had previously kept themselves very much separate was one element of that. Others chose c), adopting Christianity and trying to join the colonial society.

    It’s the same thing in our day. Abundant energy has meant that most people don’t need to be dependent on anyone else for their survival, particularly in the US. To a very large extent, people can believe what they choose, go where they choose. Freedom speech, freedom of movement, freedom of belief, regardless of what anybody else thinks. It’s all good – but it does depend on the ability to live freely which cheap energy has provided. It’s a belief system, providing a reasonable worldview for its environment.

    What I’ve been trying to say is that as energy stops being abundant and stops being cheap, that worldview no longer makes sense. It’s also sinking in that this lifestyle has been incredibly damaging to the natural environment. It’s becoming clear that accepting this means accepting that the future will be harder, with scarcity not abundance. Instead of a norm of industrial consumerism, where the individual can just buy what they need, it means a future where access to resources for an individual will revert to the historical norm of being part of a group – and obeying the values and behaviours of that group. And each group’s story will explain the world it observes, and provide a way for the group to maintain itself.

    That’s what I think Paul has been experiencing. His previous worldview stopped making sense of the world, he tried b), and then c), and that’s worked for him. The individualism of contemporary Anglo culture is one which validates atomisation: that we can be whoever we want to be. That works when the resources are available to permit it. It doesn’t work when resources are scarce, so a different value system is needed. JMG’s example above of barn-raising is pertinent. The dominant US culture (as I perceive it from outside) is self-centred; it
    doesn’t, for example necessarily make a virtue of reciprocity, or of suffering inconvenience for others’ benefit. The worldview of barn-raisers does.

    So it comes down to this: in the material reality of a given individual’s environment, how feasible is it for them to go where they want, do what they want, and live as they please? In a resource-rich environment, it’s relatively safe: to a large extent, their safety is protected by an impersonal state, their needs are met by impersonal businesses. In a resource-poor environment, an individual who sets out alone from their native community is likely to be picked off rapidly. Safety and security come from the group; people who don’t follow group norms are expelled, and don’t last long.

    So, of course, these are generalisations; of course, it’s a spectrum not an either/or. But, this is the historical norm. I happen to quite like living in a society with high levels of individual autonomy but, having lived in several cultures where resources are far less available, and with higher levels of group awareness, they’re not too bad either, and their values make sense in their situation – and as we in the West face rising scarcity, that’s the direction we’re going in, like it or not.

    Hopefully that makes sense, is still on-topic, and answers your question!

  220. “Jim W, I’m intrigued and wryly amused that you see hard feelings here. If so, they’re not on my side. I’d be happier if Kingsnorth didn’t characterize magic unfairly, just as I’d be happier if you didn’t do so — I’d be interested to know the basis for your claims that “most” magic is humanistic, or that only adepts have gotten past that. But if the two of you keep on saying what you’re saying, you know, that’s not going to give me sleepless nights.”

    Ah…a wry amusement inducing comment…what more could I ask for?😉 There’s no basis, it’s just an opinion based on my own observations. I’m referring to pop culture magic, which seems to be by far the dominant strain…not especially numinous or transcendent, usually quite self centered, entirely “humanistic”. I didn’t mean to suggest that only adepts have succeeded, but rather that only those on a path of initiation are likely to succeed. I am certainly not an erudite historian of magic such as yourself, merely a keenly observant lifelong mystic, emphatically not humanist. It’s time to move on from this disagreement and it’s good to know your feathers are unruffled.

  221. @JMG, indeed. And in any case, we can most definitely agree that whatever comes next, it will be endlessly fascinating.

    I sometimes wonder if there’s some spiritual realm beyond this life where one could just sit on the clouds (metaphorically speaking) and watch world history go by. It would be nice to spend a few centuries there until the current episode of the world civilization soap opera is finished 🙂.

  222. This is totally off topic, so feel free to delete it. I just wanted to share today’s little “sign of the times” tidbit with you:

    The social media site in question is currently down because of this. While I do not agree with how much of their censorship policies have been of late, I also do not believe the proposed (and likely to be carried out post haste) solution will make any kind of improvement – rather the opposite, actually. Or, as we say back home, There goes the neighborhood…..

