Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Why the Church Gets to Collect a Tithe: It's a Mystery!

In my previous post, I talked about the logistics of the "tithe," the offering of 10% of your gross income to the Temple or the Church. This money is supposed to cover the operating costs of the clergy, provide the clergy with food shelter and clothing, and the things they need to get by in life.

I also talked about what I consider the criteria for clergy getting supported by the congregation: If the clergy is providing information, instruction, and insight that leads to the laity having a better financial, emotional, and spiritual life, they deserve to get supported so they can spend more time developing the materials that would help more people get more money and happiness and gnosis in their lives.

There's a Mystery of the doctrine of the Tithe, a spiritual truth that translates into substantive blessings in the lives of those who practice this discipline. I believe the Tithe is appropriate because I personally know that you get a lot more than you give when you tithe, and I'm not talking about the umbrella services of the church or whatever it is your tithe supports. There's a spiritual mystery to it.

First of all, where does everything in the Universe come from in the Hermetic Cosmology? Everything, we believe, is an emanation of God. Some people call it by other names, others are more comfortable leaving it nameless. I prefer to think of it as the Prime Mover, the First Father, but people I have deep respect for see it as an impersonal force, a fount of information that expresses itself in various levels of complexity that we experience and sort through in our lives.

Whatever. I find it hard to have a personal relationship with knowledge, it's all cold and compassion-less. Not much fun in that.

So everything is a manifestation of God. that means you and me and the chairs we're sitting in, the clothes we're wearing, and the cat shit that stinks up my basement if I don't change the litter box. Everything that exists is a manifestation of God according to Hermetic doctrine.

If everything that exists is a manifestation of God... who does it all belong to? Whose money gets put in whose account when you get paid?

Philosophically understanding, theoretically seeing that everything is an emanation of God is pretty simple. Seeing our paychecks as a direct provision from God is something else altogether. After all, God didn't work for that money, didn't put up with my boss's bullshit for 60 hours while only getting paid for 40 last week. Hell, God manifested as my boss in the first place. Why should I give him the first 10%?

It was easier when people were in an agrarian/nomadic culture. The crops depended on the right amounts of Rain and Sun, the animals' health depended on the same. The weather was under the direct control of one or more Gods, so it was easier to see that what you had at harvest was a direct manifestation of the local deity's pleasure or displeasure with you. His pleasure was maintained by offerings.

The Tithe, while in essence an offering, was different. The tithe was the portion of the year's earnings that belonged to God no matter what kind of weather you get. Spending the tithe was stealing from God. Sacrifices and offerings were given above and beyond the tithe. They weren't automatically God's portion, they were your specific attempt to express gratitude to or request favors from the deity receiving the offering. Tithes weren't sacrifices, they were a public acknowledgment that everything was God's anyway.

One of the neat things about the tithe is that the more God blesses you, the more he gets. It's sort of an incentive for God to give you more, when you think about it. Not that he needs the tithe, everything is his already. Everything IS God and he doesn't need anything more. "My God ain't short on Cash, Mister," as Bono put it.

But if God doesn't need any of it, what's the tithe for? Is it just a conspiracy by the Clergy to keep themselves in business? It does keep them in business, it's true, but in order to manifest, it had to be purposed in the Mind of God. The tithe is part of the Purpose of God.

The tithe is a spiritual discipline. It's a gift for us, a tool, a practice that reveals a secret about the manifestation of God. See, when you give the tithe regularly, off the top, you prosper. It's weird, but when you give money away, intentionally donating it to God in whatever manifestation of clergy or spiritual teacher he manifests in your life, you have everything you need. Why? I don't know. But it works.

It's the one thing in the Bible that God commands people to do that he also says you can test him on. You give God 10% of your income, and watch the blessings pour in. It's a spiritual law. It doesn't come from the person or group you gave it to, either. It's not that direct. I tithed on my unemployment when I was unemployed, but did the Church that got the money provide for me and my family? They brought me a couple of casseroles, but they didn't pay my rent or my utilities bills.

But those bills were all paid. For almost a year from 2002-2003. There's no explanation for that. The need would arise, and a pile of money would appear. I didn't get ahead financially, but I maintained my existence. I know a lot of people who tithe regularly, and they are living testaments to this spiritual fact. If you give the first 10% of your income to god's representatives in your life, whether they deserve it or not, you will be blessed. Your physical, material life will have a spiritual foundation that provides for all your needs. The tithe and the resulting blessings forms the solid bedrock of financial prosperity that everything else we do with magic can add to over time.

See, the Church, by teaching this spiritual truth even though it has been misrepresented as coercion ("give me money or burn in hell"), is actually giving the laity a spiritual discipline that personally and miraculously benefits them. That's why they deserve to get the tithe, because they meet my criteria for making your life better through their doctrines.


Because this revelation of spiritual truth was recorded and popularized primarily within the Hebrew and Christian religions, pagans miss out on the benefits. Their clergy misses out on a regular source of income (though typically only 10% of the congregation tithes regularly as noted in the previous post). The coven members or grove members or whatever miss out on having all their basic needs met consistently by the powers of the gods.

Magicians miss out too. We miss out on a chance to learn something fundamental about manifestation magic.

Now, if you want to enjoy the benefits of the tithe, but you aren't Christian or Hebrew, and besides the Romans tore apart your Temple in 70 AD anyway, there are some things you need to understand. The tithe isn't Christian or Jewish. It's one of those spiritual laws that apply to anyone. You don't have to tithe to an organization; anyone in your life that is doing God's work (or the Work of the Gods, whatever) would be a good person to receive the tithe. Anyone who teaches magic, paganism, or any spiritual practices that benefit you personally and draw you closer to God is a worthy recipient of the tithe. That includes BLOG AUTHORS like Jason, Kenaz, and Witchdoctor Joe. Scott Rassbach, the good Gnostic Monsignor qualifies. Yours truly wouldn't be a bad choice either. I would be honored to be the recipient of your tithe, but I'm not 501c3 compliant, you totally wouldn't get a tax credit.

It doesn't matter WHO you give the tithe to, because you aren't really giving it to THEM. You're giving it to God, as a means to recognize that everything is his already anyway, in faith that he will provide all your needs. It's the intent that determines the spirit you receive, as Agrippa says, and when it comes to the tithe, it's the intent that you are giving it to God that triggers the blessings in your life. In the Bible, it says that if you can't make it to Jerusalem to give the tithe to the Temple, you're supposed to take the tithe and EAT IT. You use it to have a celebration in honor of God. You and your friends, family, strangers, the poor, everyone in the community feast on the tithe in thanksgiving to God, and then whatever is left over is left out for the animals to eat.

That doesn't mean you get to take the first 10% and go to the movies and say it's in honor of God, by the way. Any secret justifications for spending the tithe on yourself negate the whole thing. It has to be for God, and the best way to do that is to take 10% and give it to someone doing what you consider God's Work on Earth.