Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Three Ghosts, First Haunt

This one will be on Witchvox in a few weeks.

Twelve Step Paganism (uh... WHUT? And other exclamations of confusion)

Let's get the disclaimer out of the way, as we are dealing directly with any Twelve Step Anonymous Program that exists: I'm not getting paid for this, this isn't endorsed, and the only interaction with any Twelve Step executive I have ever had has never been for such ventures – only to heal, as the programs promote. I DO NOT WISH TO OFFEND OR VIOLATE THE TRADITIONS OR PRINCIPLES OF ANY TWELVE STEP PROGRAM. These are my OPINIONS, and in no way represent ANY program of such a nature.

Okay, let's get started for real.

It's a Thursday night at 7pm. The smell of brewed coffee and stale doughnuts fill the room as people of varying misery shuffle in and take their seats around a stained plastic table in the basement of some local church. Regulars greet each other, while relatively new members sort of stand around awkwardly, ruminating various insecurities in their heads.

Welcome to the average Twelve Step Program, be it for alcohol, drugs, overeating, gambling or any impulsive, overindulgent behavior. The first thing a Pagan will notice with perhaps a bit of apprehension or unease would be that there is a 90% chance that he or she is standing in a church of Jesus Christ, and almost every member will make that fact very clear with statements of “God bless you for coming here!” and “Jesus loves you very much to have brought you to the right help!”

To which I smile stiffly and say, “I appreciate the sentiment, ma'am/sir...” not about to broadcast my blasphemous stance on the Divine in their eyes (just yet anyway). And I do appreciate it… but by the Lady I'm uncomfortable!! Very few even see my pentacle under my scarf and those that do probably think it's a cool little Celtic knot or something.

The benefits of such a program are very mixed to those of us in the Pagan community. Some find it very helpful to see others with similar problems and being able to express them in a safe and mature environment does wonders for recovery. All one has to do is trust one's Higher Power –


Higher Power. That's a very, very loaded word. When one is a Christian, there is very little doubt about who or what that is (be it God, Jesus, the Virgin Mary or any Saint recognized by a Catholic community). Okay. Sooo... and if you're not Christian? Blank stares, usually. Sometimes even a desperate attempt to Witness to me right on the spot. As if to say, “What do you mean you're not a Christian? Surely you're at least an agnostic who acknowledges a monotheistic paradigm in some vague way?!”

Hate to categorize so radically here, but this is the attitude I've received at 99% of meetings across the state, and from discussions with others, similar attitudes are held across the country with few (blissfully wonderful) exceptions. I've got no problem with the Serenity Prayer – its a very useful little mantra. But when I replace the word “God” with “Goddess” or “All-That-Is,” I can expect to make others uncomfortable at best, death glares at the worse end of the spectrum. I've yet been asked to leave, but I can feel the sentiment oozing from just about everyone there. The same thing occurs with the reading of the steps and traditions – I often replace the word “God” with something I feel more akin to all the while trying not to blatantly offend (less likely to say “Loki” or “Kali” for example, more likely to say something like “We-She-He-It” or “The Source”).

And all this angst is just the social aspect.

When one subscribes to a polytheistic paradigm, or a paradigm that assigns no solid “Higher Power” to an external force, many of these techniques crumble under pressure. What if my Higher Power is my non-middle self? (For example: the Fetch, the Shadow Selves, the HGA, several power totems/animals or even my ancestors?) Some fit, some really, really don't. What then? For a Pagan, to not only admit loss of control, but to willingly give our control up to another entity is for most a ridiculous concept! Most of us pride ourselves on taking a driver's seat in our own lives; to not whine about how “this or that” got us in this predicament. We did! So we solve it ourselves (or acknowledge the need for help from others after we initiate such change), using traditional mundane combined with metaphysical and spiritual mediums. Turning over our lives to a Higher Power is an alien concept with varying consequences.

My father is a drug and alcohol counselor, and having been sober for over a decade himself, he does a damn good job at this. He is also a Methodist, and we enjoy many a theological debate on occasion. When I asked him about this predicament, he just replied, “Your head is the one that landed you in those meetings. Follow your heart, not your head. When has that ever steered your wrong? Smart addicts are the worst kind, they think way too much.”

Well said, Dad!

Another solution a more open-minded member of a meeting once suggested that one's Higher Power doesn't have to be anything transcendent at all. It could be your cat or your goldfish. Chat at that. Turn your problems over to the animal and let it go. Some might have qualms about directing such negativity at our animal friends, so you might feel better smudging the fishbowl when you're done or putting some grounding stones in the tank, but I find this very effective as well.

