Intersections

Exploring the crossroads of religion, culture, and science through a Pagan lens

Pagans speak out on science, creation, and the Big Bang

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Modern Paganism developed in a world that already had a scientific understanding if the universe, but that’s not true of some versions of traditional religions.  To some, evolution, the Big Bang, and other proven facets of the origins of life represent a difficult challenge to their faiths.  This week, on his TV show Cosmos, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson clearly and convincingly presented the science behind Darwin’s theory of evolution and the concept of natural selection.  Modern science has enough evidence to put the theory to rest emphatically.  Scientists, ever skeptical, lost their skepticism on this one a long time ago.  Tyson states it quite clearly in a way that sounds pretty familiar to modern Pagans:

“Some claim that evolution is just a theory, as if it were merely an opinion. The theory of evolution — like the theory of gravity — is a scientific fact. Evolution really happened. Accepting our kinship with all life on Earth is not only solid science. In my view, it’s also a soaring spiritual experience.”

Couple that with this week’s announcement that the “smoking gun” of the Big Bang has been found, and this is a week that has really challenged those who still hold onto a literal Creationist viewpoint.  Some are even calling for Tyson to give equal time to the Creationist viewpoint.  Science and traditional religion have been known to be at odds, but what about science and the pagan religions?  To get a variety of perspectives on where pagan spirituality intersects with scientific research on cosmology, I asked some modern pagans about how their spirituality connects with scientific understandings of the origin of life.  Their answers are beautiful and inspiring:

Shauna Aura Knight

Shauna Aura Knight

“In the past years one of my definitions of magic is “science we don’t understand yet,” which I later learned is something Arthur C. Clarke said. For me, magic and spirituality and mysticism are actually fairly bound up in science. Whenever I watch the movie “What the Bleep,” or I read about the similarities in the mathematical construct of spirals in nature—whether a nautilus shell or one of the galaxies—that’s science, and it’s magic, and it’s the whisper of the divine.

I’ve heard a lot of Pagans talk about all the knowledge from the ancient Pagan traditions that was lost when Pagans were killed and converted, but here’s the thing. Most of what our ancient ancestors called magic is stuff that we can do today with a cell phone. We can tell the directions, when the solstices and eclipses are, what the weather will be like. All of that is basically math, it’s just that the ancient shamans, witches, druids, and wise people had access to that knowledge. That knowledge was magic.

I have always been fascinated with the sky, the stars. Understanding how the universe works and that there’s predictable math and physics behind it doesn’t really take away the magic for me. A lot of what I do when I facilitate a ritual is just science, it’s just psychology. And yet, there’s that moment when we open up and connect to that something larger…to the divine, if you want to call it that. My own direct experiences with the divine run along the lines of a great ocean, and that we are all a part of that ocean. I can write about it, but feeling that through my entire body is another thing entirely. And I feel some of that sensation when I look at pictures of a supernova, of a galaxy, when I read about the new discoveries being made.

I know what causes a falling star. I know it’s a meteorite. I know what makes the full moon shine. And yet, standing out there at night, staring up as a star shoots across the sky, or as the moon hangs low and full, it’s still magical. It still sends a shiver across my skin.”

Shauna Aura Knight, author and speaker. Shauna’s Indiegogo campaign is winding down, but there’s still time to donate.  Check it out.

“Science and spirituality both arise when human consciousness begins asking Why. As a Dharma student, I could point you to thousands of verses that relate to this subject. They boil down to a core that basically states, “Why go looking for Why? Causation is illusion, all is illusion, the person wondering this is illusory, the relevance of this question is relative only to one’s willing participation in the illusion. Knowing this, what is there here other than illusion?”

YEshe Rabbit CAYA

Yeshe Rabbit

That said, whether I am imaginary or not, I am aware of being a Pagan, actively involved in the magical co-creation of this phenomenal reality we are living, and I enjoy learning about all parts of it. That means I “follow” both science and spirituality.

For me, science and spirituality are equally-relevant systems of study and practice that yield engaging, questionable experiences and conclusions for the sake of challenging and assuaging the individual and collective ego and its endless Why-ing. It all appears to me to be a game we play for comfort, in light of how much suffering we seem to experience within the apparent reality of a tangible world we have created within a vast and lonely Void where all that seems knowable is truly not. The mind really struggles with all of that, so of course we create comforting illusions. Why wouldn’t we? Science is one. Spirituality is one. There are others.

To me, the intersection of Science and Spirit is the Black Madonna, the Mother of Darkness, the Black Hole, the galactic center, the Eye of Kali. She yields forth and receives all. She is All, and Nothingness. She is where I rest when my ego mind stops asking why, why, why.”

Yeshe Rabbit, founder and presiding high priestess of Come As You Are Coven

Chris Orapello Down at the Crossroads

Chris Orapello

“I have never felt a conflict between my beliefs and the findings of science as both have a similar ancestor, that being ancient occultism. As a Wiccan, my personal understandings are rooted in nature and the natural world- instead of something more etheric, mysterious, transcendent, or untouchable. I feel science will never be able to challenge my religious understandings, but instead I find it only elegantly elaborates upon them. Since science has always been in pursuit to further its understanding of the natural world and the functions of the cosmos, it will by default, through its pursuit, continue to enhance, enrich, and in some ways confirm my own religious and spiritual certainty with its findings. So, when science talks about evolution- I say that we are all one; and when it talks about the Big Bang- I say, So Mote it Be!”

Chris Orapello, Host of Down at the Crossroads Podcast and author of A Witch’s Journey

Devin Hunter Modern Witch

Devin Hunter

“As a pagan I believe the universe itself, which to me is everything from periodic elements being produced in the belly of a star, to evolution, to threat endless oceans of dark matter pulling us ever into the void, to be the very stuff Goddess is made of. In my tradition we view the Goddess as the literal universe and believe that everything within It shares an animistic oneness. We believe that we are pieces of God Herself experiencing and learning as part her own self exploration and evolution. In this we see Science as a tool that better helps us to understand our lives as part of this great evolution and therefore see the search for knowledge based in scientific understanding and scientific principles to be a holy and sacred endeavor for which all beings can benefit.

As the scientific community continues to make discoveries regarding the origin of life and the universe, I believe we are given the incredible opportunity to collectively question our belief in the nature of God without necessarily questioning it’s existence. I believe that as mankind explores the universe through science we are ultimately being informed of our own divine nature. Science and religion don’t need to be at odds but should both be seen with equal mystery anAs the scientific community continues to make discoveries regarding the origin of life and the universe, I believe we are given the incredible opportunity to collectively question our belief in the nature of God without necessarily questioning it’s existence. I believe that as mankind explores the universe through science we are ultimately being informed of our own divine nature. Science and religion don’t need to be at odds but should both be seen with equal mystery and wonder.”

Sparrow Wigglian Way

Sparrow

Devin Hunter, Creator of Modern Witch Podcast, Online, and Magazine, Head Priest and founder of The Sacred Fires Tradition of Witchcraft.

“I don’t have any challenges with Science. I believe and understand the theories surrounding The Big Bang and evolution. My Gods don’t mind that I believe in Science because they are the ones that did the science in the first place. Something sentient and bigger than us had to create this multiverse. It’s just too beautiful to not have been divine inspiration. My Gods can do ALL the Science!”

Sparrow, co-host of The Wigglian Way Pagan Podcast

There is a clear intersection between modern Paganism and modern science.  Perhaps that is an advantage of being part of a non-dogmatic religion.  There is no need to stick rigidly to a creed and tries to fit square pegs into round holes.  When we accept ourselves as part of a growing, evolving, multi-leveled understanding of the natural world, we can expand our understanding of the divine as our knowledge about science grows.

The two worlds meet at the crossroads of Wonder and Exploration.  It takes a spirit of Wonder to explore the mysteries of the universe, and both of us travel those roads in similar, but different vehicles.

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Author: Tim

I am a teacher, a theater lover, and a High Priest in the Temple of Witchcraft. I love to point out the places where the everyday world, arts, science, and religion intersect. I stand for interfaith cooperation and the belief that people of all religions, political beliefs, and nationalities have more in common with each other than differences.

16 thoughts on “Pagans speak out on science, creation, and the Big Bang

  1. Here’s a great comic about last week’s inflation news: http://phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1691. It’s become a trope within the Pagan community to say that we are made of star-stuff, but check out that last panel.

    “We were light once.” How pagan! How scientific!

  2. As a person who defines herself as an Intellectual Agnostic and an Emotional Pagan, I have no trouble fitting Science within my spiritual framework. My Primary Patron Goddess being Athena, who in Greek Mythology invented all the Sciences, Crafts and Arts, they are under her control anyway. The only problems I have had with modern Scientific teaching are that many are actually too subjective and data twisted to a specific agenda. Other than that, the Numinous aspects of the Universe are still Numinous even if I know how they work, or how we perceive they work.

