I’ve very grateful for all of the on- and off-blog posts to me about the question of evil. It is gratifying to know that I’m being read. Before we go deeper into specific subjects, I want to take a step back and gain some perspective on our project. This blog is an experiment in what is technically called Systematic Theology. It is systematic in that it endeavors to cover core issues pertaining to a religious tradition, here Pagan, in an orderly, coherent, where appropriate rational, and hopefully complete way. This is different from Practical Theology, which has to do with applying theology to life (although we’ll do some of that too). Practical theology has a variety of sub-disciplines like pastoral, political or liturgical theologies, dealing with theology in the context of the practitioner’s service to a population, or in application to political or social discourse, or with respect to ritual practice, respectively. But now, I want to talk about the idea of theology itself.
If you keep any kind of regular spiritual practice over a long period of time, you'll find that you can hit a wall. The tried and true technique just doesn't do it for you like it once did. In my experience its not so much that the technique is at fault, or that you are at fault, as you've been sincerely using it as a part of your practice with regular frequency, but that you've hit a plateau or even made a permanent shift.
If you are going strong enough, our spiritual practice can open us to new levels of consciousness. Our first experience with these levels is a “peak” experience. When you enter into this peak often enough, it starts to level out and become a more regular normal level for us, creating a plateau of consciousness. When you maintain this plateau for a period of time and use it as a base to establish new peaks, you are making a permanent shift of consciousness.
Initiations are designed to trigger such permanent shifts, often by linking you to a lineage of energy that contains those who have made such shifts. Initiations of life can create the circumstances to grow spiritually and make the changes as well. But regular practice, often a slower path, can also make similar shifts. Initiatory maps, such as the Tree of Life as depicted in modern Qabalistic magick, can help us see where we are, where we were and where we might be going....
During the writing of yesterday's post on Reconstruction, an example of my changed mindset came to mind which I couldn't find a place for in that post. I told you all before about my path. Most of my religious life was spent as a Neo-Pagan or some form of Eclectic Witch. I enjoyed it a lot and some practices were so engrained into my life, I only realized I had them when I transitioned to Hellenismos. One of these practices was to buy (almost) only second-hand religious items for my practice.
The thought process behind it was that, everything I stumbled upon, be it boxes, chalices or books, was provided to me by the Gods. The only things that were exempt were my Athame, candles and incense. Especially in the case of books, I felt that the books I found in thrift or second-hand stores were the books I was supposed to find at that time in my life and religious practice. I took them as signs. In true Neo-Pagan manner, I also didn't haggle on the cost of any item I bought for religious purposes. It was a wonderful way of magickal living.
As I transitioned into Hellenismos, however, the change in mindset caused me to drop both practices without conscious thought. I knew what my path was, now. I didn't need that specific type of guidance. I left general Pagan books on the shelve that I would have bought only a week ago. With my new shopping list in hand, I still found myself in a veritable Elysium of possibilities. I also couldn't think up a single reason why I shouldn't try and haggle when the opportunity arose. In fact: it seemed like a perfectly valid Hellenic thing to do. And all of that over the course of, maybe, a week.