Today sitting around being ill, my thoughts went to the peculiarity of discussing experiences that are not shared. This has been a long running thread in my life as a magician. It runs mainly between other practitioners, as I usually see no reason to engage non-practitioners on the subject.
My take on this is informed by experience. I know that what I perceive is in some ways unlike what anyone else does. At least I would be unable to to prove that what I perceive is actually the ‘same’ as what another person does. Too many situations in ordinary reality have clarified this over time. Move into non-ordinary reality and that gap widens. I’ve worked in groups where we all recorded our experiences after doing ritual work and the results tended to cluster. There would be a few people who were on kind of a similar level, and the rest were outliers. Weirdly, all involved could have had spiritually profound experiences, they just did not agree on what they were!
Within the animist model I work in, the baseline is ‘trust in the spirits’. This can also throw a wrench into the whole ‘lets have a discussion about this to come to an agreement’ thing. What if what my experience of the spirits want, say, or do or want me to do runs entirely counter to the other party in the discussions experience? These conversations usually tend to be arguments about who is right or wrong. In my view, if we are both doing our work, both will be right, even if both ’right’s are diametrically opposed.
I was speaking with a couple of of people recently about Odhinn/Woden, who I consistently experience as a power related to death and sorcery/shamanry. This could put me at odds with a whole pile of people who see him primarily as a war god, or a trickster. The discussion will often shift to who might better be seen as a war god, or at what point that shift from shapeshifting, tree-hanging seething shaman wild man shifted over to a more Jupiterean and/or warlike figure…at which point my eyes have thoroughly glazed over and I am wishing I still drank alcohol because the whole conversation makes me want to have a very large, dark beer. This is because the other party has decided we should talk about theory, which is generally very boring to me.
More interesting to me, if they are really concerned about this distinction (if it truly is that in any meaningful way) is what would happen if they went into trance and spoke to Odhinn as they meet him and asked ‘what is up with this thing? Are you one or the other? Both? Neither? Why do you show up differently for different people?’. THAT answer might be useful to them, I believe.
As for me, I can see the magical logic behind him showing up as he does to me. I’m not very warlike. Battle is not one my primary metaphors. I do not perceive life as a great struggle against some external force or forces. However, I spend my days involved in trance work, sorcery, and the crafting of runic talismans. This probably also explains why I have such a preponderance of liminal/crossroads/traveling related talismans in my catalog. I attract connections (spirits and human people) that suit my nature and my work, which I think is likely true for all of us (unless we are working in a delusional state. Been there, done that. It’s better when it’s not the case!).
The true weirdness comes when things become argumentative. This is clearest when someone who has never had a seriously liminal experience (or at least never taken it seriously enough to have them become a part of their life-path) demands proof of the validity of such things. How exactly would I provide this to you? It’s sort of like demanding that I prove to you that chocolate is tasty with the rules being that you do not have to try it, but I just have to convince you somehow.
Beyond the relative impossibility of this happening with either the taste of chocolate or my experience of the spirits, why would I try to take this ‘convincing’ on as a task? I’m not trying to sway you to my belief system, or bring you into my faith, we are (or so we claim) talking about actual lived experience. If they really wanted to know, they would be involved in trance work or shamanic journeying or some other known method of getting ‘there’.
This is to me just as weird with someone dead set on the universality of one god or spirit being just one specific thing to all people. I am as different as a husband, a jeweler, a magician, or a father as can be. It would be strange, I think, if I treated my clients exactly as I treated my wife. Are we to seriously think that we see the cop who pulls us over to write us a speeding ticket the same way as his best friend, lover, or mother does? How could that even be possible?
So either we grant the reality of non-ordinary reality it’s due, or we claim to have superior knowledge, which seems fairly seriously whack to me. Same with the spirits. If we are repelled by a spirit another is attracted to, how is that truly different than us not liking a friends lover at all while they are head over heels for them?
Anyway. Sick as a dog, these are the thoughts going through my mind. At least the nonstop internal Neil Diamond soundtrack has eased off! Small blessings.