Discover more from Creation's Paths
On the road home
Initiation into Druidry and the gift of Awen
So, I have been quiet for some time, but it was for a very good reason. Over the years, as I have been reconnecting with my ancestry, I have taken up many studies. I’ve studied Creideamh Sí for quite a while, and last year I started studying Gaeilge, the Irish Language. In June, I was initiated as a Bard and dedicated myself to the study of Druidry. My silence was me trying to figure out what all this mean for my personal and spiritual life. I have answers now, and it is time to break my silence.
Answers are not simple
The hardest thing for me to do is talk about my spirituality.
Am I a Christian?
Yes. I believe in Jesus and pray to Jesus, Mary, and God every day. I am a panentheist, Pelagian, preterist, universal, Trinitarian, Celtic Christian with a strong devotion to the Black Madonna. If I had to state that as a creed would go something like this:
I believe that God is in all things and all things are in God, both immanent within the universe and transcendent beyond it. Grace is found in nature, illumination, and forgiveness, and I seek the sacred in spiritual practice, the depths of my soul, wisdom, nature, and compassion. The apocalypse of the Book of Revelation took place in the first century and continues to happen metaphorically in each generation since. Christ redeemed all and teaches us to return to our true self as an image of God, without judging others and working all goodness through compassion.
I believe God is understood and approached through the riddle of the Trinity of the Creator, Liberator, and the Sustainer, traditionally said as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
I believe we connect to God through nature, art, and spiritual practice, fostering a deep connection with the spiritual world.
I believe Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, who creates, sustains, and holds the cosmos together.
By the way, that is the long form for that one sentence at the start and it only captures a whisper of a hint at what each of those words means.
What is my spiritual practice?
I've been practicing Rabbi Rami Shapiro's Ten Vows and Ten Practices of Minyan for 20 years, using a mix of spiritual practices:
After reading Shapiro’s Judaism without Tribalism, my heart sang. The book is an evolution of Minyan into a fully developed reform of Judaism.
This book has challenged my understanding of my faith and practice and has become a foundation for practice and beliefs in the same way Minyan once was.
But aren’t you a practicing Druid?
Yes, but modern Druidry is a philosophy and practice that connects us with nature, our own spiritual path. We practice the holidays. We meditate and practice in the Sacred Grove. Awen, inspiration and illumination, is our guide and goal.
How does all that work?
Ben Markus provides a good model to understand what a religion is. It is called the 3 Bs Framework. The Three Bs are: Belief, Behavior, and Belonging.
Belief is theology, mystagogy, and sacred readings. It guides our ideas, values, and principles. My beliefs come from various sources such as Matthew Fox's Creation Spirituality, Mystical Judaism, Celtic Christianity, and modern Druidry. All of these sources meld together as they discuss the same topics from different perspectives.
Behavior is rituals, habits, ceremonies, and practices. Creation Spirituality lacks a behavioral tradition except for Art as Meditation and the Techno Cosmic Mass. It is a very philosophical and academic tradition that longs to be rooted in the earth. The meditations and rituals of the Sacred Grove and Holidays of Druidry provide the skeletal structure of my practice. These give form and substance to a lot of Creation Spirituality and Celtic Christian ideas. Add to this the 8 mitzvot of Judaism with Tribalism.
I can express my core practice easily in the words of Rabbi Shapiro from Judaism without Tribalism: The core of religion is Teshuvah and Tikkun, Returning and Restoration. We have to return constantly to seeing our nature as images of God and restoring the world to leave it better off for future generations.
Belonging is the community we build, maintain, and live within. I find community with Creation Spirituality Communities where I sit on the board, and the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. These two places call to different side of me and what I long for is a place where the two come together as one.
That is the dream for Creation’s Paths. Hopefully, this will become a place where those who are like-minded come together to share and make meaning.
Creation Spirituality for the Solitary Practitioner
When I started this project, it was called Creation’s Paths: Creation Spirituality for the Solitary Practitioner. Yes, that title is a wink and a nod to Scott Cunningham’s book, Wicca: a guide for the solitary practitioner. My goal is not to recreate or co-opt Wicca into my practice. As I collected my notes and journals to put this work together, I noticed a resemblance between my practice and the way Wicca has developed and is taught.
