Logic, Discernment and Paganism: A Discussion

A man with severe anger issues that have caused significant criminal repercussions for himself decides that the reason he has so much anger is because of his past lives.  So he seeks out a friend who is a past life guru and they decide to do all of the past life work they can with the belief that once he is done dealing with past life pain his spirit will shine brighter than the sun.

A couple with a history of arguments recognize their fights are getting more and more acute and almost violent.  They decide to look for a witch that will help exorcise the demon that they feel is connected to each of them so that they will no longer be angry at each other.

These are only two of the many situations that I’ve seen over the years that clearly demonstrate how someone who focuses on metaphysical work can lose sight of clearly logical explanations for issues within their own lives.  It’s something that can be a danger in any religion, really.  Anytime someone is claiming that a deity intervened directly because of a specific sin someone committed reeks of lack of discernment.  Anyone who tries to claim that they are being attacked or cursed needs to carefully vet the situation as well to ensure that a logical explanation is not the root cause of the issue.

Now the above examples of the man and the couple are extreme cases, and those cases are somewhat rare.  Yet the topic of discernment is one that comes up again and again in the pagan community, especially within discussions of Unverified Personal Gnosis (UPG).  For many of us, there are no tangible rules to our spirituality and metaphysical practices.  This forces us to look at what others have done (historically and in current practice) and learn what we can from them.  Then we rely on ourselves and our personal experiences to fill in the gaps.  Some things are easy to accept.  For example, Odin liking hot coffee as an offering.  That’s a pretty common personal gnosis among those who work with him.  Others, like being a God-spouse or God-slave, are a bit harder to personally accept.  Harder still to accept are some of the personal, deeper experiences people have had with divinity – solitary rites of passage, ordeals while journeying, even conversations with a Spirit, God or Goddess could be suspect.

If things weren’t complicated enough, looking to the answers to whether something is ‘made up in your head’ or actually happened can be so personal that the answer may not be the same for everyone.  I’ll take an example from my own life.  When I was a child, I dreamed of my current husband.  In one of the vivid dreams I remember of him, he was in a martial arts uniform, taking instruction from his teacher and practicing kicks.  In another dream, I saw his house.  Did I really dream of my future husband?  Romantically I want to say yes, I did, but I couldn’t truly believe it until I verified with my husband details about the dreams.  And after those verification conversations that included verifications that he and I both agreed upon, we both believe we dreamed about each other when we were little.  Someone else could look at this and say it isn’t possible and it didn’t happen, and that’s fine.  However for my husband and I, we believe we did dream of each other, and what others believe about the dreams doesn’t matter.

But where is the line drawn between something that could happen, and something made up in the mind of the individual?  This is a question I am butting up against quite a bit, especially when discussing Gods, magic and divinity with other people on social media.  Add to this the fact that I do significant amounts of work with a trickster god and that’s a recipe for even more frequent questioning of events, and VERY frequent questioning as to whether or not my personal discernment is good enough!

But as much as I question myself, I don’t seem to see others question their own discernment, which I think is a concern for many of us in the community that do follow more of a magical path.  A misguided spell  or judgement call can lead to many situations where someone needs to clean up the mess that is made after the misguided event has occurred.   At the very least, the person who believes something that is incorrect could become a physical, mental and emotional drain on the people around them.

If you think this is starting to sound like a psychological problem, you are right.  Many times the person who is creating events don’t realize why, and those events could be utilized as a ‘mental escape’ from trauma that has occurred (or is still occurring) in their life.  They also could be simply young, learning on their own (or simply doing very quick google searches for answers to questions) and are making mistakes when deciphering what they believe are signs and symbols.  Or, like in the very first example that I posted in the beginning of this post, the person could simply not be ready to assume the responsibility of the trauma that they caused to their children and their (now ex) wife, and never will be.

