A Viable, Contemporary Neopaganism

“So if I want Mexicans to learn the name of Quetzalcoatl, it is because I want them to speak with the tongues of their own blood. I wish the Teutonic world would once more think in terms of Thor and Wotan, and the tree Igdrasil. And I wish the Druidic world would see, honestly, that in the mistletoe is their mystery, and that they themselves are the Tuatha De Danaan, alive, but submerged. And a new Hermes should come back to the Mediterranean, and a new Ashtarot to Tunis; and Mithras again to Persia, and Brahama unbroken to India, and the oldest of dragons to China.”
—D.H. Lawrence, The Plumed Serpent
Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. Photo: Jiuguang Wang (CC)

Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. Photo: Jiuguang Wang (CC)


As early as in 1968, Alain de Benoist founded in France the Groupement de recherche et d’études pour la civilisation européenne, a ethnonationalist think-tank that rejected Christianity and advocated a return to Paganism. A few years before, at Findhorn, in Scotland, what we now call New Age was born. Those who did not buy the materialistic and atheistic propaganda of the secular West, but who at the same time no longer felt that the answers to their spiritual needs would be found in Christianity, were searching for new options.

For years a student of comparative religion and of scholarly esoterica, I myself find Neopaganism to be a viable prospect, especially in Europe, while Traditionalism of the sort advocated by René Guénon, Frithjof Schuon, Ananda Coomaraswamy, Titus Burckhardt, Julius Evola and other 20th century Traditionalists seems realistically untenable. In other words, despite my good will, I find praying to, say, Mercury, or Odin, or Mithras bordering on the impractical, if not on the silly. On the other hand, many of the deities belonging to Greco-Roman mythology were de facto incorporated into the Roman Catholic religion. The latter, despite its claims to the opposite, is thoroughly polytheistic, owing to its belief in the Trinity; in an overabundance of male and female saints; and in the Holy Virgin, worshipped through a multitude of apparitions in different countries and even regions within the same country. It couldn’t be otherwise, given the inescapable influence of the mythology Roman Catholicism eventually supplanted.

One feature that distinguishes Catholicism from the other Christian sects, and indeed from all Abrahamic religions, is the mentioned cult of the Virgin, i.e., the cult of the Goddess. It goes without saying — quite literally: no member of the Catholic clergy would ever admit as much openly — that, within the Catholic religion, Our Lady is at once Cybele, Minerva, Diana, and various other goddesses of antiquity. One festivity above all illustrates this: the 15th of August is the Feast of the Assumption, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven. In Italy such a feast is to this day called “Ferragosto”. The whole country shuts down, and in that, as well as in popularity, it rivals Christmas. In fact, “Ferragosto” comes from the Latin “Feriae Augusti” (Augustus’s rest), a celebration established by Emperor Augustus in 18 BC to celebrate the harvest, the cycle of fertility and ripening, and ultimately the goddess Diana.

Consequently praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary conjures up much earlier goddesses, too, of which she has become, so to speak, a repository. None of this was clear to me until about fifteen years ago, and I still marvel at this neopagan phenomenon in disguise.

When travelling across Catholic Europe in particular, one chances upon a number of Marian shrines, erected to celebrate her apparition in a specific place. Some people will be devoted to, say, the Virgin of Loreto, others of Lourdes, or of Fatima—it’s always the same Virgin, of course, but once more she would seem to be reasserting her inherent polytheistic traits by being worshiped under different names.

Recently my wife and I celebrated an important wedding anniversary by motoring across Spain and France. Willy-nilly, the sub-theme of our grand tour turned out to be Our Lady.

Even in Girona, the first place we stayed at and were using as a base from which to explore Salvador Dalí’s stomping grounds, we chanced upon a magnificent Gothic cathedral, originally the Roman forum atop a flight of steps, dedicated to Nuestra Señora (Our Lady).

We then paused briefly in Zaragoza to pay homage to Nuestra Señora del Pilar (Our Lady of the Pillar). Then on to Burgos, with its supremely rich and gorgeous Gothic cathedral, also dedicated to Nuestra Señora. The same goes for Léon’s impressive cathedral with acres of stained glass windows. Covadonga, in Asturias, is a Marian pilgrimage for the whole of Spain; that’s where a Visigothic king-to-be, Pelagius, by winning a battle against the Moors — who hated the rainy climate anyway — made sure that Asturias would never be conquered. Pelagius/Pelayo was helped in this battle by the Virgin. From a mini-kingdom born in a cave deep in the Asturian mountains to a world power and today a world language—who would have thought…

Over in France, our first stop was Rocamadour, not only for Durendal, paladin Roland’s sword stuck in the stone, but of course for Notre Dame (Our Lady), to whom the whole magnificently stratified medieval complex carved out of sheer rock is dedicated. Rouen and Paris have magnificent cathedrals dedicated to Notre Dame, too.

