Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Analysis of “Wicca - Satan’s Little White Lie” - Part 4a

This is part four - the first half - of a four part series taken from my long article, “Are Witches Dupes of Satan”, which I wrote as a response to a book published by my ex-high priest, Bill Schnoebelen. The book was entitled “Wicca; Satan’s Little White Lie,” and it has bedeviled the witchcraft community ever since it was first published by Chick publications. This is the fourth part, which discusses and analyzed Bill’s book, which is more a reflection on his delusions and escape from madness than it is a critique of witchcraft and occultism. (I apologize in advance for the length of this article, but there was a lot of material to cover.)

One of the first things that Bill mentions in his book is that one year after being elevated to the Wiccan High Priesthood, he was told by his initiators that Witchcraft was not all that it seemed. That Witchcraft is actually a manufactured religion (and therefore not really an old religion at all). He also proposes in his book that Wicca is actually a Satanic cult, with “Satan’s hoof-prints all over it”, and that anyone who is a member of this cult is part of the conspiracy, wittingly or not. He has also stated that all of the upper hierarchy of the various Witchcraft traditions are hard-core practitioners of Satanism - or are “card carrying Satanists”, referring to the membership cards that the Church of Satan sent out to its paying members. Bill even credits his salvation to an unknown woman who wrote on his posted check to the Church of Satan for his membership dues, “I will be praying for your soul”, as the single most effective Christian magic that brought down his entire house of cards, and eventually assisted him in finding his way to the right and only true spiritual path, Evangelical Christianity.

Bill presents a large body of personal experiences to back up his claims, but it is rather obvious to me, someone who was there during his period of ascent and decline, that much of what he presents is false or misleading. For instance, in the above arguments, Bill stated that in 1974, his teachers and initiators informed him that Witchcraft was a contrived religion of recent derivation. However, it was only years later that practitioners, such as Aidan Kelly, or historians, like Ronald Hutton, began to investigate the claims of Gerald B. Gardner and others about the legitimacy of the various traditions of Witchcraft. No one except historians knew about the cunning men and women of England, and the actual historical antecedents of Witchcraft were heavily mythologized. Bill never mentioned in his teachings these points, since he affected the guise of the true believer. He taught that modern witchcraft was a derivation and reconstruction of an ancient faith and this was the party line.

So it is highly doubtful that Bill was told this bit of information in 1974. It’s possible that some of the founders suspected that their claims of practicing the Old Religion were probably misleading, and perhaps even Jim Baker had these doubts and expressed them to Bill; but at the time, such doubts would have been speculative at best and no alternative theory would have been produced. Also, Bill was the only Witch I ever knew who also was a “card carrying” member of the Church of Satan. Positions in the church were bought and sold by the Church of Satan, and were basically meaningless as far as indicating any kind of occult knowledge or spiritual power. So when Bill speaks of the Satanic element within Wicca, he is speaking of his own perspective and his own personal path.

The incident with the returned check from the Bank did actually happen, and Bill showed the returned check to me and a few other members. We all thought it was funny at the time, but we also thought that Bill was kind of crazy for joining the Church of Satan, even if the monthly newsletter, the Cloven Hoof, had good articles in it. It seemed a ruse or a joke at the time, and we hardly believed that Bill would take any of this seriously. Later on, Bill began to bring Satanism into the fore-ground of our practices, but I can verify that he was the only Witch or Neopagan that I have ever met who thought that Satanism was standard practice for witch covens. I, for one, did not include any of that material in my practices, since I found it to be ridiculous and juvenile.

