Vertical Paganism

19 10 2014

Vertical Paganism

19 10 2014

There are four ways to control a population – a strong religion(s), a strong imposed moral code, a strong voluntary ethical code, and a strong police force – in practical terms, some combination of all of them. So the ruling elite always wants to control and shape religion into a branch of government. The many European pagan religions were a threat to the unification of the Roman empire, which created the vertical religion that became the Roman Catholic (“universal”) Church, which strangled thought and innovation for a millenium.

Historically (in any context) the Pagan religions (philosophies, practices) which we modern Pagans practice, have been modeled on the small and scattered groups of rural Europe, organized horizontally is small groups (circles, covens) of a dozen members, led by a Priestess. You know all this, but please bear with me —I’m just trying to remind you of the foundations of today’s witch theory. 

Modern sociology shows that fifteen is the largest number of persons that can remain cohesive in a group: over that number the group will fragment into two or more factions. Why is this? Because, analogous to Bucky Fuller’s “closest packing of spheres,” the largest number of spheres that can be simultaneously in contact with one sphere (the Priestess) is twelve. Even the most talented and dedicated Priestess has her limitations. When the number of members gets close to thirteen, some will “hive off” to form another coven, usually supervised to some degree by the parent coven.

When the ‘hived-off” group grows to thirteen, some of its members, will, in turn hive off to form a third coven, which will have no group memory of the first circle. Thus, back in the “Burning Times,” members of one coven, even if tortured, could not name many members of other covens. Today, touch wood, that’s less of a factor, and we trust that before a coven initiates a new Priest/Priestess, the new leadership team is well-educated for the job. While the first Priestess will continue to have some influence, that influence will decrease as the hiving process continues, and it also means that no one person can dictate to, or have too much power over, a 3d generation coven.

Most of us agree that today, we need stronger organization to negotiate with governments, other authorities and the media, but what form should that organization take? Look on the internet and you’ll find several groups vying for the job, like the Covenant of the Goddess and the Aquarian Tabernacle Church. Most of them have “ordains” saying what you must believe to belong. For example, the “small print” insisted on by many of the “umbrella” organizations (or “churches”) that claim to represent multiple or _*all*_ Pagan religions, often states that *all* the Deities are facets of One Deity, perhaps a God with feminine characteristics. Politically that may relate to the fact that “God” is mentioned in the first sentence of both the American and Canadian constitutions. The Aquarian Church, founded by members of the American military, is, as you might expect, a vertical organization where the clergy are considered officers, can have titles like “The Right Reverend,” and be knighted in the manner of some Masonic-modeled service clubs.

Maybe all Deities *are* One — some of us believe that and some of us don’t. An It Harm None, we have the right to believe what we believe. But to me the acceptance of large authoritarian structures suggests that we have fallen into the trap that Starhawk warned us about –that, in times of stress, we fall back on the patterns we grew up with — vertical, authoritative, political (rather than religious) structures, like Xian churches — whereas we might better be working to change the current culture rather than fall into step with it.

 I happen to believe that the Universe is Two- Spirited — one Feminine, one Masculine. They argue, they agree, they joust for power, they manouever(sp?) around each other, but eventually dance together and unite in love.  But, for at least the organizations I’ve considered joining, that’s not politically correct. I guess it’s important to read the small print, and, with all due respect, ask anyone, especially an ex-military, used to giving and following orders, if they really want to create, or be part of, that kind of Pagan organization.

What I think I believe (if you give a damn)

19 10 2014

What do I believe? Well, in the material world I question my senses and test them against logic. If logic doesn’t refute them, then I provisionally accept what they tell me.

Metaphysically I don’t believe anything. What seems most reasonable to me today is that the Hindus’ concept is fairly close to the truth – that the Universe is born and exists for a googolplex (wow! Dragon got it!) of years called a kalpa, and then collapses to be reborn again. If I understand correctly, it’s born anew, a baby starting all over again from zero. To me that doesn’t make sense. I can’t conceive of any such intelligence not having an archive of what it’s learned over a lifetime of a gazillion years. We have petroglyphs, clay tablets, papyrus, monks copying documents they didn’t understand, we have libraries, so that each generation can build on what previous generations have learned by exploration or accident.

