Living Your Religion Every Day

Living Your Religion Every Day

Author: James Bulls

This story is neither about high ceremony nor exotic sorcery; it is not about the alchemical secret to eternal life but the simple secret to everyday life. To preface this simple secret, consider the words of Johann von Goethe who said, “Out of moderation a pure happiness springs.” There are some who would disagree with that statement, but consider its merits on a day-to-day basis. For contrast, consider James Dean’s statement, “Dream as if you’ll live forever; live as if you’ll die today.” You may certainly choose to live each day under the dictates of extremity, but such a lifestyle relies on black-and-white dichotomies quite incompatible with a harmonious lifestyle and a society that requires those members who wish to live successfully the ability to distinguish subtleties, nuance, and shades of grey.

To return to Goethe’s statement that moderation brings happiness, one must look at each day not as a singular opportunity to figuratively explode like James Dean but to burn a low, steady flame. Extremists who make dramatic resolutions toward religious expression attract much attention, but after the noise is finished what remains is a spiritual model incompatible with modern life. As it concerns living your religion everyday, the loud dramatists advocate set rules and habits for life: meditate for an hour every day; read cards every day; exercise every day; never eat this; never drink that; always perform the quarter, cross-quarter, full-Moon, and dark-Moon rituals; and so on. And so the misguided accept one absolute after another into their spiritual devotions until all their time and energy is devoted to planning for the next event.

The trouble with living your religion in terms of absolutes is that each of us is fallible and will fail to satisfy an artificial schedule and arbitrary definition of “spiritual perfection.” Absolutes invite failure, failure invites discouragement, discouragement invites dissatisfaction, and dissatisfaction invites mediocrity. This “mediocrity” of which I speak is the ball-and-chain, which prohibits daily expression of one’s religion – it is the intangible obstacle that stands between the spiritually dead and the sublime angels!

Living moderately provides room for failure and permits one to find as much satisfaction in the loving preparation of afternoon tea as another might find in an elaborate Spring Equinox celebration. Moderation permits one to say “I forgive myself for my weaknesses, ” and “This is enough for today.” Living your religion on a daily basis is determined in neither quantity nor quality, but in the process and your ability to find satisfaction in it.

Much of the spiritual insight commonly taught in the New Thought, New Age, Wiccan, and Occult communities is imported from the East, but there is much of value in the West that gets overlooked. With respect to living one’s religion every day and the importance of moderation I set out at the beginning, consider the Religious Society of Friends, also called the Quakers. The Friends believe in moderation, modesty, and (not unlike the Zen Buddhists) a direct experience of God outside of material limitations. The Friends live their faith every day not necessarily through dictated prayer times and worship services, but through quiet appreciation for the Divine and making common-sense choices to live modestly which not only prevent egoic obstacles to spiritual growth but also provide more time for to focus on their friends and family members, community, and simple acts of devotion.

Living moderately (and dare I say modestly) is not a sexy adventure for bold heroes but the source of pure happiness. Living one’s religion every day isn’t a matter of selecting specific rituals, adopting absolute views in the name of simplicity, or making loud declarations for the sake of consistency – it is in fact a broad, consistent expression of your core values. For example, consider Pantheism, a path whose travellers see the very world in which they live as the body of the Divine and who value the environment, wildlife, and the needs of their kin and neighbours. Pantheists may have specific rituals they practice for spiritual edification such as cartomancy, theurgy, and folk medicine (Qi gong, Reiki, etc.) , but it is putting the carriage before the horse to say that the rituals are the religion – a religion is the sum of the core values and ultimate goals!

To live their religion every day, Pantheists may choose activities or make simple changes which support their beliefs such as: turning off a light when they leave the room; taking the time and effort to recycle paper, glass, and plastic; collect litter in their neighbourhood or at the local park; volunteer once or twice a month at the animal shelter; donate their time to Habitat for Humanity; making a meal for a friend or inviting a friend to a meal; walking or riding a bike when a vehicle isn’t needed; using cloth shopping bags; turning off the TV or computer to spend more time with your spouse and children; or even just smiling and saying hello to strangers on the street. None of these actions are as sexy and exciting as high ceremony or deep meditation, but they are all easily adopted into one’s everyday life and each of them supports the religious expression of the Pantheist.

Moderation is the simple secret to daily expression of one’s religion; you will not find happiness in strict adherence to daily religious ritual but in the small, simple activities and choices, which are the mundane foundation of your religious philosophy. If you worship the Earth, make choices, which protect the environment. If you revere the sacred feminine, make choices that would lead others to respect femininity. If you believe that your spiritual purpose is to serve your fellows, be friendly and willing to help. But if you want to live your religion every day, don’t obligate yourself to an arbitrary schedule of worship or you’ll only become a slave to your faith. Remember you values and you’ll immediately change from an event-based religion to a day-to-day expression of faith.

