Finding Autonomy, Parts 1-3 (WALK)

WALK.

 

I. BEGINNINGS

(1) In the beginning, there was nothing. Not a single atom, nor a god, nor a sun, a moon, a cell. Nothing was infinitesimally packaged into this universe. Nothing was this universe.

(5) Then came a day when there was something. Nothing exploded into matter and still expands to this day. And although the universe stretches far beyond human imagination, the universe is not our current concern.

(8) All solutions must first have a problem. I do not wax omniscient about your problems, but instead offer the solution. I have found this solution works for all problems, because problems are never first physical.

(11) Sensations turn to perceptions turn to problems. And it is here, in perceptions, that we find the source of all problems. And here, in these words, I offer you the solution to your perceptions.

(14) Walk. If you cannot walk, move in some direction by your own decision. If you cannot move of your own free will, then imagine a walk, a perpetual, decisive motion. And it is here, in this walking temple, that you will find the answers to your problems.

 

II. WORRIES

(1) Your perceptions are the source of all problems. Those who do not think, do not worry. Much of human life is worry. And although other beings are not as cognizant, they too, worry. Without worry, there would be no survival.

(5) Worry must not rule your heart and mind. Deep inside, we all recognize our autonomy. Though we are ruled by law and order, none can rule our minds but us. Chains on our feet are not chains on our hearts.

(9) Worry has its place, but its place is not at your head or in your heart. Worry is your counselor, not your master. Remember your autonomy. Control your movement. Be one with your physical body, and your mind will quiet.

(14) Walk. And while you walk, challenge your heart to know itself in the deepest way. Do not love unwilling, do not know with a blind faith. Control your worry, and you will have peace.

 

III. FINDING SELF

(1) All hide in familiarity. Be it a song or smile or route, we find solace in the perceived fallacy of sameness. Yet, everything we see changes, and everything we hear will never be heard again. Although the message stays the same, the delivery will change, and our perception of its meaning will rise anew each time.

(5) To remember the wisdom of “Walk.” is opportunity to learn your lessons anew. To bring to heart new meanings and discoveries and decisions. To find your way through the darkness and into your light.

(8) Take this opportunity in the morning and in the night. In the high sun and in total darkness. Shod and unshod, clothed and naked, stand before yourself and inquire with an unfettered mind. What makes you? What makes me? What makes the universe?

(14) Walk. And while you walk, open your heart to all things. Challenge your atheism and your faith alike. Emerge from the fire as a new being each day.

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Early Morning Reflections

I woke up this morning because  my cat kept jumping on me and I couldn’t take it anymore.  You see, she likes things on a schedule and we feed her every morning between 5 and 7.  It was right around seven and so I crawled out of bed to feed her and I saw these dark shadows on the floor. They happened to be dog poop.

There’s an important lesson to be had here, and the lesson is that sometimes, you wake up to find that a dog has literally shit on your floor and your morning.  Now, luckily for me, I own a dog, so all in all, it wasn’t too out of the question to find some shit on the floor.

And in the end, yes. The shit is irritating.  Annoying.  But it’s not necessarily an inherent bad or evil thing.  In the end, it’s just poop.

I guess my point is that we often spend a lot of time being angry at things like dog shit that just happen.  There’s nothing you can do about them, yet you find yourself seething at the gods and universe for the shit on your floor.

Shit happens. Don’t blame the the universe. Just move on.

Minors and Witchcraft

I don’t know about you, but I was 12 when I found Wicca. I had grown up with my nose in fantasy books and history books and pretty much every other book you can imagine.  Oh, the horror! Right?

Well, I imagine that many a pagan found their way to the path in a similar fashion. I grew up talking to the wind like it was god, finding solace in singing sad country songs into the night, a little offering to the world.

The sad truth is that there are predators in the pagan world.  I know, because I spent 8 years “under the tutelage” of one. He taught me that homosexuality was unnatural because male and female need to be in balance with each other.  He taught me that anytime a woman was close to a man, it would end in sex, and so, as a woman, I should keep my distance from others.  He taught me that I was weak and nothing that I did would ever make me  a master of my own craft.

