Book of Blackbirds: Teachers

Book of Blackbirds: Teachers October 13, 2017

He who knows all the answers has not been asked all the questions.”

~ Confucius

I am a pagan and a faerie, though I don’t necessarily believe in literal gods of any sort outside my own psyche. I do believe we all individually possess a higher consciousness, which might be considered a higher power. I also believe in real Magic, and this belief comes not from superstition or wishful thinking but from lifelong personal experience. I think that requiring Atheo-Paganism to be accompanied by the categorical denial of anything that anyone might even remotely consider supernatural (whether it is or not) is a mistake. This to me smacks of the same narrowly focused exclusivism I found in the Christian church of my youth.

"The Shepherd's Dream" by John Henry Fuseli.  From WikiMedia.
“The Shepherd’s Dream” by John Henry Fuseli. From WikiMedia.

That is, you aren’t allowed to have your own beliefs, or even your own experiences, if they do not fall into line with the accepted dogma as expressed by the accepted vocabulary, period. Now I won’t deny my own experiences in order to fit in anywhere, though I will admit to having tried to do so in the past. I won’t even pretend any more that my interpretation of those experiences could be flawed or somehow mistaken to satisfy someone else’s inability to comprehend them, for doing so would be disingenuous. Our experiences, all of them, inform our life choices and help make us into who we are becoming, day by day.

I have had what would be termed psychic experiences since I was a child. I have dreamed of future events, I have had out-of-body experiences or OBE’s, I have while awake remembered things before they happened, and I have witnesses who can attest to at least some of these events. There have been times I have somehow been able to know things that were impossible for me to know, such as when I was visiting another country halfway around the world and dreamed in detail about my house burning, right down to the exact cause (faulty wiring at the junction box – in my dream I saw the flames come dancing down the wires and into my house).

I even dreamed the precise words that the insurance inventory person would say to me later while standing back in my destroyed kitchen when he handed me the exact item I saw him hand to me in my dream. At the time of my dream there was a +17 hour time zone difference between my house and where I was visiting, but accounting for this my dream occurred approximately one day before it happened. I remarked about it that morning to my friend at whose house I was staying, and so had a witness to this prescience when the dreadful news finally reached us the next day. As a side effect of these experiences I can no longer view time in the same way as most, but rather in a more holistic manner where concepts like cause and effect are merely two sides of the same whole coin.

For years growing up in a strict fundamentalist church environment I kept mostly silent about my psychic occurrences for fear of being labelled a witch (a moniker I now wear proudly), or worse. In short, I may now be a godless Taoist faerie pagan but would say to some strictly materialistic atheists I know that I can no longer be concerned about world views that will not allow themselves to be wrapped around those concepts I have described, even though I do understand the denial of them. To accept the existence of perceptions beyond the conventional senses challenges deeply held beliefs, but that is no more reason to dismiss them out of hand than it is to assume other, more nefarious explanations.

In younger days I often wrestled with the idea that perhaps I was demon possessed, fearing that what the particular church denomination I then belonged to had to say about such things was true and I was damned to eternal hellfire along with Satan and his Minions of Darkness for practicing these talents, though they were involuntary to me in any case. Thanks to my upbringing, as these unconventional abilities developed further and I considered their real world implications, this eventually began to frighten me quite profoundly. I worried that even if I weren’t somehow being controlled by demonic forces then at best I was just plain out and out bat$#!+ crazy. Either way, my prognosis seemed bleak.

"Demon Seated" by Mikhail Vrubel.  From WikiMedia.
“Demon Seated” by Mikhail Vrubel. From WikiMedia.

In a fit of anguish when I was in my late teens after one particularly disturbing excursion out beyond the hedge for which I had no conventional explanation, I reached out to a Christian psychologist whom I had sought out through a local church. I set up an appointment and tried to prepare how I was going to relate my fears and concerns in such a way as to not sound completely mad and so be institutionalized on the spot as a danger to myself and others. I got the man’s address and went to my appointment.

It was after dark when I arrived, and the office was situated in a side addition to an old Victorian style house in an older part of town. This occurred in Winter when the trees were bare, and a cold wind whistled through the naked limbs (creepy, right?) I almost turned away, but then gathered up my courage, pulled my coat collar up tight, and knocked on the outer door. I heard a weak voice asking me to come in.

When I walked into the smallish office there was a nice cheery fire going in the fireplace and it was quite warm inside. I met a frail looking older gentleman sitting in a rocking chair atop a well worn Persian rug on an otherwise bare wooden floor. A battered old desk and another mismatched chair rounded out the room’s meagre furnishings. The most striking part of the scene was the fact that this man was obviously completely blind, his bright open eyes nevertheless obscured by milky cataracts.

He sat with a Braille Bible opened in his lap, and invited me to sit down in the chair opposite him and tell him what was troubling me. I related my experiences to him, divulging to him my fears of demons and madness. It was like talking to a kindly grandfather figure and I began to open up more to him as I talked, though internally I was still sceptical of just how much help this old blind guy was actually going to be to my situation.

Rather than demanding that I immediately repent of my wickedness and denounce witchcraft in the name of Jesus however, his words surprised me by presenting a refreshingly alternative point of view. He explained that his Bible was full of such stories, and almost always these were good and used to the purpose of helping others. He suggested that rather than assuming my unconventional talents were demon-sourced or the result of a deranged mind, perhaps I should instead consider them as holy gifts.

"Braille" from Pixababy.  CC0 License.
“Braille” from Pixabay. CC0 License.

He then asked me if I had any desire to use my abilities to cause suffering or pain to others, and of course this was something I would never even remotely consider. After quoting from memory some relevant passages of scripture, the old man bowed his head and uttered a prayer to his God that I find peace in my heart and learn to not be fearful of my experiences but rather to cherish them as talents bestowed from on high. He asked for no money, but I thanked him and tipped him the little bit of cash I had brought with me and walked back out into the Winter night, now somehow less cold and frightening than it had been when I first arrived.

Although I have been pagan for many years since and don’t particularly care for what I perceive as the many evils historically perpetrated on humanity in the name of organized religion, neither will I limit the higher powers if you will to only working through specific, pagan-atheist, scientifically approved channels. We can learn as much from anywhere as long as our hearts are open to receive it, and to deny this fact is to miss out on so much more that this life has to offer us. Even if I don’t believe the gods are literally real there are those whom I admire and I study their stories, finding comfort and wisdom in their age-old tales. Gods it turns out, whether real or not, make excellent teachers.

So I know it is to my advantage to remember that teachers are everywhere, and to be mindful to recognize them when they appear. This elderly, blind Christian had given me a valuable lesson and ironically, a way of seeing psychic abilities in a different light. These abilities are not something to be fearful or ashamed of, but a true spiritual blessing. For this reason I will no longer deny my own heart in order to be liked or accepted into any group. If someone has a problem with this then it is their problem, not mine. I know what I have seen is real, maybe even more real than the mundane world within which so many seem to find such safe and plodding comfort, and these days I’m perfectly okay with that.

“Here is my secret. It is very simple. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

~ Antoine de Saint Exupery, The Little Prince

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