I was listening to an episode of Catnip Brew, a podcast that I just found tonight. One of the episodes was about apathy and disillusionment in the pagan culture. Now, as it so happens, the most read post on the blog, at this point, is the post I wrote about my own disillusionment about the occult scene. So hearing that podcast episode generated some empathy on my part. I think it's fair to say that disillusionment of some kind is an inevitable reality of a spiritual path. It's a test of that spiritual path...and could be a kind of dark night of the soul. Some people never come out of that disillusionment. They give up, or turn away in disgust because whatever they are looking for can't be found in the spiritual path being explored. They forget that you can't always look around to find something to answer the questions. Sometimes you have to create the answers.
In fact it is creating the answers that usually leads a person out of apathy or disillusionment. The person may feel jaded and cynical and yet at some point realizes that no matter where s/he looks, the answer ultimately lies within. Yes we can read books, do what the books tell us to do and even interact with other people in an organization and yet at some point the challenge for a practitioner of magic is to define his or her own path. Some never do that, and others do. I think that the apathy and disillusionment is a sign for when it is time to look toward creating your own path. At that point, you realize that whatever is out there won't answer your questions and may not even have the questions you need to ask.
My disillusionment with the occult scene started in the late nineties. I took a two year hiatus from the occult community, from 2000 to 2002, but even when I came back it hadn't really changed. All that had changed was that I was starting to develop my own path. I had read the books and practiced the exercises and rituals, and had some definite results and life changing experiences, but until I struck out on my own, I didn't really start to find or develop the questions and answers that have informed my own life journey. Even after I struck out on my own and eventually helped found the esoteric portion of Immanion Press, there was still a lot of disillusionment to work through. Some of it was from Graduate school and my choice to drop out of it...the feeling of failure and anger over that took a long time to heal. Some of it was disillusionment with myself as a person, realizing just how much I didn't like myself or how I presented myself to others, and some of it of course was magic, because even while I was writing my books, there was a part of me that felt alienated and angry with the entire occult community.
Over time, I found my path. It took years. My elemental work and the Taoist meditations was my answer to the disillusionment I felt about myself. Instead of choosing to remain apathetic about who I was, I decided to change myself, to take a much more active role in shaping myself into a person I could like, love, and be proud of. The process is ongoing, likely always will be, but as i've stated before, i'm happier with myself now than ever before. Even the emptiness working is ultimately a proactive approach toward redefining what I am doing and who I choose to be.
With the Ph.d, my answer to the disillusionment I felt was to ultimately take the skills I learned and apply them to the editing and writing I did, and in the case of several articles and my book, Multi-Media Magic, put to rest my feelings about academia, so I could move on with my life and no longer dwell on something not important.
And with magic? It's ironic that as I started in on the emptiness working, I at the same time finally found my answer to the disillusionment I've felt about the occult scene for so long. When I realized that other people felt the same way as I have, I considered that to be an indication that my dissatisfaction and concern wasn't just in my head. And that allowed me to consider taking a step in a different direction that I previously entertained much, while also finding my answer in that direction. And that direction? For now it's a bit of a secret, though one I've already dropped hints of elsewhere. I'll be more open about it eventually, but I will say that for the first time in a long time, I spiritually feel at peace with the occult community as a whole, because I'm realizing the benefit of continuing to carve my own niche, and find my own path to get the answers I seek as well as continue asking questions.
But I also know the disillusionment I felt, while not fun to experience, has helped me recognize the value of creating my own answers. To some degree, creating the non-fiction line of books in Immanion Press was my answer to that disillusionment, for it gave me an opportunity to promote what I believe is essential to the evolution of the occult subculture as well as the evolution of humanity in general. That was a partial answer and the value of that answer to myself is evident in the comfort I take in not just publishing my own writing but providing a forum for other writers to publish and share their works. The happiness I have seen in those writers when their works were published in a way that respected and valued what they had to say has often provided me hope at times when I sorely needed that hope.
And yet the full answer couldn't be arrived at until recently, until I was ready to take another step forward in service not just to myself but also others. Some of that answer arose out of my life coaching and the networking I've been doing with other businesses. And some of that answer continues to come from my own experimentation, but also work with others. It is in fellowship with others that some answers can be created. The interchange of ideas, the exchange of energy, etc. The magician is not some lone wanderer on a path, not always...Sometimes the path turns and you find there's another person or people there ready to walk for a turn with you. It is the creation of an answer that provides you the light at the end of the tunnel, the dawn rays of the sun ending that long night. What will come after that? Who knows...but I'm ready to step forward and find out.
A while back I posted a few posts about deity and service The first one is here.
The second one is here.
The third one is here.
As I woke this morning I thought back to a situation where I could have potentially dedicated myself to a deity. I'm glad I didn't, because the truth is I'd make a horrible dedicant to a deity. I'm very casual about my relationships with any deity. I put the occasional offering out, but when it comes down to it, for me any relationship I have with a deity is ultimately not about service to the deity or its various fellow worshippers or the tasks it wants me to do. For me it's about the bargain. It's what can I do for you that will get you to do something for me. Or it's about forging a relationship of mutual benefit and friendship.
The role of priest or priestess isn't a role that fits me. While I can respect that people are called to that role, I couldn't ever see myself serving a deity in that way. Likewise I find the concept of being a god-slave unworkable for myself. I recognize that it might fulfill the needs someone else has to be in that role, but for me, it could never work and there's a fairly simple reason for that.
I'm blasphemous. I'd always question and challenge the god. When I was a Christian, long ago, I was always dissatisfied with the idea that I had to submit to some nebulous force that had all the answers and was willing to let people suffer in order to prove themselves to it. The comic Preacher, to me, represents the most accurate depiction of the Christian god, a cruel tyrant who seeks to force others to love him because he is fundamentally unable to deal with his own sense of fear and loneliness...so he creates a permanent co-dependent relationship with humanity, in order to get them to love him, while also tormenting them. I could never understand why a god would want unquestioning obedience and so if I couldn't give that to the Christian god, why would I give it to another god?
The posts I wrote above reflect that as well as my own beliefs about the gods. I agree with the Buddhist conception of deities, which is that they are ultimately enslaved and attached to their own power and consequently can't operate outside of what they represent. They becomes filters and doorways to access deep concepts, but in doing that they are also can't evolve or become anything else...unless of course they have interaction with human beings. By being served by humans they get access to experiences they might not otherwise have. For example, Invoke a god and what you do is provide a gatway to yourself, access to your energy and experiences. Of course you get access to that deity's energy as well and that can be useful for some people, but there's always a price. I've seen that price paid and the effect it's had on the people paying it, and I'm not sure the price is worth any power received.
I prefer bargaining to service, because service is ultimately submission. There is no guarantee you will get anything for your service, but with a bargain there are set conditions. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'm a friend to a deity or demon...some people have argued that they prefer to create relationships with such beings that are friendly, but there's a question they don't ask, which is whether or not the deity/demon even comprehends the concept of friendship, or if it does, have they considered that the deity/demon might have an entirely different concept of friendship than what you have? They might think of you as a cat or a dog for instance.
So I go with bargaining. If I want something and I find I can't accomplish it through my own resources I find a being who can accomplish it, and we talk. What does it want in return for accomplishing something specific for me? In Purson's case, he wants a dedication to him in my next book on space/tiem magic and his sigil on the cover of my solo occult books. Fair enough, I can do that. I'm happy to give him credit where credit is due.
In the last nine months I've been working with Babalon. In fact, the situation I was reflecting on today was a possible dedication to her. Working with her has been challenging. She definitely demands a lot when you work with her. Last October when she made it very apparent that I would be working with her for a year in my element of love balancing work, she told me it would get harder before it got easier and it did get harder before it got easier. Even now as this working is descending into the final three months there are definite challenges she has for me. I wouldn't have it any other way. She told me she'd be my guide for the year long love working, that she'd help me get balanced about love. And she is. At one point I did dedicate myself to her, but in a moment of clarity I realized I hadn't dedicated myself to her, for her sake or my own, but someone else's, and she agreed that such a dedication wasn't something that she wanted. She is still with me for the next three months, perhaps even beyond, guiding me in my journey about love...and her price for it is not service to her or tasks to be done, but rather simply to know that I will continue doing the work for the course of this year and beyond to keep myself balanced in love and to really understand how to manifest love for myself and to others. I can live with that...and it occurs to me that a deity with that understanding of me is a deity I can respect because that deity isn't necessarily out to have my service, but does want some kind of understanding to exist.
In fact, my experience with babalon shows me that experiences with deities are subjective and end up occurring at exactly the level that is needed for a person. While one person may very well need to be a god-slave to a god, another person may just need a guide for a year. And yes it does boil down to need. I think a very important question any person needs to ask about serving a deity is: What need within myself does this service fulfill? There is always a need being fulfilled. Certainly working with babalon is fulfilling some deep needs within myself...needs that are becoming balanced. Could I have fulfilled those needs without working with her? Perhaps, but I believe it would've taken a very long time, whereas working with Babalon brought the situation into detailed focus. And so perhaps those people that seem to pay a price in my eyes, aren't really paying that price. They serve the deity in the way they do, and yet they get a need fulfilled, a need which they may or may not be conscious of, but yet if that need went unfulfilled...I think it comes down to an essential issue of identity, which is how much a person's needs define the interactions and experiences a person has, and who/what those experiences occur with.
I watch Lupa and her growing relationship with the spirits. We are definitely going on some different spiritual paths. Yet I also see that her spirit work is definitely fulfilling needs within her. It's helping her refine her path, serve other people, etc., but it's also meeting some needs within her. She seems more balanced to me as a result of doing the spirit work she's doing.
As for service...I think my own service is not to a particular deity or whatever concept it represents. My service ultimately goes to the communities I am part of, the people I interact with, the choice to help someone find his/her potential and realize it. That is my service...not to any one being or belief, but rather to the realization that we are all connected and so if we can help each other grow and realize the effect we have on this planet, on the other life forms on this planet, and on each other, we can choose to make that effect be beneficial instead of detrimental.
A week and a half ago I got interviewed by Leisa Refalo for tarot connections. She and I happen to live in the same city, so she was game for doing the interview in person. Because the majority of my work with Tarot is practical magic oriented as opposed to divination, she was curious as to how I could demonstrate some of my work. I won't ruin it for my readers, because we discuss what I did in the interview she and I had. However what really interested me was that before we did the interview, she gave Lupa and I a white candle with the Strength card displayed, saying she had a feeling we needed it. The Strength card is also the Lust card, depending on the deck and portrays Babalon riding the Sacred Beast. I found this relevent because I'm working with Babalon for the course of a year in my elemental balancing work and because I had also dedicated myself to her.
In the course of the interview I did my magical working with the cards and the final card I picked as an outcome for the working I was doing was the Transmutation card, or transformation. This card was important because it signaled a transformation of my relationship with certain aspects of my life. I'm not going to go into detail about those transformations, as they are of a highly personal nature.
Tonight when I go home, I will be buying several bottles of red wine. One will be for a friend, but one will be for the lady in red. I will light the flame of the blessed candle. I will take my blade, with the hilt of the beast and pass it above the flame, as I call her. I will paint a picture and use the smoke of the candle to purify and bless the picture. I will take the bottle of red wine and pour some into a cup, with a bit of blood and cum to go in as well to flavor it with my essence. I will commune and re-dedicate myself to her.
Her hand is on my shoulder. We will keep walking and talking with each other, just as we had before, but in a different vein. There's so much she can teach me and she is still my guide for this year's elemental love working, but also for beyond. We are transformed, now we continue the journey of refinement.
In my previous post about Deity and service I got some comments and they got me thinking further about some of what I was exploring in that last post. One commenter, in particular, asked for some defintions. 1. Define Deity
I define a Deity as a pan-dimensional being that has its own existence, and lives on a different plane than this one. Deities can exist independent of people and they have their own power, but I also think that people provide the deity some of its power, and to a degree define it. The power is provided by the belief the people have in the deity. If people don't believe, the deity doesn't have as much power, as it would have if people believed in it. The deity is also partially defined by people, in terms of the sphere of influence or the meanings people provide it. Those meanings provide the deity power, but as I mentioned earlier they can also , to a degree limit the deity, because they also define where the deity exerts its power. A diety of love, for instance, doesn't really have much influence over a battle. A good example would be where aphrodite gets wounded when she goes out into the battlefield...it's not her place, not her realm of influence. She has power, but war isn't included in that power. Another interesting aspect to this is that while deities have power, the methods for how they use that power, as it applies to this plane of reality may involve the worshippers they have. Those worshippers are physical vehicles...they exist here...they enable the deity to influence events more directly than they might be able to otherwise...in shore the deities may need worshippers as a way of effecting reality...of course they also give benefits to their worshippers.
Now, I also think a deity can grow...one reason deities may have worshippers is to be able to not only have a pair of helping hands in the physical world, but also to be able to learn from the experiences people have here. They partake of those experiences vicariously. Invocation is a good example. you invoke a god and get possessed for a while so the god can use your body, but also experience this reality more directly.
Maybe the experiences deities get from people is what helps them grow and refine their power and even their existence...something to consider...and again this brings up the questions of identity I mentioned in the last post, both for the people involved and the deity.
