I was hoping you might have some advice for me. I’m kind of in the middle of an existential crisis. I know I believe in something greater than me, but I don’t know anymore which path is right for me. Do you have any books you could recommend, or even podcasts that I could listen to that might help me discover my path? –Name left off at the request of the individual…
Well, this is a tough one for me. I would be (and am) overly biased if I tossed out the books and podcasts that I read and listen to, since all of those will point back to Paganism, Druidry, Animism and Polytheism in some form or fashion. I’ll still add those here at the end of the blog post, but I just wanted to be sure that everyone understands the bias that I would bring to a question like this.
From my point of thinking, this particular point of thought, and the crossroads that you find yourself is not that uncommon of a place. I’ve been there before. Its in one of my earliest journal entries. The memory of that moment is fuzzy and not truly distinct as I look in the rear-view mirror of life, but I do recall how confusing that time was for me.
According to my journal, this was around 1993, while I was stationed at Sembach Air Base in Germany. Much of my free time was spent walking through the nearby forests that were nearly outside of my doorway in Vogelweh Housing. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter – the season didn’t matter, I took a hiking staff that I had and set off for three or four hour forays into the forest. Sometimes, I drove to other areas in the forested area surrounding Kaiserslautern or to places even further south, near the French/Germany border. Sometimes, I took the walks with others, but for the most part I walked on my own.
A lot of that time was spent trying to reconcile my original start in Wicca with how much of what I had been taught didn’t really ring true for my ears or my heart. A heavy emphasis had been placed on the perspective of male/female archetypes upon which the aspects of the Gods were painted. That didn’t feel right to me, since I had already developed a perspective that the Gods were distinct Beings. I had already stopped referring to myself as a Wiccan at this point, and had been using the generic perspective of “Pagan” and even odder perspective of ‘neo-Pagan” to describe myself. It was during this time that I began to have doubts about the way I thought about the world around me.
For me, I needed someone to bounce perspectives off of. I met an Army Staff Sargent (remember, I was Air Force), who was what I would describe as a “ceremonial magician” though I am still unsure if that is the best description of what Rudy was/is. We spent a lot of time talking about the aspect of the Gods, magick, and even the idiotic politics that had floated into the local US Pagan community located there. More than any book or any issue of Circle Magazine, our talks helped me to relocate my footing in what I was striving to do. Rudy’s perspective is very different from my own, but our talks showed me a better way to view things. I also started to develop my own sense of patience in exploring the world around me. But most importantly of all, he helped me to move beyond the troublesome perspective of labeling myself.
See, I had become so hung up on trying to find some adjective that would describe who I was – a Pagan, a Wiccan, a Witch, a Druid, a Shamanistic practitioner, and whatever else you might be able to dream up. I kept looking for some word to describe myself that I had missed the entire point of what was important – who I really was. The descriptive didn’t matter. What mattered was how I approached what was in my heart. That moment (well it took a lot longer than a moment) set me on a Path to slowly figuring things out for myself.
The Gods are real, from my perspective. The archetypal approach towards a male and female God and Goddess where all aspects of the Gods could be pasted just doesn’t work for me. And I have no desire to proselytize and convert others to my perspective either. What works for them is perfectly fine – for them. So long as no one insists that I follow their way, everything will be fine. Nor did I have a need to fight anyone over a disagreement. It was far more powerful for me to walk away rather than argue.
All of that took place in late 1993 and early 1994. By the end of March, I was being processed out of the Air Force and returning to civilian life back in the United States. All of that sorting, deciding, and the such would continue until late 1999. I had made another attempt at Wicca, and found it to be even more incompatible with my current perspective than before. Rather than struggle and fight with people about the differences I saw, I left. I checked out various other systems of faith and perspective, all to avail until I stumbled into Druidry. The rest is what you see here on the blog. Well, not all of it, but enough that folks get the idea.
So, back to the books and other resources. For me, Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler helped me find a wider perspective to pick from. That one book was the first stepping stone that let me look in various directions. And honestly, the Church of All Worlds was quite appealing to me for quite some time until I stumbled into Druidry. Podcast-wise…well, I can’t single out one podcast over all the others. But all of them provided glimpses into their own systems of belief through their episodes (and sometimes perspectives into others through interviews). I’m very partial to Down at the Crossroads and the Wigglian Way, but that’s my bias showing. I adore both shows and their respective hosts. Plus, Sparrow remains my vocal crush after all these years. That woman could read me the phone book (and did on one episode of the Wigglian Way).
Let me try to provide a bit more of a different direction for exploration. Spend time looking at various systems of belief and faith. No matter how silly or out-of-bounds you might think it to be. If a part of the Christian faith or the Buddhist faith holds a part of your curiosity – check into it. If they require you to be a member before getting into the deeper specifics…my suggestion would be to pass it by. If the Pagan perspectives appeal to you, check those out, with the same caveat towards understanding the deeper specifics of what you are looking at. Spend some time with yourself, figure out where you perspective of understanding might take you. Then explore it. If it doesn’t feel right, trust your gut.
I’m not totally sure if any of this is really being helpful. I hope it is. I’m not a Priest nor any type of Confessor. Nor am I a mystic of any sort. I’m just like you – just a fellow traveler on the path of Life. I know it can be a bit confusing when the fog rolls in and covers where the steady footfalls were. But just remember, even if you stand in one place, the fog will eventually lift and reveal the steady places for your feet. Or you can take the challenge, and move slowly and steadily through the fog. You will likely stumble and potentially even fall. That’s what happens when you take those kind of chances. But those stumbles and falls add to your experience and to your connection with the world around you. Cherish those experiences for what they are. But to get those experiences, you have to move forward along the unlit, unseen Path. You have to dare. And if you choose not to dare, there’s not a damn thing wrong with that either. Be the Seeker on the Path…on your terms. And your terms may be very different from my own, which they should be. We cannot occupy the same space in Life at the same time….
I do sincerely hope this helps…