Life is holy, but some people out of either ignorance of that fact or as a self-serving and malevolent expression choose to not treat it as such.
We can either enhance life or diminish it, extol it or denigrate it. What enhances life is love, given freely without strings or attachments. Everything else is just a barrier to achieving and experiencing wholeness everything else is just survival, though of course one needs to maintain the latter to express the former.
But when the survival mode dominates we can only limit ourselves i.e. we take and hoard, hold onto, close up and restrict. In love we give ourselves away and in so doing save ourselves. Survival mode comes from a personal context of insufficiency (there’s not enough) and vulnerability (life is fragile). Survival with no other purpose than to continue life is a form of death. The soul is not about survival but the full expression of who and what you are_ it is about wholeness.
This is what wholeness looks like: No limits, open, truly free i.e. to be unbound by your beliefs, your prejudices, judgments and self-protections.
When we are free of the barriers we put up in order to feel secure, when we can give of our life freely we are then said to be in “possession” of it i.e. it belongs to us and not to someone else’s ideal or belief or dictate or expectation for us. When dominated by our survival mode, or even to the degree by which we have allowed ourselves to be dominated by this mode of living, everything else possesses our life and we are not free to be what we are.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
But to be what we are takes immense courage, “The courage to be” as Paul Tillich called it– it’s not about what you do or don’t do, it’s about who you are and expressing that regardless of the evaluation of others.
Your life is holy, everyone’s life is holy and the clannishness we’ve created in order to protect ourselves from seen and unseen dangers is killing us, it selfishly treats only a select few as being holy and only if those few adhere to the clan belief system. There will never be true freedom to “be” with this kind of limit on the expression of wholeness i.e. ‘holiness’.
“I am neither of the East nor of the West, no boundaries exist within my breast.”
Beliefs that teach that only certain humans behaving in certain prescribed ways are looked upon favorably by God attempt to build fences around the real God. But God cannot be fenced in and fences don’t enhance, they diminish. To denigrate the differences between us does not enhance the human spirit it is a barrier to it.
If you were to strip away the stories, the interpretive overlay, and dogma of every religion you will notice that virtually every spiritual leader, credited with starting a new way of thinking, a new way of being in relationship with each other and with the spirit that created us has done so out of knowing that the purpose of being human is to become whole and to express that wholeness freely and honestly. All have known that what we are is love and that we need to learn to express it more freely. Anything else is not love and it is not an expression of wholeness or the sacredness of each of us.
Deep within all of us is a universal thought-form that influences virtually everything we do, believe or think we know. This form, feeling, or image is expressed in a myriad of ways at our most unconscious level. These universal forms are called “archetypes” and reside in an ethereal realm called the Collective Unconscious. They are most often accessed through our dreams or other trance states such as meditation. But the images are expressed in more than just our dreams, we can see them in our myths, our fairy tales, and fictional stories and they shape the relationships that matter in our lives.
From this universal center of the human psyche comes an image of the Spirit, it is the opposite of matter and may visit the dreamer as a wise old man or woman who can guide us through the spiritual world and /or through problem issues in the waking world. Collectively these are known as Spirit Guides. In the world of the Shaman these may come as a “Spirit Spouse” who assists in the shamanic work through dreams, ritual, and/or trance.
The ancient Egyptian Magus Hermes Trismegistus believed all beings possess the potential to access the infinite wisdom of the Spirit that the individual has the ability to know the whole by becoming like the whole. One does this by aligning themselves with the divine source of their being.
The Spirit can come to us in the form of a loved one who has died, a ghost or with the impression of the infinite that is called a “numinous” feeling, with the sense of something divine, something entirely different from all that we experience in our usual waking life.
At its very root the Spirit is our connection with nature, what Carl Jung the Swiss Psychiatrist and dream analyst called, “The nourishing soil of the soul”. I believe that our dissociation with nature has left us disconnected from our experience of Spirit i.e. of the divine. Nature is part of the soul of our existence and to pollute it and destroy it to make way for more hamburgers (destruction of the rain forests so as to grow more beef), oil drilling platforms and pipelines, cars, parking lots and shopping malls is to destroy or sicken part of our own soul.