2. Define “service”
In the context of the deity-human relationship, I think service occurs on both ends. The worshipper agrees to believe in the deity, agrees to serve the deity by performing tasks for the deity, and even letting the deity have access to hir, via invocation. At the same time, the deity serves the person. The person seeks the deity, because the deity represents access to some deep meanings. A deity of lust for instance provides access to the deepest layers of desire a person may have. The deity provides a medium or interface to access those deepest layers. The person needs to experience those layers, and the deity provides that opportunity. The diety may also provide the person much needed lessons or discipline or other experiences that help that person come to peace with what the deity represents. It seems odd to me that, in fact, this facet of the deity-human relationship is rarely examined, as if people should not get anything out of the experiences they have with deity.
3. Define “Conditions of Service”
This falls back to number two. From my own experiences conditions of service seems to vary from deity to deity. Some deities want a one-time offering, others want more sustained work. My service to Babalon for instance is of a more sustained type. Conditions can change as well. Both the person and deity are living and the relationship that is had also changes. Likewise I think at least some conditions change as that relationship changes YMMV.
4. Is a fish more “powerful” than an anteater?
Depends on the context...and in fact this question admirably applies to what has been discussed. Is a human more powerful than a deity? Certainly not in the native environment of the deity (The human might not even be able to exist in that environment). In Malkuth, it's not so much more powerful, as a human has a type of power here that the deity may not have, which could be a good reason for the deity to want to have worshippers. Some might consider this blasphemous, but I think the following questions should be considered in some depth by people dedicating themselves to deities: Why does the deity choose me to interact with? What am I providing it, that it can't get otherwise? What can I learn from this experience?
Asking and answering these questions can help us understand the effect of deity on our own identites, as well as on how we live our lives. It may help us consider as well, what we hope to learn from our experiences with the deity. finally, it may explain why some people sometimes stop working with particular deities...perhaps they learned the lessons they needed to learn...perhaps the deity learned what it needed to learn.
In my post on magic sometimes being like a bad acid trip, one thing I discussed was how being in service to the gods really involved those gods being in service to us. Where that concept comes from is Buddhism and how that particular belief system views gods. It acknowledges that the gods have more power in certain ways than humans do, but that very power is what entraps those gods. Those gods are limited and defined by what that power represents. They are attached to those meanings and cannot detach so long as people call on them to access what those gods represent. The gods become interfaces of identity for people to work with. Those interfaces represent the deep structures, the nebulous concepts that people want to work with. The gods provide structure for accessing those deep structures. When a person serves a god of death, what are they really serving? Are they serving the actual god, or the concept of death as represented by that god, or the identity of death as given a face by that god? And why do they need to be in service to that god? In fact, such service from a Buddhist perspective is an attachment to that power, and yet such service can be liberating. By choosing to work with the deity and it's method of identification with the deep structure they really want to connect with, people are ultimately getting the deity to serve them.
The deity shapes those people who serve it, provides them experiences they need, and ultimately ends up freeing them of the very attachment that drove them to serve the deity in the first place. Why? Because the deity has served its function, has served the people that serve it. A diety cannot, in the end, not serve the people that come to it. The deity is bound to service by the very power it has, and by what it represents. So long as people call on the deity, the deity cannot be free of the service or the power it has taken on. It is not free of the attachment to meaning, to the deep structure that people give it. The deity serves those people, even as it demands service. It's very demand of service is calculated to give those people the experiences they need to have in order to grow. They serve their deities with devotion and lose themselves in that devotion and so come to understand what it was they were really seeking. Liberation results when that understanding is achieved. At that point, the person can decide if s/he really needs to be attached anymore to that concept. The deity's work/service for that person is done when that occurs.
A deity cannot be free of it's own service, it's own power until people no longer need it. The very power it has creates obligation. Like a king who ascends the throne, the deity can never resign or abdicate it's responsibilities. The king is always on duty, always on task. The king has power, but that very power binds him to the people, even when it doesn't seem like it does. The same is true for the diety. It has power. It can compel people, it can control them, but it is also controlled by its own service. The most powerful diety has less freedom than the most powerless person because the deity is defined by the domain of influence and meaning it represents. It can never not be that.
This brings into question some intriguing concepts of identity as it applies to deity and to people. What is the role of meaning within identity? How is a person's identity shaped by the attachments and meanings s/he takes on in life? What kind of service or obligation does this create and how is magic used to either enforce or free one from those meanings and attachments? What is the role of deity in the identity of a person?
These are some of the ideas I am pondering and working through in my own life and naturally, I'll be expanding upon this a lot more in the books I write, but this is something for all of you to chew on in the meantime.