Did Bill’s occult empire collapse as the result of that woman praying for his soul? The timing was pretty far off, since Bill wrote that check in 1977, and did not experience the calamities that he claims he did until many years later. Bill had problems keeping jobs, so when he was no longer getting a monthly stipend from his parents, he began to experience fiscal hardships. However, by 1978, he was living with members of the group and had to move whenever he had finally alienated them completely, which happened frequently. Things of course stabilized at some point when he moved to that large old three story house, although it was filthy and needed a lot of cleaning and amenities before it became liveable (and the labor to make it liveable was provided by Sharon and a few other members of the group).
Bill also claims that Aleister Crowley was directly involved in the writing of the book of Shadows and formulating the initiations of Gardnerian Witchcraft. This claim was made by Francis King, and has been disputed and proven wrong by a number of historians and individuals who were involved with Gardner. While Gardner did indeed meet with Crowley during his last year of life (May, 1947), these were formal visits, and there were only a few of them. Gardner did receive the material for the O.T.O., Man of Earth series of initiations (M.M.M. - 0 through 3rd degree), and also other materials, which he used to fashion the early rituals of his Witchcraft cult, either because there was scant ritual lore with what he had received from the New Forest Coven or because Gerald had not yet created that lore.

Crowley’s involvement in Witchcraft was nonexistent and those who claim otherwise have no proof to back up their statements. Also, while Aleister Crowley was at times excessive and self-destructive in his personal pursuits, he was also a very complex and mysterious man, evading self-definition even within his own biographical notes, not to mention the attempts of numerous writers to pigeon-hole him. However, his writings remain as a great legacy to all occultists, but his personal life is a warning to those of who cannot learn to find a middle ground and a balance in their lives.

Such a warning was certainly ignored by Bill, who seemed to follow every excess that Crowley was reputed to have done, but in a limited and feeble manner. Bill never had the courage of his convictions that Aleister Crowley had. Bill also often misquotes Crowley’s Thelemic axiom, which is “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law!” - and he always fails to follow it up with that most important response, which is “Love is the Law, Love under Will!”. It seems that this was a critical omission by Bill and represents his most profound error. That the occultist submits himself not to the perversity of darkness nor dissipation, but to the love of the Deity itself. The phrase “Love under Will” represents that the love of the Deity is tempered with the knowledge of one’s true self, and one’s true spiritual vocation. Only so armed can a person choose his own path or do what he truly wills to do. Gardner’s Wiccan Rede, “An it harm none, do what thou wilt”, although similar to Crowley’s axiom, is actually quite different. Gardner was seeking to suggest to his followers that they forswear deliberately hurting others with their intentions and their magick and to peacefully coexist with others - this certainly was not the intent of Crowley’s axiom.

Bill also states that the only kind of morals or ethics that are legitimate are those found in the doctrines of Protestant Christianity. Anyone else who tries to “wing it” on their own, or follows the dictates of a “made-up” religion like Wicca, become liable to satanic seduction and find themselves engaged in a morass of contradictions that leads one profoundly astray. If we follow Bill’s logic, then anyone who does not follow Christian morality will ultimately end up practicing murder, fornication, become addicted to alcohol or drugs, engage in drug pushing, child pornography, prostitution, and a host of other terrible crimes. It reminds me of the anti-drug propaganda, that a single joint of marijuana will cause one to become a heroin addict.

This, of course, is really ridiculous. If Witchcraft really caused people to egregiously break the law, then the authorities would be rounding up witches and punishing them for their lawlessness and their heinous crimes. This has not yet happened, of course, because as a group, we are fairly law abiding, as is everyone else. Human nature is such that we aspire to be good and moral, and at times, end up failing to meet that sublime goal, irregardless of whether we are Christians or involved in some other religion. However, all religions were at one time made up by someone or some group of people, perhaps inspired by spiritual sentiments and insights, but always derived by mankind for various reasons. There isn’t only one spiritual truth and there isn’t one true religious path or tradition. Human nature requires plurality, so we as members of the human race must use compassion, understanding and extreme tolerance when making judgements about the spiritual practices of other faiths and traditions.

