Column: Political Magick and the Spiritual Duty of Citizenship

Guest Contributor —  November 1, 2016 — 42 Comments

[With only one week away from the final election day in the U.S., we invited Dr. Gwendolyn Reece, a Washington D.C. Witch and Priestess, to share her thoughts on the interplay between politics and magic. Through our guest writers, The Wild Hunt is able to offer perspectives and viewpoints beyond that of its regular columnists. If you enjoy this column and the diversity of voices visiting The Wild Hunt, consider donating to the 2016 Fall Fund Drive. We are now at 62% of the goal with 3 days left. Donate today to support Pagan and Heathen journalism.]

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As a Hellenic Pagan and a priestess of Athena and Apollon, I consider my duties as a citizen to be sacred. These responsibilities include being deeply informed and engaged in political deliberation and always exercising my vote, in national and local elections; being ready and willing to serve on a jury; taking the Good of my communities and my polis (neighborhood, city, nation) into account in all of my decisions. This also includes working to serve the collective Good, even if it makes me unpopular; and dedicating time and effort to create opportunities for members of my community to engage in thoughtful discourse. I strive to serve with as much of my nature as I am able, which means, as a priestess and a magickal practitioner, in addition to “normal” political activities, I also perform magick for the good of the polis.

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Political magick is a branch of magick that was important in many ancient cultures, and it is part of my greater work to collaborate with others in its revival. In our contemporary context, politics has a narrower meaning than it had in the ancient Hellenic Pagan perspective.

The word “politics” and all of its variants come from the Hellenic word polis, which means the community and also means the body of which we are a part. When Aristotle famously said that a human being is a “political animal” what he meant was that we naturally organize ourselves into communities that are larger than the family. This is, perhaps, the most essential aspect of human nature. We are naturally communal.

Accompanying this understanding, the primary emphasis for the citizens of any polis is on their responsibilities. Although the concept of individual rights is critically important, it is, in no small measure, intended to ensure that all of the members of the polis are able to fully participate in and meet their responsibilities to community.

I believe we are at a dangerous crossroads in our country, much of which has been laid bare in this election and the competing visions of what kind of country we want to create. I see this current situation in our nation within the context of a greater initiatory crisis for humanity. However, regardless of whether or not you concur with any of the following spiritual ideas, I believe we can agree on the objective facts that the economy of the United States is the largest in the world and our military is the largest in the world. Therefore, the citizens of this nation have an ethical obligation to wisely govern ourselves, not just for our own good, but for the good of the planet. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we are not just citizens of the United States, we are all citizens of the cosmos, the cosmopolis, and we have responsibilities to all of the beings with whom we share the Greater Earth.

I believe humanity, collectively, is in a coming of age initiatory crisis, as stated earlier. I am convinced in the reality of group minds and that we collectively learn from our past, becoming more “mature.”  This is what I call “spiritual evolution.” The climate crisis is our initiatory challenge and that we are going to make it or die and, if we fail, it will not harm humanity alone. Our world is interdependent.

Democracy, the United States, and Spiritual Evolution

Two of the Great Ones who I believe are deeply invested and involved in helping humanity successfully pass this initiatory challenge are Athena and Apollon. Both of Them have clearly documented historical roles founding Democracy in Athens and, I think, were powerful influences in its rebirth here. So what does democracy, the rule of the people, have to do with spiritual evolution? It is not that democracy inherently leads to actual better government. Whether it does or not depends completely upon its citizens and, historically, it has often led to worse government than monarchy. However, one of the key characteristics of an adult is self-governance, including the taking of responsibility for the decisions one has to make, developing self-control, reason, deliberation, cooperation and compromise, and dealing with the consequences of one’s choices. That is what self-governance is, individually and collectively.

Democracy, when it is functioning, requires a tremendous amount from its citizens and, therefore, is a powerful stimulus to the group soul. In a complex society, our citizens must broaden their perspective into trying to understand global issues. Imagine, for a moment, what a truly functioning democracy would look like and what would be required of its citizenry.

It is my understanding that the United States, at this moment, has a crucial role to play in the spiritual evolution of humanity. Why was democracy reborn here? If Athena and Apollon (and possibly other Divine beings) were part of the inspiration that rebirthed democracy into the modern world, why were we chosen? The United States has a number of characteristics that are incredibly rare and bring important possibilities.

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[Public Domain]

With the exception of First Nations people, the blood-lines of everyone who is here are not from here. Many Americans feel some ancestral loss, but it also gives us flexibility and malleability in our national character that is rare. Although most of us are painfully aware that we are not doing as good a job as we need to do in terms of true equality and embracing our diversity, there is a reason the “melting pot” metaphor has poignancy. We don’t have thousands of years of parochial thought forms built into our national identity, and we are blended in ways that reflect the cosmopolis in microcosm.

There are, additionally, certain aspects of our national character that, when we can embrace and embody them, put us in good stead to be able to meet the initiatory crisis of humanity. It is easier to see our national character when traveling abroad, but qualities of daring, creativity, optimism, forthrightness, and generosity are deeply rooted in the collective American psyche.

There are also deep challenges inherent in the American soul. We are suffering under the miasma, the spiritual pollution, of the genocide of the First Nations people and of the slavery of Africans and African-Americans. But these banes were present at the founding of the nation when we were tapped by the Great Powers for the rebirth of democracy, so I believe that we are capable of healing and purifying this miasma, if we can muster the courage and will to really address racism and oppression. I believe we can leverage the higher aspects of courage, daring, and forthrightness to meet this challenge….and we must. Justice is a human concept, it is not a fact in nature, and it is one of humanity’s spiritual duties to manifest it.

The Role of Political Magick

In many ways this sounds overwhelming and terrifying, but we also have good reason to hope. Because we are part of the group soul of humanity, our work, on this plane and on the inner levels of reality, can shift things powerfully. We don’t have to convince every individual. We need to get seminal and important thoughts to the tipping point where they make up part of the mental field of about 20% of our population.  This, combined with emotional juice, will start shifting reality rapidly.

Magickal people know how to work directly in the realms of thought and with power. This is what many of us have been training for. We understand group souls. We understand thought power. We need to use our skills, as members of the group soul of humanity, and drag our collective consciousness over the threshold of initiation and make sure we don’t fall.

We can do many things working in the realm of mind. We can fortify hope and determination. We can construct and strengthen narratives of purpose. We can build heroic belief in change. Humans need to see themselves as heroes in meeting the crises we face.

And we can use our thought power to make people uncomfortable with the status quo, making sure we are not slowly boiling frogs, which is often our greatest danger. We can work to reinforce thought-streams about reforming those things that threaten the integrity of our government.  We can continuously buttress the grand ideals that lie behind our polis and combat the cynicism and coarsening of our national discourse.

Goddess Columbia [By Sean Shapiro / Wikimedia]

Goddess Columbia [By Sean Shapiro / Wikimedia]

In my practice, I work with Columbia as Athena Columbia, because I believe that she is the manifestation of Athena Polias for the United States. I do protection magick for the polis, including working with divine guardians. The psychic atmosphere around most structures of governance and courts is often quite polluted, which is not conductive to clear-headed, compassionate decision-making. I work on dispelling the poison, especially in my city, Washington, DC.

I magickally reinforce thought-forms about what a functioning democracy looks like and our national ideals. I perform magick to emphasize certain needs that require societal focus, either to protect or restore the integrity of the system (“get money out of politics,” “end gerrymandering,” “everyone’s vote should count equally”, “end mass incarceration”). I bless certain important events, such as the Paris Climate Change Summit, to support the courage and resolve of those attending. I feed the sense of urgency on the inner planes about great social issues that require focus.

In ancient Hellas the most important courts met outside under the light of Helios because Light is Truth. I work to reveal Truth and strip away glamour. Likewise, I use magick to boost the best aspects of our national character.

While all of this is part of my individual practice, it is also perfectly appropriate within the context of a 501(c)(3) organization, as many Pagan churches might be. It does not violate the separation of Church and State, because it is not endorsing nor opposing particular legislation or candidates. Magick that crosses that boundary is only properly performed outside of the context of a 501(c)(3) organization.

This summer, Theophania Temple of Athena and Apollon held its inaugural gathering for political magick, Thaumapolitikos. The event was tied to election cycles. In 2017, Sacred Space Conference will offer several sessions elaborating on content shared at Thaumapolitikos as well as one session sharing the specifics on how I do this kind of magick.

A Ritual to Strengthen the Vision of a Functional Government

As both an example of political magick and an offering to the community, I am providing a ritual that can be conducted individually or with a group that strengthens the thought forms about how our government and citizens should function. I encourage anyone who has the desire to work for the good of our polis to perform this ritual prior to the election and to carry its spirit with you through the election and beyond. Ideals need continuous reinforcement.

And of course, please vote.

