What you know

Today Sannion was talking about some folks’ limited conceptions of Dionysos, and how we relate to artistic representations of the god, and he made this point:

“Dionysos is more than just some handsome bearded dude with a crown of ivy, come hither eyes and lips wet with wine. He may show himself to you like that but he’s not limited to just that one mask, that one form. When you can see a dozen such masks, a hundred simultaneously then you’ll get at something of the truth of what Dionysos is.”

Which is very true, of course. But I want to take it a step further. We are naturally very visually-oriented creatures, living in an extremely visually-oriented culture. I think most if not all of us tend to picture our gods when we think of Them, when we pray to Them. We may have a favorite artistic image, we may remember Their face from a dream or visionary encounter, and we may even know Them well enough to hold many different images of Them in our mind’s eye at once. But I will say this: it was only when I stopped visualizing Dionysos at all – when I stopped picturing Him as a man or a beast or anything else, but instead began to feel Him, as a force – that I really began to know Him.

I could put a word on this force, and I do in my own mind, but that’s not the point, and is pretty personal to me and my experience of Him. However, it has become readily identifiable as Him, much more so than an image, a mask that could be worn by others or echoed in a million different places. It is unmistakably HIM, the power of His presence, and it is now the primary way I recognize His arrival, the thing I reach for when I reach for Him. I stopped having a statue as the focal point for His shrine precisely because it was causing me too often to conceptualize Him as that image, rather than knowing Him for what He really is. (I do still have images of Him – including a couple masks – because sometimes they serve an important purpose and because having so many, equally displayed, leaves me still able to look past them to the core. Still, sometimes I think of taking all such representations off of all my shrines; I wonder what changes that would provoke in the way I relate to my gods across the board.)

I mention this because, even though I went through this with Dionysos years ago and saw my relationship with Him significantly deepen as a result, I still managed to make the same mistake with one of my other spiritual relationships. I realized I was focusing overly much on that spirit’s various faces, the images I had in my head, rather than His essence, His actual being and presence. And it was creating an invisible barrier to connecting with Him more deeply.

Because all those faces, those masks, they are essentially the way my mind interprets and understands the complexity of a discarnate being – by clothing it in a tangible form. Those forms are certainly meaningful, they reflect real aspects of Him and were often shown to me by Him, but they are also very limiting, even taken all together. They will never be the full sum of who He is. I need to recognize Him by His touch on my heart, not by His preferred attire.

There’s a line in a Peter Murphy song (which is on my devotional playlist for this spirit, not coincidentally) which says “I am not what you think I am, but what you know.” This is the love song the gods sing to us. Are we willing to go beyond what we think They are, what we imagine Them to be, what we picture Them as, and face what we know Them to be? I think that is the endless quest of the mystic, and I look forward to a lifetime of it.

~ by Dver on March 11, 2013.

17 Responses to “What you know”

  1. […] will make you question what you know about the gods and […]

  2. So well said….

  3. Reblogged this on Rock of Eye and commented:
    Being in a relationship with a God Who has no pictorial representation has provided more of a challenge than I thought it would, but this is an excellent way to frame it.

    • I have no “official” pictorial representation of the spirit I reference here either, but have built up many over the years, as I’ve found images that resonated with Him. It can be a challenge, but on the other hand it can give you more freedom, both to find imagery that truly matches your experience (rather than someone else’s), and also to break free of imagery all together.

  4. Sri Ramakrishna had to break his treasured statue of Kali Ma, actually physically shatter it, because the image had become a block to more fully experiencing Her presence.

  5. Once, I experienced Antinous in a dream a few years ago…and he looked absolutely nothing like the Antinous we know from the many images of him on coins, statues, etc.

    He looked like a bald, young (but probably 20s-ish), shirtless African man in gold and violet trousers. He looked nothing at all like we think of him…and yet there was no question in my mind that it was him, in all of his glory like he always is…but completely different.

    Who knows what form he will take next, for me or for others? 😉

  6. Very true to me🙂. Hekate was the first divinity I feel very strongly because I couldn’t put an image to Her (She is too many things). So I have to rely on my guts and my feelings… and it worked pretty well !

  7. Similar experiences here with Bast (and other Kemetic gods). Bast is vast, and her presence is very. . . clear. Lol. And a lot bigger than the cat/lion forms she takes.

    I still maintain images, though, because in some ways that’s part of Kemeticism.

