Insights of a Non Initiated “Novice”
Author: Joshua Ray
I am often asked my views on religion and God. This is a very complicated and difficult question for me to answer on the spot. I feel that writing this will shed some light on my perspective. First, you should know that as a child, I was raised to believe in the Christian God. My teachers at school, my grandparents and the vast majority of my friends enforced the concept that there was only one God. I knew about God my whole life and as things progressed, I got further and further involved. I was very devout in my faith from the ages of seven to about ten, because I was a member of a church club. I remember I was so involved with this club and so taken with God that I tried to “save the souls” of my pets (they looked at me like I was wasting my time, and I was.) It was ridiculous.
I don’t know exactly the moment that I snapped out of it, but I know the moment I chose another path. I was out in the yard, going through one of the “junk” cars my father hauled in on a regular basis. He had brought one in that had a good number of books in it, and I went through it looking for anything interesting to read. My searching stopped with a book about Wicca. It was a small, dusty book and contained some of the principles of belief and basic “spells and magick rites”; it was bull.
But it took me a long time to reach that conclusion. At first, it was only curiosity that kept me reading the book. Through all my Christian teachings I was simultaneously scared to death and deeply fascinated. Now looking back, that book has been probably the most innocent one I have ever laid hands on. I remember hiding the book in my room and reading it in the bathroom at night. Sometime later, when I was camping in the mountains with my family, I got scared and burned the book in the campfire.
I often visited the public library and snuck-read some books about similar subjects, spiritualism, theology, mythology, and anything else I could get in such a conservative small town. It took me years to strip away all the Christian religious dogma and stop being scared of such things, or seeing them as “evil”; my eyes opened at last. In the years following my journey into the world of religion, I have researched many topics and many different paths, yet I have only begun to scratch the surface. I have been Wiccan for years, practicing by myself and occasionally with a friend or two. I don’t know the name of the road I took next, because as far as I know, it doesn’t have one. It’s more like following the guidance of your own dreams and the lessons taught through them. I have learned the most of all this way. It is very powerful and I am still on this path. I am convinced that there is no way to leave it. You cannot escape your own dreams.
In college I dove deeper. I scratched at demonology and studied various grimoires on summoning spirits. This seemed to come most naturally. I grew very adept in calling spirits, and laying them to rest. I’ve been doing this in reality since I was about eleven, and through the studies and research I was doing, I came to realize exactly what I was doing and how to control it. Control of yourself and your mind is very essential. If you cannot control your own mind and body, how do you expect to effect change in your environment? Your magick won’t work effectively if you do not know yourself first.
You have to embrace all aspects of yourself; know your deepest darkest secrets and your highest aspirations; know your best qualities and traits, and your very worst. They are all a part of you and none are more important than the other. They all play their part in the formation of your personality.
Through most of my life I have been studying and researching by myself. I realize you cannot seek to learn anything higher than novice level by yourself. At least not anything that would be recognizable to the community. I grew up in a small town that is very conservative. The few people in that small rural community that were of higher standing were unfortunately not willing to teach or mentor, in the traditional sense of student and teacher. I spent some time with them talking about various theories I had, and techniques that came to me in dreams. It was good to have someone to bounce ideas off.
Feedback was important, and I was happy to take the same ideas to different people and compare their ideas to mine. Looking at things through different perspectives, especially the perspective of someone who had been doing things a bit longer than me was incredibly helpful.
Soon I moved to a bigger city and had a bigger pagan community. This was both good and bad. I had access to more resources, but I also had access to more idiots. I found that the bigger the community, the more you get the people who watch too much TV and think they can walk through walls, throw fire from their fingertips and that they are descended from dragons, unicorns, werewolves and all manner of other such nonsense. I have also met people who claim to be the direct lineage of the devil. They believe it, it’s very weird, “Satan is my dad, and her dad, and I see that your soul is our older brother.” Shut up. Seek mental help. There are those rare few though, that are an asset to the community, those in touch with themselves and seek to spread knowledge and guidance to those who require and seek it. These people are relatively hard to find because of the prevalence of the weirdoes I mentioned before. But once they know that you are sincere, and not just another sci-fi channel witch, they start to open up to you and become great friends.
I found myself aimlessly wandering, on no specific religious path. This is better than it sounds. It sounds as if you denounced or deviated from religion, but in actuality it was more like venturing out into the world and finding things out for yourself. I did much more of the research I did as a high school student. I took the similarities in religion and patched things together that made sense.
You would be amazed at how every religion in the world has basically the same principles, give or take their own personal spin and flavor. Things that one religion believes about another are seldom true, and once you look into the matter from both sides, it is no longer a relevant point.
Christianity as a whole believes that all pagan religions are “evil, devil worshiping, and sexually deviant”. This is very much not true. Many pagans believe that Christians are all “close minded, hateful, ignorant and intolerant”. This is also very much not true. In both cases you have your exceptions, but for the majority we are all just mere people. People that are all on the way to God, whatever form God takes to us, big G, little g, it’s all the same.
My own personal belief is that God is neither physical nor immaterial, but both at the same time. God is neither male nor female, but the essence of both. God is not good, neither is God evil. God is the infinite neutral, yet contains the extremes of all sides. Also God contains, to me, the gods of every religion great or small. This is the hardest concept for people to grasp. That the God of Christianity and the Goddess and God of the Wiccan religion are aspects of the same whole to me; every spark of divinity shines radiantly through the whole of the eternal God. God, to me, also carries within itself the personalities and knowledge of every person on earth at any given point in time, whether alive, dead, or yet to be born.
God, to me, is the quintessence of spirit. And, as such, no one person can understand God in entirety. This is what I believe to be the answer to the question. “Why are there so many religions in the world?” This is because every person who started this religion caught only a glimpse of God. They received only as much as they could fathom and made sense of it as they best could. I applaud them. No matter whom they were or what religion they founded, I applaud their ability to interpret God as thoroughly as they did. Even I have not been able to interpret god to the degree that I could knowingly start a system of belief. Nor if I did, would I seek to try to sway others’ individual lives with my personal opinions.
I learned to believe mostly in an individual’s right to choose. Whatever that choice may be, they alone know what is best for them. Whether they go to catholic mass, or sacrifice cupcakes to the Great God of the Convection Oven, it’s their own personal choice. Even the weirdoes who believe to be the devil’s offspring have the right to think so, just so long as they refrain from trying to make me a part of it. We can no longer seek to “convert” people to our way of thinking. This is to me the only definition of sin: Imposing one’s own will, ideas, and doctrines on another is immoral in my eyes. There are many religions that have this as part of their system of belief. This was done so that the religion would gain in number.
Back in the days, the more members you had the more power it had. These beliefs are no longer relevant. Too many religions refuse to let go of outdated and obsolete rules that weren’t even a part of the original code. But as is often the case, these rules have been in their structure for such a long time that they have become Holy Writ, and well above reprimand.
All things considered, I have traveled well, lived, learned and gained some insightful knowledge. I aspire to one day be one of those so-treasured community pillars of strength help out my community through my knowledge and give something back to the divine. My life has been blessed since I started this road. I will travel down it as long as I still draw breath. I will never cease to learn as much as I can. There will always be more secrets, more mysteries than we can imagine. All we need to do is commit some time to looking deeper. Look from different sides, look honestly, and with a genuine desire to learn, and the answers will pop out.
Inspiration comes from unexpected places.