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Gus diZerega Addresses the Community Plenary

Gus diZerega addressed the Community Plenary at the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, USA.

Is the sound, is the sound good? All right. Thank you. My name is  Gus diZerega. I am a Wiccan priest, a member of the Earth Religions as a group, and I am going to talk about the rise of fascist authoritarianism and what that implies for all of us. This rise encourages ambitious and ruthless people to seek fault lines in their societies where they can insert wedges, setting citizens against one another, and using the resulting distrust to seek power over others. 

This pattern is not just American, it is worldwide. One of the wedges that most attract these people is religion. Our religions are among our most important personal commitments. Their superficial characteristics can differ enormously even when at their deepest levels they are compatible. By focusing on the visible differences and ignoring the deeper similarities, the ruthless can cultivate society-wide divisions. Sometimes these wedges exist between different traditions, other times they exist within a tradition.

In all cases, minorities are most at risk because those seeking power try to weaponize the majority into assisting their quest for domination. A quest usually best accomplished by targeting minorities with different practices. It is easy to think the worst about those unlike ourselves.

I stand here today as a representative of one of the Earth religions. We regard the Earth as sacred. It cycles teachers’ lessons in life itself. It’s other than human inhabitants, our fellow voyagers, on the adventure of life. Any particular community within this group is a small part of Earth religions as a whole. For each of us honors the sacred as it manifests within our land, be it a rainforest, high in the mountains, along a coast. Because of our focus on the sacredness of where we dwell, whether from time immemorial or seeking to revive the spiritual insights of old Scandinavia or England or Greece, our rituals and practices will differ as our homes differ. By honoring our own place, together we honor the Earth as a whole.

We, Wiccans, are a kind of spiritual subspecies within the large community of Earth religions. As such, we find deep and profound meaning in the festivals we conduct over the seasons of the year, celebrating what we call the Wheel of Life. This wheel does not fit what people experience within a Borneo rainforest or northern Taiga.

Our underlying focus is still remarkably similar, like the common principles sustaining different ecologies. In our enormous variety, focus on place rather than text and seemingly small size, we differ from the wider spiritual traditions that from a distance appear as a kind of spiritual monoculture.

We are easily described by those seeking conflict as strange and perverse. All of us are a part of humanity’s greater spiritual adventure, honoring sacred immanence and transcendence, the sacred feminine and the sacred masculine, the love those with whom we live and love for humanity as a whole and for the earth.

Sadly, like every religious tradition, the Earth religions are not immune to the abuses of those seeking dominion. In the first part of the 20th century, there was an energetic German revival of pre-Christian indigenous practices. Some were used by Nazis to turn many Germans against Jews as alien. We see a similar effort today with some heathen groups seeking to turn people against non-Aryan people in their society. Once in power, the Nazis crushed them as well. The same would happen here. 

But these successes are not unique to earth religions. Even more homogeneous religions evidence many different approaches, and this variety encourages the same efforts at division and dominion. We see a pattern at work among theocratic American evangelicals, among the Russian Orthodox whose leaders seek to destroy other Orthodox churches, authoritarian Hindu groups seeking to destroy indigenous practices, long-crediting even their ancient tradition, and elsewhere. Depending on differences in power, a tradition who oppresses where they dominate is oppressed where they are a minority.

All these examples and more serve the ultimate benefit not of spirit, but of domination. Division is what fascists seek, first between groups, then within groups, and ultimately even within themselves, hence their breathtaking hypocrisy. The more the division is, the greater attraction of wielding power over those who differ. For this power, what dominates, what matters is the energy arising from exercising domination. The superficial garb it wears, Christian, heathen, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, or whatever it might be, is secondary, valued only when it serves as a vehicle for exercising domination and cast aside when convenient. There is no deeper logic uniting these attempts.

An African practitioner of Earth religion, Malidoma Some, puts this point well, writing, “Power shrinks the person who brought it into the open and turns that person into a servant. The only way that overt power can remain visible is by being fed, and he who knows how to make power visible ends up trapped into keeping that power visible.” We see that in politics in this country every day. 

Keeping to an Earth religion perspective, domination is a kind of spiritual parasite, a powerful psychic thought form gaining strength from the hosts it infects. Like the parasite that infects the brain of an ant, so it becomes a robot serving its master to its own harm. Domination clothes itself in the body of its host while it hollows itself out. From within. This is what makes gatherings such as ours so important. Many of our traditions have been victims of domination in different places. The Earth religions perhaps most of all. 

Each of us loves our traditions while seeking here in Chicago to learn from and appreciate other expressions of the greater spiritual ecology encompassing us all. In doing so, we immunize ourselves against the poisons of mistrust and division that seek to dominate the world by turning many well-meaning people violently against other well-meaning people.

Thank you very much.

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