The wrong gods

Western society has been worshipping the wrong Gods and those Gods have gotten too strong.

The Gods of Progress, Growth, Greed and Personal Interest have been worshipped through much of the past 2000 years but subservience to them has increased to a point where they are all powerful and dictate the actions and ethics of the majority. How can they be stopped and which are the right Gods to follow?

I don’t know if those Gods have a name, perhaps they do but I know they exist. JMG talked extensively about the religion of Progress. He looked at how civilisations rise and fall, each one focusing on progress, growth and greed as they grow only to decline again as they overshoot their capacity to sustain themselves, either environmentally, socially or politically. I hear people talking about progress when they mean growth and greed, I see actions taken in personal interest overruling the need to cooperate and I see the corporations fixated by greed and profit.

We have created our own monsters too. Those corporations whose overriding requirement is to make profit for shareholder. Joel Bakan talked about the psychopathic nature of corporations in his book and film of the same name. They might think they have other requirements but at their core every corporation has to make money for its shareholders, all other goals are secondary.

But I worship the Gods of nature, the seasons of the year, the every changing but ever present landscape. In nature I find cooperation, oneness, a simple ease but yet harshness and death too. These Gods don’t demand that I put my interests first, they don’t ask that I make money at the expense of others – and of course Gods of many other religions don’t either. My Gods focus on balance, on flow, on creativity and on wholeness.

Every 6 weeks at the time of each of the eight Pagan festivals of the year I have a crisis of some sort or another. I may feel particularly low for a day or two, have a blazing but stupid row with someone and so forth. The timing of these may be self induced, may be a case of confirmational bias or it may be my gods and goddesses demanding attention. On the basis that it is probably safer not to ignore the gods and goddesses, I make time to be with them – to worship them.

For me acknowledging the gods is a way of sharing my energy with them and diffusing the pent up energies and conflicts that bring me into that 6 weekly crisis. While those energies and conflicts are a key source of creativity they can be hard to deal with alone. My rituals and subsequent meditations are my way of restoring balance.

Sadly the worship that many do in shopping centres reinforces the need for more, the prayer books of capitalism and hate – the red top newspapers – drive the divisive thinking, and the subservience rituals to the corporations ensure the destructive attitude to the world of which we are integral.

 

 

 

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Beltane: the passion and the fight

The twin fires, the explosion of life, the joy of youth – an ecstatic time in the wheel of the year. Time to grow and grow quickly, both physically and spiritually. A time of birth, of new life, of passion, of seedlings bursting through the soil. A time where we forget the troubles of the world as we dance the Maypole and call to the gods and goddesses.

But as we dance and sing this year perhaps we should not forget those for whom spring didn’t come and those for whom summer will bring more misery. People whose suffering increases year on year. Like those refugees from Syria who are persecuted at Calais for wanting to join their families in the UK by persecutors who are complicit in making these same people become refugees. Like those starving in East Africa as the rains fail again and again as climate change hits their lives head on. Like those who sleep rough on the streets of the richest countries while our governments refuse to help them.

I spent the winter volunteering in a homeless shelter, one night shift each week, a shelter organised by local Christians. The stories that I heard during the early hours when they struggled to sleep were difficult to hear. Their homelessness was caused by circumstances that could happen to any of us.

We Druids are far smaller in number and do not have the resources or person power to run shelters with 200+ volunteers, so how do we reconcile the privilege that allows us to see the colourful exuberance of life at Beltane with those who are stuck in permanent winter?

We can start by including them in our prayers and rituals, every prayer and ritual. As the Warrior’s Call says: Ritual as Action, Action as Ritual. We can fight the causes of their suffering, the warmongering of our governments, the fossil fuel burning that has brought us to the brink of climate catastrophe and the refusal by politicians to tax rich corporations while claiming there is no money is available for the most vulnerable. And at a very personal level we can start to try to live as though there is one planet.

