Goodness is a rather underrated idea. Like our health, it is something we tend to take for granted, until we lose it, or have to try living without it. It is much maligned, and sometimes reported not to exist. Anti-heroes bring in more money at the box office these days than white hat heroes. I’m not sure we even believe in white hats anymore. We identify with the less than perfect rogues a bit more than with the defenders of truth and justice. We’ve grown weary of seeing those who supposedly promote Truth and Justice act like overgrown children. Real goodness seems like an unattainable pipe dream. Why bother anyway? Don’t nice guys finish last?

Somebody has to bother. Even if it does mean finishing last. What kind of world do we want our next generation to be raised in? Do we want to tell them not to bother? That it’s too hard? Should we tell them that the world is hard, and they need to be just as hard to survive?

What would Fred Rogers do? Mr. Rogers should be canonized as a saint. I don’t care what religion does it. It’s not about religion. It’s about goodness. He grew up with a new technology entering his household, and he wasn’t happy with what it brought. Instead of ranting and protesting, he decided to offer something positive to the new medium. He told the children that they were special and they were loved. He told them they had value. He addressed the problems they might face in their everyday lives in a positive way. He gave them the subtle ammunition needed to fight back against the hardness. The Taoists would say that the soft overcomes the hard. Every time he put on his sweater, he was fighting a war of the heart with soft words and friendly smiles. A look into his private life revealed that he was still Mr.Rogers even off the set. There were no dirty secrets hidden out of view. Mr. Rogers was a white hat hero. They do exist.

So what does it take to become one? As with most things in life, that’s easier said than done. First, you need to decide that it’s a worthwhile thing to be. As I mentioned above, these days it’s practically fashionable to devalue goodness. Who even wants to be called a goody-two-shoes? Or a fluffy white-lighter? No, it’s not fashionable at all. The cool kids are out having fun being jerks and even getting praised for it, usually by other jerks. They even tell each other that being a jerk is a good thing because it teaches people a lesson. Usually the lesson involves how to be a better jerk.

Once upon a time, I was an active member of a forum. It wasn’t even a pagan forum. The general culture was one of jerkitude. Newcomers were interrogated by seasoned veterans. Any weakness displayed was subject for further attack. Only those who could get past the hazing stuck around in the community. The veterans thought it was a good thing to drive away those who were not “mature” enough to be associated with them. They treated new people like unwanted trash, not like potentially valuable contributors. No one was willing to take new people by the hand and help them. I eventually left that community, not because I couldn’t handle the hazing. Quite frankly, my net-fu is strong. No, I left because I realized that I was starting to become one of the jerks. I could smell blood in the water from a mile away. Simply being in that environment was changing me and not for the better. I wanted to be a good person, but I couldn’t do it as long as I stayed there. It really doesn’t matter what forum this was, because I’ve seen the same story repeated all over the internet, in many different types of communities. Fighting with the jerks is not the answer. I’ve tried that. I turned into one of them.

WWFRD? He followed the idea of doing good things, and continuing to do them, over and over. He did them consistently and repeatedly, like water wearing away a stone. None of those things individually amounted to much, but over the years, his cumulative efforts meant a lot to children who needed to hear his message, that they were loved, and they were worthy of love. If you truly have a sense of your value, you don’t need to go all “special snowflake” and brag about it. The “special snowflakes” actually need more love, not less. Even the jerks need love. They need to be told that they’re strong on the inside too, like the little boy mentioned in the Esquire article linked above.

There is a better way of talking to people. I’d like to learn about what that way is. I’ve gotten it wrong many times. I’d like to wear a white hat too. I’m still working on it. Changing your ways doesn’t happen overnight. It takes consistent effort.

If you have more ideas about what being a good person means, please do post them in the comments.

Edit: Fixed the article link.

Hello Khepri!

