New Lies For Old: Fr. Hardon Explains Neopaganism as Our Dechristianized Reality
There are times in Father Hardon’s lectures that he drops subtle cues that what he is relating is a component of his master thesis of life. One of the best cues is when he would drop the line “after 40 years in the priesthood” or “it took me fifty years as a Jesuit to understand this”. Sometimes he could be rather blunt with some of my favorite aphorisms. Take for instance, an observation he makes… this one comes in the middle of talk on why we should do anything, buried within a lecture on Divine Grace. He gives this after he dropped a clue, “took me fifty years as a Jesuit…”:
and the more pious people are, (how I know, how very well I know) the more pious people are, the more they will… oh… how the can drip .. what shall I say…. drip with holy water .. or reek of incense… convinced they do what God wants! you probe, you scratch, you find out… it’s their will! and in fact, this is the hardest prayer that we can make to God: “Lord, tell me what you want, and not (that negative can be agonizing) and not what I want!”
Fr. Hardon many times identifies this confusion that even the more pious among us can suffer. I love the nearly sarcastic way he puts it, though, “drip with holy water, reek of incense.” He was definitely conveying a message that pious practices in themselves are not a signal of proper self denial. Combine his message there with this one on prayer. Prayer, as Fr. Hardon will burn into your mind with crystal clarity, is a conversation. Conversation with another. Meaning, we turn our spirit and become aware that, even though the person is invisible, aware that they are listening to and hear us! He spends time after time talking over this point and how it fails in so many. Here is one point he makes after dropping the clue “took me forty years as a priest”:
Suppose I am just talking out loud to myself, without realizing that I am being heard. Is that conversation? Of course not!
I have watched people in apparent conversation, not really, one person is monopolizing and really engaging in a very heartfelt, deeply loving soliloquy with himself! True conversation is always a colloquy. It is therefore not only awareness but awareness of someone else’s presence besides my own!
His point is clear: it is too easy to pray to ourselves.
At the center of all his observations sits a thesis he asserted in a series of lectures on “Re-Evangelizaton” given in 1994 or so. Father Hardon was giving the number one enemy and factor of the dechristianization of America. More importantly, Father was diagnosing the situation and instructing us on our surroundings. This beast identified by Father is the product of modern education and mass media. Architected by “demonic geniuses” (his words), and deeply rooted into the education of our children, Father claimed that it took him forty years as a priest to see this phenomenon that he called Neopaganism.
At the heart of neopaganism is a new religion: the religion of worshipping man as god. This is not mere narcissism. Fr. Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary (the real one — beware of the new version released by Image last year), has “see Self-love” as the entry for narcissism. Under self-love, “Inordinate regard for self to the neglect of others and indifference to their needs. In narcissism the attention is centered on the body, especially sexual self-satisfaction.” Narcissism lacks the character of worship due to a god. Neopaganism is idolatry, not mere narcissism.
To convey understanding of neopaganism, we will first get some points down on basic catechism, then discuss old paganism, and introduce neopaganism. Contrast the old to the new, and finally explain the implications this has for the moral order.
A Short Primer to Set the Stage
Recall that our first parents had lost the temptation to the serpent based on one false promise: you will become like gods. That theme has stayed with man, and Satan’s constant effort in this world is to separate man and creation from God through this lie. What I find most remarkable is the comment beneath the image given in the old St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism. It focuses on the three elements I’ve discussed above: 1) ignore God and converse with yourself; 2) do your own will (not God’s); and, 3) be your own God.
It’s that last one that has been fully developed today. You see, being a God requires religion, worship, orthpraxis, prayer, and all the things religion requires. An individual has always been able to do this on their own — the problem was that everyone else called them insane. What happens if all of society gets in on the gig and tacitly or intentionally joins the religion? They’d need to be taught, right?
Religions require a God and worship
The St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism also includes a brilliant illustration in the section on the first Commandment explaining how God is replaced with idols. It’s this picture:
We can see all of that today. Most importantly note the paragraph above. Why did God command us to have no God before Him? Because He is our God who created us from nothing and gives us life. We have an obligation (such a basic concept ignored!) to Him!
