Principles of Divine Logic

Principles of Divine Logic

Author: Katessa Harkey

How does a Witch decide what he believes?

I have long been on the problem of discerning the actual Truth, by which I mean to say, that which is at the core of a matter, person, spirit, legend, God, or any other representation of the Source, (the originating causative) in this world of personal experience. It is ever thus that I find myself stuck between a yes and a no, because arguments can be made for so many cases.

Any postulation must, of necessity, come from our own personal experience, and thus will have certain commonalities with the actual Truth. The absence of this property is called madness in the common vernacular. However, to the madman who deludes himself that the entire world be covered every inch in demons of all sorts, your lack of terror is itself madness.

To restate, the perspective of the postulant is both influenced by and different from the Truth.

I believe that I may have stumbled onto a process, if you will, for moving towards a greater singularity of perspective with Truth. By processing a postulation in a specific, consistent manner on a regular basis, recording and comparing results, and reprocessing the comparative results received one may arrive at a greater sympathy of perspective so significant to the Seeker after Truth.

Bearing in mind that this is by no means a set formula for rote, but a means of considering mystical ideas and arriving at useful rungs in a long ladder of understanding, I present it to you.

First, one must divest himself of as many unnecessary perceptions as possible, and from amongst the wheat that has been violently separated from the chaff, find by trial and error the kernel of Truth. Upon lifting a kernel up for examination, one may have such a postulation, as “Truth is determinable.” One then begins to consider its fractal presumptions and ramifications.

First, the Seeker asks of the kernel, “Who were your assumptive forbears?” and, if he finds no fault in the parents, asks after the progeny. Of course, this process must be repeated on the whole lineage before a status of affirmation ought to be levied, but there are certain expediencies of non-infinity.

Therefore, once the Seeker has satisfied himself to the best of his judgment as to relative authenticity, but never establishing dogma, compares it to other such postulations. Many a time these “affirmed postulations” will seem contradictory, or breed contention amongst their united progeny.

There are two possible answers to this confoundity: one that there was a flaw in the Seeker’s application of this Divine Logic, and he affirmed something falsely; the other that he has actually reached the pinnacle of the practice, which is Paradox: one has reached a form of Truth so high that human understanding breaks down.

Within the fundaments of the process itself are many such postulations, and it would seem beneficent therefore to study them by means of the process described, so as to establish (to the best of human understanding) self-consistency.

The first postulation is that there is such a thing as Truth; and within, that of an originating causative of which the Truth is postulated to be an avatar. Another such contained is that the Truth is not the same as personal experience.

To the first, the implications of the existence of Truth are tied inextricably to the rest. If Truth, then Source. If not Truth, then what?

The Truth, if such a thing exists, must take into account not only one’s personal experience of the world, but also the experiences of all mankind, past, present or future, every animal and plant, every rock, planet, star, emotion, law of nature… in short, the whole of existence. Because humans in their mayfly existence cannot even begin to fathom such complexity, one has only a piece of the Truth.

However, because one is amongst those things that the Truth must account for one does indeed have a piece, however small.

From the perspective of Truth, every individual serves some purpose to its fulfillment. Therefore, even ones most mundane actions can be seen, from his own perspective, as action or inaction with purpose. The Seekers actions will have ramifications for the rest of his fellow particles of Truth, and will in turn reverberate back to him through a changed existence.

It would be foolish to say that one should then fear action as it runs the risk of detriment, because ones sheer being has the same possibility. Furthermore, one does not have the perspective to know whether any given action or non-action is detrimental to existence at large, or only the part of the elephant he has a hand on. Sometimes one must skin ones knee to avoid a car accident.

This does not alleviate the Seeker from ethical standards. If we are to live together in a community of any kind, we must treat one another with a certain level of mutual respect, or be forced to altar the standard of behavior over-all, to re-define our social mores to the degree of barbarism.

As we have evolved through natural processes into social creatures that find our greatest strength in unity, and natural processes are amongst those things included in the Truth, it is wise to accept this role as a part of our unique human perspective on the Truth.

Additionally, anti-social behavior tends to lead to isolation and/or actual confinement, which may or may not help the Seeker on his path toward the Truth.

As to an originating causative, there is certainly support in modern physics for the theory of beginning. If there were no beginning, then one must be prepared to accept an unbroken continuity of existence (as it is understood) to infinity in both directions.

However, there is no reason to affirm that this universe is the first or even only current one in existence. Before our “big bang” was there another “big crunch” to make way for it? Mustn’t the Truth also account for this?

Conversely, if this is the first such universe, before it must have been nothingness, an absence of all and thus a state of infinite possibility. This state would also have to be accounted for by Truth.

Either way, from nothingness or a former collapsed reality, there must have been some event that preceded all others. Perhaps conscious, perhaps not, perhaps beyond anything resembling human consciousness to such a degree that, were one to encounter it, one would assume it dumb, blind, perhaps even non-sentient.

There is not enough information to state anything with certainty about what the Source was, but one can know certain things about it by studying its effects: this existence.

One could draw these considerations out further, but for the sake of brevity I will assume the careful reader sees the nature of the process. It may be restated very simply after this manner: a Seeker may obtain greater sympathy of personal experience with the Truth by examining his individual assumptions regarding it and by comparing them with other such assumptions for consistency and paradox, with the understanding that the greatest teachers he will ever have are the paradoxes.

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Remembering and Reconnecting

Remembering and Reconnecting

Author: RuneWolf

I do consider my religion – Wicca – and my particular practice of it, to be Earth-based. Such a statement might seem absurdly obvious on the surface, but it is, I think, important to state it in this fashion. Wicca has within it elements of Ceremonial Magic, and it has been my personal experience that it is quite possible to become obsessed with and lost in the liturgical and ritual forms, to the extent that what one ends up practicing has, in fact, more in common with CM than with Wicca.

Now, don’t misunderstand me: We need ritualists and liturgists who can preserve the outer forms of our religion, and re-invent them as time goes by, so that we neither lose our traditional roots nor become mired in them. The creation, preservation and cultivation of ritual and liturgy are important, but I’m not talking about that here. I am talking about an unhealthy balance where an individual or group over-focuses on those outer forms, often to the detriment of the inner energies. So it is important, I think, that we remind ourselves, individually and collectively, that our religion IS Earth-based, and that, in my personal tradition at least, re-connecting with the Earth and Her cycles is one of the central concepts and objectives.

But then, what is this whole “re-connect with the Earth” thing, anyway? Sounds like a bunch of neo-Hippie, tree-hugging, New Age bushwa, doesn’t it?

Oh, contraire…

Western thought seems to enjoy lampooning and belittling whatever it doesn’t like or cannot understand, as if by satirizing something, it is made harmless and non-threatening. (This, oddly enough, is a very Celtic concept. Bards of Old Eire were feared for their power to debilitate a powerful leader by the use of satire.) Culturally, we will even go so far as to transform an inherently neutral or positive label – New Age, for instance – into a synonym for something wacky and outlandish. So those outsiders – or insiders, for that matter – who roll their eyes when they say or hear “re-connect with the Earth” obviously haven’t bothered to fully consider what that means.

We aren’t talking about sticking our feet into the ground and putting out roots. What we are talking about is simply becoming fully aware of – and experiencing as fully as possible – our relationship to the biosphere. For the most part, citizens of modern technological nations have fallen out of that awareness and experience. Some would argue that, without this awareness and experience, we as a species are doomed, because nothing short of these will prevent us from terminally fouling our nest. In more immediate and individual terms, however, I believe that a fuller awareness and experience of our relationship to the biosphere and, by extension, the Universe itself, is mandatory for true physical, mental and spiritual health. This is, as I understand it, the primary thrust of Taoist philosophy and religion, and is certainly a primary objective in my practice of Wicca.

Wicca, as I have said, is my religion. My spirituality, however, is Witchcraft. Some would not agree with this dichotomization, but then, as mother used to say, that’s why they make vanilla and chocolate. I make the distinction because I define those terms differently. Wicca is my religion – it is something I joined, a community that has a unique identity, and to be part of that community I am obliged, to a greater or lesser degree, to conform to the community template. I, personally, believe that there are certain things that I must agree to, that I must practice, that I must believe and that I must espouse, in order to be Wiccan. While there is certainly a great deal of individual latitude, I nonetheless believe that were I to deviate too far from the “community template” of Wicca, I would no longer be practicing Wicca. In the practice of certain martial arts, students are given a great deal of latitude to improvise and personalize the art. However, at a certain point, if that improvisation and personalization goes too far, that individual is no longer practicing that particular art, but something unique unto themselves that they have created there from. This is not a judgment on the art itself nor on what the individual has created from it; it is simply a statement of fact.

So it is, I believe, with the practice of Wicca, or any religion, for that matter. (But then, these are only my beliefs, and have no power beyond the tip of my nose.)

Witchcraft, on the other hand, I define as that body of techniques that enables the practitioner (Witch) to live in harmony with the rhythms of Life. “Life” here may be seen as synonymous with All That Is: an individual’s life-path, the greater community of Humankind, the biosphere and the Universe – in short, Everything. And those rhythms include the “bad” as well as the “good.” By this definition, Wicca is just another “technique” in my practice of Witchcraft, something which helps me to attune to the rhythms of Life. And this is, for me, as it should be: religion should always be the servant of spirituality. When that formula is inverted, we are left with dictatorial religious institutions.

When one truly seeks a deeper, fuller understanding of our connection to and place in the Universe, one cannot help but develop, I believe, a concern for the welfare of the “natural” world, i.e. the biosphere. Even if one were a staunch “scientific Pagan,” I don’t believe one could overlook the necessity of preserving an uncontaminated environment in order to ensure the survival of Humankind. And if one looks beyond mere survival, then we must recognize the necessity of preserving the beauty of unsullied nature as an adjunct to the mental, emotional and spiritual health of humanity.

Those of us who believe this face grave obstacles today. We are now ruled by an administration that is obviously bent on furthering the cause of “Big Business” – which has always been the destructive exploitation of the Earth for profit – at the expense of the environment. More and more, corporations are freed of the restrictions imposed on them by former, relatively saner, regimes. More and more, they are free to “rape and pillage” as they see fit, regardless of the destruction they cause. Nor can we simply blame “Western thought” for these travesties, as the policies of China in modern Tibet relieve the West of sole responsibility in the rape of the planet and the destruction of her children.

At times, it seems overwhelming, and it may well be an effort doomed to failure, although such failure will certainly doom humanity to eventual extinction. But we must try, each in her or his own way. I myself am not much of a “joiner,” and taking care of what little land is “mine” takes up most of my time. So you won’t see me at many demonstrations or protests. But what I lack in “discretionary time” I make up for in “disposable income,” and I can and do support the environmental cause with my monetary contributions. In the end, only money can defeat Big Money, so I don’t feel that this is merely a token gesture to assuage my conscience. And I do take an active, if geographically limited, part: there is a nature trail in the community near my home, which I avail myself of at every opportunity. As one might imagine, this trail is subject to all kinds of littering, not only from walkers but from nearby homeowners. When I walk, I always carry a trash bag, and I clean up what I can. When someone creates a mess too big for me, I make sure the community association knows about it, as there are strict rules regarding such abuse. I don’t know that my actions have ever led to the censure or fining of a guilty homeowner, but it hasn’t been for lack of trying.

Tattle tale? Snitch? Ratfink? You’re damn right.

And then there are the “little” things that all of us can do: proper soil management on our property; avoiding fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides; using “low impact” products; driving fuel-efficient autos; using mass transit when possible; recycling. It is gratifying to see that, in our neighborhood at least, we have a very high percentage of participation in the recycling effort. But then, these things should be “no brainers” for everyone, Pagan or not, in my opinion.

Perhaps the biggest difference between me and my neighbors is that, when I recycle or pick up litter, I see it as a sacrament, an acknowledgment that I AM RESPONSIBLE; not for the whole shebang, but for what I, as an individual, can do. I’ve always subscribed to the belief that “a little bit of something is better than a whole lot of nothing.” On any given day, I can’t solve all of the world’s environmental problems. But I can do something, even if it’s only picking up one piece of litter. No action occurs in a vacuum; every action has consequences, and resonates along the Web of Wyrd.

Despite the odds, none of us are totally powerless; we can always do something. And sometimes, in the wee dark hours of the morning, that’s all we have to hold onto.

