A serious title like that one needs a defusion of some sorts, and what better way to prevent a situation from escalating than humor? So here’s a joke for you. What is the difference between a pagan and a neopagan? When you throw them in water, a pagan will swim. At the same time, a neopagan will sink under the weight of all the crystals, wands, statues, cloaks, cards, and other tools.
Over my many years of working side-by-side or directly with people who consider themselves neopagans, I’ve found that a lot of them (especially younger ones) feed their rebellious inner-children with hatred or at least deep dissatisfaction with the modern capitalistic society. In their spiritual activism, they will go to great lengths to explain how there are many things wrong with today’s world because property, business, and industry are controlled by private owners. They will talk about how humans are greedy and accumulate riches while there are people in the world hungry and suffering. They will also point out how the roots of modern capitalism lie in the wish to control and manipulate nature, in man’s domination over it. At the same time, they will tell you how they are practicing magic. You know, that craft where you are concisely manipulating the world around you in your favor. Well, ain’t that funny? Capitalism is wrong for trying to assert dominance and control how things play out, but you are right for wanting to do the same?
Oh, but you would do it in a better way? Okay. Now I get it. [face_palm]
I have no problem with people having such a belief, nor do I blame them, but I do like it when we call things by their right name. That name is hypocrisy. The intent of this text is not to judge or in any way confront your own beliefs. It is simply to challenge your thinking and take you on a philosophical journey. I am not attacking you. I am simply starting a much-needed discussion on why we are eager to judge others on the same thing we are doing ourselves. Whenever I hear a pagan mocking a Christian or a Muslim for their lack of critical thinking, I wonder if their own capability of critical thinking and introspection are up for a battle of wits. Are you ready?
What neopaganism is and isn’t
Let’s start with a brief history lesson. Don’t worry. It won’t hurt (a lot). What we are doing today in various neopagan paths is not what our ancestors were doing. Paganism is not a static religion. It evolves and adapts to the times people are living in. It learns and grows. That is actually one of its greatest beauties, the capability to learn. Following that logic, paganism is always neopaganism [neo-, prefix, origin: Greek, meaning: new and modern], and neopaganism is always paganism, right? Well, yes and no. Yes in a sense that the core of paganism is spiritual growth, acquiring knowledge, and connecting with nature. No in a sense that we are not literally doing today what was once done before. For example, animal sacrifice was once normal. Nowadays, we look at animal sacrifice as barbaric, especially if you take into consideration that many neopagans are vegans and vegetarians.
Can we consider neopaganism to be contemporary paganism?
Now, the thing to keep in mind is that as contemporary paganism, neopaganism was heavily influenced by Western occultism. Both Gardnerian Wicca (by Gerald Gardner in the 1940s and 1950s), Alexandrian Wicca (by Alex Sanders and Maxine Sanders in 1960s), and Druidism (by Ross Nichols, the founder of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids in 1964) were created during the life of Aleister Crowley and were under his influence. Also keep in mind that after Gardner was in the New Forest coven, he created Wicca by supplementing some of the things from that group with stuff from the Freemasonry, ceremonial magic, and the writings of Aleister Crowley. You will even hear opinions how Gardner’s Wicca is nothing more but a washed-down Thelema from Crowley. So if you consider that Crowley was initiated into O.T.O. (Ordo Templi Orientis by Carl Kellner, Heinrich Klein, Franz Hartmann, and Theodor Reuss), ran it and reorganized it a bit into Thelema, and that O.T.O. relies on some of the principles found in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Down, then we have a direct lineage all the way from Western Occultism to neopaganism. And from what did Western Occultism grow? From Pythagorean and alchemical mysteries and teachings or, you know, ancient paganism. So we’ve made a complete circle from paganism back to paganism. If you felt a bit lost during this journey, let me simplify.
Egyptians and Babylonians -> ancient Pythagorean and alcemical mysteries and teachings -> Rosicrucians -> Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn -> O.T.O. -> Thelema -> Wicca and Druidism -> neopaganism and/or paganism in its various forms and paths. This is how the things evolved. This is, of course, just a very simplified representation of a timeline. There were many other influences and groups (from Kabbalah in Hebrew tradition to borrowing stuff from India, Buddhism, and Taoism), but if you want to talk about who influenced who and who learned from what, this timeline is not that far off. It is not perfect, but it is not that wrong either. So what does all this have to do with you wanting to connect with nature and work on your spiritual growth? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. It all depends on whether you want to know the evolution of modern paganism (a.k.a neopaganism) or not.
Are you at least a bit curious why neopaganism accepts chakras and a pentagram at the same time and in what way is that related to the evolution of human spirit through connection with nature and divine energy that flows through everything? Maybe you think this is all just a digression and has nothing to do with the title of this text about how pagans being against capitalism is a paradox. Hold on. I’ll get to my point. Patience is a virtue, remember?
What do capitalism and magic both rely on?
Before answering that question, let’s first define what magic is because I’ve heard many say how not all pagans practice magic. That is not actually correct. If you consider yourself a pagan or a neopagan, you are, in fact, practicing magic. You may not call it by that name, but then we are just dealing with semantics, whether logical or lexical. Allow me to explain. We can take Crowley’s definition of Magic: “Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will,” the Webster’s definition: “The use of charms or spells believed to have supernatural power over natural forces,” we can look at the root word for magic (Greek: mageia; Latin: magia) and talk about a Greek term magoi referring to Magians of Zoroastrianism, or discuss Loretta Orion’s view: “An attempt to understand the self, the world, and the divine,” or any other. The point of magic is influencing and manipulating the world, modeling it to our linking. Now, the majority (a very vast majority) of pagans believe that humans are part of the world. We are not disconnected from it. If magic is influencing or controlling the world and you are a part of that world, then by controlling, influencing, and modeling yourself, you are, in fact, performing magic. Did I break your brain yet?
By psychoanalysis, meditation, introspection, behavioral changes, critical thinking, working with your energy centers, setting intentions, making plans, affirmations, and basically any form of self-improvement, you are working on yourself and changing yourself. You are consciously manipulating, controlling, and evolving some part of the world, yourself. Therefore, magic. So don’t tell me that not all pagans practice magic because they surely do. We can argue about the focus of their magical work, sure, but by definition of magic, that work most definitely is magical. This whole theory relies on accepting that humans are part of the world and in some part connected with everything in it. If one would argue against the premise of interconnectivity, then of course the line between someone being a pagan and what magic is cannot be drawn. But since the probability of a person being a pagan and not accepting their connection with everything in nature is so, so, so small, I stand by my initial premise. After all, the point of destroying the barriers between that which I am and that which everything else is has became one of key principles of modern neopaganism. But if you want to take this logic to extremes and simplify it to the point of no return, then we can say that every time you have a rational thought or perform any type of critical thinking, you are indeed practicing magic.
So now that we know that Western occultism (which heavily influenced neopaganism) just as capitalism rests on a founding principle of man’s domination over nature, and now that we know that neopagans are, in fact, practicing magic and trying to control the world around them, can we connect pagans to capitalism? If you’ve got a knot in your stomach and sense where I’m going with this, good. That means I’ve got your attention.
Both capitalism and magic rely on the control of the individual.
Well, does that mean capitalism is spiritual or magic is capitalistic, or what the heck is going on here? I am not arguing pro or against capitalism. I am simply pointing out that the principle of an individual having the control, a power in their hands, and a wish to acquire abundance on all fronts is present in both capitalism and paganism. Accepting paganism as a spiritual path means accepting responsibility for your thoughts, emotions, and actions. It means being in control of your physical and spiritual life. The word physical is bolded there because pagans are neither Buddhists nor Hinduists. We do not wish to escape the physical reality or be freed from it because we accept physical form as the greatest spiritual manifestation. We do not accept that suffering is a form of getting closer to Gods or that this life is a certain trial after which we will receive either a punishment or a reward like Abrahamic religions do. Physical is equally important as spiritual, equally valid, and equally divine in its nature. This is one of the reasons why you will see a pagan with a beer in their hand more often than not. We love beer. Even our Gods and Goddesses love beer.
Beer is a divine elixir, just as chocolate is divine food. It brings us pleasure.
Both capitalism and magic rely on manipulating nature. And there lies the paradox of pagans being against capitalism. There lies the hypocrisy in judging a person for having great riches when we ourselves perform rituals and cast spells to get a better job. Our ancestors prayed to their Gods and Goddesses and performed magical rituals to ensure bountiful harvests and healthy offspring from their animals. They wanted physical abundance too.
