CHAOS MAGICK and CATHOLICISM
Over the last while I have noticed in some Chaos Magick circles I frequent that there has been a pretty big return of Catholic ideas to the table. The trend for a long time was for Wizards to run screaming from anything Jesus or Christian related, so it is interesting to see the pendulum swing back.
For the most part I am fine with it, I have a new Saint Cyprian statue on my altar for one, and I am down with using orisons that contain Catholic names, themes or imagery. My motto has always been “do what works” so if hanging out with the Saints gets me more of what I want and less of what I don’t want, then I am all for it.
That said, there is a background hum to it all that I find very hard to ignore. I’m sure it’s the same for others who come from, and subsequently rejected their Catholic or Christian upbringing. The thing is, that while there are some very useful parts to Catholicism, the religion as a whole is a pretty grim and nasty affair and I don’t think this should be forgotten.
There are lots of things that I find compelling about Catholicism- it’s so familiar to me, for starters- it’s the first taste of spirituality I was exposed to and no matter how hard I try there is always going to be a part of me that is still Catholic. It’s also so ingrained in my country and culture that there is really no escaping it- besides resisting these things does you no good.
I love the art, I love the smell of churches, I love idea of the Saints as experts in a particular area that can be asked for assistance, some of the hymns are godawful but so much of the music is truly inspired, and I love the idea of Holy things. Great magick can be found in all these areas. There is something about an empty church that I really find comforting and again, that word- Holy, that I experience nowhere else.
But this constant background hum, that often becomes a loud roar, reminds me that the teachings of the Catholic church have done so, so much damage to my self-worth, my worldview and my general outlook on life. I don’t think I will ever fully recover from this damage as, like I mentioned, so much of it is just too deep within me.
And of course I am not alone in this, nor am I it’s biggest victim. Far from it.
Obviously I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water here, but equally I don’t want to ignore or gloss over the extremely and downright nasty and degrading elements of the religion.
WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM?
When I deal with Catholic related stuff in my Magick practice, I feel somewhat like an abuse victim who goes back to give their partner to give them “one more chance”.
I am always somewhat apprehensive in dipping my toes back in the Catholic waters in the same way an alcoholic knows the road that having one drink leads to. I know what a little hanging out with Jesus can end up in and it’s usually shame, guilt, depression, and existential despair.
But my major issue with the particular breed of Catholicism I was subjected to – which was mainstream Irish Catholicism – is the whole demand on people to feel guilty and shameful about who they are and their basic human desires and drives.
The Catholic God is extremely unfair, intolerant, nasty, jealous and an absolute tyrant of the highest order. Far from feeling loved or cherished by him, it feels that he hates me. He doesn’t want me to be happy – he wants me to suffer and feel bad about myself.
Remember this is a God who thinks praising him, honouring your parents, not having affairs, telling lies, or wanting other people’s stuff is worse than rape, child abuse, or having slaves. He is such a nasty piece of work that I think the worst form of hell would be for him to be actually real.
Catholicism taught me that I am basically a terrible, disgusting and unworthy being, who should feel deep shame and guilt for having even existed. I am here on earth to suffer and that I should be thankful for it.
Being a good Catholic is serious work and you must be very serious at all times. God forbid I should ever feel good about myself -that’s the biggest sin of all.
THOU SHALT FEEL ONLY SHAME AND GUILT!
And that right there is the crux of the matter. You are not allowed to feel good about yourself, or life for that matter. You are meant to feel only shame, guilt and fear. This has had such a devastating impact on me and entire generations before me. I often wonder if the whole self-help movement originally came from the need people felt due to the damage caused by these sort of Christian teachings. It definitely must have had an impact.
People were -dammit still are- so disempowered by the Church’s teachings, socially, personally, and financially. Remember too that this was drilled into us at school and at mass on Sunday by one of the most corrupt and depraved organisations the modern world has ever seen.
They made generations of people feel utterly shameful of their bodies and their sexuality all the while covering up far too numerous cases of absolute disgusting child abuse.
They preached poverty and the utter wrongness of wanting money while becoming one of the richest organisations in the world, if not the richest.
I could go on but I can already feel my blood start to boil and that will bring me to a place I don’t want to go to anymore. We all know these things, they don’t really need repeating, do they?
BUT IS IT USEFUL?
My hope is that as some areas of Chaos Magick venture out to reexplore the Catholic grounds that we don’t forget the actual stark reality of the bleak darkness contained within the church – lest we romanticise it in anyway. Showing it for its ugliness, however, doesn’t negate its usefulness to the Magician.
For me personally, I think I am OK hanging out in my old Catholic stomping grounds as long as I acknowledge the entirety of the Catholic experience and not whitewash the horrible and destructive elements that come with the package deal.
And of course, as always, it is important to stick to the whole “do that which works”, even if that sometimes requires us to step our feet back onto the beaches of land that we swore we would never return to.
Until next time…
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