There is a reason why our nation has strongly defended the separation of church and state and has assiduously defended everyone’s right to practice their spiritual beliefs as they see fit. Although many fundamentalists condemn this as a form of wicked secular humanism, these rights and conventions protect them as well as those who practice earth based religions, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and many other sects and religious traditions. The wisdom of our founding fathers speaks great volumes for their unselfish devotion to personal rights, and it speaks against those who would want to change the nature of our secular political regime. We need only to briefly mention that many upright and seemingly sanctimonious leaders or followers of the fundamentalist Christian movement have been involved in sexual scandals, fraudulent use of funds, child molestation, the assassination of abortion doctors, various acts of terrorism, and many other crimes, both lesser and greater. One only has to think of Jones’ Town, or David Coresh in Waco, Texas, to realize the price of religious extremism. The majority of Christians are law abiding and express their faith modestly, so we would be foolish to judge the whole movement by the excesses of a small minority. Yet this is exactly the kind of sloppy logic that Bill uses to judge those who are followers of earth based religions.

Another fallacy mentioned by Bill in his book is that he tells his Christian audience about his connections with the upper hierarchy of the Witch cult, and that he eventually becomes a member of that hierarchy. Although there are some elders as well as some founders, High Priestesses and High Priests, there is no hierarchy in our religion. We are a profoundly unorganized religion, and anyone who claims to be the highest authority is quickly disputed by one and all amongst those who consider themselves witches and pagans. The fact is that there is no hierarchy in the various traditions of Neopaganism and Witchcraft, other than what is found in the small groups, covens and various loosely led organizations, allows them to be very protean. Leaders are often criticized by their members and seldom get much respect, groups often lose their members, and these ex-members become leaders of groups themselves. It is almost chaotic, but one would expect that from a newly formed religion whose total population is far less than a million in the U.S. Most of the individuals in that population are practicing solitaires or members of very small groups.

To claim  that Witchcraft is a Satanic conspiracy would require a solidly organized cult with a hidden but powerful elite, and this is exactly the claim made by Bill. Of course, it’s all a fantasy and Bill certainly knows that to be the case. He was never able to gather together a large group and found that there were many competing organizations around him who never gave his claims of personal godhood much credit. Few outside of our tight group had ever heard of Bill while he was practicing his brand of witchcraft. All anyone has to do is go to a sponsored pagan festival, local gathering or a meeting of COG, or some other organization, and discover how disunified we are as a spiritual tradition. But our diversity is really our strength, for we represent a religion that is being built from the bottom up, instead of the top down, as most religions have formed.

Perhaps someday there may be some kind of ecumenical society of earth religions, but I wouldn’t bet that it happens soon, and when it does occur, it will have the greatest difficulty trying to put together any kind of representational creed or shared philosophy. Unlike Bill, I actually put together a five state pagan festival in the mid 1980's in Kansas City, called the Heartland Pagan Festival. Getting twenty or so organizers to agree on a single commonsense point was at times almost impossible. The gatherings were considered highly successful if there were no major disputes between groups or individuals, and that almost never occurred.

Another interesting point made by Bill was about how witches and pagans were always sending curses against each other for various petty reasons, that magick would allow a practitioner to perform all sorts of harmful acts, unless of course, a faithful Christian deflected it or God intervened to nullify it. Bill also states that magick is not scientific, that it is a sort of hit and miss phenomena, meaning that it is no more effective than chance. Then with the same breath he says that magick is only partially effective because either good Christians or God himself block it.

Of course, Bill professes a belief in angels, demons, evil spirits and the manifestation of the powers of Satan himself, which are not only unscientific beliefs, but actually rather mediaeval in character. Bill can’t really have it both ways! Either magick is a fantasy or science is really blind to the nature of supernatural phenomena. However, Bill doesn’t seem to understand that his own beliefs are very antithetical to science, especially his stand against evolution, not to mention all of the hard sciences that have supported the fact that the universe was not created in seven days, but evolved over billions of years.