As Jung once said, “Nature is not matter only, she is also Spirit”. I think that when we make our wallets more important, when we make our material objects more important, when we make ourselves more important we rob the Earth of its Spirit and from ourselves as well.
Spirit images in our dreams also remind us of death, endings, transformation, and letting go, what needs to happen in order to grow beyond our own self-imposed limits and what is absolutely necessary to evolve sustainably.
The Spirit or soul of the Earth and of humankind is the hub of the wheel of the Four Elements that I’ve been writing about this month. It is the center from which all else radiates.
“And there is no object so soft but it makes a hub for the wheeled universe,
And any man or woman shall stand cool and supercilious before a million universes”
–Walt Whitman, leaves of grass
To me this suggests that there’s no object so insignificant that it can’t have the whole universe revolving around it. It is our very divinity that we are giving up when we focus exclusively on the material to the detriment of Spirit.
“Air moves us, fire transforms us, water shapes us, earth heals us . And the balance of the wheel goes round and round . And the balance of the wheel goes round.”
– By Cathleen Sheil, Moonsea and Prune of Reclaiming
What? You thought that because Valentines is over that I wasn’t going to talk about love anymore?
We spend our lives in small things, separated from our bigger essence.
Love is like the ocean. The ocean is but one wave until it is touched by the wind and transformed into many. Between two people it is like two waves traversing the world and finally meeting, the two becoming the one.
Have you noticed that when experiencing love, when you are submerged within it, you see it everywhere you look? Is it actually out there, or is it in the person that experiences it? And why does it seem to come and go so easily?
It seems to me that if you imagine love to be something outside yourself that something or someone puts into you, then you are separated from your true nature. You and I spend a lot of our lives in a shallow sleep of small things where we have imagined ourselves separated from our bigger essence. It’s because we think that who we are stops at the end of our skin. And we spend a lot of time and energy protecting that skin from the so-called outside world. But in this world where as a lone creature we seek safety, we fail to see that safety, true safety, can only exist when we are not separate.
In order to feel love we need to feel safe and in order to feel safe we need to surrender this notion that we are separate. Love cannot truly visit our being with barriers and boundaries surrounding us. Including others by including them in the attentiveness of our hearts awakens us to not only their humanity but our own as well.
A consciousness of the real self meditation:
In a quiet room imagine yourself expanding your consciousness so that it takes in everything in the room. Now expand that awareness to include the house, and the neighborhood with all its people, animals, trees and insects. Expanding this consciousness even further, imagine that you have become within the limits of your skin the whole city, state and nation. Expanding out into space look down at the world that is now a part of you and push ever outward to include the Moon, the planets, the Sun.
Now, ever so quickly, expand to include the galaxy and then to all the stars and galaxies that make up the universe until you are at the very edge of time and space and the emptiness that it is expanding into. Then include the emptiness– the nothing.
Look closely now into the darkness of your mind. Is there and end to it, can you actually see the walls where your mind ends? No, you cannot, for what you are doesn’t have an end. If you are an expression of everything then there is no real threat against you. It is only when you are a tiny, quivering little thing, alone and drifting in the hugeness of existence that you have to protect yourself.
A Rumi Meditation
Try using this poem by the 13th century Sufi poet, Rumi as a meditation for expanding your awareness.
“You have heard of the ocean of nonexistence.
Try continually to give yourself to that ocean.
Every workshop has its foundations
Set on that emptiness.
The master of all masters works with nothing.
The more such nothing comes into your work,
The more the presence will be there.
Dervishes gamble everything.
They lose and win the other,
The emptiness which animates this.
We have talked so much.
Remember what we have not said.
And keep working. Laziness and disdain
are not devotions. Your effort will bring a result.
As dawn lightens, blow out the candle.
Dawn is in your eyes now.”
Imagine your life up to now as but a dream limited only by your imagination. Imagine waking up within the dream to discover how really big you actually are. When awake in your life, love becomes the foundation of that life. When lucid in your dream you expand rapidly into your bigger self. Love is what you actually are.
Dragons turn up in dreams from time to time but what is he or she trying to tell us?
