Monday, December 13, 2010

Shifted Meaning

[Next time I'll talk more about what I mean with this.]

The universe spins around us.
Touching, singing, whispering and laughing.
We only see what we want to see,
what we hope will be, and expect to find.
Our senses trusted absolutely,
until the day they prove unkind.

The universe spins beside us.
Befriended, trusted, steady and reliable.
What is true remains true,
even if one's senses have said otherwise.
The reliability of the universe is absolute,
You need faith. Believe boy. Believe!

The universe spins inside us.
Strange, mysterious, weird and unknown.
We are alone in the universe,
touching only fragments of ourselves.
We know only what we choose to know,
disbelieving what can not be.

The universe spins behind us.
Distorting, twisting, changing and bending.
Words of peace are used to kill,
words of freedom are used to ensnare.
Lies, mistruths and misunderstandings,
meanings change, yet words remain unaffected.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The nonfiction book

Well, I've been thinking of doing it with this blog for a time, so I may as well make my intentions public.

The ultimate goal is to create a number of articles and essays on this blog which can be leveraged in a work of non-fiction related to my faith. To work toward this end, I've imported the existing articles in to Scrivener. At a later date, I'll work on importing partial drafts.

Since I'm going public with this intent, I'll probably do a little proper outlining so I make sure I cover what I want to cover. Scrivener makes this easy, and will allow me to easily tell when I have a larger article (which can be split for multiple posts) as well as allow for easy rearrangement and restructuring of the book.

The existing posts currently amount to about 10k words. Truthfully, it is more than I expected. I expect it to go fairly smoothly once I get an outline in place.

Monday, December 6, 2010

November was a success

November was a success. I wrote a 50k word YA Fantasy novel that needs a lot of editing, but does include a plot, character development and (surprising to me) a fairly solid theme.

While this blog is important, I'm going to drop to twice a month, as I had a lot of fun writing fiction and I want to make more time for it.

Other than the occasional mentions of it, this blog will remain focused on non-fiction.

I was hoping for a real post today, but alas my weekend was filled with other things. I'll have at least one real post this month, and I'll be shooting for two.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The November plans

The plan was to write double-posts during October so that I could cruise through November without care.

I've failed that pretty severely -- as one week I even forgot to write anything. (I got a post out that day, but it was an "Oops, I forgot." post, so it doesn't really count.)

I think I'm going to accept what many bloggers accept: I'm going on hiatus for the month of November for NaNoWriMo. As this is the last Monday in October, this means my next post will be December 6th.

At this point, my planned story is a YA Fantasy. The basic premise is that magic is a consumable resource that was all used up during the early days of mankind. An eccentric hermit finds a way to replenish magic in the world. He hires a family of four, and madness unfolds. Well, not madness, exactly, but certainly excitement.

It is a variation of the idea that things were somehow more magical in the past and that for some reason all of the magical creatures went elsewhere. It is nice to think that they could just go elsewhere, but it is also possible they all died off.

For the story, it means it can start off like an urban fantasy -- totally real-world with just a promise of something magical -- and as the magic unfolds around them the limits of it are less confined to the "and no one else is the wiser" thing you generally see with urban fantasy.

The core idea is one that is backed up with stories like "Sleeping Beauty" where once the spell is broken the castle itself disappeared. To last that long, it laid waste to the area where the castle once stood. As the magic dried up and disappeared from the region it drew with it the very firmament itself.

While there are fewer restrictions on what magic can do, there are still restrictions. This is a world where magic has near limitless potential, but it can't reach the potential if it gets used up on vulgar affairs. Using magic for cleaning house? It will take longer to restore the magic used than it would to just clean it up by hand. Flashy transformations are extremely ostentatious, as after you transform there may not be any magic in the area to do anything else with.

This means that in the story world, magic needs to cause the least amount of change to produce the desired results. That said, since scrying works without a particular abundance of magic, in an area with more magic it works much better.

The device I'm using to restore magic in the world is essentially an orgone transformer. It takes "orgone energy" and transforms it in to magical energy. Instead of an orgone accumulator shaped like a box and designed to focus the orgone energy inside, we have a board composed of layers of different substances. It gathers the orgone energy, transforms it, and the magical energy exits. I call these boards "magic doors" -- which is also where the (current) title for the book comes from.

So that's what I'll be doing with my November. I'm excited. It will be my first novel, so I'm going in to it as a learning experience -- I know the quality only gets better with practice.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tis the Season (of death and heartache)

One of the things that marks a person as belonging to a modern faith is having modern concerns.

What counts as a modern concern?

Premarital sex? Back in the fabled Puritan beginnings of the United States some towns had more than 90% of their children get pregnant before marriage. The modern US tends to do a lot better than that these days. Premarital sex is clearly not a modern concern. In fact, I don't consider premarital sex a concern at all, but then this probably doesn't surprise any of my readers.

Homosexuality? This is even less of a modern concern, being that some of our nearest genetic relatives also engage in homosexual acts it seems this is something that actually predates humanity. Don't believe me? Check out some of the antics of the bonobos. Check your local zoo to see if they have them, though be warned that a lot of zoos do not have bonobos as they embarrass the zoo patrons.

Automobiles are clearly a modern concern. Some might say that all of the common well-established religions predate the automobile.

Now, this week, I'm not going somewhere weird here. This has nothing to do with whether or not cars have souls or deities. This is just the modern phenomena of driving vehicles about.

I got a driver's license specifically because I knew driving would be required living where I do. This is the case for an unfortunate vast part of the US. I was in my mid-twenties before I got my license.

This is to say, by the time I got my license, I had done a lot of work on myself. I had become the sort of person that was prone to crying both when sad as well as when happy. I think of it as being tender-hearted.

Now, my family got together (as they continue to do) several times in the fall and winter. I always had a nice quiet drive for much of the way, but what struck me was always how much roadkill I passed. It pulled and tugged on my heart to the point where at times I would be risking my ability to see the road, due to the tears.

