Paganism is not a system of spirituality or magick; it is only a word used to describe a group of differing thoughts. Paganism is a term that has been used in post-Christian times to add a negative connotation to any non-Christian faith and was typically used to invoke fear. In reality, the term pagan does not represent a system of spirituality or religion. It is a blanket term used to describe all religions and spiritual systems that are of a non-Abrahamic nature, which are Christianity, Judaism, and the Muslim faith. Paganism includes mostly polytheist or multi God and Goddess-based doctrines and encompasses religious, spiritual and supernatural principles, as well as all magickal practices associated with the faiths. The term covers a wide variety of systems and is non-specific, regarding faith or practice. Paganism is a simple concept, but because it is so broad, it leads to intense debate, confusion, and opposition to the name. This debate has caused the term to branch into a smaller grouping to organize the faith into more relatable systems.
Modern, contemporary, or neo-Paganism is the term used to cover the full range of post-Christian religions, supernatural, and spiritual belief systems. These faiths are predominantly polytheistic; however, several faiths have branched off, taking only a single Goddess, God, or only Goddesses or Gods into their new faith. The majority of these faiths have a firm grounding in animism and pantheism. Animism is the belief that conscious spiritual energy exists in all things within the universe, living, and non-living. Pantheism is the belief that God is the universe, and the universe is a manifestation of God. God is everything in the universe, and everything in the universe is God. Within these systems exist beliefs that certain spirits can inhabit certain areas, elements, objects or life forms, such as plants, trees, and animals. It is believed that one can communicate with these spirits through the higher self. Neo-Paganism is a diverse and developing field of spirituality and can incorporate belief systems outside the before mentioned norms. Neo-Pagan faiths are a created or human-made system of magick, religion, spirituality, or supernatural practices that have a base or grounding in pre-Christian religions, supernatural and metaphysical practices. Neo-Paganism can be a religion, metaphysical practice, or a system of magick. It can be a single independent system; or have elements of religion, metaphysics, Magick, and spirituality. Most systems are based around a religious framework that contains aspects of metaphysical and spiritual development; these provide a separate system that incorporates the sacred science (energy manipulation/magick). Wicca, Golden Dawn, Order Tempus Orientis, the Freemasons, Adanism, the Goddess movement are examples of neo-Paganism faiths.
The number of new pagan religions and practices is infinite as new systems are developed and new branches are developing all the time. Even with the vast diversity in these different faiths, there is a common thread. All Neo-Paganist systems are adapted or derived from a multitude of pre-Christian religions and magickal practices. As the Christian belief began to grow after Christ, many other belief systems began to grow in unison with Christianity. These systems would later be considered heresy but have become the foundations of modern neo-Paganism.
The first of these systems would be Hermeticism; this religion began around the first-century AD. The teaching of this faith was lost to the uninitiated until the 15th century. Letters and teachings based on the writings of Hermes Trismegistus were discovered and translated into Latin. Hermeticism is based on the philosophy that God exists within all, but is also separate and apart from all. This system is monotheistic to an extent, as there is one God-power; however, it acknowledges several sub Gods and Goddesses that act and affect the universe. All that exists is part of God, even the sub Gods, and Goddesses, but God is greater than the sum of its parts. The God belief is reflected in the Hermetic writing "as above so below." This saying is a representation that the microcosm of existence is a reflection of the macrocosm of the universe. The Hermetic system combines Jewish, Christian, and Eastern mysticism with Egyptian, Hellenistic, and other magickal practices from the region. The core principle of this system was that all the original religious and metaphysical systems had a common and valid connective core. Hermeticism attempts to connect the commonalities of the ancient metaphysical systems to create a new system. The main magickal focus was spiritual and physical alchemy, astrology, and Theurgy, the use of evil and good spirits to manipulate the universe and gain unity with the spirits obtaining a divine consciousness. The next influential faith was Gnosticism; this belief is similar to Hermeticism. Gnosticism has a more substantial influence from eastern philosophies like the Vedas, Buddhism, and Taoism in regards to its philosophies of enlightenment. The supernatural consciousness of the divine self is the key to unity with God. The last influential Neo-Paganist system is Neo-Platonism. In this system, God is known as the One; it is unknowable energy that is the source and the end of all that exists. Many sub Gods and Goddesses serve many purposes, and it was believed that evil did not exist; it was merely the absence of good.
Neo-Pagan Reconstructionism is a more straightforward classification then neo-Paganism. Reconstructionist Paganism is based in the pre-Christian religions that have ceased to exist in functional capacity in the present day. When the Abrahamic systems of faith began to gain power, they systematically destroyed and suppressed the existing religions and metaphysical systems. To ensure these systems could not be resurrected to challenge the churches, temples, statues, and sacred places were desecrated. All literature on these religions or their practices were destroyed. Most of these religions were considered evil by the churches, and their practitioners were considered heretics, imprisoned, or killed. This purging of non-Abrahamic beliefs was worldwide, in the name of the one true God, they dismantled the functional practice of these systems. The punishment for practicing heresy caused these practices to go into hiding. Thus, metaphysical practices were passed on a verbal pass down, for the most part, causing severe distortions to the teachings. Practitioners that wish to practice the pre-Christian systems have had to go through the historical records and passed on knowledge of the faith to reconstruct the original system. The Reconstructionist Purist, make great attempts to re-create the religion, and its magickal counterparts to match the original as closely as they can. Non-Purist Reconstructionist will take core elements of the practice, and either build in their own system or merge it with an existing system. An example of Purist Reconstructionism would be Egyptian, Druid, Greek, and an example of non-Purist would be Wiccan Druidism.
There is one last category of Paganism, and that would be Purist Paganism, which are systems of the metaphysical that have existed since before Christ and are still practiced. Predominantly, these exist in the Near East, Asia, and areas that due to geography were not affected as severely by a large extent by the destruction of religious colonialism.
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