Spirituality Is a Two-Way Street: (or Suck it up, Buttercup, Part II)

We're learning too, but we're not there yet. Maybe in our lifetimes we will be even if just a little more. The Holy Powers love us tremendously. For the modern mind, influenced as it has been by the New Age movement and by an often-misunderstood Christianity* the idea that the Gods could not only ask but outright demand something of us is very disturbing. This is perhaps the biggest hurdle we modern folks have with learning to develop an engaged spirituality and really reclaiming our ancestral traditions. Eventually something might be asked of us that isn't convenient and isn't comfortable. Spiritual integrity lies in what we choose to do when that point comes. That's where our commitment will be tested. That's where the Gods will truly see of what mettle we are made, and that is where we will earn our shame or honor.

Our Pagan and Heathen ancestors would have been horrified, I think, at the idea that the Gods owe us anything. Certainly They love us and are willing to interact with us, but it is a relationship and there is some reciprocity involved; sometimes there is duty (which can be from past lives, can be inherited from ancestors, can be a matter of our own accrued spiritual debt, can be a matter of our own skills and gifts being particularly useful, or a thousand other reasons including the blessing of divine Mystery) and obligation. The Gods know so much more than we do. Why should They accede in Their greater wisdom and judgment to what we want, or what is comfortable in the short term? Spiritually engaged life is hard. No one would choose it if they knew how hard it was, but everyone wants the rewards, the blessings, the graces that come from commitment and slogging through.

Ultimately, we have our portion to shoulder. Star Foster said it best, in a response to my original July 2 article "Spirituality without some form of sacrifice is vanity." We need to make the sacrifice of our vanity. Commitment and responsibility are good things but we live in a culture that has pathologized discipline and demeaned hierarchy. The fact, however, exists that discipline is a fundamental grace and hierarchy is a very natural state of being and the Gods are above us. They have every right to demand that we shoulder the portion that is our grace to carry. That we so often balk and run and flee is a statement about how out of balance and corrupt our cultures and societies are. It's not just for or about us. It's about service, in which we also benefit through stepping up and owning our portion. We make spirituality focused on us, our process, needs, and desperation. Gods are almost secondary. We threat them as if they're, to paraphrase Dan Savage, our emotional tampons whose only purpose is to make us feel supported. In truth, there is no true spirituality where it's only ever convenient.

We're engaged in a war, make no mistake. It is not a war with guns and bombs and armaments. There are no armies massed against borders, or diplomatic envoys battling with heads of state. Yet we are in a war nonetheless, a war of reclaiming, restoring, restructuring traditions once violently sundered. We are in a war of ideas and attitudes, a war in which we ourselves are the worst of all enemies. Here's hoping we triumph.

*Misunderstood in that there is so often the unconscious belief that God is endlessly warm and fuzzy, that nothing is ever demanded against one's will. In reality, I think to truly follow Christ must be incredibly difficult, because so much really is demanded; many of the saints that are now revered experienced certain aspects of non-consensuality until they accepted that which was their portion to shoulder and their duty in which to engage.

1/5/2011 5:00:00 AM
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  • Galina Krasskova
    About Galina Krasskova
    The author of several books on the Northern Tradition, Galina Krasskova is a Heathen priest, shaman, and devotee of Odin. She blogs at Gangleri's Grove.