When I first began practicing magic, I had this naive belief that every pagan and occultist I would meet would somehow be more enlightened. Part of me wanted to believe that the people I would meet would have their acts together, be living a better life than everyone else. And perhaps I also hoped that some of it would rub off on me...that since I was now practicing magic I too would become a more enlightened person.

I eventually discovered that the enlightened Pagan/occultist was a myth. My fellow Pagans and occultists weren't any more enlightened than anyone else was, and neither was I. We are just like any other person, with our own faults, reactions, and everything else that comes with it. 

My initial belief about Pagan enlightenment was that every Pagan I met would be open-minded, curious and wanting to discover what magic could do. Really I was projecting my own traits on other people, mainly because I wanted to meet people who had the same curiosity and drive to experiment that I had. The first few years I was Pagan, I didn't really know anyone else who shared my beliefs because I lived in a small town, so when I moved to a college town and actually encountered other magicians and Pagans, I also discovered that most of them weren't insatiably curious or driven to experiment or all that open-minded.

The first time I realized this, my heart felt crushed. I felt a terrible sense of disillusionment. These people I met weren't measuring up to this idea I had in my head about how they should behave. They weren't acting enlightened. The truth is I was doing every person I met a terrible disservice. I was projecting who I wanted them to be instead of actually discovering who they were. I wanted my myth of Pagan enlightenment to be real, so badly, that I let it control my experiences.

It certainly didn't make me any friends. 

I eventually realized that expecting a group of people to be enlightened (my version of enlightenment) was unfair and unrealistic. I also realized that Pagan enlightenment, in general, was a myth. There was no group of people who automatically got it, or were more special and shiny than anyone else. I also realized none of that enlightenment was going to rub off on me automatically. The only way I was going to achieve it was to work for it. And now some 20 odd years since I first started down this spiritual path, I'm still working for it everyday, because enlightenment (whatever it is) isn't a result. It's a journey.

And I still haven't found an enlightened Pagan or really any other spiritual category you want to apply. What I've found, with myself and others, is that we are human beings with virtues and faults, triumphs and mistakes, successes and failures. And what each of us makes of that journey is up to the individual. I let go of the myth of Pagan enlightenment and instead embraced my spiritual journey. Where it will take me...I don't know, but I'm enjoying the path I'm on and every experience I have along the way.

*Cover Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Taylor Ellwood is the mad scientist and magical experimenter of magical experiments. He recently published his latest book Grimoire Ulani and is currently writing Pop Culture Magic Systems. When he's not writing his next book or experimenting with magic, Taylor enjoys the wonders of the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two kids.