Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Song of Creation

I have written a lengthy and detailed essay/study of Creation Incantations in Irish and Welsh tradition. I have created a sub-site on my website to house it, with art and other things to make the reading experience more pleasant. It is a major work of mine, covering much ground and clarifying my own spiritual path.

You can view it by clicking here: The Song of Creation

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I Am the Other: The Implications of Oneness in Moral Thinking

The discussion about oneness which I had in a previous post contained a statement which is worthy of further elucidation. It contains a moral paradox, of types- one of the several paradoxes inherent in the idea of "oneness". I have heard it said that a paradox is a truth standing on its head to get our attention- and I think this is a good way of seeing situations like this. Oneness is a beautiful idea, and an expression of reality itself; but it sometimes requires careful thought.

People tend to shy away from what they perceive as difficulties in thinking, preferring ease- but ease may not serve in every situation to give us real guidance. The effort we make to examine what we call "paradoxes" can yield great, life-changing treasures.

How does oneness beg us to act in every life-situation? How can it be realistic, when we must harm someone or something in a situation?

I stated:

"Why oneness? Why hold up "being the Land" as such an important perspective? Because when you are the land, you do not harm it. When you are others, you do not harm them. When others are you, you do not harm yourself; in all cases or circumstances, you help. You protect and preserve. You do not take; you exchange and cooperate. You do not leave the company of life; you move around in it, forever. Each situation in life calls for either measured or spontaneous action in accordance with these principles; each situation and the response to the situation being somewhat different, but the deep call to the principles remains the same."

That statement "breaks down" to the following principles:

Principles or statements about self, world and other

1. I am the Land
2. I am others
3. Others are me.
4. I do not leave the company of life, but shift around within it.

Principles or influences of those statements on life-activities

1. I do not harm the Land
2. I do not harm others
3. I do not harm myself
4. I help, protect, and preserve; I exchange and cooperate.

The original statement goes on to say:

"Each situation in life calls for either measured or spontaneous action in accordance with these principles; each situation and the response to the situation being somewhat different, but the deep call to the principles remains the same."

In any situation that calls for an action, we will either have an opportunity to consider what we should do (a measured action) or we will simply act without thinking (spontaneous action). Each situation is different, no matter how similar they may seem on the surface, and the response that is best for each situation may change, again, no matter how similar they may seem.

You can't know all the facts until you are "in" each situation. But whatever the situation, and whatever the character of your activity (measured or spontaneous), "the deep call to the principles remains the same." In other words, if you can measure your actions, you should measure them by the principles. If your actions are spontaneous, they still call to the principles, or are informed by them, whether or not you realize it.

Example 1: A bear attacks a cave that a woman and her child are living in. She reacts by grabbing a spear and stabbing the bear.

In this case, assume the woman's defense was spontaneous. Her spontaneous and natural act calls to the principle that states "Others are me"- her child is her- and "I am others"- she is her child. She "helped, protected, and preserved" spontaneously, based on her oneness with her child.

But what of her oneness with the bear? Why did her spontaneous action not take that into account, and allow the bear to eat her child? If "she is the bear" and "the bear is she", why stab it with a spear?

I do not deny that the woman has the oneness relationship with the bear. In the situation presented (a spontaneous reaction) the woman's actions were informed by her sense of oneness with her child more than that of the bear, and she didn't choose for her actions to be so informed. She simply reacted in that way. It may not be easy to explain why, or perhaps the answer is very obvious.

If pressed for an explanation for something like this that (I think) defies perfect explanation, I would state that there is a stronger instinctive or unconscious connection between parents and offspring, between kin, or indeed, a stronger instinctive, unconscious connection between beings of the same or similar caliber. "Oneness", in the broad stretch of reality, also contains lesser or greater degrees of closeness or similarity- a human would likely try to save another human who was in danger of becoming dinner to a pack of wolves with much more vigor than he might try to save a rabbit who was in the same danger.

I don't think this "closeness" or "similarity" consideration changes the fact of "oneness" for things at all; it is merely an observation of an obvious fact of behavior and thinking. Closeness or perceived similarity will affect a person's measured or spontaneous decisions in any situation, and this does not affect the deeper reality of oneness.

Now, returning to my example- if the woman in the cave with the child had time to think about her response, I think she would still pick up the spear and kill the bear, for the reasons I just stated. But if she had the time and opportunity, she also might measure it so that she takes her child and escapes the cave, thus sparing her life, the child's, and the bear's. This measured response would "calling to the principles" as well. Instead of just protecting and preserving herself and her child, she also helps the bear by not harming it.

Example 2: A hungry man, after much consideration and preparation, carefully and stealthily stalks a deer and shoots it dead, takes it home, cooks it and eats it.

It's undeniable that, from the perspective of oneness, the man is the deer, and the deer is the man. It is equally as undeniable that from that perspective, one should not harm self or other, since they come together as one the same. Yet, the man intentionally stalks and slays the deer, to satisfy his own hunger. A similar example could have been used for a man who intentionally destroys the life of a carrot by yanking it from the ground and cooking it and eating it, for the same reasons of hunger.

Beforehand, we examined the "closeness" or "similarity" consideration; now I must introduce the sustenance consideration. It is clear that life must consume life, or should I say, it is clear that life's communion includes not just communication and the mingling or cross-fertilization of various forces, but the absorption and transformation of other forces. This is an important aspect of the oneness in which we live, and is not optional.

And this harder fact of oneness (from the perspective of most modern people) does not deny oneness, either. If anything, the absorption and transformation of force is a blatant and elegant demonstration of oneness. When one living being eats another, they become one in a new perceptual manner. When the life of one is saved because it gets the food it needs, the life of all is saved, for this is a reality of oneness.

Because this sustenance consideration is an unavoidable, deep-seated thing, it will shape both measured and spontaneous decisions for any creature, human or non-human. Because it represents such an important and un-chosen aspect of living in the world, one cannot say that the killing of another living being- plant or animal- to satisfy true need of hunger or survival is "harm" in the same way that "harm" exists when we stab another person to satisfy a need for vengeance or to steal their money.

You could make a case that they were both categories of "harm", by virtue of the fact that flesh is rended, and blood is shed- but the true moral quality of any activity is decided by far more than just its outward form.

For the moral quality of an activity to be known, we must look to motivation, among other things. When I am motivated to kill an animal or a plant to spare my life or the lives of others, this is a form of transformative communion by necessity, not merely "harm". When I am motivated to kill an animal or a plant for my own amusement, or for reasons of greed, boredom, curiosity, or the like, then I am entered into a new category of immorality and unwisdom.

When I am motivated to kill an animal or a plant to spare my life or the lives of others, this is a means of helping, protecting, and preserving- both on my part and the part of the creature that died at my hands, for, again, this is taking place within a context of oneness, a "one life" that we all share. The creature does not leave the company of life because of its death; it shifts around within it.

It is clear from these notes that "Evil" in activity- real harm- only ever comes from failing to measure our responses to situations by the principles born of oneness, bearing in mind our special considerations for similarity and sustenance, and our sense of motivation.

People often bring up the controversial issue of euthanasia in conjunction with this conversation, but from the perspective of oneness, the "controversy" is shallow, indeed. If I am the suffering other, and the suffering other is me, then my duty is to help end suffering, however I can- if I find myself in the proper situation wherein I am called upon to help. Clearly, curing or healing the "suffering other" is the first line of effort. If this is truly not possible, then helping to end their suffering in another manner is- even if that manner leads somehow to their death and transformation. This line of thinking, I believe, arises from the depths of the one life.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Being the Land

Human beings are the land. Humans are not alone in being the land; birds and beasts are also the land; trees are; Gods and spirits are, as well. Oneness is a hard concept to grasp for some, especially when oneness is only experienced in terms of many seeming parts. And yet, oneness is what we have. It is what we always had and will always have. When we have that, we have one another, in the most intimate and spiritual way possible.

