Why Catholicism?

On Facebook, I was made privy to discussion about my last full article here (“The Problem With Neo-Paganism”.) Honestly, I’m just pleased as hell that it attracted discussion and that people were interested in it.

However, I wanted to clarify something for my fellow polytheists that might be reading this.

My approach to polytheist religion (here at “Sacred Blasphemies” and also at my old defunct blog “Pagan Mysticism” and its new location as “Into the Mystic” over at Pagan Bloggers.) often involves looking at how we can take existing mystical practices and approaches in other religions and apply it to polytheistic religion.

Why not just focus on historical polytheism? Why use tools of monotheism like Catholic mysticism?

There are several reasons I do this:

  1. I have a deep and abiding fondness for the way mysticism and devotion are still present in Western culture through traditional religions like Catholicism and (to a lesser extent) Orthodoxy. (Orthodoxy is only to a lesser extent because it’s not nearly as commonplace in North America as Catholicism is, especially here in the Northeast.) Additionally, I grew up Catholic. My ancestors are Catholic. To me, this is part of my heritage. I admire the way that traditionalist Catholics struggle against modernity and against materialism. The rosary, the prayers, the sacramentals, fasting, the festivals and processions of the Saints, monasticism. I think there’s a lot of beauty to it and we can learn how to live a life of devotion in a materialistic world through devout Catholics.
  2. I think we do ourselves a disservice by not looking back on the 1500 years of religious technology that has developed since the Christian era began. For example, I think things like the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, lectio divina, and centering prayer are all pretty intriguing and effective approaches that can be adapted for polytheistic use.
  3. I’m of the opinion that polytheistic religion grows organically. Creeds, prophets, unquestionable sacred texts, and hard boundaries are for monotheistic religion. I think of these techniques as a way that we can get closer to our gods. Much like the early Christian church repurposed polytheistic philosophy, we can repurpose some of their mystical techniques.
  4. I’m just not as interested in historical reconstruction as I am in this. Lots of people focus on reconstructionism, the lore, and historical accuracy. That’s not particularly an interest of mine (Though I have a deep respect for people who do this sort of research and work).

I imagine that many others will still be opposed to my ideas or approach. That’s OK. I still question it myself. I’m open to feedback but I also think of this as a calling (or perhaps a vocation). It’s what I enjoy thinking/writing about.

Perhaps some might think of all Christianity as miasmic, or even just as something we as polytheists should have little to do with. I can appreciate that approach, but I find that aspects of our modern society to be so toxic and miasmic that I sympathize with the monastics and modern-day mystics in other religions that I see dealing with the same problem, even if our theologies and general beliefs differ drastically.

Also, Catholicism is not the only source that I feel can be repurposed for polytheistic devotional approaches. I think there are even elements of evangelicalism that can be used. The Hindu bhakti tradition-based group Kirtan Soul Revival has used Contemporary Christian Music as a way to reinterpret traditional Hindu kirtan (sacred chant) music. I think that’s cool as hell!

The late Indian Jesuit author Anthony de Mello wrote an excellent books called “Sadhana: A Path to God” where he combined what he considered to be Eastern mystical methods as a way to approach Catholicism. It’s an excellent book and one I revisited often in my now-defunct “Pagan Mysticism” blog.

Author T.M. Luhrmann is known within Paganism for her book “Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft” where she entered into British witchcraft covens to learn more about them but more recently she joined charismatic Christian groups (specifically associated with The Vineyard) to understand how they understood God. She wrote a really interesting book from her experience called “When God Talks Back”. It involves a sort of thought process and imaginal devotion that helps to make God more real to these worshippers. I think that this could be an excellent tool for modern polytheists.

There are also the multitude of approaches found within Hinduism, a collection of ancient religions practiced in the modern day that can involve the worship of gods and goddesses.

In short, I am not of the opinion that in recreating polytheistic religion (in particular, devotional polytheism) in a modern-day context that we need to limit ourselves only to ancient polytheistic sources. Religion and mysticism has been going on for about 1500 years since the Christian era. I enjoy exploring these and recontextualizing them for polytheists.

However you choose to make your gods relevant and alive to you in this modern materialistic world where religion is slowly dying off, I wish you the best of luck and I’ll pray for you if you want me to. It is not always an easy task.

Between anti-religion atheists, hostile monotheists, and even our own so-called Pagan community that treats our deities as if they are not real, we have many obstacles to the polytheistic religious life that some of us are called to.

Thanks for your time!

~ by R.M. McGrath on 04/24/2017.

2 Responses to “Why Catholicism?”

  1. I think though, that the issue which people were raising is on view here again, when you say that you are “not interested in reconstruction”; but you are speaking about Hinduism, a living tradition which requires no “reconstruction”.

    And so when people point out that the things you claim to have been unable to find in Hinduism, and which have to be imported from Catholicism, are in fact there in Hinduism, they are not being anti-Catholic. The latter charge is really a straw man, and motivated me more than anything else to reply to this post.

    I do not know literally a single person who identifies as a devotional polytheist who is not extraordinarily tolerant of Catholicism, and I can guarantee that none of the people you were interacting with on my wall are anti-Catholic. I myself, in fact, am far more hostile to Catholicism than they are, because it continues the effort to eradicate polytheist faiths around the world that it began in antiquity. But I said nothing in the thread you refer to, disproving your thesis that anti-Catholic animus was the motivation for the criticisms you received.

    Rather, I think that you ought to look inward for the source of the discomfort you experience. It seems to me that rather than simply admitting that you wish to engage in syncretism, you try to argue as though deficiencies in other traditions *require* you to find what you are seeking through Catholicism. Moreover, you imply that this is a manifestation of your own superior historical consciousness. This is bound to generate ill-will.


    • My deepest apologies, Edward. I misinterpreted some things and got confused. I did not intend to insult or in other way criticize or accuse the people on your Facebook. Thank you for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: