Sunday, October 06, 2013

How to be a Christian AND a Magician

Well, first, you be a Christian... and then you also be a Magician.

I get asked all the time how I manage to reconcile my Christian faith with my practice of magic and Hermetics. I get asked by Christians who really want to do magic but have concerns about the whole "the Bible explicitly says not to do it" thing, and by pagans who can't stand the blatant Christianity in the grimoires. After announcing my affiliation with the OTO, I'm now being asked how I reconcile those two beliefs as well. I've been meaning to explain it in a blog post for a while, and I've finally got the time.

Basically, I'm able to reconcile Christianity and Hermetics because I took the time to learn what they both are. I studied Christian theology for a couple of years, Catholic and Protestant alike. I read Luther and Calvin. I actually know what the Bible says about things, and I understand the history of the formation of the Church. I read the Corpus Hermeticum, studied the formation of Hermetic beliefs, and explored the neo-platonic framework of the systems of magic we use.

People who have a problem reconciling Christianity and magic really just don't know what Christianity really is. They think it's an actual cohesive religious system with simple rules of behavior, clear-cut processes and methodologies for attaining spiritual rewards and avoiding spiritual punishments. They think the pastors or priests telling them what to do and how it works are all basing their statements on what the Bible says, or what the Church teaches. It would be great if Christianity were that simple.

But it's a big fucking mess. The "New Testament" isn't a book. It's four gospels telling the story of Jesus' time on Earth that mostly agree with one another. Then there's a book that talks about the early church in Jerusalem and what the founders of Christianity did, like a history book, sort of, that was recorded many years after the events that were being recorded, like a documentary about the civil rights movement put together entirely from interviews of people who had heard about it before. And then there are the apostolic epistles, supposedly letters from the founders of the church to the churches scattered across the Roman Empire in the first century, written by the people who had actually been with Jesus. And then there are the epistles of fucking Paul, who never met Jesus in the flesh, but had a conversion experience on the road to Damascus. And then there's the APOCALYPSE, a.k.a. Revelation.

There's a lot of "swirl" involved with that, as you can imagine. The early church fathers didn't know what they were doing any more than the modern Golden Dawn outer heads know what they're doing. They argued with each other all the time. Most of them were Jews who didn't even want to let non-Jews join the church. Peter was ok with it, because he really liked ham sandwiches with cheese. He even dreamed about it.

But mostly they let Paul deal with the Gentiles, and Paul dealt with them indeed, giving them rules, guidance, teachings, trainings. He put together the actual church doctrines and practices, and eventually had to bail out the Jerusalem church because they were all disorganized. They were ostracized by the Jewish Jews who didn't believe in the messiah, and they still ostracized themselves from the pagans in the Roman empire. They were broke and hungry, and meanwhile Paul's legions of Gentile Christians were thriving. Relatively.

And he fought with them a lot. Argued with them, called Peter a hypocrite to his face. They were vehement in their disagreements as they tried to figure out what Christianity should be.

So really, there is no hard and fast "Christianity." There are just interpretations of the core texts that enough people happen to agree on. That's why there are so many denominations, and why history is rife with heretics getting killed. It's a hot mess when you look at it.

But here's a secret for you: Christianity is entirely built on the emanationist neoplatonic framework. Read John 1:1, "In the beginning was the WORD (LOGOS), and the WORD was with God, and the WORD was God." See that? Neoplatonist doctrine, pure and simple. The very best esoteric games in town in the 1st through 3rd centuries were neoplatonist games. The structure is sound enough and flexible enough to have plenty of room for interpretation. ONE SOURCE, one chief representative, a few subordinates... Monad, King-God, Assistant Gods... God, Jesus, Angels... It explained both pagan and monotheistic systems, and better than that, it explained what people ran into when they started doing magic. Or praying. Or being taken into the heavens, whether in body or in spirit, I know not.

And Hermetics is an interpretation of the same thing, LOGOS, Mankind, soteriology, the return to the heavens with other emanated spirits. Daimons, gods, angels, all the same things, with different interpretations.