I had to do something about it. So I prepared to pray to the dead. It is heart-breaking to see the dead. Sometimes you'll see a friend or family member to the corpse, walk up, as if to ask if the animal is alright. While I prayed, I wept. I wept for the dead, left beside the road to rot or to be gathered up to be discarded like any other detritus. No one gains with roadkill. It isn't part of some grand circle of life, with everyone eating someone else. It is a life, cut short and abandoned, to feed nothing but bacteria.

Now, I'm not a vegetarian. I understand that animals eat other animals, and you can bet most of the roadkill (except, alas for some of the poor pets) know this quite well. It's a world filled with the hunt, prey and hunters abound. This is, after all, normal and natural when it comes to the natural world. Those we kill with our cars are not part of this natural cycle. They are not killed for food, they're not even killed for pleasure. We take nothing from them but their lives. We give back nothing but pain and loss.

My compromise -- since I can't quit driving -- is to acknowledge the dead as I pass them. I say "Bless its soul." I say this anytime I see anything that could be roadkill. I say this sometimes when I think I see trash or leaves. I say this when there are animals too close to the street -- bless them and protect them so they don't wind up as more corpses on our roads.

I'm freer than perhaps I need to be with my blessings. In truth, I do this so I don't need to look closely. I've seen what I thought was a leaf in the road (that I blessed -- and avoided hitting) turn out to be a live animal. It is enough to know that it has been blessed, if I don't see it clearly then perhaps I am lucky.

How many people talk about peace and love and nature without acknowledging the pain and heartache we bring in our wake?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Remember the linden and the oak

The story of the linden and the oak is one that is retold in various cultures.

The basic premise is simple: At the time traveling was dangerous, and it was common for travelers to need a place of rest after traveling a great distance. Without hotel in a small area, the travelers would need to stay in someone's home. Culturally it was polite to accept the travelers, and it was impolite to refuse them.

So, the travelers are refused at every house in a town, and on the outskirts of town there is an elderly couple. They have very little, but they offer what they have. They are kind and polite.

The travelers, however, were not simple run-of-the-mill people. They were deities, angels, or other super-powerful forces specifically setting out to check on folks in this area.

As a reward, when the years run out for the elderly couple, instead of either one needing to bury the other, they are both transformed in to trees. However, more immediately, the rude town is destroyed. I recall reading an African variation which stated the teller of the tale would actually point out houses beneath a local lake where the doomed village once was.

Now, I never really took this as a warning until I met a disquieting individual at a pagan conference many years back.

The man was disheveled, unshaven, and unkempt. He looked like a homeless man had snuck in. I found myself in a room with snacks, and the man ate in the manner you would expect, with his fingers, leaving a smattering of crumbs.

He was, to put it lightly, the sort of person that could easily push a person's buttons.

But the real kicker was the buttons he pushed were only on the surface. He was polite and friendly. While he looked homeless, he didn't have an odor. Nothing about his attitude or his actions were objectionable to any meaningful extent.

Is it likely that he was a deity, made manifest, specifically to check out the local pagan convention? Well, that seems less than likely, given that most folks do not believe in deities with such powers. Also, most folks go to such conventions already believing in a narrow set of deities. While folks there may be warmer to the idea of a new deity, chances are few are actively looking for more.

However, could he be favored by a deity? That seems quite possible. To be favored by a deity, that deity would watch out for you. It wouldn't be the deity the folks would see or interact with directly, but if a surface excuse is used to violate a person's ethics... that deity could either directly take action or otherwise set things up so that consequences are felt.

This led me to the idea that someone that annoys you -- but does so without actually doing anything wrong -- may actually be specially looked after by a deity, and that deity is actively waiting for someone to slip up.

Would it be more or less annoying if the deity behind the test was one of the ones you consider part of your personal pantheon? Would it even matter, though? If it was a test of ethics, and you fail the test, then you get what you deserve. Hopefully, you don't deserve your entire community to be destroyed.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Reason for Life, the Universe, and Everything (part 3): Finding personal meaning

In my previous two posts, I covered the reason for life, the universe, and everything, then explained that you really don't have many limits on what you do with it.

As for a universal meaning, it is simple and works well for both mundane and sublime lifestyles. Anything beyond that is purely personal. You're not really limited to anything. You could dedicate your life to exploring the delights of the most exotic McDonald's locations on the planet. You could dedicate your life to proclaiming the glories of a deity. You could dedicate your life to exotic encounters of food or flesh.

The Ethic of Reciprocity: This is a commonly known in Western cultures as "The Golden Rule". Treat others as you would like to be treated. Do not treat others as you would not like to be treated. This is a near universal idea. It is a good guiding principle when searching for your own personal meaning. If your personal meaning wouldn't be something you enjoyed if someone else took it up, perhaps you should try to find another one.

The Meek may have Mighty Friends: This is a simple variation of the ethic of reciprocity. Ignoring any thoughts of karma, or mystical energies finding their way back to you, there is the simple fact that folks have friends. Even folks that may seem worthless in your eyes, may have powerful allies. It pays to expect everyone to have mighty friends. More than that, if you want to increase your friends, it pays to become a mighty friend to those that currently appear meek. You just may become friends not only with the meek person, but indirectly with that person's mighty friends.

Here's something I try to live by: We start with an egocentric universe, then twist it. With an egocentric personal meaning the world, the universe, even all of existence exists for you, to test you, to support you, to add to your own personal greatness. But, what if there was a single person that was the reason for the universe, but instead of that person being you, you were a minor character in that person's life... You would encounter that person perhaps once in your entire life. What kind of character would you be in that story? Would you be the surprising caring hand, reaching out to the person just when things looked darkest? Would you be a simple manifestation of an uncaring universe, ready to say "no" and close doors just because you can?

Do I have a personal meaning? Yes. I advocate the worship of small deities. I also like to create things with my mind. I've had dreams of creating universes, and have current aspirations to be an author.

Next week, I'm going to tell a true story relating to my "the meek may have mighty friends" comment.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I missed a week!

Well, that was unintentional.

I still think once a week is realistic. However, particularly as the holidays and NaNoWriMo approaches, I may have to evaluate switching to every other week.