It's a real pity to imagine a race of beings who have oneness, living as though they didn't have it, and even lacking awareness of it. To see such wealthy beings living out lives of poverty is a sorrow; to see those same beings slowly rediscover their treasure is a sublime pleasure. I know that I am pleased when I feel the wind and know it as my wind, and know myself as belonging to that wind. That's a strange thought, at first: The fire that crackles in the hearth is my own glow and warmth and flame, and, at the same time, that glow and warmth and flame is my mother- I am her human.

It all comes together, you see- it is of me and I am of it, whatever it may be; in this two way reciprocity, oneness is found. Two quickly becomes one, because you can't find where the circle ends or begins. This is because, ultimately, circles don't end or begin, and neither does the web of living relationships.

All of our poor confusion is born in the breaking of the circle. When we depict ourselves in sacred stories and myths as the takers of resources, as masters of a world that was put at our disposal, there is no circle, only a line, the line of mastery and ownership. That's simple enough, though how many have the power in them to defeat that terrible myth? In my experience, not many.

But thrice-blessed by Sovereignty herself are they who have re-established the eternity of the circle of communion and belonging in themselves, and thus, in the world! They have rediscovered their being in the Land, their being in oneness. They have found the cornerstone of life that the builders of our present day society rejected. Without that cornerstone, no lasting spiritual peace is possible; no health of the body or mind is truly possible, and no real experience of authentic humanhood is possible. We only become fully human when we know what powers belong to us and those powers to which we belong. Then, we have our lost families back, the mother-clan, our dignity among the ranks of life.

When we don't have the cornerstone of oneness, we hallucinate many things about "the way things are." Thoughts and dreams and feelings become exiled off to one realm, and "tangible, solid things" become part of another. These two realms never meet, in our experience, when we suffer this sickness. What a terrible pity- for once you know yourself as the land, and the land as your "self", then deep processes that were never ultimately divided by such lunacy begin to assert themselves consciously again.

I shall make an example: seeding. You have been a farmer all your life, whether or not you knew it. You have plowed the ground of the mind with habitual ways of thinking, and planted in those furrows the seeds of will, the seeds of destiny. Most people would see this statement as a matter of me using agricultural metaphors- words for a process that takes place "outside"- for "inner" processes. But I don't mean that at all. I never mean that. And I can't say it enough.

When I seed the ground of my garden outside, by turning up the earth, making a space and dropping in seeds and watering them, and when I wait and watch for those sprouts to break ground, and watch them grow, and harvest them for their fruit or bloom, that's called "gardening". When I plant the seeds of intention and fantasy and ideation in my head, losing them to the dark under-reaches of consciousness, only to see them sprout and to reap their merits (or lack thereof), that's called "experiencing, planning, thinking and behaving." And the conclusion of most is that they belong to two different realms. But they do not- they are, in fact, one process; one and the same. This process is experienced in different ways, but it is one process. I am the land; when I seed the land, I am seeding myself, and when I seed myself, I am seeding the land.

Does it sound so foreign, still? Strange? Naive? Absurd? Mystical? Does it violate the perception-paradigm of our age, ignore the science? The answer to all these things is yes- it sounds foreign, and most would say "yes"- strange, naive, absurd, and ridiculously mystical. It totally ignores "straight up reality that anyone can see"- it's primitive and stupid. Practically anyone will tell you.

A man once asked Empedocles what the most precious thing in life was, and he said "what people neglect the most." As usual, the master was correct- the stone that the builders rejected, the thing lying discarded in the trash heap, may in fact be the most precious thing imaginable. It may be the key to our peace. Where does wisdom hide? In the last place people will look- the dark underside, the underworld, the place of fear and death. To see as I see means to die to another way of seeing- a way that seems so natural, normal, scientific, and sane.

And death is death. I died; we all do, eventually. I'll die again and again if Mighty Sovereignty and the guardians of wisdom demand it. Those powers that guard wisdom- they are my powers, and I am theirs. We are one. The land under "my" feet- it is my land, my stability, my fertility, my lasting landscape, and I am its human, its eyes, its hands, its worshiper, its living being. What happens in the land is happening in me; this is oneness. What happens in me happens in the land. Can any science draw the "line" for me that separates me, ultimately, from any thing else- any land, any being? I say "no", and the contrary voices are silent, for they know they cannot.

Why oneness? Why hold up "being the Land" as such an important perspective? Because when you are the land, you do not harm it. When you are others, you do not harm them. When others are you, you do not harm yourself; in all cases or circumstances, you help. You protect and preserve. You do not take; you exchange and cooperate. You do not leave the company of life; you move around in it, forever. Each situation in life calls for either measured or spontaneous action in accordance with these principles; each situation and the response to the situation being somewhat different, but the deep call to the principles remains the same. This is plain, and this is power- with this perspective, sanity and peace is possible, within these heads.

And when these heads are settled at peace, fires burning, rivers flowing, plants growing, cows lowing- then the land is settled, and at peace. Is peace important? I'd say. Few would disagree. Peace has a use- it isn't just a passive state. In the sort of peace I'm talking about, we speak with the Gods. In that peace, children thrive, and even death settles himself down for a long sleep.

The really clever people who intellectualize the ramifications of oneness can easily point out that opposites fall apart in oneness- gentle Gandhi and vicious Hitler are "one", and thus, the implication goes, their different characters were and are meaningless.

I don't go so far as to say that all opposites merely fall apart or fall away, and stop there; I say that opposites exist relative to one another from one perspective, and fall away into meaninglessness from another. Why does oneness seem to contain so many perspectives? For the same reason it seems to contain so many parts at all- whether many trees, many stars, many stones, or many perspectives, oneness is certainly experienced as "many-ness". This is hard to grasp, but it's joyful to understand.

In no manner do I mean to suggest that the many humans we see everyday are one human, or that the many Gods are one God- but I do suggest that we are all one within the system of life, bound together by it, part of one whole, part of the oneness- and that's what this "oneness" always was and is. There is a way of understanding and experiencing ourselves as individuals, and a way of understanding and experiencing ourselves as something much greater than an individual. The two- which certainly both exist- quickly become one, when you let the circle be.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Living Presence

It is true that the Gods appear to us in dreams, at times. I can recall such blissful memories of dream, when I have rendered due service to the Ancestral Way, pouring out libation and making offerings to the thirsty ground, that my visions in sleep the following night have featured gray-cloaked, dark eyed huntsmen and fair ladies, from below the earth. I think of the eye of dream as one of the last open portals of communion with the Gods, for these days. But there are more ways of encountering the company of the ever-living: the capacity of sacred feeling has not abandoned us yet, and can be cultivated to great and powerful effect, if one can become a channel for the proper poetry.

I believe in my Gods because I feel them- they are living presences, extending down the ages and appearing in our modern times as the great spiritual beings they are; I feel them as alive and potent, dwelling in a misty border-place that I cannot name or grasp easily. But I know when the feeling becomes strong and extends over the hills and forests of my homeland. It is impossible not to believe as I do, if you feel as I do. No being is worth the name "God" if its living presence cannot be felt, over vast distances of space and time.

Anything that lives extends a presence about itself, and into the web of life; the Gods live and live timelessly and their living presences are like suns amid the stars of other living things. That they are unseen by our eyes of water and salt, but captured in the insubstantial eyes of dream and the feeling self means little or nothing- for many beings share the same condition. In death, even mortal creatures enter the same state and extend whatever presence they can manage.

The great dead are like that. The well-memoried dead, alive still with the impact of their great deeds, always extend a presence that the living can feel. But the Gods are not living then dead; they are ever-living. Thus, they are ever-present. Far from the glamour of statue or temple, their sacred places are everywhere. The Gods are shape-shifters; the ancestral tradition does not leave a doubt open about this. What another may experience as a tree or a hill, I experience as a Goddess- sometimes. At other times, there is just a radiant, living tree, or a hill that conceals the treasures of the under-earth. What you may discover as a gurgling stream in a forest, I can experience as the rush of a spirit or a God, flowing out the life-force of divinity.

