So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

30 October, 2007

Finding the Hanged Man

I was having a conversation the other day with a friend who said she envied me the smoothness and integration of my faith -- including, y'know, the raving crazed mysticism -- with the rest of my life. Which is sort of one of those topics of conversation that's a going thing, given that I'm doing a boatload of ordeal work at the moment, and helping/challenging my liege with his boatload of ordeal work, and a variety of other subjects, so hey, what the hell.

A while back on a message board I read occasionally, someone started a thread saying, basically, "So, if I were going to choose a religion, which one do you guys think I should pick?" I suspect they were expecting a bunch of "Mine, of course" answers.

I answered, "Whichever one is most in accord with your experiences and understanding of the universe; failing that, whichever one helps you to be the best person you can be, mitigating your flaws and enabling your strengths to shine; failing that, whichever one you find most beautiful."

Nobody acknowledged that answer, of course; I'm used to my crazed polytheistic empirical mysticism getting a lot of blank stares and drifting off in search of someone closer-to-paradigm to argue with. I get similar lack-of-responses to, "You want a relationship with my gods, go ask them yourself. I'm not their pimp."

But really, that's the answer to how I do it, how I don't wind up conflicted, where it all twines together. I drifted a long way out of the sort of half-assed religion that my family did when I was a kid because it didn't speak to me or my understanding of the universe, flailed desperately at clinging at things that did not work for me because they were closer to something that made sense, got myself awfully tangled up in that, and finally stumbled almost by accident into something where the underlying structure, beliefs, cosmology, and theology all make perfect sense to me, include words and concepts that let me express things I've always felt to be true efficiently and thus actually get past that and into more practical development than articulation of axiom can allow on its own.

And 'almost by accident' is one of those moments of madness in motion: reading a book that was sound enough to be interesting but clearly flaky enough that anything it said wanted research corroboration; reading through a list of symbols and, upon one name and correlation, getting a profoundly vivid mental image, something truly striking and potent; going, 'okay, let's see if that's real' and stumbling on the way a bunch of organisations talking about the religion underlying the symbolset; looking at what they had to say, and recognising this sense of homecoming and familiarity there.

And maybe that was the goddess named in that list giving me a vision. And maybe it was my imagination sparked by an association and a symbol -- the relevant symbol, the sacred lotus, Nymphaea caerulea, the flower that in one myth opened to reveal the sun at the moment of creation, remains my preferred symbol of my faith, though I wear a winged scarab as an actually findable second choice -- in a fortuitous way that I happened to remember because it turned out well. Maybe it was many things, but more than anything else it does not matter what it was; it got me to where I am, whether it was a divine gift or a chance firing of neurons.

And then, again with the empiricism, saying, "So all this philosophy makes sense, how about the rest of it," taking up the basic ritual structure, testing it, and coming out of it with, "Wow, that's the most effective ground-and-center technique I have ever encountered." Which ritual structure is now a part of my controls on my depression -- something my current doctor recognises as valuable, which amuses me; the questionnaire for intake included 'do you have any regular meditative practice (including prayer)'. Which ritual structure was one of those things where ... I was amazed to find something I could do that didn't leave me feeling like a complete dork, frankly.

And I work hard within the structure of my faith, apostate though I may be in my own perverse way. I've written short theological essays and gotten told that those changed how people lived, which is a heady sort of madness, but if my theological ranting about shopping carts gets more people to put the damn things away rather than leaving them strewn in parking spaces, I'm certainly not going to object. I'm of a belief that the universe is basically good and requires active maintenance, after all; the more people maintaining, the easier it is for everyone.

Though I don't much believe in belief, when it comes down to it. What people do matters far more to me than what they think in the privacy of their own minds; the stuff in the privacy of their own minds is unverifiable. My level of hard agnosticism makes crazed mysticism actually very easy: I may refer to it as a god communicating with me, talking to me, sending me visions, but it does not matter whether it is a god, raw chance, my Jungian unconscious boiling up some interesting crack, encroaching madness -- I can only judge the worlds by my own perceptions, my own mind, and I don't claim to know what's in it or the nature of what I experience. I test out other theories sometimes, "Okay, if I'm crazy, then what does this set of choices mean", and mostly what it means that I've spent a fair amount of time and a bit of money pursuing things that have, as far as I can tell, made me into a better, stronger, more competent, more well-rounded and balanced person, and surrounded me with things and ideas that I happen to find beautiful.

I wish all my crazy were that useful.

And yes, sometimes this particular madness drives me to places I would rather not go, forces me to confront issues I would rather not face, demands effort from me that I would rather not spend, and maybe some of that is a futile wasting of effort against the indifferent face of an uncaring and unpersonified universe, and maybe some of that is real. I don't claim to know what proportions that might be.

But I reach for the dawn of the first time, that sacred beginning implicit in every moment of continued existence, that first breath, the moment the waterlily cracks open and spills sunlight, the clean perfection of being, and I find something there so beautiful that my heart returns there again and again, to the place it has never left.


Deoridhe said...


Just... yeah.

You should come to the pagan rehab center on Gaia Online (it's a guild). You'd meet other people there who would go yeah. Not all of us, but enough.

Natalia said...

I just want to say: Thank you so much for this post.

subversive_sub said...

"... more than anything else it does not matter what it was; it got me to where I am, whether it was a divine gift or a chance firing of neurons....My level of hard agnosticism makes crazed mysticism actually very does not matter whether it is a god, raw chance, my Jungian unconscious boiling up some interesting crack, encroaching madness."

YES. Brilliant post. This is so, so much like my understanding of my own past experiences with mysticism.