But then there's all the conflicting instructions in the Bible... Don't do magic, but it's ok to speak in the tongues of angels and commune with them. Cast out demons of affliction, but don't practice pharmakos-sorcery. Call on the Holy Spirit to blind people working against you, but don't traffic in demons. All the gods of the pagans are demons...

Fortunately, we are given a rational mind to make sense of stuff like this. If you read the Bible, really study it in the context of the times it was written, compare it to the other belief systems that were going on, you will see that it is fairly typical of the kinds of stuff that were being passed around the remains of the Roman Empire at the time. Chances are really good that they would have gone the way of the Essenes and the Mithraic cults if it weren't for Constantine getting the vision that he would conquer in the sign of the Chi-Rho, which was a symbol of Christ. Since he did conquer, Christianity eclipsed the rest and they faded away.

And the Bible itself says the information in the New Testament is for spiritual babies. Paul writes at one point that there are greater mysteries than the ones he talks about, that he would LOVE to tell people about, but they're too ignorant to handle it. So he has to teach about love, salvation, sin, and baptism first so they can grow up and start doing the real stuff. Which he doesn't talk about.

Chrisitanity is a basic primer for spiritual living, and its internal inconsistencies only bother people who read it and try to do it, and a little study, a little reading, a lot of prayer and practice reveals that it's for noobs. What's meaningful and useful in Christianity, for people like me, is that Jesus died for sins, freeing us to embrace God. DO THAT, and God's like, hey, RO, check this out... Angels! Gods! Demons! HGAs!

See, mundane life with no magic or spirituality is lame. Living like a creator god is awesome. Humans can be thick. We have to have something to bridge the mundane to the creator god. The sin-death trip is a good and useful spiritual tool to get people there. Some people, anyway. The point is not how you get there though, it's getting there. Christ's death on the cross forgave all "sin" and removed every last excuse anyone has to stay away from God. That's an amazing and empowering belief, and those who embrace it and accept it have an in to the source of all that is.

And people who do that, who chase after God because they can, start living miraculous lives. I grew up in a family that was used to miracles happening around and through us. My parents live a lifestyle that lets them experience the miraculous divine regularly in their own ways. I have a different focus and set of tools, and they suit me a lot better, but they operate through the same core framework.

So basically, the thing that most people get hung up on when it comes to Christianity is the Bible. Understand it's not a single cohesive thing, that it's a conglomeration of indicators of a greater spiritual reality that's been put together to point people to God. It's not a single unified code of living, it's complicated and takes personal study and application to figure out what bits are gold and what bits are the personal shit of the person writing it down. Just like everything else in magic, really.

And the people who try to tell you that the Bible says not to do magic don't know what the bible says, don't know what magic is, and aren't fit to tell you jack shit. Only you can experience God.

Above all else though, I do magic because I'm a magician. That's what I emanated to do. I've learned from Christ and the angels. I've studied the theologies of my saintly brothers and sisters. I've used my mind to understand things, and I've risen through the spheres to see the universe as it really is.

And it's beautiful.

So ... to sum it up, the Bible isn't the boss, it's a pointer. People with no spiritual maturity can't tell you what it means because they want a rule book to judge others and control them, and feel better about themselves. Only you can understand it.

If you really want to be a Christian Magician, just be one. If you have too much cognitive dissonance over the words in the Bible, spend some time immersing yourself in it. Look up the words used for sorcery and magic, and look at how they are used in other Greek texts from the time. Look up what Jesus calls himself in the New Testament and the name of the Second Book of the Corpus Hermeticum. Read John 1:1-10. Read Hebrews, about the Order of Melchizadek. Read the letters of Paul as if they were written by the man he really was, inspired, fanatical, and zealous for the Lord. Understand he tried hard, but had his issues.

Above all, stop checking your brain at the door. Think about why you want to do magic. Let that be your guide, and see where you end up.