Bill also doesn’t seem to really understand that magick is not merely a means to causing change to occur in accordance with one’s will, as facetiously stated by Aleister Crowley. Magick is far more complex than that. It’s very subjective, like meditation and prayer and is supposed to be used to unite the individual with the Godhead. Even Crowley makes the statement that the Great Work (union with God) is the only true purpose of magick. Bill himself taught this in his classes, acknowledging that the progression of the practice of magick goes from simple forms, such as spells (which have a propensity to fail), to greater forms, such as illumination and the obtainment of cosmic consciousness (which ultimately work). Also, many Witches are not very skilled at magick and seldom does any spell work very effectively when cast by the untried and the beginner. This is due to the fact that few truly understand the components of magick or how it works.

Often I find that healing spells, money magick, and other magical practices are not much more than wishful thinking. Magick seems to be more a process of sending out care, compassion or moral support to others who are sick or indisposed or otherwise dealing with misfortune. Magick requires an external action in the real world on the part of the practitioner in order to ensure that it is effective. The morality of working magick on someone with or without their permission is a moot point if what is done has relatively no effect whatsoever, except in the minds of the practitioners.

I have also had to deal with many individuals who claim to have been cursed or magically attacked, and in the end, they are shown to be deluding themselves. Perhaps only two out of ten of the practitioners of the new earth based religions in our nation really know how to work negative magick, or any kind of magick, for that matter. Bill’s cute saying that “curses were flying around the air in Milwaukee thicker than a swarm of Midwestern mosquitos” is quite ridiculous, since there weren’t that many witches in the Milwaukee area and most of them were associated with our group. Keep in mind that we never amounted to more than a dozen or so faithful members of the inner core (who would have been at least competent to cast curses), so such statements are pure fantasy on Bill’s part. 

In my thirty years of practicing magick, I have only experienced two separate events where I was attacked, and both of them happened in Bill’s group. Sharon was an experienced practitioner who knew how to curse someone, so when she cursed me, it seemed quite effective, although I had a guilty conscience for leaving the group and that made me an easy target. Candice tried to hurt me with magick, but once again, I felt guilty for behaving badly towards her, and one could say that both of these occurrences were the product of my own imagination. However, both individuals also knew how to work magick effectively. I can’t say that about most of the people I have met who claim to know how to work magick. So these arguments made by Bill have to dismissed as imaginary stories, along with most of what is written in his book about magick.

Context is very important to understanding how and why things occur, and Bill delights in removing the context from his stories so that they fit nicely with his theories. But one of the most important things that anyone reading his material must understand is that the median age of the members of Bill’s two covens was around 26 years old, in other words, we were all very young adults, some of us attending college or just trying to start careers and families.

Bill states that all of the marriages ended in divorce, except for his marriage to Sharon, and this is mostly true (there were a couple of exceptions). However, the married members of Bill’s covens were young, most young marriages fail in these modern times and for various reasons. He never states in his book that he sought to have sex with all of the women in the two covens and that he encouraged a kind of extreme sexual liberality in the group. This certainly would guarantee a high divorce rate for those in the group who were married. However, all this took place during the seventies, which was a time of experimentation and liberality in regards to sex, drugs and social living situations, and this was occurring among a lot of young people, not just those who were practicing witchcraft.

An entire generation was experiencing exactly the same kinds of things. Certainly we weren’t all being seduced by the Devil, it was just the nature of the times that we lived in. Many who managed to learn and grow during that time realized later that some societal norms actually protect people from themselves. But those of us who were young had to find out about it the hard way, therefore, we had to experience the pain for ourselves and perhaps that was the folly of our generation. We didn’t blindly do what tradition dictated we should do.

Bill also states that people lost their jobs and had problems with financial stability, they had difficulties with authority figures and were being evicted from apartments. He adduced all of this to the influences of Satan imbedded in his Wiccan tradition. However, once again, we were all young and not very responsible, so those kinds of things happened to a lot of people, but also at the same time other people were quite successful. In many of the instances where Bill cites the terrible misfortunes that seemed to plague anyone who practiced witchcraft, he is just remembering much of his own personal experiences.

