This month at the Kemetic Round Table:
God radios: How to live with one, how to live without one. What happens if the reception is bad, or the gods quit responding?
I talk to Seth-Typhon every day. I tend to do most of the talking in our relationship, and He mostly just listens. He only communicates with me very occasionally, and it’s always in a way that I can’t really explain. He never speaks to me with an actual voice that I can hear with my ears. It’s more like He hits my brain with a crack of silent thunder and I just suddenly understand whatever He’s thinking. I guess an atheist or an agnostic might describe this sort of thing as a “flash of inspiration,” and there’s no way for me to prove that it’s really anything more than that. But this just feels different from my normal flashes of inspiration. Somehow, I can always distinguish between flashes that come from my own unconscious and cracks of silent thunder that come from Seth.
For the most part, I can tell when Big Red likes whatever I’m doing and when He doesn’t. For example, I’ve been inviting Him to lunch with me every weekday for the past month. (I haven’t been able to do this for the past couple of days, but I know He understands this, and I intend to offer Him something tonight for the Sabbath.) There have been days when I can tell He really likes the offering I’ve made and others when He doesn’t seem to like the offering as much. There was one day when I offered Him a portabello mushroom sandwich that He really seemed to enjoy, but I don’t think He cared for the greasy vegetarian burrito I offered Him the next day. He also doesn’t seem to like it as much when I offer the same thing two days in a row; I think He appreciates some variety. Again, I can’t really explain how I “know” these things; I can just tell.
Typhon’s only ever “scolded” me a few times, and these were situations in which I interacted with Him while I was inebriated. One time, I kept seeing scary faces in the trees and eventually had a panic attack. It was absolutely terrifying, but nothing bad really happened; I think Seth just wanted to teach me a lesson by scaring the crap out of me. Many years later, I made the same mistake again and the result was even more terrifying. I won’t discuss all the details, but Big Red made it very clear that if I ever invoked Him while drunk again, He’d take back every good thing He ever gave me and leave me to rot. Ever since then, I’ve made it a point to interact with Him only when I’m cold stone sober. (Mind you, I’m not trying to preach that drinking is categorically “bad.” As long as it’s practiced in moderation by legal adults who don’t drive while they do it, there’s nothing inherently immoral about it at all. I’m just saying that Typhon doesn’t want me pickling my giblets while I’m spending time with Him, and I think that’s fair enough.)
You either experience the Gods in some way, or you don’t. If you do, then you practice a faith that fits the experiences you’re having. If you don’t, then I wouldn’t expect you to be a theist. While it might sound selfish, there’s no point worshiping any Gods if you aren’t getting something out of the deal. All theistic faiths are pacts in which (1) we give something to the God(s) and (2) the God(s) give(s) something to us. If you’re only giving and never receiving, then you have every right to seek reciprocation somewhere else. It’s easy to forget this principle if you’re a monotheist and you believe you’re “obligated” to worship “the One True God” whether He does anything for you or not, but we’re polytheists here. In a world of many Gods, there are many different options we can take. And in my opinion at least, some people are just meant to be atheists or agnostics. There’s nothing morally wrong with that, and I’d much rather have people be true to themselves than try to force themselves into a mold that isn’t meant for them.
But some people who are currently atheists or agnostics don’t want to be atheists or agnostics, and I can understand that. I would argue that if this applies to you, then you aren’t really meant to be an atheist or an agnostic; you’ll eventually become something else (though it might take you some time to figure out what that is). When I meet people who find themselves in this situation, I like to remind them that not all religions are about worshiping Gods. Just look at things like Thelema or the Temple of Set. These belief systems are based on Egyptian Gods and ideas, and some of their practitioners actually believe in the Gods. But belief is optional; there are also people in these groups who think the Gods are just Jungian archetypes or Platonic principles. I disagree with this idea, of course, but that’s unimportant. My point is that theism isn’t the only option here. If you feel like you’re meant to walk with the Gods but you can’t relate to any of Them in a personal manner, then perhaps you’re meant to work with Them in a more symbolic way.
I fully accept the possibility that a God, Goddess or spirit can actually appear to someone in a physical form and/or speak to them with an audible voice (if They really want to). Even if a person is a diagnosed schizophrenic and sees hallucinations all the time, I wouldn’t dare rule out the possibility that some of those “hallucinations” might actually be real entities of some kind. (I also wouldn’t assume that everything that person sees or hears is real, either.) I’ve never experienced such things for myself (and honestly, I don’t want to), but I acknowledge that they can happen. It’s impossible to know for sure when it’s actually happening or when someone really is just crackers, but I don’t think that matters. For me, it all comes down to what a person’s behavior is like. If I meet a person who claims to “see” angels or demons and who lives a life of Ma’at (i.e., following the Golden Rule, contributing to society, taking care of their family, etc.), I’ll consider that person sane regardless of whether I believe his or her claims or not.
But if I meet a person who claims that some God “appears” to him and “commands” him to kill people, I’ll do whatever I can to get that person locked away. If a Deity truly wants someone dead, that Deity is perfectly capable of arranging for that person to die; He or She doesn’t need a human being to do it for Them (and any “Deity” that does isn’t a true Deity). That person is either just hallucinating, or he or she is experiencing an evil demon and not a true God. Either way, their behavior is too dangerous to be tolerated and they must be dealt with accordingly. I’ll tolerate believing that L. Ron Hubbard is God or that the aliens won’t come and save our planet until you give all your money to Rael, but as soon as you draw the conclusion that whatever you believe in wants you to hurt animals or people, it’s time to take out the trash.
I don’t care who you are; not even Richard Dawkins can be completely 100% sure as to what’s real or unreal. (Science isn’t about certainty, anyway; it’s about doubt.) As long as you aren’t hurting yourself or others, I fail to see why it matters if the things you “see” or “hear” are just delusions or real metaphysical phenomena. Nobody can prove or disprove it either way, and it all comes down to praxis: what you do is more important than what you think. At the same time, I’m not a “bigot” if I don’t automatically believe someone who claims that Seth appears in their bedroom at night in a Captain America costume while dancing the Funky Chicken. For all I know, that could definitely happen; I’m not saying it’s impossible. But just as it would be unfair of me to write that person off as “insane,” it would be equally unfair of them to write me off as a “bigot.”