I loved him like he was my soulmate. And he used me until I was a dried up husk of faith and he left me and my broken heart alone on the side of the road.

I’m sure that I’m far from the last young person to experience this sort of abuse at the hands of a pagan priest(ess).  Whether it’s sexual, emotional, or maybe just a little too crazy (there are things AFTER YOU let me PROTECT you!!), or some other sort of abuse; we adults have an obligation to protect the young children that join our path.

This is a friendly reminder to you all. Treat minors carefully.  Send them to BOOKS or large ORGANIZATIONS, not PEOPLE — unless you know and trust the person.  Don’t give them access to forums or websites you use for communication with other adults — especially if you know of one person that you wouldn’t want a child exposed to.  Someone that might take advantage.  Treat them like you would your own child.

We have an obligation to keep our seekers safe. Our religion is one of peace, and wisdom, and happiness.  Let’s make sure we show our best side to the most vulnerable, most impressionable generations.

 

Atheist Wiccans?

You may remember many moons ago (about a year and a half) when I began to read “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins.  Wow, it’s almost been two years.  To give you a bit of background, if I pulled you in on a google search… About 2 years ago, a close family member of mine passed away, and I got very, very angry at the Universe.  I stumbled upon “The God Delusion a few months later and began to devour it.  Richard Dawkins is a well known atheist scientist, and this book in particular is an argument against religion.  He is a very reasonable person, and as hurt as I was by what was happening around me, I think that my ears were open to his message.

So, I need to address three separate ideas with this post.  One: How can an atheist relate / communicate with the Gods?  And two: How can an atheist practice magick?  And three: Do Wiccan atheists exist in our community?

How can an atheist relate/communicate with the Gods?

Atheists can relate and communicate with the Gods, because their definition of “the Gods” differs.  For most of us, “the Gods” are seen as, prayed to, and worked with by visualizing them as an external force.  Yet, from the “Charge of the Goddess,” we know that “if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.”  If you can’t find it inside of you, you’ll never find it outside of you.  If you can’t find the divine inside of you, you’ll never find it outside.  The Gods are always there, inside you, ready to lend a listening ear.

Let’s extend this a little further.  If the Gods are inside you, are you not them?  Are they not you?  So really, when you’re praying, or communicating with the divine, you’re just talking to yourself.  No, don’t shy away from this post: you always talk to yourself.  Reading this post, you’re essentially talking to yourself.

We know from science and psychology that rituals, mind tricks, meditation, and visualization all help us achieve our goals.  Some suggest that this sort of conscious thought about a goal will help align your subconscious with your conscious.  Others believe that by focusing on it, you’re better able to train your mind to move towards those goals.  Think about all of those motivational quotes: If you can believe it, you can achieve it!

So, when you’re praying to “the Gods,” in essence, in the strictest, most atheistic view of the world, you’re communicating your conscious desires to yourself.  You’re affirming your hopes and dreams.  And it doesn’t take a belief in the supernatural to pray or meditate effectively.

How can an atheist practice magick?

Well, to answer this question, we simply need to extend the “speaking to yourself” hypothesis a little farther.  We then begin to understand that sympathetic magick works by training our minds to our goals.  If you put the effort in to plan and execute a ritual, chances are that you want to succeed.  You will take that effort into account and work towards your goals more efficiently.

And what about rituals celebrating the passing of the seasons?  Well, honestly, why not celebrate the passing of time?  Why not celebrate spring?  You’re alive — how great is that?  Why not honor our ancestors by keeping their traditions alive through the generations?  Why not explore new ways to celebrate and gather as a community?  Humans are social creatures.  You don’t have to have an external belief in discrete entities to enjoy the power and mystery of ritual.

Do Wiccan Atheists exist?

