Mysticism as Vocation

A recent post by Dver over at A Forest Door entitled, “Mysticism as vocation in modern paganism“, caught my eye just as I was continuing to draft my own post (started May 16th and that I hope to post before the end of the week…hope!) on mysticism and my budding comprehension and practice of it. I am not certain that mysticism is my vocation (as Dver defines vocation), but I find that mysticism is a part of my Work, the lion’s share of my calling. When I think about my life now and when I envision my life ten years from now, the spirits, the gods, the dead, and all the beings between are an integral part of it. That integration is and will be achieved partly through Service to this world and the otherworlds. Mysticism is growing within my own practice and I hear the call to serve as a bridge between the worlds, which necessitates my own movement within and across a number of worlds and states of being. Honestly, I am still trying to sort out what it all means to/for me and the impact that it will all have on my human, spirit, and deity relationships.

In the article, Dver mentions a group of mystic-spiritworkers that exist between weekend tranceworkers and vocational mystics, between those who have a family, a career, etc., and a full-throttle mystical practice. Perhaps between the two is where I would fit in her model. Or, perhaps my own practice will defy such classification. In my (growing) spirituality all that I do is integrated. I strive to make my spirituality my life and vice versa. Consequently, family, career, and other aspects of life that some consider mundane are not so in my book! Everything that I chose to do is an essential part of my True Self and my highest spiritual expression and a part of my Service and Work. I am not convinced that commitment to the spirits demands giving up family or career or the like.

Does that mean that sacrifice is out of the picture and that I am a part of the entitled majority that doesn’t want to surrender anything but to instead possess everything? No. Everything demands some level of sacrifice; that’s life and I recognize that but I have also found that what we bring into our lives, what we nurture and develop can also serve the gods, spirits, and various other beings. For example, some people’s disir (female ancestors in the Norse/Germanic tradition) may encourage them to have a child and raise them in the old ways, or their gods may require that they take a job in counseling of some sort for a host of reasons to long to list here, or the landwights may request volunteer work at the community garden as an offering, or a ton of acts that link the typically classified “mundane” aspects of life to the spiritual thereby strengthening Wyrd and accomplishing the will of those beings, essentially doing their Work and being of Service. Entheogen-soaked trance states (although awesome, useful, and most definitely a common practice – I know all this from personal experience) are not the highest, best, only, or most fulfilled/fulfilling way to touch the faces of the gods or to enact a mystical vocation/calling that meets the needs of the deities, spirits, and various others.

Based on the article, Dver and I seem to agree that a lot of this depends on the Work you have been called to do and what you, the gods, and the spirits demand that you accept and/or surrender in order to do that Work. To my thinking however, for some full devotion and commitment will necessitate certain types of sacrifice (family, career, living in the region you wish, etc) and for others it will require sacrifices of a completely different sort. Still others my have to take something on that they otherwise would not, accept into their lives and nurture a person, talent, gift, desire, skill, way of being, etc that they have otherwise avoided or neglected.

Ultimately, full devotion, full commitment I think can look very different from person to person, but that devotion/commitment is nonetheless full. A fully commited mystical practice may call one person to live secluded in the woods offering counsel from the otherworlds to those who would seek him out whereas full committed mystical practice for someone to whom that sounds like heaven might be to have a small practice in an urban area that accomplishes the spirits’ will on Tuesday and Friday nights after folks have gotten off work, had a good meal, and are ready to commune with the hosts of beings that walk the worlds. Saturday nights might be reserved for the mystics’ self care, also for the preparation of offerings, and private temple maintenance. Still another person’s mysticism may be completely personal with no human-oriented service component, only what they do for the spirits themselves. I would not say any of the above scenarios is better, more ideal, or more or less committed than the other; they each meet different needs for the spirits, and for the humans as well.