Our Higher Power is where our Hearts are. Wherever that may be – with your favorite pet, within your other selves who might “know better,” the Oversoul Monad, your Guardian Angel, Jesus Christ or even Buddha (one doesn't have to objectify him in order to use him as a “Higher Power”) – I think its safe to say that your Heart's intentions are pure, and can be followed safely. An Alchemist once told a boy to speak the language of his Heart. He worked miracles, not only within himself, but within others.

Coelho, Paulo; Clark, Alan R. (1993) . The Alchemist. English Edition. New York: HarperOne/ HarperCollins Publishers.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Two Ghosts, First Haunt

I'll be publishing this article on next week.

Light, Love and Fluffy Bunnies, Oh My!
Thoughts on Polarities and Modern New Age Thesis

I've always been a non-conformist. I suppose a lot of us are, or we wouldn't be Pagan in a largely Judeo-Christian society. Here we are, doing the best we can to better ourselves spiritually in the most non-hypocritical manner possible.

So when I come across books and people that stress again and again the importance of light, love and compassion, unfortunately my knee-jerk reaction ... is a gag.

No really! Let me explain! I'm not some goth pessimist whose into the Pagan community just for the shock value and the cool darkness theme. I consider myself a student of Life and actively read anything I can get my hands on with mention to Paganism, new, old or ancient, well or poorly written, just for a nice broad spectrum to base my opinions on. When I was first initiated into Wicca, the reading list was rich and informative. Now its hard to find a read out there that isn't blandly 101 or just a rehash of what I already know. So I started reading the basics once again. Just to see if there was anything I'd missed.

Oh boy.

The concept of polarities was consistent in every page I turned, and it got me thinking very hard on some of the more “fresh” books in my library. It occurred to me that a lot of advanced or specialized published material out there stresses the goodness, wholesome love of our Source and how we should spread the love and be good, decent people to better all of humanity.

All well and good of course. Very noble indeed.

Polarities kept nagging me. So you're trying to ascend to a “higher vibration,” “seek the light” and “open the love” in all you meet. In a world where such crappy things keep happening such as violence, rape, intolerance and greed, its no wonder a lot of people are trying to pull away from such a nasty mindset. Kudos for those who are trying, I'm sure the world could use a bit of uplifting. But when I review the most basic fundamentals of polarities, I find that favoring this “higher vibration” is no better than being in the dark and ignorant of higher consciousness.

I would much rather be in balance with the vibrations of the world. To be so high up on that divine ladder is to lose touch with our humanity. Gods are Gods for a reason, we are human for a reason. Life is to be experienced, not transcended. Some humans may indeed move on the another stage of existence, and more still may even guide humanity in a positive or negative fashion. But here, now, in the present, the only moment that truly matters, we are human and experiencing what it's like to be incarnated.

Some humans (most even) are entrenched in their primal instincts (or vibrating on a “lower” or “denser” level), and simply using their self-awareness and intelligence to serve their own egos and are slaves to their whims. These kind of people are clearly out of balance and could use a bit of light and love.

But what about the rest of us? It would be ridiculous to think that one side of the spectrum is better over another. Striking the right balance should be our goal, as many of us knew when we first saw an image of a yin yang. Favoring the light over the darkness would be like favoring men over women, day over night or right over left. Forget the terms good or evil – there may well be no such thing as pure manifestations of either. Neither the high or the low end of this vibrational spectrum has anything to do with such simple-minded notions. But as for the rest of the comparisons... it doesn't make much sense to play favorites, does it?

Let's face it, negative emotions exist. Fear, anger and sadness all have very useful functions. Some of our reactions to them may or may not be acceptable, but to think of a world without such things? How would we know when we were happy? Starhawk once said, “To light a candle is to cast a shadow.” You simply cannot have one without the other. Some fantasy utopia in which everyone is happy and lovey and full of nothing but light is nothing but that – a fantasy. In that world, we would be mindless robots with no motivation to seek, change or develop. Boooooooring.

Helping people grow to the point where they can control their reactions to negativity in a productive manner might be a more realistic goal. “An it harm none, do as ye will.” That's a loaded moral code right there, and the topic of other essays, but living it out in a mature fashion might be the better destination.

