Sunday, June 16, 2013

SHOCKING TRUTH: Paganism Under Siege!

by Golden Dawn Imperator
David Griffin

I recently read graduate student, Carlolyn Tully’s, article in The Pomegranate "Pagan journal,"  entitled "Researching the Past is a Foreign Country: Cognitive Dissonance as a Response by Practitioner Pagans to Academic Research on the History of Pagan Religions." You can read Tulley's entire article here. 

Caroline Tulley

In the interest of full disclosure I should first clarify my position in this discussion. First off, I am not an academic scholar, nor do I aspire to ever become one. The academy, with its anti-spirituality, materialistic paradigm, its prejudices, and its skewed paradigm based at times on research results manipulated for political expedience, is simply not my cup of tea.

I am, however, both Pagan and an initiate of a living Hermetic Pagan lineage. Since 1994, I teach and initiate in Hermetic Science. I presently lead the world's largest, most innovative, and fastest growing Golden Dawn order. I additionally serve as anthropological informant and public exponent of a continental European Hermetic Pagan initiatic center that has been around for a very long time.

Despite my lack of any academic pretense, the above indeed gives me a unique perspective and voice on certain aspects of Pagan culture.

I have neither investment nor even interest in debating the historicity of Hermetic Science or the continental European, Hermetic initiatic school I represent, although Hermetic Science indeed descends from a spiritual science that flourished already in ancient Egypt. What concerns me as Hermeticist is not the antiquity of our science, nor the puerile debates of the academy, but the astonishing efficiency of Hermetic Science for spiritual development.

Many Pagans in today's community still have a naive trust of academia. Part and parcel of such naïveté is the belief that anthropologists are unbiased ethnographers merely studying cultures. Thus Pagans blindly trust that their cultures are merely being impartially observed.
"The goal [of ethnography] is to collect data in such a way that the researcher imposes a minimal amount of their own bias on the data." [Brewer, John D. (2000). Ethnography. Philadelphia: Open University Press. p.10.].
Many Pagans remain blissfully unaware that there is another branch of anthropology, called "applied anthropology," devoted instead to the manipulation of cultures. According to van Willigen:
"Applied anthropology is "anthropology put to use", in which specific work is defined in terms of the problem and not the discipline" [van Willigen, John. (1993. Applied Anthropology: An Introduction. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey, p.7]  
"Applied anthropologists are often also implementers, mediators, coordinators, administrators, evaluators, activists, and cultural and political "motivators" (van Willigen 1993: 4-5; Hill and Baba 1997: 90).
Frequently, applied anthropologists are hired by corporations for:
"social marketing (research-based strategy combining commercial marketing with applied social science to assist people to change to beneficial behaviors. (van Willigen 1993: xiv; van Willigen 1993: 157-207).
For those unfamiliar with the discipline of applied anthropology, simply put, it is where an anthropologist enters a culture with an idea of what in the culture needs to be changed, for example, to increase profit for a corporation, or for the implementation of government programs.

One example would be an applied anthropologist hired by Marlboro. Such an anthropologist would study a target age group (age 23 to 37, for example) to figure out what that age group thinks is cool and desirable. Marlboro would then use the gathered information to develop advertising campaigns that would portray smoking Marlboro cigarettes as cool and desirable in terms that the target population identifies with.

It was an applied anthropologist who told Nestle that people in underdeveloped countries view those in uniforms as more trustworthy than even relatives, thus causing this massive genocidal effort to take place in the name of profit.

Nestle’ s marketing techniques were later accused of bribing doctors, nurses, and many other medical officials to help promote the infant formulas. “Milk nurses” who were professional salespeople often dressed in white went from door to door selling and “educating” the new mothers about the infant formula.

"One notorious example of such tragedies [caused by applied anthropology] was the malnutrition and infant death that followed Nestle’s introduction of infant formula in the developing world. Often, Third World women could not afford to continue to buy formula in the amounts recommended, nor could they ensure that bottles were sterile or that water to mix the formula was pure. 
Formula often was heavily diluted with contaminated water, leading to infant diarrhea, malnutrition, and outright starvation. Women who relied on formula instead of breastfeeding could not switch back to the breast, since their milk supply dried up when not used. Nestle was aware of these problems, yet would not withdraw the formula from countries where these problems were manifest, triggering a massive global boycott of Nestle products. (Baba, M. Anthropology and Business. 2006. Encyclopedia of Anthropology. H. James Birx, Ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Pages 83-117., reprinted here, p. 13).

