- The American Conservative - https://www.theamericanconservative.com -

When The Religious Left Is Occult

Back in the day, the Reverend Pat Robertson kerfuffed the nation by making the following claim about feminism [1]:

[I]t is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.

Today, the religion writer Tara Isabella Burton —  an Oxford PhD whom I met at Walker Percy Weekend — published a fascinating piece about the rise of occultism among Millennial progressives, [2] that ends with this killer graf:

Back in 1992, Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson warned of the dangers of feminism, predicting that it would induce “women to leave their husbands. . . .practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” Many of today’s witches would happily agree.

Her reported piece actually justifies this surprising conclusion. She didn’t write it from a particular political point of view, let me be clear. She told me at the festival that this piece was coming. She said that she had spent a lot of time reporting it by hanging out with people in that world, and asking them what drew them to the occult, and why they believe that occult belief and practice can and should be fused with political commitment. I swear, reading this is like encountering the photonegative of the Religious Right. Excerpts:

For an increasing number of left-leaning millennials—more and more of whom do not belong to any organized religion—occult spirituality isn’t just a form of personal practice, self-care with more sage. Rather, it’s a metaphysical canvas for the American culture wars in the post-Trump era: pitting the self-identified Davids of seemingly secular progressivism against the Goliath of nationalist evangelical Christianity.

There’s the coven of Brooklyn witches who publicly hexed [3] then-Supreme Court candidate Brett Kavanaugh to the acclamation of the thousands-strong “Magic Resistance”—anti-Trump witches (among them: pop singer Lana del Rey) who used at-home folk magic to “bind” the president in the months following his inauguration. There are organizations like The Satanic Temple —newly featured in Penny Lane’s 2019 documentary Hail Satan—a “nontheistic religion” and activist group that uses its religious status to demand for its black-robe-clad members the same protections afforded to Christians in the hopes of highlighting the ridiculousness of faith-based exceptions (Satanic prayer in schools, say). There are dozens of Trump-era how-to spellbooks that blend folk magic with activist practice: the 2018 anthology The New Arcadia: A Witch’s Handbook to MagicalResistance; Michael Hughes’s 2018 Magic for the Resistance: Rituals and Spells for Change; David Salisbury’s 2019 Witchcraft Activism: A Toolkit for Magical Resistance (Includes Spells for Social Justice, Civil Rights, the Environment, and More); and Sarah Lyons’s forthcoming Revolutionary Witchcraft: A Guide to Magical Activism. There are hundreds of thousands of users of witch-popular blogging platforms like Tumblr and Instagram, which at the moment boasts 8.5 million photographs hashtagged “#witch.”

More:

As an aesthetic, as a spiritual practice, and as a communal ideology, contemporary millennial “witch culture” defines itself as the cosmic counterbalance to Trumpian evangelicalism. It’s at once progressive and transgressive, using the language of the chaotic, the spiritually dangerous, and (at times) the diabolical to chip at the edifices of what it sees as a white, patriarchal Christianity that has become a de facto state religion.

Get this:

While New Age practitioners of the 1960s onward often characterized their practice as unfailingly benign—the karmic “Rule of Three,” which predicted that any negative energy sent into the universe would reverberate threefold on a practitioner, was ubiquitous in neo-pagan circles—contemporary witch feminism rebrands occult darkness as a legitimate, even necessary response to a structural oppression. In one Brooklyn zine, author and non-binary witch Dakota Bracciale—co-owner of Catland Books, the occult store behind the Kavanaugh hexing—celebrates the potential of traditional “dark magic” and outright devil-worship as a levying force for social justice.

“There have been too many self-elected spokespersons for all of witchcraft,” Bracciale writes, “seeking to pander to the masses and desperately conform to larger mainstream religious tenets in order to curry legitimacy. Witchcraft has largely, if not exclusively, been a tool of resilience and resistance to oppressive power structures, not a plaything for bored, affluent fools. So if one must ride into battle under the banner of the Devil himself to do so then I say so be it. The reality is that you can be a witch and worship the devil and have sex with demons and cavort through the night stealing children and burning churches. One should really have goals.” As with the denizens of The Satanic Temple, Bracciale uses the imagery of Satanism as a direct attack on what he perceives as Christian hegemony. So too Jex Blackmore, a self-proclaimed Satanic feminist (and former national spokesperson for the Satanic Temple) who appeared in the Hail Satan? documentary performing a Satanic ritual involving half-naked worshippers and pigs’ heads on spikes, announcing [4]: “We are going to disrupt, distort, destroy. . . .We are going to storm press conferences, kidnap an executive, release snakes in the governor’s mansion, execute the president.”

You have to read the whole thing.  [2] This is deeply informed religion journalism, not sensationalism. It’s true that the topic itself is sensational, but after spending a while talking to Tara about this story, and her experiences as a journalist and an observer of that world, I’m convinced that this is a serious phenomenon that deserves attention. If you don’t believe me, read the piece, and see how she traces its influence through popular culture. Tara has a book coming out next year about religion in a “godless” world. Check out her website here. [5]

Here’s what I’ve been thinking since our conversation about this piece, and since reading it earlier today: we should take this as seriously as its practitioners do. 

Under liberalism, many of us have a habit of ironically distancing ourselves from taking religion — mainstream religion, or outsider religion — seriously. For example, we think of religious rites as an expression of how the practitioner feels about this or that. Secular unbelievers, obviously, don’t think that there is anything real happening with satanic rites, spell-casting, and suchlike. It is nothing more than a form of theater. They also regard Christian rituals in the same way.

If materialism is an accurate and complete account of reality, then they’re right: it’s nothing more than emotive pageantry. Still, if that’s all it is, then we should at least take seriously the fact that there are people who wish to express in ritual a desire to “disrupt, distort [and] destroy.” In writing about the believers within these circles, Tara told me that it’s not a joke or a game to them; they really do believe that what they’re doing has an effect, just as much as a Christian faith healer or exorcist does.

Holden Matthews, the young white man charged with burning down three black churches this year in south Louisiana, was reportedly deeply involved with the black metal scene [6], a genre of rock that celebrates satanic themes, sometimes attracts white supremacists, and whose followers have been linked to church burnings elsewhere. Maybe there’s nothing to it but expressive pageantry, but then again, Mohammed Atta and his crew hijacked airliners and flew them into buildings for religious and political reasons. My point is simply that religion is not always something nice and respectable and life-affirming. All religion might be false, but most of us would rather live next door to Ned Flanders than Holden Matthews.

But what if materialism’s account of reality is untrue? What if there really is something actual going on with religion? That is, what if people who perform religious rites — Catholics, Taoists, witches, everyone — are not simply expressing how they feel, but truly making contact with the numinous, and engaging its power?

