D.O.U.B.T.

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.

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About Myriad

Myriad Hallaug Lokadís
This entry was posted in Communication and Communion, Loki, Polytheism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to D.O.U.B.T.

  1. lofnbard says:

    I have made the same thought journey of though you have, but came to a different conclusion: Even if they did not exist, I would still choose to live my life the same way. They bring my life meaning and purpose.
    I use this doubt about their existence as a reality check. Does this action they propose bring anyone any harm, assuming the Gods don’t exist? If the answer is no, then I am free to do it because it doesn’t matter. If the answer is yes, then I question the identity of the spirit and the content of the message, because there’s a good chance I got it wrong.
    Our culture values confidence and certainty, but the people with absolute faith who are devoid of doubt are the scariest folks you’ll ever meet. There is no reasoning with them. I value my doubt, it is a tool and an advisor that lets me change old beliefs into better ones. Doubt is a better path to truth than certainty.
    As Doctor Who said, “In the end we’re all stories.” Shared stories and great characters bring people together and inspire them to lead good and meaningful lives. Even if that’s all they are, the Gods are still relevant, because the stories our culture lives and die by truly suck. We need better stories, so that when we die, we too will be better stories. Even in a materialistic world without spirits, the fame of the noble dead does not die.

    • Myriad says:

      Hello Lofnbard,

      thanks for the encouragement, and sorry for the delay — I was a little too tired yesterday when you commented.

      It’s difficult for me to reply to this because, in some points, I think we’re just going to disagree… foremost the point about the relevance about the Gods as stories. I agree with you in that They would be relevant, but I cannot ignore the fact that it would invalidate my relationship… which makes that kind of doubt crippling. The main problem is that I lose rationality when it comes to that. I doubt the existence of the Gods in my head all the time. ALL the time. But usually, I don’t feel the doubt. It’s just something I know is there, but I feel and act as if, for all intents and purposes, I know They exist. The moment that happens it’s very hard (so far, impossible) for me to be positive at all about any of it, even if “objectively”, there is merit.

      In all other points, I think we’re basically in agreement. The sanity check thing is definitely sane and useful, thanks for pointing it out!

      the people with absolute faith who are devoid of doubt are the scariest folks you’ll ever meet. There is no reasoning with them. I value my doubt, it is a tool and an advisor that lets me change old beliefs into better ones. Doubt is a better path to truth than certainty.

      If I were Christian, I’d say Amen to that. But that kinda doesn’t jive, so I’ll just say I heartily agree, and I do think that more people thinking like that would make the world a more peaceful place.

      • lofnbard says:

        I chose prayers to Sigyn, written by someone else, for my morning and bedtime prayers. One is because I wanted to pray to the Goddess of Constancy to get more discipline in my practice, as I’ve never before managed daily prayers. The other is that in the morning and before crashing I’m too sleepy to believe in anything, It’s about doing it even when I don’t feel love for the gods, have any rational thoughts, or any surety about their existence. But I do it anyway. Her holding the bowl is a powerful story of “doing it” even when you’re too crazed, doubtful and exhausted to remember why. Loving is easy when you’re feeling it, harder when you don’t.

        Doubting they exist, that they care, that my actions are worthy… yeah, I have plenty of that. Not fun. But I try to keep my concerns to things that are within my control. There’s plenty of failings to work on in those.

  2. Assuming that deities do exist, how can we be sure that mystical experiences in supposedly non-theistic contexts are actually non-theistic, and -just- a product of meditation/the human brain? Just because the person reporting the experience doesn’t believe in deities, or believes they have had 0 contact, does not mean they’re right about it being an experience devoid of deity influence. (Things I think about that make me extra-paranoid about various aspects of my life: just because I think it was MY idea, and my free choices, completely, doesn’t mean I wasn’t Influenced by Someone in some subtle fashion. This paranoia only gets worse when I think about the wide variety of spirits present in the world.)

    • Myriad says:

      Yes, that’s a valid objection. I kinda think that influencing a meditating atheist would be a dick move (in a way), but that of course doesn’t change the fact that it is entirely possible. Thing is: neither is it known. It was pointed out to me elsewhere that the problem I have with people claiming they know the Gods exist might be from differing definitions of the concept of “knowledge”.

