Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Of Magick and Madness....

Merry Meet Family and Friends!

As Pagans, we face an odd sort of dilemma. Some people think we're crazier than a bag of rats! And for some of us, that might actually be true...or not. Therein lies the dilemma!

Here's what I mean. If a Pagan friend tells me that a decision or behavior was guided by their personal Deity, in all likelihood, I would accept it at face value. Pagan or not, I find nothing at all unusual about someone saying that they were influenced by Divine Intervention. However, there's a huge difference between hearing from our Gods as flashes of intuition or inspiration and you know, actually HEARING from them! If the communication with one's Deities comes in the form of actual auditory or visual manifestations....Houston, we may have a problem!

I will tell you a true story of a Pagan gentleman, an intelligent, accomplished professional, who began to complain that his "Spirit Guides" were becoming bothersome to him. His partner, did exactly what I would have done, accepted this as part of his charm and spiritual personality. He would often say things like, "this rock told me it wants to live on my altar" or "that tree is feeling sad". Ok, well, nothing wrong there. Shamans communicate with nature elements all the time. And I mean seriously, how many times has a piece of chocolate looked you square in the face and said, "Eat Me".

Unfortunately, as his behavior became increasingly bizarre, it became apparent that his communications with the Gods were actually hallucinations and he was in the midst of psychotic break! For even those closest to him, the reaction was the same, "Who knew?!".

Obviously, this kind of thing is not exclusive to Pagans. I just believe that some behaviors are much easier to overlook amongst Pagans because we are so accepting of diversity in beliefs, even within our own community. What the outside world might consider bizarre behavior, is perfectly reasonable to us. Rituals, Magick, casting spells, sharp and pointy ceremonial knives, are all things that are common to our practice.

I recently read the symptoms of a diagnosed schizophrenic who would see signs in everything in nature. Ok, well, I look for signs and omens all the time. The difference, I believe, is not that we perceive signs, but how profoundly those signs impact on our daily lives. I might see a smiley face on a broken candle, but I am also able to distinguish that it only "looks" like a smiley face. It may also just be a broken candle that is dripping wax. I prefer to look at it as a sign, but am also open to all the more mundane possibilities. The number "13", black cats, walking under ladders, broken mirrors? These are all "signs" that are commonly accepted as ominous in our culture and yet, to perceive them as such is not considered a symptom of mental instability, but merely superstition.

As occultists, our sanity is often open to the scrutiny of those who are plagued by fear and misconceptions about what we actually do. I'm sure that those very same individuals would be more than a little surprised to learn that, in some Wiccan circles (no pun intended), having undergone psychological counseling is actually a requirement. Health of mind, body and spirit is a fundamental part of what makes us Pagans.

Our minds are capable of manifesting miracles or plunging us into the depths of despair. I believe that the healthiest among us are those who have mastered the skill of walking that fine line between both Worlds.

In Darkness, Light!!



Maggi said...

I am always asking myself to redefine madness as my understanding of reality changes. I think the main difference between a gifted psychic or shaman and a scitzophrenic is whether or not they understand what is useful information and what might be fantasy and also if they can function in society. If they are able to take care of themselves and their health, do normal things like driving a car and holding down a job, etc, then its okay. You have to know when to put a boundary up and what is appropriate for the situation. For example, if I have a psychic experience at work, I'm not going to talk about it at work or interrupt my job to follow the fairies. That's not the right time or place. A lot of crazy people are connected to the other side and actually do have real information. Most of the time, though, they don't know the difference between gibberish and useful information. Its all about control, filters, and context.

Deborah said...

There's a lot of literature on the relationship between schizophrenia and the religious experience. It's certainly not unique to Paganism. It is common for a schizophrenic to hear messages from God or the Devil or whatever. There is definitely something to the connection between the edges of sanity and spiritual vision.

If this person was a Christian who had messages from Jesus instead of from spirit guides, it would have been equally vague as to whether there was anything wrong.

I love the quote from Network: "It's not a psychotic break, it's a cleansing moment of clarity."

As Maggi says, you should be able to interpret the difference between ordinary reality and vision, and you should be able to function and be happy.

Tracy said...

Ray and I were just discussing whether or not those with severe mental disabilities are actually processing too much psychic information to cope with all the everyday stimulation of their normal environment.

After all, just because we can't hear them when someone tells us their rocks are talking to them, doesn't mean they're not!

