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My view of the Void between Belief and Atheism

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The search for the meaning of life is a common thread in all our lives and has been since time began. From the practice of sympathetic magic by our Stone age ancestors, through to modern day worship in organized (and sometimes – highly stylized and modified) religion – we have always yearned to know why we are here and where we are going.

Notwithstanding modern technology and so-called advancements in thinking and shifting paradigms – there are those who prefer to join the New Age movement – where new religions and beliefs are created (or modified from the old.) Some go further and form communes, where people can go “off the grid” and go back to nature, running farms and living off the land.

Most cling to the “tried and true” established religions (that – ironically – were adapted and evolved from previous pagan religions or cults), for a variety of reasons. These reasons could include tradition, peer pressure, indoctrination or fear of being considered the odd one out.

Whatever the motivation, humans have always had a strong desire to be a part of a group, and at the same time – to be considered special. The two things that I feel are the main motivations for the gravitation towards a religion, are either fear of death (total annihilation of the soul – ceasing to be) – or a desire for meaning (or a combination of both.)

I am writing this only to illustrate my experiences – my journey – and to share with others. Discussion is welcome – persecution is not. I understand that I may put some people’s noses out of joint – which will only point out why religion has a tendency to create bigotry and close-mindedness in its adherents. The “my gang’s better than your gang” mentality has been responsible for many atrocities and wars throughout history – however I do not wish to flog an already over-flogged dead horse.

I am writing a fantasy series that deals with realms of the unknown. My lack of belief in a Supreme deity has not hindered my imagination and creativity at all. I adore mythology – and how it explains so much about human behavior. I have often called myself a “Pagan Atheist” – as I practice witchcraft – with the understanding that deities represent archetypes that we use like a touchstone, in order to emulate the energies they personify.

Without going into a long-winded account of my experiences (some of which have already been documented in this blog) – I often oscillate between semi-belief and non-belief – or agnosticism and atheism. (Some prefer the term “non-theist” – but for the sake of ease, I use the term “atheist”.

I have come to the conclusion that it does not matter if you are a scientist who is a confirmed atheist, or a devout and fervent believer – there is a void (or gap) between belief and non-belief.  It exists, whether in our minds or in reality, and has yet to be explored or satisfactorily explained by science. By the same token – religion has also failed to satisfactorily explain (at least, for me) this void.

When I say void – I’m referring to all the unexplained phenomena, visions, psychic and spiritual experiences, premonitions and hunches, beliefs – even dreams – where science has difficulty measuring and religion either justifies for their own means or scrambles to cram the square peg in the round hole. This is not to say that science doesn’t have the capacity to discover the truth, or that religion can’t hit the nail on the head. It’s just that, sometimes they both miss the mark.

A good example is the time I had a bad hypnagogic hallucination. The Neurologists told me that it was to do with my synapses misfiring or a temporal lobe seizure. My religious relatives told me that it was probably a demonic attack. My New Age friends told me that it was a sign from my Higher Self. I didn’t believe any of them – not quite, anyway. To a degree – I concurred with the doctors – in regards to having an affliction.

In a way – I did feel like I was under attack – but not necessarily by demons. When it comes to the New Age hypothesis – I felt that there was something to it, but not a message from my Higher Self. (If I have a Higher Self – I don’t believe it would throw horrifying images at me – or make me feel such creepy sensations. I assume that a Higher Self is a protector rather than a tormentor!)

I felt (and still feel) that the answer remains somewhere in between – waiting to be discovered – or not. That’s the annoying thing about being on the fence. You either don’t commit or don’t care. For me – it became a matter of taking it to its logical conclusion – either way. If it was a demonic attack – it was ineffective. If my Higher Self was trying to send me a message – it was also ineffective – seeing as the message was warped and bizarre. (Maybe I just need to learn the language – but why should it be so difficult – seeing as our lives are so short?)

If it was, after all – just my own synapses misfiring etc., why was there a resonance somewhere deep inside me, that gave me a feeling that something important had happened? Why was it that the images reflected a pattern in my life – or symbolic of behavioral issues that I’ve been dealing with my whole life? 

That’s the grey area. There’s meaning – without guidelines or concrete evidence. The void is not really a void – but rather – the space between reason and nonsense. One thing I keep going back to is the story of a woman who died on the operating table – and then came back to life and retold a story about leaving her body. She saw a doctor in the next room – and could describe the intricate patterns on his tie – without ever having seen him in person. She could describe other things, but what got to me was the description of an abandoned shoe on the roof of the hospital.

She had never been up there and described the shoe in such detail that you would have thought she had been up on the roof. Sceptics claimed that she must have seen the doctor and his tie – or that it was a lucky guess. They continued discounting all her experiences – but stopped short at being able to find a reasonable explanation for the shoe. They tried to laugh it off and say that anyone could assume there would have been a shoe on the roof. What they couldn’t explain was the incredible detail of how the shoe was positioned and exactly where; how the laces were draped a particular way and so on.

That has always stumped me – and no one has been able to explain it away or satisfy me with a concrete answer. They are just as wishy-washy as the ones who believe.

I understand and accept that science will explain the things that baffle us today – sometime in the future, just like they have already explained and deciphered the things that baffled us in the past. I am the kind of person who welcomes scientific discovery with open arms. I can enjoy a sunset – knowing full well that it might just be a collection of vapors; matter arranged perfectly at the right time at the right place, or even a trick of the light or my eyes. It’s still beautiful.

Whenever I have delved into metaphysical pursuits, I have come at them with a scientific mindset – in order to ensure that I was not duping myself. It’s easy to be carried away with mystical messages and New Age or spiritual imagery that “speaks to the soul”.  When my son was young, I started getting into the Tarot with a friend of mine. I have used the cards since then – always taking notes and dating them, for future reference.

Sometimes they would come true – but I can’t be certain if it was due to subconscious programming via the images and messages on the cards, or if they truly foretold the future. In 1997 – my circle of family and friends endured a host of deaths. To start with, I had a miscarriage – then two weeks later – my brother died of an overdose. A month after that – my uncle committed suicide. A month after that – my boyfriend’s sister committed suicide.  Throughout the rest of the year – other deaths occurred.

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It would be easy to say, “Well, it was just a coincidence. People die!” But what haunts me to this day – is that two weeks prior to my miscarriage – I had conducted readings for myself. Every single time I shuffled the cards – the Death card popped out! EVERY SINGLE TIME! I lost count of how many times this happened. Even when I carefully shuffled them over the table – the Death card fell out. If I split the deck – the Death card appeared. When I did my spread – the Death card was there.

I tried to meditate and clear my mind, as I wondered if I was obsessing about it so much – which made my subconscious mind gravitate towards it. Needless to say – it freaked me out and I put the cards away. Then the deaths started happening. By the end of the year – I was able to shuffle the cards without it falling out or appearing.

I also toyed with the Ouija board – along with the friend who practiced the Tarot with me. We made it ourselves – out of a piece of Masonite and Scrabble tiles. We used a small Sherry glass – turned upside down – as a planchette. I’d heard the horror stories about people becoming possessed after playing with Ouija boards – however I felt that the psychosis was brought on by their own fears and religious upbringing. I did not believe in demons etc. (neither did my friend) – so we got into it – mostly out of curiosity and in the spirit of scientific experimentation!

I’d always thought that people deliberately pushed the planchette, spelling out things to either scare others or to satisfy their own wishful thinking. What amazed me was that the glass seemed to have an energy of its own. My friend and I made sure that we only – just barely – touched the glass gently with our fingertips. Sometimes – the glass would move a little – before we even touched it. Most of the time – as soon as we put our fingertips on the glass – it would start racing across the board and we could barely keep up.

There were many times that we deliberately took our fingers off the glass – and it would keep moving – without us pushing or shoving it. Both of our hands lifted up above the glass – and it kept sliding. There are only two possible explanations for this: external energies or entities were controlling the glass – or our own energies combined to propel the glass, as though creating a third entity with our power. Either way – it was a remarkable phenomenon. (It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that – since our bodies are made of electricity – we generated a combined conduit.) What was even more remarkable – was that the entity (or let’s say – energy) that came through – most of the time, told us things that the other person could not possibly have known.

For example: the energy would mention names of long lost relatives – including specific facts – for the both of us. We had never divulged the information about those relatives to each other, either because we weren’t that close to the relatives or it had never been pertinent to our usual conversations. Also – the energy would reveal personal things about the both of us; things that we had never told each other – or anyone else, for that matter. It was often shocking, sometimes amusing – rarely scary.

One time, our kids were at school and we were having a session – when someone/an energy came through and told us that my friend’s son had ripped his pants as he climbed over a fence at school. We thought it was funny – but as we had asked for something specific (for the energy/entity to prove itself) – we decided to keep an eye or ear out for any news about his pants. Fair enough, several hours later I went with her to pick up the kids. Her son got in the car and complained about having ripped his pants while playing – as he climbed over a fence.

We were both absolutely flabbergasted. We had not mentioned it to her son as we hadn’t had time before he did it. She stopped the car and we looked over the back seat – as he twisted to show the back leg – which had a two inch rip. He had also scratched his leg a little – but was otherwise okay. We wondered if it actually was a spirit or whatever – as the information was so accurate. We couldn’t wait to get home to get on the board again – but nothing exciting happened during that session.

I’d like to emphasize – re: Paranormal – meaning ‘above’ normal, and Supernatural – meaning ‘extra’ natural. These two words have mystical connotations but we have to remember that they both indicate things that happen outside of the knowledge we already have of the world and everything in it. It doesn’t automatically mean that paranormal and supernatural things are magical. It just means that they are above or extra/outside our understanding at the present time – possibly to be explained by science at a later time.

I say this to show how our experiences with the Ouija board were in the realm of the unknown – hopefully to be discovered and explained at a later date. They could also have been externalizations or amplifications of our own extra sensory perception or intuition – channeling our subconscious energies through it. These things are not automatically in the realm of magic either.

We finally ditched the Ouija board – due to a scary experience that caused us to panic. We had already noticed throughout our dabbling – that our energy levels were always greatly reduced after a session. Even 20 mins into the sessions – we could feel ourselves getting more and more tired – to the point of us leaning our heads on one elbow as we tried to keep our eyes open.

The final straw was when an entity came through and said that my youngest brother was going to die. (He died a few years later – as discussed earlier.) Then a supposedly “good” spirit came through – telling us to get off (and stay off) as evil spirits were on their way. We freaked and broke the board up, then threw it in the trash.

To this day – I’m still unsure about what was happening and how it worked – but I maintain that we were not pushing the glass/planchette and that everything I’ve recounted is 100% true without any embellishment for dramatic effect!

It’s funny how people are always searching for answers about themselves and their lives – through external things and using strange methods. It has long been said (especially in Eastern Mysticism) – that the answer lies within. This is certainly true when deciphering your dreams or relying on your intuition. I read a while ago, about scientists discovering brain cells in the stomach – sometimes called “the little brain”, a network of neurons that line your stomach and your gut. They postulated that since they were linked to the cortex – it explained gut feelings and others associated with emotions, including the fight or flight impulse. It also explains the sensation of butterflies in the stomach.

When we want to know things about ourselves and our lives (especially important things) we like to consult oracles and use fortune telling – with a secret hope that the desired result will be the answer. (The same goes for praying.) In our minds – we could easily resolve the issue by using rationality and reasoning – but we like to ‘dupe’ ourselves into thinking that we can get a concrete answer from some arbitrary tool.

Most of the time – we already know the answer or it’s out of our control. Either the decision is in someone else’s hands or wishful thinking causes us to scramble for whatever aligns with our desires. It would be easy though – to throw the baby out with the bathwater and say that intuition is bogus. Science does not allow for things such as miracles and fate – as it prefers to sit with explanations such as coincidence and cause and effect.

We all know that there is a distinct line between the beginning of an event and the final result. The progression depends upon certain steps taken and events unfolding via choices, decisions, actions and outcomes. For example: If you’re a religious person and someone decides to give you $100 as a gift – you might think that it was due to divine providence or karma. If a doctor saves your life – you might assume it is divine intervention, luck – or again – karma.

You have chosen not to see the cogs and wheels in the machine. You are like a primitive person who has never seen a tv and believe that there are actually tiny people inside the magic box. You haven’t seen all the steps that happened in order to provide the favorable outcome. You also don’t see that those same steps could have resulted in an alternate – less favorable outcome – depending on circumstances, who’s involved etc.

It’s amazing how people see divine intervention or miracles when good things happen – but do not apply the same kind of thinking when a negative outcome occurs. Miracles are only applied to the positive – where tragedies are always applied to the negative – or Satan! (Notwithstanding that – what might be a tragedy for one person, might be a miracle for someone else.)

After having said all that – I do believe that intuition is real – although not necessarily from an external force or deity. I think it is ‘paranormal’ or ‘supernatural’ – not necessarily magical – but a natural phenomenon yet to be explained. This would account for the majority of supposedly mystical experiences, such as: the bonds between parents and children, twins, sensing danger before it happens, premonitions, deja-vu, luck, coincidence and so on.

Feeling alone in the world and dealing with abandonment issues could easily explain the desire for attachment to an all-encompassing, omnipotent father-figure. (In Ancient times – also the Mother figure in the form of the Goddess.) Also – fear of death – as mentioned earlier. The idea of an afterlife is comforting for those who can’t bear to face oblivion.

Still – I have had experiences that cannot be explained away so easily. Dealing with Hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations all my life has been difficult – made worse when I realized that I had passed on the affliction to my son. Or so I assume!

He was three years old and one morning he came out of his bedroom in a terrible temper. I was sitting at the kitchen table having my morning cup of tea, when he walked up to me with his little hands on his hips. I asked him what was wrong and he replied, “I come from the Pleiades constellation!” I was staggered – as the day before he’d only used single words – as he hadn’t started stringing them into sentences yet. (He’d started walking when he was ten and a half months old. I had been told that children who walk first, talk later – and vice versa.)

In shock, I asked him several times to repeat what he’d said – and he did so – exactly the same sentence. My brother lived next door at the time, so I took my son over to his Uncle and told him to tell him what he had told me. He did so – and my brother was just as shocked as I was. He continued to say that he had been screaming for me all night but I didn’t come to him.

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He was very upset over that – so was I – as I always checked on him and listened for every noise. I asked him if he’d had a nightmare and he then retold the following. He had gone to bed and was then woken up by many aliens in his room. Some were tall greys wearing long black robes. They were standing in the back – while small, black, squat aliens milled about in the front. One of the small aliens was holding a crystal orb that had a black key in it. The alien threw it in the air and it started floating towards my son – who was trapped in his body and screaming.

As the orb approached him, another squat alien – quite different to the others – told my son that if he took the key out of the orb, he would unlock the secrets of the universe! He also told my son that he – and myself and my mother – were from the Pleiades constellation, and that we were vapors before we came to earth. He said that the planet we came from was “Livkik”.

This alien was quite unusual – like a troll. My son explained him as wearing shorts, but shirtless and barefoot – with an ugly face and a long hooked nose. He had a large gold earring in one of his ears and his long toenails were curled in spirals. This alien kept telling my son to “Take it!” – referring to the orb – as it continued floating towards him.

My son continued screaming as the other aliens joined in the chanting. “Take it, Take it.” It’s no wonder he was horrified – and upset – as I didn’t come to save him. I asked him why he didn’t take the orb, to which he replied simply, “I was scared!” I was already assuming that he had the same hypnagogic/hypnopompic hallucinations that I had suffered since childhood – but who knows?! 

Funnily enough, two years later – we went to a garage sale – where he found an unusual stuffed toy. It was made in Iceland and looked like an elf or pixie – with satin clothes and pointy ears. My son grabbed it out of the box and said excitedly, “He’s from Livkik!” I had to buy it for him!

I have yet to find satisfactory answers to the following questions: I had not been interested in the Plaeides – prior to this event. Where could he have gleaned the information from? How could a three year old pronounce this name and say this full sentence – when immediately before this event – he barely spoke more than one or two words at a time? (This also includes the discussion we had straight afterwards, where he explained in detail what had happened – very articulately and succinctly.) It’s like he went from toddler to teenager (at least!) overnight.

What about ghosts? I’ve always found this phenomena intriguing – even though I’m pretty sure most cases can be explained away as wishful thinking, rampant imaginations or matrix/eyes playing tricks and fear. Even so – I have had a few experiences that defy explanation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I believe 100% that I saw a ghost.

One experience I had was shared with my cousin and my son – when he was in his early teens. We decided that we’d go to get takeaway and that we’d walk to the shop. As we came out of her front gate and went to walk up the road, we heard a distinct, “Hey!” – as though someone was standing right next to us. My cousin lived next door to a vacant block of land – so we stopped to check. No one was there – only us. We laughed and went to continue – then heard a “Pssst” – like a short, sharp hiss. We stopped again – a little scared.

There was still no one there, so we checked the grass for snakes – and thought it might have been a gas leak from the ground (grasping for answers.) However – a gas leak can’t say “Hey” in a human’s voice, can it?

In that same house – the day she moved in – I was helping my cousin unpack. I was in the lounge room and she was in the kitchen. There was a hallway that connected the kitchen, lounge room and bedrooms and led to the front door.  My cousin called something out from the kitchen, then stepped into the doorway to hear my response. She swears black and blue – to this day – that she saw me come out of one of the bedrooms further down the hall and cross over to the other bedroom.

She went down the hall – passing me in the lounge room – and went into the bedroom to continue talking to me, but I wasn’t there. I remember the shocked look on her face when she slowly walked into the lounge room – her eyes as big as dinner plates! She asked me how I got past her without her noticing. I told her that I hadn’t moved – that I had been in the lounge room the whole time. She didn’t believe me. She went outside to check the windows, as she thought that I had jumped out – run along the side of the house – climbed in through the bathroom window and raced into the lounge room. She had only been in the bedroom a few seconds.

She realized that I would not have had enough time to jump out the bedroom window, run down the side of the house and climb back in the bathroom window, then run to the lounge room. She would have seen me running and I would have been out of breath. We were mystified by that!

A couple of weeks later – we were on the phone for a chat. She was sitting between the bathroom and the kitchen and she suddenly stopped mid-sentence. (My cousin – even though a Christian – is very scientifically minded and needs evidence or proof for just about everything – apart from her religious beliefs.) I asked her what was wrong and her voice started shaking. She told me that she had seen an old man walking through the kitchen and out the back door – then disappear. It took her a while to get comfortable in that house.

I’ve had other experiences – but I’d like to stop there and refer to a great book called “The Dark Gods” by Anthony Roberts and Geoff Gilbertson. (You can buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Dark-Gods-Anthony-Roberts/dp/009138771X). Even though there’s a lot of speculation about fairy tale characters and mythological archetypes being aliens etc in disguise – one thing “kind of” made sense to me, in regards to ghosts. They mentioned how events (including deaths, wars and battles etc) are imprinted on the surroundings – like a recording.

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For example: rocks can contain elements that are magnetic, or crystal etc that can act like a conduit. They can apparently “absorb” or channel events and energies – then release them, causing a haunting and so on. (I did say that it “kind of” makes sense!) On some of the popular ghost shows on tv – they talk about residual hauntings – where the events are played back over and over again, hence the reason you may see a ghost going through the motions of their daily routine. Other hauntings are considered “intelligent” – meaning that they will interact with the living, answer questions etc.

EVP’s – which stands for Electronic Voice Phenomena – are the supposed recordings of ghosts speaking or answering questions. Some say that they are just picking up radio waves – but it’s amazing to hear answers to direct questions, or people’s names being called out etc. If they are real and not over-dubbed etc – then I do wonder if they are recordings of thoughts projected by the ghost hunters. It’s amazing what the human mind can do – when excited and under duress – but I’m no scientist!

I do remember reading about Poltergeist activity – being explained away as the surging hormonal and emotional energies of pre-pubescent and teenage children. When concentrated and directed – energy can be very powerful indeed. It’s even stronger when in a group, and there have been accounts of group meditation sending strong energy – sensed by the receiver many miles away. Again – it does bring to mind explanations such as psychosomatic response or mind over matter.

For me, the bottom line is – whatever works – as long as you don’t go beating other people over the head with it. What is gospel for you will be bogus to someone else, and vice versa. Taking something from the ‘void’ and organizing it into a doctrine to make others follow you is absurd, in my books. If others gravitate to you and your beliefs – of their own accord – then, great! I know – like many others – that there’s so much going on in the void – yet to be discovered or explained satisfactorily. With quantum mechanics and other scientific breakthroughs – as well as things such as paranormal investigations – we’re bound to get there – one day.

Until then – let’s remember to keep it as real as we can and share our thoughts and experiences – without creating wars over stubborn beliefs and hidden agendas!

 


Questing

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Writing this memoir has been a very therapeutic experience in terms of exorcising demons and analysis. For the most part, as long as I’m writing, I’m happy, although the perfectionist and idealist in me tend to gripe from their perches, saying things like “What about the poetry?” or “Not as good as the Beats” or “I thought you wanted to be a Great Writer!” I’ve had articles published in three of Llewellyn’s Almanacs. The first was about Animal totems in their 2011 Magical Almanac. Then I wrote a series of entries for their 2012 Witches’ Spell A Day Almanac. The last was a piece on the Numerology of plants for their 2013 Herbal Almanac.

 

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I’m proud of those pieces, but I have to admit that along the way, something in me transformed, in regards to my ‘spirituality’. I have always felt uneasy with the term ‘atheist’ as it implies the notion of an aversion to spirituality. The idea of calling myself ‘agnostic’ also made me uncomfortable as it came across as laziness, or at least – as being in a holding pattern until something better came along. It was like a ‘just in case’ position, or lying in wait – like a spider on the outskirts of a web, waiting for the tug of the string.

In my earlier years I went ‘out on a limb’ and explored different faiths, reading book after book and attending services and visiting temples. I had countless conversations with a variety of different types of people from different walks of life. I lived in a Buddhist commune for a year and was initiated into the White Tara mysteries. I spent a brief period studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses (boy was that a mistake!), which was brought on by an episodic fear of death. My cousin organized a clumsy religious intervention, disguised as a makeup party, where she and a psychotic garden variety Born again Christian woman did their best to ‘exorcize’ me! They both ended up in tears and I walked away amused but angry that I was duped into wasting my time and energy – AND I had brought good food!

When I was twenty three I met an American woman – Elia, who was from Waco, Texas. She was in her early fifties and had an ad in the paper about teaching Numerology. I had been interested before and decided to look into it so I called her. When she answered and we started talking, for some reason I thought that she was Russian. (It turned out later on she discovered that her family did have Russian in their background!) The lessons were cheap so I signed up and started attending, every Tuesday night. Elia had a degree in Psychology and was also an art teacher. She was thoroughly fascinating and I learned a lot from her.

It turned out that I was the only one who stayed for the complete course and she said that from the beginning, she knew that I would be the only one who would stay. Week after week, someone would drop off until it was just Elia and I, which was fine with me. To this day I still practice Numerology, as it’s been the only thing that has rung true, for me. I have tested it in a variety of different ways and often I find myself saying “Well, it’s all projection!” But when I look back over my chart I get a chill, and realize that whatever happens, Numerology has been like a blueprint that just states the facts ma’am!

 

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I had religious people telling me often that I needed to have faith, but that seemed like too much hoping. I’d rather have knowledge and truth. Something concrete is better than smoke and mirrors. I remember thinking that it seemed as though they all wanted a father figure so badly, that the idea of someone watching over them gave them comfort, and who was I to take that away from them? I thought “Good luck to you – but don’t impose that grasping onto me!”

Fear is a great motivator and pain is a great educator, however – it all depends on where you take it and how you develop it. Every time I had a crazy experience, whether it was a hypnagogic hallucination or a supposedly prophetic dream, I assumed it was my synapses misfiring or whatever I ate the night before. Sometimes they were prompted by auto suggestion or psychosomatic circumstances.

I knew an older man called Keith who did my tarot cards for me every now and then, in my twenties. He reminded me of Khalil Gibran. For years he pursued me romantically but I was not interested – and I never led him on. One night we stayed at a mutual friends’ house and had to share a bed. Apparently he came to bed later and my vibes were so strong that he had to leave the room! When I came out in the morning he was sleeping on a bean bag in their lounge room and was very angry with me, even though I had no idea what had happened! (Later on that day, we were sitting in their backyard and their pet goose came running at Keith in full attack mode! It was like even the animal kingdom was against him!)

I remember that every time he did my readings, there were always messages about me having to let my guard down and to stop worrying about what others thought about me. I had to stop worrying about the ‘pigs and fishes’. The last reading he did for me was using a Native American deck with animal totems. Again the message was about removing the masks and discovering the real me. I wondered if Keith was peppering the readings with subtle hints about letting him in. There was no way that was going to happen. He was sweet – but kind of creepy at the same time.

 

from Wikimedia Commons - Zivm21

from Wikimedia Commons – Zivm21

 

After that last reading I had an incredible out of the body experience. All of a sudden I was floating in space with two creatures – much like a white demon I had seen in a painting, with faces on their groins. They were on either side of me, holding my arms and they were grotesque. They told me telepathically that I needed to ‘drop the mask’ and to learn to see beyond the masks of others. In front of us I could see a huge black planet rolling towards us like a bowling ball. I was afraid but they kept telling me to relax. Then I saw a brilliant white light coming up over the horizon of the black planet. It was growing brighter and brighter as it came closer, appearing over the planet, still rolling towards us.

'Saint Augustine and the Devil' by Michael Pacher, circa 1483 (Similiar to the creatures I saw.)

‘Saint Augustine and the Devil’ by Michael Pacher, circa 1483 (Similiar to the creatures I saw.)

I wriggled and tried to break free, screaming in my ‘mind’ that I wanted to go back to my body and that I wasn’t ready. The creatures (or angels?) kept saying “You’ll regret it!” The white light was getting bigger and closer to the point that it was almost unbearable to look at. Finally I broke free, screaming “I can’t!” and I snapped back to my body. Fair enough, as soon as I sat up in bed I regretted being a chicken and not waiting to see the light, as it dawned on me that the white light was my ‘Higher Self’. To this day I feel bad about that, even though I’m still not sure if it was just my synapses misfiring!

One constant thing that has always been a part of me or my spirituality, is my pagan side. I have always felt strongly connected to the earth, the seasons and to the animal kingdom. I have always been fascinated with ritual and witchcraft too. When I was about twelve years old I came across a book of ceremonial magic that my mum had in her bookcase. It was given to her by a friend of the family, who had given it to us as he thought he was cursed by the witch who gave it to him. He was a guitar player in a band and he had an affair with her. He said that she scared him as she was very controlling and definitely had ‘the power’. When he broke up with her he started having terrible problems with arthritis in his hands, to the point where he couldn’t even play guitar. I don’t know what he did to “break the spell” but giving the book to us apparently helped a lot.

I remember taking the book into my room and setting up a ritual with candles, casting circle etc. However I freaked out when the wind picked up and the candles flickered so I quickly snuffed them out, packed up the altar and put the book back in its spot in the bookcase. Years later, mum threw the book in the fireplace.

In my late twenties I started dabbling with an ouija board. My neighbor at the time, Debbie, came up with the bright idea, and even though we didn’t have a board, we decided to make one out of a piece of masonite and some scrabble pieces. We used a little liqueur glass and placed our index fingers on it. Immediately it started moving. It was strange as it seemed as though it was moving of its own accord. Both of us were quite skeptical and wanted to test it, out of curiosity. Sometimes it would go so fast that it would slip out of our fingers and keep moving across the board. It was hard to keep up with it.

 

English_ouija_board

 

The same people would come through and it would say random crap that usually bored us to tears. We noticed that even after just twenty minutes our energy would be drained dramatically, and we had to stop to recharge our batteries with cups of tea and cookies! One time was freaky though. An entity came through and told us that Debbie’s son had torn his pants climbing over a fence at school. I went with her when she picked him up and fair enough, when he got into the car, he told his mum that he ripped his pants climbing over a fence! We raced home to jump back on the board!

It was amazing though, that we couldn’t get the lottery numbers! It wasn’t long before a nasty entity came through, saying that my brother Peter was going to die (he did die a few years later). I was so angry I told Debbie that I wasn’t going to do it anymore so we broke the board up into little pieces and threw it away.

I still wonder about what happens with an ouija board – whether you’re just channeling your own subconscious energies through it, or if there really are actual ‘spirits’ coming through.

the-high-priestess

Debbie and I started getting into tarot cards and read for each other over the following years. We also went to a professional reader who did a reading for me that I will never forget – as it made me laugh so much. She said that I would end up living in Argentina on a cattle ranch, with 40,000 head of cattle! Debbie promised me that if it ever eventuated, she would personally get on a plane and come to the ranch and eat her own shit from a gold platter. The funny thing is, it kind of came close. I did relocate to the U.S. and am living in Nashville, just not Argentina and without the 40,000 head of cattle. I hope to one day make enough money to do that, just to see Debbie eat her own shit. (Just kidding!)

Whenever I did my own tarot readings I recorded the questions I asked as well as the answers, so I could go back to them after a certain time to see if  whatever was predicted came true. The problem with doing this is that once ‘programmed’ with the supposed outcome, you subconsciously bring about the result, unless you’re a saboteur and stop it from happening. I found it annoying when I realized that no matter what, I had the power to begin with, to bring about whatever change I wanted. Even though it was fun and enchanting to do a reading, whatever question I asked – I already had the desired answer in my mind.

I knew what I wanted to happen so I felt that I was affecting the outcome with my subconscious desires. I resorted to doing readings where I just asked “You tell me.” I got more honest and interesting results, which I still recorded and checked, months down the track. At times things did come true, but then it was easy to project certain outcomes. These days I don’t bother with the cards, as I rely more on cause and effect, research and knowledge, based on what has gone on before and what seems logical and reasonable.

 

Etching of Vendome Green Man, France

Etching of Vendome Green Man, France

 

We also started getting into witchcraft but I dropped it when I got into my relationship with Jim, the crazy unemployed writer. When I split up with him I picked it back up. I went the whole hog, doing rituals, wearing capes and pentagrams, celebrating the Sabbats and Esbats, writing my own incantations, gathering herbs, playing with gems, oils, spells and so on. I was already into dream interpretation, astral traveling etc so it went hand in hand. After years of practicing I realized that essentially, I was still an atheist at heart. I wondered how I could reconcile this with my pagan heart. Then it dawned on me.

We use magic as a touchstone to program the mind and deities as archetypes to understand our psychology. Symbolism is the language of our subconscious and ritual allows us to tap into it and to project our intentions. I realized that my connection to nature and the animal kingdom was what expressed my spirituality. It is my spirituality. The collective unconscious and the symbolism of the world is what speaks to my ‘spiritual mind’.

It’s not necessarily a faith, as it’s something that I can test and can see real outcomes eventuate in my life. Although my spirituality is still a work in progress (which is the same for all of us), I do feel that I don’t need a religious dogma to nail it down.

Organized religion has an agenda that is not in accordance with the ebb and flow of the rhythms of nature. It is preoccupied with the motivations of greedy and power hungry humans, who are hell bent on controlling other humans. I am happy to side step all of that and to find peace with the reality of nature, without the unreality of religion.

 

jarni-nalada-pri-zapadu-slunce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Otherworldliness

wpcasnake

We’re all on our own journeys in terms of spirituality and I, like most others have vacillated between a variety of beliefs (and most recently, more towards non belief). But for me, at least, it’s far more interesting to go back to when I was a child and to remember what it was like to not know, or at least, to wonder. As an adult I hate not knowing and much prefer concrete evidence, common sense, reason and intellectual understanding. I can look at a sunset, knowing that it’s a collection of vapors and chemicals and can still be exhilarated by the beauty of it all without having to attribute it to a deity. (I don’t mean to offend the religious, each to his/her own etc – this is just my opinion, at this stage in my life.)

However I do remember the ‘magic’ of otherworldliness. I do remember being mystified by the idea of fairies and the idea of an all powerful, all knowing Godhead who watched over us and had all the answers. I remember believing that my teddy bears and dolls had feelings and souls. One early memory I have is being a toddler in my crib and setting fire to it, with a box of matches I had found. I lit the matches one by one, throwing them to the edges of the crib, watching the flames in rapture, feeling like I was in the center of a birthday cake.

My mother remembers the screaming, calling the fire brigade and crashing into the room to save my baby brother and I. My nightdress had gone up in smoke and all that was left were the arms and the back of it. I didn’t have any burns whatsoever! Everyone thought it was a miracle. My teddy had a burnt leg and I was completely grief stricken. Every time I looked at him I was wracked with guilt for having hurt him so much.

Even as a young adult I felt a twinge of shame and it took a long time for me to realize that he was just an inanimate object! (It was even worse when I had taken him for show and tell at school years after the fire, when a nasty little shit had ripped out his eyes, the bastard! I thought – now he’s blind too! I couldn’t bear to let my mother sew new eyes on him for fear of putting him through more pain. More guilt for me!)

When I was about ten years old I walked into our kitchen and straight out asked my mother if she believed in fairies. I did – but I needed an adult to tell me so I could feel secure in the ‘knowledge’ that fairies were real. I knew the instant she responded with that ‘Oh god, I better humor her’ look, that fairies were not real. I was angry, hurt and deeply depressed. Even though she tried to convince me “Yes darling, of course I believe in fairies!” with that patronizing smile, it was too late. I had my answer.

Mind you, I didn’t stop reading fairy tales, and books by Enid Blyton, mythology, Catweazel, The Children of Green Knowe etc. I was 50% willing it to be true and pretending it was true and 50% knowing it wasn’t and ignoring that fact. For me, the bottom line was that it was entertaining and afforded me the kind of escapism I dearly needed.

When I was little I remember going to stay at my aunt’s farm in the country. She and her boyfriend were hippies. They had chickens and a ginger cat called Peter, who went on adventures with me. They had a statue of David for a doorbell. There was a sign over his penile unit that said “Pull”. You flipped the sign up & pulled on the penis that was attached to a wire that sounded the doorbell. Hilarious! They had a big shed full of these statues. I was mystified by these statues. (Not sure if it was the start of Agalmatophilia, which is sexual attraction to a statue or figure – but I don’t feel like that now, even though I appreciate them!)

david

I would spend ages hiding in the shed, just staring at them, transported to another dimension. I can’t remember what I was thinking, but it was magical. A few years earlier, when I was around five years of age, I had started having hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations – which is basically dreaming while awake. I’ll write about those experiences in more depth later as there’s quite a lot of ground to cover. But at that time I had also started to get up in the middle of the night and would talk to myself in the mirror. Needless to say, it freaked my elders out! They would put sheets and towels on the mirrors but I would just go to another room and do it again!

I was always attracted to the idea of alternate worlds, portals, other dimensions. Maybe it was a subconscious need for escape, as my parents were divorced then and I was living at my grandparents with my father and my cousin and brothers. I kept having a recurring dream of a mountain which still haunts me to this day. I’ve always wanted to find ‘my mountain’. In the dream, I would wake up at my Nanna’s house and go out into her garden, around the side of the house and I would see this majestic, snow capped mountain behind the shed.

I could never get to it because there was always something in the way, like a gate I couldn’t get through, a clump of weeds or bushes, etc. I can see now that it probably represented the integrated self calling to me – for a chance to escape all the crap our families were going through and to ‘find myself’. Every time I see a perfect, snow capped mountain I get a chill of excitement, like I’m still waiting for it. It’s almost a spiritual pull. But it’s a very particular type of mountain and for some reason, ever since I can remember, it’s somewhere in Sweden!

Villar d’Arene by vincentfavre - http://vincentfavre.deviantart.com/

Villar d’Arene by vincentfavre – http://vincentfavre.deviantart.com/

(Not Sweden – but looks just like my mountain!)

When I was living at Nanna and Pa’s, around five years of age, I had an experience that could be explained as either my synapses misfiring, or a narcoleptic experience (although they say that hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations are not technically under the umbrella of narcolepsy). It could have been a dream. The funny thing is – my Pa had the same experience when he was a boy and so did my father and his twin, in the same room! (Pa had his experience in a different house.)

In my event I was asleep in my room at Nanna and Pa’s, when a bright light suddenly filled the room and woke me up. It was so white that it was tinged with blue and was almost too bright to look at. I was under the covers, afraid and wondering what was happening when an astronaut came into the room. (When it happened to my father and his twin brother they called him the white milkman and my Pa had said he thought it was a ghost.) As soon as I saw the astronaut I passed out. Then I felt waves over me, as though two people were on either side of the bed wafting the blanket up and down on me. I was so scared but couldn’t move.

astronaut_spacewalk

I’ll talk about my ‘narcoleptic’ experiences in another post, as they would take up a whole chapter. The sensations were always the same, tingling up and down my spine, feeling frozen and not being able to move, not being able to scream for help. My father and uncle had said that the white milkman came to them when they were in the crib and the room also went a vivid white color. Apparently he just stood there staring at them for a while and then he disappeared. My Pa had a similar experience with his ghost.

I’ve also had OBE’s (out of the body experiences – also known as astral traveling). I’ve seen fantastic planets with colors that I’ve never seen before and had experiences that aren’t easily explained. One time, I slammed back into my body so hard that my boyfriend at the time freaked out and leapt out of bed, thinking that I had deliberately jumped onto the bed from the ceiling! He was angry, scared and confused. When I explained to him what happened he still didn’t believe me and thought I was nuts.

The idea of these magical experiences being real is quite delicious, as they hint at otherworldliness, which would mean that there is something else out there, the ‘unknowable’, that would allay my fears of death and ceasing to be. In my twenties, when I was going through a phase of fearing death, I had an OBE where I was floating in a strange place amongst a lot of crazy mathematical equations. I kept hearing a voice telling me that death was not the end. Of course, when I woke up, my fear of death had vanished.

A religious person would say that it was God coming to help me. A scientist would say that it was my subconscious will trying to calm myself down so I could keep operating. My attitude is – whatever works.

I enjoy fantasy as it juices up the imagination and enriches my creativity. I also enjoy reason as I am most comforted by the truth, facts and figures. I like my feet firmly rooted in the earth so my head can safely wander through the universe and back again.