When I talk about beliefs, I’m talking about things taken on faith, not things based on evidence. They are not just things that I believe to be true, but things that I believe even if they aren’t true. My faith was once quite different. Everything changed when I realized that if my old beliefs were true, I would still be better off damned than to obey an immoral Law.
We are all connected. That is my cleaving point, the thing I measure all other statements against. Any idea that conflicts with that basic concept is false. Any action that denies it is immoral. Everything else I might say or do is only a pale shadow, a trivial corollary of that one truth.
For how trivial the corollaries, I will admit great struggle in understanding how to apply this simple truth. How large is “we?” I believe our strength is directly proportional to the size of “we” in our lives. I admit my strength is quite small. I barely understand how I am connected to my family and friends, let alone my community, my culture, my species, animals, life, the rocks, the sun and stars, even the voids between. I have no idea what piece I am in the universal body and I may never know. I only know that there is a body that I am a part of.
To that body there is a mind and spirit, and the entirety of all of that is Divine. I call that Divinity the Goddess in order to put a name and face on it, and I chose that particular name for reasons that aren’t important here. I still need the metaphor of a duality so that I know how to behave. Though I know that I am a part of the Divine, it is easier to pretend that she is separate. Otherwise I’m just talking to myself.
Those are really my only deep, core beliefs. Everything else is just metaphor or things I could easily change my mind on. Having changed the core of my beliefs once already in this life, I try to be careful how many things I hold as certain.
I believe in amorphous reincarnation. When we die, I believe our energy returns to the Divine. When we become alive, energy coalesces out of the Divine. To ask who used my life before me is to ask who last drank this particular glass of water.
I believe that there is nothing “supernatural.” All things that happen are natural. There is nothing more natural than the workings of Divinity. In practice, though, I believe that when the Divine was born and this universe came into being, certain rules were established and all things within this universe (including the Goddess, who is the universe) are bound by those rules. So I believe that science and reason are powerful tools in our understanding of the Divine, and that all objective (testable) claims must stand before them.
But there are things that do not make testable claims but rather provide metaphors to give us greater understanding and allow us to control ourselves and our relationships with our environment and others. These belong to magic which is also a powerful tool in our understanding of the Divine. Magic should not pretend to be science, however. It should not make objective claims and then fail to test them. Science and magic solve different problems and are poor tools in each others’ spaces.
As I said before, I personally need metaphor in order to know how to behave, and so I believe that ritual is an important part of growth. Somewhat it is also a crutch and can get in the way of growth, too. Thinking myself beyond such things I cast it aside earlier in my life, but a baby can’t stop crawling just because it thinks it can run. I am working very hard to bring the discipline of ritual and structured worship back into my life. As I have come to understand it more as metaphor and less as crutch it’s been much easier, but perhaps that’s just because my ego is appeased. I have a long way to go here.
There are many things I ponder after all of this. It seems natural to deduce that all life is sacred, but this falls apart every time I kill a mosquito or my body destroys a disease. So while I accept our connectedness, I don’t yet know what to do about it. As I said before, I barely understand my connection with family and friends. If I can someday grasp my connection just with the rest of my species, I will have come an incredible distance.
Similarly, “harming none, do as you will” fails for me. It’s not the “do as you will” that bothers me nearly as much as the “harming none.” In the end, I believe there are always trade-offs and that every action can and will bring both harm and good. We may have to cut off our leg to save our life; that’s not a good thing for our leg, but it may be better for the whole. I only say that when we contemplate harming another “for the greater good” we recognize that we are cutting off our own limbs. The good must outweigh that and it must never be taken lightly.
“We are all connected” may be the core of my beliefs, but I’m still struggling to distill it into specific ethics, to provide some simplifications (metaphors again) to understand what is right and wrong in this or that situation.
So this is where I am today. I expect my metaphors to change radically over time. Several of them aren’t very satisfactory now, and some that are won’t stay that way. The core of what I’ve said, though, comes from inspiration and faith and is only deepened by rational thought. I barely understand it, but I’ve never been more certain of anything.