Obviously, I’ve thought this through, and you can guess why.  I’m pretty atheistic.  I believe that the gods that I speak with are reflections of my inner self, and reflections of the Universe, in the sense that we are all connected / all made of the same stardust.  I believe very strongly in my magickal doings as a way to reinforce my own goals, hopes, and dreams.

I also believe very strongly in practicing what you preach.  If you do a spell to bring more money into your home, and you live on a fixed income… it’s time to search for another job.  If you do a healing spell for yourself or another, make sure that you work to do what you can (rest, take medicine, or bring flowers and kind words to the ill person) to ease suffering.

I also think that blind faith isn’t… required by our Gods and/or religion.  Not like Christianity, which is so focused on “saving” unbelievers and confirming belief within the social group.  Think about these words,

“Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.”

They were inspired by the Goddess/Universe, but they were written by a woman.  Doreen Valiente.  And what a wise, wise woman she was.  Love and pleasure are how we worship.  Living is our worship.  Laughing, and dancing, and feasting are the ways that we connect to the sacred. And these are things that everyone – even atheists – can do.

Reflective Thinking and Mystery Religion

Hey everyone —

I hope that this Tuesday is treating you well.  Things are gaining momentum at work, and I find that I haven’t been able to work on my book much in the last few days.  However, in the spirit of keeping this blog regular, I have fifteen minutes before my next work obligation, and so, I’m going to share with you one of the major techniques I’ve learned and applied in my spiritual practice.

[[EDIT]] This took way longer than fifteen minutes to write.

Some consider Wicca (e.g., Hutton mentions it multiple times in “Triumph of the Moon”) a “mystery religion.”   That is, Wicca is a religious practice which has “secrets” available to its initiates.  It holds the promise of an individualized and sincere religious experience after initiation.

But a lot of this mystery is found in reflection, meditation, and analysis of your everyday life.  Poems, stories, experiences, they all form the material from which you gain spiritual wisdom.  These “secrets” aren’t revealed to you after initiation into a coven.  Remember, if you can’t find the answer inside of yourself, you can’t go searching for it elsewhere.  It’s within.  Search harder.  [[That’s my half-assed summary of the Charge, right there.]]

I’m going to share the basic technique of analyzing a new piece of information, with you.  In the very least, this is the questioning that I use when I find something new, or I want to study it further.  Not only is this technique applicable to religion; rather, it is inherent in all of what we do.  It is part of what makes us human.  We analyze our data, make predictions and/or draw conclusions.  Conducting this sort of process in a conscious way, however, can lead to some interesting insights.  I call it reflective thinking.

Reflective thinking is the art of analyzing information through multiple lenses.  Reflective thinking is best learned by example, and so, we’ll take the first quarter of a poem I’ve never read before now, called “Ode to Psyche,” by John Keats.

O GODDESS! hear these tuneless numbers, wrung
By sweet enforcement and remembrance dear,
And pardon that thy secrets should be sung
Even into thine own soft-conchèd ear:
Surely I dream’d to-day, or did I see
The wingèd Psyche with awaken’d eyes?
I wander’d in a forest thoughtlessly,
And, on the sudden, fainting with surprise,
Saw two fair creatures, couchèd side by side
In deepest grass, beneath the whisp’ring roof
Of leaves and trembled blossoms, where there ran
A brooklet, scarce espied:
‘Mid hush’d, cool-rooted flowers, fragrant-eyed,
Blue, silver-white, and budded Tyrian
They lay calm-breathing on the bedded grass;
Their arms embracèd, and their pinions too;
Their lips touch’d not, but had not bade adieu,
As if disjoinèd by soft-handed slumber,
And ready still past kisses to outnumber
At tender eye-dawn of aurorean love:
The wingèd boy I knew;
But who wast thou, O happy, happy dove?
His Psyche true!

Okay.  Step one:  Just read it.