      Anyhow, I can totally understand the free choice dilemma; I’ve been there myself, a couple of times. Going from “aaaargh, do You even exist at all?!?!” to “aaaaargh, does free will even exist at all?!?!”: the story of my life, apparently. Sounds sane, doesn’t it?

      • I have kind of a complex relationship with knowing things, and “being right,” and being comfortable with doubt, or expressing it. BEcause I would -like- certainty about things, in general; I would like if I tell someone “This is how something is,” to be correct, so as to not give them misinformation. (I would like to not look like a fool for passing on something incorrect.)

        But I also spent some years in a professional capacity where saying “This IS how things are” was a bad thing, where it was best to say, “To the best of our available sources, this seems to be the case,” and I’ve kind of picked up that kind of phrasing in general. Which is really irritating, because I’d like to feel comfortable saying “Yes, this,” instead of “Well, it appears to be this . . . ”

        There’ve been many times when I’ve crept up on a narrow definition of “know,” like you have, and I’ve always ended up really irritated by it, because it seems too narrow to be useful for most of life. How could I possibly use math, pure perfect math (I have a degree in math, but not nearly advanced enough for -this-), to prove that it is true that my parents love me? I know they do, I have always known it, it doesn’t matter if one of them has never said the words (as if saying the words would necessarily constitute truth anyway) – there’s no. way. to use math or whatever to prove that, to make it “real” knowledge. And anyway, even scientific facts are often subject to change or disposal as new information is discovered, so it seems like almost all “knowledge” ultimately ought to have the caveat, “Sources indicate this is true” rather than “This IS true.”

        So while I know spirits exist – and wow does part of me have massive trouble stating that! (the same part that believes some day I will come to my senses and move on from this) – it doesn’t bother me deeply (usually) to have no fucking idea if what I am perceiving is one of Them, or what it even -means-, or that I’m going to have to continually revise my understanding of things (it irritates me often; why can’t They just send nice clear email. Really). Really it only comes up as a problem when I think about trying to explain my life to people who aren’t already in league with spirits in some fashion. Otherwise, well, all the information I have indicates that this is true, so I behave in accordance with the best information I have. I’d drive myself actually nuts if I tried to do otherwise.

      • Myriad says:

        I have kind of a complex relationship with knowing things, and “being right,” and being comfortable with doubt, or expressing it.

        I can imagine that, although I don’t think I’ve understood how it works from what you’ve written. But I think the complexity comes with the territory of that whole reflection deal. I think I understand that you’re talking “knowledge vs doubt” and the respective act of “expressing knowledge vs expressing doubt”. I’m not really sure we’re talking about the same complex here, actually. Upon reflection, I think that the expression of knowledge and doubt really isn’t what prompted me to develop a full-blown crisis of belief. The cause for that was rooted in experience, not in expression. (Unless of course you’re criticising my expressing my doubt, but somehow I don’t believe that).

        Regardless whether or not you’re taking the same focus as I am, with what you’re saying, I’m finding it difficult to respond to your comment; I cannot help but think that well, if “to the best of my experience and/or available sources, this seems to be the case” is how you would accurately describe some circumstance, then why want to put it in certain terms? Wouldn’t that be kind of … *shrugs* … dishonest? Wouldn’t that be simply knowing that there is doubt (as in *the opposite of certainty*) but choosing not only not to express that doubt but to positively and assertively express a certainty that isn’t there? Mind, I’m still not sure whether I’ve undestood that part of your comment at all, I’m tapping around in the dark here.

        There’ve been many times when I’ve crept up on a narrow definition of “know,” like you have, and I’ve always ended up really irritated by it, because it seems too narrow to be useful for most of life.

        Isn’t it just as well (or even sounder, really), to acknowledge that your working definition of “knowledge” includes some degree uncertainty? The philosophical problem of “what can we actually know?” doesn’t go away even if you confine yourself to pure mathematical knowledge. There are problems with infinitesimal calculus that led to the biggest (I think) crisis in the history of mathematics in the early 20th century. The dispute was finally settled around the year 1930, but I seem to remember that it wasn’t in fact settled on the basis of mathematical proof proving someone right and someone else wrong, but rather: “this has gone on long enough and we have all gained significant insight here. Let’s leave it at that.”

