The Pagan Path

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

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Bad Karma?

What if?

If you've ever watched a war movie or a western, to say nothing of cop shows ( I just watched 'Bad Boys For Life' ), although you gotta know much of the violence & carnage is Hollywoodized ( choreographed ) & blown out of proportion, it's not too hard to imagine that most of what you see on the silver screen is a fairly accurate portrayal of how the west was won & the sacrifices that have been made to make our fledgling nation what it is today. The point that maybe hits the hardest, though, is the amount of 'Evil' in the world & how tough it is to overcome that 'Evil' with 'Good'. It IS hard, however, to imagine a world where, in order to overcome 'Evil', we do not have to fight fire with fire; in other words, where we do not have to resort to the same tactics as the 'bad guys'. In the same vein, to further elaborate on 'What if?? 'What if', the objector might ask, 'a thief broke into your house, intent on stealing whatever valuable objects he or she could, no matter the cost, even if the occupant ( s ) of the house got in the way?' Worse yet, 'what if the same scenario happened, except it was a rapist with unthinkable intentions?' 'What if your wife or daughter was the focus of their intent?' Although these seem like pretty simple questions & most people would be quick to answer them with more violence, they are not as simple as they seem & we must ask ourselves, 'SHOULD we resort to violence to counter violence? Must we fight fire with fire?

'Karma is only a bitch if you are'! I'm pretty sure this phrase is not original to this blogger, although I believe it is fairly recent. 'Karma' is not necessarily a bad thing. Put simply 'Karma' is '( in Hinduism and Buddhism ) the sum of a persons actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences.' Therefore, if ones choices are 'good', this will lead to 'good' karma & if their choices have been overwhelmingly 'bad' guessed it; 'bad' karma. Another way to put it is, 'you reap what you sow'. In any one of the above scenarios, one might rightly say, 'well, if that or this person breaks into my home with evil intent, that person deserves to die' In the same vein, in a wartime scenario, with the prevalence of the notion of striking our enemies first before they can strike us ( or even simply striking back ( revenge? ), if we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this nation's or people's intent is to harm us, even kill us, are we justified in resorting to violence to make sure they don't?  Are we THAT attached to this biology that we ourselves would do what most people agree is wrong ( evil? ) in order that they may not do it to us? 'IS self-defense wrong?!

'Karma' is a two-edged sword. Sure, the thief, rapist, or terrorist may be reaping what they've sown; maybe they DO deserve to die, but if/when we pass that sentence on them, while we might be acting as the hand of karma, or 'God', as some say, don't you see that we are creating our own karma? I mean, even Jesus said something like, 'if you live by the sword, you'll die by the sword'. This is not to say that one should not defend themselves, their loved ones, or even their country, but we should know that by resorting to the same tactics ( violence ), we are only creating our own negative karma & we too, will reap what we've sown. Violence only begets violence & as long as humanity continues the cycle, we will never have true & lasting peace!

So we come to the Peace Within. Even if one does not believe in 'Karma' ( but 'Karma' believes in YOU!'), or in reincarnation for that matter, it goes without saying that in most, if not all religious purviews, one can have that Peace Within, even in the midst of any conflict. Whether this Peace comes through a child-like trust in some almighty Being up in the sky, or in their own power to choose, it can so envelop us that outside influences have no effect on us; we can choose to allow it to affect us ( emotional response ), or to simply watch it occur, knowing that it can only truly affect this biology, not our Inmost Being. Our attachments are what bring us pain & suffering. Whether we are so attached to a certain type of food that we are not willing to give it up, even though we know it's harmful to our bodies, or people that we have become so attached to that we are willing to do whatever is necessary to keep them, even if it's wrong or otherwise harmful. Don't get me wrong; we, as spiritual beings having a physical experience, ARE on this Earth, not only to share our experience, but to share our experience in Love, but there comes a point where SOMEONE must end the cycle ( of violence ) & since these are only our biological vehicles; can we truly say that it is right ( justifiable ) to do wrong so that 'right' may win?!

Just like it was wrong, to use a biblical example, for King David to have Uriah placed in the front lines of the battle ( where he was killed ), so that David could have his wife ( although he'd already 'had' her ), so it would be wrong to kill a person just because you thought he or she wanted to kill you! Really, when you think about it; it IS a bit ostentatious to decide that we have more right to live than the other person, maybe even more than a bit selfish. Again, 'is self-defense wrong?' You must be the Judge in this matter, but remember that in order for one person to live in such a scenario, the other would necessarily have to die; right?! That would mean that you would be committing the same crime against humanity that he or she had intended. Here is where philosophy comes into play; as mentioned earlier, what are we really manifesting when we decide that one deserves to live but not the other? Are we being selfish when we think our loved ones should live rather than someone else's loved ones? What ABOUT 'justifiable homicide' or 'casualties of war'?

