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Pagan Paganism Obsolete term, used only by academics, but which might be applied to the indigenous cultures of Europe (including north Africa and regions bordering the Mediterranean) before the rise of Christianity. See also Europa.
The word derives from Latin paganus, "resident of a country village (pagus)." Paganus is related to the verb pangere, "stick into, fix, root.," which implies that the pagani, loosely "country-folk," are rooted to the Earth, intimately connected to the place where they live. (Partridge, p. 463) The I-E root *pak- relates to pact, suggestting that being grounded or rooted to a place constitutes a pact, an agreement binding to both parties. Hence, paganism is the ecological and ethical world-view held by people who are grounded in a natural setting, and live in agreement with that setting. These associations imply that the "social contract" which binds the human community is framed in a pact with nature.
This is precisely the view proposed by Gary Snyder, among many others in the deep ecology movement. His book, The Practice of the Wild, is a defence of the pagan world-view understood in the terms defined here.Snyder observes that the revival of "classical" Greco-Latin culture in the Renaissance was "a rediscovery of secular culture and of human beings as natural beings in a natural world." (p. 68) He notes the response of Inupiaq (Eskimo) people exposed to Greek and Roman mythology: "Our ancestors, they said, told the same stories as the Greeks, and the people in India, and the rest of Native America. We all had a classical culture." (p. 70) Paganism is "the practice of the wild," a way of life in which people living in local, small-scale communities preserve their bond to Sacred Nature. Although the term Pagan has become meaningless in common discourse, it could well be revived as a component in the argument of Deep Ecology. A good brief introduction to Paganism, explained on its own terms, can be found in The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara Walker, who writes:
Christian historians often give the impression that Europe's barbarians welcomed the new faith, which held out a hope of immortality and a more kindly ethic. The iimpression is false. The people didn't willingly give up the faith of their ancestors, which they considered essential to proper functioning of the earth's cycles. They had their own hope of immortality and their own ethic, in many ways a kinder ethic than that of Christianity which was iposed on them by force. (p. 760)In Metahistory, Pagan and Paganism are capitalized to indicate the same value one attributes to Hebrew, Christian, Navaho, Inuit, and so forth. Pagan culture is Europan indigenous culture, pure and simple.
How then does it come about that Paganism is associated with "classical" literature and philosophy, the products of Athens and Rome, urban centers of antiquity?
As indicated by the response of the Inupiaq people just cited, indigenous culture has a classical facet. The "classics" are polished works of literature and philosophy created by people who distill and articulate the values of indigenous living, even though they may not live in a totally natural setting. Urban life in the ancient world was never so prepossessing that people inhabiting urban settlements forgot that cities existed in natural settings. The classics celebrate communion with nature and develop humanistic values in an ecological and vernacular perspective. See also Edward Goldsmith's notion of vernacular in The Way.
The best single source on Paganism is Gilbert Highet's The Classical Tradition. In addition to providing an overview of classical humanism through its works, Highet traces different views of Paganism over the centuries, proceeding from the Dark Ages into the Renaissance. The condemnation of Paganism as vile, superstitious, brutal and blasphemous was the work of Church apologists and Christian fanatics, encompassing many centuries. This systematic program of vilification met with huge resistence, so that traces of Paganism existed in all parts of Europe well into the 20th Century.
The proponents of Christianity propagated false and destructive beliefs about Paganism, effectuating a smear campaign more often than not enforced with sadistic righteousness (consider, for example, the horrors of the Witch Trials), but they never effectively refuted the values of indigenous Paganism, nor did they in any case defeat Pagan philosophy by fair and open argument. In the Renaissance the classical culture of the Pagan world was recovered, with the effect of "empowering" a new vision of humanity. Renaissance humanism incorporated certain aspects of the Pagan Ethic (see below), but principally it relied on the Pagan world-view to assert that humans could be self-defining and that the value of being human could stand for itself, independent of supernatural authority (so deemed). Unfortunately, the new definition of humanity required at that key historical moment did not get formulated. Consequently, humanism quickly degenerated into anthropocentic arrogance. Worst of all, humanists for the most part did not situate their new vision of humanity in a natural setting. Hence they were not really able to restore the Pagan ecological attitude.