I was hanging out at my apartment in spiritside. I went to the kitchen area and got myself a drink of water. Then I looked up and saw a strange being watching me. I was a little startled, but my apartment is protected, so, whoever it was shouldn’t be a problem.

I couldn’t see them clearly at all. I just got the impression of something large, with a strange head, watching me with large eyes. As I got closer I examined their energy. It seemed alien, weird…like an insect. Ooohhhhh! Khepri? He didn’t speak, not even to acknowledge my guess. He just kind of stood there.

I shouldn’t be surprised that he would be interested in checking up on me. He is a god of the rising sun, and my house is currently full of insects and arthropods. I’ve also been making plans concerning faience scarabs. I even have a sculpey scarab sitting by my monitor that I find myself holding on to when I’m not paying attention. One of the lady beetles in our plastic habitat transformed overnight and looks more like a pale yellow beetle than an alligator-shaped larvae. The caterpillars have grown dramatically since we got them and will probably turn into chrysalises soon. The mantis case is still quiet and probably will be until suddenly we’re swarmed with babies. The case is resting safely in a popup screened habitat for now. I assured Khepri that we would set his children free when they were old enough.

So, yeah, no wonder he showed up! I feel a little embarrassed for not recognizing him sooner.

Sobek and Neutrality

The High falls to the Low
The Low fills its belly
Not a ripple marks their passing

This is the post I wanted to write earlier today, but I felt this way of writing needed an introduction first. That, and I got distracted.

After yet another night of too little sleep, I asked Sobek how to do what he and the crocodiles do. How do I slow my heart and sink under the water, letting nothing disturb me? I felt my skin grow tough and thick. I imagined rough bumps and scales that would slide effortlessly through the water.

He talked to me about neutrality. Not the neutrality of not getting involved in a war, except I guess it is that too. The Names often seem to take words I think I know, and find new ways to apply them, or even make up new words altogether. He also spoke of devaluing things. Again, the context he used was a little different from what I’m used to hearing.

He told me to listen to the sounds outside. Those sounds were neither positive, nor negative. They were neutral. Then he told me to devalue the sound. There was no value, good or bad, to be placed upon it. It is not threat, nor food. That’s easier said than done when the thumping of bass speakers invades my sanctuary.

In the Foundation post I mentioned the need to return to neutral, to rest. It’s a practice I need to learn.

By constantly valuing the high above the low, reaching ever upward, we eventually reach a point where the wave collapses, and the resulting trough is filled, as in the poem above. Sobek also grins and tells me it is a poem about catching birds.

What is a mystic’s role in the Kemetic community?

The idea of various roles in the Kemetic community has surfaced recently. I fully support the idea of each person contributing to the whole by their own talent and skill set. There are scholars, artists, crafts people, performers, storytellers, administrators, technicians, ambassadors, priests, mystics, the list could go on as people find their various places. I am a mystic. My work is often solitary and intangible. What offering can I bring to the communal table?

I seek knowledge and experience. It is a different kind of knowledge than that of the scholar. It is more of the heart than of the head. Or, in the older way of thinking, more of the gut than of the heart. My seeking of such knowledge tends to be self-serving. It is a desperate search for answers to problems that plague me from day to day. I do serve the Names, but, I have reasons for doing so.

So again, how does this serve the community? Community is a shared thing where all are strengthened by interaction with the whole. Knowledge, whether of the heart or of the gut, does no one any good unless it is shared with those who may benefit. So, I will make an effort to get over my nervousness at being that strange person who walks in strange places. I will try to drag knowledge from under the waters, dry it off and present it, hopefully without too much river mud stuck to it. Yes, I will clean it up a bit, because you really don’t want to know where I’ve been!

But I’ve been known to pull up a few treasures, things like community, loyalty, family, ma’at, compassion, and other things like ruthlessness, creative conflict, impartiality, mourning and the end to mourning. I seek the wholeness of Heru’s eye, and I’ve wandered through many places in my search. But what good is it unless it is shared?