  223. Dennis Michael Sawyers at 154

    I like your take. I think Kingsnorth is correct in so far that, for the PMC (professional managerial class for those now joining us), Christianity has been relegated by them to be the religion of the “deplorables.” I do a lot of assigned counsel work (if you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided), and so get to know a lot of those they label (wrongly to be absolutely clear) “deplorables.” From my vantage, those so-caled “deplorables” are not practicing Christians. And while they may adopt some of the trappings of Christianity, Christianity is for them a dead religion.

    As for the PMC (I among them but not with them), they have no future. Most believe in nothing much and are driven by their fear of losing their PMC status and having to hang with the “deplorables.” Years ago, the whole “wellness” movement tried selling them McMindfulness as a sort of Buddhism without the actual Buddhism. But meditation practice takes work which requires some faith that you are on the right path. The same with New Agey stuff – someone decided to sell the PMC a watered down version of New Age stuff (itself a watering down of occultism and neopaganism). So I can also see Kingsnorth’s point that the PMC love the easy, mushy version of the spirituality du jour.

    But DMS, you rightly point out that now the PMC has turned on mushy Buddhism and mushy New Agery. In part I think because it got them nowhere. Of course what did they expect? Buddhism without the Buddhism wasn’t going to accomplish anything. So now the PMC are rejecting spirituality in general.

    My take is they got from spirituality exactly what they put into it: nothing. So the PMC as a group rejecting everything outside a narrow technological/materialist paradigm. Christianity becomes the faith of the deplorables, i.e. poor and wage class benighted white people, and those poor benighted black people. Islam becomes the faith of those poor benighted brown people. Hinduism is the faith of those other poor benighted brown people. Buddhism is so 5 minutes ago. And New Agery is the providence of “woo woo” benighted people. The main thing being that the PMC think of everyone with any sort of spiritual value or ethic as benighted.

    At least that’s my experience with the PMC and my take on it.

  224. Wow! The province of Quebec becomes the first jurisdiction that I know of to begin pulling licenses for physicians who won’t vaxxed. Doubtless they think these French-speaking docs have nowhere else to go.

    My observation about this is that I see it as another facet of the PMC and their view on what is class-appropriate. Some people will say, Well, clearly the regulatory authorities have been bribed, pressured, etc. Maybe. But the way I see it is to say that the College of Physicians, as a body of PMCers, thinks, “Well listen, if you want to be One Of Us, then you have to stop it with this odious low-status behaviour and do what we’re all doing.”

  225. @JMG

    “I knew a guy who used to sing a little ditty about that kind of logic:

    “My god’s better than your god,
    My god’s better than yours,
    My god’s better ’cause he gets veneration
    My god’s better than yours.”

    Religions that insist that their god is the One and Only have always seemed to me to be singing some variant of that.”

    It comes with the territory. My temperament is that of “live and let live” but since I am convinced that it is true. And the fact that this God is Jealous for Humanities allegiance.

    Christians have the Job of being emissaries of said God. As in urging surrender before the invasion(2nd Coming) comes about.

    If false then there needs to be efforts made to disprove the resurrection. Like proving that Christ’s Body is still on this earth and somehow was hidden away.

  226. Concerning the Second Religiosity, I have a hypothesis. The return back to the older traditions, especially Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity will help pave the way for the religion of the next great culture. Judaism had a clever trick with their narrative, allowing for a Messiah to come which allowed the opportunity for the tradition to continue yet morph into Christianity. Christianity has a similar trick up their sleeve with the Second Coming of Christ. I anticipate that the Second Religiosity will help allow that foundation to be a part of the next great culture, which will likely allow for more polytheistic ideas, since many of the older religious traditions of Christianity venerate saints, many people have their own personal saint, or guardian angel. The idea also fits in with the ternary, which happens in threes, such as the Trinity; The Father, the Son, and next up is the Holy Spirit. There will just need be a fourth to complete the sequence of the Tetragrammaton.

  227. Oddly, I heard the same definition of Magic in a Sociology class at Radiance University (not its real name–or is it?)– something like ‘an attempt by primitive peoples to gain control over their environment, natural and social.’ No attempt was made to examine the presuppositions–that nature is matter that can be manipulated at will; that life allnd consciousness are artifacts of chemical processes (vs. features of the whole multiverse).

