Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

The Persistent Pagans
Stand Firm ^ | 4/08/2006 | Greg Griffith

Posted on 04/09/2006 5:33:11 PM PDT by sionnsar

[This is followup to Star Trip: the weird and relentless creep of paganism into the Episcopal left, posted earlier. --sionnsar]

Maury Johnston has now responded to my article Star Trip, in which I point out that Johnston, the author of two widely-publicized essays advocating the revisionist position, is also a longtime Wiccan priest.

For an apologia that purports to rest on inclusiveness and tolerance, it is heavy on prejudicial labels, name-calling and loaded phrases. While we try to limit our labels of the opposing side in this debate to "liberal/conservative," "revisionist/orthodox," or "reassessor/reappraiser," Mr. Johnston sees fit to label our side as "reactionary," "literalists," and the "obnoxious orthodox."

It is also a most unconvincing case that Mr. Johnston has left his Wiccan past behind, as the rest of this article will prove.

While Mr. Johnston insists he has left his Wiccan past, he also goes to great lengths to explain why it shouldn't matter what he once believed - or still believes.

The overwhelming evidence that Maury Johnston - "Shadwynn," as he is known in the Wiccan/pagan community - has not, as he claims, left paganism behind can be found in the numerous posts he has made in the Yahoo! Group called "AnamTuras."

There, he posted an essay - copyrighted 2001, 2005 - titled "To Be A Grailfriar." It is an explanation of what it means to follow his particular brand of Wicca - the "grail quest tradition":

The iconographic focus of the Grailfriar is the Cauldron of Wisdom, the Holy Cup of the Eucharist, and the Hallows of interior transformation sacred to Wiccan, Christian, and generic, esoteric seeker alike. In some small way, each of us wears invisibly the vestiges of the prophet's mantle, the vestment of the priest and the hooded cowl of the monk. We seek to see with the eyes of Jesus, to speak with the mouth of Sophia, and to listen with the compassionate ears of the Blessed Mother. We walk the Seer's Way, not fettered by the chains of tradition or religious parochialism. The Grailfriar lifts holy hands to rejoice in the Christian mystery of the Risen One at Easter, invokes the darksome presence of the Crone at the high Pagan sabbat of Samhain, and sometimes even infuses Matter with Spirit through the celebration of esoteric eucharists without any sense of spiritual inconsistency.


Grailfriars have sought to discover the roots of the Tree of Heaven in the soil of Earth's dampened, fecund darkness, and often pay the price in the hostility of those who are blind to the interrelationship between the heavenly and the chthonic, the transcendent and the immanent. We will be sneered at as deceived Christians, weird Wiccans, or barely tolerated as Christo-Pagans. But our primary responsiblity is to cultivate our relationship with the Beloved at all costs, and on all planes of perception; the Beloved who plays hide-and-seek with us as the Moon-goddess peeking through winter branches, the deep peace within a Buddhist shrine, the chant-haunted cloisters of monastic praise. The Grailfriar is a theological shape-shifter, seeking the one Truth hidden in a myraid of guises, and refusing to be dissuaded by the religious establishment's fear of esoteric exploration.

[emphasis mine]

In this post, he summarizes his religious beliefs:

For me, it has become increasingly difficult to be fenced in by any, one, particular brand of religion. In my early years, I was heavily involved in various forms of fundamentalist Christianity. As the years progressed and maturity brought deeper fissures of thought through my seeking heart, I became a pilgrim staying briefly in the attractive, beckoning sanctuaries of Lutheran, Catholic and Episcopal spirituality. Coming to grips with personal sexuality led me down the trail of the "gay church" (MCC) for a number of years. Finally, I summoned the courage to leave Christianity altogether, having been a Wiccan priest for 18 years. But Wicca can be too constricting with its unwritten code of "religious correctness" and a nascent theology which has far too many "shallows" for my comfort. So Christian is not an adequate label for me. Wicca is not an adequate label for me. I resonate with much of bhakti yoga and Krishna devotion, but do not wish to adapt a plethora of Hindu cultural trappings upon my essentially Western mystical outlook. I love the aesthetics of Buddhism; its serenity and emphasis on mindfulness, but cannot abide its lurking sense of cold, analytical, non-theistic pessimism. I am enchanted by the spiritual eroticism of the Sufi Way, ever seeking to be one with the Beloved, but have a block with the rigidity of Islam. Much of Gnosticism is appealing, but many of their sects got so lost in mythological fantasies that for me it obscured much of their essential wisdom....