Neopaganism adds a new idol:
Father Hardon Explains the Old Paganism
In his lecture, Father gave a shorthand definition of pagan as someone who is “irreligious.” He essentially describes the same material that his dictionary gives so succinctly:
PAGAN. A heathen. In general one who practices idolatry. Formerly used to describe anyone who did not profess monotheism, and still used by Christians, Jews, and Moslems to identify a person who not believe in one God, Creator of heaven and earth. More properly a pagan is a person who has abandoned all religious belief, i.e. an irreligious person.
In his lecture, Father made a point that this definition of pagan hinges on anyone who does not believe that God alone created the heavens and earth, and us. Each of us. By this measurement, most of the world is still pagan.
He also added that this paganism is a natural consequence of original sin and it is polytheistic. Thus, if a person is not raised in the religion revealed by God (starting with the Commandments, particularly the first, as noted above), they will be pagan naturally.
The essence of old paganism then is it makes idols of things and worships these things as god. This point is made in the illustration above from the Baltimore catechism showing the various idols.
Neopaganism Defined by Father Hardon
Father Hardon defined neopaganism most succinctly as “the idolatry of man as God.” It is a religion because it worships one God: man himself. Neopaganism, in Father’s estimation, is generally described with the “new” term. New theology, new age, new creation.
The entire point of the neopagan religion is this: The religion makes a NEW man in order to make a NEW world.
Father Hardon emphasized that neopaganism is not natural which means it must be learned. The human mind must be contorted and bent to believe and worship himself. He emphasized that demonic geniuses have worked hard to create the methods of educating people in this neopaganism. Father started with one of his favorite targets, John Dewey. Among other criticisms of Dewey, Hardon notes that Dewey redefined religion.
Previously, religion is associated with “justice due to God” and that moral virtue by which a person is disposed to render to God the worship and service He deserves. [as my own notes and observations of this — religion is naturally disposed to the revelation God has given of Himself — the commandments, Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, etc. — since religion is focused on the one true God.]
Dewey, according to Hardon, redefined and propagated an erroneous but demonically brilliant new definition whereby religion is redefined as whatever each person makes for themselves. The quotes of Fr. Hardon are worth printing here:
“John Dewey — I would identify, as a great mind, that is, a Great evil mind — had thought through in a long lifetime and structured, organized, and developed a system of thought which has penetrated all of American education. It was John Dewey that defined religion: Religion is that way of life that each person determines to follow. Religion on these terms is loyalty, consistency, to one’s own thoughts and one’s own decisions. The essence of religion on these terms redefines the meaning of truth.”
It is here, the self-idolization — the internalizing of God, and the error swallowed by the mind that we see, as Father indicates at the end of this quote, truth itself must be redefined. So, also, many other concepts have to be bent and twisted in the minds of the person to make them worship man as god.
“This new paganism idolizes each person’s own mind. It idolizes each person’s own will. We may therefore legitimately say that the new paganism is a religion”
Consequences on the Moral Order
As Father noted the first thing is that Truth must be redefined. Truth, going all the way back to Plato, Socrates, and hellenic culture before the time of Our Lord, has been universally described the same. Truth has always been considered to conformity or agreement of the mind with reality. Says Father:
“What is true? That which my mind thinks or conceives about something. If what it conceives or has in mind agrees with reality, then the mind possesses truth. The reality outside of my mind is a watch. My mind tells me it is watch. I have the truth. I have in my hand a glass of what I think is water. (Sounds of drinking) it is water. If my mind thinks the same as what the reality outside mind is, then the mind possesses the truth.”
“Truth in the new paganism is not conformity of mind with reality– It is the mind producing reality! It is the mind determining what is real. It is the mind deciding what is reality. In other words, in the new paganism, truth is what I think is true.”
Whoa! Consider that for a minute!!! Doesn’t that describe so many strange encounters you’ve had (I’ve had, we’ve all had!). I know you have run into someone who is insane. You knew they were insane. They tell you something convinced that it is true, but it has no resemblance to reality. Why? Because, as Father says, the neopagan believes that the mind produces reality. That’s huge! We know from revelation that God speaks and creation is made. Reality is born of God’s words. Just as at the Annunciation, God spoke the word, and Mary became pregnant with Jesus. Man cannot do that (although the liar thinks he can). This is one step beyond the liar, though — this is a belief that if you can think it, it is true!
