First off, I know that I've been absolutely lax in updating posts. I hope to do better in the future, but... we'll see how well I do. That said... on to the post...
There's a common understanding in the metaphysical and spiritual communities that we are all, ultimately, One, and that we are not separate from one another. All of this distinction is an illusion. I don't buy it.
Mystical experiences aside for now, this simply does not match up with what we see in reality. Look at anything and what you see is not a single Oneness. My spleen is not the same as my heart, but they are both part of my body, and anything affecting the heart will affect my spleen, and vice versa. Everything is connected, and part of a greater whole, but that doesn't mean they are one or the same thing.
The same applies in nature. The wolf and the deer are not the same, they are distinct entities, but they are connected in multiple ways, and both part of a greater whole (the forest ecosystem, among other possibilities). The slug and the tomato, the water and the wind, the chair and the desk - all of these are distinct, but part of a greater whole in multiple ways (the garden, the sea, the office).
If we look at these examples as signs of how reality works, then there is no sense is which we are all One. We are all parts of a Whole, but we are not One, in any way. I am not You, and that's a good thing. The diversity of Nature is vitally important to ongoing success. All the various parts in your body, doing different things for different reasons, all at the same time - this is how we are healthy and living. Even similar or identical kinds of entities are not the same - THIS white blood cell is hunting down pathogenic bacteria in the big toe, and THAT white blood cell is currently digesting a different pathogen somewhere in lymph nodes in the neck. They are different and separate, and that's vitally important to the success of the Whole.
Separate does not mean disconnected though. Nor does it mean not important. We are not a Unity, but we are a Wholity, with all our parts having important roles to play in the overall success of "Me" or "You". And as individuals, you and I are also parts of another greater whole, which the same kinds of connections and impacts. Every action I take will influence all of the other parts of my whole in some way, positive or negative. If I go out and do "good", this will affect the way that Men / Humans / <insert your own favorite group/whole here> will be perceived. And the "bad" acts will do exactly the same in the opposite direction. The consequences of my acts affect everyone.
These consequences ripple through the whole not because we are the same, but because we are not the same. The Whole is not a diamond, but a complex mixture more like jello, allowing movement and transformation all throughout. The movement and ripples will affect each of us differently, because we are distinct and our connections are varied.
Next time someone tells you we're all One, go look out the window, and see for yourself if that really holds up.
(ORE-thow-SKEE-sis), the state of establishing or maintaining a healthy relationship. From Gk. ορθός orthos correct, right + σχέση skhesis relationship, association, contact.
(ORE-thow-SKEE-zick) Of or pertaining to the establishing or maintaining a healthy form of relationship.
Orthodox and Orthoprax
It's well understood that many religions have orthodox forms; Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Baha'i are all religions where orthodoxy can be distinctive. Orthodoxy, from the Greek for "right belief", demands adherence to certain articles of faith as a necessary part of how the individual participates in the religion. If one does not accept and believe that Jesus is the literal Son of God, for example, one cannot participate in some forms of Christianity, and may be excommunicated. It's more important that action - that belief is more significant in terms of the ultimate goals of the faith than being a good person. A good atheist will go to hell, they say, while a bad believer will still go to heaven.
Other faiths take a more orthoprax approach, very common in modern paganism, folk religion, and other religious traditions derived from ancient faiths. Contrary to the focus on belief, orthopraxy focuses on the correct action. Usually, this is specifically correct performance of various rituals, but it can apply to a focus on correct action, as seen in some forms of Buddhism and Taoism.
Generally, every faith can be described in terms of one of these categories, depending on where the focus of the faith lies. Those that place emphasis on belief, ideology, and faith are orthodox, in a general sense, and those that focus on behaviors, practice, and ritual are orthoprax.
The Way of Spirits, however, is neither. Both ideology and practice take a back seat to the relationship, which means that it cannot be orthodox or orthoprax. Certainly there are important understandings of the world and practices to follow, but the relationship with the People is always the priority.
Since orthodoxy and othopraxy don't define the Way, another term had to be created: orthoskhesis. Orthoskesis is the idea that the most significant feature of a religious path is establishing and maintaining healthy relationships. There are certain forms of Christianity can be considered orthoskhesic, what with their focus on establishing a relationship with Jesus and/or God. The same applies to some forms of paganism, where the focus is not on observance of rituals, but on how one relates to the Gods.