[emphasis mine]

Jake and plenty of others have sneered that the real problem is that there are those of us who have the gall to point out Johnston's heavy involvement in paganism. There has been a lot of talk of motes and beams. But look at what Shadwynn himself wrote in this post from Thursday, Aug 25, 2005:

While I am thinking of it, I thought I would also share another New Testament passage relevant to the topic of judging others. The scripture in question consists of the last two verses in 1 Corinthians 5:11-13: "For what business do I have judging those who are without [the church]? AREN'T WE SUPPOSED TO BE JUDGING THOSE WHO ARE WITHIN [THE CHURCH]? But those who are without [the church] God judges."

First of all, I know this is from the pen of Paul, but whatever our opinions of some of his existential and time-bound pronouncements, he nevertheless possessed a lot of wisdom in some of his written thoughts. What I find fascinating is the fact that he encourages early Christians to continually exercise their faculty of judgment when it comes to the conduct, lifestyle and public demeanor of fellow Christians. This was simply common sense: he wanted Christians to display at least an internal consistency of faith and conduct so there would be no confusion as to what Christians practiced as the basic hallmarks of a life of appropriate piety.

Then he closes his post with this dynamite piece of advice:

So my advice to those who consider themselves Christians: Be terribly concerned about one in your midst who claims to speak as a mouthpiece of Christ, but whose vicious words contradict his claims. Use your judgment!

[all of Johnston/Shadwynn's posts to the group can be viewed here]

Sounder advice about being on one's guard could not be given, especially when he offers yet another description of himself from March 16, 2005:

I find that as I age in years and mature in spirit, I feel less affinity for any one, exclusive spiritual tradition. From an othodox, doctrinal stance, I am not a Christian. From a politically correct, popular Wiccan viewpoint, I am not truly a Pagan. I do not believe in any literal sense the creedal statements and dogmas of the Church; yet I have no problem embracing them as part of the Perennial Myth (ala Alan Watts). To me, concepts such as Incarnation, Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension are profound ways of conveying Truth, but if tomorrow they should find the bones of Jesus in an ossuary in a musty Jerusalem burial niche, it would in no way dampen my adherence to the archetypal significance of the Resurrection Story (unlike Paul, who felt that if his interpretation of Jesus' resurrection was wrong, all was doomed).

As far as Wicca is concerned, I have problems with its lack of scholarship, sloppy theology and often New Age naivete. That being said, I still find the celebratory Wheel of the Year far more satisfying than the liturgical calendar of the Church. But for the most part, too many Pagans seem to be simply environmental-oriented agnostics with a flair for the romance of ritual.

So here I am, relating very much to the figure of the Grail Hermit; not part of any one religious crowd, but deeply contemplative and aware of the importance to stay true to the guidance of Spirit. As much as I might want to, I simply cannot fit into any religious niche. I am put off by Christianity's smug sense of spiritual superiority; Paganism's shallow preoccupation with Nature while ignoring the need for inner transformation; Judaism's tribalism and increasing preoccupation with Middle East real estate as the focus of its religious reality; Islam's intolerance and lack of compassion; Hinduism's seeming ambivalence; Buddhism's predominantly non-theistic and pessimistic appraisal of life's purpose...need I go on? That is not to say that I find no value in these traditions; quite to the contrary. I relate more to the theology of the Bhagavid Gita than the Bible; I find Pure Land Buddhism to be almost like a trasplanted Christianity in Asian trappings, with beautiful emphasis on the graces of the Divine; I admire the pristine sense of transcendence found in the worship of Allah; I revel in the joys of bakti yoga and its personalized devotion to avatars of divinity; and the list goes on. In the last analysis, I can truthfully say that the only religious designations with which I feel comfortable would be a Pilgrim on the Way, a Seeker of the Spirit, a Poet of the elusive Presence.

[emphasis mine]

On December 22, 2004, Shadwynn offers up the poem "A Solstice Meditation," which contains these verses:

Our Goddess now arrives in wintry array,
the Queen of Holly
wreathed in darkened, prickly green;
Lady of Life-in-Death,
crowned with berries
blushed red from her Mystery's crimson flow.