One of Bill’s biggest problems was that he was not inclined to work for a living and preferred to study the occult rather than attempt to build a successful career for himself and support his wife. Bill spent a lot of time and money on his occult pursuits and did not spend much time developing a means to pay for it himself. One can easily expect such a way of life to be filled with disappointments and failures, but none of these failures or disappointments can be chalked up to the Devil. They are more the results of an immature and feckless individual. Bill used his parent’s generosity to build for himself an occult empire, working at mindless jobs or part-time work in order to have the time for studying all of the various traditions that he was involved in simultaneously. When his monthly support ran out, Bill moved in with his coven members and proceeded to take financial advantage of them. Yet all the while making his victims feel as if he were doing them a great favor by living with them.

These situations almost always ended with recriminations and bad feelings between Bill and those individuals that he had moved in with, arguments over bills not paid, disputes over property ownership, and finally those individuals were either expelled from the group or lost most of the prestige that they had gained by inviting Bill, Sharon and Rick to live with them. This cycle happened several times, and at the end of each of them, Bill had to look for a new place to live.

Bill spent a whole chapter of his book criticizing several statements that were written by Laurie Cabot in her attempt to define the practice of Witchcraft, or the “Do’s and Don’ts of Witchcraft”(page 51). These definitions are very loose and do not represent any known tradition, so they aren’t really an official statement, as Bill claims, and because they are so vague and generalized in content, they are actually more confusing than helpful. There are a few points that are completely acceptable to most witches, such as the assertion that witches don’t worship Satan and that witches are concerned with ecology, but the rest of it is so poorly written that it is rather embarrassing.

Bill has chosen his victim wisely, since this list is so poorly and unprofessionally written, one could easily ridicule its arguments, and he eagerly takes up the task. Laurie Cabot is not known for being a good spokesperson for Witchcraft. Some even think that she is an overly eccentric and flamboyant witch with very little depth. The list looks like it was written in a committee where a lack of decisiveness would have omitted many details. A larger ecumenical gathering of Witches would probably have rejected some of the points presented or redefined them within a more specific context. However, a larger group of witches would probably have not been able to agree upon a single common definition of their faith, and this would demonstrate that witches are very diverse in their practices and unable or unwilling to agree to any kind of uniform theology or liturgy. Since there is no hierarchy in Witchcraft, there are no accepted official representatives to determine the cannon of the Wiccan creed. Thus anyone can consider themselves a witch, even someone who is obviously a Satanist, or someone who has just read a few books and is self-dedicated. This is an unfortunate circumstance, but one that witches have learned to deal with over time. Freedom and independence from organized religion sometimes has its cost.

Bill talks about the “Burning Times”, the period of the reformation when witches and heretics were burned or executed by the Church. Bill denies that true Christians, who would be judged by Christ for their deeds, could ever have authored such a horrible holocaust as the Burning Times. Bill’s argument is that Christian people who are evil or do wicked things cannot be “true” Christians, and of course this argument is quite false. There are numerous instances depicted in the Bible where murder is actually pleasing to God, especially when godless infidels are the targets. What Bill is really saying is that Christians who don’t worship as he does are not real Christians (page 86), so the Catholics who persecuted other Christians or witches weren’t really Christians at all, but actually pagans pretending to be Christians. The same is true of the early Protestants and Lutherans, who were still tainted by Catholicism. This absurd fact, stated by Bill, would  remove the blame from the true Christian faith for all the evil deeds perpetrated by deluded men in its name.

However, as I recall from my researches, the inquisition did not really torture and execute heretics. That was done by the civil authorities. The inquisition acted as the interlocutors who sought confessions and recantations of heresy, even if it occurred at the moment of death. The inquisition was interested in saving souls and acted for the good of the accused, or so they thought. Their motives and their faith were strongly Christian, since there is no other way to define them, and these men saw themselves as the instruments of God, doing the will of Jesus Christ in the world. In recent years the Pope himself apologized for the killing of innocent men and women as heretics, especially the Jews. That sounds very Christian to anyone who has ears to hear. Religion and politics are the affairs of men, and as for the affairs of God, who could even competently speak of such things?