They have a long history in both Europe and in the far-east. In Europe they often lay waste to villages, turn brave knights into ash and steal fair maidens for feasting.
In the English story of St. George and the Dragon the knight does battle with the Dragon that has stolen the King’s daughter. He eventually slays him but is that all there is to it? Is it all just a fairy story, probably not because every story is symbolic of the psyche of humankind? And the story of Saint George is no different. Psychologists suggest that the story may be archetypal in that it represents the battle between good and evil I all of us. This shows the selfless courage of the hero and is an attempt by the psyche to integrate the opposites and that Saint George’s conquest represents when someone has successfully done so. But all dragons are not always demonic aspects of the self.
The Dragon is actually the major symbol of good fortune in Chinese Astrology. The Dragon constellation, for example, is accorded the honor of being the guardian of the Eastern sky. Traditionally the Dragon brings in the Four Blessings of the East: wealth, virtue, harmony and longevity.
Of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac the Dragon is the most special, as it is a mystical being rather than an earthly animal. According to Chinese astrology it’s a karmic sign and we can expect grand things from this year.
Chinese mythology sees the dragon as a symbol of wisdom.
Interestingly enough the root word for Dragon in ancient Greek was Drakon that means “to see clearly” or “that which sees.” This might be interpreted as wisdom.
Confucious (a famous Chinese philosopher) compared Lao Tzu (the writer of the Tao Te Ching) to a Dragon.
A good luck and wisdom symbol. Many pictures show the dragon handing the “Pearl of Wisdom”, or the “Pearl of Potentiality”to a shaman. Good, life-giving energy (chi) is channeled along “Dragon-lines” that in China were said to follow underground water or magnetic fields.To dream of a dragon is considered by some Chinese to be very auspicious.
The Lung dragon was the most powerful of the three species of Chinese Dragon and was considered a divine animal. The Cha-yü dragon only showed up when a ruling sovereign showed a lack of virtue. This dragon was known for eating men (symbolic of an leader who consumed the virtue and life force of others).
In Chinese mythology the Dragon of Hidden Treasures is a symbol of vigilance and the guardian of their fortune.
The Chinese New Years Dragon represents benevolence, but also power, representing the forces of nature. It is a rain bringer and dragon of fertility that brings only benefit to the people.
The Chinese frequently paired the dragon with the image of a phoenix bird (Fenghuang, or the August Rooster). Since Neolithic China these two were considered two of the four Supernatural Spirits symbolizing both the four directions and the four seasons (which seem to have been added to over the millennia e.g. The dragon, phoenix (or the Feng bird for short), unicorn (or deer), tortoise and tiger). They were often thought of as the “Gentleman and the Sage” and given that the Emperors of China often thought of themselves as descended from the Dragon, the Phoenix was often seen as his mate. Thus this pairing has been likened to the union of the Yin and Yang. An old saying in China goes, “When the Dragon soars and the Phoenix dances, the people will enjoy happiness for years…”
For the ancient Chinese culture dragon were primarily symbolic, but the idea of the actual existence of Dragons surfaced Millennia ago as the philosopher Chang Qu found gigantic bones of a dinosaur and mistook them for that of a dragon.
In Chinese myth, dragons originated as rain deities. Folk legends say that the dragon lives under water half of the year, rising into the sky during the spring when the constellation of Draco, the dragon, is at its highest. In China, dragons are symbols of authority, fertility, goodness and strength, and the benevolent giver of wealth and good fortune.
They were generally portrayed as protectors, guarding treasure, temples, or even Heaven itself, keeping watch over sky and waterways. This image of beneficent power was appreciated by China’s rulers, who used the dragon as an imperial symbol. The emperor occupied the Dragon Throne, wore dragon robes and even slept in the dragon bed. Chinese people sometimes referred to themselves as children of the dragon.
In Chinese culture, the season of the Dragon is mid-spring, its direction is east by southeast, and its fixed element is wood.
