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Archive for March, 2007

Afetr a talk with my beautiful and sexy wife last night, I think the time has come for me to make some kind of decision. It doesn’t have to be a decision for life or anything, but right now I’m spinning my wheels intellectually/analytically and getting nowhere but more frustrated. Like I said earlier, I think I’m at the point where I’ve pretty much talked myself out of everything, but yet I still have a longing for something.

I don’t think I’m going to get anywhere else on my own, so I need to pick a path, at least to try it out and see if it works for me exerientially- or specifically if it can experientially fill the analytical holes that I have poked in pretty much everything.

I’m indecisive though, between two paths: Druidry and Christianity. I realize that there is some precedent for Christian Druidry, but I’m not sure that’s exactly what I’m looking for.

Anyway, I have concerns with both. Not the least of which is that with either one, I will get caught up in it and decide that it’s Right, but for the wrong reasons.

I have discussed my concerns with Christianity at length elsewhere, so I won’t do it again here. I should probably discuss my concerns with Druidry, but I don’t have time right now- I have to go to class. So, expect more later.

Alternately, I suppose, I could just continue down this path of meditation, appreciate it for what it is, and see where it takes me.

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The night before last when I had my “Great Plain” meditation, I also had an odd impression of sunlit carved standing stones on a green hill. More than once. It seemed more like the product of whimsical thought than anything else, but last night when meditating, I decided to investigate a little further.

The whole sequence was jumbles and discontinuous, so don’t get the wrong impression from the way I explain it.

After some centering exercises including “going to my room,” I was able to find myself among those stones, but no sooner did I get there than the sky grew dark, the trees withered, and the stones grew thinner, taller, and more frightening. There was also a crow, and the distinct presence of a dark figure behind one of the stones that I thought might be the God/god I had conversed with a few days ago. I wasn’t sure.

I was sure that this wasn’t what I was looking for, so I changed into a bird and flew- a strange feeling of detachment and flying as I focused inward, until I came upon the sunlit hill again. However, once again, the sky grew dark and everything turned gray. The crow was there again.

A third time I found myself in the form of a bird and flying- almost an ecstatic metitative state (though I think some of it was just the fact that my eyes were crossed, and that always makes you feel weird). Once again I came to the stones, and ocne again the sky was darkened, the stones changed, the raven/crow landed on them, and I had the impression of a dark figure.

For no real appreciable reason, I yelled out the name of Odin, not crying out to him to save me or anything, but more to request his presence. A large figure appeared, claiming to be Odin, looking like something out of a video game, ogre-sized with a horned helmet and a great beard. After a few minutes of conversation (I don’t really remember what we talked about), I decided that this was not in fact Odin or any other god, but the impression of the dark figure behind the stones was still there.

I spent the rest of the meditation in a focused state, rapid-firing questions about faith, religion, and reality at God or whatever, not visualizing anything and not getting any answers. The whole thing seemed strange and powerful, though, and I kind of had to decompress for awhile afterward.

When I did the Tarot layout the other day (with the Hanged Man as the end), the card that crossed me, i.e., my obstacles, was the death card. Of all its meanings, the ones I focused on were “end” and “corruption.” Funny that corruption has played a role in my meditative exercises- first with the face of God on the path, and now with the standing stones. Maybe I’m off the mark here. I don’t know.

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Last night, when meditating, I had the distinct impression of being out on an open plain.  I could lamost feel the wind, and I could certainly sense the open space.  It was strange for me to reaize that I was in my living room, sitting close to bookshelves, a table, and my wife.

No meaning attached to that, really.  Just an open space.

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Maybe I should be more patient with God, but I find myself perpetually frustrated, wavering and directionless.

I’d be happy to make slow progress, but I don’t even know what direction to go.

I have absolutely no basis for making a religious decision, at least no reliable basis that distinguishes one path from any other path.  Perhaps I should just pick something and go with it.  But then I have problems with almost every “something” I might pick.

Being paralyzed with indecision absolutely sucks.

And I’m struggling with this blog.  I like comments- to me the feedback is actually really important, and I hope that I’m going toget that one insight that makes all the difference.

