Taking the Plunge: Becoming Spiritually Aware

Faith & Belief by Jarred James Breaux

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At a local Eckankar workshop, someone stated that Harold Klemp became the Mahanta when he become “God aware.” Someone asked “what does it mean to be “God aware.” Not being an Eckist, I hesitated to share my thoughts. I waited for the community leader to respond and offer her perspective, which she explained various levels of degrees of conscious which people must reach and the last being “God awareness.” I could see that the individuals at the meeting were still perplexed and wanted to know more. I asked permission to share my point of view and the community leader graciously allowed me to explain.

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Reflection on my Ma’atian Celebration: The End of Lenctene

This spring, have tried to further tie my Kemeticism to the nature around me and embrace some aspects of my akhu I once paid little attention to.

For forty days, I attempted to give up sweets. I gave myself one “cheat” day on which I could eat one somewhat sweet thing, like jam or a small candy. This went well for the first 4 weeks, but I ended up cheating more than I was supposed to. That being said, I have less sugar cravings than I did when I began, so I feel like I am on a healthier path, and I hope to keep some of this momentum going.

I also attempted to do a small, daily rite, focusing on Ma’at as the natural and human “order” in the world and on a value I have each day. This also went well the first few weeks. I spent some time away from home and was able to maintain the routine about halfway through the trip. It was hard to get back in the swing of things once I returned. The daily practice has its benefits, and the shorter time commitment made the commitment easier to keep. I also hope to continue this practice. I’ve done it before, when my schedule was less hectic. It was nice to see it can be done at this spot in my life.

As for the connection to my akhu, I’m not sure observing the practice of “giving something up” this time of year had the effects I’d hoped. However, my grandmother, who paints icons, has offered to paint an icon for me in the middle of this period. At first, I wasn’t sure. It would be a Catholic saint of my choosing, but I wasn’t sure I could really appreciate the gift, not being Catholic. Certainly I am appreciative, but I wouldn’t feel the same delight or “connection” to the image since it would be something to which I didn’t readily relate. I thought about asking for something with a “pagan” bent or history, but a friend reminded me that she likely puts a lot of thought and energy into these icons, and to try to circumvent those efforts could be disrespectful. My grandmother does pray with the icons once they are done, and she even gets some of them blessed, so I figured this was prudent advice.

In an effort to make the most of the gift, I looked into the patron saint of the Cajuns – Our Lady of the Assumption – and the patron saint of the diocese where I grew up – Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Both of these are visions of the Blessed Mother. She is a force I’d enjoyed and felt close to as a child when I attended Catholic school. She is very gentle and always seemed to evoke a mood of acceptance, mercy, and compassion. So, it was her image I chose.

This process actually got me closer to my akhu than my Lenctene experiment, as I learned about an entity in a new light and had to consider her in new ways. I am thankful for this experience.

At the same time, I have come to better understand and rediscover Aset, a Netjert I have honored since the first day I became Kemetic in any sense of that word. I’ve learned that despite all my trying, sometimes you won’t get it right until you learn to be open to experience and failure. I’ve learned that you just can’t control certain things, like when you discover a deeper meaning or when you will “get it right”.

I think that the whole experience, making sacrifices (not eating sweets), giving more time and effort to my practice this spring (through a daily rite), and trying out new experiences and perspectives (rediscovering Aset and being reintroduced to the Blessed Mother Mary), has made me take a new look at humility and change. There are other experiences I am having in my professional life that are making me question the assertiveness with which I usually approach things.

So I think my take away from this experience is about humility, rest, and rediscovery. Taking a break from the old way of doing things, rediscovering what you thought you knew (and had eschewed), and having enough humility to learn from both.

I think this experience has also allowed me to put a few steps on some new paths – new ways of practicing my spirituality, new ways of relating to others, and new ways of relating to myself. I hope to reformat the rite I used during Lenctene this weekend and make it amenable to daily use. I also hope to take my new found openness and continue to explore myself.