        I’m also not suggesting we should try and prove the existence of the Gods by mathematical means. Even if it is possible (which I doubt), it would not remove the problem in the end. The only reason I mentioned math at all is to point out that we know some things with A LOT more certainty than we know the Gods exist. So, any working definition of knowledge is a question of degree rather than principle. (Although I would still venture that the principle of induction is sound, and the earth won’t after all turn out to have been flat all along). Given that argument, the concept of absolute certainty takes itself ad absurdum. However, there are significant degrees of uncertainty.

        Yes, in the end it seems I believe it’s more ethical to point out a caveat; I believe it’s misleading to express absolute certainty despite being aware that there are things that are far more certain than the circumstances about which I’m expressing said certainty — even given that absolute certainty strictly speaking is impossible.

        So while I know spirits exist – and wow does part of me have massive trouble stating that!

        Clearly, I am not understanding your definition of knowledge.

        Really it only comes up as a problem when I think about trying to explain my life to people who aren’t already in league with spirits in some fashion. Otherwise, well, all the information I have indicates that this is true, so I behave in accordance with the best information I have.

        I do envy you.

        And I have to admit: all the information that I have doesn’t actually indicate anything of the sort. It is in accordance with a hypothesis wherein such a Being as a God exists and influences my life. But that is not the only hypothesis it is in accordance with, or even the one with the fewest assumptions. Luckily for religious people all over the world, Ockham’s razor isn’t actually a formal rule, though.

        I choose to interpret the information I have according to this hypothesis and not that, but not because it is implied by the information. I choose and have chosen since all this began, to interpret it that way knowing and accepting that there is a different hypothesis that is quite possibly just as likely, or even more likely (what do humans even really understand about likelihood). I can do that for the sole reason that my heart has a stronger vote in this choice than my head has. And my head has to be okay with that.

        So yes, in a way even for me it is something I “know” from a practical point of view, but not in a way that I could in good conscience say “I know this is true”, or even “all my information indicates this”…

      • (Uh, I guess the threading stops after a while, I hope this seems somewhat sequential.)

        Expanding on the doubt/certainty/being right thing:

        “Did Bob mail that contract?”

        “Well, Jane said he did, so to the best of my knowledge, yes.”

        Or, “As far as I know, the best way to remove chocolate stains is . . . .” I could just say, “Do this,” but I haven’t tried it, let alone all the other methods, nor have I read up in detail on it, nor do I necessarily trust that the people who -claim- it is the best have done the requisite testing either!. So while I would -like- to have the apparent confidence that so many other people have, when they just say, “Oh do this, this is the best,” I’d rather let the person know that there’s more to the answer – or might be – than what I have.

        “I think that the expression of knowledge and doubt really isn’t what prompted me to develop a full-blown crisis of belief. The cause for that was rooted in experience, not in expression. ”

        Ah. :| Well, I’ve sort of taken the opposite stance from what I had as an atheist/agnostic, which was, “I am pretty sure gods don’t exist, but if I ever had sufficient experience, then I’d probably believe they do.” So, if I ever had sufficient experience to convince me spirits -don’t- exist, well, after I got done having some form of meltdown, I’d reevaluate things. I don’t expect that to happen, though. (Which is what I thought to myself as an atheist, too, /so much for that./ ha ha. ha.)

        My definition of knowing things -does- include uncertainty, because I figure most things are up for either more accuracy or total revision, but I don’t want my definition to be -so- narrow that it doesn’t work in any practical sense, or make it impossible to tell someone “I know this” except in a very tiny number of cases (and I got the sense that your definition – as well as the very strict definitions I’ve crept up on in the past – is that narrow).

        My “knowing” that non-corporeal entities exist is based on experience – although (and I find this disturbing) – I had accepted it as a truth, or at least dropped “agnostic” in favor of “hard polytheist” even before I’d had experiences. Of course I’m biased – but . . . I was biased, have been biased, for years and years and -years-. I always wanted magic to be real (I didn’t give a toss about gods), and I always felt disappointed by all the scientific explanations I read about mystical experiences and so on and so forth, even while I simultaneously thought that anyone who believed in magic, energy work, gods, ghosts, reiki, the whole lot, was delusional. I mean, science said so, everyone I trusted said so, and why would I think otherwise? Except I think I felt like the people writing these articles weren’t even considering the -possibility- of an alternative explanation, that they went into it with a bias themselves, and ~magically~ ended up showing only what they were willing to look at.