We can see in Bill’s motives towards heresy the same kind of outward sincerity and goodwill disguising an extreme form of malice and evil intent as that held by the Inquisition. Although Bill says that he doesn’t hate people who practice Witchcraft and Neopaganism, that he only wants to lovingly show them the error of their ways, he does accuse them of performing immoral acts and capital crimes. This kind of inflammatory slander could potentially inspire one of his band of idiotic followers to assault and even murder someone who is publically identified as a Witch or Neopagan. The same thing has happened to doctors who perform abortions, and therefore, it is only a matter of time before someone, acting on the lies that Bill is spreading about witches, takes matters into his own hands.

We are, therefore, confirmed, that by his hateful and deceitful words, Bill is really performing unchristian like actions towards people who worship differently than he does. So ironically, Bill must be considered as much a nonchristian as he considers the Catholics to be, and this logic is derived by his own definition of a Christian. You shall know them by the fruits of their labor, indeed! Bill is really a kind of modern day Torquemada.
Bill talks a lot about the necessity of sacrifice and the use of blood in the magical practices of modern Witchcraft. Although we did use a drop or two of our own blood on rare occasions, we did not use larger amounts, and we did not ritually sacrifice animals or other people. Bill was obsessed with gothic horror and loved the image of the vampire. He even created a vampiric lineage of magick, which he called the Nosferatu; but only a few members of the group saw any merit in it and it was more of a trendy thing than a serious practice. Once again, whatever Bill did, whether in actual practice or in his vivid imagination, somehow he has deduced that all witches must be doing the same thing. But this is quite erroneous. I have not met a single witch who uses anything more than a drop of their own blood to seal a ritual, and most don’t even bother to do that any more.

Diabolic forms of magick required the use of blood when making a “pact with the devil”, but this has little to do with modern witchcraft. The adherents of Voudoun or Santeria are required to sacrifice animals as part of the traditional and customary practices of their religions. People living in the third world still kill and butcher their own animals as a preparation for food, so killing an animal for the gods is not such a big deal to them. This would have been true world-wide before the advent of modern refrigeration and mass production, and people living close to the land in rural settings would have thought nothing of killing and slaughtering an animal prior to cooking and eating it.

Today, we are far removed from the process of preparing our own meat, we instead purchase it already prepared for cooking or even purchase it already cooked at fast food restaurants. Therefore, modern witches would find it difficult to sacrifice animals, since that would not be a normal part of their daily lives. As for any form of human sacrifice, that is not at all a part of any normal system of magick, even in third world countries. Witches do not either commit or condone murder, and Bill’s arguments about a “Church of Murder” are the kind of dangerous slander that might actually cause someone to think otherwise.

Bill tries to demonstrate how absurd the Wiccan three-fold law of return is, particularly if it were used as a form of ethical conduct and the means of deriving secular justice. He goes on rather absurdly to show that if you must return good or bad three times greater than how it was received, then the world would be quite an outrageous chaotic mess, particularly if people focused on returning evil thricefold (and he states quite unequivocally that this is the mind-set of most witches). However, once again, Bill either pretends not to understand the essence of this saying or is demonstrating his ignorance. What the expression “..thou mayest ever give as thou receive it, but ever triple.” actually refers to the metaphysical concept that as everything is connected to everything else, so your actions towards others will cause a greater reaction back towards you. This means that the sowing of evil shall reap three times the intent of that evil, and sowing good will also reap three times that intent of good.

We don’t really know where this concept actually came from, but if we take it as a suggestion, along with the saying, “An it harm none, do what thou wilt”, then we should abstain from doing ill, since it will be amplified and return even greater harm to us. We should, therefore, do either good or nothing at all. Retribution has a very high price, but doing good for others causes a greater goodwill. Also, the context of the of the above statement is the Alexandrian/Gardnerian initiation ritual for second degree, where the High Priest or High Priestess who has performed the initiation must receive three times the scourging that he or she gave the candidate, and because it is under the auspices of the triple Goddess and the underworld, this might explain the nature of that triplicity. At any rate, Witches don’t live by the law of vendetta, since they know that as a minority religion, they are liable to stir up persecution for themselves as well as their community whenever they do anything unlawful and are caught.

