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Roots of the Occult

To: alt.magick
From: (Tim Maroney)
Subject: Roots of the Occult (Excerpts)
Date: 17 Jan 1995 02:01:51 GMT

...Don [Frew] is a friend of mine, a leader in an emerging movement known
as "Progressive Wicca," a freethinker, and not at all conservative.
When I get tired of people on the nets screaming at me for, say,
pointing out that _Aradia_ has Satanic elements, or stating that Yahweh
is a form of The God, I can always go talk to Don to reassure myself
that pagans aren't a bunch of dogmatic idiots.  As is widely known,
he's open to the idea that monotheistic god-forms are worth working
with, skeptical of the Murray/Ginzburg idea of the survival of
witchcraft from medieval witchcraft to the present, very much aware of
the intimacy of the relationship between modern paganism and other
forms of esoteric tradition, and in short, the near opposite of the
conservative position on almost all the issues I consider significant.
I honestly have no idea how you could have gotten the idea that he's
conservative.  If he is, then I guess I am too!  Who'd'a thunk it?

[major deletia]

The actual date of the Canon Episcopi is unknown.  It has been
erroneously dated back as far as 314 CE, but the first surviving text
appears in 906 CE -- the tenth century, not the ninth.  It became part
of the Canon Law two centuries later.  Exactly which "abandoned women
perverted by Satan" professed that "they ride upon certain beasts with
the pagan goddess Diana" through the sky is really anyone's guess, if
in fact there were any.  It's possible that this is an nth-generation
allusion to the flight of Medea in Ovid's Metamorphoses.  Many other
explanations are also possible.  The cult hypothesis is very far from
demonstrated by the Canon Episcopi.

[previous T. Maroney]

>: The more you look at the history of modern Western esotericism, the
>: more the distinctions blur.  Everybody has been borrowing from
>: everybody else since well before Gardner's time, and all our traditions
>: share certain unusual assumptions and methods.  When people insist that
>: there is some strong distinction between "paganism" and "Wicca", or
>: "New Age" and "occultism", or "paganism" and "occultism", those should
>: be interpreted as political statements rather than historical or
>: philosophical ones.  There are more similarities than differences.

[more deletia]

...Obviously there are distinctions,
just as there's a distinction between the Gardnerian tradition and
NROOGD, but in many cases the distinction turns out to be on the order
of saying Merlin instead of Raphael in (effectively) the same ritual.
"This is a dog license with the word 'dog' scratched out and the
word 'cat' written in in crayon!"

People who insist that paganism and occultism are two completely
distinct traditions -- and who usually add some degree of abuse
directed at the other tradition -- are mistaken.  Their insistence on
this strong differentiation is more properly viewed as political rather
than as historical, anthroplogical, or philosophical.  For anyone
seriously examining Western esoteric traditions, it is necessary to
recognize an overarching continuity of traditions, marked by such
concrete tags as direct textual borrowings, shared symbols, and common
ritual structures.  Many people deny that there is any such continuity.

[additional deletia]

...I've worked with three esoteric Christian groups: the
Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, the Ecclesia Gnostica Mysteriorum, and the
Pre-Nicene Gnostics.  All three were clearly related to each other, and
had a very significant membership overlap with other esoteric
traditions and groups, such as "Circle Paganism," Thelema, Hellenian
revivalism, and so forth.  I believe they're all derived from the See
of Antioch through Bishop Leadbeater, the Theosophical leader most
associated with esoteric Christianity.  There's no question to me that
they're part of the continuity of esoteric tradition in the West, and
that they're more similar to other parts of that continuum than they
are to mainstream Christianity.

Whether they are "essentially the same" is another question entirely,
and one which does not have much meaning to me.  They are parts of a
larger continuum of tradition, but each also has their own unique
features.  If they were to deny their connection with, say, Theosophy,
or Martinism, they would be incorrect, and I would tend to think their
disavowals were motivated by a political urge to disassociate
themselves from some disliked group.  If someone were to claim they
were all exactly the same thing, that would also be incorrect.
Tim Maroney.  Please CC all public responses to

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