I believe that’s what’s happening in most religious rites. Do I believe that all people who participate in them are actually contacting the god or gods they claim to be contacting? No, of course not. I am an Orthodox Christian, not a pantheist. I believe in the cosmos as described in the Bible. I believe in the Holy Trinity, in saints and angels — and I believe that the devil exists, and so do demons. I’ve seen enough with my own eyes, and heard enough testimony from those with more direct experience of malevolent spirits, to be completely assured that this world exists.

Within the Christian world, you can find a lot of diversity of opinion about the spiritual world and its mysteries. Some strict Christians would say that anyone who doesn’t pray explicitly to Jesus Christ is therefore a servant of the Evil One. Others have more complex views. It’s the same in other religions, of course. I don’t want to go into how to parse these things out. That’s an interesting topic, but beside the point I want to make here.

Which is this: what Burton writes about is not something to laugh about — though the way woke capitalism is exploiting the search for divinity via occultism is pretty eye-rolling –n is it something to affirm in that broad-minded, nitwit way in which we cheerfully Celebrate Diversity.™ The Religious Left is not merely about Unitarian Universalists and Social Justice Catholics. It includes an increasing number of people who actually hate Christianity, and wish to harm it. And, as Burton wittily observes, almost three decades after the TV evangelist made his controversial observation, Pat Robertson’s fundraising fever dream has come true.

What do we do with that?

What do you do with that if you are a materialist?

What do you do with it if you’re a liberal Christian, Jew, or Muslim? Does your shared political commitment mean you overlook the occultism? Or what?

What if you’re a conservative Abrahamic theist? How do you respond?

What if you’re someone from an established non-Abrahamic tradition? Is there a line to be drawn between, say, Hinduism and Buddhism on one side, and satanism on the other?

Can a clear and meaningful line be drawn between worshipers in various occult traditions. Wiccans, for example, are not satanists — but would Wiccans reject holding rituals with satanists, or teaming with them for political action? If so, on what grounds? I’m genuinely asking.

The one response that I reject flatly as nonsense is to laugh it off as theater. For one thing, it’s disrespectful to those who take it seriously, just as disrespectful as it would be to dismiss someone who worships in synagogue or masjid or church as nothing more than an actor or a member of the audience. Laughing the mysteries of religion off as theater is what we say when we can’t figure out what to think, and we just want to dismiss the numinous. But the numinous keeps showing up. Read this 2014 essay by Rice University religion scholar Jeffrey Kripal [7], who talks about how we have a foolish habit of dismissing anything that contradicts the materialist framework out of hand.

Ask yourself, if only as a thought experiment: if the people in Tara Isabella Burton’s report are in touch with actual dark spiritual forces, and trying to invoke or otherwise activate them to affect people and events in the material world, what does that mean? Can your settled pieties, secular and otherwise, afford to take them seriously? is what I’m asking.

Let’s have an interesting, respectful conversation about this, shall we? If you just want to rant, don’t bother, because I’m not going to approve it. Also, let me point out that my own views are not the same views as Tara Isabella Burton. Her piece is reported neutrally, as a work of religion journalism; you should read it before commenting.  [2]

He told us so! (CBN screenshot [8])

UPDATE: Gang, be serious in your comments.

Advertisement
150 Comments (Open | Close)

150 Comments To "When The Religious Left Is Occult"

#1 Comment By JonF On June 10, 2019 @ 9:52 am

VikingLS, Why do you think I would ever fiddle around with a ouija board? It should be clear that I put such things in the same bucket as nonsense anout black cats and four leaf clovers. Do demonic beings exist? Yes, but they aren’t gods and have no power we do not grant them, unless God, for reasons we do not grasp, gives power to them (e.g., Satan in the book of Job). The devils lie to us and tempt us, but they are not demigods in their own right.

Janwaar Bibi, Christianity is not a faith that emerged from primitive savages. Good grief please read some history. First century Judaism was itself cosmopolitan and erudite, and Christianity emerged out of the highly Hellenized urban culture of the Ronan Empire. It was no more primitive than Buddhism with its thick foundation of Hindu metaphysics.

[NFR: You’re wrong about ouija boards, Jon. It’s not nonsense. I’ve seen the supernatural malice that comes through it with my own eyes. It’s opening a doorway. — RD]

#2 Comment By Franklin Evans On June 10, 2019 @ 11:32 am

Rod makes the important point in the middle of his blog entry:

Here’s what I’ve been thinking since [his and Tara Burton’s] conversation about this piece, and since reading it earlier today: we should take this as seriously as its practitioners do.

Many of you know me and my background, and some of you have read me describe my personal beliefs. I am not the focus here, except perhaps to be the voice which amplifies Rod’s point, and the voice with the “credential” to be credible.

By the way, I strongly urge everyone to read and follow Tara’s writing. She is erudite and insightful.

So, for this deeply complex topic, and being mindful of my usual long-windedness, I’ll try to be brief.

First and foremost, there is no “trend” here, no shift in the religious landscape. It is, I do assert, a symptom and not a cause. The fraught and pejorative history of witchcraft is the cause, and because it is a wide-open field, because it has no infrastructure behind it, because it is inherently anti-establishment in its roots, witchcraft is becoming the next phase of the New Age movement.

I cannot exaggerate the parallels I see between New Age in general and Rod’s Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). New Age by definition is superficial, rife with “cafeteria” style appropriation and outsiders taking millennia-old traditions and remaking them in their modern image. Even the likely allies of New Age, modern Pagans, are vulnerable to appropriation. Tara’s citation of the karmic “Rule of Three” is a perfect example of it in multiple layers. “Karma” is an aspect of duality in some Asian traditions. “Rule of Three” is a bad reiteration of one line in a Wiccan creed statement whose context is quite deep and broad.

I also suggest great care in using the term “occult”. It’s literal meaning is hidden or obscure. It implies esoteric knowledge. It is as misleading as insisting that any parable be taken literally. What is hidden to some is an everyday reality to others. I get what Tara is saying in her writing — I had the great pleasure to have a conversation with her and her fiance — and I’m here to also say that “progressive occultism” is a borderline oxymoron. It is a well intended coining of a term. It has a place in the context of her writing. Like MTD and New Age appropriation, it cannot stand on its own outside that context.

Rod asks several questions, what to do, how to respond. We have centuries of examples of choices which have been made. The most successful ones — and they are rare — choose understanding, tolerance and a balance between religious practice and secular social and legal norms. The least successful, the ones with the bloodiest trails in their wake, choose tyranny and violence. Right there is where witchcraft takes its “cues”, and in the modern context becomes a weapon of dissent, disruption and iconoclasm.

I promised to try to be brief, but instead of two posts I’m including the following.

Rod:

Can a clear and meaningful line be drawn between worshipers in various occult traditions. Wiccans, for example, are not satanists — but would Wiccans reject holding rituals with satanists, or teaming with them for political action? If so, on what grounds? I’m genuinely asking.

