Well, it looks like it is time for me to push outside the norm once more. To push that envelope further and explore a topic that has been weighing on me for several months now. It is in part why we have had a lack of content here on the blog. Part of why it takes me so long to write these particular posts is that I heavily research the topic before writing it. I do not want it just ot be an opinion piece, I want it to hold some validity.
In my researching of this topic, there seems to be a lot of these ideas, and these questions floating about. I scoured many different websites, books, and ideas some of which I will link and or quote at the bottom of this post.
Let me start this off with a quote and then we shall get right to the heart of the matter.
Magic is never totally scientifically explainable, but science has always been, at one time or another, considered magicAnton LaVey
Now, while I do not agree with everything that LaVey has to say or even what he stands for, I do see the truth in his words from that quote.
For as long as human beings have been able to form thoughts, religions, and create societies, there has been science and magic. One side usually being a stronger presence than the other in the timeline. However, there are sometimes, both sides show a heavy presence at the same point in time.
What we consider science and what we consider magic, varies from person to person. It even varies from culture to culture.
For example, one particular thing and or person, that has combined both science and magic at the same time is an Apothecary.
Historically, the term “apothecary” referred to both the person who manufactured and dispensed medicines, and the shop in which those medicines were sold.
An Apothecary, was not only a pharmacist/herbalist but they were also a treating practitioner of medicine and healing. Before they became mainstream in society, they were often small little shops. The shops were often owned & operated by families, who’s traditions were passed down from generation to generation.
To be successful at being an apothecary, one not only had to study the medical benefits of plants, but they also had to study the way that these plants affected the human body. Because, lets face it, to have a patron die because you mixed the wrong herbs, was bad for business.
These families, would often keep detailed journals and books, with pictograms, measurements, and instructions on how to create the medicines that their patrons needed.
Before the Apothecary came into the world there was a different name, these people were referred to as. It is still used today in certain religions & cultures, this name is a more magical one that describes a healer who uses herbs and potions, Shaman.
Now, there are many more words, terms, and names we could use to describe healers and practitioners, but for the time being we will just stick with my two main examples listed here.
What is a Shaman? There are many different definitions of this word, but one thing they all have in common is this: Typically a person who enters a trance state during a ritual, a practice divination and healing, with the aid of herbal remedies.
Not all Shaman’s enter a trance to treat their patients/patrons, it depends on what type of medicine the shawman themselves is using and what religion that they follow.
Magic is just science that we don’t understand yet.Arthur C Clarke
With all of this being said, let me get to my main point of all of this. Pagan Deism, can it work? Can a philosophy of science work with something that is largely built on the understanding that magic is real? The answer is not an easy one for me to produce, but after a long period of thought and research I feel confident in saying that in some cases, it can! This is not to say, that it is for everyone, no, quite the opposite. But, with that being said, it is right for me.
How does it work? How can two things that are often seen so drastically different, come together in harmony?
Well, if you think about it, I mean really think about it… what are medicines that are produced by science? They are nothing more than a concoction that is comprised of herbs and chemicals to treat and heal. What are potions, but if not the same? Did that get you thinking? I hope it did. That right there, is just one of the many different things, that I questioned myself when I was considering putting this post together. I am sure that this post may not be widely accepted by either side of the communities, Deism or Paganism. However, aren’t we supposed to learn and grow within both of these teachings?
Paganism by its very definition is very close to what deism is all about as a whole. Let us take a look at that for a moment shall we:
- a religion other than one of the main world religions, specifically a non-Christian or pre-Christian religion.
- a modern religious movement incorporating beliefs or practices from outside the main world religions, especially nature worship.”modern paganism includes a respect for mother earth”
Where as Deism, especially Spiritual Deism, is about acknowledging the God of nature, the universal creator. It is the philosophical position that rejects revelation as a source of religious knowledge and asserts that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to establish the existence of a Supreme Being or creator of the universe.
Deism is relatively new in the manner of which it came to be, arriving from a group of individuals who needed a different way of thinking, and some may even say a better way of thinking. To quote a user on reddit “Deism is a product of the Abrahamic Religions, which like them still holds that the Deity in question is supreme and all-powerful.”
There are a number of subcategories of modern deism, including monodeism (this being the default standard concept of deism), pandeism, spiritual deism, process deism, Christian deism, polydeism, scientific deism, and humanistic deism.
The list goes on and on, because there is no rules or dogma that says that it cannot be changed or added to in its construct of ideas.
