Truth or Convenience?
Questioning Motives for Spiritual Advancement
I envy Christians. I really do.
At the same time, I would love to hit some over the head with my Book of Shadows the way they try to hit me over the head with their Bible. They have it very easy when it comes to coming to terms with the Divine and how it interacts with themselves and the world at large. They have a big old book that tells them exactly what to believe, how to act and who to pray to when in question. It is largely up for interpretation by the individual, which makes for a decent, flexible system that can fit most that wish to subscribe to Jesus and his like. Lots of people like that.
They like it because it's easy.
Oh how I wish when I had a question about something metaphysical or magickal in nature that I could just open a textbook or consult a readily available “professional” on the matter and have an easy answer. With only One True God, its a simple thing to turn to Him and pray for answers, then sit back and wait for a sign or reply. I go to twelve-step meetings and bring up a question, to which my fellows' replies are simply, “Just pray.”
Maybe I'm overthinking things, but that almost seems like giving up on it. “So what are you going to do about that manipulative friend of yours?” Shrug. “I dunno, I'ma let God handle it.”
This limiting mindset makes accepting answers – be them right or wrong – a task that involves very little effort. When your God is always right and cannot be wrong, even when He doesn't give you the money shot right up front, you know He has the answer and might be withholding it for a greater purpose.
Things are not so easy with us Pagans.
Most of us subscribe to beliefs and thoughts that are not so straightforward. Most of our gods are a part of a larger pantheon, and those within that pantheon might disagree with each other. Some of us petition entities that have very different and sometimes opposing opinions about everything from the universe to the particular situation in question. The responsibility of not only interpreting the answer, but asking the right question to which entity in particular falls to us. Not only asking the right question, but questioning the very motive for asking the first place is paramount to our growth and faith in the Divine. This is a huge responsibility!
I have a lot of Judeo-Christian friends, and I love them and their faith dearly. Sometimes it makes me want to bash my head into a wall however, when I hear the reasons for their faith. “I was brought up this way” and “It's the simplest answer” are more common rational motives. It's as if no one really wants to branch out and explore the nature of what they believe in, simply because someone told them that “this is the only answer you need.” And with only one answer, there seems to be a complacency achieved that rivals apathy.
This problem is not purely Christian, though it runs rampant through the religion in the hearts of the casual worshiper (and even in the not-so-casual worshiper). A Buddhist friend of mine gave me some thoughts on transcending human nature, and I disagreed. So we had a good natured debate about it. When I asked him why he thought this way, his reply was that Buddha had come to that conclusion. “So what conclusion did YOU come to?” I asked. He told me that Buddha had already laid the groundwork so that others could follow without such a struggle. I suppose the same could be said about Jesus, but that really didn't answer my question. What conclusion did YOU come to?
I have read and seen for myself many times that the Truth cannot be put into words, or taught, or shown. It has to be experienced personally. The way to experience that Truth can be shared, modified and achieved in different ways, but the actual Truth (of which I claim no mastery over) cannot simply be given to someone, be it through a parable or a meditation. One can only see it for oneself, and anyone claiming to have the Truth to share, give or sell is a fool at best. I suppose the next best thing to offer would be guidance, but even that's sketchy due to personal bias. Someone may have made the trail, but there's still the whole forest out there to experience, and walking that trail only gives you the perspective of the one who's walked it before you. Beneficial, yes, but by no means the Truth.
It is my suspicion that people in general don't like the thought of being on their own, especially in something as vast and unknown as the Universe. We like the idea of some sort of safety net; a God that is parenting us and will fish us out if we get in too deep so long as we ask for its help. Someone who is forever there, will always listen, never forgets who you are and knows the master plan. Now that is something that is easy and comfortable to believe in.
What if this is not the case? I find it entirely plausible that the Divine is simply curious, doesn't know the future (possibilities perhaps, but not every outcome), forgets to acknowledge aspects of itself (much like ourselves) and can be outright indifferent, or even mean. I'm not saying that this is Truth, or even my version of Truth, but thinking about the Divine in that way can be a tough pill to swallow. Who would want to believe that, right?
Regardless of whether we want to believe it or not, it could be the case. In our quest for Truth, we may stumble upon an answer like this. It's not pleasant, so not many people want to take the risk of finding out that there might not be a safety net. I don't know about you, but if I want the Truth, I want to accept it for whatever it may be, not just if it makes me feel better about myself or humanity at large. I will not study the Divine for convenience, or because it makes me comfortable, or for a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. I'll watch the Golden Girls if I want that. I want to know.
I see people believing something because it doesn't require a lot of introspection, investment or effort. It makes me very sad for them. All I can do is encourage my brothers and sisters to learn from the actions of others, but act on their own accord. If we don't, all we're doing is reinforcing old trails, and not all of them lead to good places.