What is “Good” is redefined.
“All sane societies over the centuries, the good is that which each person needs. What each person needs in order to be truly satisfied. What is the good? That which makes a person truly happy. And the word “truly” is crucial — really happy —truly happy. That’s the good.”
“In the new paganism, what is good? Good is what I want! Good is what I desire. Then having a free will, what I choose in both cases, both in what is determining what is true, and then deciding what is good, it is each individual, each person’s mind from within: determines, declares, what is true.”
You can see the parallels with relativism here. Neopaganism is the religion of relativism, embodied into man, and made into a worship practice, with beliefs that we are gods. Goodness is not what God wants for us. No! Since man is now god, the neopagan believes that good is what man wants!
Fr. Hardon notes that the effects of this new paganism have been devastating (note the perfect tense as he gave this lecture 21 years ago, we are now nearly a generation later!). People used to know happiness as choosing to do God’s will. The neopagan sees it as doing whatever each individual wants. As we all know, there is no happiness in doing your own will — rather, it is in doing something for someone else. Particularly, in doing what God wants. It’s worse, however:
The new paganism has produced a whole generation of persons, who may still call themselves Christians or even Catholics, whose behavior contradicts the most fundamental principles of Christianity. Christianity teaches that God has given us a mind to know what God wants us to do. And a free will to choose what God wants. […] Who made you? God made you. Then you just assume or assumed that a person knew who God is. For millions, you can no longer make that assumption.
In other words, even so-called Catholics lack fundamental capacity to be Catholic because they lack the capacity to apprehend the basics of life: God is the supreme being that made us, we conform our minds to reality and seek to do His will. They will even use the same words as us! How many times do you hear people talk about doing God’s will — first, you have the problem Father identified above (they mean their will), and then on top of that, many of them believe God’s will is their own! YIKES!
“What does the new paganism teach? It teaches that we have a mind indeed to know, To know what? To know what we want to do. That, and I have taught in enough universities, graduate schools, and seminaries, not to know that for many people this is really the first rule of their lives. They go school to learn as much as they can in order to know what they want to do!
“The idea of acquiring knowledge to find out what God wants them to do, well… come, come, not just pre-conciliar, it is prescientific! (Laughter) and one of the advantages of having a half a lifetime of formal education as I’ve had, is that you’ve known so much of the vocabulary. Oh, the sesquipedalian words I could use! (Laughter) but behind all this, only God knows how accurate my statement is, but behind most higher education in the modern world is meeting with a mind with what each person wants to do […]
“So too with the new paganism. Unlike all sane religion, not to say Christianity, as over the centuries held that we have a free will in order to choose what God wants us to. The new paganism just reverses the whole purpose of having a will. The purpose of having a free will [for the new pagan] is to choose what I want.
“What else? You can’t be serious! Are you telling me that I’ve got a free will to do somebody else’s will? Am I making sense? This has so penetrated the society in which we live that even to talk differently is to expose oneself to the risk of being called psychotic. That’s Sigmund Freud’s definition of psychosis: That mental disorder which people think there is a God, a supreme being, to whom they are subject. If that’s not psychosis, says Sigmund Freud, then what is? On occasion I have begun a class, by addressing the students,’my dear fellow psychotics’.
“How many, how many people just following, say their Christian conscience, are sent for psychotherapy because they still think, poor dears, that sexual pleasure is something which must be controlled… that you don’t just derive is much pleasure from the reproductive faculties as you can. […] Our bodies are not our own. Just because something gives me pleasure does not mean I should enjoy it. Not so fast! Not so fast!
“Even with evidence of how deeply the new paganism has penetrated the modern society, In the ocean of make-believe that is produced either in print or electronic media, most of the reading — 90% of all the reading that the 200+ million Americans read is fiction. Most of the radio and television programs are fiction or are fictionalized. [… Father recounts the story of a famous Canadian broadcaster that converted to Catholicism, began to have pangs of conscious and told the truth on air… eventually fired. Father concludes that all the news is fictionalized (I agree.).]