So what might Pagan culture under siege by applied anthropologists look like?

Whereas ethnographers studying Paganism would be interested in unbiased, impartial observation of Pagan culture, applied anthropologists would instead be interested in manipulating the culture - steering and directing it in specific directions using to specific goals to implement a well defined, predetermined agenda.

Questions that naturally arise are:
  • Towards what goals would applied anthropologists want to steer Pagan culture?
  • And in the service of what agenda?
  • And for whom?
One could, for example, encounter a situation where applied anthropologists come in to figure out where Pagans, especially those book-learned Pagans who don't yet have access to an initiatic tradition, are most insecure and unsure about their own faith. The applied anthropologist would then fill it in with information manipulating the thinking of those Pagans.

As a purely hypothetical, yet concrete example, one could easily imagine applied anthropologists hired by the Catholic church to steer Pagan culture in a particular direction. What "social problem" might such anthropologists be hired to solve? Since nearly every aspect of Pagan belief is an anathema to Christianity at large, a general agenda might be simply to inhibit the growth and expansion of Paganism.

One specific goal towards accomplishing this agenda could be to attempt to render Pagan culture dependent on academia for its identity. Another goal could be to remove all ecstatic states from Pagan culture, whether entheogen or sexually induced. Yet another could be to convince the culture their religion is made up out of whole cloth. Yet a fourth specific goal could be to deprive the culture of any roots from its history by convincing the culture that any and all belief in historical roots is primitive and irrational (e.g. "cognitive dissonance").

The achievement of these goals would not merely inhibit the growth and expansion of the Pagan movement, but would also greatly aid in the achievement of the centuries old agenda of the church to completely obliterate the previous religious paradigm.

Having looked at essential differences between ethnography as impartial, unbiased observation and applied anthropology as direction, steering, and manipulation of a given culture, let us now consider Caroline Tulley's article in detail.

Caroline Tulley writes:
"What Pagans either do not know or conveniently forget, however, is that this identity relied on academic scholarship in the first place."
No, Pagan identity did NOT rely on academic scholarship in the first place. On the contrary, the culture's naive over-reliance on academic scholarship that makes the Pagan culture easy prey for applied anthropologists. To what degree this dependence may have been deliberately engineered is a question that deserves in depth research.

One thing that Tully (and others like her) gloss over or fail to consider is that there are two camps of Pagans: 
  1. Those who are book-learned and taught by other book-learned Pagans and 
  2. Those who are initiates of a living Pagan tradition (of which, Wicca is by no means the only one.)
Perhaps what Tulley says above may be true for book-learned Pagans. It is most certainly NOT true for Pagan Hermeticists or for Initiates of other Living Pagan Traditions.

Attempting to render Pagan culture dependent on academia for its very identity would certainly make an interesting goal for an applied anthropologist with the right agenda,  however.

Thus I ask Ms. Tulley:
  • What happened to the ethnographic method?
  • Would it not behove Tully, as ethnographer, to actually impartially listen to what Initiate informants have to say for a change?

Tulley then uses repetition as a rhetorical tool to further steer Pagan culture towards her goal of rendering Pagan culture dependent on the academy:
"modern Paganism has always been dependent upon academic scholarship—particularly history, archaeology, and anthropology—in its project of self-fashioning."
Rather than making an unbiased observation, Tulley instead here clearly states the direction she wants to move the Pagan culture in!

Really? Was not the last time ethnographers so blatantly told a culture what they are, from the comfort of their Ivory Tower and without actually doing any participant observational field research in the Victorian Era?

Tulley continues:
"Thus the Pagan Studies scholar can act as a “gobetween,” connecting academia and Pagan practitioners, functioning both to defuse antagonism and to introduce hybrid vigour into modern Paganism."
Since when is it the role of the ethnographer to "introduce" their goals into the cultures they are studying? When were the ethics of ethnography replaced with the aims of applied anthropology?

