Friday, December 2, 2011

Toward A Druidic Mysticism Part 3

Looks like this will come quickly, instead of over a week or two. It will also help me get to forty-eight posts for the year : ). I hope my non-ADF readers will forgive the in-house slant of this paper. I think there are enough general observations to make it worthwhile for anyone interested in polytheistic mysticism.

A Druidic Pagan Evaluation of Some Classical Models
A: Progressive Advancement
I begin here because I think it would be hard to implement any such thing in our contexts. ADF has, so far resisted implementing any sort of ‘degree system’ that is thought of as ‘religious’ in nature, or as indicatory of spiritual growth, much less mystical attainment. It may be that the Initiate’s Work will be a small step in that direction, but even there the degree will be given only as recognition of specific demonstrated levels of skill and practice.

We find little indication of a ladder model of religious or magical evolution in Celto-Germanic lore. Northern Pagans lived at the center of their map, not at the bottom. Midgard, or the middle isle, could be the base for journeys in several directions. Those who like categorizing might find some use in wheel-shaped systems – three-fold, fourfold, eightfold, or whatever. Hellenic systems may be more comfortable with a classical ladder such as a seven planets progress. In any case, the real work of devising such a system will be in determining just what sorts of spiritual states are to be sought in each step or spoke. Myth and tradition, of course provides some direction. From there we must devise ways to seek to approach the Powers involved and then we will see what we see.

Several ancient systems bring us the motif of spirits trapped in matter and the effort to rise away from the common world. I find that notion to be rather contrary to the things I value in Neopagan thought, though I recognize that it exists in the old ways. Explicitly, northern models don’t seem to value the ‘higher’ spiritual functions over the life and strength of the living self.

The ‘ladder’ or ‘wheel-journey’ model fits well with the ‘quest’ theme, but we might wish to avoid a simple ‘climbing out of the darkness’ model. To me it feels Druidical to avoid a ladder-like approach in favor of a more spiraling path, an exploration of the world more than a departure from it.

B: Beatific Vision
The technique of opening the personal awareness to a vision of the whole span of cosmic existence seems easy to adapt in an Indo-European mythic setting. It would be an easy matter to create a series of trance and/or ritual attunements for the various segments of our mythic cosmos, the whole then coming together in a grand vision. These could become a sort of ‘novena’, or nine-day working, combining purifications and attunements, to be crowned in the Big Vision.

(Incidentally, I have formalized a detailed visualization and meditation working based on this model, which I call the Nineteen Working. It is available in my forthcoming Book of Visions and other places. Some of that is also available on the blog under the Druidic Meditation heading.)
Primary results of such methods include increased understanding of and connection to the mythic system in which it’s set, and the practice of techniques of multiple awareness and expansion of personal boundaries. The final goal, at a first level, is to experience awareness outside common boundaries of the personal, and perhaps to glimpse the experience of the unity of self and cosmos. We could mention an ancillary idea of uniting (or at least attuning) the personal will with the ongoing threads of wyrd and the patterns of the world.

C: Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel
The idea of a higher spiritual being that is attached to or even a part of the human individual presents very clear Indo-European parallels. The Greeks bring us the idea of the personal ‘daimon’, the being who is your intermediary between your personal mind and the divine world. Contact with the personal daimon is a documentable goal of Hellenic mysticism. Rev. Kirk in the 18th century describes the Gaelic coimimeadh - the ‘co-walker’, a ‘fairy’ being who shares life with a seer, and European folk-magic is full of helpful and messenger spirits used by magicians. Norse lore contains the fylgja – an animal or contra-gendered spirit who bears much of the personal luck and power. It would be a simple matter to construct rites to seek the knowledge of and conversation with the Fylgja or co-walker.

In modern western mysticism the Holy Guardian Angel is sometimes thought of as the ‘Higher Self’. This brings us immediately to those issues of ‘ladders’ of attainment, and of ‘higher = better’. I think we can look for a Pagan ‘Spirit-self’ – that may be more directly aware of the Otherworld, more of an actor among the spirits than our common-world self can be. One could certainly consider the Fylgja or the Daimon as a ‘greater’ portion of the self, in the sense of the portion of a multi-part soul model which is closer to the Gods and Spirits. In such a model, the Fylgja or Daimon would be the portion of the self that is, itself, divine, or has ‘access’ to the divine.

When we consider that each of us may become recognized as an honored ancestor, we see that each of us must have in us a seed of that which is worthy of worship. We can see this as the active presence of the divine in ourselves. In Irish we might call this An Da Fein – My Very Own God. Is this the same as the Holy Guardian Angel? Perhaps close enough to consider adapting some western forms of seeking the Angel to our own work.

D: Eastern Systems
In addressing eastern ideas we will find ourselves dealing head-on with the issue of doctrinaire monism. Modern Hindu mysticism is quite soaked in the notion that ‘maya’ means ‘illusion’, and that escape from the rounds of rebirth is key to enlightenment. In a more ancient Vedic context Maya means ‘power of making’ and is the very thing we worship in the Gods.

Raja Yoga is a core spiritual system that can be applied in almost any mythic system. It’s clear and relatively undoctrinal descriptions of mental states make a good vocabulary for discussion. We can benefit, in my opinion, from every borrowing we care to make from this classical approach.

Bhakti Yoga is, in many ways, the core of common tribal Paganism. Sacrifices and hymns, images and rites of welcome are all basics of bhakti whether in the village or at the hearth. There are a few basic instructions in the method that would benefit our understanding, and the trappings of common religion can also be turned into a more focused program of uniting the personal spirit with the divine through love and aspiration.

Jnana Yoga – Your Humble Author doesn’t care much for extreme non-dualism, nor for the rejection of external deity, ritual relationship, etc. yet such ideas grew out of traditional IE cultures…

E: Mystery and Symbol
The use of symbolism, altered states and invocation to create group opportunities for mystical trance provides perhaps our most direct way to begin in experimental ADF mysticism. We are fairly used to developing big ritual – I think we could handily turn our skills aware from an exclusive focus on reciprocal offering and blessing to more dramatic or more internal work focused on producing individual trance results in the attendees.

I think we can find complexes of cultural symbols that we could choose to render into effective ritual and trance experiences that could be worked for or by large, medium, small groups, and even individuals. Our ethnic inspirations would be the places to begin – what symbols in our Hearth Cultures express the personal soul and the exaltation or divinizing of the personal spirit?

Bakhti practices could be easily applied to specific deities. Can we build initiatory/illuminatory moments of contact –offer an illumination of Brigid, or of Apollo. Such deity-specific ‘mysteries’ should be relatively simple to put together.

While a great deal of ancient mystical work was done alone or in small groups there is also a tradition of large-group mysteries, such as at Eleusis. Neopagans have the opportunity to use the many festivals and gatherings as stging grounds for experiments in such things. Can we build specific ritual/trance experiences meant to transmit an experience in a festival context?

On to part 4 >

No comments: