Being in raised in an extremely Liberal Protestant Church I was taught that spiritual practice consists of maybe sometimes reading the Bible or whatever, praying before bed, and serving our fellow human through agitating for social justice. That social justice stuff is pretty dang rad but I wasn’t particularly taught or left with the impression that there was a lot I could do to change myself or directly experience any divine realities.
When I started reading about Gnosticism as a young teen I still didn’t realize there were ways to do Gnosticism, I didn’t really know about liturgical Gnosticism and even though a bunch of my teenage faves like W.B. Yeats and Grant Morrison (I was a cool kid y’all, everyone wanted a piece of the a nerdy kid reading poetry and then comic books in the 90s) I assumed any of the related Western Esoteric Mystery traditions were a bunch of hooey.
What brought me around to dedicated spiritual practice was meditation. I started at in my late teenage years out of desperation. I needed something to deal with crippling anxiety. And this wasn’t our present world of mindfulness everywhere, we’re talking small town, slow dial up Internet, limbo land. But I got instruction and started practicing and lo and behold it actually worked! And folks…meditation is deceptively simple…almost stupidly so. And it showed me that if just sitting around in a dedicated and deliberate manner can alter my mind, well, what about all that OTHER stuff. I’ve been transformed into someone who wanders around my house talking to my cat about chakras and rituals for becoming one with the universe.
Besides getting me into more funky esoteric stuff meditation lead me back to prayer. I can’t really quantify how much my prayers have been answered (I haven’t won the lottery yet) but again I can see the direct change that regular prayer had caused to manifest in me. As this old chestnut of Kabbalistic wisdom* goes:
Once a man was asked, “What did you gain by regularly praying to God?” The man replied, “Nothing…but let me tell you what I lost: Anger, ego, greed, depression, insecurity, and fear of death.”
The amazing thing about spiritual practice, especially in the Western Esoteric traditions, is that you have a whole buffet of practices to do and try. Now, discipline and dedication are important and one probably shouldn’t feed their ego and their sensation seeking urge by jumping from one practice to another BUT it’s my belief and experience that certain practices appeal and vibe and sync to certain people. That’s why a certain amount of regulated and careful experimentation should be enacted to discover what works for you. And “works” is the key word here. You shouldn’t expect miracles but you should getting something out of what you’re putting in.
Some common feedback we’ve gotten about Talk Gnosis is we’re too “how many angels can dance on the head of the pin” focused on ideas and theories and philosophies** and that’s why we’re hyped about our episode featuring writer and occult historian Mitch Horowitz. He knows and loves the big picture and the big ideas that get us so jazzed but he also wants people to connect them to their day-to-day lives. Check out our ep with Mitch and see if he inspires you to change your life through practical esotericism. You’ve got nothing to lose but 45 minutes:
* If you’d like to correct me about the origins of this story, please head to Patreon.com/Gnostic and donate one dollar to access the corrections department.
** If you agree with this criticism and would like to also express it, please head to Patreon.com/Gnostic and donate two dollars to access the complaints department.