I'll let you know if things change, but right now I am calling the missing post an anomaly.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Reason for Life, the Universe, and Everything (part 2): Debauchery

debauchery (from Wictionary) (plural debaucheries) n.
1. Indulgence in sensual pleasures; scandalous activities involving sex, alcohol, or drugs without inhibition
2. (archaic) Seduction from duty.
If the reason for existence is to exist, and the reason for life is to live, (which -- let's get real -- I'm basically saying here) then whatever personal meaning you have for your life is just that -- a personal meaning.

Does this mean that a life of debauchery is just as valid as a life of piety? Yes. But, really, when the length and breadth of human religions allows for both chastity and licentiousness while still being pious this shouldn't be a surprise for most people. Sure, it has been a while since temple whores have had popularity, but they have existed in the past, and humanity may well see them again. It seems that any time one group defines sexual morality there is a group somewhere providing an alternate definition.

The universe doesn't care what you do with your life -- only that you live.

What is there to prevent you from living a life of debauchery? Clearly nothing, as we see plenty of people enjoying such lives every day.

Realistically, though, lives of unfettered debauchery tend to lead to hurting a lot of people. It is not in human nature to hurt others needlessly, (most people tend to primarily hurt themselves), however it is even less in human nature to allow friends to be hurt needlessly. (To paraphrase the Christian Bible, "Vengeance is Mine, says the BFF.") Those who would use other people will eventually suffer repercussions for their behavior -- after all, you can fool most of the people most of the time, but not all of the people all of the time.

Note, though, when I speak of a life of debauchery I'm speaking of a self-centered life of excess. The implication with the term "debauchery" is that there is a moral or ethical common-ground and that whatever that common-ground is, debauchery goes below it. This is quite different than ethical hedonism. You can love the pleasures of life while still loving and caring for the other people in your life. In truth, it shouldn't surprise anyone to hear two hedonists complaining about some of the choices of a mutual friend and how that person has slipped from ethical hedonism to a simple life of debauchery.

Some might confuse debauchery with a life of orgies and free-love. In truth, some folks find open and/or polyamorous relationships work well for them. These relationships might be confused for debauchery by some, but when relationships are based upon love and communication it should be clear that they are very much not debauchery.

Now, if a relationship is one-sided and based upon either pleasing only one party or it involves degrading or debasing one partner then it bears a lot in common with debauchery even if the relationship outwardly looks like a typical monogamous marriage. Do you want further proof? Add a video camera that only one member of the relationship knows about. This instantly raises the bar in how one-sided a relationship is, but I argue that if the only thing that is missing is the camera, then the marriage may still be thinly veiled debauchery.

For another example: I was once told quite matter-of-factly that "not everything in a marriage is consensual." I was appalled, particularly when she added, "You'll understand after you get married." I'm married now. Rape within the context of a marriage is just as abhorrent to me as it was back then. At least most single-people who opt for a life of debauchery do not need to stoop so low. Sure, they may manipulate, the other party may know it was a bad idea (both before and after), they may even explicitly set out to seduce someone's spouse, but what happens is consensual at the time.

This is really just to make a point. The universe is quite content for you to have a life of debauchery (though you'll probably be happier with yourself if you opt for ethical hedonism instead), and if you do really want debauchery, you can still have that while outwardly keeping a monogamous heteronormative lifestyle.

Now, in the next part, I'll move on to talk more about personal meaning.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Reason for Life, the Universe, and Everything (part 1)

I've mentioned before that I have a Reason for Life, the Universe, and Everything.

More than that, to be truly universal, it can't be something restricted to humanity. Additionally, it must be inescapable. If it is the reason for everything, then it makes sense that it would be something that is unavoidable -- everything always does does it regardless of personal inclination or desire.

Quite simply, I believe the purpose of everything is to experience and to be experienced.

This is inescapable: We say that something exists when it can be experienced. If something can not be experienced in any way then few would doubt that the thing does not exist.

This is universal: Nothing about this is unique to life, let alone humanity.

It is unavoidable: Neither the hardest rocks nor the folks crippled by anxiety and stuck at home can avoid experiencing and being experienced. It isn't like death and most folks avoid it most days, though they know that one day their time will come.

Are you going to fill your life with the regularity of the tides? Are you going to fill it with new and unusual experiences? In the end both are equivalent. You, like everything else, collect experiences until at last you die. Some of us have a better memory of our experiences, but we all experience and are experienced.

This reason for existence seems self-evident upon reflection, what with some religions believing that the universe exists as such specifically to experience itself. If differentiation happened specifically for self-experience, then of course the reason for existence is so that we can experience and be experienced.

I suspect the only thing that prevented it from being self-evident was my Western upbringing, and the thing that gets a lot of people: Wanting the search, but not wanting the answer. It isn't particularly an uplifting reason for existence. It is easy to see where a person might over-think the question in an attempt to find a happier (or otherwise "better") answer.

(In the next part, I'll mention where debauchery comes in.)

Monday, September 6, 2010

On unity (with the natural world and more)

I've had a lot of problems identifying myself as "pagan". The problem is that I don't see myself as particularly earth-based.

Now, when it comes to unity, I believe in that well enough. I can quiet reasonably say that I believe in an inherent unity of all things.

But note that I said all things.

I sometimes travel when I sleep. Astral travel? I'm not sure. I just know that sometimes I dream in my head -- and everything is a fabrication of my mind -- and other times I'm dreaming elsewhere. I've flitted back and forth between the two states before and they feel distinctly different. (More on this in a later post.)

I first started having doubts that I was a Christian after a dream. In the dream I was arguing with a Monotheist. In disgust, I turned and walked away. As I was walking away, I paused to worship a desk. The idea seemed pretty easy to see: God is in all things -- including desks. I accepted that I was a Pantheist. There are Christians with Pantheist tendencies, after all.

Once I started meeting other deities in dream, I elaborated my views to "God is in all things -- including other deities." I believed this while ostensibly being a Christian at first, then I realized that describing myself as a Christian made no sense so I started calling myself a Panthiestic Polytheist.