My experience with my job and intuitive information has been a little different. I have shared psychic information with the physicians that actually ended up saving a patient's life or at times, avoided a potentially serious complication. That said, as medical professionals, many are not open to the information. I've been lucky (and obviously, so was the patient) that I was dealing with a doctor who was actually willing to put logic aside and listen.

My current boss often "outs" me to our patients by telling them, "Tracy's a Witch. You better take your medication or she put a spell on your house". Sheesh!!

SeeThroughGreen said...

lol! put a spell on their house! thats awesome lol!
I see what you mean about the issues surrounding the Pagan community.
I know that in my life, only a few people know that I am a pagan and they accept it for what it is...a nature based religion, a personal choice and a spiritual path...but sometimes other people find out or I tell them just in conversation and after that they seem to look at me like I have 3 heads. It isnt the norm but it does happen...and so do the pointing fngers, the declarations of satanism and the whole shebang.
I dont act differently or look any more strange than your average young adult and I dont throw it in your face but just saying, "Im a pagan" tends to send people into panic attacks about the state of your soul, your mental stability and your right to coexist in society...
I think their the unstable ones.

spottedwolf said...

the voices the voices.....OH drat it all.....now I'm melting....Oh see what you've done you horrid little girl....oh what a world what a world.....

The interesting part to me is where so-called sanity.....crosses with so-called rationality....erupting from a consensual desire. A mere 'shade' of difference labels one culture correct by its consensus and another insane. Common christian theme, as example, says suicide is a sin but the old warrior creed in all mid-eastern traditions sees it as heroism. I wrote "Bridge of Darkness" on this issue. It was the night I threw the gods out with the bath water.......hahahahahahahahahHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA INSANE CACKLING ETAL !!!!!

ARIE said...

Hi Tracy,
This is a very interesting post. I like it.
There is indeed a very thin veil between personal reality and imagination.
But I can know when a certain experience is real to me or not.
When I'm in a state of awareness, in balance and with expanded attention, then I can be attuned to all there is. We are all part of the divine and when attuned to the right wave length we can be exposed to mystery.
We are all the time getting messages. But do we listen?
Some practices can tell us that we are not imagining. For example:
Aspecting or also known as Drawing down the Moon. In deep aspecting a deity speaks through you. This is real. You may remember it all, something or nothing at all. For this reason the friend calling deity into you takes notes of what you say and do. This friend needs also to be very experienced, in order to bring you back and help you ground the enormous amount of energy still within you.
Then there is Shape shifting. When I shape shift into a tree or animal I can communicate with them.
It is like entering a forest like an animal and not like an human. The birds will not alarm the other animals and you can get very close to them.
Of course I can not at my job tell them that I speak to plants and animals. That I get messages from the Divine because I'm part of the Divine. I'll have to close my chakras a little and not leave them wide open. I'll have to concentrate on driving otherwise I'll end up going to summerland.
Regarding rocks I did not communicate with them yet. It is never too late... :-))

Margaret said...

We are indeed able to "see" things.
In yoga philosophy it is a natural occurrence that manifests itself to enlightened yogis.

nacken3 said...

I'm comfortable with myself. I know that I'm sane. But I mistakenly mentioned qi/energy within the hearing of a doctor and now seem to have "suffers from delusion." in my medical file. Medicine as it now stands is rather narrow. But there seems to be a medicalization of different areas of our lives that I think is inappropriate. I'm functional and have healthy relationships. That is what seems to count.

When someone mentions that my polytheistic beliefs are cuckoo, then I just mention how many people considered sane and pillars of the community believe that 2,000 years ago there was a man born of a virgin, who raised the dead, walked on water, and was resurrected himself after being dead three days. That tends to put it in a different light for them usually.

Tracy ~The UnOfficial Witch of Ridgewood said...

Merry Meet Nacken3!

LOL! Thanks for your comment!

I can tell you that I have been on the receiving end of many a strange look when I've mentioned "energy" in the presence of members of the medical community.

You would have probably enjoyed the how alarmed my husband's surgeon was when he walked in to find me practicing Reiki on him after his surgery!

I am happy and secure in my beliefs and in my life. It's not my job to convince anyone else of my sanity or the validity of my beliefs, anymore than it's necessary for them to convince me of theirs.

What I do find utterly amusing however, is when life isn't going well for those people who question my sanity, they will often ask me to practice magick for them. It's fine, I don't mind. That's part of what I believe too.