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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
The Sanctity of Beauty

Spirit of Beauty, that doth consecrate
With thine own hues all thou dost shine upon
Of human thought or form, - where art thou gone?

- Percy Bysshe Shelley



When we awaken to the call of beauty, we become aware of new ways of being in the world. We were created to be creators. At its deepest heart, creativity is meant to serve and evoke beauty. When this desire and capacity come alive, new wells spring up in parched ground; difficulty becomes invitation and rather than striving against the grain of our nature, we fall into rhythm with its deepest urgency and passion. The time is now ripe for beauty to surprise and liberate us.

- John O’Donohue, Beauty: The Invisible Embrace



Why is everything so ugly now? So much music, “art”, architecture and popular culture is now seemingly purposely being as ugly and grotesque as possible. Aesthetic seems to have been assassinated, not only in this new century but especially in this decade. I recently read it referred to as “aesthetic terrorism”, and that is a very apt term. People used to want to be as beautiful as possible, they wanted their homes and clothes and cars and everything to be beautiful. Now people seem to be trying to make things as ugly and cold and empty as they possibly can.

So much modern “art” (already hard pressed to be called art in my opinion) has taken an even sicklier turn and apparently now the most random, huge, rough block of stone can be considered art. A salt and pepper shaker filled with water are displayed in a case at a nearby museum and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. We have gone from the Birth of Venus and Michelangelo’s David to salt and pepper shakers filled with water, something that shouldn’t exist anywhere outside of a diner dishwasher. Art is now even a target for climate protesters who think they’re making some kind of righteous statement.

But art, the beautiful, the aesthetic, is all sacred. It is what we should strive for, not self-mutilation or purposeful destruction or “uglification”. How are we to bear this life, the human condition, without beauty? Many will say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, but that platitude only goes so far. There will always be a majority consensus and if something drifts too far down an extreme spectrum, there will be but few beholders who will really see any beauty, or they will pretend to in a case of the emperor’s new clothes. We have a distinct pandemic of this in our society.

If you are unfamiliar with the Brothers’ Grimm tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes, here it is.

Once upon a time, there was a wealthy king who was so proud of his appearance and his clothes that he spent all his time changing outfits and gazing in the mirror. One day, two clever swindlers came along, claiming to be tailors and promising him the finest clothes in the kingdom. But these clothes had magic powers, and were invisible to anyone unfit for their position or "hopelessly stupid."

The king
wanted not only the finest clothes he could get, but this would make it very easy to see who in his court didn’t deserve to be there! He paid them a great deal of money, and they pretended to make him the clothes. But there was no thread on their looms. They made a grand show of measuring, cutting, and stitching invisible fabric and fitting the emperor in front of his grand mirror.

The king was troubled that he couldn’t see any clothes! “Surely I am not hopeless
ly stupid! Surely I am not unfit to be king!” he thought. So he nodded and beamed at the “tailors”, playing along and saying how very beautiful the embroidered fabric was.

When the king paraded around in his new "clothes," everyone pretended to see them, praising their beauty, for they were all terrified of being dismissed or being seen for the cretins they were. All except for a little child who spoke up and said, "But he isn't wearing anything at all!"
Slowly the others had to agree, and one-by-one they stood up and bravely declared, “He isn’t wearing anything! He’s completely naked!”

And the proud king could only rush back into his palace and hide himself in shame, the clever swindlers and his money long gone.


So now people see the rich and famous, the spectacles, the flamboyant, the insecure over-compensators, the exhibitionists, the pop stars, the actors at the Met Gala, contestants on Eurovision, and they praise and admire, and usually they know not even what.

Most artists and performers have become little more than shock jockeys, seeing how far they can go, how ridiculous they can look, how much attention they can get. People, particularly the rich and famous, have always wanted attention but now, it’s not being done with beauty, like it used to be. It’s done with ugliness. Ugliness of all kinds and on all levels. Ugliness that so many people can’t even see because they have been so brainwashed and are so afraid of “not fitting in” or “not being liked”.