RuneWolf

Daily Feng Shui News for April 28th – ‘Biological Clock Day’

If you’re hearing the tick tock of ‘Biological Clock Day’ and you’re trying to get pregnant, then you might want to consider this powerful Feng Shui fertility cure. According to this tradition, sleeping on green sheets will heal any malady or remove any energy blockages that might be preventing pregnancy from occurring. Take it from personal experience — this tip really does work!

By Ellen Whitehurst for Astrology.com

Thank The Goddess This Week is Over! Let’s Pray The Next Will Be Better!

Sympathy and Condolences Images
I am so glad this week is over. It has been a very difficult week for everyone. It seems like every time you turn on the News there is more death. I don’t know if we are more aware of it now because of the news broadcast or what, but death has been everywhere. The truly sad thing is that it is all our young people being killed. Don’t get me wrong, death at any age is very hard to handle. I know from personal experience, I am the only left in my family. But for the life of the young to be taken so swiftly, you have do wonder why? They have their own life ahead of them and poof, it is gone in an instant.

Being a parent, myself, weeks like these take a toll on me. I have two grown children and if something was to happen to them, I don’t know how I would handle it. My heart breaks for all of these parents. This morning ten more were suddenly token from this plane. One there way to check out a college they were planning on attending. Look forward to life, all the beauty and happiness they could imagine laid before them. Now it’s gone. I never dreamed of anything happening like this when my kids went on school trips. Who does? I cannot imagine what a hell these parents must have been throw into. Goddess Bless Them!

I know it is said, “Time heals all wounds!” It makes the pain easier but it is still there. After all these years, I still feel the pain. People try to comfort those grieving with words, there are no words of comfort. There is not really much we can do when a person is dealing with the loss of a loved one. We can stand beside them and just listen. You don’t have to say a word. Listening is more important than you can ever imagine. If they start to cry, open your arms and just hold them. Simply gestures that in the end mean so much.

Once again in closing, I would ask that you say a prayer for all those we have loss this week.

 

Divine Mother, once again we humbly come to pray
for all the souls that have been lost this week. Make
their transition from this world to the next as peaceful
and calm as can be. Hold them in your loving arms.
Let them know they are now safe within the Summerlands.
Watch over them and protect them until they are ready
to be reborn again.

 

Divine Mother, bless their loved ones left on this plane.
Hold them in your arms and give them comfort. Let them
know their loved ones are at peace and one day we shall all
be reunited. Make their pain ease, give them hope and give
them courage.  Almighty Mother, give them the reassurance
death is not final but a new chapter opening from which a new
life to emerge.
 
Divine Mother, bless us all, we humbly prayer.
So Mote It Be.

Spirit and Character

Spirit and Character

Author:   Rhys Chisnall 

There is a growing belief in modern paganism in literal spirits. A casual look through of Pagan magazines such as Pagan Dawn or looking at pagan websites such as that of the Association of Polytheistic Traditions reveals that more and more pagans believe that spirits are literal entities in their own right. However to someone blessed with a modern mind and an admittedly incomplete understanding of the universe as revealed through evidence and scientific method it is impossible to believe in invisible entities (with agency) made of a different kind of stuff floating around us or existing on some other kind of literal plane of existence. Surely such a thing would then be a fact, an objective thing that would be subject to evidence and proof empirical rather than a matter of interpretation. If there were such a thing as literal spirits then it would be possible to prove their existence through evidence.

I hope to show that even though I believe there is no such thing as literal spirit (or spirits) it is still possible to relate to and have a relationship with it (or them) and that such a relationship is a natural outcome of having the kind of minds we have evolved with. This essay also argues that if we don’t take the existence of such beings literally, then what we mean by spirits is the same thing as characters. However of course, as always, it is up to the individual reader to make up their own minds on the literal existence of spirits but this essay serves to provide us non believers with a use for the concept of spirit, which is inferred rather than stated.

To avoid equivocation by spirit I mean the idea of an immaterial entity with agency that are seen as once being human such as the ancestors of traditional people or ghost, or those things thought never to have been human such as God, Gods, angels and demons. I am also using the term to describe the subjective experience of a particular place or time, such as the spirit of Christmas of the spirit of a place. I am also extending the term spirit to describe the animistic experience of spirits as the characters of tree and plants. People often describe their experiences of spirituality in the relationship that they have with such spiritual beings. For example they may talk about their relationship with God, their ancestors or the spirit of the land around them. It is what these people are having these spiritual relationships with which interests us.

There is no doubt that people have genuine experiences of spirits and it seems to me a little bit intellectually dishonest to dismiss them as just delusion or wishful thinking. I have spoken to people at pagan conventions who have the genuine belief that they have a personal relationship with some god or other that they often see as powerful spirit. Like George W Bush being told by the Christian God to invade Iraq, they too feel they get messages from their gods. While it should be noted that they never seem to get useful strategic information like this week’s lottery numbers or where the nearest Anglo Saxon treasure hoard is buried, they do claim to get instruction on behaviour and action. They feel that they are in a genuine two-way relationship with the deity. Therefore there need to be adequate explanations for these genuine experiences.

Anthropologists and cognitive and evolutionary psychologists suggest that the explanation has to do with our evolutionary heritage and the way our cognitive systems work. The French psychologist and anthropologist, Pascal Boyer, agrees that for many people the existence of spirits is a non controversial and unquestioned part of everyday life just as the existence of cars, plates and spoon are for us. He argues that this is due to complex reasons associated with the marvellous way that the human mind processes strategic social information, none of which is a clincher in itself but they all add up to create the kind of mind that forms relationships with what people perceive as spirits. Like most cognitive systems in the mind this occurs below the level of conscious awareness. We are unaware of the doings of most of the machinery of our minds.

Boyer argues that people have an overdeveloped sense of agency inference. By this I mean that we sometimes see or infer purpose in things where there is none. Think about it like this; imagine that you are in the forests of Africa deep in Paleolithic times. You are busy gathering your fruits when out of the corner of your eye you notice a branch move in the trees above. Evolution has programmed us in such a way that we are likely to infer the presence of some predator, a leopard perhaps, and infer that its purpose is to eat us for its supper. This is because those individuals who did infer a predator took evasive action and went on to survive and have more children who also had these predator inference capabilities thus avoiding getting eaten themselves.