Symbolic meaning of the Dragon in dreams:
The dragon and the snake have a rich symbolic history in the mythology of mankind. In general, animals were seen to have certain attributes that were often observed in their natural behaviors. It was these attributes that people wanted to take on for themselves and it was thought that aligning ones self, or by extension, ones nation, or tribe with the animal it would assist in this process. This practice still exist to some extent in military banners and national emblems, note the Eagle in the Marine Corps banner as well as that of the national emblem, or the double headed eagle of Greece or the eagle in the Egyptian flag, or the dragon in the flag of Wales.
The Dragon is often the protector of treasure with the TREASURE representing YOU. (which was the point of the book The Dragon’s Treasure. It can represent fears that have to be overcome before recognizing the true self. Often it can be the guardian of the spirit. For some it is their ‘Spirit Guide.’
The fearsomeness of the Dragon could represent the fear felt regarding the unconscious.
Dragons and snakes are interchangeable in many cultures. Giant snakes like the Naga can be found in many cultures, Hindu, Buddhist to name two of the most well known. They often represent rebirth and death. The Minoan Snake Goddess of early Greece represented wisdom and the snake of the Asclepion was a healing snake that we still see emblazoned within modern medicine. All can be considered symbols for meaning in the dream world.
• Dragon totems in some Native American traditions represent messengers of balance. They are also seen as the masters of all the elements: earth, wind, fire, and water. They are seen as powerful guardians and guides and embody the primordial power.
“A Dragon totem is one of the most powerful totems, representing a huge range of qualities, emotions, and traits. When Dragons come to us, it could mean many things.
The most common message a Dragon totem [may] carry to us is a need for strength, courage, and fortitude. Dragons are also messengers of balance, and magic – encouraging us to tap into our psychic nature and see the world through the eyes of mystery and wonder.
More specifically, Dragons are the embodiment of primordial power – the ultimate ruler of all the elements. This is because the Dragon is the master of all the elements: Fire, Water, Earth, and Wind.
As a totem, the Dragon serves as a powerful guardian and guide. Encourage communication with your Dragon, and acknowledge your Dragon’s presence as often as possible.”*
With the Native Americans of the North and Southwest there were a number of Dragon and serpent legends. Most of these Dragons and serpents stole children and were associated with water. Some stories may have been used to scare children away from water and thus the serpent became a type of bogey.
Examples: Amhuluk (Oregon); Ancient Serpent (Piute); Angont (Huron); Kolowisi (Zuni); Msi-Kinepeikwa (Shawnee); Palulukon (Hopi weather Dragon-similar to Chinese version); Stvkwvnaya (Seminole Dragon with a magic horn on its head).
The Australian Aborigine speaks of the Dreaming where two Serpents Yingara and Ngalyod (mother and father deities) are revered as the Rainbow Serpent creators of the world.
From the Wiccan perspective it represents a person of power and if in the dream you are riding on it, then it may be about spiritual insight.
A winged Dragon may also mean some kind of transcendence, a passing from a “lower” to “higher” level of maturity.
A Hydra is a many-headed dragon. Legend has it that Hercules kept cutting off the heads, but they grew back. To dream of a hydra might suggest that you are having a recurring issue in your life i.e. something that keeps coming back and never seems to get handled. Some sources (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snap-dragon_%28game%29) suggest that after Hercules killed the dragon he made of it a flaming meat and named it “Snapdragon.” A game of this name was played by children in some English speaking countries from the 16th through the late 19th centuries on both Christmas eve and All Hallows eve. In a bowl of blue flaming brandy were placed raisins that the children would try to pluck out without getting burned and then eat, all the while chanting,
“With his blue and lapping tongue,
many of you will be stung
Snip, snap, dragon.”
The symbolism of conquering danger in both the legend of Hercules and the dragon and in the playing of the game, “Snapdragon” is inescapable. We humans are always telling the story of conquering evil, of being the heroes of our own personal myth. Thus continues the ongoing reconciliation between the opposites good and evil.
As with some other animal symbols the Dragon and/or snake may also represent your sexuality, especially if your sexuality scares you. Does it threaten to rule your life?
Some time ago I was down in Santa Barbara attending an introductory course on a relatively new approach to dream work. It’s called Dream Tending and though I’m only just scratching the surface of its potential, it has created enough of a change in my perspective that I want to alter the manner in which I work with a dream–yours and mine.
