Devotion 101: More Q&A
Today's post is a continuation of my 'devotion 101' series. I am collecting questions from my readers about devotion and polytheism and one by one, week by week, I will answer them here. Today's question comes from Gary who asks:
"I am from the Taoist Way both philosophically and with it's religious side (religious taoism) with its Taoist Immortals and Ancestors.
But be that as it may - my question about devotion to you is concerning trust. I know from your book and your post here your devotion is for Odin. In your cultivation of devotion for him is trust one of the important virtues -, in other words for me devotion implies trust - why do you trust Odin? And why? And for what?
Devotion for me in my Taoist life is one of trusting the Tao because i connect with its presence and trust its presence - and Taoist Immortals and Ancestors embody that presence. And this is the essence of devotion for me."
I find this question perplexing. There is a level of direct experience of a Deity's presence that goes beyond trust. Trust in the way you describe it is a human thing, a human comfort, and in my practice and my relationship with the Gods is largely irrelevant. Do i trust Them? Yes. Always and in everything. I trust Odin to be Odin. I trust Loki to be Loki. I trust Sigyn to be Sigyn, et Al. Whether or not that makes me comfortable is irrelevant. My role, my duty, my job, my place is to serve Them in whatever capacity They define; and I love Them.
I think that an over-emphasis on trust again places and prioritizes human morality and human comforts above clean service to the Gods and ancestors, at least it would for me. If I am misreading and you are equating 'trust' with 'belief,' well then I would say it is a choice and the responsibility is on us to make that choice over and over again, every moment of every day. Belief rarely just happens. It's a conscious, ongoing decision. Decide and choose to believe. Choose to trust.
This isn't too different from the particularities of a human relationship. It's like tending a fire: you have to constantly feed it wood or it will die. What kind of a relationship, what kind of intimacy is possible if the very basic question of trust is challenged again and again and again. Make a decision and nurture it. That's Odinic wisdom. Stay the course.
I find myself bothered by your comment that 'devotion implies trust." I'm sure you meant exactly what you said but I could see this being taken to level the relationship between a devotee and a Deity, to equalize it when it is not and will not and can not ever be a relationship of equals. My colleague C., when I ran this by her (trying to parse out my thoughts on why it disturbed me so) put it beautifully : "devotion is a service." (She also gave me the fire metaphor above. Thank you, C.). I would add that it' s one we are graced to have the opportunity to offer.
Perhaps trust is more important to some people than others. I think my relationship with Odin is far, far beyond such quaint humanities as trust. There is Him. There is the work that needs to be done. There is my doing it. All else is utterly irrelevant (and that's me speaking in *very* Odinic headspace).
Essentially when you decide to devote yourself to a God, there is no longer the luxury of questioning, of asking whether or not you should trust. If that's happening constantly then it means that you're not ready, you're not there. You haven't yet stepped into devotion. Once you do, once you go there, it's so far beyond "trust" that the word is rendered meaningless. It's rather like a courtship: at first trust is something one works at and builds but eventually one moves beyond questioning everything one's partner does (at least one should hope to move beyond this). There is a surrender to the flow of things, including the question of "trust." This is something in devotion that is embedded as a given, a constant, in the practice. But, the onus to get over any fixation on 'trust' is on us, not the Gods. The onus to nurture our belief, is on us, not the Gods. The onus to do the necessities of devotion is on us, not Them. That's where the commonality with human relationships ends. There are Gods, Holy Powers, and there are people and we do not stand on the same rung of the cosmic ladder.
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