When we discovered that the neutrino *did* have mass I lost my faith. Now the boson is described as massless, but my skepticism remains. We simply don’t know enough and (forgive me) simply dismissing it all by saying that God and/or the Goddess is infinite doesn’t move me. If there is an effect, there has to be a “mechanism.” Our recent understanding that particles can communicate over long distances might suggest a possible mechanism, but that presupposes that there is a pre-existing medium, perhaps space itself.

And of course, far-fetched though it may be, we can’t ignore the possibility that we, and I mean our universe, is just some kind of a computer program in which the galaxies and an assortment of lifeforms like ourselves are just bits of code.

There is a pagan concept “as above so below, so below and v.v.” It is not a universal truth, but it does appear often enough to make it useful. My own shamanic forays have given me some insights into what might or might not be truths. My current theology suggests that before the “big bang” or “rebirth” there was a primitive intelligence, a sort of metaphysical cell that chose to divide itself in two – an act of faith – which initiated creation. And since so much of what we experience contains elements of polarity, I speculate that there are two (2) spirits – I think of them as a Goddess and God – whose interplay keeps the whole process alive and growing. As Bucky Fuller put it, “Unity is plural, and at a minimum, two.”

Since I learned about the ability of photons to change form simultaneously even when separated, I accept the possibility that space may be a medium for the communication and storage of “information.” Which might just possibly conceivably be organized into some kind of a soul buffer to store mammals’ essential metaphysical aspects (if such there be) between the time of the mammal’s death and its reincarnation in another physical body. No I don’t believe that, Bill, but it might actually be possible. Maybe.

I believe that much of the Old Testament stuff is pure mythology or long-range action plans disguised as history. Historically the biblical plagues were centuries apart, and the Jews in Egypt were not slaves but, rather, talented and intelligent citizens occupying positions of power and trust as they exist in our own 21st century civilization. Their “escape from Egypt,” their 40 years in the desert and their conquering and slaughtering of the Canaanites was a metaphor, a blueprint for their current occupation of Palestine. Interesting that most of the people we know as Jews weren’t Hebrews, but Khazars, a nation sandwiched between the Christians on the West and the Muslims on their East, who converted to Judaism wholesale when ordered by their king. Smart move – and the intelligence and culture they’ve brought us at the cost of considerable psychological damage to themselves has benefitted the res of us greatly.

Realizing that the dream of re-creating a pre-Christian paganism to escape the misused Christianity began in the late 19th-century, through mystery cults like the Golden Dawn, the 1950’s birth of Wicca might never have happened in its current form were it not for Gerald Gardner and Aleister Crowley. They might even have met and discussed it. But the timing was right in that humanity’s misuse of the world’s resources created the need for a nature-based religion.

This is getting far more complicated than I intended, and I think I may have said it better in some of my lyrics and poems. If you’re interested you might want to look at *Genesis* and *Astra* which are on my Witchvox page.

And, please forgive me, I simply can’t believe, beautiful as the myth is, that any human can be crucified (it’s a nasty death by suffocation) and skewered with a spear, then come to life again after being buried for three days, especially in a tropical climate. Christians may say “that proves he wasn’t human,” but I can’t imagine you accepting that fallacious reasoning. As I understand it, the Gospels, commissioned by Constantine, were written by Roman ancestors of the presidents Bush with some help from Pliny the younger, as part of a process to use Christianity to control people. But that might be a myth, too – – –

Fashions Change

27 02 2013




 Fashions change, created for a season. There is no rhyme or rhythm:

Meteors will blow away as dust.

This year skirts are longer or the other way around.

Smack and crack are in, or is it smoke and alcohol?

My compass can’t recall what year it is — rollerblades or Rolling Stones

And Shakespeare’s not as young as he used to be

Or is it you? Or is it me?

But if you ask, I’ll tell you how it*s going to be next year —

What you’ll do and who you’ll love and what you’ll wash and wear.

But change and progress aren’t the same 

As Fashions Change.


Fashions Change, created for a season: There is no rhyme or reason.

Iceberg tips in sunlight melt to mist.

This year hair is longer or the other way around.

This year girls love boys,  or is it Love Each Other Week?

My Calendar won’t say what place this is — Renaissance or Babylon

And Jesus isn’t in the inn today

Or is it you, or is it me?                 

But if you ask, I’ll tell you what you’re going to do next year

How you’ll live and how you’ll love and how you’ll wear your hair.

