I’ve been reading Spiral Dance recently. Some stuff annoyed me, until I got to this:

Younger Self–who can be as balky and stubborn as the most cantankerous three-year-old–is not impressed by words. Like a native of Missouri, it wants to be shown. To arouse its interest, we must seduce it with pretty pictures and pleasurable sensations–take it out dining and dancing, as it were. Only in this way can the Deep Self be reached. For this reason, religious truths have not been expressed throughout time as mathematical formulas, but as art, music, dance, drama, poetry, stories, and active rituals. As Robert Graves says, “Religious morals, in a healthy society, are best enforced by drums, moonlight, fasting, dancing, masks, flowers, divine possession.” — The Spiral Dance, p 46

Oh, well that changes everything. Really, it did. It solved several problems for me. Most importantly, it helped me understand the real purpose behind ritual. I’ve been very interested in ritual of late, and I’ve been trying to better integrate it into my life, but I haven’t known why. Why go through productions rather than look the Universe right in the face? Why deal with Aspects? Because we need these things to approach the divine. We need to tear down rational thought to reach understanding. For many of you, this may seem obvious, but as a long-time rationalist, this is a radical idea. And Star Hawk doesn’t wait a page before reassuring my instantly rebelling skeptic: “But a trained awareness has no quarrel with ordinary reality; it flies further, in the spirit, and gains insights and perceptions that can later be verified by Talking Self [the rational mind]” (emphasis mine). So I can embrace inspirational revelation without having to accept so much of the hocus-pocus fantasies that pretend at magic.

The hardest part for me now is focusing my will on doing things. I chose a while back to get up at dawn every morning for prayer and meditation. I’ve been working on a morning ritual, and it was a good way to collect myself in the morning, and have some time with the divine. Of course some mornings didn’t “happen” but I tried to at least stop and do a scaled-down ritual. To keep Younger Self active as much as anything. Then I stopped doing that. I’ve grown so tired in the mornings and I’m not sleeping well (and staying up too late anyway). But that really isn’t it. I’ve always been able to get out of bed if I put my mind to it. It’s been the putting my mind to it that’s been harder and harder.

My ability to hold to morning prayer closely follows my ability to hold the rest of my life in order. And so of course I haven’t very well. I keep getting behind and not getting done the things I mean to. I get really distracted by everything. And I can point back to rising at dawn and praying as the best thing I can do to keep things working well.

It’s so easy to justify why it’s not possible. Ian often gets up about the same time, and it’s very difficult to concentrate with him running around. But then I realize that the Goddess was telling me something there too. You can’t just be with Her when it’s quiet. My being a father is part of my relationship with Her. Sometimes it’s noisy. Sometimes Ian can be part of what I do. Sometimes I need to do things alone. But I may have to create “alone” in my own mind, not my life.