And yet, out of all these places, the one that “spoke” to both my wife and to me was the Basilica-Catedral de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, in Zaragoza.

I should contextualize our visit.

This was a mere stop, coming from Girona on the way to Burgos. Being the longest transfer in our grand tour (670 kms), there was no time to waste. Also, it happened to be a Sunday, and the Basilica-Catedral was predictably crammed—but at least with the faithful, hence being used for what it was intended, as a place of worship rather than as a museum, which is the case, for example, in Burgos. I try to be a careful driver, and am extremely concentrated when driving on highways or anywhere at high speed. But when I get to a town or to a city, I relax and decompress. After all, an accident in a parking lot is a scratch, or a dent, while an accident on a highway can easily be deadly. My wife, on the other hand, gets restless amid traffic and quite impatient in a parking lot, I suppose out of eagerness to have arrived already. So while I relax she tends to tense up. In an underground parking by the Basilica-Catedral I was a having trouble getting the maneuver right to park our largish Kia Carens (Carens? Would you believe the name the Koreans gave it? From the Latin, “lacking”?). We bickered, and I said, “If you’re so good at it, park it yourself.” She didn’t like such effrontery, but went ahead and parked the car. As we emerged in the plaza, we were treated to unexpected American spaces and scope: the gargantuan Basilica-Catedral in the center; two more churches at either end of the oblong and immense plaza; and the river Ebro on the other side, crossed there by a glorious Roman bridge. Still in a somewhat distracted mood, we entered the crowded Basilica-Catedral, and quickly found the Virgen del Pilar: a statuette of 14.37 inches exactly standing atop a smallish pillar. That immense plaza with two co-cathedrals and another church of merit; that enormous Basilica-Catedral dating back to the outset of Christianity and then constantly modified over time—all for this? No sooner had my intellect formulated this than I was moved to tears, and started weeping. I have no idea why. My wife, a few footsteps behind me, was equally overwhelmed.

In other Marian shrines along the way we had the place to ourselves, and were in a calmer mood, conducive, one would think, to meditation. It was all the opposite inside the Basilica-Catedral—and yet, we’d never experienced anything of the sort.

In my blissful ignorance, I didn’t know the exact nature of this particular apparition, though I realized it must be portentous as I was surprised to discover, on a previous journey, that the cathedral in Charters is also devoted to the Virgen del Pilar. There it follows:

“According to legend, in the early days of the Church on January 2nd, 40 AD, the Apostle James (Santiago) the Greater was proclaiming the Gospel in Caesaraugusta (present day Zaragoza) by the river Ebro, when he saw Mary miraculously appearing in the flesh on a pillar calling him to return to Jerusalem. The pillar, which was being carried by angels, is believed to be the same one venerated in Zaragoza, Spain today. Miraculous healings have been reported at the location.”

This, I also learned, was the only apparition of the Virgin before her Assumption into Heaven (or Dormition, as the Anglicans call it), i.e., while still alive. It is also the first Marian apparition of them all, and the church originally erected to celebrate it, the first church in Christianity dedicated to Our Lady.

So, the importance of all other Marian shrines we’ve visited before and since notwithstanding (for example, Guadalupe, in Extremadura, Spain, which then, through another apparition across the Atlantic Ocean, became the Patron Saint of Mexico; Loreto, in the Marche, Italy, where the Shrine of the Holy House supposedly contains the house in which the Virgin lived, flown there from across the Adriatic Sea by angels), it is poetic that this one, of them all, would move us so deeply—the one in which the cult of the Virgin was born, and the cult of the Goddess, reborn.

But should you still think of Marianism as a cult exclusively for Catholics, though I’ve been trying to point out its strong pagan connotations, consider the name of the city “Los Angeles”. While often referred to as the City of Angels, its full name is: El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula—“The Town of Our Lady the Queen of Angels of Porziuncola.” The Porziuncola is the little church that Saint Francis of Assisi restored after receiving a mystical vision; another one is the little chapel of Saint Mary of the Angels, which later became his house. On top of the tiny Porziuncala was built the huge Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels. So even Los Angeles happens to have a distinctly Marian origin—and resonance?

