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Since I began working through the Dedicant Path this second time, I’ve run across a number of people who are also starting their studies with ADF. They’re showing up in the comment section on Bishop In The Grove, on Facebook, and I’m wondering if there’s some deeper meaning behind it.

A friend of mine suggested that we should distrust the Volkswagen Bug syndrome. You know — the one where you buy a VW bug, and then all you see around you are VW bugs. They start popping up everywhere — in parking lots, next to you while driving on the freeway, trailing you home from your knitting class…

…that last one isn’t part of the lore. It just came to me.

You know what I’m talking about, though. You make some change to your life, and then you see that change reflected in the world around you.

If I was an adherent to a popular New Age theory like The Secret (which my husband calls “The Trick”), I might say that this is the Universe providing me what I asked for. Although, it would seem a bit more like the Universe on overdrive, wouldn’t it? How many VW bugs does one guy need?

Photo by Marty Desilets

This search for the source of the repeating VW — or the new wave of ADF Dedicants — may be fruitless. If it’s the Universe, there’s no good way to trace that. Same goes for the gods.

Right?

In the comment section of my last post people went to town explaining their relationship to Pagan and metaphysical stuff. It was eye-opening.

I’m reminded of one comment now.

“On the one hand, I fully agree with the idea that Pagans collect too much stuff….On the other hand, what if it’s what the gods demand of us?”

How do we know (he asks with no clear answer) if the gods are encouraging us to buy that fancy wand or that new “mysterious” crystal skull? How do we discern the meaning behind the multiplying VW’s and Druids?

Perhaps that word — discernment — is a key to unlocking some of this.

Photo by Jef Safi

A quick search for the meaning of discernment reveals this (the secondary definition):

(in Christian contexts) Perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual direction and understanding

  • – without providing for a time of healing and discernment, there will be no hope of living through this present moment without a shattering of our common life

Why, I wonder, is this labeled as “in Christian contexts”?

The Christian context for discernment assumes that you’re listing to the One True God, but if he isn’t your Mr. Right you’re going to be listening for something, or someone else.

Many a Pagan turns to divination for answers, and perhaps for them divination is the Pagan version of discernment. But, for those who divine as a way of listening to the gods (or the dead, or the spirits of place), isn’t there a teensy-weensy bit of discernment involved in that process? Don’t you have to suspend your judgement — or, at least your immediate, knee-jerk, influenced-by-your-cultural-conditioning-and-prejudices judgement in order to tap into the knowledge of something other than yourself — something non-human?

In my ADF studies, I’m doing a lot of book work. I’m also being called to do a lot of personal reflection. In reflection, an act of seeing inward, there is an auditory component. There is inner-listening.

I think “inner-listening” might be another way to think of discernment.

The question is, listening for what?

Your personal truth? The voice of Demeter? The advice of your dead great-grandmother?

Discernment is nuanced in the Christian world. It points to a personal relationship with deity, and when I’ve heard it used it was done so with seriousness and sensitivity. You don’t just hear God without freaking out a little, or without having to go through a process of trying to figure out — did I just hear God?

So what about discernment outside of the Christian context? I have this strong feeling (perhaps I’m discerning something) that there is a place for discernment in the religious lives of polytheists and Pagans.

So, what is that place?

What is the use of discernment in your life?