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Know Your Meme: Puritan Theology

Recently, a Facebook friend suggested, in a discussion of strange Polytheist ideas, the possibility that we might be re-treading, or being impacted by, Puritan theology. It made sense. Religion is an appendage of culture, and United States culture has been deeply influenced by Puritans who came to this continent and colonized it.

I decided to read some Puritan writings to see if it was true. Were some of the popular ideas in the Polytheist community related to Puritan thinking? Indeed, yes.

Here, I have a brief overview of some Puritan theological ideas that have gotten a lot of traction in the Pan-Polytheist movement, and have impacted a small number of vocal Polytheist writers and thinkers, almost certainly without anyone intending for this to be the case.

Election, or “Being Chosen.”

“God did not choose us because we were worthy, but by choosing us He makes us worthy.” — A Puritan Golden Treasury, Thomas, I.D.E. (c. 1620 – 1686)

I once saw a Polytheist write: “We do not need to be qualified to be chosen. The gods will make those whom they choose qualified.” I’m nearly certain that it wasn’t an intentional paraphrase.

What does it mean? The Puritan emphasis was not on striving to connect with the divine. It was on trying to determine whether or not one was chosen.

Election is the first link of the golden chain of salvation, calling is the second. He who has the second link of the chain is sure of the first. As by the stream we are led to the fountain, so by calling we ascend to election. Calling is an earnest and pledge of glory. “God has chosen you to salvation, through sanctification” (II Thess. 2:13). “A Body of Divinity” pg. 224

The process was not one of refining one’s spirituality or behavior, but of constantly examining oneself for signs that one might be ordained as one of those who would escape punishment and attain reward. Without being elected, or chosen, no amount of piety or good deeds could profit a person.

This, too, we see reflected in the Polytheist dialogue. I saw one very adamant woman insist, in every thread she was on that, “as with all deities, Hekate must choose you.” IE, there is no sense in praying to or venerating a deity unless one is elected and called. The first link in that chain has not yet been formed, and there is no sense in even trying to forge a second link if one does not have the first.

Suffice to say, this isn’t how ancient Polytheisms worked. If you suspected that a deity might be in some way applicable to your existence, either because of where you lived, or beause of your ancestors, or because you needed their help, you venerated that deity. Sick people did not avoid the temple of Asklepios because he hadn’t chosen them. No such concept applied.

In Polytheist circles, it leads to certain people who believe that they have been “chosen” thinking that they are better than those who have not been. It also leads to a type of theological bullying where “clergy” who are mystically inclined decide that other people have been “chosen” by their deity in particular, whether they want that or not.

I’ve actually been personally told to “stop fighting” the supposed calling of a deity I already worked with extensively, and that the fact that I did not hear, or feel, or percieve that additional calling was just more evidence that I was fighting them. An alternative interpretation was that said individual wanted me to doubt myself, and wanted to play savior and priest so that I’d be more in their orbit.

Sanctification Through Suffering

It is hard to prescribe a just measure of humiliation. It is the same in the new birth as in the natural. Some give birth with more pangs, and some with fewer. But would you like to know when you are bruised enough? When your spirit is so troubled that you are willing to let go those lusts which brought in the greatest income of pleasure and delight. When not only is sin discarded but you are disgusted with it, then you have been bruised enough. The medicine is strong enough when it has purged out the disease. The soul is bruised enough when the love of sin is purged out.

— “The Godly Man’s Picture” pg. 227

The idea that suffering, by itself, is spiritual purification, and that it exists for the purpose of refining the soul, is a Puritan idea. Essentially, God was believed to help people attain greater holiness by crushing their will and/or ability to resist him.

If that sounds overstated, consider this: The aim of Puritan child-rearing was to break the spirit of children.

Train them up in exact obedience to yourselves, and break them of their own wills. To that end, suffer them not carry themselves unreverently or contemptuously towards you; but to keep their distance. For too much familiarity breedeth contempt, and imboldeneth disobedience.