With something as personal and as powerful as mysticism, I hesitate to put too many parameters on what mysticism as vocation means. I imagine there are more than a few vocational mystics concealed behind diapers, therapist couches, Tonka trucks, doctor’s coats, and bungee cords, each with their own methods, systems, and imperatives in their Service to the spirits and in meeting their own basic needs. Perhaps these things do not dilute their mystical practice but instead fuel it, cavort with it, demand that it grow, change and shift in ways that cultivate the person’s mystical practice and ability to Serve.

So much to ponder these days, about mysticism in general and about my journey in particular. Dver’s article got me thinking about these really critical issues; thanks, Dver. Very thoughtful, very useful, and very insightful stuff over at A Forest Door. Check it out!

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5 thoughts on “Mysticism as Vocation

  1. Glad my post gave you some food for thought! I agree, btw – not every mystical vocation will require sacrificing family or career. For some, their career might be integral to their vocation. For another, their family life might support their Work. (Although, it does seem these two areas are often problematic.) My main point is simply that a person fully dedicating themselves to such a path must be *willing* to make whatever sacrifices the gods/spirits require, must listen to the voice of the divine over their own desires, wherever that leads. The most important thing is to be self-aware and receptive, which it sounds like you are, since you’re taking so much time and effort to contemplate these issues and how they apply to your own life. Ultimately, that’s what will lead you to whatever path is right for you.

    • Your comments on sacrifice really resonate with me. Opening up to the will of the gods and spirits, and accepting the sacrifices that must be made for those relationships to grow and Their work to be done has definitely been a challenge for me personally but I get better at it with time. *inhale* …And still so much farther to go yet!

  2. I was just reading Dver’s post last night! (which was great, as always) As I read it, I was also struck with the realization that depending on which “chapter” of life you’re currently at, certain things/aspects of life will seem like more sacrifice than others depending on where you’re at in your life’s development and the level of maturity that you’ve reached. If someone approached me with the option that I could devote my whole life to the gods and service of spirits and live an intensely focused spiritual existence when I was 14 years old, I would have set myself down that path in a heartbeat. (as it was, at 14 years of age I was living within a strict Christian paradigm and becoming a nun wasn’t an appealing option at the time). Now, I have made more life choices that would make that path a more unrealistic one for me…

    I totally agree that one who commits to this path of service will need to take their oaths seriously. I feels so strongly about this that this is most likely the reason why I have yet to oath myself to anyone, even though I know that is a stumbling block that I need to overcome. I am definitely still holding a part of myself back because it would devastate me to go back on my word to the gods and spirits if I have made them a solemn vow. This is part of my own personal struggle, but it’s nice to see these posts that remind me that there are so many more pagans out there that practice their spirituality, even when it’s not “convenient” or easy for them. Thank you, Dver and Tamilia!

    • You make a good point – sacrifice (in this context, at least) is relative. While I’ve had to sacrifice many things that were important to me (relationships, academic aspirations), some things I had to set aside were not an issue at all – for instance, I’ve never wanted children. You’re also right that those things will change with age, although it’s harder to separate for me because I *did* start down this path at 13, albeit I didn’t know quite what I was doing at the time. I’ve had Them fiddling with my life for a long time.

      Oaths should definitely be taken most seriously! While I have myriad commitments in place, I have made few actual oaths in my life, because I don’t turn back on those, period. And not just because of how horrible it would feel to do so, but what the external consequences would be, both from the gods/spirits Themselves, and also in a more general sense, to my “maegen” for lack of a better word.

  3. You’re welcome, Lady of Bones :-D. And thank you for leaving your comments about the developmental issues attached to sacrifice and sorting out what it means. What sacrifices are required of me now, on the cusp of 30, are not what was required of me at 10 years of age or what will be required of me at 50. Also, what constitutes a sacrifice and what needs to be sacrificed vary from person to person, season to season.

    Also, thank you Dver for your comments on oaths. I am preparing to oath to Hekate’s service and reminders about the gravity of that choice (and related choices) are welcome!!

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