Please note that the following does not denote the political positions or opinions of the Order or even the authoring master, but what is presented here is a philosophical and theological critique of academic positions.
About a decade ago, while I was leading an Order temple in a local community, it was part of my duties to volunteer time at local charities to ensure that the Order provided its fair share of help to our local community in concert with other faith-based groups. I spent my time at a small homeless shelter near the temple called “Blessings.” During my time at the shelter, I would encounter many people from all walks of life who had found their way to this place for almost any reason you could imagine; from debt, divorce, addiction, and domestic abuse–all passed through those doors. They arranged the shelter in two stories, with women and children downstairs and men upstairs.
One day, I was upstairs in the men’s lounge doing some cleaning when I saw one guy reading a book on Neo-paganism. Given that the Order is an occult society, and I being a master within the Order, I was naturally intrigued. I sat beside him and inquired whether he was interested in sharing what he was reading. He relayed to me the importance of the sacred masculine and feminine, which the book seemed to cover. A long discussion took place thereafter, most of which I found philosophically sound.
However, there was one line that stood out to me and that was that the divine could never be one (monotheism or some version thereof) because everything begins with male and female. All we need to do, proposed this gentleman, was to think backward from our own existence and we would naturally arrive at animism or some form of pantheism. Divinity, it seemed, had to be decentralized and dispersed somewhat evenly throughout the cosmos merely because humankind exists within duality.
In the gentlest, most ecumenical way that I could muster, I questioned my impromptu study partner how this could be. After all, while life comes about through man and woman, after this union, every individual begins with a single cell. Cell division, the basis for the evolution of all life, also springs from a single point; and if one is to accept the standard model of cosmology, the universe itself seemed to have emerged semi-spontaneously from a single infinitesimally small point. Besides, I observed that not all species arrive at duality. Some are asexual and still others can have multiple parents.
The gentleman admitted I had a good point but responded, “How in such a universe can we find room for the gods? Or else, how can we attain divinity ourselves?”
Hierarchy, I explained by saying being can sprout from a source and disseminate itself like the splitting of a cell or the growth of multiple planets from a single dust cloud. From there, the conversation took on a winding character as together; we moved through the various implications of echelons of gods, each being subservient and therefore, somehow not sharing in as great a share of divinity as the ones above them. All of this tree leads backward like a pyramid to one central source of all being, divinity, and sanctity. Examining human life, it seems, leads to dualities, but examining all of nature, I affirmed, leads to henotheism.
In the end, our discussion concluded on a polite but sour note as the emotional implications of that understanding were too close to traditional Judaism or Christianity to be comfortable for my Neo-pagan friend. He sensed almost instinctively in this worldview a milieu of authority; and this not so much on philosophical but purely emotional grounds, fell into direct conflict with his own view of the world in which all being existed inherently equally, was free and was, through merely willing it, able to achieve any level of the divine power of creativity it wished. All any individual had to do was harness the power of light and love and wake up to the idea that we are all sleeping gods.
But within the Order’s system, if divinity, creativity, and the sacred arise from a single source, then all of those things are borrowed from that source and do not belong inherently to the contingent beings that share by grace in this nature, only in measure provided by that original being. The elevation of one’s inherent nature is not possible without the aid of those echelons above one’s own. Human beings are not sleeping gods, for the Order asks: “How powerful can a god be if it does not know its own nature? Is divinity still worth something if it can have dementia?”
Still, these views are now considered being commonplace in the array of religions and spiritual practices commonly referred to as the New Age, neo-paganism, and post-modern spiritualities.
This romanticized version of human nature is based on optimism and sentimentality, often devoid of careful and intellectually honest observations about the world. Many people hold to these views not so much because they believe them to speak to spiritual truths in the traditional, theological sense but because they help them artistically conceptualize a world in which they would prefer to live and toward which (or, often through their activism) they wish to push society at large.
These views are spiritual in the sense that they are spiritualizing of their political views. Many of the academic elites in these various circles’ own movements even admitted this. In their essay, “Who on Earth is the Goddess?”, authors Morning Glory and Otter G’Zell write:
“The neo-pagan movement, and especially feminist witchcraft, has recently been joined by increasing numbers from the women’s spirituality movement, by many thinkers from the deep ecology movement, and even by such radical and environmental activists as Earth First’s members. These are some of the forces that form the core of the movement [neo-paganism] to restore the earth goddess to her rightful place; a movement that has its roots in the combined studies of feminism and ecology and is the logical spiritual application of such studies. If these witches can be priestesses of feminism, then neo-pagans are the chaplains of the ecology movement. The overall movement, though variously called eco-feminism and ecosophy, is truly an attempt at expressing Gaean spirituality.”
In simple language, it is not always true that people join the aforementioned movements primarily for political purposes, but even by the admission of these movements; it is often the case. People join neo-paganism and the New Age movement not because they believe in the reality of the gods or the coming of the Age of Aquarius but because these beliefs more readily align with their political opinions. Their faith is secondary to their activism.
On a personal level, these beliefs help people feel empowered and liberated. They are the arbiters of their own destiny and “co-creators” with the primordial, creative force of the universe. But the Order has a different understanding, not just of humanity’s nature but also of being itself. One which is far less optimistic and more sober, a fact which, rather than shy away from, the Order prides itself on because we feel some truths are hard, but they are still worth knowing. This understanding is called the Universal Law of Balance, and it begins by looking at the world, not as we wish it was but as it is, and asking why certain things happen and happen.
In the worldview of post-modern spiritualism, greed, war, sexism, racism, sexual injustice, etc. are all the products of past imperialism; nations and cultures have grown too large, they would argue, too technologically powerful and too far from Mother Earth. They look to the cooperative native cultures of the world and see how they share all things in common, appealing to individuals and societies at large to turn back to a simpler time and a more egalitarian lifestyle. This, they assure us, would ensure that all people live in peace and harmony. Persecution would be a thing of the past and justice would reign supreme.
Their movements, which have or another been influenced by these spiritualities and thoughts; for while not directly part of academia, these concepts have worked their way into the zeitgeist, especially in the West in the post-1960 universe. Some of these movements include feminism and the so-called “Woke” movement. But again, a careful examination of these movements can show their flaws.
“Wokeness”, as an example, sought to end racism by calling out social injustice and has now ended up assuming the lived experience of individuals based upon the color of their skin or economic status. If this is not racism as it once was then surely it can be seen that by judging a person not by who they are but who they appear to be in their society (victim or oppressor), it is at least related to the racism of the past. If we’ve destroyed one form of prejudice, we may have given birth to another by perpetuating stereotypes and assuming by external appearances rather than direct dialogue.
Another example of this is in one of the glowing pillars of what modern society seems to have built. In the twentieth century, women throughout the world stood up for their right to have a say in their society and won the vote. Part of this was the liberation of women out of the house and into the workplace which gave them a sense of ownership of their destiny and a share of financial independence, but what we do not acknowledge as heavily is that by so liberating women from the slavery of their family, we set off a chain of events which caused their slavery to strangers (their bosses). Men and women now both have to work full-time jobs to sustain a family. Their decisions are not so much based on conversations around the dinner table as much as conversations around the dinner table center on priorities and machinations of the wealthy and powerful, who we now call presidents, managers, and CEOs of companies and organizations.
Men’s and women’s lives are now cursed by the overly burdensome logistics of how to provide for their family because, far from caring for their own destinies or sense of independence, they are spending two waking hours for every one they spend at home trying to put food on the table for their children or each other. With wealth, family size, and average life expectancy now declining, we are free to ask without prejudgment of moral conflict whether a society that causes both parties working is the natural outflow of the previous century’s robber barons and CEOs realizing that with women in the workforce; they double the labor, productivity, and profits–all the while de-incentivizing the value of the previous labor market by the steady influx of new workers.
It is good that we’ve set women free but in doing so, we might’ve made her a laborer not so much for her family or herself but for another person who cares only for her as an object, the tool from which to extract wealth.
The secret to understanding the doctrine of the Balance is to understand that all so-called “good things” exist in the same kind of action-reaction relationship. I am not here arguing that feminism should not have set women free; I argue that setting women free came at a price, one that in the Balance, society has been willing to pay and should have paid but wasn’t ever free.
The post-modern spiritualists maintaining, as always, their never-dying optimism and humanism, would respond that the reason that the prices were so heavy for women and families has to do with the so-called “dominance culture” of our modern societies. That the reason that women are used as wealth-extracting tools is that people have been taught to be greedy.
