I have often been asked, “what religion are you?” “what does eclectic paganism mean?” “what do you believe?” and, inevitably, “do you believe in god??” Well, one night not too long ago I sat down and described exactly what I felt in religion, and it is a little long, but hopefully it is thought provoking, interesting, and worth reading.
With that said, I start out with one of my favorite quotes:
‘ My beloved is three-
Three yet only one;
Many things appear as three,
Which are no more than one.
Give Her no name,
As if to limit one
At sight of Whom
All limitation is confounded. ‘
[Ibn Arabi, Sufi Mystic (1165-1240)]
The entire universe exists as an intricate, interwoven balance; positive and negative are both necessary to the existence of the other. Throughout this universe, this world, and all worlds, there is an underlying thread that connects it all—all of it, the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth beneath our feet—the tiniest insects that crawl in the grass, the blades of grass themselves—you, and I, and each human being, each animal, each plant, each living thing, we are all connected by this phenomenon of life. Life is the common denominator to all existence. Within each of us exists our soul, our ego, our breath, our atman, the holy ghost, whatever you would have it—it is the strength that flows through our bodies, that causes us to draw breath, to move on in our lives, seeking food, shelter, etc. And yet this same energy causes the wind to blow through the leaves of the trees, causes those leaves to sprout from the branches of the trees, and seek the light of the sun. The examples are endless, but the feeling of interconnectedness is ridiculously profound when noticed. It is as if all the boundaries between each organism had been breached, and suddenly the molecules in the structures of the cells of your skin are making movements which mimic the dance of the cosmos, the planets circling stars, and stars traveling across galaxies… size is utterly and completely relative, a perspective that we adopt to make sense of the world. Yet who is to say that the tiniest molecules are not the universes of another world? And that our universe is not an atom making up the structure of a tiny creature?
All lives and dies, from the tiniest bacterium to the hugest stars. All take in energy, all give it off when they die. And death, though it is constant, is also relative, like size; some things live long lives, others live but shortly, but time is, again, all about perception. For death is merely the passing of energy from one form to another. When an animal eats another, death occurs; but so occurs the sustainment of life. The energy is passed to the organism that consumed the other; however, not all energy makes this transition, and there is energy loss in every transfer. Who is to say where that energy goes? Does it reincarnate in the purest sense, and find itself manifested somewhere else? Does it diffuse into the universe around it, breaking into tiny pieces, falling into the earth as fertilizer, into the stomach of another animal as fuel? Does the energy stay mostly whole, and travel into another form, born again, retaining consciousness? Is a tree conscious? What is consciousness? Is the only consciousness what we experience, or does consciousness take other forms? If a tree is alive, and it grows, and takes in energy and gives it off, and raises its leaves to the sunlight for its life-giving light, how is it so unlike us? Why do we insist upon viewing the differences as huge boundaries, and why can we not focus instead on all that is common between us? Why can so few tap into the current that is Life, and fail to see the Earth Mother beneath us that sustains us and gives us life? We are all so trapped in this web, and we cannot escape, no matter how often we overlook it or attempt to ignore it. We are inextricably tied to all that surrounds us, to so much that we cannot see. Humankind often fails to acknowledge this interconnectedness, and negativity is fostered. But we have come full circle, and negativity is required for positivity to exist.
Life and the current of energy that is undeniably at the root of the existence of the universe is manifested and represented in many different ways. To some, it is the love, the grace, the will of God. This ultimate love, this continuation of life’s circle, this rebirth and connection, is represented by sacrifice and death. The cross is symbolic of this life-giving sacrifice. This theme, of rebirth and reincarnation, is consistent in the human psyche, what has been called an archetype. Perhaps is it is our collective unconscious; perhaps we all recognize it, consciously or not, as existent in our lives, and therefore relate to it as a truth. Isis brought Osiris back to life from death, and so the Nile flooded, giving life; Demeter mourned the descent of her beloved daughter, Persephone, into the Underworld, and so the earth died away until her daughter came back to the land of the living, and then the land was blessed with life once again. Several Celtic goddesses would represent the idea of life stages, such as maiden, mother, and crone, each separately venerated for their own significance; death was as worshipped and respected as birth; further, we have the Hindu pantheon filled with examples of life/destruction deities, such as Kali. Death is essential for life, for what is the value of life without death?
Energy is positive and negative, and travels as such; a major tenet of my personal belief would be the Rede borrowed from the Wiccans; ‘do as you will, lest you harm none’, for all actions come back in triplicate force upon oneself. Why? If we are all so intricately connected, then a negative action towards another is essentially a negative action towards oneself, and once manifested, only grows with intent. That is the true reason why good should be done towards others—because we are all one, and we should all do good for one another. Negativity must be present, just as we must balance the negativity. All things in life are meant to be, are meant to happen, because we all fit into the universe’s grand scheme like puzzle pieces, working together to fit together, but we cannot complete the puzzle separately, without willing ourselves together, no matter how well we are shaped to complement one another.
My message is this—respect and understanding. My path is not yours, your path is not mine. Though they may intersect, and perhaps run parallel for long stretches, there may perhaps be times where we take opposite paths at a break in the road. There are basic similarities between all systems of faith and religion, and it is our struggle to find ourselves and place ourselves in the cosmos, to explain our purpose and explain this flow of life that runs in all. In my views, ‘god’ and ‘goddess’ are one and the same, different aspects of the same energy, which is also the same energy that runs through us all. We all, every tiny piece of the universe, embody a part of the divine- the divine is the finished puzzle piece. I happen to identify more with the feminine side, and tend to favor Brighid and Demeter in my pantheon, merely for what they represent- the Mother Earth, in all her glory, living and dying again constantly, providing the whole planet with life, as well as healing and cleansing. I feel as though much in nature is triplicate: maiden, mother crone; mind, body spirit; father, son, holy ghost. I also draw from Native American spirituality, because of my reverence for the earth and balance. I feel as though this eclecticism, drawing various aspects of several faiths, helps me pick out the parts that are most relevant for me. Whether you are any of the many types of Christian, or Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Pagan, Atheist, Agnostic, or Eclectic, I respect you. I respect that what you do is meant for you, and what I do is meant for me, and I ask for mutual respect. I look with happiness at the fulfillment that belief can give others, and seek to place no judgments on another. For is it my place to tell someone else what is right for them? I may cry out mentally for Brighid and cast my prayers to the wind that blows the tree limbs, and you may stand or kneel at an altar, or pew, and call for God, Yahweh, or Jesus; you may chant in a temple for Shiva or Krishna; you may pray to Allah, you may meditate and seek enlightenment—when the day is done, how different are we really? All I give is my positive energy, towards each and every soul, every breath, and every spirit which exists alongside me. Too many are far too willing to fall into the trap of highlighting the differences rather than the similarities. We are all human beings on this planet, in this universe, all alive, all living. Is that not enough of a reason to recognize our connection?