Overcoming Spiritual Programming: The Journey From Fear To Freedom

Overcoming Spiritual Programming: The Journey From Fear To Freedom November 21, 2019

We’ve been told what to think and how to be for too long. These are the days of reclaiming our power through spiritual freedom. To everyone who is deprogramming by finding truth in candles, crystals and decks of cards, I raise my broom to you. These are all steps on the road to spiritual freedom. Every time we choose to do what feels true instead of what we are told is correct, we move further from the fear that binds.

Recovering from spiritual programming includes embracing what is true to us, while resisting the attempts at control. It can be overwhelming at times. We want to get it right, and there’s no shortage of self-appointed experts out there ready to tell us what to do. There’s a lot of shade thrown at those new to spiritual seeking from the gatekeepers. This can be so off-putting to someone who is just starting to take those small steps on the road of discovering who they are. We’re often dealing with deprogramming from the religion we were raised in, and then these self-appointed gatekeepers are all too ready to tell us we’re wrong, again.

Those gatekeepers would have us believe that the practices and things that speak truth to us are wrong. They try to tell us that there is one right way to practice witchcraft. They are spiritual programmers, and they are no different than the dogmatic religions that we’re escaping from.

If you find spiritual meaning in creating an altar full of your favorite stuffed animals, that’s perfectly fine. Perhaps makeup speaks of the deeper world for you. Maybe your understanding of the sacred is different than what is written about. This is all perfectly legitimate. When we’re just starting out on our path, we can be recovering from religions that sought to keep us under control out of fear of our own power, and who wielded their power by making us afraid. We don’t need more of that nonsense. However, recovering from this fear, and moving to our own spiritual freedom is a journey that many even within the witch world attempt to block.

Believing that there is one right way to practice witchcraft is a symptom of spiritual programming, which is indoctrinating individuals until they believe that their own experiences and knowledge are unimportant or wrong. Spiritual programming is based on fear: those who instill it fear us and seek to control us through their methods, while we, out of fear, fall into their traps. Spiritual freedom occurs when we realize that we have a choice in what we believe and practice.

The Stickiness Of Spiritual Programming

One of my earliest memories is sitting in a church pew on a Sunday morning. The wood beneath me stuck to my bare legs in my short summer dress. As a child, I couldn’t articulate how that painful feeling of stickiness permeated my soul in that Pentecostal church, but I knew that my discomfort was about far more than my sore legs. It was the complete lack of freedom, coupled with the omnipresent fear that doing the wrong thing would end in a one-way ticket straight to hell. That’s enough to make anyone stick to their seat, but I yearned for the freedom I knew existed.

Flash forward to when I’m involved with a tradition that, although beautiful in many ways, felt like just another uncomfortable church pew. The very opposite of freedom.

For me, the deities and spirits I resonate with aren’t manipulative programmers who render me stuck in my seat. My goddess isn’t a dictatorial helicopter mother who micromanages my daily life. She offers her keys that I am free to claim. The choice is always up to me. Even in terms of my mission in this life; it’s my decision to accept it and how to go about it.

Gatekeepers Are Spiritual Programmers

Gatekeepers are trying to keep us stuck to our spiritual seats. What these gatekeepers are doing is trying to program us into believing them, to literally keep us in the place they need us to be. They try to insert doubt and other forms of fear into our minds. This contaminates us spiritually so that we get confused about what intuitively feels right to us.

From telling us that our understanding of  the deeper world is wrong, to insinuating that we are incapable of determining what practices are best for us, they program us in ways that can be very subtle but are still very sticky. Their aim is to render us as frozen in fear as they are. Make no mistake; anyone claiming to have the one version of the truth is engaging in spiritual programming. Their goal is to deny you of your own free will and stick you to your seat out of fear.

There’s no point in trying to change the gatekeepers’ minds, but there is great value in discussing how spiritual programming influences even the most independently minded witch. The gatekeepers are bullies determined to bind us to them through the power of fear. Send them the love they lack and follow your own truth.

When Programming Becomes Abuse

Spiritual abuse is the extreme end of programming. It involves manipulating our emotions and thoughts to the point that we no longer believe what feels intuitively true to us. Toxic witches in all their many forms are spiritual programmers, from the gaslighters to those who take up all the air in the room. It’s very different from having an opinion that is contrary to another’s, yet still valuing them as a fellow practitioner.

Claiming that we shouldn’t do deep inner work on our own borders on spiritual abuse because it attempts to infantilize practitioners to the place where they have no ability to make their own decisions. We are not small children who want to eat an entire box of cookies. As adults, we make our own decisions and accept responsibility for our actions. That is, unless we are so spiritually programmed that we blindly follow whatever the gatekeepers tell us.

Spiritual Programming Invalidates

Spiritual programming shows up as discrediting our individual experience, so much so that what we know to be true ends up needing some sort of external validation. The expression “unverified personal gnosis” has always rankled me. It’s as though what I know to be true isn’t, unless some expert agrees. That’s contrary to the very nature of spiritual witchcraft.

The Accumulation Of Spiritual Programming

Even though I’ve always been an independent thinker, I was still accumulating spiritual programming from these paths. In particular, the idea that my inability to deeply connect with any one tradition was a failure on my part. I had a fear of commitment or I lacked discipline. All these hurtful terms used to describe anyone who resists blind adherence to a tradition. We’re taught to conform out of fear: if we don’t, we’ll be punished, by losing our community or going straight to hell.

The Implicit Promise Of Spiritual Programming

Spiritual programming promises us that by staying stuck in the seat of accepting that one system holds all the answers we will have a “heavenly” life. It denies that the individual is the expert on their own journey, and that spiritual growth is very messy. When we get stuck in spiritual programming, we start believing that forces outside of us are responsible for both our well-being and our misery.

Believing That External Forces Control Us Is Spiritual Programming

Spiritual programming is evidenced in blindly believing that any force outside of us controls our fate. The planets do influence life on earth with their movements, but ultimately we control how much so. In other words, if you are blaming Mercury retrograde for messing up your life, that’s spiritual programming. If the Full Moon is in Scorpio, we might just be a tiny bit moody, but we can take steps to correct the influence. Spiritual programming says that we’re helpless to overcome these things. Spiritual freedom is practiced when we figure out how to overcome such forces and, ultimately, use them for our benefit.

Access To Information Can Increase Risk Of Spiritual Programming

The major shift in how witchcraft is practiced today, in comparison with the wise women of the past, is that we have access to so much information. Our ancestors learned what they could and then improvised the rest. Instinct, intuition and a bit of mysticism drove their practices, not what a website said to do.

Spiritual Programming Has No Place In Witchcraft

Spiritual programming doesn’t belong in witchcraft because it steals the very heart of it: the power of the practitioner to be the expert on their own journey. I’ve said it many times: the only rule that matters in witchcraft is to know yourself.

Sometimes, we gain insight into who we are by comparing ourselves to others. My early misfit days in the church became clear as I observed how others in the church acted. I wasn’t like them. There’s no need to be critical of those who require the comfort of dogma. Being responsible for your own life is frightening to many. For them, the easy road is to just go with the flow. They’ll never even become aware of their herd mentality.

Spiritual Programming In Witchcraft Means That We Stay Stuck

Seems weird to say that herd mentality is encroaching on witchcraft, but it really appears that way. We have all these rules, from which directions of the compass go with each element, to fixed ideas about what constitutes a ritual. If the Christians were to be successful in wiping out real witchcraft, it seems to me that convincing us there were specific rules that must be followed is an excellent approach.

Unsticking: Being Confronted With Our Programming

When we being to overcome spiritual programming, it’s incredibly uncomfortable. Just like when we lift our legs off that pew. We’ll heal from the stickiness as we move from fear to freedom.

Tips For Overcoming Spiritual Programming

  1. Do an inventory of your spiritual practices. Which ones feel true to you? Do you do some just because someone said to? Which ones do you do based on fear? What ones bring you freedom?
  2. Unplug from the spiritual matrix. Maybe for a day, or perhaps for a year. As long as you are digesting other practitioners’ opinions, you’ll have a hard time connecting to what you already know to be true.
  3. Create space for the new in your life. Give up something that you don’t like but stick with because you don’t want to be lonely. You’ll never make new friends until you release the ones you’ve outgrown.
  4. Collect objects that speak truth to you, whether it’s a beautiful crystal or some pebbles found on the shore. There are no right or wrong ways to create altars, so arrange these objects into your own personal expression of spirituality.
  5. Detach from spiritual consumerism. I wrote earlier that Christianity seems to have won the war on witchcraft by making it a religion, but they’re also winning by convincing us that we need to spend loads of money on fancy trinkets. Adopt a buy-nothing policy for your next ritual, or, better yet, do one with absolutely no external objects. You are the only required ingredient in magick.
  6. Read different perspectives than your own. Also applies to podcasts and videos. Try out new ideas like outfits; if it doesn’t fit take it back.
  7. Express your spirituality through creativity, whether its baking a cake or painting your toenails. Do what feels spiritual to you. Creativity and programming cannot co-exist.
  8. Take a small bite of bravery. Speak up on a minor issue that you see differently than the popular opinion in a respectful way. Dissenters change the world one tiny act at a time.
  9. Don’t worry about getting it perfect. Follow what feels right to you. Always remember you are the expert on your journey.

 

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Keeping Her Keys: An Introduction to Hekate’s Modern Witchcraft offers 13 lessons in sovereign witchcraft designed to help you find your spiritual freedom.
The Keeping Her Keys Mystery School teaches The Sacred Seven Laws of Witchcraft and Modern Hekatean Witchcraft. Learn more at keepingherkeys.com. Spiritual deprogramming included.
About Cyndi Brannen
Cyndi Brannen, PhD, is a healer, teacher and author focusing on personal development, spirituality and true magic. Founder of the Keeping Her Keys Mystery School, she teaches and writes about the true magic of healing and personal power. You can read more about the author here.

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  • Luna Esque

    This was my life as a young witch. So glad I broke away from Evangelical christianity and Wicca. Those Wiccans didn’t even know who Lugh was, a powerful Sun King of the Tuatha de Danaan. I’ve been talking ti him since I was 21. Thank you for this ex cellist article.

  • MrFribbles

    This is a very good article. It says a lot of encouraging things; things that folks like me, who are fresh out of Evangelicalism, need to be reminded of.

    I’m curious about your take on UPG. To me, and I am still very new on this journey, it seems like a weapon AGAINST programming. It allows us to say, “What I experienced is real. It shapes my journey. And, I recognize that it does not define your journey.” It also lets us react to those who try and put us into their boxes by saying, “No. That is real for you, but that is not part of my journey.”
    But, as I said, I’m very new, and there could be a side to this I haven’t considered yet. I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on the matter.

  • My early experiences with UPG were quite negative, so I will admit that my lens on this term is quite tainted. When I would dare to speak up about my understanding of witchcraft and Hekate within my local group, eyebrows were raised and generally I was told that I was wrong because I lack “proof.” Thus, for me, UPG is about the requirement that our personal experience must be validated by external sources in order to be legitimate. I love that you don’t have this association with the term.

  • MrFribbles

    Oh wow, that’s awful. That negative lens is entirely justified.

  • Amy Meert

    Cyndi, I’ve recently been reading your book, Keeping Her Keys, and since I’ve started reading it, I’m suddenly getting the Hierophant in a lot of my tarot readings. It’s a card I very rarely got before and I’m wondering if I’m getting it now because of the keys on the card. It’s the only card with keys in the Rider-Waite deck, so if Someone is trying to show me keys as a sign, it makes sense that Hierophant might come up. I don’t always stick to the traditional or main meaning for a card, I go with what I feel, and I feel the keys are the important thing I’m being shown. Does anyone else have Hierophant come up more often when they’re starting to look for keys?

    But after reading your post today, I wonder if the Hierophant is also a warning to not get too caught up in trying to make sure I’m doing everything the “right way.” Or even trying to find the “right way.” I’m rather new and have been reading so many books and blogs lately, and becoming overwhelmed and also a bit disenchanted by all the competing dogmas and practices and the arguments that sometimes start in the comments on other articles about who is doing it right and who is doing it wrong, and why someone else’s beliefs are silly or fake.

    With Hierophant in the Hopes and Fears place, I guess it could be either interpretation, or both.

  • I would say it’s both. The keys are about your personal journey, my book (and all my work) is there to support you, not dictate what must be done. Hail to the wise hierophant.

  • Amy Meert

    Just want to make sure that you know I wasn’t including your book in my “do it the right way” rant. One of the things I like so much about your work is that everything is prefaced with “if you feel called to do this differently, then do so,” or “you can just use this as a template and do what works for you.” I appreciate that.