Interestingly, it was at this point when I visited the Shining Void (also known as Nirvana -- though I didn't know it at the time). There were two things to do there, lose yourself and become one with the place, and leave. I decided to leave. That was the point when I stopped calling myself a Pantheistic Polytheist and just started calling myself a Polytheist.

My time in the Shining Void made it clear there is an underlying unity among all things, and yet everything we are, and all that we are here to experience is totally unrelated to this unity. It is like having a painting and the subject of the painting pondering the unity of the paint-universe (what with it all being made of paint), instead of enjoying the colors, shapes, and textures that the artist brought forth in the piece.

That is, focusing on unity distracts us from the beauty of difference. The goal isn't to see ourselves as the same, so much as it is to relish our differences and celebrate them.  We can only fully understand ourselves when we try to understand the those that are different.

Monday, August 30, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010 and shorter posts

I'm planning on writing a novel this November. I don't think the characters will actively be practicing any form of paganism or polytheism, but some of my ideas will definitely spill over in to the story.

It's a Young Adult Fantasy story centering around the idea that magic is a natural resource that was consumed when humanity was young. An eccentric hermit believes he has discovered a way to replenish magic in the world. The main characters are children whose parents were hired by the hermit.

It's a new way to think about magic in a story. It also allows for a very modern day setting that can get stranger and stranger as the story goes on.

We'll see how the writing goes in November. I wanted to warn people that while there will still be regular Monday posts, they may well be less in-depth than some of my recent posts. (If they get as long as some of the recent posts they'll be split up.) I plan to double-up my writing for the blog in the coming months, so part of the October and all of the November posts will all be written well ahead of time.

I'm less interested in preserving the remaining ancient natural places than I am about reclaiming spaces for nature and setting them aside for the future. Plenty of folks want to preserve. Fewer want to transform the refuse and waste of human civilization and turn that in to something that will one day be mighty, ancient, and filled with potent magics. This is really the foundational idea for my story.

Now, whether this idea is related in any form through the story is another matter... ;)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Seperable souls do not make sense

There are a lot of theories about the number of bodies we have. Some say two, a soul and a body, some say three, a soul, a spirit, and a body. I've heard some folks claim seven or even thirteen.

I see the various multiple body theories as something like arguing about the layers of a complex pastry. It may be technically composed of layers but some of the layers are paper-thin and any attempt to separate individual layers (or even groups of layers) ultimately only violates the integrity of the piece. The pastry, like the human life, is designed to be experienced wholly without tearing it apart.

Now, I believe there is enough evidence to conclude there is a spiritual component to the world. Miracles happen. Sometimes people get better and the doctors can not explain it. People around the world have had deep personal relationships with their deities since the dawn of man. To ignore all the evidence of a spiritual component is to ignore a vast amount of human experience.

In this post, I'm going to argue against the simplest and most common of the multi-body theories. This is the theory that there is a physical body and a separate soul that can exist independently to the physical body. I don't think a theory of a soul that enters and exits and can otherwise exist independent to the physical body makes the most sense with the available set of facts and assumptions. My arguments against this works well enough for the other theories as well.

The evidence for the theory of souls or spirits surviving physical bodies -- other than religious texts -- would be various ghosts and apparitions that people have experienced. Mind you, some of the experiences people have with the spirits of their dead relatives have been intensely powerful, life-changing things. The haunted places may or may not be best explained by the souls or spirits of dead, but some of the experiences people have with ancestors and loved ones make most sense if the actual dead person is involved somehow.

That's the thing, though, it requires a "somehow". I assert that it not only does not require a separable soul, but that the presence of a separable soul adds unneeded complexity to the situation.

Now, I agree that the soul can transcend space and time. Astral travel and remote viewing are legitimate in my world-view.

In fact, on a personal note, I once lost an argument with someone on whether or not he was real. My argument was based upon the fact that the being had never been incarnate. His argument was based upon his ability to interact with the world and be felt. As I said, I lost the argument and had to conclude being incarnate wasn't as important as being experienced. However, I believe it may be fallacy to expect a being which has never been human to be similar to some concrete part of a human being.

It is like saying a chocolate pudding in a parfait glass is equivalent to the chocolate pudding found in a pudding cake. The flavor may be similar, and in fact you may be able to carefully scrape off a spoonful of pudding, but you can never completely remove the crumbs of cake. More than that, the structure of the cake was never native to the pudding. (Pudding, unlike cake, can never be easily eaten with fingers.) A spirit or a soul without some container -- like pudding -- may drip and dissolve and ultimately cease to be. Of course what sort of container a spirit that has never had a physical form may use is beyond the scope of this conversation. I only assert that it makes sense to believe that there is some other kind of vessel -- though like a glass dish we may see through it.

Back to topic, though, it appears that we may be multi-dimensional beings that span beyond the traditional four dimensions (three dimensions of space plus one for time). In this case it makes sense that it is hard -- if not impossible -- for us to use science grounded in these four dimensions to measure something which exists fundamentally elsewhere. This is only to say we not only do not need science to prove the existence of the soul, it is expected that real-world science will always fail find anything measurable when it comes to the soul.

If we are fundamentally multi-dimensional beings existing both in the four normal dimensions, and in one or more dimensions we have no direct way to measure then it makes sense for the spiritual side of our being -- that part of our being which exists beyond the ordinary world -- is capable of reaching out and back in to space and time in ways that science can not explain.

That being said, we only have solid memories of our experiences as we live them. We can astral travel in our sleep and still have little to no memory of it at all. If the majority of our soul exists someplace else then our souls could experience the "afterlife" while still rooted firmly to our physical bodies. The afterlife just as you always envisioned it can coexist -- without requiring a separable soul.

This allows communion with the dead -- but the soul or spirit of the person you are communing with is rooted to the person's life. While this may not make immediate sense with the messages (explicitly stating the person is in heaven) or attitudes of the loved ones (clearly transcended beyond the pain of life) which are related in these messages, you're communing with a part of their being that transcended space and time to reach you. It is unlikely they would be carrying the same baggage with them as they had in their life. More than that, it is likely the route they took to reach you, reaching out beyond time and space and back in, took them through heaven (even more than one heaven) or through other places of love and peace.

