TWO DIFFERENT WORLDVIEWS: The Arrow and the Spiral
Copyright © 2007 by Robin Artisson
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Most people of any intelligence have already studied the various philosophical and theological differences between Christianity and Paganism- and when I say "Paganism" here, I mean Reconstructed Iron-Age Indo-European Pagan beliefs from the various cultures of Europe, especially those we know the most about- the Germanic or Teutonic, the Celtic, the Slavic, the Vedic, and the Greek. As much as Wiccans may be "pagans", they are not reconstructionists, and their religion doesn't truly encapsulate or understand the definitive authentic philosophical features of pre-Christian European civilizations.
The Wiccan "Pagan Worldview", along with most new-age pagan worldviews, accepts an enormous amount of ideas and philosophies that spring from sources other than Ancient Europe. A study of the best scholarship and literature in the field of European and Indo-European Pagan Studies reveals that the true "Pagan Worldview" is easy to understand and revive, in both a very general and even more specific sense, for people who wish it.
What follows such a survey and it's revelations is the need to compare it to the dominant Christian or Monotheistic worldview. This, I have done below.
Read these two "worldview profiles" below, which basically describe what these two worldviews think about the universe, morality, time, and other important features, and decide, carefully, which you agree with more.
For most of you, I already know the answer. In my own life I see that I embody, in every way, the second of these worldviews, the "Indo-European Pagan or Heathen worldview". So do many people I know. I also know people who embody the first of these, the Christian worldview. If you don't know where you belong, read these two broad profiles and decide which has the most features that make the most sense to you.
Every feature of each of these two worldviews can be attested to from so-called "historical" christian/pagan cultures, or religious and philosophical culture-streams that currently exist. "Indo European Pagan" covers many cultures, but the ideas given in the section on "Pagan or Heathen" below are general and common to nearly all Indo-European peoples in pre-Christian times.
No matter how strange or unfamiliar some of the ideas expressed in the "Pagan or Heathen Worldview" section below may seem to you, these were common and attested-to beliefs of countless people for untold ages. Read. Compare. Decide.
And when you decide, decide not just for yourself but for the world- which of these two worldviews is better for the world? Which represents a wiser, deeper way of seeing the world? Which one challenges us more? One of these worldviews is obviously older than the other, but don't let that be your only criteria of selection. Which seems "right" on the gut level?
THE CHRISTIAN or MONOTHEISTIC WORLDVIEW
The Universe is A unique, one-time creation, made by a single God to reveal his glory to his creation. After becoming flawed by sin, the creation awaited and recieved a savior which resolved it back to the creator, and now it awaits the "End" after which time it will be physically perfected and exist in that state forever, never changing again.
The cosmos is vast, but mankind alone are God's chosen, and made most like him. Sin is a moral flaw in man that leads mankind to become self-centered, and ignore God's laws and his will for their lives.
Actions are judged "good" or "evil" based on whether or not they are sinful. God's law, which spells out the actions that are "sinful" and the actions that are virtuous is only revealed to certain human beings of a certain tribe in the east Mediterranean, and all nations are subject to it, whether they've heard of this God or his Laws, or not.
Events that occur in this universe are totally unique; they have never occured before and will never occur again. The focus of this universe is the individual, and the individual's relationship to other human beings, but most importantly the individual's relationship to the creator. Knowing who the creator truly is and what he intends for you, and acting according to that, is wisdom. Truth is available to people only through contact with the revelations from God, which come from a few certain prophets and chosen people who lived at one point in time.
Time is linear, a timeline with past, present, and future occuring in a set and unchangeable order; the first events happened in the past; present events are happening now, and future events will lead up to the end of the world and the judgment and to the perpetual and unchanging order that will follow.
Those who believed in the correct religion and acted according to the "law of God" will be allowed to live again in the new, perfected world forever; those who did not believe in the correct religion or who acted contrary to the "Law" will either cease to exist entirely or exist in a state of suffering forever. Because of this, it is imperative that other people be converted to the truth as it was revealed.
God or the Creator is all-powerful. He made everything out of nothing, and if he desired, the entire creation could vanish back to nothing. He can change any natural law, for he is the creator of natural laws. There's nothing he can't do. Though he could stop them without any effort whatsoever, the Creator allows harmful and hurtful things and events to occur (even to his chosen, and even though the savior he sent has already suffered and redeemed the world long ago) for his own mysterious reasons. Humans either cannot understand the vastness of his godly wisdom, or they are not meant to understand the fullness of his providential plan for creation.
The perception people have that time is linear and each moment unique is based on the fact that our senses are showing us precisely what is there. The human recollection of these events is recorded, preserved, and called "History".
THE INDO-EUROPEAN PAGAN OR HEATHEN WORLDVIEW
The universe is an uncreated continuum that moves through infinite cycles. The Universe was not made by a God or Gods; the Gods are natural parts of the universe, sprung from the same underlying forces that humans and all other living beings spring from.
Being uncreated, the universe in the broadest sense has always existed and always will, though the various shapes and orders within it may change- the Gods do shape the pre-existing materials of the universe into things like living creatures and even worlds.
This particular universal cycle in which our lives and the various worlds exist is just one age, one order of the many infinite ages that have existed before and will exist again. The universe will always exist and will never stop changing.
There is no "sin", nor any way that the universe can become "flawed"; the law of Fate ordains what comes to pass, and whatever comes to pass is necessary for the unfolding of the universe at any given moment. Humans may express negative or positive behaviors at any given moment, but the measurement of the "morality" of an action is the extent to which it supports or doesn't support the well-being of a human community, family, person, or the well-being of the world as a whole.
The Gods support the well-being of all communities of life and the well-being of the whole; chaotic forces which are natural to the universe exist to strain against it and gradually break the universe-order down. The Gods resist these forces for as long as they are able, and protect conscious life from them as much as they are able.
Because of natural chaotic forces, this universe-order, or world-age, is gradually breaking down. At one point, it will cease to exist, but only temporarily; the next cycle will begin after this one ends, and there will be a "cosmic regeneration", leading to a new age. Beings that lived in the former age will live again in the regenerated universe. In the spiritual "time" before the regeneration, the dead rest in other mental conditions and worlds such as the Underworld (called by various names) or with the Gods.
All of the events that occur in the future age will have resonance with events that occured in the last, and they will resonate with similar events that will occur in the future age. In other words, events are not fully unique; they are manifestations of a deeper, timeless pattern which regenerates and repeats itself infinitely. The best example is the seasons. Each winter is colder, has less light and heat, and causes certain needed changes. Each year has its own winter, but each winter is a manifestation of a common underlying reality from which all winters emerge. And the seasons eternally repeat, cyclically occuring.
Everything that is happening now has, in a way, happened before and will happen again, though in different configurations of power.
The cosmos or universe itself also undergoes cycles, coming to order, enduring for many ages, degrading, and finally ending, before going into a "sleep" or "unmanifest" state, and then undergoing a regeneration back into a new order which is similar to that of the former age. This great pattern or cycle is Fated to occur; the Gods cannot stop this from happening or change it.
The Gods have a long-lived and powerful, transformative role to play in each world-cycle, but they cannot change the basic law of Fate that rules the cosmos. The universe, being uncreated, is eternal; it cannot vanish. The Gods cannot make it vanish; it is indestructible, and so are all its parts, including the human spirit and the spirits of all living beings.
The focus of this universe is the totality, in which individual humans are counted along with beings and powers of many kinds- animals, natural forces, spirits or Gods, and the like, but individual beings do not have the center-stage. Instead, the web of relationship that binds all beings receives the focus, and the impact of all forces and beings on the whole. Comprehending and understanding this totality, and knowing one's place in it, is Wisdom. Truth is available to all peoples equally, and anyone can discover it through meditating on the totality of things and opening themselves to the natural truths embodied in nature.
Time is not seen as "linear"; the cyclical universe is not linear, it is circular or spiraling. The fact that humans have a perception of time as being linear is explained by the fact that dominant religions, cultures, and sciences have taught that time was a linear progression for centuries, but many primal peoples untouched by those forces still have no concept of time in the "rational" or linear sense; primal peoples have a long history of rejecting the linear notion of "history".
"History" in the absolute sense does not exist; it is merely a story told by people who believe in linear time. Instead of "histories", Myths take the center role to Pagans or Heathens, because Myths describe timeless events, powers, and truths which are perpetually real, timeless events, powers, and truths that underlie every manifest "moment".
Also, the standard perception of cause-and-effect as linear is easy for human beings with limited vision to accept as a fact, when mystics who have broader access to insight can see a greater pattern, and in tribal societies, those mystics reveal and mediate the knowledge of the non-linear nature of things to other tribal members in their power-stories, tales, traditional songs, and rituals.