        I think that either your worldview has the axiom “noncorporeal entities exist (along with magic, “energy,” etc.)” or the axiom “these things are all purely generated by the human mind, they have no independent existence.” So, I switched axioms. Science (psych/neurology/etc. is a great way to explain loads of things, and spirits exist. Maybe someday Science will actually take that seriously and do some Science in that direction; I hear rumors that the poor string theorists may be onto something, or at least they’re eyed with suspicion as not properly scientific. Maybe “science” needs to be redefined. (Hey, I took a class in advanced geometry that taught me that you can have a totally workable system in which parallel lines DO intersect, because when you set the system up, you define them that way, and that’s no different than our system with the “normal” definition of “parallel:” we say parallel lines do not intersect because we have defined them to be that way. So why not switch axioms outside of the classroom???? This is probably a /terrible/ analogy.)

        But all that aside – while I know some of what I’ve experienced has felt little different than talking to myself, or imagining pictures for myself, some of it has been too weird, too Other, too completely fucking inexplicable – and frankly, I do not WANT a brain that could generate that shit all by itself.

        I know they exist because when I try to ineract with them, I get responses. Because too much divination has come up in line with things. Because some of those experiences, I just /knew/ at a deep level, Who/what it was I was “seeing”/feeling.

        And here I don’t mean an intellectual, “higher level” kind of knowledge, but a . . . deeper, instinctual/intuitive, body-level kind of knowledge. It was that kind of knowing/feeling that set me off on this path, when the notion that Loki was my patron just felt true. UGH that STILL MAEKS ME ANGRy (not really) because it made ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE at the time, there’s no reason it should have felt like that. (Current hypothesis is that I was influenced in some way, which is CHEaTING.) But I’ve had experiences previously, of having that knowing/feeling of rightness, of truth about something – and following that kind of feeling/knowing has 1) always paid off and 2) trying to live in denial of it has meant mental turmoil and pain.

        It’s the same kind of “knowing” that told me I’m polyamorous, that I’m queer, that I would never ever not ever, no matter what else changed, be happy in Boston. It’s a concept that, when you stop and consider it, and try to get a grasp on how you -feel- about it, not just emotionally (because I’ve had some really strong unpleasant emotions about many of those things), but in your body, too. For many of those things, once I knew the truth of things, I felt a weird mix of unhappiness (because of the implications of living in accordance with that knowledge), but also relaxed, because things made sense now. And when I considered living in denial of the knowledge, I felt emotionally way worse. Panicked, often, which is both a physical and an emotional feeling.

        Anyway.

        “Spirits exist” and “/These/ are my gods” and so on . . . suddenly life made much more sense. (I do not believe that the “simplest” answer is always one that Science – which has its own biases, as does the dominant culture and the culture our Science came from – claims is THE ONLY simplest answer. Sometimes it’s neurology/psychology/biology, absolutely. But not always. (I had this view even before reading anyone’s writing on “the filter,” just FYI.)) And it /felt/ true, in my body, despite all the thoughts I was having that pursuing this was crazy, everyone would think I was crazy to even consider it as a possibility. And the feeling it was right and true was/is bizarre and kind of nonsensical, I could not list any reasons WHY it felt that way, it just did – but I’d learned from past experiences that those feelings/knowing are better to explore and live with than to fight against. I can give you a list of reasons why “I’ll never be happy in Boston” makes sense, or why “I’m poly” made sense – but on a certain level, all those reasons seem like rationalization after the fact, trying to explain something that ultimately, I cannot explain on a higher-level, intellectual kind of way, because they are not higher-level intellectual, memory-based kinds of knowing.

        (I wouldn’t even say it’s “knowing in my heart,” because it’s bigger and deeper and more all-encompassing than that, but I think it’s the same kind of concept. It’s similar to the way you have a sudden insight into how to solve a problem, and be unable to explain -why- this is a solution, but . . . deeper, less surface/intellectual. In the land of amusing coincidences, I was just reading last night a really awesome article by Bari Mandelbaum about embodiment, and experiencing Spirit, and knowing things, through experiencing embodiment, which was great, but I was so tired I can’t remember a damn thing other than it seems relevant to this conversation.)