    I really like your new definition of magic as a way of participation in the great work of the Universe. Dion Fortune’s definition cleverly does not define ‘Will,’ and the meaning changes as one proceeds with magical practice. Someone said, “With magic, the only thing that works is surrender.” So it seems–one of the options for magical workings is to align oneself with the great and good creative work of the Universe– Maybe at a sub-sub-sub-level to be sure, but I’m happy to do my part in it, however small.

    In that sense, the ‘will’ in Dion Fortune’s definition becomes recognized as the greater-good will of the Universe and becomes the participation in your definition.

    The sense I get from Paul K’s essay is that he is seeking to submit himself to that greater-good will of the Universe through the practice of Orthodox Christianity, and that he is turning away from Alistair Crowley’s vision of using magic to go his own way. Perhaps Paul K is talking more about his own spiritual journey than he is about magic in general.
    I think, JMG, that you have been working out that same beneficent goal through Druidry. If I have understood both of you in this, I applaud you both.
    Another great essay and discussion!

  228. John,

    Yes, it’s known that Avicenna is the most influential of this school. But personally, I’ve always preferred the actual prayers and speeches of the Twelve Imams of Ahl al-Bayt, which reflects the deeper teachings and even beauty of the Qur’an. Actually, some of the Shia sect authorities consider these figures as the “living Qur’an”, basing that on one of the Prophet sayings to his followers, that they will not go astray if they follow both his book and his direct descendants, so the two compliment each other in different ways. I also like the writings of Ibn Arabi, poetically complex and hermetic.

    Back to Crowley, it’s something I’ve concluded from different sources by him, he obviously believe a single truth can be expressed in various ways. Also, I particularly remember him saying that even if another Mage after him received a new word, it doesn’t mean the previous one will be dead and meaningless, but that the newer word and law should continue the previous one according to their own True Will, unfortunately I’ve been hammering my head to remember that source but I couldn’t. Though this is something I can attest, and it’s emphasized by the phrase “the Law is for all” in the first chapter of Book of the Law as well. Meaning that the deeper teachings and ordeals of the book are not for everyone, but the Law can be embraced by all, and that’s personally what I’ve experienced, as I’m gradually manifesting the Law while following my own path, which is rather different from the main tenets of the Book. I lean more towards hermetic monism through an Abrahamic vein.


  229. OT: but – the Mexican name for what we’re all feeling right now, and have been since 2016…

    I’ve known about “zozobra” for years: he’s burned in effigy up in Santa Fe every year as part of a “say goodbye to ‘Old Man Gloom'” ritual. Whether for the tourists, or authentic, or both, I can’t say. But this is a revelation.

  230. Dear Bogatyr, many thanks for your response! I’ve thought your it over, and I actually think that the modern West, with all of its fossil fuel energy, actually has quite a bit less individual freedom and cultural diversity than what I’ve read of accounts of India. In India, there are holy men who live in the crematoria and holy men who stride about totally naked and holy men who smoke a lot of hashish. I’ve heard that when a man becomes a Sadhu he becomes legally dead and then can do as he pleases and even ride the trains for free. There are holy eunuchs right next to a number of Pentecostal converts; there are Zoroastrians, Muslims, Ahmadi Muslims, Shaiva Hindus, Vaishnava Hindus, Buddhists, all sorts of Tantric traditions, and frankly more diversity than my mind can fathom. On a practical spiritual level, then one could argue without too much absurdity that India has a lot more diversity and freedom for people to move between different cultures. That is, as I understand it, people do convert to new beliefs in India all the time.

    You write that in the modern world: “To a very large extent, people can believe what they choose, go where they choose. Freedom speech, freedom of movement, freedom of belief, regardless of what anybody else thinks. It’s all good – but it does depend on the ability to live freely which cheap energy has provided. It’s a belief system, providing a reasonable worldview for its environment.”

    I think that the example of spiritual diversity in India refutes this point strongly, since they’ve managed this amazing diversity and freedom with incredible poverty.

