Blog posts concerning astral travels or journeywork can seem very confusing and outright crazy to those who are not used to reading them. The topsy-turvey Wonderland feel of the astral exists in sharp contrast to the thoughtfully constructed and sedate world of temple devotions. It is not a question of which view is correct. It’s simply a matter of understanding that each approach has a place and a purpose. Each follows a different set of “rules.”
Temple devotions tend to be formalized and controlled. There are times when displaying such control is pleasing to the deities. It shows discipline and respect. It shows that you are willing to make sacrifices of your time and energy in honor of Them. It is an act of putting mundane issues aside, if only for a few minutes, and refocusing on the divine.
In truth, journeywork displays a lot of the same qualities. You’re still devoting your time and energy. You’re still refocusing on something outside of the daily routine. (Though there is something to be said for integrating the divine into your daily life too!) The main difference is that formality can be replaced by bare honesty. Honesty is a different form of respect. It shows trust in the one with whom you are sharing your most intimate thoughts. Sometimes while journeying, I do occasionally attend formal functions that require the same level of preparation and courtesy as you would find in a temple. At other times, all pretenses are laid bare.
I believe one of the hardest things for non-journeyers to comprehend is the difference between literal and metaphorical truth. I believe that metaphor is the native language of the spiritual realms. You are far more likely to run into trouble if you take everything you see or are told at face value. Meaning gained from the unseen must be held lightly in the hand, like a butterfly, and not crushed in the grip of rigid expectations. That’s a good way to take a meaningful experience and turn it into a disgusting pulp that bears little resemblance to what was intended.
Here are a few examples of some common metaphors and how they may be interpreted. Keep in mind that interpretations may vary. The first rule of the Unseen is that there are no rules, except when there are.
There was a time when I was getting to know Ra that he insisted that I fight
Apep before being allowed inside to speak to him on the boat. That was the price of admission.
Do I truly believe that I was engaging in a life and death struggle against the Uncreated and thereby saving the Universe each time I did? No, not really. I think Ra was just testing me to see how I’d do. Each time I fought, I did things a little differently. It was a good indicator of my mood on that particular day. By watching me fight, he was able to determine what kind of person I was, and what talents I might bring to his service. Trying out different techniques also taught me a few things.
If we look at the metaphor of battle, we see an effort to solve a problem and the various ways we might go about doing so. Doing battle in the astral can be a powerful form of sympathetic magic. It can help you to lose your fear and develop confidence in certain situations. It can also teach you to face the consequences of your actions.
Taking a battle metaphor too literally can result in a sense of being more powerful than you actually are. I’ve heard people talk about killing or defeating BigNameEntityX. The more likely explanation was that they may have damaged or broken X’s anchor to that time and place. Think about how evil entities are traditionally handled, not by killing them, but by banishing them. If the same one keeps coming back, then it’s time to look around for that anchor. If it’s REALLY persistent, try looking in the mirror.
Death and Mutilation
This one is well-known among journeywork circles, and yet it never ceases to be shocking when it’s your turn to try it. It’s probably pretty shocking for outsiders to read about too, but the journeywork veterans will just nod sagely and say “welcome to the club.”
Death in the astral is generally not indicative of a suicide wish. It has more to do with letting go of the things that have been holding one back, and embracing the change that results. Sometimes it can be graphic and horrible. Sometimes it’s relatively peaceful. It can happen fast, or it can take place over days or even weeks. The pain involved is usually proportionate to the person’s reluctance to let go. It is more common to be “done in” by a friend or a guide than in battle.
By mutilation I mean losing any part of your astral body within the journeying context. This can be anything from having your heart ripped out to giving up a few drops of blood. Body parts and fluids are very rich in metaphorical value and symbolism. It is a smaller form of letting go. It can indicate cleansing, if the part in question was not clean. It can also indicate a sacrifice, giving something of yourself to another. It does not automatically mean that the person writing about such a vision is into self-harm in real life.
Yes, it happens. Like the more violent aspects of journeying, this one tends to be shocking the first time you encounter it. Sex has a great deal of metaphorical and symbolic value. It shows up constantly in the ancient myths. Like the other items mentioned previously, it does not automatically indicate that the person has sexual issues in real life. I’ve heard speculation that people who discuss astral sex have been the victims of sexual abuse. For the record, I have not, and how dare anyone make dismissive assumptions at the expense of those who have!
Now that’s out of the way, what does this one mean? Sex with a noncorporeal being is often about communion. It is a merging of energies and a blurring of the lines between self and other. It can be an exchange of energy, one partner giving to the other. It can be a mutual exchange. Sometimes, but not always, it can be a display of surrendering to a higher power. Sex is another form of letting go and allowing a change to occur, but this time, it’s about creation, not destruction.
Sometimes a deity might show up and reveal that you have a special destiny! Relax, they’re always trying to pull crap like that. They did it to me in a rather spectacular fashion. Once the shock and awe factor wears off, the recipient of this one has to decide what exactly was meant, and what they want to do about it. Remember that nobody is going to hand you a free coffee at Starbucks, unless you already have a friend who works there.
If the deities have a plan for you, whatever that plan may be, it’s going to sound like a big deal. Just keep in mind that you most likely are not going to single-handedly save the universe, and any job they give you is going to feel like a job once you get down to actually doing it. There are lots and lots of special people in the world. No single person is The One. Can mortals really affect things that happen among the gods? If they couldn’t, then why would the gods even bother with them? Special snowflake? Sure, why not? There are billions of them lying around.
Sometimes stuff happens that makes absolutely no sense. The best you can do here is write it down and hope to figure it out later. If you ask someone else for advice, don’t automatically assume that they know more about it than you do.
Plain old ordinary stuff sometimes happens too. What you see might be boring or quiet or completely unimportant. Sometimes the gods just want to hang out and crack jokes for no reason. This is a good thing. It doesn’t have to be action movies and high drama all the time.