Whispering through wind-riven pines,
she sings soft incantations of Evergreen,
blessing oak-fastened mistletoe
with the touch of Life that does not die.


Tonight we light this candle
for the infant Solstice Sun;
one small flame to pierce the darkness;
a ray of hope,
a symbol of the Light within us all:
Light that can never be extinguished,
even by the longest Winter night;
Light that will grow into glory,
waxing strong despite the cold to come;
Light that dispels despair and resignation,
giving us a glimplse of golden days ahead.

Behold the Light that can never die,

reborn anew in the Solstice sky!

That's just the oldest of the posts that are available to a casual visitor to the "AnamTuras" Group. The most recent ones are from January and February of this year.

So it is impossible to believe Johnston's and Jake's claims that Johnston's days as an active, practicing pagan are well in the past. Indeed, it seems equally impossible to believe that Johnston is not, at this very moment, just as heavily involved in paganism as he ever was.

Jake then questions my "authority" in "demanding that I remove Maury's essays and disassociate myself from him," but nowhere did I demand any such thing. What I wrote was:

It is time for Louie Crew, Father Jake, Oasis, and the clergy of the Church of the Holy Comforter to tell us what they think of Mr. Johnston's 18-year association with Wicca - and as a priest, no less... not just a curious bystander.


...may we assume that they will take this opportunity to disavow themselves of Mr. Johnston's practice of Wicca, and to begin seriously to confront the influence of paganism among their fellow travellers?

Johnstons asks:

I have written a book on the Holy Grail and Goddess spirituality under the pen name of Shadwynn and I was a Wiccan priest for many years. And just exactly what does that prove? That I have a past? That I have varied religious interests? And the crime is...?

No one has accused Mr. Johnston of a crime. But the other thing he wants us to believe in his essay is that no one should be concerned in the least with his practice of paganism, even if he's continuing to do it:

Every seeker of the Holy has a history with God, a spiral of one's spirit ever reaching outward and upward into the spiritual universe in an attempt to see the Unseeable and touch the Lover who whispers to the stardust in their souls. Their feet often take them on pathways new, strange, and unfamiliar as they seek for traces of their Beloved in the varied sacred precincts of the world's religious impulse. Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Wiccan, Jew, Muslim, or Christian, the yearning for intimate union with divinity is the same. My pilgrimage has been no different from multitudes who have preceded me as they attempted to satisfy the inner longings of the pilgrim heart. I have searched through many forms of religious expression and come away with something valuable from each of them; and for that I am now hounded and harassed by the self-appointed inquisitors for Anglican orthodoxy.

In other words, we're all polytheist neo-pagans, it's just that some of us haven't gotten in touch with our inner Shadwynns yet.

Mr Johnston puts on a dramatic show, that's for sure. But no one is suggesting that he be hauled away and put in stocks, or a carrot strapped around his nose and paraded through the village. I am hopeful and prayerful that Mr. Johnston will - today - renounce his allegiance to paganism and his rejection of Christianity. I want him to come into the fold. I don't want to "run him out of Christianity" any more than I want to run my family and closest friends out. The question has never been whether I want Maury Johnston as a Christian brother, and the implication otherwise by Jake, Wilkins, et al, - even Johnston himself - is a straw man argument that exemplifies the dark motives they are trying to smear me and other conservatives with.

But there can be no doubt - no matter how hard Father Jake and others pound the pulpit - that Maury Johnston is, currently, an active pagan who articulated his outright rejection of Christianity as recently as October of 2005, and who was posting enthusiastic recommendations of pagan books and practices as late as February of 2006.

One thing that is conspicuously absent from Mr. Johnston's essay is any detail at all regarding his leaving the Wiccan faith.

In his postings everywhere else, he continually reminds us that he was a Wiccan priest for 18 years, but he gives no indication of the year he left the Wiccan priesthood.

Surely, during his 18 years as a Wiccan priest, he had some kind of proof that he was such a thing. A record of a ceremony, a piece of parchment, a medallion or a pin? Is there likewise proof of his leaving the Wiccan priesthood? A resignation letter, or even a statement on an Internet message board to that effect?

