PAGANISM VS. ANTI-EARTH RELIGION by Diane Vera Earth Day, April 22, 1991 Following is the

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PAGANISM VS. ANTI-EARTH RELIGION by Diane Vera Earth Day, April 22, 1991 Following is the text of a 4-part message which was posted in the PAGAN echo on April 7, 1991. It summarizes many of the standard neo- Pagan objections to the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic tradition. This series of messages has been uploaded as a file at the request of William Hunter. [Note to Pagan purists: Except for the opening paragraph and a brief reference to TWILITE.TXT at the end, this is an *ENTIRELY ORTHODOX* feminist (nonseparatist) neo-Pagan document. Even you - perhaps *especially* you - may find it a useful statement of some of your beliefs.] From: Diane Vera To: Aiwass Msg #129, 07-Apr-91 09:47pm Subject: Paganism vs. anti-Earth religion, Part 1 of 4 Since you seem to be into Gnosticism (judging by your March 24 message to Bjorn Meaddranker), I'll be very interested in your comments on the following fairly-common neo-Pagan criticisms of Gnosticism and of the Judaeo-Christian tradition in general - criticisms I myself am inclined to agree with. I will try to express them in as reasonable a manner as I can - the way I myself hope to be treated, since I'll probably be getting much more flak than you for my own messages to Bjorn Meaddranker. . First, are you familiar with the standard Feminist neo-Pagan critique of patriarchal religion? . All of the so-called "great" religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism) are male-oriented and are a product of patriarchal societies, though some of them do retain elements of an earlier, female-centered worldview. . Patriarchy seems almost "universal" today, but it wasn't always the prevalent form of human society. Many earlier societies were "matrifocal", i.e. centered around kinship in the female line. They weren't usually *matriarchal* in the sense of women ruling OVER men the way men later ruled over women, but women had a much more prominent role than they typically did under patriarchy, a prominence reflected in religion. Matrifocal societies were *usually* - but not necessarily - less warlike than patriarchal societies. (A notable exception is the Iroquois, who were fierce warriors, despite their famous "Great Law of Peace" from which the U.S. Constitution got much of its inspiration.) Many of the Native American tribes were matrifocal, though the status of women typically went down after the arrival of the white conquerors, according to Paula Gunn Allen in her book THE SACRED HOOP: RECOVERING THE FEMININE IN AMERICAN INDIAN TRADITIONS (Beacon Press, 1986). And, as I mentioned in my March 16 message to Lord Borgon on "Ancient Greek religion", while classical Greece was very patriarchal, there's plenty of evidence of an earlier matrifocal society. For example, the classical Greek tragedy THE EUMENIDES, the third play in the Oresteia trilogy by Aeschylus, is a play about the patriarchal take-over. And in Homer's ODYSSEY, Penelope's suitors want to marry her so they can become king, which implies that the royal family is matrilineal. (Since Greece was patriarchal by the time of Homer, his epics contain a confused mishmash of matrifocal and patriarchal custom.) If any readers want to pursue this further, I've heard from many sources that an excellent general intro to this topic is THE CHALICE AND THE BLADE by Riane Eisler (Harper & Row, 1988); I myself haven't read it yet. . Now, back to Gnosticism. . The Feminist neo-Pagan critique of Gnosticism runs much deeper than such obvious sexism as the statement in the Gospel of Thomas that women have to "become men", whatever than means. Gnosticism, as I understand it, is profoundly anti-Earth and anti-Nature, in ways that are also implicitly anti-woman - even though, if I understand correctly, some of the Gnostic sects did retain more Goddess imagery than standard Christianity. . (continued next message) --- Opus-CBCS 1.14 * Origin: Pagana Redux @ 718/499-9277 (0:278/666.0) From: Diane Vera To: Aiwass Msg #130, 07-Apr-91 09:50pm Subject: Paganism vs. anti-Earth religion, Part 2 of 4 (continued from previous message) . My understanding of Gnosticism is probably oversimplified, and if it is, please let me know how. . As I understand it, the Gnostics were into spirit/matter dualism, regarding the material world as lowly and generally despicable if not downright inherently evil, and the aim of Gnosticism was to acquire "gnosis" which would enable people to transcend the material world and eventually become pure spirit. . I am leery of any philosophy which puts down either the material world *or* the spirit world. I am especially leery of such philosophies on