One of the problems which I have had with my writings on this blog during the past few years is that I have generally had a sense that there has always been something missing from what I write. Now I think that what has generally been missing is that I have not been able to share some of the basic insights or assumptions which are at the basis of my writing. I often have failed to communicate fully why I have found De’anism so attractive and compelling as a religion. Why was I so blown away with it when I first started to study it seriously? Why did it seem to be such an advancement over what I had known before?
I know that I will not be able to share the reasons for my enthusiasm for Deanism in one post but I hope within this post to be able to give testimony about what I so admired within the Deanic religion when I started to seriously study it in 2011. In the first decade of this century my own religious identity had become very conflicted. I still held to the monotheistic beliefs which I had inherited from my Christian background. However my monotheism was of a different nature from that of Christianity. It was inclusive. I rejected any ideas that there was one true religion compared to which all other religions were false. The second difference was that the object of my religious devotion and piety was no longer the God and Jesus of Christianity but instead the universal Isis of the old Graeco-Roman world.
This placed me in a quite conflicted situation in which I had strong feelings toward two contradictory
world views. The first and strongest held worldview was of course my Isian monotheism which I believed was justified by the vision of the universal Isis which was propagated within the Graeco-Roman world by writers such as the Graeco-Egyptian priest Isidorus circa 100 BCE and the Latin writer Apuleius circa 250 CE. While the number of the remaining Isian hymns is small (in spite of the fact that they are more numerous than those dedicated to any other western goddess) they contain a clear vision of Isis as being the Creatress, Source and Origin of the universe.
However there were serious problems with having an Isian identity. First my own concept of Isianism was strictly a minority one. Most self identified Isians viewed their Isianism within the context of an eclectic Paganism and others tended to relate to her within the context of the modern Kemetic traditions. Other Isians attempted to reconcile Isis with Wiccan practice and New Age traditions. Within all these traditions a pride of place was often given to ritual magical practices in which the idea of working with the Goddess or goddesses to achieve certain goals was paramount. Most Isians saw themselves as being deeply integrated into the Neopagan mainstream to which I felt little connection. Further more my sense of Isianism was devotional / bhakti in nature. Of a result of all of these differences I never felt that I was connected to an Isian community as a whole. While I did via the establishment of an egroup, in which I was quite active for a while, attempt to move in the direction of establishing a devotional Isian community, this was not successful. I have of course met people who clearly do relate to Isis as a beloved personal deity but I have never felt that devotionalism for most was ever at the core of Isian identity in general.
The other second path had to do with my remaining ties with Christianity. In spite of my rejection of many of the formal confessional beliefs of Christianity for example devotion to the Father and a deep love of Jesus, I was still in many ways instilled with a biblical world view. I still admired much of the moral ethical views that I found within the biblical scriptures. I still held to the hope most fully developed within the Old Testament of the coming of the kingdom of God in which all human oppressions and injustices would be overcome by the rule of God. I still hoped that ultimately the earth would be transformed even if not in my life time. I still hoped in Zoroastrian terms that the earth would be “made wonderful.”
While I have always had significant problems relating to Jesus (several of his teachings have always bothered me) I still had some hope that a new form of Christianity could develop; one in which the Mother, the Goddess would have an equal role to the Father within the faith. I hoped that a faith in which the whole show would not always be centered on Jesus would develop. Thus I was very interested, for example, in Marian theology. For a while I had a fling with Magdalenist Christo-Pagan theology in spite of the fact that I believed that its perspectives on history were fantastical.
However since the 90’s the reality has clearly been that the development of a divine balance thealogy of the equality of the Father and Mother within Christianity would not be happening. Neither were my hopes that Christianity would ever be anything beyond being a status quo, very comfortable religion ever be realized. Please do not git me wrong I know that there are sincere Christians and even Christian communities which do faithfully attempt to follow their beliefs in ways that are noble and inspiring. However what I see is that either because of human sinfulness or due to internal problems within the faith itself, Christianity in general, like every other religion, no longer seems to represent much divine power or vision in the world.
Thus what is clear to me at least now is that by the latter part of the decade I was in the process of jettisoning any allegiance that I had to Christianity. What my discovery of Deanism did was to offer me another thealogical world view with which to replace it. Regarding my Isianism? On the contrary, most of my Isian thealogy in particular the universalist doctrine that all goddesses were aspects or forms of Isis was still strong. That aspect of Isian thealogy in fact helped me understand and appreciate more fully Deanic angelology and it has provided me a way of interpreting its relevance. My bhakti / devotional worship of Isis also helped me to appreciate the more developed thealogy of De’anism. My Isianism still is present and real even if it is now tied to the overarching structure of the Deanic faith.
I plan to end this article with a testimony to some of the themes which are of most significance to me within the Deanic faith. However I want to deal with one other issue first. Why are the concepts of worship and devotion so important to me as a person when these are practices which go against the grain of so many of current forms of alternative religiosity. I need to give some biographical information.
The years of my adolescence and during the decades of the 1970s during my twenties were the unhappiest of my life. One of the ways in which I dealt with my problems was through religion. During my latter teen years I rejected the fundamentalist Protestant Christianity of the Church of Christ. During my four years at the University of Cincinnati , I introduced myself to religions such as Zen Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism and various forms of medieval Christian and Sufi mystical traditions. Later after my time at U.C. I would periodically attend liberal Protestant churches and developed a liberal theological understanding of the Bible.
My resulting religious understanding by the end of the 1970s was a very confused form of spirituality, which while it definitely did help me to survive my twenties, had no really solid roots. My understanding of Christianity in particular was that it was primarily about its moral ethical code and about holding certain core beliefs. What it was not about was emotion or religious experience. The reason of course for this belief was that in fact I had experienced little of either of these within my brief sojourns in the various Churches I attended though out my twenties.
As stated previously I was well aware of various forms of Eastern mysticism, and even of medieval Christian and Sufi mysticism. And of course mysticism is supposed to be about the experiential knowledge of God. Within my own understanding I interpreted mysticism during that time of my life as being about attempting to “achieve” some sort of change of consciousness to experience an absorption within a very abstract, unimaginable God. I was vaguely aware that certain Christian and Hindu saints had attempted to “achieve” mystical experience through a path of love of the Deity. However I never really took the path of love thing all that seriously perhaps because of my prior experience during my adolescence with the really repressive “God” of the fundamentalist Church of Christ. I understood the pursuit of mystical experience was via meditation. I understood the process of meditation to be a process of gradually emptying the mind of thoughts and emotions. If practiced regularly one might after years of endeavor achieve something like Nirvana or Moksha. At that point one would become ego less and achieve some effortless state of life in the Eternal Now.
For a couple of years during my attendance at the University of Cincinnati I did identity as a Buddhist and did attempt meditation but was never very good at it. I eventually came to believe that meditation and mysticism to some degree was simply an attempt to escape from the world with all of its challenges and problems. Actually for me it was such an escape attempt. Anyway the result of all of this was that by the end of the 70’s while I was intellectually aware of various forms of mysticism, the reality was that these forms played little real role in my life. I really was looking for something different.
I became involved with some friends at work who were members of the Apostolic Pentecostal form of Christianity in the late 1970s. I was invited by one friend to an African American, Apostolic Pentecostal church and decided to visit. I was utterly blown away by the experience. The whole thing was to me a scary and yet beautiful experience. I saw first hand the speaking in tongues for which Pentecostals are so famous. I saw an intense and passionate commitment and love of Jesus which was utterly strange to me. It was both very attractive and yet scary simultaneously. I saw the peak of a whole pattern of life in community in which Jesus as God was at the absolute center. I saw pattern of life which seemed out of my reach.
In 1980, I started attending another Pentecostal church with a woman I was seeing at the time. At that time I started to pray in Apostolic terms to be filled with the Holy Ghost with the result of speaking in tongues. I will say nothing about the result of that search but what I will say is that I became very familiar with many Pentecostal beliefs and practices. As a result for at least three years I sojourned within the broader Pentecostal / Charismatic Christian movement. Ultimately by the mid 80’s I gradually moved away from Pentecostalism toward a more liberal form of Christianity. The primary reason for this was that I ultimately had never been able accept the fundamentalist beliefs of Pentecostal theology. I could never believe in an eternal hell, the rapture, or that peoples of other religions were lost. I also at this time found myself increasingly attracted by Latin American liberation theology. However in spite of my movement away from Pentecostalism I feel that my experience with the Pentecostal form of religion was one of the most valuable in my life.
What I found within Pentecostalism was a community which had a profound sense of the overwhelming importance of passionate worship and an emotional love of God. In the case of the Apostolics it was the passionate love for Jesus as God and Personal Savior which was at the center. Thus one of their goals was as the words of the more popular of hymns said was to “wake up the morning thinking about Jesus.” This type of attitude was to be extended to all of life. Thus constant praise and a sense of gratitude were important. Thus often during the day when things would go well or at least there were some things for which to hope devout Pentecostals would often pray a short “Thank you Jesus” or “Thank You Lord.” Pentecostal worship services tended to be passionate and emotional in tone, very different from the tone of most mainstream Protestant services. Many Pentecostals also spent quite a bit of time in private spontaneous verbal prayer ( they had no sense for the beauty of formal liturgical prayer) which was often supplemented by a personal prayer language i.e. glossolalia (speaking in tongues) In summation my experience with Pentecostalism gave me a paradigm of what religion could be. It allowed me for a time and certainly has enabled millions of people to feel emotionally close to God.
Certainly by the 1990s I had of course learned that many other religious faiths also have their own traditions of passionate worship of God. The Hasidic Judaism clearly had developed a form of spirituality in which passionate worship, devotion and prayer played a dominant role. I became aware that within Hinduism a rich tradition of passionate worship, a bhakti / devotional spirituality also existed. Such great Hindu Sants, as Kabir, Guru Nanak, Mirabai, and Ramprasad wrote love songs to God, in Ramprasad’s case to the Goddess.
So while ultimately I rejected the patriarchal God and the fundamentalist Christian theology of Pentecostalism, the example of the devotionalism and passionate worship which I found within Pentecostalism has stayed with me. The exact form of passionate Pentecostal worship no longer interests me. The more quiet forms of the Eastern Orthodox form of Christianity with which I became familiar during the last decade moves me more now. Chanting, the memorization of psalms, the viewing of icons all are important aspects of my current spirituality. However the fact is that it was from Pentecostalism from which I learned the religion was at its best an affair of the heart. [ Please note that in praising Pentecostalism I am not suggesting that it has in some way escaped all of the often bad behaviors which often occur in religious life and in life in general.]
All of which I just outlined were primary influences on my personal religious situation when I started to study the Filianic form of Deanism in 2011. [Filianism was the most developed form of the Deanic religion at that time. Non Filianic forms of the faith were in general not very developed] Given my spiritual inclinations toward an inclusive monotheism based on the worship of the Goddess in the form of Isis, given my devotionalist tendencies, given my respect for religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism it was very easy for me to appreciate and be attracted to many of the ideas and attitudes which I found within the Chapel of Our Mother God, the Filianic scriptures, and even within The Feminine Universe by Miss Alice Lucy Trent. Of course I did not buy into the whole thing. How could I have bought into the negativity toward males which was an unfortunate presence within the faith? But over all this was a faith to which I was greatly attracted. Some of its attractions were:
A Devotional Monotheism directed to Dea, Our Mother God. Within De’anism, Dea is God / Goddess, she is personal and she is in no way subordinated to a superior God the Father. She was the supreme creatress of life and the universe. Dea is not merely a Jungian archetype, not merely the symbol of female empowerment, and not merely a symbol for the divinity of humankind. The path to Dea is seen as embodying a struggle to chose the moral life, to choose love, to choose Dea. Her way is a rejection spiritual individualism, an affirmation of the value of community and a rigorous spiritual tradition and discipline.
A Scriptural Religion. The De’anic religion contains a small but beautiful book of scriptures, which while in many ways reflecting the knowledge and experience form of Axial religions such as Christianity and Hinduism, also contains creative insights and reframings of that knowledge.
Traditionalism. I have in many posts expressed my own problems with several of the ideas of the Guenonian traditionalism which has played such a central role in the development of the De’anic faith. However in spite of what I have viewed as some of its problems, Traditionalist ideas were used to develop an effective criteria for the selection of many of the best traditions which lay at the center of De’anism. On the whole the De’anic use of traditions has been a positive achievement. The very fact that Deanism is a religion which has embraced monotheism and rejected a multiple of formless free wheeling polytheisms is itself one of the primary signs of the success of the De’anic use of Traditionalist thought.
Perennialism / Non-Exclusivity. While De’anism has affirmed its own truths it has not rejected the truths of the Axial religious traditions and it has embraced many of the truths of the classical Pagan religions as well. It did not created a mere feminine version of an exclusivistic form of Christianity
Angelotheism. One of the primary attractions of Deanic religion is its angelology i.e. its doctrine of the Janyati / Angels. What I immediately saw was that the angelology of Deanism effectively dealt with the issue of the oneness of Dea / God in relationship with the plurality of Divine Forces / Personalities / Aspects. The De’anic angelogy of Divine Archetypes / Beings rooted within the very nature of Dea does for De’anism what huge pantheons attempted to do very imperfectly for the various Pagan systems both of the past and present.
However since I am a person who has no interest in a hopeless task of reviving the ancient Pagan past and certainly have little interest in contempary Wicca and New Age theologies, Deanic angelology is a very attractive alternative for me.
Thealogical boldness and creativity. De’anism proclaimed itself to be a religion which is perceived as containing truths which descend from a primordial past. That is true to an extent. Its truths are of the deep historical past. However in fact the inspiration of the faith is to a great degree the results of an intense spiritual creativity and boldness manifested by women of the last quarter of the 20th century and continuing on into the 21st century. The creatresses of Filianic De’anism created an intellectually sophisticated new religion based on a selection of older traditions which fit the spiritual needs of their communities.
A new identity. Finally De’anism via the more independent manifestations which grew out of it have enabled me to embrace it. It has given me a new religious identity, new ideas, and new interests. It has deepened my relationship with Dea / Isis. It helped give me a sense of being within a broader religious community.
Of course things change as time passes. My own attitudes has changed since I first encountered De’anism. I have broken decisively from the most thealogically developed form of the faith Filianism that existed in 2011. I have incorporated many hymns from the Christian Marian tradition into my daily religious practice. No other De’anic group has done this. I have developed my own independent understanding of Deanic angelology in order to met my own spiritual needs. And while I do feel that I am a part of a broader Independent De’anic movement, I no longer have a commitment to a specific Deanic church or community. I am essentially on my own. I am pleased with some of these changes and not so much with others. I have to take reality as it is. However in spite of this I believe that De’anism is the way that I will go during the rest of my life on this earth. It has done well by me.