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About the Author: Gwendolyn Reece is the founding priestess of Theophania Temple of Athena and Apollon in Washington, DC and serves as Apollon’s mantis. She is also the President of the Sacred Space Foundation, which runs the Sacred Space Conference and is a member of The Fellowship of the Ancient White Stag, a coven in the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel.

 

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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

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  • Charles Cosimano

    All very nice. But what happens when the other side has more powerful magicians? The Pentagon was not made to look that way to be pretty from the air.

    • Lailoken Scathach

      lol

    • Were you the one who made the past, about twelve years ago, to the LJ group “pagan,” about how Republicans stole the election with their spoooooky black mages, who all live in creepy mansions guarded by hell-hounds on the outskirts of every city?

  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    Thank you, Gwendolyn for this inspiring and well-written essay. Really like the addition of a specific working that people can do.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Accepting the premises, it is perfectly appropriate for a 501(c)(3) to do magick to promote legislation; churches may take positions on such things and not violate the Johnson Law. It is candidate endorsements that are barred.Yes, it’s a nit-picky point, but I see it gotten wrong on the Christian Right and I don’t want the infection of their memes.

  • Dominionism is the fundamentalist Christian belief that the United States is chosen by God as part of his plan for humanity.
    You’ve merely added an s to their ideology, and articulated a Pagan vision of Empire.

    There are many other errors to address (The US was not the first modern or Western democracy), but at least one point you’ve missed: Haiti is a democracy actually claimed to be born with the blessing of divine spirits (Erzuli, particularly). They slaughtered their slave owners, whilst in America the slave owners went on to build fantasies that they were the new Rome and continue slavery.

    Haiti has also been repeatedly destroyed by the American military and economic interests for the last century. So, if there’s a country that’s on the side of anything remotely resembling a pagan conception of gods, it’s certainly not the United States.

    • Rhyd, I have to wonder if you and I read the same article. A few points.

      1) Dominionism seeks to put Christians and only Christians in power. Nowhere does Gwendolyn suggest that Pagans should be the only people in power. Nor does she insist that anyone agree with her belief that there are “Great Ones”. She is simply explaining her view of the way the world works from a spiritual perspective, and how that informs her work to shift political realities in this country.

      2) Can you please point me to the place where she articulates a “vision of Empire”? I don’t see that at all.

      3) I do not see any reference to the US being the first democracy. What she says is that democracy was “reborn” here, and it was. To the best of my knowledge, there was no other country governed by a functional representative democracy at the end of the 18th century — or for a long time before that. If I’m wrong about that, I’d appreciate your pointing me to the countries that were.

      4) I’m not sure what Haiti’s long struggles to establish a functional republic have to do with this article. Nowhere does Gwendolyn suggest that the current US foreign policy is to be praised — to the contrary, she is suggesting that work be done to get people in power who have a vision of what the US is capable of that matches her own. To quote her directly:

      “I believe that we are capable of healing and purifying this miasma,if we can muster the courage and will to really address racism and oppression. I believe we can leverage the higher aspects of courage, daring, and forthrightness to meet this challenge….and we must. Justice is a human concept, it is not a fact in nature, and it is one of humanity’s spiritual duties to manifest it.”

      • ER… The Iroquois nations that the “founding fathers” lifted from to lay down the bones of the American democratic system had the “functional representative democracy” you speak of. Before the United States was born.

        You really can’t believe everything in the white history books you were given in grade school.

        • Your understanding of the nature of the Iroquois Confederacy and its influence on the Founding Fathers is apparently somewhat limited. I would elaborate, but your snarky comment implying that my education in history did not extend beyond grade school is unnecessarily insulting and suggests to me that a discussion with you would not be productive.

      • Hecate_Demetersdatter

        Thank you, Dio. I agree.

      • 1: “Dominionism seeks to put Christians and only Christians in power.”
        That’s only one fragment of the ideology (for instance, Democrats seek to get only Democrats in power…that doesn’t make them Dominionist).
        Dominionism emanates from the notion that God led the founding of America (check!) chose America (check!) and has a special purpose for it in the world (check!).
        2: America is the largest empire in the world, is currently bombing 11 countries (All of them full of Black or Brown people), has 662 overseas bases in 38 foreign countries, implements punishing trade deals with economically-ravished nations. All of this implemented equally under Democratic and Republican governments.
        3. First Nations people and the poor are still waiting for the long-promised re-birth of democracy. Pretty sure it’s a fetid, rotted still-birth.
        4. The author advocates a statist magic (with leaders and followers) which supports the government but tries to make it better, and places it within the context of service to gods who supposedly helped rebirth democracy here. Haiti is an excellent counter-example of her entire argument.

