Winds of Change

How much is your work contribution truly valued in some companies?  I can answer that with a quick visualization exercise.  Imagine a bucket almost full of water.  Then put your hand in that water.  Finally, pull your hand out.  The space left by your hand is the amount of value you are as a worker in many establishments.

It’s painful to think of your job or career like this.  But in this day and age, I’ve found it to be the truth about 90% of the time (with the 10% being extremely small companies or startups that have so few employees that they may go under if they lose another).  Sure, there are many corporations that will still treat you better than others. Perhaps they will have a better compensation or benefit package.  Perhaps they have a proper hierarchical structure set up that allows your complaints and concerns to be heard and things to be actually done about them.  Perhaps they have zero tolerance policies in place that make you feel very comfortable working there without worry about being bullied for being in a minority in some way.    But even with the benefits and ethical treatment of employees, this is still the norm.

I saw this visualization posted in a coworker’s cube one day, many years ago.  And it was painful to think about, at first.  But then, I changed my perception around this visualization, and even though it’s still uncomfortable to think about, I think it has made me better able to handle the constantly occurring change in every aspect of my life.

And yes, I did say EVERY aspect of life.

This visualization is especially true in pagan communities that exist solely on social media platforms.  Groups form, people join them, people leave them, groups change, and groups die.   There is absolutely nothing anyone can do to change this cycle, and there is nothing that will make one person less expendable than another, no matter who you are, what you have studied or what you have claimed to have done.  Some have a tendency to get tied up into the identity of a group so much that it becomes a piece of ‘who you are,’ much like a title of Priest or Priestess.  The very nature of the change in these groups, however, makes this dangerous.

It’s even worse if you take the opinions of those in the group as downright fact.  There are too many people in these types of situations who have extremely low self-worth, or no one to physically talk to about the subjects tossed around in the group.  Those types hang on every word, hoping that they will get the reassurance that they need to feed their severely malnourished spirit that they indeed are making the decisions they are supposed to be.  And they also beg for those reassurances that they are hearing and seeing the things they think they have.  Sometimes things get so bad the group becomes an echo chamber for a specific set of criteria; you need to think like this, walk like this and do this, and then you will be doing things ‘right’.  It doesn’t matter that the criteria are based on one opinion; if the group thinks it’s right, that is all it will be.

What is even more painful is the realization that even in local organizations the bucket visualization is also true.  The organization doesn’t have to be religious, either.  While face-to-face community organizations don’t have as many dangers as the social media groups, they still have the same aspects when it comes to group participation.  It doesn’t matter how much you contribute, volunteer or are simply present, there will always be someone else ready to pick up the slack and fill in that hole left by your hand in the water.  The sooner peace is made with that and you grieve what is lost, the sooner you can move on.

The bucket visualization is also very true when it comes to personal religious practices. Now, realize I work with two very distinct deities.  One has aspects of a change-bringing-trickster, the other has aspects of a wanderer seeking knowledge, and was willing to give up his own eye to get it.  Not everyone is going to be in the same boat of personal change that I am.  But many that work with the blood brothers will have upheaval to deal with sooner or later.  And right now, it’s my turn to do just that.

The thing about change is that it is inevitable.  Nothing stays the same; not your relationships, not the titles you are given or give yourself, not your place of employment, not your practice, not your home…nothing.  But recognizing that truth and keeping it as a mindset to be prepared for, especially in spiritual work, allows us the freedom of being able to see more clearly the real things that we need to carry with us, and see those that are weighing us down.  You learn to only take what you need with you and are more able to release the rest back to that where it came from.  Because ultimately, the excess baggage that you are carrying isn’t going to be of any service at your next destination.

 

 

 

 

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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.