Religion and Spirituality can be a powerful and empowering part of our lives leading us into a greater relationship with the Divine-as-we-comprehend-it, and with a greater and healthier relationship with our truest selves and with the world around us.
Religion and Spirituality can be a running away from our lives, our unhappiness, our personal responsibility; escapism of the most dangerous and seductive sort.
The Choice is ours.
The idea that religion and spirituality can be either a Liberation or Escapism is not particularly new, but I think it is an important one to discuss within the Pagan faiths. One of the toughest lessons for me to learn early in my own journey as a Witch and Pagan was that folks come to religion for a wide variety of reasons, some of them having little to do with faith or religious devotion/experience; and I had to unlearn my own half-formed idea that Paganism was somehow insulated from this phenomenon.
It is not.
There are so many folks who seem to dive into the more mystical or magic oriented ends of the contemporary Pagan spectrum blinded by the shiny ideas of magic, and especially spells, and power over ones world without seeming to acknowledge that magic is 25% learning the connections between self and symbol and reality,25% learning and growing into a new perception of the world around us through understanding those connection, 25% changing our relationships and interactions and growing in personal power and will and coming to a greater understanding of ones True Will as a result of these new understanding and perceptions, and 25% miracle and mystery.
All too often Magic is reduced to spells and sparkle; rather than the powerful folk parapsychology that it can be.
Then you have folks for whom some piece of their own particular paths narrative is an escape from the current day or their own unhappiness. The ones who dive into inaccurate history and a wildly a-historical personal mythological narrative; AND the ones who zero in on one particular era of history in their reconstruction and decry any other interpretation of the Gods and faith from before or after that particular era, or who embrace even the most repellent prejudices or bigotries of that specific culture at that specific time.
In my own spiritual journey I had the recent realization that a big part of why I ended up wandering off the Witchy and Pagan path for some years was related to the issues of Liberation and Escapism.
Even though I could see and perceive and experience the many ways in which the practice of my spirituality and faith as a Witch were leading me to greater personal strength and a deeper understanding of myself and a healthier relationship with the world around me… at the same time I was not dealing with the mundane issues at work in my life, like dissatisfaction with work and living in a bad housing situation and so many of the other planes of stability as Thorn has labeled them in her writing and teaching…. so even as I pursued the Liberation of my self and spirit, I was also using that pursuit as an Escape rather than confronting those things that I was seeking escape from!
Liberation and Escapism, embracing and wrestling with one another, like the Divine Twins from the Feri Tradition lore.
My mind turns to the Yin-Yang symbols, or to the DNA double Helix two strands interwoven and interconnected. Liberation is not all good nor is escapism entirely bad. Without a strong and stable and healthy grounding in the everyday and mundane all the spiritual and magical and religious Liberation in the world is only going to send you into some far off extreme of disconnection and fantasy…right into the arms of Escapism. At the same time, Escapism is the thinnest of lines and the shortest of steps difference from the Refuge or safe harbor that one can find on the spiritual path in the tumults of the world.
I think the key is in there somewhere… Is my path to Liberation grounded in stability? Is my spirituality a safe harbor from the tumults of the world, a safe place to go to for a time, or is it mere Escapism – a running away from things that scare or worry or intimidate me that I must turn around and face?
I keep asking myself that and keep doing my spiritual work around that.