It could be said that those who consider themselves spiritual have always aimed to create peace with the heavens so that they might have peace while on earth. The wise have always taught that serenity within corresponds to serenity without.
While reading The Triumph of the Moon, a lengthy but captivating book on the history of Western Paganism and Witchcraft, I realized why the ancient Pagans’ approach to creating this peace differed from methods used by modern Neo-Pagans – each holds/held dramatically different world views.
Today’s Neo-Pagans conduct ritual for reasons like self-empowerment and healing the earth, whereas our forebears did so out of fear that the Deities would become vengeful if they didn’t. The latter can most logically be attributed to our ancestor’s experience of the world as a dangerous and uncertain place. (After the fall of Rome, violence and disorder were commonplace in Western Europe as warring tribes vied for land and security). The evolution of ritual as joyful communion rather than fearful placation seems to be a natural outgrowth of the rising stability of nations along with industrialization.
Though spiritual motivations have changed throughout history, the guiding principle has remained “As Above, So Below.”
(As an aside, while many Neo-Pagans and occultists believe this phrase originated with Hermes Trismegistus, it’s also interesting to note its appearance in the Bible: “…Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” Whether Christians appropriated the concept from Pagans or vice-versa is irrelevant as far as I’m concerned, as the wisdom behind it transcends man-made doctrine.)