The difference between my practice and Wicca involves more than just the words used or the pantheon invoked. While I am not interested in spending a lot of time focusing on the differences, I do want to highlight a few of the similarities in order to foster a kinship between these two spiritual paths.
Celtic Spirituality heavily influenced my spirituality, so I have a deep connection to the holidays, the moon, and the many saints and spirits associated with my heritage. This was also one of the major streams of influence for early and some modern Wicca. I have also practiced Magic since I was a teenager. Although I disagree with them, I can't ignore the impact of Aleister Crowley and Peter Carroll on esoteric theory and practice. Gerald Gardner, the founder of Wicca, and Crowley have a well-known and documented connection. Their influence is deeply ingrained in modern magic, making all esoteric practices somewhat similar.
Ross Nichols the founder of my Druid Order was friends with Gardner and the two shared ideas between them. These connections run deep.
Esotericism and Magic
I have mentioned esotericism and magic and will go into more detail in future, but for now, I need to give you a basic definition of these terms.
Esotericism is the collected insight and wisdom of a select in-group that is not historically shared with the general populous.
Magic is the participation with and manipulation of the subtle energies of a system to achieve, support, or prevent a predetermined outcome.
There is a lot more to be said on these topics, but those are good working definitions for now.
I suppose I should explain a bit about myself and how we got to this point.
Hi. My name is Charlie, and I am a non binary speculative fiction writer and a member of the board for Creation Spirituality Communities, but the path which led me here had a lot of twists and turns over the years.
I was raised in a Baptist family. My paternal grandfather was a Missionary Baptist preacher and my great grandfather was a Southern Baptist preacher. I came to Jesus and was baptized when I was in second grade. After we moved to Maryland the summer between fourth and fifth grade, we started attended a nondenominational church and there I was exposed to American Evangelicalism for the first time. This was also when I first started noticing that I was different.
The more I recognized what at the time appeared to be sane gender attraction and my gender nonconformity, the more I rooted myself in the conservative movement. I also started living a triple life:
I was a cisgender, heterosexual Evangelical Christian.
I was a gender no conforming homosexual
I was an esoteric seeker, desperate for answers.
That last one led me to buy, read, and adopt the practices I found in DJ Conway’s book, Celtic Magic, which I bought while I was in middle school.
This caused me to develop a strange set of friends who were conservative evangelical Christians, liberal pagans, and other queer youth who were just as confused as I was about life, the universe, and everything.
My life spiraled out of controlled as I code switched constantly between the three worlds.
Through this period, I read the work of Dion Fortune, Gareth Knight, and Israel Regardie. More of my person philosophy and practice arose from these esoteric sources.
I will not go into a lot of detail about this period, but in a moment of existential crisis, I started praying the rosary and that led to my eventual conversion to Roman Catholicism. This freedom from American Evangelicalism relieved more of my inner turmoil, but not all of it.
As everything came to a head, a friend of mine introduced me to his Rabbi, and my conversations with him saved and changed my life.
Skipping ahead a bit, eventually I fell in love and was hand-fasted in a pagan ceremony with the man I am still with to this day. He is also an esotericist. Through a series of misadventures, we moved to California, and this is where everything changed for me and where the path I am talking about here took shape.
In the summer of 2001, I read Prayer by Matthew Fox and Minyan by Rabbi Rami Shapiro. Both of these books changed my practice and pointed me down the path I walk to this day.
At the time, I rooted my daily practice in Buddhism, heavily influenced by the work of Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama, and so many others I want to mention, but I don’t want this to just be a list of names.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, my hodgepodged faith and practice did not help me navigate the world I lived in and struggled to understand.
So I wrote to Rabbi Shapiro to ask if it was appropriate for a gentile like me to adopt and adapt the practices and ideas I found in Minyan into my practice. He gave me a green light to proceed.
I also devoured the works of Matthew Fox, whose writing forms the basis of everything that followed. I created a folder called, The Abbey, on my hard drive, and started writing and rewriting my thoughts and practices as my understanding grew.
The biggest problem I had over the years was that I lacked the funds to go to college and study these ideas in a more academic environment, so I read a lot and tested these ideas through trial and error.
My focus was on finding practical ways to explore these spiritual, mystical, and magical ideas and practices. If it didn’t improve our lives, we tossed it to the side and tried something new.
For decades, we incubated these ideas and practices, only sharing them with a few people over the years. In fact, the idea of sharing these ideas with others is terrifying.
Recently, I have become more involved with the Creation Spirituality Communities and l’ve realized that all these years of isolated incubation have caused our understanding and practice of Creation Spirituality to differ from so many others. Not better, or worse, but very different from how other people in the movement understand and practice.
So, this is why l’ve chosen to call my variant of Creation Spirituality, Creation’s Paths. The tradition, as put forward by Matthew Fox, is a generalized philosophy that like essential Buddhism can be adopted as a part of or as an adjunct to the faith and practice one already is a part of.
My husband and I needed something different. We desired a faith and practice that was Creation Spirituality all the way down.
What we ended up doing was root our faith and practice in Creation Spirituality. We also created and adapted several core practices in order to connect with and experience these themes first hand.
I am not saying what we did was better than anything anyone else has done, but it is different.
I wanted a systematic theology and practice that synthesized my many streams of influence into a cohesive whole. Its mysticism and spirituality needed to be practical, making a significant improvement to my life and that of my husband. Most of all, it needed to incorporate the enchanted world I knew.
I am not a materialist, and I see no evidence at all that we live in a world constructed from nothing but dead matter and blind mechanistic processes. I understand how people conclude this, but I don’t believe the evidence is there.
The world I live in is vibrant and alive. Granted, so much religion and spirituality is born from such an anthropocentric perspective the sheer scale of the cosmos makes them laughable, I would argue the same problem exists for many atheist systems that root themselves in the problem of evil.
Good and evil are moral and ethical notions that highly depend on context. They are far too often applied to things that have no moral or ethical agency, floods, for example, are dangerous and traumatizing events to live through, but neither the cloud nor the water can act out of malice.
I understand the desire for justice which motivates us to mitigate or end the suffering of others. It is a terrible thing when a being suffers because of a natural process. The problem is that I have never seen an argument for a world free of these events that does not have dire consequences for nature or free will, and we do have free will. Just because we cannot imagine a better world, does not mean that our world is good, but it shows an issue with applying a moral lens to this practice.
There is also an issue with the false dichotomy between the natural and what is termed supernatural. This distinction is born of of an erroneous notion that spirit is higher than matter. If there is a God who created nature, that God is natural whether or not they rule over that world. Angels, spirits, souls, and all other objects of spiritual speculation would also be natural since they are entities and energies that exist in nature,
It does not follow that anything that science cannot measure or that it does not know about does not exist. Gravity, dark matter, and dark energy existed before science existed and discovered then.
I know what I am about to say may sound more controversial than it actually is. I am not a science denier, simply a realist.
Science does not and cannot describe reality. It can only describe and interpret the data gathered through measurement. If it cannot be measured, it cannot be described by science. This is why dark matter and dark energy are called dark. Their existence can be inferred from certain measurements, but they cannot as I am writing this be directly detected
This understanding can be misused by charlatans to sell a lot of woo. The truth is, science is probabilistic knowledge we should trust. Medical science gives us the best understanding we have to survive the many perils of this world. Ignoring science is dangerous and how we brought ourself to the current state of climate crisis. So, yes, listen to science, but science cannot help us learn how to live.
What I am trying to say is if something can be measured by science, we should listen to and follow the science, but we acknowledge that there are some things science cannot measure, and for those things we should listen to the Apostle Paul and, “Test all things, and hold firmly that which is good (I Thes 5:21).”
Experience is not the best way to measure reality because it can be mistaken or misunderstood, but sometimes it is the best we have to go on.
We shouldn’t substitute our beliefs for verified science, but as long as we are safe and honest about it, we can improve our lives through spiritual practice and community.
Spirituality, like all traditions, exists to improve our lives, and like all things must change and develop over time or they will die. Tradition should connect us to our past and our community and must never be allowed to control, dominate, or harm our lives.
This series will offer the insights and practices we have developed over the last two decades and is not intended to tell anyone what they are doing or believing is wrong. I hope it brings more light and love into your life.
I am sure you can see my trepidation in sharing these thoughts. As someone who grew up in several authoritarian religious movements, I don’t want to even appear to be imposing my ideas on others.
May the Light and Love of God be with you always.