In evolutionary terms, the cost of running away when we infer a predator where there is none is much lower than not inferring and not running away where there was one ready to pounce. In other words it is better to run from nine tigers that are not there, than not run from one tiger that is. The upshot of this is that evolution has given us an overdeveloped tendency to infer agency, a purpose, even when there is none. Perhaps this accounts for some of the people who claim to be psychics claiming they can sense a presence in dark spooky places.

We have evolved as a social species. Our individual survival depends on representing the minds of other people in our own minds; what the anthropologist and philosopher Dan Sperber calls meta-representation. As with theory of mind we are able to have some idea of what is going on in other people’s minds and infer from it their beliefs, emotions, intentions and motivations. If you think about it, theory of mind is a huge advantage, if we never had it, as the evolutionary psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen suggests, we would not be able to lie or cheat, or detect liars and cheaters, we would not be able to co-operate or predict other people’s actions, nor empathise, nor teach people as we would have no idea of what they already knew. In other words, we can hold an idea of another person’s mind, beliefs, emotions etc. within our own mind and from this we make inferences about them. Though I should add that this does not mean that the representation we have of another person’s mind need be correct.

We are even able to do this with the mind of people who are not really there, like distant cousins, dead ancestors or spirits, and infer what we think they are likely to believe, remember, perceive, communicate or approve of. We reason that despite being invisible spirits can act, think and believe as humans do, with purposes, interests and specialist knowledge. We hold a representation of the mind of the spirit within our own minds and from this, we infer the entities motivations, intentions, personality, behaviours, etc. From these inferences people can form relationships with them despite them not being real. It is even possible to have relationship with spirits without believing that they literally exist, which explains some of the experiences of modern mystics.

My argument is based on the idea that spirit is the same thing as character. For example Boyer suggests that we don’t need to be to be told much about a spirit’s character before we can infer things about it. If we are told simply that dearly departed Aunt Agatha was a miserable old battle-axe, we can imply all sorts of things about her character. We would be able to infer that she is bad tempered, that she has a dogmatic puritanical view of morality, that she would be a busy body, somewhat scary, liked writing letters of complaint etc., etc. It would not be hard to infer what her opinions and beliefs are. From this scant information we would be able to infer what dear Aunt Agatha would think of our actions and opinions and I dare say that she would not approve.

This would be reinforced further if you actually knew her, bringing memory of her character into the equation making inferences more accurate to how she was perceived. Just because she is dead it does not mean that her character is not represented in your mind and it can still influence your actions. For example, you may be about to head off to the pub for a quick pint, but then remember that dear Aunt Agatha disapproves of all alcohol with the exception of large sherry at Christmas. You may think again about that pint or you may go anyway to spite the old dragon. We represent her as still having a character.

This is reflected in societies that practise ancestor worship. Boyer again claims when a person dies their opinions and character are only remembered and acted upon while that person remains within the living memory of the survivors. After the last survivors who remembered them have passed into ancestor-hood themselves, that original person becomes part of the generic dead; they become one of the faceless ancestors and believed to act in a general ‘ancestorish’ way. It can be the same for Gods; we can take what the American philosopher Daniel Dennett calls an intentional stance about them. If you are told that Odin is the king of the Gods it is easy to make inferences about his character and what he approves and disapproves of and the cultural forces in which the god is situated in turn influence these.

For example knowing the Odin came from a Nordic Viking society means that we can imply all sorts of things about his character. We may see him as a warrior ready to fight, as a wise but not always trustworthy king, a political and somewhat Machiavellian intriguer. The Vikings themselves would have made inferences about him based on their cultural schemas and the experiences of their own lives. Living in harsh environments where death and hardship are common tends to produce harsh and pragmatic gods. This is perhaps why Californian New Age spirituality and myth has little to say about the ‘inevitabilities’ of life

There is a two way process between these personal experiences of spirits and the mythology that informs their characters. Mythologies are archetypal stories whose function according to the mythologist Joseph Campbell is to inspire a sense of the wonder at the mystical, to explain the shape of the universe, justify social systems and teach people about life. Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, authors of several popular books on science, have suggested that Human beings are the story telling ape, a view shared by social-constructionists and discursive psychologists. We tend to see the world in terms of stories and we make up stories all the time about the world, other people and ourselves.

If you are talking about your boss you will tell it as a story, when you think about your last holiday, any event that occurred will be seen in the context of the story of you holiday. When we think about the origins of the universe we communicate this in the story of the big bang, when children tell their parents what they did at school, this will be told as a story. Stories are fundamental to how we see the world and mythology are in essence stories. They are stories about the way the world is and explanations for natural events, they support the status quo of society and they teach us how to live a fulfilling human life and how to face up to adversity.

Like all good stories, myths require characters and these are often in the form of gods and spirits. They fulfill archetypal roles within the narrative. Archetypes are originating patterns found according to the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung within the collective unconscious. This is the unconscious part of every person that contains universal themes common to us all. For example we all have the experience of mother and father, although how we view these concepts will be different to us all. It is these archetypes that underpin the characters within stories, including mythology. You can go anywhere in the world, to the remotest un-contacted tribe in the Amazon basin and they will still have the concept of mother and father, wise man, hero etc.

The movie producer Chris Vogler in his book, The Writers journey: Mythic Structures for Writers suggest that archetypal characters perform certain narrative functions within myths and stories. For example stories and myths contain heroes, villains, tricksters, henchman, allies, mentors, love interests (what Jung would call the anima/animus- the contra sexual archetype) etc. These functions are performed in the sacred stories of mythology by god, spirits, monsters and heroes and while their characters inform these stories their characters are also informed by the stories and the roles they play; a two way process.

This interplay between personal experience (through inference) and myth builds up the representation of the god or spirit in the mind. We can form a relationship with an entity that does not literally exist; it is metaphorical yet we can represent its character. Within especially religious or spiritual people this can be enhanced through altered states of consciousness. In such cases internal speech, which is generated in Brocca’s and Wernicke’s area within the brain, can be mistaken for the voice of the Gods while within deep prayer, meditation or the speaking of speaking in tongues. Something similar occurs when people are under the possession of Loa’s in Voodoo.