The lines are not just drawn. They are clearly defined. They are also regularly and easily crossed, as this is a part of human nature, to challenge and risk.

The first line is ritual. Modern Pagans don’t just take their rituals seriously, they consider them as much a part of their lives as breathing. No, Rod, Wiccans and Satanists have zero common ritual ground. Wiccans (and others) hold open rituals, carefully designed to be accessible to the general public. Any Satanist, self-identified or not, would be welcome at a public ritual, but would have no say in its conduct. To my knowledge, Satanists do not have public rituals. No Wiccan, as I understand it, would attend their rituals unless they were Satanists. The two belief systems are mutually exclusive. I leave further logical consideration to the readers.

Political action is quite the other thing here. Our one journalistic service [9] regularly reports on The Satanic Temple’s activities, and featured a recent article about the film Hail Satan?. As non-Abrahamic belief systems, well to the fringe of society-at-large, we do have a firm common ground in the social and legal contexts.

#3 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On June 10, 2019 @ 11:43 am

Janwaar,

No dharmic religion has the concept of Satan. Dharmic religions believe human beings have the capacity for both good and evil, and that evil arises from destructive emotions like pride, lust, greed, attachment, and anger. To defeat evil, you have to defeat these emotions in yourself, which is why dharmic religions focus on spirituality and achieving salvation by conquering those emotions. This is also why Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains do not proselytize other people nor do they worry about whether Christians or Muslims will go to hell.

Fair enough, but needs some qualification.

Hindus and Buddhists don’t believe in a Satan figure, but they do believe in demons (I don’t know what else you would call the rakshasas or the asuras but they seem like vague equivalents). As one should: it seems only logical that if there is a supernatural realm with supernatural entities, then some of them might be malevolent. I’d agree that they aren’t exact equivalents: Hindu myths seem to think that these beings are capable of some moral complexity and freedom of choice, which in the orthodox Christian conception the demons certainly aren’t. (That’s an element of orthodox Christian thought that seems pretty unconvincing to me).

Hindus don’t proselytize today, certainly, but there was a time in the high middle ages when Hinduism spread outside India to a large extent (Cambodia was once Hindu, so was Thailand and parts of southern Vietnam, and so is Bali even today). A big difference of course is that as far as I know, Hinduism never spread by conquest (unlike Christianity and Islam).

Of course, there are also more religious paradigms out there besides the “dharmic” and the “abrahamic”. Persian dualistic religion is a third option (Zoroastrianism, as well as some extinct religions like Manichaeanism, fit into that framework, and Gnosticism was kind of an attempt to fit the Christian story into a Persian cosmological framework). Paganism and the various nature religions of the world are a fourth option.

I certainly agree with you in rolling my eyes and saying “bless you heart” at the casual equation of Hinduism with “satanism”, and in particular things like Fran Macadam’s fatuous response here:

You might say Hinduism has no devil, but its gods are legion, and bear no resemblance at all to the Jesus Christ of the Gospels.

To be fair, my uncle’s an evangelical pastor and a convert from Hinduism (lives in New Delhi, in fact), and says quite similar things about how Hindu gods are actually demons, so it’s not an uncommon belief among evangelicals.

#4 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On June 10, 2019 @ 11:47 am

“Name any religion other than … Islam that includes in their core beliefs the harming of others?”

I dunno, you would have to ask King David or whoever else you think who wrote the “imprecatory Psalms”. I don’t know how else you would describe the spirit of those texts other than “wishing ill upon others”.

Acting as though this is a particular feature of Islam, or as though Judaism (and to the extent that it borrows the Old Testament, Christianity as well) is free of this stuff, seems delusional at best.

#5 Comment By Ryan W On June 10, 2019 @ 12:00 pm

“No dharmic religion has the concept of Satan. Dharmic religions believe human beings have the capacity for both good and evil, and that evil arises from destructive emotions like pride, lust, greed, attachment, and anger. To defeat evil, you have to defeat these emotions in yourself, which is why dharmic religions focus on spirituality and achieving salvation by conquering those emotions. This is also why Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains do not proselytize other people nor do they worry about whether Christians or Muslims will go to hell.,” etc.

The lack of self-awareness in this comment is stunning. With only a bit of simplification, it comes down to, “My religion and others of its family is gentle, profound, wise, etc. Yours is narrow-minded, prone to violence, etc.” It’s incredibly difficult not to see the close equivalence between this and, “My tribe good, your tribe bad.”

But in any case, the claims made are also the purest nonsense, and easily demonstrated to be false. Buddhism has an extremely analogous figure to Satan in Mara (see the Wiki article here [10] ). Given the lack of divine judgment in Buddhism, Mara isn’t an “accuser” like Satan, but fits pretty much all of Satan’s other roles as a tempter, deceiver, and so on. Hinduism has a variety of demonic-type figures, discussed in an article here ( [11] ).

#6 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On June 10, 2019 @ 12:02 pm

Although I’m an Eastern Orthodox Christian now, I was a Franklin Evans-style Wiccan as a new college grad in the late 80s. My coven worshipped nature as divine and strictly followed the “harm none” rule. We viewed Satan as a Judeo-Christian personification of evil that had nothing to do with us. We simply wanted to follow what we regarded as “the old ways” — celebrating the cycles of the moon, the cycles of the seasons, harmony with Mother Earth, that sort of thing.

MrsDK,

This is a very interesting comment, and puts me in mind of someone I spoke to years ago after a Sunday service at a breakaway Anglican church (one of the churches that broke away in the 1980s over women’s ordination). She claimed to have hard a personal conversation with Jesus when she was a very young child (during a near death experience) but then drifted away from Christianity and into neopaganism as a young woman (self identified as a “white witch”), and then drifted back into conservative Anglo-Catholicism. In spite of returning to her faith she wasn’t at all critical of her years as a Wiccan, quite the contrary, she treated it as a sort of preparation for receiving the Gospel, or something like that.

It’s always a matter of context–there are some Pagans, magical people (some of whom actually are Christian–no joke. I personally know two men who are wandering bishops and who practice ceremonial magic in an explicitly Christian context),

When I get the time to actually write it, I have a sort of outline for a novel, and one of the features of it is going to be something of this sort: a “gray” magician who tries to practice ceremonial magic within a sort of Gnostic-Christian context, and who tries to communicate and interact with spiritual powers, both good and evil ones, for benevolent ends.

In my conception it doesn’t end particularly well for him, but the key point is that he remains “gray”, for lack of a better word, not “black”. Plying off C.S. Lewis’s discussion in That Hideous Strength, I think it’s possible to do this sort of thing innocently, but I don’t think one can do it safely.

#7 Comment By Stefan On June 10, 2019 @ 12:27 pm

“What if you’re someone from an established non-Abrahamic tradition? Is there a line to be drawn between, say, Hinduism and Buddhism on one side, and satanism on the other?”