    • Thanks, Wendilyn. I agree and I’m considering a follow up post along those lines.

    • there is nothing to me wrong with having a personal god or goddess,it is just to me ,the problem is chirstain and islam has them problem that they think everybody should be like them,and you should be gov by them too and such,i am all for people having any reiligion they want,it is just when the big religion want to make it a theorcy then that is a problem

    • Humans invented Gods and Goddess’s to give form to the universal Spirit in my way of thinking.. It give a focal point to focus on one aspect of the Spirit.. nothing was ever invented it was just exposed.. all existed at the time of the big bang same as an oak tree exists in an acorn.. IMHO of course. 😀

  3. This has been a running dialoge for me for over a decade now. Every time a new scientific discovery is made my understanding of exactly what I believe as a Pagan is made more profound. We are all children of the Earth and Sun and they are the children of the Universe. Everything that has happened over these past 14 billion or so years is what it took to get me to this place, typing this message. I’ve noticed that most of the world’s great relgions regularly bow to science; not the other way around. However, science and the Pagan religion are always in bed together…and quite happily so.

    • Lux: I’ve had a similar experiences with science and Paganism. However, I have an upcoming post brewing about how we handle it when science contradicts us. It’s easy for us to handle the findings that question other religions, but what about when it questions some of our practices like astrology, shamanic healing, energy work, etc.? Would love to get comments from fellow pagans.

  4. Tim, that is an excellent question. I guess that the short answer to the question would be that the response would be about the same as the Christians give when science tells them they are full of shit. They will idnore it, get all pissed off or they will walk away from their faith entirely.

    In my own practice I only use these disciplines in an ancillary manner. I think there may be something to metaphysical disciplinies like those you named; especially shamanism, but I don’t put my faith in them. My knowledge, built on observation and personal experience, is that the individual *IS* the magick. You and I are the magick. You may believe in spells, fairies, astrology, shamanism, etc. or you may not but we manifest our wills in one way or another. The will that is weak manifests weakness and is blown about by the winds of change whereas the will that is strong makes conscious manifestation in the physical world based on awareness and decision making.

    I say, “I want ‘X’.” I do what it takes to obtain ‘X’ and then I realize I now have ‘X’. That is an act of magick and the manifestation of will.

    When Christians say a prayer, “Lord, please give me a job.” and then sit on the couch and wait for an employer to knock on their door the Christian will almost always never get a job. Same with spellcraft in Paganism. Spellcraft is a way to direct and focus the power of the mind to make things manifest. There may be something metaphysical to spellcraft but, IMO, it would require a level of training that the average Pagan doesn’t have and I have known a lot of Pagans across the U.S. Think of Shaolin monks who can raise their body temperatures and various things. How long have they trained to be able to do such things?

    In my opinion, a Pagan can benefit from learning about these various disciplines and use them to great effect in focusing the mind. I love layering the products of these disciplines within ritual, for example. However, these things are not needed for a Pagan to gain all of the benefits from the spiritual aspects of the Pagan religion. I would add even that they can become a distraction if one isn’t careful.

    In my experience the root of Paganism lies in these three key components:

    We are all children of the Earth and Sun which are, in turn, the children of the Cosmos.
    Evolution is a sacred path and we must continue to evolve to higher levels of existence.
    The Cosmos is deity and we are a part of the Cosmos which means we are also deity.

    Within each of these aspects is an entire universe for every individual to explore but those three main aspects are pretty foundational. Furthermore, science would support those concepts as perhaps “romanticized” or “spiritualized” versions of scientific discovery but it would support them none the less. Of course the scientists would refer to the Pagan, foundational aspects as “romanticized” etc. because they can’t put spirit into a test tube.

  5. If you would, Tim, use Lux Terrea of Moonlit Grove Pagans. Thank you, Tim, and may the gods bless you.

  6. Not so sure how I feel about Shauna Aura Knight being quoted here. She’s not exactly the best person to turn to, and personally I would prefer someone like Patrick McCollum or Selena Fox. People who have a better-established role in the community and who don’t attack people for disagreeing with them in PM on Facebook.

    • Thanks for commenting. I respect both McCollum and Fox very much. Unfortunately I don’t know either of them well enough to be able to get a quote from them. It’s something to aspire to.

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