Spring Spheres and the Vernal Equinox Bunny

by Patrick J. Deneen on April 14, 2011 · 17 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Short

Our return to a distinctively modern form of paganism is nearly complete – a teacher at a Seattle school approved a “hunt” for round object containing sweets and surprises on the condition that they be called “Spring Spheres.” Apparently the children didn’t get the memo – upon seeing the vernal orbs, they exclaimed, “Ooh, Easter Eggs!!” They will be sent to re-education camps.

It would be perhaps forgivable, if still rather ridiculous, if such a “re-naming” were fundamentally open to the deeper truth of Spring as a time of new life, renascence and Resurrection. However, fed a steady supply of industrialized foods, kept relentlessly indoors both in and out of school, and on a path to preparation of education in birth control and STEM, our new paganism doesn’t even have the virtue of promoting a close proximity to nature’s rhythms and sources, destroying even the lived conditions that historically preceded Christianity. The old paganism had the virtue of openness to Christian truth – the new paganism aims at destroying even that openness. It should not be surprising that the greatest growth in Christianity today is likely to be in forms that are most divorced or even hostile to the experience of cyclical and circular liturgical worship. It’s not only the public schools that don’t know the connection between Spring and an Easter Egg – Mere Krustianity reinforces the new paganism, working in tandem to ensure nature divorced of sacrament, Christianity divorced of nature.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar "a" "person" April 14, 2011 at 10:25 am

Do not fear the sphere.

Where ever you are on the sphere, there is no one else who is closer than you to the center of things.

There are really no valleys, no mountains, and no steeples, either. All is all and ever so shall be.

Of course, there must be a spatial center-point to this cosmos, but if you can imagine when and where you and your cosmos are (and are not) in the streams of warm impermanence, you will see that it cannot matter, that locating the spatial center-point is just as meaningless as today’s up-to-date non-ethnocentric historians now referring to a certain point in time as the beginning of the “common era,” so that this year is C.E. 2011, NOT A.D. 2011, and so that we think such-and-such a man was born in, say, the year B.C.E. 541, and NOT B.C. 541. All the new textbooks use and insist upon this dating system.

Some “day” they will see how uncommon, undemocratic, and un-sphere-like it is also, for it still purports to “center” time, and to do it upon the “birth” of you-know-who. They will even see how arbitrary a measurement a “day” or a “year” is, and why it would even be wrong to date things from the big bang. There may have been an infinity of big bangs. Every possibility deserves to be treated democratically.

And every single “word” “here” or anywhere deserves to be in scare quotes. “You” especially. “You” don’t “die” anymore than “you” were “born.” “You” are an illusiorially whole-seeming instance/piece of the whole flux. And the characteristics of your illusion owe more to social forces and genes than to any “parents.” Which is why we consistently democratic and consistently science-accepting ones eventually would have had to prohibit egg symbolism even if it had never been connected to the Christian symbolism system.

But it is so connected–and so like the cross and chapel forms, the egg form must not be allowed to see the light of public day, except in the museums.

Relax. There is no sting.

avatar Patrick J. Deneen April 14, 2011 at 10:52 am

“a” “person”:

This may be the greatest comment ever.

avatar Joseph Harder April 14, 2011 at 6:03 pm

A Calvinist friend of mine likes to invoke Herman Dooeywerd’s theory of “sphere sovreignty.”

Somehow, one gets the impression this is NOT what he has in mind.

avatar Jeff Polet April 15, 2011 at 7:57 am

The theory of “sphere sovereignty” was articulated by Kuyper, and later taken up by Dooyeweerd and developed in his more differentiated idea of the modal scale.

As to the “new paganism” – what makes this interesting in part is the original meaning of the word “pagan” (from the Latin “paganus”) referring to a “country-dweller” or “not of the city,” as opposed to the Christians, who lived mainly in the cities. The old “pagans” were more likely to be in touch with the rhythms of nature, whose practices were then largely taken over by the Christians. (According to the OED, “heathens” also refers to persons from the countryside, from the heath and “not enrolled in the Army of Christ.”) Perhaps we ought to bypass Feuerbach’s reading and stick with the word apostate – a word that has sadly fallen out of circulation. Mere Krustians don’t believe in apostasy.

avatar Brian April 15, 2011 at 9:08 am

“a” “person”:

“I” truly admire the cut of “your” jib. Are “you” the same “person” who interrupted a “friend” of mine at “home” some years ago when “he” was writing? “He” said “you” had come on business from Porlock. If so, “I” can see now why “he” never finished the bit of doggerel “he” was working on then. “You” are endlessly more entertaining than “his” dull, elitist “poetry,” so burdened by dreary symbolism and unenlightened nonsense. The intellectually liberated inhabitants of the sphere wish you many years of pleasurable neuroendocrine states.

avatar katy April 15, 2011 at 9:41 am

This reminds me of Chesterton’s The Ball and the Cross

avatar Carl Eric Scott April 15, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Well, “a” “person” is me, and so thanks, Patrick. I’m glad someone can appreciate my weirdnesss. As the uber-perky secretary in the movie Elf said: “you just made my day!”

katy, thanks for the reference…it ain’t all about the cube v. the cathedral, apparently!