Arguably the largest confusion about orthoskhesis concerns the nature of who defines what counts as "correct" when it comes to describing the relationship. Orthodoxy and orthopraxy both generally appeal to an outside source of some kind - orthodoxy often defers to some sacred text, such as the Bible, while orthopraxy frequently follows the guidance of "tradition" or historic precedent. Reconstructionist Paganism, for example, is highly (and contentiously) orthoprax.
Orthoskhesis generally does not appeal to an outside source of any kind - the definition of a healthy relationship depends on the People involved, not on the judgements of anyone outside the relationship. To some people, gay relationships are inherently unhealthy, for example, but to the individuals actually involved, this is far from true. What individuals outside the relationship define as a correct relationship is not relevant to the focus of the spirituality.
It is certainly possible for the People involved to be be misguided, codependent, or otherwise unhealthy and not recognize it, and it is important to listen to and consider carefully others' concerns about a relationship (particularly in abusive and codependent varieties). Some relationships can seem extremely unhealthy from the outside, but still be healthy and correct for those involved. Dominant/submissive relationships, for example, can be extremely healthy, particularly because these relationships often come with intense self-reflection and communication. Ultimately, the important distinction is not on whether the relationship is healthy or not, and what that is, but that a healthy relationship is the goal.
When talking about orthodoxy, there is no goal of belief - one either does or does not believe. In orthopraxy, there is a bit more leeway, but there is still a benchmark for what qualifies as right behavior, even if that benchmark may be somewhat vague (the Wu Wei of Taoism, for example, is not entirely explicit, and cannot be). But there is no definition of what qualifies as a correct relationship with a non-physical entity, and even if there were, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to know if the relationship met those requirements.
In the end, no one can say but those in the relationship, and that's that.
No matter where you go in the pagan / magical / metaphysical / occult realm, there seems to be a near universal hatred of anything plastic. No plastic objects in my magical tools, to plastic in my altar tools, and so on. I do get it - there are definitely ecological issues where plastic is involved (or rather, our use of plastic is the problem), and energetically, it's not the most inspiring. It's kind of like having a spiritual connection to cockroaches - not really the most sexy and inspiring.
Here's the thing, though - amber is a polymerized organic resin, which isn't really any different form the organic polymers that we call plastics. And amber is definitely recognized as a powerful stone - it's part of many traditional pieces of sacred jewelry. Amber and Jet are traditional components of Wiccan clerical jewelry, for example. So clearly, it's not really about it composition, as some suggest.
It's actually very clearly about "Nature", which is probably better described as "wilderness". I am "Natural" despite the many, Many unnatural substances I've put in. Twinkies are delicious. Joking aside, how is my car not natural? There is no component in it that did not come from nature. The steel - man-made transformations and alloys. Headlights made from carbon, aluminum, silica, and so on. The plastic is just one more component sourced and transformed in the same way as any wooden wand. Well, maybe with a bit less ceremony and a bit more legality.
"Nature" and wildness are definitely a hot-button issue, but there's a lot of confusion and conflation going on here. And a good bit of not thinking very deeply. It's not difficult to recognize the damage that human activity has done to the environment - we're confronted with it daily, but all the most pessimistic scientists and "green warriors". The problem I have here (really, it's fodder for a series of posts on ecological activism I have planned) is that humans are not the only being affecting the environment in drastic ways. Pine beetles. Elk in Yosemite, and the wolves that were missing (admittedly, due to human intervention) that allowed those elk to transform the paths of rivers. Volcanoes! Humans are not the only beings to affect the environment, and to get upset about every tiny thing humans do is to miss the point of how nature works. Invasive species may be terrible now, but in the end, aren't they just another species that's fitting more than current species?
All of which is mostly irrelevant when it comes to plastic. Ultimately, there's a feel to plastic that is not as enagaged and immanent and natural as any given stone or piece of wood. And there's a reason for that.
Consider where plastic comes from - there are many different sources. Petrochemicals is a common source, and the issues that apply to that source, in the big metaphysical picture, apply to most if not all of the other sources (most of which are renewable - so the unnatural and damaging to the environment arguments don't apply as strongly). Essentially, petrochemicals come from petroleum, and where does that come from?