— Baxter, “Christian Economics”, Practical Works, Vol.1, p.450

For beating, and keeping down of this stubbornness parents must provide carefully for two things: first that children’s wills and wilfulness be restrained and repressed, and that, in time; lest sooner than they imagine, the tender sprigs grow to that stiffness, that they would rather break than bow. Children should not know, if it could be kept from them, that they have a will in their own, but in their parents’ keeping: neither should these words be heard from them, save by way of consent, “I will” or “I will not.”

— John Robinson, Works, Vol.1, p.247.

The will, Puritans reasoned, was purely sinful. The less of it, the better. Moreover, there was a parallel between the home and the church. As Christ was to the church, the head of the household was to his wife and children. Moreover, being too affectioinate with your children, or suffering their love for you, was considered a bad thing, because it degraded their respect, and therefore emboldened them to sin.

So, very likely, Puritans thought of the horrors of life as parallel to the beating of children. They conceived of right practice as being rightly painful

The temple had a fire burning on the altar; take heed of strange fire. But keep the fire of zeal and devotion flaming upon the altar of your heart; do temple work and offer up the sacrifice of a broken heart. When the heart is a consecrated place, a holy of holies, then God will walk there.

— Sermon, The Spiritual Watch, Thomas Watson

If you hear a Polytheist going on about how a deity has had to break their will, or how one has to “give in” to the gods to bring about a cessation of suffering, they are expressing a Puritan theological concept, adapted to Polytheism.

If you have ever heard someone bragging about how the gods have harmed them, and that this is a sign of Their Love, and wondered what the hell was wrong with them, you now know.

You might also hear people re-framing a nearly identical concept as “Shaman Sickness.” In the traditional variants of this concept, the person is ill because of spiritual imbalance, undergoes a spiritual process, and the illness ceases. It is not the continual pummeling of a human which brings them to their knees and forces them into holy submission. Don’t confuse the two concepts. They are not the same thing.

Modern psychological research has determined that beatings do not, in fact, improve behavior. What they do, actually, is increase rates of anxiety and depression, and reinforce negative self-concept. Trauma doesn’t make adults better people. Breaking someone’s will doesn’t make them a better person.

Demonology

demon_communion

This one isn’t speifically Puritan, but I’m including it, since it seems to come up a lot.

If you have ever heard a Polytheist claim that it was possible to approach a deity with an earnest heart and be connected to a demon impersonating that deity, that is a Christian notion.

Particularly, if a person holds the belief that anyone claiming to worship their deity or deities is insteads worshipping an evil or non-divine entity because said person does not agree with their beliefs of practices, this resonates to a lot of the Evangelical, Catholic, and yes, Puritan theology.

The anxiety of reaching “the wrong Poseidon” or whoever, flies in the face of every myth where the Theoi have rained fury and terror upon anyone claiming divinity when they did not have it.

Predestination

The idea that an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent deity would control all of future history makes some degree of sense in a monotheistic world view. The idea that everything, from our “vocation” or profession, to the final fate of our eternal soul, is decided by God in advance, is a Puritan idea.

The idea that our gods decide everything is problematic to the development of moral philosophy. An interesting article discussing the ideas of Charles Hartshorne summed up what I want to say next very succintly:

Hartshorne pointed out that if God is omnipotent, then God has “all” or “100%” of the power. If this is so, then human beings and all other beings have “zero” power.  But if we have zero power, then do we even exist?  It is hard to imagine what “existence” means if it is a quality attributed to beings with zero power to affect the world. In fact, if God has 100% of the power, then no being other than the divine being can be said to exist.

[…]

If beings other than God have some power, then God does not have all the power. From this it follows that everything that happens in the world—whether it be the life or death of a child or the beginning or ending of a war—should not be attributed to God or to Goddess.  If beings other than God or Goddess have some of the power, then many of the events that happen in the world must be attributed to the choices and failures to make choices of beings other than God.

Again, it’s a theological concept which allows us to absolve ourselves of moral responsibility. And in my opinion, it’s one that is better avoided by thinking people who want to change the world for the better.

 

 

Ok, maybe this IS a drama blog.

Let’s talk about societal responses to sexual predators.

Let’s talk about a Heathen group re-evaluating the presence of a stalker on a “year to year basis.”

Let’s talk about so-called “feminists” in the Wiccan community who “just don’t know what to do” about sexual harassment. Because “people just don’t know what the boundaries are.”

Let’s talk about “HIS side of the story is…”

And I’m sure I’d have my own stories about the Hellenic community, if one existed in my area. Because this isn’t a Heathen problem, or a Wiccan problem, or a Polytheist problem, or a Pagan problem, it’s a United States problem.

The US has a rape culture problem. It has consent problems. It has a “wouldn’t want to ruin a young man’s life over a mistake” problem. It has a “he just didn’t know” problem. It has a “she was in the wrong place at the wrong time” problem.

The actions and the words aren’t the problem. They are symptoms. The real problem starts in the belief system of people in this country, who believe that being handsome, or cool, or powerful entitles them to take what they want from those who are weaker. It is a belief system that venerates power and not compassion, aggression and not kindness.

If you find yourself in deep water, remain vigilant against drowning. If you find yourself in an environment where the media you watch, the ads you read, the dominant theology of mainstream culture, pushes rape culture and a “might makes right” mentality, the default is that you will absorb it, and it will become a part of what feels “normal” and “reasonable” to you.

I don’t want to hear “his side.” I don’t want another goddamn excuse. I don’t want to hear about how, by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, a person’s consent becomes irrelevant. I don’t want to hear about “mediation” between an aggressor and his victims.

Fuck off. Fuck right the hell off.

Purity and Miasma Part 3: Tragic Plays Are Not Holy Texts.

Don’t get me wrong. When we are studying ancient Greek culture, the plays are an important source. They can help us understand certain societal norms, social issues of the day, what was funny to them, and types of social relationships they thought were important.

But they need to be understood in context. They were never meant to be used as religious texts.

What I want to say next, Robert Parker (a frequently quoted scholar on this subject) said better, so I’m just going to let the man do his thing:

The noun miasma, ubiquitous in the tragedians, does not occur at all in Herodotus, Thucydides, or Xenophon. This might be taken to prove that the word’s stylistic level is too high, that the concerns of tragedy are unreal, or simply that tragedy and history treat different areas of experience. Modern social historians view such evidence with suspicion; court records, not extrapolations from Shakespeare, form the backbone of a classic modern study of English popular religion. Literary texts can only be safely exploited, it might be argued, to illustrate the existence and significance of which can be independently established.

— R. Parker, Miasma: Pollution and Purification in Early Greek Religion, 1996, p. 13, emphasis mine.

In other words, it’s Parker’s opinion that we should only consider fiction as a source to expound upon our understanding of something we know to be relevant outside of fiction.

If you think about it, this is common sense.

Like, don’t assume, from watching Buffy, that people in California believe that immortal vampires are real. Now, if, on the other hand, there are bunches of court trials about people who have broken anti-vampirism laws, and we have transcripts that read, “the defendant stated his age as 224, but couldn’t remember his exact birthday,” then, ok, see Buffy to get a lowdown on our vampire feels. It becomes evident as a part of our belief system at that point.

But wait, Parker’s got more for you, here, in his introduction:

Classical scholars, whose knowledge of subjects like pollution derives largely from their reading of tragedy, have tended to be less cautious, partly because alternative sources of information on these subjects are hard to find.

— Ibid.

Parker’s tirade on this subject goes on for pages, and he goes on to say that a really eye-opening thing is to compare the comedies to the tragedies, and to bear in mind that they are products of the same culture.

The gods of tragedy are easily offended and without mercy once their ire has been attracted; those of comedy are good natured, forgive slights easily, and are just doing their best to keep a wayward humanity on track.

That is to say, theologies in these theatrical works were most likely constructed for dramatic effect.

So what’s a good source?

Hymns – These were created for, and often addressed to, the deities whom they are about. They are religious works and very likely to be representative of sincerely held religious beliefs. The Homeric and Orphic Hymns are examples.

Epics – Texts like the Iliad and Odyssey may be the closest thing in Hellenic writings to anything resembling a Bible. The large number of locales mentioned in the catalogue of ships (Iliad, Book II) is thought to exist as a way of including, by mention, all of the audiences for whom the story of the Trojan War was important, showing the breadth of the text’s importance. Alexander the Great slept with a copy of the Iliad under his pillow.

The two books, the Iliad and Odyssey, in tandem, give us the laws of hospitality, the exact way to make and cook sacrifices, the ways of necromancy and treating with the dead, the practices of courtship and marriage, and the exact shape of divine favor and fury.

Histories and Mythographies – Certain individuals made a living from collecting lore. They catalogued what people in various places thought happened there, in the past, as well as their beliefs and customs. There’s a bit of overlap between the two, of course, and modern historical methods didn’t exist then, so I’m grouping them together. Since these writers were interested in recording beliefs about both history and the gods, they are a mostly reliable source about what people from their own culture believed. Conversely, they are notoriously unreliable when reporting beliefs of those outside their culture. Herodotus, Thucydides, or Xenophon are all writers who focused on histories. Apollodorus (or Pseudo-Apollodorus) is someone to whom mythographies are attributed.

Legal Documents – We know that there was a real life Socrates, that Alcibiades was a naughty, naughty boy, and that a woman was once fined for riding a horse rather than walking in the processions during the Rites of Eleusis. We know these things because of legal records. Trial transcripts and steles containing the laws of the mysteries are both reliable sources.

In the same vein, ancient graffiti can tell us a lot about what was going on at the time, but be skeptical. It may be true that “Hermocrates was here” but we shouldn’t automatically believe that “all of the women love his cock.”

“But Thenea,” you might protest “these sources say almost nothing about actual miasma and its consequences.”

Yeah. It’s really hard to make claims about miasma (unless we are talking about the impurities generated by murder) if you stick to non-fiction sources from the ancient world. That’s basically what Parker, who wrote what is probably the definitive work on the subject, was saying. That’s why otherwise reputable historians, when they are writing about this subject, heavily rely on theatrical plays in a way that historians generally would not.

It is one thing to conjecture based on tragic plays and to argue that something was a concept, maybe, in a culture.

It is quite another to credulously apply what we read in an ancient tragic play to our modern theology and practice.

Katharmos, or purification, by contrast, is well attested in far better sources. We cannot assume that the question is “what are we being purified from, if not miasma?”

Not all cultures view purification as the removal of evil, or the removal of a metaphysical taint. There are other options. Perhaps it’s about separation between the ordinary and the sacred, or the separation between levels of sanctity, as it is in other nearby cultures. Perhaps it’s a token of respect, an acknowledgement of the importance of physical cleanliness. It is telling that purification before entering the temple is an always thing. So if you exit a temple, after being purified, and go back in, you need to be purified again. And, again, there are other regional cultures with similar constructs in their practice.

It is far more prudent to consider that we’re dealing with a Mediterranean culture, draw comparisons between well attested practices in other Mediterranean cultures, and pay attention to what is said about Katharmos in non-fiction sources.

There is no shortage of non-fiction written by and about ancient Hellenic culture. If, in all those thousands of pages, we don’t find very much written about miasma, we should take that into account when weighing the importance of this concept in modern practice.

Tech in Review: Red Pentagram Ritual

This is a review of the Red Pentagram ritual, a piece of mystical tech extracted from Apotheosis mythology and the Mithras Liturgy.

You can find the ritual here.

Stated Goals

As Thyone can attest, being exposed to the unbridled energies of a deity’s sublime intelligence can be hazardous to your health.

Generally, the Divine provides divine influx through a buffer of story (or filter). The antagonist does so by setting up challenges which refine the personality, and the ally does this through building a positive relationship with the person.

Usually, the process is messy.

The ritual in question is meant to titrate the sublime energies of a deity, and by-passing filter and mythos, so that frank discussions can be had about how a practitioner wants their spiritual path to unfold.

Primary Usage: …Not Bad!

This ritual was astoundingly successful in helping me course correct my relationship with Dionysos. It clarified our conversations by taking us out of the narrative we were stuck in (and stagnating in!) and allowed us to work collaboratively on shifting to a new one. The result was a vastly improved and much more productive relationship with this deity, and me working through the issues he wanted me to work through with less struggle and confusion.

My initial test audience reported similar results, and a fair number of people who tried the technique at two subsequent conferences reported favorably on it as a tool for this.

Off Brand Uses: Trance Work?

If your goal is a manifestation of deity which is utterly without filter, cultural or otherwise, and to yet experience the deity as a sacred personality, this tech is excellent.

If your goal is to NOT feel like you’ve been psychologically trampled by a herd of angry buffaloes, however, this tech falls short.

That said, the few of us who tried it for these purposes survived it, and are not significantly worse for the wear.

It’s a tool which could be used to help a community course-correct their relationship with a deity or deities, and to work collaboratively with a deity to change group filter.

It really does go to show, however, how important filter is as a buffer between a deity and a medium. It exists as a sort of psychological/spiritual protection. Negotiating that filter — what will be hidden, and what will be revealed, could be an important application of this tech.

Predictable

There is a line dividing the Polytheist community. There are those among us who believe that humans, consent, and the personal sovereignty of human beings is sacred, and there are those who do not.

At Pantheacon, I had the misfortune of being a medium wedged between Hermes, and one of those Polytheists who do not.

It was supposed to be fun. It was supposed to be Aphrodite and Hermes making dick jokes. And there was some of that.

But Diana Paxson’s husband happened in, and that is when everything went sideways.

I’m not a Heathen and I don’t read about anything going on in Heathenry. I want to respect my Norse friends, and keeping tabs on what Norse pundits are writing makes that really hard. So I didn’t, at that time, know about the women coming forward in Hrafnar. I heard later.

So here is what happened and I want to be clear — there were no victims.

This guy (he’s 70ish) starts fondling a 20-something who is carrying Aphrodite.

Hermes, while I’m carrying him, asks, “Hey, did you check to see if the medium was ok with that?”

Aphrodite starts to say that the medium is ok with it, and Hermes is in the middle of saying “OK, cool” but the train never leaves the station, because this asshat interrupted to say:

“What the medium wants isn’t important. Aphrodite is here now.”

Let me say a thing right here: Hermes is a happy go lucky god, which makes his anger surprising and terrifying.

My memory is hazy, even though I usually don’t check out during trance (for strongly held philosophical reasons), mostly because there was so much passionate anger that staying with the situation was a challenge. But the gist was this:

“Now look here, you little shit. People in your community got hurt because of attitudes like that. People are getting hurt. People’s consent has been violated. This is not okay. DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT I AM SAYING TO YOU?! Tell them. Tell all of them. Tell your wife. WE HAVE HAD IT.”

Dude bolted out of there like a bat out of hell.

I was told later that Hermes told the warder that said individual was not welcome back.

And then this guy went around saying that I was dangerous, and my Hermes wasn’t the real Hermes.

Because whether my Hermes is the real Hermes is so much more important than respecting hospitality, or a medium’s right to be consulted before fondling of her body occurs.

I’m not one to name names. But that line I talked about? He’s on the wrong side of it.

It’s not about the medium carrying Aphrodite. Thankfully, she was fine. It was the problematic attitude expressed by this man. I fully believe that under other circumstances, had no one stopped to check, had Aphrodite not been respectful and on point, had it been someone’s conception of a Love Goddess that didn’t actually care about human sovereignty and wellbeing, this could have ended very differently.

So go ahead, old man, call the being who told you that humans matter a demon. Based on where you come from (a certain Pan Polytheist community north of SF Bay), how can I be surprised?

Like the skin of a serpent

This morning, while I was half asleep, Hermes descended with rays of light, as when the sun, peeking from behind a cloud, lets radiant golden streams tumble from the sky like waterfalls, warming all that is beneath is with effulgent glory. He greeted me (details unnecessary), and then, with characteristic quickness and a burning sense of purpose, picked up, pulled apart, and discarded all of the energy and power that had accrued on his altar.

“Thoughtforms,” he explained, and shook his head with faint exasperation. Then, he picked up a few squalling spirits by the scruff of the neck. “B.R.B.”

And then he descended to the Underworld with them.

Now, of course, this is my bedroom altar. My temple space is not warded (rather, it is regularly exorcised and purified), because of things I explained earlier, but my bedroom certainly is. I sleep in there. The last thing I want is anything unexpected visiting me while I sleep. I do not need to be doing transformative work between the hours of 11pm and 7am. What I need to be doing during that time is sleeping. The wards are set simply: “Only Hermes and whomever he wills to be in there, so long as it isn’t (three entities whom I find particularly annoying).”

I had an obvious question: “How did those dead people get in here?”

Well…” Hermes began, “If something is tucked up inside your aura, wards don’t influence it. Common loophole. That’s how casting a circle doesn’t keep out Fauxdin, and why, when Dionysos wants to attend one of his own devotionals, he sometimes rides someone into the space and camps there till after the circle is cast.”

“I… wait, Dionysos?”

“Contrary to popular opinion, the falling down drunk guy who sleeps with tons of people that aren’t his wife is Comus. Or Zeus, on the odd Saturday night. When the god of inclusion, performance art, and psychology wants into a space, he finds he’s often not recognized as Dionysos.”

“I see. What happened to the altar, though? I was calling you there. That wasn’t you?”

“It was. Then it wasn’t.” He shrugged. “This is me. Do you believe me?”

I looked at him. I put an astral hand on his chest and scanned him. He seemed purer, for sure, than how he seemed the day before. There was something missing from him. I searched my brain, thinking about that particular etheric scent, what it was and what it meant. The missing thing was aggressive, hungry, ruthless, insecure. It wasn’t from him. It had never been. It was me projecting my unconscious expectations onto what it meant to be successful at commerce. It served him to a point, and then it didn’t. He discarded it like the skin of a snake.

What I now know: taking inventory of your beliefs as they connect to your deity’s domains is important. If you are working with Zeus, your beliefs about what it means to be a father or a king are going to color how you see him, perhaps preventing you from seeing him at all.

This revelation put me in mind of something my sister said: that all of these people who swear up and down that they are no longer qualified to decide when they are being harmed by their deities, that their will no longer matters — the words of their deities strangely echo a lot of toxic American parenting norms. The presumptions of parents, that a parent owns their child’s body, that beating their children is somehow for their benefit, that humiliation is education, that a child isn’t qualified to decide when they are hurting, are not dissimilar from the presumptions that these people hear divinities making. Likewise, those followers to cast themselves as being “at the mercy of domineering, socially inept aggressors who control the relationship” are simply casting their deity in the role of the abusive lover, which many of us fail to recognize as problematic. Our larger society has completely fucked up ideas about love, sex, power, and authority, and the way religion manifests in the United States, in every religion, is poisoned by it.

Worship at an altar is a bread and butter practice of most Polytheisms, and the energy we build there can help our gods connect with us. A side effect is that we empower our ideas about the deity, sometimes causing those ideas to shine brightly enough that we can mistake what they are saying for the deity’s voice. There is a turning point, sometimes hard for a human to spot, when what we hear at the altar is more us than it is the deity, owing to how much of ourselves we have put into it.

Take inventory of your beliefs and take your altar apart periodically. Give that space and your icons a good cleaning with something disruptive to etheric power. As uncomfortable as it may feel, it’s probably for the best in the long run.

Dear Neophyte Mystic

Dear Neophyte Mystic,

Welcome to the path, and congratulations on choosing experiential religion. I’m happy to have you along on the journey.

I have been walking this path actively for about twenty years. I started using the astral as a child, began formal training as I entered legal adulthood, and I have a lifetime of injuries, battle scars, and mistakes to show for it. I have also experienced moments of profound joy, learned an incredible amount from my wanderings, and made many friends.

I’d like to impart to you some advice which will hopefully save you some headache and heartache. It is the advice I wish someone had given me when I first got started. It’s going to, in some places, contradict what people will try to teach you, but I will get into that soon enough.

Don’t believe everything you read.

Reading books written by modern people, with some notable exceptions, is not the best way to learn about mysticism. Talk to fellow mystics — a lot of them. Listen to the plurality of opinions and experiences, and keep an open mind. Use your reason, not someone else’s reputation, as a guide.

There Are Monsters

The astral is full of monsters, most of them made by humanity. The first monsters you encounter will be your inner demons.

Everything on the astral, with no exception, is made of thought, idea, and emotion. When you first open up your mind, your fears, traumas, social programming, low self esteem, anxieties, phobias, and insecurities will approach you, looking very much like independent beings.

You need to tame these monsters. They are parts of yourself. You can only tame them by mastering your own mind and processing your own damage. Think about what they are doing to push your buttons. Dig through your memories. Find peace with your narrative through forgiveness, or by resolving to make the world better in a way that addresses the source of the injury, or in any other way that makes sense to you.

Sometimes, other people will make their inner demons your problem. If you have a fairly good grasp of your own inner landscape, you’ll start to get an intuitive sense of where other people have damage. If their monsters become your problem, you have two basic choices: disengage, or become their therapist. Pro-tip: don’t become their therapist.

Psycho-Therapy and mysticism are deeply related. Israel Regardie recommended getting a therapist if you want to practice mysticism, and it’s really not a bad call.

Sometimes, the person making their inner demons your problem is a dead person, in which case you can scare them off or help them to cross over. Once you begin that work, exhausted deities and desperate spirits will find an infinite and bottomless amount of this work for you to do. These dead people are pretty fucked up, too. Vets get bitten, peed on, puked on, and scratched in their line of work. Being a psychopomp can be that way, too. The dead hate you for being alive, hate themselves for getting stuck, hate whatever deity or deities they believe in for not being exactly who they thought they were. Being bombarded by constant fear and hatred will take a toll on your health. Decide carefully.

Wards are basic bullshit

Remember the dead people I mentioned who failed to cross over, in part because whichever deity they worshipped in life failed to conform to their narrow expectations?

Don’t be that person.

If I send you a text message to come over, then put my phone down, draw the shutters, lock the doors, and then start having a conversation, who am I talking to?

My damned self, that’s who I’m talking to.

When you make wards that only allow a deity in, what it allows is whatever your pre-conceived notions of the deity are.

How do I know? I’ve seen improperly tuned wards keep human beings out of a space, because the person setting the parameters didn’t know enough about a potential house guest. Wards are just constructs. They can only do what they’re told. Even if you hire a bunch of spirits to protect your space, they don’t necessarily know your deity any better than you do.

Deities are never quite who you think they are. Uncovering their full selves takes time and dedication. If you always work with a ward, you will always experience them exactly as you expect to. See what I’m getting at, here?

Instead, try purification and banishing. Then pray to the deity with whom you wish to work for protection.

Everyone wants to sell you something.

Even me.

Let me explain what I’m selling. What I really want to be when I grow up, is Gandalf. I want less of a separation between the worlds, and for magic to easily manifest physically.

To sum up a complex belief system succinctly: the easiest way to protect yourself from bad magical shit is to opt out. That is why most people don’t believe in magic and automatically discard any evidence they see to the contrary: they are trying to keep themselves safe. And it works.

Here’s the rub: in order for magic to be robust and healthy, people need to opt in. Mostly, magic is less than healthy because of people profiteering off of your fear. Eternal damnation, insane and violent deities and various other “concerns” are a way of controlling people.

What I’m trying to sell you is fearlessness and independence, so that you can safely opt in, a sense of proficiency so that others watching you get the sense that the magical world is more fun than scary, and generally, improved participation in the magical world, so that magic will be stronger. Then, I believe, it will be easier for me to physically teleport, or whatever.

This gives me some blind spots that I’m aware of: I tend to see everyone as magically and mystically capable, which I admit may not be true 100% of the time. I’m eager to get them off the ground, and disappointed when they don’t become independent as quickly as I hoped.

Different people may have other needs and desires and may have different motives or blind spots.

Some people love their tradition and they need warm bodies to keep it going. Your body. It is warm.

Others are just trying to fill the bottomless pit of their own insecurity with neverending validation. They need you to need them. You not needing them anymore feels bad, and they will sometimes, consciously or unconsciously, create problems for you so that they can solve them, or describe the astral world as far more complicated and dangerous than it really is so that they can keep the gravy train running. Always remember: exactly zero people have died in astral accidents. Don’t freak out. The fear is more dangerous to you than any astral baddie.

Some have pain, need you to hear and see it, and use their position in a community as an outlet for that.

Still others literally make actual money from other people’s mystical problems. If you are skeptical of big pharma profiting off of illnesses, and maybe being less interested in easy cures as a result, you’re not totally wrong. Doctors really do want to help people. But they’re likely to prescribe the drugs they get kickbacks from, and maybe not always the best drug. Practitioners who make money off of your demonic infestations are more likely to see a problem, and more likely to give you a quick fix rather than investigating the underlying cause. Incentives can change the way you think. Be careful. Be skeptical. And be aware that I’ve literally never had one of these paid cures work as well as the DIY version. No practitioner is closer to you than you are.

Motives and desires are as diverse as humanity is. Having a good grasp of your own damage will help you suss out what others are after. Having motives doesn’t make people bad, but knowing their motives will help you to understand their perspective and why they might be saying what they are saying, or doing what they are doing.

There is an off switch.

Oh my gods, there is an off switch. I wish someone had taught me where it was on day 1.

Your physical body has a sort of dark, inky envelope. Depending on your spiritual background, yours may start out a little too small for you, but you can build it.

Try this:

Close your eyes, and just focus on the darkness that is inherent in having your eyes closed. Imagine pushing forward through that darkness, and into light. Welcome to the astral!

Now, allow yourself to sink back into that darkness, and draw all of your senses into it. Draw your hearing into the gentle thrum of your heart and breath. Welcome back to your body and it’s native, personal imaginative space that belongs to only you.

If this doesn’t work for you, your astral body may need a little waking up. Take your projective hand (usually the same hand you write with) and project energy at your receptive hand to form an energy circuit, and try again.

Only you can decide if deities are worth your time

It’s weird that some people still believe that we don’t have a choice about relationships with divinities. I mean, I’m not sure how they explain the ever-growing number of atheists. But trust me, you have a choice.

If a deity, to your perception, is being pushy and “won’t take no for an answer,” just swear an oath never to work with that deity. You won’t have to do that with more than one or two deities before you stop having deities push your buttons in that way. Experience speaking, here.

Spirituality does not require deities. You can be an animist. You can be a monotheist or monolator. No, rejecting a deity won’t destroy your soul, or whatever other fear-mongering bullshit the piety police are peddling today. You’re fine. Relax.

Ignore the piety police

Some people are going to try to bully you about your practice. Ignore them. They’ll talk down to you, tell you that you are doing your spirituality wrong, that there are going to be horrible consequences for not doing what they say.

These people are generally miserable because their own spirituality isn’t serving them. They want to hurt other people because the very existence of competing viewpoints threatens them. They are insecure and need to work on their inner shit. They are not role models to be looked up to.

If your practice makes you happy, serves you well, meets your personal spiritual goals, and doesn’t hurt innocent people, you are not doing it wrong. There is no wrong way to have a body. There is no wrong way to have a soul.

You’ll know if you are doing it wrong because you will feel helpless and miserable. If you feel happy and empowered, you are probably on the right track.

On that note, the people who attempt to muster community resources to attack people they don’t agree with are wasting everyone’s time and effort. It might be better spent on, oh, I dunno, building temples and creating community resources, rather than struggling to keep the pond small so that they can feel more important.

Someday, dear Neophyte, I hope you will turn around and write your own letter, to your students, or maybe your children, so that they can bennefit from your wisdom. If every generation of mystics makes new mistakes, rather than retreading the old ones, we will all be the richer for it.

Sincerely,

Thenea (of 2017)