But they forget that there is a separation between that evil which we actively do (i.e. murder) and that evil that we passively suffer (i.e. natural disasters). The same dam that produces eco-friendly electricity displaces homes and traditional communities, and if it were to break, cause floods. It would be devastating. The same medicine that cures us causes side effects that could kill us. Likewise, the same science that cures cancer can also cause it (radiation). In short, almost everything is a double-edged sword, not because of some cultural phenomena, but intrinsic in its very nature.
Nothing in this world is absolutely good, for everything that has the power to advance humanity to a new level of abundance and cooperation in the wrong hands or application also has the power to set mankind back and hurt individuals. This is sometimes a choice of an “imperialist”-minded demagogue, but more often than not, it is simply the passive nature of existing in limited material bodies.
Simply put, humankind cannot know everything and when it attempts to change its environment for its own betterment (fossil fuels to produce electricity), it cannot know what forces it will eventually unleash (global warming) until it’s too late. It is not just humanity but nature herself that has the natural give and take of destruction and creation in the same breath. The eruption destroys life, but creates new land upon which life can flourish, and the sun provides warmth but is hostile to cellular organisms. The list goes on ad infinium.
The good we do causes correction. For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Therefore, utopia is impossible. We are not free to be happy in the grand sense but only to ask what prices we’re willing to pay and which type of happiness is more important to us.
To drive the point home, it can be seen through this lens that every choice of humankind is caused by imperfect preconditions or imperfect (we cannot ever possibly know all consequences) in its very nature, even those choices which may be good.
If we all lived according to renewable energy tomorrow, we would have to ask ourselves what would happen to the jobs and well-being of millions of people around the world who currently work in the fossil-fuel industry. If we lived an egalitarian lifestyle, many of us would likely be more healthy, but with less energy to go around, we could produce fewer cures for the genetically ill.
Even greed itself, the ultimate evil of post-modern spiritualism, is not some cultural phenomenon but at its heart, part and parcel of the human’s limited nature. Human beings are contingent creatures; this means they derive their existence from something else and sustain it because of something outside of themselves (their environment). Being intelligent creatures and knowing this, human beings recognize that they have needs and the satisfaction of those needs secures their sense of security. It is a simple but cold, logical realization that to buy the objects of those needs in abundance is to provide for a greater sense of security and this leads to the concept of greed. That one wishes to provide for their needs in abundance at the expense of others (so true because resources are themselves finite).
Strict egalitarians would argue that we have enough to meet everyone’s needs if only people would live simpler lives. But “one’s needs” is a subjective term to be identified by the individual. The billionaire who has hundreds of millions in debt would see the loss of his fortune because he is sharing it with others to be the giving up on his needs; which is to maintain all of his property and success. To ask all human beings to give up greed is essentially to homogenize human beings into all having the same needs and then providing for them.
But even this semi-systematic approach is bound to fail because human beings, not being able to know everything, could not possibly know everything that everyone needs. It is a doomed cycle, bound to repeat itself no matter what human beings do.
This begs the question. Flawed as human beings are and as dangerous as Mother Nature can seem to be, is it all just doomed? Should we give up our activism and surrender to our vices?
Well, no. Remember that on any balance, there are two sides. Improvement is possible, but at the expense of something else. But because there are two sides to the coin, it means there is room for improvement, but that improvement cannot be homogenous and everywhere achieved equally.
Believing in the Balance means human beings need not be animals, but it also means accepting that we are not gods, that we are not divine. If we are to be delivered and truly made whole, we need to be saved from the outside. We need a reality that can bend the very laws of physics to save us from ourselves and the environment in which we live. In a word, we need God.
G. K. Chesterton once denoted this concept of balance when he said, “Man was a statue of God walking about the Garden. That man had pre-eminence over all the brutes; the man was only sad because he was not a beast, but a broken god.”
Humanity is broken not because of what we do, but by what we are. The Order lives in hope that that will change, but knows that it will only come from above and not from within. In the meantime, we walk through life knowing that if there is a divine nature in us; it is love that must guide the way. But that residue of Eden is not enough to restore our lost nature, only to help us limp along imperfectly, beautiful only to a point. Humankind is a tragic masterpiece, like a broken David, whose past and future glories shine out through the corners but whose ultimate present reality is flawed, scarred, and broken.
Admittedly, there is much more to say about the Balance. For instance, the difference both in magick and in life, between culpability and responsibility, but too much has already been said here. In short, I will leave you with this.
To do our best is all we can do, but we know that no matter how many generations pass between now and the end of days, humanity will always be the greatest of the beasts and the least of the gods. That is as it must be.