Standard disclaimers apply. What I write is simply my own belief or opinion at the time it is written. It might change as I go along. It might not even be my only opinion. These are merely intended as thinking points, examinations of ideas as I turn them over in my head. You may take them, leave them, or grab the ball and run off in another direction. Right up front, I will admit a bias in favor of community and making a community work, and yes, I mean the greater Kemetic whole, not just one tiny corner of it. We serve the same deities. We are stronger together than we are by ourselves. Let’s do the things that make community work and avoid the things that tear it apart.

These types of posts will be sorted in their own category as Kemetic Mysticism.

Foundation and Center

Back in the terribly fragmented EEeee post, I briefly touched on the idea of foundation and center. I think of this as a tai chi concept, because that is where I encountered it most clearly, but actually it’s just basic physics. No architect can get by without it. Actually no one can get by without it, but some need to be more consciously aware of the idea than others. It isn’t something you have to actually think about every time you stand up, even if you are practicing it.

In the physical sense, “center” refers to your center of gravity. I’m really wishing I had a video clip of Mr. Wizard explaining what center of gravity is. That’s where I first learned of it when I was a kid. In short, if you were to hang an object, any object, from a string, the center would always fall directly under the point of support. Alternatively, if you were to balance an object, any object, on a support, the center would always be directly above that support. If it isn’t, the whole thing would fall down. I found this video on YouTube to help get a good visual on that.

I use this principle in my tai chi class to explain how balance works. In most humans, the center of gravity is a point inside the lower abdomen. While standing, look down at your feet, then imagine an outline that includes your feet and the space between them. Alternatively, you can draw the outline around any point of weight-bearing contact you have with the ground, be it a chair leg, wheels, or a cane. Notice the position of your center in relation to that line. If you lean, notice what happens the very instant that your center crosses the imaginary line. You start to fall. (Please don’t really fall!) The space that imaginary line encloses is your foundation. Notice how much smaller it gets when you pick up one foot. Depending on the width of your stance, you probably reduced it to about a quarter of its previous size. If you rise to the ball of your foot, then you probably knocked another two-thirds off the remaining space. As long as your center stays over what’s left of your foundation, you’ll be fine. As soon as it wobbles out of that area, you get into trouble.

What does this have to do with paganism? Nothing specifically, I guess. I just think it’s something that applies to EVERYTHING. This is one of those physical laws that seem to translate well metaphorically into psychological and spiritual worlds. How many times have we been told to “Ground and Center?” I don’t think Foundation is exactly the same idea as Grounding, but they do seem related.

Foundation is the line you must not cross lest you find yourself on your way to a fall. If you stay on this side, you’re safe. It’s amazing how precise the line actually is, nothing fuzzy about it. The fuzzy part might be your awareness of your center. Know thyself, or else. Can you handle that one cookie without blowing your diet? Or will it tip you over the edge until the whole package disappears? To answer that question, you have to know your own center.

This is not the same thing as pushing past your comfort zone. The comfort zone is where you can handle things easily. Then there is an area where you must use greater effort and skill to succeed. Going past your foundation, however, is pushing to the point of failure. The line might not be visible, but it really does exist. No amount of will power can change it.

Let’s look at that will power thing for a moment. Going back to the standing example, leaving your comfort zone might be like leaning at an odd angle. Sure, you can do it. Doing so will both strengthen and tax your muscles. Old style tai chi was taught by having students stand in various stances until they increased their internal strength and stability. At first it’s not so bad, but the longer you do it, the more your muscles tire. Eventually you must either return to a comfortable stance, or risk falling down. After you’ve rested, you can try it again later. Resting is not failure. It is preparation for the next workout. Also remember that people get bad backs and various chronic aches and pains if they lean on a daily basis. You must rest. You must return to neutral on a regular basis, or you will pay for it in the long run.

