Check your gut.
What’s your gut telling you?
Listen to your instincts.
Does it feel right?
Just do what feels right.
How often, as pagans, do we hear or read this in some form or another? I see it quite regularly. I’ve been informed on an occasion or three that how things work in my life isn’t always the norm, but I have to assume that I’m not the only person in a hundred miles who has ever heard any of the above questions or statements. It doesn’t matter in what venue, either, because invariably you’ll hear something along these lines and it will affect you in some way or another: either a good deal or hardly at all. But, it does make you begin to wonder. If we listen to our instincts more closely, how often can we keep ourselves from being hurt by others? How often can we know the way a situation will play out before it actually happens? And how else will we know how the gods want things from us?
On the one hand, we have this awesome innate power known as gut instinct that we don’t use too much anymore. In a time, long ago, this wasn’t the case. It was something that we used or we were as good as dead. But, as the times have changed, so too have the things we relied upon. Instead of listening to what our inner senses tell us about anything or anyone, we rely on our vehicles, our computers, our cell phones, and technology as a whole. We’ve fallen out of the age where listening to what was felt deep within our hearts was the difference between life and death. Hell, I’m guilty of it. I don’t listen to what my gut tells me, more often than not. When I say or do things on this blog, I try to listen to that innate, inner sense that discerns a good deal better than my eyes or my ears or any of my other senses can. But, just because I pay attention to it where this blog is concerned does not mean that I rely on it as heavily in any other area of my life. I’m too much into logic and reality, I suppose. I’m too much into the here and now as opposed to the what could be or what should be that my instincts are telling me.
The reason, simply, being is that the organ has withered with disuse. That’s how it is here, in my household, anyway. I say to trust your guts, but I also have to wonder, how far can they take you? And how far are you willing to go?
In practice, we tend to hear this chatter about gut instincts more often as unverified personal gnosis, or UPG. To me, the two are fairly synonymous, although in the case of one we can take it out of a spiritual or religious context and in the case of the other, UPG, we cannot. The thing is though, they are both based entirely on what feels right as opposed to what we think may be right. And there lies an issue for me, as well as some others. (One of whom gave me the idea of this post in the first place.) How far do we take what the gut says or what feels like a good idea when we could possibly read a book or read another’s opinion and come up with something that is antithetical to what we had just supposed was so right seconds before? Should you build an entire practice based solely one what your insides are telling you or should you stop a minute and pick up a beginner’s guide, or read a blog, or read an article, or pick up a book that’s a bit more than a beginner’s guide? What’s more important: thinking or feeling? And honestly, can the two meet somewhere in the middle?
I don’t use UPG or gut instinct very often in my practice, as I said. I’m on a more reconstructionist road now than I was back when I thought I was a reconstructionist! (Ha! How funny is that?) And while the link above does make mention that UPG is used invariably in the realm of a recon’s viewpoint, this isn’t always the case. And it’s not really the case in my practice, either. I’m not saying that I don’t use it (how else would I have learned that Sekhmet likes tequila?), but it holds little weight when I can pick up a book and see something that works more practically or seems better than what I was thinking in the first place. Or, even, I’ll find something that I thought was feeling right and find that it was what the ancients did in the first place!
I guess, really, it comes down to what everyone feels and thinks. What I practice and what I feel and what I think and what I read can work easily for me, but that doesn’t mean it would work well for you or you or you over there, down in back.
But how far do we take all of this talk of gut instinct and UPG? Should we base our practice solely on these instances? Or should we incorporate them into something that someone else started, either in current times or long ago? I think it’s folly, just as someone else said earlier, to base a practice entirely on what feels right. The reason being that without others’ opinions and others’ books and others’ viewpoints, then we’re not really growing or experiencing anything but stagnating in a practice that’s based solely on a single aspect instead of being as multifaceted as we are and the gods are and the spirits are. And just because it feels right doesn’t necessarily mean that the gods will take too kindly to it.
When I brought home the tequila bottle, I had the intense belief that I would be god-smacked upside the head for not bringing home beer and red food dye. (Can you dye beer? I don’t know.) I was gnawing at my lip and I was sweating like a fool, but there it was in the cup I had provided. Lo and behold! She liked it. I did okay in that regard, but that’s only one instance in many where I didn’t do so well with something I thought would work out. I should hope that if I err in any UPG I may rely upon, the gods would tell me. But sometimes, maybe, there is a god or two that may not take too kindly to such mistakes. And then, how will you know? And for those without a good, steady god-phone (like myself), how will you know? And for those who have a steady god-phone but the god is busy, how will you know?
But, really, and honestly… this is all “what if” and “maybe.” UPG holds a place, but to me, the place is minor. It is no rare gem that we should hold up to the sunlight and watch make beautiful rays fall about the room. It is something that is intensely personal and it is something that we should rely upon, true. However, in so doing, we should err more on the side of caution. And truly, we shouldn’t base everything that we do entirely on what the gut says. Just because the gut says it doesn’t necessarily make it true. If all of our instincts were true all of the time, then this world would be a vastly different place. Hell, we could all probably live a good deal longer and stop making so many mistakes. I doubt Rome would have been sacked. I doubt Caesar would have been killed on the Ides. I doubt that Xerxes would have let so many men fall in the pass at Thermopylae. I doubt Akhenaten would have risen to the throne. I doubt that the Mayan and Aztec would have allowed the Spanish on their shores. But instincts failed great men, many men, just as they fail simple men.
And that’s something we should pay closer attention to when we tout how important UPG is in our practice.