This ugliness is a manifestation of what is festering inside our society and in each of us. Art is often a reflection of the contemporary world and ours is, face it, pretty damn ugly these days. So while artists have choices, perhaps it is not that much of a surprise that so much art is so downright ugly now. And so many artists and others
still try to have the intellectual debate, “What is art? What makes art? Does art have to be beautiful? Can anything be art?” I can answer that last one at least. No, not anything can be art and not anything should be called art.

But art and aesthetic will not improve until people improve. It is a reflection of us, what we are creating is a reflection of who we are. And apparently most of us
these days are very ugly, very confused, very angry and hateful and very disconnected. Art imitates life, but life, in turn, also imitates art. This cycle needs to be one of beauty, but now it is not.

In a sense, all the contemporary crises can be reduced to a crisis about the nature of beauty….Perhaps, for the first time, we gain a clear view of how much ugliness we endure and allow. The media generate relentless images of mediocrity and ugliness in talk-shows, tapestries of smothered language and frenetic gratification. The media are becoming the global mirror and these shows tend to enshrine the ugly as the normal standard

- John O’Donohue,
Beauty: The Invisible Embrace


A
n excellent example of a mind-boggling piece of modern art is the new official portrait of King Charles III, in which only his face and hands are very clear and the whole piece is absolutely bathed in a torrent of strange red. Just red, all over. I don’t get the impression that this artist likes or respects Charles, yet somehow this is the piece that got commissioned and approved. I don’t know why. I can’t fathom it. But it’s almost like a visual “Freudian slip”; perhaps the desire by many for him to be “consumed by hellfire”, as some have described the look of the portrait, resulted in an accidental depiction of exactly that.
Particularly in a place, a palace in London, that is usually dripping in aesthetic, this new “art” is glaringly off brand.

But, again, perhaps this is very in step with our time. Hopefully the inevitability of ongoing change will bring us full circle and back to true beauty. Hopefully our continued moves toward entropy will birth a new and much better cycle. We must keep creating and we must keep aspiring to great heights, not new and dismal lows. Our well-being and our very survival depend on it.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
The Oracle of Water: Ocean

Humans have been navigating and charting the seas at least since the Phoenicians, yet the ocean remains the last frontier. Even outer space is not as mysterious to us as the depths of the oceans, of which an estimate of only about 5% has been explored and charted. This is staggering considering the ocean covers 70% of our planet.

This is not unlike our own emotions or subconscious which, among many other things, the ocean represents. Our subconscious and darker sides are often as deep and mysterious to us as the abyss. There is no escaping that we are incredibly emotional and watery creatures. This also makes us magical for, as anthropologist Loren Eisley put it, “If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.” We are water, and we therefore contain magic as well as records and ancestral memories in that strange medium. Also containing salt, we are like walking micro-oceans, ever connected to our source.

While there are different names for the different parts of the ocean, it is all one ocean in the end, one whole being connected all over the planet. This interconnection is echoed throughout nature and the human condition, and in all our individual lives.

In many traditions, the ocean represents the primordial source of life itself. Just as life emerged from the depths of the ocean in evolutionary narratives, so too does it signify the origins of creation in spiritual contexts. It is often seen as the womb of existence, where all life began and where all life returns. In this sense, the ocean becomes a metaphor for the eternal cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Shamanism: A Human Birthright

I consider shamanic practice to be the purest spirituality as it is ubiquitous throughout world cultures, is rooted in nature, and is not part of any structured dogma or organized religion. The purpose of religion is to control the human spirit. The purpose of shamanism is to free it.

Shamanism has no ruling deities, no rulers or central figures of any kind, no creed, no dogma. This puts the practice, the power, the responsibility, all in the hands of the individual practitioner. Shamanism allows us to find our true and natural power within ourselves. It does not bid us prostrate ourselves before invented figureheads. Shamanism empowers the individual, and this is one of the main reasons why many would seek to malign and even eradicate it.

This has been the agenda that the church/state and organized religion has historically had against various pagan, animistic and shamanic practices. The pagan shaman has no need of confession, atonement, redemption, sacrament, baptism, repentance, forgiveness, nothing. This undermines the powers that be. The shamanic practitioner becomes the power that is.

