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

17 December, 2012

Q is for Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

(Yeah, I know.  But 'queer' and 'questions' were too predictable-feeling, and anyway I write about that sort of thing all the time and doing it over just didn't give me any warmfuzzies.)

It's always an interesting question, the one of "Who is one answerable to?"

One of the reasons that a lot of pagans have anarchic tendencies is that, having grown up observing Organised Religion Tee-Em, well, a lot of us see that Organising tends to encourage people to get themselves into positions where nobody will feel able to call them on their shit.

One of the other reasons that a lot of pagans have anarchic tendencies is that they don't want to get into a position where someone will have the authority to call them on their shit.

Both of these approaches have their problems.  (She said blandly.)

Here's a fact of life: we're all of us going to be full of nonsense at some point along the line.  Sometimes it'll be a lot of nonsense, sometimes it'll be a little nonsense, but there will be nonsense.  With a little luck, we'll usually be able to notice that we're talking bollocks and stop doing so without making damned fools of ourselves - or doing harm to others.

I tell you something: there's stuff I dealt with when I was younger, where I genuinely don't know even with adult perspective how much of it was "real" and how much of it was some sort of contagious delusion.  (I can only be grateful that it was perhaps less grand than The War On The Astral and was less publically proclaimed.)  But one of the things that I think good about that time in my life is that - while a bunch of folks got quite wound up about it - we then went and dealt with it, and as far as I know nobody did a whole bunch of talking it up as a grand mystical experience or proof that this particular bunch of young folks had an especial type of experience unfamiliar to anyone else.  Or what have you.  We kept a decent watch on ourselves.

And that's part of the process, isn't it?  Run checks.  Try a couple perspectives on to see how what I'm doing looks if I don't assume that it's "real".  Whatever.

I wrote a bit of a checklist a while back which I will now cannibalise:
  • Is this thought/experience/role/claim something that serves primarily to inflate my ego or serve as self-aggrandisement?  Is it a claim of specialness or separation from others?  (Is it heavily distinguished from the types of experiences that other people have claimed to have within my knowledge, for that matter?)
  • If the information from this process is about me, is it something personal to me ("I need to pursue this work/clean my room/quit my job/etc.") or is it something that I think other people should know about me?  Do I make it all about me even when it oughtn't be?

  • What fraction of stuff-about-me is "That's awesome!" or "I'm so cool!" and what fraction is "Fuck, I have to deal with that?" or "You want me to do what?"  (Work doesn't mean it's genuine, but actual effort required is more plausible than the universe handing out free cookies.)

  • What are the actual risks - to myself or others - from listening to the little voices and doing what they suggest?

  • Is the danger of listening to the little voices commensurate with the value of what is being pursued by that action (to both me and the entities thus proposed)?

  • IS MY SHIT SORTED RIGHT NOW?  Because if my shit is unsorted, then it's much more likely that I'm hearing my own emotional damage than something external, or my own insecurities, or simply my own potential for an epic stress meltdown.

  • Do I currently have the capacity to express good judgement in my ordinary life?  Am I expecting myself to have better ability to make significant choices than evidence suggests is a good idea (perhaps because I think dealing with esoteric/spiritual/whatever stuff will have fewer consequences than staying up so late that I get late to work in the morning and can't do my job or something)?

  • Am I working with spiritual/magical/religious tools that are supposed to produce this kind of experience, or is this totally random crap that I'm trying to organise?

  • If I am dealing with a known entity, is the sort of stuff I get from that entity consistent with other experiences of that entity?  With the lore, with the experiences of other practitioners, with mythology, with recorded ritual practice, etc.?  Do I get confirmation of unexpected details when I do further reading or talk with others?  (I had a fascinating confuence of similar experience when talking to other dedicants of Neb.y about our hair color ... which was also consistent with the lore.)

  • If I am in fact making up this experience, how would my behaviour patterns change, and are those other behaviours notably improved?  If I clean my room as part of a spiritual devotion that's one thing - but if I do spiritual devotions instead of cleaning my room, that's rather another.

  • It's worth having a checklist to keep a watch on oneself.  It's also worth having a community who can help run this and other checklists for each other.

    But the problem in greater pagandom is a lot of people run into groups that don't run any sort of checklist.  It doesn't matter what crap they make up - they'll run into someone who'll believe it.

    This does not serve us well.

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