A final reason for someone misleading someone else in a UPG situation is that it could be deliberate.  As in the case of pastors pushing for more and more money to be given to their church because of the ‘tithing’ belief, or other priests claiming a God requires devotees to have sex with them, there could be ulterior motives for the lies.  I wish this didn’t happen often, but it happens enough that it needs to be considered.

So what are we supposed to do here?  How can we recognize when a UPG situation is verified, and when it is not?

I think the very first thing we have to consider is the state of mind of the individual who had the situation occur in the first place.  Is there trauma going on in their lives that they are addressing, or still reeling from?  What is the mental age of the person?  Someone who has had significant trauma in their life could act younger than what they are in physical years due to the brain’s own methods of protection from trauma and abuse.  Does the person think logically on a regular basis, or are what others would call ‘down to earth’ about things, or do they crave being in a spotlight?  Has the person been found to have caused situations that could be considered dramatic or drama filled in the past?  Those are all things to consider when helping someone vet whether or not a situation is truly divine in nature or is something that the ego has made up.

A second and just as important item to consider is the logic of a situation.  Is there a physical explanation for the event?  Could the apparition be a shadow cast by the sun, or could something not be sitting as solidly as you thought when it fell over?  If I wake up in the middle of the night with red bumps and scratches all over my body, was it a demon torturing me, or did I happen to have windows open in the height of summer with screens that have been ripped up by cat claws, and said cats are using me as turn four in their kittyopolis 400? (Anyone who has cats knows what I’m talking about.  For those that don’t have cats, they love to run around at night.  A lot.)

Most importantly, the questions I pose here should not just be ones we use to look at others situations and stories.  These should be ones that we regularly ask ourselves when we try to verify whether or not something is metaphysical in nature or just happens to be something with a physical cause.  If we don’t keep asking these questions of ourselves, we end up committing the greatest error of all, which is to delude ourselves and others into false situations and use false guidance as our personal truths.  That is why this issue is so serious.

To bring this subject up and seriously look at the issue and its implications can be hard.  Many people will be defensive about it, and that is expected.  I’m talking about possibly denying something someone else believed truly happened.  In some ways, you are denying someone their belief of a personal truth.  They may get mad.  They may get defensive.  They may not listen.

How do I know that someone would act that way?  Because when I was in this very situation where I had my own beliefs challenged, that is exactly how I acted.  I went between anger, surprise and disbelief, and uncertainty.  It was downright painful too.  Here are people that I trusted with my own personal beliefs and yet they were cutting them to pieces right in front of me.

Guess what…They were right.

I’m of course talking about a time over 20 years past, when I was in my teens, JUST starting out on this pagan road on my own.  I wasn’t too much of a drama queen, but boy I caused my share.  And I had no idea why I was doing it either, until I realized years later that I had trauma that I had to deal with.  And it was that trauma which goaded me into thinking what I was hearing and seeing was right.  That’s why I recognize now that there is a learning curve here.   And not many people are ready to go to those places to understand why they are wrong, because ultimately that will mean dealing with that trauma.  Sometimes those issues are just too powerful, and those ideals that we are trying to break down for the person as being false are actually shielding them from that trauma for a reason.

That discernment earning curve can be further influenced by the person who is trying to help show them the issue.  Sometimes that person trying to point out those issues does it in a manner that will help, and sometimes that becomes part of the problem too, especially when someone does it just to boost their own ego.  Even if there is a PERCEPTION that the discernment push is being done by an ego boost, it can still cause a longer learning curve.  That isn’t the fault of either party, it’s just what happens.

Even after all the care, planning and gentleness  utilized to try to help explain to someone else that something may not be exactly what they think it is, the whole situation could still turn sour.  In those cases, it’s best to let it go.  Let each person  do what they can in order to take care of their own energy and their own mental and emotional health.   Not attack the other, simply let things be as they are.  In my own case it took a move away from the coven I was with, a marriage and a divorce before I dealt with the trauma that allowed me to see metaphysical issues more clearly.  And that is a much shorter period of time than many take – I was motivated.

