Experiencing the Gods
[This is a post I made to my Livejournal, on July 5, 2008]
Someone on one of my discussion lists recently asked how to break out of the intellectual mode with worship and really experience something. I wanted to preserve my response to her. (I’ve taken out the names of other people I refer to, using just their initials, just in case they prefer anonymity).
Well, I guess the first question would be, now that you know what you want to get out of it, what are you putting into it? What are you doing for and with the gods? Are you doing regular devotionals, offerings, etc. and just feeling no response? Or are you mostly reading and thinking? Are you making a space in which such experience can happen? That’s the biggest thing for me – shutting off all the noise, external and internal, and creating a space and time for the gods to be present if They choose (we can’t force Them, but we can make that invitation). Sometimes that’s as simple as turning off the tv, putting on music that reminds you of Them, lighting the candles and incense on Their shrines, sharing a drink with Them, and being still enough in your head that They can start speaking, if They wish. Or, get more active – like A. suggested, go find some nymphai – they are indeed often happy to receive attention and offerings, if done respectfully, and are in some ways a little ‘closer’ to us than the gods to begin with. Go on a hike, even through a city setting, and you will eventually find a numinous nymph-haunted spot. The adventure of finding such a place, keeping your senses open and tuned to that, seeking them out, can be quite a powerful experience in itself. Once found, make offerings, create a pleasant atmosphere for them, and again just be still and listen, open yourself to the possibility. Like the physical body, the spiritual self needs to be exercised too to be in peak condition. Practicing opening up your ‘sixth sense’ as it were, along with the other senses, (in other words, the media through which you might experience the gods), will increase the likelihood of those experiences. Start honing your sense of the numinous, the divine, by being aware and open to it (not forcing it, just paying attention) for certain periods of time.
Another exercise – I mention this in Kharis – is seeing the gods in everything. Stop wherever you are, and look around you. That oak tree, that’s Zeus. That pigeon (which is actually a kind of dove), that’s Aphrodite. That intersection of two roads is Hermes. That breeze blowing is one of the Anemoi. Don’t think “that oak tree is associated with Zeus” like an intellectual exercise (though if need be, this can start there, and progress to a more wholistic understanding), try to feel Zeus present in the oak.
Another thing is what P. mentioned – those ‘coincidences’ that are too synchronistic to be ignored… we want to dismiss them sometimes, to avoid the hubris of thinking the gods are doing anything to communicate with us. BUT THEY ARE. If you speak to the gods, They will, eventually, speak back to you, but Their communication comes in many forms. Don’t ignore omens, signs, ‘coincidences’, etc. Yes, it’s good to examine them rationally at some point, not to believe that every single thing is a sign from the gods, but I’ll also say that just because something could be explained mundanely, doesn’t mean there isn’t a divine hand in it – after all, the gods often work through the medium of the physical world. And I’ve also noticed that the more you do, the more you put into it, and the more you recognize those signs, the more they happen.
A god-saturated life happens a bit at a time, until you don’t remember how it ever was before.