If you don’t know the story of Cupid (Eros) and Psyche, the basic summary is this: Psyche is so beautiful, that Venus (Aphrodite) gets super jealous of her, and bids her son, Cupid, to shoot her with an arrow so that when she wakes up, she sees some hideous being and falls in love with them.  Unfortunately for Cupid, he scratches himself with one of his arrows while trying to do his mother’s bidding, and falls in love with Psyche.  He refuses to follow through with his mother’s plan, and eventually, because no one will marry Psyche, she gets left on a mountain by her parents, and carried away to Cupid’s palace, where he visits her each night in the darkness.  Her sisters come to visit, and tell her how, since she’s never SEEN her husband, he’s obviously hiding his ugliness.  She tries to see his sleeping body, wakes him up in the process, and he leaves her because she wasn’t supposed to see him.  She wanders, distraught.  Convinces her two sisters that he wants them instead, and so they go jump off the mountain (no, I’m not kidding).  Eventually, she ends up at an altar to Venus where she begs forgiveness, gets reunited with Cupid, and they live happily ever after.

Step two: Read and interpret in its historical context.

So if you were staring at this without my guidance, and someone told you to, “explain the historical context of this piece.”  You’d probably head to Wikipedia and figure out that Keats is a poet who wrote a lot of fantasy, myth, and nature based poems.  He only wrote actively for about 5 years before tuberculosis killed him in his mid twenties.  I can tell you from further study that there was a large explosion of interest in the Greco-Roman pantheon and nature from the 1800’s into the early 1900’s, and that Keats was mixing “old” styles with “new” styles of poetry.  You can also ask in this part, “What was the author’s intention?”

Step three: Read and interpret through a religious lens.

What can you draw from this text to enrich your religious experience?  This is the question that helps you explore a piece more fully.  You contemplate the piece — you ask yourself how it makes you feel.  What lessons can you draw from the piece?  Can you take a moral away from it?  You ask yourself if there’s a place for this piece in your Book of Shadows.  Would you want to reinterpret this piece?

For me, I would see this piece as a possible addition to my studies in aspecting a god/dess, which is part of the reason I chose one of Keats’ Odes for this example.  I would file this away in “Ways to connect with Goddesses.”

Obviously, this method applies not only to text, but also art, video, music, and even concepts.  And remember, human hands write all religious texts, despite divine inspiration.  Human hands write all texts.  We are not infallible.  It’s perfectly acceptable to disagree with a writer.  Or a musician.  Or an artist.  Don’t be afraid.  You should never read a piece as the “whole and untarnished truth as it is so written by god.”  A written piece is always just the truth as the author knows it at the time that they are writing it.

And it’s not only a religious method — you can take this idea of interpreting through lenses and change your lenses as an exercise in open-mindedness.  For example: how would you interpret this piece  in a cultural context?

Let’s take one more example, this time, a concept.  Let’s talk about photosynthesis.  Photosynthesis is the process by which a plant takes light, water, and carbon dioxide and converts it to sugar.  This is a remarkably important process, and in fact, without it, we would not be here.

So, what’s religious about photosynthesis?  Absolutely nothing.  Well, I mean, it’s a pretty cool process, and I’d consider it sacred because of its importance, but I see no scripture or divine wisdom in “light + water + carbon dioxide = sugar.”

Except that, if I look at the equation, I see something else.  I see, “energy –> manifestation.”  I see transformation.  I see magic.  And I realize, when I start to study photosynthesis as transformation, it becomes a good analogy for magic.  Put something in, get something out.

I’m not saying that photosynthesis is magic.  Merely that, when contemplating photosynthesis, I can begin to use its concept and framework to put the world in a different light.  Suddenly, I see my everyday choices as light, or water, or carbon dioxide, and I see what they give me as my sugar.  My energy.

This is the art of reflective thinking.  It’s not so much about what answers you come to, but rather, how you get there, and the things you learn along the way.  I always begin a brainstorming or reflective thinking process with a question, but I almost never find the answer.  I always get distracted, end up on some tangent, but it’s often those tangents that are most fruitful.  If they don’t give me spiritual wisdom, perhaps they give me a new song, or a better understanding of something, or even, just a way to sleep a bit easier at night.

