One of the takeaways from the Amazonian Synod was the materialization of a new religious identity in the world. When I say this is a “new religious identity” I do not mean to suggest that it is a new invention. It is, in fact, a religion that is as old and wide and powerful as the Amazon itself.
I name it “Global Neo-Paganism” and this new manifestation of the old paganism is unique in certain ways and yet as predictable as a seance. Let me explain what I mean by “Global Neo-Paganism.”
First of all it is pagan. Now to really understand the basic, bottom line, lowest common denominator of all paganism you have to get out of your mind all your preconceived notions about paganism. If you think paganism is all about shamans jumping around a campfire in a hallucinogenic trance put that to one side. If you think paganism is all about sacrificing a chicken to the voodoo doll or reading the stars or tea leaves or the intestines of goats to determine the future think again. If you think paganism is all about muttering incantations to the earth goddess or the sky papa, well put that on one side as well.
All of those thing could be part of paganism, and no doubt are, but they are all simply the externals. They are the devotions of devotees, the disciplines of disciples and the hocus pocus of the haruspices, the soothsayers, shamans, mediums and magicians.
They are the outward forms of a very simple creed which is always, “Do what you will”. The pagan not only does what he wills, but his religion is an attempt to get the gods to do what he wills. All the mumbo jumbo, magic and all the sacrifices and chicanery are all an attempt to somehow or other get the gods to do what you want. What do you want? You want the five “Ps”- Peace, Protection, Prosperity, Pleasure and Power. You want good crops, fair weather and healthy animals in your flock. You also want protection from your enemy and from all harm. If that includes cursing and putting a hex on your enemy that’s ok. That’s part of the deal. You want good luck. You want good sex. You want most of all—Power.
Paganism is simply the attempt of mankind to get the gods to do their will. It is the old, old temptation. “You can be like God!”
The second thing to consider is what paganism looks like. Once again, put aside all the external concepts of paganism that are in your mind and look at the basic attributes of paganism.
First, paganism is not a dogmatic religion. There have been pagan philosophers who have drawn up ideas of good behavior and right thinking, but paganism as a religion is not dogmatic. There are no catechisms or theology classes. Paganism has no Thomas Aquinas. Instead of any kind of dogma, paganism is purely practical and pastoral. It is practical inasmuch as it is not concerned with explicitly stated truth, in fact it is not concerned with “Truth” at all. It is concerned with getting something for the practitioner. In that sense it is practical.
It is “pastoral” inasmuch as it is concerned with present circumstances and situations–not ideals and values. It does not ask, “What is true?” It asks “What can I do for you?” The pagan teacher or guru wants to help people and he will call on the gods to intervene and do what he asks to make things better for people. You may protest, “But isn’t that what we do in Christian prayer? Don’t we ask God to do stuff for us?” Yes, but that is the stuff for another whole blog post. Suffice it to say that here we always end our prayer with “Not my will, but thine be done.”
The second attribute of paganism is that it is values free. Just as it is not dogmatic, neither is it absolute when it comes to morality. In fact, paganism has nothing to do intrinsically with morality. Sure, there are good pagans and noble pagans. There are some pagan teachers who say, “Be kind to others.” However, there is nothing necessary and integral to paganism that has anything to do with morality. The Hebrews linked morality to religion. Nobody else did. The pagan gods don’t give two hoots whether you are “good” or “bad.” They don’t work within those parameters.
The third general attribute of paganism is that it is syncretistic. Without dogmatic or moral boundaries it can adapt to any situation or culture. It can adopt any belief, god or goddess. It can absorb any devotional practice or discipline of meditation or spirituality. It is a pantheon, a World Council of Religions, and universal spirituality that includes all and excludes no one.
The fourth attribute is linked with the third. Paganism is amorphous. It has no hierarchy or central authority. It is free flowing, individualistic and completely relative. It has no canon law, no Vatican City, no cathedrals or parish churches, no schools or structures of authority.
So that is paganism and there is nothing new about it.