  3. Del says:

    I recommend reading the book “Why God Won’t Go Away” by Andrew …man, I’m spacing on his last name. Heck, if you’re a Nook owner, I can lend it to you. It is all about the neurobiology of belief and why humans are hardwired to believe in something bigger than themselves, even if it something like “Justice” or “Mercy”.

    • Myriad says:

      :) Thanks for the recommendation! I don’t have a Nook, actually, but as I was planning a larger book purchase in November anyway, I’ll add it to the list.

      I don’t suppose it’ll solve the problem, but I like to read a variety, and it definitely sounds interesting and relevant.

      It was pointed out to me that I have a very strict definition of “knowledge” and “certainty” — wherein everything that isn’t in the same certainty league as simple mathematical proof and very basic physical laws, to me, isn’t known or certain. Something that cannot be either formally deduced or empirically substantiated, I do not accept under “knowledge” as a category.

      I believe that the problems I have with people stating they “know” the Gods exist come from differences in definitions. Same person who pointed out that my definition of knowledge would, strictly speaking, produce an empty set of items, had a different working definition of knowledge, which is “I know I don’t strictly know [This Thing], but I act as though I knew”.

      Seems practical (at least more practical than my definition), and if I add “feel” to “act” then perhaps I might be getting somewhere useful to me.

      Anyhow, thanks again for the book recommendation!

  4. This reminds me of this argument I got into with an anti-theist the other month. n.b. The argument was really on his side (while I was trying to explain agnosticism to him).

    He believed that theists, of all sorts, were deluded. That psychologically, they had a disorder (of which was: religion). I kept trying and trying to explain to him that for -me- I had Gods because I had seen and experienced Them. He didn’t experience Gods, so this is why he was so a self-assured atheist. I explained that I used to try and experience and find them. I tried -hard- and after being disappointed by the lack of information (at the time) of polytheistic worship and the lack of what I consider “personal proof” for the monotheistic one/s, I gave up. I became an atheist. However, when I experienced them solidly, I could not discard what I had experienced (without breaking my sanity, I felt). So I became a polytheist.

    For myself, I have my own “proofs,” one of which being that in the two instances of a close death, I have dreamed of the person coming to me and saying goodbye the night before or right when they were dying. (In other words: I knew the morning of, my grandmother was going to die that day. In the instance of my fiance, I was told as he was dying, which happened while I was asleep.) I would have -never- been able to predict my fiance’s death (although I could have predicted my grandmother’s technically, as she had metastasized small-cell lung cancer) because his death -was purely an accident-. A fluke. He had a seizure disorder, hit his head on a dresser, and his brain bleed out (hemorrhaged). It’s much like the “loved one died in car accident, but I woke up and knew” concept.

    I will -never- be able to really prove that, of course, that it was spiritual/mystic, or the Gods, but I also feel like that’s one thing that often brings me out of doubt: there are things that have happened that I can’t explain.

    Of course, like you, I’ve had a lot of doubts. One of my big issues is when people move into my practice too much, telling me that this is how to do it, or what my fulltruar want, because I am then often faced with the issue that I simply don’t believe them. It usually runs me down a path were I cannot decide if -my- experiences are real or not (or wonder if maybe theirs isn’t) and I sometimes go into a little doubting theologically-stressed loop.

    One concept that I particularly dislike is that of “my viewpoint is the ultimatum,” especially regarding religion. When I was an atheist, many (mostly Christians) would attack me, I think expecting an anti-theist (or a gnostic atheist). I could never really understand this move because I had no real problem with others worshiping their God. I had problems, say, if they supported the fact that some churches in the DC area refused to give free coupons, vouchers, clothing, or food to the homeless until they “paid” their way by sitting in church mass. And I had a problem if they felt like being gay was wrong and needed to be “unlearned” or whatever. (Aka, the first rule of my family: you may join a religion so long as you don’t hurt yourself or others.)

    I never could really get into the arguments (one even angrily lectured me about how I was supposed to argue against his religion because I couldn’t be an atheist and believe he could have Gods–that double-sense of reality infuriated him), however it always netted in the one thing I have always believed in, and that is: variable reality.

