“For those of you asking how to hear better, how to exist in certainty with the will of your divine and ancestors, this is how it happens. It takes time. It takes determination. It takes hours or even days of meditation over weeks, months, and years. It takes struggle. Because in this ordeal, that is how you come to know Them. More importantly, that is how you come to know yourself. You become able to distinguish God’s voice from those phrases and ideas that linger in your subconscious. You learn the feel of Them and the omens that they give you. You learn the difference between the feeling and emotion that comes with a spirit or deity tampering with coincidence and the shuffle button iTunes. It takes time. It hurts. It takes patience, and most of all, faith. The battle between doubt and this hard-earned gnosis cements the trust between yourself and the spirit in question. It builds faith.”
The above is from a post on Dreaming in Smoke & Fire, about the problems generated when people horse gods for other people, often online. I have only heard of this new phenomenon, never seen it myself (because I thankfully have withdrawn from most of what passes for paganism online) and I’m sure you can guess what I think of it. But aside from all the obvious dangers, there is the one highlighted above – that it robs the devotee of the necessary experience of learning how to communicate with the gods directly themselves.
There are no shortcuts to the Work of building a deep devotional relationship, or learning to be a spirit-worker, or delving into mysticism. The long and often grueling process of acquiring skills and most of all discernment cannot be bypassed. You may (assuming the possession and resulting communication is even authentic) gain some information, some bit of momentary connection, but it will be rather useless without all the many communications and information downloads and direct experiences and yes also struggles with doubt and frustration and silence that come before and after – in other words, without the context of a true relationship forged between oneself and one’s god(s). To return to my surgeon metaphor from a previous post, even if you got a full download, Matrix-style, of all the information necessary to be a brain surgeon, you would still be missing all the intuition and deep understanding that comes from experience, from mistakes, from successes, and from just straight up time served. I wouldn’t want that Matrix surgeon operating on me, if I had a choice between the two.
Which isn’t to say that it would never be helpful, or appropriate, to have one’s deity horsed in order to talk with Them before one can do it oneself. A lot depends on context. I myself had that opportunity several times in my early years regarding my daimon, and it was invaluable (it was also done by someone I knew and trusted, who was experienced, and it was done in person). But at the same time, I was putting in huge amounts of work into all the necessary skills I would need for direct communication, and was already attempting such (even if I failed a lot of the time). It wasn’t a substitute for my own work, just a complement to it.
We think everything should come easily and immediately if we want it hard enough. It doesn’t. We need to stop taking our cues from our on-demand culture and start looking at ourselves in the context of the long tradition of mysticism in the history of human religion. And then we will see that the path is never short or easy, and even if there are moments of grace, and gifts to smooth our way, we still must lay down our own blood, sweat and tears in order to progress. It’s not a punishment or a judgment. It’s just how you become what you need to become.
And you will never, ever stop learning and deepening. Interacting with the gods is not some prize to win (even if you have to cheat) and then you can sit back and relax. It is a lifelong, constantly evolving set of relationships that will alter you and your life’s course in ways you’ll never expect, and require sacrifices you never thought you could give. If that doesn’t sound appealing to you, you may want to consider a different path entirely. (Might I suggest brain surgery? It’s probably easier.)