So let’s make Beltane a time to renew our fight against violence and injustice, a time to grow our passion towards our mother Earth. a time to dance around the fracking rigs to stop the rape of the Earth, a time to break those chains and a time to try to live in harmony with the Earth. Let’s make Beltane an ecstatic explosion of life.

 

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For Alban Eiler

For Alban Eiler:

Do you not hear the approaching storm?
Do you not feel the hot, arid wind burning your cheek?
Do you not hear the cries of those who are suffering?
Do you not know what you have done?

Will you not stop the choking pollution?
Will you not end the pointless wars?
Will you not fight for justice and freedom?
Will you not learn to live as one with the Earth?

Not my happiest poem but it came to me complete during my meditation this morning and given that it is Alban Eiler and this blog is about green activism and magic it seems appropriate to share!

 

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Awen and Nwyfre, Will and Mind, Intention and Tao

Change is life. The great unfolding says Ken Wilber and for me the Great Spirit is driving and possibly is that unfolding, that change. both the entropy and the negentropy, the yin and the yang.

As I recounted a few weeks ago, I see the ‘mind’ that Bobcat describes in Animist terms and the ‘will’  (and representation which seems to be the mind element) that Schopenhauer describes, as fundamentally the same even if the semantics of both are unhelpful and the manifestations are different. For me they are two sides of the same thing. The will to exist as an atom, the mind of a mountain, the will of the superego, the reptilian mind and the will of the weather to rain on our parades all are expressions of the mind-will, just on various levels and therefore with different manifestations.

For me the mind as life force, as memory, as yin, as the force that provides stability and pattern is in Druid terms, the nwyfre. Awen is will, it is yang, inspiration and intention, it grows things and changes them, it is magic. They are different but the same, they are both flow but manifest in different ways. Together they are the Tao.

Science regards matter as energy but I see mind-will as the other key constituent of matter (and all levels of life). What is it that organises energy into matter? How does a fertilised egg know which cells become a pancreas when all the cells start the same? Rupert Sheldrake describes them as morphic fields, perhaps this memory, mind and will leads the growth of life. There is mind and will at every level of existence but I suspect the mind-will can exist outside of matter too. Just as energy can exist outside of what we perceive as matter as well as being a constituent of it, there is no reason to expect mind-will to be confined to material things.

The universe / nature is organised on planes: physical matter, plants life, animal life etc. and the mind-will exists at all levels but with increasing complexity – in line with the complexity of the object. The mind-will can override mind-will at other levels to some extent, e.g. magic, changes in consciousness at will.

But these changes to the mind-will, how do they happen and what impact do they have?

In my 20’s I studied Therapeutic Touch (TT), a form of Reiki. There are a range of randomised controlled trials that show how pain and anxiety are lessened by TT (over and above the placebo response). The basis of TT is intentionality, the therapist has to intend to have an impact on the patient and the patient must be willing to receive the therapy to benefit from it. The key is intention, i.e. will.

Just as JMG has been discussing will in recent weeks, A Druid Way posted this great piece a few days ago on intention where he describes: “intention does invite a flow, form a mold, shape a potential, and let us exercise our sacred gift as transformers of Spirit”. He describes his intention of travel being disrupted by a snowstorm. For me the intention of the weather was more powerful than the intention to travel, a battle of magic that had a predictable outcome.

So we have intentionality causing changes in consciousness and we have magic battles of wills that we may lose. The pragmatist in me asks how we can tip the odds of winning those battles even more, how do we use our gift of magic in a more effective way.

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Individual ethical consumerism will do diddly squat

The ability to walk the talk in sustainable consumerism is primarily one of privilege and while it certainly makes me feel better and prevents accusations of hypocrisy, I am very aware that it makes diddly squat difference to the Earth. With 7 billion other people my individual action of buying ethical clothing, organic local produce, refusing to fly, having a low carbon footprint etc. etc. mean that there are only 6,999,999,999 others to worry about. If they all did the same there wouldn’t be a problem!

And the only reason I can buy these ‘ethical’ products is because I am in a position of privilege – some of what I buy is more expensive, organic food for example. I was directed to a recent post by Alden Wicker who blogs on sustainable lifestyles. She recently upset a conference by claiming that ‘Conscious consumerism is a lie’ after being asked to talk on the subject – a rather brave admission!

I particularly like this quote in her article: “A 2012 study compared footprints of “green” consumers who try to make eco-friendly choices to the footprints of regular consumers. And they found no meaningful difference between the two.”

While that is not true for everyone, it is certainly true of many and it reminds me of my favourite Seize the Day song, Flying: I will recycle, ride my bicycle but don’t take my wings away. I.e. I’ll do some good stuff so that I can pollute with a clear conscience.

So not only will my individual actions do nothing tangible to save the planet, but others who buy ethically may do so to assuage their guilt for polluting in other ways.

But let us not forget though that the drive to consume is rooted in the corporate and political worlds; these are not always actions that are under our direct control. The corporate consciousness is one that uses the magic called advertising to great effect. This corporate consciousness is fundamentally flawed, insane in fact according to Joel Baken in his book The Corporation. The only goal is to make money, everything else is secondary. Of course, corporations are a political and social construct that will only change through politics.

This is why I try to use my spare time campaigning politically, both with party politics and non-party political lobbying – nothing else will have a meaningful impact.

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Tao, mind, magic and will

Dion Fortune famously described magic as the art and science of causing change in consciousness in accordance with will. Will is a concept that Schopenhauer was discussing almost 200 years ago and its importance must be clearly understood in the context of magic.

Will operates at various levels. The ‘will’ to exist is fundamental to matter – yes, will exists in the rocks that form mountains and the hair that grows on our heads. Emma Restal Orr describes this will as ‘mind’ in her exploration of Animism (The Wakeful World). For me matter appears to be a combination of energy and will.

Schopenhauer talks of increasingly complex manifestations of will, from physical to biological, social and up to human.  Compare this with Freud’s Id, Ego and Superego or with Plato’s charioteer. John Michael Greer sets this out superbly in his series on will where he talks of the rational mind and its attempts (often unsuccessfully) to control the biological and social minds (or will).

It is this ability of one layer of will to override another that is the essence of magic: the art and science of causing change in consciousness in accordance with will.

When this happens by an operative mage gaining internal control through intent and will, their rational mind controlling the barrage of information and drives from biological and social levels that tries to make us behave in certain ways, this is a form of theurgy. Personal spiritual development, internal magic: there are lots of terms for this!

When this happens by a corporation advertising sweets to children or by political campaigners convincing large swathes of the public to vote for something, it is thaumaturgy. The direct and intentional manipulation of the drives of others, i.e. the will, to act in a certain way.

Will (or mind) is the thread that runs through this. It is the concept that unifies the spirit of the river with 19th & 20th occult practices, the Tao with advertising, Plato with Freud. Intention (or will) is everything.

How can we apply this to our work? How do we respond? We need to be able to defend ourselves and we need to be able to have a plan for counter attack.

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Doris the air dragon

Storm Doris has hammered the UK for the past 12 hours. It has ripped up trees, taken a human life, closed ports and bridges, cancelled trains and flights and dumped heavy snow in Scotland.

Doris is an air dragon. An angry one. While global temperatures continue to rise the amount of energy in our atmosphere increases making angry dragons like Doris more likely. Global temperature rises have been particularly stark in the Arctic where low amounts of sea ice continue to set records.

The impact that us humans have had on the atmosphere and the air in it is huge.  Whether it is the appalling air pollution that causes 50,000 deaths in England each year or on onward march of CO2 and climate change, our actions are coming home to roost.

While Doris may not be quite as strong as the 1987 hurricane, storms like Doris are getting more frequent as a result of climate change.

For me these add to the drive to make the world more green and sustainable. They drive my campaigning and fire my spirit to challenge the status quo.

I hope that you haven’t been hurt by Doris and I hope you will join us in the continued campaigns to stop climate change, air pollution and so on. There is a long way to go but a journey starts with a single step.

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