“What then has the new paganism done to the truth? it has made the truth relative to the mind of each individual. It has made truth relative to each person’s mind. If you think that Christ is really present in the Blessed Sacrament, fine. If you don’t, fine. If you think that sexual relations with a person of the same gender as yourself as an expression of the deep love, say of one man for another man, fine. Consequently, that is true what I think is true. Years go behind that statement. What is true? that which I think is true.
No longer is the good that which God wants us to do to reach our eternal destiny. No! The good is that which pleases me, which satisfies me, which agrees with me. If I like it, it is good. If I don’t like it, it is not good. Each person’s mind determines first of all what is good, and each person’s will chooses what the mind of that individual has told them is good. […]
“Believe me, America is a hypnotized nation. Each person has become a law to him or herself. And here, in the highest judiciary of the country, is not Christianity, it is not sanity: saying that each woman has a right to choose and no law can tell her whether the human being in her body should be born or murdered.”
Most people can see the train wreck he is illustrating. If everyone can do their own thing, and do it with religious obeisance, then we have homicidal chaos.
What is most disturbing to me is how many people Father observes call themselves Catholic and yet have this issue!
Father calls the fallout the homicidal culture.
The Homicidal Culture
“What is a homicidal culture? A homicidal culture is one that no longer considers the killing of an innocent human being to be wrong.
“Why is it not considered wrong? Because the very meaning of right and wrong, as we have been saying, has been redefined. The fifth commandment of the decalogue says you shall not kill, and it means that a life of an innocent human being may not be destroyed by any human authority. Why not? Because it belongs to God. How does it belong to God? Because God individually creates each human soul at the moment of conception. But you’ve got to know that there is such a thing as a soul. And when the body dies, this soul lives on.
“Why is the murder of a human being wrong? Because God wants each person to know, love, and serve Him in this life and in the next. And thereby reach eternal life in the world to come. Why must innocent life not be taken? Because God alone has the right to determine who will be conceived, Who will be born, how long each person is to live in this world. How pleasant or painful our life here on earth is to be. It is up to God, not up to us.”
I think this is the powerful outcome: If man believes he is god, then he believes he has the right to determine the beginning, end, and quality of life for everyone, including himself. Yikes!
How many issues today are based on this confusion? Think of California and the assisted suicide bill out there now. They truly believe that they should be able to determine what is good for that person. No! As Father said, we’ve never had this problem in society because people agreed that God alone has that right! It’s just a basic concept of the Commandments for heaven’s sake!
Father continues on explaining the homicidal culture:
“Once you deny that God alone has the right to determine all these things, Inevitably, you sow the seeds of a homicidal mentality. That individuals will decide who shall be conceived, who will be born, how long a person lives, and who is to die. […] Not only that, but individuals that create laws to suit their own desires and impose these laws on others to obey. We now have laws, we have laws requiring murder. I told you about the little sisters of the poor that run the homes for the aged, subject to the laws of the state, they want to be sure that they do not deprive the aged residents in their homes of the nutrition and hydration they need. [Father is describing disguised euthanasia and laws at that time were trying to mask euthanizing patients with feeding protocols that would starve the convalescing] No matter how much it costs — that has nothing to do with it. You must preserve life to the end God chooses.”
Neopaganism is not only religion of Hell, it is Hell.
The place where everyone does their own will is hell. Father Hardon spells it out when explaining what neopaganism means:
“The new paganism is a religion. Is the religion of self adoration. It is a religion that first created hell. Among the definitions of the church to be exact, at the Fourth Lateran Council, the Church defined that God originally created a spirit world without a body but having a mind and a will — an individual being, a person. But, God tested these spirits, the angelic hosts that He had created. He had told them, they were to obey Him in order to prove their right to enter Heaven. Some among the angels declared,”I will not serve” or “I will not serve a God. I will serve, myself.” And Lucifer, who by now with the language of all believing Christians is the name of the archenemy of God who led the fallen spirits. Lucifer, as you know means, the light carrier, extraordinarily intelligent. The new paganism thrives in areas above average intelligence. It is therefore a religion, It does worship. It worships one’s own mind and will.