Conceptually, yes. Performatively, i.e. in the way that best keeps the internet’s transistors clicking and thus in the only way that is politically relevant, no. The ones who feel most compelled to publicly perform their adherence to non-mainstream beliefs will be those who are most amenable to having the public meaning of their beliefs redetermined through a kind of semiotic osmosis. A semiotic osmosis in which the meaning of the signifier of one’s subjective belief comes to be determined by the pre-existing social meaning of the signifier of publicly performed heterodoxy as such. That is to say: it’s a way for those with querulant delusions, especially in the younger generation, to perform sticking it to what they imagine to be to powers that be, “The Man”.

The clearest cases of that were the large Marges Madalyn O’Hair of American Atheists and Andrea Dworkin of a certain kind of feminism. Or Reddit’s /r/atheism subreddit. Individuals whose virulence was/is matched only by the sheer banality of their positions. If atheism for example is really so controversial, why was /r/atheism a default subreddit for years? It’s not. It’s an entirely cybernetically controlled and secured (mostly) way of generating ad exposure and keeping the system going. If Andrea Dworkin’s anti-male gaze feminism was controversial, why are all liberal news sites full of op-eds that implicitly try to ascribe socially irresponsible significance to archetypically feminine women? Modelling yourself after an archetype is rebellious nowadays because its more difficult for the medical and behavioural sciences to extract profits from you that way. Same with new age and the occult. They are NYT-safe because society understands that they are allowed to appear socially only because and insofar they trigger Christians.

By engaging with the spectacle on the terms of this logic of action, one becomes compelled to objectively ally oneself with à la limite any and all other querulant positions. That is why, for example, the Anglosphere left has objectively come to treat abortion as a sacrament, even as its adherents may not subjectively believe it to be such when asked directly. In the era of Moore’s Law, all social conflict is a large-scale experiment in the dynamics of Carl Schmitt’s concept of the political as enacted through the binary logic of trillions of transistors, leading to the creation of a post-Christian, post-liberal, post-human and perhaps unfortunately post-humane gay-scientific control science. The backlash against big tech from the most conspiratorial sewers of the internet objectively serves as a healthy reaction against this from the social body’s immune system.

#8 Comment By Lert345 On June 10, 2019 @ 12:38 pm

As I recall, Wicca was very trendy in the mid 1990s, with Borders Books devoting an entire section of shelves. It faded out rather quickly afterward. I’m quite surprised to hear about interest among a small percentage of millennials.

#9 Comment By Franklin Evans On June 10, 2019 @ 12:49 pm

[12], but the ARIS and other surveys are unavoidably flawed: Wiccans, Druids and the rest of the modern Pagan population are severely underrepresented in the public view because so many of them continue to hide their beliefs. They will not respond to an anonymous survey. I am, here, a very rare exception to this rule in being public about my beliefs under my real name.

I have a subjective rule-of-thumb to offer. It works for me rather well. If you question a believer — and of course this questioning itself is not likely to come easily or quickly — about their spiritual practices, you will find that those who believe in prayer on behalf of those they deem in need and those who believe in the beneficial efficacy of magic generally are believing in the same thing. Certainly there are important differences in the details, but the basic principle is the same.

On the other side of The Coin, those who believe that they can directly harm others with magic, and those who pray to God for the disadvantage, injury or worse of others are also engaged in the same basic practice.

It is human nature, I submit, to want to bring healing to those who are harmed, and to exact retribution on those who harm others.

#10 Comment By JonF On June 10, 2019 @ 1:00 pm

Rod, it’s subjective. If you believe in ouija boards and the like then you are, in effect, giving power to whatever malign things may be in the vicinity.
I’m a monotheist and I believe that God is sovereign. Otherwise how do we reject polytheism and paganism?

[NFR: This is not the place for the discussion, but real quick: Some friends and I fooled around with one at a slumber party when we were 13, and the damned thing produced accurate information that none of us could have possibly known about the mother of our host. When we told the mom the secret we learned from the thing, she went white, and became very upset. It was accurate. None of us “believed” in the board when we started. It was just fun. That kind of shook us up, and we never went back to it. Years later, some guys in my boarding school went at it in the same spirit, and were drawn further and further in. It ended with one of them becoming temporarily possessed, in a room full of witnesses. That shook the guys up so much they quit fooling with the thing. The kid who opened himself up to it was never okay again. Two years later he blew his brains out. True story. — RD]

#11 Comment By Robin On June 10, 2019 @ 1:18 pm

The word “occult” which simply means “hidden” is far too broad a term to be used meaningfully in the rather narrow and specific focus of this piece. Mark Passio is perhaps arguably the best contemporary source of information on the “occult”, as well as its effect on modern society. [13]

#12 Comment By Stefan On June 10, 2019 @ 1:25 pm

I will add to my previous comment that despite the fact that I don’t call myself an “Occultist”, one definition of sorcery is “the invocation of strangeness”. Combine that with my gratuitous use of lit department jargon, which once prompted Rod to exhort me to “take my meds” (taken with good humour, of course), and it will become evident that the position I outlined in my previous is much more occultist than that of Dakota Bracciale and friends on the “occult left”. Those are, despite all the cringy and overly desperate vestimentary and body manipulation signalling to the contrary, objectively secular still-with-her-ists by virtue of their participation in the media spectacle as allies of a secular materialist position. The properly occult position is that of drumpfist semiotic accelerationism, since it will reveal to the world a new semiodynamics as the new Great Commission of the internet age.

#13 Comment By JohnInCA On June 10, 2019 @ 1:45 pm

[…] if the people in Tara Isabella Burton’s report are in touch with actual dark spiritual forces, and trying to invoke or otherwise activate them to affect people and events in the material world, what does that mean? Can your settled pieties, secular and otherwise, afford to take them seriously? is what I’m asking.

Fine I’ll play this game.

If the are actually “in touch with” whatever forces, what does it mean? That either

(A) They’re very, very bad at persuading the “forces” to actually do anything, or
(B) The world is built in such a way that the “forces” can’t actually do anything.

Simply put, folks have been seeking divine and otherworldly intervention for all of human history. There are zero confirmed cases of it actually working. So either the “forces” don’t care what humans plead for, or the “forces” care, but are impotent to actually do anything.

So regardless of whether these forces don’t exist, can’t interfere, or won’t interfere, I’m free to act as though they don’t exist. And that applies as much to the ritual contacting of the supernatural that Christians practice as any occultist.

Which isn’t to say, mind you, that these rituals do nothing. Many people (traditional religious and occultist alike) find personal comfort and a balm for their souls in performing them. But they are not, strictly speaking, affecting the material world beyond their own psyche.

#14 Comment By Janwaar Bibi On June 10, 2019 @ 2:32 pm

Christianity is not a faith that emerged from primitive savages. Good grief please read some history. First century Judaism was itself cosmopolitan and erudite, and Christianity emerged out of the highly Hellenized urban culture of the Ronan Empire.

