I had ethics, I had magick, I had a basic understanding of what a religion is and what components go into a belief system. I also had the desire to be a part of something larger than myself. Something that helps fill the gaps in my days.
And then I had to take my truck to the shop. Hang on, how this fits into the larger picture is coming, don't you worry...
I ended up having to take the shuttle home, and since I was the furthest one away, I was last to be dropped off. Once I had moved into the front seat of the van and we were on the way, the elderly gentleman driving started talking to me... Now some of you might know my gaming habits, and so will only nod when I tell you that I only had a couple hours of sleep before getting up to take my truck in at the butt crack of dawn. Basically what I'm saying is that I don't remember most of our conversation, but I do remember how I felt about it, and what lines of thinking it got me into.
Somehow we got to talking about religion, and/or philosophy, and he asked me some questions. I answered them honestly, telling him some of the conclusions I'd come to over the last couple years. He started challenging me, trying to trap me in my own logic, and how it applies to a Christian world view. I wasn't firing on all thrusters, so I probably wasn't my most eloquent or coherent...but the important thing I remember was that I wasn't upset or threatened in any way.
After I got home and had a nap, I started asking myself why I reacted the way I did to our conversation. He really wanted to shove me off the rock of my conclusions, and I just wasn't bothered. So why was that?
Ok, quick flashback...cue music...
When I was going through Catholic school, I learned quite a bit about faith and belief. One had to have faith to believe in the Church's teachings. Uh...ok...I never much liked that, because it seemed pretty passive to me, regardless of how it is for others.
In jr. high I started reading a lot of fantasy novels. I found lots of stories where the characters come face to face with their deity(ies), and even in one a Catholic priest asks that if he can no longer have faith, what does he have? The answer he got was, "knowledge".
Ahh...I liked that. Knowledge and experience (with things outside oneself) seemed to be a step up from faith and belief. I decided that's what I wanted...
...and end flashback.
How does one go about getting knowledge and experience? Well, I dunno about others, but what I did was claim that I had it. Oh, I was reading a great deal, about philosophy, pagan and otherwise. I was learning critical ways of thinking, different ways of seeing the world. There are layers to the way I see things now. Take the moon for example. As a kid I knew that the Moon could go where the Sun could not, that made her more magickal. As an adult, I have studied astronomy, and understand that the sun is many, many times larger than the moon and that we move around it. I haven't lost my view of the Moon as magickal, and science hasn't destroyed it. I just have a literal way of looking at it, and a metaphorical way of looking at it. The metaphor is still important to me because it helps me to deal with some of my own character flaws.
So I was studying and gaining knowledge, I just needed the experience to go with it. At this time I was participating in a study group that also did rituals during the esbats (the full and dark moons of each month). It was here that I started collecting experience. There are moments when things happened that aren't scientifically explainable...yet. I also had experiences outside of ritual that added to my catalog of moments that might make your hair stand on end.
While I was considering why the shuttle driver didn't make me feel threatened, I realized that all the knowledge and experience that I claimed simply because I wanted it was suddenly real. I added up my memories and felt a moment of arrival, for the lack of a better word. I had attained my spiritual goal and I was very content with it. This was the beginning of my epiphany.
Over the next few months, I kept re-examining how I felt about the conversation with the shuttle driver, and how I would react to other such conversations down the road. I thought that having knowledge and experience, instead of belief and faith, was the end of it. It was the evolutionary step I needed to take and that I was now done with that part of my spiritual growth. Little did I know that there was a step past that, and realizing what it was is what gave me the key to understanding my lack of reaction to a direct challenge to my belief system.
It has been my experience that one of the reasons people defend their faith so violently (sometimes literally), is that they don't want to be revealed as a fool or a fraud. If science came out tomorrow with proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that god (any god) doesn't exist, how crushing would that be for people? Whole lifetimes of hard choices made in the name of religion would be made worthless. To some anyway.
I asked myself how I would feel. My answer was a shrug. Seriously. I shrugged and knew it wouldn't crush me. That's a pretty strong response to a very fundamental question and it made look to try and see why.
This is when I discovered the step beyond knowledge and experience. It's choice. Conscious, self aware, fully engaged choice. Every day I wake up and choose the spiritual path I am on. And because I choose, I am not ironbound into anything. If part of my belief system no longer serves to help me be a better person, then it needs to evolve into something that does.
I joke now that I have spiritually and philosophically become like the Borg, if I find something that I like, "I will add your distinctiveness to my own". With this point of view, the possibilities for evolution are nigh limitless. I will never be in the position where I feel the need to defend my beliefs. I also never feel the need to tell anyone my beliefs so that they come to believe the same as I do. If someone asks me to explain my belief system, then I will, but my goal is to simply inform, not to convert. If there's something in what I say that works for you, great. If not, that's ok too.
It's almost impossible to convey here what a fundamental moment it was for me when I discovered the power of choice. The reason why the shuttle driver couldn't shove me off the rock of my belief is because there wasn't one. My beliefs are water, or the wind, they shift and move and I move with them.
With the power of choice comes the strength of evolution. With evolution comes a sense of security that nothing, not even myself, can shake.
I think I'll leave it at that today. There's some pretty nebulous ideas in this post, and I'm sure I'll have to do a "4a" at some point to answer questions. ^^; Thank you for wading through this post, I appreciate everyone who reads my words, whether or not they find value in them. Next time I'll lay out the particulars of my belief system as it stands now, and hopefully that'll complete the story I set out to write all those months ago.
Till next time, be well,