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.

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