What is new is the emergence of a global, intentional manifestation. Up until now the neo-paganism has been muddling around and manifesting as the New Age Movement. This has been a mish mash of kooky occult stuff, sentimental fortune telling, self help, Eastern religions, therapy and other goofy religious practices all tossed together with a hefty dose of the ecology movement and some low level political movements.
Twenty years ago the Vatican warned about the New Age Movement in the document “Jesus Water of Life”. I read it at the time, and I don’t remember whether it warned of this being a global, organized system with a political dimension.
As this century continues to unfold I predict that we will see these different aspects begin to coalesce more and more into an organized eco-political-economic system which might be called “Eco-communism.”
Every ideology needs a spirituality and the new globalism has clearly adopted neo-paganism as their spirituality. In the Amazonian Synod we saw a new coalition emerging between the ecology movement, Catholicism and other world religions. Helping to fund and organize this on a global basis will be large internationalist foundations and corporations. There will be a political arm in the United Nations and we should expect the World Council of Churches to expand to be a global Council not just of Christian churches, but of all religions, and if the WCC doesn’t evolve into this we should expect to see some other organization of world religions emerge.
When you see this do not be surprised, and do not be deceived. There will be much about the Global Neo-Paganism that will appeal to many Christians of good will.
What will it look like? This religion will be in favor of the underdog, the politically persecuted, the poor and the needy. This religion will be ecologically activist–doing everything possible to save the environment. St Francis will be invoked as the patron of this religion, and who doesn’t like St Francis? This religion will be inclusive, loving and accepting of all. It will be non-judgemental and open ended in regards to morality. This religion will be non-dogmatic. The Catholics who promote this religion will not deny the Catholic dogmas. They will simply ignore them in favor of “the pastoral solution”. In that way they can always maintain that they are “priests in good standing” and that “they never deny any of the teachings of the Catholic Church.” This new religion will be enormously popular for it will stand against the old, patriarchal, hierarchical, divisive, dogmatic, judgemental religion. This religion will offer at its smorgasbord every sort of religion, spirituality, sexuality and ideology. All will be welcome. Toleration is part of the syncretistic appeal.
However, there are some things you will never hear in this new religion. You will never hear the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ. If he is mentioned at all he will be “the Christ”-a gnostic being on a par with all other gods or he will be “Jesus” on a par with all other religious teachers and gurus. What you will not hear is that he is “God from God, Light from Light, True God of True God, Begotten Not made, consubstantial with the Father by whom all things were made.”
You will never hear about the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. She will either be quietly ignored or subsumed into the Earth Mother goddess. What you will not hear is that she was Immaculately conceived, the virgin mother of God, a perpetual virgin, assumed into heaven and crowned there as the true Queen of Heaven.
Most especially what you will never hear is the preaching of Christ crucified. The cross and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ will be forgotten and ignored and then eventually it will be denigrated, blasphemed against and spat upon. You will also never hear about his glorious resurrection and ascension into heaven where he reigns as Christ the King before whom every authority and heaven and earth and under the earth must bow.
What will the worship of this Global Neo Paganism look like? It will be whatever anyone wishes it to be. Will it be all voodoo and Santeria and witchcraft and the worship of demons? Of course not. It will continue to be easy going nice New Age practices like crystals and rainbows, fluffy unicorns and Puff the Magic Dragon. It will be meditation on hilltops and traveling to the Himalayas to listen to a guru. It will be trendy chat shows with attractive movie stars who talk about their medium, their conversations with their departed loved ones or the latest self help course where they channeled their familiar spirits.
It will not be the worship of the Mother Goddess. Not at first anyway. Instead it will be a benign feminism–women clergy who call themselves “Mother” and prayers in the liturgy calling God “our Mother”. At the same time the eco-theology will continue to be developed. The old patriarchy will be killed off, and as a values-free paganism seeps in, individual sin will be replaced with corporate crimes. I will not be guilty of anything but “society” will be guilty. Others will be guilty of “Sins against the environment” while reverence for Nature and “images of fertility and life” well be introduced.
The worship of the Mother Goddess? That will be presented as “a cultural icon” or “a symbol of the ecology movement” or “an image of global unification.”
The worship of Kali the Mother Goddess and Moloch her brother…
….that will come later.