Therefore despite there being no literal spirits or gods inferences made about them are perfectly natural functions of the type of mind that we have. This also implies as we have seen that they can have a definite influence on our behaviour. As such it makes them a social force to be reckoned with.

So when we are talking about spirit we are talking about the same thing as character. In a sense Odin is a character, the various Loas of Voodoo are characters, Satan is a character as is Jesus and good old dearly departed Aunt Agatha. All of these through Sperber’s meta-representation can be represented in our minds and we can make inferences about them.

Therefore it seems to me that spirits are the same things as character, when we talk of spirits we are talking about characters and these can be represented in the human mind. From a personal perspective it is difficult for me based on the evidence of modern science and philosophy to accept the literal existence of spirits. However, science and philosophy do offer explanations into why people do believe in and experience spirits.

This article has shown that spirits are inferred characters with whom people enter into relationships. In other words when we talk of spirits we mean the same thing as character. These relationships have profound influences on people’s lives as people infer how to behave from what they believe are the wishes of the spirits (behave against or in accordance with) based on the cognitive processes of how their minds work. The relationships can be deepened and made even more real by the belief structures of people, their mythologies and their schemas that they use to interpret the experiences in their lives as the results of the activities of spirits. This in turn makes spirits a force to be reckoned with.

We have the kind of mind that believes in spirits and makes spirits a fundamental part of many people’s lives, but when looking at the evidence it is up to you decide whether they have literal reality or not. For those who have had experience of spirits, it is not about dismissing those genuine and precious experiences; rather it is about offering an alternative explanation.

Informal Training

Informal Training

Author:   Mama Fortuna 

If I were planning on performing brain surgery, I would probably want to attend medical school first.

Lucky for me – and for anyone undergoing brain surgery – I’m not planning on doing any such thing. I’m merely planning on altering reality, which does not, in fact, require a medical degree in the slightest.

In fact… does it require any degree at all?

For some people, there’s something comforting about knowing that the person leading your religious ritual has some sort of credentials. Someone, somewhere, has deemed that That Guy up there invoking the gods is strong enough, responsible enough, and knowledgeable enough to handle the spiritual needs of a large body of people. Likewise, if there’s magic to be done, then That Guy can handle it because he’s passed some sort of test.  He knows what he’s doing.  Pressure’s off.

For other people, the idea of letting somebody else direct their rituals or spells makes them awfully uncomfortable. “Just who ARE these people who decided That Guy should be in charge? Why can’t I do it myself?”

And let’s face it – some people just do not play well with others.

I am such a person.

I’m skeptical by nature.  If someone tells me that they have the Secrets of the Universe™, my first instinct is not to say “Wow!” and throw piles of money at them, but rather to cackle maniacally and say, “Yeah, and I’m the Queen of Atlantis.” While this doesn’t exactly make me popular at parties, it does keep me from placing my trust in people who don’t deserve it. If somebody wants to teach me something, they had better expect me to interrogate them. Frequently.

I believe very strongly in personal responsibility.  I feel that every person on the planet is ultimately responsible for his or her own destiny. Therefore, even if you’re engaged in formal traditional training, it is your duty not to follow along blindly. Question everything. You’re dealing with concepts like your soul, here. If you were buying a new car, you’d ask plenty of questions.  Shouldn’t your spiritual path be afforded more thought than that?

A true teacher won’t mind if you ask questions. A really good teacher will expect you to, and a fantastic one will kick your ass if you don’t.

Looking back, I can safely say that the best teachers I’ve ever had – mundane or otherwise – were the ones who recognized the importance of personal experience. I learned the most from teachers who pointed the way and then stood back, letting me make my own discoveries and yes, my own mistakes. This method might be more frustrating, but I also find it infinitely more rewarding because everything you learn is taken to heart. There’s also a much greater sense of accomplishment to be had – you really earn your insights, rather than just having information handed to you.

And let’s face it — sometimes you won’t truly learn a lesson unless you learn it the hard way. No matter how many times you might have heard that summoning Pazuzu in your living room is a Bad Idea, you might not ever really believe it until you try. (Note: the author has nothing against Pazuzu personally, but feels he serves as an excellent example due to his lousy PR.)

If you have the drive and the ability to think critically, then a flesh-and-blood teacher isn’t exactly necessary. Your desire to improve yourself spiritually and magically will force you to try, try, and try again. In many ways, not having someone there to lay out the basics for you will make you work even harder, as you’ll imagine you need to keep up with some imaginary class of initiates. You’ll learn what works and what doesn’t, if only through trial-and-error.

Traditional ritual is not useless, mind you– there’s something to be said for tried and true methods. They can certainly be time-savers, to be sure, as you eliminate a lot of that previously mentioned trial-and-error. But we no longer live in small rural communities where 90% of people are illiterate; we live in the information age, where supposed ‘secret’ teachings are available for $24.99 on Amazon.com.  If you really have your heart set on learning how to perform the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, you can do a Google search and presto! Knowledge at your fingertips. (Like magic, I’m tempted to say.)

This knowledge is pretty useless without practice, of course. The motivated practitioner realizes this and will take the time and effort required to master the techniques he/she learns. And all that practice translates into more personal experience. The learning never stops.

One of the downsides of sticking to a strict formal training regime is that some people fall into the trap of “this is the way it is done, and this is the ONLY way.” Gosh, sounds awfully dogmatic when you put it like that, doesn’t it? For many people, one of the allures of Paganism is the lack of rules etched on stone tablets and the encouragement of creative thought. While some people are content to do things the way they were taught and only the way they were taught, others find such an attitude stifling.

Ritual and magic are, I think, meant to push a person’s limits. You learn more about yourself – and indeed the world around you – when you force yourself to explore boundaries. It’s awfully hard to do that, however, if you don’t try and think critically and creatively about what you already know. How can you grow if you’re not willing to challenge yourself?

“Nothing is true, everything is permitted,” cry the Chaos Magicians. I think that all Pagans could benefit from meditating on what they mean by that. (Whether or not you wind up agreeing with it is totally irrelevant.)

The emphasis on personal interaction with deity in religious matters is another thing that is so attractive about Pagan paths, and to claim that one has to go through a series of qualifying events in order to truly be able to experience the Divine would seem to run completely counter to that idea. Is it truly necessary to complete some sort of theological course before a deity deigns to speak to you? I don’t think so, and if the stories of fellow Pagans are to be believed, the gods don’t think so either.

