One of the main reasons for this blog and my book Republicans and Reincarnation is to kill this persistent myth that that all Pagans and New Agers are liberals (usually the common beliefs paints us as the hippie progressive type). And I’ve had a few blogs about various misconceptions about New Agers but I felt I should once again deal with this major one.
Why? Well because as the GOP race gets closer to the end (and especially since that dimwit Santorum has been given press time far exceeding what his lacking intellect would justify) I get to once again hear the phrase “Judeo-Christian values” bantered around and around in debates, speeches, on blogs, in news stories, on Facebook and Twitter. Judeo-Christian values.
I have asked in various different forums and in person what that phrase “Judeo-Christian values” means. Each time I have asked I have gotten nothing for answer. I mean if it’s supposed to be a catchall phrase for a long list of values and principles shouldn’t someone be able to list it? And it seems to be usually argued that these values dictate that you should be a conservative, but I’ve heard it argued the other way around. I think part of the problem is that nobody really knows what that list means. Yes the Founding Fathers followed Judeo-Christian values, but if you corned Washington, Adams or Madison and got them to delineate even 5 of those values I doubt it would be even remotely be close the list Santorum, Huckabee, or Perry would come up with. And if we don’t know what that list is, then how can we even use the phrase.
One the other hand I can tell you exactly what some of the values of New Agers and Pagans are. Is this a complete list? I doubt it. But it is a list I think any person who calls themselves a Pagan or New Ager (I’m just going to use New Ager as a catchall from here on in) can agree to…and I think they clearly lean to one political philosophy over another.
God is a being of love and reason.
Unlike some religions New Agers do not load down God with very human flaws like anger and jealously (or in some truly insane cases genocidal rage and say He is not bound by such things as reason). We accept that old Platonic formula that God is Good, which means that God is Reason and Just and Beautiful and True (and adding the logical extension that Plato forgot but the Christians didn’t, God is Love). This doesn’t translate into any political form by itself, but it does offer us the idea that reason and compassion should be a guidepost in all things.
The Divinity of Life
Every New Ager I think would agree that life, all life, has a spark of the divine in it and as such has value. Now there might be a wide variety of debate over the equality of the value of a turnip and a human, I would be more firmly planted in the field that human life is unique and given special predominance, but I think we’ll all agree that we are not slaves or servants of God, but a part of him, his children (and if we can get rid of our fears and delusions) his equal.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson, A Return To Love: Reflections on A Course in Miracles [Italics added]
What does this translate into politically? It wipes away any political system that denies that “all men are created equal.” This doesn’t have a lot of value in most modern American political discussions, because I would hope we all agree on this, but it is a place to start.
Intellect, Free Will and Liberty
The next thing I think we all agree on is that our greatest gift from God is our intellect and our free will. We have the ability to look at our life and not just analyze but choose the course we are to take. This is what makes us the equals of God; beside God no other being in the universe has both the intellect to judge the world around them and free will to act upon those choices. Some religions decry reason, others consider our free will a sin and think we should slavishly reject our will and submit to another’s. We however revel in ours because we know that when we use both perfectly our will and God’s are not opposed, but the same. We take comfort in the fact that while free will can allow us to make mistakes it also allows us to learn from those mistakes and grow.
“He tells you but YOUR will; He speaks for YOU. In HIS Divinity is but your own. And all He knows is but YOUR knowledge, saved for YOU, that you may do YOUR will through Him. God ASKS you do your will. He joins with YOU. He did not set His kingdom up alone. And Heaven itself but represents your will, where everything created is for you. No spark of life but was created with your glad consent, as you would have it be. And not one Thought that God has ever had but waited for your blessing to be born. God is no enemy to you. He asks no more than that He hear you call Him Friend.”—A Course In Miracles Chapter 30, Section 3
What does this one mean politically…well quite obviously the political extension of free will is liberty, the right to exert your free will. And as it is a gift from God the freest use of our liberty should be allowed to the greatest extent that it does not harm anyone else’s right to life and liberty. Thus it is the government that governs least that governs best. Further since everyone is equal this pretty much dictates a classically liberal democratic-republic. It also means that any drive to control society through government should be curbed, government is not there to tell people how to live their lives, only to protect their right to life and liberty (oh and a few other things, but we’ll get to that).
The Point of Life is Happiness and Learning
See there is a reason I ordered the first three this way. New Agers view life in two ways, as an individual life, and as a series of lives in a long chain of reincarnated existences. From the individual life perspective the highest goal is Happiness (capital H), Happiness in the Aristotelian sense as a fulfillment not just of our needs but of our aspirations and highest virtues and greatest gifts shared with friends. Meanwhile the goal of the multi-life existence is Enlightenment (a return to God) which is more of an eternal Happiness. Happiness is in each individual life is a requirement for meeting this goal, but you also need learning, self-reflection and growth.
“If you possess happiness you possess everything: to be happy is to be in tune with God.”–Paramahansa Yogananda
In a political sense this translates into two very important points. The first point, when considered in light of our first three values, leads to an acceptance that rational self-interest (if Happiness is a goal rational self-interest is the only way to get there) and rational self-interest leads to capitalism when taken to a grand scheme. Capitalism is the only system of economics that allows for the expression of free will where people are allowed to treat each other as equals and deal with each other through reason (or if they choose through compassion).
Quality over Quantity in Life
Having that view to Happiness and leads to a natural preference for quality of life over the quantity of life. What does that mean? It means we New Agers should find more beauty in a single act of compassion of one person helping another than in a million welfare checks handed out. It means that a short life lived well is more important than a long life merely survived. It means that life should be judged by the quality of our choices, the number of true friends we make, and the amount of learning we achieve…not the years lived, the diseases survived, or the amount of things collected.
“Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives.”—A. Sachs
What does this mean in a political sense? It means we should reject calls for social welfare programs because they only care about quantity of life not quality…but it does reaffirm our need to be generous and charitable in our personal lives. But just because some choose to make the wrong choice and not show the amount of charity that will bring them the most happiness, it is the previous points about free will and Happiness destroy any argument that these individual’s foolish choices of irrational self interest means we have to provide for those who do not have.
The Long Term Solution is the Best One
When you live with a belief that you’ll be reincarnated, as most New Agers do, long term planning is kind of important. The karmic payment plan “Buy now, pay forever.” So not just in your personal life, but in the political sphere, short term fixes are usually to be shunned as you will always have to deal with their effects…even if those effects are over a generation off. So government plans that won’t work for the next 50 years, hell even a hundred years are not popular when in the New Age mind set. Programs that will never be able to pay for themselves and never yield real long term progress should not be popular with New Agers, and this leads to a fairly conservative view point (note I’m saying conservative not Republican, those idiots can be some of the most short term thinkers around).
Classically Liberal democratic-republics coupled with near laissez-faire capitalism and thedesire to keep government small, efficient, and protecting your rights is the logical out- growth of Pagan and New Age principles. One wonders why so many Pagans and New Agers are liberal.
And you know what? Forgetting that these are values of one spiritual outlook or another…I would bet you the Founding Fathers would agree with this list more than any list Rick Santorum or Barrack Obama would come up with as their guiding values.