If your Gods Don't Treat You Right (Smash their statues up tonight!)

If your Gods Don't Treat You Right
(Smash their statues up tonight!)

c. 1987,  T. Rimer, .K.A.M.

Traditional Wicca has within it the seeds of an unusual and
productive attitude towards the Gods which is found rarely if at
all in other religions. The key to the attitude and consciousness
can be found in the Initiation process in our Tradition and
several others, which without going into secret material, can be
freely described as an oath taken by the Initiate to themselves
in the presence of the Gods, not an oath taken to the Gods
themselves. We promise to grow, to strive towards our best
possibility, to bear the weight of the Karma that requires. The
Gods promise to help. Its a two way street. A quick survey of
non-Wiccan religious attitude will illustrate how radical the
implications of that oath are.

Cringe O Mortal and Know that I am God!

There is a strong element of slavishness in the relationship
between most people and their Gods. After all, even the smallest
God is bigger than we are, and while we die early and often, Gods
die slowly if at all. For a monotheist a foreign God is not only
forbidden, she is no God at all, but a mere devil (from deva,
meaning little God). No shy hand, the monotheistic religions
block out large expanses of the spirit, declaring that one God
(theirs) not only knows and controls all, but is somehow both the
ground and foundation of being and comprehensible within a human
system of religion. Catholics believe that the One Big Guy can be
cajoled and, dare I say, manipulated through the Holy Offices;
Protestants believe that he can be approached through the sacred
Book. The literature of Christianity, Judaism and Islam is filled
with images of overwhelming love and overwhelming terror. Only
their most capable saints and mystics approach Deity without
being blotted out in one manner or another, and many of them
preach the blotting out of the ordinary self as necessary to
intercourse with Deity. Western and near-eastern monotheists
truly serve their Gods, thinking them All and themselves an
unattractive but somehow divinely Willed smear in the infinitude
of Divine Love.

Most eastern religions differ little in the attitude of
abnegation, although the terror aspects tend to be less. Buddhism
and Hinduism preach the annihilation of Self and immersion in the
All; only the Zen and Taoist folk seem to retain the conscious
that "samsara is nirvana", that is to say that ordinary
consciousness is not antithetical to enlightenment. Nor is
classical and modern Paganism exempt from slavery to the Gods.
Both new and old world Pagans often practiced rituals of
propitiation in which worshipers abase themselves before the
shrine. Modern neo-Pagans often go on at length regarding the
power and majesty of The Goddess (as if there were a single
Deity, who had somehow suffered an unveiling or sex change)
before which they are as naught. Assertions to the contrary are
usually met with the observation that "When you see Her as I have
you will know the Truth". The difference between Goddess
monotheism and born-again Christianity is mostly a matter of
style and gender.

There are no Gods and People are Free

In the last five hundred years a consciousness has been growing
in the West, from its roots in the rediscovery of the Classical
Pagan world in the Renaissance to its bleakest and severest
expression in mid-50's existential thought. Built on the
tentative assertion of human freedom and the blinding light of
technological achievement, the newer consciousness is born of
separation from and denial of the Gods and ends in the
"desolation of reality" seen by the Celtic Magician and Bard
William Butler Yeats. The new consciousness, which in our time
has begun itself to age, subjects all things to the criteria of
verifiability and repeatability, and by ignoring subtle
experience, reduces grosser experience to a series of manipulable
rules, a magick indeed. Its ethical expression is the realization
that the most horrible crimes are possible, and that retribution
is not at all obvious or immediate. Having tasted of that dread
fruit a person can no longer act, or refrain from action, out of
fear of the Gods, for if the Gods care it is in a very odd way
indeed. AIDS, Dachau and the respectability of Pat Robertson all
attest to the inscrutability of the Divine Plan. The existential
man of the '50's, who was tellingly always a man in gender,
committed evil as an expression of freedom, the greatest good.

Yet all things turn on their axes, and the most extreme
expression of a view will often make a sudden dive for its navel
and reverse into something rare and strange. The physical laws
which reduced all life to machinery and robbed the Universe of
her soul have, taken in the extreme of theoretical Physics,
dissolved into the gossamer "strings" of the mystic. A psychology
which subjected consciousness to a dissection which denied the
fact of consciousness has begun turning somersaults and rambling
on about "guided imagery". The ethical view that left us without
Ten Commandments has freed us to discover our True Wills. Having
indulged in nastiness by vicarious or actual experience, some
emerge to walk in beauty for its own sake, not from fear or

Few things exist in unmixed form, and for a person who has tasted
of both slavery to convention and unconventionality the most
likely path is a return to a new slavery. Born-again Pagans
embrace the Goddess with the same monomaniacal fervor as the
Christians do their saviour, and with the same result. New age
folk spy the truths of human freedom, declare that reality is
molded by consciousness, and go on a rampage of blame,
criticizing the ill for their illness, the poor for poverty, the
miserable for misery, as ardently as any Pharisee. Familiar
attitudes creep back in, usually cosmetically changed. Still,
there is another path.