There is no one single point upon which we are all in balance, either. Balance for one person might be totally wrong for another. To better ourselves as human beings, finding that middle ground (not a monotonous, static stay-in-one-place point, but a baseline of sorts) in which we can make wise and unbiased decisions seems to be ideal.

So forgive me if the world “naive” comes to mind when people start talking about “being one with the light” and “being filled with nothing but compassion and love for all of humanity.” Yes, yes, but don't be so silly to believe that you are above anger, fear or even hate. We are human. As humans, we need to deal with both the joy and the horrors of being incarnate. It is our duty to do so in a responsible manner. Why? Well that one is up to you, according to your creed or personal ideals. I think its a pretty universal concept in Paganism however, to want the best for ourselves and our brethren.

Why not go back to some basics, and see what you can find for yourself?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Egg

The Egg
By: Andy Weir

You were on your way home when you died.
It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.
And that’s when you met me.
“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”
“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.
“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”
“Yup,” I said.
“I… I died?”
“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.
You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”
“More or less,” I said.
“Are you god?” You asked.
“Yup,” I replied. “I’m God.”
“My kids… my wife,” you said.
“What about them?”
“Will they be all right?”
“That’s what I like to see,” I said. “You just died and your main concern is for your family. That’s good stuff right there.”
You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like some man. Or possibly a woman. Some vague authority figure, maybe. More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”
“Oh,” you said. “So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?”
“Neither,” I said. “You’ll be reincarnated.”
“Ah,” you said. “So the Hindus were right,”
“All religions are right in their own way,” I said. “Walk with me.”
You followed along as we strode through the void. “Where are we going?”
“Nowhere in particular,” I said. “It’s just nice to walk while we talk.”
“So what’s the point, then?” You asked. “When I get reborn, I’ll just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won’t matter.”
“Not so!” I said. “You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just don’t remember them right now.”
I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. “Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you’ve gained all the experiences it had.
“You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”
“How many times have I been reincarnated, then?”
“Oh lots. Lots and lots. An in to lots of different lives.” I said. “This time around, you’ll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD.”
“Wait, what?” You stammered. “You’re sending me back in time?”
“Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from.”
“Where you come from?” You said.
“Oh sure,” I explained “I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know you’ll want to know what it’s like there, but honestly you wouldn’t understand.”
“Oh,” you said, a little let down. “But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point.”
“Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan you don’t even know it’s happening.”
“So what’s the point of it all?”
“Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a little stereotypical?”
“Well it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted.
I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.”
“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”
“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.”
“Just me? What about everyone else?”
“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”
You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”
“All you. Different incarnations of you.”
“Wait. I’m everyone!?”
“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.
“I’m every human being who ever lived?”
“Or who will ever live, yes.”
“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”
“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.
“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.
“And you’re the millions he killed.”
“I’m Jesus?”
“And you’re everyone who followed him.”
You fell silent.
“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”
You thought for a long time.
“Why?” You asked me. “Why do all this?”
“Because someday, you will become like me. Because that’s what you are. You’re one of my kind. You’re my child.”
“Whoa,” you said, incredulous. “You mean I’m a god?”
“No. Not yet. You’re a fetus. You’re still growing. Once you’ve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.”
“So the whole universe,” you said, “it’s just…”
“An egg.” I answered. “Now it’s time for you to move on to your next life.”
And I sent you on your way.

One Ghost, First Haunt

I named this blog on a whim, mostly because I was listening to Nine Inch Nails at the moment.  Fitting however, as intellectual ramblings can sometimes seem like reminiscent of what once was -- a mere imprint of the original thought expanded upon to manifest in reality in the form of "standing on the shoulders of our teachers."  Here I will contemplate.  Daily bitching can be found elsewhere. 

Seventeen is a prime number, one that boils down to the number eight -- a solid number in numerology.  Eight sabbats of the year.  Eight points to the star of the Illuminati of Thenateros and the Metatron's Cube.  Seventeen is a lonely number by itself however.  Nothing seems to categorize itself in sets of seventeen.  I find it endearing.  Perhaps I can relate.

Sometimes I feel like the universe is attempting to cram its entirety inside of my brain.  Though I admire the attempt and strongly desire for its success, the results are less than satisfactory, and often lead to feelings of insanity and lack of control of what is going on inside this head of mine.  My soul is that of such great proportions that my flesh shell simply cannot hold it.  I am a small experience to a much larger monad.  A collective if you will.  Of what I can't say for sure.  I plan to find out.