A personal note: Having lived in Europe for a good many years, and visited many of the sacred places of Paganism, I have reflected long and hard on the problem of communicating the true nature of Paganism to people of our time. The greatest obstacle here may be the failure of historical writing to tell the extraordinary story of how Paganism was eradicated. This involves explaining how the indigenous culture of Europe was destroyed by Europeans themselves. Centuries before small bands of Europeans set out to ravage the rest of the world and to enslave and decimate untold millions of indigenous peoples, a small percentage of the European population had already perpetrated the same evil on their own people. From the 2nd Century CE onward, converts to Christianity who allied themselves with the political structures set in place by the Roman Empire proceeded systematically to destroy the indigenous culture of their own world. Starting with the persecution and massacre of Gnostics, and the closing of the Mystery Schools where Gnostic taught, the perpetrators of European cultural genocide extended their efforts to a general purge of anything and everything Pagan.This story is rarely told in this perspective: in view of what was lost, and how it was destroyed. Even when the alarming facts are revealed, the bizarre uniqueness of the situation has not been made clear. By now most intelligent people who question how history is told are well aware of the record of European expansion beyond Europe itself. We know something about the saga of the three Cs: colonialization, conversion, and conquest. What is less well understood is that the Europeans who inflicted the patriarchal dominator program on the entire world had inherited the karma of their ancestors, people who had already had centuries of practice in the destruction of indigenous cultures.
So far no revisionist history has done for Pagan Europe what, say, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee did for Native Americans. For most people it is certainly odd to imagine that Europe had an indigenous culture, and even odder to imagine that it was destroyed, not by perpetrators who came from elsewhere (although there was help from invading "barbarians" at some moments), as European colonialists and Christian missionaries came from Europe to the New World, but by its own inhabitants. The manner in which Pagan Europe was destroyed by forces erupting within its own psyche has yet to be told. If it ever is, I hope the author will be able to explain that this auto-destruction was not due to the decline of Paganism, or to some fatal toxic elements it might have harbored, but to the intrusion of an alien element. For my views on this "alien element," see also Heresy Wars (forthcoming).
Pagan ethics The coherent and consistent ensemble of personal and social values embodied in the Pagan world-view, the moral outlook of the indigenous peoples of Europe, philosophically formulated in Stoicism. Christianity has relied on enforcing the belief that Paganism and all things Pagan is vile, obscene and immoral. What we are told to believe about Paganism works and takes effect, however, only if we are totally ignorant of the values and views of Paganism, stated on its own terms. What, the, are the essentials of Pagan ethics? For the purpose of this entry, I offer this summary of some marks of the Pagan ethos:
This is merely a tentative sketch, an outline, but it gives some idea of the values inherent to the Pagan world-view, as contrasted to Judeo-Christian-Islamic principles. (Another key defining factor in Pagan ethic is the value attributed to personal love, but commenting on this factor would lead into a long digression.) The Pagan ethos has been revived in the 20th Century, mainly through Deep Ecology. The assertion by Arne Naess, that if we live in our "ecological selves" and maintain an attitude of reverence toward nature. we will act morally "without feeling any moral pressure" to do so, restates the Pagan belief in the essential goodness of human nature.
Human ecologist Paul Shepard argued brilliantly for Pagan values, as did renegade psychologist Wilhelm Reich in his defence of the "orgastic potency" of humans, and indeed, of all sentient life. Gary Snyder's collection of essays, The Practice of the Wild, can be read as a modern manifesto of Paganism. By contrast to many deep ecologists who reinstate Pagan values without ever using the P-word, Snyder makes explicit reference to the indigenous Pagan culture of Europe. Edward Goldsmith's masterpiece, The Way, is long and systematic plea for a "vernacular society" that would revive many aspects of the Pagan way of life. Dolores LaChapelle's Sacred Land, Sacred Sex, Rapture of the Deep, can also be read, almost page by page, as a manifesto of Pagan beliefs and practices. Snyder asserts that human morality and the skills necessary for social organization arise from the participation of our species in the operating principles of nature. (p. 19)
However, when we are cut off from nature, another kind of morality takes over. The Abrahamic religions all claim that moral authority in the human world must come from a superhuman source. Moral commandments originating with the Father God are communicated to society by his emissaries, who are always men. In this way morality is legislated. This system works forpeople who no longer participate in nature and therefore cannot source their moral and ethical principles in their bond to the natural world and non-human life. Mosaic law, Christian and Catholic dogmas, the submission of Islam – all these systems appeal not to the ecological self of Deep Ecology, but to wounded humanity. The moral principles of salvationist religion reflect our species' primal wound, alienation from Sacred Nature, and effectuate the enslavement of the human spirit to trauma and shame-bound longing for what we have lost.
paraprimitivism: term proposed by Gordon Rattray Taylor for a new type of society that might survive the what he considered to be the insane and unsustainable conditions produced by the Western model of patriarchal domination.
Rejecting the mere return to a primitive (i.e., non-technological and decentralized) way of life, Taylor proposed a society of voluntary simplicity and self-sufficiency that parallels primitive life without subjection to its limits and hardships. He envisioned three key values that suffer almost to exclusion in a technological society, but might be restored in a paraprimitive one: the person-entered integrity of relationships (including all economic and administrative roles), social motives that embody non-economic considerations, and work that is meaningful for personal development.
Piscean Age A period of cosmic timing, calculated by precise astronomical (not astrological) factors, believed to be marked by a cultural-spiritual signature, or Zeitgeist ("sprit of the time"), comprising the the themes of transcendence, change of fate, and guidance.
Easily mistaken for a astrological fantasy, the Piscean Age is in fact a concept supported by hard astronomical evidence. It belongs to an overall scheme of World Ages based on the real-sky Zodiac, a timeframe encompassing 26,000 years. Two steps are required to set up this scheme: establish how the Ages are to be measured, and determine the extent of each Age.
By an ancient rule whose origin is unknown to any scholar, the Ages are defined by the passage of the spring equinox through the constellations of the Zodiac. There is no need to guess the timing of any Age, because they can all be calculated with relative precision, given that we have established proximate boundaries for those constellations. The spring equinox shifted from Aries, the Ram, into Pisces, the Fishes, around 120 CE and will remain in the Fishes until about 2800 CE. The extent of the Piscean Age is about 29 centuries because the constellation of the Fishes is exceptionally long. Other Ages are of different durations. The Age of the Ram (Aries) lasted from 1850 BCE to 120 BCE, an extent of 1730 years, more than a thousand years shorter than the Piscean Age that followed it.
It is one thing to define the world Ages in astronomical terms, it is quite another to explain the fantastic beliefs attached to this scheme. The pattern of the World Ages is a vast bafflement to scholars, but on thing is certain: the primary themes of the Piscean Age really do fit the historical trajectory of the Age. Change of fate, transcendence, and guidance - these issues have become exceptionally problematic for humanity since the dawn of the Common Era. The exact moment of transition into the Age can almost be identified by the year of a single historical event: the discovery of precession by the Greek Astronomer Hipparchus in 127 BCE.
A huge, unresolved argument surrounds this historical detail. Most scholars insist that precession could not have been known before Hipparchus computed it, working from data provided by a predecessor, Timocharis. This is the party line, even though there is massive evidence that precession was known before Hipparchus. The rare scholar (such as Jocelyn Godwin) now refers to the rediscovery of precession by the Greeks. (Arktos, p. 162,. See the review of this book in orientation reading.) We are looking here at different ways of writing history, one which credits the ancients with profound astronomical knowledge, and another which denies them such knowledge. Consistent with the view of Godwin, I refer to the public (or, if you will, profane) disclosure of precession by Hipparchus.
How is this arcane issue pertinent to the Piscean Age? Well, first of all, it seems a rather significant coincidence that precession, symbolically denoting a shift in the astral fixation of human fate, came to be revealed with the dawning of the Age. And came to be revealed, let's note, in the context of a starry timeframe. From the realm of the fixed stars that determine human fate (so the ancient world believed) came a piece of information that would change humans' conception of their fate. This is already a catchy, self-referential proposition. And there is more.
The themes of a Zodiacal Age can be inferred from the mythological material associated with the constellations (technically, this is called sidereal myth). They can also be inferred from an overview of the historical trends of the Age, in cases where such trends can be identified. For instance, during the Arien Age (1850 - 120 BCE) historical developments in the Western world were largely effected by two related factors: the writing of the Old Testament which establishes a Father God as the source of moral authority, and the rise of Greek science. These developments occurred in parallel , timed closely to the shift of the spring equinox through the stars composing the face and horns of the Ram.
Reader Be Warned: : I do not claim that the astronomical shift caused these developments, merely that it coincided with them.
From this historical-astronomical parallelism we can infer that the Age of the Ram (Arien Age) was marked by the theme of male authority in matters of morality (Mosaic Law) and knowledge (Greek Science). The effects of these Arien trends were far-reaching. For all centuries thereafter, Biblical dogma and scientific law have been closely associated. Both desacralize nature. Both elevate male ness to to the highest level of authority. Both assert the monopoly of men over all matters concerning control of the social order and domination of the natural order.
Every Age carries its problematic themes. We are still far from seeing a resolution to the problems that emerged in the Arien age, namely, the scriptural-rational legitimation of patriarchy. Yet we are living out the final centuries of the Piscean Age, a long, distended eopch that entrains its own set of probems - or challenges, if that sounds any better. I noted above to the self-referential trick of this Age, its opening cue: the signal to change fate comes from the starry realms where fate is signed and sealed. Guidance can be inferred as a theme of the Piscean Age, because people who are set loose to pursue their personal destinies will be in need of guidance.
However, there is another self-referential trick in the works here. The scheme of the World Ages was considered to present a program for guiding humanity over the long term. At least this was how it was viewed, and applied, by the teachers in the Mystery Schools. In each Age humanity faces certain lessons, challenges, opportunities and setbacks. Initiated skywatchers who could follow the timing and seers who could interpret the tests particular to each Age worked together to guide humanity in accordance with the progression, as they understood it. Such, at least, is the explanation offered by various occult teacherrs of the 20th century, most notably Rudolf Steiner and Schwaller de Lubicz.
Now, if there is any truth in this grandiose historical fantasy, the dawn of the Piscean Age must have been a moment when initiates in the Mysteries were lookiing hard at how to deal with the emergent problem of self-concern. And they were facing a double whammy, because their mission was to guide (using the Zodiacal timeframe as their hermeneutic structure, if you will), but the game was changing. In the Piscean Age the process of guidance becomes problematic. Here again is the self-referential cue: the spiritual guides of humanity, who used precession as a view-finder for their long-term vision of human cultural evolution, were challenged to revise their program to meet the needs of an increasingly self-obsessed species. Face to face with the intesnity of self-concern, what solutions did they consider? (It's worth noting, by the way, that the word "consider" derives from the Latin con-, "with," and sidere, "stars." Originally, to consider something was to place it with the stars, to view it in the context of the stars.)
Well, the question obviously spills beyond the limits of this Lexicon entry, but I will offer a suggestion, by way of playing into other entries. In a genial twist, some initiates proposed, rather than to guide humanity according to the age-old programs of initiation, to teach it to be self-guiding. Now there's a plot-line for a story yet to be told. The plot thickens if we imagine that some other initiates deferred from this proposal because, in their view, the human species was not capable of self-guidance. Hence there was a split among the guardians of the Mysteries, a division of opinion concerning the moral and mental capacities of humankind. This is all a fantasy, of course, with no historical basis to it. Or is it?
In Gnostic metaphysics the Pleroma is the Godhead or Urgrund, the primal ground. In Buddhism this is Shunyata, "Voidness," often wrongly understood as emptiness or nullity. On the contrary, the Void is a fullness that cannot be further amplified or increased; hence a "plenum void." Buddhism emphasizes that the Void is uncreated, so there was never a time when it did not exist, nor did it come to be at a particular time, or over a period of time. The Void is Eternity, the simultaneous presence of all moments. It is both timelessness and the absolute fullness of time. It is both the infinite expanse of space and no space, no location. All language is inadequate to describe the nature of the Pleromic Void.
The Gnostic Pleroma is conceived as both unitary and plural. Its structure—if one may speak of the Urgrund having a structure—consists of a central grounding presence, the Originator, and a set of dynamic powers, the Generators or Aeons. There there is one God and a company of Gods in the Pleroma. This mysterious arrangement is evoked in the opening passage of the Gaia Mythos.
Throughout Metahistory.org, I extrapolate Gnostic mythology by equating the Pleroma with the central bulge of our galaxy, while at the same time proposing that they are many Pleromas, as Gnostic teachings assert. Hence a Pleroma is a center of a galaxy, not the center of the Universe in its totality. I would not presume to say what or where the center of the Universe, the totality of galaxies, is, but based on current astronomical research I can confidently say that the center of the galaxy we on Earth inhabit is located about 26,000 light-years away in the direction of the constellation of the Archer. The exact point of the galactic center is not known, and cannot be known, because it is a region rather than a point-source. Estimates put it at 27-8 degrees of the Zodiacal Sign Sagittarius, or 267-8 on the Ecliptic.
In the mythopoetic description developed for the Gaia Mythos, I propose that the center of the galaxy is a vortex of mass-free, high-porosity light, including black light. These are Organic and Superorganic Light, respectively. Insofar as it can be described in terms comparable to anything we know, this light is a substance like foam from a fire-extinguisher. The eruption of Pleromic Light is compared to an overflowing wellspring in Gnostic texts. It is intensely and immensely animated and alive, sentient, aware, and possessed of intention. Massive self-aware currents in the core light field were called Aeons in Gnostic cosmology. I am convinced that Gnostic seers were able to contact the galactic center, stand in the torrential currents of Organic and Superorganic Light, and download signals from the Aeons. Those who did so were called "the immovable race" for their ability to take in the streaming of cosmic information and remain steady, without melting away into ecstatic mindlessness, or lapsing into hallucinations or fantasy.
Gnostics recognized a three-level capacity to transceive Pleromic
Light. At one level, the adept attunes to the presence of Aeonic
currents operating within the natural light of the Earth's
atmosphere. At the next level, he or she attunes to the streaming
of Aeonic currents from the galactic core into the Earth's atmosphere.
At the third level, the adept transceives directly from the galactic
core where the currents originate. Different information (I prefer
to say "signals) arise at each level. The seer who is able
to attain and sustain attunement at all three levels was called Trimegistus, "Thrice
Great," a title for the supreme heirophant in the Egyptian
preceptive belief: states
a form or rule of behavior that preclude learning from experience
because it imposes behavior with a preassigned value. Preceptive
beliefs are stated in the form of aphorisms and commandments.