  8. After you find the God/Goddess you have been seeking, you can feel their presence, their aura in prayer, mediation & in daily encounters. It is a great gift, to reconize them without seeing a picture or statue.
    Sometimes they can play hide & seek with you. Always play along! In times where they hide from you, it is helpful to have a shrine where their image is kept & honored.

  9. I’ve actually never been able to anthropomorphize the gods myself. I have always thought of that as a minor failure on my part (lack of imagination?), but when you put it this way it makes me feel like it might actually work in my favor in the long run. Maybe it’s one less hurdle to overcome.

  10. Reblogged this on The Darkness in the Light.

  11. […] Magos * A visual representation of Lord Dionysos in all of his power and glory by Dionysian~Light * What you know by […]

  12. I know you don’t know me and I hope I’m not out of line posting here, but this just spoke to me too clearly to ignore. I’m a seeker. I haven’t settled on anything yet and I’m satisfied with that for now. I’m not so visually oriented and as you said, we live in a very visual culture, so it’s hard for me when (for example) I meet someone and can never keep names and faces straight…names seem to mean so little to me…it’s the feel of a person I meet that matters and that’s how I identify them to myself later. Unfortunately that means that a description of nearly anyone tends to come out “Well, he’s that person and she’s that other person.” Real helpful, right?

    So many of the places I’ve been seeking talk about strong visualization and choosing or receiving (in meditation or visions) a name and image of the Deity who is speaking to you and I’m having a very hard time relating to that. I didn’t realize that was a part of the block I’m feeling until I read what you wrote. I just wanted to thank you for writing it and posting it. I’m going to go think about it for a while because I think it may represent a real breakthrough for me.

    I also need to ask you forgiveness. The email I put down there isn’t real. I don’t know if it goes to someone else’s email but it isn’t one of mine. Part of my seeking right now involves anonymity (it’s what the name means. That part at least is real). In my current situation it would be dangerous for me to receive an email from anyone, no matter how innocuous…just reading your blog and posting a comment is risky for me, so I apologize for the deception but it didn’t feel right to be so helped by what you said and yet leave nothing in exchange. Foolish, perhaps, but it’s part of what I believe in, so Thank You!

    • You’re certainly not out of line to post a comment, nor do you need to identify yourself. No worries. I’m glad what I wrote resonated with you. You might also find it useful to read an older post of mine about different ways to experience spiritual things other than visually: When You Can’t See. Good luck with your seeking!

  13. *sits in her chair, tears streaming down her face and thinks…”I’m home!”* If it’s ok, I’d like to hang around for a while…mainstreaming hasn’t been working for me and this…is.

    I can’t write much right now, but…well maybe he’ll sleep a little longer…See, the thing is I’m so new at this…and so old getting started. I’ll be 43 in a couple of months and this whole life I’ve been trained to put aside all those little niggling feelings that usually turn out to be right and always end up being mocked or disregarded or outright…well it isn’t pretty.

    I read the other post you mentioned and some of the responses to it. I’ll read some more tomorrow morning and see if I can set up an email I can use for this forum. I’d like to join and talk a little. I really need it. It’s been very lonely here for me and it’s nice to find someone who seems to speak the same language I do.

    I don’t visualize well, instead I “listen”, not so much to as for things. When I close my eyes I can still navigate around my house better than I do with them open. It’s like I can see better that way. I can feel a person’s presence even when there’s no physical way I could have known they were there because I’m always “listening” for what’s out there. I say listening because I cock my head and pay attention…My mother used to ask what I was listening to *chuckle* but I can’t seem to stop myself from doing it although I’ve learned to minimize the physical reaction I have so no one will notice me. I’m getting better.

    I gotta go, at least clean up my face a little or I’ll have to answer a lot of uncomfortable questions soon. I’ll take care of the email and get properly registered in the morning. It’s easier then. I’ll have an hour, maybe two if I’m lucky, so I’ll see you then.

    I can’t thank you enough. Just this little bit here has been such a relief to me I just…Thank You!!

  14. *chuckles* sorry about the irreverent email addy. Yahoo irritated me one time too many LOL. Twila@yahoo.com does indeed belong to someone else, then every name I plugged in came back used so I stuck my tongue out and blew a raspberry at the screen and Oh My!! No one has that one LOL so now I do. Looks like you may be stuck with me for a little while. *heads off to see if there’s a newbie area where I’m supposed to introduce myself before I take this thread WAYYY off track.*

    • Don’t worry about the email – I’m the only one who sees it in the comments that come through, and I never pay attention to those anyway. There is no newbie area here because it’s not a forum, it’s just my blog, and anyone is welcome to comment, no introductions needed.

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