March 22, 2013

KRT: Unverified personal gnosis (UPG)

Posted in Being Kemetic, Kemetic Roundtable, Thoughts and Reflections at 2:10 pm by

 
Unverified Personal Gnosis/Doxa:
– What is it, how you do get it?
– What are the rules on it?
– How important is it? Should we rely on it?
– Should we pay attention to others’ UPG, or let it influence our own UPG/practice?

 

So very timely for me, this subject, as I’m currently staring down the deadline for writing a ritual with an extremely personal-gnosis focus.

As you might guess from the above, I do make fairly heavy use of personal gnosis. I dance a fine line here — as a Kemetic Orthodox W’ab priest, in my official mode I have to follow a very formalized set of practices. Although I receive a fair bit of personal gnosis during the state rite, the state rite is not the place to enact that gnosis. And that’s fine.

And then there’s this tremendous in-pouring of creative inspiration and out-pouring of creative expression, with a whole lot of crackling mental connections and “ooh!” and “aha!” moments in between the two. (Not to mention the occasions when one or another of the Gods will come right out and say something that melts my brain.) All of this has to go somewhere — has to find use somewhere. Trying to process all these insights and make a place for them in practice while still remaining coherent and reasonably traditional can be a real challenge, even with polyvalent thinking to smooth out the paradoxes. Whee.

When I first realized that my heart lay with Bast, something that was very important (to me or to Her? or to both of us? I’m not quite sure at this point) was to learn how She would have traditionally been honored in ancient Egypt. I didn’t want to fold her into my generic semi-neo-wiccan sort-of-a-practice; I didn’t want to just make stuff up. That was how I ended up in Kemetic Orthodoxy in the first place.

Granted, it could be said — and there are certainly people out there who would say it — that Kemetic Orthodoxy is itself rooted in Rev. Siuda’s personal gnosis. The Rite of Parent Divination, for example, originated in a directive from Sekhmet; it was created to fill a modern need that would have been unknown in ancient Kemet, where from childhood one would be aware of one’s Gods, the Gods of the nome, of the community, of the family. In other respects, however — the importance of purity, the prayers we speak, the holy days we celebrate, the veneration of the ancestors and the embracing of ma’at — Kemetic Orthodoxy is quite traditional.

To my mind, both historical study and personal gnosis have their places. Historical study gives us a solid, shared structure that contains us and gives us a level place to stand. It unifies us across the boundaries of individuals and small groups — without it, I wouldn’t be writing this post, as there wouldn’t be a Kemetic roundtable. (It would be a “group of people with random Egyptianish beliefs” roundtable.) Personal gnosis — and shared gnosis, or generally accepted gnosis — patch the gaps and embellish the structure. I think we would be a lot poorer if we were missing either element.

How much can we rely on gnosis? That depends on how well we’re able to determine whether it is both functional and “true” — and by “true,” I mean true to the spirit of the myths, the practices, the Gods, and true to our own experiences. This holds whether it’s our own gnosis or that of other people. As others have said, discernment is key in spiritual practice; and learning discernment is a process. It doesn’t come all at once.

When I share something from my personal experiences, I try to draw a very clear line between what comes from me and what comes from history, even though I’m fairly sure that this very distinction is not in itself historical. I have trouble imagining that the ancient Kemetics footnoted their practices. Maybe they had a clearer channel to the Gods. Or maybe they just trusted their channels more. In any case, this distinction is crucial for some people, and I enjoy supplying it anyway, being perhaps a little too proud of showing off my bonafides. Plus I don’t really want to send someone new, who hasn’t yet developed their own sense of discernment, hopping off down the bunny trail, only for them to get totally confused or to be slapped down by someone else for “doing it wrong.”

In any event, I don’t think I could do a religion that didn’t leave room for personal gnosis. To me, personal gnosis is the knowing of the heart, the knowing that resounds through all my bodies, and my life is immeasurably enriched by what the Gods show me. But I also find great joy and enrichment in studying the traditions of the past, which connect me other Kemetics, both ancient and modern. A downside of personal gnosis can be its isolating factor, when no one else shares those particular understandings. I think it’s essential to balance it out with what can be verified and shared.

(Links to other Kemetic Roundtable posts on UPG can be found here.)

March 7, 2013

KRT: The Gods and you

Posted in Being Kemetic, Kemetic Roundtable, Netjeru, Thoughts and Reflections at 4:11 pm by

 
– Do I need a main deity to practice Kemeticism? If so, how do I get a main deity?
– Am I able to say no to a deity that shows up at my shrine?
– Am I obligated to learn everything I can about my main deity?

 

What do you actually need to do to be Kemetic? I would say: you need to do your best to live in ma’at, to acknowledge and honor the Gods and your ancestors, and to support your community, in whatever form that community takes for you. (If you’re Kemetic Orthodox, add in “acknowledge and respect the Nisut’s role as spiritual teacher and leader.”) Does any of that necessarily involve a close interaction with a singular deity? No.

Do you personally need to have a primary deity? I think that’s the question people coming to the religion ought to be asking themselves. Does that kind of relationship feed something in you, a hunger that nothing else can satisfy? (And is it a real hunger, or just a “junk-food hunger”?) Are you looking for very specific help or support with a particular task or career, or just to get on the better side of life? Or are you hearing a direct call from Someone, whether you know who it is or not? In those cases, or others like them, the answer is more like: Maybe.

You can love more than one God. (Though equitable time-sharing can be tricky.)

You can look for help in more than one aspect of your life at once.

You can have more than one God ask for (or demand) your service.

You can, but you might or might not. There are so many ways to have relationships. There are so many ways to love.

And you can always say no, but He or She (or They) might very well keep trying. And you might change your mind given further persuasion, but it’s always your mind to change.

As for learning, if you love your God deeply, completely, truly, you’ll probably want to know everything about Him or Her. Love inspires the desire for knowledge, knowledge brings power, and I believe that the Gods want us to be powerful, each in our own way. We best serve with knowledge; we best become ourselves with knowledge; and our service is our becoming, our becoming our service.

Even if you see your relationship with a God more as a business transaction, wouldn’t you research your business partner? Look for strengths that can help you, or quirks (or worse than quirks) that could trip you up? Knowledge is never wasted.

(And I laugh, because just last night I was reading a manga in which a character, who happens to be a demon, ennumerates the three strongest drives that motivate humans: physical needs, such as for food, clothing, shelter; the propagation of the species; and — not love — but knowledge. Specifically, the lust for the advantage that knowledge gives. Was he right or wrong? I wonder.)

For me, Bast is my center, but in my perception of Her, She also lies at the center of a web comprising relationships with other Gods, entities, and elements. So She is not just the primary focus of my love and devotion, She orients my conception of the Divine, my cosmology; She is the spindle that gathers all the threads of my interest, study, poetry, mythology, the hands that cup the world. Other non- or less-related Gods pass through, and I have relationships of varying strength with them as well, but I find that, while those other Gods are not diminished, the Gods that are connected with Her are magnified by that connection.

Of course, I’m all about hunting down obscure bits and pieces and stringing them together into sentences and chains of meaning, and I do my best work when I’m monofocused. So your experience almost certainly will vary.

(Links to other Kemetic Roundtable posts on relationships with primary deities can be found here.)

February 22, 2013

Falling into Fallow Times

Posted in Kemetic Roundtable, On Writing, Thoughts and Reflections at 12:08 pm by

I think there are a number of ways to fall into fallow times, just as there are many ways to approach and experience the Divine.

One way, strange as it may sound, is an inability to let go — in particular, to let go of results. I come to this as a writer who has largely gone without writing in the last couple of years (other than sporadic blog posting, and the songs, of course, which are short and quick enough that they can come through in bursts, taking advantage of any little window of opportunity). Writing has its fallow times too, the well-known and dreaded writer’s block. When I have difficulty writing, inevitably I’m getting in my own way, paralyzed by perfectionism. Can I achieve what I want to do with this piece? Can I make it through the whole long, slow process of putting the words down one by one in order to get to the completed work? And then do it all over again for the next one? I see the trilogies yet unwritten, not the sentence that lies ahead of me.

Something very similar happens when I start looking beyond the present moment in my devotions. What will happen way down the road if I take another step, if I initiate something new or go on to the next level? Can I follow through on the commitment that this implies? Will it be too hard? Will I fail? Will I succeed, and in succeeding lose everything that’s familiar to me? If I become stronger, will there be more demands, demands that I don’t think I can face?

When I’m caught up in this whirl of brain noise, I have trouble hearing the Gods. And then, funnily enough, I start to panic. “Are you there? What’s wrong? Why can’t I hear you?” And the more I push for a response, the less I hear, so it becomes a vicious cycle. In my anxiety, I both want and don’t want the intimacy of a relationship; I cling to my Mother in terror of rejection even as I shrink away from what I imagine my service will require.

Until at last my brain shuts down, and I collapse. In my exhaustion, I give up the fighting, let go of the fear of success and failure, of right and wrong paths, of all the potential too-muchness, and just go silent in Her presence. And then, in the stillness, I can remember the good, the bright moments, the things that feed my ka. And I can feel Her again — Her love, which never judges me as I judge myself. Bast neither steps back to let me rest nor steps forward to pull me out of my funks. She just is — She is there, and it’s up to me to find the still point in my heart, to find Her presence within and around me, and to make the choice or do the action that’s before me at that moment. To try without trying, to do without doing. To be in Her embrace.

I make things so complicated sometimes. I wring myself up so tightly that I drive all the renewing moisture out of my life, leaving it arid and barren. I don’t blame myself for my fallow times — but I can make better choices, and I know it.

May I learn the wisdom of equanimity, the coolness of the cool water that restores and makes pure.

In peace, Mother — in peace, in peace.

(Links to other Kemetic Roundtable posts on facing the fallow times can be found here.)