As Above, So Below

The phrase “as above, so below” (which originated in Hermeticism) gets tossed around a lot in pagan circles, but I think many have yet to truly incorporate a deep understanding of it into their worldview. It seems we are still expecting the divine, and the magical, to appear like they do in the movies – a spectacular display of lights and smoke that will dazzle us and leave no room for doubt. But instead the numinous runs through the material plane like blood through arteries, able to be taken for granted too much of the time.

While discernment is extremely important, and certainly some things that appear to be messages are just random coincidences, I think we often err too heavily on the side of skepticism because of our preconceptions. That face we saw in the pattern of leaves on a tree must just be our imagination, even though it looked so much like a familiar god, even though we had prayed for a sign, because a real vision of a deity will manifest out of nothing before us, undeniable and life-altering. But why do we expect that the gods and spirits would use, as the medium of Their communication, anything other than the elements of our own physical world, when those elements are ready at-hand (and, as a bonus, easily processed by our sensory organs and brains)?

Certainly if we look to the past we will see that the ancient polytheists predominantly experienced the gods in the solid, physical world – a stranger could be a spirit in disguise (most likely describing a possession of a real human being, not an apparition), a lightning bolt at the right moment could answer a question, the outcome of a war could reveal the will of the gods. This doesn’t mean, by the way, that the thunderstorm will come out of nowhere in a perfectly blue sky the moment you might like it to, but perhaps it will shift course slightly or you will suddenly feel the urge to look out the window just as the lightning strikes. The gods are powerful but They are not omnipotent, and it is easier to work with what’s already here.

In other words, just because you can find a “rational” explanation for what you experienced does not mean that a spiritual explanation isn’t also valid. The one does not cancel out the other. We should not confuse over-cautious doubt with reasonable discernment. Especially as sometimes that leap of faith, to acknowledge an event as a true communication or communion, will change our whole way of seeing and interacting with the world around us. The more we pay attention, the more They are willing to speak to us (because who wants to shout tirelessly at someone who refuses to listen?).

Related to our expectations of the divine is how we expect our own magic to work. It is easy to get discouraged when we go through all the rituals, utilize all the age-old words and tools, and fail to see the sparks we hoped for. But wait, because a ripple you set out into the middle of a lake takes awhile to get to shore. In this dense world of objects, magic can’t always take the direct route we would like.

Perhaps you look through the forked tines of a stang or a holed stone, and the world on the other side doesn’t look any different – no shimmery overlay of Faerie, no shadows you couldn’t see before. But an hour later you come across a path in the forest you never found before which will become a power spot for you, or you find a rock in the shape of your animal spirit, or any number of other small miracles… and you may not even notice that one thing followed the other. If you sing a chthonic incantation in the woods and a snake slithers by, is that any less magical just because it didn’t resemble Hollywood special effects?

In fact, when the material world responds to you in that way, it is a sign that you are becoming synchronized with the flow of the numinous, the pulse of magic, and it becomes easier to move and shift that power (though you must always stay connected and aware of the demands of both physical and spiritual realities).

Be observant, and willing to trust your own experiences, and you may find that what you’ve been looking for has been there all along.

~ by Dver on February 15, 2012.

13 Responses to “As Above, So Below”

  1. Great post! It reminds me of the time (long time ago) I had Mercury, the deity, on my mind and was wondering if approaching him would be a good idea seeing as I had been a devotee of one or two other deities and whatnot (and things hadn’t seem to go that well). Now, I don’t remember what exactly I was thinking but the gist was as I explained above. Fast forward to later that day. I had went out for a walk and was returning by a route I’d hardly (if ever) walked and I was just there walking when I looked to my right. In a fenced yard there was a boat and on this boat’s engine there was, wouldn’t you know it, Mercury, both in name and figure. After the weird feeling that accompanied this experience wore off (I don’t remember exactly what it felt like but I think a slight chill or goosebumps were involved and me thinking “wha…eh?”) I figured the boat engine was quite emblematic of Mercury, although that was neither here nor there. For the rest of the walk home my brain was trying to decide if I had just received a sign or token in response to my earlier inquiry or if it was a coincidence or whatever. I had had experiences like this before but I don’t suppose one gets used to them even if one has been with the Gods for decades (I’m not decades along on the path though so I wouldn’t be able to say). Also, I am not always the best interpreter of omens. Anyway, I apologize for the longish post. Blessings.

    • Seems like a pretty direct omen to me!

      I’m about a decade and a half into this, and I’d say that while incidences like that are more and more common for me, I never take them for granted, and the really big ones still have the capability of reducing me to tears at times.

  2. This is very timely for me. While I’ve known all this for the longest time (or my own version of it) it’s one of those things I seem able to repeatedly forget. I know full well that when I’m moving with the pattern of things my life is filled with synchronicities and insights, sometimes to the most ridiculous degree, and equally that when I’m not I become separate (or seem so) and nothing quite fits. Of course it’s me not fitting. I have something fairly major going on, a deal I actually made with death on behalf of someone else so they could get the death they wanted playing out. When I made it I had no idea what the payback would be, but now I do. It’s fair but frustrating. It has meant a very long wait, almost an exact parallel of what I asked for. I have stupidly spent a lot of my time tensing up about it, causing myself much suffering and also, I suspect, dragging the whole thing on a lot longer. Holding it all tight in the absurd belief that will make it work out when I know full well that has the opposite effect. The energies we put out there don’t need to be ritualistic to work. Trust, letting go, being connected, watching and listening to what we need to see and do are vital for us to get what we want, or it can be ourselves which makes our magic fail.

    • I think this is the type of thing we all have to be reminded of regularly (myself included – it’s half the reason I write these posts!). And if you’ve adequately internalized it at some level, you’ll always find a deeper level waiting later on.

  3. Excellent post. Thank you for sharing it with us. I have been feeling spiritually disconnected lately, but after reading your post I got the feeling that my spiritual wires may be reconnecting soon. I guess something good clicked in me after reading it😀. Thanks again!

  4. “who wants to shout tirelessly at someone who refuses to listen?” : this just comes to me as a slap, a wave that makes me understand. It is so obvious !
    You have perfectly translate the steps i regularly take in my path. Faith and skepticism. But now, i will remember these few words..
    Thank you for this great post.

  5. […] we close with this excellent meditation by Dver: Certainly if we look to the past we will see that the ancient polytheists predominantly […]

  6. […] suggests to others to balance discernment with certain realities of the spiritual world some of us m…: While discernment is extremely important, and certainly some things that appear to be messages are […]

  7. Just a quick note to let you know I enjoy your blog, particularly the wonderful poetry.

  8. […] week at A Forest Door, Dver brings this great post about discernment to the […]

  9. Layers and layers, reality upon reality. Thank you for this post!

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