I was imprecise in my earlier post. What I had in mind when I was writing it was the history of Judaism, which is the mother religion of the other two Abrahamic religions. It is the quintessential tribal religion, and much of the Old Testament is a narrative of savage tribal war including genocide, rape and slavery at the command of the quintessentially tribal god, Yahwah (only a tribal god has a Chosen Race who alone have a Covenant with him).

Christ is very different figure. The Christian notion of “turning the other cheek” and the Sermon on the Mount are similar to Buddha’s teachings. Unfortunately for the world, the third Abrahamic religion, Islam, is a back-to-future version of Moses and Israelites.

I think Christianity was changed fundamentally by its 700 year conflict with Islam in the Iberian Peninsula, and it ended up absorbing intolerant ideas from Islam. The Portuguese Inquisition in Goa (a Portuguese colony in India) lasted between 1560 and 1820, and it was even more brutal than the ones in Europe. I was reading some of their edicts the other day, and one in particular was really striking: it told Hindus that they could not build new temples or repair existing ones, that no public celebration of Hindu festivals was permitted, proselytization of Christians by Hindus was a capital offense, apostasy by Hindus who had converted to Christianity was punishable by torture and death etc.

[14]

All of these practices are of course right out of the Pact of Umar, which Muslims imposed on dhimmis in their territories. It is hard to imagine Christ commanding his followers to act in that way, but it is entirely in keeping with the practices of Moses and Muhammad.

The problem with Christianity is that it cannot make up its mind whether it is the religion of Christ or whether it is the blood relative of Judaism and Islam.

#15 Comment By VikingLS On June 10, 2019 @ 4:09 pm

“VikingLS, Why do you think I would ever fiddle around with a ouija board?”

@JonF, that was pretty obviously a hypothetical. I am going to dumb it down for you. If Ouiji boards are harmless, do you think your priest would be okay with you using one? If not, why not? If you don’t believe demons were driving it, by your rationale, it should be harmless right?

A person once put a spell on a possession of mine, by his own admission. When I (ASAP) told my Godmother, then my priest, both of whom have advanced degrees in theology, neither of them tried to tell me that any power the person had, either directly or through demons, would simply be the result of my giving them power because I believed. My priest performed an exorcism on it.

You a lot of times seem to be trying to pound a 21st century secular square progressive peg into a 1st century Orthodox poll.

#16 Comment By VikingLS On June 10, 2019 @ 4:09 pm

hole, not poll

#17 Comment By VikingLS On June 10, 2019 @ 4:13 pm

@Rod

A Wiccan friend of mine also was vehemently opposed to Ouiji boards as he believed they opened the users up to malign spiritual forces without any protections whatsoever.

#18 Comment By Turmarion On June 10, 2019 @ 4:28 pm

Ryan W., Mara in Buddhism is somewhat conceptually similar to the Devil/Satan in Christianity, but vastly different functionally speaking. To my knowledge, at least, Buddhists don’t attribute bad things happening in the world, or personal temptations, or sin in general, to Mara. There’s no idea of “Mara made me do it,” so to speak.

Essentially, Mara symbolizes all the impediments to enlightenment and all the things–greed, desire, delusion–that keep one in samsara, and he pops up in Buddhist tales (not sure if he’s in the original Pali canon or not) to symbolize opposition to the Buddha. However, unlike the case with Satan, Mara isn’t an ongoing presence in the spiritual lives and imagination of Buddhists.

JonF, I’d disagree with you and agree with Rod to this extent: Yes, of course God is sovreign; but this doesn’t mean, say, that a thug won’t jump us in the dark back alley we imprudently decided to walk through at midnight. For whatever reason, God doesn’t block such nasty things from happening, at least not on a regular or predictable basis. Analogously, assuming evil spirits exist (which I do), and that they can be contacted or interacted with (which I also believe), and that their intentions are malign (also agreed), then God’s sovereignty won’t necessarily stop them from doing unpleasant things to us, any more than it will of necessity stop the thug in the alley.

I do think we can call on God, the saints, and our guardian angels against malign spirits in a way that would be less effective against thugs on the physical plane; but better not to put oneself in the situation to begin with.

#19 Comment By Turmarion On June 10, 2019 @ 4:34 pm

Rod: Raskolnik, who is a scholar of Eastern religion as well as a Christian….

Correct me if I’m wrong, Rod, but if I recall his discussion of his religious background some time back, he is not only a scholar, but a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism, considering it to contribute to (without contradicting) his Christian faith. Am I right on that, or has something changed? Either of you guys feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, of course.

[NFR: To my knowledge he has never been a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism, but his familiarity with it is based on practical experience. I’ll let him describe it, if he wants to. — RD]

#20 Comment By Elena vasquez On June 10, 2019 @ 5:40 pm

Rod

Regarding you ouija board story – who was working the board? Was it the child of the mother with the secret?

The scientific consensus is that the planchette movement is caused by the ideomotor effect, which is unconscious manipulation by the user. The information is known to the user but at a subconscious level, and it gets downloaded to the board. No discarnate spirits needed.

Millions of these boards are out there and if getting possessed were a result, we’d sure be hearing about it.

[15]

#21 Comment By DRK On June 10, 2019 @ 6:11 pm

“Legislated back into their broom closets”? Really? How on earth do you propose doing that, under the First Amendment? — RD”

Simple – tweak te [sic] definition of criminal assault to include casting spells/hexes intended to cause harm to another. Then take assault cases against idiots like the Brooklyn occultist who openly state they are hexing people

Interesting. Are we also going to throw Rev. Wiley S. Drake in jail? He prayed for President Obama’s death in 2009. So did Sen. David Perdue in 2016. Lock ’em up!

[NFR: Very good point! — RD]

#22 Comment By VikingLS On June 10, 2019 @ 6:16 pm

“JonF, I’d disagree with you and agree with Rod to this extent: Yes, of course God is sovreign; but this doesn’t mean, say, that a thug won’t jump us in the dark back alley we imprudently decided to walk through at midnight. For whatever reason, God doesn’t block such nasty things from happening, at least not on a regular or predictable basis. Analogously, assuming evil spirits exist (which I do), and that they can be contacted or interacted with (which I also believe), and that their intentions are malign (also agreed), then God’s sovereignty won’t necessarily stop them from doing unpleasant things to us, any more than it will of necessity stop the thug in the alley.”

Well spoken.

#23 Comment By Turmarion On June 10, 2019 @ 7:04 pm

Thanks for the shoutout, Viking. I notice in our respective responses, you demonstrated what I noted (to your puzzlemnet) in an exchange we had awhile back. I said that you seemed to have become pricklier and sharper than I remembered you being in the past, and you seemed puzzled. Well, above, you told JonF you would “dumb it down” for him. I, too, disagreed with him; but I didn’t feel the need to be insulting. I’m not trying to start something or yank your chain, either–just pointing out what I’d noted earlier.