What are Gods?

 
Many a hotly debated discussions have taken place over the years about what Gods are and whether it is important to believe in them as actual beings or if it is only necessary to understand that they represent psychopomps in our psyche that describe a part of ourselves or the world around us. There may never be a definitive answer found to this question, since each and every witch approaches the idea of the divine from a different point. To make one grand decision for everyone would be the height of hubris. Be that as it may, the Gods do hold power over and around us through both of these paths.
 
They can unlock the power that we hold within ourselves so that we can use it readily and easily by letting that aspect of ourselves be free. Additionally, they can exist in nature and the world around us to add more power to our own. What matters is that we ally ourselves wisely with those deities or archetypes that work best for us. If you are uncomfortable with a particular deity, trying to work with that one will most likely thwart what you are trying to accomplish.
 
Sometimes it is necessary to work through that discomfort, however. For example, many pagans and witches have difficulty working with the Christian God. There is great power, though, in being able to do so. When you learn how to deal with this discomfort, you have learned to stop letting it control you.
 
In the Craft, the state of mind that you do something in can have a large impact on the results of what you are attempting to do. A spell can be given a completely opposite direction to take if you do not focus on exactly what it is that you want and let yourself become distracted by other random thoughts. This is why clarity of mind and purpose is so necessary to witchcraft.

In a nutshell, Gods are whatever you believe them to be. Before you scream in frustration, take a deep breath and read on. Looking across the world’s religions, there are a whole host of beliefs about what Gods are. Christianity believes that there is one God, and only one God, all others being false idols, and that God is removed from the world, existing on high and watching us all.

Buddhism does not believe in Gods. Instead, they believe that a person can achieve enlightenment and cease their earthly existence and move on to something better. Many tribal religions revere more than one God, choosing instead to put the divine into the natural world and unexplained things and naming them Gods.

In my studies, I have found that there are five main beliefs that religions, or most of them, fall into; Atheism, Monotheism, Duothesim, Polythiesm, and Pantheism. Starting with the easiest, atheism is the belief that there is no God or that man himself is God. Some branches of Satanism fall into this category, as well as many pagans of varied “religious” beliefs, including some types of Wicca, that see the human as the pinnacle of existence, and most people who believe that there is no God, including man.

Monotheism, then, is the belief that there is one God, or the worship of one God despite recognizing the existence of others. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all fall into this category, as do people who follow one particular God such as Gaia or Set. Closely related to Monotheism is the belief of Duotheism. A person who practices duothesim is a follower of two deities, most often a male-female pairing. Most Wiccans fall into this category or blend this with polytheism or pantheism.

Polytheism, as one might expect, is the worship of many Gods, each individual and separate. Tribal religions from around the world fall into this category as well as many pagans that are followers of the Norse paths. Finally, pantheism is the belief that all Gods are one God who has many faces so that man might understand the divine. Pantheism can also be expressed duotheistically by the belief that all Gods are one God and all Goddesses are one Goddess, both of whom wear many faces.

We still do not know, however, what Gods are. Within all of these categories, there are further subdivisions, most with no clear cut name, that allow a closer look at what gods are. The first group to look at is the people that believe that gods are literal entities. With this belief, worship is much more likely to be of an offertory nature, invoking the gods and asking them to intercede and help on the petitioner’s behalf. Most of the world’s dominant religions follow this belief, though they are scattered throughout the five types of theistic belief.

The second group believes that Gods may be literal entities, but they really aren’t sure and so they are not really going to worry about it, besides, who wants to offend a God if they’re wrong? For these people, worship is a little less offertory, though there are still offerings made. They tend to be more geared towards nature and the earth than any of the others, with the belief that the divine is in everything around them.

The second group believes that Gods may be literal entities, but they really aren’t sure and so they are not really going to worry about it, besides, who wants to offend a God if they’re wrong? For these people, worship is a little less offertory, though there are still offerings made. They tend to be more geared towards nature and the earth than any of the others, with the belief that the divine is in everything around them.

There are many other types of beliefs that are not covered here, as to what the Gods are or are not, but this give you, as a student, a place to start and discover for yourself what they mean to you and how you will interact with them. You may find, as you study and learn more, that your ideas of what the Gods are changes from time to time. This happens to almost everyone at one time or another, and is nothing to become distraught about. It is all a part of the riddle of the Gods, and they expect it.