I wrote about this because I’m seeing more and more posts where people talk about their own discernment, and I think it’s not enough to simply put out there how someone discerns for themselves their own dealings with divinity.  I think we also need to talk about the ‘why’ we have to have discernment, and talk about why it varies between people so much.  I hope I’ve given some good things to ponder here, and I hope the conversation continues.  And as always, I’d love to hear other’s opinions.

Thanks for reading.

 

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Poem: Reality Received

Blindfolded and reaching I find,
The start of that which was bound
Undeterred, I pressed on
Not knowing anything wrong

The smell of blood caught me
The liquid to my touch, thick and sticky
“No, my dear” He said quietly
“Do not step back, press on directly.”

The wounds I felt were deep
Her moans from pain I reaped
Understanding nothing, I continued
As his reassurances were issued

Finally, feeling the pain I knew
What was not within my view
He took my blindfold to confirm
That which I could now discern

I looked at the reflection where I reached
The blood and sores I beeseeched
I had not known what I asked
Yet now, my die was cast

The Trickster laughed and smiled at me
Yet ever his eyes wept tears for me
“You locked yourself in this trap” said he
“It’s spikes and thorns still tight in thee”

“Fear of failure, fear of anger
Your personal jailers clamor
Their protection ended long ago
And now they keep pieces unknown”

“Learning is healing, yet pain exists
You called it to you, and did insist
Now take the shards back from the abyss
Accept the pieces in as they fit”

I stared in disbelief,
How could I, in my grief
Ask for such a thing of hurt?
Yet I did – my soul, I tore apart

Now the healing has begun
The pain comes as I awaken
But now the true work is being done
As I slowly integrate into one.

Photo from Deviant Art

Poem: Spirit

The spirit within me burns.
It burns with passion for things that I do in my life.
It burns with desire to be stretched
It yearns to shine within the eye.

The Spirit  longs to burn that which does not help
The Spirit longs to fill the space left with warmth and flame.

It burns with strength.
It burns with desire,
It burns to touch other spirits.

It is not mine to say ‘turn it away’ because it shines too brightly.
It is not mine to hide, afraid that I would burn another.
It is mine to be the reflection.

The Spirit is mine to allow its energy to saturate me;
It’s mine to allow the warmth to flow from my fingers,
Dripping onto the things that I touch
Changing those things unavoidably.

For that is the nature of the Spirit.

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A New Circle Casting

I will be helping to officiate an Autumnal Equinox ritual next weekend.  This one is a challenge to me as the participants aren’t of one specific group.  Instead we will have participants who fit under multiple labels within the pagan spectrum.  So I decided to come up with a different way to create sacred space that still allowed everyone to join in, but wasn’t as much of a constraint as a thrice’ round, bound circle.

The following poem is a call and response style.  All participants will say the lines that repeat, with the officiant speaking the additional verbiage.   I’d love to know what you think!

In this place, in this time,
In this circle, gathered round
Connecting with the ancient time
We now charge this sacred ground

Here we meet, in this hour
In this circle, gathered round
We celebrate the sacred power
We now charge this sacred ground

Kindred spirits, hear our call
In this circle, gathered round
Bless this space, one and all
We now charge this sacred ground

Now we stand, all within
In this circle, gathered round
Our celebration to begin
We now charge this sacred ground

 

 

Photo from Deviant Art

How The Mother Became Clothed in Life

I sat at the edge of the shore, watching the sun rise above the water, As I watched the sun, I felt the Great Mother stir.  She reached out, and I felt her energy again as I have these long days of summer.  Her voice filled my head as she started to tell me a story.

“Long before the sounds of the waves, or the light of the stars or the rustling of trees.  Long before all of these, all was silent. No life grew upon me.  The only warmth I felt was from within.  My womb was barren, and I was alone.

I yearned for that which I could nurture.  I yearned for beauty, for the quiet peace and strength of life.  But there was none.  And I cried in my loneliness, tears of stone seeping through my skin.