“But, thank God, He warns, He warns those who practice this new paganism already in this life of what is awaiting them in the life to come, by creating for them a hell on earth. You don’t explain by any natural means the massive lack of peace, anxiety, the 70 some million Americans that manage to have at least some peace of mind by living on prescribed medications, tranquilizers. You do not explain the rise of a madman like Derek Humphrey, the founder of the Hemlock society, who murdered two of his wives, whose books are bestsellers. I have one with me but I don’t think I should read some passages describing how you can painlessly take your own life. Page after page. These are best sellers. The only reason this is so sadly the case is because so many of Americans are very unhappy. There is no happiness in doing your own will.
“Over the years and teaching eschatology, which as you know is the four last things, one of my favorite definitions of hell: hell is the place where those who are in hell do their own will for all eternity. The reward, shall we call it, of having done our own will here on earth, we now have a multi-million copy circulating magazine called, what else? … Self. (Laughter)
“We may say it is not a godless religion because it believes in a deity. And the deity, I mean it, I struggled with too many people, I’ve dealt with too much of the havoc in the Church created by self-willed persons who worshiped their own ego.”
Wow. Father nails it. I could pile a ton of examples he gives in other lectures, other talks, and plenty of articles he wrote. There is no need to. You’ve met these people. We all have today. The question becomes what can we do about it?
The Solution and Conversion of the Neopagans
Father conveys some bad news for those who are tempted to hurry up and convert some neopagans:
“There is no natural way of converting them. The conversion can only be the work of extraordinary divine grace…to be merited by those who believe that God became man to redeem a sinful human race. In other words, if we are going to re-evangelize or, for present purposes, convert our nation, and specifically convert our nation from this self-idolatry which has become the religion of our nation, We must live utterly, absolutely, selfless lives ourselves.”
That’s not an easy pill to swallow. I think we’ve all encountered how difficult this is, though. It’s like dealing with people from another world! They don’t see reality. They speak the same words we use, but do not communicate. And yet, they act like telling you things they think you want to hear is virtue! You cannot therefore reason with them. It won’t work. Frustrating, but it really what is happening today.
It can try your patience. Father understood, and gave this advice, and Heavenly Counsel:
“Never in my estimation has the world have more need of saints than today. A saint, by the church’s own definition, a saint is one who practices heroic virtue. That’s a saint. And I would choose especially four virtues that we must practice and practice heroically. We must practice heroic faith, heroic patience, heroic chastity, and heroic charity.
“What am I saying? In today’s world, and with emphasis on our own beloved America, we must have the faith of martyrs. You cannot get away with anything less. I would not dare talk this language unless to some slender sliver of a degree I have experienced this myself over the years. Only heroic bishops, heroic priests, heroic religious, heroic mothers and fathers will survive. All the rest will become further casualties of the mounting pile of new pagans who, to conform to the world in which they live, chipped away, chipped away, and gave up one after another of what their Christian faith tells them they should believe.
“Heroic patience, I hesitate saying it not knowing how I will be understood. What do I mean by heroic patience? I mean the willing endurance of extraordinary suffering. There must be extraordinary suffering patiently by those who believe in Christ as the God-man who died on the cross to redeem the world.
“And we shall be as successful in converting these fellow pagans in the modern world if we ourselves are willing, and I mean willing to endure pain. There is no pious cliché. It is not a cheap aphorism. We must want, want to endure. And never, please God, never run away from the cross! Never! Because that is how the new paganism came into existence.”
“Other people, and millions who call themselves Christians, they are pagan! Because paganism is Christianity without the cross! We mean to convert these pagan Christians then we must practice heroic Chastity. How many souls God has put into my life? How many, thank God, I have met who have indeed practiced heroic chastity Believe me, and acting on their faith.”
I hope you understand what Father means by now. I know you’ve encountered what he speak of. We have work to do. We have the work that Our Blessed Mother told us about at Fatima. We must pray and do penance. I promised earlier this week, when making an observation about Fatima and the Blessed Sacrament, that I’d have further comment on why the Blessed Sacrament is so crucial to our time.
First, the act of faith that God is physically present in what looks like bread is huge. You are training your mind to conform with reality. Second, the rich source of graces. Is it any surprise that communion in the hand — an act that is most often understood to mean that either the Host is not God, or that man has the capacity to handle God like a thing is so pervasive today? Man thinks he is god… not even the old pagans of Rome were that insane!
This article, New Lies For Old: Fr. Hardon Explains Neopaganism as Our Dechristianized Reality is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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