That’s another thing – if people are truly interacting with gods, wouldn’t that alone be sufficient to act as a learning aid? In my experience, if the desire to learn is present, the gods tend to be more than willing to teach. And I personally place a lot more importance on what my gods have to say rather than what any High Priest or Priestess does.

Formal training certainly has its place in Paganism, but it should not be viewed as the only method for judging how serious a person is about their faith, or as a measuring stick for magical adeptness. If a person does not hold a third-level degree in the Fantastic Coven of Our Lady of the Moonbeams, but they have been practicing and pushing their own magical limits for fifteen years, does that automatically mean they are not as skilled as some Pagan ‘elite clergy’?

If it does, then I think the Pagan community needs to re-examine its values.

A Shaman Perspective

A Shaman Perspective

Author:   Crick   

Have you ever found yourself walking on a single thread across the abyss of your mind?

And then falling off into the depths of your spirit?

This is a common event for a shaman.

For the most part, those who hear the calling of the wounded healer will have experienced a near-death experience at some point in their lives. I personally believe that such an experience ignites a deep insatiable curiosity to seek out answers not readily available within the mundane world.

As a student of shamanism, a journey that began in 1999, I also believe that many of the Great Mysteries of life reside within the depths of our being. It is this belief that lends itself to seeking out the answers to such mysteries through deep and personal introspection.

In essence, a shaman is a spiritual healer. But before one can begin to heal others, you must first attempt to heal yourself. And since such a healing is never a complete success, the term ‘wounded healer’ comes into play.

During this healing process of the individual spirit, one must be prepared to undergo a complete change in personality. Ones emotional and mental outlook will be altered for life. During this journey inward you will be expected to embrace your Shadow Self.

Carl Jung, a noted psychologist once said, “That when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and are torn into opposing halves.”

So it is with those who follow the path of the shaman. The shadow self is a collection of feelings, thoughts and experiences that are dark and negative and are stored deep within the psyche.

To become a spiritual healer, one must be willing to take a perilous journey inwards. And once there, to have the courage to face the shadow self and to come to understand and to embrace it. This lends itself to a balance within the soul.

When we try to balance the scales too far one way or the other then physical, emotional and mental illness are the result. A shaman learns to harness the dark energy projected by the shadow self and to balance it with the light energy that is projected by the ego or conscious state.

In order to do a healing, a shaman will follow a single thread of energy back into the abyss to see what is at the other end. Once there they can see what caused the problem to begin with and begin the healing process.

I would like to point out that one of the side effects of traveling the path of the Shaman is that it tends to make one extremely honest with oneself and those around them. Some folks may think that this is a very positive result. However it is not always so. We live in a society where subterfuge and dishonesty are the norm.

For instance how many of you have grown up with the adage “if you can’t say something nice to someone, then don’t say nothing at all”? This may seem like good advice but in all honesty (grin) it takes away from the polarity of life. Life is not all sugar and cream and to better appreciate life and indeed to grow spiritually we must be aware of this fact.

This brings us back to the lessons of how to balance the Shadow self.

There are many tools available to one who follows the path of the shaman. One of these is called a Soul Retrieval. This is where it is believed that due to a traumatic experience of either a physical and/or emotional event, which a part of the soul has broken away and is floating around either in this realm or perhaps in an alternate realm. The departure of this piece of the soul can once again lead to physical, emotional and/or mental deficiencies.

And so either the Shaman or in some cases the patient, seeks out and attempts to encourage the missing piece to return. I say, “encourage” because we cannot force the missing piece to return. The events that caused this event to occur must be addressed as part of the over all treatment.

An example may be that one was sexually abused as a child and a piece of the soul broke away. The trauma associated with the abuse must be addressed as part of the Soul Retrieval or the missing piece may refuse to return to its original place within the soul.

An alternative to this practice is called energy extraction. Sometimes a profound experience will leave a residue of energy within our soul that is not in tune with the rest of our spirit. A shaman performing an extraction will connect with their spirit guides or their animal totems and isolate and then remove the opposing energy. This operation allows for ones spiritual balance to return and thus lends to a healthier life both physically and spiritually.

Another tool or experience used by the Shaman is the Vision quest. This is a very personal experience where one seeks out a vision that is specific to the individual. This seeking is done through a variety of methods such as fasting, ingestion of certain herbs, physical deprivation, mental/emotional preparation and so forth.

During my first Vision quest, the spirit of my second son who had passed at birth appeared in a very vivid way. But he appeared as the age he would have been had he still been living within this realm. I won’t go into details of course, but the experience had a profound effect on my thoughts and emotions. I have never had such a lucid connection as I did during that quest. My personal understanding of what we know as life and death was expanded beyond my wildest dreams. As already mentioned, a Vision quest is a very unique and personal experience and will be so for each individual who undergoes such a trial.

Of course the path of the Shaman is not for everyone, even less so then the path of Witchcraft being open to all who seek it. But for those few who are able to withstand and indeed embrace the rigors of such a life, well, there is little that I can say, for you already aware of the spiritual rewards that await you within the abyss.

Amongst these gifts is the ability to connect with the spirits of plants and animals. Such ability is invaluable to one who seeks to become a spiritual healer. For many lessons are learned through such connections. A belief in animism is a basic tenet of shamanism.
There is also the ability to travel the threads of life to alternate realms. Within these realms one encounters wise teachers who are willing to impart their wisdom to such a seeker as a shaman.

There is much, much more to walking the path of the wounded healer, but I hope that this brief look into such an exciting path may inspire someone to seek what may be the path for him or herself.

Blessings

Crick

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Remembering and Reconnecting

Remembering and Reconnecting

Author:   RuneWolf   

I do consider my religion – Wicca – and my particular practice of it, to be Earth-based. Such a statement might seem absurdly obvious on the surface, but it is, I think, important to state it in this fashion. Wicca has within it elements of Ceremonial Magic, and it has been my personal experience that it is quite possible to become obsessed with and lost in the liturgical and ritual forms, to the extent that what one ends up practicing has, in fact, more in common with CM than with Wicca.