At the same time, I’m kind of weary of having people simply state “the way things are” based on no other evidence or authority than because they say so or because It Is Written In The Eddas!  I don’t even feel like bothering explaining why that’s just not going to fly.

I’m not going to disable comments, because there are a lot of regular readers who really have insightful things to say, and I welcome them!  I guess I’m just venting, feeling a little weighed down by existence.

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The Hanged Man

After my meditation experience last night, I did a Tarot reading with my wife, to inquire about what I should do about religion.  I don;t necessarily want to go into the entire card spread, but it was very interesting.  Most of the cards seemed to describe my situation in unique ways, and I was defintiely given insight.

The ultimate card, the one representing where all of this is going, was the hanged man.

According to the book we were using, the card represents Wisdom, Circumspection, Discernment, Trials, Sacrifice, Intuition, Divination, and Prophecy.  It seemed like a progression to me, leading to my ultimate goal.

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My wife and I have been talking about my longing for spiritual answers and spiritual experiences, and iot became clear that one of my poblems was that I don’t really make space for God in my life.  I’m busy all the time- when would God have the chance to get in on the conversation and let me know what’s up?  It’s tough because I’m a married law student with a baby, so I have a lot of demands on my time (and when I have free time I’m reading or blogging or watching movies or playing games or whatever).

Although one of my problems is notbeing sure how to approach God in a way that is not a self-fulfilling prophecy (I doubt, for example, that if I pray to Christian Jesus for guidance that he is going to tell me to become a Muslim).  However, we concluded that meditation coupled with open-ended prayer was probably appropriate for my current situation.

So last night we sat down and meditated.  And it was interesting.  I’m not going to call what happened a Mystical Experience, since I didn’t feel, well, pierced to the center by it or anything.  But it certainly seemed not insignificant.

Following Jeff Lilly’s lead, I engaged in the “going to your room” exercise to the extent that I could remember how to do it.  After centering, I visualized myself getting into an elevator, pressing a button, and going down.  All kinds of scenes flashed by as I descended, and the further I went down, the more difficult it was, as in making the elevator descent was actually requiring mental effort.

I got to a point where I decided that I had gone far enough for a first try, and I opened the door and stepped out.  I was in a dark hallway, with black velvet curtains.  As I pushed through them, I found myself back in my room, and octagonal log-cabin affair with a comfortable old bed with a quilt on it, and two doors.  outside was the familiar mountain-and-forest environment, with the crisp fresh smell of evening in the woods.  Out the door I usually use (the other door I have never gone through), was a familiar path, leading away towards the woods.

I say “familiar” because this is the way i have always visualized my room.

I decided to go out and walk that path and see what I could see.  Maybe I’d run acruss a Mr. Tumnus-style faun like Jeff did!  In fact, I seemed to see a small figure of some kind dart into the trees off in the distance.

However, as soon as I began walking along the path, I felt the presence of a figure walking next to me.  I had the impression of dark, curly hair, a rough tunic, and maybe a mental impression of sandals.  This ficure seemes immediately significant, so I turned to look at him.

I was confronted with a horrible decaying face of death, sort of like Jasmine’s true visage at the end of season four of Angel.  It was startling, and it shook my concentration.  I chalked it up to my imagination (“and then… a ghost!” hahaha), and tried to focus back where I was.

I tried to look again, with the same result.  the same horrible face of corruption and death looked back at me.  After the third time, I decided to talk instead of trying to look.

“Are you God?” I asked?

“Yes,” came the answer, in a faraway voice, almost like someone talking into a coffee can.

I tried to formualte a question, like should I become a druid, or should I return to Mormonism, but I couldn’t get a question  to really make any sense or come out of my mouth.

“I have so many questions I would like to ask,” I finally managed to say, “but this isn’t the time to ask them, is it?”

“No.” And the figure looked at me, his face veiled, and he had yellow eyes that looked at me out of the darkness so piercingly, I had to look away.  He said “You are here to experience Me.”

Suddenly back in my real mind, I felt like my consciousness was fraying at the edges, like I was dissolving from the sides into everything else.  It tried to hold on and let go at the same time.

The figure then raised his arms and exploded into light and fire, and there was a brief impression of a shape of a pheonix.  The flames surrounded me and surrounded everything, and blazed until I slowly came back to my normal state, back to my living room with my wife.

Like I said, interesting.

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I was thinking last night about Mormonism, and leaving the Church, and where that leaves me. Specifically, I was weighing what I have gained by leaving against what I have lost be leaving.

I thought about two things in specific.

I have gained freedom. I don’t mean license. I still feel the need to be absolutely faithful to my wife, to treat other people in a loving way, and to, you know, not hurt animals and stuff. I’m also not talking about the little things, like being able to wear normal underwear and drink alcohol if I want to. Those don’t matter ultimately. However, I feel like I have gained two different kinds of freedom:

  • Freedom from guilt: no longer do I have to feel guilty about breaking “commandments” that I wouldn’t naturally feel guilty about. I’m not constantly feeling like I’m racking up a spiritual debt over things that only matter because some other person tells me they do. I feel like I am a much healthier person for it, too.
  • Intellectual freedom: I can think what I want to. I can decide for myself what I believe, without having to go look it up in Mormon Doctrine or a conference talk or Gospel Principles of the D&C or whatever. If I feel like thinking that norse Mythology is true today, I am free to do so without feeling like I am not being “true to the faith.”

On the other hand, I have lost certainty. As a Mormon, I had a fully fleshed-out system of beliefs ready-made, and I had an abundance of trustworthy authority figures reassuring me that these beliefs were correct. I did not have to wrestle daily with The Big Questions about Life, the Universe, and Everything like the people in Church videos always had to. I knew the answers, and if I didn’t, I either knew where to find them, or else I trusted that those answers were not relevant. I knew where I came from, I knew why I was here, and I knoew where I was going.

That certainty was nice, and I miss it. In many ways, my entire Sailing to Byzantium experience is about having that certainty break apart from under me and my search for the same certainty everywhere, even as I sometimes feel like I have to face up to the fact that that kind of certainty, when you do think you’ve found it, is only ever illusory.

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So I have issues with Christianity.  Last night, while I was out grocery shopping with my lovely wife, who is a committed Christian, I tried to articulate them as well as I could.  I felt like I was able to get it all out in a satisfactory way, but now I’m not so sure I can remember them all.  I’ll do my best; here they are in no particular order:

1. The Jack Chick problem.  Encountering Fundamentalists and many Evangelicals and other Christian-Right-types and their viewpoints completely turns me off to Christianity in general.  Without going into too much detail, there are some popular and vocal approaches to Jesus out there that I find actually repulsive, not to mention preposterous.  When I read such a viewpoint, for example, it sours me on the whole of Christianity.  I do not want to have anything to do with a movement or a religion that spawns that kind of garbage.

Intellectually, I know that those apporaches to Jesus are not exhaustive, they do not by any means necessarily represent the  bulk of Christianity.  I also know that just because people do ugly things with Christianity, that does not mean that Jesus was wrong or a fake (in fact, there is plenty of scriptural evidence that just saying you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you know Jesus).  But those are intellectual qualifications, and my reaction to ugly Christianity is an emotional one, so the intellectual justifications don’t dispel my reservations.

2. Exclusivity.  By most accounts, Christianity is exclusive.  Jesus is literally God, and he is literally the only way to return to the Father.  All other approaches (whether they be Christian heterodoxy or a completely different religion orspiritual path) are either lies or tragic mistakes.

I am of two minds about this.  On the one hand, I grew up Mormon, so a literal and exclusive approach to religion is a familiar one, sort of my default setting, and not easy to break out of.

On the other hand, it just doesn’t feel right.  For one, the weight of opinion is against Christianity- far more people are and have been something else as opposed to Christians, both now and throughout history.  Now, if Christianity is True, then that theoretically shouldn’t matter.  If there is such a thing as objective truth independent from peoples’ minds, then that objective truth would probably not be subject to majority decisions.  However, it seems a little convenient that the One True Way just happens to be the majority view of the culture I grew up in. Especially when there is no real decisive objective evidence to commend Christianity over any other religion.  Maybe there is an objectively True Way, but who says Jesus is it?  I feel like claims of objective truth should be backed up by some kind of objective evidence, at least to differentiate them from competing claims of absolute truth.

I also have this sense that applying Christinity to the whole world is not just like trying to make a square peg fit a round hole, but it’s like trying to make a multidimensional polyshape peg fit into a round hole.  It seems preposterous.  It imposes a simple worldview on an incredibly complex world.  I have a hard time swallowing it.

3. Personal Exclusivity.  This one is trickier to explain.  I want a religion or a faith system that fits all of me.  I don’t mean that I am unwilling to change- I certainly would go to great lengths to change my behavior for what I believe.  However, like all humans, I am extrordinarily complex.  I feel like a religion should speak to every aspect of human existence in a fitting and compelling way, without oversimplifying that which is in no way simple.  What I am not willing to do is to abandon entire facets of existence that are irrelevant to a belief system.  I will change, but I will not amputate.

I don’t necessarily feel like Christianity “explains it all.”  I don’t feel like it fits me like a puzzle piece.  Of course, I haven’t found anything else that does, either.

4. Not feeling the Jesus.  Finally, I do not feel spiritually compelled to follow Jesus.  I find Christianity intellectuallyand even emotionally appealing, and I even find Christianity reasonable, but to me that is not enough.  I want to feel a spiritual pull, and I don’t feel it.  Furthermore, I do not want to purposely cultivate a spiritual experience in the pursuit of Christianity, because that’s what I did with Mormonism.  Having already decided that Mormonism was true, I then went about specifically seeking a spiritual confirmation of that truth.  They say “once burned, twice shy,” and that is appropriate here.  In the end, I fell away from Mormonism.  The connection that I built was not a lasting one.  Honestly, I don’t want the same thing to happen ever again.  I am not about to head in any direction that I will just abandon in eight months or eight years.  And so far, I have nothing to indicate that a decision on my part to commit to Christ and to Christianity will indeed be a lasting one.

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Mine showed up in the mail yesterday, which was nice.  I didn’t want to have to wait for it.  On first glance, it appears to be more eco-centric and Celt-centric than I am necessarily excited about or that I generally feel speaks to me.

But I decided to read through it anyway- it’s a quick read, and I bought it after all.  Plus, it’s been so heavily reccomended.  I may as well take a look, right?

I find it interestingly compelling despite my reservations.  I shall continue to read and seriously think about it.

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What I want right now is a mystical experience.  I want some kind of direction, some kind of instruction, some kind of message from God.

Jeff’s post on why he is blogging has me incredibly jealous.

I feel like I am floundering, awash and castaway with my intellect and emotion and intuition all at odds with each other, all telling me one thing one minute, and another thing the next minute.  I need spiritual direction of osme kind, but on my own I do not seem capable of finding it.

Maybe that’s my problem.  Maybe I’ve been trying to do it on my own now for almost a year and maybe that just isn’t going to work.

I have two problems, though.  One, I don;t know how to ask for, seek out, or prompt a mystical experience.  At least, not one that is genuinely open to whatever the divine consciousness has in store for me.  I know plenty of ways to seek out mystical experiences, but they invariably all involve hidden or overt a priori determinations of what the answer will be.  I’m not comfortable with that.

My other problem, a related one, is that I don’t want to fool myself.  I know that if I want a mystical experience real real bad, I’ll get one.  But it won’t necessarily be the genuine article.  It’ll be some well-meaning product of either the process or of my own mind, or worse yet it’ll be some subtle mood swing that I will eagerly read as contact with the divine.  I’m not okay with that- with imposing my own expectations and desires on my psyche so hard that “religion” happens.

I want to be moved.  I want the kind of experience that sticks with you and makes you say “This is important, this is a big deal, this is for real.”

I want it, but I don’t know how to get it.  God (or gods, or Goddess), if you have internet access and you’re reading this, please send me something.  I’m getting nowhere on my own.

But to me, the heavens have been closed.

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