This may open up a can of worms, but then again, some cans need to be opened! If we can choose who lives & who dies in any given situation, then maybe Jesus was right when He said 'you are gods ( Gods )! 'As above, so below'; 'is it right to do wrong so that good may come?' Again, I will let my readers judge for themselves; just KNOW that by choosing to continue the cycle of violence, you ARE creating your own negative karma!

To truly be at Peace, One must first be comfortable with who & what they are. 'As above, so below'; when one is truly at Peace, that Peace Within will surely manifest in their personal experience. Don't get me wrong; I'm by no means saying their personal experience will be 'a bed of roses', for we cannot control the actions of those around us ( that's THEIR Karma ), but we can be assured that we have done what is right.  In other words, if someone murders us or a loved one, that person will have their own negative karma to deal with, probably sooner rather than later. On the other hand, if we or a loved one seeks revenge against that person, we or they will end up, if not sharing the same fate, a similar one.

Getting back on track though; when One is at peace with who & what they are, everything flows uphill from there. 'As above, so below'; since we are spiritual beings having a physical experience, when we are not 'in touch' with our true nature, we will naturally look outside ourselves ( in our experience ) for the Peace that only exists Within. Sure, for a time, as in the case of a cease-fire or some other sort of armistice, a sort of peace may be experienced by both sides, but how long will it last? Does it necessarily signal an end to the violence? In some sense, this sort of peace may be likened to the 'morality' that some seem to think can be legislated!

Peace MUST come from Within! 'As above, so below'; if we allow the Peace Within to manifest in our physical experience, it will affect those around us, although, again, this is not to say that our Life will always be 'a bed of roses' ( 'Every rose has its thorns' ), for even those around us have their own choices to make. In other words, though we may affect their lives, even their choices, there is no guarantee that their choices will be 'right', or 'good' for us. On the other hand, whatever we choose, then, as 'good' & 'right' for us, may not always be acceptable to them & may in fact be perceived by them as 'harmful'.

'Karma', as we've seen, is therefore neither 'good' nor 'bad'. In the same vein, it is neither positive nor negative; it just is! The choices we make, as the 'God' of our own life, determine whether our Karma will be 'good' or 'bad', positive or negative. This can is already open, so here goes; some might be in opposition to this statement ( although, remember, Jesus said as much ), but our choices are our own: just as we cannot blame our 'bad' choices on some fallen spiritual being ( ? ) named 'Satan', neither must we rely on someone outside ourselves ( ? ) to choose well! We are the authors of our own destiny! ( speaking of 'a can of worms' )

It seems that, in this Life sometimes, there is no choice BUT to fight fire with fire. In fact, if memory serves me correctly; a fire may be squelched by using the fire from an explosion; apparently it temporarily removes the oxygen feeding the first fire. But even that is risky, there is no guarantee it will work at all, much less last. All in all, it is a dangerous proposition! There is ALWAYS a choice! Although our Ego, our Pride ( 'the pride of life'? ) may fight us tooth & nail, we must overcome both often, in order to do what is 'right' & 'good'. We may even find that we must forfeit our own physical existence in order to do what we know is 'right' or in order not to do what we KNOW is 'wrong'. As spiritual beings having a physical experience, though, we are More than this physical experience: WE go beyond this physical experience we 'Life'!

Sadly, because of our natural attachment issues, we, humanly speaking, tend to miss one another's physical presence once that presence departs, but spiritually speaking, WE are always present! 'As above, so below'; it is these attachment issues that necessarily bring pain & suffering. In this Life, one might note, pain & suffering are all but unavoidable, a necessary part of this human experience, some would say, for without darkness, there can be no light; without pain & suffering, no Love, but the fact of the matter is that even without darkness, the Light, like the Christian 'God', just Is, It's just easier to see in the darkness ( stars at night, for instance ). The Bible says 'God is Love', Jesus said that we, like Him, are Light. We, like the stars above, do not need the darkness to exist, but in order to be seen by the human eye, we must shine in the darkness!