But Change and Progress aren’t the same

As Fashions Change.


Fashions Change, created for a reason: There is no time or season:

Autumn leaves in splendour burn to ash.

This year legs are longer or the other way around.

Breeding is the answer. No, environment’s the key.

My watch just can’t reveal what day this is — Ecology, Astrology,

And Bucky Fuller came a different way

Or was it you? Or was it me?

But if you ask I’ll tell you the economy next year,

How you’ll survive and who you’ll screw and what’s your biggest fear

But change and progress aren’t the same

 As Fashions Change.


In a concert scored for radio, magazines and video

Recordings, news, the media are weaving an illusion

That things are really changing by calling everything a different name

Though everything is really just the same

In a circus chimed on neurotape, tetraphonic audioscape        

Internet in digital stroboscopic alpha wave

Multiscreen in binary modulated mantram hum

Neon mythic metronome —–


                                                                           ted macGillivray



A Letter to my Feminist Friends (and others)

15 10 2012

A book that stays in my mind is Riane Eisler’s Sacred Pleasure, subtitled Sex, Myth, and the Politics of the Body — New Paths to Power and Love. It’s a stunning 495 pages — the references and permissions alone are 20 pages, which makes it a more demanding read than her first book The Chalice and the Blade. Even flaming redneck male chauvinist pigs will have their world shaken by the first 200 pages as they learn how pastoral (herder) cultures destroyed and replaced cooperative and creative agricultural ones, and replaced the philosophy and practice of love and respect for nature with one of death, fear, violence and control. Hey, Gloria, Starhawk, Betty and the rest of you, I’m with you 100 percent. The Goddess’s seat at the table has been vacant far too long.

While I share your outrage and frustration with the slowness of changes that just might save this planet and the human race, I feel that some of your strategies and tactics are self-defeating. There will always be a place for Rosie the Riveter, but when you’re in the boardroom and the political back room, perhaps you might wear camouflage.

For a moment, (forgive the violent example) think of yourself as General Georgia Washington, leading the American revolutionary forces in the 1770’s. The British have a large, well-trained and equipped army. You have a scraggly bunch of amateurs, poorly equipped and trained and without even uniforms. Face-to-face confrontation (the fashion of the day) doesn’t work. The Brits mow your Patriots down.

Your solution is what we now call Guerilla Warfare — sniping at their marching columns from a distance and picking off their officers, shooting from the cover of the woods. Eventually they become so weakened that you can defeat them.

other example: You are Mary Smith, new Board Chairperson of a car manufacturer. You plan to put the giant General Motors out of business. You DON’T start by mounting a gigantic campaign to grab a huge percentage of the market – that will bring on a gigantic reaction which could stop you in your tracks.

What you DO do is aim for a trivial one- or two-percent of their market. They don’t feel threatened enough to retaliate in force, so you win that and go for another little bit — –

Use Diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy, concession by concession.

Hail to the Goddess. Peace, Love and success to you all.


Dawning Age of Cooperation

13 10 2012

The Dawning Age of Cooperation   by  Gordon E. Moss   Published  by  Algora 2011.

A Critique

by Ted MacGillivray

 with Nanette Moss

When I learned from Nanette Moss that her father, Gordon E. Moss, a PhD in sociology, had written a book called The Dawning Age of Cooperation….The End of Civilization as We Know It… And Just in Time, on which he had worked for 14 years, I wished he’d released it much sooner. I’ve been wondering 40 odd years how we might get out of this mess we’ve created, and hoping he had found to avoid the ecological, economic and social collapse which threatens us, and the dictatorship the super-rich are creating to preserve their wealth and power while shepherding us through a coming dark age.

Moss is a serious scholar. He pinpoints with excruciating accuracy the ills of Western/Global society, and blames them on the competitive programming that has always been with us but is today glaringly widespread from cradle to grave, at least in the Western Hemisphere. He foresees a future in which global mankind is cooperative in the finest possible sense, in taking care of the world’s population while caring for the environment in all respects. And, as a thoughtful sociologist, he believes this can be accomplished by changing culture.