Today’s blog entry I think will reflect some of that change. As I learn and practice I’ll share this already transformational journey.
I’m walking down a forested path with overhanging bushes and trees. I’m looking down a downward sloping path that seems to go into darkness as it bends slightly to my right. Oh, oh, there’s a skunk walking around the corner and out of the darkness, waddling rapidly toward me.
I’m feeling a little fearful. “Will it spray me with that foul smell?” It doesn’t seem menacing, but I’m unsure as it passes me on my right, brushing alongside both myself and the bushes along the path. It’s heading up the path and as it does it seems to be changing from a skunk into a furry, fat old raccoon, less menacing and certainly less fearsome, though I still cringe at the thought of it spraying me once it has passed.
Here’s where I would normally begin the interpretation part of the dream work, however following at least the spirit of the Dream Tending technique, if not actually the letter of it, I continued to work with the image of the creature. What I am attempting to do is to keep the image alive so that I can continue to work with it and interact with it as opposed to doing forensics on it, which requires that it be still so that I can take it apart and study it. The old method requires that the image be unanimated e.g. dead and of course in this state it can only give me information about what was and provides nothing ongoing–it flattens, or two-dimensionalises what started out as an interactive three dimensional being within the dream world.
Both of us seem focused on where we are going as though we each have a mission. As I’m working on this image I’m engaging the creature and say to it, “Good Luck!” and it responds, “Same to you!” There’s a sense of us being on the same team and performing our prescribed duties in a communal manner.
I’m having a sense that the creature is female and that she’s emerging (ascending) from where I’m headed–she having a purpose in the upper realm while I have a purpose in the lower realm.
We both seem excited by our respective missions. The mission seems like one for the planet versus a personal mission. She is coming from the mother, while I am going toward the mother with us both traveling along this two-way path.
I’m imagining the path now to include lots of back and forth traveling, doing the business of the planet. I’m noticing that this has always been the path that I have been on, but I didn’t have the eyes to see it. Now it feels as though I’m part of it versus being separate from it i.e. in true partnership. I’m feeling hopeful and energized.
I don‘t know what’s around the corner and though I’m feeling a little hesitant, I’m letting that pass and head down anyway. This transforming creature (from skunk to raccoon) reminds me of Alice’s Rabbit whose imaginal emergence becomes an invitation into a world beyond the normal–a world beyond our collective illusion–a glimpse of a world yet more real.
Though the skunk may represent my hesitancy in that I might need to protect myself, it also changes into something much more benign and welcoming.
I seem to be on the road to embodying my new position on the planet in that I am marching to its center to pick up my orders, so to speak.
I’m noticing that the thought, “Living life intentionally” comes up and that the dream seems to embody and encourage this intentionality.
I’m also struck by the animal’s femaleness and wonder if she is also a metaphor for transforming my relationship with the feminine. Am I finally recognizing our connection, our true partnership? Is the animal Psyche, Gaia, Earth Mother– the feminine side of God? Is she welcoming me as she did in the “Blue Fresco” dream summarized in the posting of 8-30-2016?
Am I being invited to help in bringing the feminine back to the world so as to heal its overly masculine imbalance? Is the image in the Blue Fresco the Sophia of the ancient Jewish tradition, the feminine aspect of God, the wisdom side of the masculine?
These are archetypal symbols that dramatize and establish core meaning to the images of the dream and invoke the divine that is in all dreams e.g. the Divine Mother and Wise Old Woman. They can be seen in virtually every mythology including those that were scribed as drawings on cave walls (the original temples serving as both tomb and womb, and earthly connection with the underworld and the spirit), or carved from clay before the dawn of the written word.
Myth, or the study of them, mythology, is frequently what the other guy believes in. All too often it is denigrated, put-down, and demeaned. “Oh, that’s just a myth!” is often heard as a means of dismissing something that one doesn’t believe in, or disagrees with. We are taught very early to discriminate between what is real, fact, and what is not real, myth or fiction.
That’s well enough, but many of the things we believe are real can turn out to be myth. At one time the whole world believed that the Sun orbited the Earth, most believed there were many gods and that women were property. “God created the world in six days!” Is this a myth or fact, or maybe a myth that points at a fact? After all, it is a fact that the universe was created. It’s the how, when, or why that stumps us and so we make up stories of explanation and adhere stubbornly to them until something better comes along.
And that is the purpose of myth–it’s a means of pointing to what is often the ineffable i.e. what we have trouble putting words to. Our myths point to a reality that is hard to express, or visualize. They also point to human or environmental behavior that is difficult to explain otherwise. It’s not that these behaviors don’t exist, but that we are trying to fathom the world, its people, and ourselves through the power of allegory and myth. We project onto our gods, our heroes and on to other people our own myth. When we learn to read it, the reality of the real world will begin to reveal itself.
Even though myths are often used as the end point of explanation, they can also be the first step in dealing with reality in that they identify what needs explanation e.g. what is it we are seeing? Essentially myths may serve as allegory or symbol of what is real. This is also what our dreams do, they point to the reality we may not see.
For example, when we say that we are a writer, a biker, and a lover of chocolate we then want to explain why that is so. For example we might say, “I am the way I am because my Dad was a biker, my Mom a reader, and chocolate’s an addiction, or surrogate for the love I never got because my Dad was off riding and mother too buried in her books. Or here’s a more ancient explanation for the unknown, “the sky is dark and thundering so there must be an angry god” or perhaps a vengeful sorcerer, demon, or witch.
We develop a lot of myths about ourselves e.g. any time we say, “I am the way I am because…” we are creating our personal myth, our personal explanation for reality–the story, or narrative, that we live by and through. Of course most of these behavioral explanations require some form of blaming someone, or something, other than our selves. And for many of us the whole of life is a myth. Does that mean that your life isn’t real, or true? Not necessarily, for in each personal myth is the seed of truth if we had the eye to see it. Mostly we are so busy making up stories about who we are that we can’t see the reality beneath the stories.
Why do we seem to give such power to our myths? What we seem to do more often than not is to confuse the pointing finger with what the finger is pointing to.
Myths can also be used to hide the assumed reality of ourselves so as to protect us from what we fear the world is, or what we fear we are. There is of course nothing wrong with a personal myth and it’ll do until something better comes along. But you might take the first step in your own growth, and in deciphering your own metaphors for understanding life, your life. As Jean Houston, a human potentials movement leader, said “myth does serve as a manner of explanation, but it is also a mode of discovery…it is the stuff of the evolving self that awakens consciousness…”
You might ask yourself what is your personal myth i.e. who and what do you think you are and are not and why? Jot down a list of adjectives along with their explanations and then scan them and look for themes. What reality does all this seem to point to? For example, if you are someone who meets criticism with hostility and are quick to defend your position, what is it you fear you are that you then feel so compelled to defend against it? What are you protecting?
The myth you have created can inform you as to the fact of you, the reality of you. The informants are all around you and every judgment you have of another person is part of your personal myth and can tell you more about you than it can about them.
Every point-of-view, every criticism, every acknowledgment, and every belief contains valuable information about you and collectively this information can paint a picture of the ‘you’ who exists in the world. And I believe that the more you understand what you’ve created the more you can discriminate between that and who you really are.
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
― C.G. Jung
Let’s use the biker, reader, chocolate example again, if you believe that chocolate should be one of the main food groups because it is such a good pick me up when you’re feeling down, or you get upset anytime someone ignores you, and your explanation includes what your parents did when you were a kid you might look for a theme in that. Is there “hurt” in that, or “abandonment”? Is there fear, or anxiety? Do you feel compelled to defend your position? From what and why? The story will reveal parts of yourself that you may have hidden long ago. Where else in your life do these feelings and reactions come up? Do they arrive in your dreams, work, school, or on a date? What might they be telling you about yourself?
Given that this time of year has several of the world’s religions celebrating the spirit I thought I’d do a quick and dirty review on the Gods they believe in.
Atheism presents a case against the existence of God, but wouldn’t it need an image of God to present a case against it? Why the need to refute the existence of something you know doesn’t exist? These might be considered antireligionists. In fact they seem to make a religion out of antireligion. Originally this word “atheist” was given to those who didn’t believe in the gods of the larger society. Today it represents the belief that there are no gods. They base their beliefs on the fact that there is no “empirical evidence”. Never mind that there may not exist the means for gathering or detecting empirical evidence re: the spiritual.
Life after death: In atheism there is the belief that there is no life beyond death. There is of course no “empirical evidence” to support this belief.
Deism suggests that there is a God but that it is not involved in our every day life. It teaches that God is knowable through creation itself.
Life after death: Regarding any after death phenomenon the deist claims that there’s no evidence either way i.e. of its existence or non-existence.
Theism makes a case for God’s continued intervention in the lives of its creation. Theism teaches that God is not knowable. Types of theism 1) traditional Abrahamic religions known as monotheisms and 2) polytheism such as Hinduism comprised of many gods and demi gods with one primary god and with each representing a different aspect of reality. Note that Paganism may be considered a branch of polytheism. In truth this term was used by Christians to demonize polytheistic religions so as to establish their inferiority. Modern Paganists incorporate nature worship into their belief systems. There are Pantheistic (the belief that all reality is identical with divinity), Polytheistic, animistic and even monotheistic pagans. There are even Henotheists who believe in their one god but not to the denial that there may be other gods e.g. Yaweh or Allah. The Muslims believe that Allah and Yaweh is the same God. Pantheists believe that though there may be many gods such as with polytheism there is an underlying unity e.g. in Hinduism, the Brahman.
Life after death: Theists believe in a life after death though there is no evidence to support it.
Animism: Totemic Spirit beings formed the creation. For example, in the Australian Aboriginal cosmology Rainbow Snake created the world. Totemic beings continue to create the world as the ancestor spirits. The Inuit of the Pacific Northwest Americas have stories of Raven who created the Earth, the father of all life who was created out of the darkness. As with some of the old Hellenistic religion Raven could come to earth as a human (remind you of anyone?) or an animal (e.g. lion, sheep, dove)
Raven– creator god
Life after death: The Australian Aboriginal, for example, believes that every person essentially exists eternally in the Dreaming. This eternal part existed before the life of the individual begins, and continues to exist when the life of the individual ends. Both before and after life, it is believed that this spirit-child exists in the Dreaming and is only initiated into life by being born through a mother. The spirit of the child is culturally understood to enter the developing fetus during the fifth month of pregnancy.
Secular Humanism: Secular humanism posits that human beings are capable of being ethical and moral without religion or a god. This may be somewhat like Atheism but a little less cynical. An essential part of secular humanism is a continually adapting search for truth, primarily through science and philosophy without the imposition of any belief.
Life after death: A concern for this life (as opposed to an afterlife) and a commitment to making it meaningful through better understanding of ourselves, our history, our intellectual and artistic achievements, and the outlooks of those who differ from us.
Nearly all the isms require either belief or experience.
Belief of any kind requires trust and confidence that something is true or the validity of something often backed by evidence but also through something called faith.
Experience is a direct observation or personal encounter not requiring trust or confidence, faith or evidence. It’s a knowing separate from knowledge. Knowing is the experience of something first hand while knowledge is gained through other people’s experience. It’s like the difference between book learning and on-the-job practical experience.
Belief seems to lock up ones thinking because if you think you know the truth there’s no room for the truth in your knowing. Belief tends to be static but experience is in the moment-by-moment living. Experience is of the “be here now” while Belief may be of the “be here then”.
For example, at one time I could never believe in God for I had no experience of it. Once I had an experience of it I no longer needed a belief in it. Now that doesn’t mean that I haven’t locked-in my experience and turned it into a belief e.g. “I believe in God because I’ve had an experience of it”. I’m only human and that’s what we do. When I notice I’ve done this I try to think of the experience as a fond memory of a past moment that I’m not experiencing at the present moment and let it go. When I’ve truly let it go the moment often returns reminding anew.
This isn’t easy this not holding onto a favorite memory and allowing whatever experience I’m having in the moment to just be what it is. But somehow there’s a knowing that transcends the memory and the desire to lock it up in a precious little silver box, a knowing that floats freely wherever I go as long as I don’t hold onto it. It’s that free-floating knowing that keeps God bidden or unbidden always by my side.