Pagan Studies' stated goal of introducing new elements into Pagan culture makes it a perfect cover for applied anthropology to manipulate, steer, and drive Pagan culture towards specific goals in service of predetermined agendas.

Since the mid 1950s, anthropology has taught, from the earliest 101 class to the most advanced post-graduate seminar, that the position of the ethnographer is to remain neutral with respect to altering the culture being studied.  In the field, much time and energy is spent in preventing aspects from the culture of the anthropologist leaking over into the culture being studied and forever altering it in ways that, whether intentionally or unintentionally, lead to artificial culture change.

With Tulley we have an anthropologist loudly and proudly declaring her goal to "introduce hybrid vigour into modern Paganism."

Judging by Tulley's article, Pagan Studies should perhaps better be called the New Victorian Anthropology since it takes the same Imperialist stance that “We” know better than “They” and “We” shall save “Them” from "Themselves" by coming to a more clear historical understanding of "Their" culture than "They" have, and purposely drive "Their" culture in the direction "We" have identified as correct on the basis of "Our" historical research.

What I find most disingenuous about such deliberate "steering" of Pagan culture are the subtle manipulations of the weakest members of our Pagan community, who may be new to the faith, alone in their search, and have not yet had access to true initiatic science, but only to published materials.

Moreover, Caroline Tully is not the only anthropologist who has been steering Pagan culture towards "infused" goals either. Professor Sabina Magliocco, Chairperson of the Department of Anthropology at California State University, Northridge, has been spending a great time of late preaching to Pagans not only about the nature of their history, but also infusing fire and brimstone fear of Pagan Fundamentalism into Pagan culture as well. The question then naturally arises, towards what goals is Maglioccco steering Pagan culture - and in the service of what agenda?

Sabina Magliocco

Using the manipulative power of repetition, Tulley repeats Magliocco's fundamentalism meme when Tulley writes:
"The perception of academics as outsiders has resulted in fierce boundary-policing by Pagans, and resistance is framed in terms of protecting religious rights and the expression of outrage at what are perceived as offensive interpretations of a past that Pagans imagine is their own. Essentially it is fundamentalism and stems from fear of removal of a carefully constructed Pagan identity."
We here see Tully working in tandem with Magliocco's goal (here) of "infusing" (as Tulley calls it) fear of creeping fundamentalism into Pagan culture.

Is it fundamentalism when the Bongo-Bongo native stands up and says "Hey, quit trying to define our culture. If we like eating witchetty grubs and honey ants, that is our business!"?

Why then is it fundamentalism when Pagans tell anthropologists that we understand our culture in our own unique learned and shared way of thinking, feeling and behaving - and do not need applied anthropologists trying to define and change it for us - according to their own interpretations of what they think would be best for our collective culture?

What do Pagans need to do in order for anthropologists to treat Pagan culture in a manner ethically appropriate for responsible ethnography? Do we really have to start wearing bones in our noses?

Caroline Tully continues:
"I propose that trying to understand academic research in history and archaeology is, for many modern Pagans, akin to visiting a foreign country where the inhabitants speak an indecipherable language."
Is it the job of ethical ethnographers to attempt to convert a culture they are studying to the culture of academia? Here we see Tully's goal of making Pagan culture dependent on academia again. Why is Tully attempting to teach Bongo-Bongo natives to speak English, instead of herself learning to speak Bongo-Bongo?

Tulley continues:
"I argue that the new interdisciplinary category of Pagan Studies scholar—hybrid offspring of the academy and Paganism - is uniquely suited to bridge this communication gap."
This new so-called Pagan Studies is a perfect cover to covertly implement the methods of applied anthropology to more effectively manipulate Pagan Cultures - in the same manner applied anthropologists steer cultures in the service of Nestle and Marlborough.

The greatest problem I see with this newly invented Pagan Studies perspective is that the anthropologist no longer remains an objective observer and a neutral third party. Applied anthropologists deliberately manipulating and steering cultures can be as dangerous as any conquistador or missionary. Franz Boaz and Margaret Mead must be spinning in their graves!

Tulley continues:
"this paper will highlight examples of combative interaction between Pagans and academic researchers"
If there is antagonism between Pagans and anthropologists, isn't it because anthropologists, rather than listening to Pagans like responsible ethnographers, are instead busy "introducing" their own agendas into the culture?

It is NOT the job of the ethical ethnographer to teach the Indians how to grow corn! 

It is their job to LISTEN to what the Indians have to say about how they feed themselves. 

Tully next suggests that "cognitive dissonance" is what is causing Pagans to react negatively to new revelations about their culture by contemporary scholarship. Why is this anthropologist lamenting the fact that the Pagans are not behaving like good little savages and doing what the obviously superior anthropologist says?

"Why are those Indians hunting buffalo again instead of sitting on the reservation eating flour like they are told? I mean the nerve of these informants!  Participating in their culture and ignoring the anthropologists!  After all, anthropologists know best and the culture will certainly be better off once they start listening to our superior methods for living in this modern world!"

Tulley's comments about "cognitive dissonance" imply that Pagans know their belief system is wrong and are irrationally seeking ways to ignore academic research in order to bolster their improper learning. Frankly, it’s meant as an insult to Pagans. The term itself was first coined to explain the stupidity of UFO believers in light of conflicting evidence.

I thought that telling a Bongo-Bongo native what their culture "really means" went out of style with corsets and top hats, but it seems to have crept back into academic vogue in this new, applied steam punk nightmare of a reconstructed Victorian anthropology!

If someone wants to believe in the Jedi religion (now official in the UK), they will obviously experience cognitive dissonance as they know their “religion” is based on fantasy. However,  that’s their business and the role of social psychology is to understand these people rather than change them. It is the job of the clinical psychologist to help people deal with destructive beliefs, not anthropologists. What Tulley is expressing is a form of academic ethnocentrism.

I propose that, in reality, many Pagans are merely fed up with anthropologists trying to manipulate and steer their culture rather than listening to what actual Pagans from both camps have to say about themselves and their culture. 

"Let us civilize these poor, ignorant savages!"

Tulley continues:
"What Pagans either do not know or conveniently forget, however, is that this identity relied on academic scholarship in the first place."
No, Pagan identity did NOT rely on academic scholarship in the first place, although Tully and others like her seem obsessed with making Pagan identity become dependent on academia.

Tulley continues:
"When a situation arises in which Pagans do not like what they hear from academics, the conceptual spaces from which they can speak and be heard, and from where they produce their own counter-narratives, are primarily the Internet, self-publishing and the Pagan conference. Particularly in the case of the Internet, the material Pagans produce ends up being more widely distributed and easily accessible than academic texts can ever hope to be. It is at these sorts of sites that some Pagans have assumed the discourse of oppressing the perceived academic coloniser."
"How dare those ignorant Bongo-Bongo savages try to tell us how their culture is? These Bongo-Bongo have the nerve to actually insist on having their own voice in how their culture is defined. How dare they?"

Tulley continues:
"It is obvious that many Pagans, including those that so vehemently oppose Hutton’s work, are unaware of the evolution of witchcraft scholarship. Nor do they understand the rigors of historical methodology."
"Oh these poor ignorant savages. We anthropologists know what is best for them. They should just shut up and let "we who know better" steer their culture in the direction that we know better is best for them."

Tulley continues:
"Pagan opinion is influential because of the heavy reliance on the Internet with its disseminatory power, as well as the self-publishing boom."
"How dare those Bongo Bongo savages speak out and disagree with how I am defining their culture for them!"
Tully writes:
"Pagans risk being stereotyped as “noble savages.”
I can not believe Tulley really wrote that. But she did. Then she continues:
"Not all Pagans want to fossilise in a pseudo-primitivist mental utopia."
And here the other shoe drops. The above statements perfectly represent the arrogance of so-called Pagan Studies as New Victorian Anthropology towards Pagan culture.

Tulley even then repeats:
"Pagan Studies scholars have the capability to invigorate Paganism from within."
Since when did it become the role of the ethnographer to steer a culture from within according goals set by anthropologists? Tulley's hidden agendas seem quite transparent now.

Then, just to bring home her utter disdain for the ethics of ethnography, Tulley even repeats her desire to manipulate and steer Pagan culture yet once again:
"The Pagan Studies scholar infuses Paganism with hybrid vigour."
The time has come for anthropologists manipulating Pagan culture to finally be honest about what they are doing and quit pretending they are merely impartial and unbiased ethnographers. The time has also come for such anthropologists to state clearly toward what goals, for what agendas, and for whom they are manipulating Pagan culture. Or has the time not even come for such New Victorian Anthropologists to quit trying to manipulate Pagan culture all together?

After all, Pagans have been doing quite well without them for a VERY long time.
Dear Ms. Tulley,
Please understand: We Pagans that you treat like "poor ignorant savages" want neither your baby formula, cigarettes, nor even your genetically modified corn.
It is not your role as ethnographer to "infuse," manipulate, or steer our Pagan cultures towards goals YOU think are best for us. 
So please take your baby formula, cigarettes, and GMO corn back to your bosses at Nestle, Marlborough, and Monsanto and tell THEM to drink, smoke, and eat them!
We "noble savage" Bongo-Bongo Pagans are quite content drinking breast milk from our Great Mother and eating our witchety grubs and honey ants!


  1. I don't know you or Tully, but my take on this is that if my cultural identity as a Pagan is wrong, historically, but works for me, then I have the choice of not paying attention to Tully or her peers. How she judges me for it is irrelevant, and if she views that attitude as the very problem with Paganism, she's in for a long battle that she will not win. Paganism, the set of spiritual paths, is not about how our ancestors did it, for many of us, it's about how we do it to make it work now.

    At some point, both the 'academic' Pagans and the 'in the dirt' Pagans will come to an understanding that all of it is made up. There's nothing wrong with that, it is what it is, as long as we don't use it to inflict our values on others.

    Tully will at some point have to reconcile, on paper, her quest for the complete ethnographic picture of Paganism informing all of today's Pagans, with the discovery that historically, the entire cultural is a mechanism for dealing with the real world as it is, not as either group of Pagans would like it to be.

    1. Jack,

      I am concerned about your belief that all of our traditions are simply made up. To convince us of appears to be right on top of the list of the goals of those trying to misuse academia to manipulate our community. It looks like they so far are quite successful.


  2. This is all reminiscent of how the 'Muslim problem' evolved, namely, with a Coppertone suntan lotion billboard erected in Saudi Arabia over half a century ago, depicting a cute little dog pulling at a little girl's swimsuit, exposing her "tan line" to the offended observer.

    This is also why so few are able to Project the Stone. One must be mindful of everything at once of all three worlds.

    1. Hi Mark,

      I don't understand you. There seems to be something lost in translation.


  3. Tully wrote: "I propose that trying to understand academic research in history and archaeology is, for many modern Pagans, akin to visiting a foreign country where the inhabitants speak an indecipherable language."

    Well excuse me, Ms. Tully, but I am not a caveman. I hold a Master of Science degree and a B.A. in Linguistics. I'm bilingual through self-study. I read Anglo-Saxon, Hebrew, and can get by in Latin (though I find it--ironically--a barbaric tongue). I have an IQ that falls within the top 1% of our society, and I am pagan/heathen by blood and by choice. I understand academic research just fine, thank you very much!

  4. Tully wrote: "I propose that trying to understand academic research in history and archaeology is, for many modern Pagans, akin to visiting a foreign country where the inhabitants speak an indecipherable language."

    Well excuse me, Ms. Tully, but I am not a caveman. I hold a Master of Science degree and a B.A. in Linguistics. I'm bilingual through self-study. I read Anglo-Saxon, Hebrew, and can get by in Latin (though I find it--ironically--a barbaric tongue). I have an IQ that falls within the top 1% of our society, and I am pagan/heathen by blood and by choice. I understand academic research just fine, thank you very much!

  5. I am glad to see I am not the only one who found that sentence quite condescending.

    David Griffin