“The study of mythology was for Campbell a truly sacred task because it allowed a move out of the dogma of religion and into the spontaneous nature of one’s own inward drama and vitality of being.” – Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
The practice of a mystic unaffiliated with a religion is an interesting endeavor. Issues arise that don’t have cut and dry answers easily found when you sign on as a member of a church, temple or organization. In such cases, all matters of how to observe, with what rites, what prayers and to whom have been officially drawn up. The individual just simply has to follow the program to feel a part of or validate being a member of good standing. Not to mention the assured community.
Though I’ve tried, I have yet to find a single path that would convince me to abandon all others. It’s not because the established traditions don’t speak to me. I have the other problem, that so many fascinate and instruct me that I want to keep them all around.
This is not a laziness, a superficiality or a lack of discipline.
The broad path of the myths is the tradition I follow. Much like Joseph Campbell, without a simplification that all myths are one myth. What appeals in Campbell is not the Monomyth, but the experience of resonance between and interplay of world mythology.
While I remain open to be drawn towards a definite prescribed path it doesn’t have to be an eventuality. Who’s to say the mark of spiritual maturity is the rejection of others truths? Furthermore, I feel confident I can experience a meaningful and rich spiritual life by functioning as a more open system.
We know the strength of aligning to a political party or a religion. First there’s the acceptance within the conformity. Second is the abandonment of questions. They have all the answers to the tough questions, so that’s the end of that. I’ve never carried the idea that one faith or belief negated any other. There comes a perceived strength from imperviously consistent people. I value consistency. It’s just that my consistency that I adhere to looks different on the outside.
I can remain consistently on a path of spiritual unfoldment without closing down avenues of experience out of a fear of disloyalty. By honoring the mysteries in all of their various expressions, I’m experiencing a more enriched and vibrant life of interconnectedness.
It seems apparent that gnosis is not limited to one religion. Taken further, is it not possible to imagine achieving gnosis through a sort of full-spectrum relationship with myth? This is a blasphemy to consider, I know. The punk rock teenager inside me relishes on a good heresy. I don’t mean in a childish or irreverent way, but in a questioning consensus reality way. It’s quite easy to fall into a practice through repetition based of past standards. A recent exchange with occult author and historian Mitch Horowitz, brought this to my attention when he advised people to not get their heads stuck in complex books, trying to mimic others.
While not being raised religiously in a serious way, monotheistic Christianity was for a long time all I understood about what god could be. I was baptized, received First Communion and went to some Sunday school but it really didn’t affect me, except perhaps on a subconscious level. Basic premises about morality and the afterlife certainly made an impression. It wasn’t until well into my 20’s that I began interrogating my own beliefs. All things considered, I was relatively flexible to new considerations as soon as I began looking into these matters.
The first breakthrough I experienced came in 2004 when I utilized prayer and meditation to successfully kick a drug and alcohol addiction. I explored a good number of traditions in the years following, mostly traditional, that just didn’t elicit the awe and wonder I was looking for. This unsatisfied quest finally lead me away from the world of exoteric religion to the esoteric side. It was in the Mysteries of religion, the secret wisdom of the ages that lit my fire at last.
These new considerations were slow in revelation to me. Anything outside of “Big Three” Abrahamic religions had to be dug around for. For a long time, the only option I could access was Buddhism. Eastern philosophy, being different and radically different from anything I encountered before, was the first big shake up to way of understanding life.
I was drawn in enough to actual follow-up with reading books on the subject and take up a basic meditation practice. The first really radical book I was given came from the martial arts dojo I was attending at the time.
An Autobiography of a Yogi, really knocked me out and introduced occult subjects to me in a serious way for the first time, albeit described in the clothing of Hinduism. The teacher at the dojo became the first true teacher of philosophy and spirituality I ever embraced. It was like going to church three times a week for four years. He brought the concepts down into a relatable level without stripping them of their mystical quality.
From that point forward, I began to think not in terms of religion but the broader range of experience available within and without traditional religious systems. It took hold and provided an inspiration for living I desperately needed.
The first Westerners mystical writers I identified with most certainly where inspired by the East. The 19th century Transcendentalism of Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emmerson and Walt Whitman struck me profoundly in the way in which lofty spiritual states could be achieved by the average person in an immediate and direct way through contact with the natural world. These core principles of inner-silence practice and an exterior awe of the present moment resonated deeply and just plain made sense because they were achievable with no further aids or devices.
Walking through the woods was church.
Then I found the immortal words of Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching. The ancient Yin and Yang, the polarity and harmony of light and dark gave ground to existence for me. The poetry and mystery of its wisdom is an instruction on ultimate being. Between the Tao and the Transcendentalists, the East and the West, I began to locate myself in position of inner and outer experience.
(One other book became instrumental at that time not only for its practical functionality for breaking addictions but also for its fusion of New Thought metaphysics, Christianity and gnosis.)
The absence of systematic dogmas and laws allowed me to go to sea in the oceans of possibility. It was smooth sailing in the early going. Until pestering existential questions appeared again on the horizon.
I struggled mightily for years on the Problem of Evil question. It really, really bothered me. When life appeared to be favoring me I couldn’t help but think of the suffering of innocents the world over; much more innocent than I, and I faced a sense of existential emptiness at the senseless injustice.
The typical rationalizations that were offered only frustrated me further. The Deist solve for evil is that God wound the world up like a watchmaker and simply turned it lose, flaws and all, never again to be bothered with it. This attempted to explain evil but did nothing to further my relationship with Divinity I had been developing up to that point. It’s a rational explanation, but a cold and barren one.
I then considered pantheism, panentheism, pandesim and panendesim after that. All with varying degrees of satisfaction. They’re basically computer programs ways of understating creation. Awe is to be understood in relation to nature itself but not so much with deity. Like the Animists of 40,000 BCE, the Pantheistic worldview paired well with transcendental and Eastern notions of all living things holding a divine spark within.
But pantheism by itself didn’t completely hold my attention. It lacks anything to identify with
beyond the natural world. This spirituality, devoid of characters, stories and symbols just doesn’t give me much to work with in the way myth does. The myths were inside me archetypally before I learned them, and I was missing them.
Inherently, I felt this is all much more meaningful than some big cosmic accident. I certainly wanted to live in a world of meaning. The collective loss of inspired meaning in contemporary culture evidences itself with hour-to-hour regularity.
The myths don’t leave anything to accident, unless it be a fateful accident. There’s many “answers” on offer in myth. I don’t think it’s really my job to place one over the other. I get so much more from them when I simply consider, ponder and meditate with them. This is the practice of myth.
All the pantheons can live somewhere for all I’m concerned. The more I delve into ancient myths, the more I feel unprepared to attach myself into any one group, set of gods and goddesses or an absolute theory of everything. I deeply believe the Gnostics have as much to teach me as the Celts, or the Norse, or the Greeks, or the Egyptians, or the Knights of the Round Table, and so on.
Heritage nor geography helps me define a singular truth. Being an American, with a mix of random bloodlines makes it all the less clear whether I’m meant to settle down into a monogamous spiritual relationship. In exchange, I can allow them all to live and search for their simultaneous presence.
It’s a little messy as I come up with my own program but it’s worth it to eliminate a sense of guilt if I don’t do a specific ritual every day. There’s definitely structure to the approach. Most importantly, my heart and mind has a daily attunement with inner concerns of faith and meaning. I follow the solar and lunar cycles. I pray to gods. I remind myself of noble virtues. I work with texts like Manly P. Hall’s encyclopedic The Secret Teachings of all Ages, The Kybalion, The Poetic Edda, The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, the Tao, the Arthurian Grail Legends, the Greek classics and many others.
For now, I’m free to research and study many of the ancient myths. In developing these relationships, I’m free to call upon the assistance of specific gods or goddesses I feel connected to. I’m free to utilize tools like the Tarot and Runes. I’m free to utilize various forms of energetic meditations and visualizations.
In my case, it should also be noted that devoting time to unresolved psychologic work must be attended to simultaneously. To my dismay, there’s no way to magically bypass the tedious processing of life’s accumulated damage and battle wounds; any self-inflicted. Last year it became clear that the occult recesses of my own mind needed tending to as much as any ancient mystery cult. Luckily, by applying a Jungian approach to decoding and exploring archetypes and a Hero’s Journey metaphor to my life, the process is not at all disconnected with the more overtly spiritual exercises.
While many pursuits in life can show measured results, the work of self-transformation is self-evident in lived experience. The spiritual alchemy that occurs within as a result of engaging in this work indeed has transformative results. But I also recall the parable of the wise man appearing along the road clothed as a beggar. What we can show materially for our life’s work is worth very little in the final analysis.
Living a mythically inspired life is to enchant all of life and walk the path of the mystic. It is to embrace story and creativity. It allows competing metaphors and allegories to share space together, creating a new terrain for boundless exploration. To the seeker, more is always being revealed.
I believe that I am heard at all times by the gods.
I believe from experience, I don’t always know what’s best for me.
I believe that what needs to happen or be received will arrive in divine timing.
I believe that I am heard without achieving special privilege or being bestowed secret passwords.
I believe the universe is alive and I am a small, vibrational unit pulsing through the web.
I believe there is a hierarchy of needs and sometimes needs I don’t consider are being attended to while the ones I ask for wait in the wings.
I am divine because I am.
There are no special classes of chosen more eligible to my birthright than me.
Your special classes, packets, secret clubs, monthly web deals or downloads
do not stand between me and the All.
Every intention, prayer, invocation I release is its own unique system of magic.
I can be so beloved by the Source that events come to pass that needed no spell cast to obtain.
In this cosmic anarchy; freedom, gnosis, liberation or hidden wisdom exists on an open source platform, available for grabs by all with the courage and yearning heart to claim it.
My own rituals performed with honest desire are authentic outside of any
lineage or pre-ordered system.
Mentors, teachers and lessons are beautiful tools that expedite and inspire my quest;
but any such which claims unique and exclusive passage are but tricks of attempted authority.
Everything and everyone teaches.
I’m separated from gnosis by numerous obstacles on the material plane.
They come in many forms from lived trauma, to blind alleys, to inherited societal neurosis.
Most of these obstacles having developed and residing in the mind as added programs,
can with effort, be deprogrammed.
When I’ve unplugged enough of the bugged programs from myself, the gnosis
can more freely enter and be accessed.
The self-work of wadding into my conscious, subconscious and unconscious in order to see myself truthfully and bring about a process of liberating change is magical work.
It has none of the glamour of robes and regalia.
None of the social currency of fronting as a master of the “right way.”
None of the ego-gratification of having apparently bent the will of the universe
to conform to my immediate desire.
I’m less concerned with shaping nature around me to my desire than with
flowing in harmony with its unfoldment, which takes me where I need to be anyway.
I’ll experience the ceremony of my life mystically rather than scientifically
and know that they’re inseparable.
Sacred words are wonderful and yet, so too is the simplicity of being in the landscape of nature.
Feeling the scale of my dust self against the infinite.
Magic happens there as in any temple because of the sacredness of all.
The tool and element of power for ritual is love.
My ritual acknowledges the divine, consults the divine and is silent with the divine.
My spirituality is not a competitive sport, to be measured against others
or tested for the achievement of a grade.
The dirty folk in open fields are blessed no differently than the privileged
in their hidden members only covens.
The ignored shall not be forgotten.
No Holy wall stands to bar me.
My test is this life I live. Your tests are only yours.
I am initiated by the only true Initiator.
Many humans put us though initiation but they are not of ultimate consequence.
Many initiations have I failed.
Yes, the bosom of the Great One is shrouded.
When the aspirant awakes from slumber the lost home
is not too hard to find.
We are wanted there, and not ultimately expelled from residence.
The keys found somewhere along the way.
The initiations of every moment come to a culmination when
the real Gate appears and the Ultimate Threshold is crossed.
As I live, I honor the Holy Sun and Holy Moon.
Their presence and guidance are the never-failing teachers.
As I breathe, I proceed to the Holy Grail,
with allegorical maps from all corners of space and time.
All the gods and goddesses reveal a mystery,
contain a truth and offer themselves to me without the sanction of any other before me.
Issuing from the Over-soul is my Divine Spark and
the intuition contained therein will draw me back to it.
The mind changes as do the seasons.
The yearning for a return to Unity is my constant garment.
I employ all assortments of language, symbol as the moment suits.
All decodes All. All goes back to All.