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6. What does it feel like when one receives inspiration from the divinities?
I started to answer under question 4 and got distracted, so I moved the rest of that answer over here, and will elaborate further for you now! (Yay!)
When it comes to inspiration in a spiritual context, I think of several different things. There’s Gnosis, there’s Divine Inspiration, and there’s Creative Inspiration. That’s probably a venn diagram, since Gnosis is more about content, whereas the spectrum from reasoning to creative inspiration to full blown divine inspiration is more about source.
To quote myself: I’m a compulsively creative person, and a lot of my creative work is devotional on some level. I do believe that at its heart, all inspiration has a spiritual element to it. However, when I say “Divine Inspiration”, I don’t mean “I had an idea for a picture of Dionysos” so much as “sixteen stanzas of epic poetry with perfect rhyme and meter came tumbling out of my mouth.”
So sometimes this happens in dreams, and it can be both wonderful and frustrating, depending on how much of it I retain when I wake up. Orixa patakis complete with animated folk-painting visuals I’ll never be able to produce in the waking world, that turn out to be either real existing patakis I just didn’t already know, or new patakis consistent with extant Orixa lore. Songs for gods with counterpoint descants that escape my mind before I can find a way to record them. The aforementioned epic poetry, which, because I’m me, usually ends up put to music in the long run. Etc.
Regardless, the resulting material doesn’t feel like I wrote it unless I have to sit down and work through it repeatedly to fix the meter on a section, or unpack a non-word into something useful, or otherwise do the work of making it my own. I end up feeling really guilty about taking credit for that kind of work, even though it’s pretty well THE best work I’ll ever do, because it frankly doesn’t feel like I did anything other than record somebody else’s work. It’s not like I even got to choose whether or not to record it.
I can’t even tell you how painful, literally physically painful, it can be to have these inspirations escape my grasp before I find a way to record as much of them as possible, and there’s often a wistful pain for whatever I lost even so. But on the good days, when I can get it together the right way, or the poem can stick in my head long enough, or the powers in question are patient enough to wait until I’m in a position to record it directly as it arrives (whether through Automatic Writing, or just rushing to keep ahead of a flood), it’s… well… ecstatic.
True divine inspiration is comparatively rare, intensely compelling, and feels like a… an unearned, generous gift… I don’t have words for it right now (heh). And there’s a depth of gratitude that follows it, even if I’m otherwise frustrated as hell for not being able to capture it all. The only thing I can think of that I’ve experienced that feels anywhere near that good is devotional sex. I rather suspect it feels like a really good drug high, but aside from caffeine, I’m not much for drugs, so I really don’t know. And there’s certainly not much hangover, although there can be some ritual drop – but usually it just fades away like an echo, rather than stopping sharply.
The other thing that I’ve mentioned before is that it comes with an obligation to share. Poetry in particular is the strongest form, and when it comes down, it’s completely unacceptable to keep it to myself. Somewhere along the line, though, I was ordered to share most of my poetry, so the difference here is whether I experience that obligation as a sense of duty, or as a consuming compulsion. My understanding of what “Bard’s Tongue” means is that when messages come tumbling out of my mouth, if they’re not in verse or song, I might, at most, get to choose the individual words tactfully, but if I balk at all, I lose that privilege, and it’s all gonna come out one way or another.
Divinatory Bard’s Tongue compulsion isn’t quite the same as the Poetry Download compulsion, in that a Download doesn’t come with the same degree of total urgency. I still have to get it written and shared, it’s still a compulsion that seizes my attention and prevents me from getting anything else done until I can attend to it, but I don’t necessarily lose control of anything other than my attention span, as long as I get it recorded before I lose it, whereas Bard’s Tongue is more like… I don’t know, giving birth to words? Them babies come out on their own time table, not mama’s. But they’re all, ultimately, the experience of the powers coming through loud, strong, and unequivocally in a way I can’t choose. The particular method isn’t necessarily what’s significant here.
Gnosis, though, that’s not quite the same thing as inspiration. Gnosis is information about the spiritual realm that is received or assembled in such a way that it registers on a deep level as Truth. This is a place where the way my mind works around patterns is particularly relevant. I’m a visual-spatial thinker, so when things are working out right, they take clear shapes, but not necessarily clear language. Information that assembles into these kinds of clear shapes, where it all just… FITS… that feeling that goes with it, that marks Gnosis, for me. It’s a very distinctive feeling, but it’s not the same kind of ecstatic as inspiration, so much as it’s deeply satisfying. If Divine Inspiration feels like an orgasm, then Gnosis feels like afterglow.
I do want to be clear, though, that not all communication from the gods is in the form of Inspiration. They have plenty to say in milder ways, and we can choose to initiate contact with Them in trance states and such, where, if They choose to respond, it’s somewhat less likely to end up being this kind of all-consuming ecstasy. We can learn things from Them, gain from the experience, commune with Them, without necessarily having to deal with the full impact of Their direct touch.
Which, really, is all for the best. My life is complicated enough without having every word the gods drop on me be accompanied by a spontaneous inability to function.
Lon’s answer: Enthusiasmos