Observations of the light and the dark of what is, was, and might be in the Pagan community's expansion and evolution.
Starry Eye, Starry I
This will be the first in a series of blogs that will focus on contemplative practices in Paganism and their role in developing ourselves, our relationship to the universe, and our communities. I will also be exploring different ideas related to soul, spirit, evolution, and enlightenment. I will be presenting what I believe to be useful and/or true, but with the understanding that my truth need not be your truth. I will be sharing my perspectives and observations with the hope that it will encourage you to do some exploring. The material will be a bit chewy and dense, and will make the assumption that you are already knowledgeable about a variety of topics. I'm asking you to contemplate and to meditate upon these posts; they are not meant to be the quickly read fare that we snack upon as we peruse the internet and social media offerings.
Let us start with the mind. The Middle Self is the domain of what we commonly call mind and as such is the mode of being that you are using to read this blog. It is the starting point for our work as incarnate beings and is the mode that we return to upon the completion of contemplative, spiritual, and magickal work. Because of the habit of the normal that we have assiduously strengthened with the vast majority of our actions in mundane life, and in our carefully schooled perceptions, the Middle Self is one of our greatest obstacles to experiencing the subtle realms. But when the Middle Self functions as Higher Mind, which includes and does not negate normal waking consciousness, then the Middle Self becomes the cohesive center that makes true integration and presence in the other realms possible. There are methods that temporarily put the focus and the grasp of the mind in a temporary state of quiescence that are used as a quick fix for poor habits of consciousness. This may result in a more immediate gratification of the desire for spiritual and magickal experiences but ultimately they are a starting point and take you no further. There are valid uses for putting the Lower Self in a position of ascendancy such as in the often necessary undertaking of breaking the inertia of the mundane in order to allow the experience of greater possibilities. It is certainly part of the core of mysticism to allow the Higher Self to overlight the consciousness with a brilliance that dissolves local and temporal focus. Please understand that I do recognize the legitimate and wholesome uses for turning over the reins to the Higher and the Lower Self when warranted, but the Middle Self is the Middle and as such is the center. The center is always a place of power and to deny authentic power is to ask for misfortunes and mishaps.
Meditations and contemplative practices (more so in the West) are often designed to strengthen the Middle Self and to nudge the level of Mind towards Higher Mind. Remember that within each level or part of the Self there are echoes of the other Two Selves and that all Three Selves have both lights and shadows. There are many forms of meditation, here's my definition for one of my preferred forms for Pagan or Magickal work.
Meditation is the art of changing waking consciousness into a higher and more engaged and unified state of being with the goal of expanding our capacity to remain in that state.
In each of these posts I will be sharing my definitions of what I mean by meditative and contemplative practices. I'm doing this just so that you know what I'm actually trying to say since people use all these words in so many different ways. Let me name a few things that are lovely and useful practices that I do not consider to be meditation that are often casually categorized as meditation. Meditation is not the same as relaxation. This is a more passive state where the focus is on changing physiology and mood. Sometimes a relaxed state is an outcome of meditation, but that was not the primary goal. Meditation is not the same as trance. This is a more passive state wherein you give some part of yourself over to something else. Meditation is not the same as pathworkings or guided visualizations. These tend to be teaching tools, scene setting, or healing tools and the focus is on the content.
I see meditation, which is to say the development of consciousness, to be a foundational practice that enables and fortifies all other practices related to the development of soul, spirit, and magick. As a Wiccan and a member of the broad stream that we call the Western Mystery Tradition, I see meditation, and also a variety of other contemplative practices, as a necessary prerequisite to healthy and wholesome communion with myself and with the beings that I call God/dess/es. In the next blog, I’ll share some more concrete examples.
I'd like to end the beginning of this series of blogs with several quotes that speak to the matter at hand.
“Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.”
—Leonardo da Vinci
“In so far as the mind is stronger than the body, so are the ills contracted by the mind more severe than those contracted by the body.”
“Clarity of mind means clarity of passion, too; this is why a great and clear mind loves ardently and sees distinctly what it loves.”
“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”
—Buddha, The Dharmapada
“Magic is the Highest Most Absolute, Most Divine Knowledge Of Natural Philosophy, advanced in its works and wonderful operations by a right understanding of the inward and occult virtue of things; so that true agents being applied to proper patients, strange and admirable effects will thereby be produced. Whence magicians are profound and diligent searchers into Nature; they because of their skill, shall know how to anticipate an effect, the which to the vulgar shall seem a miracle.”
—from The Goetia of the Lemegeton Of King Solomon
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