Opening the Mystery

We are not all the same. Nor should we be. The more people who come to us, seeking the mystery, the more we will have to say, "this is how I can help you, and then you may wish to train with someone who understands your particular skills better than I do. And then you need to learn to listen to your own soul, your own heart, your own hands. What is the mystery that arises from your relationship to the earth, the sky, the Gods, the tides? Find that. Find your work. Find your place."

More and more I am thinking that, while there might be early initiations that are stepping-stones on the way, the deeper initiations are those of finding what our own holy path may be. A third, or fifth, or ninth degree should tell me that you have achieved Mastery of your own craft. And more than that, I should be able to sense it in you regardless of any badge of office.

In my own work, I have begun to find that I can pass on certain tools, theories, and practices to help a person find his or her work. They plumb their own depths, and my work feels like it has taken root, not when they are initiated into a particular tradition, but when they are firmly walking their own path and passing on their own sacred calling. They are flourishing. The mystery can only be revealed in time. It can only be revealed through practice, prayer, and encounters with the numinous. The mystery can never be transmitted through human agency. All we can do is point the way.

Initiation as it stands still has a place, but it is not for everyone. This is not a conversation about the emergence of "clergy" and "laity" so to speak. Rather, I hope we can expand our idea of "clergy" and what it means to be holy people and to serve the Gods and the True Will of our own souls. Some of us will become ordained ministers, priests and priestesses who give spiritual counsel as our main work. Others of us will plumb the mystery of raising strong, intuitive children. Others of us will pass on the psychic arts in all their variety. Others of us will bring about a renewal in urban gardening by taking leadership in our communities. Others of us will worship by defending ancient forests and endangered animal species. Others will map the cosmos or trace the paths of genes or atoms.

We do not have to do it all. There will be some overlapping, of course. We can have our specialty and other skills, talents, or interests. But this current sense that we all have to have one type of initiation cannot hold. The sheer numbers of people seeking out magic and Paganism make that impossible. But so too, does the variety of our souls make this impossible. Why should one type of initiation fit all? And who says that initiations from human agency are always best? Our small, clannish communities may have to open up. That frightens many of us deeply. We think some things will be lost.

Perhaps they will. Or perhaps they will be maintained and passed on by a few, just as they were by the ancients. But I believe something else will also happen:

Should we risk opening the gates of mystery, we stand to gain a fuller society of magic workers, each apprenticed to a different craft, a different way of walking with the holy. And over time, we will once again have sacred beekeepers, sacred potters, sacred physicians, sacred storytellers, sacred seers, sacred engineers and mathematicians, sacred gardeners, sacred schoolteachers, sacred firefighters, and sacred athletes. And our relationships with our Gods will change as we grow from apprentice, to journeyer, to master. There is no stopping Divine work here on earth. We are limited only by the scope of our vision.

What do you see?

This article was first published in Thorn Magazine and is reprinted with permission.

8/23/2010 4:00:00 AM
  • Future of Paganism
  • Community
  • Initiation
  • Leadership
  • Paganism
  • T. Thorn Coyle
    About T. Thorn Coyle
    T. Thorn Coyle is an internationally respected visionary and teacher of the magical and esoteric arts. The author of Make Magic of Your Life, Kissing the Limitless, and Evolutionary Witchcraft, she hosts the Elemental Castings podcast series, writes the blog Know Thyself, and has produced several CDs of sacred music. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook!
    Close Ad