Guido Mina di Sospiro is co-author of the disinformation® book The Forbidden Book, co-authored with Joscelyn Godwin, and the recently published The Metaphysics Of Ping-Pong, published by Yellow Jersey Press, Random House, and long-listed for the William Hill Sports Book Award 2013.
Guido Mina di Sospiro

Guido Mina di Sospiro

Guido Mina di Sospiro is an award-winning, internationally published novelist born in Argentina but raised in Italy who lives in the United States.

Mina di Sospiro’s novel The Story of Yew (the memoirs of an age-old tree), published in the UK, is permanently featured on the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and has been translated into many languages, as has From the River, the memoirs of a mighty river. Both books have met with critical acclaim. He is the co-author of the disinformation® book The Forbidden Book, co-authored with Joscelyn Godwin, and Publishers Weekly’s recent staff pick The Metaphysics Of Ping-Pong, published by Quest Books.
Guido Mina di Sospiro

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68 Comments on "A Viable, Contemporary Neopaganism"

  1. Gjallarbru | Apr 12, 2014 at 9:59 pm |

    Praying to Odin, or any other god, isn’t any more impractical or silly than praying to your favorite deity. To think any god silly other than your own, only demonstrate that you understand nothing outside your cult. It’s fine of course, whatever floats your boat. But given a choice, Odin, god of wisdom, peotry and war suits my fancy far better than Mary.

    All gods are just an archetype for use by our limited conciousness anyway. The true divine origin is well beyond our grasp while in the human condition. So go ahead, enjoy whatever god amuses you.

    • Eric_D_Read | Apr 12, 2014 at 11:19 pm |

      That’s the thing I like about many modern pagans. For the most part they realize that humans create their gods, not the other way around.

      But realizing this doesn’t eliminate the innate human need for ritual and worship of…something. Recognizing the gods of your ancestors, or whatever ones you may wish to adopt if they suit your needs better, and using them as archetypes or ideals to aspire to is probably the healthiest form of religion I’ve yet encountered.

      • Adamas Macalz | Apr 12, 2014 at 11:22 pm |

        I’d rather strive for an ideal like evolution or apotheosis… but I also work with a number of entities, demons, gods to achieve this end so this is probably splitting hairs.

        • Jin The Ninja | Apr 13, 2014 at 2:03 pm |

          i’ve always thought the distinction between theurgy and thaumaturgy to be more semantic than metaphysical.

    • I’m partial to Lilith as the embodiment of the Goddess. We have to go back to the Neolithic era for when god was a woman, when societies were really egalitarian. Then, the Semitic and Aryan tribes swept out of the hills and waged centuries-long wars, instituting patriarchy every where. Cyprus was the last to fall. The allegory of the Garden of Eden was first of Adam and Lilith. Adam told Lilith to get under him and she told him to get off her and left. Then she was turned into a baby-eating banshee for being an uppity woman. Meanwhile, back at the garden, Adam whined to god because he was tired or screwing the animals. Thus, he was “given” the pliable and docile Eve.

      • Gjallarbru | Apr 13, 2014 at 1:36 pm |

        Very interesting, as I see now I have neglected to study about Lilith.

        I would say that although Norse society was far from perfect, the female goddesses of Norse mythology certainly weren’t lacking when compared to their male conterparts. Many, like Frigga and Hel, were at the very least fearsome. It is true that, as patriarchy took hold, the female gods became less popular, but that wasn’t always so.

        • Jin The Ninja | Apr 13, 2014 at 2:01 pm |

          i’ve always appreciated the more ‘bisexual’ aspects of odin.
          literal and figurative. i find that gods of shamanism, sorcery who don’t discriminate between the mortals they bed to have a certain appeal and in a sense completeness- wasn’t it freya who taught odin some different sort of magic? the norse pantheon is definitely interesting, but lacking a nordic heritage it’s not as ‘comfortable’ as others- although when you take into account the indo-aryan religious origins, shared between most euro peoples i suppose it is more of a mental thing than a spiritual thing. being french cdn has always given license to my gnostic tendencies anyway;)

          • …if all is one, all goddess / god archetypes are here represented…

          • *kicks disqus*

            …err…I meant to do that…

          • Echar Lailoken | Apr 13, 2014 at 4:09 pm |

            Those are gorgeous.