And Father heard me.

He reached out his rays, for he knew the potential deep within me.  His light blessed me, it brought me ecstasy.  He healed my pain and filled my womb.  His gentleness sparked my heart, and together we created the four winds.

The Wind of the North brought insight and strength in the quiet time
The Wind of the East brought forth new beginnings and intuition
The Wind of the South brought passion and courage
The Wind of the West brought transformation

Father was happy with these things, and he embraced me still.  And together, we clothed my body.

The Ice of the North Wind formed on top of me
The East Wind pushed the ice onto my flesh and shaped me
The South Wind melted the ice and soothed my sores
The West Wind moved the water to its new home

And thanks to the winds, the green came!  They were beautiful!  Greens, the things that grew!  I had not known that I had the strength to hold such beauty gently upon me!

But the North Wind blew again, and the green was afraid because they were not strong. So the East Wind told them, “Do not fear my brother of the North, for I will make you new again!” The Greens trusted the East Wind and released their seed to rest on my flesh, comforted in the knowledge that they would come again.  And the East Wind blessed the seed and spread it around.

The North Wind cooled my flesh and the greens passed on.  But I carefully protected the seed from the cold.  And because the East had blessed it, the seed was ready when the South Wind blew his warmth.  The West Wind also brought it’s powerful wind to clear the space of the dead green to allow the seed to grow.

As the East Wind had promised the Greens, the seeds started to grow.  And as the seed, grew, colors appeared!  Not only had the Greens returned, but this time they were also golds and reds and pinks and yellows!  Colors I did not know I could give birth to – beauty beyond what I could ever imagine!

And that is why the East Wind brings life and intelligence.
The South Wind brings passion, courage and warmth.
The West Wind brings transformation and change.
And the North Wind brings the cold and rest.

I was very happy and cared for my Greens and Colors carefully, but Father was not done. He said, “You will birth even more wonder.”  Father kissed me yet again and more life came!  Four leggeds and two leggeds and the winged ones, the slippery ones and even the many leggeds came forth!  And I loved them all.

Yet as they grew, I knew that they needed more guidance.  So I asked the Winds to help me guide these creatures.  And the Winds agreed, and they speak their truth into the hears of the living creatures.  They teach the songs and tell the creatures what greens can help to bring balance and health, what greens can soothe and what songs and words to say, what dances to dance, and they teach the creatures to be happy.”

I smiled, my heart full upon hearing Machi-Ma speak her story, my eyes filled with wonder and delight.  She continued on:

“Now, I am old, but I am still clothed in wonder and in beauty.  And I am happy that I give birth to so many wonderful things.  But now the time is come that many cannot hear the Winds anymore.  They do not understand why they hurt and are sore.  If they only opened up their heart to the Winds and heard their laws and stories again they would be happy.

I hurt for those that cannot understand.  But I do not grieve any loss.  For my strength runs very deep and will always be there for the ones who feel it.  And should their hearts soften, the Winds will still speak to them of the ways of life and transformation.

There will be change, as there always is, and the Winds will continue to speak their song to all hearts, and someday, all of my life will listen again.”

 

Insight And Premonition: A Poem Of Sight

Tired and weary I went
Up is down and down is up
To seek some sort of peace
Or an ear for my lament

The journey was not soothing
Joyful colors gave no solace
Signs of life noted, not happily
I simply tread on, smiles unstirring

I reached the place of choosing
And spoke my questions all
In the hopes I would find answers
And actions of the Gods, approving

The seer came out, awakened
And stared deeply within
My mind and the world known was reviewed
Until the voice rang out, unshaken

“The life you choose is your own.
They have chosen for themselves.
Dearest one, you know it cannot change
What has grown cannot be unsown”

“Reach out to those that hurt
Find solace in the joining
Share the strength together
Accept that all still play a part”

“Guard thy magic well
Attend to thy wounds carefully
Time for change will be at hand
But for now, hurts will still prevail.”

“I know you wish for more
Perhaps a nicer tale of change?
Know it sits, patiently waiting
Soon to be set for your ever more”

“I hear thy mind race for answers
Trying to make sense or find meaning
Perhaps no sense is what is meant, for now
Instead use thy heart to heal thy cancer”

The seer said nothing further
It was not the comfort I sought
Instead, everything & nothing was said
And now I must leave, ever the wiser

New Age Bashing

Several weeks ago, an article entitled “New Age Bullshit Part 1” popped up in “A Parliament of Owls – Spiritual & Metaphysical Chat for Wandering Owl Fans” discussion group on Facebook. Since then, It’s been on my mind quite a bit.  It’s been on my mind because I agree with some of the author’s points, but I also very much disagree about his stance on the new age movement.

In the article, the author speaks immediately about the jargon people in the new age movement use. (He calls them ‘lightworkers’ in the article).  Specifically, he speaks to how most lightworkers only talk about love and light, Further down in the article he speaks to how some of these people refuse to even consider the darker sides of the soul, speaking to how most lightworkers believe that if they don’t give any energy to that side of them, the dark side can’t hurt them, or basically, it won’t exist.   This is where I do agree with him.  Yes, there are people out there that have been in the new age movement for quite some time and don’t think about anything but ‘the light’ and preach how staying in ‘the light’ allows this and that and allows you to develop <insert touchy-feely statement here>.

I further agree with the author that many of these lightworkers are stuck in their own personal development because they only focus on the light.  But just like the minority of any religious or spiritual discipline that ruin it for the rest of the population, the same thing has happened in the new age movement, and these lightworkers he speaks of are the culprits.  Yes, we are going to get the people that are that are stuck but they claim they are not.  We are also going to get the people in the New Age movement that specifically speak to only certain practices are ‘true’ and only using certain tools are ‘right’ and so on and so forth.  And we should deal with them like we do when we find them in any other aspect under this great big umbrella called paganism:  We need to ignore them and continue our path.  Because if the lightworkers are true to form, anything we say to them is only going to get us angrier.

The author basically leaves his article there, which makes it feel more like a rant to me than being anything informative.  (In all fairness, he did say this was part one, but I could not find anywhere where he had a part two.)  Again, I see his point and can understand why he would rant.  People like the lightworkers he describes can be very frustrating to deal with.  But there are other facets to the new age movement he doesn’t even consider covering in his article, and that’s a shame.

As most of you already know, I do intuitive tarot readings.  Many of the clients that come in to see me for readings are searchers.  Some of these people are clearly out of their comfort zone, they come to me even though they have no idea how a reading works or what to ask.  Some don’t even know how a tarot deck works.  Still, they come because they are searching for something that they cannot name.  Still others come speaking of ‘talents’ or ‘gifts’ their recent ancestors had; and their visit to me is them grasping at straws trying to connect with that talent that might be innate in themselves.

In these cases, I do my best to be the gracious host of the metaphysical realms.  I speak to them and give them ideas on reaching out to their ancestors; or other ways they can start ‘testing’ the waters so to speak.  But I don’t give them too much.  Going straight into how to cast a circle, gathering spell components for a spell or talking about some of the more specific areas of the metaphysical realms are just too much for these clients.

So in short, I give them what some people would call New Age practices to start with.

If you look at some of the practices of the new age belief you will see immediately that they are very basic.  They are easy to comprehend and they can be communicated and understood in a very short period of time.  That makes them the perfect building block for me to present to my clients so they can start building their own foundations for metaphysical practice.  Also, the so called ‘light’ exercises are perfect to help teach protection and grounding; which most newbies desperately need.