        Regarding purifying the miasma of slaughter and injustice, only stripping the rich and powerful of their power will accomplish that, not voting.

  • Jonathan

    The Founding Fathers copied many of the key democratic institutions they set up off the Haudenosaunee and the French First Republic, and deliberative, representative assemblies are a crucial feature of thousands of forms of government throughout history and around the world. In Britain, for example, the House of Commons was created in the 14th century, and is still referred to as “the Mother of Parliaments” for this reason. It is part of a history of deliberative assemblies in England, that stretches right back to the Witangemot that advised the Anglo-Saxon kings. I find it utterly astounding that someone who professes such nationalist passion, should be so ignorant of the history of their nation’s political system and its immediate precursors.

    If you’re going to construct some sort of dubious theocratic justification for a country, you can at least try to make it historically accurate.

    • Jonathan, if the Founding Fathers indeed copied the French First Republic, they must have had a time machine, since that Republic was no founded until 1792. It also lasted less than two decades. It was certainly not a “rebirth” of democracy. Britain was a monarchy at the time the US government was established. Speaking of historical accuracy.

      • Jonathan

        You’re right that the First Republic properly began in 1792 with the deposing of the French monarchy, but I was thinking of its predecessor – the National Constituent Assembly, which was a democratic assembly formed in the first stages of the Revolution. I should have said “French Revolution” rather than “First Republic”, as France was still a Kingdom in 1792, which I didn’t realise (I was posting while tired). Nonetheless, the point still stands that the creation of democracy in France is contemporaneous with the creation of democracy in America, and so it’s rather daft to say it was “reborn” in one rather than the other.

        Britain was indeed a monarchy; and it is still. It’s perfectly possible to be both. The monarch had ceased to exert direct control over the Parliament of Great Britain by 1792 (Royal Assent was last withheld in 1708); so the Parliament was a democratic institution by then. Sure, the franchise of voting was limited to white men of property – but so it was in most American states until the 19th century. Indeed, a major reason why most American colonials wanted to secede in the first place was because they felt there should be “No taxation without representation”. The propertied men of America wanted to be represented in our Parliament, and Parliament wouldn’t have it. So the former decided to make their own equivalent, with “improvements” mostly inspired by indigenous systems of government, and wider discussions about statecraft that were going in Europe (especially France) at the time.

        “Democracy” as it currently exists anywhere in the world is a construct, built from many historical and cultural trends. You can’t just strut about (like the author of this piece) claiming You Are The Creators Of Democracy without doing violence to that complex story.

        • Gwendolyn Reece

          So, I was trying to explain how and why I do political magic and how it fits into my theological understandings in around 2000 words…so I have a lot more I could say on the subject. I am well aware that there are many different strains of influence, including the Iroquois Confederacy.

          I am also VERY well aware that what we have here was not created out of nothing. If I was going to be making that claim, I would be talking about Solon and Cleisthenes and Apollon through His oracle at Delphi who chose the ten tribes for the reforms and approved the Athenian Constitution. What I am saying and claiming is that I see lineage here…I see a lineage back to Athens, and that is the power…the spiritual line…that I work with. Perhaps I should have gone into that more, but I had limited space. That doesn’t take anything away from anyone or deny any of the complexity of the story…which would take far more than the full 2000 words to tell.

          I am also claiming that what happened at our founding, I believe, is spiritually important. We have no dogma in Paganism. I believe it was and is important and that there were ideals behind it that we are still working on manifesting. I’m also a Neoplatonist and that is how I see it and how it motivates my political magic.

  • I was with you for the first few paragraphs, but as Neil Gaiman once wrote, America is a terrible place for gods. As a priest of Eros and student of Apollon and the Moisai, I cannot get behind any waft of American exceptionalism.

    Yes, there is a spiritual duty to the polis in Hellenism, especially traditional Hellenism, but like you said, that’s the community. One can fulfill one’s duty to the community without engaging in the Exceptionalist ideals you put forth.

    • Hecate_Demetersdatter

      I didn’t see exceptionalist ideals; I saw a call to make this country better than it is.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        The idea that America was divinely founded for a divine purpose affecting the entire world, lays the foundation for one kind of American exceptionalism.Not all American exceptionalism is malign. Expecting the US to live up to the entire Bill of Rights demands something unusual among countries, and is a form of American exceptionalism in which I constantly indulge.

        • Hecate_Demetersdatter

          I agree. I want America to live up to her potential. I want this country to become what she could be.