Reflective thinking is how you populate your Book of Shadows.  Sure, in the beginning, you just collect correspondence tables and original documents in your Book of Shadows.  But when you run out of that stuff to copy… you start to create.  You start asking why, and how?  Maybe you analyze a bad experience and come to conclusions.  But its these lessons that turn a Book of Shadows into a Book of Wisdom; it’s this wisdom that turns Wicca into a mystery religion.

Signs of a Wiccan

Today, I saw a little thing that a Christian friend on facebook posted, called “10 signs of a Jesus follower.”  It included things like, “Jesus followers don’t fear death or suffering, because Heaven and Jesus is waiting for them.”  I have to admit that I skimmed it, as I just woke up, and I’m coming off of a migraine.

However, if got me thinking, and we’re gonna see if we can’t generate a list of signs of Wiccans.

Many of the qualities (looking through the headings) of that article are qualities that everyone strives for in life.  The Goddess commands us, through the Charge of the Goddess, to do several things:

  1. Adore her. “Whenever ye have need of anything, once in the month, and better it be when the Moon is Full, then shall ye gather in some secret place and adore the Spirit of Me, Who am Queen of All Witcheries.”
  2. Be naked in our celebrations.  “And ye shall be free from slavery; and as a sign that ye be really free, ye shall be naked in your rites.”
  3. Celebrate our existence and love our Gods.  “And ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love, all in My Praise. For Mine is the Ecstasy of the Spirit, and Mine also is Joy on Earth, for My Law is Love unto all beings.  “
  4. Persevere through trials and tribulations.  “Keep pure your Highest Ideal; strive ever toward it; let naught stop you or turn you aside.”
  5. Never see our relationship with the Goddess as requiring sacrifice.  “Nor do I demand sacrifice, for behold: I am the Mother of All Living, and My Love is poured out upon the Earth.”
  6. Have beauty, strength, power, compassion, honor, humility, mirth and reverence within our hearts.   “And therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.”
  7. Find the sacred within ourselves.  “For behold, I have been with thee from the beginning; and I am That which is attained at the end of Desire.”

In addition to these seven, I would add the following three, which offer more worldly advice, and are things that I often struggle with, myself.

1.  A Wiccan does not allow anger to rule their decisions.  Although anger may be a reaction when something bad happens, the Wiccan realizes that karma and the three-fold law will help them in the future; in addition, the Wiccan responds to a bad situation by taking the path of least harm for everyone involved.  Even if it means learning to let the issue go.

2.  A Wiccan seems excessively happy on seemingly random days.  A Wiccan celebrates their holidays not by shoving them in non-Wiccan’s faces, but instead, smiling broadly and wishing others, “Happy Fall!” or “Happy Spring!” or by asking “Isn’t it such a beautiful day?”

3.  A Wiccan leads by example.  If they do not wish for their children to steal; then they do not steal.  If they do not wish the people around them to treat others with disrespect, then they will keep a respectful demeanor towards all conversation topics.  If a Wiccan offers counsel, it is from experience: I approached this situation this way, and this is what worked for me.

Remember, friends.  Being Wiccan is not about being afraid to do wrong.  Rather, it is a positive experience, centered around celebrating our existence.  Don’t let Christian guilt and “I’ll do better next time” rule your life — instead, work towards better, but never forget to acknowledge that who you are right now is beautiful, and sacred, and an honor to the Gods.

Five.

The basic tenets – the universal truths – of Wicca are easy to understand. I have spoken of many in one way or another, above. Yet, there is one rule which resides above all: And it harm none, do what you will.

This can mean stepping up when no one else will. This may also mean standing back and allowing things to progress without your interference. The choice is sometimes all too easy, but other times, it will be the hardest decision that you can make. Following the path of least harm is not always simple. But it is what we – as Wiccans – strive to do.

That being said, there is one more thing that must be known of the faith. A covenant, handed down from generation to generation, between us and the gods.

And thou who thinkest to seek for Me, know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not, unless thou knowest the Mystery: that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee.