My spirituality is something that I have been grappling with for over ten years. There have been stretches of many years at a time when I put these thoughts to one side – and indeed many years when I thought I had let it go for ever, and would drift contentedly into an unquestioning atheism. But eventually, I find my thoughts coming around to it again. And now, as I begin to feel the first signs of settling into myself as an adult – intellectually, psychologically, and socially – it is more a part of my life than ever.
As with many other things, my spirituality is turning out to be somewhat of a paradox: I am a spiritual person who doesn’t believe in spirits; a religious person who doesn’t believe in any gods. But I am starting to see that these things do not have to be mutually exclusive.
This was my problem for many years; I thought I could not be religious, or spiritual, unless I believed in something supernatural – a God, Goddess, an unseen energy – and when I returned to thinking about theological matters and concluded again and again that I could not believe in these things, I would back away from religion and spirituality. I could not see how my scepticism could be combined with any sort of religiousity.
But I craved the context that religion provides. Catholicism or Christianity in general had never struck much of a chord with me in this way, but my years delving into Wicca and other Pagan or Earth-based spiritualities had left a deep impression on me. As someone who is always fearful of time passing me by, who always wants to be more in the moment, the context of following and marking the solar year really resonated.
But merely noting the changing of the seasons didn’t seem to be enough. There is something in the human brain that is wired to want to feel a connection to something greater than ourselves, and I think some people have this urge more than others. I seem to be one of those people, and I genuinely believe that it is probably largely a physiological trait, combined with some psychological or intellectual tendencies.
The problem was Deity – I didn’t believe in it. I couldn’t even get my head around what it was supposed to be. I tried adopting a God and Goddess as archetypal deities, but even then I wasn’t sure what they were supposed to be standing for. Was it Life? Was all of life really split into a gendered binary? And anyway, what about all of existence outside of the life we have on this Earth? Male and female duality seemed to have absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the vastness of the universe.
In the end I had the realisation that it is just this essence that most people seem to be grasping for with Deity. And for me, I did not see it as a being, a personal or sentient entity. For me, it is the ungraspable mystery of what underlies the universe. The very essence of existence. Before the universe, was there existence? Is there such a thing as “before existence”? Can there be nothing, and if there can, how could existence have ever begun? I have come to think of this essence of existence as being an infinite thing, and thinking about it and meditating on it at length often produces the awe and overwhelming of a religious experience.
So this for me was the balance between atheism and theism – between Deity and scepticism. I began to look for ways in which I could honour this essence, and honour everything that has sprung from it – the universe, the earth, all of life. And over the last year, and particularly in the last couple of months, I have finally started to come to an understanding of what it is that I want to observe.
And so last night I conducted a new type of “ritual” to celebrate the Autumnal Equinox – which I have named in my spirituality the Autumn Turning. I liked the symmetry that it was this day of balance that marked the beginning of my new path, and the balance I have achieved in my personal philosophy.
I would like in the future to think of a different word to describe the observances that I make – maybe “observance” or “meditation” will be a better and more apt word than “ritual”. And I would also like to come up with an alternative word to “spirituality”, suggestive as it is of a belief in spirits. The observances will need work, and I will certainly need to complete a full wheel of the year and celebrate all eight before I figure out how it will work for me. But for the first time, I feel that I may be starting a routine that I will stick to for years to come.
I will go into more detail about aspects of this posts in the future – I am aware, for example, that some people who read this might not know what I mean by the Wheel of the Year, or why there are particularly eight marked days on it. I would like this blog to be a means of tracking my own progress, and of clarifying my own thoughts by trying to articulate them in a way that makes sense to others. And I would also hope that it might be an inspiration to anyone having similar problems in defining this aspect of their life. I found that a couple of sources along the way have inspired me and given me amazing “aha!” moments, and I would love to be able to provide the same for others.