And again, sometimes, it is a stream. The presence never dies.

When that presence is of the mighty Gods, religion is effortless; the Ancestral Way is the way of simple living. When the presence is of a lesser star in the earth, and we desire a religious communion with them, I have found a soul-trodden path to meeting those same powers.

To their homes I go, a walk or a ride from my home to theirs; and there I sit, fastening my mind on the sense of the non-humanness of this person, this living being I wish to communicate with. Many do not understand the point of this portion of my exercise, but the point is crucial: to know spirits, non-human persons, one must first know that they are not "humans writ invisible". They do not conform to our human notions, and the more we find that we envision them as us, instead of as the flexible, non-human mysteries that they are, the more we know that our heads are confusing our hearts.

When I have created in myself that needful sense of the non-humanness of those powers I wish to commune with, I create a sense of kinship- never a hard exercise for a spiritual ecologist and animist, but one that requires sincere effort for most. The subtle beings know our hearts, to a lesser or greater extent, depending on their power. To make a heart of respect creates a bridge for communication. In the force of that respect, given freely as a cousin-being in the web of life, I let the poetry in my soul and in the land stir, making an enchanter's call for the attentions of that power. Song is often the most powerful way to make this call. The trance arises naturally on the back of such a song.

Finally, a sense of passive openness ends the entire technique of spirit-speech: offering the power that I desire a chance to approach me, as I approached it. For we cannot approach them alone; real communion is two-way. And real communion always includes the possibility that the powers desire not to speak. We must offer them that possibility, as our last sign of respect. The communion, if it will be, will come afterwords, in the many ways it can. You will see- or feel- what you will see or feel.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Life Is...

1. Life is water, not stone: Be flexible with people and situations; be prepared to feel moods change and to see your perspectives change over time. Be prepared for life to suddenly end; be prepared for it to suddenly begin. Be prepared for sickness while healthy, and for health while sick. Be prepared for danger amid safety, for sadness amid joy, and joy amid sadness. In the center of the moving wheel of change, remain true to your awareness of the sacredness of life and the land and the necessity of things that come to pass. The living tree bends in the wind.

2. Life is exchange and communion, not grasping and hording: be generous with material things, as far as you can be. Furthermore, don't dam up your own life-force and vitality; give and exchange, combine and flow. This is the nature of nature. You help others by being a channel of power, and you are helped in the exchange, even if you don't see it at first. Remember, countless other powers- seen and unseen- donate themselves to you and your well-being. The living tree freely gives fruit and seed and receives abundant water and sunlight.

3. Life is principled, not chaotic. Sky arches over earth, earth under sky; water and light and heat play between them and within them. One force moves, and sustains countless others- forces converge to create and destroy, upholding the sovereign harmony of the whole. This is not meaningless chaos; it is a sublime natural order, sacred and perfect; it is the inter-weaving of a divine organism that is simply too complete and powerful for human senses to really grasp fully, except in moments of mystical clarity.

The principles of human life can be seen in the earth and sky, where they were originally sung and written; man and woman produce a child; earth and sky produce all life- countless children. Sky and earth alternate from darkness to light, day to night, winter to summer- men and women alternate from youth to old age, from calm to angry, from foolish to wise, from dead to alive.

We should learn from our human parents; respect them, and protect them, like any kin; just so, we should learn from the land and sky, respect them and protect them, too. Parents teach; so does nature. Parents show us how to be dignified, respectful beings; the earth and sky and the other natural powers do the same, when we take our place among them. Parents protect us; so do the mighty non-human powers, powers that are experienced in the storm, the rush of water from under rock, the blazing sun, and in the world-whispers of wind in trees. The living tree grows by a sacred natural order, with undying dignity in its every branch or leaf.

4. Life is cooperation, not merely competition. We are all parts of the same whole. All beings serve the goodness and well-being of every other being or power, in some way. Some die to be food for others; some keep a predator in check that would destroy others, some prey on others, and some create food or shelter for others in some manner. Some destroy the dead wood, letting new growth come in. Some create warmth, some create fertile grounds for reproduction, and some protect others. Greater powers unseen, along with the powers in the sky and under the ground and seas, also move in ways that make life possible.

Beings of the same kind and kin are intended by design to consciously cooperate for the good of others of like kind, and in a broader sense, for the good of all. Cooperation seen this way is a joy- a sacred duty- not a burden. We rely on many; many rely on us.

Honoring different people for their dignity and achievements, for their blessings and abilities, and giving back as we best can, is part of cooperation. Society is sustained in this way: All people are different but all people have a role. According to people the respect their role merits is virtue; according hospitality and protection to family, friends, and even strangers of good will is an expression of our essential being, and an expression of nature's great will. The living tree makes life possible for others, and stands steady in a forest of many different trees.

5. Life is conscious and sovereign, not lame and accidental. The seeds of life are not cast about by a chaotic wind; they find purchase according to the mysterious urgings of the massive weave of sacred power, and they all grow into living entities whose births, lives, and deaths are conscious acts of being and creativity, not random, meaningless acts. The living beings of any world are needed for the completion of the world. Consciously disrupting life without a reason that spares other life is contrary to the natural order of human activity, or the activity of any rational, conscious creature- and lacking in gentleness, except in situations of true peril, is a violation. This is the law, ancient and inexhaustible. The living tree was meant to live.

6. Life is depth, not just surface. For everything that is seen, nine things are unseen; the hills are hollow, the land is haunted with spiritual powers whose presence can be felt still today, just as they were in ancient times. Life has many dimensions; human beings and other entities have many dimensions; to think we "know" all there is to know about a person or a creature by only observing their appearance or behavior, or studying what we call their "elemental composition", is the height of ignorance. To capture the full vision of life, we must go below the surface, to the sources of things. There, in hidden dimensions, the essence of Truth, the distilled wisdom and reality of the past and present is stored. We must then return, bringing a vision of truth and depth back to the world that we all know, making what is seen and unseen complete. The living tree has roots that run deep.

7. Life is poetry, not monotony. When a person knows how to listen to the world and feel the world, they hear pure poetry and feel the timeless sublimity of it all. When a person can only hear voices or sounds apart from the world, they only experience labels and measures, echoes of echoes and shadows of ideas- all experiences which are ghostly traces and lacking in the essence of living art. The world is not withholding its power from us; we are using broken senses out of habit, and never receiving more than a tenth or a hundredth of what we could be experiencing. Thus, the world can appear quite banal or monotonous. But this is a great disguise, and the poetic art that shatters that disguise is the greatest of arts. The living tree makes natural, pure poetry by its standing, its growing, its leaves shaking, its blossoms opening.

8. Life is boundless, not a finite field of matter. You cannot place boundaries on life or the world without instantly becoming aware of the immensity beyond your stopping point- and how that "beyond" has an intimate relationship to what you hold within boundaries. The living web of sacred powers that is this world has no edge; it has no limits. The vast and infinite spirit of nature is the very reason why we never tire of beauty- one may watch a lifetime of sunsets or full moons riding through the clouds, and never tire of the spectacle. One never grows weary of the majesty of mountains or the depths of forests. The living tree possesses a beauty that is ageless, born of a spirit that is infinite.

9. Life is you. You are the living tree.

* * *
As you can see, these nine poetic statements all discuss virtue in terms of "life"- the Living Way- and they encapsulate a rationale for the traditional ancestral virtues:

Poetic Statement 1: Courage and flexibility or forbearance

Poetic Statement 2: Generosity and fertility

Poetic Statement 3: The doctrine of organic order/Fate and nature as teacher

Poetic Statement 4: Social virtue (common welfare/group reliance) and hospitality

Poetic Statement 5: The sacredness of life

Poetic Statement 6: Wisdom and ancestral piety

Poetic Statement 7: Poetry, song and creativity as a sacred and fundamental aspect of human society and endeavor

Poetic Statement 8: Awe and respect for the natural world

Poetic Statement 9: The final mystery of identity.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Mystics Needed

Please, ignore the rantings and ravings of the people in your life who tell you that you're too strange or weird or new-agey or freaky. Those without mystical sight tend to see the worst in people who have it. They always have and they always will.

Having mystical sight doesn't mean your eyes work differently; it means that your heart works differently. It means that incomprehensible portions of "you"- portions so strange as to first be encountered as seemingly separate from "you"- work differently. They are active, awake on some level, and they invade your dreams and your waking life. You didn't choose for them to be there; we don't really write these stories we call our lives.

Please, embrace the extraordinary powers, don't fight them. It's not courage to reject them; it's courage to accept them. We human beings are servants of holy powers, of different powers, of extraordinary powers, no matter how much we may have lost sight of this fact. It was always our destiny to be so. I don't mean "servant" in any negative, groveling sense. I mean a person who serves the needs of this sacred whole, and is in turn served by it. There is no "higher" or "lower" or "lesser" or "greater", truly- though I sometimes use those words with poetic intent. Those who are meant to understand will.

I have always had a mystical spin on my writings, and I have drawn the ire of many in the "pagan" world of the modern day- such that it is- on account of it. But my writings have, from the beginning, been job ads, spiritual classified ads, aimed at the few people I knew would read them and understand. Everything I write says "mystics needed"- and you are needed.

The great religions of our world were born in mysticism, even the ones whose births were also accompanied by corruption. The seeds of the "big faiths" are all deeply, intensely personal spiritual experiences that far exceeded the ordinary. Whether it was a cave full of angels or a god-man risen from the dead, or visions of sacred beings in the middle of the wilderness, something occurred that echoed down through the ages.

Whole cultures have been shaped by their power, and by the other powers of human selfishness and greed. And through it all, something vital about us has endured- in art, romance, love, invention, and poetry. We can't be trapped forever.

Our "new" religious movements need mystical seeds planted, if we want to survive into the future. Our gardens were poisoned, but their plants did not die utterly; they turned inward and grew within the unseen, still alive in people's hearts, passed down from generation to generation in some hidden power that silently accompanied people. Finally, when the conditions were right, they came back to bud above ground.

We are buds, seedlings, and sprouts. And now, the rain needs to come. We have some sunlight, we have some darkness, we have good soil, but we need rain, we need water. We need to go into the deep to find a well for the irrigation we need.

So, I need mystics who are willing to sink- to sink to the depths, to the super-essential darkness that unites all things and in which all things have their true roots, and bring back fresh mystical insight and power. We have to reach a place that language can't reach. The darkness is there; it stands still and quiet and potent behind all myths and powers and true religious experiences. The sound of its shuttle and loom creeks through the space between stars and from the bottoms of our dreamy nights.

We're right to feel that something is missing from our lives, that something is concealed, or has been forgotten- but the path to healing starts when we realize that the "missing" is just a perception (albeit a foul one) and what has been concealed or forgotten can be uncovered and remembered. That's where you have to start.

Rilke said "Yet no matter how deeply I go down into myself, my God is dark, and like a webbing made of a hundred roots, that drink in silence."

There's something to this- perhaps the most important thing; the true Underworld regression and initiation; the journey back to the source of things. We are not "new agers" who are bereft of authentic tradition and some supernatural authority to believe as we do; we are not malcontents and spiritually rebellious children; we are humans, and therefore automatically in touch with the most precious, powerful things which underpin all human religions. We have a place, but we have to water it, make it a "green and good land".

The springs of water are below. There is a darkness and silence we have to merge with and integrate before we can celebrate who and what we are in the light of day, and with words and images. If you start too early, you lose interest, because real power isn't there. It's shallow. But the waters of the source run deep. They run back to the body of Fate, whose story we are all a part of.

All of our religious practices and beliefs play a role in the unfolding of things- none of our time or effort is wasted. But we will waste the chance to power and authenticity we could have if we don't sink down to the depths to refresh ourselves and make the "second order change" we have to make to become worthy vessels of a new era of spirituality. What the Pagan religions and spiritualities were in the past is not what they are destined to be again- they can be something greater, through us. Nature is always renewing things, sending them forth to greater and more intense forms of expression. This is no different. We are no different.

This is a call to a real vocation. It's a job posting, an opening that needs to be filled. Please consider coming to the first interview.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cormac Mac Cuileannain's Code

Cormac Mac Cuileannain, the king and poet of Cashel (AD 836-908) left behind a most excellent account of his deeds and moral guideposts in a work quoted by Peter Berresford Ellis for his book "Celtic Myths and Legends". I give it here, for in it, I find a most sublime and perfect guide for any human life.

I was a listener in the woods,
I was a gazer at the stars,
I was not blind where secrets were concerned,
I was silent in a wilderness,
I was talkative among many,
I was mild in the mead-hall,
I was stern in battle,
I was gentle towards allies,
I was a physician of the sick,
I was weak towards the feeble,
I was strong towards the powerful,
I was not parsimonious lest I should be burdensome,
I was not arrogant though I was wise,
I was not given to vain promises though I was strong,
I was not unsafe though I was swift,
I did not deride the old though I was young,
I was not boastful though I was a good fighter,
I would not speak about any one in their absence,
I would not reproach, but I would praise,
I would not ask, but I would give."

Cormac begins his beautiful litany with a focus on the sacredness of the natural world- and the attention and respect he paid to it. He continues with an account of his "skillfulness" with respect to how he dealt with people- always matching others with equal force and treatment.

He ends with an account of how he always kept his word, but, more wisely, how he never over-extended his word in promises he knew he'd never keep. He never became overly boastful- always keeping his focus on respect. This sort of balance is a rare thing in our days; we can all learn from it. It is a gem of the wisdom of the past, living deep into the Christian era.

It's clear that the Ancestors had no trouble with boasting- warriors were expected to, as a show of their excellence- but the key to their boasting was in how well they could support their boasting and defend it against all contrary voices. They took fair credit for their deeds. "Boast" today has a negative connotation; the reason why largely lies in how far Christianity (in line with ancient Hebrew thinking on the matter) devalued and downplayed the ability of humans to create things of value and to excel- it is hard, indeed, to applaud humans who must consistently "fall short" of the glory of "God".

But humans are channels of the divine, like all other living beings, and all other things besides. Many things come into being through the wondrous interactions of our living system, and that is how sacredness and even "perfection" comes to be, in the range of our senses. It is all here, before us, dancing in the sunset, and in the poetry inside us. If we "fall short" of anything, it is only because we have been told that we must, and held to impossible standards born in human fantasies about what "sacredness" really is. I know what it is, like my ancestors did- and it is well within our range, because we are part of it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Natural Spirituality

"S co-aoise mise do'n daraig,
Bha nafhallain ann sa choinnicli,
S ioma linn a chuir ini romham,
'S gur mi comhachag bhochd na sroine."

("I am old as the oak . . .
whose mossy roots spread wide:
many a race have I seen come and go:
and still I am the lonely owl of Srona.")

"If you take the Christian Bible and put it out in the wind and the rain, soon the paper on which the words are printed will disintegrate and the words will be gone. Our bible is the wind and the rain."

* * *

Religion, for a lot of people today, is largely a matter of which building you go to. Sometimes you'll go on Sunday mornings; sometimes you'll go several times a week, but your church or mosque or synagogue has a fixed address; so does your temple, your meditation hall, or your spiritual "center".

When people ask- which people rudely do, in my parts- "where do you go to church?" They are asking many things, but the answer, if it is given, often comes in the form of a location. That answer tells the asker what "religion" you are, because in most areas, they know the names and addresses- if you go to "First West", you're Baptist; if you go to "Our Lady of Mercy", you're Catholic. If you say "White's Ferry Road", you're a member of the Church of Christ; if you say "I don't go to church", then you're nothing.

