Reading A Pelican in the Wilderness: Hermits, Solitaries and Recluses by Isabel Colgate last night, I was stopped short by a casual remark she made that seems to me to actually be highly significant. Speaking of medieval hermits who had frequent visions, she wrote:

“They might have found it easy to say, ‘I saw,’ or ‘I heard a voice,’ where we might say, ‘I suddenly realized,’ or ‘I understood.'”

I don’t think this is a simple difference in terminology, but a fundamental shift in belief and worldview that I see expressed all too often not just in the general populace (where I expect there to be few people who believe in the reality of visions and the divine), or in the various forms of paganism, but within the ranks of mystics, spirit-workers, and the like who have been so influenced by our skeptical and mundane culture that they regularly downplay their own sacred experiences. And not just publicly, where some measure of humility and caution is reasonable, but in their own internal dialogues – they are afraid to commit to the reality that they hear and see the spirit world, to the point where they will credit truly otherworldly revelations to the workings of their own subconscious, just to be safe.

Now, I’m not saying that all ideas, mental images, whispered thoughts, or realizations – even those that are truly significant or seem to magically arise from nowhere – are products of the gods and spirits, not even for the most dedicated mystic. In fact, the process of discernment between internal and external sources for such experiences is a crucial skill that each such spiritual specialist must learn over time, and no one is going to be perfect at it. But pagans who actually believe in the divine entities they call on must then acknowledge that sometimes, those entities answer. And those who spend their life in conversation with such shouldn’t be reluctant to admit, even to themselves, the source of their inspirations.

So I call on all serious polytheists – don’t hide behind watered-down phrasing, especially in private conversation. Be willing to name the miracles that happen to you. Tread cautiously, of course, and be as sure as you can be that you’ve identified the right source, but after that, take courage and call it what it is.

I see the spirits. I hear the voices of the gods.

~ by Dver on November 23, 2010.

9 Responses to “Committing”

  1. “are afraid to commit to the reality that they hear and see the spirit world, to the point where they will credit truly otherworldly revelations to the workings of their own subconscious, just to be safe.”

    So, that WAS you sitting in on our circle last Sunday. . .

    Amazing timing on your part here. I frequently see this amongst those not yet adept at journeying. Like you, I agree that our own brain music can get in the way of the spiritual; the ego’s need to name, measure, disect and thereby own every experience that rails against it.

    But so often neophyte journey-ers question the validity of an experience which veterans would accept with complete abandon.

    Eventually those who continue down the path come to learn that it’s all about learning to trust yourself to separate the wheat from the chaff, and Spirit to provide the experience you need. . .

  2. […] the other hand… I said in my last post that polytheists, especially mystics/spiritworkers/etc., should be willing to acknowledge when they […]

  3. I think this is one of the biggest challenges in teaching Pagans that we need to overcome. Finding that edge of discernment, while not completely demolishing our own experiences is key. I used to find it pretty hard when I first became a Pagan not to write everything off as ‘in my head’ given the mystical experiences I had as a Christian were, comparatively, few and far between.

    I think that each person finds their stride eventually, given enough work. Even if each person’s mileage may vary we can still work as a community toward helping people with their discernment and coping with real spirit communication by being supportive and consistently providing critically thought-out feedback.

  4. An article that thrilled me. I feel the same trouble here in France, and as for myself, the shyness and doubt sometimes. It is very hard to simply remark a fact, say what one is, without being regarded as either a fool or an overpride person. All the more so since there is in France a very negative connotation around the words “seer” (voyant) which evokes deeply cheap stories.

    So I was glad to read you.

    • “It is very hard to simply remark a fact, say what one is, without being regarded as either a fool or an overpride person”

      Eventually, it seems, the easier it is to let this fall away the further one travels down the path. I remember the first time I ever danced a power animal in front of a group of people I hardly knew. Within 10 minutes the room was filled with howling, growling, chanting, singing, sniffing and snarling.

      Afterwards, as awareness shifted back to the physical world, we all discussed how unearthly it had seemed.

      Now, after a few years of “beating a drum and conversing with invisible animals” it’s all become second nature. . .

  5. […] my first advice is to Look and Listen. Simple, perhaps, but it really is the key (well, that and being willing to acknowledge what you experience as real). My mom, a Buddhist, likes to quote a Zen set of rules for life that state: “Show up. Pay […]

  6. Excellent post. I think also our language choices can keep beginners from going any further along the path or digging any deeper. If all efforts in our practice only lead to “realizations”, there’s really no need for the “spiritual” aspect; not that realizations aren’t important, but it’s only one facet.

    • Exactly. Language is actually very important in parsing out how we see the world. Realizations are good and important, and there is plenty that can actually originate in one’s own mind and that’s all still totally valid, but it’s just as important to note what inspiration derives from divinity, and name it as such.

  7. […] You.  Most especially it’s been sparked by reading and re-reading Dver’s other post, Committing.  There are other posts that are inspiring and re-inspiring me (including They Hold Our Hands,  […]

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