          • Echar Lailoken | Apr 13, 2014 at 4:30 pm |

            I am going to make a conscious effort to learn more about Hinduism.

          • The children of God are very dear but very queer, very nice but very narrow.
            -Sadhu Sundar Singh

            Such was the conclusion to which the most celebrated of Indian converts was forced after some years of association with his fellow Christians. There are many honourable exceptions, of course; but the rule even among learned Protestants and Catholics is a certain blandly bumptious provincialism which, if it did not constitute such a grave offence against charity and truth, would be just uproariously funny, A hundred years ago, hardly anything was known of Sanskrit, Pali or Chinese. The ignorance of European scholars was sufficient reason for their provincialism. Today, when more or less adequate translations are available in plenty, there is not only no reason for it, there is no excuse. And yet most European and American authors of books about religion and metaphysics write as though nobody had ever thought about these subjects, except the Jews, the Greeks and the Christians of the Mediterranean basin and western Europe. This display of what, in the twentieth century, is an entirely voluntary and deliberate ignorance is not only absurd and discreditable ; it is also socially dangerous. Like any other form of imperialism, theological imperialism is a menace to permanent world peace. The reign of violence will never come to an end until, first, most human beings accept the same, true philosophy of life; until, second, this Perennial Philosophy is recognized as the highest factor common to all the world religions ; until, third, the adherents of every religion renounce the idolatrous time-philosophies, with which, in their own particular faith, the Perennial Philosophy of eternity has been overlaid ; until, fourth, there is a world-wide rejection of all the political pseudo-religions, which place man’s supreme good in future time and therefore justify and commend the commission of every sort of present iniquity as a means to that end. If these conditions are not fulfilled, no amount of political planning, no economic blue-prints however ingeniously drawn, can prevent the recrudescence of war and revolution.
            -Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy 1944

            This is a candidate for my favourite passage that Huxley ever authored.

          • Echar Lailoken | Apr 13, 2014 at 8:05 pm |

            This display of what, in the twentieth century, is an entirely voluntary and deliberate ignorance is not only absurd and discreditable ; it is also socially dangerous. Like any other form of imperialism, theological imperialism is a menace to permanent world peace.

            Theological imperialism is a common pitfall along any serious seekers path. Nearly every worldview is laden with systemic memetic phrases that puff the ego of the adherent. This ghost in the machine is not just an issue of a spiritual or religious person. It’s prevalent in collegiate, and atheist circles. However, at some point a pitfall may transform into a hurdle, or a sequence of. Eventually it may even become a divot.

          • …many are called few are chosen…

          • Echar Lailoken | Apr 14, 2014 at 10:51 am |

            I imagine them all yelling “run for freedom”.

          • …you have the soul of a poet, good sir…

          • Echar Lailoken | Apr 14, 2014 at 5:08 pm |

            Thank you 🙂

          • Gjallarbru | Apr 13, 2014 at 4:19 pm |

            Careful Jin, being French Canadian doesn’t mean you don’t have germanic origins. The French take their name from the Franks for instance. And there are many common lineage between Celtic, Gauls, and Germanic tribes. Lastly, the border between France and Germany change often during the dark ages and the medieval period, making many living on the border a mixture of both.

            And yes, Freya thaught Seidh, or Seiðr magic. Also, a few gods changed their sex when the occasion called for it. Odin, Thor and Loki come to mind.

          • Adamas Macalz | Apr 13, 2014 at 9:51 pm |

            I know plenty of people not of germanic blood that work within the paradigm. Ancestry doesn’t make as big of a deal as people make it out to be within the system. of course my mutt ass has german blood along with half the planet in me so I can’t say that from my personal experience.

  2. I seem to have some kind of deep affinity for “our lady” in some of her many guises. I suspect it might even be ancestral.