No such thing has been offered, neither in Johnston's essay at Father Jake's, nor on the numerous recent posts at the Yahoo! group. One would assume that if Mr. Johnston wanted to make a convincing case of his rejection of Wicca, he would offer some evidence with even a fraction of the enthusiasm with which he claimed his association. My strong suspicion - supported by the evidence I've listed above - leads me to believe there is no such evidence, because there is no reason for it to exist. Maury Johnston remains committed to a Wicca/pagan/neo-pagan spirituality, even as he is held up as a leading voice by the Episcopal fringe left.

So the question remains, as it has been since the original article was posted on Tuesday, is what the Episcopal left intends to do about the disturbing pattern of finding pagans, neo-pagans, Wiccans, Druids, and other practicioners of the occult among their fellow travelers.

Throughout this debate in the Episcopal Church, conservatives have assumed that the opposition wishes to continue worshipping Jesus Christ as the only Son of God, and the author of our Salvation; with the exception that they also want to do other things - ordain non-celibate homosexuals, bless same-sex unions - with which we strongly disagree. But now, as more examples emerge of Episcopal clerics and prominent lay activists leading double lives as pagan priests, it is a fair question to ask if those on the fringe left are in fact dealing from the top of the deck.

We have always assumed that Biblical revisionism was a means to an end, an end that encompasses full inclusion of homosexuals in every aspect of the church. But now we have more than good reason to wonder: Does the revisionist endgame in fact go far beyond gay inclusion, to include the elimination of Jesus Christ as the only Son of God; as the Way, the Truth and the Life?

Does the agenda of the fringe left involve the introduction of pagan beliefs, creeds, and rituals into this Christian church? If so, then debating the godliness of homosexual behavior really is waste of all our time, because the real elephant in the room is not homosexuals as bishops or gay marriage as a sacrament, but the very nature of Christ in the Episcopal Church, and why more than a few of the opposition seem all too ready to throw Him overboard, or, at best, crowd His boat with a long list of other "gods" and "goddesses."

It's one thing if we are talking about "reconciliation" and "unity" with people with whom we have a common understanding of who Christ is and why He was here. But it is another thing entirely to learn that among the ranks of those insisting the hardest that we should remain in this "listening process," are people who categorically reject Christianity and embrace all manner of paganism and witchcraft.

My challenge to Father Jake, Louie Crew, Oasis, and Holy Comforter remains, and is redoubled: Disavow pagans as spokesmen for your case. At least have the respect for your opposition to send Christians to speak for you. Do not equivocate on Jesus Christ. If an honest debate is what you want, then you owe your opposition - and the greater church - nothing less.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 04/09/2006 5:33:14 PM PDT by sionnsar
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: ahadams2; Calabash; axegrinder; AnalogReigns; Uriah_lost; Condor 63; Fractal Trader; Zero Sum; ...
Traditional Anglican ping, continued in memory of its founder Arlin Adams.

FReepmail sionnsar if you want on or off this moderately high-volume ping list (typically 3-9 pings/day).
This list is pinged by sionnsar, Huber and newheart.

Resource for Traditional Anglicans:
More Anglican articles here.

Humor: The Anglican Blue (by Huber)

Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 04/09/2006 5:34:15 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† | Iran Azadi 2006 | 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t YOur5 (SONY))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: sionnsar

Wehn I saw the piece about the Episcopal women presenting raisen cakes in honor of the "Queen of Heaven", I new it was all over. That's right out of the Old Testement. If they will not boot the heretics they will no longer have a Christian church.

3 posted on 04/09/2006 5:41:07 PM PDT by claudiustg (Build a fence. They won't come.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: sionnsar

What a goofball. Even Wicca is not "tolerant" enough to encompass his personal set of pet sins, so he has to reach through the universe of religous thought ... but it's still not big enough.

How the Lord longs for a moment of contrition from men like this!

4 posted on 04/09/2006 6:53:35 PM PDT by Tax-chick ("Life is too short to drink bad wine." ~ The Captain)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Tax-chick
How the Lord longs for a moment of contrition from men like this!

And may He have it.

5 posted on 04/09/2006 10:37:02 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† | Iran Azadi 2006 | 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t YOur5 (SONY))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson