(Quote from George Santayana.)
This whole thing is a giant learning curve and the more you think you’ve figured it out, the less you realize you actually know.
I think this is actually a key tenet to just about everything in life, but it seems to be more in tune with this path than anything else. At least, after some time in the mundane world, you can at least become passably knowledgeable at something. You can at least consider yourself an expert for a while before the next upgrade comes along. The problem with the spiritual matters, however, is that you always have some big huge new thing to learn, to pick up, to try to master eternally waiting on the horizon. And it’s not even like it’s something tangible. More often than not, the new thing that must be mastered is something that your mind has absolutely no fucking part in. Or, if your mind has anything to do with it, it’s minimal at best.
It’s damned fucking irritating, if you ask me.
It’s at this point when you realize that books are great and full of interesting tidbits, but they’re not always full of the interesting tidbits that are necessary to whatever fucking path you actually happen to be on. And besides, there is absolutely no surety that you’ll find the tell-all book that you need. As it is, I’ve noticed that most pagan books aren’t really helpful a lot of the time. There are the basic beginners books that a lot of “old-timers” laugh at or ban from their very sight. Then, there’s the books that people all chatter about but you can never get your hands on because they’re out of print… or just the most boring thing ever. And then there are all of the others in the mix. You never know if those books will be helpful because rarely, there are any honest reviews on those damn things. And then if you find reviews, they’re always a mix of reviews: some good, some bad, some intelligible, some not.
So, then you pick up the book(s) and you find the necessary tidbits. And those tiny points in that book are highlighted either in your brain or literally done so in the book. But, you realize that those little bits are just kind of like fodder. They feed you along for a period of time. However, it’s only after a while that you realize that you haven’t been fed a full meal: you’ve been given an appetizer and perhaps, the first course but not enough to set your hunger at bay.
It’s at this juncture, of course, that you sit down and start to seriously think about finding a teacher of some sort. Someone who can, at the very least, describe the ins and outs of all of this… whatever ‘this’ happens to entail. But, that’s the problem because you don’t quite know what ‘this’ is and you don’t quite know exactly what the hell you’re doing, so it’s not as if you can describe it to someone/anyone and get the teacher you need. So, there you sit completely at a fucking loss for words and descriptors and your head because you’re so fucking confused and uncertain that you just don’t know what to do next.
There is no teacher.
There is no how-to.
This path is a frightening one because there isn’t any one way to go about it. There are so many different ways that you can learn something, unlearn it, re-learn it, and finally, commit it to memory or liturgy or what have you. This path is so fucking scary because there is no wrong way or right way to do any of it because it’s entirely up to you, as the penitent follower believer spiritualist whatever, to figure out what the fuck works for you. And of course, there’s always the issue in the back of your mind: am I doing it right? Am I doing it wrong? Is this how everyone else does it? If not, how come I’m doing it so different? Am I fucking this shit up?
It’s the overwhelming fear and doubt that plague us on this path.
That’s something that the Witch of Forest Grove discussed not long ago. She spoke of fear and this entry resonated with a lot of people, as evidenced by the myriad of likes and comments that were left. This is something that, I think, particularly resonated with me because of what I described above. I have an intense want to explore witchcraft and the realms around that, however, it’s this path, in general, that causes me much fear and much doubt and much uncertainty. It’s the ever-plaguing thought, Am I doing it right? And on top of all that, there’s the horrific bone-freezing fear that if you fuck it up, something even damned worse will come at you.
Am I doing this right?
If I didn’t know any better, I’d say this is the mantra du jour for this path.
Here’s the thing: there are two very important lessons that should be learned, will be learned, might be learned… no. There are two very important lessons that should be learned. They are incredibly simplistic, but they can take forever to learn. I guess it would depend on how dense you are, but more like how fast you get to the bone-quivering terror that this different path tends to make manifest.
1. This path can utterly blow, but it is only yours. There is absolutely no one else who can walk it with you or for you. The multitude of paths that all pagans walk are not similar: they are parallel and/or perpendicular. What this means is that there are plenty of people who can hold your hand for a little bit, but there is no one else who can walk beside you. The surprises, the uncertainties, the pain, the fear, and everything in between is completely yours.
And in similar, or perhaps related at least, the only way it could possibly be done wrong would be if you decide thusly. Since the path is yours to walk, only you can say concretely if it feels right. So just as the emotions and highs and lows of the path are yours—the suck and the unsuck—so too is the ultimate lesson: am I doing it right?
2. I said before that finding a teacher for all of ‘this’ is difficult, if not impossible. What I did not clearly say was that it will never happen. The reason is because there are teachers available, although you never fucking realize it until it’s so late and you are so drunk on exhaustion that it clicks but doesn’t last. I make sense, I swear. The teachers are all around us. They are the Gods, the Lwa, the Orisha, the akhu, the forgotten dead, the fae, the nature spirits… they are the other-worldly entities that we serve, worship, love. They are our teachers.
Most people don’t really think of their OTHERS™ (it’s simpler to refer to Them thusly, in my book) as anything other than a being that they serve, worship, care for, speak to, or believe in. I think this is normal, to be honest. We, as human beings, are going from a religion (more often than not) where there is a single OTHER™ to a multitude of OTHERS™. We do not consider OTHERS™ as anything other than an incorporeal, faraway entities that we pay attention to when it suits us. The thing is that they are always talking. They are always out and about, whether you are aware of it or not. The problem here is that we need to incorporate the omniscience of the OTHER™ with the omniscience of the OTHERS™.
Honestly, I couldn’t say why this incorporation is difficult, but I know that it is.
Hell, I don’t consider my OTHERS™ to be around me all the time. I figure they are only listening when I say their names. I figure that they are only around when they want to be. I figure that they just ignore me the rest of the time that I don’t feel them nearby, watching and waiting for my sycophantic attentiveness. I readily admit that I have this very same issue and that I’m pretty sure a good many of us out there have similar issues. And it’s this particular problem that makes it difficult for us to even remotely consider the fact that it is via the OTHERS™ that our true learning takes place.
I’ll be blunt: I don’t listen to my OTHERS™ any more clearly than I listen to my friends, my family, my husband… I listen with about a quarter of my attention at any given moment because whatever it is my mind is fully focused on (mundane stuff, philosophical stuff, the book I’m reading, stuff on the computer, stuff on TV, irretrievable brain loss due to mind-numbing boredom, etc.) seems way more important than spiritual and religious enlightenment. Whatever the fuck is in my head is far more fucking important than, you know, paying attention. However, maybe just maybe, if I had been listening to my OTHERS™, I would be a little further along on this path that I’ve been treading…
…and incredibly fucking more terrified than I already am.
The very important thing to all of this is the simple knowledge that whatever fucking path that you happen to be jauntily be-bopping down is your path and yours only. You aren’t going to follow in anybody’s fucking footsteps and there will be no one out there to follow you later on. You will never be able to emulate someone you really admire and you will never have someone else be able to emulate you. There is no out clause, although you can always stop and not bother to go forward. There is no posted signage to point you in the right direction or even tell you if there is a bathroom up ahead. It’s all so fucking incredibly irritating and frightening that I don’t even think I could possibly put the words in properly and give the whole feeling justice.
All I can say is that the tingling going on in your gut that’s coupled with the phrase, am I doing it right?… everyone feels that way at some point or many points throughout the years. However, the tingling is only yours and no one else’s…
…if that makes sense.