This came up in a conversation I was having with a friend the other day. People who belong to organized, revealed religions need to know your address line and affiliation, or you're "nothing". What? You mean you're not Catholic or Baptist? You don't go to the Assembly of God? You're just... nothing, then.

I've already pointed out that it's the nosy and narrow people in my neck of the woods that love to ask total strangers where they go to church; but the deeper issue I'm sensing is this idea that if you can't affiliate with a well-known (Christian) denomination, you're "nothing". To "be" a religion in the modern West implies association with a structure. "Unstructured" religious people- if they are at least Christian- are passed off as "non-denominational" in the US, and if they are not? Then, in the words of a lady I met in the park near my home:

"Well, I don't know where you belong, or what place you'll have one day, after the Lord has come in glory. But when your knee is made to bend on that day, I hope He's merciful."

I'll pass over the totality of the foolishness in this remark to focus on the first part- "I don't know where you belong." How could I tell that woman that I belonged right where I was, standing on the green earth, seeing the wind in the trees, and hearing birdsong? Her confusion stemmed from the fact that she had no conception of what natural spirituality is- for her, spirituality is not natural. It is taught; revelations and laws are shared from the source of revelations and laws (churches, books, and clergy) and people born naturally ignorant of them are made enlightened.

The Natural Way

My "religion"- my spiritual life-way- is natural. It is with you from the womb; it is also the womb; it was with you before the womb. You can't join it, because it has always had all of us. A person can be ignorant of it, or become aware of it, and choose to ignore it or defame it, but no one leaves it, because no one "came into" it. Because the world exists, and because we exist, it exists. It wasn't created, just as this world was not and we were not.

It's such a terrible thing to say that someone is "nothing" if they don't conform to the institutional definitions that this person or that person accepts as authoritative; it is a veiled attack, in many ways, on the basic sanity and natural confidence people have, buried deep inside them, which can yield lasting harmony in their lives. We have become so used to feeling like there is no guidance outside of the walls of revealed religious institutions that we have no trust in something deeper and more essential.

The voice of Sovereignty inside us is silenced. It was silenced for a reason- a calculated reason on the parts of some, and an ignorant obedience on the parts of others. The hearts of most of the "obedient" are good- but they are imprisoned by the machinations of others without realizing it. Some of the worst features of human nature have found a home in a righteous-seeming house. And they will try to get your address, every opportunity they can. If they can't find your address- if you happen to consider the world your home- they will try to reduce you to nothing.

Where is your liturgy? Your sacred book? Your church? Your congregation? Where is your allegiance? Without them, you cannot compare to us, the bearers of legitimate tradition- without them, we do not recognize you. You will wait in heathen ignorance until the last day, and may God have mercy on your soul...

...And this sad state of affairs is maintained by churches and other revealed religious organizations teaching children every day that "outside of these walls... there is no salvation" or the many variations on that theme that are intended to command people out of fear. There is a fear that keeps people in, and a fear that is projected at outsiders to draw them in; but more than the fear, is an ignorance that renders people helpless feeling. Without those walls around them, they cannot feel holy, forgiven, hopeful, or "on the path."

The apologists love to tell me how "fear" is not at all an issue, but sober people observing the situation can see full well that it is. Fear of being rejected, by man and by God on the last day; fear of being separated; fear of being condemned; fear of being removed from the eternal company- fear of being wrong. The Bible says it best:

"Work out your salvation with fear and trembling."

Love and fear cannot live in the same house, I say. I know the truth of this; I have seen it, lived it. I will teach my children this; I will share this with all who ask, and I will die believing it. I will not go to the ancestors and the powers of the Otherworld having disgraced my duty to love by mingling it with fear, and using fear as a tool against others.

Our Little Group Has Always Been...

Anyone who wants to belong to my spiritual path need only realize that they've always been a part of it. There are no initiations and terrible vows on the pain of hell or death. There is no fear of rejection by the natural way; there is no fear that it will not accept a man or woman. The natural way is not just a human way; the birds and beasts of the field belong to it, as well. They are part of my "gathering of the faithful."

The Spirit of all of us has belonged to the natural way for all time. It never entered that way; that way and it are together timeless. For many ages we have seen so much come and go- each of us who still follows the Old Way is like the lonely and wailing Owl of Srona, watching from the trees of time- and the collected essence of that wisdom we have accrued lives now forever in the poetry and lore of the past, and in the flame of poetry that smolders in seed-form inside us.

When we feel natural revulsion at people defining their religion by the address of a building or some institutional grouping, it is because the wisdom that runs deepest is speaking to us. It is moving us away from such dangerous powers of limitation, and re-asserting its belonging in the wide earth and sky- the only two altars that are suitable for the most sublime sacredness.

No building can contain the sacredness of things. No building can contain a God or a Goddess. No single human heart or soul can contain it; only all things together can express it; their wondrous inter-relationships are the constant speech of the sacred. No book can contain the most sacred poetry of the natural way; I will never give power away to books and congregations and "spiritual authorities". To do so would be to betray the most powerful and precious forces that my ancestors held in awe and veneration. To do so would spell the life-long death of spirit and poetry.

Placing the Omnipresent

The lady in the park couldn't "place" me, because she has strapped herself down to a place. My spirit (like hers and everyone else's- no matter how much they remain unaware of this) is not held down to a place or a name. The great arch and spiral of my spirit passes through everything, all times and places. The more I realize it, the more I surrender to it, the more I become a conscious participant in the sacred.

The more I realize it, the more painful the narrowness of others becomes, and the more I realize how important it is to live by the natural way and pass its peace onto others who are ready to accept their true place in things- that place that can't be given or taken away; the place that can't be accepted or declined.

Where is my "spiritual center"? It has no address... my center is everywhere. My church's walls are made of wind. The stained-glass windows I gaze at are made when sunlight passes through clouds and water droplets. The meditation gardens I wander through are forests; my congregation of spiritual partners walks, runs, flies, hops, crawls, slithers, gallops, prances, bounds, swims, leaps and grows.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Brigid of the Songs

"When, to-day, a Gaelic islesman alludes to Briget of the Songs, or when a woman of South Uist prays to Good St. Bride to bless the empty cradle that is soon to be filled, or when a shennachie or teller of tales speaks of an oath taken by Briget of the Flame, they refer, though probably unconsciously, to a far older Brighid than do they who speak with loving familiarity of Mume Chriosd, Christ's Foster Mother, or Brighid-nam-Bratta, St. Bride of the Mantle. They refer to one who in the dim, far-off days of the forgotten pagan world of our ancestors was a noble and great goddess... They refer to one whom the Druids held in honour as a torch bearer of the eternal light, a Daughter of the Morning, who held sunrise in one hand as a little yellow flame, and in the other held the red flower of fire without which men would be as the beasts who live in caves and holes, or as the dark Fómor who have their habitations in cloud and wind and the wilderness. They refer to one whom the bards and singers revered as mistress of their craft, she whose breath was a flame, and that flame song: she whose secret name was fire and whose inmost soul was radiant air, she therefore who was the divine impersonation of the divine thing she stood for, Poetry."

-Fiona Macleod

* * *
Thrice-radiant maiden of flames, golden red
To your keeping is given the home, warm seat of kin,
The health of children and lowing cattle,
The bounty of kettle and hay,
The protection of houses from wicked powers,
And the comfort of weeping hearts.
Thrice-beautiful daughter of morning,
A sacred ground for you there is, where fire is built

And bulls and cows have trodden down the grass;
Where women weave and smiths beat metal;
Where poets make art with words;
Where men carry weapons in strife;
Where healers collect water and herbs;
Where children sleep after drinking milk.
Brigid bless them each fairly like the hearth fire
Which offers warmth and light to all.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Llyn y Fan: The Mysteries and the Merging

"A favorite Celtic motif, and one found in many European faery tales, is the requirement for the hero to perform some impossible task before he can marry the woman of his dreams. Usually the task is assigned by the woman's father and is a variation of the riddle, which at first glance also seems impossible. In the faery tale, the purpose of the impossible task is to keep separated two opposing worlds, or worldviews, symbolized by the young man and his intended bride, just as we are accustomed to keeping ordinary and non-ordinary realities separate in daily life. But mystical insight and enlightenment occur when the veil between the worlds is lifted, the worlds are bridged, the gap closes, and we cross over."

