Divinity

I lit the candle, which heated the incense. I put half a beer and a chocolate chip cookie on the shrine. I said my Hotep Netjer*, and started up the music. I’m back doing shrine, but it’s nothing fancy.

I sat down and soon got the impression of Heru-sa-Aset sitting across from me. He wasn’t doing anything fancy either. He appeared in my mind’s eye as a young skinny guy wearing a white kilt and the double crown. Basically just enough for identification purposes. For those who have been curious about deity communications, this really wasn’t much different from having a conversation with an “imaginary” friend. How do I know that it was really Him? How do I know I wasn’t just talking to myself? I don’t really. I just roll with it. If the info is good, I go with it. If it’s unclear or obviously wrong, then I brush it off.

First we talked about the issue some have with the power balance between gods and humans and the “work with” debate. He pointed out that it doesn’t really matter if he’s bigger than me or not. What really counts is that I’m the only one who can handle my boat. My boat belongs to me. The gods can’t steer it for me. They might help smooth my way or point me in a better direction, but ultimately, it’s up to me. Our relationship is not equal. I’m the captain of my own ship, as small as it may be. I could stick my fingers in my ears and not listen to him at all if I wished, but experience has shown that I’m generally better off when I work with my gods than against them. No doubt, they do have more influence over the weather and sailing conditions than I do. It’s still my boat though. It’s my journey, not theirs.

After that, we talked about my fear of greatness. I could have been a professional concert musician. My tutor, who was a professional musician, said so. Right now, I have access to some of the best Tai Chi instructors in the country. I do have talent, and that’s not an idle brag. So, why am I not doing anything with it of note? Why do I turn away just when it starts to get good?

I sat there in the candle light and gazed at the empty space supposedly occupied by a god. He waited patiently for an answer, a real one. “I don’t want them to own me,” I finally told him. How many times have I heard “if I had your talent, brains, etc…I would…” Well you’re not me, so kindly fuck off. I wasn’t interested in the same things they were.

“So what were you seeking?” he asked.

What was it about immersing myself in music and finding a pure tone that meshed with the music of my friends, my band? What was it about feeling the smooth transitions of weight and form, discovering the inner secrets of this body? What was I looking for? Why do I study the world around me and try to understand everything? Why am I here? What sustains me?

“Divinity,” I told him.

Greatness has never been my goal. Divinity can lead to greatness, but greatness by itself does not lead to divinity. It can become an obstacle if followed for its own sake. I saw how I’d been mislead. How discounting my own feelings had left me stagnant. I forgot what brought me to those things in the first place.

I said I wanted to be a mystic, a monk. I tried to find the definitions of these things and what I read didn’t make much sense. Are you a monk if you seclude yourself from society and practice aestheticism? Are you a mystic if you go on astral journeys and talk to god? No, not really. It’s not the outer practices that make the difference. They’re just tools to be used as needed. The real thing is something you cannot see. It doesn’t matter where you search. It’s everywhere.

Divinity is light and love and fellowship. It is also darkness and pain and anger. As a polytheist, I see all of these things reflected in my gods. You find divinity by saying “It is here!” You don’t find it when you say “It is not there!” You find it in every creature, every thing. You find it in yourself. You find it in your love and in your hate. You find it in those whom you love and also in those whom you hate. You find that it remains, at the core, unchanged by love or hate.

“We are a way for the Universe to know itself.” -Carl Sagan

But it’s still your boat.

 

* Hotep Netjer em shabu en imenet her iabyt. “May Netjer be satisfied with the repast to the right and to the left.” -The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook, Tamara L. Siuda, p.84

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In Gods We Trust (?)

Lately it seems that trust in deities has become a hot topic. Should you trust your gods completely? Should you work on your negotiating skills and (try to) read the fine print? Should you not trust at all because they’ll probably screw you over no matter what you do? These are not easy questions to answer.

Most of us carry on with the belief that deities both care about us and know more than we do. Like parents, they may ask us to do things that we don’t like, but they do so with a greater understanding of the world we live in and the possible consequences of our action or inaction.

Then we must wonder if our assumptions are true. Do they really know what is best? Do they really have our best interests at heart, or only their own? Even if both of these are thought to be true, the way in which the gods present the relevant information, or no information at all can try the patience of a saint.

What is a mortal follower to do?

I’ve heard plenty of stories about followers being tricked by their deities into one thing or another. I also hear that most, but not all, of these stories work out for the best in the end. Maybe the deity really did know what they were doing. Maybe they really did have the followers best interests at heart as they led them across the metaphorical hot coals. I also hear that communication is a huge issue, that if the deity had actually explained and asked nicely first, things would have been different and less bitter. “Perfect love and perfect trust” sounded like a nice idea back when I was starting out, but in actual practice it doesn’t seem very practical.