Bill also talks about how he performed a spell against a man who was sexually using female members of the group, and caused him to become permanently impotent. Likewise, he also states that he performed a ritual to punish a young girl for stealing the jewelry of one of the coven members, and she fell down a flight of stairs and became a paraplegic. He tells these tales to represent how he practiced the three-fold law of return. I don’t remember Bill ever talking about these incidents when I studied with him, and he certainly would have talked about them a lot if they had occurred, so I must judge them to be fictions.

When Bill was really into his role as a gothic vampire, he used to read the obituaries in the news paper and would comment about all of the people that he had killed recently and whose notices had appeared that day in the paper. We thought that Bill was either being facetious or was showing us how deluded he had become. I now realize that Bill lived so much in his imagination that he had very little idea what was real or what was imaginary. It appears that Bill’s age-old problem with determining facts from fantasy still seems to have its grip on his otherwise intellectual facade.
In conclusion, Bill judges the followers of Wicca and Neopaganism in his book with the principle assumption that his deity is the one true deity, that his faith is the one true faith. All other faiths and religions are indefensibly false and all their claims and beliefs are invalid. This also includes many other Christian denominations, most notably, Catholics (by far, the largest denomination), and Mormons (one of the fastest growing denominations). What Bill is basically saying is that his denomination of Evangelical Protestant Christianity is the only true and valid religious belief in the entire world, i.e., and these beliefs include offering one’s self exclusively to Jesus Christ, the literal interpretation and absolute inerrancy of the scriptures, the imminent and physical Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Birth, resurrection and atonement. Also, in regards to the literal interpretation of the Bible, and particularly for English speakers, the King James Version of the Bible is the only acceptable translation (all other Bibles be damned!).

So, essentially, the rest of the people on our planet are left out in the cold with their spurious religious beliefs, so they will be subjected to the wrath and eternal scorn of the one true God, cast into the flames of hell forever unless they repent and immediately accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior, just like Bill did back in 1984! But really, that old line of sectarian babble has been used many times before. It is so obviously incorrect, arrogant, conceited, and also rather ignorant. In many ways, Bill hasn’t changed in thirty years! He is still a true believer (as well as a hypocrite), and he is completely “a hostage of his own PR”, just like he was when I first met him. Only this time, it’s fundamentalist Christianity that Bill is peddling, not the occult sciences, Wicca, Gnostic Christianity, Voudoun, Thelema, Vampirism, or Satanism. So, it is through Bill’s personal bias (and not the grace of God) that he has determined that all the other religions (and even sects of Christianity), are false.

Whatever arguments one could possibly make to defend one’s faith in a logical manner would have to cross the infinite chasm of Bill’s primary premise (that he is correct and most everyone else is wrong), this is impossible, of course. It makes it a lot easier to dismiss other people’s spiritual beliefs and to denounce them as a product of the wiles of the Evil One. His logic is stated simply: “This belief cannot be supported by a literal interpretation of the Bible, ergo, it is not of Jehovah or Jesus, the Holy Ghost, or from the scriptures, so it must be from the Devil.” In this manner, he is able to dismiss other religious beliefs as false, therefore, by definition, they must promulgated by Satan himself.

One could almost imagine a simultaneous conversation with Bill and Cotton Mather, receiving exactly the same responses in regards to Witchcraft and other (suspect) sects and practices, especially any form of Popery. Such heresies as these would be judged by these two men as being of the same satanic cloth. What we have here is not a “man for all seasons”, but a closed minded fanatical sectarian pseudo authority figure, who is seeking to cause division and strife between people of different religions and sects. Doesn’t that remind you someone, like Osama Bin Ladin, perhaps? Would that make Bill’s Evangelical Christian religion a kind of American Taliban? However, the greatest sin that Bill illustrates in his writings and his public rants is the sin of pride; for he assumes that he is saved by Jesus Christ and forgiven of all of his past sins and excesses. I think that he is engaging in wishful thinking (or “whistling in the dark”, as he would say).

