I have spent a great deal of time contemplating deity on my spiritual path. It has been difficult. Experiencing deity is a very personal thing. This is not meant as an authoritative essay, but as an expression of my journey.
I grew up with a set way of looking at the concept of who and what God is. There is a set visual that I absorbed of an actual being, a white-haired man, sitting on a real celestial throne, light emanating from his presence. It was to this being that I directed worship and prayer. It was from him that I attempted to find favor. My view of the divine was concrete. It was a physical reality. Until it wasn’t.
Through life experiences and through my eduction wherein I developed a greater knowledge of science and of other cultures, my belief in God became difficult to sustain. I was unable to reconcile the experience and knowledge of the world with my religion. Breaking up with the idea of a real divine being felt intellectually honest. Atheism was a mental relief.
However as time passed, I began to have a growing sense of something greater in the universe, compelling me to search for a higher spiritual force. I felt a spiritual lack. This is the point of the journey where things became very messy.
As I began my pagan path, the disconnect between the God of my past and scientific reality crept back into my consciousness. But now, this intellectual disconnect was accompanied by a compelling sense that there was divinity in nature. The idea of a big person with unlimited power was so married to the concept of divinity that I did not, I could not, reconcile the reality of gods with my sense of intellectual honor. Yet, I felt the Gods.
Attempting to connect, I began to study druidry. Through druidry, I experienced a greater connection with the natural world and with myself. But, sitting at my altar, I felt there was a barrier. I wanted to call to divinity but did not know how, or more specifically whom to call upon.
I read… and read and read until my head was spinning. There were so many views, all seeming a bit different, but every one so sincerely held. Desperately, I began to “try them on.” It became so much of an obsession that it began to drive me away from spending time in meditation. My spirituality became academic. The time at my altar felt frantic. I needed to find the right answer!
I searched in ritual. I am so glad that I did! I had an experience where I sensed that I walked into the Otherworld. A horned figure approached me. He told me to listen for the gods. I would find them if I listened.
I spent time in nature. Lying on the ground one night, I watched as the clouds passed by, gradually revealing a sky full of stars. The feeling struck me again. The gods are here, whether you can see them or not; they have always been here.
I began to give offerings to “the Gods” at my altar, praying to this unnamed collective. One day, I had a sudden realization that changed me, allowing me to connect with a specific God or Goddess without feeling dishonest.
The Gods are not intellectual curiosities, beings to be quantified or categorized. They are not meant to be separated out in their component parts, in order to have the correct and unalterable view of who and what they are. They are not meant to be “believed in” but experienced.
One way I can express this thought is by considering magnetism. You do not need to believe in or to visualize magnetic forces in a particular way. They are just there. You can spend the time thinking about magnetism, doing calculations, but that does not make it any more real. What makes it real is the fact it exists, that it can be experienced.
In dogmatic religions, there is the need to “get it right.” Believing the wrong thing about God is heresy. Sure, you can experience the divine in these religions and many do, but belief is given a sense of primacy. Once I divorced myself from the need to have a right belief, my sense of intellectual turmoil disappeared.
The Gods are real. They can be experienced. There is no “getting it right,” no right belief that one needs to adopt in order to be saved. There is no fear in being lost if you have the wrong visual of the divine. What matters is that you experience and interact with the divinity that you feel.
As best I understand it, the ancient ancestors did not spend their time worrying about the hairstyle or facial features of their Gods. It was the function, the essence of their Gods that mattered. For me, it is okay that I do not know exactly what a Goddess is or what the Gods look like. I can feel the protection and power of Thor in a thunderstorm without worrying about getting the beard right.
In my reading, some have said that the physical world is a reflection of the Otherworld. Perhaps the forces of nature are reflections of the Gods. Whether this is true or not, I can connect to the Gods in this way. Experiencing the reality of the forces of nature, I can call to the Gods of my ancestors. This is not rigid belief but an opening of my being to what is already there.