I have been all around the map on this issue with my experiences with Ra. He hurt me badly years ago, without asking first, without any explanation, and while I was actively screaming at him to stop. I hurt myself while trying to fight him off. And yet, to this day, without a direct explanation from him, I go back and forth between calling it abuse of the worst sort, and thinking that maybe he had a good and justifiable reason for it. It actually is possible that he thought he was helping. Maybe he actually was helping. The only thing he has ever said on the subject was, “The Thunder Beings made you strong enough to accept my gift.” Frying me from the inside out was a gift? Maybe it was, but damn it hurt.

Needless to say, this led to a huge ball of trust issues. He kept asking me if I trusted him. He wanted me to trust him. Nope. Couldn’t do it. I could work with him. I felt obligated to because I swore an oath sooner than I should have and without fully thinking it through. Well actually, I went ahead with the oath because it felt like he already owned me so what difference could it make? The difference is that I didn’t feel comfortable just walking out when I really wanted to.

In the process of working with him, I learned more about him. I understood him more. I understood both his strengths and his failings. He really believed that I could do good and amazing things and he wanted to help me do them. I realized that he did not have a good grasp of what my limitations were. I also realized that I really wanted someone to follow who validated me, and I was slower to say no than I should have been. What good is a safeword if you don’t know when to say it? Not that we had one of those. The god did care about me, but he didn’t understand me as well as I thought. Still I opened up to him. I let him in more and more. I tried to overcome my misgivings. That didn’t end well.

Now I’m giving it another try. He knows that if he screws up again I will leave. Heru will back me up. Djehuty will back me up. It’s good to have powerful friends in these circumstances. Certain things are not his to touch. I had to decide what those things were. I had to stick to them even when I wanted to surrender again like I used to, because doing that would not help either of us.

And now, after the lines have been drawn, now that I know he will be held to those lines, now that I feel confident enough in my own judgement to defend those lines, now I trust him. You see, it wasn’t just about him behaving himself. It was also about me not giving away more than I could afford to give. It also helps that there are others who can step in if something goes wrong. I trust him more now than I did before, because I’ve made a decision about what he can have and what he can’t. I’m not going to offer everything and then feel betrayed when he takes it.

Relationships like these are complicated. I’m not judging anyone for how theirs has turned out. I’m not saying that drawing lines in the sand will solve everything. It probably won’t. My solution was a bit more complex than I’ve laid out here, and I have no idea what it will look like a year from now. Will it actually work? I don’t know. He does have the power to screw me over again if he so chooses, lines or no lines. The difference is that now, I’m more likely to trust that he won’t.

I’m actually pretty excited about working with him again, because despite our past issues, I still think he’s pretty awesome.

Sunset

I followed Heru down the winding stairs. He brought me to a room where the other gods waited and watched. He handed me a blindfold. Did I trust him? Of course. I put it on. He told me to follow him. I could feel his presence leading me as I put one foot ahead of the other. I couldn’t see with my eyes, but I knew where we were going. I crossed the chasm on a narrow plank. Honestly, if my eyes had been open, that crossing would have been much harder to handle.

In the next room, he removed the blindfold. I saw my heart set out on a platform. Then it was sliced in two. He handed half of it to someone I couldn’t see at the time. He kept the other half. He and I couldn’t do it alone. That other person I couldn’t see was part of this too.

That’s why I was not surprised when another name, Ra, followed Heru’s during my Rite of Parent Divination. I hesitated a moment because I had a history with him, and not exactly a good history. Still, I could not deny that he’d had a major role in my life. It seemed inevitable. So I went along with it. I made the promise to serve them both.

I tried hard to keep that promise. I worked to get past my anger and my lack of trust. At first it was duty, nothing more. Then I started opening up to him. Then I loved him. I wanted his approval. I wanted to serve. He got me through a difficult time and made me stronger. I became dependent on him.

A couple days ago, he asked me to use that strength. I didn’t think about what I was doing. I only thought about serving him, gaining his approval. I was proud to be able to do this for him, but the usual safeguards and worries and concerns were absent. It seemed ok to put those aside for him. Not just set aside, because that assumes I thought about them at all. I didn’t. I was just following orders, nothing more than an extension of his will. Isn’t that what all servants are after? Erasure of self for the greater good?

Yeah, Heru was pissed. He said it was time to leave. Djehuty explained to me that it was a breach of contract. Heru’s claim came first, and what happened tried to negate that. No worries about repercussions from the promise made. I did my best. My legal backside is covered.

