Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wrath of God or Natural Causes?

An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter scale rocked the island of Haiti on Tuesday, near the capital of Port-au-Prince, causing enormous devastation to an island nation already afflicted with endemic poverty. While we can feel empathy for those who are suffering, and perhaps dip into our pockets to send money to various aid agencies, some seem to think that the cause of this disaster is the wrath of God. One of the most notable U.S. televangelists, Pat Robertson, went so far as to say that the destruction was due to the fact that Haiti is cursed because it's aligned with Satan. In other words, God sent the earthquake to Haiti to punish the Haitians. I quote an article from Huffington Post:

‘Televangelist Pat Robertson said Wednesday that earthquake-ravaged Haiti has been "cursed" by a "pact to the devil."’

Such a statement made by a well known public pundit seems totally absurd if it weren’t also an indication of tragic callousness and sectarianism. Haitians tend to be Catholic and their alternative religion, Voudoun, is unfortunately notorious, particularly for those who know little about it. The fact that an important spokesman for the religious right has shown himself to be incapable of feeling any compassion or concern for the suffering of fellow human beings is astonishing, but not really surprising. There is an implied notion that when something happens to people who are not the same color or religion as oneself, that care and compassion is thwarted by xenophobia and disassociation. It’s almost as if compassion occurs only if the people afflicted are one’s own race, religion or nation. This kind of sentiment is outrageous and deserves to be harshly criticized. But the underlying spiritual perspective is even more disturbing.

A similar occurrence happened a few years ago when a tsunami struck parts of Indonesia and Thailand. Some folks talked about the wrath of God or that people were punished for being hedonistic and not pious enough in their spiritual practices. It would seem that whenever a natural disaster strikes, human beings apply all sorts of causes and reasons for it, many of them invoking the “hand of God”, fate, karma or some kind of spiritual retribution.

This implies that the concept of God in many places in the world is such that every infraction, impiety, blaspheme, or sinful behavior is somehow recorded, aggregated and when a certain threshold is achieved, a natural disaster is triggered to collectively punish everyone, sinner and pious adherent alike. The fact that natural disasters are caused by nature and not by a supernatural agency doesn’t seem to affect people’s thoughts and opinions one bit. Such a concept is almost medieval in its apparent superstitious perspective, representing as it does, a terrible, vengeful, omniscient and omnipotent creator Deity. However, my personal experiences with Spirit in association with ritual magick causes me to reject this troubling dogmatic belief.

My recent successful invocation of my Higher Self via the Bornless One rite has led me to realize that all spiritual phenomena are sensed through it, and that without it, I would have no sense of Spirit or Godhead whatsoever. The fashioning of the universe and the evolution of life may very well be autonomous processes that have nothing to do with any Deity or universal intelligence. However, the nature of the human soul and the development of higher consciousness over the millennia is certainly the domain of Spirit and provenance of the Godhead.

Pagans tend to think of nature itself as a Deity, but we can only approach this aspect of Spirit through our higher selves, since any other direct contact might be impossible. We could certainly admit that there is likely a godhead aspect associated with the bio-sphere, and some have even given it a name, calling it Gaia. Collectives of various types seem to produce egregores of some kind and cultural thought forms appear to function as autonomous entities. However, we comprehend the world through our own spiritual essence. We also appear to project our spiritual beliefs and perspectives on the world. What this means is that while there undoubtedly is some kind of universal aspect of Spirit, how it manifests itself is not really known. It typically appears in the form that we expect it, as if our spiritual beliefs and perspectives produce an over-powering bias. This is the reason why sectarian arguments are so hotly contested, with each side believing that they are correct, and also why they are usually impossible to resolve one way or the other. All opinions about the Godhead are true, but they are also incomplete and can be misleading if taken as an absolute truth.

To imbue all natural disasters with a supernatural element, making them the direct actions of the Deity, produces a being that is cold, cruel, capricious and murderous to all forms of life. Is that the kind of Deity that we would want to worship? The emotions of jealousy, spite, vengeance, hatred, anger, and violence represents all that is considered negative and bad in human nature. Why would we imbue our impressions of the Deity with those kinds of negative sentiments? Nature is profoundly neutral and unbiased. Living creatures are born, live and die every day of the year. Some die of natural causes, some are killed and eaten as prey, some die accidental deaths or by disease and others die as a result of natural catastrophe. There is nothing either supernatural or mysterious about these occurrences. In the natural world, dying is as much a part of life as living.

When thousands of people tragically perish due to an earthquake, tsunami, volcanic eruption, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, pandemic outbreaks or any other natural occurrence, we should feel sad and compassionate about the fate of the survivors and the loss of so much life. Such an event is a time of sadness, but it’s also a time when human beings can show their love for each other despite differences, rendering necessary aid and comfort. Emotions like love, care, compassion, self-sacrifice and forgiveness represent all the sentiments that we value as the very height of human goodness. If we believe in a supreme being, would that entity not at the very least embody all that is good and the very best of human nature? I believe that this is an important question. The mystics talk about spiritual union, love and devotion, which seems to describe the very core of the Deity. There is nothing of hatred, anger or violence in their discussions, poetry and songs of God. So we could construe from this that all such negative sentiments are not part of the Union of All Being. Only love, which is the highest human sentiment, would seem to fit that representation.

When nature produces disasters, people are injured or die just because they happen to be in the way of earth’s titanic forces. They are unwitting victims, and as such, they deserve our compassion, love and aid, regardless of their color, nationality or creed.

(I have given $50 to the International Red Cross. I would recommend others to be as generous as well.)

Frater Barrabbas


  1. Pat Robertson is a disgusting, racist pig. That someone can use such a horrible tragedy to hawk their ideology is unimaginable. *Naturally* slaves who turn to their ancestral religion and magic to empower themselves and gain freedom would be "making a pact with satan". The subtext here seems to be that slavery is the will of the God, whilst freedom from ones God-ordained white captors requires a pact with the devil. Absolutely revolting.

  2. If there's any "pact with the Devil" involved it's the fact that Haiti is still paying off the IMF & Inter-American Development Bank. At present, this represents about 20% of the Haitian GDP.

    According to some sources the only way to fund the repair will be for them to borrow more money, putting them back into debt levels roughly equivalent to what they suffered under the Duvaliers, when about 80% of the Haitian GDP went to paying off the interest on its international loans.

    So, in a metaphorical sense, Haiti did make a deal with the devil, which broke its back and kept it crippled for the last 50 off years. And it's going to have to make another one with those same devils to even start recovering from the earthquake.