    One of my favorite examples is to explain “reality” encased in a gemstone. You can’t really look at a gemstone all at once. I mean, literally. It’s a 3D object and that means there will always be a side unseen. However, we can all see different sides. My side may be more sloping and flat, another’s may be more curved, someone may be seeing the flat top, or the pointed bottom, or a cracked, imperfect side. And that doesn’t mean we’re NOT looking at the gemstone and that what we see isn’t valid. It just means that we’re seeing different parts of a whole. In the end, that’s how I think all of it works. Reality can hold atheists and theists alike without it blowing up; I cannot see that debate ever really being useful (really).

    I know it’s weird that I got there from doubts, but I think that’s sometimes where it comes from. What I’m looking at, this smooth orange and yellow red gemstone is grey-flecked green and pebbly to another. And when I see someone clamor on and one how it’s GREEN and GREY and ROCKY and I see smooth and fiery, I get worried that I’m dumbly, daftly staring at a piece of glass instead of the gemstone, deluding myself that I know geology. Except that really does happen (coming from a gemstone peddling family). Sometimes things are just like that and then eventually, I grow out of my doubt.

    • Myriad says:

      I tried -hard- and after being disappointed by the lack of information (at the time) of polytheistic worship and the lack of what I consider “personal proof” for the monotheistic one/s, I gave up.

      This is something I hadn’t considered before. I don’t presume I know what you mean by “try”, but the fact is: I didn’t find personal proof in Christianity — not in the same way I found-slash-am-finding it in my polytheistic religion. The second fact is: I wasn’t looking for it hard back then. Perhaps, if I had tried harder, I would have found it there, too, I am thinking, and that sort of poses the question how relevant the identity of the God-Beings is. I sometimes envy people who can say “I tried this with Christianity and I know it didn’t work for me”. It seems that those people can really say that they’ve found their path. Me, I’m just hanging in there thinking: well, my path sort of found me, I don’t know, or I’m possibly insane and deluded. [and btw right now I’m feeling very bad for implying that rationally thinking, Loki might be a delusion but that’s just the truth as I see it from my perspective.]

      There is a difference between knowledge and experience. I mean, believing in the Gods is a choice. It’s the choice you and I make to interpret our experience in some particular way. I have powerful personal experience, as I am sure you do, too. It’s sometimes powerful enough to be quite physically overwhelming. BUT I am the one who interprets those instances as pertaining to that Divine Being, Loki (or others, but the most intense experiences come from Him, so there’s that). I know that it’s not scientifically or even rationally tenable, but I choose to live and act as if it were. And maybe the most important realisation is that I can only in good conscience make that choice because I feel, in my heart, like I know it’s reality.

      There’s a big, big difference between feeling like you know something is real (which I would cheesily refer to as “heart-knowledge”), and actually knowing it is real (as in “head-knowledge”). I know that even “head-knowledge” isn’t absolute, but it’s really well substantiated. In the same way, “heart-doubt” isn’t absolute.

      What remains is this: I can accept that my head is constantly at me, going “but there is no proof that the Gods exist at all, therefore you might be mentally unwell”. I can accept knowing that my conviction is not in accordance with my head as long as it is in accordance with my heart. And what’s happened there is pretty much that my heart wasn’t sure anymore. I can write that as if it is in the past, because right now, it’s no longer acute, and my heart is back to “normal”.

      I believe you if you say you’ve made your experience with massive amounts of doubt, and I agree that listening to other people too much can cause those massive amounts. In fact, it’s kind of what happened.

      When I was an atheist, many (mostly Christians) would attack me, I think expecting an anti-theist (or a gnostic atheist). I could never really understand this move because I had no real problem with others worshiping their God.

      I believe a lot of the issues arise from people not knowing what is what. Especially those identifying as anti-theists. They take issue in people engaging in religious activity in general, mostly citing problems they’ve seen as caused by religion itself (as they don’t believe in any Gods, they can’t very well blame Them). The issue is that anti-theists often fail to see that they’re looking at a tiny fraction of all religions and when you tell them that they’ll just say “stop splitting hairs” or something equally as mature. So, while anti-theists tend to use strawman arguments (“haven’t you heard about all those atrocities committed in the name of religion? I can’t believe you’re actually in favour of that!?!”) gnostic atheists tend to come at you with a flat-out ad hominem (“I thought you were above having to rely on some nebulous ‘higher being'”). Not to mention the fact that gnostic atheism is logically… precarious (to say the least), as it asserts the non-existence of a thing as known fact.

      You cannot believe how tired I am of explaining polytheistic theology to anti-theists and gnostic atheists. Even back when I was a sort of vaguely agnostic theist with strong tendencies to monism, whenever I considered the question whether or not something like “God” actually exists (from an atheist’s perspective) the best I could come up with was that said non-existence is just non-existence by default. Simply because no-one has proven the existence. [I don’t even necessarily think that it’s something that will be proven, ever. But that doesn’t change the fact that non-existence can only ever be assumed — and even back than I chose not to assume it].

      Reality can hold atheists and theists alike without it blowing up; I cannot see that debate ever really being useful (really)

      Word. Also, I like the gemstone metaphor. :)

      • Ack, true, I didn’t really define what “trying” meant. My mother was Christian and often took me to church and her family was very Christian (even if I didn’t see them often), so at one point, fascinated (and a bit frustrated, probably, being bored at the church), I started to “hunt” for the Christian God (as well as ghosts and leprechauns, apparently? *shrugs*). Eh, and I really don’t think it matters if you found this path first because trying to work with other Gods first or not.

        Heh, and I understand the feeling bad about “Are you a delusion?” to your God, because the first time I actually -talked- with Charlie [Chaplin], I asked Him if He was just a figment of sorts, or someone like an Alfar, glamored to look like Him. (I also have done the same to Loki at times, too, worried that He may be a delusion and that I’ve wasted so much money and time on something not real.) My mate, when I tell her of this, usually says, “If you really believe you’re delusional, see a medical professional.”

        I love the concept of heart-doubt and heart-knowledge and head-knowledge. (This sort of strays, but I don’t know really how to link my point to yours other than “it reminded me of this thing.”) In a sort of Machiavellian-Langian fashion, I usually absolve some of my heart-doubt by saying “Is what I am doing making myself happy, healthy, and making others happy and healthy, and does it harm no one?” (That is: it’s a trifecta concept from “Metropolis” of heart, head, and hands. If what I do with my hands is beneficial, then the doubt my head feeds my heart matters less, because the ends justifies the means.) Usually that’s a “quick” bandage or something that only helps in smaller cases. When my heart doubts so much that it breaks, well, then I recede and contemplate and try and reach some sort of conclusion.

        I think one of my largest issues with most of the anti-theists I’ve spoken with: they have personal negative history with religion. The one I was arguing with, his father caused him problems with religion. When discussing theology like that, I think one shouldn’t get too personal (for soooo many reasons). When I was at the SSA (secular student alliance), many of them came from families that taught alternate history (let’s be honest here) like “dinosaurs were made by the devil” and all that and were excommunicated by their family for facing such heavy doubt and lack of belief in their family’s God. While, yes, I think they have a right for being angry at certain people (I mean really), in the end, lumping all people together into such a small expectation is discrimination. (Of course, I see the same issues with anti-atheists as much as I do anti-theists and I find it fascinating how much they’re so similar in argument–of those I’ve seen/read/spoken with.)

  5. Aine says:

    “I’ll rather look stupid to other God-touched people.”

    This. I will never be caught responding to ‘are the gods real’ with ‘well gravity’. No. The gods may not be real. I cannot prove their existence. And, honestly, my belief is in my heart – it’s part of me, I can’t deny it for very long without…coming back to it – but it’s also my /head/. I choose to interpret and believe my experiences /mean something/. And I could be wrong, and I have to be okay with that. At least, that’s how I feel. And I’d much rather get bitched out by ~true believers~ than ignore my brain as it poses questions to, well, every mystical experience.

    (Also, so much appreciation for pointing out that your mystical relationship WOULD be different if Loki weren’t real. I feel much the same.)

    • Myriad says:

      Thank you. No, honestly, this is the first time that someone a)understands exactly what I’m talking about and then b)can follow my own further reflections (e.g., the heart vs head thing, I couldn’t have put it better, really), and why things look the way they do to me. So often I just feel like I’ve been misinterpreted, or simply not understood at all, or looked down upon, which, tbh, I hate.

      So yeah, thank you for commenting, and the appreciation. It’s mutual :)

  6. Reblogged this on The Infinite Battle and commented:
    I thought I had reblogged this. Erk. I meant to. It’s a good read!

  7. Pingback: A Rehash and a First | Weaving the Net

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