-Tom Cowan, Fire In The Head

* * *

Right Before Your Eyes

Some people spend a considerable amount of time looking for the "mysteries"- "mysteries" here meaning the secrets of the cosmos, the occult secrets or occult knowledges that many believe exist in some objective form, which can transform us from the sorts of people who "don't know" into the sorts of people who "know".

My understanding of "mystery" has become quite different these days. The term "mystery" has had many meanings in the Pagan world- from the runa of the Teutons to the hidden spiritual messages in mystery plays and dramas from the ancient Mediterranean. But for me, as for many of the other primal peoples I've studied, it has come to be known as something far more immediate and intense: the mysteries are everything that I experience.

There are two sides to experience- and I am talking about everything, up to and including you reading this blog right at this moment. There is the actual experience, and then there is the simultaneous and habitual "meaning generating" reaction that your mind and person has as soon as it has experienced, or while it is experiencing.

We use our language and our words to "give meaning" to what we experience. We let feelings inspire words and descriptions; we let intellectualizing shape them; the words come from many places, and are positioned to give meaning to what you experienced- meaning for yourself, and meaning you can try to transmit to others with words.

What few people stop to become consciously aware of is the fact that we don't know what the experiences themselves are, at all. Strange that! Every experience is a mystery, even the most commonly repeated ones that have long ago been explained away and named away with words. When we recount our experiences to another, we never offer the experience- we only offer our memories and impressions of it, with our words. We recount the words and descriptions we applied to it to give it meaning and presence in our memories.

So there are the mysteries- here they are; everywhere you look. Every thing you hear or feel. This brings up one of my favorite subjects: the Gods.

What are Gods? We can experience them in many ways, but what are they? They are as mysterious as any other thing we can experience- but not more mysterious than anything else. To consider it like that would be to lose track of what I'm saying. Everything is mysterious.

We don't actually know what the Gods are; we only know what we've said of them, or what's been said of them. We know what we remember, but we remember in line with the meaning-granting words and labels we applied. In no manner should this suggest that the Gods are not real; they are as real as any other experience that has been draped in the sorcery of words.

Near, Vast and Deep

This brings up the next point of knowing the mysteries in this way- the sheer immensity of the Otherworld. Part of my religious experience is feeling what I describe as the "immensity" of the unseen- for every gnarled oak I stand in front of, or every star I gaze at, for every person I meet, I sense the vastness beyond. When I focus on a "thing", I always try to remember- and oftentimes spontaneously do- the great vastness of what is "not this thing", and beyond that, what is unseen, past what is seen.

We are gazing, every moment, into the immensity. Thinking like this orients a person to the Otherworld's presence, and makes things like poetry, prayer, and invocation take on a new meaning. We drape intention and feeling and yearning in words, and launch those words into the vastness of what we call "the world out there" and "the world unseen"- but even these "things" of ours- intention, feeling, yearning- are mysteries. There is a lot of power moving here- as us, in us, through us, all around us- but we are only being "let in" on the tiniest amount, on the most surface of levels.

How do we "go deeper"? In my view, we go deeper when we remember the mystery of it all, the vastness of it all, and stop trying to imagine that we grasp things perfectly. We disguise things with words, apply meaning to mysteries that may or may not have anything to do with what word-sorcery we use. We are making cosmic guesses and staging cosmic stage plays, with powers that run deeper than we can imagine.

If we accept this and focus on it, we go quiet- we begin to listen more than speak, and feel more than we ever thought we would. We have to become comfortable with uncertainty again. We have to remind ourselves that we have limits, and with a twist of spiritual irony, realize that adjusting ourselves comfortably and respectfully to limits opens up new, greater vistas in us than we could realize. The truths we win may not be things of the head, but things of the heart. Is this not so?

Great Poetess beneath the hills and lakes, Mother of inspiration in the boundless deep, give us our sense of wonder back! Let us know our smallness, and through it, our vastness- for nothing exists which is not a part of all else. Let us know the depths that remain hidden to our eyes; let our hearts be the channels of truth and wisdom.

Crossing Over

How will we cross over? How can we answer the impossible riddle which bridges two seemingly incompatible things: the seen and unseen, the seemingly predictable with the absolutely unpredictable, the worlds of words and opinions with the worlds of mystery?

We will cross over on an impossibly narrow bridge which only reveals itself to those who release themselves from addiction to the notion that "things" must be one way or another- they will shatter the boundary, part the hedge, and find the way. The seemingly impossible things to reconcile are that way because we believe they are. What if their reality was something totally different?

Tom Cowan recounts: "In the Welsh tale of Llyn y Fan, the hero sees a faery woman on a lake who refuses his gift of baked bread. So he resorts to giving her dough. This too, she refuses. Finally, he offers her a loaf that is half-baked- bread that is "both baked and not baked." The she accepts him, and his world of ordinary reality and her realm of enchantment are united."

The "either/or" duality is shattered by the "both/and" complementarity. What is this? It is the ultimate expression of inclusivity and wholeness. I "have" the mysteries through my experiences, but don't have them at all, with my words and memories.

And yet, through words, through the sorcery of words, poetry, and song, something strange comes about- I become oriented to a place that is both here and not here- an open "space" of mind wherein my own experience may occur.
I am both alive and not alive; I am both here and not here; I am both foolish and not foolish; I am both human and not human. This poetic door continues: "I am both animate and inanimate... there is nothing of which I am not; there is nothing I have not been."

This is the spirit talking. It's time we began listening and believing.

Solitude Teaches About the Gods

Those people are very smart who can hear the words of poems and songs and make good sense of them, and unlock their hidden layers of meaning.

But they are very wise who can hear the silence, too. The space of silence between each sound is as much a needful part of the song or the poem as the sounds and words. Without silence, no words or poems or songs would be. Silence is, in a sense, the mother of sound. Silence is a corollary to the "space" or the womb of things, which is the mother of everything. Every great truth told with words is a finger pointing to something silent and unreachable with words. Every word, like every tree, or stone, or person, is a child of something greater, more silent and immense, something deep beyond.

Tom Cowan tells of Matsuwa, a Huichol shaman, who teaches of the need for solitude in the wilderness. He says "If you want to learn to see, to learn to hear, you must... go into the wilderness alone. For it is not I who will teach you the ways of the Gods. Such things are learned only in solitude."

Mother of solitude, let us be unafraid.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ancient Minds and The Flowing Power

I was discussing the nature of the Gods with a close friend today, while reading some books together. She's learning a lot these days about the Old Ways, and is a very bright, curious person. I'm pleased to have an opportunity to talk to her about these topics; talking to others about our beliefs and the many things we've learned about the past is a good way of re-establishing these things in ourselves, re-affirming them and coming to understand them in new ways ourselves.

Our discussions together are always laced with "perspective" talk- the needful talk of epistemology. Being a modern Pagan means embracing an epistemology which is at odds in very fundamental ways with the dominant paradigms of our day- but there is something else hidden beneath the fact of having a different perspective: it is one thing to have a different worldview, but something else to truly see the world differently. It sounds as though I'm being redundant, but there is something subtle here that language can't capture easily.

The Old Way of Seeing

Over the years, I've become painfully aware of one of the hardest issues to overcome when we study the Old Religions of pre-Christian Europe: the fact that primal peoples of the world had a different psychology- or should I say, a different psychic orientation, which we in the modern day cannot begin to enter or comprehend because the assumptions of our dominant epistemologies and modern contexts have changed us psychically and fundamentally.