Brian, I confess I’m not entirely following, being not yet rigorously attuned to the deep grammar of sphere-thought that will make all poetry superfluous. But maybe if I understood what “Porlock” refers to…?

avatar Brian April 15, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Sorry. Here’s the reference with some of the conjectures it’s since spawned:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Person_from_Porlock

Despite a youthful rejection of Anglicanism and a brief turn as a Unitarian preacher, Coleridge returned to the C of E, and was unusual among the English Romantic poets in professing orthodox Christian belief.

avatar John Haas April 15, 2011 at 6:14 pm

“Our return to a distinctively modern form of paganism is nearly complete . . .”

I think a little chillaxin’ is in order. America has always had its Mortons, Woodhulls, and Blavatskys. It always will.

Events like this aren’t exactly a sign that we’re disappearing into THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH.

There’s still a whole lot more people going to church than chasing spring spheres across lawns.

Just sayin’.

avatar katy April 16, 2011 at 9:03 am

Also, as my husband points out, eggs aren’t spheres.

avatar Carl Eric Scott April 16, 2011 at 9:04 am

Coleridge! …I have vague memory of being impressed and intrigued by the Biographia Literaria from when I was a fresh-baked B.A. studying a lot of the romantic poets to pass a certain teacher certification test.

“Kubla” is a strange one…looking at it again two decades later, thanks to you Brian, I see it might be worth puzzling over. What is it with underground rivers and poets? I ask the question sincerely…as one who finds himself oddly fascinated by such images in Dante, Plato, Kubla, etc…

Your interpretation of Porlock is interesting…probably right.

avatar JonF April 16, 2011 at 9:29 am

I don’t think we can call this paganism. As you note, it is divorced from nature and the wonder and awe that nature inspires. The new attitude is rather a souless materialism that celebrates nothing, wonders at nothing and venerates nothing. It’s an anti-religion and an anti-metaphysic, and I think we sully honest paganism (past and present) by trying to shove it under the label of “paganism”.

avatar D.W. Sabin April 16, 2011 at 10:28 am

To refer to the current materialist , devil-may-care zero-sum yack fest as “paganism” is to give it too much credit. Competing bouts of certitude against apology don’t even reach the lowest rungs on the animism to paganism axis

This doubly damned apostate pagan takes umbrage.

avatar Tom April 16, 2011 at 3:51 pm

We could use a little paganism nowadays, but today’s crapola isn’t paganism.

avatar Petronius April 17, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Since March 2003, local councils in the United Kingdom have banned the traditional hot cross buns from school menus during Easter, thereby ending an English custom that dates to pagan times.

Apparently the cross bun originally represented the moon in its four quarters. In 1361, it was appropriated for Christianity when Father Thomas Rockcliffe distributed hot cross buns to the poor of St Albans parish in Hertfordshire. The hot cross bun became mandatory on Good Friday by statute of Elizabeth I. But sadly the bun is now taboo.

A spokesman for one of the East End councils said, “We are moving away from a religious theme for Easter and will not be doing hot cross buns. We can’t risk a similar outcry over Easter like the kind we had on Pancake Day [Shrove Tuesday].”

You can’t make this stuff up.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1424736/Hot-cross-banned-councils-decree-buns-could-be-offensive-to-non-Christians.html

avatar John Gorentz April 18, 2011 at 10:36 pm

I’ll mention it because nobody has done so yet. C.S. Lewis once said that it was no more possible for … Well, I couldn’t quite remember it from memory so I googled for it. Here it is, from one of the essays in “God in the Dock.”

“When grave persons express their fear that England is relapsing into Paganism, I am tempted to reply, ‘Would that she were.’ For I do not think it at all likely that we shall ever see Parliament opened by the slaughtering of a garlanded white bull in the House of Lords or Cabinet Ministers leaving sandwiches in Hyde Park as an offering for the Dryads. If such a state of affairs came about, then the Christian apologist would have something to work on. For a Pagan, as history shows, is a man eminently convertible to Christianity. He is essentially the pre-Christian, or sub-Christian, religious man. The post-Christian man of our day differs from him as much as a divorcée differs from a virgin. The Christian and the Pagan have much more in common with one another than either has with the writers of the New Statesman; and those writers would of course agree with me.”

avatar Chris Travers October 23, 2012 at 7:41 am

I don’t get this. I have always seen Easter as a probably pagan festival at its inception, and the venerable Bede suggests that it was named for an Anglo-Saxon pagan goddess. It seems to me that calling them “spring spheres” is taking the paganism out of it rather than putting it back in.

Of course, as a Neopagan, I share your disdain for the loss of tradition, particularly pagan tradition that this move embodies.

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