When I first became Pagan, when I tried for the first time using a polytheist perspective in thinking about the divine, I asked myself What are the Gods? And what do they want of us? I imagine a thundercloud, and lightning striking the ground. The clouds are undifferentiated and cover the entire sky (God is one, infinite and unknowable) but lightning bolts touch the Earth in specific places (The Gods are individual; they are drawn to us and touch our lives).
Cat’s Spiritual Journey (12 parts)
Part 1: Getting (and Losing) that Old-time Religion Here’s what I remember of the odd and curving path that led to where I stand today.
Part 1: Peter in Kenya: Culture Shock. An hour later, when my tenth-grade bio students came in, they were literally jumping up and down saying, “Mr. Bishop! Mr. Bishop! Is it true?!? Are we going to Kenya?!?”
They probably should never let Pagans own Bibles, much less read them. (Too late now.) Job is probably the central book of the Bible for Pagans, whether we’ve read it or not. However monotheists might come to terms with it, Job cannot satisfy the polytheistic Pagan mind.
Kirk and Black Lake and I decided to build that stone circle one summer about twenty years ago, now. Sitting in worship today, I remembered the feel of the rough stones, and how dry and bruised and roughened my hands became. And at rise of meeting, when we shook one another’s hands, I could feel in the texture of skin against skin the vivid sense memory of those rocks I lifted, so many years ago.
How can the world be good, and have such suffering within it? How can we believe in the presence of anything compassionate, loving, or engaged with us humans in the slightest, given the hard realities of hunger, disease, old age, and death? How can it possibly be that “love [is] Creation’s final law” when so much of the world is such a mess?
Do we care more about our rituals than we do about our gods?
I was always a “rational use of force” gal. But that way of seeing reality changed for me, in the time between one footfall and the next, on a sunny fall morning: September 11, 2001.
In any meaningful work in the world, the second-by-second willingness to attend to prosaic details probably matters as much or more than any grand sense of leading, or of purpose. Yeah, we need those, too, and we need to listen for them when they come. But then comes the carrying it out. In actions that are small, patient, and often tiring. Focusing on the small is also part of the job; it doesn’t mean we’re doing it wrong.
Part 1: A Freaky Little Book As a writer, my prejudice is: Let the writers say what they meant to say. Agree with it or disagree, but don’t try to warp it or twist it or rewrite it to your own liking, because that, let me tell you, is the most violent, the most discouraging thing you can do to a writer. And I’ve got to say, reading Genesis on its own terms, it’s a freaky little book.
Herne, the god of “act, and accept the consequences,” is forever interwoven with that moment, for me: the moment I stroked a lion’s jaw. I was pondering the question, what can I say of Herne? when I woke up, palms still tingling with the remembered wounds. Holey hands. Holy hands. Holes that the Light shone through.
I am syncretistic, not because I’m picking and choosing from the smorgasboard of spirituality, but because I’m _not_. So maybe I will change my religion tomorrow, or the next day, or maybe I never will. But it won’t be a rational, thought-out decision. At least, I think it won’t be–not if I’m doing it right.
“Talking to the wrong Jesus.” Here I am, a non-Christian, sometimes feeling like a poor, orphaned relative among the Christians of the world, apologizing, explaining, translating… And there’s Alan, one of the most sincere and serious Christians I know, equally dismissed, equally marginalized. For talking to the “wrong Jesus.”
Part 1 of 2: What is required is is to stay low to the Truth, not to hide it or apologize for it. Here’s what I would ask: Do not share one syllable more of your Scriptures than the “Spirit that gave them forth” is speaking in you–but equally, do not share one syllable less.
When speaking from Spirit, use whatever language That Spirit lends you–and if that involves quoting from the Bible, speaking of your experiences of Christ, or sharing any other words that may be uncomfortable, for me or for you, do it! Do not be “nice” to anyone: be bold! But do not speak beyond what is given you to say: be low. Only be faithful in your speaking.