Doubts are ugly. My doubts are so monstrously ugly. Now that I’m penning this down, I’m feeling somewhat better, but the last couple of days have been unpleasant. Unpleasant, and riddled with doubt. But what I’m feeling from Loki right now, is that He insists I take a good, long look. Even if it is ugly and, as the case may be, blasphemic. But I know I cannot hurt Him with this, and all I’m feeling from Him is, “Bring it on.” (actually, He made a scat joke there, but that doesn’t work in English).
Am I talking to the wall in my living room? To thin air? To a figment of my imagination? I’m sitting in the dark, shouting into a vastness, and am I hearing more than my own echo? Really?
While others are contemplating questions about how individual and separate the Gods are, I’m wracking my brains (and my heart) over questions about the very existence of the Gods.
Not: is Loki an aspect of Odin?
Not: are Loki and Odin both, and likewise every other God and Goddess, “expressions” of some original, monolithic, feature-less divine Being, “God”?
Not: am I possibly talking to another Deity?
Not: am I possibly talking to another kind of spirit entity (tulpas, thoughtforms, egregore)?
Not: do the Gods exist, as opposed to: does “God” exist?
The question is: Do the Gods exist or is the world materialistic.
Of course, those are not the only options, but those are the options that matter to me at the moment. If the Gods exist, then all my personal experience seems to imply that They are indeed distinguishable and individual — though as a matter of course (!!) I do not intend to criticise anyone who is making different experiences and whose opinion therefore differs. Please, let no one mistake me for a religious fundamentalist of the polytheistic flavour.
If, on the other hand, They do not exist, I must ask myself: would that make a difference to me? If They are only figments of imagination, albeit very complex, elaborate, long-lived and collective figments… would that change things for me?
And the answer to that specific question must be: YES. Very much so, in fact.
My whole mystic relationship with Loki would not make sense anymore. Perhaps I could take-away some of its benefits. But the relationship itself would be utterly devoid of meaning — because a collective figment of the imagination does not have interests, and a collective figment of the imagination does not feel. A collective figment of the imagination does not feel one thing in particular: Love. And a mystic relationship is, at its core, a love relationship.
But this also means: no one should ask me whether the Gods exist and expect an unbiased perspective, because I am biased. Boy, am I biased. Too much depends on the answer to that question for me to be able to give you an unbiased stance.
That is more than most hard polytheists, and among those, the mystics in particular, are going to admit. But that circumstance doesn’t make it less true. Every spirit worker, every priest, etcetera, has infinitely much to lose where the possibility of the non-existence of the Gods is concerned. Those people may emphasise how much work they’re being asked to do, and how not all of it is pleasant to do, all they want. That doesn’t change the fact that each and every one of them is in a love relationship with a Deity, or several. That doesn’t change the fact that they are biased. All of them.
And thus, the “evidence” I have seen thus far, is nothing but statistical play by people who, for the most part, are not experts in statistics, or neuroscience, or psychology. It’s statistical child play by people who have, for the most part, have never heard of “selective reporting bias”, or the “law of large numbers”. Statements are made about the improbability of certain events (in the purest form, omens) that would not hold up to statistical scrutiny based on the small sample size alone. These are, in consequence, statistics that lose whatever significance is claimed, as soon as common statistical measures of quality are applied.
Alongside the comparably long list of omens and synchronistic events I’ve heard of, there is a very small number of accounts of seemingly impossible things happening: dancing candles, or candles that arrange themselves in neat rows can be found in this category, and bouncing washing machines (switched off, of course). Flickering streetlights, I believe. Bouncing washing machines, I do not believe, unless I see them bounce with my own eyes.
I also believe, for instance, that people forget what they told when and to whom. Likewise, I believe that people forget what they heard when and from whom. I believe that a large part of “telepathy” or “thought-transfer” simply has to do with how and when this happens, and with how such information is subconsciously processed by the receiver.
Whether thought-transfer actually exists? Whether such thought-transfer happens from a Deity to a human being? It would depend on the existence of the Deity. But to assume Their non-existence would not render the experience of someone suddenly knowing certain details about one’s life impossible or unexplainable.
What, then, does remain in the end? The usual indignant fuss that invested people make when you ask them, “say, how do you know that <Deity X> even exists?”
The following tidbid recently happened on tumblr:
Person A (to B): “How do you know that <Deity X> exists?”
Person B: “How do you know gravity exists?”
With their reaction, however, the piqued party only demonstrates their own bias, and arguably, their sheer inexhaustible capacity to silence their own rationality. Certainly, tumblr isn’t the be-all and end-all to rational behaviour. But one needn’t look far to find that exact same sentiment reflected elsewhere. Tumblr just happens to be less long-winded about it.
People who don’t acknowledge that the existence of the Gods may forever be unknowable (computer scientists speak of undecidable problems), are, with high probability, deluding themselves. They’re ignoring the fact that there is no scientifically tenable evidence for said existence. And they’re especially ignoring how powerful our brain really is.
An interesting article I’ve read on a related topic recently, e.g., points out how our brain changes when we perform intense prayer. The interesting point isn’t that our brain changes — that is according to my expectation and unsurprising, really. The most interesting part of the article, to me, is where it points out that it is completely irrelevant whether this prayer occurs in a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or even a non-theistic context (e.g., via meditation).
According to that, therefore, mystic experience not only looks alike from religion to religion (which, for some religions, probably is quite the blow already), but in fact, a God-Being is not necessary for mystic experience at all.
That doesn’t mean that the Gods do not exist. It simply means that our brain is demonstrably capable of ecstatic mystic experience, completely without any Gods. It means that even our subjective experience is not significant as “proof” — and that holds even if that proof is understood to be purely subjective and valid for no-one but ourselves.
And now, what do I do now? I know that assertions of the form “but I know that the Gods exist, and rest assured <Deity X> is hearing you” are not going to help. I know that omens are not going to help (in fact, I tried, and omens were present but certainty was not). Unless of course my washing machine starts bouncing or my candles rearrange themselves in a neat row without me touching them.
My spirituality and religion has brought me much good in a relatively short amount of time. I have learned a lot. Today, even on a bad day riddled with doubt, I’m less depressive than two years ago, or five, or even twenty-five. My mystic relationship has enriched my life very much, although I also have experienced loss over it.
In the beginning of this year, my main “work area” was taking my leave of wanting to go back. But what is following now? The fear of having to go back? It seems to look that way.
P.S.: In the meantime, as I stated in the beginning, I’m better. The ugliest part of my doubt is over, and doubt is now again something I carry in my head, but not necessarily in my heart.
P.P.S.: I continued doing my devotionals during the time. I owed at least a try.
P.P.P.S.: in case anyone is asking what it is in the end that I believe: I believe that Loki exists and that I am in fact in interaction and in relationship with Him; however, I acknowledge that this is not provable, or its exact nature is unknowable. It’s called agnostic (poly)theism.
P.P.P.P.S.: Doubt is allowed and must be allowed.
P.P.P.P.P.S.: It seems like I won’t be caught arguing ad consequentiam any time soon. (Ad consequentiam denominates a fallacy of the form “A has unpleasant consequences, therefore A is false”). I’ll rather look stupid to other God-touched people.