Monday, 15 October 2007


Isis Invocation
by Dion Fortune.

"I am the Star that rises from the Sea, the Twilight Sea,
I bring men dreams that rule their destiny,
I bring the Moon-tides to the souls of men,
The tides that flow and ebb and flow alternately,
These are my secrets, they belong to me.

I am the Eternal Woman, I am She -
The tides of all men's souls belong to me.
The tides that flow and ebb and flow again,
The secret, silent tides that govern men,
These are my secrets, these belong to me.

Out of my Hands he takes his destiny;
Touch of my Hands bestows serenity -
These are the Moon-tides, these belong to me.

Isis in Heaven, on Earth, Persephone,
Diana of the Moon and Hecate,
Veiled Isis, Aphrodite from the Sea,
All these am I and they are seen in me.

The high Full Moon in the mid-heaven shines clear,
I hear the invoking words, hear and appear.
Shaddai el Chai and Rhea, Binah, Ge,
I come unto the Priestess that calleth me.

still 100% Pagan

I hereby certify myself still 100% Pagan, or should that be NeoPagan?

Either way, I enjoy Taoism, love of nature, animism, non-theism, pantheism, compassion for all life, communing with the Universe, and seeking to balance myself with the Way of Nature (variously known as the Tao, Yin and Yang, Fire and Frost, Wyrd, etc). I affirm that we are all related (mitakuye oyasin). There was no fall, only an arising. The Universe is the Beloved.


The new animism

In an article entitled Animism Revisited, Nurit Bird-David builds on the work of Irving Hallowell by discussing the animist worldview and lifeway of the Nayaka of India. Hallowell had learnt from the Ojibwa of southern central Canada that the humans are only one kind of 'person' among many. There are also 'rock persons', 'eagle persons' and so on. Hallowell and Bird-David discuss the ways in which particular indigenous cultures know how to relate to particular persons (individuals or groups). There is no need to talk of metaphysics or impute non-empirical 'beliefs' in discussing animism. What is required is an openness to consider that humans are neither separate from the world nor distinct from other kinds of being in most significant ways. The new animism also makes considerably more sense of attempts to understand 'totemism' as an understanding that humans are not only closely related to other humans but also to particular animals, plants, etc. It also helps by providing a term for the communities among whom shamans work: they are animists not 'shamanists'. Shamans are employed among animist communities to engage or mediate with other-than-human persons in situations that would be fraught or dangerous for un-initiated, untrained or non-skillful people. The -ism of 'animism' should not suggest an overly systematic approach (but this is true of the lived reality of most religious people), but it is preferable to the term shamanism which has led many commentators to construct an elaborate system out of the everyday practices of animists and those they employ to engage with other-than-human persons. The new animism is most fully discussed in a recent book by Graham Harvey, Animism: Respecting the Living World. But it is also significant in the 'animist realist' novels now being written among many indigenous communities worldwide. The term 'animist realism' was coined by Harry Garuba, a Nigerian scholar of literature, in comparison with 'magical realism'.


I came across the concept of egregores on Notes from underground, the blog of an Orthodox anarchist. It seems to me a very useful concept for describing "group mind" - the projection of self beyond the boundaries of the body in order to include others. Sometimes, if the values embraced are liberal, inclusive and humanitarian, such an egregore can be useful; but at other times, it can be destructive and divisive, especially if it involves demonising (projecting a shadow onto) another group.

The clever part about the more inclusive and liberal monotheisms is the idea that there is only one supreme being, who encompasses the whole universe (this is good, because instead of worshipping the egregore of your group, denomination, religion, or country, you are instead worshipping something which is regarded as the parent of all humanity). But the problem of monotheism is that if such a being existed and was omnipotent and omnibenevolent and omniscient as monotheistic religions claim, she would need to be perfect, and not allow evil (such as genocides, pogroms, the Holocaust, etc.) to occur.

