The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Yin & Yang; My Mama Told Me....................

Life is all about balance. In so many ways, without the correct & necessary balance, things just don't go smoothly, if they go at all! This is true with spirituality as well as biology. You may have heard, like I did; ''They're so heavenly minded, they're of no earthly good!' Or something to that effect. In my own life, I can see somewhat of this, as I have always, or at least for the past twenty years or so, valued relationship over what I was taught to view as 'worldly goods'. Not that I thought there was anything wrong with earthly goods, or even with having them! It's simply that I found, as most already know, that these 'worldly goods' are of no real value, spiritually speaking. Relationships, on the other hand, I was taught & have seen for myself, are of GREAT value, both spiritually & in this biology ( ? )! ( One might well wonder if there is really much difference! ) So the Story goes........

Several years ago, I began to religiously practice yoga, or at least, a semblance thereof! Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to pat myself on the back here, although I have semi-jokingly told a number of people that 'I don't get mad anymore; I do yoga'. While it is of great, even utmost importance to 'know thyself', of no less import is why we are here & now. One cannot, however, truly have one without the other. If we don't love, or know ourselves, is it even possible to truly know, or love others? Even further; when we truly know ourselves, ARE there really any 'others'?! Many there are, no doubt, who would aver that, 'yes, if we truly know ourselves, we must view the 'world' as 'others' ( at least, until 'they' come around to our way of thinking ). Personally speaking, there are many differences that make us unique, as human beings. However, being More than human, we know that our differences need not separate us, as in 'us & them' ( even 'us VS them' ), but in fact bring us together, for each one of us, individually speaking, has a part to play in this grand production we call 'Life'!

Again, 'Life is all about Balance'! Biologically, whether we're observing plants, animals or human beings, to say nothing of the most basic ( ? ) minerals, without the correct mixture, or balance of necessary constituents such as air, water & other, more solid nutrients, Life could not exist, as we personally know it! However, as Life, like us, is More than this biology, It, as we, still exists; it is simply ( ? ) manifested through this biology. Spiritually speaking & this is where yoga & meditation come into play, truly knowing ourselves ( not simply believing what we're told ) enables us to find the necessary balance between what is 'heavenly' & what is 'earthy'. 'As above, so below'; as we are, so we manifest in this biology! If we believe we are, at heart, as the so-called 'Good Book' says, 'deceitful above all [ things ], and desperately wicked', then we will manifest those desires. If however, we are able to truly, through whatever means, know ourselves for what we truly are, rather than who we have been taught, then we cannot help but manifest the desires of our heart, our innermost Being!

Balancing who we are & who the 'world' needs us to be might seem, at first glance, one of those things that's 'easier said than done'. It's really quite simple, actually! Fortunately for us, one must not even attain this delicate balance, as so many 'self-help gurus' seem to tell us. If only we buy their book ( only $29.95, but if you act now........................ ) and/or attend their seminar, we too may learn how to do it, to master ourSelf. The thing is, rather than attaining it, rather than even 'becoming' it ( whatever 'it' is' ), we must simply be. Just as our biological bodies are made to heal themselves, so our spiritual 'bodies' will balance themselves out, if only we will let them BE!

Just 'let it be'?! Speaking of things 'easier said than done'! Because we live in such an Ego-driven society, most if not all people will find it very difficult, if not impossible to just 'let it be'! But 'let it be' we must, if we are ever to find true happiness. 'Bringing balance to the Force', so to speak, is not an easy proposition, not because it is 'un-natural' but simply because we have been so conditioned to believe, either that it is not 'natural' or that the 'natural' is itself evil!

So, how DOES one go about 'bringing balance to the Force'/ Well, first of all, don't 'force' it! 'As above, so below'; it comes naturally. In fact, if you DO 'force' it, then's when it becomes difficult, even impossible for some people. Second, when we begin at the beginning, so to speak, with the 'heart' of the issue, 'for out of it [ spring ] the issues of life' ( Proverbs 4:23b ), then what is right & good will naturally flow through our biology. This does not guarantee, unfortunately, that just because we do 'the right thing', that everyone will follow suit, but, 'hey', 'I can dream, can't I?!' But seriously, even if NO ONE else does what is right, at least we'll rest assured that WE did! On the other hand, 'what is 'right'? Who's to say that ours is 'right' & theirs is 'wrong'?? But, that's another Story.........................

 'Yoga' is Sanskrit for 'union'. Reading the Wikipedia article referenced, as well as others, will reveal a much deeper history & etymology, but put simply, the practice aids in bringing together our two natures, joining 'Heaven' & 'Earth', in a manner of speaking. One might even note, as has been noted previously by several authors, that this is really what the Hebrew & Greek Scriptures are all about! Again though, it should be noted, for clarification, that it is not actually a 'joining' or 'bringing together'; rather, it is a realization of what already is. 'It is what It is'!

Wrapping it up then, one must find that delicate balance ( for It IS there ) between realizing who we are & why we're here! As Spirit-beings living in a material world, especially among those who seem to be satisfied with just being human, it IS difficult sometimes, humanly speaking, to act as we know we are. Making the right choices, according to the Spirit Within can become more of a struggle the harder we strive to undercut our Ego. ( Strange; I thought the Ego liked being on top?! ) Seriously; I've found this to be true in my own experience. The more we try to manifest from our Inmost Being, rather than letting our Ego rule the day, the more the Ego tries to remain 'King of the Hill', at the top of the totem pole, so to speak. This is not to say the Ego is, in & of itself bad, or evil'; again, 'it is what it is', a necessary part of our humanity, though it does have a tendency to rule over ourselves or others.

Life is a balancing act, in so many ways! On the physical plane, one must juggle so many things, that we must find humor in the Mundane in order to keep our sanity. ( Either that, or enjoy the insanity ) Speaking of the Mundane, one must also maintain a balance between the Divine & the Mundane! It could truly be said, though, that, 'We do not find Balance; Balance finds us'! In this Life, especially in this Day & Age, we often find ourselves becoming so hectic, 'living in the fast lane', that it seems almost impossible that Balance could ever find us, but if we can just slow ourselves down, It will sooner or later catch up to us. The key is finding that slower pace, before Life 'catches up to us'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Dark Lord

Jesus was a good man. At least, his wife & children thought so. In his own country, at least for the most part, he was revered as a humanitarian of sorts. Outside his country though, he had many detractors: we can't really call them enemies, although, like some in his own country, they probably would have like to see him removed, even erased! Jesus was well-liked by most people in his little 'world'; even those who didn't like the way he did business couldn't help but admire the man & everyone with whom he came in contact, instantly, or at least soon thereafter, gained a healthy respect, if not kinship, with this good man. In his corner of the world, life was not easy, there was much corruption in the government, but Jesus had found that if he kept his nose clean, so to speak &; stayed out of their way, he could pretty much stay off their radar. A few substantial 'gifts' now & then couldn't hurt either....................

Mario Joseph Jesus Alcazar was at the helm of a fairly minor cartel in Southern Mexico. Born into a devout Roman Catholic tradition ( hence the name ), Jesus had grown into his current position in the family business. Traditionally, although their main business was what most would deem 'drugs' & therefore illegal, the little-known Alcazar cartel had their fingers in many pies. While the 'drugs' they processed ( mainly marijuana & cocaine ) were the most lucrative, their efforts were largely humanitarian. While the big cartels further to the North would selfishly enjoy the fruits of their labors while the country collapsed into corruption & dilapidation around them, our friends, thanks to their fairly hefty profits, were able to bring much-needed relief to their neighbors. Their neighbors then, around the world even, because of this relief, helped in shielding the cartel from the preying eyes of corrupt governments.

The mountainous jungle-like region of extreme Southern Mexico, almost extending into Central America, was home to the Alcazars. For generations they had cultivated this area & thus were known & loved by all but the most recent occupants. It didn't take even these newcomers long to learn who their neighbors were & what kind of business they did. While some disagreed, especially expatriates fleeing, for whatever reason, the States far to the north, these new neighbors learned pretty quickly to either love them or leave them ( alone )! If their traffic was disagreeable to anyone, which it was to some, they soon came to enjoy the benefits of what most considered illegal.

Unlike the larger cartels to the North & West, the Alcazars believed in harming no one, no matter the perceived wrong! Treating others as they themselves would like to be treated had been their family's mantra for generations. When confronted by violence of any kind, which naturally occurred in their region of the world, especially considering the 'trade' they did, they met it, as often as they could, with peaceful resistance. As you can imagine, this form of opposition did not always have the desired effect & so the Alcazars were probably just as acquainted with pain & loss as anyone in the area. However, they also knew that what happened to the body in this life was not so important as what one did in their lifetime, so they were happy to suffer for the Cause!

