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A Sorcerer's Notebook Part 4 : Polygenesis and Multiple Creators.
also Magic in a World at War.
Welcome back to “A Sorcerer's Notebook”, a record of the fumbling of a fool in the dark searching for the Divine in strange places. Or: an attempt to explain, define, or introduce the new practitioner to all things esoteric, magical, “occult”, the unseen, the veil beyond, and a thousand other things I will fail at.
For a more thorough explanation of what I am attempting this year, look here:
So this is a readily available, free guide to all things witchy, weird, and wild. Which means I am either insane, this is all bullshit, or maybe something bigger is afoot than me just defining terms and ranting. Beloved, I leave that final judgment up to you.
Today: Polygenesis: A thing that can be Taught. A thing one can Know or a “Knowing”
Polygenesis is one of the great beliefs of my personal saint Paschal Beverly Randolph and of many of the elders of what most people call magic or ceremonial magic in the world today. It is held dearly in the hearts of everyone from AE White, to the great Orders, to our friend Crowley. But more importantly, it’s where these people stole this knowing from and then why they taught it.
But before we get into the reason this is an often-used cosmological paradigm in esoterica or magic, or what is often wrongly labeled as “religion,” and in Indigenous cultures all over the world, let's talk about what Polygenesis actually is.
Stated simply, it is the belief that all the people of this earth don't come from a single source. That there isn't one garden of Eden, but multiple. To the Christian, it is the argument that nowhere in scripture does it state every nation or peoples of earth. That even Acts 17:26 Paul couldn't possibly be speaking of all people in his claim of one blood? He knew so little of the world, how could he understand the full theological implications of his words?
Polygenesis is the opposite of Monogenesis, the commonly accepted anthropological theory that we all started in the cradle of Africa and then migrated to our respective continents in a proto continent often called Pangea by theorists. This has been treated as a great equalizer in cultural and historical studies; we are all from the same people, thus we all should work towards a one-world society.
I would be remiss to not tell you that this theory has been used in incredibly racist ways over the centuries, from eugenics to theological explanations that lead many to be enthusiastic for colonization, slavery, and mass murder. It offered a religious zeal to one's bloody path through the world to believe that God created you and your race and the rest are sub-human animals. Polygenesis has been a vehicle for that.
So why study it? Because quite simply I think it’s “true” in an ontological sense. Combined with some basic assumptions: we are all humans with some very amazing origins, even if they may be different, and everyone's cosmology actually fits in a larger mosaic being painted by a Creator across time, space, culture, language, and even worlds. Notice I said “mosaic” and not “system,” or a golden thread that runs through all beliefs. That's all bullshit.
You know this universe doesn't make “sense”. Scientists know this world doesn't make sense. Here is a link to an article I posted last issue, it’s worth a WTF!
One of the primary features of many Indigenous cosmologies, including early European, was the ardent belief that this wasn't the first “Earth,” world, or universe. That there was an existence that predated our own, and that many believe there were whole peoples, societies, and Gods, separate and apart from the one we know now in every conceivable way.
This, of course, flies in the face of physics which is quite busy doing that all by itself. This is one of the reasons, as a Black Queer descendant of cargo brought here, I find solace in Ifa, and my own sense of indignaiety, to even know the lineages that my teachings come from. Specifically I study the teachings of the Ode Remo line, which is a blessing. I actually just shared this in my history seminar at the Graduate Theological Union where I am a Ph.D. student. It’s a quote from the Ihafa: A Journal of African Studies 8: 2 December 2016, 77-107, an article written by Ayodele Shotunde, Chiedozie Okoro, & Godwin Azenabor (University of Lagos).
The quote concerns the epistemology of the “Spirit” of Ifa, but the paper was generally answering much larger questions about the continued oppression of the African continent and her children.
“The expression, epistemology of Ifa literary corpus derives its strength from the principle of metaphysical interfusion. This is because it is a nonphysical kind of epistemology that operates the simultaneity of transcendental and realism. In this kind of epistemology, the principles of rationalism, empiricism, idealism and materialism are all holistically interwoven.”
It is only western paradigms of reasoning that lead us into trying to identify, analyze, and thus separate and categorize the universe around us in ways that are empirical or the measurement of empires. It is a very new notion on the scene and has only been the center of “human” thought for around 500 years. I say human in this way because the concept of what is and isn't humanity is really born in this moment, this great Renaissance, this great Reformation, this Age of Enlightenment that comes after. This is where the idea of sub-human is born and unfortunately, many of the really exciting ideas of polygenesis get muddled in this European quest for homogeneity in all realms, including the esoteric or theological. The idea that science, religion, history, culture, and language are all separate things is truly a complete construct of western academia that is the language, tools, paradigms, and systems that we have used to craft the world around us to this day. It is actually what we have to use, and one cannot escape this. Even the way I am approaching all these questions and wrestlings is born from what I consider one of the darkest periods in human history. But even in approaching the idea, humanity could have come from different points of origin in the universe, whether that be from the will of a Creator, or literal different origins, perhaps terrestrial; alas, even this question is hampered if not harried into a western post-enlightenment answer to what this all means.
What polygenesis gives in a more liberatory framework, or postcolonial framework, is the ability for me to accept your Creator, your beliefs, your Messengers, your rituals, your love of this world, your interaction with this earth, and your practices with her wholly. Fully. Not once question the legitimacy of your lineage *ahem* Book of Matthew *ahem*. Or have to cram your cosmology either into an anthropological view so I can talk about it as culture, or a strange culture to be gawked at and pitied for not knowing the “truth.” I can’t dehumanize what the Divine is doing in other lands, with other peoples, in other expressions, because their genesis, their Eden, their Ile Ife, their Turtle Island, their birth of the Maya, is as real as yours. If one is wise they may even begin to suspect they have missed out on some vital piece of the puzzle that is God.
This is an important concept for us to cover because it figures largely in the thinking of the Rosicrucians, the Brotherhood of Luxor, The Golden Order, the Theosophy society, and most hermeticists or practitioners of so-called “high ceremonial magic.” These folks at the turn of the 20th century, AE White, Paschal Beverly Randolph, Clymer, and a who’s who of popular European and American mystics set the stage for what we call magic today. Polygenesis figures largely in what they believed they were doing not only in their own lives but in the world itself. The Great Work, as some called it. This was, of course, dripping in the Western belief that time and history was obviously moving towards, or progressing towards, some humanist utopian society. It’s where the term progressive comes from. In fact, one of the esoteric ramifications of polygenesis is that the Messengers who came to every people, from the Orisha to the Iblis, Jinn, or Malaikah, or the angels of Enoch are just as real as the White Buffalo Woman, or Tawa, or Huitzilopochtli, Quetzalcoatl, Tezcatlipoca, and Xipe Totec. This also meant that important information from the creator about the universe was left to peoples all over the world, and this drove the Theosophy society to plant itself in India in search of reincarnated sages, or why early searches for the Niger river and “Timbuktu'' where funded by English special interest parties. These folks were convinced that by somehow creating a unifying system between these very different worldviews they could realize some sort of omniscience, or altered if not elevated state of consciousness, all with various motivations why.
So there ya go. Polygenesis: a thing some teach, or a thing that is taught. A thing some of us claim to know or is a knowing.
A brief interlude now about what it means to be a practitioner in a world teetering towards global conflict. What are the ethics in this world? Are we too like so many other traditions to turn away from this fight, or absorb it and the empires' need for death, war, progress, and the continued cause of civilization? Civilization is the enemy, or at least the current social construct are. Take Ukraine and its destruction in real-time for all the world to see. If one believes they have the ability to change the world around them, whether in prayer, ritual, spell, ceremony, or other means, what is their ethical responsibility? What is the ethic of someone whose prayers can make mountains jump the way Christ promised?
Whether you believe the esoteric, the Holy Spirit alone, or only Olodumare can save us now, it might be time to really dig into your practice. Whatever that practice is. If you light candles you should probably light many. If you train people for times like this, start training. If you teach a viable skill, teach it. If you sing songs to the Divine Feminine, she awaits those sweet notes and she has a way home for us all. If you are someone who attends Sabbath please spare a moment in that incredible, complex, and ancient liturgy for us all. If you are going to enter this Easter season after walking in a two year desert, then by all that is holy, please enter like the one you claim to follow, and turn your eyes towards Jerusalem. Maybe rob a state bank or two on the way.
We are all responsible for each other. We so desperately need each other. Every life lost is a universe of potentiality snuffed out. A messiah waiting to rise. A chief who can lead us home, a queen who has all we have ever needed, and a sovereign ready to take us to the non-binary place beyond the earthly to the celestial.
So yes, you are ethically responsible for a world at war. There is no extricating yourself from this, and even if negotiators can bring a ceasefire in this situation, Russia is fighting a 200-year-old conflict. We can't even mentally survive one 24 hour news cycle in this country; gas prices rose and Americans are ready to give up democracy to a Big Mac-eating kletpofascist with white supremacist tendencies because the neo-liberal cop they voted in isn't doing a good job. These are not the reactions of hardy people.
I’ll leave you with this: in a world that is trying to convince you recently that your individual actions don't matter, I would propose the exact opposite. That inherently in a global social construct with instantaneous communication, your individual actions have stunning consequences. Call it the power of prayer, an esoteric butterfly effect amplified by social media and the particular way we are paying attention to the world after the last few years. Call it just positive thinking, vibes, whatever. But maybe you are much more powerful than you think. I call it the observer effect. By seeing truly into a situation of the Divine, even if it is the rubble of a city you never saw, and may not be here to see in a few weeks. Even if it is in the face of children rushing to borders to escape war, I believe you can shift a situation just by being a witness.
By opening yourself to the pin in that situation you can transform it. I believe that is healing, or how it is done.
Written in hopes of a dawn.
Rev. Lenny Duncan they/them
Historical and Cultural Studies of Religion.
New Religious Movements.
Graduate Theological Union
Olosun Oshundayìísi Baba Awó Amosun Egbe Jumoke Efun Omódèindé
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