Recently the question came up in one of the discussion forums I am in as to whether or not we need Divine and vice versa.
Inevitably, we get the well-considered answers, and then we get the children who think that the profundity of the entire Universe is somehow in that precious treasure trove between their ears, and that everyone else is dying to find out what it is that the rest of humanity has somehow missed.
Does the scientific reality of photosynthesis cease if plants don’t pay attention to it or believe in it? No. It still exists. I think humans like to console themselves on the arrogant notion that somehow the Divine would be somehow gone or irrelevant without our participation in the equation.
In my not-so-humble opinion: Bullshit.
I’ve been referred to all sorts of arguments by anyone and anything from the penned opinions of the late Isaac Bonnewitz to Terry Pratchett’s books and frankly none of it has any relevance whatsoever to my personal practice or praxis on the matter. I am Kemetic; Kemetic Orthodox to be exact. I have been at this as a practitioner of the Kemetic religion in some form or another for 30+ years. I think I know by now what it is that I am doing and are pretty secure in what I believe without the compare and contrast inserted by others into the equation, thank you very much. Purity, piety and fear of Netjer is a part of Kemetic religious devotion and practice, and that exact phrase goes back to antiquity and carries a lot of weight. However, that idea is not as dogmatic as that might sound. Nature IS. Netjer IS. It will be there – as a constant. Our participation is not necessary in either case. Both Netjer and humanity get something out of the deal and I believe that love on both sides of the equation has a great deal to do with why it works to this day. That is, I know, my opinion. Y’all are entitled to your own.
Which brings me to this: The God(s) are not our bitches. Add to that the notion that He/She /They is/ are not necessarily our “buddies” either. We don’t get to haul them out and play with them like Celestial Barbies or G.I. Jove. It is not all fun, or warm or fuzzy. It is hard WORK and sometimes that is necessarily difficult and frustrating. You will probably shed tears from time to time.
Get over it.
The relationship between humans and the Divine is just that….a relationship. All relationships if they are worth a damn at all, take work on both sides or it is just superficial and has no sort of depth or intimacy to it. To really know another, be it a person or a Deity, there has to be deep levels of insight on both sides. That is the hard part.
God / the Gods (the One in the Many or the Many in the One) Netjer is/are not here as the Eternal Wish Grantor(s) to be approached only “when we need something” or to be blamed when stuff goes wrong. It fascinates me just how many people become suddenly religious when they are faced with a crisis of some sort of another. We need money, we need a Divine pep talk, we need to see what lies beyond the bend in the road and we suddenly go into “religious mode”. We light a candle, or bow our heads, or get suddenly reflective or we scream to the sky, “Why me?!” Some of us may choose to perform magical rites and do heka or authoritative utterances, demanding to get our way. Sometimes we might think that resorting to threats and having a temper tantrum to get our way is the approach. We need a sign. We need reassurance we need something, and in the darkest reaches of our hearts, we know if we just get a teeny, tiny glimmer of hope, everything will be ok.
However, just as soon as some of us get that, and the crisis is seemingly over, too many simply skip along our merry way after saying, “Thanks, God! That was mighty cool of you!” And then quickly and ever-so-conveniently forget. That is they forget until the next crisis rolls around and the whole process begins all over again.
Is this any way to live our spiritual or even our day-to-day lives? Is this any way to navigate our way through the things that keep us motivated and moving? Does this give us any real connection to the Divine or even to our deepest selves? I personally don’t believe so.
I recently read a wonderful blog post by Adam Sicinski, God Does Not Grant Wishes but rather Opportunities to Make Wishes Come True that was written almost seven years ago but I found to be both lucid and insightful. Beyond the fact that Adam did not try to ram Christian-themed belief down the throat of the reader, he rather neutral on the subject; the post contained some real gems, such as this one:
“There are so many of us out there who rely on God or an Infinite Power to heal them, to make them rich, and to make their dreams come true. What these people fail to understand is that God will not fulfill their desires. It is rather up to the person asking for these things to keep an eye out for opportunities coming their way that may possibly enable them to fulfill their needs and wants.”
Even when you practice magic, or the Craft of the Cunning folk, heka. spells or whatever you want to call it, things can go wrong. Sometimes the answer is,”No.” Or it is, “Not now.” Sometimes the things we ask for or the things we think we want are better left unfulfilled. Being prepared to take on the responsibility of the thing or situation desired is important.
I have seen far too many people, Neopagans especially, pick up specific deities or entire pantheons because they think that going to that Deity or that set of Deities will get them the results that they want. If Deity has the least little bit of intelligence that we believe that it does, do you think maybe that it is possible to determine when someone is hanging out in their shrine or making alms and prayers that the person is after something? Sincerity, or lack thereof, does have a certain air to it. Most people can discern whether or not someone likes us, or is talking to us or saying complimentary things out of sincerity, and when someone is trying to get something out of the person that they are making overtures to.
The Divine is not so insecure as to need to be flattered, or plied with copious amounts of food and drink in the guise of “offerings”. It’s not unlike the husband who takes his wife out to dinner and plies her with candy and flowers and wine and maybe even some bling in order to get something or make nice. She’s no fool. She knows that this is all a part of the negotiation for whatever it is that he is after – sex, forgiveness, telling her that they are moving to South Dakota in the middle of nowhere – whatever it is. He wants something. Or the televangelist who tells viewers to send in $100 and God will “press it down and multiply it and turn it into $1,000!” In return, that viewer gets a special “prayer cloth” made of 100% polyester, cut with pinking shears to prevent ravellng and to be kept in your wallet as a reminder of your faithful covenant with God. Why do people do that? Does it have to do with faith as much as it has to do with wanting something in return?
I am fairly certain that the Divine is smart enough to figure that sort of thing out, too.
So why do we do any of this stuff? Why do we erect shrines in our homes? Why do we make offerings, why do we even bother with all the ritual and the reflection and everything that goes with it?
Speaking only for myself and my relationship that I have with the Netjeru, I do it because I want to. I enjoy spending time in my shrine with the perceived presence of Sekhmet, or Amun, or Aset or Heka – or Melek Taus or Durga or even with my akhu (ancestors). It’s a relationship. Relationships take work. I am willing to do the work, make the effort, not just because I want something, or that I hope to get anything out of it except a clearer sense of myself and where I am going, the world and how I can be in it and assist others, not just myself. That has nothing to do with being a priestess or a retired priestess. That has everything to do with humanity needing to work with our environment, with the people and even the experiences that seem to be ordinary, and yet there are inexplicable things that are extraordinary. Power or Sekhem comes in many forms. It exists deep within us, but it also can be found in the ordinary. Seeing the power of a rainstorm or seeing the blood red sky in the morning both remind me of Set. Such a simple thing was not something I asked for, but it is no less a gift for which I am thankful. Seeing the vultures fly overhead remind me of Mut and Nekhbet. The cry of a hawk outside my door reminds me of Heru and that His Eye is always upon me. The herbs that I harvest and the power to heal with them reminds me of Sekhmet. Those are the big things in all of the “little things” that make a difference in our lives. When we remember that, what part of our lives does not, therefore, become a prayer?
The gratitude for each and every day and the countless experiences we can find to remind us that we are not alone, that we are a part of a greater whole. God is not here to grant wishes, necessarily. I do not foresee Yinepu going into the kitchen any time soon to fetch a chicken pot pie. What the Divine does do is provide us the inspiration and the sense of accomplishment in creating things for ourselves. In that, lies the true gift.