This knowledge had a most remarkable effect, both on how each individual member behaved & also how they ( the cartel ) did business! One negative aspect to doing business thusly, in such a world as we live in, was that they often found themselves being taken advantage of, either by corrupt governments or by the bigger cartels. Strangely enough though, those who brought violent opposition to their door, more often than not, were almost immediately met by karmic forces which either stopped them in their tracks or otherwise removed the threat they posed. Again, this was not  always the case, so the Alcazars, like most every family in that region, was more than familiar with the suffering so prevalent in our world.

Considered an 'illicit trade'; the natural 'drugs' that our friends processed & propagated were far superior in quality to anything offered by the Northern cartels. Again, their family mantra, or motto, was 'harm no one'.  Doing business the way they did, the Alcazars enjoyed a level of security & safety unknown to others in a similar business. Because they operated so much further South than the larger cartels, they were able, to a great extent, to fly under the radar. Also, due to their relatively small operation in the jungle-like & mountainous region they called 'home', they barely, if at all, registered as more than a 'blip' on said radar. Their humanitarian efforts in their own region, as well as sending aid further North & even overseas, to some extent, provided them, to an even greater extent, with a sort of 'invisibility cloak'.

As the Leader of a so-called 'drug cartel', involved in an illegal trade, Mario Joseph Jesus ( 'Jesus' ) Alcazar slept soundly at night, knowing as he did, that the 'drugs' he traded, although considered illegal, would harm no one. Any harm that might come from the use of these 'drugs' was solely due to the user! Knowing that some of those who purchased & used his products would come to harm saddened him, of course, but he knew that simply keeping them out of the hands of certain people would elicit no change in these people, for if they did not buy his quality products, they would be buying someone else's, of much less quality & which may cause them harm! He also felt confident, knowing that because he was sowing good seed, he would reap as well, even in the corrupted & dilapidated 'world' in which he lived.

Jesus WAS a good man, but More than that, he was a good soul! Like most people in his corner of the world, Jesus had seen more than his 'fair share' of suffering. Suffering, in fact, that might have soured ( jaded ) a lesser man! 'As above, so below', however, Jesus knew that, as more than this biology, Life was of greater importance than what happened to a person; what mattered was what one did in this Life, how one reacted ( actively or passively ) to what Life, so to speak, threw at a person. This Way of Life had served the Alcazars for generations & Jesus knew, by continuing the family tradition, the world was somehow a better place!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, January 09, 2020

The God Theory, or, The Theory of God

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen,
 being understood by the things that are made,
Romans 1:20b

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or [e]principalities or [f]powers. 
All things were created through Him and for Him.
Colossians 1:16 

Not having studied the Holy Books of any other culture so thoroughly as I have the Bible, being that I was brought up to be a Christian; to my limited knowledge, the Hebrew & Greek Scriptures, of all other Scriptures, may have the most to say about the Creator. Or so it would seem. Other Scriptures may introduce us to a veritable pantheon of Gods, or Creators, each of whom is responsible for breathing Life into one or several certain aspects of what we call 'the Creation'. Take J.R.R. Tolkien's fantastic world, for example. Reading the first number of pages in 'The Silmarillian', one can see where the author basically mixes his own version of Christian ( Roman Catholic ) theology with a sort of Greek/Norse mythology. We do not see such a reference, except among the 'Heathen' ( Egyptian, Canaanite, Syrian, Greek, etc. ) in either the Greek or Hebrew Scriptures, but we do find Elohim, 'God, in our English Bibles telling the Earth & Sea to 'bring forth' & 'abound with' ( Genesis 1:11 & 20 ( 24 ). In fact, one might note that this is much the same as we find later, where 'He' tells Adam & Eve to 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that [h]moves on the earth' ( Genesis 1:26 ) 

All that said, however, it must be noted that the context of the quotes above demands a slightly deeper, if not different meaning, more of a literary, as opposed to a literal one, to be precise. More of a covenantal meaning. The notion that Genesis 1 & 2, as we've discussed before, are not about the birth of the Universe, or even our solar System, but about the formation, by this 'Elohim', of a certain people, peculiar to 'Him' alone cannot be ignored. Although this does tend to affect a more scientific understanding of cosmology, depending on how one perceives the information, it should be clear, from the manifold evidence available, that there is a Divine Designer of the Universe & all that is. Coupled together with the fact that mere human beings ( Jesus claimed ( not in so many words to be 'God' ) were 'elohim' as well ( Psalm 82:6, John 10:34 ), it should not be too difficult to gather that, while there is One Supreme Source of All, this Source was & is not alone in the act of 'Creation'. 

'Why bring that up? you ask; 'the Bible tells us as much!' Yes, the Bible tells us so ( if one reads with a halfway open mind, anyway ). It also tells us a unique ( 'peculiar' ) Story about how this 'Elohim' not only created this special ( covenant ) bond with a specific tribal people in the Ancient Near East; It also tells how 'He', in due time, became human so that 'He' might save 'His' people from their sins, committed in direct disobedience of 'His' Law. Whether or not this is a literally historical account or not ( 'mythological' is more like it ) may be questionable, but that It describes historical events has been proven in most areas. Is this to say that 'God', as most Christians know 'Him', is simply a tribal deity?! Well, again, 'Yes' & 'No'! 'He', as 'Elohim', was the God ( or god ) of the Hebrews, according to the Bible, as corroborated by this Wikipedia article. As discussed in at least one other of my blogposts, 'Elohim', or 'YHWH', was also how the Hebrews & later, the Christians, perceived the Divine Source of All. So is 'God' SIMPLY a tribal deity?! No; simply put, It's not that simple!

'God', therefore, is not simply a theory, although there are many theories floating around out there about 'Who' this Supreme Deity is! What if we've got it all wrong, though; what if every culture, with their different mythologies & Holy Books has created 'God' in their own image?! What if the 'God' we all know & love ( some hate 'Him', to be honest ) has so many human characteristics because 'He' was created by humans?! There are certainly many Universal Truths that we can read about 'God' in the Bible, but there are certain attributes that are definitely, in context, only applicable to a tribal deity, for example, much of what we read about 'Him' in the Hebrew Scriptures, the so-called 'Old Testament'. 

The arguments for Intelligent Design have multiplied over the past several decades. Darwinian Evolution had up till then ( still is in many areas ) been the accepted explanation for the Theory of Everything. This is not the case anymore. Although they are still in the minority, many scientists have found the evidence for some sort of Intelligent Design to be both irrefutable & overwhelming. Knowing what we know then, or at least perceive about the movement & makeup of the Universe, most would have a very difficult, if not totally impossible time refuting this theory. As I've said before, concerning several things; 'It is what It is'! Just because we perceive the Universe to be expanding, doesn't mean that It is. Just because we perceive the Source of All to be the 'God' of the Hebrews, doesn't mean 'He' is. For one thing, how can we be certain that 'God' IS a 'Who', much less a 'He'? These terms imply a person; is 'God' a person?! Was Joan Osborne correct in asking 'What If God Was One of Us'? According to most theologians, 'God' IS a Person ( or three persons ); this actually makes a lot of sense, especially as we read some of the 'hairier' parts of what we call 'the Old Testament'!

As a Pagan, to whatever extent, it is understood that there is a Divine Source, a Creator, if you will. One look at the natural world around us should immediately make clear to us that there is an Intelligent Designer behind it all. A closer look will reveal to us the sanctity of all Life in its Divinity. The Pagan world, which 'spawned' much of what we know as 'Christianity, while not denying this One Divine Source, also worshiped & yet worships a veritable pantheon of 'Gods' ( or 'gods' ) who mediate for the 'natural' world ( one of these being 'Mother Nature' ). Not so different maybe, from the Biblical Story as quoted above, in the beginning paragraph!

Charles Haddon Shank

Sunday, January 05, 2020

The Magick of Intentional Living

Most people seem to miss the difference between parlour tricks & everyday miracles! On the other hand, witchcraft has been given a bad name, especially in the 'Christian' community. Not that this is right, or fair, it IS understandable, given that the Sacred Book of Christianity, the Bible, tells us that it is evil, that we are not to suffer a witch to live. But what if we are misinterpreting/misunderstanding what the Hebrew Scriptures are really saying? After all, the Bible is a Western translation of an Ancient Near Eastern text. Also, there are many translations of at least several slightly different texts. Who are we to say that this one ( translation ) is more correct than another? How are we to know that this translation of that text is more accurate than that one? We can't know, for instance, that what is known as the Majority text is better than, say, the United Bible Society text, or even the Westcott & Hort. It's just more commonly accepted, or  it used to be. In a way, one might note that it's subject to the whims of the majority, which, humanly speaking, tend to change like the weather!

To live intentionally is to practice magick! One doesn't have to mutter incantations or cast spells, although many do; one simply has to purpose, in their heart of hearts, their innermost Being, that they're going to live a certain way, do certain things, no matter what & voila, they're practicing magick, whether they know it or not! Magick, like most 'things', is not in & of itself, 'evil'! Some people DO have wicked intentions, though I would dare to say there are more people with good intentions. 'It is what it is'; if one's purpose is to live well, harming no other ( ? ), then it could well be said that they're practicing what is most often called 'white magic', but one who lives carelessly, only concerned with their own profit ( ? ), no matter if others are harmed, could well be said to practice what is called 'black magic'. Aside from the fact that it is wrongly called 'magic', magick is what it is, neither good nor bad, but dependent on the spirit of the individual practitioner.

In this Life, it's sadly surprising the amount of people that simply strive to survive! From surviving the teenage years to surviving till the weekend ( 'work' is a four-letter word', etc. ), there are many who seem to have blindly accepted the notion, whether they believe in an 'after-life' or not, that no one makes it out of this life alive, that all we can do is hope to survive long enough to see our grandkids & maybe great-grandkids. If we can provide them a better life along the way, that's great too!

But what if there's More?! Maybe there's more to Life than simply surviving! If we could only change our perceptions of who we really are & what Life's really all about, maybe we would learn to aim for More than just survival: maybe we would thrive to such an extent that we & those around us never thought possible! Really, there's no doubt about it; we would thrive; we just have to take that first daring step. Knowing yourself is a dauntingly frightening proposition, but if we are to do More than survive, we must know ourselves. This may look different to different people, depending on their chosen religion, because, depending on what one believes about themselves, the aforementioned task may be more or less daunting, more or less frightening. There is a difference, however subtle it may seem, between knowledge & belief!

To truly know oneself, one must discard every notion that one has about themselves! Maybe that sounds crazy, but it's true; we have been so conditioned, as human beings, to believe that we are simply biological machines, bred for survival ( some call it 'evolution' ), that it will take a 'miracle' for us to 'get back to the Garden', so to speak. While we ARE in this biology, an integral part of it, one might note, WE are More than this biology! ( I know, this is 'old hat' for most of my readers ) Rather than human beings, bred to survive, with a spirit, WE are spirit-beings in a human body, who will thrive, if only we can see Beyond our Humanity!

How then, DOES one see Beyond their Humanity? CAN one see Beyond their Humanity; is there TRULY More?!  'As above, so below'; once we realize, through whatever means, that WE are More, once we start the ball rolling, so to speak, it's all downhill from there, though it is really an up-hill battle! Some use their chosen religion to strive for this knowledge, though that most often stagnates in belief, while others employ a more holistic way, through meditation & yoga. More than just an exercise regimen practiced for relaxation, 'Yoga' is a Sanskrit word meaning 'Union'. Called anything from 'chi' to 'orgone', it is the striving ( without striving ) to unite body & soul, to realize that it must be 'both/and' rather than 'either/or'. It is in the innermost being, our individual spirit, that the decision-making process begins. It goes without saying ( but I'll say it anyway ) that without the spirit, the body can do nothing!

Once one accepts, then, that there is More to Life than mere survival, she or he has made that first crucial step towards true knowledge! Some will take longer in this process than others, depending on their level of stagnation, while some, in their current Lifetime, will NEVER see this, but when it's all said & done ( ? ), ALL will come to this startling, but glorious realization!

Intentional Living, humanly speaking, is the first step. We must go about our lives, whether we call it 'magick' or not, purposefully taking each step, every action we imagine, beginning with the individual spirit. We must choose to harm no other rather than carelessly going about our 'day-to-day', irregardless of the harm we may be doing to others. As we've seen, this is easier said than done, but once we have made that first step, it becomes, not easier, but more 'natural', if that makes sense. The River of the Water of Life, which itself flows from the Tree of Life, will begin to run more freely through this biology, enabling us to thrive, not just survive!

The River of the Water of Life flows through this biology nonetheless, for it is Life itself, but humanly speaking, until we learn that WE are the Tree of Life & that every aspect of Life is miraculous & magickal, it will not flow as freely as it could! It's not as simple as the ( relatively ) old adage, 'if a tree falls in the forest & no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?', but our 'reality' ( again, 'humanly speaking' ) hinges on our perception. If we do not perceive the River of the Water of Life flowing through our veins, much less ourselves as the Tree of Life, we still ARE, but WE will not have the impact in this Life we otherwise would have.

Just like any religion, in reality, witchcraft is simply a way of Life, one that is intended to help us along the Way, toward becoming better versions of ourselves. There is always the tendency, it is true, to allow our Ego to get the better of us & to use our Craft in a way that is harmful to both ourselves & others, but when we purpose Within ourselves not to cause harm to others ( this includes More than one might think ), whatever religion we ascribe to ( if we ascribe to any certain religion ) will help us along the Way toward, not just becoming a better person, but realizing that we ARE More; More than just a Person; we are Life itself!

Charles Haddon Shank