  231. I’m very happy with the new definition of magic. With the changing consciousness definition questions arise of how things like agricultural or weather magic works. Presumably you’re not just making people think it’s rained when it hasn’t. 🙂 Then the next thought goes to the possibility of coercion – whether you’re making the weather spirits do it. Also liking how participation suggests images like a surfer or dancer.

  232. Wow, this is the first time I’ve read down so many comments. The topic and discussion is fascinating.
    I, like so many of you, really wanted JMG and PK to agree more, or disagree more amicably, or something…

    The scene reminds me of a married couple who’ve spent too much time together.
    They’re eating dinner and one says “Pass the peas”.
    To which the other blurts out “You can’t handle the peas! You could never handle the peas!”
    Of course, this incongruous conversation really isn’t about peas, it’s about a whole pile of other stuff lurking in the background.

    The word picture of divine energy flowing thru the cosmos really is a beautiful picture. It was precisely Jesus’ assertion that he was the actual great divine source of creation (the “I AM”, YHWH) that got him in such trouble with the Pharisees and ultimately executed by the Romans. And of course that assertion is pretty outrageous. Sometimes Christian evangelists say that any man claiming to be that, is either what he claims to be, or is a lunatic of the sort which believes himself to be a garden vegetable.
    Maybe even a plate of peas.
    Take care, be well.

  233. Cliff, excellent. Yes, exactly. To walk away from your own will requires a mighty and continuing effort of the very will you’re walking away from! Some mystics, for that reason, prefer to phrase the process as a matter of aligning your will with the divine will — and at this point, once again, we’re talking about causing change in (your) consciousness in accordance with (God’s) will.

    Jim W, no question, that’s the general trend of pop-culture magic in today’s Western societies…as I noted in my post. My point, again, is that this is something pervading Western culture as a whole rather than specific to magic.

    Sam, that would be welcome!

    Paddy, funny. Turning gold into lead does have its charms… 😉

    Steve, I’ve been watching the Faceplant soap opera with quite some amusement.

    Bofur, that strikes me as very likely indeed.

    Info, tell me where the body of Alexander the Great is located and then we can start talking about the location of the body of Jesus.

    Prizm, that’s one possibility. There are of course plenty of others.

    Emmanuel, it’s the absolute bog-standard definition of magic deployed by people who don’t believe in it or practice it, which should tell you something!

    Aziz, interesting. I know really very little about the history of the development of Muslim teachings, so hadn’t encountered any of the teachings of the Twelve Imams. As for Crowley, fair enough — I hope that sentiment is widespread among students of his work. I saw an embarrassing amount of messiah-worship directed at him a few years back.

    Patricia, thanks for this! Zozobra works very well as a description.

    Yorkshire, again, the tricky part of that definition has to do with whose consciousness you’re influencing. Air elementals?

    Dworkman, au contraire, the assertion that Jesus made was quite common at the time, and later — look into the history of messianic belief systems sometime. You’ll find that it’s quite the standard thing for members of a certain class of visionary to claim godhood for themselves, and was already standard long before Jesus was born. Why do you think so many monarchs of the ancient world claimed divinity?

  234. Regarding the historical Jesus, my view is that he almost certainly rose from the dead as he is supposed to have.


    Well, consider the following story.

    Some years ago around Halloween a onetime friend of mine was having drinks at a Polish bar in Pittsburgh, PA. At one point she went downstairs to the basement where the bathroom was located. When she came out, she saw an old man dressed in a butcher costume. He hadn’t been there before, he said nothing, and she felt very strange about the whole thing.

    When she got back to the bar, she asked the bartender, who also owned the place, about it.

    He showed her a picture in his wallet, and asked if that was the man she saw.

    Yes, she replied, that was him.

    That’s my pop, the bartender said. He’s been dead for 10 years. People see him down there sometimes.

    Now, the consequences of this event were rather minor. A story repeated with amazement among a particular group of friends, a few people who might otherwise not believe in such things given something to think about, a sense of certainty for an aging Polish bartender in the reality of an afterlife.

    A little over 100 years ago, a series of sightings of the Virgin Mary took place at Fatima, Portugal, culminating in an extraordinary miracle witnessed by some tens of thousands of people. The consequences of this sent ripples through the world of Roman Catholicism which continue to this day; new shrines was built, new saints canonized, new devotions practiced. The miracles that occurred were on a far greater scale than that of the ghost sightings at the bar, and their impact was correspondingly greater.

