Tom Ramcigam (magicmarmot) wrote,
Tom Ramcigam

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Spiritual awakening

Spirituality, religion, occult, etc.

I don't talk about spirituality much. I will get into the occasional discussion of atheism vs. agnosticism vs. faith, but it really holds interest for me in the intellectual sense, much like political discussions. It's interesting, but it's not a passion.

When I was in college and was going through the throes of a divorce, I got into a pretty heady study of comparative religions. College is a good place for intellectual theology because you have the time and the mindset to get into scholarly pursuits, as opposed to later in life when you tend to get into morning-coffee-newsfeed-blurb mode because your life gets full of other stuff.

What I found is that most of the major religions, while they did have spiritual components, were mainly practical rules of civilization designed to help keep the masses from devouring each other. Some worked better than others, but the codes of behavior were really products of their time, and don't necessarily stand well in this day and age.

Note here: I am not a believer in moral absolutes, nore much of a believer in absolutes of any kind. I am a believer in local vs. global philosophy: for instance, I will still use Newtonian Mechanics to solve mecanical problems because it is a good model on the local scale, where it falls apart badly when we start considering relativistic systems. Likewise, I believe that on a small scale, a communal-living system is excellent, but falls apart on a societal level.

I was raised as a Lutheran. I don't know that it was a huge part of my upbringing: my family wasn't particularly active in the church, but we were go-on-Sunday-and-Easter types. I did the sunday school thing, which was pretty much so immemorable as to be lost to the sands of time. My big experience with the church was one of hypocrisy and closed-mindedness, and a dont-ask-those-kind-of-questions mentality. Politics ruled, there was a coup... it pretty much sucked the life out of anything that I wanted to be associated with.

After a lot of consideration and investigation, I discovered tha the thing that I despised about religion wasn't the ideology, it was the people. Of course, one can pretty much bring that into play for any ideology, religious or otherwise.

What I really wanted/needed was something that was free of dogma that would help to answer the questions that I was having about how to lead my life. Not a religion per se, but something that would help guide me in a set of personal ethics without clinging to dogma. An anti-religion, or perhaps a meta-religion as it were.

Enter the Neopagans

I only briefly started investigating the Neopaganism movement when I was in college, as it wasn't a real religion, and the hippy-dippy new-agers that I knew were... well, let's just say that the term Fluffy Bunny was apt, as well as one specific instance of hallucinogen-fueld psychosis (not mine, thank you). And really, I was beginning to move on to other things of a more practical nature, like getting a job and moving into life.

I managed to get settled into a work-home routine with a steady live-in girlfriend and a fluffy kitty pet (now known as Stoopikitty), and eventually had time to consider bits and pieces of spiritual investigations here and there. I hit my 30's with a knowledge that I was "settling down", and it was about time I picked up the mantle. It was about this time that the X-files was beginning its heyday, and it sparked an old interest in the occult. I started reading a lot, and I eventually found Aleister Crowley.

Crowley gets a bad rap for a lot of stuff; many believe he was a Satanist (though a lot of this comes from confusing him with Anton LaVey), and he was not. He was however something of a nutjob, particularly later in life. He also had a wicked sense of humor.

The thing that cuts through to me is the core principles of Thelema. Within the structure of Thelema is the concept of the "divine will" or "master plan" or "True Will", depending on where you stand in the religious spectrum. The concept is meta: it exceeds any particular religious creed, and exists among them all as a common thread.

Consider that the primary stress of Thelema is striking a balance between individual liberty and the call of divinity within each person, it sounds an awful lot like reconciling the self or "finding ones center", both concepts that I understand, and I know a lot of others do, too. It's not a particularly religious concept, and it fits that "meta" tag.

Do what thou wilt

"Do what thou wilt" shall be the whole of the Law. This is the prime tenet of Thelema, but it is also often misunderstood (as in LaVey) as being "screw everyone else, do what you want to do". The deeper meaning is not to egomaniacally fulfil every desire, but to follow your true calling, that core bit of divinity that all of us contain, the spiritual destiny.

Compare this to the Wiccan rede: "An it harm none, do what thou wilt".

(Note: there are a lot of versions of this. Chaw not on my etherial nads, take the concept and run.)

The key difference here is that the Wiccan version is seen as being more feminine, with the primary focus being to do no harm, as opposed to Crowley's more masculine "just do it without worry of harm".

Crowley's belief was that each of us has a divine path, and that if you follow your path, you can not cause harm by definition. The more recent Wiccan recognizes the likelihood of human fault getting in the way, and urges restraint and caution when considering what the True Will entails, lest our very humanity fuck it up.

I love both. Not the nitty-gritty details about spellcasting or ritual: those are personal choices of foci. What I love are the concepts of the core self, the inner divinity, the growth of the person without the need for an external Big Red One to make the ultimate decisions for you. It grants personal responsibility a high place in the kingdom of humanity, puts integrity first, but allows for freedom.

The hard part is determining what that divine path is.

(I'm guessing that there will probably be more along these lines in the time to come. Feel free to join in if you like.)
Tags: religion, spirituality
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