Brilliant article on devotion and discernment

There is an absolutely brilliant post by Dver over at Forest Door. I wish I could sit every polytheist and pagan down and force them to read it. I’ve seen way too much shit masquerading as “devotion” over just the past week and the very cogent common sense that this article espouses is a much needed preventative and curative. Here’s an excerpt from Dver’s piece:

“I think we’re also losing track of the point of mysticism, within polytheism. It used to be understood that one of the primary goals of bhakti-type devotion is to know one’s god as deeply as possible. If you encountered, for instance, a character in a story that reminded you of the god, it would provoke you to meditate on why that god could be seen in that mask, what that mask revealed about the god, and ultimately, a desire to get to know all the masks, or even what is behind the masks. But now I see people stopping at the most superficial point. They take some perceived similarity between their god and, say, a television character, and fetishize it to the point where they only see the actor’s face when they think of the god… and eventually, they appear to only be interacting with the idea of a person – not even the idea of a god, and certainly not a Holy Power itself.

And so then you get people questioning the ability of anyone (priest, oracle, etc.) to be able to guide you in your relationship with the god, because of course, they don’t know YOUR god, and YOUR god is so different and idiosyncratic and might only share a name with the god everyone else is worshipping. See now, that used to be a sign I would tell people to watch for, that they might be veering too far – past UPG, into just “making it up” territory (or at the very least, mistaking another deity or spirit for the god in question). Because while you might certainly develop little symbols and cues that are unique to your personal relationship with a deity, once They stop resembling the historical deity known by others in any significant way, it’s much more likely that you are in error than that everyone else through all time has been.”

I could not agree more. Read (please) the entire article here

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Posted on May 4, 2016, in devotional work, Heathenry, hellenic things, Polytheism, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Shit. The. Fucking. Bed.

    Kylo Ren? wow, I have just had my eyes opened to just how…fringe…some people get.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ganglerisgrove

      right? one wonders if these people are actively working to discredit all Bhakti style devotional practices with their bullshit.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It seems to be a topic on a lot of peoples’ minds lately, for obvious reasons. There’s also a terrific article on the same topic over at Patheos from the other day: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/throughthegrapevine/2016/05/exploring-pagan-discernment/?ref_widget=gr_trending&ref_blog=grails&ref_post=pagan

    Liked by 1 person

    • ganglerisgrove

      pretty good piece. I think this is also where our ancestors could one up us. They had the sense, if they couldn’t discern these things for themselves, to seek out diviners and oracles and spiritual professionals and unlike one of the shitty articles i linked to above, with a competent diviner there is actually specificity because you know, we’re dealing with GODS not the sock puppets in our own god damned heads.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Yeah, that is what people with mental illnesses and brain injuries are told to do for everyday experiences. With my tbi, I write everything down and get another person to go over it. So expanding it into religious experiences has been good advice. Thanks for posting the link.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ganglerisgrove

        I was told very early on to keep a journal and write things down and it was and is an extremely helpful practice.

        Like

  3. I did read both postings, and do have say this about the Kylo Ren one. I have had similar experiences with popular culture characters, where I was overcome by them (sort to speak). I ended up developing protocols to deal with it.

    First, examine the character. Who wrote them, why, and author intent. Also, does the character have any religious type qualities such as a triple being. If so, examine that closely. Also the character’s history of stories and writing.

    Two, follow the thread that the character leads you to. If it is a circular one, then the character is simply as Galina puts it “a sock puppet in our own god damned heads.” If the character leads you into other areas of faith, then follow it. I ended up with The Green Hornet (pulp character) leading me to the Wiccan Green Man to the prehistoric Goddess of Beginnings. If you end up in a dead end, then back to Galina’s definition of sock puppet.

    Three, ground yourself in your religion – i.e. Gods first. Examine any beliefs you have that may be self or human-centric. Behind some (note *some*) characters, there is a God communicating something. Not all, but some. Discernment is needed.

    Four, if you are seriously overcome by said character, consult an impartial diviner, more if needed. They may be able to suss out what is occurring. It is always good to consult a diviner when you are emotionally wrapped up in a character, God, or outcome. You have to find out if it is Galina’s idea of a sock puppet or the real thing. You can’t do it by yourself. You need an outsider.

    Anyway, that’s my contribution to the topic of devotion and discernment. I do find the Kylo Ren posting a bit unsettling since I have had similar experiences. Which is why we need to tread carefully into these things. Dver’s posting was excellent in that respect.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I think a dialogue about Pop Culture as its own realm of spirits that we’re interacting with needs to happen. Because if you believe in Spirits, if you believe this stuff is real, and I do, then maybe we need to be more proactive about who we’re picking and choosing to interact with, and engage in some hospitality. – From the Kylo Ren poster.