Shekhinah theology
is quite a good way to account for this problem, but it still does not explain why a perfect being could create a universe in which mind is flawed.

The existence of egregores would certainly account for the narrow, bigoted and sectarian views of many religionists, who are seeking something less than the All - worshipping an egregore of their own cultural values. As Douglas Adams said, many people can't handle the size of the universe, so they choose to live in something smaller of their own devising.

Buddhism has managed to get on for centuries without deities (it acknowledges their existence, but is more interested in liberation from samsara).

Personally I still find Buddhism too interested in liberating spirit from matter, rather than awakening the Mind of the All, but it still has some interesting ideas. That said, if we really want to awaken the Mind of the All, we'd better be sure we give it nice liberal and inclusive values....

the Tao

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao;
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name;
this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery.

—(Tao Te Ching, trans. Gia-Fu Feng & Jane English, 1972).

Friday, 12 October 2007

Godde doesn't exist yet

I had a radical and rather liberating thought this morning. There was no Fall, because there was never a Golden Age or a Garden of Eden to fall from. But there is an Arising. There was no Creator God or Divine Source, rather the universe and its inhabitants are becoming more conscious, more compassionate, more empathic, with the arising of the universal Mind (which proceeds from the unfolding of the Tao). As we interact socially with the Universe, we increase its consciousness. First we awakened gods and spirits of place, then gradually began to perceive the All and wonder at the glories of Nature and the Universe. (Evil occurs when we fail to empathise with others.) We are part of the Arising of the universal Mind, as we become more conscious and more empathic. We are all Future Buddhas. As we become more empathically connected to the All, when we die we contribute our consciousness to the All, and it is in this process of connection that universal Mind arises. Those who mystically identify the All as a Thou and not an It contribute to the process of expanding awareness and continuing the process of making everything more conscious. The process of individuation and self-development is part of the process of becoming aware of the uniqueness and preciousness of all life in its glorious diversity. The golden age is in the future, not in the past. The genius of Buddhism and Unitarianism is that they are focussed on a future golden age, not a mythical one in the past from which we fell. Bodhisattvas (such as Jesus and Kwan Yin) so identified with the All that their compassion / karuna / empathy accelerated the arising of the universal Mind, and they are still there in some sense, guiding humanity towards awakening. But the awakening will not be from the illusion of matter, but rather matter itself is becoming ever more conscious or ensouled - it is awakening. Only when the Mind of the Universe is fully conscious - when the kundalini of the Universe has arisen from the depths - only then will "Godde" fully exist.

See also: God as Manifestation of Mind

Monday, 8 October 2007

what is religion? part 2

A response to ebonypearl. My original list wasn't in any particular order, and all the points were meant to be interrelated. Nor was it necessarily an exhaustive list.

"Respect all living things" - Numenists expand that out to respecting all of creation - from the air we breathe to the bedrock of the planet to the stars and beyond as well as to other people, trees, opossums, and rotting compost. Not just what lives, all that exists.

Yes I agree with this - spirits of place are worthy of respect too, for example.

"Have compassion for suffering" - Compassion is all well and good, but is better accompanied by action. Small charities is an important part of Numenism - helping those within one's community, whether that community is one's House, one's neighborhood, one's city, state, country, or world (we don't currently have regular access beyond our planet, so we're limited to that for now). We also embrace the flip side of that - having understanding for joy. Our existence is not just suffering, there's a lot of joy and pleasure here, too, and religion should not focus just on the suffering and pain and angst of existence, but embrace and support those who experience joy and happiness. Too often, those things which are pleasurable are viewed with distrust and envy and the most religious people do their best to stamp it out - witness religious prohibitions and restrictions against dancing, music, art, love.

If compassion doesn't result in action, then it's not really compassion in my book - but I should have made that clear. There's no point getting all weepy for the suffering and then not actually doing anything about it! I totally agree with the rest of what is expressed above - of course pleasure and joy are important and should be revelled in - and religions should not forbid dancing, music, art and love. (See "celebrate being alive.")