Even Buddhism, much admired and emulated in the west, is not untainted by such socio-political agendas, having a long history of suppressing shamanism. This is a history that most Americans and other westerners are probably not familiar with, and one that I was surprised and saddened to discover.

Buddhism first arrived in Mongolia in the 13th century, primarily through Tibetan Buddhist missionaries. Over time, Buddhism became deeply integrated into Mongolian society, influencing various aspects of culture, politics, and spirituality.

Shamanism, on the other hand, had been the indigenous spiritual tradition of the Mongolian people for centuries prior to the arrival of Buddhism.

Initially, Buddhism and shamanism coexisted in Mongolia, often with elements of syncretism where practices from both traditions were incorporated into local belief systems. However, as Buddhism gained more institutional power and support from Mongolian rulers, tensions began to rise between the two belief systems.

From the 16th century onward, there were concerted efforts by Mongolian rulers, often with support from Tibetan Buddhist authorities, to suppress shamanism and promote Buddhism as the dominant religion. This was driven by various factors, including political consolidation, the desire for religious uniformity, and the perceived threat that shamanism posed to Buddhist authority.

At times, these efforts to suppress shamanism resulted in violent conflicts between Buddhist and shamanic practitioners. Temples and sacred sites associated with shamanism were sometimes destroyed, and shamans themselves were persecuted or forced to convert to Buddhism, or murdered.

Despite these efforts, shamanism survived in Mongolia and has even experienced a revival since the decline of communist influence. Shamanism itself has been flourishing around the world in the past thirty years.

Michael Harner created a “core shamanism”; a modern approach to shamanic practice that seeks to distill the essence of shamanic techniques from various indigenous cultures around the world into a cohesive and accessible system. Key features include universal techniques, shamanic journeying, power animals and spirit guides, healing and divination, and ecological awareness.

This system is the birthright of every human and no one race or culture holds a monopoly on it. We all have shamanic traditions in our ancestry, all of us, be it the Arctic shamanism of the Saami or the Amazonian shamanism of the Shipibo-Conibo. Therefore we can all benefit from returning to our shamanic roots.

Shamanic resurgence in the face of historical suppression underscores its enduring relevance and universal appeal, its essence transcends cultural boundaries, offering a pathway for all individuals to reclaim their inherent spiritual heritage. In embracing shamanic practice, we rediscover not only our own power but also our interconnection with all beings and the Earth itself—a timeless wisdom accessible to all who seek it, regardless of race, culture, or creed.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
The Oracle of Water: The Swamp

The Oracle of the Swamp brings messages of awareness, warning, transformation and hidden beauty but also hidden danger. It is intricate interconnection and a delicate balance of so many forms of life. The Swamp invites you to confront obstacles and to examine and hold space in the darker realms of your existence.


This may be a time for shadow work. Like the tangled, interwoven roots beneath the surface, we are often in turmoil that is hidden beneath our own surfaces and conscious minds. It can be unpleasant, but it might be time to submerge like a stealthy crocodile and confront and untangle the messes within.

Swamps are also places of unexpected and subtle beauty that may not be obvious at first. They are as crucial to the environment as our shadow sides are to our existence. They are part of us and cannot be ignored or toxic stagnation may ensue.

Physically, 
the Swamp represents awareness and adaptability. Its appearance may suggest that very real, day-to-day physical challenges are present or approaching, for instance health or money matters. Something unseen may be having a profound impact and must be addressed. If it’s been a while since a check-up or other health maintenance, a visit to the doctor may be in order.

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The Aurora Cascade: Merging Cosmic Light and Flowing Waters

For some time there was no real certainty as to what causes the otherwordly phenomenon of the aurora borealis. In 2021 scientists finally confirmed that the natural light show starts when disturbances on the sun pull on Earth’s magnetic field. This creates cosmic undulations known as Alfvén waves that launch electrons at high speeds into Earth’s atmosphere where they create the aurora.

Have you ever wondered what our ancestors must have thought and felt when they saw the northern lights? How magical and surreal it must have been for them, almost as much as it is for us even now, despite knowing the exact cause. The lack of mystery does not dampen the wondrous impact the aurora has on the imagination and the soul.

One especially interesting feature that has been discovered is that electrons essentially surf on the Alfvén waves. If they move with the right speed relative to the wave, they get picked up and accelerated much like surfers catch a building wave.

This brings at least one watery allegory into the mix. Yet the aurora and water are more closely related than you might think. All the water on Earth is of interstellar origins and the northern lights undulate in very watery waves and colors. As I often say, we are made of water and starlight, so the convergence of the aurora and of flowing water is not only perfectly harmonious, it creates a powerful visualization tool for grounding, protection, inspiration and manifestation. I call this the Aurora Cascade.

A long, purple and electric blue-green curtain of dancing aurora pours itself out of the sky in a cascade that becomes indistinguishable from a singing, rushing waterfall as it falls closer to the ground. Water and light meld and shimmer in the gentle torrent. Step into the glowing falls and feel it mingle with the waters and the energy in your cells. This is the source, this is what we are made of. It is renewing and it is an ongoing cosmic blessing.

Grounding

We are the center in between the above and below. When sitting or standing within the Aurora Cascade, you are the nexus in this liminal space, the point of origin. All work – meditating, journeying, spell work, manifestation or shamanic work – ideally begins with grounding; rooting and establishing a link, but not just to the below. To the medieval alchemists, water and light were in the same symbolic family, and indeed are two of the main and most essential components to almost all life. The grounding unfolds through a conscious integration of these elemental energies, rooting the individual firmly in the earth’s embrace but also providing a tether to higher cosmic realms.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
The Oracle of Water: Dew

Keywords: Clarity, Refreshment, Newness, Renewal, Fleeting Opportunity

Dew is a very fleeting form of water. While the morning heralds a new day and fresh opportunities, the dew declares that these opportunities are fleeting. Dew is frost’s warmer sister; when temperatures are low enough dew freezes to become frost. But on cool, misty mornings the dew is scattered like tiny diamonds across delicate spider webs and thin rose petals. It is nature’s tears of joy for another golden opportunity to begin again.

Dew represents a gentle rejuvenation of the body, like the refreshed feeling you have after a great night’s sleep. What could be better to wake up to than beautiful nature bedazzled by countless watery jewels? Just as dew is a gentle strength renewing the earth, embrace a renewed focus on your physical well-being. This might involve simple daily rituals to improve your overall health and vitality. Early morning could be the best time for you to have an invigorating walk to start your day right. Dew reminds that small, consistent efforts can lead to significant physical changes.

When it comes to the emotions, dew suggests a tender, peaceful renewal of the heart. Allow the drops of a clear, new day to cleanse and revitalize your heavy feelings. This is a time to release negative, burdensome feelings in order to refresh your relationships and personal perspective and well-being. Perhaps certain feelings have been muddled and confused, but now will be made clear in the pale morning light. There may also be current or approaching relationships and connections that are as brief as the morning dew, but they are no less profound.

Dew whispers of the quiet insights that come with a peaceful mind. Every new days starts us with a clean slate where we can choose to think better and more helpful thoughts. The water in our bodies is affected by the frequencies of our thoughts and words, so make sure you are kind and gentle with yourself as well as with others. Dew seeks to refresh and enlighten your thoughts and mental pursuits. Not only is a calm mind more clear and productive, but more able to embrace the happiness of starting over and dew reminds us that we get to start over every single day.

Spiritually, dew brings renewal and clear understanding just as it does to all the realms of our being. As dew forms through the union of air and earth, the seeker is encouraged to explore the subtle but powerful interplay between the material and spiritual aspects of existence. So many spiritual and magical experiences are very fleeting and brief, and this lends all the more importance to them.

Dew invites you to stillness and contemplation, and to purification. It also invites you to find the magic of spirit in small and unexpected places and things. The most profound spiritual insights and evolutions often come as quietly and go as swiftly as the dew. Be aware of the discreet, finer things that are all around you and can connect you to nature and your higher self. There may be much that you are overlooking and that is leading to beliefs that do not serve you.

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Life is one of the Sacred four pillars of Atheopaganism. And it is often said of Pagans generally that we revere or even “worship” Nature.

 

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