I say the theories about after-lives can exist as you envision within this theory, and that is the case...  more-or-less. Without a separable soul you can't do reincarnation. Interestingly, you can still have past-life experiences. I imagine that there is a resonance between two lives and a person can -- literally -- experience someone else's life. You're experiencing it as the other person and not as an observer so it feels like it is your life. As there needed to be a resonance -- a commonality -- before the link could be formed it is easy to draw similarities. (I'll be going in to this a little further in depth in another post.)

I take a relative view to time. I am immortal between the points of my birth and my death -- whatever trials I go through nothing can kill me during this time. I think it is possible that when we die our point-of-focus simply reverts to our birth. We're essentially reincarnated in to our own lives. We're forever alive, forever at choice, but we rarely know our other choices except perhaps in deja vu, dreams, or visions. (I, for one, have had profound experiences of deja vu where I've done things differently. Different choices led to different experiences. It produced deja vu, but it was flawed.)

There is no way for the soul to go on to some "afterlife" because my life never ends. This means the only way I could experience the traditional afterlife would be if I could experience it concurrently or even tangentially to my life. Even then, it is likely the only heaven or hell that any of us will ever experience is the one we create around ourselves. More than that, if I'm right you exist in that heaven or hell forever -- or at least until you change your mind and make a better choice.

I hope that by now I've explained you do not need separable souls to describe the sum of our experiences with the spirits of ancestors and loved ones. We are profoundly spiritual beings even without having detachable souls. The experiences remain as valid and accurate. Only the explanation of the experiences changes.

(If you wonder how this can work with the concept of "Walk-Ins", you'll have to wait for another post. I'll explain it, but not right now.)

Now to describe situations where the separable soul simply does not make sense:

[Some of the current theories about separable souls are grounded on a premise that humanity is unique or if not unique then superior. I do not share either of these beliefs, and this has effected my spirituality. More details on exactly what I believe has souls are described in an earlier post on anthropocentrism.]
Babies born without lungs, according to most separable soul theories, can never acquire a soul for their sad short lives. (This is certainly the case if the soul enters at the first breath.)
My theory allows for even babies without lungs to have souls.
What constitutes a first breath? Is it the exchange of gases with an environment outside of a parent? If a simple exchange of gases is required, then single-celled life-forms could have separable souls.
Since I believe things can have souls without breathing, I don't need to deal with this question.
Separable soul theories tend to favor humans as the only hosts for souls. They sometimes require the hosts of souls to be animals (and not plants).Separable soul theories (as far as I know) universally require the hosts of the souls to distinct separate living entities.
I believe that you do not need distinct separate living entities to have souls.
Conjoined twins may have two minds, but if they're conjoined in a way that they can not be separated does that necessitate them having two distinct souls? What if they share one lung? What if they share both lungs?
I've heard some say identical twins are (at least at times) different incarnations of a single soul. Is it even possible to describe conjoined twins as "different incarnations" when they distinctly share the same body?
My theory allows conjoined twins to both have their own souls as well as have a separate shared soul.
When there are parasitic twins by definition one twin is more capable than the other. If you have separable souls where do you draw the line on whether a parasitic twin has a soul or not? If a parasitic twin does not have a head, a lot of theories on separable souls would not allow that twin to have a soul. Does the parasitic twin share the primary soul in that case, or is it just this soulless piece of flesh?
My answer here is generally the same as my answer for conjoined twins -- there are three souls. One for each twin and one for the composite being. The only exception to this rule is that if a person were able to feel or move the limbs with sibling DNA (and thus belonging to a parasitic twin) they are effectively a single person and have no reason to have a separate soul for the parasitic twin.
There are symbiotic organisms which require the other to function. For instance, there is a tree which can not live without a particular type of ant living in it. If one can not live without the other, is this different than conjoined twins?
Unsurprisingly, I treat this exactly like the conjoined twin case. There are individual souls as well as a soul for the gestalt entity. When dealing with the case of an insect colony as one of the organisms involved in the relationship the individual insects have separate souls in addition to a soul for the colony as a whole.
How does separable souls play with individuals who have chimerism? This would be a single human being who was -- at one time -- two different zygotes in their mother's womb. The zygotes merge in a way that produces a single organism with two different sets of DNA. If the soul is somehow tied to DNA, (as some anti-abortion Christians believe), then this person would have two human souls.
Is the soul tied to the brain? What if there is two different sets of DNA in the brain? Does the person have two human souls then? Is it still tied to the intake of first breath? What if each lung has different DNA? Are there two souls then?
If a chimera gets only one soul because it performs only a single inhale, do conjoined twins get a single soul when they perform a single inhale, too? Remember, they may share one or more lungs. They may even share their whole diaphragm.
Chimera have different DNA, while most conjoined twins are identical. Is this acceptable reasoning for why conjoined twins should share the same soul, while chimera should have two souls? Does this explanation really make it acceptable to believe a chimera has two concurrent souls?
My theory ignores DNA and favors a practical approach. There is effectively one human being. That means chimera would only have one human soul. This doesn't require any special cases, either. Does it behave like a single being? If so it is treated as a single being with regards to how many souls it has.