"Release its adherents from fear and loathing" - I'm not sure about this. Fear and loathing can be useful if it is not applied universally. It's right to fear those things that cause pain, and to loathe things that enjoy inflicting pain. Rather, I'd say here that a religion should teach courage and discrimination so one knows when to rightly fear something and loathe it and act against them if at all possible. I suppose she probably meant something other than what I'm reading in to it, and if so, it's probably because I have only an outsider's knowledge of Christianity. I've never been Christian even though I've spent all my life in communities heavily populated by Christians. It is wrong to fear divinity in any form, or to loathe those who approach divinity in different fashion. It is wrong to fear and loathe those who are different from us, whether by lifestyle choice or by the ravages of living.

Er yes, I meant fear of the divine and loathing of those who approach divinity in a different fashion (and those for whom the concept has no meaning). Yes, fear is a natural response to danger; and loathing is a natural response to adverse stimuli. And I fear fundamentalism and loathe intolerance, for example! So we are in agreement here, too.

"Honour other religions as different perspectives on the same reality" - Hmmm - this is an interesting one. See, I don't believe we share the same reality, so it makes it difficult to parse this statement. We teach honouring other religions because the people adhering to them are inherently divine. But we view the world as being layered, and while our realities may overlap, they aren't the same ones. We each live in our minds and hearts as much as we live in our physical surroundings. We are vouchsafed different experiences and interpretations of those experiences so each of us lives in our own individual reality. In Numenism, we teach that we are individuated corporeal beings who are still integral aspects of Dea Nutrix. And Dea Nutrix is not necessarily singular. That means we all inhabit different realities and are collecting different experiences and knowledge to bring to the gestalt of Dea Nutrix or whatever may be beyond Dea Nutrix.

Interesting way of looking at it. Not necessarily in conflict with my way of looking at it. I certainly agree with "we are individuated corporeal beings who are still integral aspects of Dea Nutrix" - though I wouldn't necessarily put any gender on the divine source, I prefer it to be feminine than masculine, and agree that we (and animals, gods, wights, goddesses, spirits of place, etc) are distinct identities within it. I agree that we are "collecting different experiences and knowledge to bring to the gestalt" of the Divine, too.

"Teach its adherent techniques to connect with the divine" - We are already connected to the divine. We teach senses and skills to experience that connection and offer a layered view that our adherents can use to find their comfort level. This doesn't mean they won't be prodded out of it by divine need or human needs or other events, but they can at least seek it and change it as circumstances dictate.

Yes, we are already connected with the Divine - so I should have said, "Teach its adherent techniques to become aware of their connection with the divine".

"Practice tolerance and forgiveness and peace" - Worthy goals, but I prefer "acceptance" to "tolerance". Why? Because "tolerance" is a power-over word, it implies that the tolerance can be withdrawn at any time and for no reason, the person or thing being tolerated doesn't have an equal footing with the one doing the tolerating. There is no need to attempt to understand something in order to tolerate it. "Acceptance", on the other hand, is more egalitarian. It doesn't depend upon whim the way tolerance does, and it requires thought and reason. In order to accept something, you have to understand it, or at least some of it. There is communication where there is acceptance.

Yes, you're right here as well. Acceptance is a better word. I'm not sure that I would go as far as you in saying that tolerance is a power-over word, and acceptance could be criticised on the grounds of being potentially uncritical of abusive practices on the part of the other.

"Celebrate diversity" - I can't argue with the words here, but I wonder about the definitions. In the workplace, "diversity" has come to mean "minorities" and often specifically minorities of African origin, with all kinds of concessions given to the "diversity" that damages everyone. In Numenism, we use this phrase to mean taking joy in learning about our differences and sharing information - from traditions to fashions to ways of looking at the universe. I am hoping Y meant the same thing I do, and not what workplaces mean.

