I thought that I had already written the final chapter about my arch nemesis and former teacher, the ever self-propagandizing, ridiculous and all-around hypocrite, half-assed minister of With One Accord Ministry, Bill Schnoebelen. But alas, he continues to scribble his lies, half-truths and religious bigotry throughout the internet. The latest diatribe would be quite amusing if weren't so profoundly stupid and annoying. So I am drawn back into a brief one sided skirmish with the ultra-conservative Christian Fundamentalist who was once a member of the Wicca and a Mason.
It's really like doing battle with the torso of the Black Knight (as fondly remembered in Monty Python's Holy Grail movie). He has teeth, but no arms or legs left to do battle, and can be easily defeated. I guess Bill makes a great straw man, since his positions are based on Christian myth and imagination rather than real facts. I apologize in advance to mainstream and esoteric Christians who must be quite embarrassed by this clown. Anyway, let the battle begin!
"Rebellion is a sin of sorcery, presumption a crime of the teraphim." - 1 Samuel 15:23 (The Jerusalem Bible)
Bill starts out his article with this quote, although he uses the terribly antiquated and much rightly criticized Kings James Version, where the word "sorcerery" is substituted by the word "witchcraft", which changes the whole meaning, of course. That King James had an obsession with witches and witchcraft bordering on insanity is besides the point - it did, however, influence the translation of the bible into English.
This sentence is part of larger section of the chapter that contains the dire pronouncements by the prophet Samuel used to denounce King Saul. Samuel was apparently livid with Saul and his decision to disobey Yahweh, so instead of ensuring that the Amelikites were completely annihilated and all of their possessions destroyed, Saul allowed the Israelites to keep the prisoners as slaves and their belongings as booty. The word "teraphim" in the sentence refers to household idols, so it represents false gods and their worship.
The key point is that King Saul rebelled against the commandments of his god and presumed to make decisions for him. What this quotation has to do with modern witchcraft and Masonry seems pretty obscure to me. I think that Bill used it out of context because the KJV bible uses the word "witchcraft" instead of "sorcery", even though the point is really disobedience and presumptuousness. The irony of Bill using this statement is pretty hysterically funny, since presumptuousness is very much his mode of doing business. So we start out with a sentence taken completely out of context from the Old Testament, and somehow this will make the rest of the article sensible and erudite? Right!
First of all, Masonry is not a religion. It is a fraternal organization with some biblical themes and obscure symbolism based on those themes. While one could make occult interpretations of the various Masonic rituals and lore, those same interpretations are not held by either the rank and file Mason, nor the esteemed members of their ruling bodies and their studied intellectuals. Masonry is not an occult organization nor would any of its members consider themselves to be occultists or members of some kind of alternative religion. So when Bill says the following in his article, we can easily refute him. The Lodge of Masonry is not a religion, nor is its underpinnings theological, occultic or rooted in ancient forms of paganism - those underpinnings are actually philosophical in nature. We can look at the foolishness of this claim, and I quote it in full, because it is the keystone to Bill's entire argument.
"Thus, the Lodge is not just 'another religion' like the Muslims or the Buddhists-although that alone should be enough to keep Christians from involving themselves in it. The nature and character of the Lodge's deepest theological underpinnings are rooted in Witchcraft and Paganism."
Of course, we are to presume that modern Witchcraft has an unbroken line going back to the paleolithic past, and that somehow Masonry borrowed heavily from those sources. However, both Ronald Hutton and Philip Heselton have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that modern Witchcraft can't be traced back further than the early 20th century. That would mean that modern Witchcraft is considerably younger than Masonry, which itself only dates back to the early 18th century. If modern Witchcraft shares many common features with Masonry, then one would have to conclude that the reason this does in fact occur is because Gerald B. Gardner (who was himself a Mason) put them there. While some witches may argue this amongst each other, scholars have shown that much of the lore of modern Gardnerian witchcraft was cobbled together from other sources. What this means is that there is no conspiracy and the linkages between one tradition of witchcraft and Masonry can be easily explained - it was a matter of creative plagiarism and not some kind of Satanic conspiracy, as Bill would have it.