    • Jin The Ninja | Apr 13, 2014 at 1:52 pm |

      i assume you were raised catholic? i was, and in some ways i suppose it may be my weakness to fall back onto familiar traditions or it could be that simply they resonate (after a fashion) with me. it’s odd, despite my not minor forays into neo-paganism, and my total opposition to the church and distaste for authority, i have always found a lot of power and wisdom in many of the marianist teachings and prayers. same with the angels, i have always been extremely comfortable with them in a ritual magick setting or a folk magic setting. i had a very cool nun teach a christian history class who told us,’the holy spirit is female.’ which surprisingly is doctrinal. so i’ve always swapped ‘in the name of the holy spirit’ for ‘in the name of god the mother.’ i suppose my small rebellion. and quite gnostic as i later discovered.

      i personally believe all people (so inclined to spirituality) require a strong, powerful feminine divinity whether ‘she’ serves as an all encompassing spirit (like hecate for many witches), a ‘complimentary’ ruling divinity to a pantheon (yemaya, oshun), as the particular object of cult focus (mary, guan yin, tara, kannon), or as part and parcel of the unknoweable god/dess (barbelo, xi wangmu/wuji laomu, nana baraka, shiva/shakti).

      • In a way I was. Just up until middle school. By 6th grade did not have to go to Catholic school or church anymore, hooray!
        The feminine divinity has shown up most powerfully for me as Madre Ayahuasca.
        I love the ocean, so yemaya also looms large in my mythology.

      • “i’ve never been any kind of fan of the ‘dualistic’ wiccan notion of two ominpresents,”

        Just a metaphor for two sides of the same coin. Yin/yang and all that.

        • Fair enough, but I’ve never met a Wiccan that I thought had anything even close to the sophistication and simplicity of the Tao.

          That’s not to say they don’t or can’t exist, but better, simpler concepts (probably) need to be grasped before blindly experimenting playing around with division/multiplication.

          • Simplicity comes from being a solitary practitioner which one can do with Wicca and Tao. Most spiritual beliefs systems have duality just because so much of our lives have duality; seeing the gray areas in-between is the trick. Wiccans, more than any other spiritual belief system that I’ve encountered, accomplish that through the workings of the mysteries of nature. But, I am explaining to someone who already knows all of this. 🙂

          • …in the mysteries of nature, we can all find solace… _(._.)_

          • Jin The Ninja | Apr 13, 2014 at 5:45 pm |

            it all comes down to nature and a working relationship with her, whether secular or spiritual.

          • Jin The Ninja | Apr 13, 2014 at 5:43 pm |

            both you and &#255 raise very cogent points. listen, my distaste for gardeniarian reconstuctionism/wicca is much more nuanced than in my previous post. i dislike the lord/lady thing. i find it a bit too ‘christian,’ it is doesn’t adapt to my other practices- and i find it alienating and eurocentric (and misleadingly ahistorical). i wholeheartedly can appreciate neo-paganism, but i don’t like the structures of wicca and its arbitrary morality that arose from a mix of ‘leaders’ and new age writers. i find myself at a place now, where i feel more fulfilled within a mix of spiritism, daoism, tantric buddhism and gnosticism. it’s just personal taste. i probably could be called a ‘pagan’ by an observer. i think magical practice has to fit your worldview, and i find myself fueling that practice through a mixed paradigm of folk, chaos magic and spiritism. that’s just where i am at. however if we’re talking about solitaries and their practice- well i have all the respect in the world for them. it’s the structures of knowledge and power in contemporary wicca i dislike. which is why i think i have so embraced horizontal, direct avenues.

          • I got involved in Wicca a couple of decades ago. I didn’t mind the lord/lady thing but I did mind that some of it took a fairly mean turn. That “meaness” (in-group/out-group; manipulating people, et al) is exactly what turned me away from so many other religions. In the end, I decided that all that energy was the same; all the metaphors are the pointing us in the same direction. Once a spiritual belief system turns into a belief system about garnering personal power, it goes down the tubes.

          • Echar Lailoken | Apr 13, 2014 at 8:51 pm |

            Wiccan is a five fold monotheistic path. The apple is one of the symbols that shows this.

            The five seeds representing the Lord of Light and shadow (2), and the Triple Goddess (The maiden, the mother, and the Crone) (3). All of which is enclosed by the skin (the universe).

          • Interesting. I’m familiar with the concepts you present, but I’ve not heard them assembled in this way before. However, this sounds vaguely Discordian.

            I tend to regard any division such as you indicate as polytheistic, but if I’ve learned nothing else from Hinduism, it’s that the level of complexity exists for both to be acceptable at the same time.

          • Echar Lailoken | Apr 15, 2014 at 12:22 am |

            It’s more of a pantheist perception.

          • (on an unrelated side note: did disqus just change format for you on Disinfo?)