Yep, I meant the same as you. Celebrating diversity does not mean we should turn a blind eye to abusive practices like female circumcision, for example.

"Be aware that different people have different ways of connecting with the divine" (snipped the last bit because it was examples) - I don't see how we can not be aware of this, at least in America. We're inundated with it because we are a cultural polyglot. I see this as more of a cultural attribute than a religious one. We don't address it specifically in Numenism because it falls under so many other areas it doesn't need a stand-alone statement.

I was thinking of the claims to exclusive truth made by certain Christians.

"Celebrate being alive" - I agree with this. I'd go farther and say we should revel in being alive. We are individuated corporeal beings for a reason, and part of that reason is to experience the physical, material world. Our senses and minds have limits placed on them by our physicality and we need to explore those limits. A large part of that exploration is enjoying the bodies we have and the senses with which we've been gifted.

Absolutely - and "revel" is a good word!

"Be able to discuss theology and philosophy without trying to impose conformity" - This needs a boundary on it. When you are discussing your religion within your religion, to other adherents and to newcomers, you do need to impose conformity, else there would be no way to differentiate between the religions. Conformity itself is not a problem, strict and rigid adherence to conformity is. When there is no flexibility, no stretch, in theology and philosophy, it doesn't grow, but it definitely needs the boundaries of conformity so it can reach beyond them. It's like why we have physical form - we need the shape of our bodies and the limits of our corporeality so we can use it as a touchstone for exploring beyond that. Insert the word "rigid", and I'd agree here.

Interesting - yes we need a framework and a tradition, and also to stretch the boundaries. I was thinking of rigid conformity, actually.

"Honour the contributions of science and the arts" - Do more than honour them, celebrate them! They are sacred acts, exploring the boundaries of our knowledge and experience, providing us with a clearer picture of divinity through its works. Science measures what we know, tests it, and tests it again when new knowledge comes along. There is nothing in science that can contradict the existence of divinity. There is nothing in art that can profane it, either. Both, together and separately, explore our world. We need them.

Celebrate and revel in - yes! And I agree with everything else you have said here too - I especially like "There is nothing in science that can contradict the existence of divinity. There is nothing in art that can profane it, either."

"Cultivate virtue" - define "virtue".

Ah well I deliberately didn't define that - but I was thinking of the 8 Wiccan Virtues, the Nine Noble Virtues of Heathenry, and the Roman Virtues. Each religion has a different set of virtues - but I certainly wasn't thinking of chastity, modesty, or anything life-denying.

"Resist oppressive practices and institutions" - Gotta define "oppressive" first. What is oppressive to one person may be liberating to another. Parenting is oppressive, even the most liberated parenting. Non-parenting can also be oppressive in a different way. Business practices share many of the same attributes as parenting, as does governance. So, we need to define and set boundaries for what we consider oppressive before we can teach resistance to it.

Setting boundaries (as parents do) is not oppressive - but putting boundaries where some people cannot possibly conform to them (e.g. telling gays they're not allowed to have sex, even in a loving consensual relationship) is oppressive in any system of thought.

"Stimulate all the senses" - I'm not sure where she's going with this one. In Numenism, we teach that humans have 9 distinct and functioning senses that can be honed with practice. Most humans only recognize 5 senses, so by definition, all non-Numenists are haphazardly connecting with the 4 senses that are not commonly recognized.

I was thinking of those religious practices that only really appeal to the right brain or the left brain - also I get spiritual stimulation from smells and sounds as well as words. Also sexual/sensual and spiritual feelings overlap. Do tell me about the nine senses, that is interesting.

"Honour sexuality in all its consensual forms as a divine gift" - I left the brackets out because I feel they shouldn't be there. Sexuality is only a part of it, too. I'd broaden it to "sensuality", which goes well beyond sexuality and may or may not include sex as part of it.