I will admit that in the past I have gotten a bit riled up by Siarlys, and perhaps have been sharp with him. Even then, while I strongly disagree with a lot of his positions, I assume he holds them sincerely–as do JonF and Rod and you, among others. That’s why I took off for Lent–it seems there’s been a lot of negativity and harsher rhetoric around here (I’m talking in general, not pointing fingers at anyone) the last year or so, and I just needed to get away from it for a bit.

Anyway, once more, not trying to stir up trouble–just pointing something out. I think all of us–myself included–could do more practice on counting to ten, calming down, and being more irenic.

Rod, regarding my earlier comment re Raskolnik, [16] is what i had in mind. It sounded like he was saying he practiced both; but he can, of course, speak for himself .

#24 Comment By Cato On June 10, 2019 @ 7:23 pm

@JohninCa

So Rod lied to us about his experience? Or his simply intellectually inferior to you?

#25 Comment By harve On June 10, 2019 @ 7:44 pm

Hector_St_Clare says:

“Hindus and Buddhists don’t believe in a Satan figure, but they do believe in demons (I don’t know what else you would call the rakshasas or the asuras but they seem like vague equivalents).”

It varies with the tradition . A friend of mine is a Buddhist monk in the Thai forest tradition. He told me that some of the Thai monks believed the moon was a deva realm, he didn’t. A Tibetan monk opined to me that we create our own demons and they can seem very real. Explanations are explanations, not necessarily the thing being explained.

Christian concepts and stories of Satan and his minions are unrelated to divas and deities in Hinduism and Buddhism.

“Although the hundred deities are not separate from the nature of our mind, when they manifest in this bardo they appear to be outside of us. In order to become familiar with these appearances and to recognize them as nothing other than the self-display of our own mind, we practice visualizing the hundred deities within our bodies. In this way, we make a personal connection with what otherwise might feel quite foreign.”

Ponlop, Dzogchen. Mind Beyond Death.

#26 Comment By Rombald On June 10, 2019 @ 8:05 pm

Janwaar Bibi:
“The problem with Christianity is that it cannot make up its mind whether it is the religion of Christ or whether it is the blood relative of Judaism and Islam.”

I think you’re dead right here. The moral horrors of the Old Testament are something that I’m still trying to come to grips with (there are exegetical tools, but often don’t seem all that honest), and was one of the things that put me off Christianity for decades. On the other hand, Christianity disintegrates if the OT is dropped. My guess is that this is just one of those tensions that can never be fully resolved.

In this context, I’m particularly wary of types of Christianity that don’t draw a really bright line between themselves and Judaism. These seem to me take various forms:

1. Talk of “Judaeo-Christianity”, especially in the USA. What on earth is that? Judaism is much closer to Islam than to Christianity.

2. The types of Evangelicalism that sees the Jews as still the chosen people, and insists on unconditional support for Israel. There are pragmatic cases for support for Israel, as for any other country, but that is a different issue. Clearly, a lot of Israelis do wish to bash the skulls of Palestinian children against the rocks, and it doesn’t help when Evangelicals (i) don’t go in for Catholic-type exegesis, as that being about killing all one’s sins, etc.; (ii) insisting on support for Israel.

3. Again, usually Evangelicals, defending moral issues with reference to the OT, without careful interpretation in the light of the NT.

I think you’re right about Islamic influence on Iberian Catholicism. Of course, I don’t want to make a sweeping condemnation of a culture, and Spain is actually about my favourite European country, but it has had a septic influence on the rest of the world. I read that European anti-black racism is basically of Spanish origin, with prejudice against blacks as slaves coming from the Arabs, and the interpretation of the Curse of Ham as referring to blacks coming from mediaeval Judaism, and this provided an intellectual justification for the Atlantic slave trade. There were also the Limpieza de Sangre laws, which were initially aimed at people with Jewish and Muslim ancestry, but were then expanded to include blacks, Native Americans, and Asians.

#27 Comment By Rombald On June 10, 2019 @ 8:28 pm

Hector: “In spite of returning to her faith she wasn’t at all critical of her years as a Wiccan, quite the contrary, she treated it as a sort of preparation for receiving the Gospel, or something like that.”

I tend to feel pretty much like that about what I’ve seen of neopaganism, although I was never as heavily into it as your friend.

There are morally troubling aspects to neopaganism (sex and drugs, mainly), but the spiritual aspects don’t seem all that bad, and certainly preferable to atheism. For most “Pagans” I know, their religious practice seems to revolve around smoking marijuana in stone circles.

#28 Comment By Rombald On June 10, 2019 @ 8:32 pm

The religions that I, personally, have seen get people really dark, Satanic-looking, places are, in order from the worst:

1. Orthodox Judaism
2. Islam
3. Buddhism, of various types (Soka Gakkai, Zen, Vajrayana, New Kadampa)
4. Right-wing, US-style Evangelicalism

#29 Comment By harve On June 10, 2019 @ 10:49 pm

Rombald says:

“The religions that I, personally, have seen get people really dark, Satanic-looking, places are, in order from the worst:

1. Orthodox Judaism
2. Islam
3. Buddhism, of various types (Soka Gakkai, Zen, Vajrayana, New Kadampa)
4. Right-wing, US-style Evangelicalism”

Seems way too broad. 1 and 2 covers everything from truly suffocating communities and terrorists to regular folks just living their lives.

With #4 are you referring to the obvious grifts or folks who are just socially conservative?

With #3, Soka Gakkai and New Kadampa are quite problematic.

[17]

There have been problems with a few Zen and Tibetan teachers (I assume you mean various Tibetan lineages by “vajrayana”) but every religious tradition has that problem not just Buddhism.

Some good advice:

“Make a thorough examination before accepting someone as a guru, and even then, follow that teacher within the conventions of reason as presented by the Buddha.”

[18]

#30 Comment By Franklin Evans On June 10, 2019 @ 11:38 pm

Rombald, you just don’t know many Pagans. That you scare-quoted the term is actually quite appropriate.

#31 Comment By Rombald On June 11, 2019 @ 4:33 am

harve: I didn’t mean that those religions always get been people to nasty places, but they’re the ones that I’ve seen do so.

#32 Comment By Janwaar Bibi On June 11, 2019 @ 11:06 am

The lack of self-awareness in this comment is stunning. With only a bit of simplification, it comes down to, “My religion and others of its family is gentle, profound, wise, etc. Yours is narrow-minded, prone to violence, etc.” Ryan W

If you read my posts in the past, you will see that I have been unsparing in my criticism of Hinduism for the evils of the caste system and caste discrimination.

Also I do not believe that Hinduism is a pacifist religion even though many people in the West seem to think it is, perhaps because the only Indian they have heard of is Gandhi.

