The Mysteria, part 9: "Repairing the World"
On the Calvinist roots of Zionism
This essay is part of my series, The Mysteria, which looks at the relationship between occult ideas, political theology, and our current world. These posts are usually only for paid subscribers, and you can now get a paid subscription for 20% off.
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
“The Second Coming,” W.B. Yeats
Do you want to improve the world?
I don’t think it can be done.
The world is sacred
It can’t be improved.
If you tamper with it, you’ll ruin it.
If you treat it like an object, you’ll lose it.
Tao Te Ching, 29
For quite a few reasons, not least because of the situation in Palestine, I’ve been thinking a lot about my time on the island of Patmos this summer, as well as the time just after it, in Athens. It seems important for some that I was there, but I don’t yet understand why.
In case you escaped all this somehow, Patmos is where a certain John penned his visions of catastrophe and the end of the world. Lakes of fires in which the sexually immoral would burn forever, broken seals and blown trumpets announcing the ripping of flesh from bone and children from mothers. You know, all that lovely stuff.
Those visions still hold great power over the cosmologies of millions of people, especially many evangelicals in the United States. For them, and also for many more touched by them, what is happening in Palestine now has profound religious significance.
I’ve been meaning to write about this, especially the matter of “Christian Zionism.” I was myself quite steeped in it when I was still Christian in the United States. Even after becoming a pagan, I kept checking back in on some of the more fervent evangelicals to see how close they believed we were to the “end times.”
Being completely honest, I should admit I’d not been keeping up with their words only out of curiosity or for research. Of all the various aspects of Christian doctrine, its eschatology was the one bit I could never easily shake. Neither the concepts of sin nor redemption hold any meaning within my world: both are as foreign and irrelevant as “national service” or “submission to authority” have always been for me. I don’t believe in a virgin birth, nor that a singular god created the world, or really any other bit of the Christian cosmology.
Despite all that, some part of me shudders uncomfortably each time some televangelist points to some new sign or wonder heralding Christ’s return. It’s not that I believe Jesus is coming back, of course. Instead, it’s because I believe in magic and gods and spirits, and I’ve learned enough in the past twenty years to understand the power of collective belief.
It’s one of the most basic principles of magic and of psychology that beliefs shape the way you perceive and then behave in the world. Race theory is the easiest way to illustrate this. If you believe that there’s such a think as a black race and a white race, and that those races come with certain traits, you’ll filter your experiences of people in those categories according to that framing. This goes for the white nationalist and the social justice versions of this belief. Each time you hear of a black person committing a crime, you’ll see the crime as either caused by their blackness or excusable because of their blackness, depending on which version you adhere to. The same goes for situations involving other racial categories.
It goes further, though. Racial beliefs can cause you to immediately trust or distrust someone in any interaction, to weigh their opinions more heavily or to dismiss them, according to your preferred allegiance. The more fervent this belief is, the more you’ll also shape the physical conditions of the world around you. You might advocate and vote for punitive and discriminatory policies against one group or in favor of another, and by doing so help create the conditions which affirm your belief in race. In other words, you “reify” race, making it a thing, or as a magician might say, you manifest it into the world.
Race is essentially a religious and cosmological belief, and its power is on the level of theology. It’s a division of the world assumed to have been preordained by either a natural or divine force. At that level of belief, only a deep change in the cosmology of the person, what they think is the “order of things,” can really uproot it.
Imagine the manifesting power of the millions of people in the world who believe race is really a thing. And then, imagine the manifesting power of just as many people believing the return of Jesus and the end of the world is going to happen any day now.
Ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake — the entire world is being convulsed by a religious struggle. The fight is not about money or territory; it is not about poverty versus wealth; it is not about ancient customs versus modernity. No. The struggle is whether Hubal, the Moon God of Mecca1, known as Allah, is supreme, or whether the Judeo-Christian Jehovah God of the Bible is Supreme.
Those words were part of a pro-Israeli speech spoken by the late Pat Robertson, one of the most stalwart American Christian supporters of Israel. When he died, Israeli papers wrote qualified tributes to him, memorializing his long commitment to Zionist expansion while bemoaning his repeated praise of Jews for being shrewd financiers with enviable skills in accumulating vast wealth. Most notoriously, in an interview Robertson conducted with Rabbi Daniel Lapin, the televangelist gushed about how Jews are never “tinkering with their cars on the weekends or mowing their lawns,” and that they are more often “polishing diamonds” instead.
Many rightly criticized Robertson’s remarks, but seemed not really to notice that Daniel Lapin, the rabbi he was interviewing, fully agreed with him. Besides giving Torah-based financial success seminars to investment, religious, and even political groups (including Turning Point USA, Wallbuilders, CPAC, and the US Congress), Daniel Lapin — dubbed “America’s Rabbi,” — is also the head of the American Alliance of Jews and Christians. That group, the AAJC, is one of several US-based Zionist groups that raise money and propagandize in defense of anything the State of Israel does.
I spoke a bit about such groups last week on my second appearance at The Popular Show.2 Discussing the oversized influence of Christian Zionism on US foreign policy, I noted the strange disconnect between what they believe and what the actual religiously-Jewish Zionists believe about what’s to come. Yet, both groups are quite happy to use each other, despite the apparent abyss between them.
Both groups want to see the third temple rebuilt. For the Christians, the temple must exist again for Jesus to come back, while for the right-Zionists, the temple must be rebuilt so blood sacrifices can begin again and the Messianic age and the “repair of the world” can start. Both sides are trying to accelerate the manifestation of prophecies, to “immanentize the eschaton,” as it were.
Unfortunately for each side, and also for the rest of the world, two holy Muslim sites are currently on the temple mount. That’s not really an obstacle to them, however. Both groups have been funding efforts to prepare for the third temple anyway. Two months prior to the events of 7 October, Israeli television had just run a report about how “almost everything is ready for the Third Temple,” since several pure red heifers had finally been bred and many priests had been trained. That breeding program, incidentally, was heavily funded by American Christian Zionist groups and many large evangelical churches, including one to which I once belonged.