Now, don’t misunderstand me: We need ritualists and liturgists who can preserve the outer forms of our religion, and re-invent them as time goes by, so that we neither lose our traditional roots nor become mired in them. The creation, preservation and cultivation of ritual and liturgy are important, but I’m not talking about that here. I am talking about an unhealthy balance where an individual or group over-focuses on those outer forms, often to the detriment of the inner energies. So it is important, I think, that we remind ourselves, individually and collectively, that our religion IS Earth-based, and that, in my personal tradition at least, re-connecting with the Earth and Her cycles is one of the central concepts and objectives.

But then, what is this whole “re-connect with the Earth” thing, anyway? Sounds like a bunch of neo-Hippie, tree-hugging, New Age bushwa, doesn’t it?

Oh, contraire…

Western thought seems to enjoy lampooning and belittling whatever it doesn’t like or cannot understand, as if by satirizing something, it is made harmless and non-threatening. (This, oddly enough, is a very Celtic concept. Bards of Old Eire were feared for their power to debilitate a powerful leader by the use of satire.) Culturally, we will even go so far as to transform an inherently neutral or positive label – New Age, for instance – into a synonym for something wacky and outlandish. So those outsiders – or insiders, for that matter – who roll their eyes when they say or hear “re-connect with the Earth” obviously haven’t bothered to fully consider what that means.

We aren’t talking about sticking our feet into the ground and putting out roots. What we are talking about is simply becoming fully aware of – and experiencing as fully as possible – our relationship to the biosphere. For the most part, citizens of modern technological nations have fallen out of that awareness and experience. Some would argue that, without this awareness and experience, we as a species are doomed, because nothing short of these will prevent us from terminally fouling our nest. In more immediate and individual terms, however, I believe that a fuller awareness and experience of our relationship to the biosphere and, by extension, the Universe itself, is mandatory for true physical, mental and spiritual health. This is, as I understand it, the primary thrust of Taoist philosophy and religion, and is certainly a primary objective in my practice of Wicca.

Wicca, as I have said, is my religion. My spirituality, however, is Witchcraft. Some would not agree with this dichotomization, but then, as mother used to say, that’s why they make vanilla and chocolate. I make the distinction because I define those terms differently. Wicca is my religion – it is something I joined, a community that has a unique identity, and to be part of that community I am obliged, to a greater or lesser degree, to conform to the community template. I, personally, believe that there are certain things that I must agree to, that I must practice, that I must believe and that I must espouse, in order to be Wiccan. While there is certainly a great deal of individual latitude, I nonetheless believe that were I to deviate too far from the “community template” of Wicca, I would no longer be practicing Wicca. In the practice of certain martial arts, students are given a great deal of latitude to improvise and personalize the art. However, at a certain point, if that improvisation and personalization goes too far, that individual is no longer practicing that particular art, but something unique unto themselves that they have created there from. This is not a judgment on the art itself nor on what the individual has created from it; it is simply a statement of fact.

So it is, I believe, with the practice of Wicca, or any religion, for that matter. (But then, these are only my beliefs, and have no power beyond the tip of my nose.)

Witchcraft, on the other hand, I define as that body of techniques that enables the practitioner (Witch) to live in harmony with the rhythms of Life. “Life” here may be seen as synonymous with All That Is: an individual’s life-path, the greater community of Humankind, the biosphere and the Universe – in short, Everything. And those rhythms include the “bad” as well as the “good.” By this definition, Wicca is just another “technique” in my practice of Witchcraft, something which helps me to attune to the rhythms of Life. And this is, for me, as it should be: religion should always be the servant of spirituality. When that formula is inverted, we are left with dictatorial religious institutions.

When one truly seeks a deeper, fuller understanding of our connection to and place in the Universe, one cannot help but develop, I believe, a concern for the welfare of the “natural” world, i.e. the biosphere. Even if one were a staunch “scientific Pagan,” I don’t believe one could overlook the necessity of preserving an uncontaminated environment in order to ensure the survival of Humankind. And if one looks beyond mere survival, then we must recognize the necessity of preserving the beauty of unsullied nature as an adjunct to the mental, emotional and spiritual health of humanity.

Those of us who believe this face grave obstacles today. We are now ruled by an administration that is obviously bent on furthering the cause of “Big Business” – which has always been the destructive exploitation of the Earth for profit – at the expense of the environment. More and more, corporations are freed of the restrictions imposed on them by former, relatively saner, regimes. More and more, they are free to “rape and pillage” as they see fit, regardless of the destruction they cause. Nor can we simply blame “Western thought” for these travesties, as the policies of China in modern Tibet relieve the West of sole responsibility in the rape of the planet and the destruction of her children.

At times, it seems overwhelming, and it may well be an effort doomed to failure, although such failure will certainly doom humanity to eventual extinction. But we must try, each in her or his own way. I myself am not much of a “joiner,” and taking care of what little land is “mine” takes up most of my time. So you won’t see me at many demonstrations or protests. But what I lack in “discretionary time” I make up for in “disposable income,” and I can and do support the environmental cause with my monetary contributions. In the end, only money can defeat Big Money, so I don’t feel that this is merely a token gesture to assuage my conscience. And I do take an active, if geographically limited, part: there is a nature trail in the community near my home, which I avail myself of at every opportunity. As one might imagine, this trail is subject to all kinds of littering, not only from walkers but from nearby homeowners. When I walk, I always carry a trash bag, and I clean up what I can. When someone creates a mess too big for me, I make sure the community association knows about it, as there are strict rules regarding such abuse. I don’t know that my actions have ever led to the censure or fining of a guilty homeowner, but it hasn’t been for lack of trying.

Tattle tale? Snitch? Ratfink? You’re damn right.

And then there are the “little” things that all of us can do: proper soil management on our property; avoiding fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides; using “low impact” products; driving fuel-efficient autos; using mass transit when possible; recycling. It is gratifying to see that, in our neighborhood at least, we have a very high percentage of participation in the recycling effort. But then, these things should be “no brainers” for everyone, Pagan or not, in my opinion.

Perhaps the biggest difference between me and my neighbors is that, when I recycle or pick up litter, I see it as a sacrament, an acknowledgment that I AM RESPONSIBLE; not for the whole shebang, but for what I, as an individual, can do. I’ve always subscribed to the belief that “a little bit of something is better than a whole lot of nothing.” On any given day, I can’t solve all of the world’s environmental problems. But I can do something, even if it’s only picking up one piece of litter. No action occurs in a vacuum; every action has consequences, and resonates along the Web of Wyrd.

