Your Spiritual Vision Quest
"Suffering alone brings no vision, nor does courage, nor does sheer will
power. A vision comes as a gift born of humility, of wisdom, and of patience. If from your vision quest you have learned nothing
but this, then you have already learned much. Think about it." --
from "The Vision Quest" by Lame Deer
Lame Deer's tale is about a Vision Quest, a rite of passage for many Native
Americans. You don't have to be Native American to go on a Vision Quest, and a Vision Quest doesn't have to be a single event
in a person's life. Our personal Vision Quest can be a continuous journey, a process in which we try to become more aware
and enlightened, a quest to perfect our spiritual selves.
Sometimes we fail to learn important lessons because we think we have learned
so much that we have become an authority on a subject. This is a dangerous assumption, especially when it comes to matters
of the spirit. Life seldom lives up to our expectations if we are inflexible and unwilling to look for the hidden meaning
behind appearances. A little humility is essential so we don't take what is seen at face value and become blinded to the gaps
in our knowledge.
We must also avoid thinking that because we see things a certain way, that
is the only way to see them. Different perspectives can yield quite different views, and putting as many perspectives on a
subject together as possible can reveal much more of the whole truth. Ask others what they think -- you may find words of
wisdom from the most unexpected sources.
Always remember that learning is a journey, not a destination:
"Now that we know what we know, there is so much more we need to know...life
is truly a journey and a blessing." ~ Paul Signorino
The Love that Moves the Sun
In his book, God: A Guide for the Perplexed, author Keith Ward has written about the development of religion -- from the god-worship of the Sumerians, through
the Greeks, the Hebrews, and up to early Christianity. He finds common themes throughout cultures, and reveals many surprises
about the origins of various items of modern dogma. In the chapter, "The Love that Moves the Sun," he discusses the problems
that occur when religious law dominates society and the history of how man has struggled to determine essential rules for
living and to find a balance in applying them. In his examination of religious law vs. secular morality, he finds that answering
the underlying question of why we were created to be essential to determining the purpose of our lives:
"In early Sumerian myths, the gods made humans to take on the hard work
of tilling the fields so that they could feed the gods. This sounds rather crude, as if the gods needed food that only humans
could provide. However, it is unlikely that the ancient Sumerians lacked the intelligence to notice that the gods never really
ate the food they placed on the altars. It is clear that the offering of food in sacrifice was basically a symbolic act, not
a literal feeding. The 'work' humans had to do was to till the fields, to make the earth productive, to care for the environment
and render it fruitful for life. 'Feeding the gods' is a way of saying that the gods give humans the responsibility for caring
for the earth and making it fruitful. Then, out of that abundance, produced by human effort, some of the fruits -- in the
form of corn or cattle -- would be offered to the gods, as token of thankfulness and loyalty, but also as a sign that the
gods, as a token of thankfulness and loyalty, but also as a sign that the proper human work of making the earth fruitful had
been carried out.
The ancient Hebrews agreed with the Sumerians that the gods made humans
to cultivate the earth and make it fruitful. But there might be another reason for making humans... While God might not need
food, and might not need human help in achieving the divine purposes, perhaps there is a sense in which God needs, or at least
desires, companionship or personal relationship.
Why do human beings have children? Sometimes by accident, of course. But
many actually choose to have these noisy, troublesome, irritating entities. We don't have children so that they can be our
slaves, or to bring us food. We have them very largely because they help us to express an important part of our natures, which
is the ability to care for and enjoy the personalities of others. We care about them, the way they grow, their interests and
difficulties, their pleasures and pains, and the complicated ways in which they interact with us. We express our love in helping
other little persons to grow and develop in their own way, while sharing their own lives freely with us and letting us help
them to become themselves."
Maybe then, the author writes, we should not consider ourselves as slaves
to the gods, but that we are their children. He writes that we are "beings who enable God to express love in helping us, watching
us develop our own natures, and taking pleasure in the good experiences we have in our little lives."
"That is why God cares about what we do -- because, like any good parent,
God wants us to be ourselves, to grow and flourish and live well as human persons. Being moral, therefore, is a matter of
obeying God, and finding our proper fulfillment in helping to realise the divine purposes. Naturally, fairness and neighborly
love are essential parts of such a morality. But there is more to it, and the most important part of the good life is to grow
in relationship with God, to feel and know and be filled to overflowing with the love of God."
How does this affect us as Pagans? Well, for one thing, it shows us that
it isn't enough to know the phases of the moon, the signs of the Zodiac, and what crystal corresponds to what energy. We need
to cultivate an understanding of the qualities of the gods and goddesses we worship, and to cultivate those qualities within
ourselves. If love isn't the dominant quality we find, we should rethink who we are worshipping, unless we want to perpetuate
the stale tradition of being merely slaves to our gods. We don't worship Yahweh, the Hebrew god, and therefore, aren't obligated
to observe the Hebrew laws handed by him to Moses (the ten commandments are only a small part of those law), but we are still
under moral obligation to fulfill the purpose we were created for.
As modern people, we have the benefit of hindsight, we are gifted with
knowledge of the multitudes of people who came before us, and empowered to examine their gods and goddesses and how they were
worshipped. We've rejected the lack of acknowledgment of the feminine and our place in nature within the strict monotheism
of Judaism and Christianity -- but what good is it to simply try to re-enact the worship of the gods and goddesses of our
ancestors? We should learn from them and apply their wisdom to our lives, but we must accept that we are modern people and
embrace evolution. Their ways had their limitations too!
We are free -- not to keep repeating rituals 'as they've always been done,'
for that is not freedom -- to evolve. We have freedom to adapt the knowledge of the ancestors to our own belief systems, to
incorporate modern worship solutions in light of evidence of how ancient beliefs and acts fell short of giving our ancestors
love, peace, and prosperity. the things we hope to achieve. We can take what is valuable within old traditions and discard
ideas which are limiting, self-destructive, or harmful to others -- just as we have in our rejection of monotheism. We are
free to discover new ways to apply old values in order to achieve our full potential and find self-fulfillment with consideration
of our place in the world.
We can have the best of all worlds.
-- Cat, the Editor
God: A Guide for the Perplexed, written
by Keith Ward, Oneworld Publications, Oxford, England, 2002