Helena asked whether I “saw it as a sign?” I assume she refers to my diagnosis of cancer. Yes, I certainly did, a sign that the Gods are looking out for me because They have something for me to do still. The fact is that in the US around 88% of those diagnosed with esophageal cancer will die within the first year. And of those who don’t, many won’t see much of the second year. I am fortunate that the same will not be true for me. A confluence of circumstances resulted in such an early detection of the cancerous growth that it has been dealt with quite effectively with only a simple procedure. Surely someone was looking out for me and not for the first time.
At morning prayers on the day of my first procedure I consulted the sortes virgiliane as it is my habit to do. This is done by randomly using the right hand to open a book of the works of Virgil and then, using the left hand, to “feel” or intuit where one finger is drawn to fall onto the page. This is done four times to attain a reading. That morning I called upon Ceres and the reply was this:
“Briefly to Her the Lord of high Olympus spoke: ‘If but from present death you ask, and reprieve for the warrior, ere he fall, and You perceive I rule it so, bear hence away, pluck him up from his impending fate; such is within my power to grant. But if there lurks beneath your prayer some greater desire, as deeming that the whole course of the contest might shift and change in your favor, then You feed an empty hope.’ ”
The cancer is a result of an incident that occurred while I was in the Army, which is what I took the mention of the “warrior” to indicate. Jupiter was telling Ceres that my life shall be spared for now, but in the end we shall all die. As Marcus Aurelius meditated once, “Even if you were destined to live three thousand years, or ten times as long, nevertheless . . . the longest and shortest lives are brought to the same state (1.14.1).” I am no stranger to death and I have no fear of death. I have personal experiences that convince me that we are not merely our physical body, and that there is something that continues to live on after the death of the body. My experiences with death also informs my conception of the greater Universe, the Sympathetic Universe, that explains how seemingly insignificant events can be taken as signs.
The Gods and ourselves, and all other things, too, to one degree or another share in the divine. The divine flows throughout the Sympathetic Universe in a diastolic/systolic movement, with currents and eddies, accumulating in some places and sparsely settling in others, yet still uniting all things together in the greater Universe. An action by the simplest of things can set off a chain reaction of events that ripples on the world around. In fact, at any given moment there can be an infinite number of actions taking place, from within individual atoms to interacting galaxy clusters. All of these countless actions, seemingly unrelated to one another, might be expected to produce chaos. But they do not. Instead their collective impact produces the flow of events that forms our universe, defines certain principles, and governs by certain laws of Nature. One such principle is that Nature shall always seek balance. Whenever a change occurs in Nature, it produces reactions, which produce more reactions in turn, as Nature continually readjusts herself. It is not a Universe designed as though it were some intricate clock, but rather it has a more organic form like a vast ocean.
The flow of the divine has many implications. Now, it may seem to be a very small change when one offers up a prayer, but since a prayer may be sent into the flow of the divine it can reverberate throughout the Universe. Thus prayers can be answered as they pass back to you, and we know that the power of prayer can have dramatic effects in our lives. In response to our prayer for signs we often get signs. That is what is done when we take the auspices or use something like the sortes virgiliane. We use prayer in ritual to place ourselves in harmony with the flow of the divine. From there we issue our words and thoughts and actions into the flow of the divine, affecting it, changing it, until our prayer is carried to a Goddess who responds. Of course it can come the other way, too. The Gods may send us signs, if we are open to Them, forewarning us of danger or announcing some event, and calling upon us to respond. Some of the Gods, lesser gods, semidivi, as well as ourselves, are produced from the natural development of the Universe and live within the Universe among us. Still higher Gods and Goddesses, the Involuti, are beyond our comprehension and need not be considered here. But the Gods who are within the Universe interact with the Universe, and if we mutually allow, then the Gods may also interact with us. Synchronicity is a result of such interaction with the Gods and it is by synchronicity that signs are revealed to us.
Another implication of this ability to affect the Universe around us through our actions is that we are all responsible for the Universe with which we are presented. That can mean that if someone is cruel to an animal and you do nothing about it, that you, the abusive person, and the animal who reacts to his mistreatment have all determined not only the course of events that shall continue in the physical universe, but also impact on the divine and how it shall react as it continues to flow through the greater Universe. The same is true of all actions, positive or negative, as they impact upon the earth, the air, the oceans, our society, or in our immediate neighborhood, we all share responsibility in whatever happens in the universe around us. There is definitely a moral dimension to the Sympathetic Universe.
Then we can also touch upon the Sympathetic Universe in relation to life and death. I think it may have been Plutarch who said that all myths were about the journey of the soul. On a certain level I suppose that is true, but that journey does not encompass one lifetime alone. Just as the physical body dissolves into its component atoms and particles, carried on the currents of cosmic energies, the soul carries the divine spirit within us into the systolic/diastolic flow of the divine as it passes throughout the greater Universe. In a sense, after death of the body we are carried upward in the systolic flow back into the godhead, returning with our spiritual experiences to those from whence we come. And we may be carried back down again in the diastolic movement to be incarnated once more. This might happen several times, and in the process of gaining spiritual experience on our journey, we may evolve spiritually, or perhaps devolve, which determines where in the flow of the divine we might be at any time. We are all capable of evolving our Authentic Being into a higher spiritual form, to become Lares ourselves, or semidivi, semidivae, or even gods in our own right. While apotheosis is held out to the few who have gained gnosis and who practice the virtues, I think it is the destiny of all of us eventually, with everyone and everything drawn back into its Origin before expanding outward once again in the cycle to construct the greater Universe anew. In fact, I think our real purpose in life is to live, under good or bad situations, as each life has its own trials and lessons, so that we may return with our experiences to help make a better Universe. Death of the body is only natural and of no real concern in the greater scheme of things. The spiritual life of our Authentic Being, its education and refinement, is far more involved in the Universe, and has far more influence on what drives the Universe, than shall the scatter of our component salts and minerals upon death.
So, yes, Helena, I took a series of happenstance and good fortune which led to the early detection of my cancer as a sign that the divine still flows throughout the Universe, that the Gods still walk among us, that all the prayers offered by cultores Deorum on my behalf to the Gods were answered, even that some of the Gods and Goddesses also spoke on my behalf, since the Gods I serve have more for me to do in this lifetime for now, while I may reasonably hope for more adventures to come.
Di Deaeque omnes mihi tibi bene ament.