No Shortcuts

“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 I have only heard of this new phenomenon, never seen it myself (because I thankfully have withdrawn from most of what passes for paganism online) and I’m sure you can guess what I think of it.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.)

~ by Dver on February 27, 2013.

16 Responses to “No Shortcuts”

  1. Another great post Dver. Love the Matrix image. I would add that such a method will never impart muscle memory in either the literal or figurative sense. After years of working with Hern I can feel him in my bones. Doesn’t matter if I am the one calling HIM or not, I can feel the bow wave that foretells His coming.

    Sadly we live in a culture of instant gratification and many yowlings just don’t want to (or in some cases can’t) put in the effort for real communication with the Holy Powers. All they see is the hard work, sacrifice, pain and effort. Sadly they do not see the Joy, Ecstasy, Love and more that comes not only from doing the work but can and does come during the work.

    Again love the post and the fact that I can almost always find something relevant to my current situation in your work. Honestly you are one of three writers that I can say that about. Walk in Peace.

    • “I would add that such a method will never impart muscle memory in either the literal or figurative sense.”

      Very good point. And I like how you compare feeling the presence of a god to muscle memory, it’s apt.

      Would be interested to know who the other two writers are, in case I’m not already reading them.

      • The writers are Del and Galina, so you know them both already. Honestly one of my goals for this year is to get at least half as good as the three of you (as well as Sannion over at House of Vines) at blog writing.

        As to the muscle memory comment I tend to be very physical in much of my work. Over the years I have gotten to the point of knowing His mood by the vibrations I feel. Nice calm tuning fork= peaceful and He is pleased. Drum beats= Trance work or hunting. BIG booming explosion= Someone is going to get an antler enema (more then likely me sad to say)

        • Yes, Del and Galina are great. And Sannion! (though I may be biased on that account).

          Fascinating that you feel your god physically in such a tangible and specific way. I have said before that too much emphasis is put on visual experience of spiritual realities, and that there are many other ways to perceive the gods.

          • Giving credit where it is due I kinda owe Galina big time. It was her that introduced me to Sigyn in a round about way.

            I am curious as to why you would be biased towards Sinnion’s work. Is he a friend?

            As to the Gods manifesting for me via physical sensation it is simply a matter of what works for me. The way I “see” is more like wave forms then shapes and colors. As to hearing I am kinda hopping that it takes a long time to develop. So for me touch and smell are my primary for telling who is “talking” to me. Sigyn feels strong, calm and peaceful, Loki is a chaos of fire mixed with his moods. Mimir is the only one that makes me uncomfortable at times. I can honestly say that since working with him I know what it feels like to be just a head with no body. NOT comfy making esp the first time He came to me that way.

            Honestly I think that people place way to much emphasis on sight especially in regards to spirit work. I know that humans are primarily visual beings these days and to my way of thinking that is a great loss. Sight only goes so far in giving you information about your surroundings. Unless the problem is purely surface sight tells you nothing about a sickness that a person may have, but smell can give you a wealth of information. It is uncommon to be able to hear or see fervor, but you can feel it and with training smell it as well. The same goes for taste.

            Touch, taste and smell are my primes when doing healing work, with sight and sound coming in a very poor last place.One of my diagnostic tools is to lick a person’s wrists, neck, palms and a few other places to get an idea of what may be wrong with them physically or spiritually. But then I get the feeling that THEY are just getting me used to working with what i will have and not what I do have at the moment.

            If I may ask what is your primary method of experiencing the Powers? I get the feeling that it is not primarily sight.

  2. I like what you said here. It’s true, particularly that last paragraph.

  3. Another great article,glad I found this blog!

  4. Thank you, once again, for putting into words the thoughts and emotions I’ve been experiencing lately but haven’t organized yet. I’ve seen SO MUCH of this stuff on Tumblr recently, it’s completely de-valuing the practice. I’ve been watching people acting as ‘godphones’ and it’s pretty obvious that it’s going to people’s heads.

  5. There’s this – and I think it’s due to the sheer proliferation of neo-Wiccan books in recent years – assumption that to be any sort of pagan, you HAVE to be a mystic, or more specifically a clergyperson. There’s not a possibility for lay people or a separate clergy group. When “clergy” becomes identified with “temporary speakers for a deity’s voice”, well… you end up with this mess.

    Full disclosure: I was severely harmed by someone’s faked possession, a few years ago. (Stupid newbie fell in with some decidedly hideous people, you’ve probably heard the same kind of story before.)

    • I’ve never heard that before!

      • Augh. Three tries in, and I’m at the point of thinking there’s no way to phrase this so it doesn’t sound somewhat rude. Please don’t take this as me biting your head off, I really don’t mean it that way!

        You’ve never once seen a group where discretion is treated like the filthiest of expletives, and those who (claim to) have touched or been touched or been taught by the Gods themselves vastly outnumber those who haven’t? Even accounting for the fact that mystics tend to travel in the same circles, when every single person in a community claims to be some sort of divinely-chosen messenger and/or the direct child or lover of a god… wow, yes, I really am still bitter about the last two times I tried to find an offline space to talk about things like this, and only the second was within the last year. I’m sorry.


        Where did you get such luck, and is there any left to share?

        And I suppose I should now disclose that yes, I have done possession-work in the past. Not gods – the physical strain of that would likely have been even more unpleasant, I imagine – but spirits I’m closely associated with, and we agreed to temporarily “shut off” that work while I built up a better foundation. (ADHD’s a damned pain to work around, and having been gaslighted into doubting my… well, everything wasn’t much of a help either.)

  6. “You’ve never once seen a group where discretion is treated like the filthiest of expletives, and those who (claim to) have touched or been touched or been taught by the Gods”.

    No! not personally!

  7. […] This post by Dver has me mostly nodding along, but there are some things it brings to mind that I would like to write about. I agree with her and with the post that motivated her to respond, but only so far as we are talking about spirit workers (by which I mean those with a vocation and/or initiation to work with spirits). There are many, many people to whom this advice would not be helpful and they are the people that spirit workers will likely see the most. Spirits don’t just care about the people who are called to listen and work with them, but about a whole bunch of people who may not sense them very clearly and, arguably, spirits work with spirit workers as much or more for these people than for the spirit workers themselves. To say to those who don’t have the vocation or initiation for spirit work that they need to go out and figure out for themselves how to communicate with spirits is unhelpful and sometimes even a bit dangerous. […]

  8. […] Dver reminds us that there are no shortcuts: […]

  9. […] in February, Dver over at A Forest Door wrote this wonderful piece on not taking shortcuts. Dver’s writings always help me remember that we need to keep trying […]

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