Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Not All Fun and Games

The always-interesting Frater Rufus Opus has offered his take on the question of spiritual and financial trials. He offers a slightly different take on the subject.
Is your God regularly kicking your ass? That's an abuser, baby. What kind of example are you setting for your kids? You want them to grow up thinking it's ok if God hits mommy when he's drunk, cause he pays the rent on the trailer lot almost every month?

FUCK. THAT. SHIT.

Knock that aluminum can of budweiser out of his hand, turn off the game, and kick him out. You need cops or a big brother to back you up? Call on Michael the Archangel, or better yet, the LOGOS. He don't put up with no shit out of any spirit that wants to play god and beat on women. I guarantee
.
I would certainly agree that it is as possible to have a bad or a dysfunctional relationship with a spirit as with a corporeal person. If you are working with spirits and are getting nothing for your troubles but troubles, you may want to ask yourself "what is this doing for me?" You may be hosting a parasite or some other kind of ethereal nasty. If so, you need to take steps to rid yourself of your unwanted guest. And you certainly have the right to negotiate with and even argue with your Gods. (There's a long tradition of doing this in Vodou and other African and African Diaspora religions, not to mention most forms of folk Christianity. In resource-poor impoverished areas, those who will not work will not eat).

That being said, Galina and I wanted to provide some counterbalance to the idea that the Divine will never ask us for anything inconvenient or offer us anything but encouragement and positive reinforcement. If we are going to encourage people to engage with the Divine, we need to be clear on the risks as well as the rewards. Growth rarely comes without pain. When we put our lives in the hands of the Gods, They may strip away those things which hold us back from Them. This can be an extremely painful process, and can last for months or even years.

So how do we distinguish this from abuse? Those of us who have survived this process generally feel we gained more than we lost. We find that the suffering was necessary to our emotional and spiritual development. We may grumble but we prefer our chaotic, challenging lives with the Gods to a orderly and placid life without Them.

I admit this is not an entirely satisfactory answer. Many abused spouses feel their relationship is worth an occasional black eye, which they deserved anyway. And I can certainly see an abusive religious leader convincing victims to stick around because all the bullshit is "part of the Divine growing process" or similar rot. But ultimately we may have to trust Godslaves and mystics to set appropriate boundaries and pursue mutually beneficial relationships with their patrons.

21 comments:

Galina Krasskova said...

I’m curious how Frater Rufus Opus gets the idea that the relationship with the Gods that you and I are discussing is in any way abusive? Because something is demanded of us? Because there are challenges? Because we don’t always get to call the shots? That is not abuse. I would emphasize again that being in any type of devotional relationship with a Deity the thing that is most often brought home is that it’s really not all about us. That can seem very threatening to some people. In the end, when there is doubt, look at the life of the person in question: is it made better or worse? Are they made better or worse by Divine contact? Are they made more stable over time, by facing those challenges, stronger, and more independent, or does the opposite occur. The proof, as the saying goes, is very much in the pudding.

Jack Faust said...

@Galina: The response you got may be due to the way you're phrasing things (which comes across as "stringent" or "Saturnian" to me at times), and the negatively charged associations that underly the very terms you're using as sacred.

You've discussed taboos, Godslavery, and ordeals. I'm re-reading these entries now as I watch this...

... I've yet to see you discuss a majorly positive influence that's come out of your godslavery, or your ordeals. You've discussed it all technically, and discussed why people object to it, and I've felt plenty of "modernist" disgust in your words. So, if it's made you better and stronger... why isn't this the last thing you cover every single time you discuss one of the things that will trigger people?

I loved seeing you write that: I think the Gods realize that and if we but meet Them as much as we can, They will help us the rest of the way.

That's fantastic. It's also the most positive thing I've seen in the series of entries so far. Which strikes me as a bit odd...

Are we missing the bits where you're not discussing the positives... or are those bits missing? I'm not sure. But I'll at least re-read to see for myself. You might want to, too.

Just my ten cents. Not worth much else.

Rufus Opus said...

Galina,

A couple of people had commented that the tone of the description of your relationship to Odin was a lot like that between an abuser and an abused woman.

If you read the whole of my post, you saw I did not say you were in an abusive relationship with your god, I simply commented that your discussions of your relationship with your god were similar to the mindset of Christians who believe their suffering is from God. Then I went on to address abusive relationships with deities.

In your presentation of the (valid) point that it's not all fun and games, you seem to get the shit beaten out of you regularly. Your attitude towards this is accepting, and you even justify it. You go to great lengths to justify it. You also criticize those who would not put up with that kind of treatment from any human, let alone a God.

I believe you are presenting the Ordeal as what it is: hard, and sometimes painful Work. However, you did not focus much on the rewards, or mention that it doesn't happen continuously. The impression I and others walked away with was that you are constantly getting beaten down by your God who expects you to take it, and it does not seem like it's an infrequent event, or that you benefit from it at all. At least when you go through hell getting the Supernatural Assistant or the HGA, you've got a companion for life who does everything the Goetic demons do without raising hell, a Key and Gate to the Seven Heavens, and a companion who heals, strengthens, and supports you when times are tough. And the worst parts only last a couple of months while you adjust to having your life reorganized.

In Hermetics, we learn that the gods and angels and spirits are emanations of the Nous, and that humans are as well. We are a family of divine roots, and Work together. Sometimes it is hard and painful, but the rewards far outweigh the temporary pain.

-RO

Galina Krasskova said...

@ Jack: some of the blessings that I have gotten are so intensely personal that I simply don't want to discuss them. But I will name a few: I got an adopted mother. I never knew I needed a Mother until Loki and Sigyn and Odin sent me one and THAT is the greatest blessing I will ever know and it came directly from Them. I have solid mental health, not something to be discounted. I have absolutely no debt and I am financially stable --also something that came directly from Them. They got me a college education from BA through PhD (still working on that) pretty much fully funded (no debt). I own my own house outright. I have an emotional resiliency and competence that would have seemed impossible when I look back at the person I was twenty years ago. And I have tangible evidence in the form of letters, emails, personal encounters, and extensive feedback that tells me I am helping the people that come to me, and most of all helping them love and honor the Gods. That's enough for me. But it's personal, and not relevant to anyone else's life. I prefer to maintain a fairly strict division between the professional and the details of my personal life.

Galina Krasskova said...

@Rufus, I used to bitch and whine and moan when I was challenged in my assuptions, and forced to grow but I know that this is what I committed to long ago and after awhile, I started looking back and seeing that I was a thousand times stronger, more stable, and more efficient now than when i started. I began to see the pattern: that those "lessons" and challenges served a very important purpose in the pattern of my life and service. I still may complain and protest...because sometimes it hurts like hell, but I know that it is for the best. I think of it much like i would martial arts training with a very old-school, strict, but wise sensei.

I don't mention that the rewards don't happen continuously becuase to me...that's not relevant. Of course they don't. The rewards do outweigh the pain. If i don't focus on them enough, it is partly that they are personal, partly that this seems so obvious, partly that one cannot predict what any other person will gain and mostly because *one should not serve out of a desire for rewards*. One should serve out of love, or a desire to be of use. To serve and honor the Gods only out of an expectation of reward seems to me to be missing the point. The Gods shouldn't have to bribe us into doing what is right, after all.

Norma said...

@Galina & Kenaz: I am one of the commenters on RO's blog that noted a tone of abuse -- I have to say at the outset that this is informed by my own experience, and as such may have been triggering to *me* without accurately reflecting your actual experiences. For me, it is a matter of some of the language that you have used and its parallel to some very negative experiences that I have had that have been couched a given way (being 'for my own good,' demanding absolute obedience, becoming angry at challenge or questioning, being punished for transgressions, etc.). There was -- again, to me and perhaps not objectively -- a tone of this sort of thing in some of your Godslavery posts.

That doesn't mean I engage in spiritual practice that is all fluffy bunny. Far from it, I serve several demanding Lwa and I have had consequences meted out when I have failed in my duties. But I have also pushed back when something I felt was utterly over-the-top was requested. I guess what I saw in your discussions that gave me pause was the inability (unwillingness?) to object or question without punishment. That sets off every warning bell I have - but again, that could well be about me and my issues rather than being about your relationship with your Gods.

Rufus Opus said...

Galina,

I totally agree with you. I'm a hedonist who happened to be lucky enough to discover the truest, purest form of "pleasure" or "reward" is found in "serving God."

I think your interview here touched on some powerful aspects of the whole service to god(s) thing that do need to be addressed in anyone's life who is seeking a strong and personal relationship with Deity in whatever form it takes in their lives. There is a sense of entitlement and spoiled bratness that needs to be knocked off.

At the same time, even a spiritual practice can be unhealthy, and I have personally seen the bondage, the spiritual slavery that people can put themselves into for their idea of God that has nothing to do with what any god expects from them. I think most of the time this happens, there is no spirit or deity involved, it's just the person making their own lives hell because they have some daddy issues to work out or something equally cliche.

nutty professor said...

I have a very serious question.

Can this kind of service to the God kill you in this life? or must one consent to such a death? It seems that the "master" has the power of life over the "slave," so I assume so.

Who owns the embodied life? Or is that given over to the god in mutual agreement in the initiation?

Forgive my ignorance.

Galina Krasskova said...

@Norma, I think that part of that comes from the fact that I have a very military mindset in my work (which i suppose stems from having come from a military family) and so to me, discipline, obedience, and duty are positive attributes and I tend to use that language when speaking about my work. Also, there is an element of non-consensuality in being god-owned. That cannot be denied and I think that it is something the contemporary mind struggles with a great deal.

Galina Krasskova said...

@Rufus: i've encountered that sense of entitlement and "Spoiled bratness" again and again and it is a very difficult thing to combat. I don't know how to fan the flames of devotion if the desire to be devoted to a Deity isn't there. THat's the one thing I've never learned how to do as a teacher. Some people just cannot or will not get over themselves. I suppose there but quite literally for the grace of the Gods i could have gone too though...

There's a huge difference between the "idea" of a God and actual "encounter" with a God. ..a huge difference.

Galina Krasskova said...

@ nutty professor: i think that if any Deity wants us dead, They have the power to do that. But insofar as Godslavery goes, Odin is immensely pragmatic: why waste resources?

It's always been my experience that the Gods take a far longer view of life/death/life continuum than we do, one that encompasses all our lives, all our existences. Besides: we all die sometime; better to die having lived well and having fulfilled one's duties and services than to die with duties left undone.

Anonymous said...

Something often seems "lost in translation" in these (recurring) discussions... The division may be socio-cultural (Heathen/non-Heathen), or it may be religio-spiritual vs. magico-spiritual, polytheistic vs. semi/pantheistic, any combination of these, or something completely different...

The thought that keeps occurring to me is, "If you knew Odin and His people, this "extreme" phraseology and its unnerving concepts mightn't seem so strange". That may or may not be the case, but, for instance, there are certainly times when aspects of high ceremonial magic set a similar "creep" up my spine, and I put that almost exclusively down to unfamiliarity and preconception on my part.

I can't help but second what Galina has often said: there are many aspects of God-service - especially service to Gods of cultures removed from, or foreign to, our own - that are very hard (even counter-intuitive) for the modern mind to comprehend. The consent/direness/sacrifice aspect seems to be a large one.

nutty professor said...

"i think that if any Deity wants us dead, They have the power to do that."

Thank you for responding to my question, but is that a controversial statement? Or is this the generally accepted point of view of those who deal with non-human spiritual entities?

I know this is off topic. But thank you for an utterly fascinating and illuminating conversation.

Anonymous said...

10c worth, discard at leisure:

""i think that if any Deity wants us dead, They have the power to do that."

"... [I]s that a controversial statement? Or is this the generally accepted point of view of those who deal with non-human spiritual entities?""

It used to be generally accepted, and still is in certain tribal (for want of a better word) parts of the world. Somewhere in the history of Christianisation, most streams of Christianity lost (or deliberately laid aside) that idea. (Jehovah wants you dead? Bam! Pillar o' salt. /tongue in cheek)

I think the assumption that if a Deity wants us dead we can just deny them smacks of hubris and ignorance, not to mention a post-Enlightenment belief in the superiority of Man over all things.


"AND NOW I SHALL SMITE THEE, PUNY HUMAN!"

"Hey, buddy, I said no. And 'No' means 'No', okay? You're not respecting my personal space."

"AWWW..."


That there? ^ That is not a Deity. That is a cartoon - or at least a figment of the human's imagination.

Can anyone give me one good reason why a Deity *wouldn't* (or shouldn't) have the power to see us dead - without giving a response that reduces to "Gods aren't really *Gods*; they're just powerful (and limited) supernatural forces, and I can deal with on my own terms, denying them if I want to"..?

I see objection to the statement at hand as:

a) a human fear of death
b) a human fear of the unknown and the Unknown
c) a human fear of lack of control over one's own actions & destiny

By "fear" I'm not referring to the sacred and Holy Fear that was for so long considered necessary in dealing with Gods or powerful spirits, but plain old human "hide under the bedclothes and it might go away" panic.

And that's just no way to live...

Rufus Opus said...

Can anyone give me one good reason why a Deity *wouldn't* (or shouldn't) have the power to see us dead - without giving a response that reduces to "Gods aren't really *Gods*; they're just powerful (and limited) supernatural forces, and I can deal with on my own terms, denying them if I want to"..?

Remember, that religio-spiritual vs. magico-spiritual division you were talking about? I think the difference in understanding of the nature of "the gods" is fundamentally part of the question you're asking. You're pretty much throwing out any interpretation of "gods" that doesn't line up with your own understanding of them, which is convenient because then you don't have to think much that way.

Hermetics (specifically the Divine Pymander from the Corpus Hermeticum) teaches that the gods are creations of the "Nous," and so are humans. We're the brothers and sisters of the Gods by "birth," just at a different level of manifestation because we consubstantiated with the flesh created by the Spirit of Nature in honor of the image of God we were made in.

So yeah, basically, the Gods aren't really *GODS*, they're powerful (and limited) supernatural forces. That doesn't mean the rest of your preconditions for dismissing alternate approaches are accurate at all though. One doesn't just get to deal with them on our own terms and deny them if we want. Our wants are not that powerful.

Hermetic doctrine teaches that we're supposed to get in harmony with our fates and work with the gods to create the world, to manifest the things that begin in the Mind of God (Nous) as Ideas within our spheres of influence.

If the Idea is our death, the Gods are to administer that "fate" and make it happen, and our personal opinions on the matter don't... matter.

But the magician accomplishing the Great Work would be in harmony with the Idea naturally, and would agree with their death, in theory.

They would also see it from the perspective of eternity, a perspective we can share with our god brothers and god sisters. It wouldn't seem like a capricious act by an arrogant slave owner treating us like useless property to be broken and thrown away at whim.

Galina Krasskova said...

Emlyjay: you brought up a good point. Odin is a God of extremes and does tend to evoke extremes of devotion in His devotees.

and as to your comments about whether or not a Deity can kill you: bravo! Beautiful, seriously. I read that going: i wish i'd said that! :) and i agree with your reasoning as to why people find that idea (that the Gods have that power) objectionable.

nutty professor said...

I know that this thread is long but this is most profound:

"If the Idea is our death, the Gods are to administer that "fate" and make it happen, and our personal opinions on the matter don't... matter.

But the magician accomplishing the Great Work would be in harmony with the Idea naturally, and would agree with their death, in theory."

Still, it begs the question, however: Whose fate is it? the god or the human? in other words, who is driving the Fate engine of which you speak? I would think that the human is working out its "fate" in this life in accordance with its particular agreement with the Universe. But you raise the suggestion that the god also has a "fate" and a destiny to fulfill, and a Return to make.

By this logic, of course, the human ALSO has the power of life over the deity, if that is the proper elaboration of its "fate."

Thank you for exposing me to these ideas. It is very illuminating.

Anonymous said...

@Galina

"If i don't focus on them enough, it is partly that they are personal, partly that this seems so obvious, partly that one cannot predict what any other person will gain and mostly because *one should not serve out of a desire for rewards*. One should serve out of love, or a desire to be of use. To serve and honor the Gods only out of an expectation of reward seems to me to be missing the point. The Gods shouldn't have to bribe us into doing what is right, after all. "

I think that's the rub. You are assuming that what the Gods are asking you to do is "right". In light of the lore that we have I think that assumption is very much open to question.

What if someone is a devotee of Ares and he wants his devotee to kill a group of anti-war protesters? It could very well really be Ares that is asking for that(he has done far worse, as have almost all of the Gods we know of), but is it right? From what you have said in past posts it could be argued that he is a God and can force the devotee to comply. Would his might make the devotee killing the protesters right?

Of course, it might just be a matter of Faith.

Rufus Opus said...

Arx, for Christ's sake, don't blaspheme the gods. Jesus, what do they teach people today? Haven't you freaking SEEN Clash of the Titans? They'll Calibos you for sure!

What you're talking about is Hubris, man. You don't ever judge the gods, they're a long way up the food chain of manifestation from us. They see things we can't, know things we don't, and they brook little nonsense from mortals too stupid to show proper respect.

Anonymous said...

@Rufus Opus

But don't we do that all the time? When members of the various Abrahamic abuse Pagans, don't we question the thoughts of their God and how their followers interpret them?

Why should Our Gods and Our Relationship with them be safe from the same rigorous inquiry that we give to the followers of the Abrahamic faiths?

Taking that as a principle is a dangerous thing as it allows for total abnegation of personal responsibility for one's actions(Oh, Ba'al made you do it? Well then, that's another matter. Can't question the gods. Have a nice day!)

Are they so unimpressive that they can't weather being questioned? I myself disagree most strongly. The gods are the gods. They survived Nietzsche, Sagan, Socrates, and thousands of other thinkers so much greater than I am or will ever be.

And to answer your first question I was taught to question everything. From the gods in their heavens to the fire deep beneath our feet and every single thing in between. You do what you do, I question. That's kindof what I do. Ask Miss Sugar(Deb) or Jow. It drives them nuts sometimes.

Anonymous said...

The mere fact that the gods are the gods means little. They're frequently just as deluded as humans are, and even the best are still as mortal as we. It's far better to eschew any power outside of oneself and bow only before your own nature. ;-)
Submission and "Godslavery" whatever that is are paths for slaves. Those worthy of worship want free men. Those who want submission wind up under the feet in the image below.

http://www.tibetshop.com/vk73.jpg

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