My theories allow for a lot more souls than are even possible with separable souls.
  • Separable souls do not work for relationship-based souls. The soul of a marriage or the soul of a relationship with a son or daughter isn't something that can exist within the bounds of a separable-soul world-view. I assert that the relationship is alive if it can grow and change and impacts the actions of others. It seems self-evident that relationships have souls.
  • Separable souls do not work for things which are never born, like rocks or other inanimate objects. People who are fans of crystals, gemstones, and other rocks do seem to commune with them. If there is anything to commune with, there must be some spirit or soul there.
  • Separable souls do not work for places, buildings, hills, or other structures -- natural or man-made. People can accept that a place has a spirit to it, they'll accept that a rock or stone will have a spirit to it, but they need to create separate theories to explain how this can be the case while they still have a separable soul.
  • Separable souls do not work for the component organs, structures, cells, and systems within something already determined to have a soul. This creates a phenomena where many believe humans live on the Earth (which has a soul) instead of believing that humans are part of the Earth.
  • Separable souls do not work in cases where the source or root of the soul is fundamentally different than expected. For there to be a separable soul, there needs to be a process for the soul to enter, and the soul may need to have a place of residence within the body. When things are fundamentally different than expected this can create problems.We see these problems with the chimera and some conjoined and parasitic twins, but there is no reason to expect this to be where the problem ends.
I believe there is evidence to support the existence of some of these souls which the separable soul theory disallows. It doesn't matter if there's evidence supporting all of them, as any one of them makes the separable soul theory more complicated. Chimera also helps shine some light on some of the problems with separable souls.

To summarize:
  • Separable souls complicates birth, as you need to add the soul sometime.
  • Separable souls complicate parasitic and symbiotic relationships -- especially in the cases where an organism was born conjoined.
  • Separable souls require an entirely different explanation for the souls of  places, rocks, and other things determined to not be "alive."
  • Separable souls have a hard time dealing with conjoined twins and chimera in a manner which doesn't require explicit special cases.
  • Existing spiritual and past-life experiences, including direct encounters with spirits of dead ancestors and loved ones do not require a separable soul to be explained.
  • Few afterlife theories require separable souls.
  • Any theory of separable souls requires a lot of special cases and even then fails to explain the spiritual aspects of some of reality.
If we're looking for an answer that is as simple as possible to explain what is accepted as fact, yet no simpler, it leans favorably toward an inseparable spiritual aspects of all of reality. These provides souls which behave like traditional souls, but which can not actually separate from our physical body. This allows all souls to be treated equally, whether they are the souls of hills, mountains, haunted houses, still-born babies, parasitic twins, chimera or alien life forms fundamentally unlike anything we have on this planet.

That being said, I have some things to say regarding how this plays with ancestor worship and my particular form of polytheism. That will be discussed more in a later post.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Justice and faith

I recently went to a 15 year high school reunion. I had a great time. At one point, my feet were sore, my back was achy, my stomach felt a little uneasy -- the night was just wearing on -- and even though I tend to be quite social, at some point I need to cease being an active participant, step back and enjoy the event as it unfolds around me. (I am an introvert by nature.)

So I was sitting there, and getting to a point where I'd kind of like some company, but not feeling up to finding company of my own. I said to myself, "I'd like someone to see me sitting here, then sit down near me and talk to me."

A few seconds later that is exactly what happened. More than that I knew that the person that sat down would eventually try to proselytize. I knew it when he sat down. It is what he does. We talked shop for a few minutes, and right on course he ends up going there. I had a good time talking with him. It was fun.

A key point in his argument seemed to be that his god's laws are imprinted on our hearts, and that all the good that humans do is an act of grace on God's part. If it weren't for this "restraining grace" we would be unable to restrain our carnal desires.

At one point he brought up the fact that if he were right, I was going to hell. I have problems with various aspects of Christianity -- particularly the bit about it being the only path to the Divine. I responded with this: Any god that would punish men who were good, honest men regardless of what was in their hearts(*) and minds but simply because they never heard about Jesus isn't so nice. "In an unjust society, the only place for a just man is in prison." If you are right I will gladly go to hell. (I'd forgotten who said the quote at the time, but it was Thoreau.)

This was, in part, my humanist tendencies showing themselves. I believe that a person can be good and can have never heard of Jesus. The Reciprocal Ethic -- what Christians call the "Golden Rule" -- exists in virtually all cultures though it is worded differently. Caring for the elderly and infirm is a trait common to all cultures regardless of religion.

We treat people with dignity and respect because we are human and this is a human trait. I don't see our social behavior as particularly unique to us, so much as it just a product of our being social animals. Other social animals have behavior that are unique to their species -- or in the really interesting cases unique to a specific culture. We can, of course, become better at being humane to each other, though if we really want it to stick it should not be out of fear of punishment but out of a desire to improve the world and make it better for everyone.

You can see evidence of the reverse at work. To commit atrocities against our fellow humans the targets must first be dehumanized. It is intrinsically repugnant to butcher humans like so many animals, but if you mentally turn the humans in to animals first it can become just another job.

The first job of all bigotry, then, is to take a wonderfully unique human individual and transform him or her in to a pest animal. There are different levels of success, of course, and only in the extreme cases is the transition complete enough in a person's mind to allow them to commit atrocities without remorse.

Anything that degrades the individual into a generalization is bigotry and is the starting point for full dehumanization. If you realize this early, you can nip it in the bud. You need to be aware of this both for yourself and your community, as any group can become the target of a lynching if tensions are allowed to be driven toward a generalized group of people.

Anyway, back to the reunion, the bar, and the interesting fellow preaching of his thoughts of Jesus.

I was being asked to believe that the only reason there is a sense of justice in the human soul is because of the Christian deity. More than that, I was told that since He created everything, He can take a group of humans and use them to kill other humans. We're effectively His playthings and He can do with us as He wishes. (Which sort of reminded me of an earlier post.)

If I was given a sense of justice because of this deity, why then is that sense of justice so offended by this behavior?

I was told that it is better for a Christian to have Jesus in mind than in heart. I was told that Christians should do or believe things that don't seem self-evident, things that are right because they are Godly, even though they don't feel right to a person's heart.

I'll be honest, at one point I felt particularly tired and felt like conceding the argument. During that time of weakness, the thought came to me, "What about the cats? He discounts their gods completely." That gave me strength to keep on. (Bless the cat gods!)

There I was, sitting in one of my gods (for aren't most bars masculine?), feeling the presence of the Divine deep within my being. My senses expanding, feeling the floor and room around me. Knowing my place in the room, in so many senses of those words.

Here he was telling me to discount everything I had ever experienced, telling me that -- literally -- I should think about whether I might be influenced by demonic forces. I felt honored that he felt the need to go "there" to argue with me.

The "demonic influence" argument was on par with my asking him if he ever considered that if you look at the Bible objectively, without the implicit assumption that it is True, it looks like the sort of BS you'd see in an abusive relationship. (I didn't go there with him.) "No one loves you like I do." "You're a worthless wretch, your lucky my son -- my son! -- gave his life to protect you." "Anyone that says I am not telling you the truth is a liar. You just tell me who they are so I can 'talk' to them."

The last of those reasons is why I never really try to convert people. They're in a bad relationship with a god that admits he is the jealous type. I have no need to get in the middle of that. I am a polytheist, so it isn't like I don't believe in their god, I just think he isn't all he claims to be.

Ultimately, I shouldn't have to subjugate my sense of justice to my faith. They should stand strong and proud beside each other, both of them supporting the other as need be. This would be one of the reasons I support social justice initiatives like marriage equality, intactivism, prison reform, etc. These things are demanded by both my sense of justice and my faith.

If you need to subjugate your sense of justice to your faith, maybe -- just maybe -- you have an unjust faith.

Footnote (*): I wanted to make sure I was framing the opposing viewpoint correctly, so I ran by the post by the person I was talking to before making it live. His response was that the Bible states that all hearts are deceitful and wicked, so there is no question as to what is in a non-Christian's heart. (No one is truly good except for God.) This also means it would be inaccurate to say he believes that non-Christians are punished regardless of what is in their hearts. I -- unsurprisingly -- do not believe that everyone has a wicked or deceitful heart. In my mind the evidence simply does not back up this assertion.

His argument is not concerned with the contents of a person's heart, as he believes he knows what is there. My argument is concerned with the contents of a person's heart. What I'm left with is such a fundamental difference in perspective that it seemed more accurate to annotate the reference than to try to change my statement.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Deities and animal spirits

It is my belief that cats, for one, have their own deities. I also believe that at least some of their deities enjoy live sacrifices and prolonged torture. I am distinctly a cat-person, mind you, but there's something about some cat behavior that seems best explained by this. Sure, part of it is the cats trying to teach us how to hunt. That doesn't cover everything, though.

More than a decade ago my housemate at the time and I had a pair of brothers from the same litter. We found a pile of entrails on the white bathroom carpet two days in a row. No hair, no blood, no bones. Just the entrails of something that must have been as large as a squirrel. It certainly didn't map to "teaching" at all. It stopped after we both talked to our cats about it. I said they could do whatever they liked, but they should keep it outdoors. What sort of strange ritual were the cats performing? I, for one, haven't the foggiest. I'm confident that it wasn't praying to Jesus, though. (Even though my wife says cats like Jesus -- anyone who can multiply fish like that has to okay in their book, right?)

Note that I'm talking specifically of the deities of the cats. This is entirely different than the human deities governing or pertaining to cats. Human deities may have a cat head or take a cat shape, however they are tuned to the human mind and spirit. Cat deities on the other hand are tuned to feline minds and spirits. That is to say, I suspect that even in ancient Egypt the cats did not worship Bast or any other human deity

It seems logical that cats, like most creatures capable of complex social interactions, probably have multiple deities. But what about the simpler souls? If we accept that amoebae have souls, (as I do), is it logical to expect them to also have multiple deities?

I suspect that the extent of the variation among the deities of a particular species is directly related to the number of ways that the species is capable of perceiving the world as well as the number of types of social interactions that are available.

Some things may only have a single possible deity available. Rocks? While they can form complex interactions with any number of things, on their own they are pretty boring. It seems logical that the deities of the rocks would be as boring.

If there is no distinguishing characteristic that separates two deities they are essentially the same. More than that, if there are no distinguishing characteristics between two souls they are essentially the same.

Is it possible that instead of having numerous distinct amoebae souls and deities there may be a single Spirit governing the aspects of the amoeba with no distinction between members or between souls and deities? Personally, I think it is possible. It certainly bears more research.

Monday, August 2, 2010

On Anthropocentrism

Back when I was first exploring my spiritual path I engaged in experimental prayer. There will be more about this in a later post, but let me assure you that it blew my mind. I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that everything had spirits if not bona fide deities. I cast aside any hope I once had of integrating my new views with the liberal Christianity I once believed in. What I had experienced was unlike anything I'd heard about, and the repercussions of it were mind boggling. For now, I'll say I had experiential confirmation that the spiritual universe is not centered on humans.

I realized I had run in to the same problem again when I found the reason for existence. The problem is that the reason for existence must pertain to the whole of existence and not just humanity. I found a reason for existence, and it distinctly works for everything -- not just humanity. (More on that in a later post.)

These experiences skewed some things dramatically as I started exploring my own polytheism. I realized and accepted that humanity isn't separate from nature or the earth. We are part of it. We're a small cell within the organism of the planet. It's one thing to talk about that sort of thing in the abstract, but fully realizing it -- feeling it in your bones instead of your words -- and seeing this profoundly effect your spirituality is another:
We are cells of another organism and we have souls.
Looking at this in macrocosms: We are like cells of the planet. The planet as a whole has a soul, and may have deities of her own. The planets, the stars, all have souls and all may have deities. As we expand out the scale changes and we have new things which again may have souls and deities.

I have had experiences which led me to the conclusion that in among the infinite forms available to deities there are places. That is, you can both interact with deities externally -- seeing them with a body, limbs, a head, maybe even specific clothes -- or you can interact with deities within their internal landscape. In these cases you're surrounded by the deity and the interactions are vastly different in nature.

If deities are capable of having a physical form existing as a place would be vastly more permanent than existing with a human body. It is quite possible that we live each of our days within a massive multilayered Divinity. If this is the case we may find that our deities are literally around us all the time, every day of our lives.

Looking at this in microcosms: I believe that our organs each have their own souls and deities. Our cells themselves have souls and deities, too. This may well have implications for the human soul. Does the human soul exist separate from the souls of the cells of which we are composed of or is the human soul a composite of those souls? If we exist as a composite then our soul will change over time as the individual cells live their lives and die. The removal of even the slightest part of our bodies would also have consequences to our souls. To receive another person's heart could be to literally receive a part of another person's soul.