Thoughtful practitioners of every discipline want to create the ideal world. In the latter decades of the 20th century, the psychologists fell all over themselves to provide industry with workers who would produce more, and be so happy in their work that they wouldn’t ask for raises. While they were being studied the workers did produce more, but when they found that they wouldn’t actually be rewarded or bribed, they drifted back to their old ways. And who’s to blame them?

Moss has thought this through carefully. He defines cooperation as excluding alliances where competitors work together towards a goal they cannot obtain alone, and excluding the collective action of individualist collectively working towards their individual personal goals. His models of true cooperation (there aren’t that many on this planet) include wolves, the Man o’ War jellyfish, ants and bees, and, in the sphere of humanity, the Hutterites – whom he considers real  cooperators — truly committed members of their groups in dealing with their environment. He feels that, through culture, we can eventually achieve world-wide cooperation in its best sense.

But what is this world that Moss envisions? To my eyes, the final result, which he says will take two- or three hundred years to achieve, looks a lot like the world the Communists promised would emerge after the State “withered away.” We would all cooperate happily, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” No, I’m not suggesting that Moss is a communist, but that his dream is a version of the dream most of us share of a fair and just society on this gorgeous planet that “we” seem to be destroying. And I believe he is trying to propose a social contract that will keep humans happy in their work in return for modest resources and ample leisure time. This would dovetail with Buckminster Fuller’s opinion that an unemployed populace, given adequate life-support, would use their free time so creatively that our process of continually doing more with less would asymptotically tend to become doing everything with nothing.

But even if we all agreed on the kind of society we wanted, Moss’ process for getting there is not clear. Two of the models on which he bases his future society are the Hutterites and a particular species of Ant who are physically bred to do specific jobs – one example is a version whose door-keepers’ heads are shaped so that they can wedge them together to block the doorway. I doubt we could do anything similar simply by changing our culture. But look at the Hutterites, an extremely peaceful and productive subculture who live in cooperative communal groups of 100 or so members.

They are innovative farmers, who consistently out-produce their more conventional neighbours. They use the best farm equipment, subscribe to the latest research, repair their equipment and modify it with improvements. Within the commune they use no money – housing, food, clothing etc. are all provided. They choose their leaders for expertise rather than aggressiveness, and they practice a 15th-century form of Christianity. Decisions are made, not by bosses or committees, but by the individuals doing the work. The closest thing to a headman that they have is the commune’s Priest.

But, they are in no way self-sufficient. They buy their farm equipment. They buy their fuel. They get the healthcare freely provided to their members by buying it from outside the community. When the population of the group reaches 100 or so, some of them hive-off and form a new commune. And they avoid territorial conflicts by locating new communes at least 100 miles from existing ones. This suggests that they are quite aware that a potential exists for conflict between individuals and other groups or organizations.

Moss’ scholarship is admirable, and his style so transparent that you don’t need a doctorate to understand him. His criticisms of contemporary Euro-American culture are right on the mark, and his Utopian dream is compelling. He suggests that we start with small groups, and (as I understand it) by our productivity and our social success, convert others — even the aggressive and power-hungry — to the cooperative model. Yet his Hutterite model bothers me. A culture of (Myers-Briggs) ESFJ warm and practical folk has no place for an INTP like me. In a Hutterite community the misfits can leave and are perhaps encouraged to do so, but when the whole world is a commune where is there to go? And while the Hutterites are incredibly good at farming and business, they depend a lot the larger community.

What happens when the number of communities grows so big that their territories are adjacent to each other or to more aggressive groups? With their leaders chosen for expertise rather than aggression, how can they stand up to power groups who have the resources of the world’s multi-national corporations and governments at their fingertips.

Moss’ daughter Nanette feels fortunate to have an intelligent loving father who dedicated decades of his life to studying cooperation, and especially appreciates his musing that true cooperation is impossible at our stage of evolution. Drawing on her own observations of communal groups, Nanette says,

“Various cultures and intentional communities have had communes that worked, but many others have failed due to lack of resources or from strain when the group dynamics shifted. Ideally each person would take on work that they were naturally good at and enjoyed, but that also benefited the whole commune. However, it is unlikely that we would ever have a perfect ratio of talent-to-need. Someone has to do the hard and dirty work that no one wants to do. Also, as in hippie communities, rainbow gatherings and work settings, the success of a group depends tremendously on the personalities of its members, so a group chosen for abilities alone might never gel into a whole.

