Aug 19, 2011

How Do We Know When The Gods Are Really Talking To Us?

It seems to me that certain parts of the human mind deeply resist true connection to the Gods. I would like to share some thoughts and experiences that have helped me in finding the gold interspersed amidst the pyrite. As usual, I write from my own "jurisdiction": what works for me may or may not work so well for someone else.

I very much believe that it is possible to have direct, personal communication with the Gods. For me, this usually involves mental imagery and internal conversation. Though we can receive astounding impressions, I think our minds by necessity filter what we're able to perceive. I've had more than a few spiritual insights presented to me in the form of legal analogies; an astrophysics analogy would not work so well in my case.

How do we know when the Gods are talking to us? I've actually found that this question becomes more difficult with the Gods and Goddesses I'm closest to. A Divinity who is a fulltrui or fulltrua can be especially challenging. We have a lot riding on these communications (which is an invitation for subconscious interference in itself). That intense, understandable desire to really connect can lead to the mind creating its own "filler." Better an illusion than the risk of a perceived rejection through silence--or so says this one part of the brain. And then, I've also run into a particularly dark and clever part of the mind that is very good at faking a familiar interaction: its agenda is actually to drive a wedge into the relationship. This might manifest as a conversation that seems like something a God of Goddess would say, but that has a "pulling down" effect to it.

I'll start with the second mental exchange, for I've found it the most devious. While our Gods and Goddesses can and do show anger, you'll know what's going on when They do. Our Norse Gods are not subtle, and They don't get into a lot of spiraling rumination and guilt-tripping. A genuine conversation with an angry Deity can be frightening and heart-wrenching, but it will not push your entire spirit down into an abyss. The "construct conversation," on the other hand, will leave you with a subtle, generalized feeling of hopelessness or worthlessness. Again, I'll emphasize that the part of the mind that creates these "dialogues" is extremely insidious. I suspect it's "motivation," so to speak, is achieving independence at any cost. In some contexts, this might be adaptive. In others, this part of the brain becomes a tyrant: it will eagerly condemn you to your own personal hell for the sake of its erroneous conceptions of "survival." It most emphatically does not want you to joyously bond with a God or Goddess--or perhaps with anyone else, for that matter.

"Filler" is probably less damaging, but can be exceedingly annoying. It's hard enough to begin stilling your day-to-day thoughts without throwing cheery, pseudo-Divine chatter into the mix. In my case, I've found that a conversation that is utterly unattached to some sort of mental imagery might well be filler (I'll note that my visuals are sometimes quite hazy, especially if I'm speaking with a God in my work environment or when otherwise "out and about"). Emotions can be very telling here, for there often aren't any. In my experience, at least, a real communication usually involves some sort of feeling: these are our Gods we're talking to, after all. With attention and practice, filler can be isolated: it may have the overtones of memory or of regular internal dialogue. It resonates with the head, but not with the heart.

A few other thoughts:

Conversations--especially important conversations--can be given time. We need not rush into every last thing. It can also be very helpful to check in with other Gods or Goddesses. The mind is harder pressed to create a false echo when it is interacting with a less familiar Deity. Finally, as discussed in the earlier post on Presence, a touch--e.g., a God or Goddess taking your hand--can be a confirmation that you are truly connecting. While I have not gone into dreams or divination here, these may also be of great value.

Aug 1, 2011

The "Making" Of Gods

I've found another rather contradictory article claiming that humans create Gods. This one is written by a purported hard polytheist. In any case, the basic view seems to be common. I've seen variations of the same argument in some of Diana Paxson's writings as well: i.e., she'll sometimes maintain that the Gods and Goddesses depend on us to exist, and that They somehow fade away without human attention.
I very much disagree with this take. We can and do bring a lot to the Gods. The relationships that enrich us also enrich Them. This is a beautiful thing. Profound connections and uplifting bonds do not go one way; the exchange is part of the power and the wonder of it all.

Fundamental existence is another question entirely. We are far less likely to see a claim that humans are dependent on another being's belief to exist. We die, all of us, but many of us have faith in some sort of continuity, in some sort of transcendent integrity of consciousness. Rarely will someone propose that you must be observed or interacted with to exist--even if you happen to be in a non-corporeal spiritual state. When it comes to our fellow men and women, we tend to presume a kind of immortality. Culture and timelines have little impact on this belief. We still send off the dead, for we are convinced that there is something to send off.

Why would the Gods be different? On what basis can we assume that if They are forgotten on Midgard, They cease to be? The idea seems so untenable to me as to be almost laughable. My own experience has been one of going from a vague, impersonal sort pantheism to being introduced to very real Gods and Goddesses. My closest God, Forseti, has not been actively worshiped in at least 1,300 years. His name is still rarely hailed. And yet He's had no trouble whatsoever in making His presence, personality, and--yes--His strength and power known to me. The word "God" does mean something. Divinity means something. 

Perhaps this hints at the underlying problem. The Gods as archetypes allow us a certain degree of comfort... an escape clause, if you will. An archetype arises from the human mind and is ultimately dependent on us to exist. With sufficient understanding, it can be circumvented or controlled--used, even. If we acknowledge that the Gods are at least as real as we are, we lose our tidy illusions of being in charge. We have to deal with Them as individuals, and we no longer have the final say. The Gods and Goddesses are suddenly no longer "safe." If we chose to approach Them, we begin to realize that we would be wise to do so with... a basic measure of respect.

Power is not an easy concept; less so when so many people have been on the receiving end of abuses of power. We discover that we have to trust the Gods--and ourselves--in ways we've never had to trust anyone before. Therein, I think, lies some of the aversion to the sort of hard polytheism that insists on the enduring reality of the Divine. It's "easier" to deal with constructs and archetypes. But if we're honest with ourselves, we begin to realize that the "easy" answer can feel incredibly empty.

Even in the context of real Gods, our surviving myths are of incredible importance: the earth-bound human mind needs to have a few stepping-stones in place before it can begin to build a bridge. But if everything had been lost? No, our Gods and Goddesses would not have ceased to exist. Fortunately for all sides, we do have what we have: enough to strike off on the most amazing of journeys, in the most amazing of company.