I started this blog just shy of a year ago today, after my birthday. So, as I bring to a close the 38th year of my life, I come toward the end of a year of posting here. It has been a tether for me, anchored me while I have undertaken a long and hard push into the depths of my spiritual being. The peculiarity of this blog is a reflex, a counter-movement to the peculiarity of that experience, a note to plumb the space of its silence. I have tried to make the counterpoint aspect of that clear. The words are not an expression of the spiritual realities I am exploring, but a means of generating illuminating friction.
Welcome to my birthday ramble.
I remember when I first started reading around accounts of early Caribbean diaspora religion how startled I was to find some of the early expressions seeming so crude. There wasn’t the regal organization of spirits that we tend to find enshrined in codified accounts of Haitian Vodou or Cuban Santeria, but an uncomfortable mixture of clear and unclear, well-defined cultural roots and naive innovation. To read about someone honoring a vague spirit like ‘Moonboy’ alongside a well-known spirit like ‘Ogun’ was…well, weird. For a long time, I tried to suppress that and favored clearer and clearer order.
But, then, well, I couldn’t. I saw the need to let my spiritual life speak and grow according the principles of the spirits that were populating it. Pretty soon, there I was, honoring spirits with monikers vague as ‘Moonboy.’ It required me to be lonelier, no doubt, but the world that unfurled before and within me? Well, it was a good deal more familiar and vital than I expected. That loneliness? It seems like an essential aspect of the work, too, the encounter with my singularity, my mortality, the bones of my fate.
Are these spirits truly distinct from the ones I can name more easily? Well, that has been part of my education. Spirits are and aren’t discrete beings. I’m not talking about some quantum indeterminacy here, where they pivot between wave and particle according to what I focus on. No, I mean that they are discrete and amorphous at the same time, like the center of a movement I sense only in outline. They don’t have the kind of being that makes them amenable to logical organization. Pretty much any kind of organization given them is contingent. Not meaningless, contingent.
Contingency, mortality, fate. Bones. Yes, there is a bit of a theme going, isn’t there? Well, it is a birthday ramble.
The organization of spirits is their own and in pursuing my spiritual work the challenge has been to uncover the logic proper to my spirits rather than to apply some external logic to them. The Kabbalah only became useful when I ceased to apply it as a coherent system and approached it as a set of concepts which were subject to reorganization in the face of spiritual experience. Geomancy was a godsend and provided me with the lineaments of that.
My understanding of spirit work is not far from that of C. G. Jung in the Liber Novus, as the personal adventure into the world of spirit that entails bringing everything that you have to the work. Your concepts should not rule the work, but should be under constant stress, often broken in the face of the workings. Our capacity to understand is comparably small in comparison to our capacity to experience and a reliance upon the understanding narrows our capacity to experience dramatically. The more intensely you bring conceptual categories to bear on spiritual experience, the more you should sense how spirit resists and sometimes startles. It is good to be struck dumb from time to time.
Religious organization seems ancillary to this work. It is not a matter of adopting a perspective that can be shared, than of developing a common place through which we can support each other in our personal undertakings. There are spirits that govern these places, but they are shared through workings, side by side, not by concepts. Understanding that is key to healthy religion. At its best, religion is an oasis.
Therein lies much difficulty, but also possibility. That may be my pivot for the year. Maybe.