Of the four castes in Hinduism, one of them, the Kshatriyas, are the warrior caste and they were responsible for ruling Hindu kingdoms and waging war when needed. The two great epic poems, the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha, which define Hindu culture much more than the Vedas or the Upanishads, are both the stories of great wars. If I had to pick one Hindu text that captures Hinduism as contemporary Hindus understand it, it would be the Bhagavad-Gita, which is a treatise on “dharma” (righteousness) and “dharma-yudha” (righteous war) – it explains why it is necessary sometimes to wage war even on your own relatives and friends to defend “dharma.” None of these points speak to a non-violent religion.

I am not a scholar of religion but my impression is that concepts like non-violence (ahimsa) were imported into Hinduism from Buddhism as a way of co-opting the rise of Buddhism in India some 1,500 years ago. I personally consider this to be deeply unfortunate since that was roughly when the first Arab armies invaded India. So far from promoting Hinduism for non-violence, I think India needs to re-read the Gita and relearn the concept of dharma-yudha.

All that said, my original post was an attempt not to glorify dharmic religions but to answer a question I sometimes see posed by people in the West: if dharmic religions do not have the concept of Satan, does it mean they do not have the concept of sin, and if there is no sin, how do you teach your children about good and bad, which is one of the primary roles of religion in all societies?

If you read my post again, you will see that it is my attempt to answer this question as best as I can, given that I am not Turmarion!

#33 Comment By JonF On June 11, 2019 @ 1:20 pm

VikingLS, with all due respect to you and Rod, I don’t believe that ouija boards are driven by demons. I already explained what I do believe. I do not believe in the sort of demigod-like demons you do, which strike me as a relict of pagan belief, that just doesn’t fit well with Christian theology. Priests of course may have their own opinions. We’re not talking something from the Creed or the major theological canons of the Councils. And again. I no more fool around with ouija boards than I run my life by my horoscope (something scads of Christins including popes once did) nor peruse “dream books” to discover my lucky lottery numbers. There is such a thing as superstition and such things qualify.

#34 Comment By JonF On June 11, 2019 @ 1:41 pm

Tumarion, As I stated I do believe there are ill spirits, demons for lack of a better world, but I don’t believe they are not physical entities that live in the here-and-now and can act here independently as if they were gods. Thugs in alleys (hey, we have a few of those hereabouts!) are physical beings so that’s not a good analogy. Demons only can act here and now when we give them our power to (a profoundly foolish thing to do!) or for some reason God does so, though that is likely very rare. (It is God also who empowers the angels to act here at whiles, as they too are alien to the world of matter and time). The principle action of demons is to deceive and tempt, to sow confusion and despair, which of course happens at the level of the mind, not matter.

I wonder if the increase in grumpiness here is related to the increase in phone usage as am medium. I know mine is.

#35 Comment By JohnInCA On June 11, 2019 @ 3:02 pm

@Cato

So Rod lied to us about his experience? Or his simply intellectually inferior to you?
Third option: I’m wrong. That said, I neither know or care, but as I’m agnostic†, I’m also okay with the ambiguity.

Simply put, regardless of what Rod experienced, and what the truth of his experience was‡, it’s trivial to demonstrate that it isn’t repeatable.

And until that changes, it’s entirely reasonable to treat Ouija board stories the same as stories about Big Foot and alien abductions: the person may very well sincerely believe, but they lack the evidence to persuade anyone who isn’t already a believer.
________
†Or atheist. Depends on how you’re defining the terms.
‡Please note, those can easily be two different things even without hypothetical supernatural forces.

[NFR: There is no arguing with fundamentalist materialism. — RD]

#36 Comment By Raskolnik On June 11, 2019 @ 4:07 pm

It doesn’t help that red states are literally just buying bus tickets to SF for their mental cases to avoid paying for their treatment.

Wow!!! You mean hostile actors are taking advantage of open borders to dump unwanted people into a welfare society that is going bankrupt because of insane mandates that they have to take care of everyone who sets foot within their territory??? Tell me more!!!

#37 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On June 11, 2019 @ 4:32 pm

Janwaar Bibi,

We’ve disagreed a bunch in the past but I always learn from reading your remarks, as they’re always very insightful, and this one here is no exception. I think your observations about Hinduism and the “dharmic” religions are spot on.

#38 Comment By Josep On June 11, 2019 @ 6:49 pm

VikingLS, with all due respect to you and Rod, I don’t believe that ouija boards are driven by demons.

Um…

[19]

Mom was talking to me the other night about how dangerous ouija boards are and how kids like to play with them. (I know how dangerous they are, we were talking about kids becoming “familiar” with them.)

She told me that once, on Halloween night, she and a group of her friends decided to play with an ouija board in a house where someone had died in a fire. They were in the second story of the house. Mom said that the kid who was messing with the board started muttering and his eyes got really scary, then she looked up and saw a shadow with long hair pressed against the window. She said that the window got foggy and a faceprint was on the glass, but there was no way anybody could’ve gotten up there. She said that she walked around, looking at the “shadow”, but it didn’t move. Then the alarm clock started flickering and the numbers started changing. She and everyone else in the room screamed and ran out. Then the house caught on fire shortly after, but didn’t burn down. It was an electrical fire. *cough*alarmclockflickering*cough*

Then she said that there was another time when she was in bed and all of a sudden, the blankets sucked around her really tightly and she couldn’t move, as if something was on top of her, binding the blankets. She said that she started praying and the blankets relaxed.

So that’s a warning from my mom…stay away from ouija boards, they aren’t toys!

#39 Comment By Robert S Dodd Jr On June 11, 2019 @ 9:12 pm

As a monotheistic believer in the G-d revealed at Sinai, I honestly don’t believe that saving the world as a whole is my responsibility or within my capability. You (Dreher) wisely say words to the effect that people are in denial of the true realities of the world post-Christendom, but you don’t always seem to be awake to those realities yourself.

“What do I do with that?” ? I acknowledge that the human heart is evil and fickle. Psalm 53 is the true mirror that humanity should hold up to itself, and it will find itself lacking. It has always been a true mirror, from the time it was written to today humans are fundamentally the same.

I don’t stay up nights worrying about people worshiping demons and seeking the destruction of everything good. I know they are there. I don’t doubt it for a second. G-d is still G-d and it is to obeying Him alone that I must direct my concern.

Let the world be the world. It will be, whether we like it or not. Only be sure that we ourselves are not of it.

#40 Comment By Another Matt On June 11, 2019 @ 10:04 pm

So Rod lied to us about his experience? Or his simply intellectually inferior to you?

Or, Rod may simply be mistaken about the causes of what he witnessed. As JohnInCA points out, it’s not repeatable, so nobody is in fact justified in forming a belief about it that goes beyond the material. But that’s kind of the point of faith — if it were an empirically justified belief, there would be no need for faith,* and those of us who don’t share the faith or are incapable of it shouldn’t be convinced by the faith-based explanation proffered for such a story.