Yes, sexuality and sensuality certainly! I only put in the brackets because if you say to a Pagan, "honour sexuality", they know it means "in all its forms" and don't need telling, whereas if you say it to a Christian, you have to add it in so they know you're talking about all of it.

"Relax and let go" - hmmmm - again, I'm not sure where she's going with this.

It was based on the Taoist idea that all you have to do is relax, not strain to achieve enlightenment.

Now, moving beyond her list and to the paragraph below, I'd like to address three things:

"So if the Divine source is everywhere and in everyone, then we must reconnect with each other as well as with the source. " - not "reconnect", but recognize and acknowledge the connection that is there.

Agreed, "recognize and acknowledge the connection that is there" is better.

"The Divine is both immanent and transcendent, so it's not good enough to say that the physical world is illusory or fallen - we must be aware of the Divine presence within it." - I can't address this on the same level because the physical world is not illusory or fallen, it's a part of divinity. That, by our definition, means it can't be illusory unless divinity is illusory. It can't be fallen because as divine, it remains fully within grace. We need to move beyond awareness of divinity and into acceptance, integration, reveling in divinity and the world in which we exist as individuated corporeal beings.

Agree strongly!

"And we must be aware that our perspective is finite, whereas the Divine perspective is infinite and seen from all points simultaneously." - I agree we must be aware our perspective is finite - it's part and parcel of being corporeal and individuated - but being aware of being finite doesn't mean we can't push those boundaries and make our finitude broader. I disagree that the divine perspective is infinite. We don't know that. We can't even make educated guesses about that. We can agree that divinity's perspective is broader, wider, less finite than ours, but we can't say it's infinite.

Agree strongly.

Now, having looked at Y's list and gone through our Numenist dogmas and teachings, I want to say there is no such thing as a "proper" religion. Religions are social constructs, addressing the needs of the society within which it exists. There can be false religions created by individuals by which they hope to profit materially - these are usually called cults. There are religions that can be hi-jacked by unscrupulous people and used for their ends rather than the goals established by the founders of the religion - and all religions have human founders. Even when they claim divine inspiration, in the end, the adherents are attracted by the human(s) proselytizing for it.

Yep, agree with the above, too. The "proper religion" thing was meant to be tongue-in-cheek.

Any religion which promotes greater recognition and connection with divinity is a "proper" religion. That is the single and only attribute of religion that makes it religion and not government. Everything else attributed to religion is societal, and subject to the needs of society and the times in which the people live.

Yes, this is very true, but religion needs reforming sometimes to get rid of oppressive practices (but see discussion above about what might constitute oppression).

In response to elfwreck's comment, yes, incest is a bad idea (even between consenting adults) because of the psychological damage caused by it, and if offspring results from the intercourse, genetic damage. Ability to consent - tricky question - usually begins (legally) at the age of consent, but I'd still be concerned about huge age differences in relationships, just because of the difference in power between the partners.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

stars and moon

Tonight is a night of union for the stars and of scattering,
scattering, since a bride is coming from the skies, consisting of a full moon.
Venus cannot contain herself for charming melodies, like the
nightingale which becomes intoxicated with the rose in spring-time.
See how the polestar is ogling Leo;
behold what dust Pisces is stirring up drom the deep!
Jupiter has galloped his steed against ancient Saturn, saying
"Take back your youth and go, bring good tidings!"
Mars' hand, which was full of blood from the handle of his
sword, has become as life-giving as the sun, the exalted in works.
Since Aquarius has come full of that water of life, the dry
cluster of Virgo is raining pearls from him.
The Pleiades full of goodness fears not Libra and being
broken; how should Aries flee away in fright from its mother?
When from the moon the arrow of a glance struck the heart
of Sagittarius, he took to night-faring in passion for her, like Scorpio.
On such a festival, go, sacrifice Taurus, else you are crooked of gait in the mud like Cancer.
This sky is the astrolabe, and the reality is Love;
whatever we say of this, attend to the meaning.
Shamsi-Tabriz, on that dawn when you shine, the dark night
is transformed to bright day by your moonlike face.

~ Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

Mystical Poems of Rumi 1, A.J. Arberry
The University of Chicago Press, 1968


The 'drunken Sufis' exemplified by Bistami (Armstrong 1993: 261) desired to become one with the beloved in anihilation ('fana): "I gazed upon al-Lah with the eye of truth and said to Him: 'Who is this?" He said "This is neither I nor other than I There is no God but I" Then he changed my out of my identity into his Selfhood. Then I communed with him with the tongue of his face, saying "How fares it with me with Thee? He said "I am through Thee, there is no God but Thou".

This was taken to its visionary conclusion by al-Hallaj, the 'wool carder'

I am He whom I love, and He whom I love is I:
We are two spirits dwelling in one body.
If thou seest me thou seest Him,
And if thou seest Him thou seest us both"
(Armstrong 1993: 263).

However when he preached overthrow of the Caliphate and cried "ana al-Haqq - I am the truth" as Jesus did, he was crucified.

"When he saw the cross of nails he turned and uttered a prayer: 'And these Thy servants who are gathered to slay me, in zeal for Thy religion and in desire to win Thy favours, forgive them O Lord, and have mercy upon them; for verily if Thou hadst revealed to them what thou hast revealed to me, they would not have done what they have done,; and if Thou hadst hidden from me what you have hidden from them, I should not have suffered this tribulation. Glory unto Thee in whatsoever thou doest, and glory unto Thee in whatsoever Thou willest' "

~ from The Tao of the Sufi
So, there has been more than one Anointed who has suffered death for his extreme love of the Divine.
The Beloved

One went to the door of the Beloved and knocked.
A voice asked: 'Who is there?' He answered: 'It is I.'
The voice said: 'There is no room here for me and thee.'
The door was shut.

After a year of solitude and deprivation
this man returned to the door of the Beloved.
He knocked.
A voice from within asked: 'Who is there?'
The man said: 'It is Thou.'
The door was opened for him.

Rumi (Shah 207)

Friday, 5 October 2007

what is religion? part 1

So you want to be a proper religion...

A proper religion, in my opinion, should
  • Respect all living creatures
  • Have compassion for suffering
  • Release its adherents from fear and loathing
  • Honour other religions as different perspectives on the same reality
  • Teach its adherents techniques to connect with the Divine
  • Practice tolerance and forgiveness and peace
  • Celebrate diversity
  • Be aware that different people have different ways of connecting with the Divine - some through meditation, some through dance, some through the practice of charity, etc.
  • Celebrate being alive
  • Be able to discuss theology and philosophy without trying to impose conformity
  • Honour the contribution of science and the arts
  • Cultivate virtue
  • Resist oppressive practices and institutions
  • Stimulate all the senses
  • Honour sexuality (in all its consensual forms) as a divine gift
  • Relax and let go
The tragedy of Western religion is that it is focused on belief and creeds, rather than on mystical experience. The word religion comes from the Latin religare, to reconnect. So if the Divine source is everywhere and in everyone, then we must reconnect with each other as well as with the source. The Divine is both immanent and transcendent, so it's not good enough to say that the physical world is illusory or fallen - we must be aware of the Divine presence within it. And we must be aware that our perspective is finite, whereas the Divine perspective is infinite and seen from all points simultaneously.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Sufi peace prayer

Send Thy peace, O Lord, which is perfect and everlasting,
that our souls may radiate peace.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, that we may think, act,
and speak harmoniously.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, that we may be contented
and thankful for Thy bountiful gifts.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, that amidst our worldly strife
we may enjoy thy bliss.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, that we may endure all,
tolerate all in the thought of thy grace and mercy.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, that our lives may become a
divine vision, and in Thy light all darkness may vanish.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, our Father and Mother,
that we Thy children on earth may all unite in one family.

Sufi Order International, peace prayer