Skip to comments.The Persistent Pagans
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.
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....
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.
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!
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.
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.
LIGHTING OF THE YULE CANDLE
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!
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?
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...?
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.
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.
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!
And may He have it.
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