ROBERT W. BROCKWAYTHE ROOTS OF NEW AGE
CHAPTER THREE: THE OLD PAGANS
The word pagan is from pagus (Latin) meaning “country dweller,” with the implication of “country bumpkin” or “stay-at-home.” It was a term of contempt among Roman soldiers, a scornful term for “civilians.” Christians adopted it because they regarded themselves as “Soldiers of Christ.” Therefore, to them, people who clung to the old religions lacked initiative and the spirit of adventure. In recent years, some archaeologists, such as Donald Hutton, have adopted the term “pagan” as a general word for the pre-Christian religions of Europe, such as those of the Greeks, Romans, Celts, Teutons, Slavs, and Baltic peoples.
Shamans and Priests
When the transition to agrarian and pastoral economies and the development of settled villages occurred, religious practices appear to have changed as well. While the shaman never vanished (and, as mentioned, flourishes today in various guises among the occultists) a different religious functionary emerged: the priest. By definition, a priest is “one authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion especially as a mediatory agent between humans and God.” (Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Edition, 1996) While this definition quite obviously applies best to Roman Catholic priests, it can be extended to apply to other religious persuasions. “Mediation” refers to the administration of rituals, especially sacrificial rituals, which the priest performs. A ritual is a “prescribed ceremony” or, as Mircea Eliade maintains, the enactment of a myth, actualizing it in the here-and-now. Myth is the content of a religious belief in symbolic form, and ritual is its dramatic realization. Thus, Holy Eucharist, or the celebration of the Mass in Catholic worship, is the ritual enactment of Christ’s death and resurrection, in which the priest and people participate via Holy Communion.
While the shaman makes out-of-the-body soul journeys among the uranic (heavenly) and chthonic (underworld) spirits while in a state of ecstasy, the priest soberly and objectively performs traditional rites. As a Catholic priest will explain, what he inwardly experiences is irrelevant. The ritual is a sacrament, and, as such, is a channel of grace. Thus, while the shamanic role invariably involves an ASC, the priestly role does not. The benefits of Holy Communion flow through the elements of the ritual which, in Catholic belief, include the physical elements such as the consecrated wafer and wine, and the words of institution. For instance, in the rite of baptism, the words are “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit” accompanied by the physical sprinkling of holy water. It is essential that these acts be done without error if a sacrament is to be effective (as is the case also in magic).
Authority is an important facet of the priestly role. This is where esotericism and organized religion usually part company. Esotericism and occultism are open-ended, deeply personal and individualistic, and emphasize inner experience. The model is therefore shamanic, as are the roots. Unlike the