Take a God home for Lunch

In some ancient traditions a person would smash or bury the
images of their Gods if misfortune became too great. Most
scholars attribute this practice to naivete or stupidity,
believing that our ancestors foolishly felt that the forces of
Nature could be manipulated by such pathetic gestures. My view is
that the Ancients possessed some interesting insight into the
nature of divine relationship that we would do well to heed.
Suppose that the worst fears of the Bible's Jehovah are true, and
that we can indeed become "as Gods". Might it not be that the
Gods were once "as humans"? In our evolution towards divinity,
which is the highest possibility we can conceive, we can invoke
the aid and friendship of those who have walked the path before
us. They share with us their wisdom, experience and power; we
share with them our newness, energy and delight. We see their
world through their eyes, they see our world through ours. A
symbiosis and friendship is possible if the human and the God are
sympathetic and strong.

Sometimes the best of friendships go astray, and sometimes
friendships are outgrown. A deity may no longer serve, may renege
on the terms of the friendship, may lead us down a path we do not
choose to walk. Right or wrong, it is our path, not theirs that
we tread, and right or wrong we smash their statue. Not because
they are indwelling in the statue, although they often are; not
because we hurt them, although we may, but because psychic
realities take form through the medium of drama, and the burial
or dismemberment of the image of a God is high theatre. A
changing of the Gods is not to be undertaken lightly or often,
but to be conceived as a possibility of change which ennobles the
relationship, as the possibility of divorce serves to lend worth
to the free decision to remain in a marriage.

There is even a minor recognition of this truth in the Old
Testament, in the rather cryptic tale of Job. Seemingly for a
lark Jehovah boasts to Satan about how loyal Job is. Satan is
clearly Jehovah's business competitor and friend, not the
sinister figure the Christians created later. When Satan
expresses the view that Job's loyalty comes from the good fortune
Jehovah has showered on him, Jehovah turns Satan loose on the
poor mortal to do his worst. In true biblical form -- these
monotheists don't mess around -- Satan decimates Job's livestock
and livelihood, then his family, who are seen entirely in terms
of property. Job's health is the final casualty, until the poor
man becomes a suppurating wreck on the brink of a death Jehovah
denies. Job's friends offer some interesting advice. Some, like
the New Age Pagans, cry "Oh Job, what evil have you done to bring
God's wrath upon you!" Others offer more practical advice -- 
"Curse God and die". Job is free to do whatever he wants, which I
think is a major point of the story. Cursed or not, blessed or
not, at fault or blameless, he can and does choose his Deity.
While the wisdom of his choice is debatable, the realization of
his freedom is liberating. The ending is less than satisfactory
for such an excellent buildup. Job sticks to Jehovah, who puts on
a magick show of brute force to frighten Job's friends, then
restores Job to his former affluence. As for Job's wife and kids
-- c'est la guerre!

We teach our students to choose their Gods, and choose them well,
for as Dion Fortune noted, a person may be judged by their
Deities. In time partings occur, in joy or in sorrow, and to be
stuck in blind attachment to a God is to deny loyalty to the True
Will of the Initiate, which must be discovered by living day to
day. We who neither cringe before the Gods nor deny them have the
rarest of human opportunities -- to walk the tightrope of
friendship with them. It wavers high above the abyss, but offers
the promise of a freedom which is neither empty nor bitter. but
filled with possibility and terrifying excitement.

"A False Greek Absurdity has Crazed The Man" (Yeats)

Loyalty to the self and friendship to the Gods is a middle way
open to few, and Wiccans are fortunate to have that opportunity.
Although our religion contains trace remnants of both slavish
abasement and nihilistic freedom, it holds out the possibility of
friendship and co creation as a balance of those opposites. One
central point of the Aradia myth and prose Charge is that our
Goddess wishes to help us in our enjoyment of life and empower us
in the quest for all that is best.

Still, many would say, any God who would be a friend of mine is
too small. A monotheist thinking of only One God, vast in demand,
vaguely male in Gender, incomprehensible in Power and Authority
can only see the call to friendship as obscene blasphemy or
laughable naivete. They are deceived by a trick of the mind,
through which any object or Person sufficiently large or powerful
to overwhelm consciousness, appears infinite. Or another trick,
which leads one to deduce a first cause, deny that it can be
imaged, then produce and worship vague images because concrete
images are forbidden. Or the cruellest trick of all, our own
unfortunate tendency to self-abasement, which declares "I
wouldn't care to belong to any club that would accept me as a
member." A God or Goddess who can be walked with in friendship,
who can be apprehended through a specific set of images, who can
be loved and left can be perceived as extremely threatening. An
imperious projection of the baby's view of the enormous Parent,
or the adolescent's rejection of that Parent is usually the rule.

We are in charge of our images, and to a great extent, of our
lives. If we choose the image of a Wise Old Woman, or a Dancing
Hunter or a Faun or Maiden we choose to move towards whatever
aspects of Divinity that suit our nature at the time. Let us not
limit ourselves, or the Gods, to one or two, but choose them
well, and timely, and with grace and precision. 

It is true that the forms we embrace in Wicca have some
specificity; we aren't generalized folk who will worship anything
that walks as long as its name isn't Jesus, Jehovah or Allah. But
when a form we have embraced no longer suits us, we must allow
ourselves and our students the power and authority to choose
another form. And if the form we choose is outside the Craft,
then let us have the courage to say "I have stepped outside the
Craft" rather than whining that the Craft embraces all paths and
all Gods. It does not, but it does embrace the possibility of
departure, and the possibility of return.

Wicca allows us the rare possibility to explore vast territories
of the human spirit. Let us encourage our students to respect the
Traditions because they choose them, not because they must. Let
it be the same with our Gods.