I read and have been contemplating a direct response to Morpheus Ravenna’s “Theurgic binding: or, “S#!t just got real”” post. Meanwhile, Asa West posted a response of her own. I initially reblogged in response, but the formatting of that post got borked, so I’m recreating it as a non-reblog post. The original expanded post is below.
Hm. I can tell the author, Asa West, is trying to be reassuring in the face of what she saw would be a likely response to Morpheus’ post about her experience with the consequences of being dedicated to The Morrigan.
Unfortunately, to me this comes across as incredibly patronizing and dismissive. It’s a similar feeling to hearing, “Don’t worry, the monster under your bed doesn’t actually matter, dear. Just stop believing it’s real and it will go away.”
Do I think she intended it to come across that way? I assume not. I certainly hope not.
But I do think that the fundamental difference in how she approaches the gods vs. how someone like Morpheus approaches the gods may make her counter-message moot at best for the people who are worried by Morpheus’ post.
I see two major problems with this response:
1: Say for a moment I am that worried person, and I’ve just taken a particular Goddess seriously enough to dedicate myself to Her, whether in a fit of passion, or after years of consideration. To tell me that She only has power if I attribute power to Her makes very little sense in a context where I have already attributed that power.
Setting aside why a person would make such a vow when they don’t believe the entity they’re promising to has real power, even the most casually taken oath of dedication is unlikely to worry a person who does not attribute power to the entity they gave that vow to, eh?
Allow me to thoroughly belabor a metaphor:
Say I’m standing next to an open barn, worrying about wandering cows. How helpful is it to tell me that the cows can only get out if I turn the door handle and pull? Assuming you’re correct that this was the only door to the barn in the first place, the point is moot since I clearly just opened that door myself.
Now, maybe I have a bit of a grace period to close it again before the cows get out. Maybe the cows will stay in the barn anyway, being peaceful cows who prefer not to exert themselves just because the door is open. But if I’m freaking out that the cows are already wandering around, all you’re really doing by telling me how doors work is making me feel like an idiot for having let them out in the first place.
Now let’s say there IS another barn door, and the cows were already wandering before I opened the door to let one more cow out? Then it’s quite a lot to put on my shoulders, the blame for all those wandering cows, is it not? Maybe it seems silly, my fear of wandering cows. Maybe it IS silly to fear wandering cows, although if so, it’s incredibly rude and dismissive to say so, and for that matter unlikely to make me fear cows less, or feel better about myself for fearing them.
Finally, let’s say one of those wandering cows is acting like a bull ready to charge. Telling me that the way to avoid injury is to act like I never opened the door is not much help at all, is it?
2: Uncertainty as to the nature of the gods is fair. I would argue that skepticism is incredibly healthy, and even the most certain mystic should probably stop to take stock every so often against other ways of looking at the gods. I’m very fond of both Buddhist non-duality and the Scientific Method for different kinds of reality checks for this very reason.
But part of this author’s uncertainty apparently includes a very clear idea that the Gods don’t have the ability to affect me independent of my choosing to engage with Them. Now, I happen to believe quite firmly that They exist entirely independently of my faith in Them.
Unless the point here is for me to discard that faith in order to reclaim my personal power – and I accept that it’s quite possible that IS the message, especially given the source follows the Reclaiming Tradition – the suggestion that beings which exist entirely separate from me have no agency relative to me unless I first bestow that agency upon them is dubious at best.
[Edited to add] It occurs to me that actually, yes, that probably IS the intended message. Specifically, that the idea is that the kind of polytheistic faith that attributes independent agency to the Gods is a spiritual/psychlogical crutch that we’re to abandon as we mature – the raft not to strap to our backs, to use the metaphor of the parable Asa quotes. If so, this is even more dismissive than I initially perceived.
Somewhat more likely, the idea was that the power of the Gods is that raft – useful, helpful when we need it, but not something to depend on when we don’t need it, or bear as a burden by carrying dependence on it with us. If that’s the case, it’s missing the point that it’s not our power to begin with, but Theirs.
We don’t carry it. We might choose to carry or not carry the raft, but without the river water holding the raft up, AND the rushing of said water being dangerous to cross, the whole story is moot. The raft may be faith, but in this metaphor the river is the Gods, and we do not control the river.
It is both reasonable to fear drowning AND reasonable to be grateful for the ability to float a raft across safely. But perhaps your own body is sufficient to carry around thereafter, in faith. After all, the logs, the vines, the materials to make the axe, and even your own body, are all part of the same world as that river. Once again, if not, the raft is moot, because the river doesn’t actually matter.[/edit]
Look, I admit that it’s not pleasant to realize that independent beings are capable of making choices relative to us that adversely affect us. But if that’s news to you, living in the world we do, you have a much, much bigger problem to confront within yourself: the realization that YOUR OWN choices affect other people, whether they like it or not.