The reason why this is so transparently obvious is the fact that only Gardnerian witchcraft (and it's various offshoots) have these points in common with Masonry. Other non-Gardnerian traditions of witchcraft are quite different and have few if any points in common with Masonry. How does one explain that troubling little discrepancy to Bill's over-arching theory? Why it's elementary, my dear reader! Bill is making an argument that is quite fantasy based and profoundly dramatic - it is, in a word - a great lie! This is even more curious when one considers that some of the more traditional non-Gardnerian forms of witchcraft may actually represent older systems from the previous epoch, although the proof for that supposition has yet to be verified.
Cunning folk considered their magickal works to be their "craft," just like anyone else who had a skill for hire. They made things for their paying clients (spells, talismans, amulets, herbal remedies, tonics, etc.), although none of them ever professed to be adherents of an alternative or "old" religion. Likewise, craftsmen were individuals who worked with their hands, used tools in a skillful manner and made things, unlike the ruling classes and the church. To call Masonry a craft is to hearken back to the days when Masons were builders and architects, or at least that is part of the theme of following the Masonic path. There is nothing sinister or esoteric about this phrase, just as one would assume - since we still use it today without any theological pretensions.
We will pass over Bill's definitions, since we have shown that witchcraft is much too varied to apply one definition to the entire movement. Bill is using definitions that were put together in the late 19th century (about paganism in general), so they don't reflect the modern perspectives of historians and archeologists. Bill has obviously not read anything about witchcraft since he left the craft in the early 1980's, and even then, he spouts the old arguments and lines that most folk, whether from within the movement or outside it, no longer hold as true. Suffice it so say that for every supposed fact that Bill states in his article, there are modern witchcraft and pagan groups who don't adhere to it or where it isn't even relevant.
A case in point is one of Bill's arguments, which is flawed and really a terrible generalization.
"Essentially, a Pagan believes most everything the Witch believes, but is kind of a lay person, whereas a Witch is more of a Priestess or Shaman."
I think that the above quote has more fallacies in it than anything that I ever seen written by anyone with any amount of knowledge. Modern witches and pagans represent very different traditions of belief and practice. Even within these generalized categories there is quite a bit of difference, based on the fact that every witch or pagan calls upon different traditions within that generalized group. While some could find some very broad points in common between them, they are quite distinct. Also, a member of a specific witchcraft tradition would not be an elite amongst a group of neopagans, since there isn't any really defined hierarchy between all of these divergent traditions in the first place. Each group has its own leaders, and often there is a fair amount of squabbling about even that obvious point. You will also notice that Bill conflates a priest or priestess with a shaman, which is a completely different category altogether. It just seems that Bill doesn't really know what he is talking about, so it would seem that his entire thesis is based on utter and complete nonsense.
Deeper into his article, Bill does concede that Wicca is modern, and that if there are resemblances between Masonry, then obviously one would have been the model for the other. Such an admission almost destroys his entire thesis, but then he saves it by proposing some more ancient (and sinister) source for both Wicca and Masonry. Although there isn't any proof for this statement, it does represent the foundation of Bill's thesis. I quote his damning admission, with the merest caveat that saves his thesis from nullifying itself.
"As it is currently constituted, Wicca is barely a century old. This is not to say that it doesn't draw on elements from the ancient mystery cults. To be certain, it does-to a high degree. However, it is a difficult task to ascertain whether contemporary Wicca so strongly resembles Freemasonry because two of its principle architects (Aleister Crowley and Gerald B. Gardner) were Masons; or whether that similarity is a derivation of more ancient practices."
Historians have shown that the supposed ancient mystery cults passed away without leaving very much evidence behind. Christianity was quite thorough in its destruction of all of the pagan practices of antiquity. What we have today is a mere conjectural reconstruction, drawn from many different sources and completed with a lot of creative imagination. Masonry and witchcraft are modern creations, and they have very little in common with the older mystery cults, since that knowledge passed away long before either of these two organizations were invented. Masonry was a product of the Age of Enlightenment, and Wicca, a product of Victorian England. There is no unbroken lineage spanning the ages of antiquity to the present time.
Another point, Aleister Crowley didn't have anything to do with writing the corpus of the Gardnerian Witchcraft Book of Shadows. This has been proven quite definitively, since Crowley and Gardner didn't meet until the year of Crowley's death, and then only a couple of visits occurred. It may be a difficult task to ascertain the resemblances between Gardnerian Wicca and Masonry if you are looking for some kind of satanic connection, but of course, the simpler explanation is just a form of plagiarism.
Then comes the really nail gripping and ghastly supposition, that (oh my!) Wicca somehow has engulfed the evil source of Masonry, making the rites more sanctified and less (still my beating heart!) blasphemous than their original form. What this amounts to is the belief that Masonry is evil and satanic, so if some group has modeled itself on those rituals and beliefs, then that group, too, is tainted and satanic. This belies the known fact that Masonic organizations spawned a plethora of analogous organizations and institutions, both in England, the European continent and the U.S. One could even go so far as saying that a number of democratic countries, such as our own, are powerfully influenced and saturated with Masonic beliefs, symbolism and philosophies. If you are a citizen of the U.S., Italy, France, England, and others too numerous to mention, you are an unwitting pawn influenced by the evils of Masonry. I guess the whole world should be so lucky!
Here's Bill's altar stone for his article -
"If Masonic rituals were engrafted into Witchcraft in the late 19th and early 20th century, and if that melding was so seamless and effortless-even to the point that in some cases, the Wiccan rites were less bizarre and blasphemous than there[sic] Masonic counterpart, then what message does that send about Masonry? As a preacher friend of mine, Jim Spencer, observed, 'If the devil can preach my sermons without changing them much, what does that say about my sermons?'"
I suppose you could say that it really says nothing at all, since lots of organizations around the world have modeled themselves on Masonry. I would also say that the Devil has been preaching Mr. Spenser's sermons, and Bill's as well. Anyone who preaches bigotry, religious intolerance and advocates sectarian hate crimes against others is really doing the work of the Christian devil. How illuminating for Bill to show us who his mentor really is.
From this point on in Bill's article, things get completely silly. The merest suppositions become embedded and obvious facts, and from them the world turns into a dark gothic negative image of itself, with ravens cawing in the background and bats flitting overhead, while the world is wrapped in a sinister stygian mist that hides the supposed real truth. Bill goes on and on with his arguments, building them up to a crescendo, like listening to Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" or reading a story by H. P. Lovecraft. Even the list of satanic members of witchcraft and masonry is pretty astonishing. I am sure that Arthur Edward Waite would have been horrified to be considered a member of the witch cult, just like many of the other members of the infamous list. Only Gerald B. Gardner and Alex Sanders belong there, and the fact that at least one of them was also a Mason really proves nothing.
One of Bill's final arguments is totally inane and even laughable, so I shall present it here for our amusement.
"The Masonic temple is a temple of Witchcraft! There can be little doubt about that. Veiled within its symbols are the deities and even the working tools of Witchcraft! As has been shown, the square and compasses are representations of the generative organs-the 'sacred altar' of Witchcraft! The blazing star at the center of the lodge is the Witch's pentagram, symbol of the god of Satanism, Set! The Letter 'G' stands for generativity[sic], sexual potency."
Anyone who has ever been a Mason (or has read Masonic material) will know what the mysterious "G" symbolizes. It represents the first letter of "God" and "Geometry," both of which are quite prosaic and tame. Bill has outdone himself, becoming a laughing stock in the process. I am certain that his audience, the credulous and the ignorant, will find his article illuminating (no pun intended). They will undoubtedly lose sleep over it and have many nightmares about Masons and witches cavorting together in some satanic grove, dancing merrily and obliviously around the hooves of the big "D." I do feel sorry for them and wonder at the foolishness of their critical thinking, but I have little further to say about Bill except to shake my head and wonder how he is able to make up all of this crap. He must be ingesting some potent hallucinogens in order to come up with these obvious fantasies.
Perhaps some day Bill will be rewarded for his virulent punditry. Maybe he can get a day job as the pastor exemplar for the Fox News Network. However, I doubt if other and wiser Christians will ever appreciate his work, since it is so far down in the gutter and living in the sewer of popular thought.
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