Monday, February 22, 2010

What are the Outer Limits of Paganism and Magic?

The "big two" monotheistic religions have clear and competing visions of the end of the world: Islam envisions the entire world conquered and ruled by a Caliphate and Sharia law (over my dead body, and I mean that literally); Christianity leaves room for the various nations to maintain their identity but asserts that Christ will rule them all from the throne of David at Jerusalem (which may not be any more palatable for the majority of members here, I realize). Secularism has its visionaries as well; the Star Trek universe comes to mind. What do you believe is the corresponding potential for magic and/or paganism in general?

The typical peasant of 2000 B.C. would have adjusted to the world of Caesar's era (or even Charlemagne's) with scarcely a burble. I venture to say, though, that he would not have adjusted to the 21st century (in the West, at least) without a lot of hard work and re-education. There has been real and substantial change since Gutenberg invented movable type, and especially since James Watt invented his improved steam engine. I'm not looking to hash out how much of that change is due to Christian beliefs and influence, but I will note that the Chinese had a form of printing (lithography) and that the ancient Greeks invented a (very) rudimentary steam engine. Would movable type have made the impact we know without Gutenberg's missionary zeal to publish Scripture and make it accessible to the common man? Was scientific inquiry and investigation jump-started by the religious worldview of early scientists and natural philosophers which held that the natural world was a creation of God, and therefore logical and knowable?

Be all that as it may. What do you think could (or should) have happened if Jesus Christ (and Muhammad) had never walked this earth and pagan/magical thought (of any particular pantheon) had been given the chance to progress unhindered? While I can't presume to read anyone's mind, I get the impression from the discussions I've followed here that most pagan thought is tied to the status quo and that (virtually) no one envisions great and radical changes from the world as it now exists. Would that have been true in any given place and time (Caesar's era, North America pre-1492, ancient Egypt, etc.)? Or am I mistaken in my impressions? While I don't expect anyone to respond that scientific and technological progress is an unmixed curse or blessing either way, if you could push a button and reset the world to the material, technological, and legal/political state of four hundred, five hundred, a thousand, two thousand years ago...would you push it?

For one specific example, I've seen discussions here on the astral. This is an area I have no personal knowledge of, nor am I trying to gain any; I feel my God telling me distinctly that he wants to work with me in this world (the occasional dream excepted). Can you envision any set of circumstances under which we (or you, meaning those who are interested) would be able to know, and map, and navigate the astral as certainly and repeatedly as we navigate the oceans? I sailed into Sydney Harbour twice while in the Navy, the last time over twenty years ago. Yet I have utter and absolute faith that with a suitably equipped and provisioned seagoing vessel and the proper charts and navigational equipment I could return to those exact same coordinates and find the Harbour, the Opera House and that big arched bridge in pretty much the same condition as I remember them. Is such a feat even possible for the astral, or is it fundamentally unplottable (at least in that sense)? If I gave you a suitable description, with nautical coordinates, of my trip around the world I believe that each and every one of you could successfully replicate it. Is the same feat in reverse even possible for the astral, or is it different for each individual?

I suppose what I'm getting at is, do you believe that there is some kind—any kind—of fundamental underlying absolute Truth to paganism and magic in general? I believe, on a fundamental philosophical level, that truth MUST be absolute, else it be not Truth...from which springs the missionary imperative of my own faith specifically and, IMO, of Christianity in general. I can accept that the majority of others here feel differently, but...if you had things your way, where would you take them? Are you happy with the status quo, the world pretty much the way it is...and, if so, would you be equally at home in the world of the 13th century or the 23rd century? If you are satisfied with things the way they are, does that include being satisfied with the fact that there is no (observable) justice for those who are caught up in the middle of famine, genocide and other horrors, such as those in Sudan? Or, if you would change things, what kind of change would you propose and what things would need to happen to (at least in your plan) make it work?

I know that this is kind of a rambling OP, so feel free to focus on any one area or to start a spinoff thread. But if your religion and your deities had their way...what would happen?

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