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Jesus through Pagan Eyes

June 19th, 2012

Mark Townsend’s latest book Jesus through Pagan Eyes is out in the USA and will be out soon in the UK. When he asked me to contribute to it I was hesitant – it’s the sort of project that risks interesting no-one, or upsetting everyone! Christians surely don’t care about what Pagans think, and Pagans won’t want to know about Jesus, so what’s the point? But after discussion with Mark, I saw the subject from a different perspective. Views about Christianity and Christ have had such an impact on the world – both positive and negative – that they certainly merit exploration,  and so I decided to explore what I really felt about this figure who evokes such ambivalent feelings for many of us, and accepted Mark’s invitation to contribute to the book. Along with many other contributors and Mark’s excellent introduction I believe you will find this book challenging and profound.

Here is what one reviewer thinks of it:

There certain words that just do not seem to go together. “Jesus” and “Pagan” most definitely fall into this category. Mark Townsend’s new book, “Jesus through Pagan Eyes”, addresses this discontinuity in a startling and inspirational way.

In the Western world we are in the midst of a profound spiritual search, involving many people. For a large number, nature has become a wonderful doorway through which to connect with the sacred. The way of the Druid, of Wicca and the Heathen, are becoming ever-more popular. Yet as Mark Townsend reports in his introduction, the figure of Jesus still fascinates a large number of people who would now call themselves pagan. This surprised him, just as it will so many of us. There is a rejection of the Church, but not its founder. As a Christian priest and a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, Mark is well placed to explore this unexpected phenomenon. He does so in three ways.

In the first part of the book, he revisits the historical figure of Jesus in the light of modern, progressive scholarship and proposes a new and radical way of understanding this awesome being. It is an understanding with which so many in our modern world could relate, who are otherwise disenchanted with traditional interpretations. It is also an understanding that echoes many pagan themes. The second and third sections of the book are especially interesting as they comprise stories and essays by, and interviews with, a selection of eminent pagans around this question. Altogether the book is a most valuable contribution to understanding an important area of the contemporary spiritual quest. It is a “must read” for anyone seeking insight into the modern encounter between these two ancient traditions.

Simon Small, Anglican Priest and Author

25 Responses to “Jesus through Pagan Eyes”

  1. I’ve actually been waiting for this book. I was raised in the Christian tradition and apparently fortunate in that my experience with Christianity was a good one. Even so, Druidry speaks much, much more to who I am and always have been. That being the case, I’m fascinated with other perspectives on who this man Jesus really was…and how I can continue to adjust and integrate these two paths. I’m glad you contributed, and I look forward to the book! /l

  2. As a Christian with a hint of Pagan….I am so looking forward to reading this book. A book like this has been needed for a long time. Jesus was is an awesome figure. His simple truths will always be relevant.

    • Denise, you have more more Pagan in you than you think, as the christian church long ago incorporated much paganism (holidays…) into it’s teachings, in order to rope more people into their flock.

      • That was the agenda of some, for others, they saw the deep continuity between the two ways. After all, when you dive deeply enough, you find that all rivers are fed by the same aquifer…

  3. Thank for this book preview, Philip, but I for one, have no interest in more christian propaganda….

  4. With the greatest respect Gavin, do you really think that Philip (and the others of the 30 or so Druid/Wiccan/Shamanic contributing authors) would be involved in this if it were just ‘more christian propagada’? I can assure you that it is far from that.

    And Krista and Denise, thank you. I do hope you find it meaningful and enlightening when you see it. Researching / writing Part One totally transformed my own perspective. And receiving the amazing contributions for Part Two two, as well as conducting all the interviews for Part Three was a revelation – totally! The Pagan voices within are (to me) quite earth shattering.

    And, of course, HUGE thanks again to you Philip.

    Many blessings,
    Mark /|

  5. Unfortunately many so-called Christians that I have met come across as judgmental, bigoted and small-minded. The figure of Jesus has always fascinated me, as his core values and message of unconditional Love seem to have been lost along the way with the establishment of “the church”. Those values which he spoke about are fundamental to the true Heathen, or Pagan. I shall look forward to this book. Thank you, Philip, for showcasing it.

  6. Why yes Mark, for the Druid/Wicca/Shamanic contributing authors are indeed only human & humans can be fooled, or used, by the unscrupulous, in order to further their personal & or, political agenda. To often in my years on this Earth people of the christian faith have used any means possible (wars, disease, famine…) to do this. I agree with forfedha, in that the core values & message of Jesus, have been lost with the establishment of the church. His message however, can be found & practiced in the Pagan, Druid, Wiccan & Shamanic communities. Come join us & live, reverend!

    • “the core values & message of Jesus, have been lost with the establishment of the church. His message however, can be found & practiced in the Pagan, Druid, Wiccan & Shamanic communities.”

      You’re quite right. That’s why I wrote the book Gavin, to address that exact reality!

      “Come join us & live, reverend!”

      Thank you. I did – five years ago! And I have been living happily and authentically among my Druid, Wiccan, Shamanic and Pagan sisters and brothers ever since. I just don’t see the need to also cut myself off from my Christian sisters and brothers too, and (thankfully) most Pagans don’t require me to.