account of my woman-centered focus. It seems to me that women - especially women who have children - have a necessary tendency to be more strongly attached to both the material world *and* the spiritual world than men are. In a materialistic society like ours, it is primarily women who retain an interest in spiritual things. On the other hand, in some patriarchal Asian societies where spirituality is glorified and the material world is disdained as "maya" (illusion), it is the women who are known as the practical ones - and are despised for not being as "spiritual" as men. (Even in Western patriarchal mystical traditions, e.g. the Kabbalah, matter is seen as "feminine" relative to spirit, which is "masculine", probably a reflection of the Jewish tradition that it was women's job to attend to the nitty-gritty details of life while the men spent their time studying the Torah.) . Thus, it seems to me that any religion or philosophy which rejects or despises *either* the material world *or* the spiritual world tends indirectly to promote male supremacy, as also does any philosophy like Buddhism which glorifies detachment. The men will specialize in whichever facet of life has the most status in a given society, while the women pick up the neglected pieces. Of course, the mystical traditions of patriarchal societies are often *overtly* male-supremacist as well. . In a matrifocal religion, the spiritual and material worlds would both be valued as essential parts of an inter-connected whole, co-creating and/or co-sustaining each other, neither one hierarchically superior to or inferior to the other; neither one the Absolute Reality while the other is mere illusion. For example, in classical Greek religion, many aspects of which were inherited from the earlier matrifocal society, the Earth itself was believed to be alive; was Herself a Goddesses (Gaia), and was the Mother of all the Goddesses and Gods. And in some Native American creation myths, the Creator needs the help of Her or His earlier creatures to create subsequent creatures; the Creator is not all-powerful but is to some extent subject to the material world just like the rest of us. . In many neo-Pagan books, it has been noted that the Judeao-Christian- Islamic tradition is anti-Earth. In the book of Genesis, humans are told to "subdue" the Earth. . (continued next message) --- Opus-CBCS 1.14 * Origin: Pagana Redux @ 718/499-9277 (0:278/666.0) From: Diane Vera To: Aiwass Msg #131, 07-Apr-91 09:52pm Subject: Paganism vs. anti-Earth religion, Part 3 of 4 (continued from previous message) . Judaism, Islam, and non-Gnostic Christianity do not despise the material world in quite the way that Gnosticism and some Eastern religions do, as described above. At least Judaism and its two main daughter-religions regard the material world as fully real. Nevertheless, the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic tradition denies spiritual significance to the material world in an even more profound way. . The J-C-I tradition specifically and vehemently opposes - as "idolatry", one of the worst possible sins - any form of pantheistic reverence for the natural world or for any spiritual beings or essences that might be reciprocally intertwined with the natural world. Certainly the material and spiritual worlds are not thought to co-create each other. There is only One Creator, the One Omnipotent Jealous God, who stands clearly above the material world (albeit "omnipresent" in it); and the only part of the material world to which He has deigned to give any eternal, ultimate significance is the human race (especially the male half thereof), which was created in the Image of God, and for whose use the rest of the world was created. Hinduism and Buddhism, on the other hand, have managed to co-opt, incorporate, or otherwise co-exist with the older nature religions, even while devaluing the material world. . A number of historians (such as Arnold Toynbee) have noted that the J-C-I tradition's militant opposition to any "idolatrous" sense of the sacredness of the Earth is probably at least partly responsible for today's ecological crisis. Indeed, in the "Darcie's Current Events" column in HARVEST last year (Spring Equinox 1990 issue): . A recent Yale University Forestry Dept. study indicated that christian [sic] church attendance exerted a negative impact on worshippers' concern for the environment. The more an individual participated in services, the less likely that person was to be environmentally concerned. Conversely, those less inclined to formal worship had a higher regard for the environment. The study concluded that churches should teach greater responsibility for the condition of "God's creation". . I'm not sure I literally believe in the ancient