Urth Liberation Front: On the Dangers of Thinking Esoterically

Despite the massive abundance we have created on this planet, there are a few with unimaginable wealth and a lot who are not even getting their basic needs met. All of these powerful tools we have developed are neutral in the hands of men. They can be used to empower us or enslave us, for us or against us. As a human being alive at this time, you get the unique opportunity to play a role in choosing and forging the direction of civilization in arguably its most crucial moment. We are at the precipice of change. You can choose to embrace the Spiritual Revolution that is upon us and unite globally for the highest good of all. We can choose to evolve our outdated systems and co-create economic and social systems that serve us all. Urth is the collective utopian future vision of a transcendent civilization sharing love and abundance. The Church of Urth is a non filed association of churches which functions as a global vessel to manifest that vision of Urth. This universal platform gives people the opportunity to make a stand as one that the fate of our species is more important than being right. When we are able to stop trying to dominate people and start collaborating, stop trying to enslave people and start trying to love and empower them, then anything becomes possible. That is Urth to me.

Sounds pretty good, right? Some of it is even reminiscent of language you might find on this very blog. We do live in a society with rising inequality and poverty in the midst of massive abundance. The tools and technology we have created are in fact neutral, and can be used to support either oppression or liberation. Uniting globally in a Spiritual Revolution that creates economic and social systems that might serve us all is a laudable goal. It would be great to live in a “transcendent civilization sharing love and abundance.” All fine sentiments.

Perhaps this is the rhetoric that was used when the “Church of Urth” applied to sign a lease with the Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee for office space as an “interfaith ministry” earlier this year. Mercy Junction is a wonderful organization, a covenant ministry of the Presbytery of East Tennessee that practices radical hospitality to its community: “each day, dozens of folks come in off the Highland Park streets, hungry for shelter, sanctuary, a hot meal, love and kindness. Homeless families. Stray dogs. Kids. Middle- and upper-class folks looking for community.” Mercy Junction not only provides important services to their community, they actively work to create a society of peace and justice by engaging in political protest and organizing. They are also a long-time ally of the Kairos Center. The “Church of Urth,” weird name notwithstanding, probably seemed like an okay partner to house at the Center, especially if its two founders made statements like the one above when they joined the community.

Church of Urth
The Church of Urth says it is an “unfiled association of churches established for creating and sustaining a space where the people of Urth can transcend together through united effort towards the collective vision of Urth.”

That was before “the leader of the group began making frightening Facebook posts that included threats of violence and rape, racism, sexism, antisemitism and heterosexism. Since that time there have been confrontations inside the building, as well as acts of vandalism and theft, and denying other partners access to the property.” On his Facebook page, the group’s founder has also claimed to be a slew of spiritual and fictional personages, including God, St. Michael, and Harry Potter. The two leaders have also claimed to be “intergalactic missionaries from the Gemini constellation” and that they are using their office at the Center to “formulate a plan,” which is currently “classified.”

It seems like eviction proceedings against the two will allow Mercy Junction to remove them soon from their premises, but the damage to the Center might be irrevocable. Its services have been stalled for many weeks now due to safety concerns, it has had to lay off all its full-time staff in order to keep paying its bills, and it has lost half of its other paying tenants. Mercy Junction is requesting donations to see it through this time of crisis and to allow it to keep providing services to the community of Highland Park. (Please consider donating.)

For me, as a member of the interfaith social justice community as well as a participant in some of the stranger byways of esotericism, occultism, and new religious movements, this whole sad episode raises special concerns. One op-ed in a local paper wonders if the Church of Urth is actually a concerted attempt by the alt-right to damage the mission of Mercy Junction through cruel trolling, while others suggest that one of the two founders has simply lost his mind (though an attempt at a psychiatric evaluation cleared him of the suggestion of instability). Looking into the history of the group and their relationship with the Center, it’s unclear to me whether they are alt-right trolls or simply New Agers who have gone off their rocker. (And I have a lot of experience with unhinged folks in new religious movements.)

Ultimately, the more important question for me is the spiritual defenses of leaders and organizations who are likely to encounter folks like the Church of Urth in their ministries and social justice work. The op-ed writer concludes his article by asking, “In this battle of principalities, who will win?” This might seem dramatic, but it’s a fair question. There are active powers and principalities in this world that want to undermine our work toward justice and equality. I’ve written about the theology of the principalities several times, especially in the context of the “spell to bind Donald Trump” controversy.

Now, these powers and principalities are obviously active in organized movements for white supremacy and patriarchy, but they’re also active inside our own hearts and minds. Those of us who are open to utopian visions, rejected philosophies, occultism and mysticism are especially susceptible to these powers. Mainstream society might say it’s because we’re already opening ourselves up to going nuts, but spiritually speaking, it’s also because we open ourselves up to relationships with cosmic powers that are fallen, whether they really are angelic spirits from Gemini or just psychological and psychospiritual constructs. Either way, we don’t always know if they have our best interests in mind.

This is why it is entirely possible that the Church of Urth guys were genuine when they made the statement quoted above, but still ended up spouting strange theories about how they defeated the Prince of England. All of this raises the need for those of us who are drawn to the strange, the occult, and the esoteric to engage in regular self-evaluation and possibly therapy on the psychological side, and to be on guard against negative spiritual and astral influences on the esoteric side. It’s why the Golden Dawn only allows its Outer Order initiates to practice Banishing Rituals for the first few years of their membership.

Meanwhile, from the perspective of the justice-seeking, liberal mainline Church of which Mercy Junction is a part, I have to say that we in that community are also subject to easy manipulation by powers and principalities. This is because we have largely abandoned the language of spiritual powers, the healthy suspicion of strange claims, and the power of practices like exorcism — usually in the interest of liberal toleration, interfaith ministry, and radical openness. This leaves us woefully unprepared to deal with things like the Church of Urth — both logistically and theologically. We sometimes even act as enablers who allow folks like them to become spiritually and psychologically worse under our care, because we are very hesitant to call out bad theologies and dangerous spiritual paths. I don’t have enough of the details to know if this is what happened in the case of Mercy Junction, but I’ve seen it happen all too often in mainline, progressive religious spaces.

All of this worries me deeply, and hits quite close to home. I urge everyone who is able to give a donation to Mercy Junction, so that they can get past this situation and continue their Christ-like mission of radical hospitality, service, and protest. And honestly, if I ever start spouting off about how I am an ambassador from the constellation Gemini and also Harry Potter, please call me an exorcist.

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