Namaste' & Blessed Be!
Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, February 17, 2020

The Mask & the Sound of Silence

After having just read an article about how there are only about a dozen places in the U.S. left, where one can truly escape the unnatural noises so prevalent in our modern society, I'm somewhat saddened by the fact that people must work so hard anymore, just to hear themselves think, but then, maybe that's part of the problem; most of us 'think' too much! Many people pray for peace in their lives, not seeming to realizing that they themselves are the arbiters of the 'peace' they seek. Among the business of the 'day-to-day', with all its busyness & noise, it is our choice whether to get lost in all the 'hub-bub' of the everyday, or to retreat within ourselves to find the peace that we so desperately need. Coming from a religious background, as so many of us do ( of one sort or another ), I was taught to seek that peace outside myself. If only I had 'faith to move mountains', I would experience that Peace Within, the 'peace that passes all understanding'. This is true enough, I guess; many religious people have found such a peace in their hearts, through a child-like trust in an all-wise, all-powerful Being that controls their destiny. I can say, with Peace & Love in my heart, 'if it works for you, go for it!' As long as you harm none, you're all good!

The problem with thinking too much is that when we 'clear our minds' so we can think, we aren't really clearing our minds! We're simply exchanging one thought, or set of thoughts, for another. Thinking, in & of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing; in order to 'make it' in this rough & tumble world, one must be able to readily set aside one set of thoughts so they can focus on a different challenge. Then again, sometimes it's better to just follow your gut without the dangers of over-thinking it. Whether one believes, as most do, that we were created by an al-powerful, all-knowing Being, or that we are the product of past experiences ( AKA, 'evolution' ), personally speaking, of course, along with this biological vehicle, we are gifted with the ability ( ? ) to process thoughts. Thinking is a completely natural process: when we are faced with a choice, our brain immediately slips into gear, sending millions of electrical impulses through even more neuro-transmitters. Not being a scientist myself, I will proceed no further in that 'vein', but suffice it to say that the thought process is almost what one would call 'automatic', a 'knee-jerk' response!

We all wear a mask! The word 'persona', itself 'comes from the Greek word for the large masks that early Greek actors would use to portray their characters.'  As more & more people seem to be discovering, we are not just people, though that is usually how we present ourselves. This is somewhat of a rabbit-trail, but even while we seem to be noting, especially in the MSM ( Main Stream Media ) that so much ( more & more, actually ) in society seems to be based on the 'persona'; this is actually a good sign, as 'it's always darkest before the dawn', so to speak. Getting back on track, the persona itself is completely natural; it's part of our make-up. Like the Ego, the Persona is neither good nor bad; it's just not us! We can choose whether to manifest our Self through the Persona, or we can choose to use our Persona to try to make people ( including ourselves ) think we're something we're not. The more we use this 'mask' though, to portray ourselves, the greater the risk of fooling ourselves into thinking that we ARE the Persona, into identifying with it. In this day & age especially, with all its busyness & general ( unnatural ) clamor, it is difficult, to say the least, not to get sucked into this whirling vortex!

Life seems more & more to be a battle-ground ( to some, a losing battle )! This need not be! Speaking of the masks we wear; most often, we end up fighting ourselves because we have convinced ourselves ( ? ) that we are simply people, here for one purpose, to survive the battle. If along the way we can leave a goodly inheritance for our children & grandchildren, all the better, but when we identify with the Person, or Persona, we start thinking like Harry Houdini, escaping one trap only to be presented with another, 'out of the frying pan into the fire', in most cases. Some of us are lucky enough, for whatever reason, to escape all the perceived 'traps' that Life sets for us, but one has to wonder, 'is that not itself a trap?'!

Speaking of traps, we are often trapped by our own mind!  Back on the rabbit-trail, it is easy to get trapped IN our own mind as well, if we do not exercise great care. This, in relation to the Persona, Ego, etc. etc., is where one begins to identify themselves with their Mind. Ever hear the saying, 'my mind is like a steel trap'? Most, if not all people who say such things have begun to identify with the mind & thus are trapped by & in it! This becomes a prison from which, once ensconced, it is not easy to set yourself free. I say, 'set yourself free', because, as a wise man once said, 'I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it'!

When we react to what Life throws at us, which the best & brightest of us tend to do ( ? ), this is a good sign that we have been trapped by our own mind & indeed, have begun to identify with it! There is nothing wrong, in & of itself, with utilizing our Mind, 'our God-given talent', one might say, but there is the dangerous tendency to rely upon our Mind to save us from Life's many & diverse 'traps'. As I intimated, this itself is a trap, for when, as above, we allow ourselves to be lured into thinking (usually 'over-thinking' ) that it is our Mind, 'our smarts', so to speak, that have gotten us out of so many traps, we begin to identify with our Mind & thus, we become not only trapped BY it, but trapped IN it!

'As above; so below'; speaking of wise men, another wise man, animated by the same Spirit, or 'Energy' once said, 'If you want to be free, be free'. During the era of 'sex, drugs & rock 'n roll' which began in the late fifties & stretched into the seventies & even eighties, but especially in the sixties, 'free your mind' became a popular & well-used phrase. This phrase referred to the use of mind-altering drugs, which, when used properly DID have the property of expanding, not the Mind so much as the Consciousness. For this reason, many of the song lyrics that came from this era were very insightful & relayed much Truth, however acceptable or not!

However much music can relay the Beauty of Nature, though, much of the music of this era cannot exactly be considered 'natural sounds'. In fact, music, however peaceful, however soothing, is surely not what the author of the previously mentioned article had in mind when he talked about 'natural sounds'. The Music of Nature, similar to 'The Music of the Spheres', are the 'Sounds of Silence'; the babbling of a brook, the calls of the wild, trees rustling in the breeze, even the waves crashing on the shore. Although, by definition, these sounds are not, to our perception anyway, silent ( they can get very noisy, in fact ), they are, in their gentle state, peaceful, which is the meaning here.

The Sound of Silence can also refer to the stilling of our Mind, of our very thoughts. This can be achieved best through meditation, but with practice, even the practice of meditation becomes a thing of the past, for once we have found, or rediscovered that place of peace & harmony within ourselves, we no longer need to still our biological vehicle in order to be at peace. All we must do is remember who we really are; not this vehicle, not our situation: we ARE Peace & Harmony Itself!

Namaste' & Blessed Be!
Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

The Glorification & Personification of Divinity

'To make glorious by bestowing honor, praise, or admiration'. This is the definition supplied by Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary for 'glorify'. Taking a step back, according to the same website, 'glorious' means 'possessing or deserving glory'. Here again, though, we must step back again, only to see that the word 'glory' is defined as 'praise, honor, or distinction extended by common consent'. These words describe both persons or things. To be honest, they are closely related to the word 'worship'. According to the Online Etymological Dictionary, the word comes from the Old English 'worðscip', meaning 'condition of being worthy, dignity, glory, distinction, honor, renown'. This again can be indicative of a person or thing, mostly a person. Anticipating the argument of those who say the Christian 'God' IS a Person, we will also offer this definition of 'person'; again, from Merriam-Webster; 'human, individual sometimes used in combination especially by those who prefer to avoid man in compounds applicable to both sexes'. Reading further in the above link shows that only fourthly does it refer to the so-called '3 Persons of the Trinity'! All that to say this; 'the Christian 'God' IS, in this sense, a Person: 'He' is how a male-oriented ( dominated ) society perceived the Divine Source of Life!' Because we here in America, for the most part, are grounded in Christian ( Bible-based ) principles, most Christians perceive 'Him' in this way as well. This is not either to say that theirs is a wrong or 'bad' perception, for 'as above, so below'; It is what It is'. The Hebrews were not the first to describe the Divinity in a way they could relate to, nor are they the only ones to have their own perception & to believe that it's the only correct or true One!

The Divine Source of Life is neither male nor female! Strangely similar to our makeup, as human beings, this 'Source' is perceived in as many different ways as there are perceivers. Some perceive It as a 'Him', some as 'Her', while others perceive It as 'Energy' or 'the Universe' ( which IS arguably 'Energy' ). The three major religions of the world, Christianity, Judaism & Islam, all perceive It as 'Him'; Judaism & Islam because they're both from male-dominated societies; Christianity, because it sprang from Judaism. The Pagan roots of Christianity revered the female aspect of Divinity, which seems to have been all but lost in the shuffle, so Earth-worshipers who fall under the large umbrella known as 'Pagan' refer to the deity as 'Her'. Along those lines, one might recall that, in the Bible, 'God', or 'Elohim', commands the Earth to 'bring forth' ( Genesis 1:11 ); the only time 'He' spoke those words concerning anyone or anything beside the man & woman.

'Why do humans feel the necessity to personalize Divinity?' Furthermore, 'Why do we feel that we must glorify that Divinity; that this should be our Life's Purpose?' One doesn't necessarily lead to the other but to answer the second question first, religion bears the brunt. Religion teaches us to look outside ourselves for strength, for answers, whereas most so-called 'religious texts' teach us that we have the power to choose our own destiny. To return to an example from the Hebrew Scriptures, 'God' ( 'Elohim' again ) told Cain, 'If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.' ( Genesis 4:7 ) We have the Power, through Choice, to decide our own Destiny! There is not some Divine Being up among the stars that sets our course, although, on a bit of a side-track, it is well accepted that the Moon affects the tides, yet we humans, or at least most Christians, find it ridiculous, even blasphemous, that 'She', along with other heavenly bodies, should affect us.

To answer the first question might be a bit more of a challenge though! Why DO we humans feel the need to put a face, so to speak, on the Forces of Nature & especially the Divine Source of Life? In an attempt to answer this question, let us consider that, as human beings, we are naturally prone to relate to other human beings. For example, Christians refer to the Divinity as 'Father'. That again, is because of the male orientation of the culture from which the Hebrew Scriptures sprang. In that vein, 'Father', being more of a human, or biological concept, it is natural as well, to believe that we come from somewhere. For Christians, of course, 'God' is a spiritual 'Father', rather than a natural, or biological One. As spirit-beings, of course, it IS only natural to personalize the Source as our 'Father', in other words, to attach ourselves to this Source in a way that we, as human beings, can relate to. There is nothing wrong with this, of course ( nobody wants to feel like they're an orphan-physically or otherwise ), though looking to this 'Father' for our sustenance tends towards irresponsibility. One might actually compare this to our level of maturity as human beings: as we mature in Life, we learn to rely on ourselves, rather than, or at least more than, our father, This, though, is to say nothing of the female half of the equation, our 'Mother'.............

'Mother Earth' is a term used by 'Pagans' for the most part, although it is often employed by even those who view themselves as 'spiritual, not religious', something which is becoming more prevalent. Going back, again to our quote from Genesis 1, we see that the Earth, just like a human Mother, in fact, similar to Adam & Eve, was told to 'bring forth'. Therefore, in this sense, we could all be called 'Children of the Earth'. It should be noted here that such an argument is somewhat dependent on the notion that these first few chapters of Genesis describe nothing but the 'creation' of the material world. On the other hand, it should also be noted that this is a Universal Truth!

While the argument that 'it had to start somewhere' is rather 'up-in-the-air', so to speak, it is fairly well-accepted that there was/is a Creator, that a Divine Being is behind it all. This blogger is no exception! I can foresee & indeed, have heard no questionable evidence contrary to the fact. As I have been known to put it, 'I didn't put that mountain there; did you?' Are we to simply believe that the 'God' of the Bible placed them there? Of course not; that would be akin to averring that 'God' created Adam with the appearance of age, as well as the stars, etc., etc.! Was there a beginning? Will there be an end to the physical universe? Some say 'yes', some say 'no'. Clearly though, Someone put that mountain there! 'Was it, as the Hebrew Scriptures seem to say, the Christian 'God', the God' of the Hebrews?' Believe what you will; it must be known that, while there is/was in the ultimate sense, a Creator, a Divine Source, this Divine Source gave 'Mother Earth' the ability to 'bring forth', not on 'Her' own, but as in the case with the Virgin Mary ( Matthew 1:23 ( Isaiah 7:14 ), '[ The ] Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you' ( Luke 1:35 ).

'So, Who do you worship & 'why'?' 'How do you worship?! 'Worship', at its roots, simply means 'to ascribe worth to' ( IOW ). It is often said that we 'worship the ground she walks on'. In fact, if you'll recall from one of my recent posts, some of the original ( Christian? ) marriage vows actually contains that very concept. One could well say then, that whatever, or whoever one sees as worthy, actually receives their worship! In the same vein then & moving on; 'How does one show ( manifest ) their worship, be it of an individual or thing?' 'We will glorify....................' As described earlier, we worship by bestowing 'honor, praise, or admiration'. To worship is to glorify, to glorify is to worship! Since worship simply means 'to ascribe worth', anything we view as worthy therefore receives our worship; anything or anyone, therefore, that we honor, praise or admire thus receives glorification. Though, religiously speaking, these terms are used to refer only to a Deity outside ourselves, in terms of Spiritual Truth, they refer to what might be termed, 'The Spirit Within'. Even the Bible agrees; Jesus said, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him' ( John 14:23 ) When we give honor, glory & praise to the Spirit Within; when we ascribe worth to our Higher Self, we thus worship ourselves, not as human beings, but as as Spirit Beings, part & parcel with the Divine Source!

Namaste' & Blessed Be!
Charles Haddon Shank