matrifocal concept of co-creation, at least not as a article of dogmatic faith. I do not purport to be able know just what the relationship is between spirit and matter; I don't even have an exact definition of "spirit". (My working definition is: those aspects of reality which science does not explore, yet which do affect our lives. By my definition, there is no hard-and-fast dividing line between the spiritual and the psychological, or between the spiritual and what might in the future be recognized as a part of the material world.) I don't know how the world was created; I wasn't around back then. But I do like the *attitudes* implied by co-creation: regarding the natural world as sacred, and regarding spirituality as important without indulging in "spiritual" snobbery toward Earthly concerns. A matrifocal religion need not have a literal doctrine of co-creation. But at the very least, it would not regard the spirit world as being in any way "opposed to" the material world. It would not, for example, regard the body as "the tomb of the soul" (a phrase attributed to the Greek philosopher Philolaus, one of the followers of Pythagoras). . (continued next message) --- Opus-CBCS 1.14 * Origin: Pagana Redux @ 718/499-9277 (0:278/666.0) From: Diane Vera To: Aiwass Msg #132, 07-Apr-91 09:55pm Subject: Paganism vs. anti-Earth relition, Part 4 of 4 (continued from previous message) . As part of their devaluation of the natural/material world, all of the so-called "great" patriarchal religions aim to eradicate or severely limit "desire" - especially sexual desire, but also "desire" in general. Buddhism targets "desire" on grounds that all suffering is caused by frustrated desire, and our desires inevitably do get frustrated sooner or later; so if we eliminate desire, we eliminate the root cause of all suffering. (Ironically, Buddhism also preaches compassion - but how can you have compassion for somebody unless you sympathize with that person's desires?) Christianity, especially fundamentalist/evangelical Christianity, targets desire on the more authoritarian grounds that our fleshly nature must be made subservient to "God's will"; and anything we might desire more than "God" is a violation of the First Commandment. The essence of both the Christian and the Islamic spiritual experience is "surrender to the will of God" (the very word "Islam" means "submission"), a concept which is also found, albeit in far less authoritarian form, in groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. . In contrast, as Starhawk says of neo-Pagan Witchcraft in THE SPIRAL DANCE (Harper & Row, 1979), p.83: . The "ecstasy of the spirit" is not separate from "joy on earth". One leads to the other - and neither can truly be realized without the other. Earthly joys, unconnected with the deep, feeling power of the Goddess, become mechanical, meaningless - mere sensations that soon lose their appeal. But spiritual ecstasies that attempt to escape the senses and the body become equally arid and rootless, draining vitality instead of nourishing it. . Some forms of patriarchal religion, such as Hasidic Judaism, *claim* to have an attitude similar to Starhawk's. (Indeed, Starhawk herself likens the neo-Pagan approach to that of Hasidism.) But Hasidic Jews accept Earthly pleasure only within very narrowly-defined limits. For example, here in New York they were among the main forces opposing the Gay Rights Bill. Similar patriarchal taboos surround Tantric Hinduism, judging by what little I've read about it. I remember reading somewhere that among some Tantric Hindus, a woman and a man are supposed to have sex only once a month; anything beyond that is considered harmful over-indulgence. . Patriarchal religion isn't just anti-woman, anti-sexual, and (often) anti-Earth, it's also very convenient for authoritarian rulers. If "desire" is despised, and if Earthly pleasure is unimportant, it can then be argued that we shouldn't complain about Earthly oppression. Standard Hinduism is convenient for the ruling class in many ways, mostly revolving around the idea of "karma": if "justice" happens automatically, then we shouldn't try to make it happen; and if we're politically oppressed, it must be because we deserve it. Christian rulers have often used "Good-vs.-Evil" dualism to convince their subjects that any rebels or dissidents must be Enemies of God. (For an eloquent elaboration on this last point, see Tim Maroney's file TWILITE.TXT on ThelemaNet (415) 751-9308 or on BaphoNet (718) 499-9277.) . I know this was quite a long barrage, but I promise you I *will* *listen* to anything you choose to say in response. Happy Spring. --- Opus-CBCS 1.14 * Origin: Pagana Redux @ 718/499-9277 (0:278/666.0)


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