      BB, Mark

    • I suspect you are pagan Gavin, as I am. I was brought up in a strict so called Christian cult and like you now I had a massive aversion to anything to do with Christ and or his Church.

      You hit the nail on the head when you spoke about wars and so forth and the Church being part of it.

      For me this book speaks volumes about the divine regardless as to the face or name you put to it. It might be about Jesus but it could be about any other divine experience that inspires and enlightens. Ignore the name and read it with open mind.

    • Gavin, can I ask how you’re managing to comment on a book that, by your own admission, you haven’t read? Your views are based on your own assumptions and that, in my view, is both ignorant and silly.

      Buy a copy and read it. And then, if you still feel that the Pagan contributors have been fooled or used, by all means say so. But, until then, you might want to hold your counsel for fear of displaying even more ignorance and stupidity.

  7. Oh dear, could it be that we are becoming a little judgmental and unaccepting of others within these comments? Do we need to lighten up a bit, and remember the power of unconditional love and oneness? x

    • Indeed forfedha. And maybe my final comment went a bit too far, for which I am happy to apologise.

      However, I would like to read Gavin’s comments about “Jesus through Pagan Eyes” AFTER he’s read the book!

  8. This may go some way to softening the idea that the book may be full of ulterior (Christian) motives. It’s from a person widely respected within the Pagan and Occult world:

    Jesus through Pagan Eyes, by Rev Mark Townsend. Pub. Llewellyn.

    “It has often been my experience that Christians think Pagans do not accept the Master Jesus either as a Teacher or even as an historical figure. This is patently not true. Pagans for the most part are more than willing to accept his ministry and his teachings. In fact, many of his teachings stem from the ancient world and the words given from The Sermon on the Mount are quotes from earlier times long before him. Here at last we have a collection of essays about Jesus written by Pagans. From Druids to Gnostics, Shamans to Witches and all between; this fascinating book offers a new look at the Nazarene Master, a collection of viewpoints written from the heart and containing deeply held ideas, thoughts, and beliefs. It is a book that holds out the hope that both Pagans and Christians will recognise that they have a common ground, that both have a belief in the potential divinity of humanity and both are needed in a world that is perilously close to losing all semblance of faith in the Numinous.

    Well known writers from both sides have come together to offer their views and ideas from Caitlin Matthews to Phillip Carr-Gomm, from Maxine Sanders to our own Steven Critchley; this is book to read slowly and gain a different viewpoint of the teacher we call The Christ.”

    Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki

  9. Stupidity has nothing to do with my long time aversion, with anything to do with the christian church chippy darling (just hard knocks), who dangle that “peace loving dude” (thanks for that, Mark) like a carrot on a string, to draw in more sheep to their flock, while in reality, practicing anything but this mythical figure’s teachings, from day to day.
    After reading your blog Mark & a number of amazon reviews, my curiosity to read of my sisters & brothers who walk the path, has been peaked. Thanks to all here, for their thoughts.
    Brightest Blessings of Light & Love.

  10. Well…perhaps look at Roudolf Steiners writings on the Christ Event, his writings are not always easy to follow but worth the effort. As a Seer, he gives a very different “take” on the Cosmic Christ . Could round off a lot of edges, its certainly not about “Churchianity”. Thanks, good luck with the book….and Blessings to all. VmCrowe.

  11. I walked out on the church at age thirteen disappointed and angry that no one would answer my questions . I am a seeker and have looked at many paths …my soul path is an earth based spirituality and I feel connected to pre biblical deities. When I came across books on the gnostics and the dead sea scrolls etc my feelings towards Jesus and his friends softened and I realised that they have nothing to do with what we see as the Christian church today which still makes me angry and takes my breath away at times! On interfaith: Fifteen years ago when I visited an Indian ashram the statue of Jesus was just one of the many deities in the grounds for people to take puja and prayers to daily…………. Our world can only find peace when we listen to each other and offer tolerance and respect without fear of losing or ‘diluting’ our own connections.

  12. Just finished the book. Very good indeed! I like the way Mark has his say and then invites others to share their views. No mention in the book or bibiography, but The Jesus Mysteries[1999] by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy seems worthy of consideration here, as is Alan Watt’s essay- What Shall We Do With The Church?.
    As one who inhabits the cracks between Buddhism, Contemplative Taoism and British Neopaganism, I found it of interest.Let’s have one on The Dharma of Jesus.

    • Thank you keith.
      Really appreciate your above words. Encouraging!
      I loved Tim’s wonderful book, The Jesus Mysteries. However, it’s coming from a different perspective to mine, in that I do think that Jesus existed as a man, and most of my own input comes from that point of view. The majority of the Pagan contributors also seemed to talk more about Jesus as a human than a completely non-historical myth (though not all of them).
      I’m personally unconvinced by the voices that see the whole Jesus Christ story as a fabrication. It wouldn’t alter my faith if it were proved correct, but (as yet) I remain satisfied that Jesus existed as a first century peasant Jew, and who’s post-death story was then alaborated by both Jewish and Pagan mythology and prophecy etc.
      I hope to write another some day, which will take up the whole mythic dimension in a fuller way.
      Love the idea of The Dharma of Jesus!

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