Some deists see design in nature and purpose in the universe and in their lives. Others see God and the universe in a co-creative process. Some deists view God in classical terms and see God as observing humanity but not directly intervening in our lives, while others see God as a subtle and persuasive spirit who created the world and then stepped back to observe.
Most contemporary deists do not believe in divine intervention, but some still find value in prayer as a form of meditation, self-cleansing, and spiritual renewal.
Now looking at Deist you can see that there just as many of them as there are many types of Pagans. There are Pagans who see it as a religious way of living and those that merely see it as a philosophy abiding by no religious creed or doctrine.
One particular section of Pagans is Wiccans, they are a recognized religious sect/group. In my research I came upon an article written on how their definition of Pagan Deism comes into play within their own community.
Most discussions of the variety of Wiccan beliefs start by assuming that there are two basic positions: either one believes literally in personal, named deities (‘deist’, in the common parlance), or one does not (‘non-deist’). The more we talk to non-deist Witches, the more we believe that this is an oversimplification. We’d like to suggest a new model, using not two but three endpoints, to which we have assigned primary colours for convenient reference. Red: The first of these endpoints is the orthodox deist position: the gods are personal, named, individual entities, with whom one can communicate almost as one would with human beings. They may or may not be humanlike. They exist in a way (‘level’, ‘plane’, or ‘dimension’) that is far beyond human comprehension, but their existence is objectively verifiable. Blue: Deity exists. It is the Ultimate Sacred / Great Mystery / Source. It is so great, so subtle, so all-encompassing, that we cannot hope to comprehend more than a tiny fraction of it. Being ourselves human, we relate best to things that are humanlike, and so we have ‘the gods’: human like metaphors or masks which we place upon the faceless Face of the Ultimate, so that through them we can perceive and relate to a little of It. Yellow: The gods exist only as constructs within the human mind and imagination. They are Truths – valid ways of making sense out of human thought and experience, personifications of abstracts that might otherwise be too slippery for the human mind to grasp – but they are not Facts; they have no objectively verifiable existence. Like other abstracts (e.g. Freedom, Democracy, Love, Truth) they enrich our lives and are worth believing in, but it is naive to think that they have any objectively verifiable existence. It doesn’t matter that the gods aren’t factual; they’re true, and that’s what’s important.Pagan Deism: Three Views
by Margarian Bridger and Stephen Hergest
After reading this article, it made me realise I am not the only one who has wondered if these two ways of thinking and living and coexist peacefully within one individual or even within one community.
Here is a quote from a paper written on the subject where the author questions why are Paganism and Deism not considered similar within today’s way of thinking.
Many Enlightenment freethinkers undermined the immortality of the soul by declaring that it could not be demonstrated by philosophy, and that its origins were inseparable from ancient superstition. Historians have argued that the key masterminds behind this particular historical-critical attack were the deists Charles Blount and John Toland. However, overemphasis on deist critiques has fostered the idea that it was rare to write about the history of the soul in the seventeenth century. In reality, historical accounts of the immortal soul were ubiquitous in this period. These histories included all the elements in deist histories that scholars have since deemed dangerous. I argue that writing a history of pagan belief in the soul was therefore not an intrinsically subversive move. Instead, Blount and Toland’s histories reworked narratives already available in mainstream scholarship on ancient paganism. It has now become common to argue that anticlerical arguments were forged in orthodox erudition. But if deists were not saying anything different to their contemporaries, why did their work raise such an outcry? I contend that their radical characters, the broader context of their respective oeuvres, and the circumstances in which their works circulated played a critical role in their reception.Paganism, natural reason, and immortality: Charles Blount and John Toland’s histories of the soul
I will be writing up several more articles/posts in the weeks to come on how this affects me as an individual, however, I wanted to try and keep this more along the lines of an unbiased point of view. Which is why I tried to leave a lot of the opinion posts for the bottom of this one, so you can read their posts for yourself.
So in conclusion, no matter if you are on the side of Logic, Reason, & Science or you are on the side of the Magical and the Unexplained, I hope this makes you think about things just a little bit differently. I hope you can see where throughout time that these same ideas, whether we want to admit it to ourselves or not, have always danced together hand and hand.
Until Next Time <3
Blessed are we all!
Links and other material for your reading pleasure:
There is a reddit thread that also opened up this topic for debate which can be read here : https://www.reddit.com/r/paganism/comments/dowg16/is_something_like_pagan_deism_possible/
There is another blogger that I came across in my research and his opinions while some of them are different than my own, hold some of the same core Ideas. I won’t directly quote him but I will drop his link below in this post, if you choose to read his take on this subject.
Another blog where this topic is thought about and considered