We can study the Old Religions of the Indo-European past, but even the Pagans had their own "ancient past"- the past in which we find the megalith-raisers and the henge-builders that long preceded them. How much did the Pagans of the last 2000 years really understand the primal peoples that were 8000 years before them? Were the Pagans psychically different from their own distant ancestors, as we are so psychically different from ours? Did the ancient Pagans look at the old megalithic sites and wonder, as we do, at the ancients who raised them, and for what reasons they did?

When we stare at the cave paintings of primal peoples- such as the famous Sorcerer in the Trois Frères cave in Ariège, France, or any of that type, we are seeing ancient images cast upon these cave walls by men and women whose minds did not perceive the world at all the way ours do. Their assumptions about the world were not at all like ours. What was the real meaning of these paintings? We can't know for many reasons, but chiefly because we cannot re-create those ranges of consciousness in ourselves, or those deep, primal epistemologies.

Perhaps I should say, we cannot re-create them easily- for any range of consciousness is still possible to us. We all are, as I like to say, "shape shifters"- capable of reaching out to all forms and ways of being that are, or ever have been, and perhaps ever will be. But the hidden, green and dark paths in the mind that lead to those old reaches of awareness are well overgrown now with obfuscating leaves and branches and cobwebbed up. They are ancient inner roads that are now very hard to find.

At any rate, I was discussing the nature of the Gods with my friend. She was confused- confused in the way that only a modern westerner can be- about "what" the Gods specifically "were". We were discussing the Goddess Danu, and her connection with rivers. This friend was confused about whether or not I- and the ancients- believed that Danu was the same as the river, or different from it, like the spirit of a river or rivers. She didn't understand if a God or a Goddess was "literally" the same as the various phenomenon associated with them, or not.

My perspective- which I shared with her- was that a river was a river, and the Goddess Danu is the Goddess Danu. You can never separate the flowing, watery, living power of rivers from Danu's great power, and still, Danu is not merely a river. And yet- on the occasion that you invoke her or worship her on the banks of a river or a body of flowing water, at that time, in that moment, Danu is the river.

That's confusing to most! But it all makes sense, if you practice seeing the world in a different way, such that you finally come to accept a new epistemology on a pre-conscious level. Can this be done? Yes. Is it easy? No. Is it necessary? Perhaps. It depends on how far down the rabbit hole you really want to go, towards understanding the real meanings of the mythical messages that the ancestral lore has bequeathed to us.

Danu and The Flowing Power

The reconstructed lexis of the Proto-Celtic language as collated by the University of Wales suggests that the name "Danu" is likely to be ultimately derived from the Proto-Celtic *Danoā. This Proto-Celtic word connotes the semantics of ‘Giving,’ ‘Bountiful’ and ‘Flow.’ Others say that her name may mean "Great Mother", and others still associate her with the Vedic Danu, a goddess of the waters of heaven, the great waters of life. It all goes to the same place- a poetic seed is planted here when you integrate the meanings of her name with an open mind. It's all perspective, of course, but perspectives are valuable, seeing as we must use the sorcery of language.

I always try to go to the possible meanings of names when trying to understand the mystery of the Gods and Goddesses- and Danu, for me, is the primordial "flowing" of life, the first mother-flow from which all things come. Thus, when I see a river flowing, or feel a flow of creativity, or see the flowing of sap, or of anything, I suddenly sense a connection between the essence of this Motherly mystery and what I am experiencing at that moment.

This is why I said "A river is a river, and Danu is Danu"- they aren't the same, from one perspective, and yet, from another, they can't be seen as truly separate. Nor can the flowing of blood or fluids or creativity in this body and mind be seen as truly separate from Danu. This is because one of the supreme truths that I know is the truth of wholeness- all is part of a single whole, and the true "self" of human beings- or any being- is the "extended self", that is, "self" and "nature" undivided.

We draw "lines" between ourselves and nature, to make the "simple self", but the true "self" is found when we realize that the "line drawing" capacity of the mind is only perspective; when we drop the effort we unconsciously make to see ourselves as absolutely separate from the world, we realize that the sense of separation is only relative. We are one with all- entities that extend into every place and world and possibility- but entities that entertain many strange notions of "separation".

The "hows and whys" behind how and why we learn to mentally and perceptually separate ourselves from everyone and everything else, and how our concepts of "self" come into being, are all part and parcel of a very important discussion that we should all be having.

We often fail to recognize how our "western education" and our meaning-generating modernistic perspectives interfere with deeper spiritual realizations and the acquisition of wisdom. We fail to take into account how our everyday "self concepts" are not the only way that we can live or exist or perceive- people have certainly existed in different ways, seeing the world in different ways for countless millenia- and we often don't see the vital role that language and cultural assumption plays in constructing "self" for us, in the particular way we construct it.

We fail to see the great extent to which the epistemologies that we internalize from early on (and unconsciously live "within") alter our ability to grasp the layers of message and meaning in the ancestral myths and stories. We don't often see how they change our ability to celebrate with the living primal peoples of the world today their most precious gifts to us- their sacred stories and life-ways, which could regenerate so much in us, if only we could suspend our typical "way of seeing" and see in new ways. As we see now, we can only scratch our heads at the strange and "primitive" ways of other peoples, and of the ancients.

Participation Mystique and the Extended Self

The concept of "extended self" is the gateway back to an older way of seeing, an older way of psychically relating to the world and understanding the Gods. What happens when the walls between the simple self and the rest of sacred nature are allowed to collapse?

What we experience as "inside" us (in such a situation of collapse) is now something very much outside, and vice versa- the distinction is lost. It may sound chaotic, but the mind and the human being can absolutely live while perceiving in this manner. And when we consider the implications of it, some ancient myths and stories begin to make more sense to us, whereas they make little sense to the hyper-logical and rational western mind that begins with a sense of absolute separation between the "subjective" person and the "objective" world.

As Jung pointed out in his brilliant work "The Structure of the Psyche", primal peoples regularly live in a state called "participation mystique" with the world- lacking strong, ultimate distinctions between the "insides" of themselves and the so-called "outside" world. They dwell, in other worlds, in wholeness- and thus, the mythical dimensions of their lives transcend the western understanding. We are in a hurry to classify off Gods and Goddesses as "this symbol" or "this inner archetype" or "this mind-state" or "this idea personified" and a dozen other ridiculous notions. But when nature and the "individual" are allowed to merge, a new situation emerges for mythical understanding.

Jung accounts a story in "The Structure of the Psyche" regarding a primal people called the Elgonyi, in Eastern Africa. He writes:

"If you can put yourself in the mind of the primitive, you will at once understand why this is so. He lives in such "participation mystique" with his world, as Levy-Bruhl calls it, that there is nothing like that absolute distinction between subject and object that exists in our minds. What happens outside also happens inside him, and what happens inside also happens outside. I witnessed a very fine example of this when I was with the Elgonyi, a primitive tribe living on Mount Elgon, in East Africa. At sunrise, they spit on their hands and then hold the palms towards the sun as it comes over the horizon. "We are happy that the night is past" they say. Since the word for sun, adhista, also means "God", I asked: "Is this sun God?" They said "no" to this and laughed, as if I had said something especially stupid. As the sun was just then high in the heavens, I pointed to it and asked "When the sun is there you say it is not God, but when it is in the east, you say it is God. How is that?"

There was an embarrassed silence till an old chief began to explain "It is so," he said. "When the sun is up there it is not God, but when it rises, that is God (or: then it is God)." To the primitive mind, it is immaterial which of these two versions is correct. Sunrise and his own feeling of deliverance are for him the same divine experience, just as night and his fear are the same thing. Naturally, his emotions are more important to him than physics... For him, night means snakes and the cold breath of spirits, whereas morning means the birth of a beautiful God."

(From Jung, The Structure of the Psyche.)

