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Neopagan Rites: A Guide to Creating Public Rituals that Work by Isaac Bonewits. Llewellyn Publications, Woodbury, Minnesota, 2007.
"This book is intended to make people familiar with the most important theoretical and practical aspects of creating public worship rituals with genuine power and predictable results."
What do you think about the way he uses "power" and "results." Have you experienced anything like that? How is this similar or different from Christian Pentecostal church service, a Christian Roman Catholic Mass or a Santería ritual?
Magic Bonewits defines magic as "a collection of rule-of-thumb techniques designed to get your psychic talents to do more or less what you want them to do, more often than not, you hope." "Psychic talents?" What do you think he means by that? Is this how magic is popularly perceived? What about "Bewitched," "I Dream of Jeanie," and "Charmed?"
Kinds of Magic 1. Thaumaturgy-magic that is done for mundane or secular purposes. Rain dances, healing services, growing crops. 2. Theurgy-magic that is done for religious and/or psychotherapeutic purposes. Salvation, personal growth, honoring the god/desses.
More about power Mana. Mana is spiritual energy. Bonewits has two entire books about mana. Let me give you the wikipedia version. Mana is a traditional term that refers to a concept among the speakers of Oceanic languages, including Melanesians, Polynesians, and Micronesians. It is an impersonal force or quality that resides in people, animals, and inanimate objects and that instills in the appreciative observer a sense of respect or wonder. In anthropological discourse, mana as a generalized concept has attained a significant amount of interest; often understood as a precursor to formal religion. It has commonly been interpreted as "the stuff of which magic is formed", as well as the substance of which souls are made.
Mana should not be confused with the Biblical manna (also spelled mana or mannah) which, according to the Bible (Exodus, chapter 16), provided sustenance for the Israelites.
If we're talking about using mana, to Bonewits, we're talking about doing magic. Here is his definition of religion. "Religion is a magical system that has been combined with a philosophical and ethical system, usually oriented towards supernatural beings." This is not the standard definition but it's the one he's going to use in the rest of the book. For Bonewits, religion is a philosophical and ethical construct oriented towards beings that are supernatural that uses mana and the believers' psychic talents for some purpose. What do you think about his definition and my explanation of his definition?
Bonewits also says, "For a religion to remain healthy, its ceremonies, both public and private, need to be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually satisfying, with a strong sense of mystery and magic to them." He goes on to define worship as showing "honor and affection for something especially in religious acts or rituals." Worship doesn't have to be for or about the god/desses. Ritual is "any ordered sequence of events, actions, and/or directed thoughts, especially one that is meant to be repeated in the same manner each time, that is designed to produce and manage one or more altered states of consciousness within which certain results may be obtained." Altered states of Consciousness? Like mana, there is lots of material on altered states and how all religious rituals are designed to create them. Think about the way you have felt when your favorite hymn is being sung, a baby is being baptized or you have participated in "the laying on of hands." It's sort of the same thing.
Here is the wiki version. I've edited it a bit. An altered state of consciousness, also named altered state of mind is any condition which is significantly different from a normative waking state. It describes induced changes in one's mental state, almost always temporary. A synonymous phrase is "altered states of awareness". An altered state of consciousness can come about accidentally through, for example, fever, sleep deprivation, fasting, oxygen deprivation, nitrogen narcosis (deep diving), or a traumatic accident. It can sometimes be reached intentionally by the use of sensory deprivation, Isolation tank, sleep deprivation or mind-control techniques, hypnosis, meditation, prayer, or disciplines (e.g. Mantra Meditation, Yoga, Sufism or Surat Shabda Yoga). Naturally occurring altered states of consciousness include dreams, lucid dreams, euphoria, ecstasy, psychosis as well as purported premonitions, out-of-body experiences, and channeling.
Has Bonewits passed the point of wackiness? Is this just another snake oil, whodoo sideshow that has nothing to say to normal people living in the real world?
He's going to get a bit more controversial because now it's time to start talking about theurgy (magic that is done for religious purposes) and the god/desses. Bonewits has a very simple and clear definition of god/desses. Deities are energy patterns in a psychic network that connects all humanity. Carl Jung called it the collective unconscious. In Hinduism and other religions influenced by Hinduism (Buddhism, etc.) it's called the Akashic Record. In the 20th century it seemed useful to Bonewits to describe this state of affairs in a physics/mechanistic way. That's why he uses mana (spiritual BTUs), the switchboard (interconnected memory and psychic talents) and self-aware energy patterns (deities, god/desses).
Last thing. There are two specific aspects of theurgy that are going to become important as we continue our discussion of rituals and rites. The first is evocation. That's establishing external communication with entities (people, deities) outside of you and the second is invocation. Establishing internal or interior communication with entities that may be inside or outside of you. When Christians pray they are almost always using invocation. Jesus speaks to them in their hearts. When I preach I'm (hopefully) evoking the congregation.
We'll pick up Neopagan rites again again on March 2. For further information see: Isaac Bonewits website at http://www.neopagan.net/ Isaac Bonewits on Wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Bonewits Religion on wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion Theurgy on Wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theurgy Thaumaturgy on Wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thaumaturgy