Today I approached my altar in silence. Speaking the words out loud, my standard approach to a daily ritual, felt unnecessary. In my mind, in my heart, the words rang out with perfect clarity, and I trusted that whomever needed to hear them would.
The effort I put into my daily practice waxes and wanes, and it is influenced a great deal by my emotional state. Some days I don’t feel I have it in me to make offerings of gratitude and thanks to the Kindred. There are financial concerns, piles of paperwork on the desk, and sticky-notes of errands that have been neglected. When I wake up with a busy brain I have a very difficult time making space for piety.
But today in my ritual, rather than using my voice to will the space into stillness, I went inward. I turned my gaze into the depths and found that there was already plenty of space for reverence. Caverns of it, really. And the stillness came.
To my delight, I found that the richness of my meditative, magickal work increased in this state of silent dialogue. My small candle flame transformed into the great, Sacred Fire with a force that it hadn’t before. The chalice became the Well, and reached deep into the center of the earth, effortlessly. In between the two stood the Great Tree, broad and majestic, and full of life.
All of this happened in a silent room, and it was only possible – I think – because I’ve been faithful to my daily practice to the point where the words I speak out loud could finally be internalized. The Kindred listen in ways that are beyond my imagination. The spirits of the land and of our ancestors are sentient, I believe, but I’m not sure how. I think that I was persistent in speaking out loud because I thought there was a connection between the sound of my voice and their ability to hear. This may have even been a lesson I was taught.
But I don’t believe it’s true. I don’t believe we need to approach the Kindred — the Gods of our heart — with the idea that their limitations are easily conceivable. They may not, as many Pagans have presumed, be omni-anything, but the exact shape of their being remains a mystery.
Sometimes I think the Pagan Humanists have it right in their approach to their practice. They see the Gods as archetypes, but they also see the archetypes as our entry into deeper engagement with the greatness, the expansiveness, the mystery of the Gods. In a way, I’d rather suspend my need to affirm some definite conception of the Gods if it allowed me to approach Them with greater reverence and wonder.
Does that make sense?
Before today, I spoke out loud in my room because I thought I needed to do so in order to be heard, in order for my ritual to be successful. But I’ve discovered that I can have the experience of being heard without speaking at all. It feels like there are greater ramifications to this discovery that I can’t yet see.
Does this inspire something in you?
This definitely inspires me Teo. I have a tendency to not shut up in my daily life. There may be something to approaching the Kindred with silent reverence. I think I’ll give this a try tonight before I head off to sleep. Thanks for sharing!
I’m glad to hear that the post resonated with you, Brendan. Please feel free to share whatever experiences come from your experiment.
Blessings to you!
Simply beautiful. An inspiring post.
Thank you, Christina. I’m glad you felt inspired. 🙂
” it was only possible because I’ve been faithful to my daily
practice to the point where the words I speak out loud could finally be
yes Yes YES!
Half of life is just showing up. The other half is sticking with stuff long enough for it to bear fruit.
I believe you are right, John.
I don’t believe in Goddesses and Gods RIGHT NOW. I say right now because who know what the Universe will reveal to me tomorrow. Having said that, I do believe in the Universe, not an a deity or even an entity, but as the collection of all our psychic energy that those that have found their psychic abilites can connect with. Great things can be accomplished with all these are connected.
Thanks for your comment, Sunnydays1941. I’m glad you’re a part of the dialogue, and I respect where you’re coming from. I think its interesting the way you define the Universe as “the collection of all our psychic energy.” I’m not sure I’ve heard it described quite that way before.
I wonder – does your practice inform your belief, or does your belief inform your practice? Does your work to develop your psychic abilities feel analogous to the religious work that some Pagans do to worship or honor their Gods, or is it something different?
Heh, I almost don’t want to respond because I only seem to post here when I disagree with you, and I must be starting to come off like a prick. >8)
But my own practices have gone in quite the opposite direction. In my early days a few decades ago, I thought nothing of just thinking the words when I was doing solitary ritual, but after experimenting for a while, I started doing everything out loud all the time. (Not necessarily LOUD loud, often in a whisper.) Even before I learned that ancient cultures frowned on silent prayer (or how would you know that people weren’t asking for nasty bad things that would hurt others?) (presumably people were smart enough to ask for those things in private ritual instead of public), I felt there was a definitive act to saying something aloud that made it more official than the always-swirling thoughts in my head. Case in point: say I want to ask a favor from Hermes, and I think of three different things I could promise as a later offering. If I say one of them out loud, that’s the offering, and if he comes through, I know what to do. If I just thought it, wait, which one was it I really meant?
Then again, I live alone and spend most of my time in silence anyway. I suspect that people who actually live with someone may see it very differently.
And kudos for regular practice! There’s no replacement for it, in terms of oth internalizing the system and getting in tune with whoever or whatever you’re trying to get in tune with.
Thanks for your comment, Rob. I can always count on your for a spirit contribution to the discussion, Rob. 🙂 And, for the record, I don’t think you’re a prick.
I do think that this is subjective. For someone living in silence, being vocal may mean something different than it might to someone surrounded by sound. But, more than that I think what was important here was not the silence our the sound, but the movement from one to the other. It was in the conscious, deliberate act of worship that there was value, not in its exact expression.
As for the “ancient cultures,” I’m not sure how I feel about the statements you’ve made. I think saying that “ancient cultures frowned on silent prayer” does two things: it paints the practices of the old as more relevant than those of the new, even those that are “revealed” to us modern folk though experience (as this was, for me), and I’m not sure I can get behind that idea; and, it seems very broad and general. Did all ancient cultures fell this way? Re-reading your comment, I think you might be referring specifically to protocol in public ritual. Is that correct, or did I misread you?
Nope, you read me perfectly on that one. Public prayer was expected to be done out loud, certainly in the Greek and Roman cultures. Michael Dangler has done more research and can probably get you sources on other cultures a lot faster than I could. >8)
As for whether what the ancients did is better or relevant than what we do, that’s another topic. I only bring it up in the context of “I started doing it *before* I learned that the Ancients did it”, so folks know that this isn’t just me assuming that what they did was better and mimicking them. (Not that trying out what they did is a bad thing.)
This was great post Teo! I’ve been exploring silent practice myself, which began with a curiosity about how “Quagans” integrate Quakerism and Paganism. I’ve come to relate to divinity as Emerson’s “Wise Silence”. In my meditation, I try to “listen to the silence where the words come from”.
Also, I love how you articulated the tension that exists sometime between our need to define the gods and suspending belief/disbelief so as to experience the mystery that are the gods.
Thanks, John. I’m glad the post resonated with you.
I also find the intersection of Quakerism and Paganism to be fascinating, and one that I would like to witness up close. There are a few blogs I’ve read on the subject, but I’ve never had a conversation, face-to-face, with someone who’s had experiences in both worlds.
I’m glad that you picked up on the tension. It seems key. And, I think you’re right to include the suspension of disbelief and belief as necessary actions that might lead one into a greater experience of the mystery.
A student once asked Lao Tsu, ‘Why do you teach, ‘The Mind is Buddha?’
Lao Tsu answered, ‘To keep a child from crying.’
The student thought on this and asked, ‘After a student has learned this, what then do you teach?’
Lao Tsu said, ‘Not Mind, Not Buddha.’
The student persisted, ‘When that lesson is learned, O Teacher, what then would you teach one who seeks?’
Lao Tsu answered, ‘Not being.’
The student asked, ‘After that lesson, what does one teach, Master?’
Lao Tsu smiled and said, ‘I would leave them to experience the wonder of the Tao.’
THE MASTER Nan-in had a visitor who came to inquire about Zen. Butinstead of listening, the visitor kept talking about his ownideas.After a while, Nan-in served tea. He poured tea into his visitor’scup until it was full, then he kept on pouring.Finally the visitor could not restrain himself. “Don’t you seeit’s full?” he said. “You can’t get any more in!””Just so,” replied Nan-in, stopping at last. “And like this cup,you are filled with your own ideas. How can you expect me to giveyou Zen unless you offer me an empty cup?”
[…] Here is one by Teo Bishop, “Do Not Speak and, You Will Be Heard“ […]