    From these two stories– and many like them– we can make several inferences. First, miracles occur. Second, miracles vary in their power. Third, the greater the miracle, the more of an impact it will have on human society and culture. Fourth, the frequency of a given type of miracle is inversely proportional to its power– Miracles like Fatima change the course of world religions in substantial ways, but occur less than once a century; miracles like the Polish Bartender change the course of a few human lives in minor ways, but occur regularly.

    If this is the case, we would expect very great miracles to occur very rarely– once in a thousand years, say– but to have an impact corresponding to their power. Now the raising of a man from the dead and his appearance to hundreds of people over the course of a month– followed in due course by Pentecost and the conversion of Saint Paul– are, I think it could be said, to Fatima as Fatima is to the Ghost of the Polish Bartender. How can we know they actually happened? We can’t. But we can infer from Fatima and the Polish Bartender– and similar types of events– that, if even greater types of miracles do occur, they should 1. occur even more rarely and 2. have even more of an impact. And that is exactly what we see here.

    Of course it raises the question– If the events surrounding the resurrection of Jesus were– say– once in a thousand years types of miracles, what types of miracles only occur once every 10,000 years? 100,000? Or every million years? When was the last time such a miracle occurred– and when are we due for another one?

  235. Regarding the heresy of wokesterism and its pals. Yeah, that’s quite the logical jump and makes for very sloppy thinking but pretty good excuses that can actually be quite tricky to take apart. I guess that is why they like it so much. I wish they could be secure enough about their decision to admit that they just like it that way instead of using their insecurities to bash something else and thus not having to look at it. I guess that is one of the collective symptoms of the crumbling of the Age of Reason.

    I’ve encountered this line of reasoning repeatedly and I wish I had a phrase to reduce them into a mindless blabber. Have you ever seen a person stuck in the same way a computer program crashes? It’s quite entertaining, a little bit cruel I admit, but entertaining.

  236. @JMG

    “Info, tell me where the body of Alexander the Great is located and then we can start talking about the location of the body of Jesus.”

    We at least know where the Holy Sepulcher is already located and it is still standing today. Don’t know about Alexander the Great’s Tomb.

    Unless there is another location that could be found by Archaeology.

  237. Hi John Michael,

    Sorry this is a bit off topic, but we kind of were speaking about belief systems, so hopefully you’ll indulge me? 🙂

    Interesting times. On the radio yesterday I heard some bloke who calls himself an inventor and is apparently advising your gobarmint on electricity. Anyway, he said something or other about electrifying everything. It sounded ambitious. You know my thoughts in this regard, and such talk seems like a pipe dream unless the guy was talking about merely having one low wattage light per household? And even that may be too much in the deep future.

    Sorry I digress. Did you see this: India could run out of coal soon. So why is a country with such big reserves facing shortages?

    There was talk that down here we’ve opened three new coal mining operations very recently.

    There are times where I feel kind of sorry for the journalists who hold such strong beliefs in the face of resource depletion and overall general decline. There would be a deep sense of confusion which would beset and befuddle them.

    Oh, and another land of stuff developer missed bond interest payments. My gut feeling is that they’ll let them go, but maybe prop up the payments to some local suppliers. We’ll see.



  238. Thanks JMG from the bottom of my lurking heart–I’ve been enjoying your blog, books, and AODA for years! You have made a major impact on my lifestyle and responsibility toward nature.
    I would also like to thank Mr. Kingsnorth for posting his article here, I enjoyed it also, and agreed with many points.
    It so nice to see polite, good faith disagreement between sharp minds.
    You are teaching by example.
    PS: I’m not done reading all the comments yet–I trust neither of you got snarky–or this comment will make no sense at all. 🙂

  239. Dworkman, I’ve seen that false binary claim put up by Christians many times. As someone who believes in multiple spiritual entities (could say polytheist for short) I believe that Jesus might well have been a messenger of YHWH while not believing that YHWH was the creator of the universe.