It’s as if there is a spiritual spring as well as a natural one.

Releasing Control: Consulting, Strength in Tarot, Wesir from Kemet

Once upon a time, I stumbled upon a task in a meditation. I was contemplating Wesir, in his silent, eternal wisdom. I asked what lesson I’d need to complete the next stage of my life. “You need  to let go of control.”

I never realized it before, but the card of Strength speaks to this idea. Strength speaks of control and dominance, but not through aggression, exertion of force, or a utilization (or plundering) or resources. More

Rediscovering Aset and “Legitimacy” in the Pagan Community

*Some of the things here will seem odd, illogical, hypocritical. I know. This is my journey in overcoming that ;)*

Aset was the first Nejtert (or Netjer) to  “come to me”. When I took my first steps on this path as an adult, she was the one who came to me when I searched for a deity.

As a result, I did a lot of research on her. This lead me to feel as if I knew so much about her…but sometimes had trouble connecting to her. She was so large and multifaceted, I was very concerned about getting it “right”. There was a lot of discussion online about what she wasn’t: the “Mother Goddess”, Isis, a lunar goddess, etc. While she was connected to the cycles of nature, the cycles to which she was native felt foreign to me. I had trouble seeing her in the natural world around. Anything less than the Nile felt forced.

But my love and awe of the natural world was what brought me to this pagan path in the first place. This made me experience something of a disconnect…I could easily find the other Netjeru in Nature: Shu in the vast space between horizons, Nut in the starry sky, Ra in the sun, Wesir in the trees and near rivers, Hetheru in energy and drunkenness and joy. But Aset, the one to whom I was most devoted, seemed something not found in the natural world, but instead something that brought it about. She wasn’t the life all around me, but she made it possible. This still felt out of place. Others seemed to see her there, in the rain, in the twinkling of Sirius, in the renewal of Spring or the sadness of fall. But I convinced myself this was artificial…I didn’t feel the ancients (or any modern scholars) saw her as such, and thus to do so was just “wrong”. This didn’t mean (and doesn’t mean) that I ever though that those who see her in these places are “wrong”…in fact, I wanted to be someone who saw her in these places. But I feared that it was wrong, which kept me from attempting to connect to her in these places.

To boot, Aset was the ideally devoted wife and mother, two aspects of womanhood of which I was not fond in my youth. These two things felt like entrapment, and I didn’t want them. I struggled against these ideas because I could see no positive aspects in them, only the harm they did to those I saw attempting to fulfill these roles.

Yet there were ways I did connect to Aset. She seemed like a strong, empowering Netjert: she raised her son in swamps with little help, she tricked Ra into giving up his true name (and thus his power), and she was a fair opponent for her brother, Set. She had names like “Fiercely Bright One” and “Maker of Kings”. I was a career-minded young person, and I saw her as a Netjert that bloomed the potential in others. She was a Lady of Ma’at, and I was very concerned with living ethically. She was Effective of Speech, and I was a lover of words. She was Great of Heka, and I liked seeing her as a Netjert who commanded the world around her via words and power. But these things still left me begging for that connection to the natural world. I knew she was a Lady of Green Things and Life, but only for some reason, I felt it was inappropriate to see her in the essence rain, in the fresh green grass, and in blooming plants. I felt it was inappropriate even though others saw her there…other Kemetics, authors I was reading (scholarly and not), other pagans.

I think part of that stemmed from attempting to be “accurate”. I wanted to badly for my perception of her to be “right” that I was reluctant to see her there. I didn’t want my practice to be illegitimate, as I’d seen so many experienced people rail against the misunderstandings so many had of this goddess. I wanted to understand this interesting Netjert properly…I didn’t want to full of fluff and woo. I wanted to have right understanding. Because let’s be honest…the internet is a brutal place. Even though I’ve never been ripped a new one, I didn’t want to allow for it.

But recently, I’ve been learning to set aside how “legitimate” my beliefs or practices might be to others in the pagan and Kemetic community (to be clear, no one has ever told me anything about the legitimacy of my practice…it’s all self-imposed) and have tried to focus more on what I actually want and believe. For a while, I was fighting a great deal with whether I was a theist or atheist…even though I know agnostic is where I have traditionally always stood. I got tired of not knowing, and I got tired of the cognitive dissonance my practice was causing me.

I’m more settled now. I realize how psychological it all really is. I know that my perception of deity is different from others’ perceptions. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that I view deity as forces in the natural world, personifications of those forces, archetypes/human experiences, as well as their own forces in the universe. And, recently, I’ve come to accept that they do “speak” to me, in a sense, I feel them as cognizant presences in my life and my world. They are both external and internal to me. They are real, and whether that’s objective or simply subjective…doesn’t matter. It feels objective, and the feeling is what I’m working with. I’m not claiming it as absolute truth, but I am claiming it as my truth. I told a friend that even though I know it suspends logic, I allow myself that pleasure in the name of peace and growth.

In conjunction with this new understanding, I have also embraced the part of me that sees the divine in Nature. When I started exploring atheopaganism, I realized I wasn’t celebrating my place in the universe the way I once did. My practice was always very Netjeru-centered, and I think I’ve done well to close the gap between the natural cycles of Egypt and my own niche in the world. That being said, there were certainly cycles in my home I wasn’t celebrating because I couldn’t legitimize it via Kemeticism, and doing it separate from my Kemeticism seemed “off”. I feel it was that way because, again, I didn’t want to “do it wrong”. I wanted to be legitimate…even though I know and respect many other Kemetics that hold completely separate religious practices from their Kemeticism and, in fact, felt that, in part, it was these people forming the community in whose eyes I must appear legitimate (yes, I am silly).

As I mature, I come to care less about what is formally “right” and what gets results. Other Kemetics were make their Kemeticism relevant to their practice, rather than making their practice relevant to Kemeticism. Why wasn’t I doing that?

So, I started to look at my calendar. I incorporated other (nonKemetic) elements into my Kemetic celebrations, and I started celebrating things that aren’t Kemetic while often still focusing on or connecting to the Netjeru during these exercises. I think my approach to Lent/Lenctene is a good example, but so is my celebration of All Souls Day, combining the solstice with “Moomas”, having something of a second, Southern Wep Ronpet on January 1st, and celebrating Ma’at at the two Equinoxes. I also celebrated when the flooding stopped here, and I enjoyed the first spring flowers, the first bites of winter, or the changing of the leaves in the fall in spiritual and ritual ways that were not really connected to my Kemeticism, save my finding the Netjeru in these instances.

I think this change in perception helped me when I read “Lady of Praise, Lady of Power” by Bolton this weekend. There were names and titles and prayers to Aset I may (and have not) seen before, but because I am more open to my own experiences, I have come to finally see as “legitimate” some of her titles. I see her in the rain, now. I see her in the warmth of the sun, and the renewal of water. I feel her in the forest and near the river, there with Wesir, reunited in my Psyche, finally.

Oddly, I felt guilty for ignoring these parts of her identity for so long. No guilty in a “sinful” way, but rather in a “Why did I deny myself this experience?” sort of way. My desire to be legitimate was hurting me. To feel her now, not only when I am hard at work but also when I am in awe of aspects of the world around me…it’s what I’ve been missing. It is truly invigorating.

As I enter new phases in my life, I also come to see other things differently…and some similarly but more maturely. I have a much more positive view of marriage, though I still think it takes work and effort. The same could be said of raising children, and honoring those who have made such efforts, whether willingly or accidentally.

But I do reflect on why I wanted to be so legitimate in the first place. I don’t speak openly of my faith, save for this blog and with a few pagan friends. I don’t get into very many conversations regarding personal beliefs in forums or online communities…so I was only attempting to be “legit” to myself. While I am grateful to have been exposed to articles and information detailing how UPG differs from ancient perceptions, and how fluff differs from historically accurate theories, I do feel that my desire to be “right” stifled my growth a bit. What’s more, I think I’ve realized I’m not really all that reconstructionist…but I’ve come to terms with that.

In the end, I think any religion should be about the fulfillment of one’s potential and an aid to peace. In all honesty, recreating history is full of conjecture in the first place (though, I do think, it is not ill-informed conjecture, and historians place a great deal of time and effort into their thoughts). What’s more, I am not living at that point in history, I am living in this one.

But people get very upset when you misuse labels…and that is something I respect. I think this fear of illegitimacy was born of this second parent – a hesitancy to disrespect or misuse others’ labels. But it appears that I am not the only person to see Aset in these places.

I do wonder, however, if I am the only person who has every allowed herself to be “shut out” from certain experiences out of fear of being legitimate. Authors all over the web and pagan community say to “Do what feels right”, but there is another loud (and honestly, accurate) group of authors stating that we should aspire to accuracy, in both definitions (in this case, of reconstruction, or Kemeticism, or of a particular goddess) and understanding of historical and cultural practices. I think both are right…openness is key, but you can’t spout your experience without a caveat that it is just that…your experience.

Would you agree to that last bit? Or do you, as practitioners of anything (atheopaganism, Kemeticism, other forms of paganism) see it differently? Do you also feel that we, as pagans, have a need to assert our “legitimacy”? I think some do, and I see it when people are asked for or display (even humbly) their lineage, historical knowledge, or other bases for authority. I think acceptance is something many of us need, and this is one way some get it.

 

A Thousand Are Her Souls

“The Egyptians called the night sky ‘a thousand are her souls’, expressing the belief that each star was the transfigured soul of a dead person. This, then, was the pattern for th…

Source: A Thousand Are Her Souls

Celebrating Ma’at: Joy

I have been MIA for the past few days. I went to a wedding, and had no internet for the past week.

During this time, one of the virtues I focused on was joy. During the mass at the wedding, the priest talked about joy, and how joy can be (and, he said, must be) found within. Essentially, we cannot hope to feel true and lasting joy from the world around us. While births and parties and new opportunities, can make us happy for a while, the true source of joy comes from within. We must cultivate joy in our hearts, and if we do this, joy can be found not only in the births and parties and new opportunities, but it can carry us through hard times as well. It was at this point that he brought up how a joyful marriage can add to this inner joy and provide some support in those rough times.

The idea that true joy comes from within was something I hadn’t thought of in a while. I focus frequently on getting my work done and accomplishing my degree…and while that accomplishment will be something to celebrate, the joy I experience doesn’t come from the degree itself. I feel like we often say, “I can be happy once…” “I can be happy once I graduate.” “I can be happy when I get my first job.” “I can be happy once I am healed.” “I can be happy once I am married.” “I can be happy once I am divorced.”

While some circumstances certainly lend themselves to joy or misery (and I do think that some circumstances can make inner joy improbable if not impossible), one can have everything they need to be happy and yet still be sad. I’m not talking about clinical depression. It takes more than attitude to cope with depression. I am talking about an inner peace, one that allows us to be joyful when the time is right (and sometimes even when the time is wrong). I am talking about the self-knowledge and self-awareness that can lead to a better understanding of the self and world. I am talking about joy from simple pleasures as well as major accomplishments. I am talking about the type of joy that allows us to content with our current lot in life, but also pushes us to aim for more not out of greed, but out of development and discipline.

Where does this joy stem from? I think it comes from appreciation and attitude. Learning to see the world in a realistic but still positive manner. Realizing what you have, and coming to peace with how far you need to go. It’s not about being complacent. It’s about realizing that nothing external can “make” you happy before you come to peace with yourself and find beauty in the world…despite the ugliness within it.

May you all find joy.