That’s the easy part. The hard part is that I loved him, or I think I did. Our relationship was never very clear. It was wrapped up in a tangle of duty, and service, and being angry for what he took, and being grateful for what he gave. And being ashamed of requiring what he gave. How did I get to the point where his approval meant more to me than my own values? Because that’s where we ended up.

I was addicted in a way. Heru and the others threw me a cold turkey party. I wrapped myself in a blanket on the couch. I felt cold. They hung around, offering comfort, reminding me they would still be there for me. I looked over at Sekhmet and I saw it. I wasn’t the first, or the only, or probably even the last. He just does that to people without even realizing it. I hope he doesn’t realize it. I don’t think he meant for this to happen. He actually apologized for a change. He is the sun, a star, a giant gravity well that turns us in circles. Not one of them blamed me for getting sucked in.

So, what now? A name change might be in order. Shezep is still just as true as ever. The dawn is still part of me. The bright white light is like the white fire I wield in the astral. The white fire deserves more respect. It is a tool for purification and healing. It is not for indiscriminately rooting out the source of paranoia. The white fire deserves more respect. Shezep deserves more respect. I deserve more respect. But the Shuty part is no longer valid. It’s not Two Feathers anymore.

Why am I telling you all this? Is it a cautionary tale about blind faith? No, I still trust Heru that way. He’s never given me any reason to doubt him. Ra gave me plenty of reasons and I tried to work around them. I succeeded, and that was a bad idea. It’s not a cautionary tale at all, because those don’t work. I thought I was doing the right thing by keeping my promise. Maybe I shouldn’t have made the promise? I wouldn’t say that either. The struggle itself taught me a lot that I wouldn’t have learned any other way. I think I’m just writing to say that there are no easy answers. Life happens.

Back to Zero

Last year, I decided I wanted to be a monk. One year later, and I’m still a bit fuzzy on what that means.

The first part seems to be about reducing distractions and recognizing the patterns that send me in the wrong direction. Some monks take a vow of silence, poverty, or celibacy. This year, I’ve mostly been getting nudges about stepping away from the community. This is a hard thing to do. I think community is important. I admire people who go out there and wade through the trenches to keep it going. I feel guilty that I’m not one of those people. However, I say “trenches” because a lot of the time, such work feels like a never ending battle. There has to be a better way, just don’t ask me what that way might be.

I tried joining groups and following their rules. I kept waiting for it all to make sense. I waited for that sense of peace to settle in while knowing that I was doing it right. That never happened. I claimed that I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know where to go or what to do, when in fact, my spirit did have an idea of what it wanted. What it truly wanted wasn’t found there. No group or person that I’ve seen has what I’m looking for. All these advertisements for this path or that one, and none of them satisfy.

I feel like Jack Sparrow staring at his wildly spinning compass. All I can think is, “Get your damned magnets away from me.”

What of your “community” then? Fuck the community.

But, I do like people. Community is a big ugly brush that smears across a canvas and blurs all the interesting details into a glob. I like people. I like stories, personal stories. I like experiences. I don’t give a shit about your judgments or advice. Tell me about your day. Tell me about the little thing that happened that made you smile, or cry. Don’t tell me what you think I want to hear. Tell me about something real that happened. I like those.

I came to WordPress for the Pagan Blog Project. I spent a year doing that, and then a year not doing that. WordPress is more formal than other places. It makes you feel like you should dress up a little. Like being at a party, sipping at drinks and nibbling hors d’oevres, making the kind of conversation that you would expect to find at such a venue. It shows others that you can clean up nicely and speak in complete sentences. You can even make mention of that charity work you’ve been doing, and you probably will at some point. Then the “likes” show up in the email, or not, and you think about why, or why not.

I turned the email thing off. The “likes” still happen. I can see them when I log in, but they won’t intrude on my day outside of here. I’m sure we’ve all had that experience of getting lots of likes on some little fluff piece, and a definite lack of them when we write something of personal value. What will I write more of next time? What will I keep to myself next time? Magnets.

It’s not that the generalized pieces are better, they’re not. It’s not that people are stupid, they’re not. Generalized pieces are simply more relatable to a larger segment of the population. Everybody eats food. Not as many people have conversations with gods. Sometimes it also happens that a story touches deeply, but is difficult to “like.” The reader might have thoughts, but can’t quite make the next step of turning those thoughts into words, and turning those words into a comment. Feedback on the internet is misleading. It’s also irrelevant if I’m writing because I like to write, if I simply feel like these thoughts need expression in some way. Maybe one person who I’ll never meet or talk to will find some meaning in it.

Maybe these ones and zeroes are like writing in sand. Sand painting has a nice tradition among Tibetan monks. I watched them make one once. All that skill and artistry, then it blows away. But I was there, and I saw it.

I don’t know what the heck I’m doing, and I kinda like it.