        • Gwendolyn Reece

          With this form of exceptionalism, I would agree. I think we have a role to play…just like every member of an ecosystem. Thank you.

  • Gwendolyn Reece

    It is always an interesting thing to note that once words leave an author’s hand, they hit the interpretive framework of someone else and meaning is negotiated and individual. So, from looking at some of these comments, Diotima clearly understands what I was trying to say. Some of the other comments indicate people coming to my words with their assumptions that are radically different than mine and, therefore end up in some places that are very different than anything I ever would have imagined or intended. In the end, each person has to make up their mind and if this post provokes some thought about the topic, great.

    But for the purposes of some clarity about where I am coming from, I’ll elaborate a bit more. One of the great things about Paganism, ancient and modern, is that we can have many different theological beliefs. These are some of mine. I am a polytheist so I believe the Gods are real beings. I believe that They care about humans and human society. I believe that They influence us through inspiration. I believe that They have agendas (like I think Poseidon really wants the seas to be healthy). I believe that the agendas of Athena and Apollon involve helping humanity become as fully developed and whole as we possibly can through wisdom and through healing. I believe that They were some of the beings (note I did say that there were likely others) who were inspiring the founding of the “United States.”

    Nowhere do I ever suggest or intend to suggest that Pagans or any other group should be the only ones in power nor that the United States is inherently better than any other group. In fact, I said explicitly that democracy is only as good as the people make it…because that is what rule of the people is. I said we are responsible for self-governance and that requires a whole lot from us. I do not believe there has ever been a Just society. I believe it is part of our spiritual duty…to try to make our societies Just. My fundamental theological position is as a citizen of the cosmopolis…so the suggestion that this is Dominionism is pretty baffling to me. Dominionism, as a theology, is among other things, a specific historically centered philosophy that also is monotheistic. By the time you widen the description to how it has been described in some of these comments, we have to accept a theological position that either the Gods don’t exist or, if They do, They don’t care of interact in meaningful ways with humans for anything about society. Now, someone may believe that, but I absolutely reject the label of Dominionist for anything I have said. It belongs to a whole history and discourse that is in opposition to what I believe and what I have stated.

    For the United States, I am a citizen of this nation and therefore, although I have love for other nations, my primary duty is to serve here. I did point out, I think correctly, that are some unusual things about us that can be used as strengths. As far as exceptionalism goes…I didn’t say that we SHOULD have the largest economy and military in the world, I said that we DO and whether we think we should or not, that gives us an additional responsibility to govern ourselves wisely because we do have influence beyond our borders. I believe that one of the greatest moral failings of many of our citizens and of our collective is that we do not understand how our decisions affect people of other nations and we don’t take responsibility for ourselves. We are one of the largest polluters on the planet, for example, which gives us a greater responsibility for dealing with climate change than many other nations…and means that if we can get our act together, it will have a larger effect. Again…I see this as a mandate for us to step up, be adults, and get ourselves together.

    I never said anything about support for our various policies, foreign or domestic (although I have now basically suggested, which I do hold, that the Paris Climate Change Accords are deeply important and do require our leadership if the targets are going to be realized…not exclusively our leadership, but our leadership). So, the suggestions that what I have said in my post endorses various other policies is projection and unwarrented. There seem to be implications in some of the comments that because I am not calling for the disbanding of government (and I am obviously not an anarchist) that I am therefore supporting the forms of violence and suppression listed in various comments. In fact, I am saying that it is important to participate as citizens to make our government wiser, more compassionate, and live up to its promises.

    And finally, there is a comment that we can only address miasma by stripping the wealthy and powerful of their power and not by voting. I would say that voting is essential but not sufficient. And the idea that we can just strip the power away from a group and fix the miasma of racism/sexism/injustice, etc. is, frankly, dangerous and delusional. Every one of us who has been socialized in this society has to do the really hard work of trying to look deeply into ourselves and try to heal it ourselves at all our levels of being. You can change power structures numerous times and not ever address the miasma that is there because miasma is also about being out of right relationship with yourself. And then there is the whole problem of how, precisely, if you refuse to vote and work within our current structures to change them, are you going to strip the power of those who have power? At this historical moment, I’m not ready to launch a revolutionary war because I don’t have any romantic illusions about what that would really look like.

