photo: Sunwheel, by Ryan Spellman
This week, Ryan Spellman shares the story of his journey toward a naturalistic spirituality.
A personal narrative of how I got to where I am
Throughout my life I have gone through several phases of spiritual evolution. In my youth, my first step seems to have been a time of rebellion. During this time, I was seeking to divorce myself from the Christian religious views forced upon me as a child. I’ve never harbored any ill feelings toward Christianity, it’s just something that never worked for me. From there, I began to grow and found myself experimenting with paganism, which eventually led to an interest in Teutonic traditions. Something about it felt right, so I soon got in touch with a community of Asatruar. I truly felt at home and continued to work with them for years. About midway through this period of my life, I had what was at first a very exciting, and later heart-wrenching, realization.
I cannot remember when it struck me exactly, but I do remember it being one of those “eureka!” moments. I had already started making my way toward the discovery that the gods and goddesses were not supernatural, external beings for me. As these thoughts began creeping in, I started to develop concerns regarding what others would think about such views. Would they accept my personal understanding of the gods, goddesses and ritual as being introspective/psychological rather than metaphysical? For a time, these concerns had me turning a blind eye to my true feelings. It was in the middle of this mental struggle that I had an epiphany. So what if I didn’t see anything supernatural in what I was doing? Essentially, what I had done was discover how the universe speaks to me.
There is nothing supernatural about it, and there is not a single thing wrong with that. I had found something that resonates within me. The ritual, myths and lore had become a very important part of my growth over the past four years and would continue to for many more.
True to myself
Following this discovery, I knew that I had to be honest with everyone. No matter what the response might be, it was important to be true to myself and open about my views.
As it turns out, not many pagans have similar ideologies – which was to be expected. However, most of those that had come to know me still respect me, and are comfortable with me being around during their functions. I have run into several folks who seem to take offense to such naturalistic views, but it is something I’ll get used to. The important thing is that I have come to such a deep understanding of myself and my spirituality.
The largest argument that comes up is the question, “Why bother?” To paraphrase a response I once had: With views such as these, any fictional world would work just as well. They weren’t entirely off the mark, but the deep psychological connection I have to Teutonic mythology was missed in this statement. For me, it’s all about what raises the hair on the back of my neck. It always makes me think back on a writing I read when I was in my teens by Anton LaVey entitled The Combination Lock Principle. In it, he stresses the importance of finding the right “tumblers” and getting them to fall into place. Of course, he was likely working toward a more metaphysical slant than I, but the general principle is the same.
How the universe speaks to me
Honoring the gods and goddesses is a way I can connect on a deep psychological level with different aspects of the natural world around me. This connection is obtainable without metaphor, but those moments tend to be spontaneous. With ritual, those times of connection are controllable. It doesn’t stop at the gods and goddesses, either. Similarly, the runes are outstanding tools for reflection and meditation. The myths and lore provide avenues of self-exploration and solid advice on how to live a good life. So much of what I found within Asatru still speaks strongly to me. Even though I don’t call myself Asatru any longer due to such a philosophical deviation from the norm, I still hew tightly to its traditions. Through them, the universe speaks to me.
Ryan Spellman lives happily in the foothills of Appalachia with his wife of seven years and three spoiled kitties. He is lucky enough to spend his day job working at a library and does a little web and graphic design, painting, drawing and almost anything else creative he can get his hands on as time allows.