Despite the odds, none of us are totally powerless; we can always do something. And sometimes, in the wee dark hours of the morning, that’s all we have to hold onto.

The Samhain Experience

The Samhain Experience

Author:   Crick   

My family roots begin in Ireland and were later relocated to Tennessee and amongst the Ozark mountains of Missouri. My personal experience with Traditional witchcraft began in 1960. As such I was raised to honor the four main sabbats, though we did observe the solstices and the equinoxes as minor events if you will.

To our family, Samhain (Oiche Shamhna) is the most important Sabbat of the year. Pronounced as “Sow-in by the Irish, as SAV-en by the Scottish and as SOW-een by the Welsh. It is exactly opposite Beltain on the Wheel of the year. It is reckoned when the sun has reached 15 degrees Scorpio. Thus, Samhain lies exactly between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice. And as such, it is known as a Cross Quarter day.

Samhain is also known as “Samhraidhreadh” which means “summers end”. This indicates that Samhain is the start of the Celtic “New Year”. The Celts were known to have divided the year into two seasons, consisting of summer and winter. The belief is that summer is governed by the Big Sun (the sun) and the winter is governed by what is known as the Little Sun (the moon) .

Samhain is one of the four Fire Festivals and is also known as “Trinoux Samonia.” Originally this Sabbat was celebrated for three days, the day before, the day of and the day after.

In modern times Samhain has become basically a one-day celebration. Neo Pagans tend to lose sight of the historical and spiritual significance of such an important day by combining their Christian beliefs with their newfound pagan beliefs and thus they often intermingle Halloween with Samhain. This corruption is explained away by parroting “it’s for the children”, though this special day is hardly one for children. I do not understand how Neo pagans can claim to understand the significance and energy of such a special time and yet allow their children to make a parody of such a spiritual experience, but then it is what it is.

Traditionally, Samhain is the day when the God symbolically dies and the Goddess is in mourning, though she knows that He will be reborn at Yule.

It is also the Third and Final Harvest, and as such, it is a time for preparing for the coming year. It is also known as the day of the Feast of the Roman Goddess “Pamona”.

Another interesting note is that Samhain is the day that the Tuatha De Danann realized their permanent victory over the Fomorians.

Since this is the time that the veil between Annwn (the Underworld) and our realm of existence, is at its thinnest, it is a time to honor and connect with our ancestors. To some Wiccan beliefs, this means direct descendants who have passed over. To those of us in the Celtic/Faery tradition, this would be the ancestral spirits and deity that resides within the earth.

One way to honor this day is “Fleadh nan Mairbh” (Feast of the Dead) . To do so, set an extra plate or two at the dinner table for visiting spirits. Another way is “Bannock Samhain” which entails setting out cakes and milk outside the door as an offering for passing spirits. This is also the time for the “Dumb Supper”, a meal served in silence in honor of those who have passed to the Summerland’s.

Remember, this is not a time of mourning, but rather of rejoicing and connecting with those that have gone before us. We do not conjure up these visitors in the manner that a medium would do. But rather we invite them to share the day/night with us.

This is also an excellent time for divination. Roasting nuts in the fire and bobbing for apples are a couple of examples of divination from olden times. Another traditional way is to set a shirt on a thorn bush near a stream and see what spirit comes along to fit it on. At which time you would make enquiries. This form of divination is called the shaking bush. As a spirit fills the shirt, it causes the bush to shake.

Some of the Celtic Deity that you may appeal to for assistance during divination are; Ogma, Rosmerta, Baile, Beli, Coventina, Badh, and Gwyn Ap Nuad, just to name a few.

The concept of the carved pumpkin came about from the belief that carving a scary face on the pumpkin and using it as a lantern as one walked at night would scare away evil spirits. Originally they were carved out of turnips.

There is an Irish legend about an Irish lad named Jack. He tricked the devil into climbing a tree and then quickly carved a cross into the tree so that the devil could not get down. He then made a deal with the devil so that he would not go to hell upon passing. But when Jack did pass, not only was he barred from hell, but also he was barred from heaven as well because of the doings of his life on earth. Hence he was doomed to walk the earth carrying a lantern to light his way. Thus the Jack-O-Lantern was created.

A custom related to Samhain is to light a hearth fire on this day and to keep it lit until the first day of spring as a way of honoring one’s spiritual ancestors and deity. Originally, all hearth fires were extinguished on this day and then relit from the Druidic fire, which was lit at “Tlachhtga”. This particular fire represented the center of Ireland.

Another custom is to leave a candle in the window as a beacon for spirits to find their way home.

Samhain is a time for reflecting on the year just past and preparing for the coming year. One way to do this is to write the weaknesses and negative actions of the past year down on a piece of parchment. After a period of reflection/meditation, burn the parchment in the cauldron or hearth fire. In this way you are starting out fresh for the upcoming New Year.

– Some of the foods associated with Samhain are pork, corn, apples, pomegranates, pumpkin pie, and cider.
– The colors associated with this day are; red, orange, yellow, brown and black.
– For incense, you can try basil, lilac, clove, yarrow or frankincense.
– Some plants or herbs are apple trees, sage, mugwort (divination) , and gourds.
– Some crystals are onyx, carnelian, and obsidian.

It is my personal hope that Neo pagans will once again enjoy this unique time as it was meant to be celebrated and revered. There is much experience and an ethereal energy connected with Samhain if only one allows him/herself to open up to such a special experience. Halloween (All Saints day) is but a corruption of what used to be. Samhain is a revered occasion and time to connect with those who have gone before us. And with those others who walk a distinctly separate plane from this realm. May you have the inner strength and un-fettered desire to experience this event as it was meant to be…

The Witches' Spell for Oct. 2nd – Excellent Spell To Stop Pain

Pain Spell

         To lessen or be rid of pain.

Items Needed:

Black Candle

This is a very short spell/prayer that can be used at any time, with or without the candle. I will tell you from personal experience, asking the Goddess to help with the pain. DOES WORK!

God and Goddess

Hear my plea

Take this pain away from me

Leave me feeling good instead

Strong of body, clear of head

So Mote It Be