    And now I want to address something else that I see reflected in some of these comments. For those of us who grew up from Reagan on (that’s what I can speak to at any rate), all of the feelings of patriotism and positive feeling about our country are not acceptable to feel and claim if you are on the political left, and I am. When you see someone wearing a flag pin, what do you automatically assume about that person? When you see someone with a bald eagle on a hat, what do you think their beliefs are? This has been an unabashedly patriotic post and I am seeing a whole lot of assumptions that I don’t hold.

    When I did a ritual over July 4th weekend, I had an altar decked out with flags and bunting and all sorts of patriotic paraphernalia and I had numerous people tell me that one of the most important and healing aspects for them was that they had to go through a period of EXTREME discomfort around all of this patriotic stuff because our patriotism has been stolen by xenophobic extremists….and then, gradually, over the course of our work, we reclaimed our own patriotism. I am taking my patriotism back. I am a patriot because I believe that Black Lives Matter and I care about my black fellow-citizens and fighting white supremacy. I support Standing Rock because I am a patriot and I care deeply about the Native people there, about their water, their rights and about protecting this holy land. I am getting to this post very late today because I have been out there, as a witch, a citizen, and a patriot doing work on behalf of my polis. I contribute to funds to help care for Syrian refugees, and that makes me a patriot because America, to me, means that we care about the tired, poor, huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.

    I am done letting anyone try to shame me and undermine my love for my country…my polis, which does not lead me to blind acceptance of everything that goes on here…it leads me to active engagement in trying to make sure that we are serving the Good. And I am done with the idea that we can just sit and opine. This piece is intended as a call to action as citizens and as witches. There is a lot that is urgent. We need to act.

    • Hecate_Demetersdatter

      Gwendolyn speaks for me.

    • Caroline Kenner

      Gwendolyn speaks for me here, too. Reclaiming flags-outs, eagles-flying patriotism at Thaumapolitikos was important to me on a number of different levels. I’ve lived in DC all my life, I am a former political operative, and the Reagan years were indeed when patriotism was stolen from the Left. Hail, Athena Columbia! May She guide us towards a more just society!

    • Adam Miramon

      Gwendolyn speaks for me. I stand with her, and I will continue to stand with her for the good of our nation, our citizens, and our polis

    • I definitely appreciate that you acknowledge many of the injustices of America.

      We’re both polytheists (though if Athena and Apollo are supporting America, then they’ll get no more worship from me than the Christian’s God who is supposedly doing the same thing). But while the United States continues to exist on stolen land, not only will it not have my support, but I owe a greater allegiance to the Dead who were slaughtered and their descendants who remain than I do to an egregoric empire.

      Nationalism is nationalism, regardless if it’s liberal or conservative. And nationalism kills just as many people regardless if it presents itself as kind and caring or callous and brutal.

  • James Dickinson

    This article articulates an ideal of human functioning (the polis), positively guided by the divine, to be encouraged and nourished within an existing system that happens to be the most influential in the world right now. As such, the citizens, the polis, has a responsibility to manifest the best that the American experiment has to offer. It never suggests that the US is the only ‘rightful actor’ in the world, but rightfully asserts that the US is the largest economic and military force in the world (not ‘should be’, but ‘is’ – factually) – and, as such, has a burden of great influence, for good or ill.

    This article and vision is calling for the intentional magical and spiritual reinforcement and promotion of Ethical Good through the systems currently in place that are capable of manifesting them: actually pushing away from American negative protectionism/exceptionalism and toward a true acceptance of ethical responsibility ‘for all our relations’. That is a very good thing.

    Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could celebrate proper national pride in being a country that maximized our influence (for however long it lasts) to bring about the best in ourselves and all those that still look to us. Frankly, the US using other countries that are farther along in many things as an example would be a good idea – but it is still undeniable that implementing those things here (in the world’s largest economic, military and cultural influence – for how ever long that lasts) would have a large effect on the world polis overall. We are, as a nation, the biggest abusers in the world on many fronts. How could healing ourselves NOT have a huge impact on the world to the positive?

    The negative commenters here seem to offer criticism mainly of their projections cast upon what has been written without any viable, alternative, positive path forward ever being articulated. (Reacting to a ‘whiff’ of something that simply triggers projection is never really useful to an exchange of ideas.) “Death to power” does not count (and is impossible). Anarchy does not lead to positive evolution and never has. Dismantling a system without a better system to implement simply leads to the eventual recapitulation of the system interrupted – often a regressive recapitulation that requires even more time to re-achieve any positive ground: the baby that was thrown out with the bath water.

    This article is calling for deliberate, conscious, ethical, and magical/spiritual work to bring out the best in the polis, the people, collectively, so that our democracy moves toward all the positive potential it has for all people: a maturation of the baby. To actually stir the desire to directly address and redress injustices, heal them to the extent possible and commit to a more conscious and wholesome future that ripples out to all around us and receives the ripples of others moving in the same direction. It is the opposite of the negative connotations of exceptionalism thrown at it. It in no way suggests dominionism.

    It articulates a way of working for healing and maturing a system that holds a potential for great good, IF the polis can be matured, IF humanity can step forward in this nexus moment rather than backward. And, yes, judging from the maturation levels displayed in this election cycle, it is a monumental undertaking. But most worthwhile things are.

    At the risk of using a cliche: Trust in the weight of the pebble. Each ritual to stir and awaken the ethical good in the polis is a pebble. If you actually believe in the power of ritual to affect more than just the individual performing it, then start adding your pebbles.

    • Caroline Kenner

      Eloquently expressed, James!

  • We know politics corrupts faith and religion. We’ve ample evidence what happens when the People of the Book try it.

    • Gwendolyn Reece

      There were domestic practices in ancient Hellas, but most of what we know about was public religion…it was about the polis. Maybe there are ways forward to work for the good of the polis without necessarily being confined and constrained by Abrahamic examples….especially since most Pagans are not monotheists. I’m not willing to give up on entire aspects of my religion because we have negative examples of how it has been done in Christianity. I am not willing to cede that kind of power to another religion and allow myself and my practice to be defined by it. I fully support the separation of Church and State, and consider it to be an essential safeguard, but nothing I am suggesting would violate that…in fact, to me, safeguarding that separation is part of what I do magick for. That is part of the work that I do for upholding the integrity of the polis.

      • Blast, I forgot TWH doesn’t like links in comments. Here it is with the HTML removed.

        ❝Religion cannot be allowed the coercive power of government. Government cannot be allowed the moral justification of religion.❞ I’ve said it for years.

        If it’s really about the separation of church and state, I’ve no issues.

        But if it’s about priests (and priestess’) wanting their religion elevated by government, then I have a problem. Too many times today people are into religion for the politics, because they want to control the mind and actions of others.

        • Gwendolyn Reece

          I completely agree with the statement you quoted. I don’t want to see any religion elevated by government. I do want to enforce the idea that our citizens should care about truth, and about the structures and “guardrails” of the system… but I don’t consider that trying to control people.

          • It’s from a thing I wrote about the political candidates in 2007. I tried to link, but TWH doesn’t like unapproved links.

            I agree that citizens should care about truth, but that word enforce worries me.

            I admit, I’m libertarian. I don’t trust top-down and collectivist solutions. Virtue has be chosen or it ceases to a virtue.

          • Gwendolyn Reece

            Fascinating – I just realized I was using another archaic meaning. What I meant by enforce is now reinforce – I meant to strengthen. I want to strengthen the guardrails of our system and the idea that truth matters.

          • That works for me.

            Given the candidates this year, I really REALLY don’t want to see them enforce anything.

            Reinforcing the principles and the best aspirations instead of the politicos claiming those principles, that makes sense.

  • Franklin_Evans

    I’m having an ongoing theocracy argument with a conservative Christian (Orthodox) friend, who has been blogging for a while now about the coming persecution of Christians in the US by those newly coming to power. He alternates between shrill and contemplative, with sometimes surprising insights out of both modes.

    He has agreed, albeit grudgingly, that the US has long been “ruled” by a Christian hegemony. It cannot be characterized as a theocracy, but can be seen that way in important subsets. His fears, validated by me due to clear evidence of it, that Christians will eventually become the scapegoats of those same people who were made scapegoats by Christians. I imply very many more than just Pagans with that.

    Gwendolyn (with my thanks added to others’) offers a faith-based perspective. Given the word-limit aspect, I find it disingenuous at best to nitpick points, especially ones based on assumed extensions of her references. I join her in dismissing them as near-sighted views of history. I don’t believe another person will come to the same conclusions as she has from having that wider view — I certainly don’t agree with her on some points — but without that longer view the nitpicking is just that, trivial.

    One of the writers I’ve encountered and come to love, who motivated me to see my ignorance and work to rectify it with study, was Frank Herbert. He put it best with his many comments on religion and politics, summarized amply by these quotes from his Dune series:

    “You cannot avoid the interplay of politics within an orthodox religion. This power struggle permeates the training, educating and disciplining of the orthodox community. Because of this pressure, the leaders of such a community inevitably must face that ultimate internal question: to succumb to complete opportunism as the price of maintaining their rule, or risk sacrificing themselves for the sake of the orthodox ethic.”

