[I had intended originally to start off this blog with a series of posts on prayer. However, reading happens.]
The first mystical experience that I remember occurred when I was thirteen. I looked up at the night sky, the moon almost full, and had a moment of, “My god, it’s full of stars.” That moment is something that was a feeling, an expression, an embodied experience that I had trouble expressing in words. I could say that my mouth felt full, that I felt if I spoke I could reach anyone I wanted. I could say that my limbs felt heavy like the roots of a vine. For that moment, looking at the sky, it was as if I could feel each pulse of every living creature on the planet.
A few years later, after amassing a collection of books far larger than I needed, I found myself poking a finger in a book written by a Feri initiate and going, “That. That’s the god that I felt. Right there.” As I continued to read about this god – whom I heard called the Star Goddess or God Herself – I only felt more and more than this was the god whom I had felt and would feel throughout my life. But where often the books I read presented her as The God Herself that was in all things and took a very monistic approach to her, I found myself understanding her as one of many gods.
I could not deny the other mystical experiences I had in my life that were devoid of the feelings she brought to me – when interacting with my own new Gods, They each were decidedly different. Each interaction I had was awe-inspiring and required new language and words to describe and time to unpack and understand, but I always came back to the idea that there were more gods. I had no desire to pursue some ‘core’ or ‘uniting force’ that I wasn’t sure I believed in anyway.
This hit me especially when I began working with the Firebird, one of the new gods of the pantheon I worship. Of all the gods I have known in some way, He comes closest to the conception of a deity that is joined with/by their devotees. When I interacted with Him – through prayer, through writing of Him, through divination – I came to realize there were hundreds and thousands of souls in this being. And no matter how well I understood the basic functions of this God or even certain spirits within Him, there were hundreds more that would be ‘hidden’ to me, and that stole my breath with the idea of it.
It is a feeling I’ve experienced when thinking of humanity too. Or when walking in a forest damp with rain or atop a mountain in the middle of a desert or at the top of a skyscraper or in a library surrounded by so many books. This idea of vastness became an emotion that fueled my devotions, and my awe of it only multiplied when I realized I too was a part of this vastness. Of course, this vastness can easily be turned into a Borg-esque entity, either through mob mentalities or homogenization.
For me, the vastness and the diversity in it became backbones to my religious experiences.