psychonaut "One who navigates the psyche." Term proposed by Ernst Junger, German writer-researcher on psychoactive chemicals, and colleague and friend of Albert Hofmann, who discovered LSD. Jonathan Ott uses a derivative noun, psychonautics, and the adjective, psychonautic.I think psychonaut is a felicitous term, especially when juxtaposed to cybernaut. The future course of the human species may depend on the difference between the activities of these two types of explorers. I would apply Junger's term to all those who explore the psyche of the world, the anima mundi, through ritual use of pychoactive plants, or sacred plant-teachers, as they have traditionally been called. Psychonautics is oriented toward nature, the (M)Other that produces us, as well as toward human nature, the potential unique to our species. When human potential is identified and developed, siddhis emerge. These are psychic powers, capacities for heightened preception (hyperception), including clairaudience, spontaneous movement, and lucid dreaming. The powers are only accessories, however. The paramount purpose of psychonautics is to develop the wisdom and perception that enables humans to coevolve with Gaia and the myriad species.
The relevance of psychonautics to Gnosis is self-evident. I have proposed that Gnosis in its genuine, pre-Christian form, was the theory and practice of noetic science. Hence, the equation psychonautics = psychonoetics. Gnostics did not call themselves such, however, for gnostikos was intended as an insult, meaning "smart ass, know-it-all." They called themselves telestes, "those who know the goal, telos." In the Mystery Schools where Gnostics comprised both the faculty and the directing body (comparable to a "college of deans"), the goal of training and teaching was to produce culture from illumined knowledge. Gnostics sought initiation, and transmitted is to others, so that they could consecrate themselves to the higher education of humanity.
Dedicated to the Magna Mater, Gnostics initiated their neophytes into the mysteries of Sacred Nature, but they directed them to apply what they learned through illumination in the realm of culture. Hence the graduates of the Mystery Schools were the educators of the classical world. They taught in all areas essential to culture-building: mathematics, geometry, music, astronomy, architecture, medicine, etc. Each of the Mystery Schools was the matrix of many guilds in which non-initiated people were trained. The last flowering of this system occured with the construction of the Gothic cathedrals in the 12th century, but the idea that the "trades" have a sacred, initiatory origin persisted into later times. (The Grand Place in Brussels, not far from where I write these words, in unique for its display of iconic art pointing to the initiatory origin of the trades. Many books have been written on the esoteric symbolism of its decor.)
It is always necessary to distinguish between the result of initiation and the telos, or purpose. (I originally pointed out this distinction in The Seeker's Handbook, published in 1991.) For the Gnostics of antiquity, the result of initiation was the attainment of God-like faculties or siddhis (hence "deification," a term which has been grossly misinterpreted), but the pupose was to apply these faculties to teach culture and guide human society. While profoundly rooted in mystic adoration of the Goddess, the adepts of the Mysteries looked to the human world for their self-assigned mission.
I believe that the situation for psychonauts today reverses the norm of antiquity. The trend of illumined experience today is away from culture and back to Sacred Nature. It is a return to the Goddess whom we now know as Gaia. Living in an insane society, modern psychonauts cannot be aimed toward engendering culture where there is neither the intelligence nor the inclination to accept it. That would be pointless, if not suicidal. (The life of Antonin Artaud is a case study of such a mistake. One of several that might be cited.)
By contrast, cybernauts believe they are involved in the most advanced aspects of culture, and disposed toward the decisive culture-making activities of the future. Many cybernauts take drugs (as distinguished from psychoactive plants) and then log on to computers, or strap themselves into virtual reality gear, believing that they are exploring the far reaches of the universe. Even though most of what is said about the potential for informatics to dominate the human world is pure hype, the belief in the hype is self-fulfilling — if one can describe psychosis and disembodiment as types of human fulfillment. Cybernetic fixation may be the endgame script for our species, the way we write ourselves out of the Gaian narrative. Hence, the fundamental contrast to be seen between psychonauts and cybernauts: the former are heading away from culture and back into the matrix of the Earth Mystery, while the latter are heading into the cultural void of the Artificial, the zone of the Archons.
As Dale Pendell says in Pharmacopoeia, "Despite fractals and logarithmic roses, plants don't grow in cyberspace."
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