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From Monistic to Holistic--Hopefully
History of Basque Witchcraft
March 8, 1992
Many of the ideas we have looked at so far have been interesting. Some of them, such as the beliefs of ancient Greece, I have seen before, but many are new to me. There have been, of course, some subjects that have been more interesting to me than others and they have interested me for different reasons. It seems to me that all of these subjects are important not only for studying's sake, but also for the lessons that can be learned and the changes that may follow. Because of this, some of these ideas are important to me not only because they interest me, but also because I think we can learn from them. The three subjects that are most important to me are the evolution of beliefs concerning the fantastic, the monistic world view, and the affects of the clash and change of world views.
Probably the most interesting thing we have done is witness the way that the beliefs held by the masses about witches and their activities evolved over time. This interests me for two major reasons. First, it shows one - and probably the most important - way in which a myth or legend is developed. This interests me because I have always been interested in the beliefs and, especially, the stories of other cultures and it is very interesting to see how one of these stories comes about as we did with the beliefs concerning the witch, something that might be called a modern European myth. We have seen how each person who wrote about witches over the centuries changed some small detail or added another until a fantastic body of belief had been created. One of the more interesting and remarkable examples, to me, was the evolution of the beliefs of the properties of the Mandrake plant. That plant started out having supernatural powers and later was said to shine like a star, shriek when plucked (causing death), and even to be a little human being. The same occurred with the beliefs about the Sabbath and witches in general. The other reason I think this subject is important is because today we have the same problem. The most noticeable example is the way in which myths about AIDS and the transportation of the HIV virus are widely believed causing much fear even though scientists are telling us that these fears are unfounded. These myths result in the persecution of HIV carriers in much the same way that witches were persecuted for their believed powers. Maybe by studying the way this kind if phenomenon occurs, we can prevent it in the future.
Though I find the evolution process very interesting, of more importance to me is the monistic world view we have studied. After driving along the river that runs through the Basque Country, it is clear that something has to change. By studying the witches, Native Americans, and other cultures that held a monistic world view, we may be able to incorporate some of their ideas and use them to mold our future. In just about all sectors of our society we are destroying some part of our environment. I am not idealistic in my opinion. I do not believe that we can go back to a completely monistic world view or society but maybe we can syncritize the overall views of those cultures and start reversing the damage our current world view has allowed us to commit. I think that people trying to do this through the study of witchcraft and ancient religions may be able to look for help from the very people who helped cause much of the damage: the scientists. There are a few ideas behind the science of modern physics that are in agreement with monistic world views. These are that the whole is more than just the sum of its individual parts and that every human action changes our environment. These ideas are replacing the views that if we understand all of the parts we understand the whole and that we can be completely objective observers. These views prompted one author to compare modern physics with Buddhist philosophy and, though most physicists would say he has pushed things a bit, he does make some very interesting observations.
Lastly, I feel that our study of the clashing of world views is also important. Back in the time of the witches, the clash between the "pagan," monistic view, the Christian view, and the natural law view created a drug culture that was trying to escape from the confusion and disorder of the time. It also encouraged the belief, and thus persecution, in people with strange, fantastic, and often evil powers: the witches. Now we have a growing drug culture and it very well may be due to the fact that world views are changing again or at least that the old one is inadequate and unfulfilling. For this reason alone, this subject would be important to me, but it is also important because there is, as I mentioned, a new world view that is emerging in modern physics. Unfortunately, it seems that i may be a very long time before this new world view filters down to the masses and becomes accepted. Einstein revolutionized physics at the beginning of this century and there is yet to be felt much of an affect on the world view of society as a whole. Thus, I am not too optimistic that the new view will make much of a difference on society in quite some time, but, when it does, we should be prepared for the problems that will arise when it clashes with the old one. This is why studying the clash of past world views is important to me. Then, it was partially responsible for the murder of millions. What could it result in next time? The evolution of beliefs of the fantastic, the monistic world view, and the results of the clash of world views are the three things we have studied that are most important and interesting to me. They are important to me mostly because of my other interests, namely physics and mythology, but also because of the lessons that can be learned and applied in our own time. Everything we have studied has been the same. It is all relevant to our own time and thus merits continued study. However, these are the things which I feel are most important. Hopefully, the study of witchcraft and similar subjects can produce beneficial results in the twenty-first century. Maybe the monistic view of the world held by the witches can help lead to a Holistic view in the near future.