Tag Archives: numinous

Relationship with Divinity

There are people from all religions who have spiritual experiences and feel they have come into contact with their god, goddess, or another spiritual presence they find significant. Generally speaking, being a serious upholder of the given faith is deemed a good way of inviting that kind of experience. So, what is a Druid to do? How do we go about our lives in order to make contact with divinity?

For us, it’s a very different scenario. There’s no book of rules, no straightforward way of demonstrating power of faith or devotion that you can easily tap into. We talk a great deal about having nothing to mediate between us and the divine, but in practice what that also means is that we are entirely on our own.

What are we seeking, when we quest after direct knowledge of deity? Reassurance? Something to take us out of the realms of faith and into knowing and certainty, perhaps. We might seek validation, proof that we are heading the right way, doing the right things. We might just want the ego boost. While all of these things may be natural, they are about us, and not about relationship. If there is any rule at all for Druids in this context, it should probably be, to seek connection for its own sake and not for anything else. Don’t even assume it will mean insight and wisdom. It might just bring chaos, confusion and uncertainty. Are we looking for some clear moment, the booming voice from the Heavans? Or are we actually seeking to know and understand? Religious experience is not like the movies. There is seldom much certainty, but moments of beauty, wonder, awe and numinousness can enrich our lives and give us a sense of having encountered something other. Seek relationship for the beauty of it. That is enough.

The things that shape relationships between humans are just as valid when it comes to thinking about relationship with deity. What do we share? If we understand deity as manifest in nature, then when we are out, interacting with and relating to nature, we are also experiencing relationship with the divine. Watching it on the telly doesn’t count. If we are drawn to more human gods, the named figures of historical pantheons, then we might think about what they represent – and where we are exploring their focus, and the energy they embody, we are making relationship with them, or at the very least with concepts that exist externally to us.

To seek deity in the way I’ve described above, does not call for belief. It doesn’t need validation in the form of something obvious returning to you. It is experiencing sacredness in action, allowing perception to include that element of deity, and being open to that which moves us. It’s spending time with a river and the land, or writing poetry and recognising the sacred within that. As with all other kinds of relationship, the more you share, do and give, the deeper it becomes. No burning bushes actually required.

Chasing Rainbows

It’s a very ordinary, grey, wet day out there now. Your typical English winter, cold, soggy and a bit visually bland. There’s nothing to show for what happened this morning. On the walk to school, with the sun low in the sky, the light was brilliant and intense against the dark clouds. Much of the sky was a deep blue at dawn, with russets along the cloud edges and intense light bringing a rare depth of colour to every surface. Fields, and stone all illuminated.

Then the rain came, painting a whole and perfect rainbow across the sky. I could see where it came down into trees, and it really looked as if it touched the ground there. Part of me wanted to go and see, despite knowing that we wouldn’t find anything. When I was a child, I used to go out with my grandmother, searching for the end of the rainbow and the pot of gold reputedly waiting there. All the land was golden this morning.

On the playground, children spotted the rainbow, pointed, gaped and marvelled. It wasn’t your regular, hazy suggestion of a rainbow either. This was rich colour, streaked across the sky. It was the kind of rainbow children draw.

Walking home, the golden light felt too intense to be real. We were no longer in winter, but it didn’t feel like any other season either. As though for a few moments the realm of faerie had layered itself over our familiar landscape. As though we walked somewhere mythic. I felt lighter than I have in a long time, safe and enchanted, magically protected and overwhelmingly well and good. These are not things I spend most of my time feeling. There was a beautiful irrationality to it all.

Now we have a very ordinary sort of rain shower, slow, persistent and free from drama. Proper English weather. It’s a mournful day, the kind of colours that breed apathy and weariness. But I am still carrying the rainbow and the light inside me. The colours haven’t entirely dimmed yet. For a little while this morning, something happened that was mystical beyond any hope of description, and I was blessed enough to be there.

Spirit and Matter

A line of contemplation very much inspired by John’s thoughtful critique of my ‘body and soul’ piece a few days ago…

John pointed out that a belief in spirit does not automatically lead to dualistic thinking. So, I considered my own attitudes to spirit, trying to pin down exactly what I think. We’re very much in the realms of what cannot be rationally known here, but belief shapes action, and seeing the mechanics of that can be very useful. Our whole understanding of what the world is and what life is for comes from belief, not evidence.

I believe in ideas of spirit and soul, but what does that mean, what do I think it is? Energy, first and foremost, the energy that is life and ideas. But, a glance out of the window is enough to show that such energy is very much tied up with matter, and it would be hard to say which (if either) is the consequence of the other. Energy moves between physical life forms, through eating, and the release of decay. So spirit flows also (as I see it). This does not preclude a notion of individual spirit, just as our flesh forms, and falls away to other things, so might spirit, but perhaps it is also able to continue in conscious form beyond bodily death. I have no clarity of afterlife belief, or any sense of what might continue, but am conscious that early pagans largely did believe in life after death.

There are also things within the world that are present without being material – wind and sunlight for a start. Darkness feels like a very present thing to me. Inspiration the same. Where we perceive the ‘action’ is where this energy interacts with material things.

This material world around us is the one our bodies have developed to perceive and interact with. It doesn’t mean it is the only truth, and perception is not necessarily objective reality, as any stage magician can show us. We have to work with our own perceptions though. I wonder if reality is more layered, the material things we experience only being one facet of a far more complex whole. I can imagine webs of spirit, layers of thread and flow that interact creating connections and meanings beyond our ordinary awareness. My imagining it does not make it so, but my very physical understanding of the world is rooted in experience, and untrustworthy though it is, it is also the only thing I can trust.

My notions of spirit are based on experiencing what it does – not spirit as some abstract concept, but as immediate, energetic forms impacting on me. Wind and sun, tree and bird – things that I can make some sense of. If I can hear something, smell it, or experience it as a tactile presence (there is an invisible cat in my house, I have felt it walk over me) I can do something with that. I don’t expend much energy on contemplating things I can’t in some way interact with – making very abstract notions of gods unappealing.

Spirit, for me, has a numinous quality, it illuminates. Where something is rich in spirit, I get an impression of ‘glow’, of there being depth behind the material surface. Not everything I encounter is qualitatively the same in this regard. There is a world of difference between a mass produced plastic thing (with little or no soul) and something lovingly hand carved out of wood (and bright with spirit). I can say the same of people, places, all that there is, in fact. It seems to me, to be about flow, and what passes through, a process involving give, and love, that I have only the barest sense of, but can see how it changes things.

I realise I’m scraping the surface of possibilities here, and that I have a lot more thinking to do. Thank you John for the prompt, I’ll be exploring these, and other related issues in a lot more detail, personally, and on this blog.