To be continued...

Frater Barrabbas


  1. seems to me a lot of effort to debunk a book most of your readers wouldn't read anyway.

  2. I actually have seen evidence that Crowley was associating and even working with known traditional witches in the US, but far before 1947.

    It's unfortunate, but there isn't much solid information on traditional witchcraft. They didn't write much and there weren't any big names until the sixties. Most of the information about them is anecdotel and you need to know people who ran in those circles to get it.

    By the time that Crowley was founding the A.A. traditional witchcraft would seem to already be in a severe decline. The class system that historically divided traditional witchcraft from ceremonial magic was pretty much faded. After Blavasky the ceremonialist had a renewed eclecticism from her influence. Meanwhile many were like your friend Bill, never really valuing work or working to earn a living, and they were quickly becoming poorer. As I said traditional witches were in a decline at this point, and they were already a small minority before that. So they were willing to explore other magically oriented groups. They were also coming up in the world financially, as many of them seemed to have started marrying into money around this point in time (a tradition that still exists today).

    Wicca ended up being the final nail in the coffin of traditional witchcraft. Many of the people who may have entered into the practice were pushed into Wicca instead. Traditional witches, for their part, turned on Wicca pretty fast, and most of their writings from the sixties and seventies make attacks against Wiccan practices.

    As of today, there seems to be only a handful of traditional witches left. Their practices have become muddied with outside influences too, and most seem to have clear influences from ceremonial magic in their workings. The few that are left are still very anti-Wiccan, which doesn't bode too well for them since Wicca's gaining in popularity still.

    I can't say I blame them though. Last time I visited a Wiccan board, the board was in agreement that all traditional witches claiming a lineage of more than fifty years were liars since there was no such thing as traditional witchcraft, Gerald Gardener having invented Witchcraft with the creation of Wicca.

  3. @Frater POS - Point well taken. It was quite torturous for me to read the book. However, folks may very well run into a local Christian pastor who will refer to the book and Bill Schnoebelen as an expert to categorize earth based spirituality as a cover for Satanism. I have had this experience myself as well as seen it happen in other communities. So if people know something about the arguments he uses, they will more easily be able to refute them.

  4. makes sense. I having left a bad group (at least for me) once, understand the need to counter some of what was said by others in that group. So, I can see this as both a warning and a personal purging.

    I saw you walk by at teh Con a couple of times but was on my way someplace and didn't stop to introduce myself. Maybe next year.

  5. I always knew Bill was a fake. A rather foul smelling, pompous, self-absorbed, and fake at that. He became an unwanted part of my life through my brother.
    I remember a birthday party I threw for myself inviting my friends over for drinks, etc. and agreeing to also invite Bill and his entourage. One of them decided to slip into a seizure which required Bill and company to immediately pounce on this misbehaving slug with all sorts of incantations, ointments, and unction’s thoroughly disgusting my guests and bringing the party to a close when my guests decided they had had enough and left.
    There was a short time that certain individuals tried to win me over to a different opinion, but that eventually failed. I regret what he did to my brother and was pleased to finally witness Bill's departure from my life.
    After reading this it seems that although under a different guise, Bill is still up to his old tricks.

  6. 93!

    Gardner took indeed a lot of the material for the first edition of the BoS from Crowley. There are a lot of passages that are literally taken from Liber Al and other thelemic holy texts.

    And I agree with the BTWs (british traditional wicca) that there was no Wica (as Gardner spelled it) before Gardner. Witchcraft, yes, but no real "cult", only folk-lore kitchen witches. Wica is a child of ceremonial magick and Thelema.

    But I really like this series of articels. This Schnoebelen-Guy is even known in Germany and german evangelical bible nazis love to quote him.

    93 93/93