*And that is incidentally one of the biggest problems with Evangelical Christian fundamentalism — it pretends to be empirical, and this leads to all sorts of folly like young-earth creationism.

#41 Comment By JonF On June 12, 2019 @ 6:31 am

Re: So that’s a warning from my mom…stay away from ouija boards, they aren’t toys!

Was it the ouija board? Or some lingering psychic echo of the first fire and death in the house? And while the story suggests something nasty about, was it demonic? After all, wholly natural entities can be quite lethal too– like those cottonmouth snakes endangering areas around the flooded Mississippi. We’ve had threads here before where we’ve discussed unsettling possibly paranormal experiences we’ve had in our lives. I’ve had a couple too. I am not being a rationalist skeptic. I allow for the possibility of anomalous psychic (for lack of a better word) events. It’s the religious spin being put on these things that I am leery of, because it’s treads very close to heretical notions (e.g., Manichean dualism) that orthodox Christians ought steer clear of.

#42 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On June 12, 2019 @ 10:51 am

Regarding Wicca, paganism, Satanists, etc., I’m in agreement with Turmarion here.

1) If you’re praying and seeking spiritual intervention to bring harm to other people, or to seek undue and unfair advantage for yourself, then I’d have no hesitation saying that’s evil, and that you’re consorting with evil.

2) If you’re seeking to invoke powers that are generally thought to have malignant intent, properties, etc., then I’d say exactly the same.

#43 Comment By Franklin Evans On June 12, 2019 @ 12:53 pm

Writing entirely from my personal (and subjective) perspective in this post.

At some point, Christians and non-Christians (Pagans in particular) will either find a common ground and a shared lexicon with which to have constructive dialogue within that common ground, or need to acknowledge that they are stuck on differences which so easily promote their view of each other to enemies. On a personal basis, Rod and I share that constructive combination. A local (self-proclaimed Christian) preacher, whom we’ve dubbed the Westboro Wannabe, shows up at public events we hold, with bullhorns and signs, and some of the most vile language you will ever hear. He is my enemy; I’m sure he sees me the same way.

A common-ground point which some seem to miss, or just not think about in contexts like this thread, is the ubiquitous belief across the world in the vast majority of belief systems and moral frameworks that harming another person is a criminal act. However the criminality is described or defined — sin or some other synonym or cognate — it transcends any one religion.

I won’t reiterate or go into detail about my personal experiences, having done so piecemeal over time in several posts. I am personally engaged with the evil in this world. The avatar of it, the human form we give to it to help us wrap our senses and minds around it, I call The Adversary. It manifests. It doesn’t initiate, control or dictate behavior and actions. Human beings can be evil. We own our thoughts and actions. Ascribing anything to an anthropomorphic entity veneer over an abstract concept is very much like justifying our broken bodies at the bottom of the canyon because we were just following the other lemmings in a march over the edge.

I fight the manifestation of The Adversary when I’m called upon to do so personally. I have the experience and knowledge to fight, with literal bruises and blood my payment for the lessons I’ve learned to get to that point. I’m not a Dr. Strange superhero. I don’t wave my hands and create physical effects. I don’t cast magic spells, or carry a talisman with which to call up some deific power. I have the power of my humanity, the power of my soul, and the power of my commitment.

I live by what some will consider a trite saying. God helps those who help themselves, and my calling is to help those who can’t help themselves learn how to help themselves. Sometimes, that also means supporting parents who, from whatever motivation, prohibit their children from using a Ouija board.

#44 Comment By JonF On June 12, 2019 @ 1:54 pm

Someone who prays to God for death and misery to befall someone else is no less wicked because the desire itself is wicked. “It is what comes out of a man’s mouth that defiled him.”

#45 Comment By CF On June 12, 2019 @ 9:39 pm

Robert S Dodd Jr: “I don’t stay up nights worrying about people worshiping demons and seeking the destruction of everything good. I know they are there. I don’t doubt it for a second. G-d is still G-d and it is to obeying Him alone that I must direct my concern.

Let the world be the world. It will be, whether we like it or not. Only be sure that we ourselves are not of it.”

That’s the Benedict Option in a nutshell. Love it.

#46 Comment By Brian On June 19, 2019 @ 3:29 pm

Hi Rod:

Thought you might want to see this – it’s an interesting response to your column.

You’ve probably read articles from this guy (John Michael Greer) before, back when he was writing The Archdruid Report. He’s the real deal, and worth your time.

Here’s the article: [20]

#47 Comment By HappyPanda On June 19, 2019 @ 6:52 pm

Though I am a bit late to the discussion of this article I thought I’d alert readers and Dreher himself that John Michael Greer has just published today (June 19, 2019) an essay wherein he discusses Dreher and this very article. Both the things Dreher got right and the things Dreher missed.

Here’s the link.

[20]

#48 Comment By David On June 19, 2019 @ 11:29 pm

Rod,

I’d be interested to see you engage with John Michael Greer’s response to this article, which can be found here: [20]

Greer is one of the worlds most prolific occult authors (and I’m not talking about milquetoast, say a wish to the universe with a candle lit kind of occultism), not only well versed in the historical development of occultism through the centuries (and he has translated a few source texts into English for the first time), but also one who has designed multiple systems of ceremonial magic himself. He is as much a scholar as he is a practitioner.

He is a fascinating man, and one quite entertaining to read. He has also written extensively on why the public cursing of Trump is a bollocks idea entirely from a well developed occult perspective—you can find the first article about that here: [21]).

He has some substantial critiques of your article here, while also acknowledging up front that “For so loaded a topic, Dreher’s essay is thoughtful and admirably measured; what’s more, Dreher doesn’t shy away from the spiritual implications of his theme, or to its importance as a warning of coming changes.” I would be very interested in seeing what you think of his critiques.

Wishing you well in Christ’s name,
David

#49 Comment By Axel On June 20, 2019 @ 6:58 am

Dear Mr. Dreher,

as a (non-Christian, religious, philosophical, political) wanderer between the worlds (who likes your concept of ‘crunchy conservativism’) I’d like to call your attention to an article by John Michael Greer (Druid, occultist, environmentalist) on the above essay of yours.

As a ‘fellow traveller’ concerning your (Burkean) consevativism, perhaps you might reconsider your focusing ‘Ben Op’ on an exclusively Christian audience.

Best wishes (and apoligies for my bad English)

Axel

#50 Comment By Lupo On June 25, 2019 @ 10:48 am

As a Christian occultist (yes), don’t bet against the weird.

There is the physical world, which is pretty well described by naturalism/materialism. But there is the supermaterial world (emergent from the purely material) that we engage with constantly–through language, culture, concepts, and other such representational systems. Atheist, theist, polytheist, et al., we are all human, and we all engage with these figures, whether we acknowledge them or not.