“The motivated members work, but sometimes others only practice their hobbies, insisting they’re making an equal contribution. This causes resentment and arguments. Shifts in the core group happen, adjustments must be made when members leave or new people come in, destabilizing the group —  I think that’s partly what my Dad means when he says humanity is not ready for a truly cooperative society. Some individuals may be, but most of us have a long way to go.

“I have difficulty accepting Dad’s definition of individualism — his definition of individualistic actions is so broad there is no way NOT to be individualistic. I have tried to expand my awareness to include all of humans and the entire universe, but all we can know is from our own experience. All we can feel is through our body and senses. The information we have available for decision-making comes from what our brains process. If he asserts that any action deriving from an individual perspective is by its nature negative, how can we ever behave positively? ”

This would require radical changes in human behaviour, which Moss believes we cannot achieve at our present stage of evolution. We would need to eliminate self-interest from all humankind so that each individual is totally committed to the group. Since potential conflict is likely based in elements of the human nervous system (i.e. Dawkins’ “Selfish Gene?”) that are difficult to modify through culture, they would have to be dealt with in some other way – perhaps by selective breeding or other eugenic practices such as the culling of all individuals whose psychological potentials were not considered appropriate. Who will be the judges? – sociologists? psychologists? doctors? cops and soldiers? Or the judiciary? Or the priests and imams?

To consider this Cooperative Society dream, we need more information, especially about ways and means. Can we really accomplish it with memes alone? The Catholic Church was extremely successful in using culture to control human behaviour during the Middle Ages (and even currently). But if the publicly-available, expurgated history books are correct, much of the cultural change and control was a corrupt process done by fear, the rack, the ducking stool, the burning stake and the hangman’s rope. Start small? Perhaps, but how can we guarantee that the small cooperative groups or industries will not inadvertently come in conflict with each other, or with the Elephant.

Ah yes, the Elephant — the Establishment that most of us, in the end, work for. Academics discover principles, relationships, chemical compounds, ideas and the processes by which elements and of living things can be used and manipulated. The Establishment (or the individuals thereof) may accept and use a given discovery or may reject it. If rejected, the discovery might become useful at some future time. Or a brilliant paper may languish on a shelf for generations because it does not fit in with the Establishment’s current intents and plans.

With all respect, I point out that the Landed Aristocracy, titled and untitled, is still with us. These same individuals, others like them and wannabes, sit on the interlocking boards of directors of the multinational corporations and banks that control the economy and the politics of the Western world and more. Many of them are proud descendants of families that have been around since the days of Sumer and Babylon, carefully inbreeding for qualities they value. Their thinking is long-range, so a 300 year time span to accomplish Moss’ cooperative society would not be excessive. But would they cooperate, individually or together, or even accept, the extinguishing of their egos and ids. They would certainly want more details to be sure Moss’ plans would be to their advantage.

The question is “would such radical changes in humanity be to anyone’s advantage?” In our warm cooperative womb, would we lose that spirit of innovation and exploration that has aided our evolution so far, and has driven us to both slaughtering each other and to exploring the threshold of space? Might we become warm-blooded ants clawing up all the planet’s remaining resources? Might we become Borg, trying to assimilate all the organic intelligences of the universe? And if we evolved that far, would the Universal Intelligence let us get away with it? Is there a workable compromise?

We are talking here, not just about the planet, but the whole future of the human race and perhaps all life everywhere. Since the discovery of the second law of thermodynamics, we have comforted ourselves with the concept that we (and I include all living creatures) are the antientropic force that will hold back the universe’s inevitable decline into statisticity, but new discoveries tell us that is not the case: for each unit of energy we convert to a higher form, we expend an equivalent unit in the process – so the net gain Zero.

Nonetheless, Moss’s idea of a world that is truly cooperative is impossible to dismiss and we must consider it.

Who the Hell do I think I Am?

1 10 2012

I mean, who the hell do i think i am?

It took me a long time to realize that poetry is integral to our lives. I happily acknowledge the influence of poets from classical to contemporary: their eloquence and elegance have inspired my own writing and editing, but as a hedge-bard with no court-poet ambitions, I don’t really know much about poetry.

My work is mostly instinctive. I use simple forms like William’s iambic pentameter and Percy/Robert/Edna’s sonnets, and aaba songs (thanks to traditional folk music and tin-pan alley): I value content over form, the message over the medium, and the use of simple rhythm to aid memory. Sometimes the Goddess dictates finished verse to me as fast as I can record it.

