New to the blogroll

22 10 2009


From The Lonely Goth’s Guide to Independent Catholicism

Found this essay, on fairies in early modern Scotland, from of all people, David B. Hart, and from all places, First Things. Seriously, I like what they are smoking over there, because this essay is completely jaw-dropping. Maybe the world is finally coming around after all.

Secondly, a comment by the blogger himself, on the book, Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism:

The author makes an ugly and sharp high magic/low magic distinction (also going back to his Neoplatonic sources – the old distinction between theurgy in which magic is transformational and sacramental and witchcraft in which magic is directed towards instrumental goals). I think this betrays serious class bias, since only the most elite have the luxury to divorce their practice of magic entirely from practical concerns in order to realize this absolute distinction. It also amounts to a kind of slick polemic – my magic, the magic of the right and authorized group of people, is spiritual and good, but everyone else’s magic is mere technical trickery and a manifestation of technological will-to-power rather than spiritual Gelassenheit. (He didn’t claim to have read Heidegger or directly reference him, but the basic Heideggerian opposition between techne and Gelassenheit and critique of modern technological society seems operative in much of his work). In the end, it’s not necessarily that I thought anything the author came up with was wrong or dreadfully uninsightful. It’s just that the implicit spirituality came across as tedious, over-codified, and ideologically-overdetermined – pretty much exactly how I feel reading medieval scholastic commentaries on Indian philosophy like the Tattvasamgraha.

This is something that I have also perceived as a problem in the Neoplatonic system: the completely hierarchical, ordered descent of all things from the One, and the stark distinction between theurgical or sacramental acts and their dark, “superstitious” counterparts. Basically, if we like you and you are from a civilization we consider “civilized” (i.e. you’re white), you practice theurgy, or at the very least, you have a “real religion”. If we don’t like you, and you are black or brown, what you practice is demonic and dangerous. Athena and Zeus, good. Yemanja and Erzulie, bad. Get how this works?

Similarly, if a priest prays some weird prayer in Latin, baptizes bells, or excommunicates locusts, that is God-given, real religion. If a curandero sweeps you with rue or a Creole treater whispers a French prayer over you, that is superstition. No wonder people think religion is such bullsh*t. The categories that we often consider obvious these days are really very arbitrary.