    My take away is that yes, a discussion needs to be made. However, first what needs to be explored what is the foundation of belief before any fruitful discussion can be made. (Human centric or God centric) I believe in Spirits, and do feel that being proactive in *knowing* whom I am dealing with is paramount. Yes, hospitality is needed but also knowledge of what this pop culture spirit is as well, and the source of it.

    In other words, simply because people believe in Spirits, and people experience Dr. Who as a God, doesn’t mean that Dr. Who is a God. Dr. Who could be a plethera of things – and an investigation is needed before claiming Dr. Who is a God. I do not see that in any of the writings that I have read from Pop Culture folks. There is blanket acceptance of Dr. Who is a God, but no examination of what that means or entails. Also no examination of who Dr. Who actually is.

    As long as that is happening, there really can’t be a fruitful discussion between Pop Culture Pagans and Polytheists.

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    • ganglerisgrove

      “first what needs to be explored what is the foundation of belief before any fruitful discussion can be made.” THIS and this is precisely what is lacking in the pop culture pagan side in large part (not with everyone, but with the majority that I have encountered) and this is precisely why we haven’t been able to have those fruitful conversations.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. thetinfoilhatsociety

    Having what I would consider to be legitimate experiences with at least 2 Goddesses, I am glad you linked those two posts and wrote this article.

    In my case, both experiences were completely consistent with the lore regarding them, forced me to look deeply into their stories, and led me to a deeper relationship with my ancestors and the Gods. Neither has seen fit to really talk to me much since those first contacts, and that is perfectly OK. I am where I need to be, as I see it, and if they have a problem they will let me know.

    What it has done in the main, is convert me completely from an agnostic archetypal worshipping type neopagan into a true polytheist with piety, devotion, and (somewhat) disciplined spiritual practice.

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  6. One always, always has the right and obligation to question a spirits origins and motivations, especially if they are not Ancestral spirits(and even some of them get the side-eye depending on their character when the were alive). You always have the right to refuse to work with an entity until you are satisfied about its true nature. Anything can mask itself as a god, relative,pop culture hero to screw with you.

    Unwillingness to consult skilled mediums or spirit workers in the pagan community has left a lot of folks vulnerable to some dangerously unhealthy attitudes when it comes to spirits.

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  7. The article about doing readings for deity/spirit relationships really bugs me. I don’t buy the reasoning there- even given that our experiences with the Powers have a subjective component, I don’t think that gets in the way of the divination. Yes, the diviner’s experience of the Power may/quite likely is different than the querent’s, but the Power has the the ability to bridge that gap.

    “[W]hat you tend to get from most seidhr readings and god-channelings very rarely transcends the general.” Really? Not my experience.

    And doing a reading to get info about someone’s relationship with a Power is “an invasion of privacy”? It doesn’t have to be… how about *asking permission* by doing something devotional first- for the Power that the querent is asking about, or for the Power that’s your boss/patron/ally in divination? I mean, maybe *acknowledge that you’re dealing with real entities here*?

    I can agree that readings don’t replace the need for developing and deepening our own personal connections and devotional practice. But they can be a valuable resource and tool to do some reality checking on UPG.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Exactly. I think this is just some BS propagated by the whole emphasis on “consent culture”, that now even asking what a god wants is considered some kind of violation. As if the gods couldn’t just refuse to answer if They didn’t want to, which does happen. And you’re right, They have the power to bridge the gap in our understanding, and a competent diviner can indeed receive specific, individualized information. If what people are mostly getting from their “god-channelings” is overly general, that’s a problem with the channel, not the method.

      And none of this even acknowledges the simple fact that pretty much all ancient oracles dealt with questions of what the gods wanted from them, all the time. That was a really common theme at Delphi for instance. This is the danger of cutting yourself off from tradition and making your whole religion a “whatever I feel like” kind of thing, you lose all the accumulated wisdom of our polytheist ancestors and end up splashing around in the shallow end of the pool because you don’t even know there’s a deep end.

      Liked by 2 people

      • ganglerisgrove

        oh i think some of these people know there’s a deep end, are too self-absorbed, weak, or cowardly to go there, but want everyone to THINK they’re in the deep end so they can get their little pats on the head and be respected “spirit workers” and…so it goes.

        of course the problem with that is those of us who are swimming in the deep end will always be there to say ‘what the fuck do you think you’re doing?” and so ruin their illusion of competence.

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  8. Honestly, we have thousands of Gods we know we’re worshipped, why are we looking for new ones, when so many have been forgotten and even more whose names have been lost.

    I still stick to what I said on Wyrd Ways Radio so long ago on the May 29, 2013 show

    Archived here (the file is 2 radio programs, so start in around the hour markers for the Wyrd Ways Radio show): http://www.blogtalkradio.com/witchschool/2013/05/30/pagan-warrior-radio-wyrd-ways-livepagan-music-project

    Liked by 2 people

  9. That second link gave me a full body recoil.

    Liked by 1 person

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