“Atheism & Divinity: Zeitgeist, Atheism, and Contemporary New Age Esoterism” by T. Hasan Johnson, Ph.D.


I’ve recently begun using a series of texts in my classes to engage the ancient underpinnings of contemporary religious practices, and I’ve found that some of my students had adverse reactions: first, some were surprised that Africa was the source of much the astro-mythological fodder from which the world’s three major religions stem; second, much of the information we read about in a short few weeks extended beyond what they had been told growing up; and third, that after watching the film Zeitgeist (particularly the portion on religion), they felt there must be no other way to make sense of such esoteric lore but to have two extreme reactions. They either held onto their religious faiths–although now they had questions that few in their churches could answer–or dismissed religion altogether. There was little room for a third alternative.

In truth, as much as I’ve appreciated the cogent, illustrative argument of the film Zeitgeist, I was left with a conflicted feeling after each viewing. I slowly became aware that for many, esoterism had little difference from abject Atheism, especially since they both denounce literalist religious practices. Although the seeming similarity between metaphysical and atheistic arguments is not often discussed wholly, the differences could not be more polaric. But still, how do you explain such differences to students? How do you explain an experience to a class? Either way, I had to, as I noticed that some of my students seemed to leave that night feeling that they were spiritually alone. More than just alone, they felt alone in their very existence as human beings. Some even went so far as to question whether they were no more than an accidental by-product of the universe. In my capacity as a scholar and teacher, it would be unprofessional to share my beliefs with them explicitly, so instead I chose to share a variety of alternative perspectives, hoping that one would be a resource to them.

I let them know that many of the works referenced in Zeitgeist (such as works by Kersey Graves, Joseph Campbell, Gerald Massey, Archarya S, or Albert Churchward) were not all written as atheist works. In fact, many argued that the Mystery of reaching one’s full human potential could be understood through the allegorical exegesis of sacred symbolism, numerology, and astrology. In this fashion, they weren’t denying the existence of a supreme being per se, but rather challenging conventional religiosity to find “God” beyond belief.

The complication with writing about esoterism is that it is, in principle, an experience of ecstasy that can only be referenced through a preponderance of signs–whether they are scripts or anthropomorphic glyphs. In other words, mystical writings refer to what must be experienced rather than what can be easily conveyed through discussion. Here, I sought to explain that God is not a separate being who can only be accessed through a set book, series of rituals, or gestures. Such a relationship is not dependent upon any denomination, church, or religion. It is the most primal relationship there is, and only requires a letting go of all pretenses rather than a piling on of any particular knowledge. More so, that because such boundaries between humanity and The Sublime are self-imposed, they are already, indeed, the Divine they seek. But to tell Black folk that they are God is to invite the fallout of a particularly devastating history of cultural, religious, political, economic, and psychological violation. Such ideas can easily be perverted, leading to a series of “Daddy Riches” (a la Richard Pryor in Car Wash) that would no doubt find new ways to exploit people. In the worst case scenario, people would lose all sense of decorum, as the loss of superstitious dependency might be jarring.

Despite the proclamations of the Nation of Gods and Earths (and by extension their progenitors The Nation of Islam), godhood is only the beginning. The difficult ground ahead for Black occultists (particularly neophytes) would be to grasp the day-to-day reality of new millennium godhood, and that is—a la the Matrix’s credo “there is no spoon…,” there is no godhood. There is no conventional God. In fact, there is no humanity either. To be clear, the binary between humanity and divinity posed by Western Christianity is illusory in itself. Such expressions are constructed to make sense of the daunting awe of existence, but in truth, they belie an esoteric truth: RULES ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN. Or more so, that rules are made to be transcended. Thus, to reach one’s full potential in body and spirit—another illusory binary since all is energy, and the only difference between matter and spirit is the rate at which each vibrates—the ego must be subdued through expanded consciousness. All popular notions of God, godhood, human potential, etc. must be re-imagined and experienced anew. Thus, to “be” god, a being that fully grasps the interrelated and ever-changing nature of existence on multiple levels of being (animal/mineral/plant, fire/air/earth/water, magnetic/atomic/nuclear, etc.), is to cease trying to be anything but the fullest expression of who you are. As Morpheus once said, “There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”

~ by Lord Amaru on June 27, 2008.

One Response to ““Atheism & Divinity: Zeitgeist, Atheism, and Contemporary New Age Esoterism” by T. Hasan Johnson, Ph.D.”

  1. Thanks !

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