So to recap a little, we've covered my religious upbringing, the death of my Mother and how that shaped my ideas of the afterlife, and my transition into Paganism. Now today, I'm going to talk a little bit about magick, ethics and that promised epiphany that took a year. You guys all buckled in? Alrighty then, let's get to it!
I think it's important to note that three years or so before my Mother died I started studying magick. Ardriana was studying (she said it was research for a book...*snickergiggles*...a book...*ahem* that's her story tell anyway...) ...and she was bringing it home to us. The reason this is important is because from the very beginning, magick was the practice of the manipulation of energy to a desired result, and had nothing to do with religion. So yes, in this system, you could be a "good Christian/Muslim/Buddhist/Athiest" and practice magick.
Even today the "work" of magick, while tied into my spirituality and belief system, can easily be separated from it completely. Though to be fair, the step from magick to Paganism isn't very far, and it was a contributing factor in my transformation...specially since magick is generally frowned upon in the Catholic Church. (Hi Red...understatement much?)
So then, I was Pagan...now what? My life pretty much still sucked, but I felt better about it, I guess. Or perhaps I had better tools with which to survive it. In any case, once I'd graduated High School, I was given the option of college or a job. I took college. And promptly withdrew from most of my classes and generally did nothing. This went on for a couple three years until one day I decided to stop wasting my Dad's money. I stopped signing up for morning classes, because I just slept through them. I stopped taking five at a time, because I am generally lazy and wouldn't focus on the ones I didn't like. In short, I tricked myself into actually getting an education in college, and found the class that changed my life.
Since I was picking my classes by time frame, I took whatever professors came up that fit my criteria...class didn't start before 11AM. I was *very* lucky, and met several professors that challenged me in ways that still inform my life. But I think that it was my Philosophy prof that had the most profound impact...
It was an Introduction into Ethics class, using a brand new translation of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics as the text book. Good gods...I finally understood the phrase, "blew my mind wide open", I could literally feel my consciousness expanding, my internals shifting and my view of the world around me changing.
I understood for the first time what being a good person meant and entailed. I was given a step by step process that I could internalize and begin using as a metric for my daily life. Good and bad had real world definitions, and were no longer divinely inspired abstracts that I just simply had to accept. I learned that circumstance changed the amount of blame or praise you lay on someone for their actions. I understood responsibility, accountability and what it meant to be a person living in a civilization with laws.
And even as I stared uphill at the path that lay before me. A path with no handrails, no safety net, and no divinely inspired forgiveness should I mess up, I knew I'd go anyway. I couldn't not. The rewards, freedom, responsibility (how is that a reward?) and understanding far outweighed the work and other costs that this system of behavior came with.
That class was an oasis for three hours, twice a week, and I gulped down the concepts like a starving man gulps down food. I was fundamentally changed by the class...and then Aristotle said that the gods had no place in a system of ethics...
A bolt of lightning speared me through the head. I know that sounds overly dramatic, but that's what it felt like. My whole view of the world and how to move through it *shifted*. I was a different person after I read that line, and the world was never the same. If the responsibility ethical behavior lay with me because I wanted to live within the society I found myself in, and I did good because it was simply the right thing to do, and not because of some hope of reward or fear of punishment...then why did I need religion at all?
Oh, but that opened a can of worms didn't it? And I think this is where I'm going to leave this post for now. I suppose I was overly ambitious when I thought I could tell this story in only two chunks. I really should know better...I am Irish after all.
Thank you for continuing to read, and I promise to try to have the next installment sooner rather than later.
Till next time, be well,