          • Echar Lailoken | Apr 14, 2014 at 10:52 am |

            Something glitched.

  3. Patrick Wolff | Apr 13, 2014 at 8:04 am |

    This is a thoroughly confusing article. You say Neopaganism, a “viable prospect,” but then say praying to pagan gods is “silly,” and that Traditionalism is “realistically untenable,” but the rest of article indicates you find Catholicism (an acceptable option for Traditionalists) to be entirely tenable. And of course I assume you mean Catholics believe in the Trinity, not the “Trilogy.”

    • Echar Lailoken | Apr 13, 2014 at 12:31 pm |

      Technically, catholicism is neo-paganism. Well, more like bastardized paganism.

      • Roman Catholicism™

        • Echar Lailoken | Apr 13, 2014 at 4:00 pm |

          Too bad Martin Luther turned it into Lutheranism™. He started out well.

          • Lutheranism™ used to make me think so, but now I’m not so sure. The more I read about Luther, the more I wonder about the man…

          • Echar Lailoken | Apr 13, 2014 at 4:08 pm |

            Like what?

          • It’s mostly little tidbits picked up here and there, can’t source a majority of them. He’s still not Henry VIII or John Calvin level damaged in my eyes, but eh…

            I can’t remember any specific passages, but Huxley is fairly critical of Luther and the rest of his Prossie ilk in The Perennial Philosophy

            Ultimately, I think where the Protestants and all subsequent “reforms” have failed is that they are trying to find a “pure” form of Christianity, free of the “pagan taint”. That sound like a goal with any kind of real endgame?

          • Echar Lailoken | Apr 13, 2014 at 4:27 pm |

            It sounds like a wild goose chase to me.

            To be clear, what I meant is that he started out by opening up the bible to everyone (at least for the people who could read) by having it printed in common languages. Then he went after the roman catholic business of selling fetishes and such. Essentially attacking some of the church’s carny-esque corruptions.

          • He was also a tool of ambitious German princes looking out for their own interests in the power games that dominate so much of European history. Could Protestantism taken hold so thoroughly on the continent if not for Luther?

            There is no doubt that the Catholics needed to get kicked off their complacency, have to face a Reformation, and Counter-Reformation. I can also appreciate Luther’s achievements in the field of Protestantism to be relatively selfless and “beneficial”, especially in comparison to contemporaries.

            I spent 8 years in Lutheran parochial school, so I would say I have pretty good command of the history indoctrination. It’s very interesting to me to look back at material like that and contrast/compare with perspectives that may not be so flattering.

          • Echar Lailoken | Apr 13, 2014 at 8:35 pm |

            He needed those princes to remain breathing, after the way he crossed the church. It was definitely a symbiotic relationship.

          • I’ve been giving this some consideration, and I’ve started to wonder if Luther would be more or less “dangerous to history” as a martyr.

            Pope Leo X was used to reformers and heretics, and he responded slowly, “with great care as is proper.” Over the next three years he deployed a series of papal theologians and envoys against Luther, which served only to harden the reformer’s anti-papal theology. First, the Dominican theologian Sylvester Mazzolini drafted a heresy case against Luther, whom Leo then summoned to Rome. The Elector Frederick persuaded the pope to have Luther examined at Augsburg, where the Imperial Diet was held. There, in October 1518, under questioning by papal legate Cardinal Cajetan Luther stated that he did not consider the papacy part of the biblical Church because historistical interpretation of Bible prophecy concluded that the papacy was the Antichrist. The prophecies concerning the Antichrist soon became the center of controversy. The hearings degenerated into a shouting match. More than his writing the 95 Theses, Luther’s confrontation with the church cast him as an enemy of the pope. Cajetan’s original instructions had been to arrest Luther if he failed to recant, but desisted from doing so. Luther slipped out of the city at night, unbeknownst to Cajetan.

            One thing is certain, he was an imperfect human being, and in that he is hardly alone.

            Also, perhaps a cautionary tale for those who would attempt to reform corrupted and calcified structures.

          • Echar Lailoken | Apr 20, 2014 at 5:13 pm |

            According to my research, anyone that goes after the status quo and lives, are usually “friends” with other powerful people. Call me captain obvious, if you like.

          • Maybe such is the case often, and is an eventuality for continued longevity…

            I’d probably agree with your observations wholeheartedly within the lens of Western Civilization™. But then, that is not the full story of the human experience.