On its own, though, this seems to complicate things. Where do you draw the line between organs and cells, and why should you draw this line? Let's look at the issue more closely.

What are we really saying has souls? It seems this is at least this would be everything that moves or has the capacity to move others. Everything from the smallest cells -- perhaps even the subatomic particles -- to the universe itself, plus mountains and organs and everything in between.

What are we missing? Well, what about the circulatory system as a whole? Sure it is composed of various organs and cells but as a system it is greater than sum of the parts. We don't notice systems and interactions as much when we look at the macrocosm because there's so much space between things, but within a human it is hard to avoid.

To distract from things briefly, I have an idea about composite life-forms... In effect, when a human being drives a car, they cease being simply human and become the detachable brain and reproductive organs of the vehicle. The interaction of the two produces a new, a third entity. That third has a soul and deities.

When we think about these two things together it seems logical that all interactions create new souls and raise the possibility of new deities. When two people have a relationship there is literally a "soul of the relationship." All of the systems of our bodies have their own souls and can have their own deities.

How long do these interaction-based souls last? (The systems-based souls clearly last as long as the system.) How long are you impacted by a particular interaction? If it is street vendor you only ever buy from once in your life it is likely a soul that is short-lived. If you got food-poisoning and died from the vendor's food and the vendor went to prison that interaction has a significantly greater impact to everyone and as such may well exist as long as the consequences of that action persists.

This, of course, means there may be deities devoted specifically to the purchase of food from street vendors. When you think about it this makes as much sense as having a deity devoted to strictly to romantic relationships between people.

But let's not be so specific to humanity. The dung beetle has a soul. The dung has a soul. the interaction of the dung beetle and a particular pile of dung has a soul.

This is what I mean when I say I am a polytheist. This is what I mean when I say I am not anthropocentric.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Life as a game

I was playing Conway's Game of Life on my phone and a thought occurred to me, "You know, if God treated Life like I play this game, we would all be doomed."

Conway's Game of Life is a cellular automata simulator. The version I play starts with an empty field. I swipe my finger along the screen to create life. Then I go about interfering with any form of stability or stasis in an attempt to clear the screen with as little interaction as possible. Put simply, first I create life then I set about to destroy it with as few moves as possible.

Any sort of massive single deity which claims to be both the creator and destroyer may be interested in playing similar games on a larger scale. Such games would, of course, ultimately lead to our destruction. Frankly, such games are fun, so I can clearly see the draw.

Multiple deities provide a checks-and-balances that you can't get with a single deity. This would be why there's an assumption that any single deity must be the definition of good. Defining anything as being "inherently good" is a rationalization, an excuse. It is an ethical cop-out.

Would you blindly follow a deity to the destruction of all life on the planet? What if you were sure that would trigger the return of your heroes and deities? What if you were given proof that the request came from your deity of choice?

Personally, I don't think I can call any deities inherently good, as I can not call any inherently bad. They exist. They may have their own agenda. They may believe their agenda would be beneficial to you or to humanity as a whole. But... inherently good? Is a tree inherently good? Are the stars inherently good? (Note that I can't talk about people this way due to the belief that some folks have that people are inherently bad.)

Good and evil are often just labels. If I said everything I did was good because I had been touched by my gods then I would be given carte blanche to be extremely damaging to my fellow humans without consequence or remorse. Unfortunately, this seems to happen with some cults.

You need to look at everything with a sense of ethics. Is the goal to win the game at any cost, or is it to play honorably while everyone has fun?

When dealing with divinities, a little doubt is good, as you may not be communicating with the deity you expect. (More on this later.) If you are asked to do something that doesn't seem ethical do not blindly accept it as a test of faith as it is just possible you may not be dealing with an ethical deity. Ethical deities not only don't cheat, they don't ask others to cheat for them.

Out here the game we play is for the hearts and minds of humanity -- the very future of our people. Play fair and we can all have fun. Cheat and you may still lose.

Monday, July 26, 2010


The goal of this is to have a weekly blog about polytheism. As I am a parent with distinct opinions about child-rearing this seems an appropriate place for that as well. The blog will be primarily updated Monday morning, to honor the Moon's day. (This has the benefit of giving me the weekend to write it if need be.) With any luck there will be bonus updates as well, but the goal is weekly on Monday.

When I talk about polytheism it is distinct and separate from most forms of neopaganism. Some neopagans only actually believe in two deities, a male deity (or Lord) and a female deity (or Lady). Additionally, it isn't uncommon in some neopagan communities to find deities treated as being amalgams responding to any deity name you can throw out. I'm not like that at all.

When I say that I am a polytheist, I mean it. I believe in an infinite number of deities with an infinite number of forms and an infinite number of names. Names are meaningless, as every deity has an infinite number. Only trust the names they give you, as -- for you -- they are most likely to respond to that name. I have more to say on this topic, but it will wait for a later post.

What do I mean by the title of the blog?

The word "daemons" can mean, roughly, small gods. This directly ties in to the polytheist aspect of the blog as most of the deities I pray to are not commonly acknowledged. They are not the "big" deities as it were. "Raising Daemons" then, could mean uplifting small deities to a greater state of divinity -- effectively creating larger deities.

The fact that the blog will also cover some parenting stuff is also covered with the name nicely. The word "daemon" was used for the venerated ghosts of dead heroes. If I aspire to raise a great and mighty child who -- through whatever she decides to do -- can magnificently change the world for the better then it is logical to hope that she may eventually become a daemon.

I see it akin to Christians hoping that their children learn to be Christ-like, or Buddhists hoping their children learn the Buddha-nature. If you are down with ancestor worship at all it is only natural to aspire to raise a child worthy of praise and worship in the future ages. The more great and mighty people we raise the better the future can become.

I am looking forward to comments, as I plan to have posts in the future discussing things brought up in comments. If ever you find you need further explanation, please chime in! If you have a question -- even one unrelated to the current post -- please ask! Around these parts there are no stupid questions, though depending on your expectations there may be some really strange answers.