“There’s no one path to god, but there is an authenticity to every path that is there, and it is your job to get to that.”
– Arrowyn Craban
“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.”
I recently had a beautiful experience at an Isis gig, dissolved into totally wild dance as their crushing, trance inducing post-metal swept all before them. Isis tend to draw fans from the metal and hardcore scenes – blokes who don’t know how to be in their bodies and who find it difficult to respond to the simultaneous subtlety and force of Isis’s music – whereas I have years of studying improvised dance behind me and a sharp nose for doors into altered consciousness.
I threaded my way through wild and beautiful embodied consciousness, dissolving into communion with the whole cosmos – with the World Tree as the binding force of all oneness and difference, the paradoxical solution to the contradiction of universality and particularity. The most wild “spiritual” states tend to go with intensely physical expression – a perfect conjunction of opposites.
The final song of the set had a long and potent build that exploded into ecstasy and after that I floated, sated, through the encore, in a state of high bliss. Who needs drugs when there is music and dance in the world? I just wish there were more good opportunities for experiences like that, I suppose it is up to me to be open to finding them. I spouted poetry praising the World Tree and my patron, and sang and laughed. It was berzerkergang but without a military purpose, yet the same kind of state, driven by the parasympathetic nervous system.
And curiously, I even found myself dipping into the Sufi practices I have not participated in for some years, head swaying right then left, the turning away and remembering from heart to universe to heart, the sacred words la illah ha il allah spilling from my lips. It felt good to find that I can still call Sufism home. I wish more people knew what a spiritual jewel lies beneath the hard monotheistic armour of Islam (including more Muslims)!
And this gets me to thinking about my tendency to rubbish Christianity too. There’s no essential reason why Heathenry has to adopt any particular stance towards Christianity. At its best it is a marvellous religion – and while I deplore the many terrible things done in its name, I think that if I am going to be able to consider myself to be possessed of a mature spirituality then I think it is time to put aside the easy contempt I tend to lazily adopt towards Jesus and his sheep.
In the same motion, of course, I’ll never stop having contempt for the horrors perpetuated in Christ’s name – which are too many to even begin to enumerate – nor will I accept the various foolish consequences of Christian influenced philosophy. On the other hand, the ideals of love, compassion, and personal responsibility are noble and cherished by most human beings, including (I would guess) most Heathens. Without such ideals no society or family or culture can last for long, even if we are not obliged to follow these threads in the fashion that Christianity (in its infinite and hilariously mutually contradictory variations) would see us do.
But at the end of the day, when I am in trance, when I am dipping thickly into the Well of Memory and I recover the primordial experience of the poignant beauty of the mystery of oneness and difference…well, I remember how much Sufism has taught me about how to be a spiritual practitioner, and how similar Sufism and Heathenism are with their emphasis on the importance of Memory and Recollection (Plato has to join them on this one, too).
And while we are all free to erect all kinds of rules about which tradition goes where and how we “should” think, and all the rest of it…well, I’d rather be the guy at the Isis gig, tranced out of his head from dance and song and amazing music amongst the sea of awkward heavy metal dudes.
Religion is a door, a door which can open into experiences which are ineluctable. We can invoke them with poetry but we cannot capture them in words. Which door is best? Can we really be certain that our dogmatic beliefs about religion are indubitable, when nothing seems to be? Heathenry is the door that caresses my nature into pulsating life, yet Sufism has been an essential part of my journey and I will always consider myself a Sufi…indeed, I hope to be to Heathenry what Sufism is to Islam – the spiritual quicksilver that lies within the dead armour of the essential but insufficient religious forms.
I’d rather be the blood in the tree, swelling and sluicing and radiating LIFE than I would the dead bark of authorities and rules and commands. That isn’t to say the bark is inessential…but those that speak for the armour and the rules of a tradition generally try to suppress those that speak for the living breath of the tradition (the former are generally motivated by fear and ignorance in this endeavour). Actually…why put form and essence into opposition? They are meant to be complementary. I want it all.
Hence the importance of the magic of the Hedge! To have one foot here and one foot there, dancing impossibly between extremes – for is this not what the whole universe does at every moment in every place? We think we have made of sense of reality by splitting it into pieces, yet the more concrete our understanding the less accurate it becomes.
I am learning to trust more in my wyrd. I am unbinding the bonds of my orlog, the weight of the chains of negativity that have pursued me in various ways throughout my life. I am moving energy and causing transformation that is needed. I am just as mortal, inconsistent, confused, and fallible as everyone else, but at the same time, the currents of the flow of the waters of life through the World Tree grow stronger and stronger through me.
To some, these words will mostly be gibberish. To others they might make perfect sense. I congratulate the former for their bewilderment and the latter for their successes in walking the authenticity of their path.