The practices I speak about aren’t any that need deep oversight.  I’m also not designating myself as their ‘teacher’ by giving them suggested practices, nor do I say they MUST do them.  I simply suggest them and allow the client to make up their own mind as to whether or not the practice is right for them.  And if they choose to go deeper and want more information, then I can suggest a specific person from the list of people I have that I know to be very reputable and that can give them further information about a specific subject.

Another reason I start with new age practices is because of the terminology of the movement is so common.  Reaching for a common language to communicate to someone is the same thing I do in my day job.  As a technical writer, I constantly have to think about my audience; Is my writing going to someone with technical knowledge so I can let lose more technical terms, or is the audience a group who doesn’t know the difference between Kaizen and a Kanban?

In order to communicate anything, we must first make certain we have a common language.  New age terminology easily bridges that gap.  It also allows me to bypass terms that might scare my clients.  Sure there are things that I still must explain in more detail, but overall I have a common language that I can use to start connecting with my client and help them work through whatever problem they have come to me to get more information on.

The people that come to see me and people like them are some of the biggest reasons why the new age movement is still thriving.  These are people who could be just becoming aware of the energies within and around them and have no idea how to work with that energy.  They might be scared shitless of something they saw, felt or heard and have no idea what to do about it.  Or they are like me when I found new age practices – they are the people that feel deep in their heart and soul that something is missing, and are reaching for the piece of them they cannot define.

I am a Reiki Master, and that, to many people, is a new age practice.  Yet it was my training in Reiki that ultimately led to my being able to control my intuitive gifts and become the adept reader I am today.  It also led to me being able to use healing abilities and helped to teach me not to send out my own energy and deplete my own personal energy sources.  Reiki became my teacher in other ways too.  It was what I reached for as protection when I started doing my own deeper journey work and it has helped deepen my understanding of the Gods as I know them now.  In fact, Reiki still is a very important piece of my spiritual discipline.

When I found Reiki, it was the only thing that I could find in the pagan community that made any sense regarding my healing and intuitive abilities.  I was already pagan; I’d been practicing rituals at that point for roughly 10ish years and no matter how much I searched, I could find no one who could help me with my intuitive and healing gifts.  Reiki was the only thing that helped me understand what I was doing wrong in my practice, and it was the only thing that helped me correct my mistakes properly.

Now had this article been written back then, and had I seen it prior to my decision to be attuned to a new age thing such as Reiki, perhaps I would have reconsidered my decision to become attuned.  And I would not be following the wonderful soul fulfilling path that I currently follow.  I would not be the strong person that I am today.  I would not be devoted to Loki and Odin. I would not be a member of OBOD.  And I would not be a keeper of the Sacred Pipe of my ancestors.  That’s one reason why I’m a bit upset about this article; who is going to read it and step away from possibly the very start of a very fulfilling spiritual path because of what others think about the practices they do?

The whole ‘new age bashing’ in articles like this one also makes me wonder if there is a deeper reason why it happens.  Was there a time where we, in our newbie ignorance, were like those lightworkers perhaps?  Did we condemn practices that weren’t exactly like our own? Or, are we condemning new age practices that are so simple that we in our current knowledge base would now assume that ‘ANY’ newbie should automatically know them as common sense?

Or are we embarrassed at our own beginnings, and that is why the new age movement gets the brunt of the bashing, much like pagan publishers that publish lots of beginner books like Llewellyn publishing (or bash the so called ‘Llewellyn babies’ who read said books), authors that write lots of beginning practice books (Silver RavenWolf) or why books that we once held in high esteem get joked about (Uncle Bucky’s Big Blue anyone?).

Perhaps that is the crux of it.  We all DO have to start somewhere.  Let’s stop bashing those starting points.  And while we are at it, let’s not worry about the lightworkers or other people that choose to stay stuck and help the ones who truly want to reach deeper.  Let’s help them realize that the tools they received and the skills that they learned in the new age movement can help them learn that there is much more to these paths than what they know.  And in the meantime, let’s recognize the new age movement as the stepping block that it can be into a much bigger world.

 

Photo from Deviant Art