Only you can figure out what Foundation and Center mean to you. They may mean different things in various contexts. Heru told me recently that he was my center and Ra was my foundation. It will take awhile for me to really appreciate what he meant by that.


Note: The original questions also refer to doxa. This is not a term I’m personally familiar with. I read the dictionary definition of it, but for lack of my own experience in using the word, I’m going to skip that part.

What is UPG?

UPG stands for Unverified Personal Gnosis. “Unverified” means that it is not something you found in a book or heard from a reputable outside source. You are admitting that it is a guess, and you may be wrong. Maybe later you will verify it, but that hasn’t happened yet. “Personal” means that it is yours. It might not apply to anyone else. On the other hand, it might also mean that it fits you more precisely than the generalizations you find in public practices. This is something “custom made” for your situation, not “off the rack.” “Gnosis” is spiritual knowledge or insight.

UPG refers to a kind of spiritual knowing that is gained by your own experiences and thoughts. Your experiences and your thoughts are unlikely to be the same as anyone else’s. UPG is modern spiritual shorthand for declaring that what you are talking about is your opinion. It may be deeply held by you, but it might not mean much to anyone else.

What are the rules on UPG?

The rules are that there are no rules. Anyone can make a spiritual guess about anything. That said, there are a few guidelines for improving the respectability of your guesses.

First, is to remember the U and the P. You might be wrong, or, the information might apply only to yourself and not to someone else. No one else is required to believe in the same thing you do. Their disbelief is not always the same thing as disrespect. Remember that others have UPG too. Yours and theirs might not agree. If someone tells you that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is allergic to purple, you can have respect for the person’s right to hold that belief without sharing it. (Maybe The Great Noodly One, just didn’t like that guy’s sweater.)

Second, research is not required to have a guess, but it will make your guesses better. You don’t have to believe in, or agree with, everything you read, but having some background helps to put ideas into relevant context. If your UPG contradicts prominent sources without an intrinsically explainable cause, you may find a few eyebrows raised in your direction. What you do about those eyebrows is up to you. Maybe you’ll ignore them and go on your way. Maybe you’ll start second guessing and lose confidence in your faith. Maybe you’ll find a way to incorporate the new information. You can’t really control what others think about your stuff. You can only really control your own reaction to it.

Third, take a moment to check whose toes you are stepping on and if it is really necessary to do so. You probably already know that you should be careful what you say about another person’s friends or family. Keep in mind that some people have relationships with their gods that are just as close as family. Controversial things sometimes do show up in UPG. Try to have the sense not to broadcast those things. It can’t always be helped. You might offend completely by accident. If it happens, apologize for causing offense (not necessarily for having the belief), and watch your tongue in the future. This is what private journals and friend locked blogs are for. Get the controversial UPG off your chest there and not in public.

How important is UPG?/Should we rely on it?

UPG exists in the space outside of standardized ritual. That’s a really big area to fill. Any time your gods speak to you directly, or through various signs, that’s UPG. Your negotiations with them, your images of them beyond the standard iconography, or even random jokes and trivial likes and dislikes are UPG. It’s difficult to have a meaningful relationship without relying on some UPG. No academic can tell you how to nurture your personal relationship with the divine. They can give their own ideas about how other people used to do it, but they can’t tell you about your specific situation. It’s imprecise. It can get messy, but you can’t really get away from it.

Should we pay attention to others’ UPG, or let it influence our own UPG/practice?

You don’t have to pay attention to what someone else is doing unless you want to. If solitary practice is your thing, then go right ahead. If you want to work within a community, then it helps to have an idea of what’s going on in that community. Personally, I enjoy hearing UPG stories from my fellow Kemetics. However, there shouldn’t be any great pressure to make all the stories agree. The old myths don’t even agree with each other. Why should we start trying to create a monoculture now? There is a fuzzy line between influencing each other and creating an atmosphere of clone consensus. I take that second one as a warning sign. Influence is ok, but not to the point that you stop having your own ideas.