The whole freaking mesozoic era!
Okay, maybe not, mesozoic - I'm not really clear on which eras and such are involved. But it does come from plankton and plenty of other plantular (It's a word, I promise. No, really!) beings in Nature, and formed by natural processes. The only humanity involved in raw petroleum is the getting of it.
Which means that humanity's involvement is the only real objection here - humans were involved, and therefore it's "eeeevil". As we've seen, that's not a valid argument, as we're far from the only being or forces involved in the transformation of the world. Even crows know how to use tools, and most animals have an impact on the environment for both good and bad. When you start to dig, there's really only one argument that seems to hold up.
It just doesn't feel right.
That's valid - we can't argue people's experience and feelings. Okay, it doesn't feel "alive" or powerful, that's fine. But why is that, when other very-chemically-similar substances like amber do feel powerful?
My thought is that the issue here, beyond being a noticeably human-derived substance, is that not only has there been centuries of time to transform them, we're talking about essentially all plant life from a huge time period. If you took a substance derived from the trees that lives in the last 100,000 years - do you think there'd be much in the way of specificity? Could you relate to the Wight of every plant for last 100 millennia? I bet not.
And that's part of the problem, when it comes to plastic. It's too generic, too broad a scope. Usually, when we charge an object, we're holing and looking at a specific chunk of history, specific Wights connected to specific and concrete physical items. but when we hold a piece of plastic, even if we're certain of it's origins, we're still considering a Wight that is composed of millions, Billions, TRILLIONS of of other Wights. Placing a charge on any given plastic doodad is equivalent to trying to enchant the whole freaking planet for all time. No wonder we don't feel so much energy. Anything we apply to it, any enchantments or charging we might do is spread across a huge numbers of beings.
It's not that plastic doesn't hold a charge. The problem is that the charge is spread across trillions of Wights. One person's efforts, maybe a dozen, won't have very much impact, would they, spread that thin? And what about Amber then? Well, amber comes from one specific tree, so... not trillions of beings. Well, not trillions times trillions of beings.
What do you think? Does this answer the plastic conundrum?
NOTE: News at bottom
In any Animistic / Polytheistic / Magical practice, spirit communication is vital - it's difficult (if not impossible) to establish relationships without it. Every teacher out there notes this, but very few offer any sort of guidance about how to go about it for the beginner or lay practitioner. You're very often left to muddle through on your own, by reading confusing books, perusing unclear and contradictory blogs, and learning from your own mistakes. That approach works, but makes things so much more complex and difficult than they need to be. It does a disservice to anyone trying to learn how to work with spirits on a regular basis. I firmly believe in learning from experience, someone else's if at all possible.
Because of this and how important this is to me, I'm making a gift to the community, to be shared far and wide. I'm offering a FREE course in Spirit Contact - why to do it, how it's been done, and how you can do it on your own, regardless of any other traditions you may or may not follow. More importantly, while there is a tradition underpinning the methods I'll teach, they're neither culturally rooted (no worried about appropriation) nor frozen. The method is as much an example of how to go about creating your own method as it is a ready-to-use methodology.
Some of the topics I will address:
- historic and global methods of spirit contact and divination
- a simple non-Classical elemental system underpinning the method, the Tellbones
- how to build your own system and elaborate on it
- how to adapt the Tellbones to your own traditions
- learning how to use the Tellbones to talk with spirits
- finding your spirit court or family
- the art of accessories, including additional tools and recipes that may prove useful
- how to develop rites and strengthen contact with your spirits
- avoiding self-delusion and how to verify your UPG
I will post lessons every other week, and will answer questions as long as there are questions to answer. When the course is complete, I'll compile everything together and make it available going forward, always for free, in the hope that it will help anyone who needs it or is interested.
So share at will! Let everyone know!
NOTE: So... the reason Lesson 5 hasn't come out yet is that I lost the thumb drive I had everything on. All my notes. I was hoping it would show up, which is why I haven't said anything for ages.
And it's good I waited! I still don't know where it went (I suspect a kitten moved it under some furniture) but I DID find my notes saved elsewhere!
Bad news - I have to rewrite lesson 5 from scratch (bleargh) and I don't have momentum, so... until I can work up the gumption or find inspiration, it will probably be a little longer.