    Steve T, “miracles” witnessed by up to thousands of people happened quite often in Tibet before the cultural revolution. You might want to search for accounts of “treasure teachings”, where lamas somehow receive physical objects from animals, from seemingly random places in mountains, streams and so on. I remember reading an old account of Christian missionaries in Tibet; the Tibetans weren’t generally very impressed by the miracles in the Bible because they believed that some of the lamas could also exhibit similar miracles.

    I don’t think there’s anything like a law that governs how impactful a particular “revelation” is besides the availability of media to the witnesses and how it goes on to shape their lives.

  240. John Michael Greer at # 63

    Re: judging. Christians are commanded to judge. The whole passage means, judge the way you want to be judged — with mercy. If you are harsh/hypocritical/self-righteous, you have a case of log-eye.

    Per the Apostle Paul, Christians aren’t to judge outsiders, but are required to police their own. There’s a whole procedure with prayer, chances to repent, etc.

    The lower-middle-class and working-class sect I grew up in is hard*** on this. “This man’s been cheating on his wife. We’ve counseled him repeatedly. He won’t knock it off. We’re kicking him out.” Usually not spelled out like that, being as the whole congregation knows what’s up anyway. Lawsuits have resulted. One reason why it’s a small, poor sect.

    Not trolling! This is related because I think the Campbellites (a mildly derogatory term for that whole fundy movement) have a future. I can see its small churches becoming house churches in the coming hard times. Its tradition is congregational and suspicious of hierarchy. Members are supposed to read the Bible for themselves. This has worked for literacy. Some old folks grew up with no other book, but dang, they knew it chapter and verse.

    With hard work and clean living, many Campbellites were able to claw their way up into the lower middle class. In the coming decline, there’s a culture still there to fall back on. I foresee many Campbellite green wizards.

    No idea how the Mormons will do. They’re both hierarchical and into prepping. Most Anabaptists have their own version of house churches. Of course, they’ve already got the green wizard thing going.

  241. Alvin (no. 250), remember how Dr. Strange learned magic in the Himalayas (as one does)? Well, many years ago Mad Magazine invented a Tibetan superhero called Yakmaster, who went away to Oklahoma to be trained by TV evangelists. And why not? I mean, didn’t Oral Roberts raise a man from the dead, or something?

  242. I suppose it’s a flaw in my personality that I like Crowley. I read his essay on drinking absinthe and decided that I liked him, and it sort of stuck. For the occult, oddly, he’s not even in my top 10 influencers. I always picture him on the streets of 1920s Mexico with a crown on his head and a cape, the locals studiously avoiding eye contact with the crazy Englishman who thought he was invisible.

    Crowley and I both had pretty rough childhoods and then we grew up with weird baggage related to sex and gender. Crowley because he was a lusty bisexual brought up in a severely Christian household, and me because I was a lusty heterosexual whose mother is…not just a lesbian, but the sort of lesbian who thinks if her daughters aren’t lesbians they are pervs. My mother thinks I had an incestuous relationship with my father and, well, it gets very Jerry Springer after that.

    (People tend to blame me for my poor relationship with my mother, as though we just had a fight about me not cleaning my room and we could reconcile over Christmas or something. This is why I tend to skip right to the bits that make people say, “Oh my god! I’m so sorry that happened to you!” instead of politely not airing the dirty laundry.)

    Rightly or wrongly, what I took away from Crowley is that the gods, such as they are, don’t demand guilt about sex or constant affirmations of gender. The gods are within us, and they’re like cops: they have seen it all before. Crowley was a great remedy for all of the Marion Zimmer Bradley fantasies and the like that I had read, the Silver Ravenwolf and Patricia Telesco that was super feminist witchcraft. Woman-as-goddess going out of her mind in a world that didn’t see her as such. Not the sort of goddess anyone would want to be. No thanks!

    The odd thing is that I was thinking about Crowley as sort of an anti-goddess anti-Wiccan because of his interactions with Gardner, not Alexander Sanders or Jack Parsons who I learned about later. Though how I missed reading about Parsons and the whole Babylon ritual in the desert when the internet was new and I was reading all of the conspiracy theories, I really don’t know.

    I can say that Crowley was my anti-drug though. Crowley did a lot of drugs, and so I decided quite firmly not to do any.

Comments are closed.