Though I’ve performed my stuff throughout my adult life, I only accepted the word ‘poet’ as a personal definition a few years ago when a woman in the front row of the audience suddenly stood up and announced to the audience that I was a poet. I’ve accepted the definition gratefully because one of my life-projects has been to work against the black-white dualism that cripples our thinking and the cultural maya that imprisons our minds. Call me a propagandist if you will, but I often try to use poetry and song to counter the state of illusion in which most of us live.

Please forgive my pretensions.

Meditation and Sleep Apnea— Be Really Careful!

30 09 2012

Meditation and Sleep Apnea

The benefits of meditation are part of our core beliefs, but there are some of us who should be very careful of how we meditate, or even if we should. Some of us snore when we sleep. Some of us even stop breathing, not taking a breath for even 20 seconds or more, and often waking ourselves or our partners up with a loud snort as we begin to breathe. This can happen several times in a night.

Sleep Apnea (apnoea) has two causes. The more common is an obstruction of the airways, as when, lying on your back, your relaxed jaw falls open, obstructing your throat. Or, when breathing through your nose, your palate closes and stops the airflow there. The sound of snoring itself is caused by vibration of the relaxed and uncontrolled palate. Obstructive apnea is more common amongst overweight persons, but the thin are not immune. The way to control it is to sleep only on your side.

The other cause is called “central,” in which the cessation of breathing is caused because the brain doesn’t to send the message to breathe. As far as I know, when the oxygen-carbon dioxide balance gets bad enough, the brain eventually restarts the breathing. Talk to your doctor.

I had been meditating for years with no difficulties even though having both obstructive and central sleep apnea, fortunately mild. I had never heard of kundalini in either the Shaivist or Thelemite forms, so when its physical symptoms started while in meditation one day, I was startled and stopped the process. Once started, Kundalini never stops, and sometimes takes years to complete because it seems to involve a complete rebuilding of the autonomic nervous system.

Years later, during a two-day full moon ritual, the process spontaneously completed itself, but without some of the symptoms I had been told to expect, so, with the help of a knowledgeable yoga teacher, I tried to re-create the process. In yoga, Kundalini is initiated by a meditation technique called Yoga Nidra, in which you lie on your back and combine breathing techniques with transferring your attention rapidly to different parts of your body, so you can be simultaneously both asleep and awake, and thus can consciously examine and reprogram your static, sleeping mind. I never did achieve this. But what I was trying to do was to use the Shaivist metaphor of a Serpent, coiled at the base of the spine, working its way up through the chakras to the pituitary area of the brain, thus uniting divergent aspects of the self.

But lying on a gym mat one day, doing Yoga Nidra, I suddenly felt what felt like a thundering freight train running through my chest. Terrifying! I immediately awoke. The sensation went away, but afterwards whenever I tried to sleep, the terrible shaking in my chest immediately wakened me. I could get no more than 10 min. sleep before the it began again. Within a week I was totally exhausted. In my mind I could see an oscilloscope-like image showing my heart’s 60 bpm sinus rhythm with 7 1/2 spikes superimposed on each beat, so the shaking was at about 450 bpm.

My doctor was of no help. He sent me to a specialist who refused to listen to my symptoms, and to another who simply dismissed them. Eventually two doctors diagnosed it as atrial fibrillation, but it was anomalous because the shaking happened only when I was asleep, and by the time I awoke enough to start a recording device the shaking stopped. I could stop the shaking by taking 20 deep breaths, by massaging my carotid artery (not a good idea, because it could dislodge plaque which might cause a stroke) or by taking a deep breath and “bearing down” this latter is a known technique called the Valsalva maneuver.

The symptoms have abated over time, and their severity has lessened to a moderate shaking which no longer upsets me. It happens now about three times a week. My current doctors insist that it’s not atrial fib, but have given me no other diagnosis. Otherwise I’m fine. I meditate now only while sitting up so that my relaxed jaw does not obstruct my airways. And yoga Nidra? Forget it!

So, if you snore, and especially if you stop breathing while you sleep, I suggest that you be most careful in your meditations, and do not attempt yoga Nidra.

Ted MacGillivray