This powerful passage lets us back into a rare and ancient way of seeing and way of being- a perfect "participation mystique" with the natural world which is a reflection of the ultimate truth about each one of us- that we are all parts of the wholeness of things. We in the west have become malnourished by drawing such extreme divisions between our flesh and blood and the "rest of the world"- we are now just (from our limited perspective) buds or leaves on the Tree of the extended self, whose roots, branches, and great trunk are one with all things.

Peace and Chaos

When I walk outside at night, and my mind is chaotic and angry or sad, the night seems disturbed- but when I am at peace, and can hear the lazy chirp of crickets and insects and night-birds, and feel the coolness of the night, I am further at peace- because truly, my internal chaos is also "out there", a part of the world, but on the other hand, the great peace of night is also "in me"- it is my great peace. The more the walls between "me" and "other" fall, the more the great power of the world, including the peace of the night, becomes what I am. There is a secret seed of poetic inspiration here, waiting to burst forth as a great fire in the head.

Danu is the river, or should I say, all flowing, donating powers cannot be separated from Danu, including things that seem to flow in our perceptions- like rivers and streams, and even the waters of heaven, the falling rains, but also the flow of blood, passion, or creativity.

The two "flowing powers" are poetically parallel, and (from one perspective, at certain times) one and the same. Danu is not merely a blind natural force of flowing power, bereft of mind or personhood; she is a Goddess, a being of immense wisdom and depth of mind. How this can be so is not easy for people who associate the possibility of a "mind" only with the presence of a brain-organ. This is another failing of our modern epistemologies: mind can and does exist in ways far beyond what most of us dream.
The Gods are truly beyond simple belief or explanation.

At this point, I feel the need to point out how absurd it is for us to attempt to pigeonhole the Gods and Goddesses into neat categories- we hear of the names of Gods and Goddesses from the ancestral past and immediately begin to pursue another Western habit: that of categorizing everything and everyone. "Who is the war God?" we'll ask- "and who is the Goddess of love?"

I have never experienced anything in my visions or spiritual experiences that has led me to believe that such categorizations hold any water at all. Danu is not merely a "river" Goddess, nor merely a "great mother" Goddess. She transcends neat pigeonholes, just as Lugus transcends this or that category, or any of the Divine beings transcend such simple nets of words. We have to get out of that habit, and back into experiencing these living powers with more open, flexible minds. The Gods are shape-shifters; they can be anything or anyone that they desire- or should I say- they can appear to our minds as nearly anything. Such is part of their nature. They are as malleable and flowing and flexible as the things we call "forces of nature."

Belenos, Sun of Healing

In my song of praise to the God Belenos, which I gave in my last post here, I refer to him many times as the "radiance" or the "radiant light" or the "therapeutic radiance", and even the "godly light of healing"- I call him "fair and wholesome", "warm" and "clear-minded". I place him in the sky, on the trees as golden light, and call him "the sun", once. Why I did this is clear and easy to understand if you follow what I have been writing in this letter.

Belenos is not the "sun God", though many scholars and people addicted to categorizations have wanted to pigeonhole him in that way. I said to Belenos, in my song "To those in the cold grip of unhealth, you are the saving sun"- not to indicate that he was the physical sun in the sky, but that he is the experience of warm salvation from cold sickness, in much the same manner that a freezing cold person might experience the morning sun as a "saving" power. The poetry here is drawing upon human experience, and trying to capture the experience of therapeutic power, of healing.

Having said this, it is important to mention that for a person who experiences Belenos' power, he may in fact be the Sun- when we allow the boundaries between "ourselves" and "the world" fall away, for one poetic and sacred moment, the feeling of healing, of warmth, of salvation from cold, from sickness, the breaking of the power of illness, the breaking of night by sunlight- all these experiences become one in the great wholeness of things. Belenos indeed becomes the warming, saving sun, in that experience.

But until you've had that experience, or unless you are ready to let yourself enter consciously into participation mystique with the wholeness of sacred nature, as a part indivisible, you won't be able to understand how Belenos is not merely a "sun God", and yet, certainly seems to be described in that way or thought of in that manner.

The Gods are so intimately a part of us, a part of the wholeness, and "we" of "them" and "it"- so intimate, so full and complete, that the same ease of "knowing" some feeling in ourselves, or knowing some thought or seeing some dream is the same ease we can have of knowing or feeling them- for those who understand, the reality of the Gods is apparent, simple and easy to see, totally without doubt.

The river is a Goddess; the sun a God, the Earth a mother, the Raven or the Deer or the Hare also Gods and Goddesses themselves, or the spiritual messengers of Gods- at that moment, in that full experience. There is no separation or division. And yet, from another perspective, they are also rivers, the sun, the earth, beasts of the earth and sky. These animals and phenomena can be experienced so many ways- there is a mysticism and an emotion here, and so many possibilities of consciousness!

But to attempt to explain these things to western people who have absolute divisions between themselves and "everything else", and who seek rationalizations based on those boundaries, is very difficult if not impossible. In their world, the Gods are easily up for doubt, or for banishment to a place of "primitive superstition".

May the ancient roads of the older ways of seeing open for all of us who seek to know the Gods, and ourselves in new ways.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Healing Radiance: A Song of Thanks

Recently, I was contacted by an associate online with regards to the case of an infant who was about to undergo a heart transplant in Miami, Florida. She asked me and my other associates to rattle, drum, chant, and do whatever it is we heathens do to encourage our Gods and Spirits to help us and other people in need.

As the father of a toddler and an infant, I was especially moved to help, and immediately put aside time for a sacrificial offering to Belenos, the God of the healing radiance. This British deity (as mentioned below) was identified with Apollo, and it is no surprise, for Apollo was the "Hyperborean God"- Hyperborea being Britain- who was likely the same God worshiped at the site now called "Stonehenge". Recent scholarship has moved towards accepting Stonehenge as an ancient site of healing, which my own spiritual vision and intuition encourages me to also believe.

Belenus (also Belinus, Belenos, Belinos, Belinu, Belanu, Bellinus, Belus, Bel) was a deity worshipped in Gaul, Britain and Celtic areas of Austria and Spain. He had shrines from Aquileia on the Adriatic to Kirkby Lonsdale in England. His name means "shining one" or "henbane god" and he is associated with heat and healing. He may be the same deity as Belatu-Cadros. In the Roman period he was identified with Apollo. His consort was Belisama. His name has been found on around fifty inscriptions. The legendary king Belinus in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain is probably also derived from this god. The name of the ancient British king Cunobelinus means "hound of Belenus".

One of the promises I made to the Radiant Lord was that, in exchange for his help, I would write him a song of praise- and now, a few weeks later, the good news is back that the little girl had the heart transplant, and is doing well. I did the sacrifice and prayer on the very night of her surgery; now she is soon to be discharged. I respectfully and gratefully now keep my promise to the God of the Therapeutic Radiance.

* * *

"I sing a song of praise to the radiant light of the north lands,
The God that diverts the waters of pain and pestilence:

Gentle since time's cold beginning, bringing gold to trees,
And strength and sturdiness to human bodies,
The Godly light of healing has shone from beyond the wind
Onto the homes of the people of mountain and forest,
Onto the homes of the people of lake and river.

The good master of the healing radiance fills the skies;
He is wise, a shape-shifter and a speaker in dreams.
To all creatures, Lordly Belenos, you give release from pain
And freedom from the dark powers of injury and disease!

Warm like the springs of helping water from below,
As clear-minded as the physician and seer, you bless us.
To those in the cold grip of unhealth, you are the saving sun:
A young girl's life you have helped preserve,
In response to my sincerest prayers.

Far-shooter of arrows that disperse hateful illness,
Fair and wholesome like the joyful hearth in every home;
Light-spear and light-arrow, hunter and healer,
Great God that mankind forever relies upon:
Hear this thankful song in your honor,
And continue to bless us."

Here is the little girl: May all of her days be blessed.