There is no outside
But how is a pagan way of manipulating nature not against being a part of it? Is it not better to accept nature and ourselves as we are? If I see nature as perfect and/or humans as perfect, why would I want to change them? Well, you can’t really control that which is not you, anyway, can you? So being a part of nature actually plays hand-in-hand with the ability to control because the philosophical principle of magic as controlling the outside is only possible by accepting that “outside” is only a human construct of division. There is no outside. Tag, you’re it. As for the controlling and changing nature, nothing is still in it. The material form of nature evolved and is still evolving. It is not static even though it can be seen as perfect in its every moment of evolution. This one, and this one. This one too. On the other hand, by accepting that A, you are part of nature and connected with it; and B, you can change and grow, the conclusion follows that the Universe is growing and changing with you because it is not divided from you.
Don’t blame the capitalism. Blame people.
We are often confronted with the fact that there are people dying of hunger in the 21st century while some countries are throwing away quantities of food that would feed entire nations. We are also confronted with the fact that while some people are dying because they cannot afford medical treatment to save their lives, others are buying fake boobs and doing cosmetic surgery. The rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer, and capitalism is destroying both our morality and spirituality. I would strongly disagree with this. Saying that capitalism is bad is just as wrong as saying that paganism is good. Just by being a pagan, you do not get a medal for the best spiritual path. There are pagans whom you would consider good people and those whom you would consider not so good. There are also what you would call rich capitalistic people whom you would consider good and those that you wouldn’t. It’s not the system. It’s never the system. It’s the people.
I see absolutely nothing wrong with a person who wants to grow their business and evolve nor with a person who wants a luxury lifestyle in a gorgeous mansion because I have no problem with accepting the beauty of material things. The way how a person does it is, of course, a different story, but the lack of morals in some people is not a new thing. It is not reserved strictly for capitalism because that would mean that there were never greedy and immoral people before it, and history tells us otherwise. You can choose to focus on the negative traits of capitalism, but I’ll remind you that there are positive aspects of it too, many of them actually. I am happy about my current life experience. I value and am grateful for being able to read, educate myself, and vote as a woman. I value and am grateful for the freedom to choose my spiritual path without fear of prosecution. I value and am grateful for my freedom to express myself sexually. All that is capitalism too because there is no democracy without capitalism, no freedom, and no everyday commodities that we often undermine and fail to recognize for their value.
Capitalism is what drives innovation, wealth, and prosperity in our modern times. Competition and capital accumulation incentivize businesses to maximize their efficiency. This not only allows investors to capitalize on growth but allows consumers to enjoy lower prices and a wide range of goods. Historical evidence shows us how democracy couldn’t exist without capitalism because capitalism and democracy need each other in order to survive. I am not saying that they both aren’t in need of some further evolution and modernization, because they most surely are, I am just accepting them as they are in the current moment. Their time will end sooner or later just as every other system in history has ended. Nothing lasts forever, and everything is subjected to change. There is no point in denying that some parts of capitalism truly suck because they do. We are in need of a different, more humane system, and its time will come.
The paradox of neopaganism being against capitalism
And here we are. Our philosophical journey is close to its end. We’ve covered a brief history of neopaganism and from which it evolved. We talked about paganism always being neopaganism and neopaganism always being paganism. We’ve covered what magic is and what capitalism is. Now what? Now you accept that judging others welcomes them to judge you back and that it is not that bad to think before you speak. Choose your words. You are not against capitalism. You are against some of the consequences of people with a lack of morals existing during the times of capitalism. Live life. Love life. Laugh at life. I started this text with a joke, so I might as well end it with one.
How many Gardnerians does it take to change a light bulb?
Can’t say. It’s bound by an oath.
How many Alexandrians does it take to change a light bulb?
Same number as Gardnerians.
How many witches does it take to change a light bulb?
Depends on what you want to change it into.
How many Druids does it take to change a light bulb?
Thirteen; one to hold the bulb, and twelve to drink enough to make the room spin.
How many ceremonial magicians does it take to change a light bulb?
One; he stands still with the bulb, and the universe revolves around him.
How many Thelemites does it take to change a light bulb?
None. Crowley never wrote a book about it.
How many Nordic pagans does it take to change a light bulb?
Loki, can I have my light bulb back, please?
Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again my dear pagan soul. Rejoice in life, and life will rejoice in you. May God and Goddess bless you in everything you do and spirit guides follow you wherever you go.
In love and light,