One of the first concepts I learned as a pagan was the concept of having a “foot in both worlds”. This means that while you live and breathe within this physical world, you are not ‘of’ this world. Instead, you realize that there was more in this life that could be physically seen and understood, and thus also spent part of your time in this world doing our best to honor and work with that which could not be seen.
The concept of having a foot in both worlds is something that I think pagans today don’t embrace as they should. I say this because in my journeys through pagan communities, I see many pagans who have a strong spiritual life, but their physical life is a constant struggle. Some may attend every pagan event they can, but may not hold down a paying job. Others believe that they are meant to be only in the spiritual world 100% of the time. Still others have decided that they are going to rebel against the physical world because it is unfair to them, or because they try to be the ones to ‘change the world’. I have seen this type of behavior not only in the pagan community, but also in the reenactment community. When someone quits their paying job in order to attend an out of state event, I don’t think they have a solid grasp of what it means to be in both worlds at the same time.
I understand that there could be a calling to stay in the spiritual world 100% of the time, I believe in this day and age that calling is very rare. And when it happens, there still has to be some sort of trade off with the physical world in order to continue the work of the spiritual. A great example of this was when I worked in a family housing unit for a local University. One of my coworkers was a Russian Orthodox priest whose parish could not afford to keep him as a full time priest. Therefore he did extra work on the side, such as inspecting properties, in order to maintain a regular income. I have also said before that while I feel I have a very strong intuitive gift, it’s not going to generate enough income to ensure that I can pay my bills and put food on the table.
The physical world in my opinion has quite a bit to teach us about being spiritual. Every problem and every interaction with another has a lesson hidden within. There are also spiritual lessons to learn from what it is that you aspire to do in this life. Whether or not you succeed in an endeavor doesn’t matter; what matters instead is what you take from the experiences. One of those experiences that you could strive to have includes going to school, keeping down a job and learning to fend for yourself.
I see a lot of pagans in my community who are angry with what they see in current society. They fight against the ‘social norm, determined to make a difference and change the way society thinks and acts. Some believe that we cannot sustain the society as it stands today (which they are right), and because of this they expect an apocalyptic style change that they plan to be ready for. Others just wish to rebel against what they feel is the mainstream of society. I find fault with both of these stances.
While I don’t disagree that there have been people that have made a significant influence to society as we know it, I believe it to be harder to do in today’s society than it was during the time period that they stood up for what they believed in. Society has changed to the point that you need to be a part of what it is that you wish to change; you need to understand the playing field, so to speak. The only way to do that is to be a part of the society that you wish to change. Further, I don’t think we are going to have an apocalyptic event. Instead, society is going to change as the world changes. This is the main reason why Arnold Schwarzenneger recently came out in favor of clean energy. He didn’t do it because of a possible apocalypse, he did it because of the business investment! It’s also the reason in Alaska they now have a Climate Change Adaptation Advisory Group, not to stop climate change, but to learn to adapt to what is coming.
While I understand many people do not agree with me, I believe that going beyond a high school education also has spiritual benefits. When I finally got back to college, I thought obtaining my bachelor degree was simply ‘going through the motions’ of getting a piece of paper that allows you to earn more money. However, through my schooling I recognize now that I have learned to understand more about people, situations and life than I would know as someone with a high school diploma. Schooling in any form forces you to think about the world around you in different ways than you normally would. It makes you go out of your comfort zone, which is exactly what spiritual growth also does.
In my experience, I have found that those of us that work within society actually help change society the most. Because I have a bachelor degree, I am financially established to the point where I can ‘vote with my money’, and only patronize establishments that are ecologically friendly and pay living wages. I have purchased carbon emission credits in order to offset the ones that my vehicles make. I can also help others by donating my time and money to various causes. I also vote, which is very important.
But just as I blend in with the society I live in, I don’t fully conform to this society. I spend quite a bit of time at work thinking about my spirituality, and at times I have been so moved to write some of the posts to this blog at work after a walk, or because a situation has arisen that I felt like I had information about. I pray often, and have spiritual objects at my desk. I am also not against using magic to work through situations and to help better the world as a whole. I go to religious events and groups, and I also spend several hours each month doing intuitive readings in order to help serve my pagan community.
There is one last thing that I want to share my point of view on, and it is something I am truly passionate about. I have heard from some people in the pagan community claim that in today’s day and age it is hard for younger people to do as well as their parents did. They feel that society is stacked against them because of the loans that they must take out in order to go to college, or because they are saddled with so much debt they cannot become financially independent. I disagree with this. As someone on the cusp of Generations X and Y, and I grew up in poverty. I was the first in my family to go to college right out of high school, and I because I was not equipped with the right skills to study nor understand the classes I was taking, I did not finish. Instead, 16 years after high school graduation and three different schools later I finally got my bachelor degree as I worked full time. I now have the ominous student loan debt (currently $26,000) that I am paying off. And at times I have had to refinance or defer it when my husband has been out of work or when I could not pay the minimum payments. I have taken more than one job at a time, lived in small apartments with many roommates and used public transportation in order to get to and from where I needed to be. I have had many trials through my life, but I never gave up. And that is what I believe the Gods want us to do – not provide excuses as to why we can’t, but to never give up trying to make our physical and spiritual lives better.
Now, because of mine and my husband’s hard work, we purchased a modest house in a decent area. We do our best to live within our means, and each year we try to make our lives better. Our entire struggle is just as much spiritual as well as it is physical. I know that we are not done struggling in this physical world financially, but we do our best.
I challenge those people who feel that the world is stacked against them to look again. There may not be opportunities in the areas that you want them to be, but there ARE opportunities out there. Those opportunities mean that you can work toward building the ones that you want in the future; you just have to keep at it. Just like there is significant hard work involved in a spiritual practice that is outside the mainstream, there is also significant hard work that needs to be done in the physical world.
The Gods want us to grow and become stronger so that we can serve them and our fellow humans on this earth to the best of our ability. That is truly what being in both worlds means to me. It isn’t about rebelling against society, it isn’t about finding excuses, nor is it finding a path that you only have to focus on the spiritual. Having a foot in both worlds means that you find a way to overcome obstacles in both the physical and the spiritual worlds and growing as a human being and becoming closer to the Gods because of it.