            Do great movements make leaders or do great leaders make movements? I’m not sure I can really parse the distinctions particularly well anymore if I ever could to begin with.

            I also have to wonder if in this instance, this contribution isn’t more enduring…

            Luther wrote about the Jews throughout his career, though only a few of his works dealt with them directly. Luther rarely encountered Jews during his life, but his attitudes reflected a theological and cultural tradition which saw Jews as a rejected people guilty of the murder of Christ, and he lived within a local community that had expelled Jews some ninety years earlier. He considered the Jews blasphemers and liars because they rejected the divinity of Jesus, whereas Christians believed Jesus was the Messiah. But Luther believed that all human beings who set themselves against God were equally guilty. As early as 1516, he wrote that many people “are proud with marvelous stupidity when they call the Jews dogs, evildoers, or whatever they like, while they too, and equally, do not realize who or what they are in the sight of God”. In 1523, Luther advised kindness toward the Jews in That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew, but only with the aim of converting them to Christianity. When his efforts at conversion failed, he grew increasingly bitter toward them.

          • And on the other hand…

            What the Jews did in spite of their prophets, Christians have done in spite of Christ. The Christ of the Gospels is a preacher and not a dispenser of sacraments or performer of rites; he speaks against vain repetitions; he insists on the supreme importance of private worship; he has no use for sacrifices and not much use for the Temple. But this did not prevent historic Christianity from going its own, all too human, way. A precisely similar development took place in Buddhism. For the Buddha of the Pali scriptures, ritual was one of the fetters holding back the soul from enlightenment and liberation. Nevertheless, the religion he founded has made full use of ceremonies, vain repetitions and sacramental rites.

            Granted Luther ≠ Jesus ≠ Buddha, but I guess I can ultimately see how he did better than many others…

      • Jin The Ninja | Apr 13, 2014 at 4:00 pm |

        hey, i’ve been wanting to follow you on disqus for awhile but you’re account is locked….

    • Guido Mina di Sospiro | Apr 13, 2014 at 12:44 pm |

      The School of 20th Century Traditionalists is a rather specific group, to which the thinkers I have mentioned all belonged, and just a very few more. Going into great detail would have been beyond the scope of the essay. Suffice it to say that they were all agreed in stating that we were then (and now) living through the Kali Yuga, the last and worst of the four stages the world goes through as part of the cycle of yugas, as described in the Indian scriptures. Their prescribed “remedy” was, for example as advocated by Julius Evola, a return to Pagan Imperialism. They were flirting with a cosmology that indirectly led to disastrous outcomes (Fascism, Nazism). Two of such thinkers eventually converted to Islam out of their dissatisfaction with the western world and the impossibility to change it. Heaven knows their sort of Paganism was and is not tenable. In the instance of Our Lady, on the other hand, I have endeavored to explain how different this is. Every child in every Catholic country who goes to Catechism is told about the importance of the Holy Virgin as the Mother of God—Theotokos, God-bearer. None back then suspects what in fact lies beneath the surface. A very marginal figure in the Gospels becomes, over time, central to the Catholic Church to the point that without her such a religion would probably die away. She is a repository for all the goddess of antiquity, from Cybele to Isis, Persephone, Minerva, Venus, Diana, even Lilith. Because of that, she is Catholic in the Greek meaning of the word, i.e., universal. Well-documented scholarly books have been written about her. In them, you may find a far more detailed explanation first of all about her coming into being, which was in essence a widespread, transnational and very popular grassroots movement that demanded the Goddess to be back at the center of an otherwise paternalistic religion, and then about all the different attributes she has taken on down the centuries. Specifically on Our Lady I recommend: “Alone of All Her Sex,” by Marina Warner and “Miraculous Images of Our Lady,” by Joan Carroll Cruz; about the goddess, “The Myth of the Goddess,” by Anne Baring and Jules Cashford; “The Civilization of the Goddess,” by Marija Gimbutas; “Priestesses,” by Norma Lorre Godrich; and “The Book of Goddesses & Heroines,” by Patricia Monaghan. It’s a start; I hope this was of some help.

      • Echar Lailoken | Apr 13, 2014 at 12:59 pm |

        The later Arthurian lore may bee seen as a synthesis of Paganism and Christianity. Some Irish and Scottish churches to this day lean more towards gnostic/cathar/pagan roots.

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