    “When religion and politics travel in the same cart, the riders believe nothing can stand in their way. Their movement becomes headlong – faster and faster and faster. They put aside all thought of obstacles and forget that a precipice does not show itself to the man in a blind rush until it’s too late.”

    • Gwendolyn Reece

      Thank you, Franklin. I need to go back and read the Dune cycle…it has been a very long time ago and i was not in the same space of critical awareness that I am now. I thank you for helping me kick it up the list!

    • kenofken

      I have no sympathy at all for the conservative Christians who are crying about scapegoating. They are not being scapegoated. They are being burdened with any guilt that is beyond their due. What they are feeling is blowback from a half century of a vicious culture war they instigated and persecuted ferociously against LGBT Americans, women and religious minorities including Pagans.

      This is not ancient history. Their official defeat is just about one year ago with Obergefell. At no time have they shown any contrition or even acknowledgement of the harm they have wrought. Not only are they not seeking a peaceful way forward, they’re continuing the fight as a nasty war of attrition.

      Rod may be a likeable guy in person, but in his column and elsewhere, conservative Christians continue to serve up a daily fare of demonizing and dehumanizing characterization of LGBT people. They speak of them in the same way as Jews were spoken of in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion: As a scheming, sinister class of people who wield disproportionate influence through guile and who live to destroy virtuous society. The recent dust-up about Highlights magazine, they said that simply depicting the reality of same sex parent families was evil and tantamount to indoctrinating children into deviancy.

      Every single day, in word and in deed, this subset of Christians has declared that there will be no peace with dignity or coexistence. Even as they continue to provoke the enemies they created, they spin a delusional narrative about themselves as innocent victims of persecution. I have no personal interest in pursuing retribution against them, but neither will I take any punches for them. Blowback is Metaphysics 101, and for that matter, one of the first lessons of kindergarten playground politics we all learned. They are reaping exactly what they created as we all do.

      • Franklin_Evans

        I respect your position. I share it, though with very different rhetorical choices in how I express it.

        FYI for those who don’t know to what we are referring: Rod is Rod Dreher, senior editor and commentator for The American Conservative. Since links are no longer permitted, a search on his name will find his blog.

        Your focus appears to be mostly on what I describe as the “shrill” side of his (and others’) commentary. I will further readily admit that my sympathy for him personally and that which I extend to those he represents is based in significant ways on personal bias. I know Rod very well. I’ve spent much time with him and his family. The mutual emotional commitment cannot be understated or ignored.

        I offer no judgment, personal or otherwise, on how you’ve expressed something with which I have a serious ethical conflict: the notion of “blowback”, that Christians and their former scapegoats are reversing their positions of power and treatment, is quite honestly and with no exaggeration anathema to me. If one can validly say that they’ve perpetrated evil acts upon us and others — again, I do not believe I’m overstating this — how can we in turn condone the same treatment of them?

        It hasn’t begun, but the rumblings are out there. Yes, they will overreact to many things, calling their loss of power and privilege “persecution”. At what point will you and others acknowledge that the perception is corroborated by evidence? Must we wait for that to happen before we grudgingly admit that evil done, regardless of by whom or to whom, is still evil and must be opposed?

        I do not condone and never have condoned their actions, to me or before my lifetime. I simply cannot stand idly by while they become the targets of such actions, no matter how much I agree that they created the consequences with their actions. It is a vicious cycle, and I want to see it broken.

        • kenofken

          For me it’s not a matter of condoning blowback or not. It is as predictable and inevitable a phenomenon as the laws of physics. I think vengeance is easily overdone and cannot run unchecked in any civil society, but I don’t consider it utterly illegitimate or off limits either. As a Pagan, I have no obligation whatsoever to turn the other cheek.

          Where I wind up with this is that IF Christians like Dreher come to a point where they approach us in good faith with an offer of peace and coexistence, acknowledge the reality of a pluralist society AND show some sincere recognition and contrition of their past harms, we should do out utmost to put away the balance sheets of past wrongs and retribution and give them such protection as we can from our own extremists. So long as they continue on as they have, I will not lift a finger to help them nor shed a single tear at what they bring upon themselves.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Today’s post (November 2) has no link for comments.

    • Heather Greene

      The editorial team is currently working with different forum technology and comment policies to ensure a better and more supportive community commenting experience. You may periodically see minor changes as we develop best practices. (The Nov 2 article, as simply an update to past stories, did not have the commenting option available.)

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Cool!